Sunday, February 10, 2019

Mainstream media belatedly discovers sexual abuse within the Southern Masonic Baptist Convention

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:6 (also Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2)

As is so often the case, mainstream media are late to come to a story, and then act as if they were the ones who discovered it. An example is 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms by Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco in the Houston Chronicle, February 10, 2019--the first of three articles on the subject, mentioning names and incidents.

It comes as no surprise to this blogger to see mainstream newspapers exposing sexual abuse in the SBC; I just wonder why it took them so long to get around to it. All anyone had to do was do a Google search using the term "Baptist" and "predator" to find the website Stop Baptist Predators and blog Stop Baptist Predators, both by Christa Brown, who has been warning about this matter for more than a decade. I recommend her site and blog for research purposes, although I don't think she's doctrinally sound.

Another useful blog is let's stop pastor darrell gilyard together by Tiffany Croft, which is on my blogroll. The information provided in these sites isn't particularly current, but is still relevant. The fact that the sites go back a few years shows how long that sexual abuse within the SBC has been an issue that some have tried to draw attention to, before its belated discovery by mainstream media.

HT: Vox Popoli

Thursday, January 31, 2019

New York hospital withdraws man's life support after woman misidentifies him as her brother

Another exciting episode in 21st century medical ethics; as reported by Priscilla DeGregory and Georgett Roberts of the New York Post, January 27, 2019:

They were switched at death.

A horrific hospital mix-up left a Brooklyn woman grieving for nine days at the bedside of a brain-damaged man who doctors insisted was her brother — but who was actually a stranger with the same name, a new lawsuit charges.

But only after she gave consent to have her “brother” taken off life support at St. Barnabas Hospital did Shirell Powell learn the shocking truth: Her real sibling was in jail — and she had just sent a stranger to his death, her Bronx Supreme Court lawsuit says.

“I nearly fainted because I killed somebody that I didn’t even know. I gave consent,” said Powell, 48, of Crown Heights.

“I was like, ‘Where is my brother? What is going on?’ I was devastated.”

The saga began July 15, when Freddy Clarence Williams, 40, was admitted to the Bronx hospital, unconscious from an apparent drug overdose, according to Powell’s lawsuit.

Williams had his Social Security card on him, and it identified him by that name, the court papers say.

But the hospital phoned Powell anyway, telling her that her brother, Frederick Williams, who also is 40 but has no middle name, had been admitted and was near death.

She rushed to the man’s bedside.

“He had tubes in his mouth, a neck brace,’’ Powell told The Post. “He was a little swollen . . . [But] he resembled my brother so much.

“He couldn’t speak from the time they brought him in the hospital. They just assumed it was my brother.”

After two days of tests, St. Barnabas doctors told her that her “brother” was brain-dead, she said.

“That is my baby brother, so it was really hurtful,” she said. “I was worried, hurt, crying, screaming, calling everybody. It was a horrible feeling.”

With no cause to hope for his recovery, she contacted relatives down South, telling them to come and say their goodbyes.

Powell acknowledged that the first time her sister saw the ailing man in the hospital, she questioned whether he was their sibling.

“She walked up into the room and said, ‘That is not my brother,’ ” Powell recalled. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ”

“The guy was much bigger,’’ Powell explained.

But he appeared swollen, and “the eyebrows, the nose, the structure — it looked like [our] brother,” Powell said. “My sister, she walked up closer, and you could see the resemblance, and she was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ ”

So on July 29, with her uncle and sister at her side, Powell “authorized [the hospital] to withdraw life support from Frederick Williams,” the lawsuit says.

“It was very devastating,” she recalled. “I was crying.”

Frederick Williams’ “death” was even harder on his two daughters — Brooklyn, 17, and Star, 18, their aunt said.

The teens live in Virginia, and Brooklyn came to the city to say goodbye to her father before he was taken off life support, Powell said.

“She was hysterical,” Powell recalled. “She was holding his hand, kissing him, crying.”

Only after an autopsy did the city Medical Examiner’s Office reveal the truth: The dead man was Freddy Clarence Williams.

Powell said they got a call from a worker at the agency as they were making funeral arrangements.

“She called us just in time,” Powell said. “We would have been burying someone else.”

Meanwhile, it turned out Powell’s actual brother was in jail on a July 1 assault arrest in lower Manhattan.

Powell went to Manhattan Supreme Court for her sibling’s next hearing a few weeks later — just to lay eyes on him.

“I saw my brother,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was very relieved.”

She also called him on the phone at Rikers Island. They had quite a conversation about her decision to pull his plug.

“He was saying, ‘You were going to kill me?’ I explained to him, once you’re brain-dead, there is nothing to do.”

Interviewed at Rikers, Powell’s brother said he had forgiven his sister for pulling the plug on the man she thought was him.

“The doctors told her they couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I’m not mad at her.”

Still, he raged, “How could the hospital do something like that? Look what they put my family through.”

Powell’s lawyer, Alexander M. Dudelson, told The Post that he tried to get information about Freddy Clarence Williams, the stranger who died surrounded by Powell’s sobbing family.

“The representatives [at St. Barnabas] basically spit in my face,” he said. “This is beyond reckless conduct. I requested an investigation. Nothing more. An apology would have been nice.”

Asked about the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, hospital spokesman Steven Clark responded, “We don’t feel there is any merit to this claim.”

Powell also asked the ME’s Office for the dead man’s family information so she could send condolences, but it denied the request, citing privacy concerns.

Now, Powell says, she remains haunted by questions: The man she had grieved for at the hospital — who was he? Does he have family?

“I barely sleep thinking about this all the time,’’ she said.

“To actually stand over him and watch this man take his last breath — sometimes I can’t even talk about it because I get upset and start crying.

“On the one hand, I’m thankful that it wasn’t [my brother]. On the other hand, I killed somebody that was a dad or a brother.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Belgian doctors face prosecutors for euthanizing autistic woman

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: Deuteronomy 30:19

For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.
But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
Proverbs 8:35-36

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12 (also Proverbs 16:25)

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,...
...And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Romans 1:22,28

It comes as no surprise to this blogger that the categories of people deemed eligible for euthanasia are becoming broader, and that countries which fought the Nazis during World War II are increasingly adopting the Nazis' policies. Even if the doctors in this case are convicted, it will just be a matter of time until killing of such people becomes legal. As reported by Lia Eustachewich of the New York Post, November 27, 2018:

A woman with autism may have been improperly euthanized by doctors in Belgium who had her parents hold the needle in place while the deadly injection was administered, according to prosecutors.

The trio of doctors will face trial in the 2010 death of Tine Nys, a 38-year-old woman who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome two months before her death at the hands of a doctor.

The East Flanders physicians are accused of poisoning Nys before she died, as well as botching parts of the procedure.

In Belgium and the Netherlands, it is legal for doctors to euthanize patients who have psychiatric problems that cause “unbearable and untreatable” suffering. Among Belgians put to death for mental health reasons, the most common conditions are depression, personality disorder and Asperger’s, a mild form of autism.

The legitimacy of the controversial practice, however, is hotly debated.

Nys’ family filed a criminal complaint last year alleging numerous “irregularities” in her death, as her doctors tried to thwart the investigation, the Associated Press reported.

“We must try to stop these people,” wrote Dr. Lieve Thienpont, the psychiatrist who approved Nys’ request to die and one of three doctors now facing charges. “It is a seriously dysfunctional, wounded, traumatized family with very little empathy and respect for others.”

One of the doctors asked Nys’ parents to hold the needle in place as he administered the fatal injection — and then asked the family to use a stethoscope to confirm her heart had stopped, one of the victim’s sisters, Sophie Nys, told the AP.

Concerns have been previously raised that Thienpont may have too readily approved euthanasia requests for mentally ill patients.

Thienpont and Dr. Wim Distelmans, head of Belgium’s euthanasia review commission, have come to blows before. Distelmans has said the doctor and colleagues may have failed to meet certain legal requirements before performing euthanasia. He also wrote that he’d no longer accept patients referred from Thienpont.

Since euthanasia was approved in Belgium in 2002, more than 10,000 people have been killed. Only one case has been referred to prosecutors but was later dropped.

The three doctors in Nys’ case have been referred to the Court of Assize in Ghent and will face trial “due to poisoning,” said prosecutor Francis Clarysse.
See also my posts:

Pope Francis orders Roman Catholic charity in Belgium to stop performing euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals (August 13, 2017)

Belgium now euthanizes children as young as 7 (August 11, 2018)

Monday, January 28, 2019

U.S. President Trump backs efforts by state legislators to allow teaching of Bible literacy in public schools

One can hardly imagine the Manchurian Pothead or anyone else in his antichrist government issuing a similar tweet in Trudeaupia Canada. Mr. Trump has been good in defending the rights of Christians in the United States, to the continued irritation of secularists. As reported by Caleb Parke of Fox News, January 28, 2019 (links in original):

A growing number of states are considering bringing the Bible back to the classroom.

At least six states -- Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia -- have introduced legislation this year pushing for public schools to offer Bible literacy classes.

Supporters say learning the basics of the Bible is an important part of American history -- and students should not be denied learning its tenets just because someone might be offended.

The laws being proposed do not make Bible classes mandatory, but they will be offered as electives.

"Yeah, there's a separation of church and state, but there's not a separation of books from education," North Dakota State Rep. Aaron McWilliams, who co-sponsored a Bible bill in his state, told Fox & Friends Monday morning. "If we don't have a good foundational understanding of this, we're not going to understand how the Founding Fathers of our country and other countries put it together to have the world we have today."

Even President Trump has weighed in on the issue. He celebrated the efforts in a tweet Monday morning.

"Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible," Trump wrote. "Starting to make a turn back? Great!"

But critics call the moves "unconstitutional."

"State legislators should not be fooled that these bills are anything more than part of a scheme to impose Christian beliefs on public schoolchildren," Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and States, said in a statement.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law a bill that allowed public schools to add Bible literacy classes in 2017. But in 2018, all the state that proposed similar legislation -- Alabama, Iowa, and West Virginia -- came up short.

Legislators say they are not deterred.

"Without allowing a Bible into the schools, without allowing a Quran or any other religious text in the school, we look at establishing a religion of secularism in our schools without having anything else," McWilliams said.

The proposed bills are reportedly linked to an initiative called Project Blitz that is coordinated by a variety of conservative Christian groups, including the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation and the National Legal Foundation, USA Today reported. The bills also include several proposals to add "In God We Trust" posters in the classroom.

Opponents of the bills argue Trump and conservatives on the right are pandering to their base and not actually trying to pass legislation they expect to become law. They believe the state bill won't pass the legislation.

Friday, January 25, 2019

When futuristic technologies collide...

...the result can be amusing, as reported by Ben Hooper of United Press International, January 10, 2019:

A Russian robotics company said one of its autonomous Promobots was taken out by a self-driving Tesla on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Promobot shared a video recorded outside of the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino showing one of its namesake machines at the side of a driveway at the facility.

Multiple cars easily pass by the autonomous robot, but a self-driving Tesla Model S collides with the robot and drives away.

The Promobot, which is knocked off its wheels, was destroyed, the company said.

The collision took place about half a mile from CES, the technology trade show that began Tuesday.

Rare and very hard mineral discovered in Israel

As reported by Helen Flatley in The Vintage News, January 15, 2019:

A new discovery in the mountains of northern Israel has caused significant excitement for geologists around the world. While working in the Zevulun Valley, close to Mount Carmel, Israeli mining company Shefa Yamim found a new mineral never before discovered on earth.

The International Mineralogical Association regularly approves new minerals for its official list, with up to 100 new substances added to the register each year.

However, this latest discovery was hailed as a significant event, as it was previously believed that this type of mineral was only found on extraterrestrial material.

The new mineral loosely resembles allendeite, a mineral previously seen on the Allende meteorite that fell to earth in February of 1969. However, this is the first time that such a substance has been found to naturally occur in rock on Earth itself.

The CEO of Shefa Yamim, Abraham Taub, told Haaretz that the mineral had been named carmeltazite, after the place of its discovery and the minerals contained within its structure: titanium, aluminum and zirconium.

While the majority of the new minerals approved by the International Mineralogical Association are unspectacular in appearance, carmeltazite offers considerable commercial opportunities, as it resembles other gemstones used in the making of jewelry.

This strange new mineral was found embedded in cracks within sapphire, the second hardest mineral (after diamonds) found to occur naturally on earth.

Carmeltazite closely resembles sapphire and ruby in its chemical composition, and is found in black, blue-green, or orange-brown colors, with a metallic hue.

However, after density testing, scientists discovered that carmeltazite is even harder than diamond, and is significantly scarcer, making its value extremely high.

According to the BBC, the region close to the Savulun Valley is known for volcanic activity dating from the Cretaceous period. The Carmel range is home to at least 14 volcanic vents that created the geological conditions for the formation of carmeltazite, over extremely long periods of time.

According to Forbes, it is thought that carmeltazite formed 18 miles under the surface of the earth, close to the crust-mantle boundary. High pressure and temperatures produce partially molten rocks that release fluids and react to form new minerals.

As vents emerge in the surface of the earth, this volcanic matter is rapidly transported into the upper crust along with other materials, creating the type of deposits found in Mount Carmel.

The mining company has been working intensively in this region due to the possibilities offered by this rich geological legacy. Although they were principally looking for sapphire, the new mineral was discovered embedded in the gemstones they harvested from the rock, having formed in the cracks and fissures within the sapphire, a variety of corundum.

Although the mining company has recovered many samples, carmeltazite remains extremely rare. The largest stone discovered to date reached 33.3 carats.

Haaretz reports that the mineral has been trademarked by the mining company as “Carmel Sapphire” and it has recently been approved as a new mineral by the International Mineralogical Association’s Commission on New Minerals.

Although the Commission regularly approves new discoveries, it is unusual to find a substance so spectacular in appearance and quality, and a result, has attracted a significant amount of international attention.

To date, carmeltazite has only been discovered in the Zevulun Valley, which means it is one of the rarest minerals in the world, and is also likely to be one of the most expensive.

Daub stated that the company intends to market the mineral as a gemstone, and potentially use it in the production of high-end jewelry. One thing is sure: this extraterrestrial mineral is likely to command a monumental price tag when it eventually hits the market.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Israel renews diplomatic relations with Chad; Mali may be next

As reported by Jewish News Syndicate, January 20, 2019:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a historic visit to the central African nation of Chad on Sunday, where he announced the re-establishment of ties.

“Chad is a very important country and very important for Israel,” said Netanyahu during a joint appearance with Chadian President Idriss Déby at the presidential palace in N’Djamena. “There is a lot that we can do together. We discussed ways to deepen our cooperation in every field, beginning with security, but also agriculture, food, water, energy, health and many more.”

Déby, who spoke before Netanyahu, welcomed Israel’s investment in his country’s future.

“Chad will do everything it can to strengthen the ties between the two countries and the bilateral cooperation in various matters,” he said.

In November, Déby became his country’s first leader to make an official visit to Israel. During this visit, he announced that he would renew bilateral ties with Israel, which were severed in 1972.

Also during his visit, Déby said his country, an Arab League member, could assist in helping Israel renew diplomatic ties with Sudan.

A landlocked nation located in central Africa, the former French colony is around 55 percent Muslim and 40 percent Christian with a long history of co-existence between its dominant faiths. Split both culturally and geographically between the Sahara to the north and a tropical savannah to the south, the country faces numerous challenges as one of the world’s poorest nations.

“We believe in the future of Chad and the future of Africa. This is my fourth visit to Africa in four years. I think it says something, and indeed, we are committed to making every effort to help alongside with the United States with the program Power Africa to help light up African countries,” said Netanyahu.

The renewal of ties with Chad are part of a larger effort by Netanyahu to forge closer relations with non-traditional allies in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Netanyahu sees this not only as an opportunity for Israel to assist these countries with humanitarian needs and economic development, but also for Israel to gain support in international bodies like the United Nations, which have traditionally been hostile to the Jewish state.

Before taking off for Chad, Netanyahu said the half-day visit was “another historic and important breakthrough” that is part of a “revolution that we are doing in the Arab and Islamic worlds.”

He also hinted that more Muslim countries in Africa were likely to follow suit.

“There will be more major news,” said the Israeli prime minister. “There will be more countries.”
As reported by Jewish News Syndicate, January 21, 2019 (link in original):

Prime Minister of Mali Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga is expected to visit Israel in the coming weeks, reported Israel’s Channel 13 on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met last year with Malian President Ibrahim Keita on the sidelines of a summit with West African leaders in Liberia, where the two agreed to seek “warm relations,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office.

Mali cut ties with Israel following the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when Israel faced a surprise attack from neighboring Arab countries on the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

This development comes after a major attack by an Islamic terror group killed 10 U.N. peacekeepers from Chad, wounding at least 25 others in Mali on Sunday in what the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen group said was a response to Chadian President Idriss Déby’s renewed diplomatic relations with Israel.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

World Council of Churches has trained, and UNICEF funded, almost 2,000 anti-Israel activists since 2002

It comes as no surprise to this blogger to see that the more liberal the religious organization, the more anti-Jewish and anti-Israel it gets. As reported by Jewish News Syndicate, January 14, 2019:

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has sent nearly 2,000 participants to Israel, and Judea and Samaria, since 2002 to train them in anti-Israel narratives and assign them to communities worldwide, according to a report from NGO Monitor.

With no similar program in other conflict zones, the WCC’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) consists of activists being sent to “witness life under occupation.”

“EAPPI misuse tourist visas to enter Israel, where the group has no legal status,” according to NGO Monitor. “They are hosted in Jerusalem by a WCC affiliate, the Jerusalem Interchurch Center (JIC). Notably, the head of JIC, Yusuf Dahar, is one of the authors of the Kairos Palestine Document, which legitimizes terror, embraces anti-Jewish theology and rejects Jewish history. Similar views have been expressed by a number of WCC officials.”

The NGO Monitor report also stated that EAPPI has been funded by UNICEF and countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Canada and Japan.

Norway contributed nearly $2 million between 2017 to 2019, while Sweden gave $500,000 between 2017 and 2018.

“We are sharing our research with the public and decision-makers as part of an informed discussion on EAPPI’s agenda and funding. The research highlights EAPPI’s radical agenda, which, rather than advancing or defending human rights, is a platform for conflict and antisemitism,” said NGO Monitor founder and president Gerald Steinberg. “We have received numerous inquiries from Christian and Jewish groups calling attention to the central role played by EAPPI alumni in leading BDS and other delegitimization campaigns.”

“By singling out Israel and using classical theological references, EAPPI is guilty of using the terms identified in the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s working definition of anti-Semitism,” he added. “The WCC should instead adopt this definition, which has been adopted by a number of countries and parliaments.”

Sunday, January 20, 2019

British Columbia city sued over violation of church's constitutional rights

CONSTITUTION ACT, 1982 (80)
PART I
CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:
Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms
Marginal note:
Rights and freedoms in Canada

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
Fundamental Freedoms
Marginal note:
Fundamental freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.


As reported by John Carpay of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, January 8, 2019 (links, bold in original):

The Justice Centre has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia on behalf of a local church, after the City of New Westminster cancelled the church’s booking to host a conference at the City-owned Anvil Centre.

Grace Chapel is a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, located in downtown New Westminster. Part of Grace Chapel’s vision is to “build a multi-ethnic, diverse church where people of every nation in our community will worship God…” Grace Chapel does not have a church building of its own. Church events are held in rented spaces, including the municipally-owned and managed Anvil Centre.

As explained in a recently filed affidavit, on May 25, the City of New Westminster signed a contract with Grace Chapel to rent a portion of the Anvil Centre. The rental was for a youth conference to be held on July 21, 2018.

On June 21, 2018, a media article was published which included a picture of a poster for the conference.

That same day, Grace Chapel received an email from Anvil Centre Director of Sales & Marketing, Heidi Hughes. Ms. Hughes stated that the Anvil Centre was reneging on the contract and cancelling the rental, on the basis that “one of [Grace Chapel’s] event speakers / facilitators, Kari Simpson…vocally represents views and a perspective that run counter to City of New Westminster and Anvil Centre booking policy.”

Ms. Hughes did not explain how or why any of the speakers at the conference caused Grace Chapel to “promote racism, hate, violence, censorship, crime or other unethical pursuits”, or how it is possible that this speaker’s “views” or “perspective” could contravene the Anvil Centre Booking Policy.

Grace Chapel’s court petition seeks to quash the City’s decision, and seeks a Court declaration that the decision to cancel Grace Chapel’s contract was procedurally unfair, biased, unreasonable, and unjustifiably infringed the freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, and association and right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion as protected by sections 2(a), 2(b), 2(d) and section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This court application further seeks a Court order prohibiting the City from denying the use of its facilities to this church on the basis of the ideas, views, opinions, perspectives, values or beliefs of Grace Chapel or of speakers selected by the Grace Chapel.

“As a government facility that is regularly used by diverse parties for expressive and associative activities, such as conferences, the Anvil Centre cannot deny use of its facilities in a manner that violates rights and freedoms protected by the Charter,” explained lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay.

In a July 6, 2018, letter to the City of New Westminster, the Justice Centre explained that the Charter protects the right to receive expressive material as much as it does the right to speak. By cancelling the rental, the Anvil Centre unjustifiably infringed the constitutional right of those intending to listen and consider diverse opinions on topics of interest to them.

A hearing of this petition has not yet been scheduled.

For more information contact:

John Carpay, lawyer and Justice Centre president:
jcarpay@jccf.ca or 403-619-8014
Mr. Carpay and the JCCF have done great work defending the freedoms of Christians in Trudeaupia Canada, but it's getting increasingly difficult, as, in the views of activist judges and "human rights" activists, the fundamental freedoms stated in the Orwellian-named Charter of Rights and Freedoms don't count versus non-existent rights of alphabet perversion. The fight is still worth it, and financial contributions to the JCCF aren't wasted, although they're not tax deductible at the moment.

HT: Rebel Media

Sunday, January 13, 2019

County in North Carolina is forced to pay ACLU $285,000 after losing lawsuit over public prayer

As the son of a judge, it doesn't make this blogger proud to say that Satan seems to have more than his share of agents wearing judicial robes these days. This case provides another example of why the American Civil Liberties Union is often referred to as the Anti-Christian Litigation Union. As reported by Charles Duncan of the Raleigh News & Observer, January 10, 2019 (links in original):

A federal judge found the way the Rowan County Commission prayed before public meetings unconstitutional. An appeals court eventually agreed and the Supreme Court last summer declined to hear the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, federal court records show. Now the county will have to pay the ACLU’s legal bills for the five-year legal fight: $285,000.

On Monday, County Commission members voted to pay the bill, the Salisbury Post reports.

“We are obviously very unhappy with this and I think a few of us are, probably, physically sick to our stomach that we have to do this, but this is the risk that we took,” County Commission Chair Greg Edds said, according to the newspaper.

The lawsuit dates back to 2013 when three Rowan County residents sued the county commission over the public prayer at the beginning of each meeting, according to court filings. The commission chair or members give a prayer at the beginning of each meeting, the lawsuit says, and over six years 97 percent of prayers were Christian.

An appeals court sided with the residents, represented by the ACLU, in 2017. “For years on end, the elected members of the county’s Board of Commissioners composed and delivered pointedly sectarian invocations. They rotated the prayer opportunity amongst themselves; no one else was permitted to offer an invocation,” a judge with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.

“The prayers are invariably and unmistakably Christian in content,” the judges’ opinion notes, finding the Rowan County Commission’s public prayer unconstitutional.

Over the summer the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, court records show, which upholds the ruling and ended the legal fight.

The Supreme Court did not give an explanation for its decision as is customary in orders. Justice Clarence Thomas joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented from the court’s refusal to take the case,” according to The Hill.

“Thomas said the Fourth Circuit’s decision is ‘both unfaithful to our precedents and ahistorical,’” The Hill wrote.

“This case has always been about making Rowan County more welcoming to people of all beliefs, and we are so glad that the Supreme Court has let this ruling stand,” said Nan Lund, one of the plaintiffs in the case, according to an ACLU press release.

“This is an important victory for the rights of all people to be free from religious coercion by government officials,” ACLU of North Carolina’s Chris Brook said. “People who attend public meetings should not have to fear that government officials may force them to participate in a prayer—or discriminate against them if they don’t.”
As reported by Josh Bergeron of the Salisbury Post, January 7, 2019:

Rowan County commissioners will pay $285,000 in legal fees out of a savings fund to foot the bill for a lawsuit about prayer at the start of meetings.

With little fanfare, commissioners on Monday unanimously approved the payment in conjunction with a court order issued Dec. 21. The payment will be made to the ACLU, which has represented Rowan County residents Nan Lund, Liesa Montag-Siegel and Robert Voelker in a suit over commissioners’ prayer practices from 2007 to 2013.

The case specifically focused on commissioners’ ability to give sectarian prayers and the manner in which the prayers were delivered. The suit worked its way through federal courts until all 15 judges for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 ruled by a 10-5 count that the prayers were unconstitutional. Commissioners asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, but the nation’s highest court declined to do so in June 2018, upholding the lower court ruling.

Fees awarded to attorneys for Lund, Montag-Siegel and Voelker represent the only significant costs to county government in the suit, as commissioners were represented for free by the National Center for Life and Liberty. The fees will be paid from the county’s fund balance, which is partially a savings fund.

“We are obviously very unhappy with this and I think a few of us are, probably, physically sick to our stomach that we have to do this, but this is the risk that we took,” County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds told the Salisbury Post.

Asked about the effect of the withdrawal from the fund balance, Edds pointed to a financial audit presented Monday, which showed Rowan County’s total fund balance increased by $325,158 from the 2017 fiscal year to the 2018 fiscal year. The county’s unassigned fund balance — which can be used for any purpose, including funding general government operations in tough times — increased by $187,934 to a total of $18.28 million during the same period.

Edds called the ACLU “bullies” for its role in the Rowan County prayer suit as well as other lawsuits, particularly those in which small communities have been involved. Though, Edds did not cite other specific lawsuit examples.

“They make a living in going after other small communities in federal courts that are sympathetic to their leanings and they have almost unlimited funding that scares small communities to death,” Edds said. “So, communities just fold.”

By fighting the suit and twice voting unanimously to appeal rulings to a higher court, Edds said, commissioners weren’t simply fighting for their ability to give sectarian prayers before meetings. Commissioners “stood up for” elected officials of all faiths, he said.

“This was about elected officials, regardless of their faith tradition, being able to exercise their First Amendment rights,” he said. “We’ve said over and over that, as people of different faiths earn their ability to take these seats, that we would respect their right to provide any prayer that they want to do.”

Monday’s vote, effectively, spells the end of the prayer lawsuit, which was brought by Lund, Montag-Siegel and Voelker more than five years ago.

In a similar case, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that commissioners in Jackson County, Michigan, did not violate the constitution by offering prayers at the start of meetings. Like Rowan County’s suit, the Supreme Court in 2018 declined to take an appeal of the 6th Circuit case. Edds said that decision leaves in place two different precedents in different parts of the country. Eventually, the matter of sectarian prayer by elected officials before government meetings will be resolved, but Rowan County won’t get its money back, Edds said.

County Attorney Jay Dees said legal precedent was in Rowan County’s favor and the many letters of support submitted to federal courts — known as amicus briefs — were proof of that.

“It’s important to note that (Rowan County) was not the underdog, wasting money and tilting at windmills,” Dees said. “And, I believe that given another year or two, there will be another decision that makes its way to the Supreme Court.”

In a statement provided to the Salisbury Post, the North Carolina ACLU said it was glad courts agreed with its clients and, ultimately, ruled in their favor.

“As Judge (J. Harvie) Wilkinson wrote in this case, ‘Free religious exercise can only remain free if not influenced and directed by the hand of the state,’” the ACLU said.

Moving forward, Rowan County will continue to use a volunteer chaplain. At present, that’s Rowan County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain Michael Taylor. Edds said commissioners have not discussed changing to a different chaplain.

County Attorney Jay Dees said commissioners could look at ways to offer prayers before meetings within the bounds of court decisions, but Edds said commissioners would not opt to do so.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Gambian President Adama Barrow reaffirms his commitment to religious tolerance, freedom, and equality

Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia

PROTECTION OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

17. Fundamental rights and freedoms

(1) The fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in this Chapter shall be respected and upheld by all organs of the executive and its agencies, the legislature and, where applicable to them, by all natural and legal persons in The Gambia, and shall be enforceable by the courts in accordance with this Constitution.

(2) Every person in The Gambia, whatever his or her race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this Chapter, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest...

...
25. Freedom of speech, conscience, assembly, association and movement

(1) Every person shall have the right to -

(a) freedom of speech and expression, which include freedom of the press and other media;

(b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom;

(c) freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice;

(d) freedom to assemble and demonstrate peaceably and without arms;

(e) freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form and join associations and unions, including political parties and trade unions;

(f) freedom to petition the executive for redress of grievances and to resort to the courts for the protection of his or her rights.

(2) Every person lawfully within The Gambia shall have the right to move freely throughout The Gambia, to choose his or her own place of residence within The Gambia, and to leave The Gambia.

(3) Every citizen of The Gambia shall have the right to return to The Gambia.

(4) The freedoms referred to in subsections (1) and (2) shall be exercised subject to the law of The Gambia in so far as that law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the rights and freedoms thereby conferred, which are necessary in a democratic society and are required in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of The Gambia, national security, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court.
An item that I didn't see until a day or two ago...

The small west African country of The Gambia is about 95% Muslim, and 4% Christian. Let's hope and the government's actions back up the President's words and the words of the Gambian Constitution. As reported by Madi M.K. Ceesay of the Banjul Daily News, July 26, 2018:

President Adama Barrow has reaffirmed the commitment of his government to the promotion and advancement of religious tolerance and equality in the country.

At a meeting in Bwiam, Foni Kansala, as part of the ongoing nationwide tour, the President said, from the onset, the government has always adhered to the practice of religious freedom and equality for all people of faith, including non-believers, as guaranteed by the constitution of the Gambia.

”We have different kinds of faith groups in this country, including atheist and followers of the African Traditional religion. We do not discriminate against any one religion because they are all part of my family, the Gambian family. All religions are equal in this country and I treat everyone equally. Even in my Cabinet, I have Christians that I have so much respect for”.

While saying that all religions and faith groups are safe to practice and have been catered for in the development strides of the government, President Barrow reemphasized that ”we are one people, and that tribes and ethnicities are not important”.

He added that he would remain committed to strengthening the secular republican status of the country, pointing out that was why within one week of assuming power, he reversed the declaration of Islamic statehood that was proclaimed over the republic by the former regime.

President Adama Barrow made these statements in response to what he called ”detractors and hate mongers” that are bent on planting the seeds of religious discord and conflict in the minds of unsuspecting Gambians by twisting his comments about the Barrow Youths for National Development.

Clarifying that funds from the Brussels conference will not be used by any non-government organization to promoting any one religion, he said the speculators and hate peddlers deliberately picked on the mosques construction issue to bring misunderstanding in the public. The President said he was shocked to learn in the media that he was engaged in promoting one religion against others or threatening Christian minorities...

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Old church in Louisville morphs into an entertainment complex

Many evangelical megachurches have already morphed into entertainment complexes while still ostensibly maintaining their identities as churches. In the case of mainline churches, declining membership and revenue increasingly lead them to abandon their properties. As reported by Maggie Menderski of the Louisville Courier Journal, December 18, 2018:

What was once a place of worship on E. Market Street is about to become an entertainment complex complete with two restaurants.

The old Market Street United Methodist Church in NuLu is in for a makeover.

The building, which was most recently home to The Refuge in Kentucky Church, sold to Weyland Ventures for $800,000 in February, according to a deed filed with the Jefferson County Clerks office.

Renderings filed with Louisville Metro late last month show the old church itself will be transformed into a dining room, a bar and a VIP lounge. There are also plans for a courtyard.

The gymnasium that’s already located on the south end of the building will be maintained and joined by a “sports court lounge.”

Weyland Ventures owners weren't immediately available Tuesday for comment.

The company has already restored the steeple, and it has plans to spruce up the exterior doors and stained glass windows, according to documents filed with Louisville Metro.

Weyland also has plans to build a neighboring two-story building that will hold a second restaurant, according to the documents.

See also my post: An example of a dead church morphing into a community centre (January 26, 2014)

Louisville witches are upset with U.S. President Donald Trump's use of the term "witch hunt"

As reported by Joseph Gerth of the Louisville Courier Journal, December 18, 2018:

If President Donald Trump is courting the witches' vote, he’s going about it the wrong way.

In recent months — and increasingly so, it seems — Trump has called the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller a “witch hunt,” and in the process, he has angered, well, actual witches.

“It conjures up for me the burning of 10,000, mostly women, in England and surrounding areas who were accused as witches — right out of the Inquisition playbook,” said Ann Hardman, a Louisville high priestess in the Fellowship of Isis.

“I am incensed with this term. And I have been ever since he did it the first time. It’s insulting; it should be eliminated from the vocabulary. In some ways it’s like the N-word,” Hardman said.

The president’s frequent use of the term, in fact, is angering witches around the country. A story on the Daily Beast website recently said some witches have cast spells on Trump while one group tried to hex Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The spells and hexes don't seem to have worked yet — unless that explains Trump’s otherworldly skin tone.

At about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “Biggest outrage yet in the long, winding and highly conflicted Mueller Witch Hunt is the fact that 19,000 demanded Text messages between Peter Strzok and his FBI lover, Lisa Page, were purposely & illegally deleted.”

So far, the investigation that Trump calls a “witch hunt” has netted nearly three dozen indictments or guilty pleas and has seen some of Trump’s top personal and campaign aides sentenced to prison.

He tweeted the term four times on Sunday and once on Saturday. He’s done it 22 times since Thanksgiving, a holiday that traces its roots back to ancient pagan harvest festivals.

In all, he has tweeted more than 60 times complaining about a “witch hunt.”

On Dec. 13, he tweeted just the words “WITCH HUNT!”

“Some find it very hurtful,” said Lady Vanessa, of Louisville, a third-degree Gardnerian Wiccan high priestess and a practitioner of British Traditional Wicca. She said she tries to ignore much of what Trump has to say, but she is finding that more and more difficult to do.

Witches, not the type that you see on Halloween, are all around.

They don't ride brooms, play quidditch, or stand around a cauldron in the woods late at night repeating incantations from Macbeth.

They follow some of the many Wiccan traditions that are nature-based spiritual traditions or religions.

“We feel kinship with Native Americans, though they would not call themselves pagans and witches,” said Lady Vanessa, who goes by her spiritual name and doesn't want her legal name used.

For practitioners of Wicca, or witches, the term “witch hunt” conjures up images of times in America and in Europe when people were rounded up and killed because they were believed to have been witches.

Some of them may have been practitioners of Wicca while others — particularly those at the Salem Witch Trials in the 17th century — were simply accused of being witches without evidence.

That’s where the term “witch hunt” to describe an unfair investigation comes from.

Lady Vanessa noted that since so many charges and convictions have arisen from the Mueller investigation, not only are Trump’s words hurtful, “it’s wrong historically to apply that to his situation.”

She's not heard of any local witches trying to place a spell on Trump or any of his appointees.

Martin English, a high priest of Nordic Wicca, said he’s talked to several Wiccans about Trump’s use of “witch hunt” and even discussed it with Nordic Wicca elders who are upset with Trump’s words.

“They were concerned about how the word is so flippantly thrown around,” English said. “It’s considered taboo to irreverently discuss the inquisitions and witch hunts like that.”
Maybe they'd be happier if Mr. Trump substituted the word "feminist" for "witch." Canadian sociologist Philip G. Davis argue in his book Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality (1998) that modern Wicca isn't a revival or continuation of an ancient practice, but is an invention of modern feminism.

See also my post Witches in Brooklyn plan to hex U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (October 14, 2018)

Astronomers detect mysterious distant radio signal

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalms 8:3-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Psalms 19:1

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

As reported by CTV News, January 10, 2019 (link in original):

A mysterious radio signal emanating from a galaxy far, far away has been detected by a telescope in British Columbia. The discovery is significant because it’s only the second time ever a repeating signal has been observed by scientists.

In a paper published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, researchers from several Canadian universities reported how they detected 13 new fast radio bursts (FRBs) using the new Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope located in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

“They’re a new mysterious thing, just recently discovered,” Mark Halpern, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of British Columbia, told CTV Vancouver.

FRBs are short bursts of radio waves originating from far outside of our galaxy, according to a press release about the discovery by McGill University.

Although there are still many questions about what exactly they are and what causes them, scientists believe they could be emanating from a powerful astrophysical phenomena billions of light years away.

There have been more than 60 FRBs observed by researchers to date; however, scientists have only ever recorded one other repeating burst from a single source. That FRB was discovered by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico in 2015.

“Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB. Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there,” Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team and an astrophysicist at UBC, said.

“With more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles – where they’re from and what causes them.”

In addition to the second repeater, the researchers were able to shed new light on FRBs because they detected them at a much lower frequency than previously recorded finds. The radio bursts were observed by CHIME at frequencies between 400 megahertz (MHz) and 800 MHz. The majority of previously detected FRBs were found at frequencies near 1400 MHz.

“We now know] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth,” Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member from the National Research Council, said. “That tells us something about the environments and the sources.”

The second repeating FRB was detected during a pre-commissioning run of the CHIME telescope in the summer of 2018, which means it wasn’t even running at its full capacity.

“We’re very excited to see what CHIME can do when it’s running at full capacity,” Deborah Good, a PhD student in physics and astronomy at UBC, said.

The telescope consists of four adjacent cylindrical reflectors and 256 dual-polarization antennas, which receive radiation from a large swatch of sky. To search for FRBs, the telescope will continuously scan the sky for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“With CHIME mapping the entire northern hemisphere every day, we’re bound to find more repeaters over time,” Stairs said.

Researchers believe there could be thousands of radio signals travelling to Earth each day. Now that the CHIME telescope has proven it’s capable of detecting these short bursts of energy, astronomers said they’re optimistic they will be able to learn more about these puzzling cosmic radio signals.

“Knowing where they are will enable scientists to point their telescopes at them, creating an opportunity to study these mysterious signals in detail,” Stairs said.

There are a number of theories about what’s causing FRBs, including the possibility that a neutron star is releasing powerful signals after it exploded or even, albeit held by only a small minority, that they’re signals from an alien civilization.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople recognizes the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine

As indicated in the following articles, Eastern Orthodox Churches are not biblical Christian churches, but serve as religious guardians of their national cultures. Although there are disputes and splits between the various churches, the stage is being set for some sort of unity under the Antichrist.

As reported by Carl Bunderson of Catholic News Agency, January 8, 2019 (links in original):

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on Saturday signed a tomos of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, formally recognizing the Church’s independence.

The tomos was signed on January 5 at St. George’s Cathedral in Istanbul, after Bartholomew I concelebrated a Divine Liturgy with Epiphanius I, Metropolitan of Kyiv and primate of the newly-created Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Among those present at the signing were Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and several other Ukrainian government officials.

The tomos, or decree, has been delivered to Kyiv, where Epiphanius put it on public display following a Divine Liturgy celebrated Jan. 7 at St. Sophia’s Cathedral.

Bartholomew’s formal conferral of autocephaly is the culmination of a process that began amid the collapse of the Soviet Union, and gained momentum after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and Russian backing of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The Ecumenical Patriarch’s intention to create a single, autocephalous Church in Ukraine is motivated by a desire to unify the country’s 30 million Eastern Orthodox Christians, who were until recently split among three Churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), which is linked to the Russian Orthodox Church, and two Churches which had claimed autocephaly, but were not recognized by other Orthodox Churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine has been a fiercely contested subject between the Patriarchs of Moscow and Constantinople, with the Russian Orthodox Church seeing the move as an infringement of its jurisdiction and authority.

Bartholomew had announced Sept. 7 he was sending two envoys to meets with civil and ecclesial leaders in Kyiv to prepare for Ukrainian autocephaly. In response, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow said later that month he would remove Bartholomew’s names from the diptychs, and would not concelebrate with him.

The Ecumenical Patriarch declared Oct. 11 he would grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. At the same time, he restored to communion Metropolitan Filaret, head of the UOC-KP, and also revoked the right, granted in 1686, of the Russian Patriarch to consecrate the Metropolitan of Kyiv.

In response, the Russian Orthodox Church broke communion with Bartholomew Oct. 15, calling his recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine “lawless and canonically void.” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chair of external Church relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, said that “the church that acknowledged the schismatics has excluded itself from the canonical field of Orthodoxy.”

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine was established Dec. 15 at a “unification council” held by representatives of the UOC-KP and the UAOC. In addition, two bishops of the UOC-MP, Alexander Drabinko and Simeon Shostatsky, participated in the unification council. Soon afterward, they were declared schismatic by the UOC-MP, and their sees vacant. Both have joined the OCU.

Several UOC-MP parishes have also reportedly joined the OCU.

It was at the unification council that Epiphanius, 39, was elected primate of the OCU. He had previously been Metropolitan of Pereyaslavsky and Bila Tserkva in the UOC-KP.

Along with ecclesial leaders, Poroshenko has been a strong backer of Ukrainian autocephaly. At the conclusion of the unification council he said, “We are now creating an independent Ukraine. And this event is as important as the referendum on our independence adopted more than 27 years ago.”

He linked an independent Church to Ukrainian patriotism, and said: “Autocephaly is part of our state pro-European and pro-Ukrainian strategy, which we have been consistently implementing for almost five years. All this is the basis of our own way of development, development of the state of Ukraine and development of our Ukrainian nation.”

Fr. Alexander Laschuk, a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest, canon lawyer, and professor at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, discussed with CNA both the inter-Orthodox and the ecumenical implications of Ukrainian Orthodox autocephaly.

For the Orthodox Church in Ukraine “it’s a sign of maturity that the Ecumenical Patriarch, who is first among equals, sees they can be a self-governing Church … that’s a sort of vote-of-confidence for the Church in Ukraine.”

Within Eastern Orthodoxy, Laschuk said, the decision also will play into debates about how autocephaly is granted, given that “the power of the Ecumenical Patriarch is not the power of the Holy Father, so how decision are made is much more complicated at times.”

While Constantinople is the traditional and historical center of Eastern Orthodoxy, Moscow has long exercised considerable influence and power, both because of its size and because of its closeness to Russian civil authorities.

The debate over the granting of autocephaly plays into the relations of Constantinople and Moscow, and their relative importance and power. Both the Russian and Ecumenical Patriarchs have written to the heads of the other Eastern Orthodox Churches, asking them not to recognize, and to recognize, respectively, the OCU’s autocephaly.

The decision for autocephaly, Laschuk said, will also have a tremendous impact on ecumenism.

For example, because of the presence of Eastern Orthodox bishops with whom it is not in communion, the Moscow Patriarchate chose not to participate in the 2007 meeting at Ravenna of the commission for dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

“It will also affect ecumenical dialogue in the sense of ‘who is our bargaining partner’, for Catholics,” Laschuk said. Previously, the Holy See dialogued only with the UOC-MP as “canonical Orthodoxy” in the country, but “clearly that’s changed” with the recognition of the OCU by Constantinople.

The priest added that he thinks the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, “is excited to have a partner with which he can actually dialogue; we won’t have the union of the Churches tomorrow, but if you can’t even talk to each other, it’s hard to get much done … I think His Beatitude is very happy he has someone with whom he can talk, and be in the same room with, which was not the case previously.”

He commented that “entire regions of Ukraine” are becoming increasingly Seventh-Day Adventist or Pentecostal, and that “collaborative activity by the more traditional Churches is a very welcome thing, as opposed to sort of, warring factions.”

Major Archbishop Shevchuk had written to Epiphanius December 20 to congratulate him on his election as primate of the OCU, commenting, “We have all witnessed how the Lord, through the power and deeds of the Holy Spirit, in cooperation with your good will, heals the wounds of church divisions and enmity, giving opportunity to reconcile with our brother in Christ.”

“At this significant moment, I extend my hand on behalf of our Church to you and all the Orthodox brethren, offering you to begin our path to unity, to the truth. Because the future of the Church, our people and the Ukrainian independent European state depends on how we today will cherish unity and overcome what separates us.”

Major Archbishop Shevchuk added that “we are grateful to the Lord who has blessed the participants of this, without exaggeration, an important event that will enter the history of independent Ukraine as a great God’s gift on the way to the complete unity of the Churches of Volodymyr’s Baptism.”

He noted that “the Churches of Volodymyr’s baptism … live in one liturgical heritage, from the depths of beauty and God-inspired wisdom we draw spiritual strength. Even today, we are not in full eucharistic communion, but are called to jointly overcome the obstacles that stand on the path to unity. This historic mission and the foundation of the future patriarchy of the united Kyivan Church were laid by even the glorious church men Peter Mohyla and Josyf Veliamyn Rutsky.”

The words of the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church allude to the 988 baptism of Vladimir the Great, Grand Prince of Kiev, which resulted in the Christianization of Kievan Rus’, a state whose heritage Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus all claim.

The Christianization of Kievan Rus’ forms the roots of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).
The Serbian Orthodox Church, meanwhile, objects to Patriarch Bartholomew's decision; as reported by the Serbian state news agency Tanjug, January 4, 2019:

Metropolitan Amfilohije says that granting autocephaly of the Orthodox church in Ukraine will not affect the status of the church in Montenegro.

The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) dignitary, who is at the helm of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, added that after the latest decision of its head, Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was "absolutely no longer considered as the supreme church authority by the SPC."

In an interview with Vijesti TV, Amfilohije said that he informed Bartholomew during their recent meeting of the decisions of the SPC Assembly, which is not in agreement with his decision to give autocephaly to the church in Ukrainian.

Amfilohije said that he has known Bartholomew since he was a deacon, and that they studied together in Rome - "but what he is doing now in Ukraine is not absolutely adequate to the spirit of the Orthodox church, because it is destroying centuries-old unity among Orthodox churches."

"And from that standpoint our Church and many other patriarchates do not accept such a position, I've told him this openly. I still have hope, however, many theologians in Greece and archbishop are also against this and his current behavior," the metropolitan said.

Asked if the move could affect the status of the church in Montenegro, Amfilohije stressed that this "absolutely has nothing to do with the status of the church in Montenegro."

"An independent Montenegro is one thing, an autocephalous church is another. A completely different story", Amfilohije was clear. Asked whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate remains the supreme church authority as far as the Serbian Orthodox Church is concerned, the metropolitan replied: "Absolutely not."

He explained that only the Catholic Church has supreme authority, i.e., the pope.

"In the Orthodox church, it's a ten-century struggle for every bishop to have their authority. And from that viewpoint Bartholomew made a mistake of meddling in the life of the Russian Church," said Amfilohije, adding that for this reason, he has been rightly being criticized for (wanting) the role of a pope.

In the Orthodox church, there is no pope, nor has there ever been one - and that is why it remained Orthodox, the SPC dignitary concluded.
See also my posts:

Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow to meet his counterpart in Constantinople at the end of August (August 16, 2018)

Russian Orthodox Church cuts ties with Archbishop of Constantinople in dispute over Ukraine (September 20, 2018)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Declining liberal Lutheran churches in Toledo merge

The churches mentioned in the following article are trying to put a brave face on the situation, but they wouldn't be merging if the weren't in decline. The presence of female council and congregation presidents and a pastor who owns a brewery indicates that this is a church characterized by apostasy; it certainly doesn't observe the biblical qualifications for leadership. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is an apostate denomination, as a visit to their website will confirm. As reported by the Toledo Blade, January 4, 2019:

Bethany Lutheran Church recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Reformation Lutheran Church is nearing that milestone. But when you add them together, you turn back to the clock.

It’s Day One for Faith United Lutheran Church.

The new congregation is a merger of the two long-established neighborhood churches, initiated by members who for years have worked closely with each other and who say they’re stronger together in ministry. Faith United celebrates its inaugural service at 10 a.m. Sunday at the former Reformation Lutheran Church, 4543 Douglas Rd., in West Toledo.

“There’s long histories at these churches. And there are wonderful histories at these churches, where both of these churches were models of faith and service to the community,” said the Rev. Tom Schaeffer, the pastor who oversaw the long-discussed merger.

“I think what they’re doing here is being a model again,” he continued. “Where we’re at now in the church, it’s important for churches to deal with sometimes tough decisions. These churches decided that rather than just fade off into the sunset, let’s get together, because we can do ministry more successfully together than we can apart.”

“I think that’s something that a lot of other churches will be able to learn from,” he said.

Bishop Daniel Beaudoin of the Northwestern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America spoke similarly in an email. He sees the local merger reflecting a broader reality: As congregations grow smaller, he said, we can expect to see more consolidations.

The bishop also commended the West Toledo congregations and their pastor.

“For many years these two independent churches have shared a pastor, but still worshiped in different buildings. Over time, the Holy Spirit nudged both congregations to move from two into one,” he said. “We are all One Body in Christ, and the Holy Spirit knows that we do God's work best when we do it together.”

Bethany and Reformation have long operated as sister churches, as Bishop Beaudoin indicated. Bethany is at 3274 Upton Ave., roughly two miles from Reformation, and the two have shared a single pastor for at least a decade.

There has also long been interaction between members.

“Reformation would help with community dinners, Bethany would help with the rummage sale,” said Donna Morrin, council president at Reformation. “It was back and forth, working together.”

Discussions of a possible merger have percolated for years — well before Pastor Schaeffer, who also owns Black Cloister Brewing Co., was called to pastor both churches in October, 2017. His appointment, and the stability it brought to both communities, was a catalyst of sorts to start a serious discussion about what they would look like as a merged congregation.

Pastor Schaeffer and others characterized the merger as not a forced one, but as a long-in-the-works acknowledgement that they can serve better as one. Neither congregation faced an imminent closure, the pastor said, and, although an approximately 50-person congregation at each church had meant limited resources, the numbers weren’t unsustainable.

Pastor Schaeffer said ministries from each church are expected to be carried over and blended, including the community meal that Bethany Lutheran Church has long hosted each Wednesday. That free meal will continue at the new location at 6 p.m. each Wednesday, and early signs seem to suggest community members who partake are willing to make the move.

“That was a really significant ministry that Bethany was doing,” he said. “We’re really glad that it looks like we’re going to continue to be able to do that successfully here at Faith United. And honestly, we might be able to grow it, because the space is larger for that kind of thing.”

Because Bethany is an older facility and consequently not accessible for those with disabilities, it was understood that a merger would mean physically moving to Reformation.

The facility is on the market.

That has been an emotional reality throughout the process, even as congregants try to focus on the opportunities that are opening through the merger rather than the building they’re losing through it, said Cindy Bartley, the congregation president.

Her husband, Craig Bartley, grew up at the church.

“Five generations have been through these doors. All their baptisms and their weddings and births and deaths,” she said. “They tell you all the time that the church is not the building, it’s the people. But part of it is the building, because it’s where you’ve gathered and you make memories. So letting go of that emotional part is hard.”

Both congregations celebrated a final service at Bethany Lutheran Church on Dec. 30.

At Reformation Lutheran Church, to a lesser extent, Mrs. Morrin said longtime congregations members are also recognizing the end of an era. But there’s also a sense of energy and excitement as members of both churches look forward to a new chapter and new opportunities.

“We’re not closing and dissolving,” Mrs. Bartley said. “It’s a marriage, and we’re expanding.”

They’re excited for the “wedding” on Sunday.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Discovery of pre-Aztec "Flayed Lord" temple in Mexico shows evidence of human sacrifice

Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O Lord; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.
But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.
But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.
Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.
He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.
When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.
Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.
They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
Jeremiah 10:2-15

In contrast to the God of the Bible, pagan gods can be very cruel in the demands they place on their devotees. As reported by BBC News, January 3, 2019 (links in original):

The sculptures were discovered during an excavation of pre-Aztec era ruins

Archaeologists believe the discoveries prove the Toltec-era temple was dedicated to the God

Experts identified the sculpture as Xipe Tótec - a significant God from the pre-Hispanic era

Archaeologists in Mexico say they have made an important discovery, uncovering a temple to Xipe Tótec - the pre-Hispanic "Flayed lord".

Historically, throughout the region, priests paid tribute to the deity by wearing the skin of human sacrifices.

Items relating to the deity were discovered at a site in Puebla state, and believed to date from 900-1150 AD.

Mexican archaeologists say the find may be the earliest dedication to Xipe Tótec discovered in Mexico.

Worship of the God, who represents fertility and regeneration, is known to have later spread throughout Mesoamerica during Aztec times.

The INAH say the 85cm (33in) ceramic effigy of the god was found in relatively good condition, though some parts are unattached.

They say a right hand was hanging by his left arm, symbolising the skin of a sacrificed person hanging over him.

"Sculpturally it is a very beautiful piece," leading archaeologist Noemi Castillo said in a press release.

"It measures approximately 80cm (31in) and has a hole in the belly that was used, according to the sources, to place a green stone and 'endow them with life' for the ceremonies. "

Two large skulls, believed to be carved from imported volcanic stone and weighing about 200kg (440lb) each were also discovered.

Archaeologists from INAH believe the skulls were used as covers for holes placed in front of two sacrificial altars where they believe sacrifices to him were buried.

All of the materials discovered have been sent to laboratories for official registering and further analysis.

[Xipe Tótec] is thought to have first appeared in the pre-Aztec era and is usually depicted in sandals, a loincloth and wearing the skin of human sacrifice.

The festival of Tlacaxipehualiztli, which means to wear the skin of the skinning, was dedicated to him during spring during the Aztec period.

It involved selected captives being sacrificed, sometimes by staged gladiatorial fights, before they were skinned and hearts cut out in homage of the God.

Priests commemorating the festival then wore the skins during ceremonies in dedication.

The archaeologists behind the find in Mexico believe the sculpture they found of him is the earliest ever recovered.
See also my post:

Bodies of 44 young victims of pagan sacrifice discovered in Peru (December 17, 2011)

100 years ago: The Faisal-Weizmann Agreement

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
Deuteronomy 30:1-5

On January 3, 1919, Emir Faisal I of Iraq and Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann signed an agreement at the Paris Peace Conference on the development of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and an Arab nation in a large part of the Middle East.

Coming just over a years after the Balfour Declaration, the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement was another step in the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy of bringing Jews back to their homeland.

See also my post:

100 years ago: The Balfour Declaration paves the way for fulfillment of biblical prophecy (November 2, 2017)



20 years ago: Israel arrests and deports Concerned Christians as possible security threat

On January 3, 1999, Israeli authorities arrested members of the American group Concerned Christians, and had them deported. The Israelis were themselves concerned that the American organization, 60-80 of whom had disappeared from their homes and jobs in Colorado in October 1998, were planning to blow up the Al-Aqsa mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount in order to pave the way for the rebuilding of the Temple in fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

There are those, such as Israeli archaeologist Asher Kaufman, who believe that the location of the Temple wasn't exactly where it's commonly believed to have been, and that it could be rebuilt without having to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque. Indeed, while the Bible does prophesy that the Temple will be rebuilt, I'm not aware of any prophecies that existing structures will necessarily have to be destroyed in order for this to take place.

Just because the Bible prophesies certain events doesn't mean that professing Christians should take it upon themselves to initiate the fulfillment of those prophecies. It took this blogger only a few seconds of glancing at the home page of Concerned Christians to conclude that this organization is, to borrow a phrase out of context from an old friend, "cult city," and that its leader, Kim Miller, is a false prophet. Whenever someone claims to have direct revelation from God, claiming the title "Prophet of the Last days," with a unique ability to unseal Bible prophecy, beware, and avoid him and his organization. When I think of someone who claimed to receive such direct revelation, particularly when it came to unsealing last-days prophecies, I think of the late David Koresh, who perished with the rest of the Branch Davidians on April 19, 1993, at the end of their standoff against U.S. government agents at the organization's compound in Waco, Texas.

40 years ago: The raid on Ambassador College

On January 3, 1979, California state officials raided Ambassador College in Pasadena, California, and put the pseudo-Christian organization known as the Worldwide Church of God into receivership, much to the displeasure of the church's founder and leader, Herbert W. Armstrong. This blogger isn't aware of exactly what words were exchanged, but I think it can be assumed that Mr. Armstrong didn't offer his usual salutation of "Well, greetings, friends!"

The raid took place just six weeks after the Jonestown, Guyana mass suicide/murder, and alternative religious movements, popularly known as "cults,", were no longer viewed as harmless, and were attracting closer scrutiny, especially in California. Several weeks after Jonestown, the Los Angeles Times published a series of front page articles on the drug rehabilitation organization Synanon, and the California government raid on the WCG's main college campus took place a few weeks after this.

14 years after these events, a U.S. government raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas turned violent, initially resulting in the deaths of four U.S. government agents, and ultimately resulting in the deaths of everyone in the compound. This blogger predicts that it's only a matter of time before government forces enact violent raids on true Christian churches and organizations. Such occurrences are likely to occur in Trudeaupia Canada before they occur in the U.S.A., so Americans would do well to pay attention to what's going on to the north of them.

For more information, see my posts:

30 years ago: Synanon founder Charles Dederich pleads no contest in murder plot (July 15, 2010)

25 years ago: Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, goes to the "wonderful World Tomorrow" (January 15, 2011)

10 years ago: Garner Ted Armstrong goes to the "wonderful World Tomorrow" (September 16, 2013)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2,000-year-old ring discovered in Jerusalem's City of David

As reported by Breaking Israel News, December 24, 2018:

(photo)

Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists have uncovered a two-thousand-year-old ring with a solitaire gemstone in excavations in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem.

The ring was found in what appeared to be a mikveh (ritual bath) on the pilgrimage road, which dates back to the Second Temple Period. The ancient paved road runs up from the Shiloach (Siloam) pool to the Temple Mount and is thought to have been the main thoroughfare taken by pilgrims to the Temple.

According to archaeologists Nachshon Zenton, Moran Hajabi, Ari Levy and Dr. Joe Uziel, “Just like today, it would appear that in the past, rings and jewellery were removed before bathing, and sometimes forgotten. This phenomenon, perhaps, is behind the discovery of the ring in what appears to be a ritual bath. This ring allows us to personally connect with an individual’s personal story from 2,000 years ago. The ring, along with other finds, can shed light and expose the lives of people during the Second Temple period,” said a City of David press release.

Doron Speilman, Vice President of the City of David Foundation which oversees the City of David National Park where the ring was found added: “It’s incredible to think that this beautiful ring sat at the bottom of a Mikveh on the ancient Pilgrimage Road for two thousand years, until it was uncovered by archaeologists in the City of David. It is yet another piece in the puzzle that is ancient Jerusalem.”

The City of David is situated to the south of the Temple Mount and outside of Jerusalem’s Old City walls. According to the Bible it is where King David established his Jerusalem capital more than 3,000 years ago. It remained the seat of the Davidic dynasty for centuries thereafter.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Campus Crusade for Christ Power to Change Canada uses its 2019 Canadian summer project to promote contemplative spirituality

Power to Change is the Canadian ministry of what used to be known as Campus Crusade for Christ. For several decades, they've been having national and international summer projects for students. In the 1980s, the national projects went from early May to mid-August; students found a job during the daytime, and evenings and weekends were spent on Bible study and evangelistic activities. The 2016 Canadian project lasted only five weeks from late May-early July--not enough time to work at a job in the community--and I don't think there was any Canadian project at all in 2017.

I look at Power to Change's site just a few times a year to see what they're up to; I noticed that they have a Canadian project scheduled for 2019, but it lasts only four weeks, and now goes by the name Praxis Summer (bold, links in original):

PRAXIS SUMMER
Cost: $3950 (only includes flight from Summer Missions Launch in Guelph, ON to Victoria, BC)
Location: Victoria, BC
Date: April 29, 2019 to May 27, 2019
Deadline: January 31, 2019
APPLY

prax·is | \ ˈprak-səs: the practical application of theory. The exercise or practice of an art, science, or skill

Why PRAXIS?

We so often live fragmented lives, where our ‘being’ is disconnected from our ‘doing.’ It’s easy to view missions as something to “do” versus something to “be”. Can we be missional, living lives on mission wherever we are?

Jesus invites us to come to him and to learn from him (Matt. 11:28-29). In Jesus, we see the perfect union of being and doing; Jesus’ ministry activity always was an overflow of his rich and abundant connection with his Father.

PRAXIS is not just a “personal development” trip; rather, it is a unique missions opportunity that offers participants the space to apply the formational and developmental lessons they are learning in a missional context.

The rhythm of our day will integrate all that we’re learning. For example:

Mornings: focus on leadership development and spiritual growth

Afternoons: missional engagement on campus

Evenings: rest, community, and mentorship


What Will We Be Doing?

Through PRAXIS, we will experience and learn what it looks like to integrate both our exterior world (the “doing”) with our interior world (the “being”) — identifying and being attentive to how God is at work in our lives. We desire that this will result in the transformation of how we engage missionally with those around us.

Through exposure to formative spiritual practices, practical leadership training, and life-changing mentoring relationships, we will seek to transform our approach to how we engage missionally with our contemporary culture. We will also seek to partner with local and international partners as we participate in Missio Dei — the mission of God.

Missional Engagement

. Learn how to share your faith in a post-Christian context with other students
. Experience listening to the Holy Spirit as we seek to share our faith
. Cultivate a vision for lifelong ministry, as we partner with other organizations

Leadership Development

. Experience and learn principles of biblical leadership
. Practice time and people management skills
. Work on a team and learn how to effectively resolve conflict

Spiritual Growth

. Learn about how to develop daily spiritual rhythms
. Engage with God’s word through mind and heart
. Experience various approaches to prayer

Through PRAXIS, we hope that we will form foundational practices and perspectives to help us take steps toward a greater embodiment of what it looks like to love God and love others.

Let’s Trust God to Do Something Extraordinary

Do you long for more? Do you recognize that your life is compartmentalized, but desire to live more holistically? Do you want to mature in your faith and in how you participate in God’s mission?

Join us as we endeavour to create space in our lives for God to transform us, and those around us.

Questions? Email praxis@p2c.com

BEGIN THE ADVENTURE
Alarm bells went off in the head of this blogger at the sight of this announcement. There are a lot of buzzwords and phrases that never used to be used in evangelical circles. The word "praxis" is ones of those words that religious liberals use when communicating with one another, and is seldom heard outside those circles. When it comes to "practical application," the summer projects in the old days of the '80s had plenty of practical application.

"Missional" is a word I never heard until about 2003, when the Emerging Church came along ; it seems to have replaced the word "missionary." "Missional" seems to include a connotation of man building the Kingdom of God on Earth. "Holistically" is a word that's always been popular with New Agers.

"Formative spiritual practices," "daily spiritual rhythms," "various approaches to prayer," and "foundational practices," sound like contemplative spirituality, i.e., Eastern spiritual practices masquerading as Christian. For information on contemplative spirituality, I especially recommend Lighthouse Trails Research Project and Herescope.

When I wrote to the email address above, I received an admirably quick reply, but without the clarity I was hoping for. I was told, "Cultivating a posture of receptivity to God’s leading is found in disciplines that include but are not exclusive to: Bible study, memorization and contemplation of God's word, personal and corporate prayer, time with God in song, in nature, in fellowship of other Christian believers."

Bible study and memorization are certainly good things, as is contemplation of God's word--if the word "contemplation" refers to the use of one's conscious mind to ruminate over the objective truth of God's word. However, the use of the phrase "not exclusive to," combined with the terms mentioned above, still leaves me suspicious that Power to Change Canada is not completely forthcoming in what this project involves. I didn't receive an answer to my request for information on what organizations Power to Change is partnering with in this project. If I receive any further or clearer information, I'll revise this post accordingly. I suggest the reader email Power to Change Canada for information.