Firestorm grows over 'Christian heresy' book
March 8th, 2011
12:49 PM ET

Firestorm grows over 'Christian heresy' book

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

The firestorm around Rob Bell has grown considerably in the last week.  Now the leadership of his Mars Hill Bible Church is rushing to his defense, and we're learning more about the fight to publish his controversial new book.

Last week, we reported that conservative Christian blogger Justin Taylor suggested Bell's yet-to-be-released book, "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived," was heading towards universalism ─ a dirty word in Christian circles that suggests everyone goes to heaven and there is no hell.

Taylor's claim ─ based on a description of the book released by publisher HarperOne and a promotional video ─ ignited a wave of criticism against, and a counter-wave of support for, Bell. Some critics went so far as to label Bell a heretic. Prominent evangelical pastors on both the right and left rushed to condemn or defend the Michigan pastor.

Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the promotion of the book the "sad equivalent of a theological striptease." Brian McLaren, who has also been branded a heretic in the past, marveled at the fact people would throw around the "h" word "without actually grappling with the issues and questions the books raised."

The controversy even caught the staff at Bell's church off-guard. On Sunday, Brian Mucchi, an assistant pastor, told the church they knew a controversy could come, they just didn't expect it to come so soon, according to a church member who was at the service but did not want to be identified.

Mucchi told congregants at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, the church Bell founded, that the entire leadership team had read the book and was excited about its release. He put up pictures of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga and told the audience that while those two stars were not trending on Twitter last weekend,  Bell was.

Shane Hipps, Mars Hill Bible Church's teaching pastor, addressed the congregation about the book before he preached on Sunday. "On a personal note, when you get to see a very dear friend spend a year of his life working to create, pouring blood, sweat and tears into something that before it even releases become this incredible phenomenon, it's just extremely thrilling," Hipps said, according to audio of the service posted on YouTube.

Hipps pointed out for context that Bell's unreleased book is outselling the latest release by Pope Benedict XVI on Amazon.com.

"This book will irreparably, irrevocably, irreversible change Rob's life and change a lot of the things in the life of this community. These are good things, but he needs prayer.  And not because he's fragile but because he's a leader, and leaders need prayer," Hipps continued.

"We are not anxious about this at all. Because I promise you when you get to read the book, you will find that it is fresh and liberating ─ but that it rests firmly in the wide screen of Orthodox Christianity and in the history of Christianity it fits perfectly.  You will be very much at ease," he said.

The church has said it will not comment on the book publicly in an official capacity until it is released and did not respond to repeated requests for interviews with its leadership team.

The book was scheduled to be released March 29, but Harper One pushed the release up to March 15 ─ next Tuesday.

“All retailers won’t get it on the same day, but it will finally give his readers a chance to hear what he’s saying,” Mark Tauber, senior vice president and publisher at HarperOne, told CNN.

He said the controversy swirling is unlike anything else he has seen in this category of books. "I'm not sure I’ve ever seen this amount of anticipation," he said.

"Love Wins" is Bell's first book since his break from Zondervan, the Christian publisher based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that published Bell's first four books and also publishes the New International Version of the Bible, one of the most popular translations of the Bible among evangelicals.

Bell's split from Zondervan came in part over this new book. "The break with Zondervan was amicable," Tauber said. "In the end the president of Zondervan made the decision. The proposal came in and they said, 'This proposal doesn’t fit in with our mission.' "

Zondervan would not discuss its relationship with Bell but released a statement:

Zondervan has published four books by Rob Bell, as well as numerous Nooma videos in which Rob was featured. We published these titles because we believed they were consistent with Zondervan’s mission statement and publishing philosophy. We still believe these titles are impactful with their message and positive contribution and intend to continue to publish them.

Tauber said when he got the call that Bell's new book was up for bid, HarperOne jumped at the chance.

“There were at least four or five major publishers that were involved in bidding for this book," he said. When pressed for financial figures of the deal, he said, "We’re talking a six-figure deal for the advance, but I can’t say more than that."

Tauber said HarperOne had been "keeping an eye on him" since Bell's first book, "Velvet Elvis," came in as a proposal. That book went on to sell 500,000 copies. Bell skyrocketed to prominence with the the Nooma series, which were short teachings by Bell, away from the pulpit and with indie film sensibilities.

The high production values and quick releases of the short films made them a hit in evangelical circles.  In them Bell honed his trademark style of asking tough traditional questions about faith and exploring them from angles other than traditional answers.

Bell will speak publicly for the first time since the controversy erupted on March 14 at a forum sponsored by his publisher and moderated by Lisa Miller, an editor at Newsweek magazine.

Bell once told me he doesn't like to engage in what he called "blog kung fu," the back-and-forth debates that percolate across the web. He may not have a choice this time. With the release of the book right around the corner and a long tour schedule to promote it, Bell just may find himself having to hit back.

On March 4 Bell posted this message on his website:

I’m thrilled to let you know I have a new book coming out called "Love Wins." It releases on March 15 and the night before (March 14) I’ll be speaking in New York City. The event will be at 7 p.m. and it will be streamed live at livestream.com/lovewins. I’ll be taking questions.

If the interest before the release is any indication, Bell will have plenty of questions to answer.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Church • Michigan • United States

soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. heavensjoy

    No one has responded yet to “teachme”, so here it goes:

    I am glad you are looking for answers, and I am glad you wrote this post with such a refreshing openness. Thank you. Maybe I can help you move forward to greater clarity on some of the points you listed.
    1.Yes, the God of the Bible is Sovereign over all reality. (read Romans 8 and 9)
    2.Creation, or all we can observe in the universe, reflects the nature of God but is also marred by sin and evil. This is a wonderfully realistic way to view the world. There is still so much in Creation that captivates my wonder and draws me to God. But yet so much of the world is corrupted somehow. If you read the historical narratives of the Bible with this in mind, you will be able to put in perspective some of the difficult material, which is a result of corruption, and not reflective of God's original perfect creation. (Read Genesis)
    3.If you read throughout the Bible, you will learn that God designed people to enjoy a love relationship with Him, of which the best relationships in this life are just a taste. God is full of compassion and mercy, and sometimes uses painful trials to teach us and draw our hearts back to him. (go to my blog at heavensjoy.com and yesterday's post is about this.) Mankind was created to be perfectly pleasing to God (“very good” in Genesis 1:31), and also above the animals (“in the image of God”) with free will, creativity, and the ability to carry on this philosophical conversation. The idea that God is not bound by time and knows the beginning and the end does not change our personal responsibility for our actions and beliefs. Throughout the Bible, history and our choices are clearly a dynamic process, which show God's nature toward us, and our opportunity to respond. He is truly sovereign enough to give us a genuinely free will. Wrap your mind around this and you will know true beauty.
    4.I am not aware of any Bible passage that indicates that the majority of humans will suffer in hell. There are many passages that indicate the opposite, which I am sure are being included in the book being discussed, though I am not endorsing something I haven't read. In Revelation 20, it appears that the primary purpose of the “Lake of Fire”/ hell is for the punishment of Satan, the beast, etc., but that there will be some whose names are missing from the “Book of Life” who will be punished. The same chapter indicates everyone else will be rightly judged by their actions. The Matthew 7 passage you referenced does not actually say “hell”, it just says “destruction”, and is given in the context of the Golden Rule, though some of the following verses seem to reference eternal judgment based on good or bad “fruit”. I am not trying to depart from “justification by faith alone”, but if we also say we believe the Bible is God's word, we need to consider its very words. These passages seem to indicate that those who are justified by God's grace (or who think they are) will still have to face a final judgment.

    I know I didn't cover all your points, but I am taking up a lot of space for a comment. Hope this helps.

    March 24, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  2. Aristocles

    To deny hell is to deny sin. To deny sin is to devalue the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, who died for our sins. To say that "everyone goes to heaven" by default is to say that Christ need not have died for us.

    Few Christians will ever support the position that there was no hell for Christ to save us from.

    March 24, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  3. SouthJersey1959

    The fact the the word heresy is in use today says alot about christians.

    Dubito ergo cogito ergo sum

    March 23, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  4. Anna

    I am eagerly awaiting my copy of Love wins, which should show up on Monday. I'm looking forward to reading Bell's complete thoughts, as the trailers and interviews lead me to be quite interested. Many of his concepts, especially regarding how one "gets" to heaven or hell and how that theology impacts one's idea of God are very much in line with Swedenborgian theology (which I have found great clarity and hope in). I'm really interested to see how the ideas in Love Wins compare to what Emanuel Swedenborg talks about in his books, specifically "Heaven and Hell". I'm intrigued and inspired by all the conversations that are ensuing!

    March 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  5. D

    This thread is full of people talking about hell being some place fiery and torturous. Many who have really studied the text within context and seeing what is said throughout the Bible (and not just one section) about 'hell' believe that hell will simply be a place where God puts the unbelieving completely away from his presence.

    In short, those that deny God and choose not to acknowledge God will likely get what they want. An eternal existence devoid of God. That's why there's allusions to things like darkness and torture.

    The reasoning is this – After the fall God removed some of his sustaining presence and that is why things are "running downhill". If God restores the faithful and sets them in a new heaven and new Earth with all things having been perfected again, than those who are condemned will exist completely without God's presence... in continual decay, "darkness", and no way out.

    So for those who believe in God they win. For those that refuse to seek or acknowledge God congratulations, you too will get what you want and you'll get to exist without It's presence.

    As for Bell... I can't entirely agree with the little bit I've heard. I believe hell is very real but not necessarily as the "place" most people think it will be. Less of a place and more of a state of being.

    March 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  6. david b

    thanks for the article- but it's 50% useless. C- (gentleman's C)....You don't state what the controversy is about- just go on and on and on...and on...about the various people upset or supportive. a bore.

    March 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  7. Travis

    Is Rob Bell about to become irrelevant or will his message resonate with a new generation of Christians?

    March 16, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  8. PRISM1234

    My responding to your comment is not with atte-mpt to down you, belit-tle your (un) belief, or to deb-ate with you.... But the pre-sump-tuous words you write, as if you knew what you are talking about, which make you look very foo-lish, have prom-pted me to share something with you I very seldom do with anyone!
    The person about whom I will tell you is irr-elevant here... This person, while young and foo-lish, forgot God whom he/she knew as a child, and started to live a very foo-lish life, even dab-b-ling into things that he/she knew it was against God of his/her youth....
    One quiet summer night, while friend in the same room was sound asleep, this person was sudd-enly awakened, becoming unusually wide awake. Chi-lling air was blowing into the room, although it was still, wind-less night, and he/she heard the voices of weeping, filled with such sorrow and hope-less-ness, mult-itudes of them, male and female, not in words or language, just loud weeping, the kind that is even now , by trying to de-scribe them, impossible to express the depth and magni-tude of sorrow in them. Those voices were not of this world, of people like we know them, and did not come from down the street, because no one was there.... And as he/she looked speechless and in fear, from the window at the empty street, the voices of weeping went fur-ther and fur-ther, till they disappeared.... But here is what you need to know: This person KNOWS what they heard, and it was shown to him/her that those were the voices of the souls who are lost, forever, and without hope, lost for eter-nity, because they have rejected the only hope there is for us human beings... Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God , who came to redeem the fallen human race. Those were the voices of that place of the dam ned called H-ell, the one you say does not exist, and make sport out of those who tell you that it is real. This person I told you about , KNOWS that this place is real. And if just one person who reads the things I said here would take it to heart, and seek God on count of things writ-ten here , it would be a cause for rejoicing in my heart... No human being was created to go to this place. But so many do, because they, in their f-olly think that there is no God!

    There is God , there is Heaven and there is Hell. And there is an app-ointment for every human being that is awaiting them..

    You can do what you will with what I said here to you. But I know that one day you will find out that what was told to you here in this post is THE TRUTH. I sincerely hope it won't be in that place I told you about.....

    March 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • PRISM1234


      The post I wrote above was response to your post, I just forgot to mention it....

      March 15, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • mary martha

      I mean no disrespect but what was he/she smoking? Sounds like Dante's Inferno which of course this concept of hell that you are describing, comes from. Sorry.

      March 16, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  9. R. Hamilton

    One can't be free to accept mercy without being free to reject it as well.

    To say that anyone _will_ have an eternal bad end is to deny infinite divine mercy.
    To say that _nobody_ will have an eternal bad end is to deny that actions have consequences, and choices have meaning.

    Violating either of those principles is a problem, unless one wishes to ignore the whole issue entirely. See "Pascal's wager" for why that might not be a wise gamble.

    Perhaps the best one can do (assuming one believes in divine mercy and an afterlife) is to refuse to speculate whether (call this an analogy if the literal words bother you) hell will be occupied, or empty. And maybe to encourage people to accept mercy when it comes their way.

    March 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  10. Ornithikos Paleologos

    It s all up to the Pope. If he can decide that Purgatory never really existed, he can decide the same about Hell

    March 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  11. Xcntrik

    It seems that many Christians would be upset to find out that Hell doesn't actually exist.

    Kinda funny, huh?

    One can't blame someone for being angry when they realize that they've been duped.

    March 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  12. Sheila

    We are not to glorify men, but God. God is always faithful. Mankind is self seeking.

    March 15, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  13. c

    Micheal ,

    Are you saying Christians should work to have their beliefs backed by the government? why? is the Lord suddenly powerless?

    thankfully our government still separates the Church from the State.

    which allows us religious freedom. otherwise people who reject any government backed religion would be punished for refusal to comply. read Daniel. and
    Christians trying to throw out the OT should be ashamed of themselves.

    the OT and the NT both proclaim the Gospel message.

    separation of Church and State is vital to everyone's freedom.

    Jesus does not need the backing of the government to win souls for his kingdom.

    March 15, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  14. mary martha

    Get a Grip, thanks for the education. Yes I am on guard. I have experienced spiritual abuse over the years and yeah I can be hyper vigilant. BUT I am not fearful. That much I do know.

    According to the EXPERTS, read, trained theologians, bible scholars, the concept of hell is SYMBOLIC people. Remember if you need open heart surgery, you need to go to a TRAINED SPECIALIST.

    March 15, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • c

      why do Christians need a so called trained specialist to understand the Bible?

      Just Wow, what about Jesus and prayer?

      Is Jesus not able and willing to teach those seeking Him?

      March 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  15. Susie

    I watched Mr. Bell on GMA this morning and felt the need to comment. I have been a Christian all of my life and a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus is the son of God and that he was born, died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected on the third day and that he now sits on the right hand of the father God. Now I also believe in every word of the Holy Bible and according to the bible, there is a hell. It was created for Satan and his angels after he was kicked out of heaven (Revelations 9:1-12), but those that decide to follow Satan and not Jesus/God will end up there with him. Now did God create hell for us...no! When God created us everything was good, it was the fall(disobedience) of man (Adam and Eve) that caused sin to enter the world...but because God loves his creation so much, he gave us a way out of sin and hell and that was Jesus Christ. I heard Mr Bell say that because people are bad we believe that they are sent to hell. That is NOT the reason people go to hell. People go to hell because they CHOOSE NOT to accept what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross and the bible clearly states that the only way to the Father (or heaven) is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Romans 10:9 says that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. So it's not the what you do that sends one to hell it's what you did NOT do. Once you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior even if you are engaged in terrible things, he will begin to change your heart, in turn changing your actions. God is Love and because he is Love he gave us a way out of hell.... and that's through his son Jesus Christ! (Think about it, God would not have sent his only son to die for our sins if there was only one place to go when we die)

    March 15, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • mary martha

      I am thankful that we have the freedom to believe what we choose to believe. I do have to ask you this: Do you believe it is ok to bash the heads of your enemy's babies against the rocks? Well I hope not. But this is a scripture in the OT telling the people of God to do that very thing. This is the problem with taking the bible literally. Please let me know how you interpret that scripture.

      March 15, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • PRISM1234

      Susie, The things that you write about ar the truth, and are not hard to understand. Actually, the Gospel of salvation is very simple and clear to understand. But it is the sin , and the love of that sin, that's in human hearts, that's keeping people from understanding it. It is because the god if this world has blinded their eyes, lest they should see, understand and come to the only One who can save their souls, who alone is The Way, Te Truth, and Life , Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Yeshua the Messiah who came from the Father.

      March 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  16. Matt

    Bell's message is one that many people would gladly accept. While "preachers" around the world teach a message of "God is Angry!" Bell teaches a message of understanding and acceptance, and is there anything wrong with that? Bell stresses the use of ones mind along with his heart to come to a better understanding of God and what it means to be a Christian, something that many Christians fail to do. He builds his books and his NOOMA videos around biblical foundations. We forget that we are called to dig through the scriptures and wrestle with God's word. I am rather amused with the people who claim that Bell's theology is wrong, as if they are so great to know what God is thinking and how he feels.

    Then again, you could simply write the word "God" on anything and the internet would freak out. God forbid someone explore what it means to be human and live in this world.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Samantha

      People are afraid to be told that there is no hell, because then they think that if hell doesn't exist, then how can heaven?
      This challenges their belief system and shakes the comfortable foundation they have fostered for themselves.
      Personally I don't believe in it at all, I've never needed an organized religion or group of any kind to instruct me in right
      from wrong as I believe we are born with that inherent knowledge and we make choices as we go. As for the afterlife I'll
      find out when I get there, or not. It is amusing to watch this freak out though. As if by him saying it, hell will suddenly disappear. All that's missing is the shouts of "shun the unbeliever!" ..and "no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!!" Haha. ;D

      March 15, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • c


      forever , that word is used in the Bible 56 times in connection with things which have already come to an End.

      read the Bible. use a concordance look under the word ever.

      Hell fire will end.

      otherwise the saved would be crying in Heaven everyday for the rest of eternity over their burning and suffering love ones.

      surely no one would be happy watching that scene forever.

      the wicked ... shall be destroyed forever Psalm 92:7

      in other words they will not live again.

      March 15, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Mychele

      Bell's Universalism is nothing new – the Universalist Church, which merged decades ago with the Unitarians, has long put forth the idea that a God worth having would not condemn his/her/its children to some kind of cartoon afterlife such as a "hell."
      While so many churches wield words and ideas as a punitive stick to goad their followers into social & mental conformity, UU's look toward the positive aspects of good thought and deed inspired by the world's great thinkers and philosophers.
      Perhaps Bell is simply following in this good light.

      March 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  17. ray Peck

    75% of the worlds population is stupid....read what they have to say here.......the truth is a lie

    March 14, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  18. Timothy

    For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

    For we have come to this time.

    March 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  19. c

    where in the Bible is it stated Hell is burning now?

    answer, it is not stated, however to reconcile pagans of old to the RC church of the dark ages,the Bible has been quoted out of context to convey this false belief.

    where in the Bible does it state Hell will burn for eternity? not stated in the Bible, however the punishment of the wicked will be eternal. not the burning. again the Biblical view of hell, twisted out of context.

    what kind of loving God, punishes people forever and ever?

    the Bible states God is Love, and his punishments are just.

    burning for eternity is not a punishment of a just and loving God. however the punishment of eternal death by fire is a just punishment, that is a huge difference.

    while those who choose the Lord will have and enjoy eternal Life on a new earth, created after this one is burned up with the wicked. the burning will come to an end.

    why, do Christians long to hold on to falsehoods and lies about the Bible? and who do they really serve by continuing these lies?

    March 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Robert

      Revelation 20:10 (Whole Chapter)
      And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for EVER AND EVER.

      March 15, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • John

      And this was not invented by Christians. The last verses of Isaiah 66

      22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD. 24 “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

      I only post this because you asked for an example. I'm sorry that people have made Christianity a burden for so many. It is a religion that offers love and fellowship, and most importantly, access to the one true God, the creator and savior. Christianity is a celebration of life the way it was meant to be. Yes, God is holy and demands that we live accordingly, which means not doing some of those things we like doing. But, the beauty of communing with God more than makes up for it. It's like when you get a job that at first you were refusing because you thought you wouldn't like it. But, when you start your work you find that not only do you like the job, it seems that's what you were born to do. Then you laugh at the fact that you tried so hard to avoid it.
      C, I've noticed you have posted several very good questions, and yes Jesus is willing to teach those who seek Him. From what I can gather, you have been turned off to Christianity because of Christians. Again, I am sorry to you and all those who feel that way. The Church is supposed to be a place of power and healing, not condemnation. I hope you take the apology to heart and will seek Christ for yourself.

      March 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  20. J

    Argue about your beliefs all you want, just keep it away from me and stay out of my life. And stop trying to get your cronies to legislate based on YOUR beliefs!

    March 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • c

      christians should understand why separation of Church and State is so very important. how be it, they sadly don't remember the Dark Ages or the history of the RC church.

      Jesus stated render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's and render unto Christ's what is Christ's.

      in other words, the government should not back any religion.

      Christians have no rights to force their religion on others, by compelling the government to impose their belief system.

      Jesus gives all of us a free will, either we can choose to follow or not, we don't need the government's help to follow the Lord.

      March 14, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Timothy

      “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus loves you J and He wants you to be sure you kow it. Next time you stub your toe or bump your head try calling out to allah or buddah.......

      March 14, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Michael McCurdy

      So, we should legislate YOUR beliefs? And what are those beliefs based on? What objective source can you cite that we can investigate? There has to be truth and non-truth. It will always be hotly debated until Jesus Christ comes back and sets up His perfect government. I do hope you are there but you must believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ; that He died on the cross to pay for the sins we are guilty of. We must turn from our sins and turn to Christ as our sole means of salvation. We must believe that He rose again...... hope to see you in Heaven. peace : )

      March 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Ornithikos Paleologos

      It s all up to the Pope. If he can decide that Purgatory never really existed, he can decide the same about Hell.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.