Saturday, June 23, 2012

Those who know nothing of the spiritual life...

Those who know nothing of the spiritual life declare that it is impossible to experience real peace and heavenly joy in this grief-stricken world. But those who have experience of the spiritual life know that just as one finds here and there in the midst of the ice fields of the polar regions flowing streams of hot water, so in the midst of this cold and sorrow-laden world there are to be found flowing in the hearts of believers restful streams of heavenly peace, for the hidden fire of the Holy Spirit glows within them. ...Sadhu Sundar Singh image

Church of the Holy Trinity, Syracuse: Installation of Fr. Brian E. Smith as rector.

Church of the Holy Trinity in Syracuse, NY is rejoicing in the installation of Fr. Brian E. Smith as their new rector on Friday evening, June 22, 2012. Bp. Julian Dobbs led the service with visiting clergy on hand to celebrate this occasion.

You can hear Bp. Dobbs'  sermon here. 

Waiting for the service to begin.

Bp. Julian Dobbs leads in prayer.

Liturgy of the Word.

Members of the congregation pray for Fr. Brian.

Holy Eucharist.
Visiting clergy.

Fr. Brian E. Smith and his lovely bride Bethany.
(Married one month ago!)

(Click on pictures to enlarge) Pictures by Raymond Dague.

Why is GLSEN Bullying My Community?

Aaron Sweeney is a youth minister in Illinois.
June 21, 2012

I can’t remember the last time my town’s been in the national news—in fact, maybe there hasn’t really been another time. I guess that’s why what’s going on now has taken so many of us by surprise.

I’m the youth minister at a church in Erie, Illinois—a town of about 1,500 people that represents a mixture of local business owners, farmers, teachers and factory workers and others.

We’ve never experienced anything like this—where for the last several weeks our town has been the target of a national pressure campaign launched by gay activists and liberal media. People in our town have been called insulting names by angry bloggers. They’ve gotten phone calls to their home and hate emails from people who don’t even live here.

So what was our town’s big crime—the one that suddenly put us on the map for hate speech and CNN coverage?

Well—we just dared to say no. the rest

So I’ve been asking myself why a well-funded, big-time outfit like GLSEN would find it worthwhile to use pressure-tactics against a 200-student elementary school in a rural area. And the best answer I’ve come up with so far is that they don’t like the precedent of anyone—even parents in smalltown America—saying no to them. I guess they really do think they know better than the majority of people raising their kids and elected community leaders.

Prominent atheist blogger converts to Catholicism

By Dan Merica
June 22nd, 2012
She went from atheist to Catholic in just over 1,000 words.

Leah Libresco, who’d been a prominent atheist blogger for the religion website Patheos, announced on her blog this week that after years of debating many “smart Christians,” she has decided to become one herself, and that she has begun the process of converting to Catholicism.

Libresco, who had long blogged under the banner “Unequally Yoked: A geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend,” said that at the heart of her decision were questions of morality and how one finds a moral compass.

“I had one thing that I was most certain of, which is that morality is something we have a duty to,” Libresco told CNN in an interview this week, a small cross dangling from her neck. “And it is external from us. And when push came to shove, that is the belief I wouldn’t let go of. And that is something I can’t prove.”

According to a Patheos post she wrote on Monday, entitled “This is my last post for the Patheos Atheist Portal,” she began to see parts of Christianity and Catholicism that fit her moral system. Though she now identifies as a Catholic, Libresco questions certain aspects of Catholicism, including the church’s positions on homosexuality, contraception and some aspects of religious liberty. the rest

World’s First Of Its Kind Surgery Saves Miami Girl’s Life

June 21, 2012

To see 20-month old Lyna Gonzalez, you would think she’s just like every other toddler at that age – vibrant and energetic.

“She’s perfectly normal, thank God,” said mother Tammy.

But it wasn’t always that way. During her pregnancy, Gonzalez’s doctors discovered a benign tumor the size of a tennis ball growing on her unborn baby’s mouth. Doctors told Tammy there was little chance her daughter would survive birth – and if she did, she would require an immediate tracheotomy in order to breath and have multiple surgeries thereafter. the rest

Pressure mounts to put off women bishops vote

A bishop last night called for an historic Church of England vote next month on ordaining women to the episcopacy to be put on hold amid growing acrimony over concessions to traditionalists.
By John Bingham
23 Jun 2012

The Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings, said a recent compromise to those who cannot accept the authority of a woman should be reconsidered.

His comments echo a call from representatives of parishioners in the Diocese of Salisbury who dramatically broke ranks this week in a special vote demanding bishops rethink the recent concessions.

The Church’s General Synod is due to take a final vote on women bishops when it meets in York next month, supposedly ending a tortuous 12-year process.

But senior figures are now bracing themselves for the prospect of the measure collapsing altogether because of the new row.

There is strong support in the Church of England for women bishops but sharp disagreement over the details of any special arrangements to accommodate those who are opposed. the rest

Friday, June 22, 2012

'Electronic cocaine': a new look at addiction to computers

By Damian Thompson
June 21st, 2012

"Electronic cocaine": I wish I'd thought of that. The phrase has been coined by Dr Peter Whybrow, a British-born psychiatrist who runs the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviour at UCLA, to describe how digital innovation is becoming ever smarter at exploiting our bodies' natural reward systems. Here's a passage from his interview with Mary Fischer for Pacific Standard:
“The computer is electronic cocaine for many people,” says Whybrow. “Our brains are wired for finding immediate reward. With technology, novelty is the reward. You essentially become addicted to novelty.”

We can’t stop because the brain has no built-in braking system. With most natural constraints gone, all we’ve got left is our own intelligence and the internal regulatory system in the frontal cortex, the most recent evolutionary addition to the brain. This “executive brain” regulates impulse control and reasoning. But, Whybrow notes, “despite our superior intelligence, we remain driven by our ancient desires.”

The most primitive part of our brain – the medulla and cerebellum – developed millennia ago when dinner tended to run or fly away. It cradles the roots of the ancient dopamine reward pathways. When an action has a good result, like snatching food before it escapes, or finding something new, dopamine neurotransmitters release chemicals that make us feel pleasure. And the more we get, the more we want. When these reward circuits are overloaded with near-continuous spikes in dopamine, our craving for reward – be it drugs, sex, food, or incoming texts – “becomes a hunger that has no bounds,” says Whybrow.
the rest image

Thursday, June 21, 2012

‘Get in line’ or ‘resign’ Admiral tells military chaplain

by Jean McCarthy
Wed Jun 20, 2012

 Although the U.S. Military fight and die to uphold freedom, high-level military chaplains report they are increasingly being denied freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. There is also alarm about the negative effects on troop morale over the undoing of the 237-years’ practice of providing traditional religious support for U.S. soldiers.

“We were promised that we would see no change - very little change,” says Col. Ron Crews, alluding to a two-star officer’s assurance that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal would not impede the ministry of military chaplains. That promise, he says, has not been kept.

Col. Crews, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, was speaking at a panel along with military chaplains and religious freedom activists during the 2012 National Religious Freedom Conference in Washington D.C on May 24.  the rest

More religious freedom complaints are piling up. But Shackelford said that his office can’t provide any help unless people are willing to take a stand and work through a litigation process. He ended his talk declaring, “We need to stand in a Christ-like manner, but whether we stand or not is not an option.”

Episcopal Diocese Wooing Breakaway Groton Church Back Into The Fold

U.S. Supreme Court Declined To Consider Fight Over Bishop Seabury Church Property
June 20, 2012

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this week not to hear the case of a conservative Episocopal parish in Groton that split from the larger church, Connecticut's Episcopal bishop said Wednesday that the diocese is trying to reconcile with the breakaway congregation.

The high court said Monday that it would not hear arguments about whether the Bishop Seabury Church in Groton should have to return property to the Episcopal diocese, which it left in 2007. The state Supreme Court ruled last year that the 136-year-old parish had to return the property — the 6.5-acre church site, the sanctuary and its contents.

Bishop Seabury Church was one of six parishes in Connecticut that split from the Episcopal Church of the United States after it ordained an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003 and elected a woman as presiding bishop in 2006. the rest
Gauss said five other area churches have offered his parish space if the congregation is forced to leave its building at 256 North Road in Groton. One neighboring church also has offered Seabury money if the parish needs financial support, he said.

Whatever Seabury decides to do, Gauss said, the decision would not be determined solely by one-on-one talks between him and Douglas. He said he would make the decision with his parishioners, just as he did when Seabury left the church five years ago.

Research Shows Growing Republican, Democratic 'God Gap'

Napp Nazworth
June 20, 2012

A new report by Pew Research Center shows more evidence of a growing religious divide between Republicans and Democrats.

For the last couple of decades, election exit polls have shown a partisan divide based upon religious participation. Those who attend religious services frequently have been more likely to vote Republican while those who attend religious services less frequently, or are nonreligious, have been more likely to vote for Democrats. This split is sometimes called the "God gap."

Pew Research Center finds further evidence for this growing partisan split in its values survey, conducted every five years.

Respondents were asked whether or not they doubt the existence of God. Republican answers have remained high and stable since the first values survey in 1987. Ninety-two percent of Republicans in 2012 said they never doubt the existence of God, which is about the same as it was in 1987 – 91 percent. the rest

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First gay-marriage suit hits Catholic institution

June 20, 2012

A lesbian couple from Westchester yesterday filed the first suit against a Catholic institution for refusing to recognize New York’s gay-marriage law.

The Manhattan federal court filing says the women — identified only as “Jane Roe” and “Jane Doe” — were wed Oct. 15, and that “Roe,” who’s worked at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers since 2007, later applied to add “Doe” to her medical-benefits coverage.

But the request was denied by both St. Joseph’s and its insurance administrator, Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, because hospital policy excludes same-sex spouses. the rest

UK's Top doctor: The NHS kills off 130,000 elderly patients every year

By Steve Doughty
19 June 2012

NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday.

Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly.

He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country.

It is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.

It can include withdrawal of treatment – including the provision of water and nourishment by tube – and on average brings a patient to death in 33 hours.

There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP. the rest
This determination in the LCP leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. The personal views of the physician or other medical team members of perceived quality of life or low likelihood of a good outcome are probably central in putting a patient on the LCP.’
Switzerland Welcomes Dr. Suicide Into Nursing Homes

Uganda: Anglican Bishops to Elect New Archbishop

By Henry Sekanjako
19 June 2012

Church of Uganda Bishops are converging at Lweza conference center in Lweza along Entebbe road for a week long retreat to elect a new Archbishop.

The New Archbishop will replace the outgoing Archbishop Church of Uganda the Right Rev. Henry Luke Orombi .

The Bishops started arriving at Lweza conference center last evening and are expected to start off their retreat today morning.

The retreat will be attended mainly by members of the House of Bishops which include Bishops from different dioceses.

Some of the Bishops expected to attend the retreat include, Dr. Steven Kazimba Mugalu Mbowa (Mitiyana diocese), Rev Stanley Ntagali (Masindi - Kitala diocese), Rev Joel Obetia (Madi and West Nile diocese) and the RT Rev, Henry Luke Orombi Archbishop church of Uganda. the rest

Bishop Seabury Congregation Must Relinquish Church To Episcopal Diocese

June 20, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case of a 136-year-old Connecticut parish that broke away from the Episcopal Church and tried to keep its property after the church consecrated its first openly gay bishop in 2003.

The high court's decision on Monday ended the dispute between the Bishop Seabury Church in Groton and the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. The parish was seeking a review of a Connecticut Supreme Court ruling last year in favor of the diocese, which argued that church rules prohibit congregations from walking away with church properties. the rest

Episcopal clergy convicted after N.Y. “Occupy” demonstration

By Sharon Sheridan
June 19, 2012

NEW YORK — A retired Episcopal bishop and a Harlem priest were among seven people convicted Monday (June 18) on charges of trespassing on property owned by one of the Episcopal Church’s wealthiest parishes at the height of the Occupy protests.

Bishop George Packard, who oversaw the military and federal ministries before he retired, and the Rev. Earl Kooperkamp of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem, were sentenced to four days of community service. They had faced up to 90 days in prison on the most serious charge, Packard’s lawyer, Gideon Oliver, told Episcopal News Service. the rest

Diocese of SC: Standing Committee Releases Statement Regarding General Convention

Declaration of the Standing Committee
The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina
June 15, 2012

1. As the Standing Committee of the sovereign Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, we view with dismay and great sadness what appears to be the inevitable outcome of the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, that is, the official approval of a rite for the blessing of same-gender unions. This is a defining moment in the life of the Episcopal Church, being the first formal adoption of doctrine, discipline and worship which are contrary to the unequivocal mandate of Holy Scripture, the historic Christian faith, Anglican doctrine, and the pronouncements of the four instruments of Anglican unity. Furthermore, the adoption of such a rite at General Convention contravenes the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the Book of Common Prayer, and in so doing reveals the bankruptcy of our own polity and institutional integrity.

2. Of greatest concern is not that a blessing of same-gender unions contravenes specific verses of Scripture, though that is unacceptable – of greatest concern is the theology which underlies this rite, set forth in the 82 page I Will Bless You document, [here] which patently redefines the Christian faith, subverting the doctrines of creation and baptism, the nature of sin and salvation, and the grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. We have compassion for those who struggle with and act upon same-gender attraction, and we urge equal treatment for all men and women in the church. Our Lord calls us all, equally, to repent of sin that we might receive forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, restoration to the Body of Christ, and transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. We hereby repudiate, denounce and reject any action of the Episcopal Church which purports to bless what our Lord clearly does not bless. Specifically, we declare any rite which purports to bless same-gender unions to be beyond the authority and jurisdiction of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and without force or effect.

5. In view of the persistent movement of the General Convention of this church away from orthodox Christianity, including its expected embrace of such a rite of same-sex blessings, we further affirm and assert our calling in this diocese to seek to “make Biblical Anglicans for a global age,” and we declare that we will not walk with General Convention down the road they are choosing. We will instead continue to partner with Anglican dioceses, provinces and other Anglican entities here and abroad to further the spread of the Good News of salvation for sinners through faith in Jesus Christ. Here

Monday, June 18, 2012

Shall I give you yet another reason why you should pray?

Shall I give you yet another reason why you should pray? I have preached my very heart out. I could not say any more than I have said. Will not your prayers accomplish that which my preaching fails to do? Is it not likely that the Church has been putting forth its preaching hand but not its praying hand? Oh dear friends! Let us agonize in prayer. ...CH Spurgeon image by Jesus Leon

Anglican Unscripted Episode 43

June 18, 2012

After a one week hiatus George and Kevin return. Allan Haley brings breaking news from the Supreme Court concerning TEC churches and the Dennis Canon. Your hosts talk about their adventures at the Anglican Church in North America's Assembly, including the topic everyone was 'not' talking about. David Ould brings news from Australia and England while his twin brother Peter is enjoying a vacation with is family at Eurodisney.

Normandy still honors American WWII pilot's sacrifice

June 6, 2012

Story/video-very moving!

Series of bombings hit Nigerian churches

A series of apparently coordinated bombings targeting churches in northern Nigeria yesterday killed at least 17 people and provoked reprisals against Muslims by mobs of angry Christians.
By Mike Pflanz, West Africa Correspondent
17 Jun 2012

Explosions hit churches in four cities in Kaduna state in the latest in a series of attacks on Sunday congregations in the majority Muslim north of the country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but Nigeria's al-Qaeda-linked Islamist terror group Boko Haram has carried out at least 10 similar strikes so far this year.

Authorities in Kaduna imposed a 24-hour curfew ordering everyone to stay indoors after gangs of young men blocked a major highway heading south out of the state capital and dragged Muslims from their cars.

There were unconfirmed reports that several were killed, and that the attacks were to revenge the bombings earlier in the day.

Four children playing outside a church in Zaria were among the first victims of yesterday's blasts, at the Evangelical GoodNews Church in the city's Sabon-Gari district. the rest

Nigerian Violence: AP, Reuters Won't Label Boko Haram a Muslim Terrorist Group

A.S. Haley: Supreme Court Denies Review of Church Property Cases

Monday, June 18, 2012

The list of orders from their June 14 conference is now online, and it shows that less than four of the Supreme Court's Justices were interested in reviewing the two petitions from parishes who lost their properties in the courts below. It takes a vote of at least four Justices to grant review, and the two cases (the Timberridge case from Georgia, No. 11-1101, and the Bishop Seabury case from Connecticut, No. 11-1139) are shown as having review denied.

The result is regrettable, because it means that the morass of State court decisions interpreting Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595 (1979) will remain unresolved, with some States allowing certain churches to bypass their legal requirements for the creation of a trust, and with other States requiring that all churches comply with their local trust laws. Thus the outcome of any church-parish dispute over property will continue to turn upon the State in which it arises: if the parish is in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York or Ohio, it will most likely lose its property; but if it is in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire or South Carolina, it will most likely keep its property. And if it is in Kentucky or Pennsylvania or Virginia, then the courts could hold that any national trust canon is ineffective to create a trust, but still find that a trust existed anyway.

Fortunately, the denial of review will have little or no bearing on the three pending property lawsuits involving entire dioceses which left the Church (Quincy, Fort Worth and San Joaquin). That is because the Church's Dennis Canon has no application to real or personal property owned by dioceses. Furthermore, the fact that the Supreme Court declines to review a lower court's decision is not a judgment on the merits -- it does not mean that the Court views that case as having been correctly decided. Its net effect, therefore, will be to leave the various States' results exactly as they are. the rest

The U.N.'s Internet Power Grab

Leaked documents show a real threat to the international flow of information.
June 17, 2012

It's easy to understand why countries like Russia, China and Iran would want to rewire the Internet, cutting off access to their citizens and undermining the idea of a World Wide Web. What's more surprising is that U.S. diplomats are letting authoritarian regimes hijack an obscure U.N. agency to undermine how the Internet works, including for Americans.

The failure by U.S. negotiators to stop attacks on the Internet became known only through documents leaked last week. They concern a U.N. agency known as the International Telecommunications Union. Founded in 1865 to regulate the telegraph, the body (now part of the U.N.) is planning a World Conference on International Telecommunications in December, when the 193 U.N. member countries, each of which has a single vote, could use the International Telecommunications Regulations to take control of the Internet. The U.N. process is mind-numbing, but as Vincent Cerf, one of the founders of the Web, recently told Congress, this U.N. involvement means "the open Internet has never been at a higher risk than it is now."

The process is secret, so it was hard to know what authoritarian governments were plotting or how the U.S. was responding. This column last month detailed some of the proposals, but other commentators doubted that any changes would be material. the rest

Is There a Woman's Right to Be Born?

June 14, 2012
By TR Clancy

Abortion proponents view a woman's "choice" as extending beyond herself even to disposal of the life of a born child who has survived a botched abortion. Obviously, a live infant can't be discounted any longer as just part of "a woman's body," nor be blamed, post partum, for being a threat to her life in childbirth. None of that matters. No circumstance can be allowed to nullify the woman's decree that the child be unmade. Then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama followed this logic exactly when he opposed a state bill that required life-saving measures for such children by saying that "the decision concerning a baby should be left to a woman." His objection to the bill was that it would "burden the original decision of the woman [to abort her child]." Given the choice between a baby's life and a woman's decision, Senator Obama thinks it's no choice at all.

The fact is, if abortion is only a solution to a problem, then aborting little girls in favor of male babies is the reductio ad absurdum of that logic. As long as pro-abortionists were able to convince large majorities that millions of mothers needed unrestricted abortion to save their own lives or to erase the memories of savage sexual assaults, pro-lifers were fighting an uphill battle, "forcing their morality" on these unfortunate victims of circumstance.

But if it starts to get widely known that mothers are killing off their female offspring in significant numbers just because their regressive cultures place more value on boys than girls, then pro-abortion advocates will find themselves goosed against the pointy horns of their own hopeless dilemma. A problem is a problem, after all, and abortion fixes all. The pro-abortion left isn't going to be able to straddle contradictory public positions that the government must be allowed to decide what constitutes a legitimate reason for a woman to be terminated from her job, but can't be allowed to decide what constitutes a legitimate reason for an (unborn) woman to be terminated from her existence. the rest

C of E — Church of Everybody?

June 17, 2012
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

The article is interesting and well written. It explains the tensions that have arisen due to the homosexualist’s pressure for “equality.” The core of the argument is that up until now the way the state defined marriage was the same as the Christian definition. Marriage is for life and between one man and one woman. The demand for homosexuals to marry in church means that the state is imposing on the church a new definition of marriage. The church may do this for so called civil partnerships, but for the state to impose a new definition of a basic belief on a religious group is outrageous. What the British government doesn’t seem to understand is that marriage for Christians–even for Protestants with a watered down view of sacraments–is not only a civil agreement, but also a theological and spiritual issue.

For Christians, marriage is linked with a Christian anthropology, Christian ecclesiology and Christian cosmology and theology. What we do with our bodies affects what happens to our souls. For any state to barge in and impose a new definition of marriage is as outrageous an infringement on religious freedom as it would be, for example, to make Christian ministers endorse and bless abortion and say that abortion was not only a civil right, but a religious responsibility. British Christians are right to stand their ground. They do not wish to impose heterosexuality on those who make other moral choices, but they also insist that homosexuality should not be imposed on them.

For any other church the decision is clear. We are separate from the state. We will not be forced to conform to the civil rules. If a law violates our conscience then we must violate the law. For members of the Church of England it is not so easy. Their privilege, their wealth, their property, their position in society is all bound up with being a state church. Disestablishment of the Church of England would be painful, but there seem to be few options as the secular state advances it’s reach.

What complicates the matter further is that there are plenty of members of the Church of England who have no problem with homosexual marriage. Opposition to the innovation is by no means universal, and it may be that the Church of England submits to the law of the land and embraces the innovation by arguing for “equality.” the rest

Catholic hospitals reject Obama’s birth control compromise

David Gibson
June 15, 2012

In an unexpected blow to the Obama administration and a major boon for America's Catholic bishops, the influential Catholic Health Association on Friday (June 15) rejected White House proposals aimed at easing faith-based objections to the contraception mandate.

“The more we learn, the more it appears that the … approaches for both insured and self-insured plans would be unduly cumbersome and would be unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other Church ministries,” Sister Carol Keehan and leaders of the CHA said in a five-page response to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Keehan, a crucial ally of the Obama administration in passing health care reform in 2009, had initially sounded a positive note about the administration's proposals in February and again in March that sought to address a wave of bad publicity by accommodating religious concerns about the mandate.

The mandate requires that all employee health insurance plans must provide no-cost birth control coverage to employees, and it grants what many consider an unacceptably narrow exemption for religious groups. the rest

The Tithe in Old Palestine

June 17, 2012

I recently came across a fascinating book entitled The Handbook of Palestine by H.C. Luke and E. Keith-Roach. Produced in 1922 by the British Mandate government which had just taken control of the country after a long Ottoman Turkish rule, it’s a fascinating snapshot of the Holy Land beginning its transition to the State of Israel and the other claimants of the land. I plan to reproduce some of the more interesting parts of the book on a sporadic basis.

This post takes a look at the tithe, a subject of long-running interest on this blog. It’s interesting that the tithe, originally a Hebrew institution, was taken over so readily by the Muslims; such will come as a shock to many Christians, who regard the tithe as a Christian institution. It’s also interesting how the British administration became involved so quickly in the collection of taxes for Muslim religious endowments.

Moslem religious endowments (waqfs), that is, property appropriated or dedicated (by a document called a waqfiah) to charitable uses and the service of God… the rest

Southern Baptists Set for a Notable First

June 17, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — The Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination born in 1845 in defense of slavery and a spiritual home to white supremacists for much of the 20th century, is poised to elect its first African-American president.

The Rev. Fred Luter Jr., 55, a New Orleans pastor who got his start preaching on the streets of the Lower Ninth Ward, is expected to be the only candidate for office on Tuesday when Southern Baptists gather here for their annual meeting.

“That I can be president of the largest Protestant denomination in the country is unbelievable,” Mr. Luter said in an interview last week after one of his trademark cadenced sermons that drew “amens” from the predominantly black congregation.

His anticipated victory is being hailed as a milestone by white and black pastors alike in the convention, a grouping of 51,000 congregations with 16 million members, about a million of them black. Acutely aware of the nation’s changing demographics, the fiercely evangelical Southern Baptists have been working to draw in more black, Hispanic and Asian members, often by starting new churches in ethnically diverse urban areas in the country. the rest

Southern Baptists poised to elect New Orleans pastor first black president

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Faith and our Fathers

June 15, 2012
Archbishop José H. Gomez

This Sunday is Father’s Day, when again we celebrate the beautiful reality of fatherhood and the importance of our fathers and grandfathers in our lives. But we also realize that we’re living increasingly in a “fatherless” culture where many fathers are absent from their children’s lives. Almost half of all American children are now born to mothers who are not married to the child’s father. More than a third of our children aren’t being raised in the same home as their fathers. These trends are part of a broader skepticism in our society toward traditional ideas of the family and the human person.

There are strong forces at work that would have us reimagine and reengineer the basic meaning of human nature. They want us to believe that whether one is a man or a woman is just an “accident” of birth, and not intrinsic to who we really are. They want us to believe that motherhood, fatherhood, and marriage aren’t natural realities, but just arbitrary “social constructs.”

This drift in our society has deep pastoral implications for our religious communities and for the Church’s duty to evangelize, because the Gospel that we are called to live and proclaim is the good news of God’s “family plan”—for history and for each one of our lives.

There is a reason that the history told in Scripture begins with the marriage of the first man and woman and ends with the wedding of Jesus and his bride, the Church, at the end of time. In salvation history, the human family proves time and again to be the vessel through which God’s blessings are poured out on creation. It begins with his promise to make Abraham the father of a multitude of nations and to bless all the families of the earth by his descendants. Indeed, Jesus was born as a “son of Abraham” in a mother’s womb and nurtured in a holy family, with a mother and a father. And the good news that Jesus came to announce is that God is our Father who loves us as his sons and daughters and who desires us to live as brothers and sisters.

For Christians, the crisis of fatherhood and the family makes it much harder for the Church to tell the world this good news and to lead people to God our Father. How are people supposed to understand these beautiful realities if they’ve never had any contact with their fathers or if they’ve never known any experience of traditional family life? I’m more convinced than ever that our mission to proclaim the Gospel requires the Church to work to restore a “family culture” in our society. the rest image by Geraint Rowland