Saturday, December 25, 2010

SSgt Sal Giunta awarded the Medal of Honor

Bishop Martyn Minns: Who Needs Aslan?


Have you seen the Voyage of the Dawn Treader? This latest movie version has been a remarkable success story with a worldwide box office gross of over 185 million dollars since its release fifteen days ago.

Actually no one would be more surprised than C. S. Lewis himself. He never anticipated that his works would become so popular. He wrote the Chronicles of Narnia at a time when his own life was in turmoil. While some of his academic and literary achievements are well known today, few people realize his family life was filled with loss and suffering.

His mother died of cancer when Jack (as C. S. was nicknamed) was nine, and he and his brother Warnie were sent away to a brutal boarding school. When he finally escaped to begin his studies at Oxford University he was dispatched to the bloody battlefields of the First World War where his friend Paddy Moore died in the final months of the conflict. They had made a pact that if either of them were killed in battle the survivor would care for the other's family and so after returning from war, the bachelor Lewis brothers Jack and Warnie (who struggled with alcoholism) shared a home with Mrs. Moore (who was very difficult to live with) and her daughter Maureen.

This rather stressful domestic arrangement lasted for more than thirty years until 1951 when Mrs. Moore died after a long illness. For many years Jack had to juggle demanding domestic duties with his ever-increasing academic and literary responsibilities. There is no question that his life was overwhelming when he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia - so much so that his friends, including J. R. R. Tolkien, wondered why he was wasting his precious time writing a multi-volume set of children's novels. Little did anyone realize that these short books would become a publishing phenomena selling more than 100 million copies in 41 languages.

What is their universal appeal? Why have they continued to be so popular? Why did Lewis write them in the first place?

I suspect that part of the reason he wrote books for children was because of the experiences of his own childhood. And, perhaps the world of Narnia was the only place where he could escape some of the harsh realities of his daily existence.

But Narnia is not a place for escape. In fact, Narnia is a place where we are challenged to face ourselves with utter honesty, where we are invited to accept responsibility for who we are, and where we are thrust into situations where we realize how helpless we really are on our own.

Only then may we be ready to perceive Aslan the Lion King of Narnia for who he is: not a roaring dumb animal, but the talking and singing supreme King of all Narnia. And more than that, we begin to recognize how much we really need and want a relationship with this Lion of all lions.

But sometimes our own strengths and gifts get in the way. Eustace, an obstinate, bratty boy who gets thrust into fighting for his own life on the seas of Narnia, is so intelligent and sharp with his tongue that he fails time and again to recognize the great and awesome creatures of Narnia for who they are.

Lewis's towering intellect and brilliance with words also got in the way of his life. Before converting to Christ, he thought he could make his own way in the world. But life in the world soon caught up with him, and he came face-to-face with his own depravities and the need for Christ to save him from himself.

Is Christmas an opportunity for us to escape the harsh realities of the world? Do we long to create a make-believe world of "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" and beautifully wrapped presents under the tree?

Earlier this decade I came across a poem by a contemporary English writer, Martin Wroe, who challenged me with his rather earthy retelling of the Christmas story:

Are you flesh of our flesh,
Bone of our bones?
. . . Is that you Baby J Word of the Father?
Now in flesh appearing
Is that you screaming as you arrived
Like the rest of us
Screaming at the shock of the new
The shock of the cold and the old and the broken
Is that you Baby J?
Covered in blood and grunge and straw
When moments before you had been covered in glory?

It was an awful come down, or as the Nicene Creed puts it, "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God . . . for us and for our salvation came down from heaven" - a 'come down' with a glorious purpose.

In his coming, he didn't shun the flesh, the bones, the blood, the grunge, the straw of our world. But chose to embrace and be embraced by them. The nativity narrative is a story of radical inclusion: God showing us how much he loves us by being the God who not only creates us but also embraces our humanity - and impoverished, desolate humanity at that. His divine plan of love and redemption is not just for or about humanity, but his plan is so radical that he even goes to the extent of making humanity part of his own being.

Jesus' birth set the stage for the rest of his life. He didn't escape from human existence, and he didn't insulate himself from its hard realities. He faced the temptations that face people of every place and generation. He came face-to-face with the possibility of rebelling against God the Father. His life wasn't a game of "let's pretend." The King - of nature and of the super-natural, of the temporal and of eternity - came willing "to live and die as one of us" (Eucharistic Prayer B).

We too can live not just in our natural and temporal and sinful existence, but also as children of God's supernatural and eternal reality.

"To all who did RECEIVE him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to BECOME the children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God!" (John 1:11 & 13).

The first step to receiving this gift is being willing to acknowledge that we have a need, that we cannot make it on our own. Jesus will not force himself upon anyone - neither does Aslan force himself on Eustace. But if we are willing to admit that we have a need, that life is not as it should be, if we are ready to face into our own helplessness, then we are already on the way to a new life.

We are to become the "children of God." What an amazing offer!

If you haven't read the book or seen the movie yet, I don't want to spoil it for you. But suffice it to say that Eustace must learn humility and his need for Aslan the hard way.

May we avoid learning the hard way. During this Christmastide and New Year, may we simply receive and believe in Jesus the Messiah, allowing him to profoundly transform our lives. And may we lead others to do the same.

Your brother in Christ,
The Rt. Rev'd Martyn Minns

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010 from the Dagues!

Herschel among the Christmas decorations
I know Santa is coming.
Christmas cactus in full bloom

A blessed Christmas to all the readers who visit here
from time to time!
Raymond and Pat Dague and Herschel

The sky can still remember the earliest Christmas morn...

The sky can still remember the earliest Christmas morn,
When in the cold December the Savior Christ was born.
No star unfolds its glory, no trumpet wind is blown,
But tells the Christmas story in music of its own.

O never failing splendor! O never silent song!
Still keep the green earth tender, still keep the gray earth strong,
Still keep the brave earth dreaming of deeds that shall be done,
While children’s lives come streaming like sunbeams from the sun.

O angels sweet and splendid, throng in our hearts and sing
The wonders which attended the coming of the King;
Till we too, boldly pressing where once the shepherds trod,
Climb Bethlehem’s Hill of Blessing, and find the Son of God.
...Philips Brooks

Once in Royal David's City

King's College Cambridge 2008

Thursday, December 23, 2010

St. George's, Helmetta: New Precedent Set by NJ Church Property Settlement

St. George’s Anglican Church, Helmetta, NJ, to Retain Property following Amicable Settlement with The Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey
Helmetta, NJ.
December 23, 2010
(via email)

St. George’s Anglican Church, a former Episcopal Church congregation which disaffiliated from its former denomination, has negotiated with the Diocese of New Jersey to retain its church buildings and tangible property with complete independence from The Episcopal Church (TEC). The congregation is now affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) under Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) under Archbishop Robert Duncan.

“We are extremely grateful that the congregation of St. George’s Anglican Church is able to retain its property. This is an incredible blessing and witness to others that Christians can resolve these matters amicably. We are also thankful that the church has been able to maintain a cordial relationship with the Diocese of New Jersey. I trust and pray that St. George’s Anglican Church will continue to serve the Lord through mission and ministry for many years to come,” said CANA Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns.

The final sale of St. George’s church property took place on Tuesday, November 23, 2010.

In early January and February of 2008 the former Episcopal congregation, then known as St. George’s Church in Helmetta , NJ , cut its ties to TEC and the Diocese of New Jersey because of theological differences. Fr. William Guerard, St. George’s parish priest, maintained an amicable relationship with Bishop George Councell of the Diocese of New Jersey throughout the division.

Fr. Guerard was able to transfer to CANA as an ordained Anglican priest without being required to renounce his ordination vows — unlike many other Anglican clergy from other dioceses who have left TEC for CANA and other Anglican groups.

Beginning in January, 2009, St. George’s Anglican Church began negotiations with the Diocese of New Jersey which finally ended in an agreed monetary settlement.

Fr. Guerard reflects on the settlement saying, “Our constant prayer throughout these two years has been for God’s will to be done. We are all thankful that this has been accomplished peacefully, and we pray it will set a precedent for other churches going through similar situations.”

“Let us return to the work of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus our Savior who has come to bring us light, peace, and salvation,” continued Fr. Guerard. (picture by Raymond Dague-attorney for St. George's)

Now on the CANA website

The Top 10 Christian News Stories of 2010

Katherine Britton
posted December 23, 2010

The year 2010 brought hundreds of stories and movements to bear on global Christianity. Here are the faces, places, and movements the editors believe most impacted Christians around the world.

1. Haiti's earthquake creates multiple aftershocks
2. Pakistan sentences a Christian woman to death for 'blasphemy'
3. Jesus finds trapped miners in Chile...

the rest here

Dissident Anglicans raised nearly $6 million in donations

By Lori Culbert
 Vancouver Sun
December 23, 2010

A growing group of dissident Anglicans who broke away from the Anglican Church of Canada over opposition to same-sex blessings amassed nearly $6 million in donations in the last fiscal year.

And 22 per cent of those donations were made specifically to the Anglican Network in Canada's (ANiC) legal defence fund, to bankroll the dissidents' continuing battle with the Diocese of New Westminster over who owns the church buildings.

According to financial statements filed with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) by the ANiC, the registered charity received $5.9 million in donations in the 2008-09 fiscal year, the most recent data available. the rest

Christmas in Bethlehem: the cross banished from souvenirs


 (AsiaNews) - This Christmas in Bethlehem, the cross has been banned from souvenirs for tourists and pilgrims in the Holy Land. Some textile workshops in Jerusalem and Hebron have begun to print and sell T-shirts depicting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem without the cross. Because of the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the Palestinian territories, the cross was also removed from t-shirts of football teams. Interviewed by AsiaNews, Samir Qumsieh, journalist and director of the Catholic television station Al-Mahed Nativity TV in Bethlehem, said: "I want to launch a campaign to urge people not to buy these products - he says - because the removal of the cross is an intimidation against Christians, it is like saying that Jesus was never crucified. "

Like every year, thousands including authorities, faithful and tourists from all over the world crowd, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for midnight mass on the night of 24 December. It will be celebrated by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and will be attended by the highest offices of the Palestinian Authority. the rest image-Church of the Nativity

For fear of Islamic fundamentalism, textile workshops in Hebron and Jerusalem, produce and sell T-shirts and other items depicting the Church of the Nativity without the cross. Discrimination and economic crisis are forcing Christians to flee from the Palestinian territories and Israel. The risk is to see a future without Christians in the Holy Land. Interview with Samir Qumsieh, director of the Catholic television station Al-Mahed Nativity TV in Bethlehem.

Feminism Explained (She Said It, Not Me)

Vice Admiral: Obama was outmaneuvered by Russians on START

U.S. Naval Institute
 December 23, 2010

President Barack Obama was outmaneuvered by the Russians and should have abandoned the New START negotiations instead of seeking a political victory, says former nuclear plans monitor Vice Admiral Jerry Miller, USN (Ret).

“The Obama administration is continuing a dated policy in which we cannot even unilaterally reduce our own inventory of weapons and delivery systems without being on parity with the Russians,” Miller told the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis, Md. “We could give up plenty of deployed delivery systems and not adversely affect our national security one bit, but New START prohibits such action - so we are now stuck with some outmoded and useless elements in our nuke force.”

After meeting resistance from several Republicans, the U.S. Senate ratified the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia by a vote of 71-26 on Wednesday.

“The Soviets/Russians were done in by Reagan and our missile defense program because they cannot afford to build such a system,” said Miller. “They instead try to counter our program with rhetoric at the bargaining table. And they won by outmaneuvering Obama. START plays right into their hands.” the rest

The Death Panel's First Murder

By Peter Ferrara

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked its regulatory approval of the drug Avastin to treat late stage, metastatic breast cancer. Each year, the practicing oncologists chosen by 17,500 American women to save them from their life-threatening, heavily progressed cancer prescribe Avastin to treat them.

The FDA explained that it was revoking approval of the drug for that use because it decided that the drug does not provide "a sufficient benefit in slowing disease progression to outweigh the significant risk to patients." Risk? The drug is prescribed for women who are otherwise going to die from cancer unless the drug saves them at least for a time. The far greater risk to these women is from the FDA, not the drug.

As The Wall Street Journal said last Friday in response to the FDA's explanation:

Ponder that [word] "sufficient." The agency is substituting its own judgment about clinical meaningfulness for those of practicing oncologists and terminally ill cancer patients.

That FDA judgment was determined last summer by an internal agency panel of 13 experts, only two of whom were breast cancer oncologists, and none of whom were breast cancer patients. the rest

The Susan G. Komen Foundation opposed the FDA's action. So did the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, a cancer patients' advocacy organization. The U.S. National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of 21 top cancer centers that issues medical guidelines based clinical evidence, also supports the continued availability of Avastin for breast cancer. Even in Europe, where health care rationing is prevalent, the European Medicines Agency, which is the FDA for the European Union, ruled last week that Avastin would continue to be available for breast cancer treatment there.

To no avail. In America, the FDA has spoken.

Sudden infant deaths most common on New Year's

By Randy Dotinga HealthDay
posted December 23, 2010

A new study finds that more babies die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the United States on New Year's Day than any other day of the year.

It's not clear why, but researchers suspect it has something to do with parents who drink heavily the night before and put their children in jeopardy.

"Alcohol-influenced adults are less able to protect children in their care. We're saying the same thing is happening with SIDS: They're also less likely to protect the baby from it," said study author David Phillips, a sociologist. "It seems as if alcohol is a risk factor. We just need to find out what makes it a risk factor." the rest

ACLU asks feds to force Catholic hospitals to provide emergency reproductive care

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday asked federal health officials to ensure that Catholic hospitals provide emergency reproductive care to pregnant women, saying the refusal by religiously affiliated hospitals to provide abortion and other services was becoming an increasing problem.

In a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the ACLU cited the case of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, which was stripped of its Catholic status Tuesday because doctors performed an abortion on a woman who had developed a life-threatening complication. the rest

UK’s first controversial ‘saviour sibling’ transplant

Wed, 22 Dec 2010

The first transplant involving a controversial ‘saviour sibling’ has been successfully carried out in the UK, but critics warn of the complex moral issues involved.

Megan Matthews, aged nine, received tissue donated by her 18-month old brother Max who was created specifically to help treat Megan’s illness.

However there is great concern about the psychological impact on a saviour sibling...

..Critics caution that a child could grow up thinking they are loved only because of their ‘spare-parts’. the rest

Critics also say the practice opens the door to ‘designer’ babies, where children are created to parental specification.

And creating children for ‘spare parts’ values people for their mechanical usefulness rather than their intrinsic human dignity.

Ex-Planned Parenthood Director’s New Book Exposes Abortion Biz

by Steven Ertelt
Washington, DC

Former Planned Parenthood abortion facility director Abby Johnson was sitting at her desk when a co-worker at the center asked for some help with a woman getting an abortion.

“I could not have imagined how the next ten minutes would shake the foundation of my values and change the course of my life,” she says in her new book “Unplanned,” an expose of the abortion business and the abortion industry.

Johnson ran that abortion facility — a Planned Parenthood “clinic” in Bryan, Texas, the home of Texas A&M University. She spent ten minutes assisting with an ultrasound-guided abortion, and her reflection on it would change her life as she stepped down from her position.

“Oh, dear God,” she writes, “what had I done?” the rest

Catholics in Bogor (West Java) not allowed to celebrate Christmas Mass

The authorities ban all Christian activities, citing as their reason the lack of a proper place of worship, which Catholics have been demanding for years without success. Increasingly, radical Muslims are becoming intolerant towards Christian groups.
by Mathias Hariyadi

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Bogor authorities have banned all public activities or celebrations associated with Christmas, including Christmas Mass, at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Parung, Tulang Kuning, Bogor Regency (West Java Province). The official ban was issued in a letter that restated the usual reasons, namely the lack of a building permit for a place of worship (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan in Indonesian). Without it, even praying on Church-owned land is prohibited.

In Indonesia, permits are required for any type of building, but when it comes to Christian places of worship, they are issued only after 60 residents living near the would-be church have agreed in writing to the project and the local Inter-faith Dialogue Group has given its approval. the rest

Hindu fundamentalist attacks on India's Christians mount as Christmas approaches
A week ahead of Christmas, half a dozen brutal attacks on Christian targets by Hindu fundamentalists has been reported from different parts of India...

Canon White defiant in face of violence
CHRISTIANS in Iraq face a sombre and fearful Christmas, as the prospects for 2011 look, at best, uncertain.

“There’s been great fear, and there’s been a lot of anxiety,” Canon Andrew White, Chaplain of St George’s, Baghdad, told the BBC at the weekend. “We lost many of our families who have disappeared or been killed.” Some 500 of the formerly 4000-strong congregation were no longer present, he said...

Christmas Skirmishes and the Offended Observer

December 22, 2010 By David French

We live in strange times. I’m writing this post from the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom office in tiny Columbia, Tennessee, listening to Christmas carols being broadcast from the courthouse in our town square. And yet, in this same rather conservative state, the ACLU sent letters to public schools statewide, warning them against holding Christmas parties and recommending only “holiday celebrations” and endorsing “secular symbols such as Santa Claus or dreidels.”

I understand why Ross Douthat would decry the “war on Christmas drumbeat,” and (as I note in a recent Washington Post “On Faith” piece) it’s easy to snicker when people start arguing over “merry Christmas” versus “happy holidays.” After all, the whole issue reeks of oversensitivity on all sides. the rest
But let’s not forget that the secular Left created an entire litigation engine out the “offended observer.” When religious symbols are taken from public land, those cases are launched through a unique standing rule that allows a person who’s merely offended at the sight of a religious symbol to literally make a federal case out of their fit of pique. As a general rule, we do not enjoy a right not to be offended (and it’s a good thing too; imagine a world where every perceived slight could launch litigation) — except when it comes to public religious displays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NYT: In Snowy Syracuse, a December That’s Whiter Than Usual

December 22, 2010

SYRACUSE — In some places, as the first days of winter pass, the prospect of a white Christmas is just that: a possibility, sometimes realized, sometimes not.

But in this city, hard by the Snow Belt beneath Lake Ontario, there is no need for any caveat. By this time, every year, it has snowed so heavily and so often that any more would be incomprehensible.

Syracuse has met the incomprehensible. As of Tuesday, even before winter had officially begun — at 6:38 p.m. Eastern time — 71.9 inches of snow had fallen this month, making it the city’s snowiest December ever.

There has been at least a trace of snow on all but four days so far this month. In one four-day stretch last week, 43.2 inches came down.

There are areas of New York where a modest snowfall can be a great white disruption, closing schools and airports, paralyzing businesses and erasing traffic from most streets. the rest

“We got calls from all over asking us to relay horror stories, and we said, ‘We don’t have any; everything’s fine in Syracuse,’ ” Mayor Stephanie A. Miner said. “I suppose if we’d had a tornado warning or a hurricane warning, we’d be at a standstill. But we’ve been dealing with this for a long time.”

Having lived here all my life, I know we do handle the snow very well, but it is frustrating at times when you have to get somewhere or when events have to be cancelled.  The reporter in this video (December 16th) taped this within 5 miles of my house.  It's going to be a long winter, even by our standards. -PD

Calif. Storms Prompt Rescues, Evacuations

Six counties are under a state of emergency in southern California.

"They said the candy canes are weapons because you can sharpen them with your mouth and stab people with them."

Peggy Fox
posted December 22, 2010

 (WUSA) -- They call themselves the "Christmas Sweater Club" because they wear the craziest ones they can find. They also sing Christmas songs at school and try their best to spread Christmas cheer.

Now all 10 of them are in trouble because of what they did at their school.

"They said, 'maliciously maim students with the intent to injure.' And I don't think any of us here intentionally meant to injure anyone, or did," said Zakk Rhine, a junior at Battlefield High School.

The boys say they were just tossing small two-inch candy canes to fellow students as they entered school. The ones in plastic wrap that are so small they often break apart. the rest

Albert Mohler: Must We Believe the Virgin Birth?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In one of his columns for The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof once pointed to belief in the Virgin Birth as evidence that conservative Christians are “less intellectual.” Are we saddled with an untenable doctrine? Is belief in the Virgin Birth really necessary?

Kristof is absolutely aghast that so many Americans believe in the Virgin Birth. “The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time,” he explains, and the percentage of Americans who believe in the Virgin Birth “actually rose five points in the latest poll.” Yikes! Is this evidence of secular backsliding? the rest image

Implications, indeed. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, who was His father? There is no answer that will leave the Gospel intact. The Virgin Birth explains how Christ could be both God and man, how He was without sin, and that the entire work of salvation is God’s gracious act. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, He had a human father. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, the Bible teaches a lie.

Churches Under Threat in Iraq Cancel Christmas

Wed, Dec. 22 2010
By Nathan Black
Christian Post Reporter

Churches throughout Iraq are canceling Christmas services after receiving threats from an al-Qaida affiliate.

Fearing that Christians will be targeted, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Monsignor Louis Sarko of Kirkuk told Agence France-Presse that they will not be celebrating the "feast of Christmas" and will be holding masses in the morning, rather than in the evening.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group for Sunni Islamic insurgent groups that include al-Qaida, issued a warning late Tuesday, threatening more attacks against the Christian minority unless Egypt's Coptic Church releases two women converts to Islam. The group claims the women are being held against their will but the church has denied the allegations. the rest

Escalating violence, hostility emptying Iraq of Christians
Hunted in church, homes, they flee north, seek asylum
By Rebecca Santana
Associated Press
 Tuesday, December 21, 2010

IRBIL, Iraq | They saw their brethren murdered during Mass and then were bombed in their homes as they mourned. Al Qaeda vowed to hunt them down. Now the Christian community of Iraq, almost as old as the religion itself, is sensing a clear message: It is time to leave.

Since the Oct. 31 bloodbath in their Baghdad church, Iraqi Christians have been fleeing Sunni Muslim extremists, who view them as nonbelievers and agents of the West.

At a time when Christians in various parts of the Muslim world are feeling pressured, Iraqi Christians are approaching their grimmest Christmas since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 and wondering if they have any future in their native land.

They have suffered repeated violence and harassment since 2003, when the interreligious peace rigidly enforced by Saddam Hussein fell apart. But the attack on Our Lady of Salvation church, in which 68 persons died, appears to have been a tipping point that has driven many to flee northward to the Kurdish enclave while seeking asylum in the U.S. and elsewhere. the rest

WikiLeaks: 1 in 3 British Muslim students back killing for Islam and 40% want Sharia law

By Daily Mail Reporter
22nd December 2010

Around a third of young British Muslims favour killing in the name of Islam, according to a survey revealed by the WikiLeaks' publication of U.S. diplomatic cables.

A survey of 600 Muslim students at 30 universities throughout Britain found that 32 per cent of Muslim respondents believed killing in the name of religion is justified.

A U.S. diplomatic cable from January 2009 quoted a poll by the Centre for Social Cohesion as saying 54 per cent wanted a Muslim party to represent their world view in Parliament and 40 per cent want Muslims in the UK to be under Sharia law. the rest

Five terror suspects arrested after raid by police on homes in Cardiff

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, during a television interview taped Monday, appeared unaware of a major set of terror arrests in Great Britain that morning.

Why did cultural conservatives lose the battle over “Don’t ask, don’t tell?”

by Peter Smith
Tue Dec 21, 2010

 ( - Why did cultural conservatives lose the battle over “Don’t ask, don’t tell?” In 1993 a Democrat-controlled Congress overwhelmingly passed the federal law banning open homosexuals from serving in the armed forces. So what changed in the past 17 years?

Certainly a handful of Republicans had a hand in its passage. Six Republicans – Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, George Voinovich of Ohio, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine – reneged on their word to help their party block all legislation until the big item of funding the federal government was settled.

Well, promises, promises. After the 63-33 vote for cloture, repealing DADT was a fait-accompli. So two more Republicans jumped on board, Sens. John Ensign of Nevada and Richard Burr of North Carolina, making eight total GOP votes for repeal. the rest

Savage attack in Jerusalem forest

December 22nd, 2010
by Rev. David Pileggi
 Christ Church, Jerusalem

The savage attack on December 18, 2010 in the Jerusalem forest where Kristine Luken was killed and Kay Wilson seriously wounded, has shocked family, friends and the community of Christ Church Jerusalem.

Kristine, a US citizen, worked for CMJ (Church's Ministry Among Jewish People) in Nottingham UK and was a frequent visitor to Jerusalem. She had an infectious love for God and a great admiration and love for the Jewish people and the Holy Land. Recently, she studied Jewish history and the Holocaust on a CMJ sponsored tour of Poland.

Kay Wilson is the main educator for Shoresh Study Tours, a ministry of Christ Church Jerusalem, specializing in teaching the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. She is a well-loved guide and a gifted communicator as many Shoresh participants will attest. She is also an accomplished jazz pianist and artist. We ask that you join us in prayer for Kay's ongoing recovery. We will be organizing practical help for Kay as her needs become apparent. the rest

American Tourist Kristine Luken Killed in Israel, No Arrests Made, Say Police

US tourist stabbed in J'lem forest to be buried in US

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Devotional: Here is the Truth...

Here is the Truth in a little creed,
Enough for all the roads we go:
In Love is all the law we need,
In Christ is all the God we know.
...Edwin Markham image by Sharon Mollerus

A.S. Haley: Federal Court Issues Stay in Ft. Worth Trademark Case

Monday, December 20, 2010

I resolved to stay away from ECUSA's litigation troubles during this season of the nativity, but I still have to report to my readers breaking news, if it is important. And this is important news: the federal district court in Fort Worth today issued a one-page order staying all further proceedings in the trademark infringement action brought by the rump diocese of Fort Worth and its "corporation" (which does not actually exist, for reasons I explain below). The stay will remain in effect until the court resolves the pending motions by the real diocese of Fort Worth and its real corporation to intervene in the case to protect their property rights in their name and corporate insignia.

With an apparently unlimited litigation budget in Texas, the Episcopal Church (USA) and its puppet diocese of Fort Worth have tried all manner of strategies to accomplish an end run around the courts of Texas and achieve a quick victory in their dispute with Bishop Jack L. Iker and his Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. (Note to readers from ECUSA: "Episcopal" means "of, or having to do with, a bishop". It does not necessarily mean "affiliated with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America." ECUSA has no trademark in the word "Episcopal", which is used by a number of churches within the Anglican Communion.) the rest
Once again, in an attempt to do an end run around the State courts, ECUSA had filed in the federal court action a motion for summary judgment, making all the usual "hierarchical" arguments. But once again, their strategy has been rebuffed. The courts have uniformly told ECUSA and its attorneys thus far: "Not so fast. You cannot assume the very point at issue by pretending to be what you have not shown yourself to be. Since there is admittedly only one 'Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth' and one 'Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth' (no one else having filed any incorporation papers under that name), you have not demonstrated how you are legitimately in charge of those entities. Until you do so, you cannot come into court pretending to be them from the outset."

Barney Frank: Straight and Gay Soldiers Must Shower Together, But Not Men and Women

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 By Nicholas Ballasy
( - Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) says he agrees with the recommendation of a Department of Defense (DOD) working group that straight and gay military personnel of the same gender should be required to shower together when the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law goes into effect.

Frank, however, said Armed Forces personnel of opposite sexes should not shower together.

the rest

Defeated congressman sues pro-life PAC for ‘loss of livelihood’

 By Barbara Hollingsworth
Local Opinion Editor

.What a sore loser. Even before he was kicked to the curb by Ohio voters, Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Ohio, tried to silence the Alexandria-based Susan B. Anthony List for criticizing his vote for Obamacare after the Stupak amendment banning the use of federal funds for abortion was stripped out of the bill.

Citing an Ohio statute that makes it a crime to knowingly tell malicious lies about a public official, the formerly pro-life congressman filed a criminal complaint against the PAC on Oct. 6, insisting that the health care bill he voted for would not fund abortion. the rest

Many skip Christmas' religious aspect

posted December 21, 2010
By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

Christmas 2010 is a whole lotta jingle and not so much Jesus.

Two new surveys find more than nine in 10 Americans celebrate the holiday — even if they're atheists, agnostics or believers in non-Christian faiths such as Judaism and Islam.

A closer look at Christmas activities reveals what may be the first measurement of an "alarming" gap between belief and behavior, says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based Christian research organization. the rest

"It's alarming to me that while nine in 10 celebrate Christmas, only six in 10 encourage any belief in the source of Christmas and only three in 10 actually read the story of Christmas," Stetzer says.

Planned Parenthood Chapter Quits, Forced by National to Do Abortions

by Steven Ertelt
Corpus Christi, TX

A Texas-based Planned Parenthood affiliate has resigned as a member of the national organization because Planned Parenthood Federation of America wanted it to do abortions.

Local officials say PPFA is instituting a mandate that all of its affiliates across the nation offer facilities where abortions are done and the head of Planned Parenthood of South Texas says her group doesn’t want to add abortions.

CEO Amanda Stukenberg told the Corpus Christi Caller newspaper that PPST doesn’t need to do abortions because independent abortion business already exist in the area, so her group has focused solely on promoting contraception and birth control. the rest

Homosexual Activists Launch New Guide to Make Homosexual “Rights” A Reality

December 9, 2010
By Samantha Singson

(C-FAM) Homosexual activists just launched a new "toolkit" which outlines methods to promote a controversial document which asserts that states have a legal obligation to fulfill “rights” to gay adoption, reproductive technologies and state-funded sex changes.

Drafted in 2007 by a select group of human rights “experts,” including UN special rapporteurs and UN treaty body members, the non-binding Yogyakarta Principles propose reinterpretions of long-established human rights to include special rights for homosexuals.

The Principles in effect downgrade traditional rights such as freedom of expression and religion stating where they conflict with “the rights of freedoms of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.” the rest

Bishop Removes Catholic Tag on Hospital Doing Abortion

by Steven Ertelt
Phoenix, AZ

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix has removed the Catholic designation from St. Joseph’s Medical Center because of a controversial abortion it performed last year.

The hospital’s head of its ethics committee, Sr. Margaret McBride, approved the abortion of an 11-week unborn baby whose mother suffered from pulmonary hypertension. Olmsted gave the hospital’s parent, Catholic Healthcare West, until today to confirm its policies on abortion to those of the Catholic Church or face decertification of its status as a Catholic hospital.

Olmsted had originally given Catholic Healthcare West, the parent of St. Joseph’s Hospital until Friday to change its abortion policy but has extended the deadline to Tuesday after some late-minute confidential communication between the two. the rest

Enrollment of Muslim students is growing at Catholic colleges in U.S.

In the past few years, enrollment of Muslim students has spiked at Catholic universities across the country. Last year, Catholic colleges had an even higher percentage of Muslim students than the average four-year institution in the United States.
By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 20, 2010

On a quick break between classes last week, Reef Al-Shabnan slipped into an empty room at Catholic University to start her daily prayers to Allah.

In one corner was a life-size painting of Jesus carrying the cross. In another, the portrait of a late priest and theologian looked on. And high above the room hung a small wooden crucifix.

This was not, Shabnan acknowledged, the ideal space for a Muslim to pray in. After her more than two years on campus, though, it has become routine and sacred in its own way. You can find Allah anywhere, the 19-year-old from Saudi Arabia said, even at the flagship university of the U.S. Catholic world. the rest

Egypt Attempts to Convict Christian to Justify Muslim Riots

Cairo: December 20, 2010
By Mary Abdelmassih AINA

The high profile criminal trial of 21-year-old Christian Copt Girgis Baroumi, accused of sexually assaulting a Muslim girl, is viewed by the Coptic community as an example of how the Egyptian government, using all its organs, including the Attorney General, Interior Minister and Parliament Speaker, has conspired to use him as a scapegoat to justify deadly Muslim assaults on Christians.

Girgis Baroumi, a traveling poultry vendor, is believed to have been framed by State Security (AINA 1-28-2010) in order to use the crime as a pretext for the 3-day rampage by Muslim mobs on Christians in Farshout in November 2009 (AINA 11-22-2009), and most importantly to depict the Christmas Eve Massacre of six Copts in Nag Hammadi in January 2010 as an honor crime rather than a sectarian one. the rest

Second 'Homosexuality is a Sin' Preacher Awarded Damages for Wrongful Arrest

Mon, Dec. 20 2010
By Brian Hutt
Christian Today Reporter

LONDON – Christian street preacher Dale Mcalpine is to receive more than $10,000 in damages after police in Cumbria, England, admitted wrongful arrest, unlawful imprisonment and a breach of his human rights.

Mcalpine, 42, was arrested in April by Cumbrian police in his home town of Workington after he mentioned that homosexuality was among the sins listed in the Bible. His comments were not made in his main public sermon but in response to a question about homosexuality posed to him by a passerby.

He was arrested by PC Craig Hynes for a “racially aggravated” offense under Section 5 of the Public Order Act and, after being detained at the station for more than seven hours, was charged with using “threatening, abusive or insulting” words “to cause harassment, alarm or distress.” The charges were later dropped. the rest

Chaplains Encouraged to Serve Boldly Despite DADT Repeal

Dec. 20 2010
By Stephanie Samue
Christian Post Reporter

Conservative groups say chaplains are likely to be the first victims of Saturday's repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

In the aftermath of the 65-31 Senate vote that did away with the 1993 ban on open homosexuality in the armed forces, religious legal defense group Alliance Defense Fund predicts that military chaplains will be the first to feel the effects of the repeal.

"The first official casualty of this hurried vote may well be the religious freedom of chaplains and service members," said ADF Litigation Counsel Daniel Blomberg in a statement.

He noted that chaplains may feel pressured to compromise their religious beliefs in light of the new legislation. the rest

The coming collapse in the state budgets


UK: Swine flu winter: 200 fight for life

Number of patients doubles in a week to put strain on intensive care units
By Sophie Borland
21st December 2010

Nearly 200 swine flu victims were fighting for their lives last night.

The number of patients in intensive care has doubled in a week and many of them are either elderly or pregnant. 14 have so far died.

Seventeen of the 190 are being kept alive by highly-specialised heart and lung machines – three times the usual number. the rest

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dr. Robert George: What is Marriage?

Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy
Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 245-287
Winter 2010

Abstract: In the article, we argue that as a moral reality, marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together, and renewed by acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction. We further argue that there are decisive principled as well as prudential reasons for the state to enshrine this understanding of marriage in its positive law, and to resist the call to recognize as marriages the sexual unions of same-sex partners.

Besides making this positive argument for our position and raising several objections to the view that same-sex unions should be recognized, we address what we consider the strongest philosophical objections to our view of the nature of marriage, as well as more pragmatic concerns about the point or consequences of implementing it as a policy.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Devotional: Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening...

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening
Into the house and gate of heaven,
To enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
Where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling,
But one equal light;
No noise nor silence, but one equal music;
No fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
No ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity;
In the habitations of thy glory and dominion,
World without end.
...John Donne image by Brian Snelson

Jesus Christ, superhero

December 19, 2010
The Gazette

Superman and Captain America. Moses and Jesus Christ.

What do they have in common?

“Superheroes and biblical figures both have one guy coming in and saving the day,” said Sergio Carriello, illustrator of The Action Bible, a comic book created by Colorado Springs Christian publishing company David C. Cooke.

“But the difference between The Action Bible and Captain America is that Captain America is fiction, but The Action Bible is based on fact,” Carriello told me.

Since its release a few months ago, The Action Bible has sold an impressive 60,000 copies, and Christmas gift buying this month is sure to add at least 20,000 sales. the rest

Get thee out of a nunnery, bishop tells sisters

Three nuns have been forced to leave their convent and hand over their habits as the row over defections from The Church of England to Rome becomes increasingly divisive
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones
Religious Affairs Correspondent
 19 Dec 2010

The nuns were asked to leave the Priory of Our Lady of Walsingham after revealing they planned to join the Roman Catholic Church.

The Rt Rev Peter Wheatley, the Bishop of Edmonton and Visitor to the house, told the nuns to leave the house they were sharing with four other, older, sisters.

Relations had become strained in the convent following the decision by the younger sisters to join the Ordinariate – the structure set up by Pope Benedict XVI to welcome disillusioned Anglicans into the Catholic fold.

The older nuns were upset by their announcement, which they felt divided the house and left them facing the task of running the community on their own. the rest

Lutheran church split widens over ordination of gays

19 December 2010
The split continues to widen in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over the ordination of gays who are in committed relationships.

According to The Gazette, the ELCA still remains strong, in that out of 10,000 churches in the U.S., only 291 have left as of 2009 to join other, more conservative Lutheran denominations.

However, while the number of those who have left ELCA remain small overall, what is significant is the speed at which groups which leave, manage to reorganize–and their tremendous rate of growth outside of ELCA, according to The Gazette.

Last August, defectors from ELCA formed the North American Lutheran Church, just one year after ELCA decided in a General Assembly to permit homosexuals in committed relationships to become ordained clergy, The Gazette said. the rest
What’s more, the speed of growth of NALC is unprecedented. When it was launched it had 18 churches in its group, including St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. Within four months, the number has more than tripled with a total of 70 churches, and 17 more undergoing the process to join, The Gazette reported.

Australia: Rome for breakaway Anglicans

Barney Zwartz
December 20, 2010

ABOUT 1000 Australians are expected to join a new Anglican wing of the Catholic Church by next June, the leader of the main group of dissident Anglicans said yesterday.

A committee was set up last week to oversee the process. For the first time, Anglicans planning to switch to Rome believe they will be able to take their church properties too, which has been a stumbling block.

The conservative Anglicans have been dismayed by women's ordination in the mainstream Australian church. Under the new arrangement, they will keep their clergy, liturgy and church structures - including appointing their own bishops - as a separate Anglican ''ordinariate'' inside the Roman church.

Catholics, mainstream Anglicans and members of the breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion set up a nine-member committee last week to oversee the transition to the ordinariate by June 12. the rest

Majority of teens live in 'rejection' families

Study warns of ill effects on society, economy
By Cheryl Wetzstein
The Washington Times
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More than half of American teens have grown up with parents who "rejected each other," which bodes ill for the nation's future leadership, productivity, wealth and well-being, says a new national report on American families.

Only 45 percent of teens, aged 15-17, have grown up from birth with their married, biological parents, says the new U.S. Index of Belonging and Rejection, released Wednesday by the Family Research Council (FRC).

These intact families are in the "belonging" category.

The other 55 percent of teens experienced some form of parental rejection in their young lives. They "have seen their mother and father walk away from each other," explained Patrick Fagan, director of the FRC's Marriage and Religion Research Institute. the rest

Lunar Eclipse: First to coincide with Winter Solstice in 372 years

The lunar eclipse early Tuesday morning will be the first total lunar eclipse to occur on the Winter solstice since 1638. The Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
By Joe Rao
 December 19, 2010

The upcoming Dec. 21 full moon — besides distinguishing itself from the others in 2010 by undergoing a total lunar eclipse — will also take place on the same date as the solstice (the winter solstice if you live north of the equator, and the summer solstice if you live to the south).

Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and marks the official beginning of winter. The sun is at its lowest in our sky because the North Pole of our tilted planet is pointing away from it.

So, how often does the December full moon coincide with the solstice? To answer this question, let's use Universal Time (UT), also sometimes referred to as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). We do this because in answering this question, it's important to define a specific time zone. the rest image