Sunday, December 31, 2006

Security from Yesterday
"God requireth that which is past."
At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise from remembering the yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God's grace is apt to be checked by the memory of yesterday's sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them in order to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual culture for the future. God reminds us of the past lest we get into a shallow security in the present.

Security for To-morrow

"For the Lord will go before you."
This is a gracious revelation, that God will garrison where we have failed to. He will watch lest things trip us up again into like failure, as they assuredly would do if He were not our rereward. God's hand reaches back to the past and makes a clearing-house for conscience.

Security for To-day

"For ye shall not go out with haste."
As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, unremembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.

Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him. ...Oswald Chambers

10 Million Fewer Girls Born in India
Associated Press
December 19, 2006

Lawmakers and women's rights activists raised an alarm Monday over new evidence indicating about 7,000 fewer girls than expected are born each day in India, where women routinely suffer discrimination and parents often abort female fetuses.

The spread of ultrasound technology allowing parents to find out the gender of their unborn children has resulted in the large-scale 'disappearance' of girls here. One study released earlier this year estimated that 10 million fewer girls were born here than expected in the past 20 years.

The government must 'rise in revolt against the male child mania,' said lawmaker Gurudas Dasgupta during a parliamentary debate Monday.

The debate was spurred in part by a report last week from UNICEF, which estimated that 7,000 girls go unborn each day in India, where abortions are legal and a ban on finding out the sex of unborn children and aborting female fetuses is widely flouted.
the rest

2006 In Review: The Status Quo Is Rejected
By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service
Saturday, December 30, 2006

Elections, the late columnist Franklin P. Adams once said, "are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody."

And whatever Americans were voting for in 2006, it seems clear that what they were voting against was the status quo. Episcopalians, for one, decided to give a woman a shot and elected their first female leader, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. U.S. Muslims turned to Ingrid Mattson as the first woman to lead the Islamic Society of North America. Southern Baptists, dissatisfied with the old guard, chose a relative unknown, Frank Page, to lead the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
the rest

Is tolerating intolerance a college's cross to bear?
By J.R. Labbe
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Proof that tolerance is becoming intolerable: Students willingly attending a university that was founded at the request of the Anglican church are miffed because there's a cross in the sanctuary of the campus chapel.

The "controversy" at Virginia's College of William & Mary reportedly has been churning since October, when university President Gene Nichol ordered that the cross in the Wren Chapel be stored in the sacristy unless someone specifically asks for it to be displayed during a service.

His reasoning?

The diverse student population includes some who are "put off" -- that's how Washington Post reporter Fredrick Kunkle phrased it -- by the cross.

In a chapel. the rest

Olympia Bishop, Priest Recount Covenant Process
The Living Church

Early next year, the Rt. Rev. Vincent W. Warner, Jr., Bishop of Olympia, and the Rev. Duncan Clark, rector of St. Charles' Anglican Church in Poulsbo, Wash., will travel together as friends to a conference on church planting sponsored by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, and founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

The trip will be a milestone in a relationship that by logic and tradition should have ended in mutual recrimination and litigation on Oct. 19, 2004. On the day after the Windsor Report was released Fr. Clark, then rector of St. Charles’ Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Carol Harlacher, rector of St. Stephen’s, Oak Harbor, informed Bishop Warner that their congregations had
voted overwhelmingly to leave the diocese and affiliate with an overseas Anglican bishop.

Instead of litigation, Bishop Warner and leaders from the two parishes attempted mediation. The talks were lengthy and complicated by the presence of both a sizeable remnant from St. Stephen’s that wanted to remain Episcopalians and some persons in the diocese who pressured Bishop Warner to punish the clergy and take possession of the properties. In spite of the many obstacles, the parties announced agreement to a
covenant on Dec. 13. the rest

Network Moderator Hails Olympia Agreement

The Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, lauded a
covenant agreement involving, among others, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, Bishop of Olympia, and two congregations whose clergy and members voted to leave the diocese and The Episcopal Church to affiliate with an overseas Anglican province.

“Both sides are satisfied that this is a good and fair settlement,” Bishop Duncan said. “I commend Bishop Warner for trying to provide space and time for healing to occur. He has provided us with a very significant example of servant leadership.”
the rest

Episcopal bishop to Christ Church:
Pay up or get out
Sunday, December 31, 2006

Debate escalates between conservative congregation and the Episcopal Church.

"The Mother Church of Georgia" has six months to decide whether to remain affiliated with the Episcopal Church in the USA or risk losing the historic house of worship.

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia has given Christ Church until June 30 to "choose your path."

The debate stems from concerns within the conservative congregation that the Episcopal Church in the USA is becoming too liberal.

Officers of the downtown church told members in a Dec. 17 letter that the parish is bracing for a legal battle with the diocese, which oversees 70 parishes and missions.

"We are prepared to defend ourselves legally if such action would come against us," stated in an unsigned letter available on the church's Web site. The Rev. Marc Robertson, rector of Christ Church, was listed at the bottom of the letter, along with officers and 13 members of the governing board, known as the vestry.
the rest Photos by Raymond Dague

Letters and comments at titusonenine

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Many times we are content with sitting on the sidelines, always hearing about other's lives being changed in huge ways and God being so important in their life. We go to church and hear people talk about what God has been doing in their life. We go to events and conferences that we hope will microwave our Christian maturity to well done. We read books on how other's lives were changed. And that is good enough for us, but deep down inside, we wish we could have that happen in our own life. So we make promises to try harder. We recommit our lives to Jesus. We might begin having devotions more often. But, after a while, the desire dies off and the excitement has turned into duty and we give up. Obedience makes the difference in a life that is sold out for God. It is seeing what God does with our attitude of following what He has in the Bible that brings about change in our hearts and a Christian walk that is on fire. ...Zach Conrad Student Journey
Photo by Raymond Dague

Schori: More MDG'S and Shalom

A new year is a fine time to search for shalom, Isaiah-style

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Credo
December 30, 2006

As one year closes and another opens, many of us turn to the making of resolutions. Consider what might happen if all of us resolved to make 2007 the beginning of a new era in which the hungry are fed, the ill cured, the young educated and women and men treated equally. What if all had access to clean water and adequate sanitation, basic healthcare and the promise of development that does not endanger the rest of creation?

For people of all faiths and for those who claim no faith, the Millennium Development Goals provide a way in which together we can achieve greater global good by leading local lives intent upon the eradication of poverty and disease.

Set forth by the UN in 2000, the MDGs are consonant with the core beliefs of the world’s great religions. Indeed, they help Christians to bring hands and feet to the great commandment to love God and our neighbours as ourselves. The goals offer a form of deed-based evangelism that reminds people of faith that we can do little to improve a person’s spiritual health while that person contends with starvation or disease.
the rest

Ancient Sinai art draws the faithful to the Getty
An exhibit of icons from a 6th century Greek Orthodox monastery turns the Brentwood museum into a holy place as churches organize pilgrimages.
By Larry Gordon, Times Staff Writer
December 30, 2006

For 94 members of St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, the freeway drive north to Brentwood in morning traffic was the equivalent of a pilgrimage.

They recently traveled in two buses to the Getty Museum and its current exhibition of ancient icons and spiritual artifacts from a monastery in the Sinai, a show that has taken on special meaning for Greek Orthodox and other denominations in Southern California.

More than 60 religious groups, including some from Fresno, Texas and Minnesota, are scheduled to see — and in some cases venerate — the items lent by the Holy Monastery of St. Catherine in Egypt.

Although the Getty remains just a snazzy art museum for other people, it is a holy place for the faithful. They are crossing themselves before the 750-year-old icon of Saint Theodosia and restraining themselves from kissing the plexiglass case holding a 1,500-year-old image of St. Peter the Apostle.
the rest

Friday, December 29, 2006

Vote for Transfigurations, ...and she'll give me a bone!

Transfigurations is one one of the nominees in the
If you would like to see all the nominees and vote for your favorite blogs, go to Stand Firm and click on the banner at the top of the post: Here
photo by Kevin Dague

Christian Culture Analyst Recaps 2006 Church Trends, Future Directions
By Fred Jackson
December 29, 2006

(AgapePress) - Christian researcher George Barna has outlined what he considers his most significant findings for 2006. Among these is his assessment that, although large majorities of the public claim to be "deeply spiritual" and say that their religious faith is "very important" in their life, only 15 percent of those who regularly attend a Christian church ranked their relationship with God as their top priority.

Barna, who has been conducting national public opinion surveys and cultural analysis for 25 years, notes that even clergy have to compete for people's attention and acceptance in contemporary American society. "One of the reasons that the Christian faith is struggling to retain a toehold in people's lives," he contends, "is because even the highest-profile leaders of the faith community have limited resonance with the population."
the rest

Church Official: ECUSA's Future Depends on Leaders' Return to God's Word
By Allie Martin
December 29, 2006

AgapePress) - An official with the
Institute on Religion and Democracy expects to see the current conflicts within the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) continue throughout the coming year, including schism over the current liberal leadership and direction of the denomination.

This past year, the ECUSA's new presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, said Christ was not the only way to get to Heaven. She also remarked that homosexuals do not choose their behavior. (
See earlier story) These and other indications of Bishop Schori's biblically unorthodox beliefs have sparked criticism and unease among conservative members of the denomination and within the broader Anglican community.

a group of conservative Episcopal churches in Virginia broke away from the ECUSA. Most of the congregations that left the denomination will now join with the newly established Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), an affiliate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

Faith McDonnell, director of the Religious Liberty Program with the Institute on Religion and Democracy, says the Episcopal Church in the United States is in serious trouble. "It's very painful to have this separation," she admits, "but we do believe that God will work everything out for good. We don't know what that will be, but we still do hope and pray that there would be revival in the Episcopal Church."
the rest

Courses underscore liberal college slant
By Brittney Pescatore
The Washington Times
December 27, 2006

If your idea of fighting terrorism involves dropping bombs on al Qaeda hide-outs, chances are you're probably not a Swarthmore College student.

Some students at Swarthmore (annual tuition, $33,232) spent the fall semester learning how to deal with terrorism by studying "the dynamics of cultural marginalization" and examining "the rich history of nonviolent counterterrorist tactics."

Visiting professor George Lakey's "Nonviolent Responses to Terrorism" class earned Swarthmore a spot in the "Dirty Dozen," a listing of the "most bizarre" college classes in the nation as compiled by the Young America's Foundation (YAF).

Among YAF's picks for 2006 are courses in Marxism, feminism and some subjects that can't be adequately described in a family newspaper.
the rest

Joshua´s Altar Leads to Deepening National Consciousness
Dec 28, '06
by Hillel Fendel

Excerpt: A very critical piece of evidence cited by Zertal in support of his identification of the structure as Joshua's Altar appears to be the animal bones found there:

"There were more than 1,000 burnt animal bones - exactly of the type that were used for sacrifices. It was clear that this was not the remnants of some village, but rather a cultic site. But the critical turning point [in our excavation] came when a religious member of our team showed us the Mishna describing the altar of the 2nd Temple period - 1,200 years later than our discovery. The description was very similar to what we had found - meaning that the Mishna was clearly and definitely a continuation and prototype of the one on Mt. Ebal. They both have ramps, just as the Torah stipulates, for the High Priest to ascend to the altar without going up steps, and the sizes matched, and more... The architecture itself was the evidence." the rest

German pastor's fiery protest leaves those who knew him mystified
The Rev. Roland Weisselberg wasn't known as a fanatic, yet he killed himself after complaining of Islam's growing influence.
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Times Staff Writer
December 28, 2006

ERFURT, GERMANY — The church was full so he did it outside, just after communion. Had a can of gasoline under his coat, drenched himself and went alight. The janitor saw a flash and yelled for help. The flaming man stumbled to the ground as worshipers rushed past and a nun knelt beside him, praying and touching a sliver of his unburned skin.

Someone said he whispered, "Is Jesus here?"

The Rev. Roland Weisselberg died the next day. His widow said the 73-year-old retired Lutheran minister committed suicide to protest Islam's growing influence on a Christian continent that had lost its faith.

That's all the bloggers and neo-Nazis needed. Screeds whirled and a troubled man was turned into a martyr, candles lighted in his honor, flowers dropped on the place where he fell.
the rest

David Roseberry
The Letter, Lambeth, and a Little Bit More
Stand Firm

The Journey of Christ Church, Plano: Part V

Excerpt: As an American, I have been looking for the ABC to settle the very important matter before the Anglican Communion like a strong father in a family filled with fighting children and wayward sons. But I sensed for the first time that the role of the ABC at Lambeth will not ever be that of a 'father,' but of a 'grandfather.' His 'historic office' is there, like Lambeth Palace itself, to give wisdom and weight and representation to the years of the past and the hope of unity ahead.
the rest at Stand Firm

The rest of David Roseberry's series of articles:

Part I: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Part II: Are You My Mother?

Part III: Considering CANA

Part IV: Considering AMIA

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Surprising Family Legacy: Acting From Principle on Abortion
Richard Reeb
December 26, 2006

Excerpt: "Alveda King is not in that category. For her, the same principle of equal rights that condemns all acts of unjust discrimination against persons because of their race also implicates abortion. Just as she in her youth she joined her justly famous uncle and her lesser-known father, Rev. A.D. King (who was also a martyr) in protesting racial injustice, now she sees as the most pressing issue the abortions of 45 million unborn children since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion on demand in 1973.

Dr. King’s most arresting statement came in his "I Have A Dream" speech when called for people to be judged not by the color of their skin but "by the content of their character."
Alveda King, his niece, a minister and a former college professor, asks: "How can the ‘Dream’ survive if we murder the children? Every aborted baby is like a slave in the womb of his or her mother. The mother decides his or her fate."

Leading luminaries in the civil rights movement have strenuously avoided applying the principle at the heart of their cause to abortion, partly because they want to stay focused on one issue but also because most of them are liberals and opposition to abortion is a conservative position."

the rest

Housework cuts breast cancer risk
Friday, 29 December 2006

Women who exercise by doing the housework can reduce their risk of breast cancer, a study suggests.

The research on more than 200,000 women from nine European countries found doing household chores was far more cancer protective than playing sport.

Dusting, mopping and vacuuming was also better than having a physical job.

The women in the Cancer Research UK-funded study spent an average of 16 to 17 hours a week cooking, cleaning and doing the washing.
the rest

Episcopal conservatives may be invited to global Anglican meeting
Thursday, December 28, 2006
By: Associated Press

LONDON ---- Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams may invite representatives of the conservative wing of The U.S. Episcopal Church to meet with Anglican leaders ahead of a key February gathering on the future of their embattled global fellowship.

In a Dec. 18 letter to heads of the 38 Anglican provinces, Williams said deep divisions in the American church warrant the move. The text of the letter was posted on the blog titusonenine, run by Canon Kendall Harmon of the Diocese of South Carolina, and on the blog of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. wing of the 77 million-member global Anglican Communion, a loose-knit group of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.
the rest

St. John’s severs ties with national Episcopalians
Church cites differences over sexuality, moral issues
Wednesday, Dec 27, 2006

After considerable soul-searching, St. John’s Episcopal Church of Petaluma voted on Dec. 17 to sever its 150-year relationship with The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Northern California due to theological differences over sexuality and other moral issues.

After V. Gene Robinson, a divorced man who began living in an openly gay relationship, was elected the TEC’s bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, the ongoing morality debate between conservative and progressive members heated up in Episcopal churches throughout the country.

“That incident was the initial catalyst that led the Anglican Church into a divisive mode, but it’s only one example of the moral and ethical differences between orthodox members, who have a more historic and conservative view of the Bible, and progressive members, whom orthodox members call ‘revisionists’ because they feel they look at historical document from a new light and an ‘anything goes’ perspective,” said the Rev. Dr. Lu T. Nguyen, the canon lawyer for St. John’s.
the rest

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Holy Innocents

Today, dearest brethren, we celebrate the birthday of those children who were slaughtered, as the Gospel tells us, by that exceedingly cruel king, Herod. Let the earth, therefore, rejoice and the Church exult — she, the fruitful mother of so many heavenly champions and of such glorious virtues. Never, in fact, would that impious tyrant have been able to benefit these children by the sweetest kindness as much as he has done by his hatred. For as today's feast reveals, in the measure with which malice in all its fury was poured out upon the holy children, did heaven's blessing stream down upon them.

"Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers' womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod's cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers' bosom, are justly hailed as "infant martyr flowers"; they were the Church's first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.
— St. Augustine art

Mainline Protestant bodies lose nearly 300 congregations
The Layman Online
Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mainline Protestant denominations, which have declined sharply since their heyday in the 1960s, lost hundreds of congregations during 2006 and possibly are poised to lose even more in 2007.

Three of the denominations – the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church (USA) – lost nearly 300 congregations after their national governing bodies began abandoning their historic ban on ordaining practicing homosexuals.
the rest

Possibility of mass exodus from PCUSA has heightened
By John H. Adams
The Layman Online
Thursday, December 28, 2006

Developments late in 2006 pointed toward the possibility of a mass exodus of evangelical congregations from the Presbyterian Church (USA) despite the denomination's efforts to prevent churches from leaving with their property.

One of the most significant signs of that possibility came after discussions between congregations allied with the New Wineskins Association of Churches and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the preferred alternative for most of the congregations that have left the PCUSA in recent years.

Dr. Jeff Jeremiah, stated clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, announced after that meeting that the EPC was considering establishing "transitional" presbyteries for PCUSA congregations that would like a "safe haven" without a long-term obligation.
the rest

Urbana 06 Kicks Off with Record Numbers
Elizabeth Kwon
Christian Post Correspondent
Thu, Dec. 28 2006

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The idealism of the millennial generation is that they are optimistic, mission-focused, and global, said InterVarsity Christian Fellowship President Alec Hill on the first day of one of the world’s largest student missions conferences.

“This generation is more connected. It is a smaller world for them,” Hill told The Christian Post on Wednesday, shortly before a press conference for Urbana 06. The student ministry head noted how student registrants of the triennial convention are the “going” and “doing” generation.

As expected, a record number of over 22,200 delegates from all across North America came under one roof on Wednesday for the beginning of the five-day conference in St. Louis, Mo. Sponsored by InterVarsity, the Urbana conference is one of the largest gathering of missions organizations in the world. About 275 exhibitors — seminaries and missions organizations — are expected to make themselves available to conference attendants. This year’s Urbana is the first to be held in St. Louis in gathering’s 60-year history.
the rest

Touchstone commentary: Ancient of Days
December 27, 2006

Every Sunday our pastor proceeds up the aisle behind a troop of altar boys and lectors, one of the boys holding up a five foot cross and another holding up the lectionary from which we will hear the word of God. Not on Christmas, though. On that day, the pastor himself raises up something for the people to behold: from beneath the folds of his outer vestment he presents to the congregation a small statue of the Christ child. When he reaches the foot of the apse he places the child in a creche and kneels, while the people all sing that old carol that calls us to come to Bethlehem and adore the king of angels.
the rest photo

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The battle is lost or won in the secret places of the will before God, never first in the external world. The Spirit of God apprehends me and I am obliged to get alone with God and fight the battle out before Him. Until this is done, I lose every time. The battle may take one minute or a year, that will depend on me, not on God; but it must be wrestled out alone before God, and I must resolutely go through the hell of a renunciation before God. Nothing has any power over the man who has fought out the battle before God and won there. ...Oswald Chambers the rest

Pope Gets Letter From Ahmadinejad
Dec 27, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI received a letter Wednesday from Iran's hardline president about the recent U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions against Tehran for refusing to compromise on its nuclear program, Iran's state-run news agency reported.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter was delivered by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki after the pontiff's general audience at the Vatican's Paul VI hall, the Vatican said.

The Vatican did not release details of the content of Ahmadinejad's letter, but Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said the note focused on Saturday's Security Council vote approving sanctions against Iran in the standoff over its nuclear program.

The Vatican said Benedict stressed his apolitical role in his brief meeting with Mottaki.
the rest

Texas city to become test case for state's religious freedom law
Dec. 27, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — When a pastor created a rehabilitation program for parolees near his church, the city of Sinton stepped in to stop it.

Within months of the program's start in 1998, officials in the small city just north of Corpus Christi barred prison parolees from living within 1,000 feet of churches, schools and other certain areas.

Grace Christian Fellowship's challenge of that 1999 ordinance has reached the Texas Supreme Court. The church and its pastor, Rick Barr, say the city broke a Texas law that state legislators passed later in the year to curtail government interference in religious practices.

The Texas Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in March or April on whether Sinton's zoning ordinance violates the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that then-Gov. George W. Bush endorsed.
the rest

The Next Graham: Like Grandfather, Like Grandson
Some observers see striking resemblance in Billy, Will Graham
By Tim Whitmire
Associated Press Writer
Tue, Dec. 26 2006

GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) - For decades, it was Billy Graham's job to bellow a hearty "No!" across the stage when asked, "Hide it under a bushel?" when the song "This Little Light of Mine" was performed at one of his epic crusades.

But on this night, it was Billy's grandson - William Franklin Graham IV - who responded with that emphatic "No!"

A crowd of 4,000 cheered with delight as they watched Will Graham, on the final evening of his first American revival, pick up the evangelical torch carried for decades by his grandfather, the famed evangelist whose last crusade was in New York in 2005.

"Man, what a great privilege it was," Will Graham recalled a few weeks later, still touched that Billy Graham's longtime musical directors, Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea, showed up to lead the singing.

Graham family observers have speculated that Will Graham, 31, is the most logical successor to carry on the tradition of crusades begun by his grandfather, who is now 88 and in declining health. Will's father, Franklin, has taken over the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association but has long seemed more comfortable leading international Christian relief efforts through his Samaritan's Purse charity than speaking from the pulpit.
the rest

Egyptian Coptic Christians find a quiet place to worship and succeed in Houston after so much strife back home
'This country gives you opportunity'
Houston Chronicle Middle East Bureau

When Marise Saweris left Egypt for the United States, she was a 19-year-old newlywed who didn't speak English or have a college degree. She considered herself fortunate to find a job in the Merrill Lynch mailroom.

Today she is a senior marketer at the AIG insurance company in Houston. And that's not all. Her daughter is a pediatrician, her eldest son is a project manager and her youngest boy is getting ready for law school.

So it's no wonder that Saweris believes the future is bright for the growing number of Egyptian Copts who are moving to Houston and other parts of the United States to get free of Egypt's rising sectarian tensions and chronic economic woes.
the rest

Touchstone: Samantha Shrugged
Barry Michaels on Thinking About Abortion with Those Who Won’t

I teach eleventh-grade religion at a respected and flourishing Catholic college-prep high school in the state of New York. My students are bright and talented kids, the children of some of the most successful people in this part of the state. Our discussions on morality are a window into the culture that nurtures them at least as much as most of their families do. We recently tackled abortion.

A few students tried to make abortion a feminist issue, but interestingly, only a very few. Most, including the young women, react to the idea of feminism with disdain and jokes, and some girls asserted that women would be expected to be more pro-life than men because they’re the ones with the maternal instincts. Note to NOW: Your message has missed the youth, at least the ones living in the area that gave birth to the American feminist movement.

A few others defended abortion as a necessary means of birth control or even population control. But the most prominent line of thinking by far was, well, not thinking. When presented with the facts of fetal development or abortion methods or ethical reasoning, student after student preferred either comfortable unawareness or bold-faced denial of plain fact.
the rest

Tradition Guides Presidents' Funerals
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — The modern presidency operates as if by script, with carefully chosen crowds, painstakingly shaped words and backdrops picked for just the right effect.

As in life, so, too, in death.

The funeral of an ex-president follows rituals soaked in tradition and specified right down to the exact speed of a procession, 20 miles per hour. That doesn't mean one president's funeral is like another's _ far from it _ and Gerald Ford's may not have the full-throated grandeur of Ronald Reagan's in June 2004.

Planners are guided by the wishes of the family and any instructions from the president himself on how elaborate the events will be, how much of it takes place in Washington and more. Ford's collegial character and unassuming style in the White House are expected to be reflected in his presidential funeral arrangements, details of which have yet to be announced.
the rest

Christian Fraternity Allowed: UGS
J. Grant Swank Jr.

You had to be a Christian to be a part of the fraternity. The University of Georgia said NO.

Now UGA says YES.

Per Ed Thomas of Agape Press, the reversal will now permit Christian’s fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi to register persons who agree to Christian beliefs. The fraternity, also known as "Brothers Under Christ," was ousted prior.

Alliance Defense Fund and Christian Legal Society advocated for the Christian group by filing suit against the UGA. They claimed religious bias against the Christian fraternity. They won.
the rest

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Acts 6:8-10 art

Jesus said, "Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
Matthew 23:34-39 art

Archbishop warns of a future full of dread for the Middle East
25th December 2006

The Archbishop of Canterbury used his Christmas message to issue a veiled attack on the policies of Tony Blair and George Bush in the Middle East.

In a frank speech, Dr Rowan Williams said it was "chilling" to find in the troubled region an "almost total absence" of any belief in a political solution to the crisis.

In an address inspired by a recent visit to Bethlehem, Dr Rowan Williams called on individuals not to forget the Israeli and Palestinian communities.

He said that both groups of people feared a future in which they were allowed to disappear "while the world looks elsewhere".

The message from Dr Williams comes came only days after he clashed with the Government during his trip after claiming in a newspaper article that the "shortsightedness" and "ignorance" of Britain's policies on Iraq were putting Christian communities in the region at risk.
the rest

1st Muslim congressman thrills crowd in Dearborn
December 26, 2006

Speaking in Dearborn late Sunday night, the first Muslim elected to Congress told a cheering crowd of Muslims they should remain steadfast in their faith and push for justice.

"You can't back down. You can't chicken out. You can't be afraid. You got to have faith in Allah, and you've got to stand up and be a real Muslim," Detroit native Keith Ellison said to loud applause.

Many in the crowd replied "Allahu akbar" -- God is great.

Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat elected to the U.S. House in November, has been the center of a national debate in recent weeks over Islam and its role in politics. Ellison has said he would take his oath of office on the Quran, the Muslim holy book, igniting a storm of criticism from some commentators.
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NYT: At Axis of Episcopal Split, an Anti-Gay Nigerian
Published: December 25, 2006

Nigeria, Dec. 20 — The way he tells the story, the first and only time Archbishop Peter J. Akinola knowingly shook a gay person’s hand, he sprang backward the moment he realized what he had done.

Archbishop Akinola, the conservative leader of Nigeria’s Anglican Church who has emerged at the center of a schism over homosexuality in the global Anglican Communion, re-enacted the scene from behind his desk Tuesday, shaking his head in wonder and horror.

“This man came up to me after a service, in New York I think, and said, ‘Oh, good to see you bishop, this is my partner of many years,’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘Oh!’ I jumped back.”

Archbishop Akinola, a man whose international reputation has largely been built on his tough stance against homosexuality, has become the spiritual head of 21 conservative churches in the United States. They opted to leave the
Episcopal Church over its decision to consecrate an openly gay bishop and allow churches to bless same-sex unions. Among the eight Virginia churches to announce they had joined the archbishop’s fold last week are The Falls Church and Truro Church, two large, historic and wealthy parishes. the rest

Bishop's new clothes
Christopher Bantick
December 27, 2006

The installation of a new archbishop is a significant moment in Melbourne Anglican Church life.This year it was a difficult choice. One round of candidates was rejected before former Northern Territory bishop Philip Freier was elected.

Dr Freier, as Archbishop of Melbourne, is set for a challenging time.

It has not begun well. In his inaugural sermon on his investiture at St Paul's Cathedral, Dr Freier spoke of the disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

Considering the "best efforts" of those who have gone before him, Dr Freier noted that not much had changed.

"But even these best efforts have arguably left the suffering of the powerless in the world in much the same misery that they have known," he said.

There is an inescapable irony here. St Paul's Cathedral, historically a citadel to serving others, would appear to ignore the poor clustered around its steps each day.
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ACNS: Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Sermon - 'The poorest deserve the best'
25 DECEMBER 2006

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams says that the care he saw being given to a baby in Bethlehem was a shining reminder of the Christmas message – that God’s love comes to us as a gift.

In his sermon, Dr Williams tells how, whilst visiting a crèche attached to Bethlehem’s Holy Family Hospital funded by international donations, he cradled an abandoned new-born child in his arms. He recounts asking the hospital's director, Robert Tabash why the standard of care was so good, despite the harsh economic conditions in the town:

“Dr Tabash said that all of this is important simply because ‘the poorest deserve the best’ …'The poorest deserve the best': when you hear that, I wonder if you can take in just how revolutionary it is. They do not deserve what’s left over when the more prosperous have had their fill, or what can be patched together on a minimal budget as some sort of damage limitation. And they don’t ‘deserve’ the best because they’ve worked for it and everyone agrees they’ve earned it. They deserve it simply because their need is what it is and because where human dignity is least obvious it’s most important to make a fuss about it.”
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Officials Should Have Power to Ban Veils, Church of England Bishop Says
Officials should have the power to ban veils that cover the face in public, a Church of England bishop said in comments published Sunday.
by Kevin Donovan

Officials should have the power to ban veils that cover the face in public, a Church of England bishop said in comments published Sunday.

The Pakistani-born bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, urged Muslims not to wear the veil under some circumstances, continuing the debate in Britain over the traditional garment for Muslim women.

"It is fine if they want to wear the veil in private," he was quoted as saying by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper. "But there are occasions in public life when it is inappropriate for them to wear it."

Nazir-Ali said authorities should have the power to ban the veil in some situations, following reports that a man suspected of shooting a police officer may have escaped Britain recently dressed as a Muslim woman.
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Christian couple wins pay-out after police questioning

A Christian couple questioned by police in England for describing homosexuality as "morally wrong" have won a £10,000 (€15,000) payout and an apology.

Helen and Joe Roberts were reported to police last December after they asked their local council - Wyre Borough Council - to display Christian literature alongside leaflets about gay rights.

The council refused, which prompted Mrs Roberts to make a telephone complaint in which she described homosexual practice as "morally wrong".

Two police officers then visited the Roberts' home and questioned them for an hour and 20 minutes about their moral beliefs.The couple took legal action against Lancashire Constabulary and Wyre Borough Council for infringing their freedom of expression and religious belief, and a High Court hearing was due to take place next month.

The Roberts have now agreed to drop the action after both the police and council apologised and offered £10,000 (€15,000), which will be donated to charity, plus legal costs.
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God and man at Harvard
By Paul Greenberg
December 23, 2006

Even the Ivy League schools seem to have noticed: Their students are not only arriving biblically illiterate but leaving pretty much the same way.

So a faculty committee at Harvard has considered making a course in religion part of the school's core curriculum.

The course would deal with "reason and faith," and touch on topics like the relation between religion and American democracy. Goodness, why not just have the students read and discuss Alexis Tocqueville's "Democracy in America"?
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LAtimes: Scripture by the plateful
By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer
December 25, 2006

Hartsdale, N.Y. — GOD, apparently, is no Emeril.The Bible contains just one true recipe, for a bread of wheat, barley and lentils cooked over a fire made from burning human excrement. The ingredients were a direct revelation from the Almighty to the priest Ezekiel. The taste?

"Like moldy bean sprouts," says the Rev. Rayner W. Hesse Jr., an Episcopal priest. "You don't want to eat it. Never, ever. Let me emphasize that: Never."

OK, Ezekiel bread is out. But what about the stew that Jacob cooked in the Book of Genesis? It was a lentil stew, the Scriptures record, and it smelled so good that Jacob's brother, Esau, traded his inheritance for a bowl of it. Ancient scribes did not record Jacob's recipe. Hesse has always wished they had.

So four years ago, he set out to re-create Jacob's lentils — and other famous biblical meals — with the help of his partner, Anthony F. Chiffolo, the editorial director of a nonfiction publishing house. The couple's curiosity led them on a theological, historical and culinary quest that would expand their understanding of Scripture and introduce them to such novelties as curdled camel's milk and crispy lotus root.
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Holland's Post-Secular Future Christianity is dead. Long live Christianity!
by Joshua Livestro

When the "corporate prayer" movement first started in 1996, few people in Holland took any notice. Why should they have done so? After all, Holland's manifest destiny was to become a fully secularized country, in which prayer was considered at best an irrational but harmless pastime. That was then. Cue forward to 2006, when prayer in the workplace is fast becoming a universally accepted phenomenon. More than 100 companies participate. Government ministries, universities, multinational companies like Philips, KLM, and ABN AMRO--all allow groups of employees to organize regular prayer meetings at their premises. Trade unions have even started lobbying the government for recognition of workers' right to prayer in the workplace.

The idea that secularization is the irreversible wave of the future is still the conventional wisdom in intellectual circles here. They would be bemused, to say the least, at a Dutch relapse into religiosity. But as the authors of a recently published study called De Toekomst van God (The Future of God) point out, organized prayer in the workplace is just one among several pieces of evidence suggesting that Holland is on the threshold of a new era--one we might call the age of "post-secularization." In their book, Adjiedj Bakas, a professional trend-watcher, and Minne Buwalda, a journalist, argue that Holland is experiencing a fundamental shift in religious orientation: "Throughout Western Europe, and also in Holland, liberal Protestantism is in its death throes. It will be replaced by a new orthodoxy."
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Veiled British Muslim woman delivers alternative Xmas message
Mon Dec 25

LONDON (AFP) - A Muslim woman in a full-face veil went head-to-head on television with Queen Elizabeth II, delivering an alternative Christmas Day message on religious integration.

At the same time the 80-year-old monarch's Christmas message to Britain and the Commonwealth was broadcast, a woman known only as Khadijah spoke on Channel 4 television Monday about why she wore the niqab in public and called for tolerance.

"We are seen as oppressed. Since I've started covering I feel much more liberated, which I know a lot of people possibly won't be able to understand," she said.

"I don't wear the niqab to separate myself from society. I want to be part of this society -- this is where I choose to live. I hope that society is more accepting of my personal choice. It's not about separation."

Khadijah's appearance comes amid a debate about the extent of religious and ethnic integration following last year's home-grown Islamist extremist suicide attacks in London.
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Despite Bans in Many States, Gay Wedding Industry Booms
Monday, December 25, 2006

RICHMOND, Va. — He's no celebrity, but when Phillip McKee III tied the knot in September, he did it with all the pomp and circumstance of an A-lister: Custom-designed gold rings, a $2,000 kilt and a caviar-and-crepe reception at a five-star hotel.

McKee, 34, sank some $60,000 into his Scottish-themed nuptials, worth it he says for the chance to stand before a minister and be pronounced husband — and husband.

Even as lawmakers across the nation debate legislation banning
same-sex marriage, couples are uniting in weddings both miniature and massive, fueling a growing industry peddling everything from pink triangle invitations to same-sex cake toppers.

Vendors say attention to the marriage issue has encouraged more gay couples to recognize their relationships, though in most states, the ceremonies are purely sentimental.
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The Economist: Free to choose?
Modern neuroscience is eroding the idea of free will

Dec 19th 2006

Excerpt: "Free will is one of the trickiest concepts in philosophy, but also one of the most important. Without it, the idea of responsibility for one's actions flies out of the window, along with much of the glue that holds a free society (and even an unfree one) together. If businessmen were no longer responsible for their contracts, criminals no longer responsible for their crimes and parents no longer responsible for their children, even though contract, crime and conception were “freely” entered into, then social relations would be very different."

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Anglicans aim to 'take Christmas back'
Parishoners of Saint Alban Church gathered Monday in the basement of Trinity United Church of Christ.
By TERESA McMINN For the Daily Record/Sunday News

Dec 26, 2006 — Roger Coleman didn't attend a Christmas Day mass expecting to feel better afterward. His intentions were unselfish, and he made them clear.

"I don't worship for feelings," he said. "It's a commandment from God."

Coleman and five other parishioners were at St. Alban Anglican Church on Monday. They gathered in the basement of Trinity United Church of Christ in a room that seats not more than about 15 people.
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Episcopal faith journey takes Nigerian detour
The Virginian-Pilot
December 26, 2006

Almost precisely 400 years after their theological ancestors left England for Jamestown, seven Virginia Episcopal parishes have embarked on a journey the other way. The Virginia parishes are moving toward Africa, or at least toward an organizing convocation led by a conservative Nigerian archbishop.

The current churchwide schism might have been baffling to the Rev. Robert Hunt, the first priest of Jamestown, but it will be all too familiar to modern observers. The breakaway parishes have essentially joined the battle over homosexuality by sending their allegiances abroad.

The Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, over recent years has been increasingly welcoming to homosexuals in church life, culminating in the consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003.
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Monday, December 25, 2006

This is the best ending of a Christmas-day—to wash anew in the cleansing fountain. Believer, come to this sacrifice continually; if it be so good to-night, it is good every night. To live at the altar is the privilege of the royal priesthood; to them sin, great as it is, is nevertheless no cause for despair, since they draw near yet again to the sin-atoning victim, and their conscience is purged from dead works.

Gladly I close this festive day,
Grasping the altar's hallow'd horn;
My slips and faults are washed away,
The Lamb has all my trespass borne.
...CH Spurgeon

Merry Christmas
from the Dagues!

Raymond, Pat, Ryan and Kevin
(and Herschel)

Settling down for a long winter's nap!

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills,
And life to joy awakes.

Not as of old a little child
To bear, and fight, and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun
That lights the morning sky.

O brighter than that glorious morn
Shall this fair morning be,
When Christ, our King, in beauty comes,
And we His face shall see.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And earth’s dark night is past;
O haste the rising of that morn,
The day that aye shall last.

And let the endless bliss begin,
By weary saints foretold,
When right shall triumph over wrong,
And truth shall be extolled.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light and beauty brings:
Hail, Christ the Lord! Thy people pray,
Come quickly, King of kings.
Unknown au­thor photo

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!
Li­tur­gy of St. James, 4th Cen­tu­ry

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jesus came! - and came for me.
Simple words! and yet expressing
Depths of holy mystery,
Depths of wondrous love and blessing.
Holy Spirit, make me see
All His coming means for me;
Take the things of Christ, I pray,
Show them to my heart today.
Frances Ridley Havergal art

O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry;
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide;
Take not Thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen;
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men;
From sale and profanation
Of honor and the sword;
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
The prince and priest and thrall;
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to Thee.
... Gilbert K. Chesterton
web gallery

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:2-5

Friday, December 22, 2006

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Isaiah 35:1-2