Saturday, May 26, 2018

Israeli Knesset Finance Committee approves a bill calling for microchipping of camels

Even camels aren't safe from intrusive technology; as usual, the measure is justified on the basis of safety. As reported by Jewish News Syndicate, May 22, 2018:

The legislation dictates that camel owners bear criminal responsibility for accidents and damages caused by their animals. Camels will also be required to have a subcutaneous digital microchip with owners’ details.

The Knesset Finance Committee approved the Camel Law on Tuesday, initiated by Regavim and Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich, for its second and third readings in the Knesset plenum. Regulations requiring identification and registration of camels by subcutaneous microchip were approved, as well as criminal responsibility for camel owners.

The law, which is scheduled for its final Knesset plenum hearing (“second and third reading”) next week, was drafted jointly by Regavim, Smotrich (a resident of the Negev community Retamim) and other Knesset members.

Under the new legislation, camel owners will bear criminal responsibility for accidents and damages caused by their animals. Camels will be required to have a subcutaneous digital microchip recording the owner’s details—similar to the microchips with which dogs and other pets are currently registered. Additionally, the new Camel Law will require owners to officially register the sale or transfer of ownership of all camels in a Ministry of Agriculture database.

Meir Deutsch, director of policy and parliamentary affairs at Regavim, explains that the law began to take shape almost three years ago, after the death of David Cohen of Retamim in a collision with a camel near the entrance to his home town.

“Since the legislative process began, three more people lost their lives in tragic, but avoidable, camel accidents,” said Deutsch. “After the most recent accident, in which 13-year old Liel Almakias was killed, Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Eitan Cabel took up the cause and expedited the legislation’s progress. We hope these new regulations will reduce the problem of wandering camels and help save lives.”

Said Smotrich: “We approved an important piece of legislation today, after intensive efforts. Residents of the Negev deserve to be protected by the state, and those who should be held responsible will be forced to take responsibility. With God’s help, the danger to life and limb and the fatal collisions caused by wandering camels will soon be a thing of the past. Today, we took an important step towards this goal—better late than never.”

Irish referendum results in removal of right to life of unborn from the constitution

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

Ireland seems determined to follow the rest of the West in its societal suicide, as reported by Catholic News Service, May 26, 2018 (links in original):

DUBLIN – Voters in Ireland have opted to remove the right to life of the unborn from the country's constitution, paving the way for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.

With votes counted from 30 of Ireland's 40 constituencies, results from the nationwide referendum showed that 67.3 per cent of citizens opted to remove the Eighth Amendment from the constitution, while 32.7 per cent voted to retain it. Turnout was 64.5 per cent.

Voters inserted the original amendment in the constitution in 1983 by a margin of 2-1, and it "acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."

That text will now be deleted and replaced with an article stating that "provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy."

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he would introduce legislation that would allow abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, up to 24 weeks on unspecified grounds for the health of the mother, and up to birth where the child is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition that means he or she may not live long after birth.

An exit poll conducted by the Ireland's national broadcaster RTE asked voters what motivated them to opt for either "yes" or "no." Among "yes" voters, the most important issues were the right to choose (84 per cent), the health or life of the woman (69 per cent), and pregnancy as a result of rape (52 per cent).

Among "no" voters, they cited the right to life of the unborn (76 per cent), the right to live of those with Down syndrome or other disabilities (36 per cent), and religious views (28 per cent).

John McGuirk, spokesman for Save the Eighth, which campaigned for a "no" vote, described the outcome as "a tragedy of historic proportions."

"The Eighth Amendment did not create a right to life for the unborn child – it merely acknowledged that such a right exists, has always existed and will always exist," he said, insisting that "a wrong does not become right simply because a majority support it."

"We are so proud of all of those who stood with us in this campaign – our supporters, our donors, our families and our loved ones," he said. "This campaign took a huge personal toll on all of us who were involved, and we have been so grateful for their support."

Insisting that pro-life campaigners will continue their efforts, McGuirk told Catholic News Service: "Shortly, legislation will be introduced that will allow babies to be killed in our country. We will oppose that legislation. If and when abortion clinics are opened in Ireland, because of the inability of the government to keep their promise about a (general-practitioner-led health) service, we will oppose that as well.

"Abortion was wrong yesterday. It remains wrong today. The constitution has changed, but the facts have not," he said.

Ruth Cullen of the LoveBoth campaign insisted that the organization will try to ensure that the Irish prime minister, or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is true to his pledge that the government will work to ensure that abortions are rare.

No matter what happens in the coming days, weeks and months, our work will continue to protect unborn babies and their mothers #LoveBoth #WeWillOvercome
— LoveBoth (Official) (@loveboth8) May 26, 2018

"We will hold the Taoiseach to his promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances. He gave his word on this, now he must deliver on it. No doubt many people voted for repeal based on the Taoiseach's promises in this regard," she said.

Commenting on the campaign, Cullen said: "We are immensely proud and grateful to all our volunteers throughout the country who worked tirelessly over recent months to ensure unborn babies would not be deprived of legal protections.

"The campaign to protect unborn babies will endure," she said.

Eamonn Conway, a theologian at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, told Catholic News Service he was "greatly saddened" by the result. However, he pointed out that "the truth is that the Irish Constitution merely recognized the right to life that is antecedent to all law. This most fundamental of all human rights is not extinguished or diminished because our constitution no longer acknowledges it. What is diminished is our constitution," he said.

Conway said he believes "the task facing the Catholic Church now is to ensure that it makes every effort to accompany with the healing compassion of Christ everyone caught up in the tragic circumstances that surround an abortion ... from grieving parents to medical practitioners."

Archbishop Eamon Martin, primate of All-Ireland, was expected to address the referendum outcome during a homily at the country's national Marian shrine at Knock, County Mayo, May 27.
The final results, as reported by the Irish Times, May 27, 2018, showed the "Yes" (pro-abortion) side winning 66.4% to 33.6%.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Australian Roman Catholic archbishop convicted of covering up child sexual abuse allegations

As reported by Catholic News Service, May 23, 2018:

ADELAIDE, Australia – Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, who faces a maximum penalty of two years in jail for failing to inform police about child sexual abuse allegations, said he will stand aside from his duties as archbishop while he considers how to proceed legally.

In a statement May 23, the archbishop said he was arranging for management of archdiocesan affairs and would step aside as of May 25.

"If at any point in time it becomes necessary or appropriate for me to take more formal steps, including by resigning as archbishop, then I will do so," Archbishop Wilson said.

"In the meantime, while the remainder of the legal process runs its course, I want to assure the Catholic faithful in the archdiocese of my continued prayers and best wishes and assure everyone that the affairs of the archdiocese will be appropriately managed in my absence."

The local court in Newcastle found that, in 1976, then-Father Wilson had been told by a 15-year-old boy that he had been indecently assaulted by a priest who later died in prison, but that Father Wilson chose not to go to the authorities despite believing the allegations were true.

In a statement May 22, Archbishop Wilson, 67, said, "I will now have to consider the reasons (for the conviction) and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps."

The sentencing is expected in June.

"Archbishop Wilson maintained his innocence throughout this long judicial process," Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, said in a statement.

Archbishop Wilson is the highest-ranking church official to be convicted of covering up abuse charges. He recently was diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and throughout the magistrate's hearing he testified that he had no memory of the conversation.

However, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Magistrate Robert Stone said the weight of multiple prosecution witnesses, "solid, church-going people," helped convince him.

In February 2017, in testimony before a government commission wrapping up more than three years of investigation into the Australian Catholic Church's response to child sexual abuse, Archbishop Wilson said: "Part of the difficulty that we've had in responding to this crisis about sexual abuse was simply based on the fact that people just didn't know and understand what they were dealing with. ... I don't think they really understood the nature of sexual abuse of children and the effect that it had on the children."

The Royal Commission of Inquiry Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, announced in 2012 and launched in 2013, investigated allegations of sexual and physical abuse across dozens of institutions, including schools, sports clubs and several religious organizations.

In his May 22 statement, Archbishop Coleridge said: "The Catholic Church, like other institutions, has learned a great deal about the tragedy of child sexual abuse and has implemented stronger programs, policies and procedures to protect children and vulnerable adults."

"The safety of children and vulnerable adults is paramount for the church and its ministries," he said.

On May 1, after a monthlong pretrial hearing, an Australian judge ordered Cardinal George Pell, on leave as head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, to stand trial on multiple charges of sexual abuse of minors, charges the cardinal consistently has denied.
Now that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide has been convicted of failing to inform police of allegations of child sexual abuse, dare we hope that a more notorious Australian clergyman, namely Brian Houston, will face similar charges? Search the blog Hillsong Church Watch for information on Brian Houston's refusal to report the crimes of his father Frank.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Canadian Jesuit archbishop opposes German Catholic practice of intercommunion with some Protestants

It seems as though ecumenism only goes so far. As reported by Deborah Gyapong of Canadian Catholic News, May 23, 2018 (links in original):

Even a consensus among German Catholic bishops allowing intercommunion with Protestants cannot change Catholic teaching, says a Canadian archbishop.

“Even more important is the challenge to remain faithful to Catholic doctrine and not to propose practices that undermine the faith, and the need to foster loyalty and communion with the universal Church,” said Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, of Ottawa in an interview. “It is puzzling to learn that the Holy Father told the bishops that whatever they determine is acceptable as long as they all agree.”

A majority of German bishops would like to offer communion to Protestant spouses of Catholics under some circumstances. A minority disagrees. After a meeting May 3 at the Vatican of representatives of both sides of the debate, the prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith told them Pope Francis wanted the German bishops to find consensus on the matter.

Dutch Cardinal Willem Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht, in an open letter May 5, urged the Pope to provide clarity, explaining both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Canon Law do not permit intercommunion with Protestants.

“Pope Francis is right when he says that not every theological debate needs to be settled by authoritative interventions of the papal magisterium,” Prendergast said. “And Cardinal Eijk is right when he says that the question of intercommunion is a doctrinal matter that cannot be settled by an isolated decision of a national conference of bishops.”

“This is, in fact, a classical situation of discerning between things that are changeable — or possible — and others that are not,” the Jesuit archbishop said. “It seems clear by now that many bishops and Catholics in the world consider ill-advised and doctrinally impossible what a number of bishops in Germany have proposed.”

The intercommunion debate reaches the limit on pastoral diversity, he said.

“Receiving the Eucharist is intrinsically linked to the faith, my personal faith and the faith of the community to which I belong,” Prendergast said. “What the majority of bishops in Germany proposes means that a person who does not belong to the Catholic Church routinely, perhaps every Sunday, receives the Eucharist in the Catholic Church.

“This kind of open communion is against Catholic teaching and from what I can see in non-Catholic congregations that follow a discipline of ‘open communion,’ it is also spiritually and pastorally unfruitful.”

The archbishop said he cannot ignore the German intercommunion debate because “the church is a close-knit network” and people of Ottawa are asking about it.

“Catholics in Canada generally know that receiving communion requires belonging to the Church, among other things,” he said. “This discipline is well-known and widely appreciated in our parishes.”

The intercommunion debate offers an opportunity for Catholics in Canada to reconsider their own Eucharistic practices, he said, noting often Catholics who come to church after years of not attending receive communion “as a matter of course.”

More needs to be taught concerning the benefits of attending Mass without receiving communion as well as what it means “to be properly disposed and in the state of grace,” the archbishop said. “I feel we need to invest more in receiving the sacraments worthily and fruitfully. This is true for the Eucharist, but also for Baptism and Confirmation.”

“Formalism and cultural routine alone will not cut it,” he said. “Receiving communion has to make a difference in our lives, and be meaningful. Otherwise we are deceiving ourselves, and as pastors we are deceiving others.

“In Holy Communion we receive the Lord, and so, to receiving worthily, we need to be fully open to Him and connected to His Church, visibly and invisibly, institutionally and internally. That and nothing less is Catholic teaching.”

On a personal note, the Archbishop had some words for Pope Francis as a fellow Jesuit.

“I would say thanks for reminding us that accompanying people through their lives, especially in dark times, is essential for being a priest,” he said. “And thanks for resisting much media hysteria. We Jesuits always have to remember that most Catholics are not Jesuits — a fact we tend to overlook sometimes. Our spirituality is not for everyone — perhaps hard to say, but so true.

“For me, becoming a bishop was a real change, for then I had to recognize the whole spectrum of theologies, spiritualties, ministries and charisms present in the diocese entrusted to me,” he said. “Through this I came to realize what a great gift doctrine is for the Church, enabling it to be one, holy, and catholic.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Pope Francis affirms baptismal regeneration

One receives eternal life by trusting in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross in paying the penalty of sin by shedding His blood. The ordinance of baptism is the believer's public identification with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. There's not a single example in Scripture of people being baptized who weren't capable of placing conscious faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and what He had done for them on the cross.

To say that baptism gives one new life in Christ is heresy. To teach that someone who has been baptized has been given new life by that act and is therefore a Christian even if there's no evidence that such a person has saving faith will result in churches filled with unregenerate members who have a false sense of security in regard to their eternity--a very serious matter indeed. Anyone who doubts that this is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church should read the following, as reported by Catholic News Service, May 9, 2018:

VATICAN – The baptismal font is a tomb in which a person dies to sin, and it is a womb through which a person is born to new life in Christ, Pope Francis said.

"Just as our parents generated us to earthly life, the church has regenerated us to eternal life through baptism," the Pope said May 9 at his weekly general audience.

Continuing a series of audience talks about baptism, Pope Francis said that from the time a person is baptized, God's voice repeats what God said at Jesus' baptism, "You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter."

"God loves us so much," the Pope told the crowd in St. Peter's Square.

"Reborn as children of God, that is what we'll be forever," he said. "Baptism, in fact, is never repeated because it imposes an indelible spiritual seal. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. This baptismal mark will never disappear."

Pope Francis said he could imagine someone objecting, "But, Father, if someone becomes a criminal -- one of those infamous ones who kills people, who commits injustices -- won't the mark be gone?"

"No," the Pope responded. Although a person has sinned and turned from God, "God never disowns his children. Do you understand? God never disowns his children."

Baptism is a sacrament that purifies, sanctifies and justifies people, giving them the grace to conform themselves to Christ, he said. "Here lies the Christian vocation: to live united to Christ in his holy church," sharing its mission.

Consecrated to Christ in baptism, the Pope said, Christians are called "to make themselves an offering pleasing to God, giving witness to him through a life of faith and charity, putting oneself at the service of others following the example of the Lord Jesus."

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

5th century amulet from Turkey has been deciphered: It's in Aramaic, and cites Balaam as a hex against chariot racers

And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.
But the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.
And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again.
And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.
Numbers 22:23-27

Antioch Tablet

As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Breaking Israel News, May 22, 2018:

A scroll from the fifth century made of thin lead and discovered in the 1930’s in Turkey has finally been deciphered, and its message is shocking: An amulet written in Aramaic, it refers to the Biblical story of Balaam, and researchers believe it was used by a Jew to curse opposition chariot racers.

The scroll made of thin lead was discovered buried in the Hippodrome in the city of Antioch some 70 years ago by researchers from Princeton University. It remained rolled up, its message hidden away, until two years ago when a project from Cologne university unrolled it thinking it was a Greek-language amulet, a fairly common practice of the time.

Upon closer inspection, the researchers discovered that the 3.5-inch x .8-inch sheet of metal was inscribed with Hebrew letters. They turned the project over to Tel Aviv University doctoral student Rivka Elitzur-Leiman who is studying Jewish magical amulets from the 4th-7th centuries for her dissertation. Using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), a technology which takes images in different lighting and from different angles, Elitzur-Leiman was able to decipher the inscriptions.

She identified the inscription as an Aramaic dialect written with Hebrew letters and used by Jews. The content, dealing with the Biblical story of Balaam and containing the Hebrew name of God (YHWH), seemed to confirm her theory.

“The curse calls upon the angel who stands before Balaam’s donkey to block the horses of the opposing team,” Elitzur-Leiman told Breaking Israel News. The hex also calls on God to cause the “Blue Team” horses to “drown in the mud.”

Many such scrolls from that period exist, and cursing chariot races and scrolls used for hexing horse races were fairly common since it was a popular sport in the Byzantine era. But to-date, such scrolls have only been found inscribed in Latin or Greek. This is the only example found of such a hex scroll that can be attributed to Jews.

Parts of the inscription were indecipherable as a nail had been driven through the metal to intensify the effects of the curse. Elitzur-Leiman explained that lead was used for hexing. The metal scroll was then buried in the soil where the race was being held, and the horses passing over it would activate it. Gold, silver or brass were used for amulets that generated blessings.

“The amulets were generally placed in cloth containers and worn on the body,” Elitzur-Leiman explained.

“Love amulets were also made from lead as they were considered a hex since they were particularly aggressive,” she said. “For example, the hex might try to prevent a woman from eating or drinking until she fell in love with a certain man.”

Many people think these types of amulets and hexes would not be used by religious Jews, but these types of amulets and hexes were actually very common, even among the Jews.

“Even though many rabbis object, they are still used by some Jews to this day,” Elitzur-Leiman said, citing examples of amulets from the Talmud. The phenomenon is so common to Judaism that is the subject of Elitzur-Leiman’s doctoral thesis. “They were used for many purposes including protection from the ‘evil-eye’, chasing away spirits and even success in court cases. They frequently contained verses from the Bible or Psalms.”

“Chariot races were very much like modern sporting events with fans getting very emotionally involved,” Elitzur-Leiman said. “Just as modern sports fans go to great lengths using good luck charms and other superstitions to help their team, chariot fans did the same in ancient times.”

“It seems clear that the Torah sages frowned upon such hexes and charms, and horse racing in particular, was censured,” Elitzur-Leiman said. “But here we have proof that even Jewish fans used curses against their competition.”

Rare 4th century B.C. Jewish coins found in Temple Mount excavation

As reported by Jewish News Syndicate, May 22, 2018:

Five exceptionally rare ancient coins from among the very first ever minted by Jews were discovered on the Temple Mount, evidence of Jewish activity at the disputed site.

The small coins – three in pristine condition and two showing signs of wear – were discovered as part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, an archaeological initiative started in order to sift thousands of tons of dirt illegally excavated and dumped in the Kidron Valley by the Islamic Waqf in 1999. The Waqf excavations compromised the archaeological integrity of the Temple Mount and sparked outrage in Israel, leading many to suggest that the Waqf was intentionally attempting to eradicate evidence of two Jewish Temples which stood on the Mount for over 800 years.

The sifting project, which has operated since 2004 in the Emek Tzurim National Park, aims to salvage religious and historical artifacts from the rubble, as well as to educate the public about the veracity of Jewish history on the Mount.

The newly-discovered coins bear the letters “YHD,” or Yehud, the Aramaic name for the biblical kingdom of Judea, and are dated to the end of the 4th century BCE.

According to one of the co-directors of the project, Zachi Dvira, only five other coins of this kind have been found in the 150 years of archaeological digging in ancient Jerusalem sites.

Dvira noted that Jewish pilgrims would bring offerings of first fruits of the season to the Temple around the time of the Shavuot holiday, and would often convert their value to silver in the days of the Second Temple.

He also noted that the Temple was a center of commerce and public administration, making it a prime site for finding coins.

“These were the first coins ever minted by Jews,” Dvira said in an interview with Israel’s Ynet news. “They express the people’s return to their land after the Babylonian exile, and their ability to hold and maintain diplomatic ties with the ruling empire—then Persia—similar to our relations with the United States today.”

He noted that the New Israeli Shekel also bears the letters YHD, exactly as they appear on the newly unearthed coins.

Though state funding for the project halted in 2017, the Temple Mount Sifting Project is now aiming to bring mobile sifting units of Temple Mount dirt to Israeli schools and communities, enabling children to learn about Jewish history in Jerusalem and to participate in the sifting themselves.

More than half a million artifacts have been pulled from the rubble so far by over 200,000 participants, including 6,000 ancient coins.

In May 2017, UNESCO adopted a resolution denying Jewish connection to Jerusalem. In October 2016, the international body said the Jewish people have no ties to the Temple Mount.

Monday, May 21, 2018

A useful resource for information on Christians in Iran

Rather than post items--because there are so many--from this particular site, I'll just post the link to the Iranian Christian site Mohabat News, which readers can search for themselves. To see the site in Farsi, go here.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

70 years ago: The death of Buzz Beurling

On May 20, 1948, George Frederick "Buzz" Beurling was killed in a plane crash at the age of 26. A native of Verdun, Quebec, Flight Lieutenant George Frederick Beurling dropped out of high school in order to fly planes, but was rejected by the Royal Canadian Air Force at the outset of World War II. He joined the U.K. Royal Air Force in September 1940, and became the greatest Canadian ace of World War II, recording 31 (or 31 1/3) kills, 27 over Malta during a two-week period in 1942, earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross, Distinguished Service Order, Distinguished Flying Medal, and Bar.

Buzz Beurling grew up in a Christian home where God's word was believed. A love for the Jewish people and a belief that Jews were God's chosen people was taught. Accordingly, Flt. Lt. Beurling turned down an offer to join the Egyptian Air Force during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and joined the Israeli Air Force instead. At the conclusion of a test flight of a Noorduyn Norseman transport aircraft which was to be delivered to Israel, he and co-pilot Leonard Cohen were killed when the plane crashed while landing at Aeroporto dell'Urbe in Rome. Flt. Lt. Beurling's remains were eventually flown to Israel and buried in a military cemetery in Haifa.

The legacy of the Beurling family's love for the Jewish people continues today, as Buzz's niece Janice Beurling is a longtime leader in communications with Chosen People Ministries (Canada).

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Mormon Church and NAACP reach historic agreement

Why any Negroes would want to either join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or join with them in activities for the alleged betterment of society is beyond the ability of this blogger to understand. The reader should keep in mind that Mormonism claims to be restoring the "true" gospel of Jesus Christ that was supposedly lost hundreds of years ago. The teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are claimed to be direct revelations from God. However, Mormon leaders since then have shown themselves willing to abandon these "restored" truths in the face of strong criticism from outsiders. When Utah was being denied statehood in the 19th century because polygamy was a central Mormon practice, the Latter-day Saints received a revelation that polygamy was now to be outlawed, thereby paving the way for Utah's admission to the Union. When the Latter-day Saints were being criticized for refusing to admit Negroes to their priesthood, they received a revelation in June 1978 reversing their practice of the previous hundred years and more. When the content of Mormon temple rituals was revealed in documentary films such as The God Makers (1982) and books such as The God Makers (1984, 1997) by Ed Decker & Dave Hunt and What's Going on in There? (1988) by Chuck Sackett, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received a revelation in 1990 removing some parts of the rituals that some found offensive; the excised parts included those that said that Christian pastors were hirelings of Satan. If the teachings of Mormonism are restored truths, how can the church leaders be willing to abandon them just because they become inconvenient and politically incorrect?

Among those teachings are those concerning black people. The Mormon explanation for the origin of the black race is that the angels who remained neutral in the dispute between Jesus and Lucifer were cursed by being born into human bodies with black skin. The Mormon doctrine of blood atonement is that there are certain sins which must be paid for by having the sinner shed his own blood. One such sin is that of marrying a black person; according to Journal of Discourses, which is among Mormon scriptural writings, the penalty for this "under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Volume 10, p. 110, cited in The God Makers, p. 232 (1984), p. 249 (1997)). I'm not aware that the 1978 decision admitting Negroes to the Mormon priesthood has changed that "sin" or its penalty.

For those unaware of what the acronym stands for, it's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founded in 1909. As reported by Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune, May 17, 2018 (updated May 19, 2018) (links in original):

In a dramatic gesture on the 64th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, Mormon church President Russell M. Nelson strolled decisively into a news conference Thursday at the LDS Administration Building in downtown Salt Lake City arm in arm with top NAACP officers.

Creating a powerful image, Nelson and NAACP President Derrick Johnson called on the world to “demonstrate greater civility, racial and ethnic harmony, and mutual respect” while eliminating “prejudice of all kinds.”

The mutual respect was palpable as the two sets of white and black leaders described plans for future joint efforts.
“In meetings this morning,” Nelson said, “we have begun to explore ways — such as education and humanitarian service — in which our respective members and others can serve and move forward together.”

Johnson said his historic civil rights organization looked forward to many collaborative activities.

“President Nelson, the statement you just made expresses the very core of our beliefs and mission at the NAACP,” he said. “We admire and share your optimism that all peoples can work together in harmony and should collaborate more on areas of common interest.”

Nelson, considered a “prophet, seer and revelator” by millions of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the globe, reiterated the church’s “fundamental doctrine — and our heartfelt conviction — that all people are God’s precious children and are therefore our brothers and sisters.”

“All human beings — male and female — are created in the image of God,” he added. “Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.”

Johnson said the ties being established between the Utah-based faith and the NAACP should serve as a model for how groups can unite to achieve common goals.

“Like the Latter-day Saints, we believe all people, organizations and government representatives should come together to work to secure peace and happiness for all God’s children,” Johnson said. “We are clear that it is our job to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. And we do so in an advocacy voice, but now with a partner who seeks to pursue harmony and civility within our community.”

Several invited black Mormons — including LDS icons Darius Gray, Don Harwell and Cathy Stokes — filled front rows as the statements were read and exulted at the unity between the groups. Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP, also was on hand.

“This is unprecedented,” said Thom Reed, a black Mormon and an LDS Church employee. “It speaks to the openness of the new [governing] First Presidency and their willingness to engage with people all over the world.”

Then he added: “It’s the start of something big.”

Tracy Browning, another black Mormon and church employee, views the LDS-NAACP alliance as “an amazing opportunity for us to come together and see our commonalities, to be peaceful and respectful.”

NAACP officials described the meeting as cordial.

“It was like being on a first date,” said Leon W. Russell, chairman of the board. “We find out who you are, and you find out who we are.”

The most “concrete” idea that came from the summit, Russell said, was “the need to continue the dialogue.”

Zandra Vranes, co-author of “Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons,” applauds the exchange but was hoping for more.

“I want us, as Latter-day Saints, to engage in what the church has called us to do, which is to have more civility and racial harmony in our communities,” said Vranes, one of the blogging “Sistas in Zion.” “But I also want us to do that within our own Mormon organization as well.”

It is hard to “call out the world,” she said, “when we have a [church] that doesn’t have racial harmony. The best way for us to be at the forefront of showing the world how to do it is to do it ourselves.”

The NAACP can tell LDS leaders what blacks face in general, such as police brutality, but they don’t know, Vranes said, “what we face in the ward.”

For many, Thursday’s watershed meeting and statements seem particularly potent, given the previous tension between the two organizations.

In the 1960s, the NAACP protested Mormonism’s racial ban, excluding men and boys from the faith’s all-male priesthood and women and girls from its temples.

Even after that prohibition ended in June 1978, prejudice and racist attitudes persist to this day among some Mormons, causing continued pain for Latter-day Saints of color — even as membership skyrockets in Africa.

Last year, in the wake of racial clashes in Virginia, the LDS Church issued increasingly strong statements — especially after an alt-right Mormon blogger voiced bigoted views — condemning “white supremacist attitudes” as “morally wrong and sinful.”

But the church’s racial history never came up in this week’s meeting, said the NAACP president.

“We both have an interest in disaster relief and alleviating poverty,” Johnson said. “We want to decrease bigotry and hatred. We want to look to the future.”

Wilbur Colom, an adviser to Johnson, said the group met Wednesday with Clark Gilbert, who shared with the NAACP members information about the church’s Pathway program, an online educational outreach service.

“They gave us everything they had and anything we wanted,” Colom said, who then quoted Gilbert as saying, “And we’ll work with you to take Mormonism out, and put Martin Luther King in.”

On Sunday morning, the remaining NAACP visitors will take their seats in the historic tabernacle on Temple Square for the weekly “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast, which will include, they say, the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
As reported by Ms. Stack in the Salt Lake Tribune, May 16, 2018 (updated May 17, 2018) (links in original):
In 1965, the NAACP led an anti-discrimination march in downtown Salt Lake City to protest the LDS Church’s racial policies at the time. A half-century later, national leaders of that historic black civil rights organization are in the Beehive State for a friendly landmark meeting with top Mormon officials.

These two groups — the NAACP and the governing LDS First Presidency — are set to issue an unprecedented joint statement Thursday morning.

And the extraordinary exchange traces its roots to a nearly decadelong friendship between two lawyers — Steve Hill, a white Utah Mormon, and Wilbur Colom, a black Mississippi activist.

Colom, who is acting as an NAACP special counsel, had a fleeting knowledge of Mormonism when he met Hill at a professional conference.

Back in 1975, Colom worked with Mark Cannon, a Mormon administrative assistant to Warren Burger of the United States. When the African-American attorney heard that the LDS Church barred black men and boys from its all-male priesthood and black women and girls from the faith’s temples, he was appalled.

Colom recalls telling Cannon: “If Mormons think God is saying I am inferior, they can’t be talking to God.”

Cannon assured Colom that the priesthood/temple ban would end — and, three years later, it did.

On June 8, 1978, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced its priesthood would now be open to “all worthy male members.”

Then, in 2009, Colom met Hill through a mutual friend, and the two formed a fast friendship, including traveling to Africa together and with current NAACP President Derrick Johnson.

Colom and Johnson began looking at groups “that were strangers to us, ones we had very little contact with,” Colom says. “Those tended to be mostly conservative — with a flawed history.”

Last summer, an NAACP chapter in Mississippi partnered with an LDS stake (a regional group of congregations) on a service project. It was so successful that Colom wondered about forming a stronger bond with Mormon officialdom, so he called his buddy Hill.

In December, Hill reached out to an LDS general authority, who turned to apostle D. Todd Christofferson, who then invited the NAACP board and subcommittees — up to 100 people — to meet in Salt Lake City for the first time in that black organization’s storied 109-year history.

One problem? They were already scheduled to meet in Tampa.

Without much arm-twisting, the board agreed to forgo the Florida locale and move the meeting to landlocked Utah.

“I thought it would take at least a year to set this up,” Hill says, “but it took less than two weeks.”

In this era of “uncivil communication,” Colom says, “It’s time for two well-established groups to deal with each other civilly, to find areas of commonality.”

To that end, the LDS Church and the NAACP plan to work together in three areas: disaster relief, education and civic projects.

There is much to admire about Mormonism, Colom says. “We are not different people. We are one.”

In fact, “Be One” is the theme of the LDS Church’s June 1 celebration marking the end of the faith’s priesthood/temple prohibition on blacks.
See also my post 40 years ago: Mormons uphold exclusion of Negroes from the priesthood (January 8, 2010).

Friday, May 18, 2018

Methodist church in New Hampshire is cooperating with authorities after arrest of registered sex offender on church's mission board

This may not turn out to be all that scandalous, since the church claims that the offender in question has abided by the terms laid down to him. Time will tell as the matter is decided by the legal system. As reported by Rick Green of the Laconia Daily Sun, May 17, 2018:

GILFORD — The First United Methodist Church was aware that Alger Conger was a registered sex offender when he joined its Missions Committee, Pastor Jim Shook said Wednesday.

Conger agreed to a policy prohibiting unsupervised contact with children and abided by that policy, Shook said. He also said there is no indication Conger acted inappropriately with children.

Police arrested Conger on May 9 after receiving a tip that he is a registered sexual offender who should not be involved with minor children. He is now facing a Class A felony charge.

The tip came after Alger appeared in a photo last month in The Laconia Daily Sun, posing with a group of young people who were sorting items that the church was preparing to donate.

Conger, 80, was convicted in 2004 of aggravated felonious sexual assault of a person under 13 years of age, along with two counts of felonious sexual assault.

State law (RSA 632-A:10) outlines the prohibition from child care service for those convicted of any felonious offense involving child sexual abuse images, physical assault, or sexual assault, if "he or she knowingly undertakes employment or volunteer service involving the care, instruction or guidance of minor children.”

In a statement released Wednesday, the church said Conger has been a member of the church for several years and serves as the co-chair of the Missions Committee and as a sound technician.

"Ensuring the safety of children is a sacred duty, and we have rigorous, long-standing policies to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual misconduct or abuse,” the statement said. "While we deplore the actions of abusers, we affirm that these are persons who are in need of God's redeeming love.”

The statement said Conger abided by church policies against him having unsupervised contact with children, but noted "the legal restrictions on Mr. Conger are a separate issue; one that will be handled through the justice system. We have and will continue to cooperate fully with authorities on this matter.

"We want to assure those in our congregation and in the community that we are committed to making our church a safe space for everyone."

Shook said that the church’s understanding was that it was doing the proper thing by ensuring Conger had no unsupervised contact with children.

Shook said Conger’s role on the Missions Committee did not entail regular contact with children.

“We’ve had strict guidelines that we have followed that have kept him away from ministry involving young people,” Shook said.

New Hampshire college senior resigns campus Knights of Columbus leadership position after bringing male date to formal event

The reader will note the mention in the following article of the proportion of Roman Catholic colleges that are alphabet pervert-friendly. As reported by Mark Hayward of the New Hampshire Union Leader, May 16, 2018:

MANCHESTER — A St. Anselm College senior was pressured to resign his leadership post on the college chapter of Knights of Columbus after he brought a male date to the organization’s formal, according to two publications.

Andrew Keyes, who is scheduled to graduate on Saturday, resigned the position of Grand Knight in March when asked by the Rev. Benedict Guevin, a Benedictine monk who teaches at the college and is chaplain of the Knights chapter, according to an online article in the Jesuit magazine “America.”

“A lot of the seniors knew I was bringing my boyfriend,” Keyes told the magazine.

In an email, Guevin said Keyes was the face of a Catholic association on campus, and as such had the responsibility to uphold the teachings of the Church.

“He knew that this was the expectation but decided to act otherwise,” Guevin wrote. “So it was because of the confusion and doubt regarding Church teaching that I asked for his resignation. To do otherwise would have implicated me in this confusion, something that my conscience could not allow.”

The actions have drawn the notice of Catholic publications, blogs and advocacy groups.

“This is so out of step with what other Catholic colleges are doing,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which promotes justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics. For years, he said, St. Anselm College has been on the organization’s list of LGBT-friendly Catholic colleges; two weeks ago the college hosted its first LGBT Day of Visibility.

The Knights of Columbus incident was detailed in a May 11 article in “America” and an April 16 article in “Hilltopper,” an independent publication that covers St. Anselm College.

Keyes told the “Hilltopper” that the formal, which was held on campus in a fellow student’s apartment, was uneventful. But within a few days, he received a text from a fellow student. The student told him to resign, or the student would have him removed.

“It was inappropriate for Mr. Keyes to hold a leadership position for a Catholic organization while being in a relationship that is contrary to the teachings of Holy Mother Church,” the student, Andrew Cilento, told “Hilltopper.”

Keyes said a lunch followed with Guevin when he was asked to resign.

Keyes told “America” that he agreed to resign but said he was surprised at the request because of what he was able to accomplish during his tenure.

He expressed pride in recruiting 12 new Knights, the most that have joined in recent years. He also said the Knights expanded fundraising and engagement with other student organizations this school year.

On the college website, St. Anselm said its chapter is one of the strongest of the 140 college Knights of Columbus chapters in North America and does volunteer and fundraising efforts for shelters, kitchens and seminaries. “In short, membership in our organization provides the student with ample opportunities to exercise positions of leadership and responsibility, and most importantly, to serve others in charity,” the site reads.

Keyes told “Hilltopper” that a few Knights may have been disgusted by his bringing a boyfriend to the party, but others have been supportive. Some have resigned in solidarity, and some have suggested the Council should be dissolved, according to Keyes.

DeBernardo said about two-thirds of Catholic colleges are on his list of LGBT-friendly universities; Rivier University in Nashua is the only other New Hampshire college.

St. Anselm College spokesman Michelle Adams O’Regan said the Knights of Columbus Council is not a student-funded or college-funded organization.

“It operates under the authority of the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, Conn. Saint Anselm College has no authority over action taken by its membership, the chapter chaplain or the organization’s national office,” O’Regan said.

There is some uncertainty in who pushed for the resignation.

“Hilltopper” reported that the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus had urged Guevin to ask for the resignation. But the Supreme Council told America that “it is not our practice to make a determination on someone’s Catholicity” and “the Supreme Council did not direct the local chapter to take action on this issue.”

DeBernardo said Guevin should have dismissed any complaint against Keyes in the spirit of Catholic social justice, which treats all individuals with dignity and respect.

“This individual did not have to cave to the pressure of one complaint,” DeBernardo said.

All Chilean Roman Catholic bishops offer to resign over sex abuse scandal

As reported by Hannah Strange of the London Daily Telegraph, May 18, 2018 (links in original):

Chile’s bishops have tendered an unprecedented mass resignation over a decades-long abuse scandal after Pope Francis accused the country’s church of destroying evidence of sexual crimes and “the gravest negligence” in the protection of minors.

In a damning 10-page report delivered to 34 Chilean bishops who were summoned to the Vatican this week, the pontiff said the Chilean Church was collectively responsible for “serious defects” in the handling of abuse cases.

Priests removed over sexual abuse had been moved to other dioceses where they remained in contact with children, complaints had been dismissed despite convincing evidence, and Church lawyers had been pressured to limit or halt investigations, he said. Prelates had also destroyed “compromising documents”, Pope Francis added.

Accusing the Chilean Church of “becoming self-focused” and falling into “ecclesiastical perversions” of messianism and elitism, the Pope said the depth of abuse in the South American country was a “painful open wound”. While individuals must be removed from their posts, it was not enough to address the problem, which, he declared, lay in “the system”.

Announcing their resignation offer on Friday, the Chilean bishops said they would stay in their roles while they awaited the Pope's decision. In a statement delivered by Bishop Fernando Ramos, they asked "forgiveness for the pain caused to the victims, to the pope, to the people of God and our country for the serious errors and omissions committed by us".

The confidential document, leaked to Chilean TV channel T13, is the result of a Vatican investigation into the case of Father Fernando Karadima, a now 87-year-old former priest who had been accused of abusing minors as early as 1984. The Chilean Church failed to act on the complaints until the early 2000s, and then dismissed the findings of investigators; it was not until 2011, after a group of accusers went public, that he was deemed guilty of sexual and psychological abuse and finally defrocked. However, due to the statute of limitations, criminal prosecution was then impossible.

Three of Karadima’s victims - Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo - were received at the Vatican two weeks ago and urged the Pope to “stop the epidemic of sexual abuse and cover-ups”. Mr Hamilton explained that he had been first abused by the Santiago priest at the age of 17 in 1983; the abuses had lasted 20 years, he said, with Karadima blackmailing him by threaten to reveal the sexual contacts to his wife.

In a public letter, Pope Francis admitted to making “serious mistakes” in his own handling of the scandal “due to the lack of truthful and balanced information”, and asked for forgiveness “from all those I have offended”.

The pontiff drew outrage in Chile during a visit to the country in January when he defended Bishop Juan Barros, a former protege of Karadima, who is accused of having protected the predatory priest despite allegedly witnessing the abuse. Pope Francis appointed Barros to head the diocese of Osorno in 2015, even though the accusations against the Chilean bishop had been public for at least three years.
See also my post Pope Francis accuses sexual assault victims of slandering Chilean bishop--although the judge who heard the case believed the accusers (January 18, 2018).

Increase in pilgrimages prompts Church of England to send chaplains to Spain

Millennials and other pilgrims are trying to fill their spiritual vacuum with man-made religious exercises instead of the grace of God. They may be travelling through France and Spain now, but eventually they'll end up in Rome. As reported by Olivia Rudgard of the London Daily Telegraph, May 4, 2018 (links in original):

A millennial on a post-university gap year might not fit the obvious profile for a religious pilgrim travelling through Europe.

But growing numbers of of then are following a trend for pilgrimage - prompting the Church of England to send chaplains to fulfil their spiritual needs.

For the first time Anglican priests from England as well as sister churches in Canada and Australia will minister to people who have completed the Camino de Santiago, a voyage of hundreds of miles across France and Spain which is normally undertaken on foot.

The Rev Alasdair Kay, a Church of England priest based in Derbyshire, suggested the project after completing the walk himself during a sabbatical.

Many of the English-speaking pilgrims he encountered were "millennials, post-university" who were searching for spiritual meaning in life and needed guidance, he told the Daily Telegraph.

"'I've got my degree, but I haven't sorted out who I am or what I want to do with my life'", was a common theme, he said, adding that many of those he spoke to were not explicitly Christian but were interested in faith.

They were "finding spirituality in and through nature", and wanted "more dialogue and much less dogma," he said.

"There is a spirituality amongst millennials. They wanted to talk about prayer, they wanted to talk about spiritual experience, they wanted to talk about Jesus."

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the burial site of the Apostle St James, whose body is said to have been brought to Santiago de Compostela following his martyrdom in 44 AD.

Pilgrims have travelled to the city since the medieval era. Numbers fell to a few hundred in the 1980s but a boom in popularity has seen them rise to 300,000 by last year.

Figures show that the number of people under 30 who undertake the pilgrimage has more than doubled in a decade, from almost 35,000 in 2007 to 84,000 in 2017, and this age group makes up almost one in three pilgrims on the route.

British pilgrims are also growing in number, from 1,700 in 2007 to 5,768 last year, according to statistics from the Oficina del Peregrino, which welcomes pilgrims who arrive at the journey's end point, the city of Santiago de Compostela in north west Spain.

The Catholic church provides mass and chaplaincy to pilgrims in Santiago de Compostela and is understood to be supportive of the new scheme to provide services and spiritual guidance for Anglicans and English-speaking Christians of other denominations.

A female Canadian priest has already travelled to the city to begin a 12 week pilot, and Mr Kay is due to join her in June.

A group of Church of England priests are then due to pick the role up in the Autumn after a break for the summer, when the hot weather means few English-speaking pilgrims take on the trip.

Each chaplain would be there for around two weeks, celebrating the Eucharist on Sundays and praying with pilgrims.

Many pilgrims are also workers in the financial services industry who were asking "I've got all this wealth, but why am I alive?", Mr Kay added.

"That was a big modern pain that I hadn't been aware of."

Some travellers are also on the cusp of retirement, had lost loved ones, or recently been diagnosed with or recovered from a life-threatening illness.

Archdeacon of Gibraltar Geoff Johnston, who has oversight of the project, said: “Some people are still searching for some spirituality in their lives, and sometimes the traditional church doesn't resonate with them, but other things could help them to become closer to some kind of spiritual life, and to God, and taking part in a pilgrimage makes them think about what life is about."

Thursday, May 17, 2018

First female Orthodox Jewish rabbi in Britain is ordained

Orthodox Judaism, at least in the United Kingdom, is showing signs of following the other branches of Judaism into feminism and apostasy. As in Judaism, so in professing Christianity--putting women in positions of leadership isn't just a sign of approaching apostasy, but an indication of the extent to which the apostasy already exists. As reported by Francine Wolfisz of the British publication Jewish News, May 10, 2018:

Dina Brawer this week became Britain’s first female Orthodox rabbi after attaining her semicha (religious ordination).

Brawer, a rabbinical student at the New York-based Yeshivat Maharat, which was founded in 2009 as an Orthodox seminary for female leaders, made the announcement on her Facebook page on Monday.

“After an intense two-hour oral examination, Rabbi Dr Sperber signed my semicha certificate today, 22 Iyar, 37th day of the Omer, in Bloomsbury, London,” she wrote.

Speaking to Jewish News this week, Brawer confirmed she has chosen “rabba” – the feminine term for “rabbi” in Hebrew – as her official title. “I will describe myself as a rabbi, that’s what I’ve trained to do and that’s what I’m qualified to serve as,” she said.

While Brawer – whose husband Naftali is a former rabbi at Northwood and Borehamwood and Elstree United synagogues – does not intend to take up a communal position in the UK, her newly-qualified status means that she is can officially answer halachic questions, officiate at baby blessings, weddings and funerals, provide pastoral care and teach.

Many of these duties were already undertaken by Brawer as a rabbinic student, as well as serving as a scholar-in-residence at Hampstead Synagogue, from 2015 to 2016.

The latter, she said, is a role that “did not exist anywhere in the United Synagogue until then and is a credit to Rabbi Dr Michael Harris’ modern Orthodox vision”.

This year she has additionally served as a rabbinic intern at Netivot Shalom, in Teaneck, New Jersey, where Brawer regularly delivers the sermon and Friday night Dvar Torah.

Speaking about why she decided to pursue a rabbinical qualification, Brawer – who in 2013 founded JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) UK – revealed that she wanted to “expand the realm of what is possible for women and girls in religious pursuit.”

She explained: “Being a rabbi epitomises living a life fully dedicated to Torah study and the intense pursuit of ritual and a Torah-infused life.

“I wanted to be a role model to women and girls in the community, to show this is not something only possible as a man, but definitely possible as a woman and something women should aspire to.

“Young girls should become anything they want. You can be well-educated, you can get a PhD in any topic, but when it comes to Jewish studies and religious studies, there’s a limitation. Well, there’s definitely no limitation.

“My intent was to open it and make it possible so that it’s not an unobtainable goal. I believe there will be many more who will follow.”

Amanda Shechter, executive director of Yeshivat Maharat, said: ‘We are so proud that Dina has passed her semikha examination and now joins the ranks of clergy leadership for the Jewish people.

‘Dina has been a transformational Jewish leader for many years. Her attainment of semikha will enable her to extend her impact even more widely and deeply.’

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to Reform Judaism, which ordained Britain’s first female rabbi in 1975, offered her congratulations.

“Mazal tov Rabbi Dina – welcome to the wonderful world of the rabbinate!”

Meanwhile Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships, said: “We wish Rabba Dina Brawer a hearty mazel tov and welcome her as a colleague. This landmark moment for Orthodox Judaism in the UK is a recognition of all her hard work and dedication to the British Jewish community.

“Through her achievement, Rabba Brawer will have a huge influence on Orthodox Judaism and beyond – giving a generation of young Jewish girls and women another important role model to look up to.”

Brawer is set to leave the UK next month for the United States, where she will complete Hillel’s Office of Innovation Fellowship for Rabbinic Entrepreneurship, while Naftali will take up the position of executive director of Tufts University Hillel.

European Jews are increasingly afraid to wear kippahs (skullcaps) in public

If Jews are feeling increasingly uncomfortable living in Europe, maybe God is leading them to go to Israel, where they belong. As reported by Cnaan Liphshiz of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 25, 2018 (links in original):

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The debate about wearing a kippah in Western Europe returned only a decade or so ago, but it has nonetheless come to follow a rigid pattern even in that short period of time.

The cycle – there have been dozens of such cases — begins with an anti-Semitic assault. It prompts a Jewish community official to warn congregants not to wear the Jewish skullcap in a certain area or at certain periods to avoid inviting further violent attacks.

This triggers a wave of indignation that often exceeds the reaction to the original assault.

International Jewish groups hold up the warning as a sign of how bad Western Europe’s anti-Semitism problem has become. Some of these groups criticize only the relevant authorities. Others also blast the local Jewish official who advised others not to wear the kippah, saying he or she should support a higher community profile, not a lower one. Finally, some local Jews downplay the official’s concerns and the media move on – until the next incident.

That’s exactly how things are playing out this week in Germany, when a non-Jewish man wearing a yarmulke was assaulted on April 17 by an attacker shouting “Jew!” in Arabic. The victim was an Israeli Arab who said he donned the kippah to test whether it had actually become dangerous to wear a yarmulke in Germany.

In response, Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, publicly advised Jews to avoid wearing kippahs in urban settings. (At a rally Wednesday night in Berlin, Schuster emphasized that his statement was that individuals should not go out alone with a kippah. He said he felt misunderstood and wanted to clarify.)

In response, Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, David Lau, and a Brussels-based Jewish organization called on German Jews to continue to wear kippahs and, in Lau’s words, “be proud of their Jewishness.”

Meanwhile, non-Jews in Germany organized a solidarity protest in which marchers wore kippahs – a gesture that has taken place in Sweden, Denmark, France and Poland in recent years.

In 2016, a community leader in France, Tzvi Amar, provoked a similar debate when he warned Marseille Jews to avoid wearing kippahs.

And in 2014, a Danish Jewish school in Copenhagen urged its students to come to school wearing baseball caps over their yarmulkes.

But to countless Jews across Western Europe, these debates featuring high-profile figures, politicians and Jewish community leaders have little bearing on their own personal choice. Not waiting for anyone’s invitation, hundreds of thousands of them have been hiding their kippahs and other Jewish symbols for years now in Paris, Marseille, Brussels, London, Amsterdam and many other European cities with a large population of Muslim immigrants.

At least a quarter of Europe’s Jews had resolved not to wear their kippahs or any other Jewish symbol publicly before any of the debates even took place, according to a 2013 survey in nine countries. In that European Union poll of 5,100 Jews — the most comprehensive study of its kind — 49 percent of 800 Swedish respondents said they refrained from wearing clothing that identified them as Jewish. In Belgium, whose capital city is the seat of the European Union, the figure was 36 percent.

In France, 40 percent of the approximately 1,200 Jews polled said they avoided wearing such items in public.

“It’s a matter of preserving one’s sanctity of life – an elevated value in Judaism,” said Prosper Abenaim, the only rabbi living in Paris’ poor and heavily Muslim neighborhood of La Courneuve.

On Shabbat, Abenaim wears a hat over his kippah as he takes the miles-long walk from his home in the affluent 17th district to La Couneuve’s dwindling synagogue. He advises his congregants to do the same – and immigrate to Israel, he said.

Jews like Abenaim are not being paranoid. The Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union in its 2017 overview of anti-Semitism said that “Jewish people wearing visible symbols of their religion are the most likely to be targeted by anti-Semitic incidents.”

In France, most anti-Semitic violence is perpetrated by Muslims, according to the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. That category of crime, as well as hate speech, rose sharply in the early 2000s in France and other Western European countries during the wave of terrorist attacks in Israel known as the second intifada and Israel’s actions to stop it. In those years, the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported to authorities soared from a few dozen a year to hundreds, never returning to pre-2000 levels.

Heavily Muslim areas like La Courneuve are considered especially risky, although Jews living in richer areas with fewer Muslims also refrain from wearing kippahs and other Jewish symbols in public.

Philippe Karsenty, a local politician and pro-Israel activist from the upscale Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, a few years ago warned a younger relative not to wear a Star of David pendant. Karsenty remembers telling him: “Nothing good will come to anyone from you wearing it.”

In France today, a Jewish symbol is likely to “escalate a parking dispute to a stabbing,” Karsenty said.

Perhaps ironically, anger and opposition to Muslim extremism in Europe is creating additional problems for Jews who wear kippahs.

Several European countries have banned the wearing of face-covering veils, a Muslim custom. While these recent bans in Belgium, France and the Netherlands clearly target Muslims, they are nonetheless creating an atmosphere that is more restrictive of wearing all and any religious symbols, including the kippah.

In the Netherlands, an employee of the Anne Frank House last year waited for six months in vain for his bosses to decide on whether he could wear a kippah to work. He declined their suggestion that he come to the office wearing a hat and ultimately decided to wear a kippah without permission, forcing them to hammer out a policy on the matter. They finally permitted him to wear the kippah.

The leader of France’s far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, has been candid about her plan to ban the wearing of the kippah in public — not because she opposes it, she has said. Rather, she said in an interview last year, French Jews should “sacrifice” the freedom to wear a kippah in public in favor of the fight against radical Islam.

But Le Pen also cited the fear of many French Jews in downplaying the significance of the sacrifice she was asking.

“Honestly, the dangerous situation in which Jews in France live is such that those who walk with a kippah are in any case a minority because they are afraid,” Le Pen said.
See also my post Finland's Jews advised not to wear skullcaps in public for fear of attacks (January 15, 2013)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

New Apostolic Reformation targets Indigenous Canadian peoples for evangelism

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Acts 17:29-30

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. John 18:36

As is so often the case with items such as the following, I'm not sure what to make of it, since I'm not there and don't have firsthand knowledge of the situation. I'm uncertain as to whether the people in question are coming to true saving faith in Jesus Christ and then are being led into charismaniac error, or whether they're falling for a false gospel and a false salvation--of two bad alternatives, I hope the former is true. Charismaniacs have a habit of making extravagant claims of miracles, so I'm always skeptical of their stories of "transformation."

I'm troubled when Inuit leaders say that God is “looking to re-establish the relationship” He previously had with them; I could be wrong, but there may be a danger of old pagan practices being brought back and renamed as Christian. As the passages of scripture cited above indicate, there's only one way to come to God, and that's through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ shedding His blood on the cross as payment of the penalty of sin. None of us had a relationship with God prior to coming to faith in Jesus Christ. The gospel is for everyone, and that includes the native peoples of Canada.

Whatever my differences may be with those who are opposed to evangelism among Canadian Natives, I agree with their opposition to the New Apostolic Reformation, including its false gospel of prosperity; its acceptance of extrabiblical revelation; its excessive demonology, including "spiritual mapping" of alleged demonic strongholds and emphasis on generational curses; its unscriptural invention of the modern offices of "apostles" and "prophets;" and its dominionism. As the Lord Himself said, His kingdom is not of this world, but the New Apostolic Reformation, with its seven-mountain mandate, is very much about this world. Let us pray that the Native peoples of Canada will rely on the Bible as their only authority of faith and practice, will be able to discern truth from error, and will act accordingly.

For solid information on the New Apostolic Reformation from a Biblical point of view, I highly recommend Lighthouse Trails Research Project. Search that site under "New Apostolic Reformation," and you will find an abundance of useful information.

As reported by Geoff McMaster of the University of Alberta publication Folio, March 23, 2018 (link in original):

A new evangelical sect targeting Indigenous people in Canada is an ominous trend that should be closely watched, says a University of Alberta sociologist.

In an exposé published last fall, The Walrus reported that an American evangelical movement called the New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR, has been moving north, using sociological research and “spiritual mapping” to locate vulnerable populations it deems possessed by demons.

“It is important that there's enough knowledge about the group in the communities they target, so people have the ability to understand what's coming in and how to deal with it,” said Robin Willey, a post-doctoral fellow who has studied evangelical movements in Canada.

“There is certainly something suspect about using research from the social sciences to shape strategy appearing to specifically target vulnerable populations,” he said. “It is troubling to say the least, and basically amounts to a form of neoliberal recolonization, where Indigenous populations are encouraged to ‘colonize’ themselves.”

According to The Walrus, NAR has already established a foothold among Canada’s Inuit people in the North, but most recently the movement has been recruiting new followers among the impoverished Indigenous population of Winnipeg’s north end, using the language of reconciliation to promise social transformation and healing.

But there are strings attached. NAR believes in the acquisition of wealth to bring about its vision, and that means collecting tithes. The top “apostles” have been known to pocket millions every year, following the prosperity gospel, which promises material wealth and physical healing to those who give generously, reports The Walrus.

The sect’s theology derives from the late Peter C. Wagner, who foretold of apostles infiltrating what he called the seven “mountains of culture”—education, government, media, arts and entertainment, religion, family and business in the name of God.

“That’s pretty much everything,” said Willey, “but NAR also lists business as the most important of the seven mountains, and it’s only through the accumulation of wealth that you can start fuelling influence into the other mountains."

Instead of focusing on personal salvation, as does mainstream evangelicalism, “NAR extends it to people groups, nations, communities and geographic areas. So instead of exorcising demons from a single individual, you can talk about exorcising demons from an entire people, group or community,” said Willey. Convinced they are soldiers in God’s army, NAR apostles aim to eventually take over governments and save the world from corruption and idolatry, establishing God’s new kingdom on Earth.

“They talk about saving some of the most impoverished populations on the planet,” said Willey, including those in Africa and South America.

"The interesting thing about them (in the Canadian context) is they have this language of reconciliation, which plays so well in vulnerable Indigenous communities” suffering from the cultural devastation of residential schools and their legacy of physical, sexual and substance abuse.

According to The Walrus, the movement arrived in Manitoba after one of NAR’s apostles, Cindy Jacobs, had a vision that God wanted to release the “spirit of reconciliation” among Indigenous and non-Indigenous churches in the province. The result was a recruitment drive called “Awakening Manitoba,” in which followers are inducted in emotional prayer services or faith-healing rituals.

"They believe that humans have dominion over the land—taking the biblical directive literally—and can sell that sort of thing to Indigenous people,” reminding them of their preordained rights as original stewards of the land, said Willey.

“But what comes along with that, somewhat ironically, is that there is only one religion and one religious practice that is OK.”

Under NAR’s prophecy, the only way to rid a population of demons is to destroy former religious practices and burn ungodly possessions—such as drugs, pornography, heavy metal music, even sweat lodges—in the name of purification. It is a clear violation of calls in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report for faith groups to “respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right.”

According to some estimates, there are chapters of NAR in all 50 American states. Membership numbers are hard to arrive at because followers don’t officially sign on to any church, seminary or ministry. American lawmakers such as Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin have all been drawn to the movement.

In assessing the threat in Canada, however, Willey said numbers matter.

“If this group is really quite small, say, sitting around five per cent of the evangelical community, how much do we really need to worry? My understanding of the evangelical movement right now is that it is becoming more segmented and more diverse.”

Though acknowledging NAR has clearly arrived in Canada, Willey said he hasn’t yet seen signs of it in Alberta. But that doesn’t mean it won’t show up here soon.

“This is a colonial discourse, and as settlers we have a responsibility to ensure people know about it," he said, to avoid substituting one form of colonialism for another.
The Walrus is a secular publication expressing what might be called left-wing views, but this blogger thought its article on the subject was quite fair. As reported by Joel Barde in The Walrus, October 23, 2017 (updated November 3, 2017):

It’s late october 2015, and around 200 people are packed into Winnipeg’s First Nations Family Worship Centre. Facing a tall cross, believers sway in unison, arms outstretched. Some cry. Others flutter their wrists, as if an electrical current were running through them.

Over the past three nights, a group of visiting religious leaders has inducted these largely Anishinaabe parishioners into their movement. The highly emotional services have built to this moment, a spiritual release called “Awakening Manitoba.” “I feel an anointing coming on!” shouts the centre’s Ojibwe pastor, Raymond McLean, pumping his fist in the air onstage. He gestures for Alain Caron—a spectacled, scholarly preacher who has won over the congregation with a series of impassioned sermons—to join him. McLean hooks a burly arm around Caron, who closes his eyes and dances to the blaring Christian rock.

Many of the worshippers make their way forward. As they reach Caron, he lays his hands on their heads and releases a torrent of inscrutable words. Some walk away. Others fall backwards into the arms of a deacon, who lays them flat and draws blue blankets over their motionless bodies.

They rest for a moment, faint smiles on their faces, invested with a radical new commission. As soldiers in God’s army, they will infiltrate government agencies, rid the world of idolatry, and urgently build God’s Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Under McLean’s command, they will start here, at home: purifying Winnipeg’s troubled North End, then spreading their message to other First Nations communities.

Since that October weekend, the Family Worship Centre has become part of the New Apostolic Reformation (nar), a growing religious movement quietly reshaping evangelical Christianity...

...The nar has promoted its theology through books, schools, and ministries. The crown jewel in its promotional efforts is the Transformations series, pseudo-documentaries that purport to show the dramatic economic and societal transformation visited on communities that accept God’s glory.

According to the Sentinel Group—which produces the movies and denies any association with the nar— the Transformations series has been translated into thirty-one languages and viewed more than 200 million times. It has also played a key role in the nar’s shift from converting individuals to societies; when shown in churches, movies are accompanied by instruction on spiritual-warfare techniques.

All of the movies feature a similar narrative: an impoverished region turns to God, eradicates non-Christian beliefs, and undergoes societal and economic healing. In Kenya, a witch doctor is driven from her community, resulting in a decreased crime rate. In Fiji, an Indigenous community burns sacred masks, putting a dramatic end to a violent civil war.

In 2001, Transformations II shone a spotlight on the Canadian North, which—along with other featured regions like Uganda—came to symbolize a theocratic tabula rasa, a world ripe for conversion. The eastern-Arctic segment of the movie opens with an animated scene: a spiritual leader of a nomadic Inuit clan learns of a new God, Jesusie, from a travelling Inuk. The leader vows to accept Jesusie if he has a successful hunt. On a moonless night, he kills a seal, then brings it back to his clan, who eat from its meat, accepting Christ as their Lord and saviour. Only later, after missionaries arrive, do they learn the whole story of Christianity.

The movie then cuts to testimony from born-again Inuit. Over lurid images of bruised bodies, they describe widespread physical and sexual abuse and alcoholism. Inuit children push rocks into a shallow grave—the eighth suicide of the year, explains the voice-over, making their rate more than twenty times the national average. Demons, according to one Inuk believer, had invaded their communities. Even the land had turned its back: caribou and berries began to disappear.

Had God abandoned the Inuit? No; God was “looking to re-establish the relationship” their forefathers had long ago accepted. Over triumphant music, the movie depicts a frenzy of baptisms and impassioned church services—the revival that was gripping the territory. People in Pond Inlet, so moved by the Holy Spirit, gather all their ungodly possessions—drugs, pornography, heavy metal music—and with the aid of the rcmp set them ablaze. “The fire of the Lord is spreading!” exclaims an ecstatic Inuk woman. Inuit are portrayed as being healthier and happier—even suicide is on the decline, they say. (A 2014 study by a Nunavut land claims group contradicts this assertion.)

The film concludes by highlighting how God is “raising up” a new set of Inuit leaders who are “not shy about declaring the Lordship of Christ.” A teacher boasts how all her pupils are Christian, and municipal councillors defiantly state that no meeting starts without prayer. One of the last shots is of Armbruster. He’s hunched down in the atrium of Nunavut’s newly built legislature, gazing at a mace made of narwhal tusk. The Lord’s prayer, he declares proudly, is encased within. “It’s brought into the legislature every time they meet to do official business!”...

...In 2004, Armbruster and Curley travelled to Fiji, where, along with other high-profile nar affiliates, they were introduced to a spiritual-warfare technique called the Healing the Land Ceremony. As evidence of its effectiveness, they were taken to a remote Indigenous community called Nootko that had, a couple of years earlier, carried out the ceremony. Once plagued by infighting, the tiny community, they were told, had healed. Even the land reacted—a stream, once polluted, now ran clean.

The technique excited Armbruster. The ceremony traces a community’s present-day conditions to the sins of its forefathers. There are five principal sources: the generational disconnect between fathers and their children; the shedding of innocent blood (murder); sexual sin (homosexual acts, sex out of wedlock); the breaking of covenants (promises and treaties); and idolatry and witchcraft (any non-Christian form of religion or spirituality). According to nar theology, sin “wounds” the land, allowing Satan’s forces to control communities.

On a sunny morning in the summer of 2007, Armbruster performed the Healing the Land Ceremony on the outskirts of Clyde River, Nunavut, a community of some 900 people. “God chose the places for people to live,” he explained, standing in a circle of community members. “When God created the earth, he created everything good—but our sins have defiled the land.” Armbruster clutched his well-worn bible in his left hand. “Much of what we received from our forefathers was good—but we have to atone for what was not.”

An elderly Inuk in a long black coat spoke next; an Inuk woman stood beside to him, translating his testimony. The man pointed toward the water. “This spot is where they prayed to the evil spirits,” he relayed in Inuktitut. “Satan used to wait out there to devour and destroy people.” The man looked ashamed. “The Lord has also shown me where a mother gave birth, then fed it to the dogs. Because of these sins the earth has been defiled. And because it’s been defiled, we have suffered much and gone through hardship...”

...At many nar-affiliated conferences over the years, Armbruster has often spoken in grandiose terms about how church has merged with state in Canada’s North. But according to Jim Bell, the long-time editor of Nunatsiaq News, Armbruster’s influence needs to be put in context. When I reached Bell by phone, he chuckled a bit, thinking about the gap between Armbruster’s claims and reality. Nunavut, he said flatly, is no theocracy. The territory has gone on to defy conservatives on hot-button issues, including same-sex marriage, bringing the legislation in line with the rest of Canada.

Bell also had a theory: fundamentalist Christianity has become central to the recreation of Indigenous identity for many Inuit. Curley and others don’t draw a distinction between evangelical and Inuit values, said Bell. “Now you could argue that they have reinvented Inuit culture in their own image. But they don’t see it that way. They believe this church is not just the expression of religious identity, it’s also an expression of a really important cultural identity.”

And that, he suggested, is why the 2004 election got so intertwined with messy questions about identity and tradition. Inuit Christians were asserting their culture and resisting what they perceived as a colonial overreach. “They were not saying we oppose protecting the rights of gay people because gay people are sinful—they were saying that we oppose this because it is not consistent with Inuit culture.”

There may also be other cultural reasons for the nar’s success. Armbruster’s ministry caught the attention of French anthropologist Frédéric Laugrand, who has written about the Healing the Land Ceremony. He believes that the ceremony mirrors elements of Inuit shamanism, such as connecting present conditions to past events and using public disclosures to bring communities together. And, like shamanism, it is highly emotional in nature. Laugrand also feels that the popularity of the ceremony—which was practised in more than twenty communities, sometimes multiple times—owes much to political forces. At the time of the Inuit revival, Indigenous groups were frustrated with the federal government and the protectionist agenda of environmental groups. In contrast, Armbruster and missionaries working in the region came with a very different message: that God gave Inuit dominion over the land, and it should be theirs to use.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Former politician Michele Bachmann apologizes to Jews for saying they need to be evangelized

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Acts 17:29-30

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
I Corinthians 1:23-24

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:21

Here we go again, with yet another Christian grovelling before Jews, asking their forgiveness for the heinous crime of saying that they need to come to God through the blood of His son Jesus Christ. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 14, 2018:

Michele Bachmann apologized in Israel for statements she previously made calling on Jews to convert to Christianity in order to help bring the End of Days.

Bachmann, a former congresswoman from Minnesota who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, said in 2015 that Christians need “to be faithful in the Kingdom and to help bring in as many as we can, even among the Jews — share Jesus Christ with everyone that we possibly can because, again, He’s coming soon.”

Bachmann made the comments during a radio interview in Israel while on a tour organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group.

Bachmann apologized for that statement Sunday at a joint Jewish-Christian Bible study at the Knesset, held in honor of Jerusalem Day. She asked for “repentance from the Jewish people for the horrible and arrogant way Christians — myself included — treated and regarded the Jewish people.”

“I ask for forgiveness from the Jewish people for what it is that we have done,” said Bachmann. “I apologize profoundly and ask forgiveness from the Almighty God that these statements brought pain.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Knesset Caucus for the Encouragement of Bible Study, the Schindler Society and Israel365’s Yeshiva for the Nations, which aims to teach Torah to non-Jews. This was the third such Bible study and the first one to take place on Jerusalem Day.
As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 8, 2015 (links in original):

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann called for an intensified effort to convert Jews to Christianity.

Bachmann, a former congresswoman from Minnesota who ran for the Republican nod in 2012, was in Israel last week on a tour organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group.

Toward the end of the week, she spoke on the council president’s radio program, “Washington Watch,” and discussed the meaning of the recent intensification of violence in Israel and the West Bank. She cast the violence as a signal of the return of Jesus, which would necessitate mass conversions.

“We recognize the shortness of the hour,” Bachmann said on the program hosted by Tony Perkins, “and that’s why we as a remnant want to be faithful in these days and do what it is that the Holy Spirit is speaking to each one of us, to be faithful in the Kingdom and to help bring in as many as we can — even among the Jews — share Jesus Christ with everyone that we possibly can because, again, He’s coming soon.”

The first to report Bachmann’s call was Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, a church-state separation advocacy group.
If Ms. Bachmann was of the view that Christians have to "convert" Jews en masse prior to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, she was mistaken. Conversion is God's work, not ours. If however, she meant that the gospel should be proclaimed to Jews, she was correct, and shouldn't have apologized. Ms. Bachmann's name has been linked with the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation at times, so I'm not sure exactly what she did mean. The gospel is "to the Jew first," and they need to come to God in the same way Gentiles do--through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross; it's not "arrogant" to proclaim that. As the above passage from Galatians says, if it's possible to come to God through keeping the law, then Christ died in vain.

I'm one Christian who's tired of Christians constantly apologizing to politically-correct groups, especially when they're apologizing for the alleged sins of other people. I'm always hearing that Jewish resistance to the gospel is the result of centuries of Christian anti-Semitism. That seemed a good explanation until it occurred to me (long after it should have, I must admit) that such a rationalization fails to explain Jewish opposition to Jesus Christ during His ministry, or Jewish persecution of Jewish believers in Christ and Jewish attempts to prevent Gentiles from coming to Christ in the 1st century, when there was no Gentile church around to persecute Jews. As the passage in I Corinthians 1 cited above says, He's a stumblingblock to the Jews.

A Bible study put on by the organizations mentioned in the article above is highly unlikely to acknowledge Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Torah (the five books of Moses) and the rest of the Old Testament, and Christians might want to reconsider their participation in such Bible studies. As the Lord Jesus Christ said:

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.
But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
John 5:45-47