Friday, July 11, 2008


I was teaching at the Hong Kong Baptist Seminary and Hal Wingo, Time-Life correspondent in Hong Kong at the time, rang me up and ask if I knew anything about a Bible School that granted advanced higher education degrees in Hong Kong. Life Magazine was doing a series on the diploma mills based in the United States, but located around the world.

We drove out to the address on the brochure and found one of the few vacant lots in Hong Kong's New Territories. Nothing like what the Florida-based "church" organization promised.

That was many years ago and such fraudulent schools are still pulling in the money and disrespecting the ministry. The unfortunate fact is the largest Baptist denomination now is led by a man who purchased his degrees from a diploma mill. The Southern Baptist Convention at their June meeting elected as president, "Dr." Johnny Hunt, a pastor with two dubious diplomas (one a doctorate) from a diploma mill called Covington Theological Seminary.

Having studied more than three years under men like Ray Summers, H.C. Brown, Jesse Northcutt, Robert Baker, Stewart Newman and Huber Drumright, I find it difficult to respect those who have not paid the price in real study to lead a church or convention.

A few Sundays ago the New York Times carried a news story about Dixie and Steven K. Randock Sr., who ran a diploma mill St. Regis University. They were convicted for mail and wire fraud for the way they ran their operation. They had provided thousands of degree for people in over 130 countries, making in the progress over $7 million.

St. Regis University turned out to be a network of web sites, some telephones and a huge bunch of bank accounts. The trial revealed they had created other phony institutions such as James Monroe University and Robertstown University. For one of their "schools" they used a picture of a castle that was the birthplace of Winston Churchill as if it were the campus.

It is unbelievable that an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 fake degrees are sold in this country a year. Some of these degrees were bought and used by federal employees. A Government Accountability Office of the Federal Government reported more than half of the 463 of these federal employees worked for the Department of Defense.

When I am asked what kind of doctor I am, I tell them not the kind that helps sick folks – or anyone else. With all this talk of fake diplomas flying around I should confess my Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree "with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities thereunto appertaining..." came from the Howard Payne University of Brownwood, Texas.

I would be the first to tell you I do not deserve such an honor. That statement of fact would be seconded by a host of alumni, including a lot of colleagues and one particular deacon in a San Antonio church.

Less than a month later that university's president was out of a job. I have given a lot of thought to the sequence of events and wonder if that ceremony of honoring me had anything to do with his leaving. If so, I am sure he would join that San Antonio deacon I deserve no such honor.

Some honorary degrees can have a healing effect. Back in '99 I witness the honoring of two men by Sanford University in Birmingham, Alabama, that helped heal wounds between Taiwan and China.

Faye Pearson, a former colleague, led the university to honor Wen-zao Han (Han Wenzao) and Chow Lien-Hua (Zhou Lianhua). Han of China and Chow of Taiwan knew of each other on Shanghai campuses before the Communist regime came to power in 1949. Both serving their Lord in different ways in countries still at war with each other.

Dr. Chow was pastor to Taiwan's President Chiang Kai-shek, seminary professor and world-renowned scholar. Dr. Han the right-hand man of Bishop K. H. Ting through the difficult days in China and afterwards as head of the Amity Foundation that has published over 50 million Bibles in China.

The two "Chinas" as Taiwan and mainland China have been called, are growing closer together. Taiwanese businessmen were among the first to invest and open factories on the mainland in the 1980s. I did not expect to live to see daily flights between Taipei and Shanghai or Beijing in my lifetime. Those flights began July 1 and the plan is to have 36 flights a week in the near future.

Britt Towery
San Angelo, Texas

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Iraq Invasion Total Mistake

Anyone who has read my musing over the last few years knows my deep skepticism regarding going to war in Iraq. Nothing in the last three years has convinced me it was a very wise or necessary thing to do.

No facts have come forward to prove war was the only way to help the Iraqi peoples. But it seems to have been the only thing given serious consideration.

Even President Bush’s own Methodist ministers were not given a chance to suggest another way. He did talk to some Protestants about the war, but they were of the fundamentalist war-like type. The Fundamentalists (like Jerry Falwell and the present leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention) told Mr. Bush what he wanted to hear. They are convinced, as are the “Left Behind” authors, that there must be a great war in the Middle East so Bible prophecy can be accomplished.

When I write such things it is not to disparage the Bible, but the extreme literal and sometimes weird interpretations some preachers put on prophecy – which is a minor part of the sacred book – and beyond my understanding. The Bible is not a road map, it is not a key to the future. It is an attempt to point us toward God, to better understand Him and become light and salt to our world.

Christian history is too full of war and hate. Nothing makes a man’s blood boil to the degree religion does. This is a perversion of the faith and has the opposite result of true religion. This is not the Lord Jesus’ fault, but the error of his followers in every age. And yet the people for the war are the ones proclaiming the need for “moral values.”

The Puritans did their best to kill off the Indians rather than try to convert them. The First Thanksgiving legend has blinded us to how the Puritans tried to set up a theocracy and did not allow any other view but theirs. No dissent was tolerated. (They also made it a crime to celebrate Christmas!) Fortunately there were those who strove for liberty like Roger Williams. He made friends of the Indians rather than kill them. Roger Williams and later men like Isaac Backus and John Leland with Jefferson and Madison made sure the Constitution had a Bill of Rights. These men knew what moral values were. Many had suffered in prison and died for such values as the freedom of speech and religion.

“Moral values” are what many voters claim as their reason for keeping President Bush in power. War is against all moral values. War is the very opposite of good morals and common sense (especially when the “enemy” was no threat to us). Moral values includes more than a stand on abortion or single-sex marriage. (Single-sex marriage will not destroy America as much as lightly treated and even encouraged adulterous behavior.) Moral values are clearly listed in the New Testament: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These moral values are not getting much publicity these days.

Moral values are how we treat the homeless, the poor, the disenfranchised and caring about those we might not want to associate with. When we help someone who can do absolutely nothing for us, that is what I consider a good deed. Only doing what is in our own best interest can grow a very selfish life or nation.

This war of our very wealthy nation against a poor and dying country is possibly the lowest point in American history. It has been entered into and continues to be led by misguided and at worst, deeply wrong-thinking people.

To cry for moral values, the whole scope of morals needs to be included. Not just a few pet peeves and politically correct slogans of, sincere but history-illiterate, fanatics.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Support You Local Pastor

Support Your Local Pastor

(First published in the column "Along The Way" of the Brownwood Bulletin,

Brownwood, Texas, Feb. 17, 2006 by Britt Towery)

I am weary of the way my Christian faith has been hijacked by some men and women of the cloth (TV style).

Take Pat Robertson of the infamous 700 Club. For years he has been telling his television viewers about God. But his God always seems to be short of money.

Brother Pat says God is angry because of America's sin, and sends a great hurricane to wipe out New Orleans.

His latest telegram from God revealed God's punishment of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon is fighting for his life and is being punished by God simply for giving Gaza back to the original owners, the Palestinians. (Actually the Gaza Strip's original owners were the Philistines, but few of them are left.)

Sharon, according to Robertson's gospel, should not "divide God's land." The Bible is a lot of things, but it is not a book of land deeds. This great world is here for all God's creatures to enjoy. (A sign in front of a church read: "God's Wrath Level: High.")

Robertson said the same thing about Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when he was assassinated in 1995. Rabin was close to a peaceful settlement with the Arabs. (Fundamentalist Christians do not want peace, but Armageddon. Example: The tragic, senseless on-going three year war with Iraq.)

Some will remember following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, that Robertson and (the late) Prophet Jerry Falwell announced that feminists, gays and secularists were responsible!

Brother Falwell is the same one who some years ago wanted the Marines to invade the Philippines. I was there at the time and the reaction was, "who is this crazy Baptist?"

Last August Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Robertson always comes on later to "explain" what he meant. I don't recall any of the Old Testament prophets back-peddling as much as Robertson does.

Just when you might think it was safe to watch some Christian television, Jimmy Swaggart is back! You may remember his perverted sexual escapades in the 80s. He is back on cable via Black Entertainment Television and Spike TV.

Paul Crouch and the Wig (wife Jan with three-story hair-do) probably are making the most money of all the televangelists. I read where Paul is paid $159,500 a year as president of the Trinity Broadcasting Network and Jan gets $165,100 as vice president. They have homes in California and Tennessee. TBN owns nine homes on 66 acres called Shiloh Ranch near Colleyville, Texas (yet their God always needs more money).

Science Fiction writer and founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, said: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

While that may be true, it is evident that today's televangelists have found a more lucrative way – using (and abusing) the Bible as a means to get rich. Give to Benny Hinn, so he can buy another Rolex. Check out these preachers who have hi-jacked the Christian faith for their own enrichment: Paula White, Robert Tilton (another one back from prison), Creflo Dollar, John Hagee, Marilyn Hickey, Joyce Meyer, Jack Van Impe and Rod Parsley. Parsley is a valued advisor to our own Texas governor.

Some folks might say I should not be so disrespectful of television evangelists. Much of the Bible warns about the false, misleading prophets. If revealing the truth about them helps just one person from giving away their rent money, then this was worth writing. They have built personal mansions with the gifts from people who could not afford it.

Apparently none of them want to wait for the mansions Jesus promised awaits in heaven. They want the green and all that goes with it now. Instead, give your time, energy and gifts to your local church; paraphrasing the title of an old James Garner movie:
"Support your local PASTOR."

Democracy Grows as Truth & Openess Prevail

Originally published Brownwood Bulletin and San Angelo Standard-Times, May 9, 2008
by Britt Towery

Most of us would love to see more democracy in the nations of the world. Just suppose the Middle East had a fledging democracy fifty-plus years ago. Iran did have a thriving and growing democracy, until August 1953.

The election of Muhammad Mosaddeq as the Prime Minister of Iran was hailed throughout the country for a return to respectable status for ancient Persia.

Had Iran's democracy not been stifled by an American Central Intelligence Agency-led coup, the last fifty years would have been very different. Very possibly today's tragedy in Iraq could have been avoided had British and American interests not overthrown Mosaddeq in 1953.

This tale of intrigue and woe has been pushed to the dusty back shelves of America's memory. But not so with the Iranians. It was part of the reason that the American embassy personnel were made hostages in Tehran in 1979.

According to Stephen Kinazer's 2003 book "All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle Eastern Terror," the United States, pressured by the British, carried out a secret operation to overthrow the Iranian Prime Minister, Muhammad Mosaddeq and restore the shah to the throne.

After World War II Asian and African countries began pulling away from the out-dated European colonial world. "The white man's burden," as Rudyard Kipling so aptly called it was taking that "burden" on themselves. They were seeking to run their own peoples their own way.

In Iran, it was all about oil and the British were not willing for Mosaddeq's plan to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which made Britain a lot of money.

Mosaddeq was a well-educated pro-Marxist, but hardly a friend of the Soviet Russians. All British plans to discredit him failed. So MI-5 (British Intelligence) turned to America's CIA chief Dullas with their coup plans.

The British had tried to get President Truman to help them but he refused. Now with a new administration in power they jumped at the chance to get American help in overthrowing Mosaddeq. Two weeks after General Eisenhower was elected president in 1952 the word went around of the threat of Soviet Communism in Iran.

Under the cover of the Red threat, the Dulles brothers (One was Secretary of State and one was CIA chief.), convinced the administration to send Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, to carry out a covert mission in Iraq.

Roosevelt's mission: see that Prime Minister Mosaddeq is overthrown. The British knew they would lose the Iranian oil unless he was removed. The covert operation worked. Stranger than fiction: The democracy that Iran admired in America was shattering their democratic future.

With the Shah back on the Peacock throne freedoms for the people quickly disappeared and Britain and America backed the new repressive regime. All these years we could have been friends – but oil was more important. Earlier in the 20th century Iran looked to the West in becoming more democratic. They got no help then either.

We have short memories. Even shorter attention spans. When the onslaught in Afghanistan began in October, 2001, we have forgotten that Iran help us in those early days. We seem to have a knack for misreading the times, for taking the side of the oppressor. The choice is often the lesser of two evils, but it sure would help if our government could get it right for a change and soon.

The end of last week the USS Abraham Lincoln steamed into the Persian Gulf as another show of force to Iran. The very same ship from which President Bush proclaimed five years ago that hostilities were over in Iraq and we had prevailed.

No democracy can succeed without honesty and truth in dealing with its own people and the nations of the world.


Britt Towery is a San Angelo resident, author and free-lance writer. Comments are welcome. His e-mail: or the San Angelo Standard-Times, and the Brownwood Bulletin,


By Britt Towery

Mark Twain in March, 1905, was outraged by the American military invasion of the Philippines. As a result he sat down and wrote "The War Prayer." He sent it to Harper's Bazaar. Being a women's magazine, it was rejected. It wasn't published until after his death. World War I was in progress and publishers thought it to be timely. It appeared first in Harper's Monthly, November, 1916.

The story, as Mark Twain tells it, unfolds on a Sunday morning when the battalions were to leave for the front. The minister led a beautiful prayer for the troops with great eloquence. How they "would bring the foe to flight" and they "be submerged in golden seas of glory!"

A merciful and loving Father God would "watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory."

It was a lovely and timely prayer the minister offered for the soldiers. A prayer offered over and over in land after land and war after war. Then came the part of the story that kept it from being published for so long.

Twain's story continues: After the minister's prayer "an aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister."

The aged stranger said: "I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; ... He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it ..."

The stranger faces the minister and congregation, saying, "You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!'"

The stranger says he is there to express the unspoken part of the prayer, the part that was in all their hearts, but they were unable to speak or dwell upon. He then commanded the congregation to pray with them. "Listen!" He said as he held the attention of the entire congregation.

This was when the stranger prayed for their "young patriots to smite the foe ... tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells ... help us to lay waste their humble homes ... help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief ... " and on and on he prayed about the horrors that would come to the other side if their prayers were answered. The innocents. The homeless. The cripple and wounded.

The stranger concludes his prayer: "If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it."

Twain's "War Prayer" is not one that is heard from pulpits, then or now. It is painful, but truthful. It unmasks all the glory of war and the weird idea that God would take sides with anybody in war. Mark Twain ends his story with one interesting comment: "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said."


50 Million Bibles Published in China

50 Million Chinese Bibles Published In China

In announcing the 50 millionth Bible printed by the Amity Printing Company of Nanjing, China, the head of Religious Affairs announced that Chinese Bibles will be made available at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Special worship services will be provided in whatever language necessary.

Cao Shengjie, President of the China Christian Council and personal friend of mine, said that the Olympics is a great opportunity for sharing between Chinese Christians and Christians around the world.

The Amity Printing Press (now the Amity Development Company) was begun in 1988 with the cooperation of the United Bible Societies of the world. It was an effort stressing the Chinese should depend upon themselves in Bible publishing as well as church development. They have been producing 6 million Bibles a year, and this year that total has been doubled to 12 million.

I like to remind folks that the only product made in China and not sold at Wal-Mart is the Chinese Bible (This may not be true for long as Amity has printed 9 million Bibles in 75 different languages, including English.) They have exported Bible in English, German, Spanish, French, Russian together with many African languages.

The Post-Denominational Christian churches of China have responded, as have other faiths in China, to the suffering of those caught up in the most devastating earthquake there since 1976. The China government's response has been better than earlier crisis. The response by Burma's mad generals to the cyclone that ravaged their coast and crops has been inhumane. The dictators are afraid to let foreigners in to help. They think everybody else is as bad and corrupt as they are. So they trust no one.

Following the tragic ten-year (1966-76) China "Cultural Revolution" (it was neither cultural or revolutionary) the churches were allowed to claim their property back and begin worship again. They decided, being such a minority, they would no longer split up as Western Denominations but just be Christian churches. That fresh re-opening began in 1979.

Many Western church denominations were skeptical as this new approach began to take hold in China. If Christianity was to survive in China and even flourish, the Chinese themselves must lead the way. They welcomed foreign Christians, but not missionaries. This was a hard new approach that most foreign missionary groups agreed with. Southern Baptists chose to ignore local and national leadership and began covert work. So they and some others chose "cloak and dagger" secret Christian witness in China. Which is absolutely unnecessary. Christianity is one of five officially-recognized religions in China.

The Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Christian denominations caught the vision early and have been strong supporters in ways that encourage the churches of China. There are still home-gatherings (called "house churches" and sometimes "underground churches") all over the country. The majority of these work with the "open" churches of the China Christian Council. Many of the churches seat over 5,000., and have all kinds of theology, just like in the West. They have all the problems of churches around the world, plus knowing how to work with an un-believing government.

Christ prayed his followers would become one, as he and the Father were one. From day one after the resurrection Christians have seldom been able to do that. At least the Chinese churches are giving it a try. With Bible printing and devotional and theological books coming off the presses China's Christians are in the most hopeful and open society they have known in centuries. They have limited freedoms, but are doing much more with their adjusted freedoms than many other places are.

As one Chinese elder said, "Our responsibility is to properly nurture our grassroots believers." By taking the best parts of Western Denominational church order and liturgy, and with mutual respect grow from a fragile unity to a church that can bless the world.

In my mail last week I received a copy of a book my friend and China colleague, Philip L. Wickeri, has just published. (Orbis Books, titled: "Reconstructing Christianity in China; K. H. Ting and the Chinese Church.") With primary sources in Chinese and other languages, Philip has produced a remarkable record of how the churches have come to where they are in the 21 century. Today Philip is Hewlett Professor of Missions at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Another colleague of long ago, Daniel Bays of Calvin College, says it is a "'must read', for everyone who cares about the church in China."


Britt Towery with his wife Jody, taught in the Nanjing, China, Seminary in 1989. He is a native of Brownwood and resident of San Angelo. Contact: