Letters – May 2008

The March issue featured our suggestions of twelve great getaways—one for every month of the year. Mike Giglio profiled Concord preacher Michael Brown, and several readers took issue with how he was depicted. We also profiled septuagenarian R&B singer Nappy Brown and the dominant (or so we thought) NASCAR team that Rick Hendrick has built (which, as of our deadline, had won exactly zero races this season).

Firing Back

Recently, we received a copy of your magazine containing the article about Dr. Michael Brown ("Leap of Faith" by Mike Giglio). What a strange article! It was amazing that someone who knew so little about his subject could write a piece with so many biting remarks.

We've known Dr. Brown, been students of his, and sat under his leadership for eight years. This article clearly gave a wrong portrayal of him. It was odd that the article did not cite one interview with any of his students, grads, or people who actually attend FIRE Church. Instead, Mr. Giglio wrote as if he was an authority on the subject. Anyone can get on the Internet and hunt down a bunch of negative articles. Why was there no input from people who actually have an authoritative perspective on the matter? Instead, by default, it is assumed that we are just a bunch of duped followers of a bear of a man who is "building a church unto oneself." We do not follow a man or a denomination, but Jesus Christ alone.

Brett and Amy Richter

I appreciate the considerable time and effort that Mike Giglio put into his article, "Leap of Faith," but I was surprised to find a number of factual errors (such as identifying the Gentile Christians at the first meeting he attended as "Messianic Jews") and misleading statements (such as the claim that my students in Pensacola called me "Father," when in reality some of them affectionately called me "Dad Brown"), along with a number of odd, personal judgments (such as the notion that I had engaged in a "power struggle" with the Assemblies of God).

These, however, were quite trivial in comparison to the credence that was given to the reports of the Pensacola News Journal regarding the Brownsville Revival, especially the charge that the revival was a hoax and a scam. To the multiple hundreds of thousands who attended the meetings—and who experienced a profound, life-changing encounter with God—this charge was as silly as claiming that Hurricane Katrina was not a real event but rather the product of special Hollywood effects. That is why attendance at the revival continued unabated after the News Journal articles, and that is why the News Journal eventually abandoned its negative stance, in keeping with the dozens of positive articles it had run during the first two years of the revival.

Readers of "Leap of Faith" might have come away with the deeply erroneous impression that the leaders of the revival were motivated by greed or personal ambition, whereas one thing alone motivated us, namely a deep desire to see people of all backgrounds experience personal renewal in the Lord. To this day, we can point to former drug addicts and alcoholics who were dramatically delivered during the revival and who then graduated from our ministry school and went on to do sacrificial humanitarian and missionary work throughout America and around the world.

It is now our privilege to serve side by side with the many fine churches in Greater Charlotte, and we believe that something of great spiritual import will happen in this region as well.

Michael L. Brown, Ph.D.
President, FIRE School of Ministry
Director, Coalition of Conscience

Mike Giglio responds: Throughout my reporting of the article "Leap of Faith" and in my correspondence with Dr. Michael Brown and members of his congregation since its publication, I have found the people of FIRE Church and its ministry school to be warm, open, and thoughtful. Dr. Brown in particular has been uncommonly gracious and generous with his time and insight, and those who contacted me to voice disagreement were very kind.

I want to clarify the two errors Dr. Brown points out in his letter.

In the first, I mistakenly identified the multi-church convention Dr. Brown and I attended in Columbia as one of Messianic Jews. The people performing the ceremonies I described were in fact Gentile Christians. While both Gentile Christians and Messianic Jews emphasize Christianity's Jewish roots and converting Israel, only Messianic Jews are actually of Jewish heritage. Dr. Brown has since described the Gentile Christians at that service as "confused."

In the second, I found in my research that Dr. Brown referred to himself as "father" but do not have record of his students doing the same. This was corrected in the online version of the article, as they did call him "Dad."

In light of my other dealings with FIRE, I was surprised at the tone of the letter written by Brett and Amy Richter. Their complaints prompt me to shed some light on the reporting I did for the story.

My visit to the church service at FIRE coincided with an alumni weekend, so I had the chance to meet with graduates from both the Pensacola and Concord schools as well as current members of the church. I also visited the school one morning and met current students.

In addition, I interviewed current members of the Brownsville church, including one who had been on staff during the revival. I spoke with two of the reporters who authored the News Journal report, including one who covered Dr. Brown afterward. I read through a number of separate news accounts on the revival and the split, Dr. Brown's (and the school's) statements upon his dismissal from Brownsville, his subsequent letters to the student body, and a transcript of his address upon leaving the school. I conducted multiple interviews and fact checks with Dr. Brown and consulted many other sources during the three-plus months that I was working on the story.

All of my research, even when not directly cited, informed every decision I made and conclusion I reached while writing the article.

Nappy Brown on NPR

I thoroughly enjoyed Gene Tomko's article on Nappy Brown ("The Right Time for Nappy Brown"). It's high time that somebody featured this legendary musician. I'm compelled, however, to point out a mistake in the article. While it's true that Nappy Brown was a musical guest of the live taping of A Prairie Home Companion at Ovens Auditorium in October, that program has nothing to do with PBS. APHC is a public radio program, and the live taping was brought to Charlotte by WFAE 90.7 FM, Charlotte's NPR News Source.

Jay Ahuja
Corporate Development, WFAE 90.7 FM


Regarding an article on CPCC's Charlotte 101 class, the course does not ride the city's Gold Rush; instead students ride a luxury coach provided by Trolleys Inc. The correct Web site and phone number for the class is www.cpcc.edu/pi and 704-330-4223. We regret the errors.

Exclusive Coverage of Davidson's NCAA Run

We got as caught up in the Wildcats' amazing run to the Elite Eight as the rest of the country did. Visit www.charlottemagazine.com for four exclusive articles, including Michael Kruse on what it meant, Mike Giglio on the power of superstition, Ken Garfield on fathers and sons, and Melissa Thomson on gleefully jumping on the bandwagon. Plus, read Preston Davis's blog posts from the road trip to Detroit.

Categories: Letters, Opinion, The Buzz