Saturday, November 03, 2007

Musharraf Declares Emergency in Pakistan


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan on Saturday, suspending the constitution, replacing the chief justice before a crucial Supreme Court ruling on his future as president, and cutting communications in the capital.

His leadership threatened by an increasingly defiant court and an Islamic movement that has spread to Islamabad, Musharraf's emergency order accused some judges of "working at cross purposes with the executive" and "weakening the government's resolve" to fight terrorism.
the rest

BBC: Musharraf imposes emergency rule

TIME: How Musharraf's Move Could Backfire

Reuters:Several lawyers opposed to Musharraf arrested-judge

Church leader says members unhappy with gay bishop should refocus
November 3, 2007

The bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States says church members unhappy with the ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire should worry about more pressing world problems.

"Obviously a handful of our church leaders are still upset and would like to see the church never ordain and never baptize a gay or lesbian person," Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in Burlington. "We need to refocus on more life-and-death issues like starvation, education, medical care."

Jefferts Schori was referring to the 2004 election in New Hampshire of The Rev. Eugene Robinson as that state's Episcopal bishop. The election has upset some Episcopalians.
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An Unlikely Megachurch Lesson
November 3, 2007

One Sunday morning in 1995, Ron Wolfson and Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman braked to a halt in an oddly enlightening traffic jam. The line of cars was creeping toward Saddleback Church in Southern California, whose services were drawing thousands of worshipers. As two Jews, Mr. Wolfson and Rabbi Hoffman had crossed the sectarian divide to try to figure out how and why.

As they inched down the road, they spotted a sign marked “For First-Time Visitors.” It directed them to pull into a separate lane and put on emergency blinkers. Bypassing the backup, they soon reached a lot with spaces reserved for newcomers. When Mr. Wolfson and Rabbi Hoffman emerged from their car, an official Saddleback greeter led them into the church.

Those first moments on the perimeter of the church set into motion a dozen years of increasing interaction between a Jewish organization devoted to reinvigorating synagogues and one of the most successful evangelical megachurches in the nation, the Rev. Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

This has not been a studiously balanced bit of ecumenicism. Synagogue 3000, the group led by Mr. Wolfson, an education professor, and Rabbi Hoffman, a scholar of liturgy, went to the church to figure out what evangelical Christians were doing right that Jews were doing wrong or not at all.
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A scientist who embraces God
MIT scholar is resolutely open to the possibility of 'something more'

Saturday November 3, 2007

Several years ago, in a room full of inquiring minds, a Japanese scientist hauled off and struck a robot.

Everyone in the room knew it was a robot. Yet the sight of it being hit was deeply disturbing, Rosalind Picard was told by colleagues who were present.

The robot, a copy of the Japanese scientist's wife, had dark hair, smooth skin and eyes that blinked uncannily. But it was clearly not human.

Nevertheless, those watching, most of them scientists, felt as though a real woman had been hit.
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The Economist:
In God's name
Nov 1st 2007
John Micklethwait

THE four-hour journey through the bush from Kano to Jos in northern Nigeria features many of the staples of African life: checkpoints with greedy soldiers, huge potholes, scrawny children in football shirts drying rice on the road. But it is also a journey along a front-line.

Nigeria, evenly split between Christians and Muslims, is a country where people identify themselves by their religion first and as Nigerians second (see chart 1). Around 20,000 have been killed in God's name since 1990, estimates Shehu Sani, a local chronicler of religious violence. Kano, the centre of the Islamic north, introduced sharia law seven years ago. Many of the Christians who fled ended up in Jos, the capital of Plateau state, where the Christian south begins. The road between the two towns is dotted with competing churches and mosques.

This is one of many religious battlefields in this part of Africa. Evangelical Christians, backed by American collection-plate money, are surging northwards, clashing with Islamic fundamentalists, backed by Saudi petrodollars, surging southwards. And the Christian-Muslim split is only one form of religious competition in northern Nigeria. Events in Iraq have set Sunnis, who make up most of Nigeria's Muslims, against the better-organised Shias; about 50 people have died in intra-Muslim violence, reckons Mr Sani. On the Christian side, Catholics are in a more peaceful battle with Protestant evangelists, whose signs promising immediate redemption dominate the roadside. By the time you reach Jos and see a poster proclaiming “the ABC of nourishment”, you are surprised to discover it is for chocolate.
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Friday, November 02, 2007

Bishop Robert Duncan Addresses the 142nd Convention to the Diocese
142nd Annual Convention
Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

NYT: Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese Votes to Leave the Church
Published: November 3, 2007

JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Nov. 2 — By more than a two-to-one vote, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted Friday in favor of separating from the national church because of a theological rift that began with the consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003.

The vote sets the stage for what could become a protracted legal battle between the diocese and the Episcopal Church U.S.A., which had warned Pittsburgh’s bishop not to go forward with the vote.

After passionate appeals from both sides of the debate, clergy members and lay people voted 227 to 82 to “realign” the conservative diocese.
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Pittsburgh diocese takes first step to leave Episcopal Church
The Associated Press
November 2, 2007

PITTSBURGH: Representatives from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted overwhelmingly Friday to approve constitutional amendments that are the first step in leaving the national church in a widening rift over homosexuality and interpretation of Scripture.

Pittsburgh joined dioceses in San Joaquin, California, and Quincy, Illinois, in granting preliminary approval to separating from the national church, which the dioceses contend have wrongly abandoned Scriptural authority and traditional teachings on truth, salvation and the divinity of Jesus Christ.

"As a diocese we have come to a fork in the road," Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan said before lay delegates approved the measures 118 to 58 and clergy voted 109 to 24. "Indeed, it has become clear that our understandings are not only different, but mutually exclusive, even destructive to one another."
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Albert Mohler: Back to Polytheism?
-- Some Moderns See Monotheism as Menace
Friday, November 02, 2007

These strange times now witness encouragements to turn from monotheism back to ancient forms of polytheism. The argument is that monotheism -- belief that there is only one God -- inevitably leads to division, hatreds, and moral judgment.

This argument landed squarely on the pages of
The Los Angeles Times in recent days through an opinion article written by Mary Lefkowitz, professor emerita at Wellesley College. She gets right to the point: "Prominent secular and atheist commentators have argued lately that religion "poisons" human life and causes endless violence and suffering. But the poison isn't religion; it's monotheism." the rest

California public school cancels 'gender-switch day'
Allie Martin
November 2, 2007

Officials at a California public school have cancelled a cross-dressing day, following a slew of parental complaints.

Recently, students at Adams Middle School in Brentwood were encouraged to dress like the opposite sex during the last day of the school's "Spirit Week." The mother of a seventh-grade student found out about the activity and contacted the principal to express her concerns. The mother was told she could keep her son at home if she did not want him participating in the event. the rest

Vedic Recitations in a Christian Church on Thanksgiving

Recitations from ancient Sanskrit scriptures will reverberate in a Christian church in Nevada on the occasion of coming Thanksgiving eve service.

Rajan Zed, the prominent Hindu chaplain, will read from Rig-Veda (oldest existing scripture of the world dated from around 1,500 BCE), Upanishads (Hindu scriptures containing mystical teachings), and Bhagavad-Gita (famous philosophical and spiritual poem) in Trinity Episcopal Church in Reno (Nevada) during Twenty-second Annual Thanksgiving Service of Northwestern Nevada to be held on November 21 evening.
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GodTube competes with YouTube
PLANO, Texas
November 2, 2007

Chris Wyatt is on a mission. is a video-sharing site with Christian content that draws millions.

Walking hastily through his cavernous fourth-floor headquarters in suburban Dallas, the founder of the Christian version of YouTube is searching for an available conference room.
He quickly passes reminders of his success: a group of customer service representatives on the phone, animated meetings in progress and extra office space that is preparing to move into.

Finally settled, the nattily dressed former TV producer insists he is as surprised as anyone that the site was identified earlier this year by comScore as the fastest growing on the Web.
"I thought I was going to be a seminary student and then work maybe a couple hours a week," he said. "Now I'm taking online courses because I can't get over to the seminary, I'm so busy.", a video-sharing site with Christian content, drew more than 4 million unique visitors during October.
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US bishops face legal action from Episcopal church
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent of The Times

November 2, 2007

Two senior Anglican bishops are facing legal actions from their own church in the US.

In Pennsylvania, the liberal diocesan bishop Charles Bennison has been suspended by the Primate, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, while accusations that he concealed a relative’s abuse of a teenage girl are investigated.

And in Pittsburgh, the conservative diocesan bishop Bob Duncan has been warned that he could face disciplinary procedures under Canon Law over proposals that his diocese seccede from the wider pro-gay Episcopal Church. the rest

Bishop Duncan Responds to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
1st November, A.D. 2007
The Feast of All Saints

The Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori
Episcopal Church Center
New York, New York

Dear Katharine,

Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them.

Pax et bonum in Christ Jesus our Lord,
+Bob Pittsburgh

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's letter is available
here. / Pittsburgh Diocesan Convention Live Stream


Pagan Holidays Added to Excused Absences
By TOM BREEN Associated Press Writer
Nov 1st, 2007

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When George Fain visits a grave to mark a pagan holiday, she won't have to worry about the work she's missing in her classes at Marshall University.

That's because her absence Thursday on the Samhain holiday has been approved by the Huntington school, which for the first time is recognizing pagan students' desire to be excused from class for religious holidays and festivals.

The university with an enrollment of about 14,000 may be the only school in the country to formally protect pagan students from being penalized for missing work that falls on religious holidays, although others have catchall policies they say protect students of every religious faith.
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Episcopal leader warns bishop about expulsion
Friday, November 02, 2007
By Steve Levin, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The head of the Episcopal Church has warned Pittsburgh Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr. that he will face civil suits and possible expulsion as bishop if a proposed resolution enabling the diocese to leave the denomination passes during today's diocesan convention.

A diocesan spokesman said the letter from Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, sent by fax to the Pittsburgh Diocese office late Wednesday, was "intended, honestly, to intimidate the convention."

The 142nd annual convention is being held today and tomorrow in Johnstown.
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Episcopal Priest Accused Of Fraud Is Defrocked
Nov 2, 2007

(AP) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. An Episcopal pastor accused of fraud has been defrocked, following the recommendation of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado.

Rev. Donald Armstrong can no longer officiate in the Episcopal Church in the United States, but a spokesman said the move announced by Bishop Robert O'Neill Thursday is meaningless.

Armstrong is now affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, or CANA."Father Armstrong plans to frame the instrument of defrocking and hang it in his office as a badge of honor," Alan Crippen, a Grace CANA deacon and spokesman told The Gazette.

"We don't take it seriously."O'Neill has 30 days to reduce or concur with the court's decision last month.
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Titusonenine: The PA Standing Committee Statement Concerning the Presentment Against Bishop Bennison

Thursday, November 01, 2007

People are prepared for everything except for the fact that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light. They are prepared to go on breaking their backs plowing the same old field until the cows come home without seeing, until they stub their toes on it, that there is a treasure buried in that field rich enough to buy Texas. They are prepared for a God who strikes hard bargains but not for a God who gives as much for an hour's work as for a day's. They are prepared for a mustard-seed kingdom of God no bigger than the eye of a newt but not for the great banyan it becomes with birds in its branches singing Mozart. They are prepared for the potluck supper at First Presbyterian but not for the marriage supper of the lamb.
...Frederick Buechner photo

Anti-Christian Sentiment in San Francisco Leads to Violence, Liberals Shrug
October 31, 2007

Fresh on the heels of my
SFGate column on San Francisco's Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their juvenile and disrespectful publicity stunt involving receiving Communion in full drag at Most Holy Redeemer Parish comes word of local anti-Christian sentiment taken to the highest degree.

It seems that San Francisco "performance artist" Paul Addis (formerly known as the arsonist who
couldn't wait to torch the Burning Man festival's large wooden icon) decided to set his sights on San Francisco's historic Grace Cathedral. Addis was arrested last Sunday night on the steps of the cathedral wearing an explosives belt and, according to a tip from a caller who overheard him earlier, planning to burn down the Episcopal church.

While one might imagine this to be a story worthy of attention, media coverage of the incident, as well as local reaction, has been muted at best. The
Associated Press provides very few details and The Examiner quotes Grace Cathedral spokesperson Brent Andrew describing Addis merely as a "disturbed individual." Similarly, Burning Man spokesperson Josh Camire chalked up Addis' attempted firebombing to a "cry for help." the rest

The mouse that shook the world
It can run for hours at 20 metres per minute without getting tired.It lives longer, has more sex, and eats more without gaining weight. Could the science that created this supermouse be applied to humans?

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
02 November 2007

Scientists have been astounded by the creation of a genetically modified "supermouse" with extraordinary physical abilities – comparable to the performance of the very best athletes – raising the prospect that the discovery may one day be used to transform people's capacities.

The mouse (pictured on the front page) can run up to six kilometres (3.7 miles) at a speed of 20 metres per minute for five hours or more without stopping. Scientists said that this was equivalent of a man cycling at speed up an Alpine mountain without a break. Although it eats up to 60 per cent more food than an ordinary mouse, the modified mouse does not put on weight. It also lives longer and enjoys an active sex life well into old age – being capable of breeding at three times the normal maximum age.

American scientists who created the mice – they now have a breeding colony of 500 – said that they were stunned by their abilities, especially given that the animals came about as a result of a standard genetic modification to a single metabolism gene shared with humans.

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Why Christian Women Marry Muslim Men
By Mark Earley

It was while vacationing in Turkey that Miriam, a British subject, became fascinated with Islam. She was mesmerized by the beauty of the mosques and spellbound as she heard the daily calls to prayer. Miriam had been raised a Christian, but had turned against God when her mother died. The simplicity and security that Islam seemed to offer appealed to her: She decided to convert and married a Muslim man.

But within a few years, cracks began to form in her new faith. She felt that she could never be good enough to earn a place in Paradise, and that God did not love her. One day Miriam picked up her old Bible, and a few months later, re-embraced her commitment to Christ. But when Miriam told her husband what she had done, he promptly left her and their little girl. Islamic law required it: She was now an apostate.

Miriam tells her story in a new book by Rosemary Sookhdeo titled Why Christian Women Convert to Islam. What is shocking is how many of these women come from strong, evangelical backgrounds. Many converts, like Miriam, are brought up by Christian parents, accept Christ, and get involved in church activities. But as they grow older, their commitment fades, or they become disillusioned with Christianity. Islam, they think, may offer the answer.
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Iraq's Christians Face Extinction, Advocacy Group Says
By Patrick Goodenough International Editor
November 01, 2007

( - An international organization supporting Christian minorities in Islamic societies has launched a new campaign to draw attention to the plight of Iraq's Christians, a community which it says "faces extinction."

The U.K.-based Barnabas Fund, a charitable and advocacy group, said this week that Islamic extremists in Iraq are telling Christians to convert, leave or face death.

"The militants are well on the way to succeeding in their aim, at least in the south and central areas, as Christians flee the restrictions, threats and violence imposed on them."
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Pastor Charged with Criminal Discrimination
Finland's courts step in after visiting pastor refuses to lead service with a woman
Sarah Pulliam

A Finnish district court prosecutor recently charged a member of the Finland state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF), with criminal discrimination for refusing to work with a female pastor. Two other church leaders have also been charged for not interfering to prevent the alleged violation.

"The government has nothing to do with religion and wants to stay out of the discussion," said Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, who was president at IsoKirja College in Finland. "This case has nothing to do with religion; it has everything to do with a perceived lack of equality."

The case could set a precedent for similar cases concerning discrimination against homosexuals. The ELCF is still discussing whether homosexual pastors can serve in the church and whether pastors may bless homosexual couples.
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More parents setting limits on TV
By Cheryl Wetzstein
November 1, 2007

American parents are more likely to set rules about television viewing for their children than they were a decade ago, a new federal report says.

In addition, more parents are reading to their young children and encouraging their older children to take lessons in music, dance, language, computers or religion, the Census Bureau said in its new report, "A Child's Day: 2004."

"It seems that parents are more involved with their kids than they were 10 years ago," bureau analyst Jane Dye said yesterday.
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Episcopal head warns Pittsburgh bishop over looming church split
Associated Press Writer

PITTSBURGH — The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church warned Pittsburgh's bishop that he could face church discipline if he continues to support efforts by the Pittsburgh diocese to split from the national church.

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan is among the leaders of a conservative U.S. movement that believes the Episcopal church is abandoning the primary authority of Scripture and doctrines regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ.

The rift between conservatives and the Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the U.S., has widened since the denomination consecrated openly gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson in 2003.
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More Anglicans seek way out of liberal Church
by Lillian Kwon, Christian Today US Correspondent
Thursday, November 1, 2007

Anglicans worldwide are taking steps to separate themselves from more liberal churches and finding new approaches that would allow them to live the biblically faithful lives that they want to.

In the latest move by conservatives in the 77-million-member Anglican Communion, an orthodox group in Ottawa, Canada, proposed the formation of a new branch of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The proposal has been made in an effort to create a church that is more "biblically faithful" than the current church.
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Quincy diocese still considering split
Insurance plan needs to be found before break from Episcopal Church

Thursday, November 1, 2007
of the Journal Star

PEORIA - The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy is not backing away from the possibility of disassociating itself from the Episcopal Church, a diocesan spokesman said Wednesday.

A story appearing on the Religious Intelligence Web site on Monday said the west-central Illinois diocese's "enthusiasm for an immediate break" was "dampened by a report from a diocesan task force" on insurance concerns.

However, the Rev. John Spencer, diocesan press officer, said there was no task force. Rather, diocesan financial officers have been looking at health and liability insurance alternatives for more than a year for financial reasons, Spencer said. Their findings were discussed at the synod.
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Presiding Bishop reaches out to bishops attempting to withdraw dioceses
By Jan Nunley
October 31, 2007

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is making public a letter of warning that is being sent to a bishop who is actively seeking to withdraw his diocese from the Episcopal Church, and has stated that letters to other bishops will follow.

"In this way the Presiding Bishop is reaching out with open arms once more to those bishops contemplating realignments for their dioceses, while also warning them of the consequences should they choose to follow through with their proposed actions," said the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop.

The full text of the first of these letters, addressed to Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, is included below.

In a private session of the Executive Council, meeting in Dearborn, Michigan, October 26-28, the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, David Booth Beers, gave an extensive review of the state of property litigation and other legal issues and related disciplinary considerations confronting the Episcopal Church and articulated the policies of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori regarding those issues.
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ENS: Pennsylvania bishop inhibited from ordained ministry
Measure to take effect after November 3 convention

By Mary Frances Schjonberg,
October 31, 2007

Click image for detail[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on October 31 inhibited Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison from all ordained ministry pending a judgment of the Court for the Trial of a Bishop.

Title IV Review Committee issued a presentment for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy against Bennison on October 28.

The two counts of the presentment center on accusations that Bennison, when he was rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Upland, California, did not respond properly after learning sometime in 1973 that his brother, John, who worked as a lay youth minister in the parish, was having an affair with a 14-year-old member of the youth group. John Bennison was also married at the time, according to the presentment.

The bishop is accused of not taking any steps to end the affair, not providing proper pastoral care to the girl, not investigating whether she needed medical care, taking three years to notify the girl's parents, not reporting his brother to anyone, not investigating whether his brother was sexually involved with any other parishioners or other children, and seeking no advice on how to proceed. The presentment says Charles Bennison reacted "passively and self-protectively."
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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Whenever you are concerned to think and act about your salvation, you must put away all thoughts of works, traditions and philosophy - indeed, of the law of God itself. And you must run directly to the manger and the mother's womb, embrace this infant and virgin's child in your arms, and look at Him - born, being nursed, growing up, going about in human society, teaching, dying, rising again, ascending above all the heavens, and having authority over all things. In this way you can shake off all terrors and errors, as the sun dispels the clouds. This vision will keep you on the proper way, so that you may follow where Christ has gone. ...Martin Luther image

Some Christian pastors embrace Scientology
From Diana Miller and Gary Tuchman

TAMPA, Florida (CNN) -- Some Christian congregations, particularly in lower income, urban areas, are turning to an unlikely source for help -- the Church of Scientology.

Scientologists do not worship God, much less Jesus Christ. The church has seen plenty of controversy and critics consider it a cult. So why are observant Christians embracing some its teachings?

Two pastors who spoke recently with CNN explained that when it comes to religion, they still preach the core beliefs of Christianity. But when it comes to practicing what they preach in a modern world, borrowing from Scientology helps.
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TLC: Canadian Bishops: No Change on Blessings

In its first meeting since last summer’s General Synod passed legislation that same-sex blessings were not core doctrine, but then failed to give approval for dioceses to implement them, the Canadian House of Bishops stated that their position has not significantly changed from their pastoral statement last April when they said they could not advise proceeding with same-sex blessings.

In recent synod meetings, the dioceses of Ottawa and Montreal have approved same-sex blessings, but the bishops of those dioceses have not consented to the action taken by their synods.
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GOD TV Set to Take Thousands to Israel for the Nation's 60th Birthday

Christian Newswire/ -- Global Christian broadcaster, GOD TV, is planning a mammoth tour which will see thousands of Christians from different countries visit Israel next May for the holiday of a life-time, as they celebrate her 60th Anniversary as a modern nation.

Israel is presently experiencing a tourism boom and May is an ideal month and a great season to visit the country. Hosted by GOD TV founders, Rory & Wendy Alec, the tour will comprise of many smaller groups catering for the individual, as well as a number of special events where the entire tour group can come together. Tour members can also choose from four different itineraries including a youth adventure option.
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Justices Hear Arguments on Internet Pornography Law
Published: October 31, 2007

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — Ever since it unanimously overturned the Communications Decency Act a decade ago, the Supreme Court has pushed back against Congressional efforts to regulate Internet content.

Five years ago, for example, the court struck down the Child Pornography Prevention Act, which made it a crime to create, distribute or possess “virtual” child pornography that uses computer-generated images or young-looking adults rather than real children.

Congress has refused to take no for an answer, and based on the way an argument unfolded on Tuesday at the Supreme Court, it appears that Congress may have finally fought the court to a draw.
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Only Christian TV Station in Holy Land Closing Down
By Julie Stahl Jerusalem Bureau Chief
October 31, 2007

( - The only indigenous Christian Arab television station in the Holy Land and the Arab world is being forced to close down for financial reasons after 11 years in operation, the owner said on Wednesday, and he may join the exodus of Christians who are leaving the Palestinian areas.

Samir Qumsieh, who owns and manages the Al Mahed "Nativity" television station in Bethlehem -- the birthplace of Jesus -- said the last broadcast will take place at 9 p.m. local time Wednesday evening.
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Jewish and Anglican leaders urge people to protect all holy sites
The Associated Press
October 31, 2007

JERUSALEM: The Archbishop of Canterbury and Israel's chief rabbis issued a joint declaration Tuesday calling on religious communities worldwide to take responsibility for protecting all holy sites.

In their second meeting this year, the head of the Anglican church, Archbishop Rowan Williams, and Israeli Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger said the desecration of any holy site is a setback for all religious people.

"Every holy place — for example, synagogue, church or mosque — that belong to religious people, keep it as a holy place," Metzger said. "We hope that people will hear it and will keep our decision."
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Albert Mohler: Christianity and the Dark Side -- What About Halloween?
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Over a hundred years ago, the great Dutch theologian Hermann Bavinck predicted that the 20th century would "witness a gigantic conflict of spirits." His prediction turned out to be an understatement, and this great conflict continues into the 21st century.

The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday. Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?

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FAA fines minister $28,000
By Audrey Hudson
October 31, 2007

The Rev. Sam Childers says he might need an attorney.

The Pennsylvania missionary operates the orphanage for victims of the war in Sudan's Darfur region and elsewhere in Africa, and he is in a fight with federal aviation officials over a $28,000 fine for some supplies he tried to send to his shelter.

For more than a decade, he has transported needed supplies to operate the orphanage's power generator in a clearly marked household plastic container. That is until April, when 3 quarts of motor oil, two bottles of diesel treatment and a can of spray lubricant in the crate were confiscated by airline screeners.

Mr. Childers, president of World Missions Shekinah Fellowship, apologized in a subsequent letter to U.S. government officials, saying he was not aware the supplies were classified as "hazardous materials" and illegal to ship by commercial plane.
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Religious liberty and the gay-equality movement
By Carl H. Esbeck
October 30, 2007

What happens when a claim to religious liberty comes up against a powerful social movement for gay equality? In a recent determination by the U.S. Department of Justice, religious liberty came out on top on the basis of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Although DoJ as of late has been the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, its ruling here is on target.World Vision, a Christian world relief and community development organization, sought the ruling. In 2005, World Vision was awarded a $1.5 million grant by DoJ to address an escalating gang presence and juvenile crime in Northern Virginia. The grant was awarded under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which is subject to provisions of the Safe Streets Act. That Act requires grant applicants to give assurances that when using grant money the applicant will not discriminate on the basis of religion.
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Anglican Diocese of California offers backing to gay blessings
by Daniel Blake
Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Episcopal Diocese of California has given authorisation for the use of three trial rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.

The vote, which took place at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral on 20 October came after the Synod requested that Bishop Marc Andrus authorise three rites developed by a diocesan liturgical commission.

The decision has been made in spite of liberal claims that the US Episcopal Church had obeyed the Anglican Communion’s request to ban gay bishops and same-sex blessings.
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What's So Great About Christianity?
By Dr. Paul Kengor
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Interview with Dinesh D’Souza

Dr. Paul Kengor: Dinesh, I can’t help but begin by tossing you a big softball: I’m impressed by the endorsements for your new book. This is quite an eclectic bunch: Francis Collins of the Human Genome Institute, academic Stanley Fish, the Rev. Robert Schuller, Oxford’s Daniel Robinson, historian Paul Johnson and even Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine. Clearly, you’ve done something right. The title of this book, What’s So Great About Christianity, is a natural follow-up to your earlier work, What’s So Great About America, but the theme is really a follow-up to a bunch of recent books by others attacking religious belief generally and the Christian faith in particular. This book is obviously an answer to the polemics by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and others. What’s your answer?
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Monks return to streets of Burma
Wednesday, 31 October 2007

More than 100 monks have marched in central Burma, the first time they have returned to the streets since last month's bloody crackdown on protests.

The monks chanted and prayed as they marched through Pakokku, the site of an incident last month that triggered pro-democracy protests nationwide.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

ACNS: [Australia] General Synod pleasing to Primate
30 OCTOBER 2007

The President of the General Synod of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, said he is very happy with the sense of unity that the Synod has witnessed this week on a range of critical issues.

The Church is finalising its General Synod in Canberra. The event is the Parliament of the Church which sits every three years.

The Primate highlighted the following decisions:

* Mission and attendance - a task force of General Synod “Fresh Expressions Australia” has been tasked with preparing a proposal for a full time National Mission Facilitator and developing appropriate criteria for the selection, training and deployment of ordained and lay pioneer ministers in an Australian context.
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Church Membership, Attendance Down Fourth Straight Year

Membership in The Episcopal Church declined by 50,804 and average Sunday attendance decreased by 21,945 during 2006, the fourth straight year in which both membership and attendance have decreased, according to
figures compiled by the congregational development department at the Episcopal Church Center.

Membership declined by 2 percent in 2006, the same percentage as the previous year, whereas the decline in average attendance increased from 2 percent in 2005 to 3 percent in 2006. Roughly half of the decline in average attendance was attributed to three dioceses: Dallas, Florida and Virginia. All three recorded departures and/or splits at some of the largest Episcopal churches in the U.S.

Kirk Hadaway, director of research and development in the Congregational Development office, attributed the decline to a variety of factors, including fallout from the 2003 General Convention. Mr. Hadaway said demographics and cultural changes are also factors.

the rest

A Statement on the Global South Primates’ Visit to China
October 21-30, 2007
(Beijing, Xi’an, Nanjing & Shanghai)


1. At the invitation of the Honourable Minister of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Ye Xiaowen, the Primates of the Global South of the Anglican Communion visited the cities of Beijing, Xi’an, Nanjing and Shanghai from 21-30 October 2007. We wish to express to the government and the people of China our deepest appreciation for the very warm welcome and hospitality extended to us. This most historic visit is opportune as it affirms the ties already established through the efforts of the Minister and the esteemed officials of the Religious Affairs Administration. We are grateful to God for giving us this golden opportunity to deepen our mutual understanding and future cooperation.

Signed by:

Most Rev Dr Peter J. Akinola (Nigeria)
Most Rev Dr Bernard Amos Malango (Central Africa)
Most Rev Dr John Chew Hiang Chea (South East Asia)
Most Rev Ian Ernest (Indian Ocean)
Most Rev Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis (Jerusalem and the Middle East)
Most Rev Emmanuel Musaba Kolini (Rwanda)
Most Rev Justice Ofei Akrofi (West Africa)
Most Rev Henry Luke Orombi (Uganda)
Most Rev Dr Fidèle Dirokpa (Congo)
Most Rev Francis K. J. Park (Korea)

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Matt Kennedy+: Will there be Discipline in the Common Cause Partnership?
October 30, 2007

Excerpt: "This common conviction does, I believe, provide the foundation for a future ecclesial order to which orthodox clergy and people can submit in good conscience. Were the bishops of an orthodox body of this sort, for example, to make a pronouncement on a disputable matter (a matter not plainly taught in the scriptures) then all Christians within that body would be obligated to submit and I hope that they would. I mention this future possibility because I think that, unfortunately, the battle against heresy and false teaching may have bred a sense of defiance in us that while, perhaps, necessary and good when faced with golden statues and fiery furnaces, is not good at all within a true visible manifestation of the Church."

the rest

Transgender man can keep post as pastor
Methodist council rules after local clergy questioned his appointment

By Liz F. Kay Sun reporter
October 30, 2007

The highest judicial body of the United Methodist Church announced Tuesday that a transgender man can remain pastor of a congregation in Charles Village.

The ruling by the Judicial Council affirms last spring's decision by Bishop John R. Schol to reappoint the Rev. Drew Phoenix -- formerly the Rev. Ann Gordon -- to St. John's United Methodist Church.

Schol's action had been appealed to the Judicial Council by several local clergy in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, who have raised questions about the proper role of transgender people within the church.
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The Presiding Bishop’s role in consecrations
posted by Fr. Rob Eaton
October 30th, 2007

It seems worth noting the Canonical responsibilities and requirements of the Presiding Bishop in the consecration of other bishops. There are two places in the Canons of the Episcopal Church which speak to this issue. The first is the section of the Canons that provide what otherwise might be called the “job description” outline for the Presiding Bishop; the second is the section referring specifically to the election, process of consent, and then consecration and installation of a diocesan bishop. The second helpfully fleshes out what “take order for” means.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

He is with us on our journeys. He is there when we are home. He sits with us at our table. He knows about funerals and weddings and commencements and hospitals and jails and unemployment and labour and laughter and rest and tears. He knows because He is with us - He comes to us again and again - until we can say, It's You! It's You! ...Bob Benson photo

“Progressive” Anglicans urge bishops to allow gay marriage
Solange De Santisstaff writer
Oct 29, 2007
London, Ont.

A group of Canadian Anglicans on the liberal, or “progressive,” side of issues concerning homosexuality and the church have urged Anglican bishops to “proceed to (the) full inclusion (of gay and lesbian people) by providing access to all sacraments and sacramental rites of the church,” including marriage.

The letter was addressed to the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, who are holding their fall meeting here from Oct. 25 to 30.

the rest
Anglicans Ablaze )

California: Students vote gay couple homecoming princes
By KIM MINUGH McClatchy Newspapers

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the royalty of Davis Senior High School's junior class: Brandon Raphael and his prince, Kiernan Gatewood.

For what appears to be the first time in school history, the Davis Senior High student body has elected a gay couple into homecoming royalty. With each boasting a white sash declaring his title as "Prince," the two 16-year-olds rode through the city of Davis on a recent Friday afternoon in the school's annual homecoming parade.

They stood in the back of a pickup truck, arm-in-arm, smiling warmly despite the rain.

"People were so excited for us," Gatewood said of the couple's victory, announced a few weeks ago. "We were a little surprised, but Davis ..."

"Is a liberal town," interrupts his boyfriend of four months, Raphael. "Go 10 miles in any other direction and you'll get some other feeling."

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Church leaves national group
First Presbyterian seeks realignment

Assistant People editor
Oct 29, 2007

One of south Louisiana’s largest Presbyterian churches is splitting with the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination.

Baton Rouge’s First Presbyterian Church announced in an e-mail Sunday that its members had voted 425-61 that morning to end a 25-year association with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The next step is considered a formality: requesting alignment with the much smaller Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church is a denomination of about 180 congregations and 75,000 members as compared with the 2.3 million members and 11,000 churches of Presbyterian Church (USA), but the smaller denomination is viewed as more conservative.

“This was a defining moment for us,” the Rev. Gerrit Dawson, senior pastor at First Presbyterian, said in the e-mail. “We want to conduct our mission with clarity about the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Scripture.”
the rest

ENS: South Carolina Bishop-elect Mark Lawrence receives necessary consents
By Mary Frances Schjonberg
October 29, 2007

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced October 29 that the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence had received the consents needed for him to become the next bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

The consecration will be held January 26, 2008 at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston, South Carolina.

Jefferts Schori has been invited to visit the diocese February 25-26, 2008. "This will give us an opportunity to state with clarity and charity the theological position of this diocese in a manner similar to when we met with [the] Most. Rev. Frank T. Griswold shortly after his installation as presiding bishop," the diocese says in a statement on its website.

The Rev. J. Haden McCormick, president of South Carolina's diocesan Standing Committee, said the diocese has received the news with much appreciation. "We're delighted and blessed, and look forward to pressing on with the mission of the church," he said. "The diocese is so convinced that Bishop-elect Mark is the man God is calling. He has his own unique gifts that he will bring to the diocese, which will become clear as God leads us forward."
the rest

Democrats Plan a Shorter Workweek

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 — Shortly after winning a majority last year, Democrats triumphantly declared that they would put Congress back to work, promising an “end to the two-day workweek.” And indeed, the House has clocked more time in Washington this year than in any other session since 1995, when Republicans, newly in control, sought to make a similar point.

But 10 months into the session, with their legislative agenda often in gridlock with the Bush administration and a big election year looming, the Democrats are now planning a lighter schedule when the 110th Congress begins its second year in mid-January.

The House majority leader, Representative
Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, told fellow Democrats this week that the House would not be in session next year on Fridays, except in June for work on appropriations bills.

Explaining that decision to reporters, Mr. Hoyer said, “I do intend to have more time for members to work in their districts and to be close to their families.”
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Pope urges pharmacists to reject abortion pill
Mon Oct 29, 2007

(Reuters) - Pharmacists must be allowed to refuse to supply drugs that cause abortion or euthanasia, Pope Benedict said on Monday, calling on health professionals to be "conscientious objectors" against such practices.

The Pope told a convention of Roman Catholic pharmacists that part of their job was to help protect human life from conception until natural death -- the Church teaching that rules out any deliberate termination of pregnancy or euthanasia.

"It is not possible to anaesthetise the conscience, for example, when it comes to molecules whose aim is to stop an embryo implanting or to cut short someone's life," the Pope said.
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GREEN FUNERALS: Putting aside embalming and tombs
Some believe that services at home and simple caskets gradually will change how society deals
with death.

October 28, 2007


Episcopalians grill bishop candidates
2 front-runners emerge as diverse slate of eight finalists tackle variety of issues

By Manya A. Brachear Tribune religion reporter
October 29, 2007

They shared personal tragedies, called on the church to defend the downtrodden and the marginalized, and defended their own answers to God's calling.

Eight finalists for the next Episcopal bishop of Chicago tackled immigration, stewardship, gentrification and the full inclusion of gays and lesbians during a tour of the diocese that ended Sunday.

Traditionally called a walkabout, the tour gave parishioners their only opportunity to grill the diverse slate of candidates before the election at the annual diocesan convention in Wheeling Nov. 10. The new bishop will succeed Bishop William Persell, who has led the diocese since 1999.

With two Africans and three women, including a lesbian, the slate reflects the changing face of the church. It also includes two local priests, indicating that some parishioners want a bishop who they believe already grasps their needs. the rest

Why Some Evangelicals are Throwing Out Birth Control
Barbara Curtis Contributor

“Are those all your children?” Over the years I’ve heard this question hundreds of times. Even with half my kids in tow, we stimulate the curiosity of the most socially cautious, who want to know how many we have, whether they’re all our own, if we’ve figured out where they came from, and when we’ll be finished having them.

“Are you Catholic?” they ask. “Are you Mormon?” Puzzled that a pair of everyday people would willingly trade fancy cars and dream vacations for fifteen-passenger vans and doctor visits galore.

I must admit I’ve had my moments. Like when we had six simultaneously in braces – top and bottom. I shook my fist at heaven Fiddler-on-the-Roof style: “Is this really what it’s all about? Building a swimming pool for our orthodontist and otherwise driving the American economy?”

Of course that’s not what it’s about, as God has made clear that he intended us to enjoy children as a blessing and reward from Him.

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Middle-School Birth Control Plan Suggests Crimes, Group Says
By Matt Purple Corresponden
tOctober 29, 2007

( - A local Christian group in Portland, Maine, is claiming that a controversial decision to distribute birth control pills to students as young as 11 at a local middle school points to possible criminal activity.

On October 17, the Portland School Committee voted 7-2 to begin distributing prescription birth control pills and patches to students in grades 6/super /nosupersub through 8 at King Middle School.

Parents must give permission for their children to receive health services from the school clinic but will not be notified if their child requests and receives prescription birth control services there. Students in grades 6 through 8 are generally 11 to 13 years old.
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Sunday, October 28, 2007

When darkness long has veil'd my mind,
And smiling day once more appears;
Then, my Redeemer, then I find
The folly of my doubts and fears.

Oh! let me then at length be taught
Why I am still so slow to learn;
That God is love, and changes not,
Nor knows the shadow of a turn.

Sweet truth, and easy to repeat!
But when my faith is sharply try'd;
I find myself a learner yet,
Unskilful, weak, and apt to slide.

But, O my Lord, one look from thee
Subdues the disobedient will;
Drives doubt and discontent away,
And thy rebellious worm is still.
...William Cowper

ENS: Presiding Bishop calls listeners to remember the 'mixed reality' of being 'the image of God in earthen vessels'
Diocese of Michigan, Province V brief Council on ministries
By Mary Frances Schjonberg,
October 28, 2007

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori reminded the worshippers at Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn, Michigan, October 28 that human beings are the image of God in earthen vessels.

"As long as we don't forget that mixed reality, we're doing just fine," she told the congregation which included both Christ Church members and those of the
Episcopal Church's Executive Council and Church Center staff who have been meeting in at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dearborn. "When we assume either that we've got it all right, or if we forget that we are bearers of the divine image, we've missed the point."

Jefferts Schori, who also presided at the Eucharist, preached on the Proper 25's Revised Common Lectionary readings of
Jeremiah 14:7-10,19-22 and Luke 18:9-14.

The text of sermon is
here. the rest

A Higher Ecclesiology for Evangelicals
Bryan Litfin, author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers, says that we need to reclaim our spiritual heritage.
Interview by Susan Wunderink

Bryan Litfin's Getting to Know the Church Fathers, which has chapters on Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, Perpetua, Origen, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Cyril of Alexandria, is designed to introduce the ancient church to evangelicals. Litfin writes about the lives and major issues of each person, then lists possible study questions, books for deeper exploration, and a short excerpt of the church father's writing. He is concerned that many Christians have rejected the church fathers under the impression that they were detached from Scripture, Roman Catholic, and that they represent the "fall" of Christianity after Constantine's conversion. Litfin spoke with CT about introducing evangelicals to Patristics.

Interview here

Mass appeal to Latin tradition
By Kristi Moore
October 28, 2007

Roman Catholic churches nationwide are rushing to accommodate a surge in demand for the traditional Latin Mass, which is drawing a surprising new crowd: young people.

Since July, when a decree from Pope Benedict XVI lifted decades-old restrictions on celebrating the Tridentine Mass, seven churches in the Washington metropolitan area have added the liturgy to their weekly Sunday schedules.

"I love the Latin Mass," said Audrey Kunkel, 20, of Cincinnati. "It"s amazing to think that I"m attending the same Mass that has formed saints throughout the centuries."
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C of E to empower foreign bishops
Jonathan Wynne-Jones

The Church of England is set to allow foreign archbishops to intervene in its affairs, secret papers reveal.

Under controversial plans being drawn up by the Church's bishops, leaders from Africa and South America would be able to take over the care of parishes in this country.

They threaten to end the historic power of bishops to have ultimate control over their dioceses because parishes could ask for overseas prelates to carry out important duties, such as leading ordination services.

The proposals are part of a covenant or rule book of beliefs that has been endorsed by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as a last ditch attempt to prevent the Anglican Church from splitting over gay clergy.
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