Saturday, July 28, 2007

It is the branch that bears the fruit,
That feels the knife,
To prune it for a larger growth,
A fuller life.

Though every budding twig be lopped,
And every grace
Of swaying tendril, springing leaf,
Be lost a space.

O thou whose life of joy seems reft,
Of beauty shorn;
Whose aspirations lie in dust,
All bruised and torn,

Rejoice, tho' each desire, each dream,
Each hope of thine
Shall fall and fade; it is the hand
Of Love Divine

That holds the knife, that cuts and breaks
With tenderest touch,
That thou, whose life has borne some fruit
May'st now bear much.
--Annie Johnson Flint photo
"And every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth
it, that it may bring forth more fruit" John 15:2

Leader's Insight: Your Church's DNA
Each church has a unique make-up that's essential to its life, health, and future
by Kevin G. Ford, guest columnist
July 23, 2007

Aurora Advent Christian Church, located just outside of Chicago, was stuck. The church was dynamic in many ways. The leaders were talented and highly motivated, but as a unit, something was wrong.

The first things I noticed were the signs—in the office, in the gymnasium, on the doors to the bathroom. The place was plastered with "do not's."

Do not bounce balls on the wall.
Do not wear black-soled shoes.
Do not leave the lights on.
Do not sit here.
Each notice was signed: "The Trustees."

The meetings I attended were formal, focused on procedure and rules. Yet everyone seemed so friendly, warm, and passionate about ministry. When I took a direct, left-brain approach and told leaders they were overly focused on the business of the church, it did not go well.

the rest-do not miss this!

Religious Reversal: San Diego School Drops Special Treatment For Muslims
July 27th 2007

The Religious Right has long claimed that the Supreme Court has banned all forms of school prayer. That is not true.

A San Diego public school that found itself under fire for setting aside a special time and space for Muslim students to pray is changing course.

Officials at Carver Elementary School, which has a large Muslim population, had been criticized after reports surfaced that a special prayer room was being created for Muslim students and that a special recess had been added that coincided with one of the times faithful Muslims must pray during the day.

Officials at the school
now say they will simply allow all students – Muslim and non-Muslim – to pray during lunchtime if they want to.

The school was also criticized for segregating children by sex, which some Muslims believe is called for in education. Those are being eliminated as well.
the rest

Millionaire’s wife ‘forced to abort baby girls’
Jeremy Page in Delhi
July 28, 2007

The wife of a millionaire industrialist has shocked Indian high society by accusing her husband of forcing her to abort two baby girls after taking illegal tests to determine their gender.

Pooja Salotia even accused her husband, Chirag, of trying to force her to have sex with his two brothers to conceive a male heir for the family machinery business in the state of Gujarat. Police arrested her husband, his two brothers and seven other relatives after Mrs Salotia, 32, filed an official complaint in the city of Ahmedabad on Saturday.
the rest

Men giving away Bibles cleared of charges
2 Gideons cited while on public property near Florida school
July 28, 2007

A Florida judge has dismissed all counts against two members of
The Gideons International who were arrested while handing out Bibles on a public sidewalk outside a school, officials with the Alliance Defense Fund said.

"Christians cannot be treated as second-class citizens," said ADF senior legal counsel David Cortman. "These two men have the same constitutional rights as everyone else to pass out literature on a public sidewalk.

"We are pleased that the court agrees that these men should not have been arrested and dismissed the charges against them," he said.
the rest

Defining the Church . . . Badly
July 27, 2007
Mere Comments

Another sad story of people playing dress up:
Women Anointed Catholic Deacons, Priest in S.B. from the Santa Barbara Independent. It's the usual story: lifelong Catholics, love the Church, feel called to priesthood, Church misogynist, hope for future change, women were priests in the early church, have to stay to promote change, accepted someday, international movement, and so on, though it leaves out the almost inevitable "the church is not the magisterium" line and adds the faux reassurance that excommunication "does not remove one from the church" but only bars one from the sacraments. (Not, of course, that they care.)

And like so many articles on this subject, the reporter took seriously and without question the claim that these women were Roman Catholic bishops and priests. They are doing what the Church expressly forbids, they don't represent any Catholic official or institution, they have no place in the Catholic system, no Catholic official or institution recognizes them (other than, perhaps, some secretive order of aging leftwing nuns and even they don't support them in public), but nevertheless the reporter and the editor who wrote the headline declare them to be Roman Catholics.

the rest-Commentary at Touchstone

Brownback, Huckabee Resonating Among Evangelicals
Nathan Black
Christian Post Reporter
Sat, Jul. 28 2007

Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback is reaching out aggressively to communities, including influential evangelical leaders, weeks ahead of the Aug. 11 straw poll in Ames, Iowa.

The Kansas senator who describes himself as a "bleeding heart conservative" met with more than 15 evangelical pastors in West Des Moines this week and said religious conservatives are moving in his direction as they become aware of his position opposing abortion and gay marriage.

"It's typical in an election that people hold back and want to get a good feel for the candidate," said Brownback, according to The Associated Press. "Now we're getting within eyeshot of Aug. 11 and they're breaking and a lot of them are breaking our way."

And the evangelical Christian community is an essential part of his plan as he looks to finish strong in the straw poll. He says his "pro-life/whole-life message" is resonating with evangelicals.
the rest

Millions believe this man is the Antichrist
Sat 28 Jul 2007

FORTY years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, American The Rt Rev V Gene Robinson, the world's first openly gay bishop, explains to ANDREW COLLIER in an exclusive interview what it's like to be many Christians' number one enemy.

THE Devil has arranged to meet me in the lobby of a London tourist hotel. It's an odd choice of venue: Westminster Cathedral, the great temple of Roman Catholicism in England, is close by; and a glimpse of the fire and colour of Hell would have been more interesting.

Nor does he look like Satan. No horns, no tail, no pitchfork, no smoke and sulphur. He's of medium height, thinning hair, wearing a smart shirt and tie. He's immediately warm, friendly, open and assured. I like him.

Yet millions of Christians the world over are convinced - absolutely assured - that this man is the Antichrist. They believe he is the Devil, sent to destroy the church from within. Welcome to the fan club of the Rt Rev V Gene Robinson, Primate of the American diocese of New Hampshire and the world's first openly gay bishop.
the rest
comments at TitusOneNine
comments at StandFirm
Get Religion's take

Ruth Gledhill's blog: CofE 'would shut down' without its gay clergy, says +Gene.

New Survey Finds Majority of Americans Remain Opposed to Same-Sex "Marriage"
By Elizabeth O'Brien
WASHINGTON, July 27, 2007

( - A new survey by the Pew Research Center (PRC) shows that the number of people who accept same-sex "marriage" remains a minority within the United States.

Entitled "Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007," the study conducted telephone interviews with 2,007 adults, aged 18 years or older, across the nation from December 12, 2006 through January 9, 2007. The report investigated a variety of questions relating to religion, government, civil liberties, and political-ethical issues such as abortion and same-sex "marriage".

Regarding the question of homosexual "marriage", the study found that 55% of Americans oppose same-sex "marriage" whereas only 37% are in favor of it.

The report notes that these numbers have fluxed somewhat in the past few years but returned to almost exactly the same as in 2001. Support for homosexual "marriage" reached a high of 38% in July 2003, but after falling to 29% in August 2004, it rose to the present 37%.
the rest

Friday, July 27, 2007

That is the secret of true prayer, of true power in prayer, of real, living, face to face fellowship with God, and of power for service. There is no true, deep conversion, no true, deep holiness, no clothing with the Holy Spirit and with power, no abiding peace or joy, without being daily alone with God. What an inestimable privilege is the institution of daily secret prayer to begin every morning. Let it be one thing that our hearts are set on. ...Andrew Murray photo

Without gay priests Church would be lost claims Bishop Gene
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
July 27, 2007

The openly gay bishop whose ordination sparked the crisis in the Anglican Communion has claimed the Church of England would be close to shutting down if it was forced to manage without its gay clergy.

The Bishop of New Hampshire in the US, the Right Rev Gene Robinson, who is divorced and lives openly in partnership with a gay man, said he found it "mystifying" that the mother church of the Anglican Communion was unable to be honest about the number of gay clergy in its ranks.
He said many of the English church's clergy lived openly in their rectories with gay partners, with the full knowledge of their bishops. But he criticised the stance of bishops who threaten the clergy with emnity should their relationships become public.

Speaking in an interview in London, Bishop Gene said: "I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, knows fully about their relationship, is wonderfully supportive but has also said if this ever becomes public then I’m your worst enemy.
the rest

Comments at TitusOneNine

Anglican Report Episode 32

Kevin and Bill Discuss:

Ephraim Radner
Global South steering committee
AB of York
815 hypocrisy
Trinity Church Society
Bishop Murdoch

Praise God for Five Talents
July 27, 2007

Mr. Frederick Kalema-Musoke, a former World Bank senior staffer, will succeed the Rt. Rev’d Martyn Minns as chair of the board for Five Talents International. CANA’s Bishop Martyn Minns has served as chair since 1999 and was a co-founder of the organization.

"Transformation!” emphasized Bishop Minns, “that's the most important accomplishment of Five Talents: transformed lives and changed communities.”

During Minns’s tenure as chair, Five Talents, a Christian microfinance organization working in partnership with the worldwide Anglican Communion, has assisted more than 220,000 of the poor in 14 countries through microcredit and savings programs and business training. The ripple effects of these projects have touched a million people around the globe. “I don’t think we ever dreamed of the worldwide impact we are making,” Minns said.
the rest

TLC: English Bishops Divided over Episcopal Church's Lambeth Participation

If The Episcopal Church does not respond affirmatively to the primates’ February communiqué by the Sept. 30 deadline, as many as 60 percent of the Church of England's 114 bishops would share a sense of solidarity if bishops from the Global South declined to attend, according to the Rt. Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester.

In an interview with The Church of Ireland Gazette, Bishop Scott-Joynt said convictions among the British House of Bishops are strongly held on both sides of the issue. If all bishops from The Episcopal Church are not given the chance to participate, he estimated the other 40 percent of the Church of England bishops would consider staying away in solidarity with The Episcopal Church.

Bishop Scott-Joynt said most bishops on both sides of the issue would probably be constrained from boycotting out of loyalty to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who personally decides who is invited. Archbishop Williams has set a July 31 deadline for bishops to reply to their Lambeth Conference invitations.
the rest

Patients tout successes of adult stem-cell, cord-blood treatments
Jim Brown
July 27, 2007

A group of doctors and patients has traveled to the nation's capital to share success stories of adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood being used to treat diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, leukemia, and congestive heart failure.

Yesterday's Washington, DC, news conference was sponsored by the Family Research Center. One of those speaking was Doug Rice of Spokane, Washington, who a few years ago was told his congestive heart failure required a transplant, but that his diabetes made him ineligible for transplant. the rest

Evangelicals start push in the arts
AP Religion Writer

There are no crosses in Makoto Fujimura's paintings. No images of Jesus gazing into the distance, or serene scenes of churches in a snow-cloaked wood.

Fujimura's abstract works speak to his evangelical Christian faith. But to find it takes some digging.

After the 2001 terrorist strikes on the World Trade Center, three blocks from Fujimura's home, his work explored the power of fire to both destroy and purify, themes drawn from the Christian Gospels and Dante's "The Divine Comedy."

"I am a Christian," says Fujimura, 46, who founded the nonprofit International Arts Movement to help bridge the gap between the religious and art communities. "I am also an artist and creative, and what I do is driven by my faith experience.
the rest

Some examples of Fujimura's work

Iraq Church Head: Christian Plight Worse Than Reported
Michelle Vu
Christian Post Reporter
Thu, Jul. 26 2007

WASHINGTON – The situation of Iraqi Christians is worse than being reported and nothing is being done to help, testified the pastor of one of the largest churches in Iraq Wednesday before the U.S. government’s special religious freedom commission.

“The situation is more than desperate,” said the Rev. Canon Andrew White, vicar of the 1,300-membered St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad. “The Coalition has failed the Christians. We have done nothing to support the Christian community or the increase Christian suffering.”

White provided a first-hand, in-depth witness of the current situation of Christians on the grounds in Iraq to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom – a bipartisan government task force responsible for monitoring religious freedom in the world.
the rest

'Good' is Not a Bad Word
By Chuck Colson

'Girls Gone Mild'

Eight years ago, a young writer named Wendy Shalit took the culture by storm with a radical book called A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. While many people embraced the idea of a return to modesty—especially the young women whose struggles and aspirations Shalit wrote about—others were appalled. “I knew that my arguments . . . might be challenged,” Shalit recalls now, “but nothing prepared me for the tongue-lashings I would receive from my elders. . . . [Feminist writer] Katha Pollitt called me a ‘twit.’ . . . The Nation solemnly foretold that I would ‘certainly be embarrassed’ and regret my stance ‘in a few years.’”

Well, it’s now been a few years, and Wendy regrets nothing. On the contrary, she has a new book out, Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good. As the title proclaims, Shalit is still convinced that true strength and happiness come not from deadening one’s emotions and having sex for fun, but from practicing modesty and self-restraint.

And guess who’s on her side?
the rest

Democrats shift approach on abortion
As lawmakers and candidates appeal to religious voters, their language and policy goals on the issue have a ring of conservatism.
By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer
July 26, 2007

Sensing an opportunity to impress religious voters — and tip elections — Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail have begun to adopt some of the language and policy goals of the antiabortion movement.

For years, the liberal response to abortion has been to promote more accessible and affordable birth control as well as detailed sex education in public schools.

That's still the foundation of Democratic policies. But in a striking shift, Democrats in the House last week promoted a grab bag of programs designed not only to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but also to encourage women who do conceive to carry to term.

The new approach embraces some measures long sought by antiabortion activists. It's designed to appeal to the broad centrist bloc of voters who don't want to criminalize every abortion — yet are troubled by a culture that accepts 1.3 million terminations a year.
the rest

Canada's Population is Aging at an Alarming Rate: 2006 Census
Abortion a key factor in the demographic shift
By Elizabeth O'Brien
OTTAWA, ON, July 26, 2007

( - According to the most recent 2006 Census, Canada's population is aging rapidly, presenting serious concerns both economically and about the sustainability of the national health system.

Released on July 17 by Statistics Canada, the 2006 Census states that the number of people over age 64 has increased by 11.5% in the last 5 years. Of the total 32,973,546 Canadians, "the number of people aged 55 to 64, many of whom are workers approaching retirement, has never been so high in Canada, at close to 3.7 million in 2006." At the same time, those younger than 15 years old make up only 17.7% of the population, another record-breaking low for Canadians. By 2022 it is predicted that "seniors will outnumber children in every province", and by 2031 the median age will be 44.

At present the Territories have the youngest population in Canada with one in four people being younger than 15. The report states, "The territories' relative 'youth' is attributable to the high fertility rate, particularly among the Inuit population, and lower life expectancy than in the provinces." the rest

First Female President of India Calls for an End to Female Abortions

Smoking just one cannabis joint raises danger of mental illness by 40%
26th July 2007

There are great risks in smoking cannabis, a new report has revealedA single joint of cannabis raises the risk of schizophrenia by more than 40 per cent, a disturbing study warns.

The Government-commissioned report has also found that taking the drug regularly more than doubles the risk of serious mental illness.

Overall, cannabis could be to blame for one in seven cases of schizophrenia and other life-shattering mental illness, the Lancet reports.
the rest image

Peggy Noonan: Rich Man, Boor Man
We live in an age of great wealth--and lousy manners
Friday, July 27, 2007

So we are agreed. We are living in the second great Gilded Age, a time of startling personal wealth. In the West, the mansion after mansion with broad and rolling grounds; in the East, the apartments with foyers in which bowling teams could play. Or, on another level, the week's vacation in Disneyland or Dublin with the entire family--this in a nation in which, well within human memory, people with a week off stayed home and fixed things in the garage, or drove to the beach for a day and sat on a blanket from one of the kid's beds and thought: This is the life.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has hit 14000. The wealthy live better than kings. There isn't a billionaire in East Hampton who wouldn't look down on tatty old Windsor Castle. We have a potential presidential candidate who noted to a friend that if he won the presidency the quality of his life would go down, not up.

The gap between rich and poor is great, and there is plenty of want, and also confusion. What the superrich do for a living now often seems utterly incomprehensible, and has for at least a generation. There is no word for it, only an image. There's a big pile of coins on a table. The rich shove their hands in, raise them, and as the coins sift through their fingers it makes . . . a bigger pile of coins. Then they sift through it again and the pile gets bigger again.
the rest

Pharmacists Sue Over Morning-After Pill
Associated Press Writer
July 26, 2007

SEATTLE (AP) - Pharmacists have sued Washington state over a new regulation that requires them to sell emergency contraception, also known as the "morning-after pill."

In a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, a pharmacy owner and two pharmacists say the rule that took effect Thursday violates their civil rights by forcing them into choosing between "their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs."

"The stakes really couldn't be much higher," plaintiffs' attorney Kristen Waggoner said.

The state ruled earlier this year that druggists who believe emergency contraceptives are tantamount to abortion cannot stand in the way of a patient's right to the drugs.
the rest

Thursday, July 26, 2007

God sent Elijah to the brook and it dried up. It did not prove equal to the need of the prophet. It failed; God knew it would; He made it to fail. "The brook dried up." This is an aspect of the Divine providence that sorely perplexes our minds and tries our faith. God knows that there are heavenly whispers that men cannot hear till the drought of trouble and perhaps weariness has silenced the babbling brooks of joy. And He is not satisfied until we have learned to depend, not upon His gifts, but upon Himself. ...Percy Ainsworth image

Bishops threaten to boycott Lambeth Conference
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
July 26, 2007

Six out of ten senior Church of England bishops could boycott next year’s Lambeth Conference of more than 800 Anglican bishops and archbishops from around the world because of the row over gays.

Such a boycott would be unprecedented in the history of the Anglican Church and would be an indication of how deep the divisions go, in England as well as in the rest of the communion.

The fifth most senior bishop in the mother church of the Anglican Communion warns today that a majority of English diocesan bishops could consider a boycott if the US does not row back on its pro-gay agenda.

A UK boycott would confirm the gravity of the splits within even the Church of England, traditionally the model for Anglicanism’s “via media”. It would effectively spell the end of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s dream of maintaining unity.
the rest

'Theology on Tap'
By Regina Lee
July 25, 2007

Saying Hail Marys over a pint of Guinness has become a popular happy hour activity for some local Catholics.

More than 200 people in their 20s and 30s packed into Pat Troy's Ireland's Own pub in Alexandria to eat, drink and pray alongside friends Monday night.

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, 68, who recently was named archbishop of Baltimore, led a dialogue about the mystery of evil at the kickoff session of this summer's "Theology on Tap" sessions.

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington brings priests and lay speakers to local bars once a week to attract young Catholics eager to converse and mingle.
the rest

Exodus of churches, members from the PCUSA
The Layman Online
Thursday, July 26, 2007

Twenty-five congregations either have left the Presbyterian Church (USA) or have voted to leave since the approval of the PUP report in June 2006 by the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA),
according to reports received by The Layman Online.

Since Dec. 2, 2001, 38 congregations have left or have voted to leave the PCUSA, according to reports received by The Layman Online.

A number of other congregations have sought to be
declared the owner of their property, while remaining in the PCUSA.

The approval of the report by the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity keeps the current ordination standards in the PCUSA's Constitution, but allows those who choose not to obey them to declare them to be non-essential.
the rest

Gay people from New Mexico can marry in Massachusetts
By Jay Lindsay, Associated Press Writer
July 26, 2007

BOSTON --Gay couples from New Mexico can marry in Massachusetts because their home state has not explicitly banned same-sex marriage, according to Massachusetts records officials.

New Mexico joins Rhode Island as the only states whose gay residents are allowed to marry in Massachusetts, the only state that allows same-sex marriage.
the rest

Spirituality Squared
Webber's Divine Embrace touches both head and heart.
Review by Patricia Raybon

In his final ancient-future sojourn, Robert Webber, who died in April from pancreatic cancer, took up the rich matter of ancient Christian spirituality. His aim was to fully tell "the story of spirituality from the ancient church to the present day." That would have been a terrific and singular book on its own—an appropriate focus for the impassioned father of the Chicago Call. Webber, however, built a full-bodied second book into The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life (BakerBooks). In it, he offers a bracing prescription for returning contemporary spirituality to its ancient source. the rest

Bishop of Oxford Visits Flood Victims
Bishop of Oxford braves the high waters to visit local residents and emergency services caught up in the floods.
by Maria Mackay
Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, was out and about in west Oxford yesterday bringing comfort and encouragement to those caught up in the devastating floods.

Kitted up in wellies and a raincoat, Bishop Pritchard waded along the flooded Botley Road where he spoke to householders and members of the emergency services.
the rest

Britain faces more rain as floods death toll rises

Taleban murder Christian hostage after ‘bungled effort to pay ransom’
Tim Albone in Kabul
July 26,2007

Taleban hostage-takers shot dead one of twenty-three South Korean missionaries being held by them yesterday and threatened to kill the others during the night unless their demands were met.

The male hostage was shot in the head, chest and stomach, apparently after a botched attempt by the South Korean Government to pay a ransom. His body was discovered close to where the hostages are being held in the southern Afghan province of Ghazni.
the rest

Indonesia court sentences 17 Christians in deaths of Muslims following executions - AP

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians:3-5

God does not leave us comfortless, but we have to be in dire need of comfort to know the truth of His promise. It is in time of days and nights of sorrow and trouble that the presence, the sufficiency, and the sympathy of God grow very sure and very wonderful. Then we find out that the grace of God is sufficient for all our needs, for every problem and for every difficulty, for every broken heart, and for every human sorrow. ...Peter Marshall photo

Heatwave turns southeastern Europe into tinderbox as fires rage
Jul 25, 2007

Southeastern Europe was a tinderbox Wednesday in the grip of an unrelenting heatwave that has claimed hundreds of lives as wildfires swept Italy and bit into a national park in Slovakia.

Italy was sweltering under temperatures close to 40 degrees
Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in places Wednesday and suffering devastating wildfires in central and southern regions.

"We've had 85 calls so far already for airborne intervention against fires," a public safety official told AFP in the afternoon as fires raged in the Abruzzo, Latium, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia regions.
the rest

Archbishop Sentamu Links Communion Ties to Lambeth Attendance

The Archbishop of York has urged Anglican bishops from the Global South not to boycott next year’s Lambeth Conference, telling a British newspaper that by withdrawing they would be removing themselves from the Anglican Communion.

“Anglicanism has its roots through Canterbury,” Archbishop Sentamu said as reported by the
Daily Telegraph. “If you sever that link, you are severing yourself from the Communion. There is no doubt about it.”

Archbishop Sentamu’s caution comes after leaders of the Global South Coalition of Anglican provinces, representing a majority of Anglicans in the developing world, released a
statement last week following a meeting in London warning that their presence at Lambeth 2008 was in doubt. The primates also called for an emergency primates meeting after the House of Bishops’ meeting Sept. 19-25 to address The Episcopal Church’s response to recommendations contained in the primates’ communiqué. the rest

Sorrow But No Regrets
My life in the troubled, redemptive church.

Christine A. Scheller

I'm not sure what to think about church anymore.

My home church, which just celebrated its 30th anniversary, is on its sixth pastor, and he is a gem. But the path to him was rocky. We gathered, just 25 of us, in the community room above a firehouse when I was 12 years old. My young father had died suddenly, and my mother had taken it as a sign to get right with the Lord. Running up the stairs every week past shiny red trucks and perfectly aligned yellow coats felt like home.

The founding pastor was a gentle shepherd who communicated peace and safety to this fearful girl. Then a few troublesome congregants ran him off and replaced him with a star who had served with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. What had been a casual, hippy-era church was then infiltrated by old-school Baptists. Tension between traditionalists and innovators gnawed at the ministry.

One day, when I was an 18-year-old new convert and the pastor at the time was 60-something, he took me out evangelizing with him. Afterward, we went back to his house for ice cream. I dished it out, and he suggested I come snuggle with him on the couch. Having seen the unholy mingle with the holy in each of my first two pastors, I should have expected to see it again. Instead, my naiveté continued.

the rest image

Keeping faithful in the pews a summer challenge
For the Journal-Constitution

Maybe God never takes a vacation, but many of his believers do. Every summer, attendance at churches and synagogues dips as the members head to the beach or mountains or second homes.

Some clerics accept the summer slump as a seasonal fact of life, but others are trying to find ways of keeping their flock together or at least encouraging them to keep the faith when they're away.

Katie Morgan enjoys rock painting at St. James United Methodist Church's summer camp.

"I take it for granted that attendance will be lower because of vacations," says the Rev. Eddie Ard, pastor of St. Anne's Episcopal Church. "But we do have a summer camp that runs all summer that is staffed by teenagers and adults. And we have a program, Kids for Peace, that we have done for four years." the rest photo

First Things: Sharing Chores?
By Wilfred McClay
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My suspicions were aroused when I saw a headline to a July 1 Associated Press story in
the hometown paper, declaring “‘Sharing Chores’ Moves Up On Good-Marriage List.” This yawner of a finding was attributed to a Pew Research Center study just released on the “generation gap” in “values and behaviors.” The article itself, by national writer David Crary of the AP, mentioned the fact that “sharing chores” had moved ahead of “children” as a factor in making for a good marriage. But you had to read over to the jump page before you knew that some family experts (two are cited) may be quite concerned about the implicit de-emphasis upon childrearing and what it tells us about the state of American marriage and family life.

Hmm, I thought. Does this ordering of the account really reflect the priorities in Pew’s own presentation of the findings of its study? I looked elsewhere for the same story and found that the major media were generally running it under the title ”Key to a Good Marriage? Share Housework,” which you will find used
in this version, as well as this, this, this, and . . . well you get the idea. And indeed, the opening sentence seemed clearly to point to the same emphasis: “The percentage of Americans who consider children ‘very important’ to a successful marriage has dropped sharply since 1990, and more now cite the sharing of household chores as pivotal, according to a sweeping new survey.” the rest

Potter Mania: Should Christian Kids Read Harry Potter?
Chuck Colson

If there's a child in your house, then you probably know what happened when the clock struck 12 last Saturday. The final Harry Potter book—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—was unleashed on the world.

The big question that has had millions of kids on edge: Will Harry live—or will he die?

But the big question many parents have is: Should their kids be reading novels about wizards and witches and magic?

A Christian expert on Potter-mania says, "It depends."

Connie Neal, a veteran youth pastor and mother of three, is the author of a book titled What's a Christian To Do with Harry Potter? Neal says parents must use discernment in deciding whether to allow their kids to read Harry Potter. For example, kids with an unhealthy interest in the occult should probably not read these books. Other Christians believe their kids benefit from the moral lessons the Potter books teach.
the rest

Central New York Defends Its Defiance of Court Order

The Diocese of Central New York has defended its decision not to comply with an ecclesiastical court order in the trial of the Rev. David Bollinger, former rector of St. Paul’s Church, Owego, who was facing presentment charges.

An ecclesiastical court
exonerated Fr. Bollinger of all charges July 17 after the diocese was 13 days’ late filing its witness list and documentary evidence with the court as part of pre-trial discovery. The Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams, Bishop of Central New York, has lifted the inhibition order against Fr. Bollinger, whose status becomes that of a retired priest canonically resident in good standing, according to the Rev. Canon Karen C. Lewis, canon to the ordinary.

Bishop Adams charged Fr. Bollinger with financial misconduct and disobedience and inhibited him in 2005. Fr. Bollinger maintained his innocence and contended that the charges were an attempt to punish him after he continued a public campaign for an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against a priest who served as rector of St. Paul’s during the 1970s. That person voluntarily renounced his orders in 2006 after a diocesan review panel recommended that presentment charges be drawn up against him.

the rest at The Living Church

Comments at TitusOneNine

Archbishop of York: Exclusive interview
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, was in typically ebullient form last week when I spoke to him at Bishopthorpe, his medieval palace on the banks of the River Ouse near York.

In a wide-ranging interview, he expressed exasperation with aspects of the Government and the Church but also confidence in traditional British values of honesty and fairness.

Dr Sentamu, a former judge who was forced to flee the regime of Idi Amin, was particularly critical of the rising tide of bureaucracy and Government legislation and he questioned moves towards a written constitution.

"Britain has an unwritten constitution which hasn’t failed this nation once," he said. "Why is there a clamour for a written constitution?

"Why are people suggesting that writing one would make Britain a better place? I don’t believe it."
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Archbishop Sentamu Links Communion Ties to Lambeth Attendance

The Archbishop of York has urged Anglican bishops from the Global South not to boycott next year’s Lambeth Conference, telling a British newspaper that by withdrawing they would be removing themselves from the Anglican Communion.

“Anglicanism has its roots through Canterbury,” Archbishop Sentamu said as reported by the
Daily Telegraph. “If you sever that link, you are severing yourself from the Communion. There is no doubt about it.”

Archbishop Sentamu’s caution comes after leaders of the Global South Coalition of Anglican provinces, representing a majority of Anglicans in the developing world, released a
statement last week following a meeting in London warning that their presence at Lambeth 2008 was in doubt. The primates also called for an emergency primates meeting after the House of Bishops’ meeting Sept. 19-25 to address The Episcopal Church’s response to recommendations contained in the primates’ communiqué.

If the Global South breaks with the Archbishop of Canterbury, “and they think they can then say they are Anglicans, that is very questionable,” he said. He urged bishops from Africa and other Anglican provinces in the Southern Hemisphere to “come to the Lambeth Conference.”
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MySpace Finds 29,000 Sex Offenders
Associated Press Writer

July 25, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - has found more than 29,000 registered sex offenders with profiles on the popular social networking Web site - more than four times the number cited by the company two months ago, officials in two states Tuesday.

North Carolina's Roy Cooper is one of several attorneys general who recently demanded the News Corp.-owned Web site provide data on how many registered sex offenders were using the popular social networking site, along with information about where they live.
the rest

Children Conceived by IVF Have Nearly Twice as Many Health Problems
By Elizabeth O'Brien
LONDON, England
July 24, 2007

( - A recent British study shows that children conceived by IVF have increased health problems and spend almost double the time in hospital than naturally conceived children, the Daily Mail reports.

The 7-year follow-up study, done in conjunction with Finnish studies, compared the hospital costs of IVF-conceived children to naturally conceived children. It examined 303 IVF-conceived children as well as 567 naturally-conceived children, all of whom were born between the years 1990 and 1995. Prior studies had reviewed the pregnancies of these children, their medical history and neo-natal health as well as the case notes of their hospitalization.
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Taliban: 1 Korean Christian Hostage Killed
By Eric Young
Christian Post Reporter
Wed, Jul. 25 2007

One of the 23 Korean Christian hostages in
Afghanistan was killed Wednesday and more would be killed if the demands of the Taliban were not met, said a purported spokesman for the militant group.

"Since Kabul's administration did not listen to our demand and did not free our prisoners, the Taliban shot dead a male Korean hostage,” Qari Yousef Ahmadi, the alleged news representative for the Taliban, told Reuters by phone from an unknown location.

Ahmadi said earlier that the insurgents would kill “a few” of the hostages before 5:30 a.m. EDT after talks over the fate of the 23 South Korean Christian hostages had stalled. Three deadlines have passed since the Koreans were abducted last Thursday, with the latest being Tuesday 10:30 a.m. EDT.
the rest

Korean Evangelical Churches Under Cyber-Attack Amid Hostage Crisis
By Daniel Blake
Christian Post Correspondent
Wed, Jul. 25 2007

Evangelical churches in Korea are receiving criticism for sending missionaries to Afghanistan, following the recent kidnapping of 23 church volunteers.

In one of the world’s most internet-savvy countries, “cybercitizens” have been building up anti-Christian sentiment by posting up insults to victims and their families on blogs and community forums.

Other more extreme and distasteful blogs have been used by some internet users to call for negotiators not to try and seek the hostages’ release, while others have even called for the Korean Christians to be killed.
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Political website cited for crime of 'offending''
All it takes is for someone to say my feelings were hurt'

July 25, 2007
By Bob Unruh

A website featuring comments by, for and about "principled conservatism" is being investigated by the Canadian government, and could be fined or ordered shut down for some postings about Islam and homosexuality.

Connie Wilkins, who with Mark Fournier runs Canada's
Free Dominion site and posts articles, comments and blogs on a wide range of issues, said she just was notified by the nation's Human Rights Commission about the investigation.

The Human Rights Commission is appointed to investigate complaints that "hate speech" or other illegal activity has been detected, and issue rulings or recommendations to the national Human Rights Tribunal, which has yet to find any defendant innocent in such a case.
the rest

Circumcision called key in fighting AIDS
Researcher urges nations to back surgery on males

By Meraiah Foley, Associated Press
July 25, 2007

SYDNEY -- A US health specialist urged governments worldwide yesterday to endorse circumcision to slow the spread of HIV, saying men without the procedure have a greater risk of contracting the virus from infected female partners.

Specialists at an AIDS conference in Sydney also warned that HIV infection rates were rising in developing countries among men who have sex with men. The specialists attributed the increase to discrimination and lack of access to health services. The World Health Organization said male circumcision reduces the risk of female-to-male transmission of the disease by about 60 percent. But only 30 percent of men worldwide have had the procedure, mostly in countries where it is common for religious or health reasons.

Robert Bailey, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois, said studies in Africa showed that uncircumcised men were 2.5 times more likely to contract HIV from infected female partners, though many health officials were still unclear about the procedure's benefits.
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Survey: Evangelicals, Atheists Consistent in Faith and Practice
Nathan Black
Christian Post Reporter
Tue, Jul. 24 2007

A new Barna report on the self-image of Americans revealed that the small minority of evangelicals stand out from the rest of the Christian
community as more spiritual and active in faith, at least in their own perspective.

Compared to non-evangelical born-again Christians, evangelicals – which constitute 8 percent of the American adult population, according to The Barna Group's criteria – were more likely to see themselves as fulltime servants of God; deeply spiritual; and more likely to seek to persuade others to adopt their views. Evangelicals were also less likely than non-evangelical born-agains to have an open mind toward alternative moral views or to admit to adapting easily to change, according to the
study released Monday. the rest

What To Expect When You're Expecting a Co-Wife
Why American Muslims don't care to legalize polygamy
By Andrea Useem
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This article appears in conjunction with a special weeklong series on Islam published by On Faith, the Washington Post's religion blog. To read more, visit
On Faith.

So, you're happily married to the Muslim man of your dreams when, suddenly, he drops the p-bomb: polygamy. For Aneesa Azeez, a 23-year-old Muslim convert and college graduate, her husband's announcement of his intention to marry a second wife devastated her. "I am shocked, hurt, angry and confused, all in one," she wrote in a letter to him.

Seems like a recipe for divorce, right? Polygamy is illegal, after all. But Azeez didn't play that card with her husband, 15 years her senior. Under the law that mattered to her—classical Islamic law—she accepted her husband's right to take up to four wives, as allowed by the Quran, as long as he could treat them equally.
the rest

Oxford residents evacuated as UK flood waters rise
By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - The River Thames burst its banks on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes in the university city of Oxford in Britain's worst floods for 60 years.

About 350,000 people faced two weeks without running water, the insurance bill could soar to 3 billion pounds ($6.2 billion) and farmers say harvests have been badly hit.

Oxford became the new frontline when rivers feeding into the Thames spilled over into its streets, forcing police to evacuate 250 homes.

Environment Agency officials warned that the river had not yet peaked and said more rain was expected.

But as the flooding spread along the river, officials said Queen Elizabeth's residence at Windsor Castle was not threatened and no property flooding was expected in London -- although heavy storms could always cause flash flooding.
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Tewkesbury Abbey stands in what has become a "medieval island parish" above the flood line

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord."—Exodus 14:13

These words contain God's command to the believer when he is reduced to great straits and brought into extraordinary difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master's word to him is, "Stand still." It will be well for him if at such times he listens only to his Master's word, for other and evil advisers come with their suggestions. Despair whispers, "Lie down and die; give it all up." But God would have us put on a cheerful courage, and even in our worst times, rejoice in His love and faithfulness. Cowardice says, "Retreat; go back to the worldling's way of action; you cannot play the Christian's part, it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles." But, however much Satan may urge this course upon you, you cannot follow it if you are a child of God. His divine fiat has bid thee go from strength to strength, and so thou shalt, and neither death nor hell shall turn thee from thy course. What, if for a while thou art called to stand still, yet this is but to renew thy strength for some greater advance in due time. Precipitancy cries, "do something. Stir yourself; to stand still and wait, is sheer idleness." We must be doing something at once—we must do it so we think—instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something but will do everything. Presumption boasts, "If the sea be before you, march into it and expect a miracle." But Faith listens neither to Presumption, nor to Despair, nor to Cowardice, nor to Precipitancy, but it hears God say, "Stand still," and immovable as a rock it stands. "Stand still";—keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long ere God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, "Go forward." ...CH Spurgeon art

Poll: More Muslims Reject Bombings
Jul 24

WASHINGTON (AP) - Muslims around the world increasingly reject suicide bombings and other violence against civilians in defense of Islam, according to a new international poll dealing with how the world's population judges their lives, countries and national institutions.

A wide ranging survey of international attitudes in 47 countries by the Pew Research Center also reported that in many of the countries where support for suicide attacks has declined, there has also has been decreasing support for al-Qaida leader Osama bin-Laden.
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The WebElf Report is up and running again!

FDA says recall may affect 'tens of millions' of cans
90 varieties of Castleberry's canned foods suspect

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Go back two years. Consider that the plant in question produced 10,000 cases of canned food a day, with 24 cans in each case.

That's the magnitude of the latest voluntary food recall taking shape, federal officials warned Monday. The Food and Drug Administration urged consumers to rid their shelves of about 90 different products, from chili sauce to corned beef hash to sausage gravy. The products were produced at a Castleberry's Food Co. plant linked to a botulism outbreak.

"You're talking tens of millions of cans that may have been involved," said Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
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list of recalled products

Judge Upholds Decision of Church to Leave Denomination Over Homosexual "Marriage"
By Elizabeth O'Brien
July 23, 2007

( - An Indiana judge upheld the decision of a church congregation to leave the United Church of Christ (UCC) because of the denomination's official recognition of gay "marriage."

St. Peter's First United Church of Christ has been part of the UCC for 50 years, the Indianapolis Star reports. The congregation was concerned, however, when the UCC voiced its official support for homosexual "marriage" in 2005.

At its 25th General Synod the UCC declared that the 1.3-million organization officially supported same-sex "marriage". According to the declaration the UCC, "affirms equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that the State should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage."
the rest

Why I Love My "Charlie-Brown Church"
My humble Sunday morning home has turned out to be a surprise blessing

by Camerin Courtney
July 16, 2007

They talked about it being a sacrifice.

Those of us who decided to be part of our church’s new satellite location would give up the comforts of our modern building, complete with banks of windows and a cool steeple, in a chi-chi Chicagoland suburb.

Instead we’d meet at a tired community center in the one-block downtown of a nondescript ’burb. We’d gather there for a year or two—until the nearby building we purchased underwent a transformation from a business into a church.

I felt called to this new congregation. So for the past year and a half my church home has been this “gymnatorium”—a hardwood-floored room with basketball hoops and gymnastics mats attached to the walls, as well as a big stage flanked by dark wood paneling and a heavy red velvet curtain. There are a few high windows covered with bars (no doubt to protect the glass from stray basketballs), occasional winged visitors, and one lonely bathroom stall off the main sanctuary that mysteriously always seems to be out of toilet paper.

It’s the kind of place where Charlie Brown and his gang might stage a rag-tag but heartwarming Christmas play.

And I love it.
the rest (h/t Anglicans Ablaze )

Commentary: Episcopal national HQ hides lawsuit costs
Les Kinsolving
Posted: July 24, 2007

If you are among the nation's reportedly 2.2 million Episcopalians, you surely ought to have the right to know how much of your church offerings are being spent by national headquarters on current lawsuits.

These lawsuits are against the congregations of Episcopal churches all over the United States – whose communicants and clergy agree with numerous condemnations of sodomy that are in the Holy Bible (including what happened in Sodom).

Because of their strong belief in this biblically-established Christian teaching, and in the First Amendment to the Constitution's promise of freedom of religion and speech, the national headquarters of the denomination, in
New York City, has gone into civil court against them.

In repeated lawsuits, this national church headquarters is actually trying to take away all the local church property of those who, in conscience, have affiliated with other branches of the 76-million member Anglican Communion.
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Vatican city-state launches web site with virtual tour Vatican, Jul. 18, 2007

( - The Vatican city-state now has its own web site, to compliment the busy site maintained by the Holy See.

The new web site-- provides general information about the history, structure, and government of Vatican City, and links to some of the departments of greatest interest to visitors, including the Vatican library, publishing house, and stamp office. The site also provides links to the Vatican Museums and the media sites operated by the Holy See.
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Hollywood is in their prayers
Maverick Christian ministry calls for people to pray for celebrities instead of boycotting their movies.

The Orange County Register

It's around 10 at night and Lewis Payne puts on his pajamas and eases into a chair in his study to say a prayer – for Paris Hilton.

Payne resides in the tiny city of Quincy, Ill., on the banks of the Mississippi, but at this late hour his mind is typically 1,500 miles away in Hollywood.

"Tom Cruise doesn't know he has a lot of prayers being sent up for him," he says.

Payne is among a growing number of people across the country praying for celebrities.
While most of us shake our heads, snicker or secretly gloat over celebrity scandal and misfortune, the Hollywood Prayer Network views the planet's "most influential zip code" as an important, yet written off, "mission field," rife with people just waiting to be introduced to God.
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More Girls Go 'Mild' in Modesty Revolution
Audrey Barrick
Christian Post Reporter
Mon, Jul. 23 2007

More young women want to return to modesty – the no-tank-tops-without-a-shirt-or-sweater, the not-too-short-shorts, and the modest-neckline (no lower than four fingers below the collar bone) type of modesty. And that also includes the curfew and abstinence-until-marriage pledge.

It's what Lucky magazine's special projects director, Allyson Waterman, calls a "backlash" to what is being seen in Hollywood. Being modest, as opposed to the barely dressed pop icons, isn't about being frumpy, Waterman told ABC News.

"This is about embracing a woman's body in an elegant way."

Pure Fashion is an international faith-based program that encourages pre-teen and teen girls to live, act and dress in accordance with their dignity as children of God. The program offers model training sessions to help girls grow into respectful young women in manners, fashion and makeup, and public speaking skills and puts on fashion shows throughout the year. In 2007, Pure Fashion has put on 13 shows featuring 600 models and plans for 25 shows in 2008, according to Newsweek magazine.
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Church Stands by Flood Victims
by Maria Mackay
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Church of England clergy and members are helping victims of the devastating floods that have hit Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Hundreds of thousands of homes are now without running water across the flooded counties, which have experienced their highest rainfall in 60 years.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, assured residents across his diocese that local churches were there to help them.

“All our local churches are there to help. We have ‘a branch in every High Street’ with people ready to offer practical help, from temporary accommodation, food, clothes and hot drinks, to longer-term emotional support and community welfare,” he said.
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Christian pilgrimage holds strong in Islamic Iran
Stuart Williams AFP
July 24, 2007

CHALDORAN, Iran -- The tents of thousands of pilgrims dot the hillside, the air is heavy with the scent of incense, and the sounds of the church bell toll across the valley.

This is the Armenian Christian pilgrimage marking the feast of the 1st century missionary St. Thaddeus, deep in the northwestern mountains of the Islamic Republic of

Every summer for the past half-century, thousands of Armenian pilgrims from Iran and beyond have descended on the remote Qareh Kelisa (black church) for three days of worship and relaxation with fellow Armenians.

It may seem remarkable that such a tradition holds strong in one of the world's most strictly Islamic countries, but Iran is home to hundreds of thousands of Armenians and a string of historically important churches.
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Jessica the Hippo

Canonically Defective Testimonial Alleged in Virginia Coadjutor Request

The standing committee did not use a properly worded canonical request last winter when it sought consent to the election of the Rev. Shannon S. Johnston as Bishop Coadjutor of Virginia, a defect not considered serious enough by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to invalidate the election.

Instead the standing committee of the Diocese of Virginia used what the Rev. Canon Carl Gerdau, canon to the Presiding Bishop and Primate, described as a “short form,” successfully employed by a number of other dioceses in recent years. The so-called short form has been “used for a long time and no one has ever objected to it before,” Canon Gerdau said in an interview with The Living Church. “We don’t think this is a defect.”

the rest at The Living Church

Monday, July 23, 2007

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Afflictions are a powerful means to make us quicken our pace in the way to our rest. They are God's rod and spur. What a difference is there between our prayers in health and in sickness; between our prosperity and our adversity repentings! Even innocent Adam is likelier to forget God in a paradise, than Joseph in a prison, or Job upon a dung-hill. Solomon fell in the midst of pleasure and prosperity, while wicked Manasseh was recovered in his irons.

God's seldom gives his people so sweet a foretaste of their future rest, as in their deep afflictions. He keeps his most precious cordials for the time of our greatest faintings and dangers. Even the best saints seldom taste of the delights of God, pure, spiritual, unmixed joys, in the time of their prosperity, as they do in their deepest troubles. ...Richard Baxter art