Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pastor Denies Persistent Steroid Rumors

SAN FRANCISCO--The accusations echo in his brain. “He must be taking something. No ordinary human being could do those things.” “He wasn’t that big earlier in his career.” “He won’t talk about it; that proves he’s guilty.”

He knows that for some people, none of his accomplishments will ever matter. They will always be tainted by the suspicion that he used steroids or other illegal performance enhancing drugs.

Now, for the first time, John Moody, senior pastor at Bayside Presbyterian Church in downtown San Francisco, addresses all the questions, all the accusations, in a candid interview with The Aldersgate Gazette.

AG: Let us begin by remembering some of your more remarkable accomplishments: you performed 4 weddings and a funeral in one weekend; one Christmas Eve you preached 3 different sermons at 5 different candlelight services; you shattered the old record for sermons preached in one year; you are approaching the career record for sermons in a lifetime. Those are amazing statistics, and precisely because they are so astounding, you can understand why there would be questions.

Moody: Of course. God has given me the strength to do some wonderful things in ministry. I don’t deny that, but I have always been clear that it is the power of the Holy Spirit--not steroids or anything else--that has enabled me to be so successful for so long.

AG: People have said that you are much bigger now than you were in your early years. We’ve gone back through old photographs, and that seems to be correct. Your vocal cords are huge now, but in your first church you had a rather svelte neck. How do you explain that?

Moody: First of all, it’s too many potlucks. [laughs] Seriously, though, I have a trainer. He has got me working hard on speaking exercises, especially in the off season. Plus, I’m eating better, too. I’m eating leaner protein and more vegetables. I haven’t had a beer for 6 years.

AG: Other people have remarked about how suddenly your productivity increased. For example, in 1996, you preached 48 sermons, but the very next year, you preached 112. How do you explain such an extreme jump?

Moody: That’s pretty simple. We added a second worship service that year, and I also accepted a volunteer position preaching at a nursing home once a month.

AG: A reporter for Christianity Today wrote that you had already been preaching 3 times each Sunday before you added the second service.

Moody: That’s ridiculous.

AG: So you deny that.

Moody: Yes, of course.

AG: Tell us a little about what it is like to chase the great Harry Emerson Fosdick and his career sermon record. The media frenzy would be tremendous even without the accusations of steroid use, but now it must be unbearable. How do you crowd out all the distractions?

Moody: I wish I had a big secret, but I simply take a few moments before I step into the pulpit to focus my energy, to concentrate on the task at hand. It was hard at first, especially with all the flash bulbs popping in my face, but I have learned to take it all in stride. It feels almost normal. I think after I break the record, the sudden lack of attention will seem odd, too quiet.

AG: Let’s turn to the grand jury testimony now. I know that must be an uncomfortable subject for you. When you were on the stand, you absolutely denied that you ever received the substance called “preacher’s coffee” from the Jesus Seminar, a substance, by the way, that has been categorically banned by the National Council of Churches. But later, a member of the Seminar contradicted your testimony. How do you explain that?

Moody: It’s the age-old story. When you’re in the public eye, when you’re near the top, everybody wants to tear you down. The media always has to feed off of some rumor, regardless of truth. Unfortunately, I’ve been the Rumor of the Day for the last several years. Eventually, it will be someone else.

AG: What do you want people to know about you that they don’t know now? What would help them understand John Moody better?

Moody: First of all, I’m just a regular guy. Yes, I have been called by God for a unique task, and I have a wonderful gift. I’ve never said it was anything else than a gift from God. But I am just a simple, ordinary human being. I like taking my Jaguar out on long drives up the coast like your Average Joe. I love to fly with my kids out to the south of France for the weekend, just like everybody who sits in the pews in front of me. Just because I can preach more sermons than any other human being in history doesn’t mean I’m anything more than an ordinary man.

AG: And finally, what about your legacy? What will people think of you and your records in 50 years?

Moody: It won’t be long before the accusations die down. The media will have another pastor to attack, and people will see only the record. They will no longer be biased by the ridiculous statements made about me. In time, people will truly respect me for what I’ve accomplished. And, of course, I hope my work will be seen for what it really is--a monument to Jesus Christ.

AG: Thank you for answering some very difficult questions. Thank you for your candor.

Moody: You’re welcome.

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