Plagiarizing priests push out parishioners

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Priests who have been plagiarizing sermons from the internet have caused 17 families to leave St. John’s Anglican Cathedral in Hong Kong according to The South China Morning Post:

St John’s Cathedral appears to be fighting a losing battle against plagiarising priests – a practise that has already led 17 families of believers to leave the Anglican church.


A former parishioner at the Emmanuel Church in Pok Fu Lam, a St John’s affiliate, said four priests were guilty of using sermons from the internet and preaching them as if they were their own.

He said they had been doing so for 18 months.

The Very Reverend Matthias Der, the new dean of the cathedral, confirmed that some priests had persisted with their plagiarism despite his warnings against the practice at his first meeting with them in September.

Do you use ideas from sermons on the internet? Do you attribute or not?

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Padre Michael
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Padre Michael

Not everyone is a great or even competent preacher. I know some ordained folks who only preach on occasion, and they will offer someone else's sermon with full attribution.

A sermon is the Word of God filtered through the life, the experience and the wisdom of the preacher. My parishioners expect me to spend a part of my week meditating on the Gospel and preparing a message to be heard in the context of our community. If that's not what I'm doing, I'd darned well better let them know.

Michael Rich

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Gary Paul Gilbert
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Gary Paul Gilbert
I remember when I taught writing at NYU that some students plagiarized because they did not know how to do otherwise. In some cultures to offer one's own opinion would be considered very rude, whereas copying what an authority says is considered ethical. It took me a while in counseling students to find ways to get them to express their own opinions. Narratives of research are one approach. Instead of offering conclusions the student has to tell how they went about their research and which authorities they found more persuasive and why. When I was in grade school in Maine, I remember doing assignments where we simply copied stuff out of the World Book Encyclopedia. The teachers encouraged copying. Real education happens when students are asked to consider what experts say but also offer their own take--respectfully. the real problem with plagiarism, as one professor told me, is that one… Read more »
Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re, Gregory Orloff,,Gregory agreed the homilies were official texts, public documents really, mandated to be read in churches by lawful authority. There was a practice in days of yore that licensed lay readers would "read " sermons that had been written by someone deemed competent. Again, without the pretext of the sermon's being one's own.

But, allowing hearers to conclude wrongly that the material is one's own, or passing off someone else's work,in whole or in part, especially though not limited to copyrighted material, is a different issue.

I'd encourage parishioners to take time to ask their preachers questions at coffee hour about the morning's sermon, the texts of the day etc. Makes for interesting conversation.

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Gregory Orloff
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Gregory Orloff

Something doesn't add up here. I find it hard to believe 17 *families* (not *individuals*) left their church over "plagiarized sermons" alone. There must be more to the story behind their departure.

I've never asked the presbyters at the Episcopal church I attend if the sermons they preach are their own original material. And they've never begun or ended one with a claim that it was original. It never crossed my mind to ask or suspect otherwise. I guess I'm too busy concentrating on the content and getting something out of what they have to say. (And I must say, the church I attend has excellent preachers.)

Good heavens, according to Article 35 of the Articles of Religion in the Book of Common Prayer, the Church at one time had books of prescribed homilies to be read by the clergy to their congregations!

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Sara Copeland
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Sara Copeland

Some priests give better sermons than others, and as a parishioner, I'm okay with that. I don't expect every sermon to be the best I've ever heard, although I certainly hope for a wonderful sermon every Sunday. However, if I discovered that a priest was offering up plagiarized sermons, that would seriously damage his/her credibility. I would wonder what other aspects of the job weren't being fully administered. Whatever happened to thou shalt not steal?

Sara Copeland

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