Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Spirit filled souls are ablaze for God. They love with a love that glows. They serve with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love is perfected in the fire of God." ... Samuel Chadwick photo

Network Bishops Reject ‘Primatial Vicar’ Offer; Recommit to Mediated Solution

Speaking on behalf of the Anglican Communion Network of which he is moderator, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, said he was heartened by the “primatial vicar” proposal that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced earlier today and reiterated his commitment to find a mediated solution. Seven Network dioceses, including Pittsburgh, have requested alternate primatial oversight (APO).

“We will study this
proposal,” Bishop Duncan said in a prepared statement. “However at first glance what is proposed is neither primatial, nor oversight, nor is it an alternative to the spiritual authority of one who, by both teaching and action, has expressly rejected the Windsor Report and its recommendations.”

The response, drafted at a Nov. 27
meeting in New York, provides for the appointment by the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, of a primatial vicar as the Presiding Bishop’s designated pastor to bishops and dioceses that have requested such oversight. The primatial vicar, in episcopal orders, could preside at consecrations of bishops in those dioceses.

Bishop Duncan noted that the new proposal appeared to be less than what was offered and rejected at a meeting in New York in September. Neither the new proposal nor the one in September adequately addressed the needs of Network parishes located in non-Network dioceses, according to Bishop Duncan.

“We really do want to talk about all the issues,” he said. “We want to have this conversation and find a way forward that allows all of us to get on with our mission.”

The Living Church

Episcopal leaders make concessions to conservatives
Associated Press

NEW YORK - Episcopal leaders offered conservatives more independence from the national church Thursday, just ahead of a California diocese's vote on whether it should split from the denomination.

A "yes" vote by the Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, would put it on the brink of leaving The Episcopal Church in its feud over the Bible and sexuality. Church leadership supports same-gender relationships and installed an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire three years ago. However, traditionalists believe gay partnerships violate Scripture.

The church's new proposal would create a leadership position called a "primatial vicar."
The vicar would work with conservative dioceses, performing functions that normally fall to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, including consecrating local bishops.

A representative of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion, would have a role on a panel of church leaders supervising the appointee. However, the vicar would ultimately be under the authority of Jefferts Schori. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. wing of the 77 million-member Anglican family.
the rest

More Muslims Gaining Political Ground
Although Md. Delegate-Elect Doesn't Trumpet Faith, His Win Signals New Surge
Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 30, 2006

Since Gaithersburg software engineer Saqib Ali was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates this month, he has been flooded with calls and e-mails from across the country asking: How'd you do it?

The calls come from American Muslims like Ali, who, longtime political watchers and Muslim activists in the area say, is the first Muslim elected to a statewide -- or districtwide -- office in Maryland, Virginia or the District.

Although the 31-year-old made little of his faith during the campaign -- in fact, he bucked those who said he should put it on his campaign literature -- he is part of a concerted march of Muslims into civic and political life. His campaign was part of a push that began after Sept. 11, 2001, with worries about civil liberties and immigration policy and has blossomed this year.

Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison became the first Muslim to be elected to Congress. In the D.C. area, eight Muslims ran for office in Maryland this year, significantly more than in previous years, although only Ali won. And initial polling data and anecdotal evidence suggest that significantly more Muslims in Virginia registered and voted this month than in previous elections.
the rest

UK: Sharia Law is spreading as authority wanes

Six Christians Murdered by Muslim Mob in Ethiopia

Abortion Foes Look To the Big Screen
By Robert D. Novak
Thursday, November 30, 2006

An invited audience that included Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez gathered at National Geographic Society's auditorium Monday night for a screening of "Bella," an independently produced feature film. No mere movie, it offers hope for the beleaguered antiabortion movement to reverse the political tide running against it.

This was the eighth such screening in Washington. Monday night's audience reflected the reaction in more than 100 showings nationwide: an emotional experience for a stunning exhibition of cinema art that unexpectedly won a Toronto International Film Festival award. It is no propaganda film but a dramatic depiction of choices facing an unmarried pregnant woman.

"Bella," unknown to the general public, has generated excitement and anticipation in conservative Catholic and other antiabortion circles. The problem is getting the film in theaters around the country for its public premiere early next April. That is never easy for an independent film with no box-office names, but the problems are magnified when its message runs counter to the social mores of Hollywood.
the rest

Truro May Leave Episcopal Church
City's Episcopal church may split from U.S. Episcopal Church, homosexuality a major issue.
By Ari Cetron
November 29, 2006

Truro Episcopal Church, an institution in the City of Fairfax with roots dating to colonial times may soon split off from the Episcopal Church of the United States.

The church's vestry — the governing board of the church — voted to recommend the split last month. The congregation as a whole will vote on Dec. 10 to decide their fate. If Truro decides to make the split, it will be the first church in Virginia to do so.

The split, also being considered by The Falls Church in Falls Church, is the culmination of 40 years worth of theological differences, said Jim Pierobon. While a parishioner at the Falls Church, Pierobon is acting as spokesman for both churches.

The issue came to a head in 2003 when the church confirmed an openly gay bishop. "Among the presenting issues was Gene Robinson's consecration in New Hampshire," Pierobon said.The vestries of the two churches decided that they could not accept the liberalization in the American church. They wish to adhere to what they say is a strict interpretation of the Bible which forbids homosexuality.

While the church may vote to split off, they hope to remain within the worldwide Anglican Church under the auspices of its Nigerian branch, Pierobon said. "Churches, especially in Africa, are very conservative and even orthodox in their views of scripture and the Bible," he said.
the rest

Episcopal bishop hopefuls to face faithful
Herald Staff Writer
Thu, Nov. 30, 2006

MANATEE - On Friday, Episcopalians across the region will have their only chance to question candidates hoping to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Florida.

The final slate of candidates is down to seven, including four from the diocese, said Jim DeLa, a diocese spokesman. A diocese search committee picked three candidates from outside the area. Four others nominated by petition have local roots.

A new bishop will be elected Dec. 9 at St. Peter's Cathedral in downtown St. Petersburg.

Current Bishop John Lipscomb, who wants to eventually retire, has the option to work with his coadjutor/assistant until May 2010, DeLa said.
the rest

Bishop Duncan: Rift matter of faithfulness
The leader of the Episcopal reform movement meets with Florida Anglicans.
By JEFF BRUMLEY, The Times-Union

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The leader of a national movement to reform or break away from the Episcopal Church was in Jacksonville Wednesday for a meeting of Florida Anglicans.

The denomination is in the midst of a rift caused in part by the 2003 ordination of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire, which resulted in the departure of parishes and dioceses across the country - including some or all of 16 North Florida congregations.

Bishop Robert Duncan, 58, of Pittsburgh, is the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion Network, an association of current and former Episcopalians who believe the church has rejected biblical authority. He spoke on everything from the state of the Episcopal Church to local legal disputes over church property to what he termed the "hardened" hearts of those he is battling.


Bishops develop proposal responding to 'Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury'
Thursday, November 30, 2006

[Episcopal News Service/Anglican Communion News Servic] A group of bishops, including Presiding Bishop
Katharine Jefferts Schori, has developed a proposal responding to "An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury" addressing what other petitioning bishops and dioceses have termed "alternative primatial oversight" or "alternative primatial relationship." Full texts of the group's response and accompanying statement follow here.

A Response to "An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury"

Some bishops and dioceses of the Episcopal Church have requested that the
Archbishop of Canterbury provide what they have variously called "alternative primatial oversight" or an "alternative primatial relationship." In consultation with the Presiding Bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury proposed that a number of bishops from the Episcopal Church meet to explore a way forward. A first meeting took place in September, and a second meeting in November developed the following proposal that seeks to address the concerns of those parishes and dioceses which for serious theological reasons feel a need for space, and to encourage them to remain within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

1. Taking seriously the concerns of the petitioning bishops and dioceses, the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, will appoint a Primatial Vicar in episcopal orders to serve as the Presiding Bishop’s designated pastor in such dioceses. The Primatial Vicar could preside at consecrations of bishops in these dioceses. The Primatial Vicar could also serve the dioceses involved on any other appropriate matters either at the initiative of the Presiding Bishop or at the request of the petitioning dioceses.
the rest

The Living Church: Bishops Propose Primatial Vicar for Petitioning Dioceses

A group of bishops, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, has developed a proposal responding to requests articulated in "An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury" regarding an alternate primatial relationship for petitioning dioceses. The proposal has been submitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the bishops of the petitioning dioceses. the rest

Bishop Schofield Responds to Bishop Schori’s Letter of November 20th
November 28, 2006

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori
The Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Ave.
New York, NY 10017

Dear Bishop Schori:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and only Savior Jesus Christ.

I am in receipt of your letter to me and wish to make clear from the outset that I have always remained faithful to my vows as an ordained bishop in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. At my consecration, I vowed to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church of God.” I was charged by my chief consecrator to “Feed the flock of Christ committed to [my] charge, guard and defend them in his truth, and be a faithful steward of his holy Word and Sacraments.” I carry out my vow by defending and propagating “the historic Faith and Order” which The Episcopal Church commits to upholding in the preamble of its own Constitution.

The rest at titusonenine

Ancient Greek artefact was an 'astronomical computer'
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 30 November 2006

An astronomical instrument built by the Ancient Greeks in the 2nd century BC has turned out to be a complex computer for calculating the relative position of the sun, the moon and the planets.

Scientists studied the internal workings of the machine by using a sophisticated medical scanner. They concluded it was at least 1,000 years ahead of its time.

The Antikythera Mechanism was rescued from a Roman shipwreck at the turn of the last century but its precise function was little understood because it was broken into 82 pieces.

Made of bronze and wood, the device was evidently an instrument of some sort because it used a complicated set of gears to move a series of concentric wheels and pointers that appeared to predict movements of astronomical objects. But scientists were surprised to find it was in fact a sophisticated analogue computer that acted as a long-term calendar for predicting lunar and solar eclipses and planetary movements.
the rest

33,000 Sought for Radiation Testing in Ex-Spy Death Probe
Thursday, November 30, 2006

LONDON — As many as 33,000 passengers on flights that traveled between London and Moscow — including those who flew on a Russian air carrier — are being sought for radiation testing as the fallout from the poisoned spy scandal spreads.

Traces of radiation have been found at a dozen sites in Britain and five jets were being investigated for possible contamination as authorities widened their investigation into the poisoning of a former Russian spy, the country's top law enforcement official told Parliament on Thursday.
the rest

UN sends antisemtic Anglican to 'investigate' IDF action
Source: The Jerusalem Post
November 30, 2006

The United Nations has commissioned an openly anti-Israel church cleric to head a "fact-finding" mission to the Gaza Strip.

South Africa Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a staunch proponent of Liberation Theology with a record of criticising Israel and championing the Arab effort to rob the Jews of their land.
He insists that Israel practises apartheid policies, the racist system of government in South Africa that Tutu publicly resisted and ultimately saw fall.

Tutu's destination in Gaza is the Kassam rocket-launching center of Beit Hanoun, a terrorism snake pit which Israel has repeatedly been forced to act against in its efforts to protect Jews from the Arab attacks.
the rest

Feast of Saint Andrew
November 30

Matthew 4:18-22
As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your Holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. BCP

Happy feastday!
St. Andrew's in the Valley, Syracuse NY

Lord, we ask for your blessing and mercy on the faithful people of St. Andrew's. Fill us with the power of Your Holy Spirit, with all grace and mercy, with wisdom, understanding and discernment for the uncertain days ahead. We bless those who persecute us and ask that their hearts be turned toward You. Pour into our hearts a mighty zeal to spread the good news of Your Gospel.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. ...CS Lewis photo

Pope comes through most dangerous day
Richard Owen in Ephesus
November 30, 2006

Ankara and the Vatican breathed a joint sigh of relief yesterday as the Pope arrived in Istanbul for the last leg of his four-day trip after holding a Mass at a Marian shrine on a hillside at Ephesus — the only open air event of the journey.

The Pope honoured a priest murdered in Turkey, and offered encouragement to the Catholic minority in a country where a number of priests have been attacked.
the rest

Formal Complaint Filed Against Milwaukee Bishop

The ecclesiastical trial against the Rev. Martha Ann Englert, rector of Grace Church, Madison, Wis., is scheduled to resume Saturday at Good Shepherd Church, Sun Prairie, Wis. Ms. Englert is accused of making inappropriate remarks and disclosures about her parishioners.

A formal complaint also has been filed against the Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller, Bishop of Milwaukee. The complainants allege that Bishop Miller mishandled the formal complaint against Ms. Englert and prejudiced the diocesan review committee against her.

The complaint against the bishop appears to have met the number of signatories stipulated by the Canons of the General Convention. Notarized signatures were received from 14 lay Episcopalians and two clergy in June and the complaint was filed with Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold. The Presiding Bishop and others involved in the ecclesiastical process are prevented canonically from commenting publicly on any aspect of a complaint until after a decision on whether to go to trial has been reached by the review committee. In some cases this can be more than 18 months after the complaint is filed.

the rest at The Living Church

Christian Magistrate Forced To Resign For Refusing to Place Children In Gay Homes
Says to do so would go against his religious belief that homosexuality is immoral
By Meg Jalsevac
BRITAIN, November 28, 2006

( – Andrew McClintock, an 18 year veteran in magistrate court on the South Yorkshire Bench, is suing the British Department for Constitutional Affairs for discrimination against his religious beliefs. McClintock says that he had no option but to resign when his superiors told him that he would not be permitted to refuse to place children in adoptive homes with homosexual parents. McClintock says to do so would directly contradict his Christian beliefs that homosexuality is immoral.

The Civil Partnerships Act was passed in Britain in 2005 and granted legal recognition to same-sex unions. The British government is currently debating instituting Sexual Orientation Regulations which would prevent homosexuals from being discriminated against in the "provision of goods and services". Among other things, the suggested regulations could require sex education classes in schools to teach heterosexual and homosexual material equally.
the rest

New York Times Caught in Abortion-Promoting Whopper - Infanticide Portrayed as Abortion
By John-Henry Westen
November 27, 2006

( - On April 9, New York Times reporter Jack Hitt produced what may be called a 'hit piece' against the pro-life movement in El Salvador. The piece, laden with scare tactics, culminates in his tale of woe of a woman who he says had an illegal abortion when she was 18 weeks pregnant and was sentenced to thirty years in prison. The only problem with the story is that the woman was found guilty of strangling her full-term baby shortly after her birth.

Writing in an editorial in one of the largest papers in El Salvador, Julia Cardenal, who was interviewed for the New York Times Hitt piece, excoriates the Times for false reporting. Referring to Hitt, Cardenal asks what the intention was of the NYT piece. "To cause indignation in the United States so that they will pressure us to legalize abortion?," she asks rhetorically.

Hitt described his visit to Carmen Climaco in prison. "I was there to see Carmen Climaco. She is now 26 years old, four years into her 30-year sentence," wrote Hitt. The New York Times article concludes, "She'd had a clandestine abortion at 18 weeks, not all that different from D.C.'s, something defined as absolutely legal in the United States. It's just that she'd had an abortion in El Salvador."
the rest

Three Controversial Church Leaders Executed Secretly in China

MIDLAND, Texas, Nov. 29 /
Christian Newswire/ -- China Aid Association learned that three controversial church leaders were executed secretly sometime last week.

According to Mr. Li Maoxing's wife, she was asked by the Intermediate Court of Shuangyashan City, Heilongjiang province at 2:30pm on November 28 (Beijing time) to collect her husband's ashes at the court as soon as possible. According to attorney Li Heping who is the defense lawyer for Mr. Xu Shuangfu, the founder of the Three Grade Servant church group, Mr. Xu, Mr. Li Maoxing and Mr. Wang Jun were already executed secretly sometime last week. Neither of their attorneys nor any of their relatives was informed in advance about the execution. The Defense team for the three executed argued that there is no evidence to prove Xu and the other two church leaders were directly involved or took part in organizing and abetting the murder of the members of the Eastern Lightening religious group.

Attorney Li Heping told CAA that he was deeply disturbed by the secret arbitrary execution without even notifying the family members of the executed in advance. CAA confirms that so far 15 individual believers and leaders had been executed in related to this case.
the rest

The Nativity Story Turned Down at US Festival
The city of Chicago in the US is not allowing The Nativity Story to be presented at a major public Christmas festival.
by Kevin Donovan
Posted: Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The city of Chicago in the US is not allowing The Nativity Story to be presented at a major public Christmas festival.

Officials have asked organisers of the German Christkindlmarket to reconsider using New Line Cinema, the maker of movie The Nativity Story, as a sponsor because it is worried ads for its film might offend non-Christians. The film hit the headlines at the weekend when it became the first movie to premiere at The Vatican.

New Line Cinema had planned to play a loop of the new film on televisions at the event before they were dropped. The decision has left the studio and a prominent Christian group disappointed.

But city officials defended themselves, saying they were only trying to be fair.
the rest

The New Atheism?
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Christian Post Guest Columnist
Sat, Nov. 25 2006

2006 has been a big year for atheism. The release of several major books – all widely touted in the media – has put atheism on the front lines of current cultural conversation. Books such as Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation are selling by the thousands and prompting hours of conversation on college campuses and in the media.

Now, WIRED magazine comes out with a cover story on atheism for its November 2006 issue. In "The New Atheism," WIRED contributing editor Gary Wolf explains that this newly assertive form of atheism declares a very simple message: "No heaven. No hell. Just science.

"WIRED is itself a cultural symbol for the growing centrality of technology in our lives. On the other hand, the magazine is not simply a celebration of emerging technologies nor a catalogue of soon-to-be-released marvels. Instead, the magazine consistently offers significant intellectual content and it takes on many of the most controversial issues of the times. Considering the relatively young readership of the magazine, the decision to put atheism on the front cover indicates something of where they think the society is headed – at least in interest.
the rest

Media No Substitute for Personal Evangelism, Says Pentecostal Leader
Lillian Kwon
Christian Post Reporter
Wed, Nov. 29 2006 09:32 AM ET

The Assemblies of God just came out of a milestone campaign in New York City that drew an unexpected large response. In the end, the Pentecostal group was left with only a few extra gospel booklets and an awareness of the gripping human need in society and the power of prayer.

Despite flashy ad spots of "God Gives Hope" running on Times Square's News Astrovision Screen, volunteers quickly found no substitute for personal evangelism.

"I just quickly was convinced that we had to have people on the ground, ministering on the ground to make that electronic media effective," said Scott Temple, director of Intercultural Ministries for the Assemblies of God.

Nearly 100,000 18-page booklets were distributed on the grounds throughout the two-week outreach, which ended Sunday. The Assemblies of God had only anticipated passing out 20,000. Hundreds of students, missionaries and local churchgoers spanned the populated city as hundreds more stood by around the clock at satellite prayer centers across the nation.
the rest

Anglican bishop threatens to close youth clubs in protest at gay rights

A senior Church of England bishop have warned that Anglican youth clubs, welfare projects and charities may close because of new gay rights laws.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, said that the Church of England's charities would be "affected" by the rules, which will force them to give equal treatment to homosexuals.
the rest

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

There is one thing that keeps many from zealously improving their lives, that is, dread of the difficulty, the toil of battle. Certainly they who try bravely to overcome the most difficult and unpleasant obstacles far outstrip others in the pursuit of virtue. A person makes the most progress and merits the most grace precisely in those matters wherein he gains the greatest victories over self and most mortifies his will. True, each one has his own difficulties to meet and conquer, but a diligent and sincere person will make greater progress even though he have more passions than one who is more even-tempered but less concerned about virtue. ...Thomas a Kempis art

Open Letter Attacks Requests for Alternative Primatial Oversight
The Living Church

November 28, 2006

An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Regarding requests for “alternative primatial oversight”

Dear Archbishop Williams:

We write as members of The Episcopal Church to express our deep concern about the requests for “alternative primatial oversight” that have come from eight of our dioceses since the 2006 General Convention. Such a request is unprecedented, and we believe that granting any of these requests would pose a grave danger to the Anglican Communion.

An important aspect of our Anglican identity is our comprehensiveness as a reformed and catholic church in which our unity is expressed in common prayer rather than adherence to a formal confession of faith other than the Creeds. Historically, Anglicans have been willing to live together with a wide spectrum of theological perspectives. As you remind us in your June 2006 statement “The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today,” our distinctive Anglican inheritance includes “a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly.” Drawing on these three components together, we are rooted in Christ, and our focus in Christ enables us to live with diverse and even at times conflicting points of view. Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane has recently commented: “It is because Jesus Christ, second person of the Trinity made flesh, is our goal, our end, our telos, the central focus and direction of our lives, that Anglicanism has found through the ages that we can afford to live with messiness, ambiguity and anomaly at the edges.”

Those seeking “alternative primatial oversight” are in effect asking to walk away from the messiness and ambiguity of our current disputes about gays and lesbians in the church. In so doing, they give to these questions a doctrinal weight not in keeping with historic Anglican understandings. Allowing dioceses to reject the oversight of the duly selected primate of The Episcopal Church because of disagreements about this matter would open the door for others, here and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, to reject pastoral and sacramental leadership on the basis of non-essential matters. This would lead to fragmentation of the Anglican Communion rather than deeper unity in Christ.

the rest of the letter and signatures

Major Christian Leaders Are Widely Unknown, Even Among Christians
November 27, 2006

(Ventura, CA) – A new survey conducted by The Barna Group found that the most positive feelings Americans had toward 16 public figures, including politicians, entertainers and ministers, were awarded to actor Denzel Washington. The least favorable image was associated with singer Britney Spears. The range of opinions was significant: 85% had a favorable view of Mr. Washington and just 2% held a negative view of him. In contrast, 34% had a positive view of Ms. Spears but 54% had a negative opinion of her.

The survey discovered several unexpected patterns in people’s reactions to the 16 public figures assessed. Among those insights is the comparative lack of awareness of some of the nation’s leading Christian ministers and the fact that bestselling authors do not generate high levels of public awareness.
the rest

Pope defuses tensions on visit to Muslim Turkey
Tue Nov 28, 2006
By Philip Pullella and Selcuk Gokoluk

ANKARA (Reuters) - Pope Benedict told Turkey on Tuesday he backed its bid to join the European Union and believed Islam was a religion of peace, hoping to soothe rows overshadowing a delicate visit to the mainly Muslim country.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan hailed the comments, which he said Benedict made to him in their private talk at the airport, and Turkish commentators said they changed the tone of a visit clouded by disputes over the Pope's view of Islam.

Asked about Turkey's EU entry bid, which Benedict opposed before his 2005 election as Pope, spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Vatican took no political stand but supported Turkey's entry "on the basis of common values and principles."
the rest

US gets first free-to-air gay channel
Tuesday, November 28 2006
James Welsh,
International Editor

WGAY-TV, America's first free-to-air terrestrial TV station aimed at LGBT audiences, will launch in Key West, Florida at midnight on January 1, 2007.

The station plans to expand nationally on cable, and will be carried on cable in Key West from launch."

Our goal is to offer a variety of free programming both online and through local cable affiliates that will appeal to the diverse gay and lesbian population," said Jason Sherwood, the station's co-founder and general manager.
the rest

Don't Sit Up Straight, It's Bad For Your Back
28 Nov 2006

It seems that sitting up straight, something many of us are taught from a very early age, is not good for your back, say researchers from Scotland and Canada. They found that sitting up straight strains your back unnecessarily. Ideally, you should lean slightly back, at an angle of about 135 degrees, they say.

The researchers, at Woodend Hospital, Aberdeen, Scotland, used a novel form of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) on 22 healthy volunteers to identify which positions are best, and which are worst, for our backs. The Positional MRI Machine allows the patient to move around during the examination.
the rest

The American Jesus
World Magazine Blog

Here's a fascinating -- and convicting -- essay on the response to American Christianity of atheistic Chinese students studying in the U.S.. It's posted by Michael Spencer, a blogger who goes by the handle "Internet Monk" and says he is "deconstructing and moving past my evangelicalism; rediscovering what it means to be vitally connected to Jesus." Here's a small portion of Spencer's long-but-worth-reading post:

I doubt [these Chinese students] will become Christians because they are seeing American Christianity, and it’s far more American than Christian. They’ve helped me to see my own cultural religion, and it’s been a disturbing revelation.

When they attend chapel, they frequently hear moralistic preaching. Their own Confucian and Maoist culture gives them morals and moralism, and produces a far more moral person than their typical American peer. They hear sermons on being a good person, staying off drugs, not having sex and staying in school. They were doing all this when they came here and will do it when they leave.

They see American Christians without a Bible most of the time. We have few spiritual disciplines and are hungry and thirsty for the things our culture values more than the gifts and callings of Christ. They hear us talk about Jesus, but the Jesus we talk about is not compelling enough to cause us to live truly sacrificial or revolutionary American Christians they simply see another American, with a slightly different set of consumer interests. Same American. Different t-shirt slogan

Full essay: Internet Monk: Do Chinese Students Need An American Jesus?

Reasons to clarify property title apart from wanting to leave PCUSA
By Lloyd J. Lunceford
Monday, November 27, 2006

For many months I have read numerous letters to the editor offering suggestions to churches that may be considering leaving the PCUSA or churches concerned about retaining or clarifying ownership and use of local church property. Many of the suggestions have been very insightful. Some of the suggestions, however, though well-intentioned, may not accomplish their stated purposes. Indeed, some of the suggestions could have unintended, adverse consequences. As legal counsel advising several churches around the country, and as one who recently negotiated a court judgment to which both local church and presbytery agreed and jointly submitted for court approval, I'd like to offer a little food for thought.

First, I think consideration should be given to whether it might be appropriate in some circumstances to de-link the issue of property rights from denominational affiliation/disaffiliation. Resolving the issue of property rights does not always have to take place in tandem with, or in the throes of, debating over whether to leave the denomination. It can be helpful to "divide the question" and address those two issues at separate times and in separate venues. There are important reasons to clarify property title apart from whether one wishes to stay with or leave the PCUSA. A bank won't lend money to a local church if there is a question about whether the borrower has clear title to the property which is serving as the collateral securing the loan. Nor will some potential large donors give to a local church capital campaign if similar questions are present. For these reasons alone, wholly apart from the separate issue of staying with or leaving the denomination, a local church may need to obtain a declaratory judgment from a civil court. As explained below, de-linking these two issues can have important practical consequences in litigation and negotiation.
The rest

Book: A Guide to Church Property Law:Theological, Constitutional and Practical Considerations

Pastor Arrested in India for ‘Offending Hindu Sensitivities’
Police in India’s Orissa State, Rourkela District, have arrested a young pastor under charges of “offending Hindu sensitivities”.
by Daniel Blake
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Police in India’s Orissa State, Rourkela District, have arrested a young pastor under charges of “offending Hindu sensitivities”, US-based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has reported.

Pastor Ashish Kumar Muna, 25, has reportedly been in jail in the Rourkela district since November 15, after a Hindu fundamentalist belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) lodged a complaint in Udit Nagar police station in Jhirpani Taluka accusing him of “conversions”.

Dr Sajan George of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) explained that Pastor Muna got into trouble when he prayed for a woman suffering from tuberculosis and kidney problems, not knowing that she was the wife of Jibardhana Chouhan, the Rourkela district coordinator of the VHP.
the rest

"The Nativity Story" -- In Season and On Message
Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Albert Mohler

My family and I attended a media screening for
The Nativity Story last night. Here is my instant review -- the movie is in season and on message. In other words, the movie faithfully presents the main thrust of the Christmas story. That is no small achievement.

The movie, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, takes some liberties with the biblical accounts found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Nevertheless, the invented scenes and dialogue do not distract from the biblical storyline. The screenplay by Mike Rich presents key truths such as the virgin conception and deity of Jesus with unambiguous clarity and artistic force.

The gospel accounts are the starting point for any telling of the story, of course. At the same time, there is no comprehensive biblical narrative that fills in every detail. We are left with huge questions. Joseph is described in the New Testament merely as a "righteous man" who believed God and obeyed angelic visions. When Mary is found to be "with child," Joseph decides the put her away privately, rather than to defend his own honor through a public accusation against his betrothed bride. Beyond these facts, we know little of Joseph the Carpenter. Yet, as a character in this movie, Joseph is almost as developed as the character of Mary.
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Celling a Strategy
Opposition to embryo-destroying research is not a losing issue. At least it shouldn’t be.
By James Kelly

“How can you side with those people?”

In 2002, a paralyzed research advocate who actively supports embryonic-stem-cell and human-cloning research asked me this question. By “those” people she meant Christians, conservatives, and pro-life groups.

“It’s simple,” I said. “Why is it in our interest to sit in these wheelchairs for the rest of our lives so science can puzzle over safety problems linked to embryonic stem cells and human cloning, while ignoring the cells that nature designed for the treatments we need?”

In the discussion that followed I explained why embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are inferior to adult stem cells or cord blood for every medical condition commonly used to justify massive public funding of ESC research and human cloning. I offered head-to-head peer-reviewed research studies to support my case. With nothing left to cling to, my former friend slammed the door on the discussion:

“Well…I support science!” she said with self-righteous anger.

“I support cures,” I replied.
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Chicago Christmas Festival Nixes 'Nativity Story' Ads Over Fears of Offending Non-Christians
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

CHICAGO — A public
Christmas festival is no place for the Christmas story, the city says. Officials have asked organizers of a downtown Christmas festival, the German Christkindlmarket, to reconsider using a movie studio as a sponsor because it is worried ads for its film "The Nativity Story" might offend non-Christians.

New Line Cinema, which said it was dropped, had planned to play a loop of the new
film on televisions at the event. The decision had both the studio and a prominent Christian group shaking their heads.

"The last time I checked, the first six letters of Christmas still spell out Christ," said Paul Braoudakis, spokesman for the Barrington, Ill.-based
Willow Creek Association, a group of more than 11,000 churches of various denominations. "It's tantamount to celebrating Lincoln's birthday without talking about Abraham Lincoln." the rest

How the imams terrorized an airliner
By Audrey Hudson
November 28, 2006

Muslim religious leaders removed from a Minneapolis flight last week exhibited behavior associated with a security probe by terrorists and were not merely engaged in prayers, according to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials.

Witnesses said three of the imams were praying loudly in the concourse and repeatedly shouted "Allah" when passengers were called for boarding US Airways Flight 300 to Phoenix.

"I was suspicious by the way they were praying very loud," the gate agent told the Minneapolis Police Department.

Passengers and flight attendants told law-enforcement officials the imams switched from their assigned seats to a pattern associated with the September 11 terrorist attacks and also found in probes of U.S. security since the attacks -- two in the front row first-class, two in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle and two in the rear of the cabin.
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Monday, November 27, 2006

We ought never to forget, brethren, that we have renounced the world. We are living here now as aliens and only for a time. When the day of our homecoming puts an end to our exile, frees us from the bonds of the world, and restores us to paradise and to a kingdom, we should welcome it. What man, stationed in a foreign land, would not want to return to his own country as soon as possible? Well, we look upon paradise as our country, and a great crowd of our loved ones awaits us there, a countless throng of parents, brothers and children longs for us to join them. Assured though they are of their own salvation, they are still concerned about ours. What joy both for them and for us to see one another and embrace! O the delight of that heavenly kingdom where there is no fear of death! O the supreme and endless bliss of everlasting life! ...Cyprian photo

Here is a meditation found at Lent and Beyond. Be sure to check there often to take advantage of their Advent devotionals and prayers.

Preparing for Advent
Stir up our wills, O LORD — Today please, not in the far distant future!
Peter Toon

Excerpt: The weakness of the will of baptized believers in the Christian life of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ was well recognized by the apostles (see Romans 7-8) and by the bishops and teachers in the Early Church. This is why they called upon all to use the means of grace provided by the Gospel and to pursue sanctification before God. He who knows his own heart well knows that it is prone to lethargy; that it seems always ready to relapse into slumber as if it were satisfied with present attainments in the moral sphere. It needs constantly to be re-charged as it were by heavenly power and prompted to godly action. In fact, at times it needs to be released from servitude to selfish motivation.

The rest of the meditation

Jordan Hylden: Schori’s Agenda
First Things
November 27, 2006

No one thought it possible, but there is a wave of nostalgia sweeping through the ranks of conservative Episcopalians for their old presiding bishop, Frank Griswold. Of course, he may well have been heretical, but no one could really tell for sure. His statements were a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a bureaucracy, raising what commonly is known as “Episco-babble” to something of an art form. By and large, we conservatives could confidently ignore what he said, resting assured that no one understood him anyway.

But those days, alas, are now gone. Our new presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, is by comparison a model of clarity, and within the span of a month has managed
to offend a rather astonishing range of people, including Catholics, Mormons, individuals without a graduate degree, and mothers with children. Lord Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury, has said that conservatives ought to give her a chance, which is of course the charitable thing to do. But for those less inclined to charity, there is good reason to believe she intends nothing less than to run conservatives out of the church, finalize the split between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and set up an international communion of liberal Anglicanism as a rival to Canterbury. In short, from her recent actions and public statements, it is reasonable to infer that her term is likely to tear the Episcopal Church in two—and, what’s more, that that is precisely what she intends.

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Bishops Decline Invitation to Second Summit

Released by The Diocese of Fort Worth on November 27, 2006:

The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, and the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth, have declined an invitation from the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee, Bishop of Virginia, to attend a second Summit Meeting of bishops requesting Alternate Primatial Oversight with the Presiding Bishop and two co-conveners, Bishop Lee and the Rt. Rev. John Lipscomb, Bishop of Southwest Florida. In fact, none of the bishops of those dioceses that have requested APO will be attending. The proposed meeting was scheduled to begin today. The first Summit, convened at the request of the Rt. Rev. and Most Hon. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, was held in September at the offices of the Church Pension Group in New York City. Bishop Iker enumerated the reasons for the decision in a reply he sent to Bishop Lee on Tuesday, Nov. 21, on behalf of Bishop Duncan and himself.

The full text of the reply:

Pakistan Christians get 15 years for blasphemy
November 27, 2006

FAISALABAD, Pakistan -- A Pakistani court has sentenced two Christians to 15 years of hard labor on charges of desecrating the Koran under the country's tough blasphemy laws, officials said Monday.

James Masih, 25, and Boota Masih, 60, were found guilty of burning pages of the Muslim holy book, Judge Mohammad Aslam said in a verdict Saturday after a trial in the industrial city of Faisalabad.

Both men, who are not related, were also fined 25,000 rupees ($416), court officials said.

"Scores of people gave evidence against the convicts," said police officer Mian Mian Muhammad Akram, adding that a member of the local council in the city's Nishatabad neighborhood had lodged the case against them.

"We saved their lives from an angry mob of Muslims who wanted to kill them, and took them into custody," senior police officer Sarfraz Falki added.

The Christian community would challenge the verdict, Christian provincial legislator Pervez Rafiq said.
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Sometimes a parish has to cut ties
November 27, 2006
Raymond J. Keating

Strolling up to this church in Elmhurst on a recent Sunday morning, the name on the building drew my attention - St. James Anglican Church.

Hmmm, "Anglican"?

You don't typically see the word "Anglican" on churches in this country, as the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion is the Episcopal Church in the USA. So, what's the deal at St. James?

Well, this parish made a decision. Carlo J. Saavedre, senior warden at the church, told me: "We were getting out of the Episcopal Church, and we wanted everyone to know." So about a year ago "Episcopal" came down and "Anglican" went up.
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Gay marriage issue delays city church unity plan
By Sharon Boase
The Hamilton Spectator
(Nov 27, 2006)

A groundbreaking move to foster unity among three Christian churches in Hamilton has been postponed indefinitely due to friction over gay marriage.

An annual worship service recognizing the common baptism of Anglicans, Lutherans and Roman Catholics will be cancelled for the third consecutive year this January because Catholic leaders fear their flock might become "confused" that their church is considering gay marriage.

As Anglicans and Lutherans are recognizing relationships between gays and lesbians to varying degrees, Catholics have remained steadfast foes of the idea.
the rest

Anglican leaders launch robust defence of faith
By Paul Majendie

Mon 27 Nov 2006

LONDON (Reuters) - Offering a telling twist in the country's highly charged debate about religion and integration, the two Anglican leaders most vociferously defending British traditions are originally from Pakistan and Uganda.

Many Church of England clerics tread warily through a political minefield as the country reflects on the value of multiculturalism, especially after last year's London suicide bombings by British Islamist extremists.

But Archbishop of York John Sentamu and Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali seem less inhibited than most.

Robust spokesmen for their Christian faith, the two have both taken very public stands on issues ranging from Muslim veils to what the monarchy stands for. They are not shy about standing up for their adopted culture either.
the rest

Sunday, November 26, 2006

This life of entire self-abnegation, of absolute submission and dependence upon the Father's will, Christ found to be one of perfect peace and joy. He lost nothing by giving all to God. God honored His trust, and did all for Him, and then exalted Him to His own right hand in glory. And because Christ had thus humbled Himself before God, and God was ever before Him, He found it possible to humble Himself before men too, and to be the Servant of all. His humility was simply the surrender of Himself to God, to allow Him to do in Him what He pleased, whatever men around might say of Him, or do to Him. ...Andrew Murray

Church 'in need of women priests'

The Church of England would struggle in the future without women priests, researchers claim.
English Church Census figures show that half of priests ordained in recent years were women. There were 1,262 serving women priests in 2002.

University of Manchester researchers say that, without women priests, pulpits would become "depopulated".

The findings follow the Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestion that they had failed to transform the church.

Rowan Williams, in an interview with the Catholic Herald newspaper earlier this month, said he did not think women priests - first ordained in 1994 - had "transformed or renewed the Church in spectacular ways" nor had they "corrupted or ruined it".
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Secular World Attacks Organized Belief
By Father John Flynn
LONDON, NOV. 26, 2006

( Organized religion is coming in for harsh criticism in many parts. English singer Elton John said religion turns people into "hateful lemmings." He also accused it of lacking compassion. His comments came in an interview with the Observer newspaper's Music Monthly Magazine, published Nov. 12.

The aging pop star's criticisms were sparked off by the matter of how religion deals with homosexuality. "I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people," he said.

He is far from being alone in this view. In the United States, talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell likened Christianity to radical Islam. Her attack, in a nationally broadcast program in October, was not well received, according to a Nov. 13 press release by the California-based Barna Group.

A nationwide survey by the Barna Group found that although few Americans would challenge O'Donnell's right to make such statements, just as few share her point of view.
the rest

Which federal judge is helping the Episcopal Church plot legal strategy?
November 26, 2006

A federal judge is helping the Episcopal Church plot legal strategy as it braces for the fallout from a possible schism, according to recent news reports. Conservatives, who fear they're being targeted by the church's liberal leadership, want to know which judge is working against them -- and why.

The Associated Press and the Episcopal News Service only say that it's a judge with the 11th circuit court of appeals. (The 11th circuit includes Georgia, Alabama and Florida.) But the list of 11th circuit court judges is short. Assuming the judge is an Episcopalian, it shouldn't be hard to figure out which one has joined the Episcopal Church's legal team.

The active judges are the Hon.:
J.L. Edmondson (chief judge)
Gerald Bard Tjoflat
R. Lanier Anderson
Stanley F. Birch, Jr.
Joel F. Dubina
Susan H. Black
Ed Carnes
Rosemary Barkett
Frank M. Hull
Stanley Marcus
Charles R. Wilson
William H. Pryor Jr.

Senior judges (mostly in their 80s), include John C. Godbold, Paul H. Roney, James C. Hill, Peter T. Fay, Phyllis A. Kravitch and Emmett Ripley Cox.

Under the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges: "A judge should regulate extra-judicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial duties." Judges must also "avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities." Undoubtedly, if a case came up involving the Episcopal Church, a judge who had offered legal advice would have to recuse himself or herself.

link (Hat tip to Connecticut Six)

Raymond Dague: Episcopal Bishop Subverts Judicial Ethics

I support Rowan: we are working together
By George Carey

The Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to the Vatican last week was a timely reminder to Anglicans that we don't expect our leaders to be infallible and neither do we want them to be.

Anglicans have moaned about and criticised their archbishops, aided and abetted by national newspaper commentators, for as long as I can remember. For at least the past two decades, successive new Archbishops of Canterbury have been welcomed as a breath of fresh air, contrasted favourably with their predecessors for a short honeymoon period until familiarity sets in and people begin to long nostalgically for a cherished past or an impossibly utopian future.

The same commentators who are now suggesting prematurely that Rowan Williams's days are numbered said the same about me when I was in office. Those who accused Robert Runcie of interfering in my ministry in an unprecedented way are now criticising me.
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Pope death threats put Turkey on high alert
By Malcolm Moore in Rome, Sunday Telegraph

An army of snipers, riot police, secret agents and bomb disposal experts has been mobilised for the Pope's four-day visit to Turkey. Naval units will patrol the Bosphorus armed with machine guns after warnings to police and security services that the life of Benedict XVI may be threatened by Islamic extremists after he arrives on Tuesday.

Celalettin Cerrah, the police chief in Istanbul, said that the city would have maximum security and warned that he would "call for reinforcements from nearby cities" if needed. Fears within the Vatican, which has been making preparations on the ground for the past month, were heightened when a man lunged at Archbishop Pierluigi Celata, the former papal ambassador to Turkey, who was on a advance scouting mission in his Catholic robes.
the rest

Thousands in Turkey Protest Pope's Visit
Nov 26, 11:24 AM

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - Tens of thousands of protesters chanted "No to the pope!" and waved anti-Vatican banners Sunday in a defiant display of the pro-Islamic anger that could await the pontiff on his first papal trip to a mostly Muslim nation.

About 25,000 people filled a square in a working-class district of Istanbul at a rally organized by an Islamist political party whose leaders have denounced the pope's remarks in September that linked violence and Islam.
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Anglican Report Episode Eleven

Kevin and Bill Discuss:

Presiding Bishop Shori's NYT
Interview and Letter to Bishop Schofield
(CT6 and StandFirm)

Global South Steering Committee reports on meeting with APO Dioceses
(Global South Blog)

Rowan Williams meets the Pope (TitusOneNine)Diocese of Fort Worth Convention News

Raymond Dague comments on Bishop Sauls

Video Here

Saturday, November 25, 2006

God is interested in developing your character. At times He lets you proceed, but He will never let you go too far without discipline to bring you back. In your relationship with God, He may let you make a wrong decision. Then the Spirit of God causes you to recognize that it is not God's will. He guides you back to the right path. He will clarify what He wants. He will even take the circumstances of your disobedience and work that together for good (Rom. 8:28) as He corrects you and teaches you His ways. ...Henry Blackaby photo

'On Faith' Conversations Shed Light on Religion
Lillian Kwon
Christian Post Reporter
Sat, Nov. 25 2006 12:02 PM ET

Newsweek Magazine and The Washington Post created a new online interfaith dialogue "On Faith" featuring opinions from some of the nation's top evangelical leaders and other religious heads.

Launched earlier this month, "On Faith" features conversations on religion with more than 60 panelists, including Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church; Madeleine Albright, the first woman Secretary of State; evangelist Luis Palau, head of the Luis Palau Association; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

The new dialogue comes out of a continued fascination on religion that is most pervasive yet least understood, as the makers of "On Faith" stated.
the rest

Diocese could ask for split
Church's stance on gay clergy 'heretical,' S.J. bishop wrote
By Anna Kaplan
Record Staff Writer
November 25, 2006

The ripple effects of the American Episcopal Church having ordained an openly gay bishop three years ago continue, and the Diocese of San Joaquin could decide next weekend whether to split from the church because of it.

The bishop of the Fresno-based diocese, John-David Schofield, will introduce amendments to the diocesan constitution at its convention next weekend calling for such a split.

He will call for the organization of more than 50 parishes from Lodi to Bakersfield and eastward to Nevada to become affiliated with the parent church in England instead of the American church.

But the national office of the Episcopal Church says such a move is not allowed.
the rest

'The Nativity Story' stands out
By Brent Bozell III
Friday, November 24, 2006

Excerpt: Those looking for the standard Hollywood fare will be disappointed. The story of Our Lord's passion is packed with drama and violence -- and similarly, though to a far lesser extent, are these elements present in the story of the birth of Christ. But whereas "The Passion" is replete with conflict -- the essential ingredient in the Tinseltown soup -- the story of the birth of Jesus has none of it.

Mary obediently accepted God's will, as did Joseph. The Magi, the shepherds, the peasants -- all who beheld the Child Jesus -- believed. Thus in the movie we see Joseph take Mary on a donkey to Bethlehem. She has a baby. Shepherds and kings arrive with awe. Without a religious background, it might seem too saccharine to excite the taste buds of your average popcorn-chomping cineplex citizen.

The makers of "The Nativity Story" have included action and (sanitized) violence in the story because they were present, too. Thus we watch the armored goons of Herod on horseback executing the terrible command to slaughter the firstborn sons in Bethlehem under the age of two in the futile attempt to foil the plans of God, while the Herod character chews the scenery with dead-eyed menace. Still, it seems a bit forced, the resignation to the reality that today's moviemaker must find some way to "entertain" today's moviegoer in this age of bombastic sound effects and computerized whiz-bangery.

But at its heart, this is a gentle, serene, beautiful story about the creation of the Holy Family -- how Mary quietly accepted that which logically could not be understand; how, facing a life as outcasts once their community in Nazareth learned Mary was pregnant before marriage, Joseph took Mary on the long, arduous trip to Bethlehem; and how, contrary to all human expectation, the King of Kings chose birth in the most humble of settings, the animal's manger.
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'Tweens' becoming the new teens
Saturday, November 25, 2006

Zach Plante is close with his parents – he plays baseball with them and, on weekends, helps with work in the small vineyard they keep at their northern California home.

Lately, though, his parents have begun to notice subtle changes in their son. Among other things, he's announced that he wants to grow his hair longer – and sometimes greets his father with "Yo, Dad!"

"Little comments will come out of his mouth that have a bit of that teen swagger," says Tom Plante, Zach's dad.

Thing is, Zach isn't a teen. He's 10 years old – one part, a fun-loving fifth-grader who likes to watch the Animal Planet network and play with his dog and pet gecko, the other a soon-to-be middle schooler who wants an iPod.
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Pop music's sex ed
By L. Brent Bozell IIIAugust 21, 2006

A few years ago, researchers at the Rand Corp. released a study that found heavy exposure to sexual content on TV shows relates strongly to teenagers' initiation of intercourse or their progression to more advanced sexual activities.

To some, those results seemed so reasonable because, well, aren't they so obvious? But there are always those who won't accept the obvious, even when it's presented for them on a scientifically documented silver tray. Critics were quick to raise a chicken-and-egg question: Couldn't it also be argued that teenagers already predisposed to sexual activity have a predilection for sexier TV shows?

In the scientific sense, it is certainly possible that cause and effect may not be as simple as "monkey see, monkey do." But it's odd that some activists can berate corporations for tempting children into eating Twinkies and drinking sugary sodas, but then don't see corporations pushing hypersexual entertainment as tempting the young into premature sexual activity.

Now the Rand Corp. has a new study, published in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics, taking on another major teenage influence: their music. The same alarming results jump off the page. According to the study, based on interviews with nearly 1,500 teens, those who said they listened to sexually explicit music were almost twice as likely to start having sex within the following two years than those who listen to little or none of that music. This holds true for boys and girls as well as for whites and nonwhites, even after accounting for a list of other personal and social factors associated with adolescent sexual behavior.
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Crossed what line?
By Cal Thomas
Nov. 23, 2006

Even more bizarre than the prospect of O.J. Simpson "confessing" to the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in a book and TV show and getting a few million for it (proving crime can pay) was the cancellation of both by Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation. The most often heard indictment of this project was that the deal had "crossed the line."

Given what passes for entertainment on TV these days, I am relieved to know some people believe there is a line to cross. I just wish they would tell me where it is and what happens when it's violated. Some thought the line was crossed in that fraction of a second that Janet Jackson's breast was exposed during a Super Bowl halftime show. The Federal Communications Commission did and slapped CBS with a big fine.
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Raymond Dague: Episcopal Bishop Subverts Judicial Ethics

When the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church met in Chicago from November 15 to 18, Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington, Kentucky was there and presented the work of his “task force” on legal matters related to the widening split in the church.

According to an
Episcopal News Service story and media accounts of the event, “Sauls says that lawyers, including several diocesan chancellors and a judge on the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals, are helping the bishops prepare” for litigation.

This task force, according to the Associated Press story, has been working to “developed a ‘brief bank’ of court filings and legal research to help dioceses with litigation and has also identified potential expert witnesses” for the litigation. (Expert witnesses are used at a trial to convince the jury or judge that one side in the litigation should prevail.) The task force is also “working on a position paper ‘setting forth possible common grounds which could be sought so that the split in The Episcopal Church which is feared by the task force might be avoided.’”

There is nothing wrong with lawyers meeting to plan legal strategy. That is what lawyers do. As an attorney, I know how prudent it is to plan for litigation, both to avoid it, and if it cannot be avoided, to handle it well once the lawsuits start to fly. I do not begrudge any attorneys brainstorming with one another. Lawyers are advocates, and our roles of advocacy certainly involve advising clients and preparing for lawsuits.

It is distasteful (to say the least) to scheme to sue another diocese of the church. I cannot imagine participating in a “task force” to sue another diocese. I may disagree with the theology and practice of New Hampshire or Newark (and I vehemently disagree with them), but I am not part of any plan to sue them, nor will I be. If these dioceses choose to walk apart from the faith once delivered, that is their concern. They will have to answer to God, but they should not have to answer to the courts. Apparently several of my fellow chancellors have no such compunction, and are willing to be part of Stacy Sauls’ task force to sue.

What is a federal judge doing in all this? The press story ambiguously says that the judge in question is on the “11th U.S. District Court of Appeals.” This is a confusing reference, since there is in the federal system a “district court,” and a “circuit court of appeals,” but no “district court of appeals.” The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is the federal appeals court below the U.S. Supreme Court which hears appeals from the nine district courts located in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. But whether this un-named federal judge is a circuit court or a district court judge is irrelevant. Why is a federal judge on a task force plotting legal strategy for anticipated litigation?

It is wrong for a federal judge to participate in a “task force” planning to sue parishes and dioceses in the Episcopal Church. Such conduct violates
Canons 2(b) and 5(b)(1) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges. If a judge wants to quit the bench and head back to the practice of law, he is free to advise clients and be a part of the task force Stacy Sauls has assembled. But while he remains on the bench, this sort of behavior violates judicial and legal ethics.

Lawyers as well as judges have an ethical duty to protect the impartiality and fairness of the legal profession. It is just as illegal for a lawyer to offer a bribe as it is for a judge to accept a bribe. Neither a lawyer nor a judge should be part of trying to recruit a judge to take sides in a legal battle. Stacy Sauls is a bishop of the Episcopal Church, but he is also a lawyer. Apparently he feels that his duties as a bishop do not bar him from subverting the judiciary into violating their ethical duties.

I am not a bishop, so I will not lecture Stacy Sauls about his ethics as a bishop. I’ll leave that to his fellow bishops. But as a lawyer, I can say that it sure looks like he is violating his oath as an attorney in doing this.

Christians are not supposed to sue one another in the courts, says 1 Corinthians 6:4-8. But apparently this bishop/lawyer takes as loose a view of the scriptures as he does of legal and judicial ethics. This is sordid behavior for one who once took an oath to uphold the rule of law. One wonders whether this bishop/lawyer will claim that the Holy Spirit somehow told him to "Go For It" as he ropes diocesan chancellors and a judge into his schemes to sue parishes and dioceses.

Raymond Dague is a New York attorney and an assistant chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany.