His dad was a preacher — and a pedophile

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His dad was a preacher — and a pedophile (reporting from Somerset, Pa.): After discovering his father’s secret, Jimmy Hinton strives to create awareness of sexual predators.

SOMERSET, Pa. — Jimmy Hinton grew up at the feet of the wolf.

For 27 years, his father, John Wayne Hinton, proclaimed the Gospel to the sheep of the Somerset Church of Christ — a century-old congregation in this southwestern Pennsylvania coal-mining community.

“I went into ministry because of him,” said Jimmy Hinton, 35, the middle child of 11 brothers and sisters.

But three years ago, the son — who became Somerset’s preacher in 2009 — learned a horrible secret: John Hinton was a longtime child molester who had sexually abused young girls and escaped discovery for decades.

Jimmy Hinton uncovered the truth after an adult molested as a child confided in him. The Holy Spirit, he believes, drove his response.

“I believe you,” he told the victim.

He reported his father to police and prompted an investigation that resulted in the pedophile preacher, now 65, pleading guilty to sexually assaulting and taking nude photographs of four young girls, ages 4 to 7.

While his father — inmate No. KP7163 — serves a 30- to 60-year sentence in Rockview State Prison, Jimmy Hinton works to help heal his home congregation and create awareness far beyond Somerset, a town of 6,300 about 75 miles east of Pittsburgh.

This story appears in the January 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

‘Worship is our protest’

‘Worship is our protest’ (reporting from Ferguson, Mo.): In Ferguson, a predominantly black church focuses on healing its community by glorifying God.

FERGUSON, Mo. — Brian Owens feels a need to protest.

But his protest doesn’t involve waving a “hands up, don’t shoot” sign, staging a “die-in” or chanting “I can’t breathe” during a march.

“Worship is our protest,” Owens told fellow members of the predominantly black Ferguson Heights Church of Christ on a recent Sunday.

It’s the fight for hearts and souls — not the fight in the streets — that matters in “Christ’s righteous revolution,” the 34-year-old Christian said.

His comments came amid a national spotlight on high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men.

Violence that included gunfire, looting and buildings set on fire erupted Nov. 24 in this St. Louis suburb after a grand jury declined to indict officer Darren Wilson, who said he fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in self-defense.

Nine days later, a New York grand jury chose not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who used a fatal choke hold on 43-year-old Eric Garner when the suspect resisted arrest.

The deaths of Brown and Garner — and similar cases nationwide — have sparked coast-to-coast demonstrations emphasizing that “black lives matter.”

Related story: 50-50 split: A Ferguson-area church models racial diversity

These stories appear in the January 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

5Q+1 interview: RNS writer David Gibson on the Godbeat, falling into journalism and his conversion to Catholicism

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5Q+1 interview: RNS writer David Gibson on the Godbeat, falling into journalism and his conversion to Catholicism.

GETRELIGION.ORG — On his Twitter profile, Religion News Service national reporter David Gibson describes himself as a Catholic convert, a Vatican veteran, a faith fan and an alliteration addict.

His RNS bio notes that he has written two books on Catholic topics, including a biography of Pope Benedict XVI.

Gibson was honored recently as the Religion Newswriters Association’s Religion Reporter of the Year for large newspapers and wire services. His winning entry included “The story behind Pope Francis’ election,” “Is ‘Just War’ doctrine another victim of the Syrian conflict?” and “The ‘Breaking Bad’ finale was great. But was it good?”

GetReligion has both praised Gibson’s work and — sometimes — questioned why RNS publishes his “analysis” pieces without labels identifying them as such.

What I like about Gibson is that he seems to enjoy the give and take and not take it too personally.

Case in point: his willingness to do this interview.

This analysis of media coverage appears online at GetReligion.org.

December 2014: GetReligion

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Are they crazy? Despite Ebola threat, Texas missionary couple planning return to Sierra Leone. Published Dec. 1.

As D.C. bans gay conversion therapy of minors, where are the opposing religious voices? Published Dec. 3.

Washington Post seeks an expert on ‘homegrown American extremist’ tied to Christian identity hate group. Published Dec. 4.

5Q+1: Godbeat pro Lilly Fowler on covering faith and the front lines in #Ferguson. Published Dec. 5.

A pastor reports death threats for performing same-sex marriages, and guess who a Kansas newspaper decided to quote? Published Dec. 8.

Holy ghost? New York Times offers a faith-free profile of an American doctor who survived Ebola. Published Dec. 10.

Five glimpses of faith in Time’s story on ‘The Ebola Fighters’ as 2014 Person of the Year. Published Dec. 11.

Islamic State’s reign of terror named top religion story of 2014 by Religion Newswriters Association. Published Dec. 12.

Islamic extremism role in Australia? Facts sketchy in Sydney hostage crisis. Published Dec. 15.

5Q+1 interview: RNS writer David Gibson on the Godbeat, falling into journalism and his conversion to Catholicism. Published Dec. 17.

5Q+1: Godbeat pro Lilly Fowler on covering faith and the front lines in #Ferguson

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5Q+1: Godbeat pro Lilly Fowler on covering faith and the front lines in #Ferguson

GETRELIGION.ORG — “Everyone has an agenda.”

That’s one lesson Lilly Fowler said she has learned covering faith and the front lines in Ferguson, Missouri, the St. Louis suburb engulfed in racial unrest and sometimes violent protests since the Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown.

Born in Mexico and raised on the border of Arizona and Mexico, Fowler earned two master’s degrees: one in theology from the University of Notre Dame and one in journalism from the University of Southern California.

And she shared this personal note: “I like punk and psychedelic music!”

Q: What has been your role on the Ferguson story? What kind of hours has this required?

A: I’m the religion reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, so my primary role has been to find the faith angles in Ferguson. But this has been an all-consuming story, with the entire newsroom working long hours, so I’ve often been deployed to cover stories outside the realm of religion. I recently covered Black Friday protests related to Ferguson, for example.

This analysis of media coverage appears online at GetReligion.org.

Once again, #Ferguson defies easy analysis but demands solid journalism and context

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Once again, #Ferguson defies easy analysis but demands solid journalism and context

GETRELIGION.ORG — This was the question three months ago:

Here we go again.

I’m supposed to write a post this morning critiquing media coverage. But honestly, the situation at this point defies easy analysis and understanding:

This analysis of media coverage appears online at GetReligion.org.

Modern-day Job preaching again

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Modern-day Job preaching again (reporting from Ridgeland, Miss.): After the murders of his wife and son, Mississippi minister Les Ferguson Jr. wrestled with God.

RIDGELAND, Miss. — Les Ferguson Jr. couldn’t help but scream at God.

Why — the longtime minister demanded to know — didn’t the Almighty protect his wife and son from the predator who murdered them?

In his darkest days, Ferguson couldn’t imagine ever trusting in the Lord again, much less proclaiming the Gospel before a crowd of saints and sinners in a tree-shaded church building.

Yet on a recent Sunday, that’s exactly where he stood — preaching on faith and doubt at the Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ, a racially diverse congregation north of the state capital of Jackson.

“True confession time: There were mighty dark days,” Ferguson told the 211 souls who filled the pews. “There were nights of questioning and wondering. There were days and nights, hour upon hour of screaming at God until I completely lost my voice and couldn’t say another word.”

But with the Lake Harbour Drive church, the modern-day Job has found his voice again and revived his calling.

This story appears in the mid-December 2014 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.