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Archive for September, 2010

Caught Reading Lutheranism 101: LCMS President Matthew Harrison

September 30th, 2010 3 comments

Send in photos of you “caught in the act” of reading Lutheranism 101, and I’ll post them here. If any of you have a better “stache” than President Harrison, we’ll count that one double.

The president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, Reading "Lutheranism 101" - He is obviously a man of discriminating tastes

Categories: CPH Resources

Lutheranism 101: PowerPoint Slides and Comics Now Available for Free Download

September 30th, 2010 5 comments

Although not developed as a curriculum piece, we’ve heard from many people that who have been thinking that Lutheranism 101, with its easy-to-read articles, charts, and bullet points, might be a helpful teaching tool and resource  for use in an adult or youth study, and you’re wondering how you might just do that. Maybe we can help.

A comprehensive set of PowerPoint presentation slides are now available and freely downloadable. There are six slide decks, a separate deck for each Part of the book. Slides cover the main topics for each chapter. The same bullet point style used in the book is featured on the slides making the key topics covered in each chapter easy to identify. In this way the slides become easy discussion starters or even a way to summarize the discussion.

Each deck also offers three fully designed “blank” slides that can be easily customized in PowerPoint to fit your needs.

A “bonus” seventh slide deck presents the eight Agnus Day comics used in the book plus an additional eight comics available only with the PowerPoint presentation.

To download the PowerPoint presentation slide decks, follow the hyperlinks below.

Lutheranism 101 Agnus Day comics

Categories: CPH Resources

ELCA Announces it is Withdrawing from the Lutheran Malaria Initiative for Financial Reasons, but The LCMS and CPH Remain Strong Partners in the Effort!

September 30th, 2010 6 comments

I’m sad to read that the ELCA is backing out of its commitments to the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, but very happy that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod remains strongly committed to it, in conjunction with Lutheran World Relief. In fact, Lutheran World Relief worked directly with Concordia Publishing House to produce the premier children’s resource to help congregations promote and advance this effort, particularly among children. We are now working to have this little book translated into African languages and used as a teaching tool to help people learn how to prevent malaria, a horrible disease that kills a child in Africa every thirty seconds! The name of the book is Little Things Make Big Differences. Here is a sample from the book. And, the Lutheran Malaria Initiative is the mission project being sponsored during our 2011 Vacation Bible School, Big Jungle Adventure.

It is utterly reprehensible that the ELCA is withdrawing from its commitments, placing the lives of who-knows-how-many children at risk, and even perhaps contributing to their death because it will not be a part of this effort, and does not want to support a churchwide fund raiser for fear it will take money away from the already shrinking amount of money funding the administrative functions at their Chicago headquarters. Unbelievable.

[NOTE: Since posting this a person associated with the ELCA administration in Chicago wanted to make clear that the ELCA is planning on trying to raise $15 million dollars for its own malaria efforts. He described this as the "largest" fund raising effort in ELCA history.]

Here is the unfortunate story from the ELCA’s news service.

ELCA NEWS SERVICE
September 30, 2010

ELCA Strengthens Malaria Work Through New, Focused Effort
10-258-JB

CHICAGO (ELCA) — The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), announced Sept. 30 that the ELCA will maintain and build its commitment toward a comprehensive effort to contain and prevent malaria, while making some changes to the structure of the project.  The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly authorized continued development of a campaign to respond to malaria.

“Our commitment to sisters and brothers in Africa remains firm,” Hanson said.  “This new, focused effort will assist the ELCA to keep our commitments strong and allow us to bring health and hope to those affected by malaria in Africa.”

The project, known as the “ELCA Malaria Campaign,” has been “right-sized” for the current realities of the ELCA, the presiding bishop added.

Hanson noted there have been declines in mission support and other income sources to the ELCA.  Because of those financial realities, he said that ELCA churchwide leaders determined that it was not feasible to propose a $30 million LMI fundraising campaign to the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

As a result the ELCA churchwide organization withdrew a grant proposal to the United Nations Foundation (UNF), ending the ELCA’s involvement in the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) partnership, Hanson said. The LMI was to be a partnership of the ELCA, Lutheran World Relief (LWR), The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the UNF.  The ELCA’s withdrawal from the UNF grant process should not be seen as a reflection on the ELCA’s working relationship with any of the other partners, Hanson said.

The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly authorized “continued development” of the LMI with the other partners.  The assembly also requested that a report and recommendations for a “possible churchwide campaign” for the LMI be brought to the 2011 assembly.

In keeping with the spirit of the assembly action, the ELCA Malaria Campaign intends to engage with at least 10 companion churches in Africa to contain, prevent and treat malaria, Hanson said. The new ELCA initiative will build on work already done by companion churches in Africa and pilot synods of the ELCA, and it will carry forward much of the work done through the LMI, he said.

Hanson said he will present to the ELCA Church Council in November a proposal for the ELCA Malaria Campaign.  The council is the ELCA’s board of directors and interim legislative authority between churchwide assemblies.  A proposal for a possible churchwide fundraising campaign is expected to be presented to the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
For now the ELCA churchwide organization will continue to develop the ELCA Malaria Campaign, and encourage prayer, advocacy, education and fundraising.  Some “pilot synods” of the ELCA will continue their work to develop the ELCA’s malaria effort, Hanson said.  There are 10 pilot synods for 2010-2011.

Though the ELCA will not be part of LMI, the church plans to work cooperatively with LWR in Tanzania and other places where working together advances the malaria prevention and treatment effort, Hanson said.  “We are also exploring a possible shared approach in malaria fundraising at ELCA colleges and universities with LWR,” he said.

Companion churches and the ELCA Global Mission program unit will continue to work with the Global Fund “as these churches grow in their capacity to respond to HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” said Hanson, adding the ELCA’s continuing involvement in “Nothing But Nets” is still under consideration.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
http://www.elca.org/news
http://www.facebook.com/elcanews
Twitter: http://twitter.com/elcanews

Categories: CPH Resources

What’s Still Coming Out in 2010 From Concordia Publishing House?

September 30th, 2010 6 comments

Now, mind you, this is just from one of our editorial departments, our professional and academic book department, but here is a list of the good things still to appear in 2010. Just a few of the great things still to come this year!

Johann Gerhard, On the Church
Luther, Vol. 58
Concordia Popular Commentary: 1 Corinthians
The Lutheran Difference
Lutheran Spirituality
Philip Melanchthon, Commentary on Romans, 2nd ed.
Herberger, Great Works of God
Nordling, Religion and Resistance in Early Judaism
Update: A friend just e-mailed me and asked, “Did you mean 2010 or 2011?” I said, “2010!” Publishing, it’s what we do.

Categories: CPH Resources

Hindus and Muslims Clash Over Holy Site: Hindus Claim it is the Birthplace of the God Ram

September 30th, 2010 Comments off

Christians call for calm after Indian verdict on holy site
ENI-10-0663

By Anto Akkara
Bangalore, India, 30 September (ENI)–Churches in India have joined other faiths and political leaders in calling for calm after a court ruled that a religious site, vigorously and violently disputed by Hindus and Muslims, should be split between the two groups.

On 30 September, the high court of northern Uttar Pradesh state handed down its verdict in the protracted case that concerns the ownership of the site of the former Babri mosque at Ayodhya, 700 kilometres (420 miles) south-east of New Delhi. The case has been pending for more than half a century.

In a majority verdict, two of the three judges declared that Hindus have the right of ownership to the main disputed area, where the main dome of the Muslim Babri mosque once stood. The court granted Muslims and a Hindu group control of other parts of the site.

Hindus consider the location the birthplace of the god Ram, and placed a Ram idol inside the mosque in 1949.

In 1992, Hindu extremists destroyed the mosque, built by the Mughal Empire ruler Babar in 1528. In the Hindu-Muslim violence that followed, more than 2000 people died.

Ahead of the court verdict, which some legal experts say is a victory for Hindu groups, the National Council of Churches in India, which groups Orthodox and Protestant churches, called for calm. “The NCCI calls upon everyone to maintain peace and harmony,” the council said in a 24 September press release.

After the verdict, Christopher Rajkumar, executive secretary of the NCCI’s justice and peace commission, told ENInews from Nagpur, “We do not want to go into the merits of the judgment at this moment. We have to study it carefully. We want peace and harmony in the country.”

Archbishop Albert D’Souza of Agra, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, echoed these sentiments, and, from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya lies, appealed for peace.

In addition, Hindu groups and leaders of various political parties have appealed for “peace and calm,” against a background of general concern marked, as a result of the verdict, by traffic disappearing off roads and businesses shutting down in many cities.

“The worst has been averted,” noted D’Souza, referring to the three-way split of the 2.6 acre disputed land that the court ordered. The site is currently under the control of the federal government.

Still, D’Souza said that he would have been happier if those who pulled down the Babri mosque in 1992 had been punished, or at least reprimanded, when the court gave its verdict.

Some Hindu groups that see the verdict as a victory for themselves have urged Muslims to accept the verdict and allow the building of a Ram temple on the disputed site, “in the national interest”.

The Muslim litigants have said they will appeal the verdict in the federal Supreme Court. [485 words]

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Pilgrims Converge on Jerusalem (No, it’s not a Crusade)

September 30th, 2010 1 comment

Evangelical Christian pilgrims converge on Jerusalem
ENI-10-0664

By Judith Sudilovsky
Jerusalem, 30 September (ENI)–Thousands of evangelical Christians from 100 countries have participated in a 30th “Feast of Tabernacles” event, organized by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, a group strongly supportive of a united Jerusalem under Israel.

The ICEJ says the event, held from 23 to 29 September to coincide with the Jewish holiday of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), has become Israel’s largest annual tourist event, and the largest solidarity mission to Israel.

Organizers expect the festival to have injected an estimated US$15 million into the local economy. The event takes place with the assistance of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and, in 2010, about 1000 pilgrims from Brazil made up the largest group at the embassy event.

Numerous Israeli leaders attended, including tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov and other members of the Israeli cabinet. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a video greeting.

The Rev. Malcolm Hedding, ICEJ executive director, said, “The Christian Embassy has established a remarkable record of standing in support of Israel and a united Jerusalem over the past three decades, whether through our many humanitarian projects … our advocacy efforts worldwide, or our annual feast gathering in Jerusalem.”

The ICEJ was founded in September 1980 at a time when 13 countries moved their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to protest the passage by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, of the “Jerusalem Law,” which declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

At that time, the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem announced it would open, “as an act of comfort and solidarity with the 3000-year-old Jewish claim and connection to this city”.

This year’s ICEJ festival included seminars, performances and prayers. Participants joined the traditional Jerusalem March on 28 September.

Some also toured a West Bank settlement to learn about the impact of the 10-month-long settlement-building freeze the day after it was scheduled to expire. Festival goers were also due to take part in an interfaith dialogue with Orthodox Jewish settlers in the West Bank settlement of Efrat.

The interfaith contact did not extend to Muslim leaders.

The local Palestinian churches have criticised some evangelical Christians, including the ICEJ, for being pro-Israeli to the extent that they ignore the plight of local Christians. Many Palestinian Christians believe Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem should be part of an independent Palestine. [388 words]
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Japanese Bishops Publish Interfaith Guidelines in English

September 29th, 2010 Comments off

Japan’s Catholic bishops publish English interfaith guidelines
ENI-10-0661

By Hisashi Yukimoto
Tokyo, 29 September (ENI)–Japan’s Roman Catholic bishops have published an English-language version of their guidelines for interreligious dialogue.

“Guidelines on Interreligious Dialogue – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan,” is aimed at foreign residents in the country.

“In Japan, where the number of Christians is extremely low, Catholics frequently have contact with followers of various religions and attend other religions’ events,” the bishops explain on their Web site. “We are often puzzled or bewildered on those occasions. It must be especially hard for foreign residents, who are not familiar with Japanese unique rituals, customs, and manners.”

“This book offers clear answers to various kinds of problems in the form of questions and answers,” the bishops add.

The guidelines consist of two parts, of which the first deals with the spirit of interreligious dialogue. The second section of the book includes 88 questions and answers relating to interreligious issues, and focus on real-life conversations, theological exchanges, and religious experience.

The questions and answers relate to topics such as, “Offerings to a Buddhist altar,” “Attending non-Catholic ceremonies such as weddings and funerals,” and, “Memorial services for the ancestors.” There is also an appendix on Islam.

The bishops’ conference originally published the guidelines in Japanese in September 2009 as a follow up to its 1985, “Manual for Catholics regarding Ancestors and the Dead”.

There are currently 192 Catholic churches in Japan. Christians in Japan account for only two percent of the 127-million population, and many of the Christians are foreigners, with a big segment coming from the Philippines. [265 words]

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Atheists Score High on Religion Survey

September 29th, 2010 Comments off

Atheists score high in US religion survey
ENI-10-0660

By Chris Herlinger
New York, 29 September (ENI)–If you want a question on religion answered in the United States, ask an atheist.

U.S. atheists and agnostics are among the groups that scored highest in a recent survey of knowledge of world religions by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre’s Forum on Religion and Public Life. U.S. Jews and Mormons also got top marks.

Still, the study found that white evangelical Protestants, and Mormons scored highest on questions about Christianity. Atheists, agnostics and Jews scored highest on questions about the intersection of religion and public life, such as the U.S. Constitutional guarantees and protection of religious freedom.

The survey of 3412 adults, taken between 19 May and 6 June, suggests that large numbers of Americans do not know, “about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions – including their own”, Pew said when it announced the survey results on 28 September.

The study also suggests that Americans are generally knowledgeable about the basic facts of the Bible, with 71 percent of those surveyed knowing that biblical accounts say Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem.

More than six in 10 polled, 63 percent, also correctly identified Genesis as the first book of the Bible.

The study found that, on average, those surveyed answered 16 of 32 questions correctly, with atheists and agnostics correctly answering nearly 21 questions, and Jews and Mormons answering nearly as many correctly. Protestants averaged 16 correct responses, and Catholics got almost 15 questions right.

Among the other findings:

• More than half of Protestants polled, 53 percent, could not correctly identify German reform leader Martin Luther as a key figure in the Protestant Reformation.

• Nearly half of the U.S. Catholics surveyed, 45 percent, were ignorant of a key tenet of Catholic teaching – that the bread and wine in the Mass or Holy Communion become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and do not remain, as various Protestant traditions believe, religious symbols.

• Only about a quarter of those surveyed, 27 percent, correctly said that the majority of Indonesians are Muslims; less than half of those polled, 47 percent, could not identify the Dalai Lama as a Buddhist; and only 38 percent could identify the figures of Vishnu and Shiva with the tradition of Hinduism.

• Survey results and a version of the quiz: http://www.pewforum.org/ [395 words]

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A Plea for Peace in the Sudan

September 29th, 2010 Comments off

‘Keep train on track’ for Sudan peace pleads world church leader
ENI-10-0662

By Fredrick Nzwili
Nairobi, 29 September (ENI)–The general secretary of the World Council of Churches has pleaded for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Sudan so that Africa’s biggest country can achieve stability.

The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said he understands from visits to the country, made before the signing of the pact in 2005, how Sudan desperately needs the peace agreement that ended a decades-long civil war.

“For me, this peace agreement is such a costly gift and such an opportunity that should not be lost,” Tveit told ENInews in an interview on 21 September at the beginning of a seven-day visit to Kenya and Ethiopia.

On 9 January 2011, Sudan is scheduled to hold referenda in southern Sudan and the oil-rich Abyei border region between north and south Sudan. The result could see people from the south, where Christianity and traditional religions predominate, hive off from the north, where most people are Arabs, and Islam is dominant.

The Abyei region will be choosing whether to join the north or south of the existing country.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army and the government in Khartoum signed their 2005 peace agreement in Kenya to end a 21-years-long civil war that had killed nearly two million people, mainly in the south.

Tveit, a Norwegian Lutheran, told ENInews, “We [churches] have to realise that in agreements like this, not everything is straight forward but we have to ‘keep the train on the track’ … In the long run, that is what matters.”

Tveit’s predecessor at the WCC, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, who has been appointed special ecumenical envoy to Sudan, has said he is deeply concerned that whatever the outcome of the Sudan referendum process is, it will be contested. Kobia believes that mechanisms to resolve any conflicts stemming from the referendum should be agreed to and put in place quickly.

“The lack of trust between the parties may lead to accusations of rigging. Any doubts in the south about the credibility of the referendum outcome could herald a return to war,” Kobia warned in a statement issued on 27 September. [362 words]

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Update on Finnish Situation

September 29th, 2010 4 comments

Matti Väisänen, a bishop in the Mission Province of Sweden and Finland (Missionsprovinsen i Sverige och Finland), conducts his first ordination service on 2nd October 2010. The ordination, taking place in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart in Helsinki, will be the first Mission Province ordination in Finland.

The four candidates for ordination have been called by koinonias of Luther Foundation Finland. Sami Liukkonen will serve St.Titus in Mikkeli (S:t Michel), Eero Pihlava will become an assistant pastor in St. Mark in Helsinki (Helsingfors), St.Matthew in Hämeenlinna (Tavastehus) will receive Markus Nieminen, and Jani-Matti Ylilehto will shepherd the St. Andreas koinonia in Kokkola (Karleby). After this newest addition, the network of koinonias in Finland will be served by fifteen employed pastors – among them the eight pastors ordained by Arne Olsson, now emeritus Mission Bishop of Mission Province – supported by a dozen or so retired shepherds .

The bishops of the established church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, have maintained that only those willing to work together with female clergy are eligible for ordination. The retirement of the last confessional bishop, Olavi Rimpiläinen, in 2000, meant that it has been practically impossible for those who reject the unbiblical doctrine and practice of women’s ordination to be ordained and thus admitted into the pastoral office. Many congregations and parachurch organizations would issue calls, but the ‘confessional quarantine’ imposed on the theologically conservative minority by the bishops of the established church has prevented this. The service to be held on 2nd October will thus be the first ordination in Finland for ten years with candidates fully holding to the apostolic understanding of the Office of the Ministry are ordained.

Matti Väisänen was consecrated as bishop on 20th March 2010. His responsibility is not only to serve congregations by ordaining pastors as they are called, but also to act as a seelsorger for those already in the Office, thus being a ‘shepherd of shepherds’. For young pastors, receiving their first call in a turbulent ecclesial situation, this kind of pastoral care is priceless. To share the burden, a consistory of five members has been assembled, entrusted with the tasks of, for example, examining new candidates for the pastoral office as well as handling disputes, if any arise.

Luther Foundation Finland is an organization founded in 1999 with the purpose of helping faithful Finnish Lutherans, left homeless by the increasingly liberal established church, to build up koinonias, i.e. communities formed around the pure proclamation of Word and the correct administration of the Sacraments. During the eleven years of its operation, the work has now spread to 24 cities, with the demand for new koinonias still being strong.

Esko Murto
Theological Secretary
Luther Foundation Finland

Categories: Uncategorized

Don’t Dump Near My Church, Says Roman Catholic Bishop

September 28th, 2010 1 comment

Macau bishop says no to garbage dump at UN heritage site
ENI-10-0659

By Francis Wong
Hong Kong, 28 September (ENI)–The Roman Catholic bishop in Macau has spoken out against the building by the government of a garbage storage facility next to the city’s Church of St Lawrence, an historic building UNESCO listed as a world cultural heritage site in 2005.

Bishop Jose Lai Hung-Seng told media on 23 September, “This is not at all good.” He explained that the proposed dump would not be in harmony with the world cultural heritage site.

The bishop said his objection is not that the new storage facility would be next to a church, and hat it would be next to the cultural heritage site. He hopes and believes the government will drop its plan.

Government officials met a number of neighbourhood groups on 17 September, and told them that the garbage hut would improve local public health, and would not damage the heritage site.

Still, the St Lawrence parish has said it disagrees with the government proposal and that the garbage store will negatively impact the heritage site. The parish had previously organized a briefing session with government officials on 13 September, at which church delegates submitted their objections.

The Rev. Domingos Un, parish priest of St Lawrence’s, argues that the proposal, if implemented, will damage the cultural site, and says that as the priest who manages the church he has a responsibility to voice his concern.

He believes that the garbage hut would not fit in with the existing environment, and would worsen public health and hygiene in the area. The parish has collected hundreds of signatures of those who oppose the project, and some parishioners say the government has not discussed the issue fully with them.

According to the government’s Web site, the planned garbage hut would be one metre from the church building, and would be one metre high, with the rest of the construction underground. The authorities say they will build a mini-fountain and plant some trees in the area to improve the landscape.

Still, a Chinese expert has asked the Macao government to listen to the opinions of the neighbourhood.

He Yunao, director of the Cultural and Natural Heritage Research Centre of Nanjing University, told media during a visit to Macau from 16 to 18 September that protecting the cultural heritage site is a vital task.

St Lawrence’s Church, built in the 1560s, is located in what is now known as the “Historic Centre of Macau,” where there are more than 20 historic cultural and religious buildings. [428 words]

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Liberal Western Churches Focus on Homosexuality is Not What Africans Are Interested In

September 28th, 2010 2 comments

West focus on gays not real issue for Africa, says Angolan bishop – Feature
ENI-10-0658

By Trevor Grundy
London, 28 September (ENI)–The 25, not-so-young, white, Christian supporters of Africa met in an almost empty London church, which had been partly destroyed in the Second World War, to hear the Anglican bishop of Angola, Andre Soares, talk about, “the real issues” facing his continent.

Bishop Soares spoke to ENINews before the start of the 2010 annual general meeting of the Mozambique Angola Association, founded 103 years ago to link Protestant churches in Britain with similar churches in the then-Portuguese territories of Africa.

“We know a great deal about the challenge of secularism and materialism. My country became independent from Portugal 35 years ago on 11 November 1975,” Bishop Soares said outside St John’s Church on Waterloo Road in central London.

“Augustino Neto, an open Marxist-Leninist, was Angola’s first president. The churches were closed; children were ordered not to attend Christian services,” Soares explained to ENInews.

“But thanks to determined men, women and children, and the power of Christ and prayer, all that has changed,” the bishop added. “Today, there is complete freedom to worship the way you want to worship in my country.”

Born in 1956 in Kinfinda village in Angola’s north western Uige province, Soares said that throughout Africa, Christians believed in the total authenticity of the Bible, and African attitudes towards gay men and lesbians must be viewed in that light.

Asked about comments made by Pope Benedict XVI during his four-day visit to Britain earlier in September, that Anglicans and Roman Catholics should work together, the bishop replied, “In the past we had problems, yes, but today we are all pulling together – Anglicans, Catholics, Christians of all denominations.”

“There are 1000 denominations in my country. You can find a church anywhere but the government only recognises 83 denominations. Of course, we are one of them,” said Soares, who was born into a Christian family and now, among other things, serves on the ecumenical Angolan Inter-Church Peace Committee.

Angola’s population is about 12.7 million, of whom about 38 percent are Catholics and 15 percent Protestants. Around 250 000 people worship regularly in the country’s Anglican churches.

Bishop Soares said that the main problems facing Angolan Christians are not gay and lesbian rights, abortion or the ordination of women as priests but poverty, disease, malaria, and the re-emergence of tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS, as well as the need for wider democracy.

Soares grew up against the background of a liberation war that led to Angolan independence in 1975, and the civil conflict that followed. He became a pastor in 1983 and was consecrated bishop in 2003, the year in which Angola became a diocese of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

“We ordained the first three women on 25 March this year,” he said. “It was a great celebration, with about 2000 people, in the presence of the vice-president of the National Assembly, Mrs Joana Lina Ramos Baptisa, and the general director for religious affairs.”

Asked about the stance on gays and lesbians in Africa, and of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s past comment that, “They are worse than dogs and pigs,” Soares said, “Well, that’s Robert Mugabe. You know what he is like. I did not hear him say that but I heard what was said in Entebbe recently on this subject.”

The bishop was referring to last month’s meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, when bishops discussed gays and lesbians, as well as what to do about the re-emergence of TB and malaria, and the spread of HIV and AIDS.

At that gathering, Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh underscored the primacy of the family, and condemned homosexual practices, as he declared, “We do not believe two women or two men can make a family.”

Asked if he found the line that most Africans take towards gays and lesbians difficult to deal with, MANNA’S chairperson since 2007, Archdeacon of Derby the Rev. Christopher Cunliffe, said, “I am not embarrassed by that. What I seek to do is understand the context in which they are working.”

The former chairperson of MANNA, the Rev. Ken Hewitt, said of Mugabe’s controversial “dogs and pigs” statement, made at the Harare Book Fair in 1994, “He was talking about himself.”

Hewitt, who before his retirement was vicar of St Augustine’s [Anglican] Church in Queen’s Gate, London, said he was surprised that the archbishop of Uganda, the Rev. Henry Orombi, had in 2009 spoken with “vehemence” about homosexuals. “He obviously does not know his own country’s history,” said Hewitt.

He explained that in the 1880s, among a group of people known as the Christian martyrs of Uganda, there were page boys of the Kabaka (king) of Buganda, who became Christians, and then refused to sleep with the king because of their new-found faith. “He had them martyred, burnt … That was before white people got any power over there, and yet he [Archbishop Orombi] has the temerity to say that homosexuality comes from the West.” [840 words]
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Blissfully Ignorant Protestants and Catholics.

September 28th, 2010 9 comments

That would the “take away” headline from a study released by the Pew Foundation, which, based on interviews with 3,400 people, scientifically done of course, announced the results recently of a survey that demonstrates there is a lot of ignorance among Christians about even the most basic tenets of their faith. Here is the Pew Forum’s press release:

New Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Survey
Explores Religious Knowledge in the U.S.

Washington, D.C.—Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.
On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for different levels of education.

On questions about Christianity (including the Bible), Mormons and white evangelical Protestants show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews, atheists and agnostics stand out for their knowledge of world religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Jews, atheists and agnostics also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

While previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations, this survey shows that large numbers of Americans are not well informed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions—including their own. Many people also think that the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are stricter than they really are.

These are among the key findings of the “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey,” a nationwide poll conducted from May 19 through June 6, 2010, among 3,412 adults.

Additional findings include:

•    More than four-in-ten Catholics (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize, but actually become, the body and blood of Christ

•    About half of Protestants (53%) cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, which made their religion a separate branch of Christianity

•    Roughly four-in-ten Jews (43%) do not recognize that Maimonides, one of the most venerated rabbis in history, was Jewish

•    Fewer than half of Americans (47%) know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist; fewer than four-in-ten (38%) correctly identify Vishnu and Shiva with Hinduism; and only about a quarter of all Americans (27%) know that most people in Indonesia are Muslims

•    There is widespread confusion over the line between teaching and preaching in public schools. Nine-in-ten Americans (89%) know that U.S. Supreme Court rulings do not allow teachers to lead public school classes in prayer. However two-thirds of people surveyed incorrectly say that Supreme Court rulings prevent public school teachers from reading from the Bible as an example of literature, and only 36% know that comparative religion classes may be taught in public schools.

•    Most Americans are able to correctly answer at least half of the survey’s questions about the Bible. Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) know that, according to the Bible, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. More than six-in-ten (63%) can correctly name Genesis as the first book of the Bible.

Data from the survey indicate that educational attainment—how much schooling an individual has completed—is the single best predictor of religious knowledge. On average, college graduates answered nearly eight more questions correctly than those with a high school education or less. Religious knowledge is also higher among those who have taken a religion course in college. Other factors linked with religious knowledge include reading Scripture at least once a week and talking about religion with friends and family.

For those curious about their own religious knowledge, the online presentation of the “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey” includes an interactive quiz that allows Web visitors to answer a selection of questions taken from the survey and compare their results to the nation as a whole and with various religious and demographic groups.

In conjunction with the release of the survey, WGBH in Boston will debut “God in America,” a six-hour series that interweaves documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews to explore the historical role of religion in the U.S., including its impact on society, politics and culture. It will air over three consecutive nights on PBS beginning Oct. 11.

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The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and public life in the U.S. and around the world. As part of the Washington-based Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization, the Pew Forum does not take positions on any of the issues it covers or on policy debates.

Categories: Culture

Abortion Survivor Speaks: Stunningly Powerful

September 28th, 2010 8 comments

I had not seen this before. Thanks for Pastor Messer for putting this on his blog site. Watch this, and then let me know what you think.

Categories: Sanctity of Life

Palestinian-Settlers Tensions Rising: New Intifada Predicted

September 27th, 2010 Comments off

Rabbi warns of ‘new intifada’ as Palestinian-settler tensions rise
ENI-10-0657

By Judith Sudilovsky
Jerusalem, 27 September (ENI)–Hours after a freeze on West Bank Israeli settlement construction expired, bulldozers moved into an area close to Revava, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, with many residents mindful of an earlier reminder that settler activity can be volatile.

At a joint press conference in Paris with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on 27 September, expressed his regret that Israel had not extended the moratorium on new settlement building which had expired at the preceding midnight.

A shooting incident in East Jerusalem on 22 September, in which a Palestinian man died, and the death of a young child two days later, had shown the volatility that exists when Israeli settlers move into areas where Palestinians live.

Rioting began after a private Israeli security guard shot and killed 32-year-old Samer Sarhan, a father of five, in the East Jerusalem village of Silwan. A 14-month-old Palestinian baby died two days later from tear gas inhalation in another village, to which the violence had spread.

“We are in an extremely dangerous situation right now. We have been warning for over a year that things are really at boiling point, that we are in serious danger of a third intifada exploding, which nobody wants,” said Rabbi Arik Ascherman, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, on 26 September. His statement came after four days of violence following the death of Sarhan.

Israeli police said the security guard killed Sarhan in the early morning. They said a group of Palestinians had blocked and stoned a car in which a number of guards were travelling. Palestinians say the guards had stopped their car near a group of unarmed men during a morning patrol, and then an argument broke out, which led to the shooting.

Rabbis for Human Rights activists went to the scene during the following weekend in an effort to keep tensions from escalating, said Ascherman. “We attempt to prevent excessive violence by Israeli security forces in a way which does not encourage Palestinian violence,” he explained.

Ascherman added that though Palestinians are concerned about the possible renewal of construction in the settlements, “The greatest frustration area is East Jerusalem.”

Jewish settlers claim a connection to Silwan as being the biblical “City of David” that King David built outside Jerusalem’s city walls, and have been conducting extensive archaeological excavations on the site.

Christian pilgrims also revere the site as the place where Jesus restored the sight of a blind man by the Pool of Siloam. In 2004, the remains of a water pool from the time of the second temple were uncovered. This extended an already known waterway, and matched descriptions of the pool by Byzantine pilgrims.

More recently, Silwan became a flash point in East Jerusalem, when Jewish settlers took over a building, known as Beit Yonatan, which they say was once Jewish property. Despite a subsequent municipal eviction order being issued, no steps have been taken to remove the settlers. At the same time, some 22 Palestinian homes in the area have been threatened with demolition, as the municipality plans to create an archaeological park there.

On its Web site, the BBC describes the contentious area as follows: “Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967. It annexed the area in 1981 and sees it as its exclusive domain. Under international law the area is considered to be occupied territory.” [575 words]

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