Monday, April 9, 2012
Fellowship Church in Grapevine uses live animals in sermons
New program dismays animal rescue community.
GRAPEVINE Animal advocates are dismayed by a controversial program initiated this weekend by Fellowship Church in Grapevine, which used live animals during religious services.
Called "Wild," the program involved Pastor Ed Young's use of a lion in a cage and his clutching a lamb to "communicate biblical truths."
A photo posted on the church's Facebook page of its Easter service showed Young preaching on stage to an assembly outdoors, holding a clinging lamb while standing next to the caged lion. The caption reads: "Pastor Ed bringing the message of Easter. Jesus is a lion-like lamb and a lamb-like lion!"
While many in the congregation were unfazed by the proximity of the animals, others questioned their use as props in a sermon and posted comments expressing their distaste.
"You do not need live animals as props to teach the word of God," said one commenter.
"Please stop putting your congregation and the wild animals at risk," said another.
"Doesn't the power of the Easter Message have the ability to stand on its own, without the spectacle of a three-ring-circus?" asked one commenter.
Spokesman Andy Boyd defended the program as being designed to "shine light on all of God's creations."
"One thing our pastor does a phenomenal job of, just like Christ used illustrations to communicate God's message, the greatest way to do that is to follow that model," Boyd said. "That could be using props, animals on stage."
Boyd said that, despite the fact that they were caged, the animals were not treated poorly.
"That lion is a 17-year-old lion who's been cared for his entire life," he said. "He's been in movies. He has a 55-acre ranch where he roams freely."
He declined to identify the ranch. "I want to respect the privacy of that ranch," he said.
Young, you may recall, is the pastor who recommended couples have sex every day. His lavish lifestyle was scrutinized in 2011 by WFAA's Brett Shipp, who found that Fellowship has an $8.4 million jet for Young's use tucked away at a hangar at Alliance Airport.
Fellowship may have exacerbated the animal situation by deleting critical comments on its Facebook page.
"I'm not sure now what saddens me more -- the fact that they chose inhumane theatrics over simply preaching the Lord's message OR the fact that they won't address the concerns of the people ... some of their own congregation. I'm sure many of us have prayed about this today," said one commenter.
Fellowship's description of the "Wild" series says that "Ed Young is joined by some the most powerful animals in the world." In addition to a lion, photos include a bear, giraffe, elephant, and rhesus monkey.
Boyd said he wasn't sure what other animals would be incorporated or how long the series would last.
"I do not know what Ed is planning on bringing -- we expect the unexpected," he said. "It could go two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. I do know that he mentioned we're going to have a dog-friendly service where people can bring their dogs."
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