Monday, 30 April 2018

Mormon temples planned for Kenya, India, and Thailand

The tentacles of the pagan, pseudo-Christian Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormon Church, continue to extend throughout the world. Let us pray that the Lord will confound their efforts and that those deceived will come to true saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As reported by Fredrick Nzwili of Religion News Service, April 18, 2018:

Nairobi, Kenya • The LDS Church will break ground for a temple in Nairobi to serve its growing number of East African followers.

The church confirmed the plan this week during the visit of its president, Russell M. Nelson. The new leader — installed in January after the death of President Thomas S. Monson — made Kenya his third stop on a global tour that church officials bill as an effort to connect with the faithful.

The growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is positive but slowing in the U.S. Growth is also slowing abroad but stands at about twice the U.S. rate. Construction of a temple — a setting for key Mormon blessings allowed nowhere else — is a sign that the Utah-based faith has established strong roots in a region.

There are 159 Mormon temples worldwide, and the planned Nairobi temple is one of 30 more announced or under construction. Nelson referred to the church’s early prophets when he told a group of Mormons and guests Monday in Nairobi:

“You perhaps don’t think of yourself as pioneers, but you’re just as much pioneers here now as Brigham Young and his associates were following the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the 1800s,” Nelson said, according to the church. (Smith founded the faith in 1830 in New York state. Young led Mormons to the American West.)

“Membership in the continent of Africa is about the same as it was for the whole church in the year I was a boy,” Nelson added during an address broadcast to Mormon congregations throughout Kenya.

The future temple in Kenya, home to more than 13,000 Mormons, will be the eighth in Africa. Three temples are already open on the continent: in Accra, Ghana; Aba State in Nigeria; and Johannesburg, South Africa.

Two more temples — in Kinshasa, Congo, and Durban, South Africa — are under construction. New temples have also been announced for Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and Harare, Zimbabwe, where Nelson traveled after he left Kenya.

Apostle Jeffrey Holland accompanied Nelson on the trip and also addressed the gathering in Nairobi.

“It will be a while before it’s up, but plan to attend when you can; plan to make that a highlight of your life as often as circumstances and finances and transportation will allow,” he said. “Nothing will bless you more.”

Mormon ordinances include proxy baptism for dead ancestors and the “sealing” of marriages and families, so they may — Mormons believe — live together after death. These ordinances can happen only in LDS temples.

Now, East Africans who want to participate in these ordinances have to travel far to the nearest one, said Evelyn Jepkemei, the director of the church’s Coordinating Council of Public Affairs in Kenya and Tanzania.

“Members have been traveling to South Africa … but not all can afford the cost. They want the temple to be part of their worship,” Jepkemei told reporters gathered for Nelson’s speech.

Construction of the Nairobi temple is “part of the vision to ensure that all saints [members] have access to a temple.”

According to Ellis Mnyandu, the church’s international director of public affairs for the Africa Southeast Area, it takes three to four years build a temple. They are often grand, multistoried structures, and only Mormons in good standing may enter once temples are consecrated.

He said that while a site for the Nairobi temple has been selected, its location has not been made public. “We can only project that the temple will be dedicated about 2021,” said Mnyandu. “It will be one of the smaller designs.”

The LDS Church, which is organized into wards (single congregations) and then stakes (usually five to 10 wards), has two stakes in Kenya and three in Uganda.

Mormon missionaries first arrived in Kenya in the 1980s amid suspicion, and the faith group was shunned as a cult and anti-Christian. Mormons call themselves Christians but differ from other denominations in several ways, including that their Book of Mormon is, along with the Bible, a sacred text, and that the head of the church is considered a prophet.

The faith has gained acceptance in East Africa and registered with the Kenyan government in 1993. The church carries out humanitarian and disaster relief work, supporting health, clean water, immunization and food programs.

“The humanitarian capacity is endless. It is going on all the time,” said Sister Lillywhite, one of the church’s missionaries in Kenya.
I'll leave it to the reader to note the appropriateness of a Mormon missionary in Kenya named Sister Lillywhite.

As reported by Bob Mims and David Noyce of the Salt Lake Tribune, April 20, 2018 (updated April 21, 2018) (links in original):

In a land replete with ancient Hindu temples and Buddhist and Islamic holy sites, LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson predicts his 188-year-old faith’s planned house of worship in Bengaluru, India, will have a positive impact throughout South Asia.

“The influence of the [Mormon] temple will be felt not only by the people here in this particular part of India, but it will bless the people of the entire nation and neighboring nations,” Nelson stated Thursday after arriving in the city of more than 12 million people.

He shared similar optimistic sentiments Friday in Bangkok, Thailand, site of another planned LDS temple, stating that the “future for the church is bright here in Asia.”

Nelson, who succeeded the late Thomas S. Monson as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January, announced Bengaluru as the site of India’s first Mormon temple during the church’s General Conference in Salt Lake City this month.

“It was a thrill for me to receive the real impression that I should announce that there will be a temple here in India,” Nelson said. “The temple is our ultimate destination here on planet Earth. All the blessings that God has in store for his faithful people come in the temple.”

In Thailand, he and his entourage visited the location for a temple that was announced three years ago.

“We had a very special feeling [there],” Nelson said at a meeting with several thousand members in the Thai capital. “Just think of how ancient the activities of the temple are. … We have temple work documented from the time of Adam ... in the Old Testament and New Testament times.”

Nelson, accompanied by his wife, Wendy, and apostle Jeffrey R. Holland and his spouse, Patricia, began their April 10-23 globe-trotting tour in London. From there, the group flew to Israel, Kenya, Zimbabwe, India and Thailand. The journey concludes with visits to Hong Kong and Hawaii.

Meeting with LDS leaders, missionaries and members Thursday, Nelson talked about the challenges of lifting India’s Mormons to a status worthy of taking part in temple rites, which include eternal marriages, proxy baptisms for deceased ancestors and other sacred ceremonies. Only Latter-day Saints in good standing are permitted in temples.

“In a way, it’s easier for us to build a temple than it is to build a people who are ready for the ordinances and covenants of the temple,” he said. “It’s going to take you a little while to get ready. It will take us a little while to build it as well. … Now, I’m 93 years old. You better hurry.”

Before the meeting, LDS leaders looked at potential building sites for the temple. No announcement on a specific location was made, but Holland pledged that the edifice will be a “national treasure.”

“It will be revered and admired and loved by these millions of people,” he said, “and bless them in a wonderful, wonderful way.”

For the thousands of Mormons in India, the planned temple and Nelson’s visit were dreams come true.

“Our church is growing fast in our country, and this will bring many blessings to our nation,” said Paul Vijayakumar, who served a Mormon mission in the area in 1988. “Those days here, very few people [were] able to bless the sacrament [communion] and pass the sacrament and partake [of] the sacrament. So today I’m happy that this hall was filled with a lot of members.”

The LDS Church, which began unofficial missionary outreach in India in the 1850s, dedicated its first meetinghouse in the nation of 1.3 billion in 2002. Today, the church lists more than 13,500 members in 43 congregations.

That is a small, but valued contingent of Latter-day Saints, but Nelson, formerly a renowned heart surgeon who has visited India twice in the past, proclaimed: “They love God, and I love them.”

The “prophet, seer and revelator” to 16 million Mormons worldwide said the church’s “approach is to take the poverty out of the people, not the people out of the poverty, as we teach them that God loves them and that if they’ll keep his commandments, they will have joy in life.”

On Friday, he urged Thailand’s Latter-day Saints to prepare themselves for temple worship. “I bless you with love at home, success in your work and joy in your hearts.”

The nation is home to 22,000-plus Latter-day Saints in 41 congregations.

President of American Atheists fired over allegations of sexual misconduct

Fun and games with the people who claim the ability to be good without God. As reported by Peter Aldhous of BuzzFeed News, April 17, 2018 (links in original):

David Silverman, a firebrand atheist with a knack for generating publicity for his cause, has been abruptly fired as president of American Atheists, one of the leading secular organizations in the US.

The group’s board held an emergency meeting Thursday evening and unanimously voted to fire 51-year-old Silverman, based on explosive written allegations of sexual assault and undisclosed conflicts of interest, BuzzFeed News has learned.

“Last night, the American Atheists Board of Directors voted to terminate David Silverman as President of American Atheists,” the group said in a statement released Friday. The board made its decision after reviewing “allegations raised regarding Mr. Silverman’s conduct,” the statement said. The board also said it intends to cooperate with any future investigations.

In a brief statement to BuzzFeed News, Silverman’s lawyer, Sebastian Ionno, said that “Mr. Silverman denies any wrong doing and has never had a non-consensual sexual encounter.” At the time of the alleged incidents, he added, Silverman and his wife were in an open marriage.

Silverman became president of American Atheists in 2010 and helped raise the organization’s profile. In 2012, he organized the Reason Rally in Washington, DC, which brought thousands of atheists to the National Mall to hear speeches promoting secularism from celebrities, including evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, comedian Eddie Izzard, and MythBusters cohost Adam Savage.

Silverman became the religious right’s favorite godless bogeyman, sparring with presenters on Fox News after launching billboard campaigns urging people to skip church and telling them that Christmas is a myth. In another stunt, he applied in New Jersey for the vehicle license plate “ATHE1ST,” which was denied for being “objectionable.”

On Tuesday, American Atheists placed Silverman on paid leave while it investigated a complaint from staff concerned that he had not disclosed financial and personal conflicts of interest relating to the promotion of his book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, and the appointment to a senior position of a woman with whom Silverman was allegedly having a sexual relationship. (That appointment has been rescinded.)

After word spread about the investigation, American Atheists received additional written complaints about two allegations of sexual misconduct involving Silverman.

Like many other communities in the #MeToo era, the atheist movement is undergoing a reckoning over the treatment of women in its ranks. In February, BuzzFeed News exposed allegations of sexual harassment against another prominent atheist, the physicist Lawrence Krauss. In the wake of that story, two women told BuzzFeed News that they were assaulted by Silverman. They each filed written complaints to American Atheists this week.

In one of those complaints, a woman described a hotel room party held at the end of the 2015 American Atheists Convention in Memphis. She used her name in the confidential complaint, but because of concerns about hostility experienced by other women who have made allegations of sexual misconduct against prominent atheists, she asked BuzzFeed News to use her first initial, R.

She and Silverman had known each other for years, and he flirted with her throughout the evening, she wrote in the complaint. After the other guests left, R. wrote that Silverman asked her to join him in smoking marijuana on the roof. But before they left the room, he suddenly forced himself on her.

“He physically pressed me to the wall and began to kiss me forcefully, grabbed my breasts, and put his hand into my leggings where there was actual penetration of my vagina,” she wrote.

R. believed Silverman knew she was interested in BDSM and wrote that he began using insulting language, calling her a “dirty little whore.” He then pushed her to her knees, “where his penis briefly made contact with my mouth,” she wrote.

R. got her feet and said “no,” she wrote. Silverman then lightly slapped her face and said, "You don't get to say no to me."

At that point, R. said the widely used BDSM safe word, “red,” which stopped him, and then she left. The next day, R. took photographs of bruises where she said Silverman had grasped her, and these pictures were included in her complaint to American Atheists.

Two prominent atheists confirmed to BuzzFeed News that R. told them about the incident in the days after it happened.

Greta Christina, a blogger and speaker, said that R. was extremely distressed. “It became very clear to me it was a case of sexual assault," Christina said. Heina Dadabhoy, who is known in atheist circles for speaking about leaving Islam to join the movement, said that they woke up the morning after the incident to find a series of distressed Facebook messages from R., and immediately contacted her. (BuzzFeed News has reviewed the messages.) “I was just trying to comfort her and talk her through it," Dadabhoy said.

R. told BuzzFeed News that she did not complain to American Atheists at the time because she was worried that her reputation would be attacked, given Silverman’s power within the movement. She decided to tell the organization this week after learning that it was investigating him.

The third allegation reviewed by the American Atheists board involves a student, Rose St. Clair, who alleged that Silverman used his position of power to pressure her into having sex with him. “At several points during this encounter, I hesitated to continue,” she wrote. “I believed that if I did anything to upset him, my chances at being involved in the secular community, especially with American Atheists, would be ruined.”

In 2012, St. Clair was an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary in Virginia who hoped to make a career in the atheist movement. At the annual convention of the Secular Student Alliance in Columbus, Ohio, she was invited to go to a bar with a group of speakers at the conference, including Silverman.

St. Clair said that she quickly became drunk, but remembered Silverman flirting with her and then suggesting that they go to his hotel room. “I don't believe I was in a position to be able to give consent. I was very intoxicated,” St. Clair told BuzzFeed News. She said that Silverman did not have any condoms, and pressured her into having anal sex.

Afterward, St. Clair said that Silverman told her she would have to leave early in the morning because his wife would be arriving at the hotel. She said he told her not to apply for an internship with American Atheists because appointing her could be seen as preferential treatment.

“I felt my interest in working for the organization was used as a way for him to have power so that I would have sex with him,” St. Clair said.

Ashley Miller, an atheist activist, wrote to the board Thursday corroborating both R. and St. Clair’s accounts. They had previously told her about what happened but had not given permission to share their stories until now.

Another friend of St. Clair’s, Dustin Tucker, also wrote to American Atheists on Thursday, saying that St. Clair had told him about the incident in 2013. “I have dwelled on these feelings for five years,” Tucker wrote. “I still cannot even think of that man without experiencing rage.”

St. Clair said that she decided to go public about her experience only after learning through whisper networks that she wasn’t the only woman who had allegedly experienced sexual misconduct by Silverman. “I can't sit and be quiet about it,” she said.
As reported by Kimberly Winston of Religious News Service, April 17, 2018:

...The news of Silverman’s dismissal is a serious second blow to organized atheism, which has long struggled with charges of sexism and discrimination. In February, similarly explosive allegations were made against Lawrence Krauss, a prominent scientist at Arizona State University, best-selling author and popular speaker at atheist and skeptic events.

Silverman started with American Atheists in 1996 and became president in 2010. He helped raise the organization, which was started by Madalyn Murray O’Hair in 1963, to greater visibility than it had enjoyed in decades — with billboards in Times Square, lawsuits against Ten Commandments monuments, rallies on the National Mall and frequent appearances on Fox News.

Reaction in the atheism community has been glum. Kevin Bolling, the executive director of Secular Student Alliance, said in a statement that SSA “fully [supports] the courageous and brave women and men who have come forward to tell their own stories and support and share witness to those who have been deeply affected.”

Users of social media have not minced words. Some on Twitter have gleefully cheered Silverman’s plight, others have sadly lamented it, while still others have been more reflective.

“There’s an epidemic of sexism, sexual harassment & assault in movement atheism,” Kristi Winters, an atheist and feminist activist, wrote on Twitter. “Attacking credible accusers isn’t a solution, it’s protecting rape culture. Are atheists good w/out gods? Prove it.”

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Religious liberals attack their own as a Unitarian church in Washington, D.C. faces accusations of racism

Unitarians have never taken a back seat to anyone when it comes to buffoonery, so this blogger finds it very amusing to see a non-Christian denomination that epitomizes political correctness making accusations of racism within its own ranks. As reported by Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post, April 17, 2018 (updated April 18, 2018):

It felt like a typical Sunday at the “diverse, spirit-growing, justice-seeking” church. That is the motto of All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, one of the most respected and most multiracial congregations in a denomination where those two attributes are strongly linked.

The program that congregants received that day noted a workshop to support Latin American youths and intensive training on race and ethnicity. There was a request for volunteers to fix up the room named after the late black Pastor David Eaton, who led All Souls in the 1970s to being one of the first racially inclusive churches in the country.

Then, directly after services, dozens of people gathered in the church basement for an intense meeting about the nature of racism. But the focus this time was All Souls itself, its board and its longtime, white male pastor.

The messy, bitter and unexplained exit weeks before of the Rev. Susan Newman Moore, a 60-year-old African-American who had been All Souls’ associate minister for more than seven years, had deeply unsettled the 1,100-member congregation.

The conflict at the church reflects a modern debate about racism, which often surfaces in less overt ways that can be open to interpretation. At liberal institutions such as All Souls, a longtime bastion of progressive values and activism, racial conflicts can also raise suspicions of hypocrisy.

Several liberal religious denominations are wrestling with racism allegations. The Unitarian Universalist Association in the past year has been asked to help resolve 15 congregational conflicts involving religious professionals of color, and Metropolitan Community Churches faced allegations of racism after a dispute and separation earlier this year with a black female pastor.

In Moore’s case, her supporters assert that the issue is not whether she is blameless but whether she, as a black female pastor, is being more harshly judged for her flaws and mistakes than the white male pastor, Senior Minister Rob Hardies, is for his. In other words, are Hardies and Moore receiving equal benefit of the doubt?

Even at the basement meeting, where some 40 people gathered to create a case for a better financial settlement for Moore, there were competing perspectives. Some wanted to tamp down the confrontation, while others advocated engaging it for the good of the church. Many interviewed for this report requested that their names not be published out of concern that their remarks would offend some people.

“We all want to be a beloved community. But if we just make accusations [of racism], no one will want to listen to us,” a middle-aged white man said from a folding chair on one side of a large circle.

An older black woman steeled her voice. “There are some facts,” she said, referring to complaints Moore made about her treatment by church leadership. “Facts are facts.”

All Souls prides itself on accepting the American fact and sin of white supremacy — what Hardies described in an interview as “the pervasive racism that impacts every person and institution.”

It’s exactly the kind of racism Moore and her supporters are alleging she experienced. As the only African-American on the full-time professional religious staff, Moore alleges that she was underpaid, shortchanged on vacation and received just one evaluation — a positive one — during her seven years at All Souls.

She alleges that she was the target of years of micro-aggressions — racially motivated slights — by congregants who called her by her first name despite her request they use her title and by church staff who she said did not show the same respect for her authority, particularly when Hardies was on sabbatical and she was in charge, that they accorded to Hardies automatically because of his gender and race.

Several congregants who served in leadership roles said complaints about Hardies’ management — mostly that he ignored or avoided conflict — were long-standing. An additional staffer was added to the management team to make up for that, said Karen King, who served on the church council’s steering committee for five years and was privy to the hiring conversations. Despite this, Moore says, she is being punished while his career remains intact.

“I’m the cough, but there is a disease in liberal religious churches,” she said. “It’s not enough to put a ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign on the outside, but then you don’t see it on the inside.”

While Moore resigned rather than accepting a suspension, she maintains that she was essentially forced out, by All Souls leadership and the regional leadership of the United Church of Christ, the denomination that ordained her in the early 1980s.

Hardies and board President Thurman Rhodes, an African-American judge in Maryland’s Prince George’s County, denied Moore’s allegations but declined to comment on the reasons for her suspension, citing the need to protect the confidentiality of the UCC process and their own church personnel. The church later released a statement to The Washington Post saying Moore’s pay was in compliance with the contract she negotiated and signed.

Hardies said he has placed racial and social justice work “at the center” of his 17 years at All Souls, noting the work the church has done under his tenure on affordable housing in New Orleans’s African-American Ninth Ward and in the district, and on voting rights efforts with the NAACP, among other groups. He called cross-cultural and multiracial work “a huge part of my formation as a leader.”

“I believe All Souls is a deeply committed anti-racist institution. Having said that, it’s not immune” from racism in general, he told The Post.

The seeds of Moore’s exit were planted late last summer when a 31-year-old congregant named Reeve Tyndall, who volunteered as assistant treasurer, got into a tiff with her via email. Moore had wanted to immediately pay a guest speaker one Sunday, but no one authorized to sign a check was present. Embarrassed, she sent an email to people involved in finance, including Tyndall. She signed it “Rev. Susan.”

“Susan,” he wrote back. Demanding such a fast turnaround, he wrote, “is unacceptable.” He had given notice well in advance that he would be away, he said. “I expect the same professional behavior from you.”

Tyndall later wrote a series of letters to church and denominational leaders at the Unitarian Universalist Association and UCC in which he complained about Moore and Hardies, citing everything from what he saw as the pair’s excessive vacation and sabbatical schedules to their inattentiveness to church matters. He also alleged Moore had plagiarized parts of sermons, among other things.

He cited several instances in which Moore’s writing mirrored that of others, including in sermons and in her personal statement when she was hired. A couple of examples involved passages from Wikipedia, which Moore says is “fair use.” She also noted the influence others had on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

In a letter dated Sept. 8, Chuck Dulaney, who was then the board president at the church, told Tyndall his complaints were “hurtful” and to back off. Hardies and Moore “are important leaders of our beloved community,” Dulaney wrote.

Tyndall then shared his allegations with the United Church of Christ, which launched a broader investigation that lasted months. All Souls staff members, including Hardies, were interviewed as part of the probe.

In mid-February, the UCC suspended Moore from the ministry for six to 12 months while she worked on a “growth” plan.

The two UCC minister-investigators in the case — both African-Americans — declined to give the congregation or The Post details of why they found Moore unfit for ministry, and whether their reasoning included Tyndall’s complaints or was entirely separate. Hardies, board members and UCC investigators won’t share details about their reaction to the initial congregant complaint, nor about subsequent interviews with All Souls’ staff.

The UUA, which includes All Souls but did not ordain Moore, had initially declined to become involved but said in a statement that it is trying to help both sides reach a resolution.

A few days after her exit was announced at the end of January, Moore did an hourlong video interview with Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU), a group meant to support African-Americans in the overwhelmingly white denomination. She made the video, she said, to defend her reputation.

Moore said that when UCC investigators laid out their allegations, they were not the ones Tyndall had originally raised. Instead, she said, they included not being a supportive colleague, violating confidences while the probe was ongoing and ministering to an All Souls congregant while on leave. Neither the UCC nor All Souls’ leaders would confirm this.

After nearly 200 years on the social justice forefront leading on everything from fighting slavery and segregation to legalizing same-gender marriage, All Souls’ attendance surged after the election of President Donald Trump. Now some congregants say they feel the conflict over Moore has revealed their church home as just another example of the racism they have been fighting.

Over many weeks, worshippers have been divided between those who will picket on Moore’s behalf in front of church meetings and those who will cross the picket line. Between who will sign a petition demanding Moore get a financial settlement that is “grounded more in our shared values” than in legal requirements and those who will not. And between those who think it’s not a coincidence that management complaints involving a white man and black woman ended with her exit — not his — and those who trust that it is.

Both sides are now at a stalemate over Moore’s departure. Church leadership and Moore are trying to return to negotiations over her severance package as the congregation continues trying to square the perceptions of Moore’s treatment with its anti-racist self-image.

“We preach justice here, but when it’s right in front of you, you don’t want to pay attention,” said Vickie Lindsey, an African-American who is a former board member.

The situation has become something of a Rorschach test for how congregants perceive the role of race, given the lack of details about Moore’s ouster.

Support for Moore does not break down completely along racial lines, but at the basement meeting of 40 people on a recent Sunday, at least half of the participants were African-American or of color. And the willingness of congregants to trust All Souls and the investigating institutions appears to be influenced by race, with some members of color saying they are disinclined to trust the process has been fair when they don’t know all the details.

Even among congregants focused on getting Moore a strong severance package, there is a willingness to admit she had drawbacks. The issue, they say, is whether she as a black woman is being treated with equal consideration.

“Structural injustices don’t depend on people being bad, they depend on people being silent,” said one longtime African-American congregant who spoke on the condition that she not be named because she didn’t want to be associated with the divisive issue. “Are we the sort of church that will pay a female pastor of color less than we should, know about it and feel good about it? If so, perhaps the next time we’re marching because janitors aren’t paid well in D.C., maybe All Souls shouldn’t march.”

Some say neither race nor gender played a role in the current conflict - and then pause.

“No,” they didn’t play a role, Rhodes said in an interview. “Only to the extent that race and gender generally play a role in our overall society.” Having grown up in Baltimore at the time of the 1968 race riots, he said, “I’ve seen the face of clear discrimination. This is difference that we are confronting now.”

There’s a desire among many to go back to the way things were - but now it’s clear not everyone shares the same perspective on what that was.

“The lazy thing to say is: I want my church back. I see now that my church wasn’t everyone’s in the same way, so we have to fix it,” said Kerry Reichs, a white author who has been active in church leadership roles. “I’m struggling with how to absorb others’ pain, while also wishing to move on. I want to go to church without feeling anxious.”

Congregants received an email this weekend saying the Moore conflict revealed the need at All Souls to “dismantle racism and other oppressions in our church and ourselves,” and laid out a springtime of training sessions related to anti-racism work, communication and trust. The church also held a two-day workshop called “Beloved Conversations.” Its goal: “How to live healthily in a multiracial, multicultural, theologically diverse community, and how to work for a racially just world.”

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Burning Man festival founder Larry Harvey dies

The founder of the Burning Man festival seems in this interview to be as idiotic and clueless as the festival's devotees. As reported by BBC News, April 28, 2018 (link in original):

Larry Harvey, founder of the Burning Man arts festival, has died in San Francisco aged 70.

He suffered a stroke earlier this month and passed away at home on Saturday morning, a statement on the organisation's website said.

The annual counterculture festival sees up to 70,000 people gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.

It features giant interactive art installations and a huge wooden man that is burnt at the end of the event.

"Larry was never one for labels. He didn't fit a mould; he broke it with the way he lived his life," Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell wrote.

"He was a landscape gardener, a philosopher, a visionary, a wit, a writer, an inspiration, an instigator, a mentor, and at one point a taxi driver and a bike messenger."

"The loss of his presence in our daily lives will be felt for years, but because of the spirit of who he is, we will never truly be without him," she added.

Burning Man was founded in June 1986 when Mr Harvey and his friend Jerry Goodell burned a wooden man on Baker Beach in San Francisco to mark the summer solstice.

This then grew into the festival, which in 1990 was held in Nevada's Black Rock Desert for the first time.

It quickly became one of America's most well-known cultural events, attracting famous faces such as singer Katy Perry and the actor Will Smith.

By 2015 the Burning Man Project reported annual revenues of $37.5m (£27.2m), of which $30.4m was ploughed back into running the event.

Mr Harvey, who had the title Chief Philosophical Officer, spoke to the BBC in 2016 about how the festival came to be.

"It happened to be the anniversary of a broken love affair," he said.

"That story has been inflated forever. I was burning my girlfriend, you hear that, I was burning my girlfriend's lawyer, I made that one up just to make it interesting! Where the man came from I don't know."

"The spirit of the (event) is alive and well," he said.

"We tend to tell people, when they ask what it's all about: I don't know, that's for you to find out."
See also my post Idiot dies after rushing into fire at climax of Burning Man festival (September 3, 2017)

HT: Dracul Van Helsing

University of Ottawa yoga class falls victim to political correctness as white teacher is replaced by an Indian

This item, which I missed when it was published more than two years ago, provides more evidence that universities should be shut down. At least it's refreshing to see Hinduism instead of Christianity being accused of political incorrectness. As reported by Postmedia News, November 22, 2015:

A mind-bending act of political correctness by student leaders at the University of Ottawa has sparked an international backlash on social media.

Student leaders at the university have halted free yoga classes over concerns that its practice was not sufficiently sensitive to yoga’s cultural roots.

The decision earlier this fall meant that about 60 students in yoga instructor Jennifer Scharf’s weekly class lost out on the program, which had been offered through the university’s Centre for Students with Disabilities since 2008.

Scharf even offered to rebrand the program as a “mindful stretching” class to distance it from any controversy over cultural appropriation, but that idea was rejected because a suitable French translation of the phrase could not be reached.

The story became an international talking point when New York Times technology writer Farhad Manjoo retweeted it to his legion of followers, among them Canadian-born Conservative pundit David Frum.

“Yes, so unacceptable the way Indians appropriated European calisthenics to create modern yoga,” Frum tweeted, citing a story published by the online Yoga Journal that examined western influences on the yoga tradition.

Former New York Daily News columnist Bill Hammond tweeted that applying the same standard for cultural misappropriation would require the cancellation of university algebra courses — the branch of mathematics has its cultural roots in ancient Babylonia — along with jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, which evolved from the musical expression of African-Americans.

From Las Vegas, Doug Ritter tweeted that Ottawa itself is a name appropriated from native culture: It derives from an Algonquin word, adàwe, meaning “to trade.”

Popular U.S. blogger Matthew Yglesias, a Vox.com contributor and liberal writer, also tweeted about the controversy. “Universities shutting down yoga classes over cultural appropriation concerns seems like a great way to get conservatives into yoga,” he wrote.

Yglesias said he couldn’t understand “why cultural appropriation is bad or how stopping it would be feasible or desirable.”

In Britain, London’s Daily Mail newspaper published an online account of the U of O yoga controversy that attracted more than 285 comments, almost all of them expressing outrage. Reader Alesha Brandt was representative of the online reaction: “Someone got their yoga pants in a twist. How utterly full of PC crap.”

Acting student federation president Roméo Ahimakin could not be reached for comment Sunday.

He has said that the yoga program is on hiatus while consultations take place to make the class more accessible and inclusive: “We are trying to have those sessions done in a way in which students are aware of where the spiritual and cultural aspects come from, so that these sessions are done in a respectful manner.”

A video on the Centre for Students with Disabilities’ website continues to highlight the yoga service, which was suspended because of the ongoing debate about the “cultural issues” that surround it.

Also on the centre’s website is a description of its effort to create a safe space at the university. It highlights the complexity of the centre’s commitment to “challenge all forms of oppression.”

“We also acknowledge that ableism is not a siloed issue, but one that affects a variety of communities and individuals. In working to dismantle ableism, we also work to challenge all forms of oppression including, but not limited to, heterosexism, cissexism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, queerphobia, HIV-phobia, sex negativity, fatphobia, femme-phobia, misogyny, transmisogyny, racism, classism, ableism, xenophobia, sexism, and linguistic discrimination.”
As reported by Errol McGihon of the Ottawa Sun, January 26, 2016:

Little more than two months ago, many — yogis and non-yogis alike — were outraged to hear that a yoga class at the University of Ottawa was cancelled. The problem wasn’t a lack of interest, the class’s teacher said. It was concerns yoga was taken from India, a culture that “experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy,” according to the group that once sponsored it.

For those enraged about political correctness and trigger warnings — and worried about free speech — on many university campuses, this appeared to be Exhibit A demonstrating that the youth of North America have gone crazy.

“Just take a semester at UOttawa, and you’ll have 100s of useless controversies thrown in your face,” one commenter wrote on the Facebook page of the campus group that canceled the class. “Oh yeah, and your tuition money pays for that.”
Now, it appears the controversial class is back on — with an Indian teacher, who is wondering if she was hired because of her race.

“Nothing was brought to my attention to teach in a different way or do something differently than the other instructor because none of that was really mentioned to me,” Priya Shah, the new teacher, told the CBC. “When I read [about it], I was kind of thinking ‘Did they hire me because I’m Indian?. . . I was born in Calgary, I grew up in Canada but my background is Indian and I’ve been there once before. I was there for about five months.”

She added: “There are many people in my family who practice but I’ve never had the thought that since I’m Indian that I’m a better yoga teacher.” (Shah did not return a request for comment from The Washington Post; the student group that previously cancelled the class was not immediately available for comment.)

In a blog post, ousted Caucasian teacher Jennifer Scharf, who taught the class for up to 60 people at the school, expressed her thoughts.

“I heard today that my old yoga class is back on,” she wrote. “Maybe since I called my foes ‘SJW’s’ [social justice warriors] and then refused to speak the word ‘intersectionality’ with people who don’t even have a cursory understanding of the term, the student centre has decided to hire a teacher of South Indian descent.”

I have heard from a couple students and volunteers that feel uncomfortable with how we are doing yoga while we claim to be inclusive at the same time.

Scharf also said replacement Shah had been caught in the system. She added: “I do not care that someone was a jerk to me, it happens all the time, just please stop using other people in your ideological bullying!”

In November, Scharf told The Post she had taught a yoga class since 2008 through the school’s Centre for Students with Disabilities — part of the university’s Student Federation — until she got an email explaining it had been eighty-sixed.

“I think that our centre agreed … that while yoga is a really great idea, accessible and great for students, that there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice,” Scharf was told by a student group representative in an email. “I have heard from a couple students and volunteers that feel uncomfortable with how we are doing yoga while we claim to be inclusive at the same time.”

Not long after the story – which was widely shared on social media — exploded, the student group posted a statement saying the class would be back.

“We would like to stress the fact that the classes were not cancelled,” it read. “They were put on hold to allow the CSD to do proper consultation amongst themselves, with Service Centre users, and interested students at large, in order to provide better programming …. We are excited to reintroduce a program that is beneficial for the CSD service-users, in the Winter semester.”

Scharf is not looking back.

“I already have other classes that I teach,” she told the CBC. “I’m writing a book. I’ve got a lot of outreach work I do in the community …. I wouldn’t say I need this class. I would love to teach it again but if they’re happier with someone else, what I care about is the class happening.”

Friday, 27 April 2018

Astronomers discover "cosmic pileup" of 14 galaxies

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

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

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

This is an artist’s impression of the 14 galaxies detected by Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.

An artist's impression of SPT2349-56, a group of interacting and merging galaxies in the early Universe.

An Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) image of 14 galaxies forming a protocluster known as SPT2349-56

As reported by Alison Auld of Canadian Press, April 26, 2018:

Astronomers have discovered the beginnings of a gigantic “cosmic pileup” in the far reaches of the universe, which could form one of the largest structures in the cosmos.

The team of Canadian and international scientists used a powerful telescope in Chile to spot the “impending collision of 14 young, starbursting galaxies” that will become a massive galaxy cluster.

The research, published in the journal Nature, says the so-called protocluster or group of galaxies is 12.4 billion light years away — suggesting its light began travelling to Earth when the universe was 1.4 billion years old.

“Having caught a massive galaxy cluster in throes of formation is spectacular in and of itself,” researcher Scott Chapman, an astrophysicist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said in a statement.

“But the fact that this is happening so early in the history of the universe poses a formidable challenge to our present-day understanding of the way structures form in the universe.”

Chapman said until now, astronomers had theorized that protoclusters as large as this one would have taken much longer to form. But this formation has upended that thinking because it happened quickly and in a space only about three times the size of the Milky Way, he said.

Galaxy clusters are thought to be the largest objects in the known universe, with masses comparable to a million billion suns, the study says. They are bound together by gravity and can contain a thousand galaxies, dark matter, expansive black holes and extremely hot gas.

The clusters are considered rare and can have typical separations of 600 million light years.

“The distance to the closest big cluster (Coma) is 300 million light years, so we live in a relatively unpopulated region of the universe,” said Chapman.

The paper’s authors say the discovery could shed light on how galaxy clusters form in environments characterized by hot, ionized gas.

“How this assembly of galaxies got so big so fast is a bit of a mystery — it wasn’t built up gradually over billions of years, as astronomers might expect,” said Tim Miller, a doctoral candidate at Yale University and co-author of the paper.

“This discovery provides an incredible opportunity to study how galaxy clusters and their massive galaxies came together in these extreme environments.”

The galactic cluster — dubbed SPT2349-56 — was first seen as a smudge of light in 2010 by the South Pole Telescope in Antarctica. That led scientists to follow up with the ALMA telescope, ultimately determining that the smudge was 14 galaxies located 90 per cent of the way across the observable universe.

“SPT2349 shows us that massive cluster formation can happen much more rapidly and explosively than simulations or theory have suggested,” Chapman said.

“The incredible energetics are like 10,000 supernova going off at a time, quite literally.”

The researchers found its energetic individual galaxies are forming stars up to 1,000 times faster than the Milky Way.

“In the short term, SPT2349 affords us a wonderful shortcut — we can use SPT2349 as the initial conditions for a simulation of cluster formation and see what lessons can be learned,” said Chapman.
Click on the link for the abstract of the original article A massive core for a cluster of galaxies at a redshift of 4.3 by T.B. Miller, S.C. Chapman, et al in Nature, 556:469-472, April 25, 2018.

50 years ago: Canada goes under permanent foreign occupation

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; Psalms 33:12a

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

I should have posted this a week ago, as April 20, 2018 marked 50 years since Pierre Elliott Trudeau succeeded Lester Pearson as Prime Minister of Canada, two weeks after winning the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. At the time he became Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau, an ostensible Roman Catholic who was known for his secular humanist associations, was Justice Minister, supporting legislation to legalize abortion and homosexual acts. Just over a year later, both abominations had been legalized, signalling, as Pastor Perry F. Rockwood observed, that secular humanism and not the Bible was now to be the basis of Canadian law.

The country which is still officially known as Canada, but would be more accurately termed, as Mark Steyn put it, "Trudeaupia," is unrecognizable to anyone old enough (and this blogger is just barely old enough) to remember what it was like before Mr. Trudeau imposed his will from 1968-1984 (minus nine months from 1979-1980, when Prime Minister Joe Clark led a minority Progressive Conservative government). Trudeaupia, not a nation in any Biblical sense, has become increasingly godless over the past 50 years. The current regime, under Pierre's mentally and morally retarded pothead son Justin--who more closely resembles a bumbling character in a situation comedy than a Prime Minister--is the most evil and anti-Christian in the country's history, with examples too numerous to mention here.

The one thing I'll say on behalf of Justin Trudeau is that he's managed to do what I believed impossible: he has me thinking positive thoughts about Pierre Trudeau. While Pierre Trudeau's government legalized abortion, he didn't interfere in local ridings to overturn nominations of pro-life Liberal candidates, or refuse to grant charitable status to organizations that disagreed with his position, as Justin Trudeau has done. While Pierre Trudeau's government legalized homosexual acts, he didn't think it necessary to issue an apology by the government to those who had been dismissed as security risks in earlier days because of homosexual behaviour, as Justin Trudeau has done (echoed by "Conservative" Party "leader" Andrew Scheer). Justin not only tolerates no dissent within the Liberal Party--which as far back as February 1976 was referred to by former PC Prime Minister John Diefenbaker as "no longer the Liberal Party; it's the Trudeau Party"--but he seems intent on banning all dissenting views within the entire country.

For a crash course on when and where Canada went wrong, I recommend the first two chapters of Lubor Zink's book Trudeaucracy (1972), which may be hard to find, but is worth the effort. Readers with access to university libraries should examine Mr. Zink's columns in the Toronto Telegram from the first four months of 1968; they'll tell you everything you need to know. Mr. Zink's later columns in the Toronto Sun and his book Viva Chairman Pierre (1977) are also must reading. Here's an excerpt from Mr. Zink's column in the Telegram, April 5, 1968, the day before Pierre Trudeau captured the Liberal leadership:

Talking to delegates I find that most of those who support Trudeau cannot explain what attracts them to the man. Their commitment, bordering often on hero-worship, is largely emotional. Those who oppose him, recall that only five years ago Mr. Trudeau derided the Liberal Party as a bunch of idiots, campaigned for the New Democrats, and "preached socialism."

And from April 8, 1968:

When it was all over, I listened for comment amid the roar of Trudeau worshippers.
A delegate from Quebec said: "Good-bye Canada."
A Soviet delegate said: "Excellent choice. Trudeau will make Canada progressive."
A Cabinet minister muttered: "The Seven Days boys are in charge now."
A woman, taking off her delegate’s badge, said: This isn’t my party any more. God help us all."


Indeed, God help us all.

Roman Catholic school chaplain mixes Star Wars into his messages

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8

This may be regarded as a companion to the post immediately preceding. What passes for evangelicalism in the second decade of the 21st century isn't alone in mixing truth and error--which always produces error. Submitted for your approval, the following item about a Roman Catholic school chaplain in Alberta who thinks he can build a bridge between Christianity and Hinduism. As reported by Janet French in the Edmonton Journal, March 12, 2018 (bold, link in original):

A school chaplain’s penchant for pop culture has become a mainstay in his religion lessons to Catholic students near Edmonton.

Mike Landry, a Spruce Grove-based chaplain in Evergreen Catholic Schools, turns to the Jedi, the First Order and the Resistance to teach about the Bible and talk to students about their problems.

“When you’re sitting in a religion class, you’ve got people from all these backgrounds who come from all these different perspectives, and you’re trying to see how you can meet all of them where they are without them feel pushed, or judged, or forced, but inviting them into something that I believe will help them,” Landry said in an interview last week.

The chaplain made his case to teachers for drawing meaningful parallels between the Star Wars movies and Christianity at the Greater Edmonton Teachers’ Convention last week.

Not the first Edmonton chaplain to take advantage of these corollaries, Landry said he’s continuing the work of the late Father Michael Mireau, a beloved Edmonton Catholic Schools chaplain who died of cancer at age 42 in 2014. Mireau was known to wave a light sabre around from the pulpit and weave Star Wars references into his homilies.

Landry, who is based at St. Peter the Apostle School and visits the other nine schools in the division, said he works in collaboration with counsellors, a social worker and other support staff to help students with personal or family problems.

Some students come from devout families and others know little of Catholicism, he said.

Trust the Force
Star Wars creator George Lucas borrowed generously from Christianity when creating the first two movie trilogies, Landry said.

The Jedi Council is like popes and bishops making decisions for the collective good, and the Jedi Academy is a bit like seminary school, he said.

The Force — an energy that binds the galaxy together and that both Jedi and their foes, the Sith, wield in the movies — is somewhat like the Holy Spirit in Christianity, Landry said.

In the more recent movies, characters implore one another to “trust The Force.” Students, like some characters, can be skeptical of religion. Discussing that doubt is a way to begin teaching about the historical evidence documenting Jesus’ existence, Landry said.

Star Wars characters who turn to the “dark side” out of fear and anger, like Darth Vader, can stimulate discussion about how power can be abused for evil, he said.

When kids make choices that make teachers “want to pull our hair out,” they can discuss the character Kylo Ren, the son of Princess Leia and Han Solo, whose conscience nags at him while he works for the dark side.

Said Landry: “I don’t think they have trouble understanding (religious teachings). I think they have trouble wanting to understand. They want to see that it’s relevant to them. A Jewish carpenter from 20 centuries ago, what does he have to do with what I’m doing in Spruce Grove today? And sometimes these stories become a nice bridge.”
Rabi Maharaj, who grew up as a Hindu guru in Trinidad before coming to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, was interviewed by Dr. Emil Gaverluk for a series of broadcasts of Southwest Radio Church, airing in January 1982. Mr. Maharaj's comments show that Mr. Landry is very wrong when he tries to point out the similarities between Star Wars and Christianity, especially when it comes to the Force:

Christians told me how very much they enjoyed these movies, and how great they were. I really get worried when Christians tell me how much they are excited about these films, seeing them several times, without realizing how much antichrist philosophy these films are propagating. Quite honestly, the most powerful presentation of Hindu philosophy I have seen anywhere in the West is the film The Empire Strikes Back!

I am not a cinema fan. I do not have time to go to the cinema, because I work especially among students on the campuses. I do go maybe once a year to see an appropriate film, one that the students are seeing and that I think is fit to view. So I went to see The Empire Strikes Back. I was astonished at how much Hinduism was propagated in that film from start to finish. I have not seen a more powerful presentation of Hinduism. It was an impressive film, beautiful photography, sensational and all of that, but the philosophy that the film was plugging was Hinduism. People were accepting this philosophy of life. People want to know what I have against Star Wars. In this movie a person comes away forgetting all about the science fiction elements in the film, but comes away with that one thing in mind, the nucleus of the film, the Force--"May the Force be with you!" Just weeks after the film was released there were bumper stickers, buttons and T-shirts with this statement on them. Weeks after it was released, I went to see it in Colorado, and I discovered that there were hundreds of young people in the mountains worshiping the Force. Some of them were saying the Force was the Holy Spirit. I had to say to them very clearly, I even said it on television, that it was an insult to God to call Him a Force! God is not a force. God is a person! A force is impersonal, but God is personal. Satan wants modern man, western man to have a wrong concept of God--for man to think of God in terms of a force. That is what Satan really wants.
Emil Gaverluk and Rabindranath R. Maharaj, Hinduism and Other Satanic Deceptions, 1982, pp. 19-20

Here's what the Lord Jesus Christ had to say about the Holy Spirit (it should be noted that the word "of" in the Kings James Version often means, as it does in this passage, "from"):

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
John 16:7-13

A force doesn't convict anyone "of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment," and no one is morally accountable to a force.

For further reading, I recommend Death of a Guru by Rabi Maharaj with Dave Hunt (1977, 1984); Hinduism and Other Satanic Deceptions by Emil Gaverluk and Rabi Maharaj (1982); and Peace, Prosperity, and the Coming Holocaust by Dave Hunt (1983). I have tapes of the six broadcasts that Mr. Maharaj and Dr. Gaverluk recorded, as well as the four broadcasts (in April or May 1983) of conversations between Messrs. Maharaj and Hunt, followed by four broadcasts of Mr. Hunt speaking alone, on the occasion of the publication of Peace, Prosperity, and the Coming Holocaust. Southwest Radio Ministries probably doesn't make them available anymore, but the reader is encouraged to get them anywhere they can be found. Despite being 35-37 years old, the material covered in those broadcasts remains relevant--maybe more now than ever.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Christian woman in Manitoba who warns of the dangers of Yoga shows more discernment and courage than the local "Christian" clergy

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
John 3:19-20

yoga
noun yo·ga \ ˈyō-gə \
1: capitalized : a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation


As reported by Riley Laychuk of CBC News, April 24, 2018:

Yoga is supposed to bring about calm and tranquillity, but a letter denouncing the practice as anti-Christian is stirring up controversy in Boissevain, Man.

It started with the upcoming opening of a new yoga studio in the Manitoba town, 222 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

"I was startled and shocked about the negativity that could come out of a new business opening in Boissevain," said Lindsay Alvis, owner of Soul Worx Yoga & Fitness, the studio she is preparing to open in the town.

"I was disappointed, obviously," she told CBC's Radio Noon on Tuesday. "I think it's quite prejudiced to say that [yoga] is against a religion, especially in this day and age."

Alvis believes the letter in question was sent to members of one local church. It's not clear who authored it or how many people got copies. It surfaced about 10 days ago.

In it, the author cautions that yoga could disrupt the beliefs of Christians.

"If one desires to physical fitness only, exercise designed for that specific purpose ought rather be chosen," it reads in part. "No part of yoga can be separated from the philosophy behind it."

The author also said with the imminent opening of a new studio in the town, they felt the need to share the letter.

Alvis, who practises Buti yoga — a mixture of traditional yoga and dance — believes the popular exercise has come a long way from its Hindu origins in India.

Wendy Giesbrecht, another yoga instructor in Boissevain, also saw a copy of the letter.

"It was kind of insulting, for sure, and I'd like to see the whole discussion on yoga come to light," she said. "It's an opinion that I obviously don't share."

Giesbrecht said she's hosted community forums in the past to educate people on what yoga is and the sessions were met with many curious residents and questions.

"Yoga is not a religion.… It's a very personal journey," she said.

Rev. Michael Canning, who leads the local Anglican church, said he wasn't aware of the letter until he was approached about it this week.

"I really don't see yoga as anti-Christian," he said, calling it a good way for people to get in touch with their minds and bodies. "I know people who are Christians who find that its a good way of meditating."

Alvis says she's had nothing but positive words and thoughts come in from people around town since the letter came to light.

She believes it'll lead to even more support for her new studio, which she hopes to open in the near future.

"I think that people are entitled to their opinion, but I don't think religion needs to be an influence or a decision-making [factor] in yoga."

"I was very surprised by the letter," said Jane Barter, an associate professor of religion and culture at the University of Winnipeg who specializes in Christian thought.

"It was so decisive about not allowing Christians to attend yoga, which is odd because yoga is a universal practice — it's meant to be a universal practice."

Barter said Christians have incorporated all sorts of non-Christian practices over the centuries, always adapting the religion to the current culture. She said in Roman times, the gospel was explained through the lens of Greek philosophy.

"I think it's a feature of a lack of religious literacy in a way, because there have been times where people have been more inclined to recognize the value and the benefit of other practices, including spiritual practices, than today. But I suspect the letter writer represents a very small minority of people," she said.

Barter also doesn't believe that much yoga practised in Manitoba is representative of Hinduism. "But nevertheless, it's a practice that deserves respect and I believe there is absolutely no problem or peril to the souls of Christians for practising yoga."
As reported by Kelly Geraldine Malone of Canadian Press, April 25, 2018:

BOISSEVAIN, Man. — Lindsay Alvis was excitedly preparing to open up the first yoga studio in the small southwestern Manitoba community she calls home when a letter showed up in the mail boxes of some of her neighbours.

“PLEASE DON’T DO YOGA” the letter began.

The typed letter left in mailboxes around Boissevain cautions people in the community of about 1,500 not to do yoga because of its Hindu roots, before closing with a dire warning for Christians.

“If you do yoga or are thinking of joining a class, prayerfully search your heart.”

The letter, which warns about “yoga missionaries” and that “no part of yoga can be separated from the philosophy behind it,” is only signed with the name “Marie.”

Alvis was astounded and disappointed that it was being circulated just as she was preparing to teach her first class at Soul Worx Yoga and Fitness.

“If you don’t like yoga don’t do yoga,” Alvis said.

“(If yoga) doesn’t fall within your beliefs then don’t do it, but I don’t think you need to send out a letter warning people of dangers, telling people not to do yoga and saying it in response to a yoga studio opening in your town.”

Alvis was born and raised in the former town, not far from the border with North Dakota. She ended up moving to Alberta, living there for 13 years, before she came back so her husband could take over the family farm two years ago.

“I know religion is big in Boissevain but, when I decided to open the studio, I only had positive feedback,” Alvis said. “I never intended to offend any religion and I don’t believe that yoga is any sort of religion, especially like in my yoga studio.”

She teaches Buti yoga, a cardio-intensive version of the traditional practice which involves stretching and dance. It was created by a celebrity trainer in the United States. Alvis said it’s far removed from having any religious overtones.

While her studio will be the first yoga-dedicated location in Boissevain, yoga has been in the community for a while. Alvis previously taught classes through the local municipality.

“It went very well in town. So it was kind of a first for me hearing about this,” said recreation director Samantha Dyck.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve never heard any issues with yoga with regards to religious beliefs.”

Ken Warkentin, executive director of Mennonite Church Manitoba which represents one of the churches in Boissevain, said he understands that some people may be “opposed to yoga as a spiritual discipline of Hinduism.” But he said it’s important to have meaningful discussions with people of other religions and beliefs.

“By and large, we would continue to value a conversation around those things and try hard not to become overly judgmental,” he said.

Avis said she won’t let the letter dampen her excitement over the studio opening.

While a few people may share the letter’s sentiment, she said a lot more have reached out to show their support.

“I just want a great thing for the community,” she said.
Click on the link to see the entire letter. Marie is in fact correct in her warning that Yoga is a Hindu practice, that it's spiritually dangerous, and that Christians should avoid it. Ms. Alvis's comment that "I don’t think you need to send out a letter warning people of dangers" shows the truth of the passage in John 3 quoted above--those in darkness hate the light. Contrary to the assertion of Professor Barter, there's nothing in Marie's letter that's "decisive about not allowing Christians to attend yoga"--no threats, merely warnings that Yoga is a Hindu practice, and that Christians should prayerfully check their hearts if they're involved in it or are thinking of doing so. While Marie is contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3), Ken Warkentin, the provincial Mennonite leader, exhibits the "go-along-to-get-along" spinelessness that's so typical of modern "Christianity," while Rev. Canning, the local Anglican minister, exhibits the ignorance and apostasy that so characterizes the Anglican Church of Canada.

For further reading, I recommend the books Death of a Guru by Rabi Maharaj with Dave Hunt (1977, 1984) and Yoga & the Body of Christ by Dave Hunt (2006), and the article The Basic Spirituality of Yoga by an anonymous guest writer at Midwest Christian Outreach (March 8, 2018).

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Children of Roman Catholic priests are speaking out

As if the Roman Catholic Church doesn't have enough scandals to deal with in regard to homosexuality and pedophilia, scandals involving heterosexual misconduct are now coming to light. As reported by Mary Ormsby and Sandra Contenta of the Toronto Star, April 17, 2018 (links in original):

On a winter afternoon in 2016, Michelle Raftis’s long search brought her to the steps of St. Michael’s Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto. She was nervous, and had carefully prepared what she would say to Cardinal Tom Collins.

She was done with secrets and lies.

Raftis is the daughter of a Catholic priest, a truth the 55-year-old had to hide most of her life. She wanted to know why the church she was raised in allowed a priest to abandon his child.

“I wanted a written apology from the church,” Raftis says.

In Canada and around the world, children of priests have emerged from the shadows to press the Vatican — and their local dioceses — to recognize they exist.

The Vatican appears to have no data on the number of clergy who break their vows of celibacy and father children. But with more than 400,000 Roman Catholic priests ministering to 1.1 billion Catholics, offspring are likely to be found across the globe, says Bill Kilgallon, who recently finished a three-year term as a leading member of Pope Francis’s Commission for the Protection of Minors.

In Canada alone, about 20 sons and daughters of priests have personally contacted Coping International, a recently formed online support group out of Ireland that is pushing the Roman Catholic Church and its priests to acknowledge parental responsibilities.

The Star spoke to four of these now adult children, and to a Quebec woman who sued a diocese over the priest who fathered her son.

The children all struggled with the guilt of a suffocating secret, the financial and emotional strains of being forsaken by their biological father, and the silence of priests focused on avoiding scandal.

The truth was further buried by mothers who didn’t tell their dioceses that a priest had fathered their child. During the 1960s and ’70s when these children were born, such an admission would have deeply shamed the women.

Raftis learned at 13 that her biological father was Rev. Charles Van Item, a family friend who died in 2015. Her mother warned her to never tell anyone.

“When he was alive, I didn’t want to embarrass him, which is funny to say because he walked away from his (parental) duties,” says Raftis, a Catholic grade school teacher who lives in Barrie, north of Toronto. “I didn’t want to embarrass my mother, either.”

Raftis bottled it up, and while still in her teens developed “a major ulcer.” Later, she would struggle with her mental health.

She confided in her future husband when they were dating, and he was supportive. But her attempt to tell her father-in-law reinforced the indictment she long expected from God-fearing society.

“What would you call the child of a priest?” she tentatively asked him. “The devil’s child,” he replied.

“That clamped me up, big time,” Raftis says.

On the March day Raftis walked into Collins’s basilica office for that scheduled meeting in 2016, the cardinal greeted her and her husband Ed warmly. They sat in high-backed chairs, a round coffee table separating Raftis and her husband from the cardinal and another priest.

She asked for written acknowledgement that Van Item was her father and an apology from the church for what she considers a breach of trust. Collins didn’t dispute Van Item’s paternity but declined her requests. He offered instead to pay for counselling.

In an interview, Collins said he first became aware of Raftis’s case when Coping International contacted him in August 2015, almost four months after Van Item died. He adds it’s the only case of a priest fathering a child he’s come across during 21 years as a bishop.

If a similar case comes up on his watch, Collins says his message to the priest would be unequivocal: “I would tell him: ‘leave the priesthood and become responsible for your child.’

“When you are the co-creator of another human person, who is a child of God, you have very strong and weighty responsibilities,” he adds.

Collins insists that the actions of priests like Van Item shouldn’t raise doubts about the vow of celibacy. “It says nothing about celibacy, any more than adultery says anything about marriage. What it says in both cases is about the frailty of the human person, and their need to repent and do what is right.”

He sees celibacy as a tradition that dates back to Jesus and St. Paul, one that “ennobles” those who commit to it. “Our sacred commitments, whatever they may be, make us more profoundly what God wants us to be, and they focus life in a glorious way,” he adds.

Catholic priests could happily marry until the 12th century, when ecumenical meetings known as the Lateran councils banned them from doing so. According to the Vatican’s secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the ban wasn’t strictly enforced until the Council of Trent in the 16th century.

Eastern rites within the Roman Catholic Church, such as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, allow married men to become priests. And married Anglican priests who convert and become Roman Catholic priests can remain married. But celibacy remains a mandatory vow for seminarians entering the Roman Catholic priesthood, and a topic of heated debate as the number of priests declines worldwide.

Pope Francis’s predecessor, the now retired Benedict XVI, called celibacy for priests “a sign of full devotion” to the Lord and repeatedly insisted it was here to stay. Francis has been less categorical. He has raised the possibility of ordaining married men as priests. And before becoming pope, he described celibacy as a matter of tradition, rather than dogma. “It can change,” he added.

In the meantime, the Vatican has failed to recognize the children of priests, despite striking modern examples.

In 2012, Los Angeles Bishop Gabino Zavala resigned after acknowledging he was the father of two teenage children. In 2006, a Vatican investigation revealed that Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaires of Christ order, had fathered several children with two women and sexually abused seminarians. In 2001, the National Catholic Reporter published the contents of several reports by women’s religious orders, describing the sexual abuse of nuns by priests in some two dozen countries.

Pressure is mounting for the church to hold such priests accountable as parents.

In France, Anne-Marie Mariani founded in 2012 an organization called the Children of Silence, which supports the sons and daughter of priests. Her parents fell in love in Algeria in the 1950s, when her father was a priest and her mother a nun. She’s written three letters to Pope Francis calling on him to ease the emotional burden of children like her with a gesture of recognition.

“Children of priests are everywhere on Earth and there’s not one word for them from the Vatican,” says Mariani, 67, by phone from Paris. “We’re a reality that isn’t talked about. What are they afraid of?”

The efforts of these children are bearing fruit.

On Aug. 31 last year, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference blazed a trail by issuing “principles of responsibility regarding priests who father children while in ministry.”

“The wellbeing of his child should be his first consideration,” the bishops state. “At a minimum, no priest should walk away from his responsibilities.”

The statement was a direct response to the efforts of Coping International, a self-help mental health resource founded by Irish psychotherapist Vincent Doyle, himself the child of an Irish priest. “If a priest can take care of his flock, he can take care of his child,” Doyle says. He adds that dioceses shouldn’t make that more difficult by forcing these fathers to quit the priesthood, thereby leaving them unemployed.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops seems unwilling to follow Ireland’s lead. It told the Star it is “very concerned” about priests who break their vow of celibacy. But the consequences of sexually active priests are strictly matters for local diocese and religious orders, according to the conference’s media relations official, Deacon René Laprise.

The Vatican may decide the matter for them.

Last September, after lobbying by Doyle and an article on the issue in the Boston Globe, Vatican officials asked the Commission for the Protection of Minors to expand its mandate and develop church guidelines for the children of priests. Kilgallon personally informed Pope Francis in a subsequent meeting that the task had been given to a commission working group.

Kilgallon hopes the Vatican guidelines force a sharp change in the approach of local churches, which he describes as mirroring the way they historically dealt with priests who sexually abused children.

“The reluctance has been the feeling that if you admit things openly it can damage the reputation of the church, it can damage people’s faith in the church,” says Kilgallon, who until February was also director of the National Office for Professional Standards of the Catholic Church of New Zealand.

“What the (sex) abuse issue has shown is that the best way to protect the church is to protect the children, not the other way around,” he adds in a phone interview from his Auckland home.

In 2012, when Pope Francis was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, he was quoted in an interview as saying that a priest who fathers a child “has to leave the ministry and should take care of that child, even if he chooses not to marry that woman. For just as that child has the right to have a mother, he has a right to the face of a father...”

...Margaret Jong, vice-chancellor of the Diocese of St. Catharines, said the diocese is “not aware of any priests in ministry at present who have children...”

...Writing on behalf of Bishop Gerard Paul Bergie, Jong said the diocese does not have a policy about priests who father children.

“If the bishop learned that a priest had fathered a child, he would want to ensure that the priest take responsibility for his child,” Jong said. “Of course, parental obligations would take precedence over responsibilities to the church. In most cases, if a priest wanted to pursue a relationship and have a family, he would voluntarily leave ministry, rather than leaving it to his bishop to make the decision to remove him from ministry...”

Read Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins’ full reply to the Toronto Star.

Read Margaret Jong’s full reply to the Toronto Star.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania publishes list of priests and lay people accused of sexual abuse

As reported by Teresa Bonner of PennLive.com, April 6, 2018 (links in original):

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, is publishing a list of 34 priests and 17 lay people against whom credible accusations of sexual abuse or other inappropriate behavior have been leveled.

It's the first time the diocese has revealed the names of those accused of abuse.

Bishop Lawrence Persico began the news conference by addressing victims of abuse.

"I would like to express my sincere sorrow and apologies for the sexual abuse that has occurred within the church, particularly here, within the Diocese of Erie," he said, noting that he has spoken with some victims.

"It is appalling to learn what they went through," he said. "Abuse is traumatic enough but it is earth-shattering when it is perpetrated by someone in a position of trust."

The move comes as a grand jury run by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office investigates how the Erie diocese, the Diocese of Harrisburg and four others in Pennsylvania have handled misconduct allegations against priests.

"We don't know when the grand jury report will be forthcoming," Persico said, "but I am sure it will be a sobering moment for all of us.

The diocese began the process of examining its past in 2016, which was the year that a grand jury report into child sexual abuse by clergy in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown was made public. At that time, the diocese invited the district attorney to view its records.

In September 2016, that investigation was halted when the records of the Erie diocese and five others were subpoenaed by the state Attorney General, said Bishop Lawrence Persico.

Since then, Persico said, the diocese has reviewed all the files it could find that had anything to do with inappropriate behavior by anyone associated with the diocese, going back about 70 years. It has shared all it found with the attorney general, he said.

The diocese Friday also unveiled its updated policy for protecting children and youth, along with the list of accused - a list that is unlike any released by other diocese in that it also includes lay people credibly accused of inappropriate behavior or abuse.

Twenty of the priests and two of they lay people on the Erie list are deceased. The list includes allegations dating as far back as 1944, Persico said.

The release comes just weeks after the diocese in Buffalo, New York, put out a similar list.

Persico said he is sure that there will be debate over the wisdom of releasing the names, but said the diocese first goal was the protection of children.

"It is not possible for us to monitor all the people on the list," he said. "This is an important step in helping the public become aware of info that is important for the community's well-being."

He said the diocese's updated policy and the names, would be offered on a website: www.eriercd.org/policyupdate.htm.

New test that determines a baby's sex after just eight weeks sparks fears of sex-selection abortions in countries such as China and India

As reported by Stephen Matthews and George Martin in the London Daily Mail, April 24, 2018 (link in original):

Scientists have sparked controversy after creating a pin-prick test that can determine the gender of a baby after just eight weeks.

Concerns have been raised the test could trigger a rise in sex-selective abortions, especially in countries such as India and China where families desire boys over girls for cultural reasons.

A recently published government report in India found that the country has 63 million fewer woman then it should because families are choosing to abort their female babies.

The situation is much the same in China, where men outnumber women by 34 million - significantly more than the entire population of Australia.

Experts claim the controversial one-child policy, which lasted from the 1970s until 2015, helped to create the imbalance as families sought to have a son.

It is feared the new pin-prick test could fuel a 'genocide' of female babies in India and China as parents are given more time than previously to make a decision on whether to abort their babies.

Experts also fear the test - which is similar to a version set to be rolled out on the NHS this year - could also fuel terminations in the UK, where the abortion time limit is 24 weeks.

Parents-to-be are currently offered the chance to find out the sex of their child at their 20-week scan in the UK. But it is not 100 per cent accurate.

Some critics have also expressed concerns such tests could lead to a rise in sex-selection tourism. However, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service today condemned such fears as 'unfounded'.

The pin-prick test has been created by Brazilian researchers who set out to improve the existing non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT), which already spots Down's syndrome and two other genetic conditions.

The updated test, created by a team at Sabin Laboratory in Brasilia - the capital of Brazil - have updated the NIPT to make it able to spot the sex of a foetus with just a drop of blood.

In experiments on 101 pregnant women, the team led by Dr Gustavo Barra found the test was completely accurate from eight weeks gestation.

Some private firms in the UK already charge women keen to discover the gender of their baby hundreds of pounds to take the test during the first trimester.

Hugh Whittall, director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, today told MailOnline: 'Many pregnant women and couples find out the sex of their foetus simply so they can prepare for a baby of one sex or the other, or because they are curious.

'However, revealing the sex of the foetus at such an early stage of pregnancy increases the risk of terminations on the basis of sex taking place.

'There is limited evidence about the extent to which sex selective terminations are taking place in the UK, but there is a real possibility that permitting very early tests for sex may encourage sex selection, both among UK residents and through "sex selection tourism".

'Given that there are few benefits to most pregnant women of finding out the sex of the fetus in the first few weeks of pregnancy, we believe that test providers should not be allowed to give out this kind of information.'

Dr Andrew McLennan, a gynaecologist at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, told NewScientist that it could lead to more sex-selective abortions.

Monday, 23 April 2018

50 years ago: Two denominations merge to form the United Methodist Church

On April 23, 1968, the United Methodist Church was created when The Evangelical United Brethren Church (represented by Bishop Reuben H. Mueller) and The Methodist Church (represented by Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke) joined hands at the constituting General Conference in Dallas. The merger occurred barely five weeks after notorious televangelist Oral Roberts and his wife had been received into membership by Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma; it's been speculated that Mr. Roberts joined the UMC because he wanted to be part of a denomination that wasn't overly concerned with his doctrine. The United Methodist Church is largely apostate, although some Bible-believing UMC pastors can still be found.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

The case of the late Church of England Bishop George Bell shows that not all sexual abuse allegations against clergy are true

The case of the late Bishop George Bell shows that no one is safe from allegations of sexual abuse, no matter how false those allegations may be. Yes, some women do lie about such things. We can thank the "Me Too" movement for putting what may be the final nails in the coffin of relations between men and women. As reported by Olivia Rudgard of the London Daily Telegraph, April 22, 2018 (links in original):

A police investigation into former bishop of Chichester George Bell has been dropped amid criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury for smearing his name.

Sussex Police told the Daily Telegraph that they were no longer investigating a new allegation which was referred to them earlier this year.

A spokesman said the the investigation "was completed in March 2018" and added "of course further police investigation or action is not possible as Bishop Bell died 60 years ago".

An independent review released last year by Lord Carlile found that Bishop Bell had been besmirched by the church in 2015 when officials released a statement formally apologising over allegations of abuse made by a woman who is now in her seventies.

It also paid out £16,800 to the woman, known as Carol, for the alleged sexual abuse over a period of four years, beginning when she was five years old.

In January this year the Church announced that it had received "fresh information" about Bell which it had passed on to the police.

At the time it refused to provide details such as the date of the alleged wrongdoing, whether the complainant is a man or a woman or is still alive.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has also been urged to retract a statement that there remains a "significant cloud" over the name of the popular bishop, who is recognised for speaking out against Nazi Germany and saving Jews fleeing the regime.

The Church was criticised for making the new investigation public, with Lord Carlile calling the decision "unwise, unnecessary and foolish".

The police statement suggests that their investigation closed more than a month ago without the public being told.

It is also not known whether Bishop Bell's niece and only surviving relative Barbara Whitley, 94, was informed.

In a statement the police force said: "On Tuesday 30 January this year we received information from the Church of England concerning an allegation made against the late Bishop George Bell.

"The information was assessed and a proportionate investigation has been carried out to clarify the circumstances.

"This was done thoroughly and sensitively, although of course further police investigation or action is not possible as Bishop Bell died 60 years ago.

"There are no current safeguarding issues.

"The matter is now closed as far as Sussex Police are concerned and the Church of England have been informed of this."

Andrew Chandler, Bell's biographer and founder of the George Bell Institute, said: "'In October 2015 the Church authorities were prepared to devastate the name of a dead man on the basis of a wholly discreditable process.

"In January 2018 they were ready to do so on the basis of no process at all. I imagine they regard this as progress.

"At all events, this statement reinforces a sense that the making of allegations is more important to the Church than the testing of them.

"It also shows how the church authorities are prepared to exploit the arts of publicity in their own interests."

Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson, the daughter of Bishop Bell's friend Franz Hildebrandt, said: "I doubt there was any new information. I think it was probably a smokescreen or a stalling tactic.

"The Carlile report did not go their way and I think they were scrabbling around for anything more which could be found which would justify the way they have tried to blacken George Bell's name, and they have failed."

A spokeswoman for the Church of England said: "Fresh information was received regarding Bishop Bell following the publication of the Carlile Review in December.

"In January the National Safeguarding Team announced that it was commissioning an independent investigation into this information and we cannot make any further comment until the investigation is completed."

A representative for the Archbishop of Canterbury has also been approached for comment.
See also my post Nigerian "Apostle" Johnson Suleman is embroiled in a sex scandal--and then his accuser admits that she lied (April 4, 2017).