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2002 PE Report stories

Congregations demonstrate weekly prayer yields results (December 30, 2001)

L.A. Dream Center, Angelus Temple make history, reach more with merge (December 16, 2001)

Rain, gang doesn't halt impact of newly formed congregation (December 9, 2001)

Women urged to minister hope at global gathering (November 25, 2001)

Volunteers meet needs at Pentagon cleanup (November 18, 2001)

Fear, uncertainty open window of opportunity for evangelism (November 11, 2001)

'Jump for Jesus' raises $40,000 for STL (October 21, 2001)

Widows, single mothers gain practical blessings (October 14, 2001)

Five new executive presbyters elected (September 30, 2001)

Credit card 'freedoms' tempt college students (September 16, 2001)

Fellowship, nation show ethnic makeup changes (August 26, 2001)

Congregations extend a hand, spread gospel after tropical storm (August 19, 2001)

Single-parent families find hope at camp (August 12, 2001) caught in middle of culture war (July 22, 2001)

Pentecostal World Conference looks toward future cooperation (July 13, 2001)

Crossover Community Church ministers to hip-hop culture (July 8, 2001)

Prison chaplain hooked on ministry (June 24, 2001)

National Singles team convenes, plans regional conferences (June 17, 2001)

Children's ministries take center stage (June 10, 2001)

U.S. Christians trek to Israel despite news reports of danger (May 27, 2001)

A/G ministries combat eating disorders (May 20, 2001)

Mobilizing laity leads to church growth (May 13, 2001)

Fellowship convenes conference for women (April 29, 2001)

14,547 'honored guests' attend Convoy of Hope outreach in Dallas (April 22, 2001)

Hollywood sends wrong signals on teen smoking (April 15, 2001)

Iowa community faces unique challenges (April 8, 2001)

Churches support ministries to lead youth out of lifestyle (March 25, 2001)

English lessons reach Chinese with gospel (March 18, 2001)

A/G church, police, schools partner for strong community (March 11, 2001)

Church uses 'human hunt' as evangelism tool for teens (February 25, 2001)

Ministering in the fast lane (February 18, 2001)

Abstinence education saves lives, futures (February 11, 2001)

Donated food helps Convoy of Hope extend hand around the world (January 21, 2001)

American Indian College students impact boarding school (January 14, 2001)

2000 News Digest stories caught in middle of culture war

(July 22, 2001)

Gary Sutton’s mind raced as Assemblies of God assistant general superintendent Charles T. Crabtree spoke at a missions convention at his church, Sachse (Texas) A/G in February 2000. Sutton had long been a generous supporter of missions programs, but with several foreign and home missionaries attending the convention, he felt frustrated that he couldn’t do more.

Gary Sutton hopes generates between $5 million and $10 million for charities and ministries this year.


Repeatedly during the conference Sutton, 44, says he sensed the Lord telling him to devise a plan in which major retailers would donate a portion of sales to finance worldwide ministry efforts. Using donated funds from Bethesda Corporation as well as from LeaseUSA, his nationwide company that provides business equipment financing, Sutton last October launched, an online shopping mall designed to financially boost churches, missions organizations, ministries and Christian schools through a faith-based giving program.

As an affiliate, in essence becomes a sales agent for various online merchants. But instead of keeping all the commission, part is passed along to the charity of the purchaser’s choice. doesn’t charge any more than other online merchants.

"We negotiate a certain percentage from the retailers for selling their products," says Sutton, whose company has headquarters in Garland, Texas. "So if they give us 10 percent, we may pass 8 percent of that on to a ministry. We’re providing a fund-raising resource for hundreds of Christian organizations that we believe are doing good work throughout the world." The share distributed to ministries ranges from .5 percent to 20 percent.

In the first six months, Sutton had signed up 200 businesses, including Wal-Mart, American Express, Office Depot, Hickory Farms and Dell Computer. "The Lord just worked it out," he says. "It was miraculous."

The shopping service has become a fixture on the Web sites of ministries ranging from Jerry Falwell to T.D. Jakes, and from fellowships such as the Southern Baptists and Assemblies of God.

"Because of software and technology everything is done electronically," Sutton says. "Very little manpower is required." Consumers have the option of requesting a rebate so that they may receive tax deduction credit for their contributions.

Everything ran smoothly until mid-May. Then, in an 11-day period, 11 retailers notified that they had severed ties.

The trouble can be traced indirectly to an April 11 Los Angeles Times article which reported that Yahoo had become the only major Internet portal to sell hardcore pornographic videos and DVDs in its online store.

On April 12, the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association sent a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft urging an investigation of Yahoo "for its direct involvement in the sale and distribution of obscene material and child pornography."

The following day — after receiving 100,000 electronic-mail complaints — Yahoo stopped selling hardcore porn products and shuttered its "adult" clubs and group directories Web hosting service.

"That closed the front door to the sex clubs," says Buddy Smith, AFA executive assistant. "We became the target for some angry folks with serious sexual addictions."

About 11,500 people formed a "Don’t Close Adult Clubs" Web site. Many visited the AFA Web site and spotted the banner. Even though less than 1 percent of’s donations go to AFA, the porn users inundated retailers who had links with declaring that their free speech had been censored and they would no longer do business with the company.

Sutton has tried to regain the business of the largest companies that quit. Avon and FTD returned after talking to him — and receiving thousands of e-mail protests from AFA supporters. FTD public relations director Lisa Witek says agreed to change information on its Web site to clarify that merchants don’t have to agree with the statement of faith.

JCPenney and Nordstrom have not allowed to return. Both companies deny any outside pressure influenced the decisions.

"There were very sound business grounds," says Jeanine Connolly, public relations manager for the Plano, Texas-based "It was a routine business performance. We review the performance of all our affiliates to make sure that they are fulfilling our business objectives." Connolly wouldn’t elaborate.

Shasha Richardson, public relations director for Nordstrom, says the Seattle chain ceased the relationship in an effort to keep consumers satisfied.

"We have a company policy that we don’t establish affiliate relations with Web sites that have religious or political content on them," Richardson says. "By going down the path of supporting one side of the issue we end up upsetting customers. When we make exceptions we always disappoint someone."

But Sutton finds it suspicious that both JCPenney and Nordstrom unexpectedly canceled on the same day, May 18. Both claimed routine spot-checks of the site led to the decision.

"It seems too coincidental," says Sutton. He notes that all retailers who agree to the affiliate partnership receive information describing how directs some of the commission payment to Christian ministries. "They were told exactly what we’re doing at the sign-up," he says.

Richardson concedes that Nordstrom should have been more diligent in reviewing the application.

Sutton also questions Nordstrom’s reasoning, noting that he found three other religion-related affiliates on the site. Richardson says the company is reviewing other sites to make sure religious affiliates are expunged.

"You can’t do business with somebody for months without looking at their Web site," Sutton says.

Meanwhile, homosexual-rights groups have jumped on the boycotting bandwagon. For example, on May 25 Mississippi Gay Lobby executive director Jody Renaldo announced that the group "is dedicating itself to lead a nationwide and worldwide boycott of the companies that are associated with and AFA in any form or relation." Renaldo says he is shocked that major companies could consider associating with

"No gay person should spend another dime with these companies as long as they are funding anti-gay ministries, churches and any other type of anti-gay organization or business," Renaldo says.

Still, Sutton is not deterred. He recently has been signing up Christian businesses to go along with secular retailers. He hopes that enough Christians support the service to counter the loss of business.

"When we lose affiliates the real victims are those who would have benefited from work done by our faith-based partners like Convoy of Hope or Mission of Mercy," Sutton says.

— John W. Kennedy

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