Sunday, December 31, 2017

Beware of church surveys using Gloo software

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12 (also Proverbs 16:25)

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Matthew 7:16-20

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:5

Warning: Lengthy post ahead

My church conducted a survey in 2017 of the spiritual condition of the church. I refused to fill it out for two reasons: I didn't trust the confidentiality (I'm a suspicious person); and when I went to the website of the firm conducting the survey, I didn't like what I saw. The survey was conducted by Gloo, which describes itself as Software for developing people--Designed for Growth, Powered by Relationships (bold in original). Gloo offers solutions for: Churches; Dental Organizations; Addiction Recovery Centers; Para-Churches; Mindfulness; Healthcare; Life Coaching; Corporate Mentorship; Behavioral Health; Financial Services; Education.

The mention of the New Age practice of mindfulness should raise the eyebrows of any discerning Christian. As Ray Yungen stated,

mindfulness involves focusing on the breath to stop the normal flow of thought. In effect, it acts the same way as a mantra; and as with Yoga, it is presented as something to cure society’s ills.

Go to Lighthouse Trails Research Project and search under "mindfulness" for more information.

Gloo advocates and uses the familiar methods of the Church Growth Movement, which uses techniques derived from business and applies them to the church. The pastor is no longer a shepherd, but a Chief Executive Officer, leading by "vision casting," and the main duty of elders is to support the pastor's vision--a leadership model which is not found in the New Testament. Instead of emphasis on the gospel of Jesus Christ as "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16), Christianity is treated as a consumer good to be marketed, and the people in the pews are regarded as customers whose felt needs are to be satisfied. Of course, "felt needs" are not necessarily the same as real needs, and what we all really need is a Saviour.

I take great offense at church members being described as customers. I'm not a customer; I'm a member of the body of Christ, with my membership purchased by His blood on the cross. A customer has no obligation to the company; if dissatisfied, a customer can get a similar product elsewhere, or forgo the product entirely.

Jesus said "Without me you can do nothing," but the Church Growth Movement says, "Yes, you can, just follow the methods we recommend, and these methods will work not just for churches, but for other organizations." If the methods of the Church Growth Movement can be used by secular organizations--even those which are anti-Christian--then the Church Growth Movement is not in fact Christian, because Jesus said, "Without me you can do nothing."

The Lord said that he would build his church, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). The church in the 1st century that was under the leadership of the apostles--men directly commissioned by Jesus Christ--didn't use the methods of the Church Growth Movement, but the church grew anyway.

See my post Orthodox Jewish synagogues in the United States are using the methods of the Church Growth Movement (December 27, 2017).

An example of Gloo's promotion of the Church Growth Movement is provided by Matt Engel, November 1, 2017 (bold, links in original):

It’s estimated that only 35% of Americans attend church weekly and 84% of churches are declining or plateauing.

In the article Christian America is in Decline, the author explains,

“One reason so many are opting out of religion, or never opting in to begin with, is that churches are addressing the wrong questions.”

In short, members leave because they feel their church doesn’t provide enough spiritual engagement. Some want more opportunities to serve. While other are looking for ways to solve frustrations or doubts. Many even feel like church is irrelevant, and list that as the primary reason they leave, or never get involved in church.

Keep reading to see more about how you can rethink the decline in church attendance. Then learn about big data and how you can use it to reach your communities and retain congregants.

Churches that adopt new ways to connect with their cities and congregations are thriving

Not all churches are declining. Some are thriving as they discover new ways to meet spiritual and communal needs. One of the newest ways churches can determine these needs is with big data.

“The typical church is not good at tracking data. We keep track of how big the offering is. We keep good track of attendance. But we honestly don’t use data well,” explains Carl Kuhl of Outreach Magazine.

The article, 7 Keys to Church Growth, states “Church members are one of the key customer groups in a church. Understanding their unique needs and ensuring their needs are met – within the scope of the vision – is critical to church growth.”

Before we jump into the ways you can use big data in your church, let’s take a minute to discuss what big data is.

You’ve heard about it, but what exactly is big data?

Google defines big data as “extremely large data sets that may be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.

Though the term is relatively new, the use of data to guide decisions is not. Tribespeople tracked data by carving notches in bones or sticks to calculate trading activities or determine how long their supplies would last.

In the 1660s John Graunt collected mortality data and analyzed it to determine the frequency of various causes of death. He used that same data to refute the idea that the bubonic plague spreads by contagion. He even theorized an early warning system for the plague. Though mortality information had been collected for years, Graunt was the first to use the information to make connections to disease and population.

Today analysts use big data to predict heart disease, predict the spread of malaria and, of course, to track buying habits and encourage new purchases. But, just as John Graunt used data to draw conclusions to certain illnesses and disease, the data collected today does little good if it’s not acted upon.

Big data only offers solutions when it’s acted upon

We consciously, or subconsciously, match our reactions to the information we have available, in other words Know & Match. The more we know, the better we’re able to match our responses. For example, when you connect to your weather app you know the forecast and can match your clothing or activities accordingly. You act on the information provided.

Doctors predict disease based on genetics and family history, which allow them to act by providing preventative care. As a pastor, when you see data indicating your members are at risk of divorce, you can act on that data by planning sermons that focus on building stronger relationships or promoting marriage support groups.

You can access and use big data for your church today

There are many ways to collect data to understand the needs of your congregation and community. Here’s a few tools you can use today.

Use analytics from social media to know more about your following
There are many ways to collect and analyze data from social media. Facebook has Insights and Twitter has Analytics. More tools are available through Linkedin, Instagram and other social media channels.

Surveys and assessments give you first party information about your people

Many churches use surveys to assess the needs of their members. These can be done through software like SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo to assess the spiritual and temporal needs of your congregants.

Some churches find it helpful to collect data through formal assessments. Data can be collected in meetings, private interviews or detailed reports from church leaders.

Demographic reports tell you information about ages, income and more

Demographics can provide a lot of insight into your community. Through these reports, you can often access religious affiliation, marital status, household income and the ages of residents.

Third party data vendors create models that predict people's likelihood to get divorced (and much more!)

While some data can be collected from individual sources, there are services that gather, sort and provide data for their clients on a much larger scale, searching millions in their databases and producing thousands of data points per person for analysis. This information can be used to create predictive models of behavior. That means, you'll be able to know things like:

. A specific person's likelihood to get divorced

. If your congregation needs support when it comes to money

If you decide to use a data analytics platform, make sure you select one that corresponds with the data you need to reach your local community and congregants, and one that also provides a high degree of privacy. More about that in a minute.

What about privacy?

When you use big data and analytics you need to keep those details private.

When you work with a data analytics platform, all identifying information is kept private. The data is processed, scrubbed of any personal details, and then returned to you with only relevant information.

Churches that take advantage of modern tools to know their people and match their approach based on those insights give themselves the best opportunity to grow

It’s important to remember that big data is predictive, not prescriptive. It should organize known ideas, habits, demographics and activities then allow you to organize the information to represent the whole and act on it. Churches that use the power of big data in this way are able to predict struggles, pain points and in general, know more about their congregants and community. When they use that information to tailor their message, they’ll see long-term engagement that leads to growth.

As Carey Nieuwhof explains,

“I’m trying to read the minds of the people in the audience, in the congregation every week and I’m trying to think through the minds of a church person, of a non-church person, someone on the verge of divorce, someone who’s single … You run your message through a lot of filters, but with big data, you can actually know.”

Using big data in your church is about understanding your congregation’s needs and then matching those needs with relevant solutions. As you learn more, you can match more accurately and take a proactive approach to ministry.

Get the Guide to Big Data and Church

Download the E-Book and learn how to activate the power of big data to grow your church.

Get the E-Book
A particularly egregious example of the unbiblical drivel promoted by Gloo is the following, by Josh Hansen, from March 19, 2017 (originally dated February 17, 2017) (bold, links in original):

What Can Your Church Learn from Uber?

The World is Changing...

Our world is changing. Rapidly. Constantly. Exponentially. Technology is changing the very way we interact as businesses and organizations, as communities and individuals.

Consider some of the fastest growing companies of today.

(Uber, airbnb, alibaba)

The largest ride share company in the world is a mobile-based platform called Uber, a company which possesses no cars. Likewise, the largest hospitality company in the world owns no real estate, and it runs on a platform by the name of Airbnb. The largest retail company in the world, one that has revolutionized ecommerce, has no true inventory as a result of the platform it runs on—Alibaba.

While each of these companies are branded organizations with budgets and staff, they all function on platforms upon which the entire mission and work of their businesses—their core interactions—are provided by non-staff people.

In Uber’s case, their core interaction as a business is to connect ordinary people with rides to people who need them. Uber identified an incredibly untapped energy source on both sides of their equation. On one side, people desired to earn additional income and owned a vehicle from which they could do so. On the other side of the equation, people who didn’t have access to a vehicle wanted a seamless, simple and cheap way to catch a ride.

(Uber platform)

Their platform is what enables this core interaction to happen.

How do platforms do it?

To simplify the corporate structure of each of these companies, they are all just platforms. High functioning and complex, yes, but still platforms.

Platforms are organizations based on enabling value-creating interactions between external producers and consumers.

The most successful platforms today are leveraging digital technology to match the right producers to the right consumers. Platforms provide additional tools to reduce the friction that is commonly present in these interactions.

(value)

Ratings & Reviews → decrease the likelihood that you’ll get an unprofessional drive

Location → GPS makes it easier for your driver to find you, and you find them

Time to Arrival → no more wondering when your driver will pick you up

Directions → no more pointing over the shoulder, his phone tells him where to go

Payment → you know the price before your ride, and tips are included

(feedback)

Uber uses technology to remove friction at every point in the process, making the ride more efficient and enjoyable.

Platforms are changing the way we connect with each other, changing the way we exchange value and helping us do things better, smarter and at scale.

They create a space for anyone and everyone to be equipped to contribute to a primary, unifying mission—a core interaction.

Your church is a platform

There’s a common phrase spoken within Christian circles that you’ve likely heard before: “The Church is God’s plan A to carry out His mission, and He has no plan B.” Jesus laid out a clear mission for His Church at the end of His time on earth; a mission most call the Great Commission:

“All authority on heaven and earth has been given to Me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” —Matthew 28:18

Your church is an organization with a building, budget and staff, similar to Uber. And, like Uber, your church is made up of a number of ordinary people committed to a unified community. The mission for your church members—your core interaction—is to make disciples of Jesus, and your church is the platform through which this mission is carried out.

So what can your church learn from Uber? Uber founded its success on the ability of its platform to activate ordinary people to contribute to the core interaction of its business, i.e. providing a ride.

This core interaction is not primarily provided by the people Uber employs. Its employees primarily provide support for the platform to continue functioning so that every day people can be further equipped to carry out the core interaction of the company.

Your church functions in the exact same way. Your staff are set in place primarily to equip the congregation to carry out the mission—the core interaction—of your church.

(Leadership, Small Groups, Community)

“And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” —Ephesians 4:11-12

God designed and intended for the structure of the church, in its organized, local context, to function as a platform where you, the full-time ministers, equip the lay members to make disciples.

The Barrier to Your Platform

We realize that this is likely one of the biggest obstacles you wrestle with. I’d assume that the majority of your congregation either explicitly or implicitly believes that making disciples should primarily be your job since you work in full-time ministry.

Our American church culture has made this idea so embedded into our perception of what church is that even full-time ministers fall into a line of thought that the core interaction of your church is to have people show up on Sunday mornings and fill seats in your small groups.

But find encouragement that you do not carry the weight of this mission alone. You provide the platform to equip these lay men and women in your local church to be the ones making disciples of Jesus in their everyday interactions with people.

(discipleship)

Just as Uber found their success, we want to help your church scale the platform you have to activate anyone and everyone in your congregation to carry out your mission and make disciples.

Leveraging Your Platform

We believe with the right technology in place, your church can scalably leverage your resources and staff to better equip your people in carrying out the mission. We dream of a church environment where ordinary members are activated to be the church and make disciples.

So what would this kind of technology platform look like? What could it provide for your church? What core interaction could it help you scale?

We've created the Discipleship Planner to help you plan where you can strategically leverage your church's platform for your core interaction. Click below to access this free resource for your church today.

Start Planning Your Platform Strategy
Let's just see how sound Uber's practices and results are. As reported by Emel Akan in The Epoch Times, April 27, 2017 (updated April 28, 2017) (bold, links in original):

Uber is losing money faster than any other Silicon Valley startup. The ride-hailing company does not own cars or other fixed assets, but it is valued higher than both General Motors and Ford.

So what makes this cash-burning machine the most valuable private company in the world?

According to transportation industry expert Hubert Horan, Uber’s whopping valuation reflects the anticipation that it would one day drive all incumbent taxi and limo companies out of business.

“It is well on the way to achieving that objective in many markets,” Horan said, in a report.

But Uber lacks the competitive advantage and economies of scale that are required to achieve profitability, hence its business model is entirely different from other giant tech companies, like Amazon.

Horan said Uber’s rapid growth and industry dominance have been “entirely artificial, powered by its predatory investor subsidies.”

The ride-hailing company, which operates in nearly 75 markets, more than doubled its gross bookings and recorded $6.5 billion in revenue last year, according to a Bloomberg report.

However, it announced a massive $3.8 billion loss in 2016, including $1 billion from China where Uber sold its business to rival Didi Chuxing.

Uber has churned through at least $8 billion since its launch in 2009, according to Bloomberg.

The company lost nearly $1 billion in the last quarter of 2016—a massive amount for one quarter and unprecedented for a startup, according to experts.

Despite record losses, the company has managed to raise $13 billion from investors and reached a valuation of $69 billion.
Uber’s model is simple and replicable, but experts say its success is dependent on its ability to convince the world that it is a highly efficient operator that will rapidly grow into profitability.

But the company is far from breaking even, according to Horan.

“If you look at their economics, you can’t find any basis for expecting financial results to dramatically improve, much less close the $3 billion gap to break even,” Horan wrote in an email. “They’ve already cut driver pay quite a lot and can’t find much more savings there.”

Uber drivers used to receive 80 percent of each ride’s fare, but recent financial data shows a significant drop in that share.

Uber has announced that it still has $7 billion cash on hand and an untapped $2.3 billion credit facility. The company does not seem to need new capital in the short term.

The Pursuit of Power

Many users consider Uber better than traditional taxis when it comes to service quality, including driver courtesy and professionalism, car cleanliness, and availability at peak times.

But these service advantages are achieved through investor funds subsidizing the drivers.

Uber’s below-cost pricing is used as a tool to beat its competitors. The ride-hailing giant sharply cuts its prices when a competitor enters the market, incurring substantial losses until it drives out the rival from the market, experts say. Recently, taxi drivers and companies Yellow Cab and American Cab filed lawsuits in California against Uber for predatory pricing.

When raising funds from investors, Uber insists on special terms and restrictions, according to media reports. For example, the company does not allow investors to put money into competitors, like Lyft.

Uber’s investors include big Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Goldman Sachs, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Blackrock. The company also raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund last year.

Uber’s pursuit of industry dominance is the only way to deliver decent returns to investors, according to Horan.

The Silicon Valley venture capital community may not earn returns on their $13 billion investment without the “ability to exploit anti-competitive market power,” Horan said in his report.

“Uber’s objective is not merely a dominant market position, but a full control of the laws and regulations governing the urban car service industry,” he noted.

He believes Uber’s predatory tactics are a big concern for the transportation industry. However, nothing can be done “until there is a greater awareness that Uber’s business model is based on subsidizing prices and service levels to drive more efficient companies out of business so they could achieve quasi-monopoly market power,” he said.

Uber has run into many crises recently, including claims of sexual harassment, competitor sabotage, journalist intimidation, and a toxic corporate culture, which has resulted in at least nine top executive departures in recent months.

The company also came under fire in March for using a tool called Greyball, which allows Uber to avoid authorities in markets where its service is illegal or faces resistance from law enforcement.

“Most people assume Uber is a highly efficient, strong, and viable company—they incorrectly think these ‘cultural issues’ are anomalies that can be fixed. They can’t be fixed,” wrote Horan in the email.
As reported by Mike Isaac in The New York Times, February 22, 2017:

SAN FRANCISCO — When new employees join Uber, they are asked to subscribe to 14 core company values, including making bold bets, being “obsessed” with the customer, and “always be hustlin’.” The ride-hailing service particularly emphasizes “meritocracy,” the idea that the best and brightest will rise to the top based on their efforts, even if it means stepping on toes to get there.

Those values have helped propel Uber to one of Silicon Valley’s biggest success stories. The company is valued at close to $70 billion by private investors and now operates in more than 70 countries.

Yet the focus on pushing for the best result has also fueled what current and former Uber employees describe as a Hobbesian environment at the company, in which workers are sometimes pitted against one another and where a blind eye is turned to infractions from top performers.

Interviews with more than 30 current and former Uber employees, as well as reviews of internal emails, chat logs and tape-recorded meetings, paint a picture of an often unrestrained workplace culture. Among the most egregious accusations from employees, who either witnessed or were subject to incidents and who asked to remain anonymous because of confidentiality agreements and fear of retaliation: One Uber manager groped female co-workers’ breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee’s head in with a baseball bat.

Until this week, this culture was only whispered about in Silicon Valley. Then on Sunday, Susan Fowler, an engineer who left Uber in December, published a blog post about her time at the company. She detailed a history of discrimination and sexual harassment by her managers, which she said was shrugged off by Uber’s human resources department. Ms. Fowler said the culture was stoked — and even fostered — by those at the top of the company.

“It seemed like every manager was fighting their peers and attempting to undermine their direct supervisor so that they could have their direct supervisor’s job,” Ms. Fowler wrote. “No attempts were made by these managers to hide what they were doing: They boasted about it in meetings, told their direct reports about it, and the like.”

Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, has taken several steps since a former employee’s accusations of discrimination and sexual harassment by managers.

Her revelations have spurred hand-wringing over how unfriendly Silicon Valley workplaces can be to women and provoked an internal crisis at Uber. The company’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, has opened an internal investigation into the accusations and has brought in the board member Arianna Huffington and the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. to look into harassment issues and the human resources department.

To contain the fallout, Mr. Kalanick also began more disclosure. On Monday, he said that 15.1 percent of Uber’s engineering, product management and scientist roles were filled by women, and that those numbers had not changed substantively over the past year.

Mr. Kalanick also held a 90-minute all-hands meeting on Tuesday, during which he and other executives were besieged with dozens of questions and pleas from employees who were aghast at — or strongly identified with — Ms. Fowler’s story and demanded change.

In what was described by five attendees as an emotional moment, and according to a video of the meeting reviewed by The New York Times, Mr. Kalanick apologized to employees for leading the company and the culture to this point. “What I can promise you is that I will get better every day,” he said. “I can tell you that I am authentically and fully dedicated to getting to the bottom of this.”

Some Uber employees said Mr. Kalanick’s speedy efforts were positive. “I am pleased with how quickly Travis has responded to this,” Aimee Lucido, an Uber software engineer, wrote in a blog post. “We are better situated to handle this sort of problem than we have ever been in the past.”

As chief executive, Mr. Kalanick has long set the tone for Uber. Under him, Uber has taken a pugnacious approach to business, flouting local laws and criticizing competitors in a race to expand as quickly as possible. Mr. Kalanick, 40, has made pointed displays of ego: In a GQ article in 2014, he referred to Uber as “Boob-er” because of how the company helped him attract women.

That tone has been echoed in Uber’s workplace. At least two former Uber workers said they had notified Thuan Pham, the company’s chief technical officer, of workplace harassment at the hands of managers and colleagues in 2016. One also emailed Mr. Kalanick.

Uber also faces at least three lawsuits in at least two countries from former employees alleging sexual harassment or verbal abuse at the hands of managers, according to legal documents reviewed by The Times. Other current and former employees said they were considering legal action against the company.

Liane Hornsey, Uber’s chief human resources officer, said in a statement, “We are totally committed to healing wounds of the past and building a better workplace culture for everyone.”

Uber’s aggressive culture began with its 2009 founding, when Mr. Kalanick and another founder, Garrett Camp, created a start-up that would let customers hail a cab with little more than a few taps of their smartphone — bypassing many of the headaches people had with the taxi industry. Mr. Kalanick also started putting into place what eventually became Uber’s 14 core values, inspired by the leadership principles at one of the biggest public tech companies, Amazon.

To grow quickly, Uber kept its structure decentralized, emphasizing autonomy among regional offices. General managers are encouraged to “be themselves,” another of Uber’s core values, and are empowered to make decisions without intense supervision from the company’s San Francisco headquarters. The top priority: Achieve growth and revenue targets.

While Uber is now the dominant ride-hailing company in the United States, and is rapidly growing in South America, India and other countries, its explosive growth has come at a cost internally. As Uber hired more employees, its internal politics became more convoluted. Getting ahead, employees said, often involved undermining departmental leaders or colleagues.

Arianna Huffington, an Uber board member, was brought in to look into harassment issues and the human resources department. Workers like Ms. Fowler who went to human resources with their problems said they were often left stranded. She and a half-dozen others said human resources often made excuses for top performers because of their ability to improve the health of the business. Occasionally, problematic managers who were the subject of numerous complaints were shuffled around different regions; firings were less common.

One group appeared immune to internal scrutiny, the current and former employees said. Members of the group, called the A-Team and composed of executives who were personally close to Mr. Kalanick, were shielded from much accountability over their actions.

One member of the A-Team was Emil Michael, senior vice president for business, who was caught up in a public scandal over comments he made in 2014 about digging into the private lives of journalists who opposed the company. Mr. Kalanick defended Mr. Michael, saying he believed Mr. Michael could learn from his mistakes.

Uber’s aggressive workplace culture spilled out at a global all-hands meeting in late 2015 in Las Vegas, where the company hired Beyoncé to perform at the rooftop bar of the Palms Hotel. Between bouts of drinking and gambling, Uber employees used cocaine in the bathrooms at private parties, said three attendees, and a manager groped several female employees. (The manager was terminated within 12 hours.) One employee hijacked a private shuttle bus, filled it with friends and took it for a joy ride, the attendees said.

At the Las Vegas outing, Mr. Kalanick also held a companywide lecture reviewing Uber’s 14 core values, the attendees said. During the lecture, Mr. Kalanick pulled onstage employees who he believed exemplified each of the values. One of those was Mr. Michael.

Since Ms. Fowler’s blog post, several Uber employees have said they are considering leaving the company. Some are waiting until their equity compensation from Uber, which is restricted stock units, is vested. Others said they had started sending résumés to competitors.

Still other employees said they were hopeful that Uber could change. Mr. Kalanick has promised to deliver a diversity report to better detail the number of women and minorities who work at Uber, and the company is holding listening sessions with employees.

At the Tuesday all-hands meeting, Ms. Huffington, the Uber board member, also vowed that the company would make another change. According to attendees and video of the meeting, Ms. Huffington said there would no longer be hiring of “brilliant jerks.”
As reported by Mr. Isaac in The New York Times, March 1, 2017:

SAN FRANCISCO — Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Uber, apologized on Tuesday after a video showing him in a verbal altercation with a driver for the ride-hailing company became public.

In the video, recorded this month and reported on earlier by Bloomberg, Mr. Kalanick is seen in the back seat of an Uber car with two women. When they reach their destination, he begins talking with the driver, Fawzi Kamel.

During the exchange, Mr. Kamel complains about what he says is Uber’s history of lowering earnings for drivers, and Mr. Kalanick says Mr. Kamel should “take responsibility” for his own problems.

The conversation quickly becomes heated, with Mr. Kalanick using obscenities and generally being dismissive of Mr. Kamel’s complaints.

Hours after the video became public, Mr. Kalanick delivered an apology in the form of an email to employees addressing Mr. Kamel, “as well as the driver and rider community, and to the Uber team.”

“To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement,” Mr. Kalanick wrote in the email, which the company later posted to its public blog. “My job as your leader is to lead, and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away.”

The company said it had reached out to Mr. Kamel and hoped to arrange a conversation between him and Mr. Kalanick...

...The apology issued by Mr. Kalanick on Tuesday is the first instance in which he has admitted significant problems with his hard-charging leadership style.

“It’s clear this video is a reflection of me — and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up,” Mr. Kalanick wrote in his email. “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”

Mr. Kalanick did not specify in the email what sort of help he would seek.
As reported by Mr. Isaac in The New York Times, March 3, 2017:

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been banned.

The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials who were trying to clamp down on the ride-hailing service. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities like Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China and South Korea.

Greyball was part of a program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The program, including Greyball, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.

Greyball and the VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by Uber.

Uber’s use of Greyball was recorded on video in late 2014, when Erich England, a code enforcement inspector in Portland, Ore., tried to hail an Uber car downtown in a sting operation against the company.

At the time, Uber had just started its ride-hailing service in Portland without seeking permission from the city, which later declared the service illegal. To build a case against the company, officers like Mr. England posed as riders, opening the Uber app to hail a car and watching as miniature vehicles on the screen made their way toward the potential fares.

But unknown to Mr. England and other authorities, some of the digital cars they saw in the app did not represent actual vehicles. And the Uber drivers they were able to hail also quickly canceled. That was because Uber had tagged Mr. England and his colleagues — essentially Greyballing them as city officials — based on data collected from the app and in other ways. The company then served up a fake version of the app, populated with ghost cars, to evade capture...

...In a statement, Uber said, “This program denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service — whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.”...

...Uber, which lets people hail rides using a smartphone app, operates multiple types of services, including a luxury Black Car offering in which drivers are commercially licensed. But an Uber service that many regulators have had problems with is the lower-cost version, known in the United States as UberX.

UberX essentially lets people who have passed a background check and vehicle inspection become Uber drivers quickly. In the past, many cities have banned the service and declared it illegal.

That is because the ability to summon a noncommercial driver — which is how UberX drivers using private vehicles are typically categorized — was often unregulated. In barreling into new markets, Uber capitalized on this lack of regulation to quickly enlist UberX drivers and put them to work before local regulators could stop them.

After the authorities caught on to what was happening, Uber and local officials often clashed. Uber has encountered legal problems over UberX in cities including Austin, Tex., Philadelphia and Tampa, Fla., as well as internationally. Eventually, agreements were reached under which regulators developed a legal framework for the low-cost service.

That approach has been costly. Law enforcement officials in some cities have impounded vehicles or issued tickets to UberX drivers, with Uber generally picking up those costs on the drivers’ behalf. The company has estimated thousands of dollars in lost revenue for every vehicle impounded and ticket received.

Uber’s Greyball tool was developed to weed out riders thought to be using its service improperly. This is where the VTOS program and the use of the Greyball tool came in. When Uber moved into a new city, it appointed a general manager to lead the charge. This person, using various technologies and techniques, would try to spot enforcement officers.

One technique involved drawing a digital perimeter, or “geofence,” around the government offices on a digital map of a city that Uber was monitoring. The company watched which people were frequently opening and closing the app — a process known internally as eyeballing — near such locations as evidence that the users might be associated with city agencies.

Other techniques included looking at a user’s credit card information and determining whether the card was tied directly to an institution like a police credit union.

Enforcement officials involved in large-scale sting operations meant to catch Uber drivers would sometimes buy dozens of cellphones to create different accounts. To circumvent that tactic, Uber employees would go to local electronics stores to look up device numbers of the cheapest mobile phones for sale, which were often the ones bought by city officials working with budgets that were not large.

In all, there were at least a dozen or so signifiers in the VTOS program that Uber employees could use to assess whether users were regular new riders or probably city officials.

If such clues did not confirm a user’s identity, Uber employees would search social media profiles and other information available online. If users were identified as being linked to law enforcement, Uber Greyballed them by tagging them with a small piece of code that read “Greyball” followed by a string of numbers.

When someone tagged this way called a car, Uber could scramble a set of ghost cars in a fake version of the app for that person to see, or show that no cars were available. Occasionally, if a driver accidentally picked up someone tagged as an officer, Uber called the driver with instructions to end the ride.

Uber employees said the practices and tools were born in part out of safety measures meant to protect drivers in some countries. In France, India and Kenya, for instance, taxi companies and workers targeted and attacked new Uber drivers.

“They’re beating the cars with metal bats,” the singer Courtney Love posted on Twitter from an Uber car in Paris at a time of clashes between the company and taxi drivers in 2015. Ms. Love said that protesters had ambushed her Uber ride and had held her driver hostage. “This is France? I’m safer in Baghdad.”

Uber has said it was also at risk from tactics used by taxi and limousine companies in some markets. In Tampa, for instance, Uber cited collusion between the local transportation authority and taxi companies in fighting ride-hailing services.

In those areas, Greyballing started as a way to scramble the locations of UberX drivers to prevent competitors from finding them. Uber said that was still the tool’s primary use.

But as Uber moved into new markets, its engineers saw that the same methods could be used to evade law enforcement. Once the Greyball tool was put in place and tested, Uber engineers created a playbook with a list of tactics and distributed it to general managers in more than a dozen countries on five continents.

At least 50 people inside Uber knew about Greyball, and some had qualms about whether it was ethical or legal. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team, led by Salle Yoo, the company’s general counsel. Ryan Graves, an early hire who became senior vice president of global operations and a board member, was also aware of the program.

Ms. Yoo and Mr. Graves did not respond to requests for comment.

Outside legal specialists said they were uncertain about the legality of the program. Greyball could be considered a violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or possibly intentional obstruction of justice, depending on local laws and jurisdictions, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University who also writes for The New York Times...

...On Friday, Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament for the Dutch Democratic Party in the Netherlands, wrote that she had written to the European Commission asking, among other things, if it planned to investigate the legality of Greyball.

To date, Greyballing has been effective. In Portland on that day in late 2014, Mr. England, the enforcement officer, did not catch an Uber, according to local reports.

And two weeks after Uber began dispatching drivers in Portland, the company reached an agreement with local officials that said that after a three-month suspension, UberX would eventually be legally available in the city.
As reported by Solomon Israel of CBC News, March 7, 2017 (updated March 8, 2017):

Uber has used a clandestine software tool to dupe authorities in different cities around the world and prevent them from hailing Uber rides, according to a New York Times report.

It's called Greyball: a secret method used by Uber to track and evade unfriendly authorities in cities around the world.

The ride-hailing service won't confirm whether it used that clandestine tool to deceive regulatory and law enforcement authorities in Canadian cities...

...Uber's Canadian office offered no comment in response to requests from CBC News.

"The City of Toronto was successful in undertaking enforcement prior to Uber being licensed," said Tracey Cook, executive director of municipal licensing and standards for the City of Toronto, who added that the city's July 2016 bylaw regulating Uber and other private transportation companies would prohibit Uber "from obstructing information with regard to the accounts."
Montreal authorities have no proof that Greyball was ever used by Uber in that city, said Renaud Beauchemin, a spokesperson for the Bureau du taxi de Montreal.

"Using this software or a similar technology could be considered as obstruction to the authorities," he said.

Through a spokesperson, the city of Edmonton said it has "no knowledge of the use of this technology by Uber from an enforcement perspective."...
As reported by Mr. Isaac in The New York Times, May 4, 2017:

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber is the subject of a United States Department of Justice inquiry over a program that it used to deceive regulators who were trying to shut down its ride-hailing service.

The inquiry concerns Uber’s use of a software tool called Greyball, which the company developed in part to aid entrance into new markets where its service was not permitted. The tool allowed Uber to deploy what was essentially a fake version of its app to evade law enforcement agencies that were cracking down on its service...

...The federal inquiry was disclosed in a transportation audit conducted by the City of Portland, Ore., published last week. In the audit, Portland officials said they had been notified by the United States attorney’s office for the Northern District of California about the existence of the inquiry. The City of Portland said it was cooperating with the inquiry.

Reuters reported on Thursday that the inquiry was a criminal investigation. The United States attorney’s office for the Northern District of California generally conducts criminal investigations, and some of the laws that Uber may have broken carry criminal penalties. A federal inquiry often does not result in any charges being filed...
As reported by Greg Bensinger of The Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2017:

Uber Technologies Inc. expects to conclude a report soon on claims of sexual harassment and sexism that it hopes will close a damaging chapter in its history. But it also could bring even greater scrutiny for the troubled ride-hailing company.

The report—expected next week—will be the culmination of an investigation triggered in February when former software engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti claimed in a nearly 3,000-word blog post that Uber management had ignored multiple complaints from her and other female workers of sexual harassment and sexism by their managers.

The outcome carries significant stakes for the world’s most valuable startup. Some employees say the allegations and the three-month investigation, along with other recent controversies, have been painful distractions and threaten Uber’s ability to attract talent. Employees will be looking for information about how Uber’s leaders handled workplace issues and what changes the report might trigger. Others who will be contemplating the results: candidates in Uber’s search for its first-ever chief operating officer to assist CEO Travis Kalanick.
As reported by Subrat Patnaik of Reuters, June 1, 2017:

Uber Technologies Inc said its head of finance is leaving, and the privately held ride-hailing company also said that its first-quarter loss narrowed substantially from the prior quarter, putting it on a path toward profitability.

Head of finance Gautam Gupta is leaving in July to join another startup in San Francisco, the company said, making Gupta the latest high-profile executive to leave Uber.

Uber, which has been rocked by several high-level executive departures in the past few months as it grapples with a series of controversies, has been looking for a chief operating officer to help change its now-notorious "bro" culture.

Gupta's exit sets the stage for a second major executive search, now for a chief financial officer who has public company experience.

About a dozen top executives have left Uber since February.

The company on Tuesday fired the technology whiz it had hired to lead its self-driving unit, Anthony Levandowski, after he failed to comply with a court order to hand over documents at the center of a legal dispute between Uber and Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Waymo unit.

Uber on Wednesday said its net loss in the first quarter, excluding employee stock compensation and other items, narrowed to $708 million, from $991 million in the fourth quarter.

As a private company, Uber does not report its financial results publicly, but at times it has confirmed figures reported in the media.

Uber said its first-quarter revenue rose 18 percent to $3.4 billion from the fourth quarter.

"The narrowing of our losses in the first quarter puts us on a good trajectory towards profitability," an Uber spokesperson said in an email...
As reported by Ryan Grenoble of the Huffington Post, June 21, 2017:

The wheels finally fell off.

Travis Kalanick is stepping down from his post as CEO of Uber, effective immediately.

Kalanick’s exit came after a shareholder revolt reportedly made it untenable for him to stay at the company he founded in 2009. Investors called for the change in leadership in a letter that was delivered to Kalanick in Chicago and obtained by Times reporter Mike Isaac...

...Uber suffered several turbulent months in early 2017. The rise of #DeleteUber in response to the company appearing to break a taxi picket line in early February drove more than 200,000 people to delete the Uber App from their phone in protest, and was only quelled once Kalanick announced he’d resign from President Donald Trump’s economic advisory council.

That movement regained steam, however, as lurid claims of a toxic work culture surfaced, courtesy of a tell-all blog by a former employee.

Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler penned the blog in late February, recalling her experiences with rampant sexual harassment at the company, including being solicited for sex by male superiors and stonewalled by HR for reporting their conduct.

Two of Uber’s earliest investors, Mitch and Freada Kapor, spoke out at the time and urged the company to switch gears.

“Uber’s outsize success in terms of growth of market share, revenues and valuation are impressive, but can never excuse a culture plagued by disrespect, exclusionary cliques, lack of diversity, and tolerance for bullying and harassment of every form,” the two wrote.

“Uber has had countless opportunities to do the right thing,” they added. “We feel we have hit a dead end.”

Kalanick pledged to clean up the company culture in response. He asked former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to lead an inquiry, and got former Huffington Post editor-in-chief (and Uber board member) Arianna Huffington to pitch in.

Yet another crisis developed soon after: Waymo, a Google-founded competitor, sued Uber, claiming the company had stolen technology essential to the development of its self-driving cars.

Uber competitor Lyft continued to pick up steam all the while...
As reported by Reuters, September 20, 2017:

Alphabet Waymo unit is seeking about $2.6 billion from Uber for the alleged theft of one of several trade secrets in a lawsuit over self-driving cars, a lawyer for Uber said on Wednesday.

Uber Technologies Inc attorney Bill Carmody disclosed the figure in a hearing in federal court in San Francisco, where both companies are discussing whether a trial in the case will begin next month.

Waymo has asserted claims that Uber stole several of its trade secrets.

The total amount of Waymo's damages request was not publicly disclosed at the hearing on Wednesday.

Waymo claimed in a lawsuit earlier this year that former engineer Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up a self-driving truck company, which Uber acquired soon after.

Uber has denied using any of Waymo's trade secrets.

Waymo's allegations have already led Uber to fire Levandowski, who had directed Uber's efforts in the nascent yet pivotal field of self-driving cars...
As reported by Nick Statt of The Verge, September 22, 2017 (links in original):

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent a sobering, self-reflective email to employees today following the London transport authority’s decision not to renew the company’s license. In what is an uncharacteristic move for a company plagued by rampant sexism and regulatory abuse, much of which was a product of the leadership style of former chief exec and founder Travis Kalanick, Khosrowshahi told Uber employees that “there is a high cost to a bad reputation.”...

...“Irrespective of whether we did everything that is being said about us in London today (to be clear, I don’t think we did), it really matters what people think of us,” Khosrowshahi wrote, “especially in a global business like ours, where actions in one part of the world can have serious consequences in another.” It’s clear now that Uber is taking these controversies as teachable moments, and that a ban in a city as large and instrumental to its business as London could push it to improve its systemic issues...

...Those issues include Uber’s use of Greyball, custom software which allowed the company to dodge law enforcement and regulatory officials from using the full app for potential sting operations. Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transportation authority, cited Greyball, among other offenses, when it declined to renew Uber’s license, saying the company’s “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”

“Going forward, it’s critical that we act with integrity in everything we do, and learn how to be a better partner to every city we operate in,” Khosrowshahi concludes. “That doesn’t mean abandoning our principles — we will vigorously appeal TfL’s decision — but rather building trust through our actions and our behavior. In doing so, we will show that Uber is not just a really great product, but a really great company that is meaningful contributing to society, beyond its business and its bottom line.”
As reported by James Titcomb of the London Daily Telegraph, November 24, 2017 (links in original):

Uber's new chief executive, who is trying to repair the company's battered reputation, has known about the hack that lost 57 million passengers' and drivers' details for over two months.

Dara Khosrowshahi was told about the breach shortly after taking charge of the company in September, according to reports. It also informed SoftBank, the the Japanese tech giant that is close to an investment of up to $10bn (£7.5bn), three weeks ago.

Uber revealed on Tuesday night that hackers accessed the accounts of 50 million passengers and 7 million drivers in October 2016. It learned about the incident a year ago and paid the hackers $100,000 to delete the data and keep quiet.

The Information Commissioner has since confirmed that the personal data of British users was accessed, and has warned that the company could be fined over the matter.

The company has sought to draw a line under the news, sacking its chief security officer Joe Sullivan and coming clean about the breach, which happened under the watch of its former chief executive Travis Kalanick. But the revelation that its top brass has known for two months, reported in the Wall Street Journal, is likely to raise questions about whether customers should have been notified earlier...
As reported by Zeeshan Aleem of vox.com, December 20, 2017 (links in original):

The European Union’s top court has ruled that Uber should be regulated like a taxi company, a move that could have major implications for how the popular ride-hailing app does business in Europe — and raises questions about its future in the US.

The European Court of Justice issued the ruling in a case brought by Barcelona cab drivers, who argued that Uber had an unfair advantage over them because it wasn’t regulated as heavily.

The court rejected Uber’s argument that it is a tech business whose main function is matching passengers with drivers. Instead, it ruled that the company should be classified as a transportation service — and that it needs to be regulated like one.

That ruling, which can’t be appealed, means that the company could face new licensing fees and also raises questions over whether the company could be obligated to provide employee benefits to drivers...

...With a valuation of $70 billion, Uber is currently the most highly valued startup in the world. But its long-term reputation is in peril as it stumbles from controversy to controversy and struggles to shake public perception that it is a company that prefers to buck rules wherever it goes rather than follow them.

In September, London regulators banned Uber from operating in the city, arguing that the company demonstrated a “lack of corporate responsibility” tied to a number of its behaviors, such as failing to report sexual assault by its drivers and using lax background checks.

Uber is currently appealing that case in London courts and has the right to continue operating in the city until the appeals process is exhausted.

But should the company lose in court, it will suffer a massive blow: London is Uber’s largest European market and hosts some 40,000 licensed Uber drivers who serve more than 3 million customers...

...Denmark pushed Uber out of the country this spring after introducing new taxi laws

Uber also has a long history of controversy in the US. After it left Austin, Texas, in 2016 because of the city’s requirements for background checks on drivers, it teamed up with Lyft to spend millions lobbying state lawmakers and eventually convinced the Texas legislature to overrule the city. Uber returned to the city this year, but its return was met with anger from local officials.

Currently at least five states are planning to investigate Uber after it revealed this fall that it had paid hackers $100,000 to cover up a cyberattack that stole nearly 60 million people’s personal data from the company in 2016.

The Department of Justice is also currently looking into whether Uber has broken a US law against bribing foreign officials with payments that it made to officials in China, India, Indonesia, and elsewhere.
Given what has been revealed about Uber in 2017, one wonders why the Church Growth Movement promotes Uber as a model for churches to follow; it's hard to think of a company that has less in common with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Uber has been around for only eight years, and it would come as no surprise to this blogger if it won't be around eight years from now. The true church of the Lord Jesus Christ, created by the Lord Himself, has been around for 2,000 years and will be around for eternity

Saturday, December 30, 2017

50 years ago: Newspaper religion pages report differences of opinion on Canadian politics

Submitted for your approval, the following items from The Edmonton Journal, December 9, 1967 (bold in original):

Booklet Outlines United B-B Stand

TORONTO -- Canadians of French speech should have the same opportunities to share in running the country, politically and economically, as Canadians of English speech.

Neither should be in anyway directly or indirectly, discriminated against or shut out.

The United Church of Canada said this to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in 1964, and it says it again in a booklet just published.

The publication, entitled Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Recent Statements of The United Church of Canada, is being distributed to all ministers with a recommendation that its contents be studied by church members.

The booklet, six pages in English and six in French, is made up of extracts from the submission statements of the Board of Evangelism and Social Service.

PROVISION

The church's brief, presented by a committee headed by Dr. Eugene A. Forsey of Ottawa, recommended that "there should be better provision for French education in the provinces outside Quebec...that it should not be taken for granted that French schools must necessarily be Roman Catholic separate schools; the possibility of French public schools should be investigated and considered."

The United Church has French-speaking congregations in Ottawa, Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec.

It maintains a hostel at Pointe-aux-Tremblat in east end Montreal for children attending French-language Protestant schools, a French-language paper in Montreal, and two years ago opened Dialogue, an ecumenical information centre in downtown Montreal.

------------------------------------------------------------------
RC Church 'Behind' B-B Debate

An Edmonton Presbyterian minister Thursday blasted the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism report and blamed the Roman Catholic Church for Quebec's problems.

Rev. Jonas E.C. Shepherd, of Crestwood Presbyterian Church, told a group at the Social Credit Hall:

"I am inclined to think that the only province wanting 'piece' is Quebec - a piece of Ontario, a piece of Labrador,a piece of New Brunswick, a piece of a constitution for all of Canada giving them privileges no other has."

"Who would not enjoy peace at such a price, when everything comes their way?" the national president of the Canadian Protest League asked.

"The Bi-Bi baby proceeds to insist that we must travel a one-way street. Not once is it prepared to hint that Quebec needs to become a province of two languages, which they legally are.

"Canada is not a bilingual country. This is being parroted again and again, and it simply is not so.

"Hitlerism is the sort of thing that suggests the bigger the lie and the more it is repeated, the public, ultimately, will believe it.

"The bilingual myth is an example of this.

"Our nation has never, legally, constitutionally, or historically had one of two official languages. We have one official language from sea to sea.

"Special provision has been made for another language, French, to be used in the Province of Quebec, the House of Commons, and the Supreme Court of Canada, and this is all the provision.

Privilege Claimed Right

"This was granted as a privilege, now it has been claimed as a right everywhere in the Dominion," Mr. Shepherd continued.

He blamed the problem on the Roman Catholic Church.

"The Roman Catholic Church is using every means available to her to propagate her faith and strengthen her stronghold on the religio-political life of Canada."

"If the Bi-Bi Commission's recommendation is accepted, that provinces become bilingual when ten per cent of the population is French in origin, we can expect a church oriented system of colonization.

"Thus the church's influence will spread and strengthen and continue to strangle our free institutions.

"We must not be stampeded or blackmailed into granting everything to the one spoilt brat in the family of 10 who has thrown a tantrum every time she could not get her own way.

"Let us appeal to the provinces who hold the power here. Certain concessions can not be written into the constitution without the unanimous consent of all the provinces," Mr. Shepherd urged.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was commissioned by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Lester Pearson in 1963 in an attempt to resolve the age-old conflict between English- and French-speaking Canadians, particularly in relation to the desire of French Canadians--a large majority of the population of Quebec, but a small minority everywhere else--for greater participation in political and economic decision-making in Canada.

The position of the United Church of Canada, which was already apostate, come as no surprise to this blogger. As for French-speaking Canadians having the "same opportunities to share in running the country," Pierre Trudeau took office as Prime Minister of Canada on April 20, 1968, and a year later, his Liberal Party government succeeded in passing the Official Languages Act, whose most lasting effect was to restrict advancement in the federal civil service to residents of Quebec, especially those from Montreal, who would have a distinct advantage over other Canadians in their exposure to both English and French. Peter Brimelow, in his excellent book The Patriot Game (1986), argues that the Official Languages Act had the effect of entrenching the position of the French and Anglo elites from Montreal--the very elites that Pierre Trudeau was part of--who were in the process of losing their elite status in the late 1960s.

It's a matter of record that in the period from Pierre Trudeau's assumption of the office of Prime Minister until Stephen Harper took office as Prime Minister of a Conservative Party government in February 2006--almost 38 years--Canada was governed by Prime Ministers from Quebec for about 36 years of that time; the only non-Quebec Prime Ministers during that time were Joe Clark (nine months, 1979-1980); John Turner (three months, 1984); and Kim Campbell (about five months, 1993). Like many other non-Quebeckers, I've been deprived of job opportunities in the Canadian civil service because I'm not fluent in French or French-Canadian, and I resent it very much.

I think Rev. Shepherd exaggerated the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the situation--at least what might be considered traditional Roman Catholicism--but Rev. Shepherd's analysis was otherwise correct, and he spoke with a courage that is quite lacking in Canadian pastors today. In the words of perceptive Canadian Christian Chris Milner, "It’s progressive Catholics who have for the most part paved the way for the advent of the Antichrist and since progressive Catholicism made Quebec a pro-abortion pro-sodomite society, this philosophical venereal disease eventually spread all across Canada." It's worth noting that in the period of almost 38 years mentioned above, that Canada had just one Prime Minister--Kim Campbell, for just five months--who wasn't at least a nominal Roman Catholic. It's also worth noting that under ostensible Roman Catholic Pierre Trudeau, homosexual acts and abortion were legalized in 1969, thus signalling that secular humanism rather than the Bible was now the basis of Canadian law; and none of this changed under subsequent Catholic Prime Ministers.

Also reported in the Journal's religion pages that day:

Ecumenism Committee Proposed

MONTREAL (CP) -- The Canadian Council of Churches and the Canadian Catholic Conference together have proposed the creation of a joint working committee to promote religious ecumenism on regional and national levels in Canada.

The proposal came at the concluding session of a three-day working seminar held by the two groups here.

Nearly 50 representatives--30 Protestant and Orthodox and 20 Catholic--gathered for the seminar, described by Rev. Irenee Beaubien, a Jesuit from Montreal, as a "very important step in ecumenism in this country."

The bilingual committee would be made up of seven representatives of the major denominations in Canada.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Trialogue Replaces Sermon

Summer of Service and Caravanning will be the subject of special presentations Sunday morning at Chalmers United Church at 9:30 and 11.

Instead of the sermon, a "trialogue" will be used to describe these forms of volunteer summer youth work being carried out in Alberta and across Canada.

Taking part will be Helen Stevens, a Summer of Service volunteer, of Fort Macleod, who is active in the university parish; Steve Hoskin, a caravanner from Metropolitian United Church and Barbara Gregg, a Kairos member from Chalmers United Church.

There will be solos with guitar accompaniment by Phyllis Metcalf of Metropolitan United Church and Doreen Schienbien of the Lutheran Student Movement at the university.

-------------------------------------------------------------
First Baptist Church is advertised as being with "The Baptist Union of Western Canada affiliated with the Baptist Federation of Canada and the Baptist World Alliance." The 11:00 A.M. sermon is titled The Life of Light and Love, while the 7:30 P.M. message is titled The Synod of Bishops by Mr. Douglas Roche. Mr. Roche was then the editor of the Western Catholic Reporter. He later went into politics, and as a Progressive Conservative (and a lot more "Progressive" than "Conservative"), sat in the Canadian House of Commons from 1972-1994 and in the Senate from 1998-2004.

One might think it odd that a Baptist church would have a liberal Roman Catholic as a speaker, but the Minister at First Baptist was Rev. Edward Checkland. I recognized the name, because I know a couple of people who had him as a professor at the University of Alberta in the 1980s, and one of them confirmed to me that Rev. Checkland was a "flaming liberal" who wrote a two-page diatribe in a failed attempt to rebut my friend's paper attacking liberal "Christianity." The Baptist World Alliance was notorious for admitting to its fellowship Baptist "churches" from the Soviet Union and other eastern European Communist bloc nations; the pastors of these "churches" were agents of their Communist governments. Carl McIntire founder and longtime President of the International Council of Christian Churches, used to denounce the Baptist World Alliance in his Christian Beacon newspaper and books such as Outside the Gate (1967).

See my post 50 years ago: Newspaper religion pages record increasing ecumenism (January 30, 2017).

Friday, December 29, 2017

Researcher claims that Mormons are still baptizing Holocaust victims and other dead Jews

But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Matthew 22:31-32

The main emphasis of I Corinthians 15 is on the reality and necessity of the bodily resurrection, especially the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
I Corinthians 15:13-14

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? I Corinthians 15:29

According to Gleason Archer in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (1982), pp. 401-402, the term "for the dead" really means "for the sake of the dead" rather than "on behalf of the dead," and refers to the 1st century practice of older Christians who were on their deathbeds and would summon loved ones to their bedsides and exhort them to believe the gospel and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. Enough people did come to saving faith in this way that their public confession of faith and baptism could be referred to as being "for the sake" of the dead person whose godly example and exhortation had led them to Christ.

The Mormon practice of having current Latter-day Saints being baptized on behalf of dead people is an erroneous practice based on a faulty understanding of I Corinthians 15:29. As reported by Josefin Dolsten of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 22, 2017 (links in original):

A researcher says Mormons have posthumously baptized the late Lubavitcher rebbe, the grandparents of Carrie Fisher and Steven Spielberg, and hundreds of Holocaust victims, violating an agreement to halt the practice.

Helen Radkey, a Salt Lake City-based independent researcher who has been looking into the Mormon practice of posthumous baptisms for two decades, said there are hundreds of examples of Jewish Holocaust victims being baptized in Mormon churches around the world since 2012. In a report released this week, she shared names of 20 such people who had been baptized.

“There are at least hundreds, probably more,” Radkey, a former Mormon who was excommunicated from the church in 1978, told JTA on Thursday.

The names cited by Radkey refer to Holocaust victims baptized from April 2012 and onward. In March 2012, the Mormon church, formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sent a letter to its congregations reiterating a 1995 policy that members should only do posthumous baptisms on their own ancestors and forbidding baptisms of Jewish Holocaust victims and celebrities.

In addition to hundreds of Holocaust victims, Radkey claims to have found other examples of famous Jews being baptized. For example, she says the late Chabad-Lubavitch leader Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and his father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, were baptized in 2015. So were philosopher Martin Buber in 2016, and the grandparents of Spielberg and Fisher in 2015 and 2017.

Radkey found the names in FamilySearch, a website used by Mormons to trace family lineages and submit requests for proxy baptisms. Her study was first reported by The Associated Press.

The practice of proxy baptisms is a controversial one. Mormons are instructed to perform baptisms on dead relatives who did not have the opportunity to convert to the church. However, in the 1990s it was discovered that Mormons had performed such rites on hundreds of thousands of Jews who died in the Holocaust. This angered Jewish groups, which said the practice disrespected the victims’ religious beliefs.

In 1995, the Mormon church reached an agreement with Jewish leaders to cease the practice, and it was emphasized in the 2012 letter.

Radkey also says she found examples of family members of famous politicians, including Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, as well as relatives of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, being posthumously baptized.

Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the church was doing its part to ensure there were no posthumous baptisms.

“The Church cares deeply about ensuring these standards are maintained,” he said in a statement. “Each month, we receive a list of names of Holocaust victims from the [Simon] Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. These are added to our database of names that require a direct family connection before temple work can be requested or performed.”

Four full-time employees at FamilySearch monitor the site for names of Holocaust victims and others that should not be added, Hawkins added.

The Anti-Defamation League, which has worked with the Mormon church on the issue, said the church was doing its part to prevent Holocaust baptisms.

“My sense is that they are making every good faith effort to first of all block these before they happen, [and] if in the case that something slips through and they become aware of it, they then remove it and reverse it,” ADL’s director of interfaith affairs, Rabbi David Sandmel, told JTA on Friday. “I’m satisfied that they take this seriously and that they are doing the best they can to fulfill the commitment they made on this.”

However, Gary Mokotoff, a Jewish genealogist who has been involved in the issue, begged to differ.

“If the problem still exists, whatever the church is doing to prevent it is not working” Mokotoff told JTA on Friday.

“A single person called Helen Radkey can find hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of Holocaust victims being submitted for posthumous baptism, then why can’t the church, which claims they actually have people working on it, find the very thing that Helen is finding?” he asked.

Mokotoff, who has relatives that died in the Holocaust, said the baptisms of Nazi victims were particularly jarring.

“These people died because they were Jews,” he said, “and here you are bringing them into a second religion even though these people are not related to you.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said the idea that Jews needed to be baptized was offensive. The parents of the center’s namesake, famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, have previously been baptized by Mormons.

“We were sure that these baptisms were removed but we’re seeing that they’re not,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s founder and dean, said in a statement emailed to JTA. “We reiterated yet again the reasons we protested that it’s insulting that the People of the Book whom G-d made a Covenant would need the assistance of a group of Mormons to gain entrance to Heaven.”
That the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would agree not to baptize Jews is typical of Mormonism, which has a history of officially doing away with practices that prove unpopular with outsiders. However, if you believe, as Mormons do, that baptism into the Mormon church is necessary for salvation and is possible even after death, are you going to stop doing it because a particular hypersensitive group finds it offensive?

While disagreeing with the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead, I also take issue with the statement of Rabbi Marvin Hier at the end of this article. Rabbi Hier sounds exactly like the Pharisees in John 8 who thought they had a relationship with God on the basis of their genealogy; the Lord Jesus Christ had nothing good to say to or about them:

They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.
Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?
Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.
And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.
Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.
Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
John 8:33-58

Most Jews in Israel want a separation of religion and state

As reported by Kobi Nachshoni of Ynet News, September 18, 2017 (links in original):

Israelis have lost hope in the possibility of a Jewish and democratic coexistence, according to the Religion & State Index released on Monday.

Support for a separation of church and state is on a constant rise, jumping from 56 percent in 2012 to 68% in 2017.

The index, conducted by the Smith Polling Institute for Hiddush - Freedom of Religion for Israel, points to a consistent change in trends over the past few years.

In the past, the index pointed to Israelis' complex relationship with religion—identifying with Orthodox Judaism, while at the same time decisively opposing religious coercion. The new data indicate the public doesn't merely seek more freedom in the form of separating religion from government, but also less religion in general.

For example, over the past two years, there has been a decrease in respondents who said they'd choose an Orthodox wedding for themselves and their children—from 68% in 2015 to only 50% in 2017. On the other hand, the number of respondents who support civil marriages rose from 19% to 30%.

Conversely, 86% said the state should ensure freedom of religion and conscience for all of its citizens, while 65% called to grant Reform and Conservative Jews equal status and recognition to that of Orthodox Jews (67% supported non-Orthodox marriage; 52% supported non-Orthodox kashrut supervision; and 49% supported non-Orthodox conversion).

Fifty-eight percent said they noticed an increase in religious elements in the secular education system and defined it as "religionization" (46% supported that trend). While at the same time, 78% said they were in favor of including Jewish heritage studies in state schools, but only if students are taught about the different approaches to this heritage—secular, Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

While seeking more religious freedoms for themselves, a great majority of Israelis (82%) believe ultra-Orthodox education institutions must be required to teach core curriculum subjects, while 84% of them called to deny state budgets (entirely or partially) from schools or yeshivot who refuse to teach subjects such as math, English and science.

Regarding representation in the Knesset, 79% said the law should be amended to ensure the inclusion of women in every party, including Haredi factions.

Respondents were asked for their opinion on draft exemptions given to the ultra-Orthodox, with 36% calling to conscript all yeshiva students into full IDF service, while 33% said they should at the very least be required to complete national service. Seventeen percent accept the existing situation, in which ultra-Orthodox men and women can receive an exemption for religious reasons, while 14% were in favor of setting a cap on "prodigy" yeshiva students who will receive an exemption from service, while conscripting the others.

Debating the issue of public transportation on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, 45% were in support of limited service, 28% said buses and trains should run on the weekend as they do on weekdays, 19% said they were happy with the status quo and 8% said they wanted to cancel the existing Saturday public transportation.

In their private lives, 48% of respondents said they observe the Shabbat, with 27% observing it according to the Halacha (Jewish law) and 21% partially adhere to the Halacha by reciting the kiddush prayer and lighting Shabbat candles. Meanwhile, 29% said they consider Shabbat "a special day of rest," while 23% see it as a "regular day off" or a "day like all days."

In the wake of the crisis between the Israeli government and American Jews over the conversion bill and the freeze of the Western Wall egalitarian area plan, the survey examined the public's views on the involvement of Diaspora Jewry in Israel's internal affairs and of the promotion of their agenda on matters of religion and state. Fifty-five percent said they supported Diaspora Jewry's involvement, while 45% were against it.

The Religion & State Index, conducted by Rafi Smith and Olga Paniel from the Smith Institute, polled 800 respondents, both men and women, who make up a representative sample of the adult Jewish population in Israel (the margin of error is 3.5%).

"The index's findings clearly present the serious gap between the public's views and the positions and comments made by the government on issues of religion and state," said Uri Regev, the director of Hiddush.

"The public's criticism and frustration is increasing," Regev continued. "The public is looking for constitutional protection and governmental protection in the form of a secular state education council and cooperation with Diaspora Jews to promote the freedom of religion and equality."

"The index reveals that the government's policies are not merely in complete contradiction with the public's wishes—including those of the coalition's voters—but constitute an increasing threat to democracy, undermine the rule of law and erode Israel's relations with the Diaspora," he added.

If your favourite performing artist is dead, you can still catch him "live" on tour by hologram

And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
Revelation 13:11-15

Roy Orbison has long been one of this blogger's favourite singers; I was fortunate to see him in concert in 1981, and was Crying when I heard of his death in December 1988. I thought the only way to see him perform live again would be In Dreams, but if I want to Ride Away or be Borne on the Wind, I can join The Crowd and catch the Big O on tour in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, and Australia in April-May 2018.

The fact that an artist who's been dead for almost 30 years can perform concerts by means of a hologram (the accompanying orchestra is presumably real) shows how far the technology has advanced that can create (or recreate) the impression of a live performance, and gives further indication of how the image of the beast will come about, and how people will be deceived into worshipping the image. It's Too Soon to Know how successful the hologram technology will work on Roy Orbison's 2018 tour (there's always the chance of a Communication Breakdown before It's Over), but readers who are Running Scared and asking Where is Tomorrow should waste no time in believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, and receiving the salvation He has provided, lest they find themselves Falling or Drifting Away. The prophecies concerning the Beast, his mark, and image, were given 2,000 years ago, and are in the process of being fulfilled, right on schedule. The return of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of the most important and frequent subjects of New Testament prophecy; that too, will occur right on schedule, and the stage is being set.

HT: M.P.