Monday, August 20, 2018

More middle-aged women are opting for Church of England priesthood

It's not the Holy Spirit, but an antichrist spirit of feminism that's calling women into offices that God forbids. As reported by Olivia Rudgard in the London Daily Telegraph, August 19, 2018 (links in original):

Rising numbers of women are entering the priesthood as a second career, Church of England figures show.

Women are being encouraged to join after movements such as #MeToo boosted their confidence and prompted male clergy to offer them more support, church leaders suggested.

Following in the footsteps of the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who joined the Church after a successful career in nursing, the number of women aged 40 to 54 being accepted for ordination has grown by 32 per cent in two years.

Catherine Nancekievill, the church's head of discipleship and vocation, said that "changing attitudes are definitely a factor".

"Men actually championing women's ministry and getting behind it really seems to have shifted over the last ten years, and congregations becoming more accepting as well," she said.

Women who had come of age when female priests were first allowed in 1994 were pursuing vocations only more after 20 or more years in their first career, she added.

"They may well have got into careers and families, and that calling might have been there but they might not have actually taken these steps forward, because once you get into your 30s and 40s you just get very busy with lots of things that are happening.

"Now those women are into their 50s and their later 40s and that calling is still there.

"Maybe they've had a bit of a career, their children have left or are in their teens, and that calling has come back to them.

"Now there are so many more women in ordained ministry, it's much more visible, they can see those people around and about, that actually becomes something that is possible for them."

Many commentators have also cited the importance of Church role models, including Dame Mullally, who was chief nursing officer until 2004, and other female bishops such as Libby Lane, Rachel Treweek and recently-appointed Bishop of Bristol Vivienne Faull.

The growth of "celebrity vicars", such as the Reverend Richard Coles, who appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, and the Reverend Kate Bottley, who came to prominence on Gogglebox, has also been suggested as influencing rising interest in the priesthood.

The figures also showed that the number of people aged under 32 recommended to train for ordination this year has risen by nearly a third compared to two years ago.

Almost three in 10 of those entering training for the priesthood this year are expected to be under the age of 32.

Women make up 54 per cent of this year's candidates, the highest ever proportion.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

70 years ago--The International Council of Christian Churches is founded

On August 19, 1948, the International Council of Christian Churches, an organization of fundamentalist Protestant churches formed a week earlier to counter the forthcoming World Council of Churches, ended its founding assembly at English Reformed Church in Amsterdam after electing as its president Rev. Carl McIntire, pastor of Bible Presbyterian Church in Collingswood, New Jersey since 1933. The founding assembly was attended by 150 delegates from 39 denominations and 29 nations.

Relatively few Christians in the West are aware of the ICCC, but for many years it has had considerably more member denominations than the WCC. An example of an individual associated with the ICCC is Bishop Isaac Mokoena, chairman of the Reformed Independent Churches Association in South Africa in the 1980s and '90s. At a time when Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu was recognized by the world as the leader of black South Africans, Bishop Mokoena was leading an organization representing 4.5 million black South African church members. It will probably surprise most readers to find that that figure was 10 times the number represented by Archbishop Tutu. While Bishop Mokoena was relatively unknown outside his own country, he wasn't unknown to U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who had him as a guest at the White House.

The ICCC has a great history (see their website) of standing for the true Christian faith and opposing apostasy, with Dr. McIntire serving as its president until his death in 2002 at the age of 95. This blogger has lost track of the ICCC in recent years; it still seems to exist, but their website hasn't been updated since 2012.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Coptic Orthodox monk in Egypt confesses to the murder of the bishop

Some of the old mystics were really mistakes. They tried to be more saintly by living in caves. Living in a hole never made anybody holier. Vance Havner, Pepper 'n' Salt, 1966

More evidence that monasticism doesn't produce godliness, as reported by Gianni Valente in La Stampa, August 11, 2018 (updated August 12, 2018) (bold in original):

The Coptic bishop Epiphanius, abbot of the monastery of Saint Macarius, was killed by one of his monks. He smashed his head with an iron rod, in the early hours of Sunday 29 July, while Anba Epiphanius, after leaving his cell, was on his way to church to start the Sunday liturgy with the morning prayer.

The killer’s name is Wael Saad Tawadros and the Egyptian media report that, under the pressures of the investigators, he confessed his crime, and also revealed where to find the murder weapon, which he had carefully hidden in the monastery’s warehouse.

The murky affair is causing dejection and dismay throughout the Coptic Orthodox community. In the meantime, Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II reiterates that the Church “must not hide anything” and invites everyone not to get upset in this trial, trusting that “faith does not need protectors” because the Lord guards it.

A murder and two suicide attempts

Facts have occurred around the tragic end of the bishop-abbot, and objectively disturbing details continue to emerge: internal struggles, human miseries, complicity, ecclesiastics who profane the sanctity of monastic life and do not hesitate to attempt suicide when they see the suspicions and pressures of the investigators coming their way with regard to the murder in the monastery.

Wael Saad Tawadros, 34, had been ordained monk of the monastery of Saint Macarius in 2010, with the name of Isaiah al Makary, but last August 5, in the tense spiritual atmosphere after the murder of Anba Epiphanius, Wael was expelled from the monastery and defrocked, with a decree approved by the Patriarch Tawadros that justified this provision by referring to acts “incompatible with the monastic conduct”.

The day before, Wael had attempted suicide by ingesting insecticide. But in those days Father Boulos Halim, spokesman of the Coptic Orthodox Church, declared that the expulsion measures ordered against the former monk were not to be related to the investigation of the death of Anba Epiphanius: they were the culmination of a canonical disciplinary process begun as early as the beginning of 2018 – said Father Halim –, and whose first punitive disposition imposed against Wael – the expulsion for three years from the monastery, and the transfer to another structure – was not implemented after some of his confreres signed a petition in his defence.

On Monday, another monk from Saint Macarius, Faltaous al-Makary, attempted suicide, cutting his veins and jumping from a four-storey building of the monastery. He is now in serious condition in a hospital in Cairo. According to the reports of the Egyptian media, including Wataninet, it seems that the security cameras of the monastery have recorded scenes of tension and quarrels between some monks and the abbot-bishop Epiphanius, in the hours before his killing.

Many indications suggest that the tragic end of Anba Epiphanius is the result of personal resentments cultivated in the days marked by the rhythms of monastic life, in the shadow of religious zeal. But the story is becoming an upheaval for the Coptic Church, and above all, for its monasticism. With speculations that involve divisions and latent contrasts within the entire Coptic ecclesial structure and its hierarchy.

Contrasting passions have been raging in the monastery of Saint Macarius for decades. In the late sixties, Matta el Meskin arrived at the monastery. He was a prominent figure in the rebirth of Coptic monasticism and of all the Coptic spirituality in the second half of the last century. A strong and charismatic personality, who experienced a significant clash with Patriarch Shenouda III, the other great protagonist of the Coptic awakening of the last decades. Among the reasons for the clash, there were character incompatibilities, theological contrasts and even a different approach to relations with politics: the monk criticised the politicisation of the Church and the excessive activism of hierarchies in opposing established powers.

In the confrontation between Shenouda and the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat – who forced the Coptic Pope to exile himself in the monastery for years – Matta justified the choices of the latter, arguing that the Church was betraying her nature, conceiving herself as a political party, in which “the mind replaced inspiration, and planning replaced prayer”. At the culmination of the confrontation, Shenouda went as far as to prohibit the spread of the works of Matta el Meskin in the Coptic parishes.

Things have changed with his successor, the current Pope Tawadros, who put an end to the damnatio memoriae (“condemnation of memory”) against Matta el Meskin and offered support for the rebirth of the monastery of Saint Macarius, where the monks who had studied with him – including the late Anba Epiphanius – guarded his memory. But in the Coptic hierarchy, most of the active bishops were ordained by Patriarch Shenouda, therefore they shared a feeling of opposition or at least mistrust towards Matta el Meskin’s teaching. Now, the serious episode of bloodshed occurred in the monastery of Matta is also used as a pretext for operations of ecclesiastical politics, perhaps aimed to create new obstacles and problems for the ministry of Pope Tawadros, pastorally cautious and open-minded, but also opposed by a part of the Coptic establishment.

The murder of Anba Epiphanius has been perceived as a serious and alarming signal by the pastoral concern of Patriarch Tawadros and his collaborators. On Friday, August 3, the committee for the monasteries of the Orthodox Coptic Holy Synod established 12 rules – ratified by the Patriarch – by which all those who live the monastic condition in the Coptic Orthodox Church should abide. These measures aim to guard monastic life as a condition of seclusion from the world, marked by moments of prayer, work and silence.

Among other things, the Coptic monks and nuns were asked to take leave from social media and shut down their personal accounts and any blogs they managed, considered by the Patriarch as instruments used to “waste time”, to spread confused ideas and foster personal polemics. The intention of the current Orthodox Coptic leadership is obviously to react to the processes of mondanisation underway within the ecclesial structure. But this desire does not rely primarily on disciplinary measures or rhetorical statements on a “zero-tolerance”.

In his last, traditional Wednesday sermons, Pope Tawadros used other words to try to comfort and confirm into faith the people of Coptic believers: he exhorted everyone not to give in to agitation; he remembered that evil has always existed and that even Judas committed suicide when he betrayed his Master; he repeated that the monks are men, with their fragility, and that many of them have fallen in the course of history because Satan has always besieged monastic life with particular fury; he expressed its confidence that the monastic communities will dwell in the Egyptian deserts “until the end of the world”. He reiterated that the Church has nothing to hide because the treasures that she has as gifts and that keep her alive cannot be dispelled by weaknesses, mistakes, sins and crimes of individuals. Above all, Tawadros invited everyone to recognise that Christian faith is a gift guarded by the Lord, and for this “it does not need other guardians”.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Hundreds of youngsters spend a night venerating the Shroud of Turin

More evidence that Roman Catholicism is a religion of idolatry and superstition, as reported by Maria Teresa Martinengo in La Stampa, August 8, 2018 (bold in original):

“The enthusiasm has increased more and more and eventually two thousand five hundred young people will parade and stand in prayer in front of the Shroud”. From Saint Michael’s Abbey, yesterday, August 8th, Father Luca Ramello, director of the diocesan Youth Pastoral, took stock of the final race for tomorrow, August 10th, when the youth pilgrimage will end before the Cloth which, according to tradition, wrapped the body of Christ. The Shroud will be exhibited in the Cathedral for only a few hours and only for them, as a sign of Love that saves and gives hope.

The day before

Today will be a day full of emotions and opportunities for reflection for at least 950 youngsters – scouts, groups, associations, individuals from all the dioceses of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta – who will join tomorrow with all the others arriving from different paths in their respective territories. In the night, after the veneration of the Shroud, they will leave for Rome where on Saturday and Sunday they will meet Pope Francis in preparation for the Synod of Bishops – dedicated to young people – to be held in the fall.

From the early afternoon, after a journey that started from Monginevro to Turin – “93 kilometres on foot”, stressed yesterday Don Luca, who joined it from the start – the youngsters will meet at the Reggia di Venaria, where at 5 pm the Archbishop Monsignor Cesare Nosiglia will greet them and at 7 pm he will preside at Mass with the bishops of the two regions.

After the Mass, a large community dinner with music will involve all the participants in the Courtyard of the Carriages and, following, an artistic-spiritual journey, a very fascinating theatrical representation in the Reggia will evoke the hour of the Passion of Christ. The youngsters will go to sleep, sportily, to the Sports Hall, made available by the City. Tomorrow morning, the scheduled stop is Valdocco, the shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians, then the youngsters will split into groups to visit some places of Turinese spirituality. At 6 pm the solemn Mass with all 2500 people of the pilgrimage “Love leaves its sign”, celebrated by the bishops. Finally, the will leave towards the Royal square, the meeting place.

In the Cathedral

We still do not know all the details of this extraordinary and “exclusive” exposition. There is confidentiality on the part of the Curia, also for security reasons. What is certain is that the relic, which will remain in the chapel below the royal tribune of the Cathedral, where it is preserved, will be visible in the high-tech conservation case (in traditional exhibitions it is transferred to another one built specifically for its ostension). People will start to parade at sunset, which is essential for having the ideal lighting conditions to be able to identify all the signs on the Shroud, starting from the mysterious and tenuous the body mark.

The meeting

At 8:30 pm, in front of the relic, the authorities will parade and, shortly after, the long procession of the youngsters will begin, divided into groups of two hundred. As they enter, they will be greeted by a quote from the Gospel projected on the facade of the Cathedral. The pilgrimage will last some hours, and as the groups come out, they will continue their material and spiritual journey to Rome.
See also my posts: Brain of Roman Catholic "Saint" John Bosco stolen from Italian basilica (June 15, 2017)

Bones alleged to be those of Peter found in 1,000-year-old church in Rome (September 12, 2017)

U.S. cross-country exhibition of Padre Pio's relics shows that Roman Catholicism is still a religion of idolatry and superstition (May 31, 2018)

Yet another "weeping" statue of Mary appears, this time in New Mexico (June 14, 2018)

Roman Catholic "saint's" bone, found in the garbage, is returned to the Church (July 28, 2018)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow to meet his counterpart in Constantinople at the end of August

The ecumenical movement continues, as reported by Gianni Valente of La Stampa, August 7, 2018 (bold in original):

The Patriarch of Moscow Kirill is preparing to visit his brother Bartholomew in Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, primus inter pares among the leaders of the Orthodox Churches. The meeting is scheduled for next August 31, on the eve of the “extended” Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which meets once every three years and is also attended by the Churches of the Orthodox Diaspora that fall under the direct jurisdiction of the “Mother Church” of Constantinople.

The meeting at the end of August – anticipated by a Greek religious information website – could mark a turning point with regard to the “Ukrainian issue” which has long been stressing the relations between the Orthodox Churches, called to take a position in the canonical-ecclesiological dispute between Moscow and Constantinople on the future of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.

In that country, political and ecclesial groups have been insistently asking that the Patriarchate of Constantinople give its canonical endorsement for the recognition of a national Orthodox Church, completely independent of the Moscow Patriarchate. While the leading exponents of Russian Orthodoxy – like Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk – predict that “blood will flow” if the creation of an independent Orthodox Church, strongly supported by the current political leadership of Kiev, will actually take place (with a consequent rift that would take away from the Church of Moscow jurisdiction over the dioceses and parishes currently belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church linked with a status of autonomy to the Moscow Patriarchate).

The agenda and the tactics

The news about the imminent meeting between Bartholomew and Kirill was confirmed by both the Patriarchates. But also in the confirmation communiqués the tones are different. From Constantinople / Istanbul, they say that the request for the meeting has come from Moscow, that Patriarch Kirill will be accompanied by a delegation including Metropolitan Hilarion and that the main focus of the talks will be the issue of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and the request to recognise its autocephaly to the Patriarchy of Constantinople. Metropolitan Elpidoforos of Bursa, bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, also declared that the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate will be called to account for the polemics raised by sectors of the Church of Moscow against leading exponents of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, starting with Bartholomew. The official confirmations of the meeting from Moscow appear much more laconic: the official spokesmen of the patriarch (priest Alexander Volkov) and of the Department of external relations (archpriest Nikolay Balashov) have confirmed that the meeting will take place but added that the agenda of the talks is still being defined.

The different tones of the communiqués seem to confirm the tactics involving media and ecclesiastical politics that have increasingly dominated the intra-Orthodox confrontation on the Ukrainian issue. In recent weeks, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, relying on its prerogatives of “Mother Church” of Orthodoxy, has sent its representatives to visit the leaders of the other Orthodox Churches – including the Russian one – to scrutinise the prevailing orientations within Orthodoxy before the hypothesis of granting autocephaly (full independence) to a national Church in Ukraine. The results of this particular survey were not disclosed but, in the meantime, the Russian media linked with the Moscow Patriarchate gave broad prominence to pronouncements by senior Orthodox hierarchs – such as Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, or representatives of the Orthodox Church of Georgia – that currently stigmatise the “political pressures” put in place to promote the recognition of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Even the recent celebrations for the 1030th anniversary of the so-called “Baptism of Rus’” – considered as the initial act of conversion to Christianity of the Eastern Slavs – have become an occasion to try to decipher the moods of the different Churches and Orthodox communities regarding the Ukrainian issue. A delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople – led by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France – took part in the celebrations for the Baptism of Rus’ that took place in Kiev at the invitation of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Emmanuel also delivered to Poroshenko a message from the Ecumenical Patriarch, in which Bartholomew writes, among other things, that the See of Constantinople, by virtue of its traditional concern for the unity of Orthodox Christians and for the overcoming of schisms and divisions, “has taken the initiative to restore the unity of Orthodox believers in Ukraine, with the ultimate goal of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church”.

In the same days, in Moscow, the representatives of 10 Orthodox Churches, including Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and of all Africa, took part in the celebrations for the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’ organised by the Russian Orthodox Church. Media close to the Moscow Patriarchate report that all representatives of the Orthodox Churches expressed their support for the Russian Orthodox Church and for the Ukrainian canonical Orthodox Church linked to Moscow, against the claims of independence sustained by “schismatic Ukrainian” groups.

Exhausting contrasts

In the recent past, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate have already experienced difficult times and cut-offs in bilateral relations for controversies related to issues of jurisdiction over Churches and Orthodox communities present in former Soviet territories. So far, they have always found a way to mend their relations. The unfortunate attempt by the Moscow Patriarchate to boycott the pan-Orthodox Council convened by Patriarch Bartholomew in Crete in 2016 has widened the gap. Now, the Ukrainian issue risks infecting the open wounds in the communion tissue that holds the Orthodox Churches together, especially if the tactics of ecclesiastical politics, the buck-passing and the trials by fire continue to prevail over criteria of genuinely ecclesial and pastoral discernment.

The idea of starting again from the Pan-Orthodox Synod of Crete could be a good opportunity to resume the right path: taking up from there, recomposing the consensus and the ecclesial unity around that event that the Moscow Patriarchate continues not to recognise as a pan-Orthodox assembly that, still with all its limitations, represented a good beginning of confrontation and communion among the Orthodox Churches in the face of urgencies and problems coming their way, in the present and in the time to come.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

British lawyer and evangelist accused of abusing boys at camps in the 1970s dies in South Africa

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 reported by Steve Bird of the London Daily Telegraph, August 12, 2018 (links in original):

A former QC and Christian evangelist accused of brutally hitting boys in the 1970’s at a Christian holiday camp where the Archbishop of Canterbury once worked has died.

John Smyth is thought to have suffered a heart attack at his home in Cape Town, South Africa, aged 77, on Saturday morning.

His death comes a year after he was forced to repeatedly reject claims he had used summer camps as a way to recruit young men to a cult in which he subjected them sado-masochistic assaults.

He was accused of handing out up to 800 lashes to more than 20 young men over a four year period in the late 70’s.

Hampshire Police launched an enquiry into the allegations last March and had reportedly recently requested he return to the UK for questioning.

The Most Rev Justin Welby was forced to issue an “unreserved and unequivocal” apology on behalf of the Church of England after admitting last year that the Church had failed to report allegations of abuse by John Smyth QC to the police after allegations came to light as far back as 1982.

Smyth's family said in a statement: "At approximately 9am on Sat 11 August, John Smyth died in his home in Cape Town.

"The official cause of death has not yet been made known, but the indicators are that it was a sudden heart attack following a heart procedure earlier in the week. We ask that the family be left alone to grieve his passing."

A spokesman for the Western Cape Police said: “This office can confirm that Kirstenhof police attended to the death of a 77-year-old man this morning in Bergvliet.

“On the scene, EMS personnel was interviewed who reported that the deceased succumbed to death due to natural causes. No police investigation has been instituted.”

A spokeswoman for the CPS was last night unable to confirm claims by some of the victims that it had been planning to apply to extradite Smyth to the UK to face prosecution.

Smyth’s victims expressed anger that his death meant he would never be brought before a court to face charges that he systematically abused them.

It was claimed last year that the barrister had escaped justice after the Iwerne Trust that oversaw the camps failed to report the attacks to police when they first learned of them decades ago.

Last night, Andrew Morse, 57, who was abused by Smyth, told the Telegraph: “We should all remember that John Smyth himself was a child. We can only move forward with forgiveness, I hope people will allow his family to grieve in private.”

Mr Morse had complained he was repeatedly ignored by the Church of England when he reported the abuse he had suffered.

One victim who uses the name Graham, said that he remains angry that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not do more when he learned of the allegatiosn.

“I am incandescent with rage that the opportunity to bring him to justice,” he said. “It was a wasted opportunity to address the most horrendous level of crime that has been known about for many years.

Andrew Graystone, who has worked as victims’ advocate in the case, said: “The victims are terrifically saddened. But, there’s also anger that the police, the church and the Titus Trust [which took over Iwerne Trust in 2000] had taken so long to start to engage with them. So, the opportunity for any justice has been lost.”

Last year, the Archbishop insisted he was “completely unaware” of claims Smyth, his colleague at the summer camp, had been subjecting boys to brutal sado-masochistic beatings.

In a radio interview he insisted that he had “never heard anything at all” about allegations regarding Smyth.

Smyth had chaired the Iwerne Trust, the charity that oversaw the camps, and held summer retreats for public school boys om Dorset in the Seventies. They were described as religion’s Sandhurst, intended to produce the next generation of elite Christians.

The Iwerne Trust is now part of the Titus Trust. A spokesman for the Titus Trust said last year that the “very disturbing allegations... should have been reported to the police when they first became known”.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Alberta Securities Commission schedules hearing into collapse of Lutheran Church in Canada's investment program

Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; Jeremiah 22:13a

As reported by CTV Calgary, August 13, 2018:

Letter creditors received alerting them to possible problems with the Lutheran Church of Canada's investment program

A hearing will take place in May 2019 for a religious institution accused of lying to investors.

The Lutheran Church of Canada in Alberta and B.C. is under investigation.

The Lutheran Church of Canada held a long-running investment program in Alberta and B.C for more than a century but that program collapsed in 2015.

It’s alleged more than $130 million had been invested when the organizations were placed under federal bankruptcy.

Some investors lost their life savings.

The money had been placed in the fund to help build churches, schools, and retirement communities.

It’s alleged the church knew about its financial problems and that this money was not properly accounted for.

The Securities Commission says the Lutheran Church of Canada “failed to pass along crucial information about how the money was spent and the risks involved.”

It also says the church withheld details about persistent loan defaults and other cash-flow problems.

The Securities Commission is not looking for repayment of damages and will not seek monetary administrative penalties against people from those accused of misleading investors.

If the accused have done something wrong, the Commission says it wants to leave as much money as possible for the people affected.

The Commission is doing this in recognition of the millions of dollars lost and don’t want to deplete any remaining assets that might be available for ongoing court proceedings.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Bingo caller at New York synagogue charged with gaming fraud for fixing games

Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; Jeremiah 22:13a

This sort of scandal can be found in any kind of organization that raises money by gambling. As reported by Jordan Fenster of the Rockland/Westchester Journal News, August 10, 2018 (link in original):

Bingo!

A 71-year-old man changed the outcome of multiple bingo games at the Yorktown Jewish Center, according to a police.

The defendant, Neil Simon Gross, was charged with gaming fraud.

Police said Gross was the bingo ball caller, giving him the opportunity to change the games' outcome and violate the "rules of casino gaming."

Lt. Tom Gentner of the Yorktown Police Department said someone made a complaint to the state Gaming Commission.

Gentner said he did not know if any monetary prizes were at stake. "I've never played bingo," he said.

Brad Maione with the New York state Gaming Commission would not get into specifics, citing an ongoing investigation, but said, "The statute for gaming fraud stipulates that the value exceeds $1,000," for it to be considered a felony.

After being tipped off to the alleged fraud, the gaming commission conducted an investigation at the Yorktown Jewish Center "hand-in-hand" with town police, Maione said.

Bingo is apparently a big deal at the Yorktown Jewish Center, with an entire page devoted to the games on the organization's website.

Gross turned himself in to police on Thursday. He was charged with gaming fraud, an E felony, and was released without bail. He is due back in court on Sept. 11.

Several calls to the Yorktown Jewish Center were not immediately returned.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Mainline and Southern Baptist churches in South Carolina are in decline

...I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18b

...Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8b

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves,...
...Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away...
...For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
II Timothy 3:1-2a, 5; 4:2-3

The New Testament prophesies that the last days preceding the return of the Lord Jesus Christ will be times of increasing apostasy, so it comes as no surprise to this blogger to read that even in America's alleged Bible Belt (as in Canada's alleged Bible Belt), nominal Christianity is in decline.

The Lord is still building His church--right on schedule. The churches that are in decline are the ones that "have a form of godliness," but have fallen into apostasy--as indicated, for example, by the presence of women in positions of leadership, and substituting the social gospel for the true gospel--and the gates of hell are prevailing against them.

Many of the new churches that are springing up are using the methods of the Church Growth Movement, marketing Christianity as a consumer product to satisfy the desires of the customer. As the saying goes, "what you win them with is what you win them to," also stated as "what wins them is what keeps them." If worldly entertainment is what attracts people to church, that will be what keeps them there, and they'll leave if they're being sufficiently entertained. There's nothing particularly "consumer-friendly" in the true gospel of Jesus Christ, yet His church has been around for 2,000 years, and will be around for eternity.

As reported by Sarah Ellis of the Columbia State, August 9, 2018 (bold, links in original):

South Carolina churches are shedding thousands of members a year, even as the state’s population grows by tens of thousands.

In the place we call the Bible Belt, where generations have hung their hats on their church-going nature and faithful traditions, an increasing trend of shrinking church attendance — and increasing church closings — signal a fundamental culture shift in South Carolina.

At least 97 Protestant churches across South Carolina have closed since 2011, according to data from the Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist and Southern Baptist denominations. An untold number of other closings, certainly, are not captured by these statistics.

Many churches are dying slow deaths, stuck in stagnation if not decline. And if they don’t do something, in the near future, they’ll share the fate of Cedar Creek United Methodist, a 274-year-old Richland County congregation that dissolved last year; Resurrection Lutheran, a church near downtown Columbia that will hold its last service on Sept. 2; and the dozens of churches that sit shuttered and empty around the state.

At the same time, some churches are growing, and some growing quickly. But they might not look much like the churches your grandparents (and their grandparents) were raised in. From meeting in unconventional places to tweaking their traditions, many churches are adapting, offering something different that many people thought the church couldn’t do for them.

What they’re doing reflects the results of an ongoing conversation among churches: How can they stay alive?

At Whaley Street United Methodist Church near downtown Columbia, the small crowd of remaining members are quick and cheerful to say they’re a “small but friendly” church. A couple dozen people sat spaced out among the wooden pews on a Sunday morning earlier this summer, when the Rev. Joe Cal Watson delivered an efficient sermon titled, “What is church?”

“I miss the days when church and Sunday were so important … the world stopped so we could focus on our faith,” Watson said from the pulpit. Sunday mornings still matter, he told the flock, but how the church treats people and helps people in need are more important.

Whaley Street’s congregation is a fraction of the size it once was when the surrounding Olympia and Granby mill villages were thriving.

The church simply doesn’t know how to grow these days, though it hasn’t stopped hoping for growth.

“We’re open. We’re friendly. But we do have an old-time service,” said Mary Anna Spangler, a member of 30 years. “But the big problem is how do you get (people) in the door and then keep them?”

FAITH BY NUMBERS

The South is slowly catching up to national and European trends shifting toward what many call a “post-Christian” culture — that is, a society with characteristics no longer dominantly rooted in Christianity.

Studies and surveys have documented the decline of self-identified Christians and the rise of “nones,” or the religiously unaffiliated, across the United States for years.

The Pew Research Center describes the United States as in the midst of “significant religious change. ”The share of Americans who identify with Christianity is declining, while those who say they have no religion is growing rapidly.”

In the South, more than three-quarters of adults identify as Christians, and more than 8 in 10 people consider religion to be somewhat or very important in their lives, more than in any other region of the country, according to Pew.

But, as in the rest of the country, a shrinking proportion of Southern adults say they regularly attend religious services — 74 percent in 2014, down 3 percent from seven years earlier. And surveys tend to inflate how often people actually attend religious services, Pew notes.

South Carolina is in step with those trends, and it shows in church statistics, particularly among Protestant denominations.

While Catholics are actually increasing in number in South Carolina, largely driven by influxes of northern and Hispanic newcomers to the state, major Protestant denominations report declines in membership and numbers of churches in recent years.

Consider:

--United Methodists and Southern Baptists, which together account for more than 3,000 churches and nearly 800,000 church members in South Carolina, report five-year membership declines of 5 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

--United Methodists lost 12,707 members and closed 30 churches in the state between 2012 and 2017. By comparison, 29 new United Methodist churches opened in the state in the past 50 years.

--The number of S.C. Southern Baptist churches has held steady at around 2,100 during the past five years — thanks in part to new church plants canceling out closures. Not all Southern Baptist churches report their statistics to the convention each year, but among those reporting, there were nearly 130,000 fewer members in 2017 (568,519) than in 2012 (698,041), according to statistics published by the S.C. Baptist Convention.

“The reality is that 80-plus percent of (S.C. Southern Baptist) churches are plateaued or declining, meaning they haven’t grown by any measurable percentage in 10 years, or they’ve actually lost membership,” said Jay Hardwick, who leads the church-planting team for the S.C. Baptist Convention. “And a large percentage of those are in a window where if something drastic doesn’t happen within five to 10 years, they’ll close their doors. They won’t have anything.”

NOT-SO-SACRED SUNDAYS

A church, particularly a Southern church, used to be a community center.

It was where you made friends and kept up with friends, where you ate supper on Wednesday nights, played on a softball team, sent the kids after school, fulfilled your community service duties, made business connections, got your musical fix in the choir and maybe joined a reading or knitting club.

And being a part of a church once was, essentially, a status symbol for many people in the South.

“Where do you go to church?” was a regular get-to-know-you question; the answer said something about who you were.

“You didn’t have a choice when I was a child. You went to church,” said Happy Meglino, who grew up in a Southern Baptist church and now attends Whaley Street United Methodist with her husband, Mark, and their 5-year-old daughter, Julianna. “My mom played the organ, and my brother and I were going to be there every time the doors were open. And your friends were there, too. … If you were going to be a good Southern girl, accepted socially, you went to church. If you didn’t go to church, mmm, we don’t know about you.”

Now, though, a church isn’t a line you need on your social resume.

“If you just want to be a philanthropic person, there are a gazillion opportunities for you to feed hungry people, clothe cold people, do service projects, build a house,” said David Turner, the minister of music and worship at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in downtown Columbia.

The oldest Lutheran church in Columbia, Ebenezer once boasted a large, multigenerational congregation of families who lived in nearby neighborhoods. The city used to close streets for its annual vacation Bible school.

Now, Turner said, the church’s attendance numbers are lower than ever.

“1950 was great, but it’s not 1950 anymore,” Turner said.

A key issue for the future, Turner says, is whether church leaders will have the knowledge and skill to guide churches toward a new future or be stuck in a past when Sunday mornings were sacred.

Many of the churches that are failing have not kept up with the pace of change in their communities, and they stopped making a difference outside the walls of the church.

When a church becomes more concerned with looking inward at itself rather than reaching outward to the people around it, it’s lost its core function, said Hardwick, the Southern Baptist church planter.

“Relevance has nothing to do with how cool and creative the church is, if the music’s cool and the lights are great and the staging’s just right,” Hardwick said. “Relevance has everything to do with making a difference.

“If this church disappeared, would anybody in our community know or care?”...

...NEW METHODS, OLD MISSION

Fewer than 1,000 feet from the door of Whaley Street United Methodist, upwards of 300 people gather in Columbia’s 701 Whaley event hall on Sunday mornings.

They comprise Downtown Church, a 7-year-old Presbyterian church born, in part, out of a feeling that other churches were “answering questions I wasn’t asking and not answering questions I was,” said the Rev. Amos Disasa, co-pastor.

The founders of the church saw people looking for an experience that a so-called traditional church didn’t provide.

“We sensed a need for a place for people who were persistently asking questions about God and were very interested in their own spirituality but were not opting into the formal institutions that would typically provide those answers,” Disasa said. “They’re weren’t going to church on Sundays, but it wasn’t that they had given up on God. They were disinterested in the institution of a church as it is.”

There’s no one-size-fits-all model of church, especially not in 2018. And there’s also no reason to expect people to show up at any church just because it’s there, many church leaders are recognizing.

“We early on taught our folks we have to be the ones that go out and share Christ and share what we’re doing with folks, because if we open our doors and just sit there and expect folks to come up, it’s not going to happen,” said Jody Ratcliffe, the founding pastor of the 2-year-old Church at West Vista.

The door to the Church at West Vista also happens to be the door to a bar.

One Sunday a month, the fledgling church meets at New Brookland Tavern on State Street, a popular Sunday brunch area. The rest of the month, church happens in living rooms throughout the Columbia metro area.

West Vista’s “house church” model is, in some ways, a throwback to the earliest days of the Christian church, but it represents a major shift from the traditional church model of recent centuries.

In a rapidly changing religious landscape, there is one critical element of a church that must not change, Hardwick said: The gospel message and mission.

Almost anything else is fair game.

“The message never changes, but the methods are always up for change,” he said.

‘EXPERIENCE THE EXPECTED’

As much change as the church is undergoing, church tradition isn’t dead — no more than Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia is at 8 a.m. on a Sunday.

In many ways, Brookland represents the way church has been for generations.

Families sit together in long pews. They wear dresses and suits and ties and hats. A big, swaying choir fills the stage, and paper bulletins double as fans (though, an usher will hand you a real paper fan if they see you sweating). Golden offering plates are passed.

A robed pastor’s booming, lyrical voice preaches a message that lifts you out of your seat, and when he calls you to the altar, it is no suggestion; you come.

But Brookland is also reaching people — 3,500 of them or so on an average Sunday morning — in ways the church never did before. Big screens flank the pulpit, alternating live video feeds with scrolling lyrics to old-school hymns being played by a full band with, yes, drums and electric guitars.

You can pass the offering plate right along and give your tithe via text message or on the church’s website.

If you didn’t come to church on Sunday morning, you might come for lunch during the week at the massive conference center, which is used for all kinds of events, church- and nonchurch-related. Or your kids might play basketball in the wellness center or catch a quick word from the Rev. Charles Jackson, the pastor, on Twitter.

That’s all part of an evolving strategy to reach the people who are and will become the next generation of Christians, the church says.

“First of all, you’ve got to think about who that next generation is,” said Marnie Robinson, a member and church spokesperson. “The church may be trying to force them to be the church of yesteryear, and they’re not those people. … We need to talk to the millennials as if they are important and teach them the message of Christ; teach them and show them.”

But still, “church is church,” Robinson said, and many people are looking to “experience the expected.”

“When you do church, when you go to church, you expect to hear a good word,” Robinson said. “You expect to experience good music, and you expect a good prayer. Music, prayer and the word — you’ve got worship right there. All the other good stuff that happens is extra.”

Brookland will keep adapting, but it’s not going anywhere, Robinson said. And neither is the greater church, she feels sure.

“The church is one of the oldest institutions in the world, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere,” Robinson said. “How we do church may change, may be changing. But church is not going anywhere, and I take solace in that.”

THE END?

Consistency and tradition were beloved among the rural Cedar Creek United Methodist congregation in Blythewood, and consistency and tradition sustained the church for 274 years, until it closed in 2017.

“I think that most churchgoers like things to be the way they’ve always been,” said the Rev. Alice Deal, who retired this summer as pastor of Cedar Creek’s remaining sister churches on the Fairfield Circuit, Bethel UMC and Monticello UMC. About 40 church members, mostly seniors, remain between the two of them.

A command to change, though, comes from the one they worship, Deal said. “The holy one of Israel speaks through the prophet Isaiah and says, ‘I am about to do a new thing. Do you not see it springs forth?’ I think newness is what we’re called to be open to and to embrace, but that’s not always easy to do,” she said.

Some won’t change, held back by fear or stubbornness or practicality or something else.

But some will reach a point where “the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change,” Hardwick said.

“They realize, man, if we stay the same, we will put the death knell, perhaps, of gospel ministry in this community,” he said. “Then we’re going to be willing to make the hard decision that it’s going to require of us, kind of a whatever-it-takes mindset.”

But for some churches, the most faithful choice they can make is to close and invest their resources elsewhere, Hardwick said.

The futures of Monticello and Bethel are looming.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” Deal said, “but I know who holds the future. In God’s perfect will and God’s perfect time, what God intends for these churches will happen.”
Examples of what I mentioned at the beginning of this post can be found in this report by Miss Ellis in the State, August 9, 2018:

Sunday mornings at Ebenezer Lutheran Church are almost exactly what you’d expect them to be — except, perhaps, for all the empty pews.

At a recent service at Columbia’s oldest Lutheran church, about 40 or 50 people sat in the hushed hall of Ebenezer’s stunning sanctuary. There were a handful of children, many more white-haired heads and at least one homeless person...

...About 180 years younger than Ebenezer, Downtown Church has built its identity, in part, on its willingness to change — to try new things and to let go of things that don’t work or don’t matter or have run their course.

It’s an attractive place for people like Amanda McAlhaney, who shied away from “traditional” churches most of her life. She felt little personal connection there and was turned off by fear-based messages, she said.

What she and her husband, Shawn, found at Downtown Church is a down-to-earth message that consistently translates to their everyday lives, she said.

“For me, this church is just about being a good human being,” McAlhaney said. “I’m always thinking how I’m going to relate this to life, and I think that has been something missing in other sermons (in other churches). … The formality drops or disappears, and you’re just there to worship. … That’s something that’s been really special about it for me, when people just don’t want the formality of the traditional church.”

Turner said he’s trying to push Ebenezer to look for ways to get people into the church through the “side door and back door” — because, these days, people aren’t walking into a church just because it’s there, he said.

“I think you find some way for people to, first and foremost, connect socially, and then you turn it into a spiritual formation event,” Turner said. “We’re a consumeristic culture now, and so you can fight it and you can roll your eyes about it … it sort of is what it is. So I think, get them pulled in, and you can have that conversation after they’re invested in the program.”

Maybe it’s offering a chance to volunteer at a soup kitchen, opening the church as a performance hall during the week or allowing nonmembers to be married in the sanctuary, Turner suggested. The point is to give people another reason, any reason, to connect with the church.

At Downtown Church, it’s easy to embrace change — to try new things and let go of others — because the survival of their congregation “is not the point of existing,” Disasa said.

“We try really hard to be OK with the idea that Downtown Church may not exist someday,” said the Rev. Dawn Hyde, the church’s co-pastor with Disasa. “And it’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of faith. It’s not the end of God.”

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Belgium now euthanizes children as young as 7

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)

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

Professing themselves to be "progressives," they became "regressives," going back to the days before Hippocrates, when doctors were as likely to kill their patients as heal them. This blogger predicted exactly this sort of thing years ago; countries that once fought against the Nazis are increasingly adopting their policies, while still regarding the Nazis as villains. As reported by Henry Samuel of the London Daily Telegraph, August 7, 2018 (links in original):

Paris--Two children, aged nine and 11, have become the world’s youngest to be euthanised, according to a report.

The unnamed minors were administered lethal injections in Belgium, which has the world’s only law allowing terminally ill children in “unbearable suffering” to choose to die.

Their deaths, which occurred in 2016 or 2017, were revealed in a report from the CFCEE; the commission that regulates euthanasia in Belgium, and their ages were confirmed by a Belgian official.

It confirmed that Belgian doctors had given lethal injections to three children over the two-year period, including to a 17-year-old who was suffering from muscular dystrophy.

The nine-year-old, who had a brain tumour, and the 11-year-old, who was suffering from cystic fibrosis, were the first children under 12 to be euthanised anywhere, a member of the CFCEE told The Washington Post.

One of the most permissive countries in the world, Belgium amended its euthanasia law in 2014 to make it legal for doctors to terminate the life of a child, however young, who makes the request.

They must be judged to have the mental capacity to make the decision and receive parental consent.

Supporters of the law say a child should not be made to suffer against their will but opponents say children are too young to make the decision to die.

The July 17 report notes that three minors were among thousands of people to have died under Belgium's radical euthanasia regime between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017.

It merely describes all three as under 18 but a Belgian official has now disclosed their ages to the Washington Post.

Luc Proot, a member of the CFCEE, defended the decision to authorise the young euthanasia cases, saying: “I saw mental and physical suffering so overwhelming that I thought we did a good thing.”

For euthanasia to proceed in Belgium, doctors must first verify that a child is “in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and which will cause death in the short term.”

Once a child has expressed a wish for euthanasia in writing, child psychiatrists conduct examinations, including intelligence tests, to determine their level of discernment and ensure they were “not influenced by a third party.” Parents can, however, overuse their request.

Belgium's decision to extend its euthanasia laws to all minors provoked outrage in the country and abroad.

Belgium’s bishops called the law “a step too far”, while a group of 162 Belgian paediatricians wrote: “We are today able to perfectly control physical pain, choking or anxiety at the approach of death.”

Prof Stefaan Van Gool, a child cancer specialist in Belgium, said: "There is, in fact, no objective tool today available that really can help you say 'this child has the full competence or capacity to give with full understanding informed consent'."

Wim Distelmans, head of the Belgian euthanasia commission countered: “Thankfully, there are very few children who fit the criteria, but that doesn’t mean that we should refuse (them) the right to die with dignity.”

The annual number of euthanasia cases across all age groups has multiplied almost five-fold in ten years in Belgium.

Of the 4,337 to opt for assisted dying in Belgium in 2016 and 2017, most were cancer patients.

However 710 were mainly elderly people who suffered from comparatively minor complaints such as blindness and incontinence. Some 77 chose to die because of unbearable psychiatric suffering. A further 19 young people between 18 and 29 decided to end their lives.

Last year, neurologist Dr Ludo Vanopdenbosch resigned from the CFCEE, in protest at the failure to prosecute when a dementia patient’s life was terminated without her prior consent.

Since then, 360 Belgian doctors, academics and others have signed a petition calling for tighter controls on euthanasia for psychiatric patients.

Despite the controversy, there is widespread backing for Belgium's euthanasia legislation, polls suggest.
As was the case in Germany in the 1920s through the end of World War II, the situation is going to get worse. The German mass killing program began in 1920 with the publication of a little book titled The Release of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Value by Dr. Alfred Hoche, a psychaiatrist, and Karl Binding, a jurist. Those who read it may be as surprised as I was to discover that the authors weren't advocating mass killing, but advocated a euthanasia program under strict controls.

Somehow, however, the the number of categories of people, and thus the number of people to be euthanized increased. When the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933, they didn't introduce euthanasia, but expanded a program that was already in existence. In Belgium now, as in the Netherlands, legalizing of euthanasia has "progressed" from adults to children; from physical to "psychological" suffering; from euthanasia with the consent of the patient to euthanasia without the consent of the patient (historically known as "murder").

The restrictions on euthanasia in Belgium as elsewhere, are increasingly disappearing, just as in Germany all those decades ago. We're already seeing it, with the dramatic recent increase in the number of people being killed in various countries practicing legal euthanasia. I find it hard to believe that the amount of actual suffering has increased in proportion to the number of people killed. The eventual result will be the same as that in Germany: mass slaughter.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Edmonton hosts Flat Earth International Conference

In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. II Peter 2:3a (NIV)

The Fantasyland Hotel is an appropriate venue for this conference. The reader will notice the outrageous admission fees, which sound like those a televangelist might charge. As reported by Kevin Maimann of StarMetro Edmonton, August 9, 2018:

EDMONTON—Faith took centre stage at Edmonton’s Fantasyland Hotel Thursday as 250 people packed in for the Flat Earth International Conference.

Flat-Earthers from around North America came to listen to speakers such as Indiana radio host Rick Hummer, who told them to pull their kids out of public schools and ignore the consensus of the scientific community.

“If I were you, I’d get them out of the schools, because they’re not learning the truth,” Hummer told the crowd.

“I believe there’s a movement by the Almighty and his hand is all over this (flat-Earth movement). Because things are being revealed in the last days.”

Presenter Matt Long, a YouTuber from Texas, said he has a “healthy obsession with the Bible and truth” and claimed the Bible is “unequivocally a flat-Earth book.”

Many flat-Earthers believe the Earth is a disc, despite overwhelming scientific and photographic evidence that it is spherical.

Most who subscribe to this idea believe humans have not stumbled over the edge of the Earth because it is encircled in a wall of ice, making ground travel impossible, and pilots are too scared to make the trek.

Many still believe the other planets in our galaxy are round.

YouTuber Mark Sargent, who spoke and took questions from the audience Thursday, thinks the universe is a planetarium with man-made projections of a fake moon and stars.

He spoke derisively of scientists, none of whom were among the presenters at the conference.

“We are the new scientists, and we’re heading straight for you,” Sargent said. “We’ll take the cities, we’ll take the suburbs, we’ll take the countryside.”

Many who attended the conference came to believe in a flat Earth through other conspiracy theories, and were convinced by YouTube videos and articles they read on the internet.

Several said their journey into skepticism started with the debunked theory that humans have never actually walked on the moon.

In most cases, it was an unwavering faith in God that seemed to make the flat-Earth theory fit their world view.

“If the shape of the Earth is flat, then that means that it’s been constructed. And if it’s been constructed, we didn’t just blow up out of nothing,” said attendee John Wahlstrom, who travelled from Chilliwack, B.C. for the conference.

“That means there’s a whole lot more relevance in the fabric of our lives, rather than just coming from mud to fish to monkey to human beings as the evolutionists put forward.”

Lindsey Clark from Saskatchewan said the flat-Earth concept seemed simple for her because she doesn’t believe that we “came from monkeys.”

As far as what scientists could stand to gain by imposing such a massive hoax on humanity, some suggested it goes much deeper, beyond even the government.

“I think it reaches right into secret societies that have been manipulating us for hundreds of years,” Lawrie McLeod, of Edmonton, said.

Attendees shelled out at least $150 for a two-day pass, and some paid $300 for VIP passes that include front-row seating in the ballroom and a special speakers’ dinner.

There was plenty of merchandise for sale in the foyer, including T-shirts, posters with flat-Earth maps, and stickers with slogans such as “Space is Fake.”

But not everyone was buying in.

Matthew Rolheiser, who has a science degree and an education degree, said he came to the conference out of curiosity to understand how flat-Earthers think.

He empathized with the other attendees on some level, and concluded that the scientific community needs to do a better job reaching out and explaining its expertise in ways the average person can understand.

He pointed out that many who attended the conference asked good questions — it was the answers they got that were problematic.

“I would strongly encourage subject-matter experts to talk to people who have some very good, valid scientific questions about gravity, about space travel, about how do we know what we know, about planetary motion, about atmospheric science, about satellites,” he said.

“I think that people here are very intelligent and they are very curious, but they’re reaching a dead end whenever they try to really find out how something works.”

Science Literacy Week founder Jesse Hildebrand also said scientists could be better at communicating their work, and he strives to facilitate that as a science literacy advocate.

He said it’s important to note that, while the flat-Earth community is growing and its conferences have proven to be popular, it still makes up a “very infinitesimal” portion of the population.

While Hildebrand agreed to speak with StarMetro for this article, he was hesitant to facilitate a bigger platform for flat-Earthers.

“The scientific consensus, since basically the dawn of people looking for knowledge, has been that the Earth is round. You have to strain credulity, reason, logic, sense to believe the opposite. So it’s not something that I think should even be given the time of day,” he said.

“It’s like climate change at this point. There’s no tenable position otherwise, and even giving credence to the other side is to legitimize it in a way that it does not deserve.”

The Flat Earth International Conference was founded by Edmontonian Robbie Davidson, who is a Christian and a creationist.

He launched the first conference last year in Raleigh, N.C., and brought it to Edmonton for the first time this year. Another conference is slated for Denver, Colo., in November.

The event runs through Friday at the Fantasyland Hotel.
Those who claim that the Bible supports the flat-Earth view don't speak for this blogger--although, of course, if they got their information from the Internet, it must be true. ; The Bible passage that comes to mind to refute the flat-Earth view is Isaiah 40:22:

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Ancient Bethsaida's gate has been uncovered

Recently excavated gate at Bethsaida (Zer)

As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Breaking Israel News, July 13, 2018:

Professor Rami Arav has uncovered an enormous city gate, after digging at the Biblical city of Zer in the Golan Heights.

Arav, a professor at the University of Omaha, has been digging in the region for nearly 30 years and this season, his efforts were rewarded. Arav and his team speculate that King David probably passed through this gate seeking a bride.

The archaeological potential at Zer is enormous, justifying Arav’s efforts. The unexplored ruins dating back to the eighth century BCE cover 20 acres, setting it as one of the largest ancient cities in the region.

“So far, I have only found monumental remains: the palace, the fortifications, the storehouses,” Arav told Breaking Israel News. “I have only explored about four percent of the site. I am planning on leaving a challenge for the next generation.

This season, Arav and his team focused their digging on the city’s gate. It is massive, the largest and the best-preserved city gate found in the region. Arav believes the gate was in use from the 11th century BCE to 920 BCE, when the settlement was destroyed. After 50 years of lying vacant, the city was reinhabited after 875 BCE.

The site also displays a Jewish community in the Hasmonean and Herodian periods, occupation in the Early Roman period, settlement in the Mamluk period, and a village in the late Ottoman period.

In addition to the city gate, the excavation revealed a massive fortification system that included two parallel city walls and towers. This is the earliest appearance of towers in the military architecture of this region.

In addition to its enormous archaeological significance, the site has massive Biblical relevance.

“The city, under different names, was referred to in the Bible, in the New Testament, and even in the Talmud,” Arav said. “It was clearly important throughout many periods.”

The city was referred to as Zer until the First Temple period and is mentioned as such in the Bible.

Its fortified towns were Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Chinnereth, Joshua 19:35

In the Second Temple period, the city was a major Aramean urban center of the kingdom of Geshur, also mentioned in the Bible.

But the Israelites failed to dispossess the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and Geshur and Maacath remain among Yisrael to this day. Joshua 13:13

The gate dates to 1000 and 550 BCE, the period of the biblical kings David and Solomon. Arav guesses that it is most probable that David entered this gate to meet Talmai, king of Geshur, prior to requesting the hand of his daughter.

His second was Chileab, by Avigail wife of Naval the Carmelite; the third was Avshalom son of Maacah, daughter of King Talmai of Geshur; II Samuel 3:3

The city of Bethsaida is mentioned several times in the New Testament as a place Jesus frequented and as such, the archaeological dig is a popular destination for Christian tourists.

“The New Testament places several stories about Jesus in Bethsaida but is not really a Christian archaeological site,” Arav told Breaking Israel News. “There are no Christian artifacts since there was never really a Christian population in Bethsaida. There are no churches or anything from the Byzantine period. From the Second Temple period, it was connected with the life of Jesus, but as most people know, Jesus was born, lived, and died a Jew. Everything around him was Jewish. Christianity as an independent religion only came several centuries after the death of Jesus. By the time the Christian population arose in the fourth century, Bethsaida was already abandoned due to a major earthquake.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hellenistic-era golden earring discovered at Jerusalem's City of David

Spectacular Hellenistic-era earring found at City of David National Park, Jerusalem

As reported by David Brummer of Breaking Israel News, August 8, 2018:

A spectacular Hellenistic-era golden earring, featuring ornamentation of a horned animal, was discovered in excavations in the City of David National Park.

Archaeologists announced that the gold earring shaped like a horned animal, dates back to the second or third century BCE – during the Hellenistic period. The discovery was made during archeological digs conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University at the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David National Park – which encircles Jerusalem’s Old City walls.

It is considered an important find, as little is known about Jerusalem during the Hellenistic period, when the city was under Ptolemaic rule. According to the directors of the excavation, Professor Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Antiquities Authority, ”The jewelry was found inside a building that was unearthed during the excavation, dating to the early Hellenistic period.

The hoop earring bears the head of a horned animal (possibly an antelope or deer) with large eyes, a mouth and other facial features. Nearby, excavators also found a gold bead with intricate embroidered ornamentation resembling a thin rope pattern, dividing the beads into two parts with six spirals on each side.

The researchers said it was unclear whether the jewelry was worn by a man or a woman, nor what their cultural or religious identity was. They could, however, ascertain that it belonged to a member of Jerusalem’s upper-class, based on its proximity to the Temple and the Temple Mount – functional at the time. “The residents of this area were not peasants who settled in empty areas on the periphery of the central area, but rather the opposite — they were well-off people. The discovery of familiar Hellenistic pieces of jewelry can teach us about how Hellenistic influences reached Jerusalem during this time.”

Ariel Polokoff and Dr. Adi Erlich, from the archaeological department at Haifa University, examined the earring and bead and estimated that the jewelry was crafted using a technique called filigree, in which threads and tiny metal beads are used to create delicate and complex patterns. According to them, this type of earring first appeared in Greece during the early Hellenistic period, while the earrings date back to approximately the Third or early second centuries BCE.

According to Professor Gadot, similar (though not identical) earrings have been found in the Mediterranean basin, particularly in Greece. He added that a few of this type of earring had been found close to the coastal plain (a key Mediterranean trade route), but it was the first time that such an object had been found in Jerusalem.
See also my post 9th century clay amulet praising Allah is found in Jerusalem's City of David (June 17, 2018).

Israel pursues [diplomatic] relations with U.S. Virgin [Islands]

I couldn't resist a provocative headline--as reported by the St. Thomas Source, July 23, 2018:

Ambassador Dani Dayan, consul general of Israel in New York, spoke briefly before the Legislature of the Virgin Islands led by Senate President Myron D. Jackson on Thursday, as part of a three-day visit to the territory to build diplomatic relations.

Jackson introduced him on the floor during a Committee of Finance meeting at the Capitol Building on St. Thomas. Ambassador Dayan officially assumed the post in August 2016 and represents the State of Israel to communities from throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Delaware. His office recently became aware of being officially in charge of Israel’s diplomatic relations with the Virgin Islands of the United States.

“We appreciate the interest and look forward to your relations here,” President Jackson said.

Dayan’s visit to the Virgin Islands follows learning of the devastation of the territory resulting from last year’s hurricanes from Rabbi Michael Feshbach of the Synagogue in St. Thomas.

“Our desire was to assist and help the entire community of the Virgin Islands in its days of disaster,” Dayan said, adding that he planned to engage the Hebrew Congregation and make a small donation to My Brother’s Workshop during his stay.

President Jackson and other lawmakers touched on a range of topics with the Israeli diplomat to include agriculture, food security, health, tourism, education, renewable energy and the ongoing conflict in Gaza during informal conversation. Jackson spoke to the longstanding history of the Jewish population on St. Thomas, which developed in Savan along Jode Gade amidst the French and free Blacks. He encouraged Dayan to visit the island’s oldest Jewish cemetery in the neighborhood.

“The Jewish community of the Virgin Islands is an ancient one,” Dayan said. “We hope this is the starting of a relationship that will flourish.”

Senators Jean Forde, Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Brian Smith, Tregenza Roach, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly and Dwayne DeGraff were among those greeting the ambassador.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

60 years ago: Witchcraft ritual murders continue in Africa

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
Deuteronomy 18:10-12

Witch doctors wouldn't proliferate unless people believed that they were deriving physical and/or spiritual benefits from them. The negative consequences, however, outweigh whatever benefits may result. As C.S. Lewis said, "The Devil will be happy to cure your chilblains if in return he can be permitted to give you cancer."

The article below was published on page 20 of The Edmonton Journal on August 7, 1958. Directly adjoining it was an article by John Barbour of Associated Press about U.S. plans to shoot a rocket to the Moon (in 1958, such an event was still in the future). It's unacceptable, according to modern standards of political correctness and multiculturalism, to say that a culture that produced Moon rockets was superior to a culture that produced witch doctors. Instead, the former must now import large numbers of the latter, because "diversity is our strength," with the various cultures regarded as being of equal merit. Basutoland is now known as Lesotho.

As reported by J.K. Chilwell of North American Newspaper Alliance (bold in original):

Johannesburg--A member of the Nigerian parliament, Vincent Awgu Nwankwo, has been charged with 111 ritual and other murders.

In Basutoland, at the other end of Africa, 22 natives recently were hanged for medicine murders.

In South Africa, portly, middle-aged Khotso Sethuntsa went to town with a suitcase of money and paid £2,400 in £10 and £100 notes for a 1958 car. Mr. Sethuntsa is a leading medicine man of the Transkei tribe--who may or may not use bits of human beings in his "cures."

Witchcraft--which has its devotees among plenty of white men in the black continent--has defied the "civilizers." Much of it is harmless.

The ritual murder side is not.

WITCH DOCTOR UNIVERSITY

In Johannesburg, the witch doctors have formed their own "university" to prevent charlatans, as they term them, from entering the honorable profession of the dingakas.

It is even possible for modern medicine to learn some lessons from this "University." The dingakas know the ages-old herbal remedies for various African complaints. There are scientific reasons why some of them work.

The theory has even been put forward that the presence of a witch doctor can aid his 20th-century brother, the medical practitioner. For a witch doctor can put an ignorant patient in a receptive psychological mood to make the best of a modern cure.

LEADS TO MURDER

Witch-doctorism, however, leads to murder.

Natives hold a strong belief in the medicine of witch doctors. Medicine from a lion's flesh is regarded as strong. The most powerful of all, however, is made from human flesh.

To obtain this flesh, a murder must be committed. The victim of an accident or of a disease is not suitable, say the medicine men.

Ritual murder is always planned, and the murder always is committed by more than one person.

The witch doctors arrange for the remains to be found and for it to appear as if death was accidental.

How to stamp out ritual murder is a matter engaging the attention of all governments from Ghana to South Africa, from Liberia to Abyssinia. The terrible practice brings death to hundreds of Africans every year.

It will be a long battle, as it is mainly one of education.

It took Europe and America long years to eradicate beliefs in black magic, and in vampires, wolfmen and other bogeymen. Such beliefs--and worse--still seize the minds of millions of Africans.

Monday, August 6, 2018

1,600-year-old art discovered in Galilean village's synagogue

As reported by Abbie Bennett of the Raleigh News & Observer, July 12, 2018 (bold, link in original):

A University of North Carolina archaeologist and her team have uncovered 1,600-year-old art in a monumental synagogue in Israel that could rewrite history about an ancient Jewish village.

The team, led by professor Jodi Magness, discovered mosaics in an ancient village in Israel that contradict widespread views about Jewish settlement in the region during the early fifth century.

“The size and rich decoration of the synagogue indicate that this Jewish village continued to flourish in the centuries after the Roman Empire became a Christian empire, and these Jews came under Christian rule, which many scholars today view as having been oppressive to the Jews,” said Magness, a Kenan distinguished professor of early Judaism in the department of religious studies at the UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences.

The large, elaborately decorated interior of the synagogue in Huqoq, a village in Galilee, points to a “previously unexpected level of prosperity,” Magness said.

And the content of the mosaics themselves seems to contradict previous historical perceptions.

“The mosaics decorating the floor of the Huqoq synagogue revolutionize our understanding of Judaism in this period,” Magness said. “Ancient Jewish art is often thought to be aniconic, or lacking images. But these mosaics, colorful and filled with figured scenes, attest to a rich visual culture as well as to the dynamism and diversity of Judaism in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.”

The mosaics provide information about the ancient Jewish understanding of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and show that Judaism during the 4th through 6th centuries “was dynamic and diverse,” Magness said.

Magness and her team have been uncovering the mosaics since 2012. Since then, more have been discovered each summer.

This summer, they made their most significant discovery to date — part of the richest, most diverse collection of mosaics ever found in an ancient synagogue.

The mosaics

Fish swallowing Pharaoh's soldier in the Parting of the Red Sea

Pair of donkeys in Noah's Ark scene

The Spies panel

Month of Teveth with the sign of Capricorn

The mosaics show scenes from several biblical stories and depict the zodiac, including:

▪ Noah’s Ark.

▪ The parting of the Red Sea, showing Pharaoh’s soldiers being swallowed by giant fish.

▪ Jonah being swallowed by three successive fish.

▪ The building of the Tower of Babel.

▪ A panel depicting two spies sent by Moses to explore Canaan, carrying a pole with a cluster of grapes (Numbers 13:23).

▪ A panel referencing Isaiah 11:6 (“a small child shall lead them”), which shows a youth leading an animal by a rope.

▪ Samson and the foxes.

▪ Samson carrying the gate of Gaza on his shoulders.

▪ A Helios-zodiac cycle.

The ‘most surprising find

The mosaics don’t only show biblical stories, Magness said.

On one, a Hebrew inscription is surrounded by human figures, animals and mythological creatures, including cupids, along with the first non-biblical story ever found decorating an ancient synagogue.

That mosaic shows perhaps, the legendary meeting between Alexander the Great and the Jewish high priest.

The team uncovered a rare discovery in ancient synagogues — columns covered in colorful painted plaster still intact after nearly 1,600 years.

Huqoq in the Hebrew Bible

The village of Huqoq appears in the Old Testament in connection with the settlement of the Israelite tribes of Asher and Naftali, Magness said.

“In the Roman and Byzantine periods, it was a Jewish village. But until our discoveries, Huqoq was considered only to be an unimportant ancient village,” Magness said. “Now we can see that it was more prosperous than we previously thought.”

Huqoq is not mentioned in the New Testament, but the village did exist during the time of Jesus of Nazareth, Magness said.

Huqoq is only a few miles from Capernaum, the base of Jesus’ Galilean ministry and from Migdal/Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene.

“It is in the heart of the area that was the focus of Jesus’s Galilean ministry – so its possible (even likely) that Jesus was familiar with the village and maybe even visited it,” Magness said.

But the mosaics Magness and her team have uncovered were created about 400 years after the time of Jesus.

The mosaics have been removed from the synagogue for conservation and the excavated areas have been backfilled, according to the university. Excavations are scheduled to continue in the summer of 2019. For more information on the project, go to www.huqoq.org.

Magness and her team were assisted by Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University.

Sponsors of the project include UNC-Chapel Hill, Baylor University, Brigham Young University and the University of Toronto. Students and staff from Carolina and the consortium schools participated in the dig, with financial support for 2018 from the Friends of Heritage Preservation, the National Geographic Society, the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies.
Go here for video.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Poor Anglican churches in northern England complain that their richer southern brethren aren't sharing the wealth

For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. Romans 15:26

Liberal churches tend to be very vocal in advocating "sharing the wealth" of others by means of compulsory state socialism, but they seem to be a lot less enthusiastic about sharing their own wealth within their own ranks. As reported by Hayley Dixon of the London Daily Telegraph, August 5, 2018 (link in original):

The Church of England has become embroiled in a row over a "postcode lottery" as northern churches are facing a financial black hole.

As Leeds, the newest and geographically the largest diocese, announced that it would have to lay off 14 staff and close its pension scheme to try and plug a £3million deficit, some blamed it on a north-south divide.

They called on the church to share the wealth more evenly.

Diocese with historic wealth have assets to draw on in tough times and therefore do not have to ask for so much money from their parishes. Congregations in poorer areas are also less likely to be able to contribute financially.

Andy Delmege, vicar at St Bede’s Brandwood in Birmingham and chair the National Estates Churches Network, which promotes inner city churches, said: "Why should ministry be harder in Birmingham or Newcastle or Manchester because they are newer diocese formed without historic assets? This inequality makes life harder for the parishes and clergy which are at the sharp end of it.

"We might want to ask what the gospel says on this. Well it certainly doesn't advocate a postcode lottery."

He told BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme that they need to "urgently work out ways of justly sharing our historic wealth".

Of the ten diocese with the largest income in England, eight are in the south.

His comments follow those of the Rt Rev Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley, who said there was a "'shocking disparity" between diocese and that the situation in Leeds was "a symptom of a much deeper financial and spiritual institutional sickness."

Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, yesterday described his fellow Bishop's comments as "nonsense".

The Reverend Canon Sam Corley, the Rector of Leeds, said that a "cheque from the south would be nice" but would not solve the issues facing the future of inner city churches and those in deprived areas.
See also my post Anglican churches in England are selling stained glass windows and organs to make ends meet (July 5, 2018)

Large church in Edinburgh votes to leave Scottish Episcopal Church over sodomite/lesbian "marriage"

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
II Corinthians 6:14-17

As reported by Harry Farley of the London Daily Telegraph, August 4, 2018:

One of the largest churches in Edinburgh has voted to split from the Scottish Episcopal Church amid tensions over its decision to become the first Anglican body in the UK to endorse gay marriage.

St Thomas’ is the latest evangelical parish to quit the official Anglican church in Scotland and back a rival splinter movement in reaction to the vote supporting gay marriage in June last year.

A number of other churches have either left or are considering leaving in the wake of the decision to change the Scottish Episcopal Church's (SEC) definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

St Thomas' is one of the largest Anglican churches in the capital and the move to split from the SEC will be seen as a major blow to Scottish bishops trying to hold together the deeply opposed factions over same-sex marriage.

The Rev David McCarthy, Rector at St Thomas' told The Sunday Telegraph the decision had been a “very painful” one.

“We have not done it easily. We have had many tears and many sleepless nights. It is a tragic necessity,” he said.

“But it is the Episcopal Church who are leaving us. They are leaving orthodoxy.”

The church's decision to permit gay marriage has put it at odds with the majority of Anglicans around the world. Last October sanctions were imposed on the SEC by leaders of the global Anglican Communion, restricting Scottish bishops from representing the group at interfaith meetings and from voting on decisions about policy or teaching.

The Most Reverend Mark Strange, Primus of the SEC, defiantly defended the decision although he admitted it was “one that has caused some hurt and anger in parts of the Anglican communion”.

He said at the time: "I will do all I can to rebuild relationships, but that will be done from the position our church has now reached in accordance with its synodical processes and in the belief that love means love.”

Even within the evangelical congregation at St Thomas' the decision was a controversial one and around a fifth have walked out since a vote confirmed the decision in May.

“I expected if we got to this stage we would lose people. But I suspect if we had gone the other way [and stayed in the SEC] we would have lost a lot more people,” Mr McCarthy said.

“I would have walked,” he added.

“If it was one person who left that would have been bad enough. It is not great. I am not happy about it. But we have not pushed anyone out. We have not said to anyone who disagreed ‘you have got to leave’.”

Mr McCarthy suggested that when the Church of England finally considers any potential changes to its teaching on marriage in 2020, “alternative oversight” will be offered for conservatives who oppose the changes.

“That was not offered here,” he said. “The bishops are not willing to surrender any of their power.

“With new people come through for ordinations they will make a big thing about obedience. It is all very controlling from the bishops.”

A spokesman for the SEC told The Sunday Telegraph that the numbers choosing to leave were small.

"We understand that the decision to allow gay marriage in church is difficult for some. It is always regrettable when people chose to leave.

"We have been working very hard to try and maintain unity."
St. Thomas is well rid of the one-fifth who left after the vote took place; it's what Branch Rickey referred to as "addition by subtraction."

Saturday, August 4, 2018

U.S. Air Force base in Wyoming replaces the Bible with "Book of Faith" on POW/MIA table

Francis E. Warren Air Force Base is located several miles west of Cheyenne, Wyoming. As reported by Kristine Galloway of the Cheyenne Wyoming Tribune Eagle, August 1, 2018:

CHEYENNE – A new effort at inclusion recently came to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, but not everyone is happy about it.

Col. Stacy Huser, commander of the 90th Missile Wing, recently replaced the Bible on the POW/MIA memorial tables with the “POW/MIA Book of Faith.”

Nikita Thorpe, public affairs officer at F.E. Warren, said in an email that, “The prisoner of war/missing in action table is a reserved table setting to honor the missing loved ones in each service, including civilians, no matter the event or war,” Thorpe said.

She added that the table, also known as the “Missing Man Table,” is displayed at several locations on base, including the Chadwell dining facility, and that F.E. Warren airmen use the table in many official ceremonies.

“We are focused on ensuring all our airmen, religious or non-religious, feel included and cared for as they protect and defend the Constitution,” Thorpe said.

But some local residents are upset about the change.

Mike Archer, a local U.S. Navy veteran, said the Bible stands for all religions, making a generic book of faith unnecessary.

“The Bible designates all things in there for all people. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re Muslim or whatever. The Bible is part of what should be there,” he said.

“They’re taking away what the POW/MIA ceremony stands for.”

He said the ceremony, which began with the Vietnam War, honors military members who are missing in action and includes references to the Bible.

“It’s a traditional ceremony. All services use it, and the Bible is specifically mentioned in there,” Archer said.

Thorpe said U.S. Air Force regulations allow base commanders to decide whether to place a book of faith on the POW/MIA memorial tables.

She added that Air Force Pamphlet 34-1202 contains information the public can access about the POW/MIA table.

According to the pamphlet, published Jan. 10, 2013, the required items for the ceremony are: “A round table, a white tablecloth, six chairs, book of faith (optional), red rose displayed in vase, red ribbon, slice of lemon on a bread plate with a pinch of salt, place setting at an open table and (6) wine glasses.”

The pamphlet also contains the script for the POW/MIA ceremony. It contains an optional line that states, “The bound text is a book of faith to represent the strength gained through devotion to sustain those lost from our country.”

Archer said he believes the Air Force and F.E. Warren buckled under pressure from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

That organization states its mission is “dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

But Archer said tradition is important in the military, and changes like these are detrimental.

“They’ve changed it so much now that the military is weak as it is. We don’t need any more stuff taken out of it,” he said. “When you start selling out the traditions of the service, then you’re degrading the service.”

Local resident Kenneth Wells made similar statements in a letter to the editor sent to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

“How can we expect our military to protect us from real threats when they take action like this after a marginalized group claims the presence of a Bible is oppressive?” he asked.

Archer said many retired military members are upset about the change.

“It does nothing but degrade what we did and what our fathers did before. I served my country in battle and in peace time, and so did my dad,” Archer said.

“That Bible represents that this is for God and country. I think the military needs to get back to that.”
Perceptive readers will notice yet another Orwellian use of language, as the word "inclusion" is used to describe what is actually an act of censorship in removing the Bible. It's also an act of historical revisionism in trying to convey the impression that various faiths have been equally influential in the United States and the armed forces, which is simply not true. Go here to cast your vote on whether or not you approve of the change; as of the time of this post, the tally is 87.5% opposed to the replacement of the Bible.