Friday, December 23, 2005

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(Oh weary, weary was the world,
But here is all alright.)

Ah, dearest Jesus, Holy Child,
Make thee bed, soft, undefiled
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber, kept for Thee.
My heart for very joy does leap
My lips no more can silence keep,
I must sing with joyful tongue
That sweetest ancient cradle song.
G K Chesterton

Let us seek the grace of a cheerful heart, an even temper, sweetness, gentleness, and brightness of mind, as walking in His light, and by His grace. Let us pray to Him to give us the spirit of ever-abundant, everspringing love, which overpowers and sweeps away the vexations of life by its own richness and strength, and which, above all things, unites us to Him who is the fountain and the centre of all mercy, loving-kindness, and joy.John Henry Newman Art

Anglican Mainstream Calls on Government to Reconsider Civil Partnerships Act
Anglican Mainstream has called on the Government to reconsider the Civil Partnerships Act, describing the new legislation as both "confusing and unjust".
Posted: Friday, December 23 , 2005, 9:12 (UK)

Anglican Mainstream has urged the Government to reconsider the Civil Partnerships Act which came into force at the start of the month, with the first gay civil partnership ceremonies taking place across the country this week.

Dr Philip Giddings and Canon Dr Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream told Christian Today in a joint statement: "Marriage is a God-given institution between a man and a woman in which children are born and nurtured so that human society may flourish. The Civil Partnership Act 2005 is both confusing and unjust. It is confusing because it obscures the vital distinction between same-sex relationships and marriage.

“The rights in law which the Act confers are designed to be the same as the rights which flow from marriage. Yet the government insists that a civil partnership is not marriage. Some people are understandably referring to these partnerships as 'marriage', but calling something marriage does not make it marriage as properly understood.”

Anglican Mainstream said the Act was unjust because it excludes siblings and close relatives who are not married and “yet should surely be eligible for the same rights”.
The rest

Open Doors Releases 2005 Persecution Report, Notes Increases
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2005
Posted: 8:56:24PM EST

Open Doors released this week a review of the persecuted church worldwide in 2005, which showed increased persecution of Christians in countries such as North Korea, Indonesia, and Eritrea.

The countries North Korea and Indonesia, in particular, have made headlines around the world not only over the atrocities against Christians, but also for severe human rights violations. As a result, Open Doors ranked the closed, authoritarian country of North Korea at the top of its 2005 World Watch List of countries where persecution is most severe for the third year in a row. The oldest on-going ministry to the persecuted church estimates that in North Korea, about 400,000 Christians have faced daily persecution, including tortures and public killings.

Jordan River cosmetics appeal to Christians

Most baptisms in the Jordan River are of the spiritually cleansing variety.
But two Israeli women recently asked why they couldn't be physically purifying as well. Their answer is the Nahara line of bath and beauty products "for the Christian woman," according to their Web site, made with Jordan River water.

"The region evokes so much empathy and so much spiritually [and] we wanted to package it," explains co-founder Debbie Saperia, surrounded by Nahara bottles. "We're going to take a little bit of the region, and all its beauty and its symbolism, and ship it over."

While there might be a steady trickle of Christian pilgrims making their way to the banks of the Jordan each year, there are 60 million or so evangelicals in the US who've never made the journey. Now they have an entr e of sorts. The products are all sold on a Web site that gives visitors a virtual tour of the Galilee, and the boxes of hand creams and body sprays come with postcards from the region and other souvenirs.
The rest

Priest removed from Church
By Julia Duin
December 23, 2005

An Episcopal priest who pulled his church out of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia last month is being removed -- under protest -- from the Episcopal priesthood by his bishop.

A press release dated Monday said Virginia Episcopal Bishop Peter J. Lee had deemed the Nov. 13 leave-taking of the Rev. J. Philip Ashey, pastor of South Riding Church in east Loudoun County, as a renunciation of his priesthood.

Mr. Ashey, who had transferred his 150-member church to the Ugandan Diocese of Ruwenzori under Bishop Benezeri Kisembo, responded with a letter Tuesday informing the bishop that he had not renounced ordained ministry.

He wrote that when he met with Bishop Lee and members of the diocesan standing committee in late November, he had submitted a resignation letter. But he refused to sign a "letter of renunciation" the bishop presented to him. The letter followed a church law (Cannon III.13) whereby clergy wishing to leave the ministry sign a letter confirming their intent.

Woolly mammoth genome comes to life (Jurassic Park, here we come)
December 22, 2005
Posted on 12/22/2005 9:33:04 PM PST

Decoding extinct genomes now possible, says geneticist A McMaster University geneticist, in collaboration with genome researchers from Penn State University and the American Museum of Natural History has made history by mapping a portion of the woolly mammoth's genome. The discovery, which has astounded the scientific world, surpasses an earlier study released today by Nature that also concerns the woolly mammoth. Hendrik Poinar, a molecular evolutionary geneticist in the department of anthropology and pathology at McMaster University, says his study involves the vital nuclear DNA within a Mammoth rather than the lesser mitochondria, on which the Nature study is based.

"Mitochondria is so 1980s. It only allows you to look at the maternal side of evolution," says Poinar. "The nuclear DNA we've mapped gives us our first glimpse at both sides of evolution. We can sequence Neanderthals, animals, plants. Basically, if we find a well-preserved specimen, we can sequence its genome."

Mullahs Versus the Bloggers
ran va Jahan
Friday, December 23, 2005
Ben Macintyre
Posted on 12/23/2005 1:29:45 AM PST

The explosive growth of youthful, irreverent online diaries has alarmed Iran's hardline Government

THE MUSIC OF Eric Clapton was banned in Iran this week. Broadcasters were ordered to cease playing “decadent” western songs and stick to “fine Iranian music”. Not content with denying the Holocaust, Israel’s right to exist, and advertising hoardings featuring David Beckham, Iran’s hardline President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has now denied his people the chance to listen to Layla — cruel and unusual punishment indeed.

But if Iran, under the repressive rule of the ultraconservatives, is silencing the sound of Western pop, in another area of its culture, a wild cacophony of voices has erupted. The blogosphere is exploding. In Iran there are now more than 100,000 active blogs or weblogs, individual online diaries covering every conceivable subject, from pets to politics. Farsi is the 28th most spoken language in the world, but it now ties with French as the second most used language in the blogosphere. This is the place Iranians call “Weblogistan”: a land of noisy and irreverent free speech.
the rest

Space station's crew awaits Russian-style Christmas
By Philip Chien
December 23, 2005

An automated Russian Progress spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station today, bringing the usual cargo -- and a little Christmas cheer -- to the two-man crew stationed there.

Presents and a holiday meal are being delivered to retired U.S. Army Col. Bill McArthur and Russian Valeri Tokarev. The men transmitted a video requesting the foods they selected for Christmas.

"For Thanksgiving we had a U.S. food theme, so we decided that we would eat a little more traditional Russian food at this time of year," Col. McArthur said.

Islamic terrorists shot aid couple as they watched TV
By Auslan Cramb
(Filed: 23/12/2005)

A husband and wife who dedicated their lives to helping African children were murdered in cold blood by Islamic terrorists, an inquest heard yesterday.

Dick and Enid Eyeington were watching television at their home in Somaliland when a terrorist linked to al-Qaeda shot them.

The couple were considered "infidels" by their attackers, who wrongly believed that they were trying to convert Africans to Christianity.

Church blessing for homosexual vicar
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
(Filed: 22/12/2005)

A homosexual vicar flouted Church of England guidelines yesterday by having his "marriage" blessed in church.

The Rev Christopher Wardale and Malcolm Macourt, a retired academic, attended a service in St Thomas the Martyr church in Newcastle after a civil partnership ceremony in the nearby Civic Centre.

The blessing was given during the sermon, which was preached by the former bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev David Jenkins, now an honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of Ripon and Leeds.

The couple repeated the commitment they had made before the registrar and placed their left hands, each with a gold ring on the wedding finger, in the hand of Bishop Jenkins.
The rest

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Jesus came! - and came for me.

Simple words! and yet expressing
Depths of holy mystery,
Depths of wondrous love and blessing.
Holy Spirit, make me see
All His coming means for me;
Take the things of Christ, I pray,
Show them to my heart today.
Frances Ridley Havergal

Archbishop of Canterbury Opens New Homeless Shelter
The Archbishop has opened a new day and night shelter for homeless people in east London.
Posted: Thursday, December 22 , 2005, 14:32 (UK)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has officially opened a new combined day and night shelter for the homeless in London.The new centre, Branches, which was opened last week, is the result of partnership between Waltham Forest Churches and Forest YMCA.

Dr Williams joined with staff, volunteers and users of the night shelter for breakfast before being taken on a tour of the facilities and services on offer to the homeless people of East London at the Branches shelter.

The rest

Idols of a 'jealous God'
By Shelley Widhalm
December 22, 2005

Pamela R. Winnick was labeled a fanatic and a member of the "religious right" five years ago when she published an article about a scientist skeptical of Darwin's theory of evolution.

In fact, Ms.Winnick says, she is a nonreligious Jewish Democrat. But the outcry against her article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette caused her to question the claims made on behalf of science.

"The scientific community cannot bear being challenged, even when they are patently wrong. They have come to see themselves as gods, and they don't like anyone challenging them," she said last week at the Discovery Institute, discussing her new book, "A Jealous God: Science's Crusade Against Religion."
The rest

Osama's Hollywood
December 22, 2005

Imagine what would happen if Osama Bin Laden decided to improve on the quality of his hide-out videos? Imagine that he hires a Madison Ave PR firm and provides them with tens of millions of dollars to make an uber-video to get out his message, a message encased in the trappings of a star studded Hollywood movie. Poison is more easily assimilated if it tastes oh so good. If Osama wanted to make such a movie, he needn't have bothered - because Warner Bros has made it for him.

Syriana is the Jihadist's version of recent Middle East history. Without the slightest equivocation or apology, it states the moral justification of the Islamists' war on America and the West.

Spielberg's Munich Pact
Debbie Schlussel
December 22, 2005

When Steven Spielberg began filming Munich in June 2004, he set the tone for his fictional movie about Israeli agents who hunted down the Palestinian terrorists responsible for the slaughter of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Spielberg abruptly stopped filming and closed up shop. Why? Because the 2004 Summer Games were happening in August, and Steven Spielberg didn’t want to upset the terrorists.

That’s what Munich is about: not upsetting the terrorists. And rolling over while they attack and kill us. In Steven Spielberg’s world, not going after terrorists brings peace. In the real world, not going after terrorists brings more bloodshed.

Jesus, CEO
Dec 20th 2005
From The Economist

America's most successful churches are modelling themselves on businesses.

VISIT Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, an upscale exurb of Chicago, and you are confronted with a puzzle. Where in God's name is the church? Willow Creek has every amenity you can imagine, from food courts to basketball courts, from cafes to video screens, not to mention enough parking spaces for around 4,000 cars. But look for steeples and stained glass, let alone crosses and altars, and you look in vain. Surely this is a slice of corporate America rather than religious America?

The corporate theme is not just a matter of appearances. Willow Creek has a mission statement (“to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ”) and a management team, a seven-step strategy and a set of ten core values. The church employs two MBAs—one from Harvard and one from Stanford—and boasts a consulting arm. It has even been given the ultimate business accolade: it is the subject of a Harvard Business School case-study.
the rest

Ohio Islamic center bombed; no one hurt

The mayor of Cincinnati stood with the Roman Catholic archbishop, a rabbi and other religious and civic leaders Wednesday to denounce the bombing of an Islamic center.

Two explosive devices caused minor damage to the entrances of adjoining mosques Tuesday night, about two hours after prayers had ended. No one was injured.

"We're all here in solidarity to speak out against this despicable act", Mayor Mark Mallory said.
From a community standpoint, we need to make it clear that this type of criminal activity will not be tolerated.

The rest

Gay pride or unholy alliance?
By Jonathan Petre,
Religion Correspondent
(Filed: 22/12/2005)

The most sweeping social reform for 40 years came to fruition yesterday when nearly 700 couples, including Sir Elton John and David Furnish, celebrated England's first gay "weddings".

To the delight of gay rights campaigners and the dismay of many Church leaders, homosexual couples "tied the knot" in ceremonies that were hardly distinguishable from civil marriages.

The sense of history was heightened by Tony Blair, who welcomed the new civil partnerships as "a modern, progressive step" of which he was proud.

The reform is widely seen as the most significant advance for homosexual rights since 1967, when the Sexual Offences Act, which partially decriminalised sex between men over 21, received royal assent.
The rest

'Santa Pope' woos Vatican crowds

Pope Benedict XVI appears to be getting into a different kind of Christmas spirit, donning a Santa-style hat for his weekly appearance at the Vatican.

At a chilly St Peter's Square, the Pope draped a red cloak over his shoulders and covered his head with a red velvet hat lined with white fur.

Vatican officials said the hat, known as a camauro, has been part of the papal wardrobe since the 12th century.

But it has not been worn in public since the death of John XXIII in 1963.

Ancient prayer book to be shown at V&A
By Duncan Gardham
(Filed: 22/12/2005)

For 300 years it has been a book without a beginning, middle or end.
But thanks to scholarly detective work, a 15th century Book of Hours, written for King Louis XII of France, has been pieced back together and will go on display for the first time at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in February.

The prayer book was known as a book of hours because it had different prayers for different hours of the day and different times of the year.

It was illustrated with full-page illuminations, measuring 24cm by 17cm (9.5in by 6.7in), by Jean Bourdichon in 1498 and 1499 for Louis XII and may have been brought to England on his death by Mary Tudor, his third wife.

By 1700 two individual pages turned up in a volume of calligraphy compiled by the diarist Samuel Pepys. After that the pages appeared in various collections. In 1973 Janet Backhouse, the curator of manuscripts at the British Library, worked out that all the illustrations had come from the same book.
The rest

Priest's hunch finally uncovers Porto's hidden holy scrolls
By Barry Hatton in Porto
Published: 22 December 2005

Few people ever knew, but the medieval alleys of the Portuguese city of Porto on the Atlantic coast once provided cover for a persecuted minority at risk of being burnt at the stake.

In the 16th century, a thick-walled granite house that still stands in a row of narrow buildings along a cobbled street held a dangerous secret. At the back, steep steps lead down to a warren of alleys ideal for conspiratorial comings and goings that helped keep an outlawed religious ceremony hidden.

Four centuries later, the secret of the synagogue is out. The mystery began unravelling when Fr Agostinho Jardim Moreira, a Catholic priest, bought the four-storey house for use as an old people's home for his parish. When construction workers told him they had come across a false wall, he told them to pull it down - sensing a hidden tale.
the rest

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bright portals of the sky,
Emboss'd with sparkling stars,
Doors of eternity,
With diamantine bars,
Your arras rich uphold,
Loose all your bolts and springs,
Ope wide your leaves of gold,
That in your roofs may come the King of Kings.

O well-spring of this All!
Thy Father's image vive;
Word, that from nought did call
What is, doth reason, live;
The soul's eternal food,
Earth's joy, delight of heaven;
All truth, love, beauty, good:
To thee, to thee be praises ever given!

O glory of the heaven!
O sole delight of earth!
To thee all power be given,
God's uncreated birth!
Of mankind lover true,
Indearer of his wrong,
Who doth the world renew,
Still be thou our salvation and our song!
William Drummond

CHRISTMAS - it's all in the word
by Dan Herzog

Bishop of Albany

We have seen a secular (could we say sinister) attempt to eliminate "Merry Christmas" and replace it with "Happy Holiday". Take away the name to take away the message.

The word Christmas contains all we need to say about the biggest day on the calendar. Much of the national retail economy revolves around the day. It is the day the telephone wires burn (along with wireless cell phones). Millions of folks travel. Millions even pay an unaccustomed visit to church.

The usefulness of the word is clear. We are celebrating the entry of God into human history- as one of us! God is born as Man at Bethlehem.

The rest at Virtueonline

All Saints rejoices in its new life

All Saints Church in Irondequoit is puzzled that the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester has now acknowledged the congregation’s new life within the Church of Uganda. The diocese cannot seem to decide whether our parish is extinct or is a living congregation of the Anglican Communion.

Our affiliation with the Church of Uganda kept us within the Anglican Communion. It was an act of gracious care and authority by Archbishop Henry Orombi.

In declaring All Saints extinct, Bishop Jack McKelvey and the diocesan convention have relinquished their authority over this parish. We note three realities that the Diocese of Rochester cannot change through any vote of its annual convention.

The rest at the ACN website

Zimbabwe Archbishop Refuses to be Silenced
A leading Catholic Archbishop in Zimbabwe has declared his defiance against the latest attempts by the country's government to silence critics, saying he will not be muzzled.
Posted: Wednesday, December 21 , 2005, 9:58 (UK)

One of Zimbabwe’s leading Catholic figures has proclaimed his refusal to be muzzled by the country’s government, adding that he does not fear the Zimbabwean Government’s latest threat to clamp down on its critics, reports Ekklesia.

Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, known for his outspoken criticism of the Zimbabwean Government, said: “They [Mugabe’s forces] will not silence me and I will continue to denigrate the evil things they have done against their own people.”

A ruling party conference recently called for a list to be compiled by the security forces blacklisting Zimbabweans whose passports should be seized under the new laws aimed at muzzling opponents.

The spokesman for the main opposition party and a leading Zimbabwean publisher whose papers have featured stories voicing criticism against the government have already had their passports confiscated.

The United Nations humanitarian envoy, Jan Egeland, described Zimbabwe as being in “meltdown”, after a recent four-day tour of the country. Egeland estimates that around three million people will be in need of food aid by February.

1st Amendment 'doesn't create church-state wall of separation'
Court whacks civil-liberties group, OKs Ten Commandments display
Posted: December 20, 20054:32 p.m. Eastern

A U.S. appeals court today upheld the decision of a lower court in allowing the inclusion of the Ten Commandments in a courthouse display, hammering the
American Civil Liberties Union and declaring, "The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state."

Attorneys from the
American Center for Law and Justice successfully argued the case on behalf of Mercer County, Ky., and a display of historical documents placed in the county courthouse. The panel voted 3-0 to reject the ACLU's contention the display violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Story

A Devilish Daniel Webster

According to
this story from Beliefnet, NBC Television has a real treat in store for people interested in religion: their upcoming drama series, The Book of Daniel, is about a married Episcopal priest, Daniel Webster, who is addicted to Vicodin, who is married and has a gay Republican son and a drug-dealing 16-year-old daughter.

The American Family Association notes that the priest's secretary is a lesbian who is sleeping with his sister-in-law. Did I mention he also has a 16-year-old adopted son who is sleeping with the bishop's daughter?

The writer for the series, Jack Kenny, who describes himself as a real "spiritual" person, is also a practicing homosexual "in recovery from Catholicism" and studying Buudhist beliefs.

His main character, Daniel Webster, talks to Jesus, who appears to him every now and then in times of great stress. Kenny does "believe in Jesus, but not necessarily "all the myth surrounding him."

NBC purportedly is launching the series in an effort to recover from a fourth-place finish in recent ratings. Since Episcopal parishes led by priests such as Daniel Webster are wildly successful, I think they have the making of a hit.
The rest

Presidential Message: Christmas 2005

'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel' which means, God with us.
Matthew 1:23

More than 2,000 years ago, a virgin gave birth to a Son, and the God of heaven came to Earth. Mankind had received its Savior, and to those who had dwelled in darkness, the light of hope had come. Each Christmas, we celebrate that first coming anew, and we rejoice in the knowledge that the God who came to Earth that night in Bethlehem is with us still and will remain with us forever.

Christmas is a season of hope and joy, a time to give thanks for the blessing of Christ's birth and for the blessings that surround us every day of the year. We have much to be thankful for in this country, and we have a responsibility to help those in need. Jesus calls us to help others, and acts of kindness toward the less fortunate fulfill the spirit of the Christmas season.

On Christmas, we pray for freedom, justice, and peace on Earth. We remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and for our freedom, and we ask for God's blessing on their loved ones. We ask God to watch over all of our men and women in uniform. Many are serving in distant lands, helping to advance the cause of freedom and peace. Our entire Nation is grateful to them and prays for their safe return.

Laura and I send our best wishes for a blessed and merry Christmas.


The People Who Walk in Darkness Will See a Great Light
—The Glory of Christmas
Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them." [Isaiah 9:2] Those words from the prophet Isaiah told of the coming Prince of Peace, and of the light and life He would bring.

Christmas arrives again with all the promise of remembrance and celebration. Christians celebrate Christmas because the light did dawn. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was not only the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, but the dawn of a new age. As the angels declared to the shepherds, this infant is "a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

This is the very essence of Christmas: The birth of the Savior. To understand Christmas is to know that the ultimate peace the Savior would bring would be established by His death and resurrection. Even as Jesus came to save His people from their sins, Christ's birth points towards His cross and the fulfillment of His saving work.

The rest-Albert Mohler

Dancing With Denial
Joseph D'Hippolito
December 21, 2005

As Christians worldwide prepare to celebrate the birth of the man they regard as humanity’s savior, those in Muslim nations must wonder whether the West’s Christian leaders have abandoned them.

Throughout the autumn, Christians in Asia and the Middle East became targets of arson, extortion, mob violence and even murder in Allah’s name. Instead of addressing those problems, however, Western Christian leaders indulged in sanctimonious pedantry, fashionable naiveté and outright appeasement in the name of dialogue and peace.

The Church of England commemorated the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by endorsing an official apology to Muslim leaders for the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
The rest

Chinese Priests and Nuns Beaten in Tianjin
2nd Similar Attack in Recent Weeks

TIANJIN, China, DEC. 19, 2005 ( A group of priests and nuns were beaten with iron bars, bricks and clubs by a group of assailants in this seaside city, after protesting the expropriation of Church property. The priests and nuns were attacked Friday after having demonstrated against the seizure of several buildings belonging to their Archdiocese of Taiyuan, in Shanxi province, according to AsiaNews.

The attack followed a similar incident in Xian several weeks ago, when 16 nuns were beaten for having stood in the way of the demolition of a diocesan school. In the Tianjin incident, one priest was knocked unconscious, and a nun suffered head injuries and was hospitalized. Four other priests were also injured. When police arrived, they took the priests in for questioning. Only hours later did they take the injured clerics to the hospital.

A Christian youth in India is gunned down
December 21, 2005

India (MNN) -- A 15-year-old member of
Gospel for Asia's Believers Church was killed in Assam, India, as tribal violence has erupted again. Vidya Singh and one of his friends were returning to their recently destroyed village to recover some food when they were ambushed and shot.

Speaking from India, Gospel for Asia's founder KP Yohannan says while this was tribal violence, Christians are feeling the impact. "People take advantage of this kind of opportunity to actually go after believers who have left their tribal customs."

Governments Tremble at Google's Bird's-Eye View

Google introduced Google Earth, free software that marries satellite and aerial images with mapping capabilities, the company emphasized its usefulness as a teaching and navigation tool, while advertising the pure entertainment value of high-resolution flyover images of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the pyramids.

But since its debut last summer, Google Earth has received attention of an unexpected sort. Officials of several nations have expressed alarm over its detailed display of government buildings, military installations and other important sites within their borders.

India, whose laws sharply restrict satellite and aerial photography, has been particularly outspoken. "It could severely compromise a country's security," V. S. Ramamurthy, secretary in India's federal Department of Science and Technology, said of Google Earth. And India's surveyor general, Maj. Gen. M. Gopal Rao, said, "They ought to have asked us."
the rest

Gunmen storm city hall in biblical Bethlehem
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members demand jobs, leave peacefully

BETHLEHEM, West Bank - Palestinian gunmen briefly seized Bethlehem city hall, overlooking the Church of the Nativity, on Tuesday in a jarring interruption to Christmas preparations in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

The incident, five days before Christmas, was another sign of growing lawlessness in Palestinian territories and the turmoil within Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction ahead of a January parliamentary election.

About 20 gunmen from Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fanned out on rooftops and in the offices of city hall, firing several shots in the air and forcing workers out. They demanded money and jobs for about 320 members.
The rest

Bethlehem: A Calculated Risk
Judy Lash Balint
December 21, 2005

The Christmas season is upon us in the Holy Land. Here, in the birthplace of Christianity, Christmas extends for a full season, not just one day. After the Catholics and western churches celebrate December 25, the holy day for Greek Orthodox adherents is December 7th, followed by the Armenian celebration of Christmas on January 19th.

Naturally, Bethlehem is the focal point of all the Christmas festivities, and once again this year, Israeli authorities have pledged to do their utmost to ensure free passage of Christian pilgrims in and out of the town in honor of the season.
The rest

Democratizing Hollywood
Dec 20, 2005
Erik Lokkesmoe (bio archive)

The apocalyptic sidewalk prophet wearing a hand-painted sandwich board along Wilshire Boulevard is correct: truly, the end is near.

Don’t look toward the heavens, mind you. This is no Tim LaHaye unmanned-cars, pile-of-clothes, rapture-any-minute premonition. Instead, look toward a different sign, a word in all caps perched on a hill overlooking the most influential city in the world.
Indeed, the end of Hollywood is near.

Here’s why: Technology is changing everything in the entertainment industry. In ten years, Hollywood as we currently know it will be as foreign as a Frederico Fellini film. The old model that relies on big studios, big stars, and big budgets to draw audiences will hold all the appeal of a Sly Stallone blockbuster about arm wrestling. In 2015, a USC film studies class will look at today’s industry with the same intellectual curiosity and amazement as we do today when screening Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.

Hollywood is going democratic, and that is good news for conservatives. As paranoid film studio dolts green-light banal re-makes, sequels, and “important” movies (leading, of course, to the biggest drop in ticket sales in twenty years), they face a new threat: teenage filmmakers armed with laptops, digital video cameras, and Final Cut Pro 5.
the rest

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

O Lord Jesu Christ,
to Whom is given the throne and sceptre of David Thy father over the house of Israel,
that Thou mighest extend his kingdom over all peoples:
Thou didst come in our nature,
as the Son of man forgiving sins,
dispelling sickness and loosing bonds:
to Thee now is committed all authority in heaven and on earth,
and the powers of hell cannot withstand Thy word:
Come, we pray Thee, by Thy grace, and through the instrumentality of Thy Church,
to loosen the prisoner from the chains of sin,
to enlighten with the glad tidings of Thy word all who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
that they may rejoice in the deliverance which Thou hast wrought.
A.C.A. Hall

Keep focused: This and many beautiful advent readings and prayers found over at Lent and Beyond

God Rest Ye Merry

A number of years ago, our friend Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things, made a nice observation about his experiences of successive Christmases that has stuck in my mind as something equally true for me, and perhaps for many of us. He said that every year there seems to be a particular Christmas carol that grabs his attention early in the season, often because one particular line or image in that carol suddenly opens itself, revealing a fresh meaning that he’d never before noticed.

I’ve had the same experience. I remember being struck a couple of years ago when, in listening to “O Holy Night,” a song I always tended to find tediously schmaltzy, I noticed the words “Till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.” Maybe it was just a quirk of timing, but the words hit me forcibly, and I wondered why I had never noticed them before, even though I’d long ago committed the lyrics to memory. It could have been partly because there are several “translations” into English, which vary wildly in the ways they render that phrase (and bear little resemblance to the French). But the more general point stands. And I now listen to “O Holy Night” with new respect.

The rest

Truth, Christmas, and the Eucharist
Why I didn't like the hymns and praise songs we were singing—and why I was missing the point.
by Kevin Timpe
posted 12/20/2005 09:30 a.m.

I had just finished my third semester as a philosophy professor at a Christian university. One of the things I tried to do that semester was to meet my new colleagues from other departments. One particular such meeting near the beginning of the semester sticks out in my mind. I was having coffee with a professor from the English department whose work in Milton has some connections to my own research in the philosophy of religion. Partway into our conversation, my colleague made the following perplexing remark: "What I don't understand about you philosophers is that you only care about the truth." I got the feeling, from the tone of his voice, that he intended this statement in a pejorative way, though for the life of me I couldn't figure out how this was supposed to be an insult. I must admit that I would be happy knowing all and only the truth. (Actually, since it is impossible to know a falsehood, the "and only" clause is redundant, but I'm trying to talk less like a philosopher in an effort not to alienate all my colleagues too quickly!) Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to ask him what he meant by this comment, as another colleague came over and the topic of conversation changed.
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Staver: Feds Need to Address Religious Discrimination in Nursing Homes at Christmastime
By Allie Martin and Jody Brown
December 20, 2005

(AgapePress) - The president of
Liberty Counsel says the federal government should issue guidelines designed to prevent religious discrimination in nursing homes and assisted living centers during the Christmas season.

Senior citizens in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts will now be able to celebrate Christmas, thanks to the intervention of Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based law firm that specializes in religious liberties. Officials at senior citizens' centers in three communities -- Winter Park, Florida; Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; and Melrose, Massachusetts -- had placed restrictions on Christmas programs or displays. In the Winter Park case, for example, residents of an assisted living center were told neither they nor outside groups could sing Christmas carols.
the rest

Pennsylvania Judge Rules 'Intelligent Design' Can't Be Taught in Schools
December 20th, 2005 @ 8:53am
Associated Press Writer

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- "Intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.

Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said. Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.

The school board policy, adopted in October 2004, was believed to have been the first of its kind in the nation.

Excised All Saints here now Church of Uganda
Marketta Gregory
Staff writer

(December 19, 2005) — IRONDEQUOIT — A church that was recently voted out of the local Episcopal diocese has aligned itself with the Church of Uganda.

All Saints Episcopal Church on Winona Boulevard refused to pay more than $16,000 it owed the diocese because it believes the diocese and the Episcopal Church of the USA shouldn't have supported the 2003 ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire and shouldn't have given individual dioceses the right to decide whether to bless same-sex unions.

Three Episcopal churches in the Los Angeles, Calif., diocese also have aligned with the Church of Uganda following the ordination of New Hampshire's bishop. A judge has ruled that two of those parishes are rightful owners of their church buildings but that issue has yet to be settled in the Irondequoit case.

The local diocese has requested the keys and All Saints has refused.The Province of Uganda is a separate church within the Anglican Communion. Like the Episcopal Church, it has its roots in the Church of England. The Church of Uganda draws its members from the entire country of Uganda.

"We have received formal notification from the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop and Primate of the Church of Uganda, that All Saints' has been accepted in the Province of Uganda and is now under their authority and protection," states a letter sent to the local diocese by an attorney for All Saints Episcopal Church.

The $16,000, called an apportionment, is required from each of the Rochester diocese's 52 congregations, so many delegates to last month's diocesan convention felt it was unfair to withhold the money and voted to dissolve ties with All Saints.

"Their willingness to withdraw from the community of the Diocese of Rochester was expressed first in their refusal to keep their financial commitment, and is once again made clear by this action," to align with the Church of Uganda, the diocese stated in a printed statement.

All Saints' pastor and its attorney were not immediately available for comment today.

Letter sent to the Bishop of Rochester from the Attorney for All Saints

November 25, 2005
The Rt. Rev. Jack M. McKelvey
Episcopal Bishop of Rochester
935 East Avenue
Rochester, New York 14607

Re: All Saints Church in Rochester
Dear Bp. McKelvey:

I am writing to respond to your letter of November 21, 2005 wherein you repeat the demands which you made when you and I met in the parking lot of All Saints in Rochester. At that time your chancellor on your behalf asked for the keys to the parish. On behalf of the parish, I refused. Again, on behalf of All Saints, I refuse to give you possession of the buildings of the parish.

You and your convention have declared All Saints to be “extinct”, but it is alive and well in Christ. It did not deserve to be declared “extinct.” For you the parish is a building which you desire to take. But for the rector, wardens, vestry, and those who continue to worship there (as you saw when you attended, but did not participate in last Sunday’s worship service) it is not at all an “extinct” church. What is now extinct, however, is your authority over this parish and these people. They did not ask to be removed from the jurisdiction of the diocese of Rochester, but you have done this, and with that irrevocable step you extinguished any authority you had over that part of the body of Christ.

That which you declared extinct in the diocese of Rochester has been resurrected in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the province of the Church of Uganda. We have received formal notification from The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop and Primate of the Church of Uganda, that All Saints has been accepted in the province of Uganda and is now under their authority and protection.

You have chosen to walk apart from the rest of the Anglican Communion by your wholehearted support of the actions of the 2003 General Convention as it embraced a new gospel ignoring the authority of the Bible, and instead chose to rewrite the 2000 year tradition of Christian sexual morality. In this country of religious freedom that is your prerogative, but this parish cannot follow you. They will remain aligned with the vast majority of Christians around the world through their new bishop in Uganda. They have chosen the historic Christian faith of Paul, Augustine of Canterbury, Cranmer, and countless other saints in the Anglican Communion worldwide, rather than the new gospel of bishops such as Pike, Spong, and yourself. Time will tell whether the Church in the Province of the United States will embrace the Gospel as written, or as you proclaim it. However we will continue to proclaim the Gospel as it has been defined by the historic formularies of the faith.

Since you still have 52 congregations left in your jurisdiction, please leave All Saints alone and let us go our separate ways.

Very Truly Yours,
Raymond J. Dague
Attorney at Law
620 Empire Building
472 South Salina Street
Syracuse, New York 13202
(315) 422-2052

By J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Dec 20, 2005

That's a possibility.

By 2061 there may be one person in the Canadian Anglican Church (in the US, it’s known as the Episcopal Church).

I live part of the year in Canada. From time to time I attend an Anglican worship. I can feel the death winds blowing hard against the country church. Hard. And I mean HARD.

I looked at the attendance register kept in the side room. It logged numbers below 10 for most Sundays in recent months. Such is the fact.

The rest

Monday, December 19, 2005

DO YOU WANT TO SEE the humility of God? Look in the manger and see him lying there. Surely this is our God. Seeing an infant, I wonder how this could be the one who says, "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" I see a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Is this the one who is clothed in the beautiful glory of unapproachable light?

Listen! He is crying. Is this the one who thunders in the heaven making the angels lower their wings? Yes, but he has emptied himself in order to fill us.

Guerric of Igny, Liturgical Sermons link

The greatest of the liberal fears in ECUSA - Conservatives Talking To Laity
Brad Drell @ 4:35 pm

If you haven’t read Kendall Harmon’s piece,
Kerfuffle in the Diocese of Kansas, please do so. Essentially, a deacon who left the Episcopal Church was ordained in the Church of Uganda, and then becomes a Dean of a convocation within the Anglican Communion Network. The issue? The dean sends a letter to all manner of Episcopal wardens in 20 some odd states. The Bishop of Kansas goes ballistic.

The letter merely offers to send the senior wardens a copy of the Hope and A Future DVD. You can see its
content here.

What can we glean from all this? The main thing the liberals fear is that the laity might hear from conservatives, and maybe even listen. The HOBD listserv is howling about all of this, and I’ve received emails like “Your smart buddies are getting desperate.” I would hardly classify Dean Smart’s letter as “desperate.” Other friends of mine in the center say Smart’s letter is counter-productive to reconciliation. Since when is information EVER counterproductive to reconciliation? Reconciliation, last I checked, when based on misinformation is not parties being reconciled, it is one party duping the other. Is that what the Episcopal Church is after? After what I’ve seen, this is precisely so.

The rest at Drell's Descants

Anglican-Methodist Churches Make New Historic Joint Appointment
A new safeguarding Advisor has been appointed to the post for the Methodist Church and the Church of England. Rev Pearl Luxon is now scheduled to take up her new position in September 2006.
Posted: Monday, December 19 , 2005, 9:33 (UK)

A new safeguarding Advisor has been appointed to the post for the Methodist Church and the Church of England. Rev Pearl Luxon is now scheduled to take up her new position in September 2006.

The new opening will be made available to Luxon after the retirement of Mrs Jane Hind as the National Child Protection Advisor for the Church of England, reveal the Methodist Church.

The move is very historic, and is the first time that a national joint post has been created by the two churches since the Anglican-Methodist Covenant was signed in November 2003.

Rev Luxon commented, “Creating this post allows the two churches to speak with one voice. It shows the seriousness with which both Churches take child protection.”
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Cookbooks offer food for the soul
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

A spate of cookbooks with a spiritual spin has been adding flavor to bookshelves lately.
Among the enticing titles of the past few years: Church Suppers, What Would Jesus Eat? and Cooking With the Saints.

Many are emerging from the kitchens of monasteries: The Zen Monastery Cookbook and Twelve Months of Monastery Salads: 200 Divine Recipes for All Seasons.

Even fictional characters are weighing in with their favorite recipes. Fans of the Mitford series can find out how to prepare Father Tim's beef tenderloin in Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader.

While demand for spiritually themed publications has been strong for a decade or so, the cookbooks seem to represent a trend. "We're in a food cycle now," said Jana Riess, religion book review editor for Publishers Weekly, a journal of the book publishing industry. "We're seeing an uptick in food-related titles."

Cutting Through the Cultural Chaos -- The Meaning of "Brokeback Mountain"
Posted: Monday, December 19, 2005 at 1:17 am ET

Sometimes, it's the contradictory headlines that tell the story. Last week,
USA Today released a prominent article with the headline: "'Brokeback' Rides Into the Mainstream." The same day, The Los Angeles Times featured a story with the headline, "Can 'Brokeback Mountain' Move the Heartland?." The two articles were poles apart.

USA Today pushed the movie, famously featuring a long-term homosexual romance between two cowboys, as "charting new frontiers." Yet, those new frontiers are only among the cultural elites clustered in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The movie isn't showing elsewhere.

The rest-Albert Mohler

Western Isles takes moral stand against 'geidh' couple ceremonies

THE Gaelic language has at least half a dozen words to describe homosexuals, varying from merely impolite to obscene. Such is the lack of a non-judgmental term for gay people that the BBC's Gaelic radio service was recently forced to invent a word: 'Geidh'.

It is hardly surprising then that councillors in this deeply traditional society, where the hold of strict Presbyterianism remains stronger than anywhere else on the British Isles, have voted to become the only part of the country to outlaw so-called gay "wedding ceremonies", which are to be held across Britain starting on Tuesday.
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Stand up for Christmas, archbishops tell their flock
By Neil Tweedie and Jonathan Petre
(Filed: 19/12/2005)

Political correctness or fear of
offending other religions should not be allowed to cloud the fact that Christianity lies at the heart of British culture, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his predecessor said yesterday.

In what appeared to be a co-ordinated pre-Christmas offensive, Dr Rowan Williams and Lord Carey mounted a stout defence of Christianity's place in society.

They attacked the "silly bureaucrats" who insisted on banning Christian words and symbols in a misguided attempt to placate Muslims and others.

Their comments coincide with a poll showing that 43 per cent of adults intend to attend church at some time over the festive season, almost a third more than those giving the same answer in 2001.

Dr Williams gave warning that Christmas was in danger of being turned into a secular winter festival through a mixture of political correctness and profit-driven consumerism.

Don't stifle Christianity by political correctness, says Carey
By A Correspondent

THE public expression of the Christian faith and other religions is being undermined by political correctness, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, says.

“I think there is a view around that practising Christianity and all the symbols that go with it embarrasses people of other faiths and of course that’s nonsense,” he told GMTV’s Sunday Programme.

This month a Derby schoolgirl was sent home after she refused to remove her crucifix necklace. A crucifix was “an expression of our faith”, Lord Carey said, dismissing the claim that it was jewellery. “I’m glad that many people have risen up against that and said it’s nonsense,” he said.
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Sunday, December 18, 2005

HEART-RENDING is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging; but then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour's voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now.

O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation. CH Spurgeon

The strange tale of Paul Mirecki
By Michelle Malkin
December 18, 2005

Paul Mirecki -- the Kansas University religious studies professor who derided Christian fundamentalists as "fundies" -- is a strange man with strange tales of alleged persecution. Contrary to his knee-jerk defenders on the left, it is not bigoted, hateful, or intolerant for me to scrutinize his story. It's rational.

The professor first created controversy in November after penning an unhinged e-mail message expressing his desire to deliver a "slap" to the "big fat face" of the "fundies" by teaching an intelligent design course "as a religious studies class under the category 'mythology.' " The message was sent to the mailing list of the university's Society of Open-Minded (snort) Atheists and Agnostics. Mr. Mirecki signed his taunting diatribe "Evil Dr. P." These are the words of an individual more than a few cards short of a full deck.

After his remarks were publicized, KU canceled the proposed course. Mr. Mirecki was forced to apologize. And then, out of the blue, It Happened.
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It Was Faith That Made The Fantasy
C.S. Lewis's Christian Fable About to Find New Audiences
By Richard N. Ostling
Associated Press
Saturday, December 3, 2005

During the 42 years since his death, the prolific C.S. Lewis has never failed to lure hordes of fans to his writings -- nor has the Oxford and Cambridge literature scholar ceased to rouse antipathy from religious skeptics.

Now, next week's release of the lavish Disney-Walden Media film "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," based on the first of Lewis's seven children's novels, is creating a new round of Lewis mania.
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How Nanoparticles, Nanoshells, And Nanotubes May Provide Powerful Tools Against Cancer
Posted on 12/17/2005 8:09:44 PM PST
Founding Father

They’re but a tiny speck, existing in a variety of forms: particles, tubes, shells, even a soccerball-like shape. They also share a common prefix: “nano,” connoting their size, a billionth of a meter or roughly 25-millionth of an inch.

Today, cancer researchers are exploring the potential of such nanostructures to exquisitely target cancer cells without harming surrounding tissue, and to image the formation of tumors long before they have a chance to become life-threatening. While diagnostics and approved therapies are years away, several are nearing clinical studies, while a few already are being tested in patients.

A press conference on “Advances in Nanotechnology for Cancer Diagnostics and Treatment” is being featured at the “Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics” International Conference here.

Research highlights from this session include:
A nanotube, combined with monoclonal antibodies, is detecting cancer cells, offering a potential cost-effective way to diagnose whether cells are cancerous or not in a matter of minutes versus hour or days with current methods.
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Muslim Leader Forges Interfaith Accord
Popular Imam Boosts Islam in Md., Beyond
By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 18, 2005

He is a devout Muslim who speaks both Arabic and Hebrew. He quotes the Torah almost as well as the Koran and once protested the threatened removal of crucifixes at Georgetown University. He is a Palestinian by birth who believes in Israel's right to exist.

He wishes that the media paid more attention to his message that Islam, Christianity and Judaism share more similarities than differences, but he is not always good at returning their calls. He keeps a couple of bottles of cologne in his Toyota Camry because his 14-hour days keep him on the go and, well, you never know when you need a quick splash of Hugo Boss or Gucci.

Yahya Hendi is not your average imam.

At a time when his adopted country is engaged in a struggle with terrorism driven by Islamic extremists, Hendi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Frederick County, preaches interfaith understanding and calls on fellow Muslims to rescue their religion from extremists.
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Christians strip to build a new Eden
Tony Allen-
Mills, New York

IN THE beginning was the word of God and God never said anything about brassieres or boxer shorts. Thus was born Natura, America’s first Christian nudist camp.

After two years of biblical debate over Adam and Eve and their fig leaves and whether or not nudity is sinful, a 67-year-old Quaker grandfather is preparing to open a modern-day Garden of Eden 40 m
iles north of Tampa, Florida.

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Nigerian Anglicans Seeing Gay Challenge to Orthodoxy
Published: December 18, 2005

Nigeria - At one end of town on a fall Saturday morning, in a soaring cathedral nestled in a tidy suburb, dozens of Nigeria's most powerful citizens gathered, their Mercedes, Porsche and Range Rover sport utility vehicles gleaming in a packed parking lot. The well-heeled crowd was there to celebrate the Eucharist with the leader of Nigeria's Anglican Church, Archbishop Peter J. Akinola.

At the other end of town, in a small clubhouse behind a cultural center, a decidedly more downscale and secretive gathering of Anglicans got under way: the first national meeting of a group called Changing Attitudes Nigeria. Its unassuming name, and the secrecy accompanying its meeting - the location was given to a visitor only after many assurances that it would not be revealed to anyone else - underscored the radical nature of the group's mission: to fight for acceptance of homosexuals in the Anglican Church in Nigeria.

"We want to tell the bishop that it is our church, too," said Davis Mac-Iyalla, a 33-year-old former teacher who founded the group, which claims to have hundreds of members. "They do not own the word of Jesus. It belongs to all of us."