Texas church under fire for using caged lion, lamb at Easter service

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by STEVE STOLER / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on April 10, 2012 at 11:15 AM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 10 at 11:25 AM

GRAPEVINE, Texas — The pastor of a North Texas mega-church who is no stranger to stunts is now facing new criticism.

This time, it's not over a sex sermon; it involves his use of live animals during an Easter Sunday service.

Fellowship Church pastor Ed Young says it was a creative Bible lesson; humane groups call it cruel and unnecessary.

Stacy Smith of the Humane Society of Flower Mound attended worship service at Fellowship Church on Easter morning after hearing that live animals might be a part of the service. When a lion and lamb were brought out, Smith recorded the scene with her cell phone.

"The handlers of the lion ran around the cage, sort of poking at him and taunting him to get him to lunge around," she said.

Young's message: The paradox of Jesus as both lion and lamb.

But Smith said she came away with a different paradox: Mistreatment of animals in a place designed to teach compassion.

"Thousands and thousands of churches are able to convey the same exact message without using live animals," Smith said.

Pastor Young told News 8 the 17-year-old lion lives on a 55-acre ranch in California. "We would never do anything to endanger our people," he said. "Also, we would never do anything to endanger an animal. We love animals."

The Fellowship Church leader is known for creative sermons. In January, Young and his wife spent 24 hours in a bed on the roof of the church. He called it a "sex-periment."

Lisa Chatlain, who attends services at Fellowship, says she enjoys Pastor Young and his message, but was disappointed in what happened on Sunday morning.

"I don't feel it's necessary," she said. "I think Ed Young has a way of getting his point across without live animals as props, entertainment."

Young said Fellowship Church will continue using wildlife over the next five weeks for a Biblical series about animals called "Wild."

"I think it's great to expose our kids, to expose our church to that," he said. "I think for far too long, the church has stifled creativity."

Grapevine police told News 8 they're investigating to see if the church violated any laws by using a lion. Exhibitors are required to carry a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Humane Society said it wants to work with the church so they can find a better way to convey their message without the use of live animals.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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