Sunday, 30 September 2018

2,000-year-old clay seals discovered in central Israel

As reported by Tazpit Press Service, September 17, 2018:

Approximately 1,020 clay seals (bullae) dating back to the Hellenistic period – which coincides with the time the Second Temple stood in Jerusalem – and which may have belonged to the letter archive of a wealthy landowner, were found in August at the Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park in central Israel, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority recently announced.

A team of archaeologists led by Dr. Ian Stern, who works in cooperation with the Hebrew Union College, as well as the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, discovered the bullae collection made of clay while trying to photograph a side room in an underground cave.

The sealings were gathered for preservation, storage, and analysis.

The bullae were attached with cord to thousands of papyrus documents that did not survive the 2000 years in the cave, and were impressed with a unique sign to provide tamper-proofing.

Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, Coin Department head at the Israel Antiquities Authority, and a leading world expert on seals, examined a group of 300 bullae and found that the seal prints depict Greek gods such as Athena, Apollo, and Aphrodite, as well as horns of abundance, erotic scenes, animals and more.

“This archeological finding indicates that a large archive of ancient private documents existed on the site and may have belonged to wealthy landowner” said Ariel. “It seems that the archive was abandoned suddenly – this fact is particularly interesting in light of the events of the period, during which John Hyrcanus the Maccabean conquered the Edomites who lived in this land and forced them to convert.” Hyrcanus’ ultimatum was extremely rare, as Jews were not in the habit of forcing their subjects to convert to Judaism. One of those who did convert was Antipater, father of Herod the Great.

Maresha, part of the national park was named a World Heritage Site in 2014 by UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

40 years ago: The death of Pope John Paul I

On the morning of September 29, 1978, Pope John Paul I was found in bed early in the morning of April 29, dead of an apparent heart attack. A Vatican doctor determined that the pontiff had died late on the night of September 28, 33 days into his papacy, and two weeks before his 66th birthday.

John Paul I, born Alberto Luciani, was ordained a priest in 1935, becoming a bishop in 1958 and a cardinal in 1973. He was known for his writings, which expressed Roman Catholic teaching in a way that could be understood by common people. Cardinal Luciani was elected on the fourth ballot of the conclave to determine a successor to Pope Paul VI, and took the name John Paul I, in honour of his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI. He declined a coronation in favour of a papal inauguration, wearing a mitre instead of a tiara.

If Pope John Paul I died of purely natural causes, as the official story states, he died at an amazingly convenient time for some people--which this blogger finds very suspicious. Hours before his death, Pope John Paul had reportedly issued orders to dismiss certain shady individuals associated with the Vatican, and those orders were never carried out by his successor, John Paul II. Conspiracy theories abound; this blogger recommends the book In God's Name (1984) by David Yallop.

American evangelist Billy Graham commented in 1978 that there was significance in the deaths, in such a short period of time, of Popes Paul VI and John Paul I, and Russian Orthodox Church leader--and Soviet KGB agent--Metropolitan Nikodim (who collapsed with a fatal heart attack on September 5 while visiting Pope John Paul I). However, if I recall correctly, he neglected to say what that significance was.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

70 years ago: U.S. congressional committee denounces Federal Communications Communication for giving radio time to atheists

On September 18, 1948, a U.S. House of Representatives select committee investigating the Federal Communications Communication denounced an FCC decision to permit radio time to atheists to respond to religious programs. One can hardly imagine anyone in Congress issuing a similar denunciation today without being pilloried as a bigot. At least then, as now, there remains enough freedom for Christian broadcasting in the United States to avoid the situation that now exists in the United Kingdom, where the director of religious programming for the British Broadcasting Corporation is a professing atheist.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Demonized, naked, apocalyptic Jehovah's Witnesses plead guilty in bizarre Alberta kidnapping

And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs...
...(For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)
And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him...
...Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
Luke 8:27, 29-30, 35 (see also Mark 5:2-15)

Going beyond what the word of God actually says concerning prophecy--especially regarding the end times--can have disastrous consequences, as reported by Chris Purdy of Canadian Press, September 24, 2018:

LEDUC, Alta. -- They thought it was Armageddon and wanted to save their neighbours.

They believed police were monsters. They showed super strength after being pepper sprayed and Tasered.

And all but one of them were naked because, with the end of the world, they didn't have time to get dressed.

A court document has provided more details in a bizarre naked kidnapping case that happened last year south of Edmonton, but some questions remain.

Two women and one man, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, each pleaded guilty in Leduc provincial court last week to a charge of unlawful confinement. One of the women also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving. Her two teenage daughters were involved in the case, but not charged.

The girls' father, who was not part of the group, has said the five may have unknowingly drank some hallucinogenic tea. But the agreed statement of facts submitted in court says alcohol and drugs were not factors and there is no mention of tea in the document.

The group, who are Jehovah's Witnesses, had gathered at a home near Leduc on Nov. 2. The mother, who was then 35, had taken her daughters there to visit her 27-year old nephew and his 30-year old wife.

But over the next three days, the court document says they didn't leave the house and they barely ate. One of the teens recalls watching movies but also hearing screaming and banging and seeing ashes in the air. Some of the five hid in a bedroom or a bathroom.

"They did so because they believed that they were in danger, either from bad or wicked people outside or from demons," says the document.

It says the group believed that the Great Tribulation had happened and Nov. 6 was Armageddon. So they rushed off to find safety and save a neighbouring family.

"Four who were naked were changing but they had to leave right away because it was unsafe, so they left without clothes," the document says.

The mother, the only one dressed, drove them all in a BMW SUV but was in such a hurry she went through the garage door. When the vehicle headed to the neighbours' home, it apparently bent a metal gate.

The neighbours -- a man, his adult daughter and her six-week-old son -- were forced out of their house and into the snow without shoes, the document says. The woman and her baby were put in the back seat with the teen girls, who were naked under a blanket. The man was put in the trunk and ordered to chant "Jehovah" ten times.

The group also chanted "Jehovah" as the SUV sped down roads and went through a red light on the way to nearby Nisku, says the document.

Because the trunk didn't latch shut, the man was able to climb out when the vehicle slowed. His daughter, after getting her hand slammed in the door of the SUV, was able to get out with her baby. A passing truck stopped to help the trio and they climbed inside.

The document says the SUV then rammed the truck from behind and the woman and her baby were thrown into the truck's dash, although they were not injured. The SUV then went into a ditch.

When Mounties arrived, the group continued to chant and refused to get out, at times clinging to the vehicle and each other. One of the teens believed the police "were monsters who would kill them," says the document.

Officers said the people in the SUV "displayed extreme strength." Two were unaffected by pepper spray. The three adults were also shot with Tasers between two and four times before they relented, although one then slid under the vehicle and had to be dragged out with a strap.

The neighbours later told police the group seemed "demonized" and "obviously not in their right minds."

A judge has ordered pre-sentence reports and risk assessments, which could include psychological testing.

The three adult offenders are to return to court for sentencing Dec. 20.
The nudity and the reports of extreme strength remind this blogger of the New Testament passage cited at the top of this post, and lead me to believe that the neighbours were correct in their diagnosis that the group was demonized. Let us pray that they will come to know the true God.

HT: W.H.M.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

60 years ago--Good riddance to this Dr. Watson

On September 25, 1968, Dr. John B. Watson, one of the most prominent figures in the history of psychology, died at the age of 80. Dr. Watson was the father of behaviourism, emphasizing behaviour rather than mental processes, teaching that behaviours are responses to certain stimuli, or a consequence of the individual's history, especially reward and punishment.

Dr. Watson was named after a Baptist minister, and raised by a Christian mother who was allegedly so strict that her son eventually became an atheist.

Like so many who reject biblical Christianity, Dr. Watson took an interest in the betterment of society without God, and took a strong interest in the rearing of children; his best-known book was Psychological Care of Infant and Child (1928). And as is so often the case for those who claim to know what's best for everyone, Dr. Watson's ideas didn't work out very successfully in his own life: his daughter by his first wife attempted suicide, and both sons by his second wife attempted suicide, with one of them succeeding.

Dr. John B. Watson was, and remains, unfortunately, an influential individual, through his own ideas, and through those who followed him; B.F. Skinner, for instance, took Dr. Watson's ideas on reinforcement and punishment to even greater extremes.



70 years ago: Church attendance declines in Britain

The spiritual decline of the United Kingdom isn't a recent phenomenon, but has been going on for a long time. One major problem, of course, has been, as is the case in other European countries, the existence of an official state church, which has the effect of producing and promoting "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (II Timothy 3:5a)--"churchianity" rather than Christianity.

The other usual causes of apostasy, such as the tolerance of heresy in the seminaries and then in the pulpits, are to be found in Britain, as elsewhere. It did come as a surprise to this blogger, however, to read that church attendance was as low as it was in the days mentioned in the following article, as reported by the Canadian Press and published in the Ottawa Citizen September 25, 1948, p. 8:

London -- Church-going in Britain has declined to the point where people are asking: "is worship dying out?"

In 1889 church attendance amounted to about 36 per cent of Britain's adult population. By 1945 it had dropped to 18 per cent. Today it is estimated to be not more than 10 per cent.

Congregations generally seem made up of elderly folk, raised in more devout time, and young people brought to church by their elders. The great mass of active, intelligent citizens between the 20's and the 50's are poorly represented.

"The disasters of the war brought about a temporary increase in church-going," a London clergyman said. "But the incentive of what the troops used to call 'slit-trench Christianity' born of fear, soon passed. After the last 'all-clear' was sounded congregations began dwindling off to their former dismal proportions."

Rev. Peter Symes, Nottingham Wesleyan minister, recently lamented that: "people will listen to the words of Mr. Crosby, but not to those of St. Paul. They will sit entranced at the valour of Errol Flynn, but not at the battles of Gideon or David or Saul, which are really quite as enthralling."

"I believe most people practise the Christiain virtues of kindness and sympathy every bit as much as their fathers and mothers did," wrote Rev. J.R. Ackroyd of Burnley, Lancashire, in his parish magazine, "yet the incentive to go to church seems to be lacking."

Many non-church-goers complain of "hypocrisy" among church-going Christians--of petty rivalries and jealousies among church workers; of slander, gossip and personal vindictiveness among members of the church congregation.

Others declare frankly that they cannot bring themselves to subscribe to a sacred ritual in which they do not believe. Wrote a correspondent to the Daily Telegraph:

"I know what is right and wrong most clearly and I can understand the teachings of Jesus Christ. But the procedure from this clear and simple understanding to the acceptance of trans-substantiation and Papal infallibility are beyond my grasp."
The writer of that letter to the Daily Telegraph is correct to recognize the lack of connections between the teachings of Jesus Christ and the unbiblical Roman Catholic doctrines of transubstantiation and papal infallibility. Whether that writer was able to recognize that Roman Catholicism is not in fact true Christianity is unclear.

Monday, 24 September 2018

New Jersey hotline to report abuse by Roman Catholic priests is overwhelmed

As reported by James Nash and Nicholas Pugliese of the Bergen Record, September 18, 2018:

A hotline the New Jersey attorney general set up to report sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has been "ringing off the hook" for nearly two weeks, the state's top prosecutor said.

"We've had to put extra resources into taking those calls," Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Tuesday. "We're triaging those complaints for follow-up. If there's something that requires immediate follow-up, hypothetically someone alleging current abuse, that moves to the top of the list."

Grewal would not characterize the nature of the calls his office has received, including whether any of the callers alleged ongoing misconduct.

On Sept. 6, Grewal announced that his office was forming a task force led by a veteran sex-crimes prosecutor to investigate any claims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in New Jersey, as well as any evidence that the church attempted to cover up misconduct.

The office also set up a round-the-clock hotline, 855-363-6548, for people to lodge allegations.

The action followed disclosures by the Pennsylvania attorney general that identified more than 1,000 victims of abuse at the hands of more than 300 priests over 70 years. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro also outlined evidence of a cover-up by church leaders and accusations of sexual abuse against at least four priests who spent part of their ministries in New Jersey.

Pat Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, said this month that he expects a far smaller number of abuse claims in New Jersey. He noted that the church has had an agreement with prosecutors since 2002 to immediately report any current or past abuse claims to civil authorities.

"We will remain vigilant to ensure the safety of every child we serve," Brannigan said by email.

Grewal spokesman Peter Aseltine declined to say how many calls the hotline has received so far or whether any of those calls have led to formal criminal inquiries. Taking questions from reporters at an unrelated news conference, the attorney general would not say whether the task force has issued any subpoenas so far.

State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, who encouraged Grewal to set up the task force and hotline, said his office also has gotten calls from alleged abuse victims.

“Since the announcement of the attorney general’s creation of a task force and his plans to empanel a grand jury to investigate clergy abuse in the state of New Jersey, many victims have reached out to my office to ask what they can do to help," Vitale said in a statement.
See also here.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

90 years ago: Pope Pius XI issues encyclical Rerum Orientalium

On September 8, 1928, Pope Pius XI issued his encyclical Rerum Orientalium (On Promotion of Oriental Studies). The word "Oriental" refers to Eastern Rite churches. Pope Pius cited papal predecessors from Adrian II (867-872) to Benedict XV (1914-1922) in support of Roman Catholic encouragement of Oriental studies.

While Pope Pius XI praised the achievements of Eastern churches, he upheld the superiority of the Roman Catholic Church and emphasized that the goal of Oriental studies was to bring the Eastern churches back to Rome, under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

90 years later, such ecumenical activities by the Roman Catholic Church continue (not only with Eastern churches, but with "evangelical"), with the same goal: everyone must come back to Rome under the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff in order to achieve true "Christian" unity.

The Vatican website contains only Latin and Italian versions of the encyclical, but I was able to obtain an English version using that most scholarly of tools, Google Translate. Some excerpts:

...Therefore, not having to neglect anything of what is beneficial to the desired return of such a conspicuous part of Christ's flock to union with his true Church, or to further foster charity towards those who, different in rituals, adhere however intimately with the mind and with heart to the Roman Church and to the Vicar of Christ, we warmly exhort and implore you, Venerable Brothers, to want each one to choose at least one of your priests, who, well trained in Eastern matters, is able to teach in them the Seminary students . We know very well that the erection of a special Faculty, as it is called, of oriental studies is rather the office of Catholic Universities; and We warmly congratulate you that this has already begun to be done, with our own advice and help, in Paris, in Leuven and in Lille; we also enjoy that in many other places of study, even at the expense of the State, and with the consensus and the exhortation of the Bishops, there have recently been found to be chairs of these oriental disciplines. But it will not be difficult to prepare, for each theological seminary, some Professor, who, together with his own subject, or of history or liturgy or canon law, can explain at least some of the elements of Oriental studies. In this way, turning the minds and hearts of the students to the traditions and rituals of the Orientals will necessarily follow a not slight advantage, not only in favor of the Orientals, but of the students themselves, who, as is natural, will draw upon them. a deeper knowledge of Catholic theology and of the Latin discipline, and together they will conceive a deeper love for the true Bride of Christ, while they will admire its marvelous beauty and unity in the same variety of rites, shine, in some way, more radiant...

And from here, as we hope, it will happen that the eastern nations, seeing with their own eyes so many splendid monuments of piety, doctrine, the arts of their ancestors, for this reason they will learn in what honor the true, legitimate, is held by the Roman Church. the perennial «orthodoxy» and with which diligence is preserved, defended and propagated. From this show, as can be hoped for, as impressed by the most valid arguments, if the mutual exchange of studies is added to the motive of the love of Christ, because many Easterners, rethinking glories and having prejudiced prejudices, should not hurry to that desired unity, founded on a profession of faith, not yet mutilated, but whole and open, as befits true worshipers of Jesus Christ, who must be united in a single fold under a single Shepherd?

So, with the wishes and prayers, let us ask God for a happy day to come soon, it may be useful, Venerable Brothers, to mention, albeit briefly, the method with which presently our Oriental Institute employs the work and the efforts of , according to Our wishes, to reach such an important goal...

...That being the case, who ever, concerning so much of the work undertaken especially for the benefit of the Orientals, does not feel strongly grow in the heart the hope that the most merciful Redeemer of the men Christ Jesus, moved to pity the weeping fate of so many men wandering far from the right path, and by favoring Our efforts, will he finally bring back his sheep into the one fold under the only Shepherd?

And this maximally seeing how much of the divine revelation is religiously preserved among them: sincere homage to our Lord Jesus Christ, the singular love and pity towards the most pure Mother, the very actual use of the Sacraments. Therefore having God in his goodness disposed to use the ministry of men, and especially of the priests, to carry out the work of the Redemption, what else remains, Venerable Brothers, if not to return to pray you and implore you as warmly as we can, so that not only be united with us in mind and heart, but you also use yourselves, with your labors, so that the day will soon be felt, long hoped for, when we can greet the return of not only a few, but of most Greeks, Slavs, Rumanians and other Eastern nations, so far separated, to pristine union with the Roman Church? Thinking back to what we, with God's help, have undertaken and intend to do to obtain so much consolation sooner, We seem to be able to compare ourselves to that family father, whom Jesus represents to us in praying to the guests at the dinner " they came, because everything was already set "(Luke, XIV, 17). Applying these words to our case, we ardently exhort everyone, and each of you in particular, to want by all means to join us in promoting the study of Eastern things to realize the great purpose. In this way, finally removed all the impediments that stand in the desired union, under the auspices of the Blessed Virgin Immaculate Mother of God, and of the Holy Fathers and Doctors of the East and Christian Occident, we can embrace, the veterans in the paternal house, the brothers and sons so long by us dissidents, and now very close to us united by that charity that poses as a solid foundation on the truth and on the whole profession of Christian law.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Archantichrist of Canterbury opposes the views of most Church of England members on the European Union

This post might be regarded as a companion piece to the post immediately below; in both cases there are high-ranking clergy with the Church of England--which a Bible-believing Anglican clergyman in Canada once described as "the natural spiritual home of the Queen and Mr. Bean"--who refuse to side with their own country. As reported by Olivia Rudgard of the London Daily Telegraph, September 21, 2018 (links in original):

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s views on welfare and Brexit do not reflect those of ordinary Anglicans, research has found.

A study found that the majority of Church of England Christians supported Brexit, with 66 per cent of Anglicans voting Leave, compared to a national average of 53 per cent.

The research, published in the journal Religion, State and Society, found that Church of England Christians were unpersuaded by their bishops, who were overwhelmingly Remain-leaning.

Identifying as Anglican is "an important independent predictor of voting Leave even when other relevant factors like age and region are corrected for", the paper, by Greg Smith, of the William Temple Foundation and Linda Woodhead, professor of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University, concluded.

In June Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, described the European Union as "the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Western Roman Empire".

Ahead of the 2016 referendum the Archbishop said he would vote to remain in the EU, warning of economic damage and "succumbing to our worst instincts".

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, also voted remain, writing in the Daily Telegraph shortly before the referendum that staying in the EU was more likely to "lead to mutual flourishing and to encourage peace".

Just one Church of England bishop, Mark Rylands, Bishop of Shrewsbury, is on record as supporting Brexit, the paper says.

Figures also suggest that Anglicans are at odds with their Archbishop on welfare spending, argued the authors in a blog post published by the LSE.

The article suggests that Anglicans "take a positive view of English culture and ethnicity, and regard the EU as a threat to their heritage, values, identity and parliamentary sovereignty".

The pair argue that British evangelicals have a more "global, cosmopolitan outlook" than their American counterparts, and Welby's views "reflect the views of British evangelicalism more generally".

Earlier polls carried out by Professor Woodhead in 2013 show that Church of England Christians are centre-Right politically, but liberal in terms of personal morality, and take a negative view of the EU, with a quarter stating that they can see "no benefit at all" in being a member.

Active churchgoers, a small group among those who identify as Anglicans, are more likely to say they voted Remain, but are still in a minority.

Separate polling carried out for the Westminster Faith Debates four years ago found that 60 per cent of Anglicans think the welfare budget is too high.

In a recent speech to launch an IPPR report the Archbishop of Canterbury argued that higher taxes were needed to improve society.

In this week's Church Times Nick Baines, the bishop of Leeds, who leads on Europe for the Lord Spiritual, said church leaders should "tell the truth" about Brexit regardless of “what people think they want to hear".

He added: "Having been involved in the detail of the legislation, and having listened to hours of debate, I can see Brexit turning out only to be bad for the country — especially for the poorest communities — and bad for Europe."
For further reading on the anti-democratic and anti-freedom nature and agenda of the European Union, I recommend relevant articles at the blog Vox Popoli.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Church of England dean blamed for cancellation of World War I armistice centenary service

I suspect that the dean is the typical liberal who won't even take his own side in an argument. As reported by Olivia Rudgard of the London Daily Telegraph, September 14, 2018:

A row has broken out over an armistice service at Peterborough cathedral as a senior cleric has been accused of sabotaging a First World War Commonwealth ceremony.

Trustees at the Peterborough Cathedral Trust accused former acting Dean Tim Alban Jones of deliberately failing to promote the October 6 event, which has now been cancelled, because - it's claimed - he did not approve of its military flavour.

Jimmy James, the secretary of the trust, said that Mr Alban Jones had pressured the organisers to change the emphasis from celebrating the Commonwealth's contribution to victory in the First World War to commemorating the armistice.

The cathedral said the event had been cancelled because of "disappointing" ticket sales and said the cost of running the event would not have been covered.

Mr James admitted that as of Friday less than 100 tickets had been sold, of the 750 that would be needed to fill the cathedral, but blamed Mr Alban Jones, now vice dean of the cathedral, for failing to promote it properly.

He said advertising for the event had been delayed by two months and that events had been scheduled for shortly before and after the evening, and promoted before the Trust's event, which Mr James believed damaged ticket sales.

Mr James believes that Mr Jones persuaded the rest of the clergy that “we shouldn't be celebrating the victory, we should just be commemorating the participation in the war” adding “I think he's got a problem with all of that, I think, in common with a lot of Church of England clergy."

Asked if he believed the event was deliberately sabotaged, he said: "I'd get pretty close to that, yes, very close indeed."

Prominent figures including the High Commissioners from Australia and Canada were slated to appear at the event, which was supposed to feature "military music from around the Commonwealth" and songs from the First World War.

Trustees said it would have raised £15,000 for the cathedral, which has been beset by financial problems in recent years.

A cashflow crisis in 2016 meant that the cathedral had to be bailed out with a loan from the church commissioners, after it was revealed that staff were in danger of not being paid.

Mr Alban Jones, who is also chaplain to the bishop of Peterborough, was acting dean between October last year and January this year, when current Dean Chris Dalliston took over.

John Higgs, the treasurer of the Trust, said he was "furious" at the cancellation.

"It's an absolutely nonsensical decision," he said, adding that the committee had been planning the event for over a year and he had been forced to tell almost 100 choir members that it would no longer be going ahead with less than a month's notice.

A spokesman for the cathedral denied the allegations of sabotage and said: "The Cathedral regrets that sales of tickets for the commemoration of the Commonwealth contribution to World War I, Forward Together, have been disappointing.

"Because of this, and despite generous sponsorship, the costs of running the event would not have been covered. With great reluctance the decision was therefore taken to cancel what would have been a memorable event.

"We hope that the many other commemorative events being held at the Cathedral, within Peterborough, and around the diocese will offer the opportunity for everyone properly to recognise the sacrifices of all who fought in this tragic war."

A page on the cathedral's website promises refunds for anyone who has bought tickets or sponsored the event.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Russian Orthodox Church cuts ties with Archbishop of Constantinople in dispute over Ukraine

As reported by Peter Foster and the foreign staff of the London Daily Telegraph, September 15, 2018:

Russia’s Orthodox church has announced it will cut ties with the head of the church in Constantinople in a bitter row over plans to recognise a rival branch in the pro-Western portion of Ukraine.

The Russian renunciation of ties came as Bartholomew I, the Archbishop of Constantinople and de facto head of the Orthodox church’s 300 million Christians, looked set to approve the new Ukrainian church in a serious blow to the authority and prestige of Moscow.

Ahead of the decision, Patriarch Bartholomew sent two representatives to Ukraine this month, sparking fury in Russia where the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, continues to see Ukraine as part of a greater Russia.

In an apparent pre-emptive move against Bartholmew’s impending recognition, the Russian Orthodox Church said on Friday it would no longer conduct joint services with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its own Patriarch, Kirill, will stop mentioning Bartholomew I in his prayers.

"Essentially this is a breakdown of relations. To take an example from secular life, the decision is roughly equivalent to cutting diplomatic ties," the Russian Church's Metropolitan Hilarion was quoted by RIA news agency as saying.

Patriarch Kirill, who is seen as a strong ally of President Vladimir Putin, wants to prevent pro-Western Ukraine from getting an independent church.

The Orthodox church in Ukraine is split between a branch whose clerics pledge loyalty to Moscow and one that is overseen by the unrecognised Kiev-based Patriarch Filaret.

The split has deepened following the Russian annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of a separatist uprising in Ukraine's east in 2014.

The Kiev Patriarchate's leader has been sharply critical of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and in 2014 suggested he was possessed by Satan.

The rival Moscow Patriarchate vies for influence in Ukraine with the Kiev Patriarchate - a branch of the Orthodox Church that broke away from Moscow in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union - and with other Orthodox and Catholic denominations.

Bartholomew I, known as Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, is regarded as the "first among equals" of the world's Orthodox Christian believers.

The Moscow Patriarchate, the legal term for the Russian Orthodox Church has a sizeable following in Ukraine.

Kiev considers it a tool for the Kremlin to wield influence, while the Moscow Patriarchate sees itself as the only legitimate Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

The Kremlin said it was following the situation closely and opposed any split in Orthodoxy, adding that the state should not intervene in church matters.

"Of course for Moscow and indeed for the entire Orthodox world the single preferable scenario is the preservation of unity of this Orthodox world," said a Kremlin spokesman.
October 17, 2018 update: As reported by the Daily Telegraph, October 15, 2018 (link in original):

The Russian Orthodox Church said Monday it is breaking ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate over its decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which Moscow does not recognise.

"A decision has been made to rupture full communion with the Constantinople Patriarchate," which means priests from the two churches cannot serve and worshippers cannot take communion together, Hilarion, the bishop in charge of the Russian Orthodox Church's diplomacy, told journalists in Minsk.

Speaking after the meeting of the Holy Synod, or decision-making body, of the Russian Orthodox Church, Hilarion said it does not recognise the decision taken last week by the Constantinople Patriarchate as it has "completely associated itself with the schism".

Moscow considers the Filaret, the Patriarch of Kiev, to be a schismatic, a decision Constantinople has backed since the 1990s but reversed last week amid the drive by Ukraine for its own Orthodox Church independent from Moscow.

The Constantinople Patriarchate, a leading Orthodox authority, also overruled its own decision from the 17th century which adjoined Kievan Orthodox churches to Moscow.

Most of the Orthodox parishes in Ukraine have historically been under the umbrella of the Moscow Patriarchate, and many of these may eventually switch to the new independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, despite Moscow's warnings.

Hilarion said Constantinople's decision to back a schismatic church effectively drives it into a schism. "We cannot be in communication with this church, which is in a schism," he said. "We hope that common sense prevails and that the Constantinople Patriarchate changes its mind."

The decision in Istanbul was "illegal and canonically worthless," he said. "The Russian Orthodox Church does not accept these decisions, it will not follow them. The schism is still a schism and the schismatics are still schismatics," he said.

The church in Ukraine has been under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church since the late 1600s, but calls for independence have increased since Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.
As reported by Deutsche Welle, October 17, 2018 (links in original):

A push to establish an independent Ukrainian Orthodox church has also prompted Russian Orthodox bishops in Germany to "temporarily" quit a joint episcopate council. Their departure follows patriarchal orders from Moscow.

The Russian Orthodox Church's three bishops in Germany have "temporarily" ceased work within the Orthodox Bishops Conference in Germany (OBKD), a spokesman for the bishops told Catholic KNA news agency on Tuesday.

The OBKD, based in Bonn and led by Greek Metropolitan Augoustinos, was founded in 2010. It brings together bishops of seven Orthodox churches, comprising some 2 million Orthodox Christians in Germany.

KNA quoted Archbishop Mark, who leads the Russian bishops, as saying the conference cessation was "very painful, but we could not even indirectly endorse what is being done against Orthodoxy in the Ukraine and Russia."

On Monday, the Russian Orthodox Church synod broke ties with the Istanbul [Constantinople]-based Ecumenical Patriarchate, describing its recent decision on Ukraine as "lawless."

Traditionally, Constantinople heads Orthodox Christianity's 250 million believers across 15 autocephalic [self-governing] regions. The Orthodox Church is Christianity's third largest grouping after Roman Catholics and Protestants.

Constantinople, led by Patriarch Bartholomeus I, last week dropped its rejection of Ukraine's efforts to split from the Russian Orthodox Church and began recognition proceedings for a Ukrainian Orthodox church independent of Moscow, likely to be led by Kiev Patriarch Filaret.

If finalized, it would challenge Russian Orthodox jurisdiction and dominance in Ukraine that dates back more than three centuries. The Russian church also owns property in the country such as the Lavra monastery in Kyiv.

Ukrainian calls for church independence have grown since the 2013-2014 Maidan uprising in Kyiv and Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Backing those calls has been Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is seeking re-election next March. On Sunday, he said any believer would "choose his own path to God," but added it was "an issue of Ukrainian independence."

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has ties with Russian Orthodox head, Patriarch Kirill, said on Tuesday that the Kremlin was watching developments "very carefully and with a great deal of worry."

OBKD German conference head Greek Metropolitan Augoustinos told Germany's Protestant epd news agency on Tuesday that despite the crisis, good relations among Orthodox congregations in Germany were likely to prevail.

Serbian Patriarch Irinej said: "We don't think in terms of 'for' and 'against'."

Petra Bosse-Huber, foreign-relations bishop for the combined Protestant EKD churches in Germany, described the crisis as an "inner-Orthodox matter" on which the Protestants could neither adjudicate nor intervene.

Bosse-Huber added that during the past 100 years of joint ecumenical efforts, there had been numerous autocephalic disputes among "our Orthodox sister churches."

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Politician blames God for collapse of bridge a few hours after its opening

Reeve Hicks probably isn't a charismaniac, or he'd be blaming Satan or demons for the disaster, as reported by Arthur White-Crummey of the Regina Leader-Post, September 16, 2018:

Part of a bridge in the Rural Municipality of Clayton fell into a river on the day it was opened to traffic.

Reeve Duane Hicks was standing on the recently replaced Dyck Memorial Bridge just an hour before a roughly 15-foot span gave way shortly after 4 p.m. Friday.

“I feel a little bad about it, a little spooky,” he said. “You can’t ever tell when you’re going to die. Thank God I wasn’t there when it happened. Thank God nobody else was.”

The bridge, which had just been completed, crossed the Swan River just west of Swan Plain. No one was injured in the incident. Hicks called it an “act of God,” insisting the bridge was built to standard.

“Something underneath the riverbed just gave way, and one whole section just sort of dropped,” he said.

The RM of Clayton is located north of Canora and Yorkton in east-central Saskatchewan.

Hicks said the foreman phoned him on Friday, before the collapse, to tell him that “something isn’t quite right here.” Hicks and an RM councillor drove to the site to take a look. He said it appeared that the pilings were sinking.

About an hour later, a nearby farmer heard “a big sloosh,” Hicks explained. A neighbour joined in to help and the two farmers called 911 and took action to close the bridge to traffic.

“They saved, potentially, people’s lives,” said Hicks. “Because if you’re driving along, not looking, that would be a hell of a hole to drive into.”

The specific cause of the bridge’s weakness is still a mystery, according to Hicks, who said the Regina-based construction and engineering companies will now conduct an investigation.

“They don’t know if there’s an air or gas pocket or underground river or whatever,” he said.

“It wasn’t structurally faulty. The fault is in what God did under the river.”

The loss of the crossing will not impose any additional costs on the RM, Hicks said. He explained that the RM had not yet signed off on the bridge, which was under warranty.

“It’s their dime,” he said of the construction and engineering companies.

Hicks said he expects a new bridge will be built within three or four weeks. But the delay presents an inconvenience for farmers, who were hoping for easier access in transporting their crops across the river.

“It’s very important to the farmers,” Hicks said. “We were trying to get that bridge opened for harvest and we did, we made it.

“Then it fell apart on us.”
I find it very hard to believe that God suddenly intervened under the river to cause the bridge to collapse. As the movie version of Charlie Chan might say, "If faulty bridge built to standard, perhaps bridge standard faulty."

HT: M.P.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Female Church of England "bishop" wants to redefine God

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife,
I Timothy 3:1-2a

This blogger has previously observed that putting women in positions of leadership in a church isn't as much an indication of apostasy to come as it is an indication of how far the apostasy has already progressed. It therefore comes as no surprise to see this item, as reported by Olivia Rudgard of the London Daily Telegraph, September 16, 2018:

The Church of England should avoid only calling God "he", a bishop has said, as a survey found that young Christians think God is male.

Research by YouGov found that almost half of 18-24 year-old Christians believed God to be male, with just one in three over-65s believing the same.

The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, bishop of Gloucester, the Church of England's first female diocesan bishop, said: "I don't want young girls or young boys to hear us constantly refer to God as he," adding that it was important to be "mindful of our language".

She raised concerns that non-Christians could feel alienated from the Church if its public pronouncements used solely male language to describe God.

"When I lead prayers or preach, I try to get around the problem by using both male and female imagery, and also by avoiding the need to say ‘his’ or ‘him’ too often," she said, adding that she doesn't "avoid male language altogether".

Clergy echoed the concerns, with the Revd Sally Hitchener, Anglican chaplain at Brunel University, arguing that it is "heretical" to say God is only male. She said there was a movement across the national church with events organised to "emphasise the feminine nature of God".

"No academic theologian in the UK would objectively say that God is male, and yet that is the common parlance in a lot of the church and definitely the message that is coming across in lots of the media communications that we're sending out there," she said.

Theologian and member of the Archbishops' Council the Revd Dr Ian Paul said that he believed the figures stemmed partly from a culture where "sex identity is ever present".

"I think it makes it increasingly hard for young people to think of personal being without thinking of sex identity—and so if God is the ultimate ‘person’ then God must be sexed - i.e. male or female," he said.

"This view contradicts orthodox Christian teaching—but many young people don’t have enough contact with the church for actual Christian teaching to counter the thinking they pick up from culture."

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Pope Francis accepts West Virginia bishop's resignation, launches investigation into allegations against him of sexual misconduct

Yet another one, as reported by Peter Smith of Block News Alliance, September 13, 2018:

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday and launched an investigation of allegations of sexual harassment of adults against him.

The Pope accepted Bishop Bransfield’s resignation almost immediately after the bishop’s 75th birthday. That’s when Roman Catholic bishops of dioceses are required to offer their resignations, but typically the Vatican takes some time before finding a replacement.

Instead, the Pope appointed Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore to be apostolic administrator of the diocese and to oversee the harassment investigation.

“My primary concern is for the care and support of the priests and people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston at this difficult time,” Archbishop Lori said in a statement. “I further pledge to conduct a thorough investigation in search of the truth into the troubling allegations against Bishop Bransfield and to work closely with the clergy, religious, and lay leaders of the diocese until the appointment of a new bishop.”

Baltimore is the “metropolitan see” of the church province that includes Wheeling-Charleston, a diocese with about 117,000 Catholics.

Tim Bishop, spokesman for the Charleston-Wheeling diocese, said Thursday he could not provide any specifics about the complaints. Bishop Bransfield was not available for comment.

The announcement came as top U.S. bishops were in Rome to talk about the crisis over the church’s handling of sexual abuse of children, as well as of sexual exploitation of adults. High on the agenda is the handling of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington who’s accused of both.

Bishop Bransfield was ordained a priest in 1971 in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and consecrated a bishop in 2005 in Wheeling. One of the co-consecrators was Archbishop McCarrick.

Bishop Bransfield moved to Washington in 1980 for a series of prominent assignments at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He was elevated to bishop of Wheeling in 2005.

In 2007 a former student at a Catholic school where the bishop taught accused the bishop of molesting him in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The former student’s accusation did not become public until additional allegations against Bishop Bransfield emerged during the 2012 child endangerment trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn.

Bishop Bransfield strenuously disputed testimony in 2012 indicating he knew of abuse and alleging he participated. His West Virginia diocese said the allegation was unfounded.

Still, how much those past allegations may have played into Pope Francis’ decision Thursday to accept Bishop Bransfield’s resignation remains uncertain.

In addition to handling the investigation into Bishop Bransfield, Bishop Lori was appointed to temporarily take over the Wheeling diocese until a permanent replacement can be named.

Mr. Bishop, the spokesman for the Wheeling-Charleston diocese, said Thursday that Bishop Bransfield was unavailable for comment and that Pope Francis had instructed him to live outside of West Virginia pending the conclusion of the sexual harassment investigation.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Movie about notorious abortionist Kermit Gosnell opens in theatres on October 12

The reader will notice the willingness of those in positions of legal and political power to ignore the law, with disastrous and evil consequences. As reported by Phelim McAleer in The Epoch Times, August 24, 2018 (updated August 29, 2018) (link in original):

I’ve just produced a movie about the true story of America’s most prolific serial killer. You might think there is nothing unusual or noteworthy about that—stories about serial killers seem to make up an awful lot of movies and prime-time TV these days.

But what if I told you that not only is it about America’s biggest serial killer—one most people have never heard of—but that it also touches on one of the most contentious and divisive issues in America today?

The film is about Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor who is serving several life sentences for murder. And his case has been mostly ignored by a pro-choice media that does not want to report on any story that shines a negative light on abortion.

It seems this is the perfect time for a spotlight to be shone on what’s really happening in abortion clinics across the country.

President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy means that, for the first time, there might be an abortion-skeptic majority on the bench. This has animated and alarmed abortion supporters. They are determined to stop Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. Planned Parenthood has pledged to give over $30 million to pro-choice candidates in the midterm elections. It is going to become one of the hottest topics in an already heated political environment.

So what exactly do abortion lobbyists and Cecile Richards want to preserve? What rights need to be protected from the Kavanaugh grouping? Do we really need fewer, not more, regulations, as abortion advocates maintain?

The fact is, most people know very little about what goes on behind closed doors in the nation’s abortion clinics. We didn’t, either, until we started researching for the film.

Gosnell was a respected doctor in the highly regulated state of Pennsylvania. Gosnell also happened to be a serial killer who kept killing and getting away with it, despite those regulations. Inspections of Gosnell’s clinic uncovered serious violations and health hazards, but officials took no action and refused to investigate further.

But worse was to come in 1995, when Tom Ridge was elected governor of Pennsylvania as a “pro-choice” Republican. He won and immediately, in contravention of the law, announced an end to the already cursory annual inspections.

The decision cleared the way for Gosnell to operate what a grand jury would later describe as a “baby charnel house” while regulators looked the other way.

A Philadelphia jury eventually found Gosnell guilty on three counts of murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter. Investigators believed that over the course of 30 years, he killed hundreds, perhaps thousands.

Despite this dramatic evidence, the trial was initially not covered by the mainstream media. Eventually, a social media campaign forced them to send reporters and give the case some coverage.

It seems no one wants to learn from the Gosnell case.

Striking down a Texas law aimed at monitoring abortion clinics, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg described Gosnell as a “rogue practitioner.” Ginsberg offered little in the way of proof for her claim. But evidence from a pair of recent congressional investigations has revealed what other abortion providers have done behind closed doors despite apparently ironclad laws and regulations.

The Senate judiciary committee and a House select investigative panel looked into claims that Planned Parenthood sold body parts of aborted fetuses to private labs. The probes soon widened to look at the other illegal behaviors of some abortion practitioners. The Senate committee report detailed the practices of a Texas abortionist that bear a striking resemblance to Gosnell’s grisly work.

According to one employee’s testimony, every week abortions concerning “three to four infants would show signs of life.” And just like Gosnell, the doctor would immediately kill them. The employee said he employed Gosnell’s technique of “snipping the infant’s spinal cord with scissors.”

But the investigations’ most shocking findings detailed how the body-part selling business worked.

One company, Advanced Biosciences Resources (ABR), produced sales orders and invoices that showed they paid Planned Parenthood $55 for a baby’s brain, then sold it to a researcher for over $3,000—a profit of 2,800 percent.

The Senate investigation published invoices that showed ABR bought a fetus from Planned Parenthood for $60. According to their own sales figures, they “sold its brain to one customer for $325; both of its eyes for $325 each ($650 total) to a second customer, a portion of its liver for $325 to a third customer; its thymus for $325 and another portion of liver to a fourth customer; and its lung for $325 to a fifth customer.”

Another clinic sold the skin of a Down syndrome baby for $325.

Our film does not look at these later investigations. We focus on the Gosnell investigation and how he was allowed to keep killing. We look at the heroes who put him behind bars.

If Kavanaugh becomes a Supreme Court justice, abortion in America will come under a massive spotlight. It is important that the spotlight reveals truths, not myths. Our film is part of that process.

Phelim McAleer is a journalist and film producer. His new film, “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” will be released nationwide on Oct. 12. For more information, visit GosnellMovie.com

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Chinese government drafts new regulations to restrict religious content online

As reported by Agence France-Presse, September 11, 2018 (links inserted by London Daily Telegraph):

Chinese authorities have drafted sweeping new regulations that would severely restrict religious content online, including images or even descriptions of religious activities from praying and chanting to burning incense.

The move comes as Beijing tightens the screws on religion, especially for followers of Islam and Christianity.

The new rules would only allow members of officially licensed organisations to post certain kinds of religious content, according to a draft document published online Monday by the bureau of religious affairs.

Individuals would be forbidden from posting photos, videos and even text related to religious activities, or sharing links related to preaching.

Organisations that break the rules could be shut down, the document said, but it did not detail penalties for individuals, beyond saying any violations would be handled "according to law".

China's officially atheist government is wary of any organised movements outside its own control, including religious ones, and analysts say oversight of such groups has tightened under President Xi Jinping.

While Beijing officially recognises five religions, it imposes strict controls on how they may be practised - regulating everything from who can attend services to what can be said by religious leaders.

The regulations are intended to promote "social stability" and stop religious fraud, cults and appeals to "extremism", the document said.

The propagation of religious information within China by any "overseas individuals and organisations" would also be banned.

As written, the regulations could make it illegal to publish information about virtually any kind of religious activity - even pictures from a wedding ceremony - according to Jeremy Daum, an expert on Chinese law.

"As they currently read, the measures cast the net far too wide," he said, adding that "even parts of traditional Chinese culture over which the Party is rightly proud will be excluded".

The country's top leaders recently called for religious practices to be brought in line with "traditional" Chinese values and culture, sparking concern among rights groups.

State supervision of religion has increased in a bid to "block extremism", and in areas with significant Muslim populations authorities have removed Islamic symbols, such as crescents, from public spaces.

In the far-western region of Xinjiang, Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities are harshly punished for violating regulations banning beards and burqas, and even for the possession of unauthorised Korans.

Up to a million minorities are believed to be held in extrajudicial re-education camps in Xinjiang, rights groups say.

Many of them were detained for posting "extremist" religious content - everything from Islamic State group videos to holiday greetings - on social media.
As reported by Frank Fang of The Epoch Times, September 12, 2018 (links in original):

Beijing has intensified its suppression of religious groups, especially in central China’s Henan Province, where authorities have continued to tear down Christian crosses.

The Chinese regime has removed about 7,000 crosses from churches across Henan recently, according to Jonathan Liu, a priest and founder of the San Francisco-based Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness, in a Sept. 10 interview with Taiwan’s international radio station Radio Taiwan International (RTI). Liu said a pastor for a Three-Self Church located in Henan told him the number of crosses while the two communicated through China’s popular social messaging app WeChat.

The Three-Self Church, a Protestant church, is one of several congregations that have received official approval from Chinese authorities, as Chinese law stipulates that religious believers can only worship at government-sanctioned churches. However, millions of Chinese have defied such restrictions to attend congregations at so-called underground or house churches.

Liu added that the cross removal in Henan targeted both government-sanctioned and house churches.

As for why Henan is being targeted by the Chinese regime, Liu explained that Henan is a place of significance for Chinese Christianity since it is nicknamed China’s Galilee—a reference to the site where Jesus is said to have walked on water. In some villages of Henan, more than 95 percent of the local population are Christians, Liu said.

“Even though [Chinese authorities] have never publicly acknowledged this, the reason behind [the Henan suppression] is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants to secure its rule in the area,” said Liu.

The mass removal of church crosses in Henan is similar to what happened in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province in 2016, according to Liu. Then, crosses from more than 1,700 churches were taken down by Chinese authorities.

They also targeted Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang that’s known for a large number of churches and practicing Christians, Liu said. That was one of the first areas of China visited by foreign missionaries during the 1800s.

On Sept. 10, the Chinese regime toughened its controls on religious groups in China with new draft guidelines. According to China’s state-run newspaper Global Times, the guidelines require that all organizations engaged in the dissemination of religious information online will need to apply for licenses from provincial religious affairs departments.

The new guidelines also specifically prohibit online religious services from inciting subversion—a catch-all charge for virtually anything the CCP disapproves of, such as opposing the leadership of the Party.

The recent suppression of Christians isn’t limited to Henan. In Beijing, the Zion church, the largest house church in the capital, was shut down by local authorities on Sept. 9, after declaring gatherings at the church illegal.

According to a Sept. 8 report by Association for the Defense of Human Rights and Religious Freedom, an independent nonprofit, restrictions on churches also are occurring in southern China’s Guangdong Province and in Heilongjiang Province in the north.

Liu told RTI that Christianity has become very different under the CCP, because the core of the religion has become toeing the Party line. Christians must be obedient under the regime’s leadership, he said.

For example, during church services, churchgoers are required to sing China’s national anthem or other songs that praise the Party, and pastors are required to read out a set of Party regulations on “religious affairs” before giving sermons.

Ultimately, the Chinese regime turns local Christians into “Pink Christians,” said Liu. Pink in China has the underlying meaning of being very patriotic to the CCP, a play on the significance of the color red in symbolizing communism. The term “Little Pink,” or “Xiaofenhong” in Chinese, for example, means Chinese youth who are nationalistic trolls on the internet who defend the Party against any criticism.

Social gospel helps in building bridges between Edmonton-area Roman Catholics and Muslims

Rick Warren would be happy about this--it sounds like it's taken from his PEACE plan. As reported by Andrew Ehrkamp of Canadian Catholic News, September 11, 2018:

EDMONTON – On the surface, it was speeches and a light meal, but on a deeper level it was building relationships.

Top Catholic and Muslim leaders in Edmonton say that despite differences they continue to build bridges between two of the world’s biggest religions. Already the two communities — and their faith, education and social service agencies — work together on housing, refugee settlement, education and social justice issues, but there are now calls on both sides to do much more, not only on social issues but to understand each other in a deeper way.

“The Catholic Church here at the local level and around the world, and I want to emphasize this, is deeply and irrevocably committed to Christian-Muslim dialogue in all its many forms and wherever it may be found,” Archbishop Richard Smith said. “We’re not turning back.”

He was speaking at a meet-and-greet with leaders of multiple Muslim branches on Aug. 28 in St. Albert, the historical heart of Catholicism in Alberta. The event included a tour of the Mission Hill site, including Mary’s Grotto and the cemetery where many Oblate missionaries are buried. It came a year after the archbishop’s visit to Al-Rashid, the first mosque built in Canada and the largest and oldest in Edmonton.

Catholic and Muslim leaders say their co-operation is building on what Pope Francis has called a “culture of encounter” to break down barriers.

“The most dangerous challenge facing Christians and Muslims is misconception, misunderstanding, how to deal with the other,” said Imam Nasser Ibrahim of the Al-Rashid Mosque. “You have to listen to others.

“I’m very happy to mention this, for Muslims and Christians, that the safest country for Muslims and Islam today is Canada,” Nasser said. “This kind of event is amazing. It translates, it describes, the true teaching of the Bible, the true teaching of the Koran. Jesus is not far.”

The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton and the Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) co-operate in hosting an annual iftar and friendship dinner at Providence Renewal Centre during the month of Ramadan. And Smith hosted a gathering of Muslim leaders at his home following the January 2017 shootings at the Quebec mosque as a reminder of their shared values and trust.

Local Catholic and Muslim leaders say the relationship should be expanded.

“My hope is to celebrate decades of understanding between the Archdiocese of Edmonton and the Muslim community with women and youth projects that strengthen and give back to all communities,” said Dr. Nahla Gomaa, a member of the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities, a coalition of 12 faith-based organizations.

“Combating racism is an example. Reducing violence is another example. Being against hunger everywhere in the world is a third example,” said Gomaa, a member of Annoor Mosque in southwest Edmonton. “This relationship is aiming at a better society to live in.”

Smith agreed, adding their cooperation should go beyond the level of faith alone.

“I’d love to see us take common stands against domestic violence in this province. That’s a huge issue here,” Smith said.

“We tend to focus upon, and rightly, standing up against violence that’s perpetrated against a religious community … But far, far more serious and prevalent is the violence that’s happening against women and children — and sometimes against men — within the home.”

Pope Francis launches investigation into allegations of financial irregularities of Sistine Chapel Choir directors

The scandals keep on coming. As reported by Nick Squires of the London Daily Telegraph, September 13, 2018:

Rome - Pope Francis has launched an investigation into alleged financial irregularities involving the 550-year-old Sistine Chapel Choir. Two directors of the choir are accused of using proceeds from concerts for their own personal ends, according to Italian media reports.

The Holy See released a statement in which it confirmed that the Pope had authorised an inquiry some months ago “into some economic-financial aspects” of the choir.

It gave no further details of the alleged misuse of funds but said the inquiry, by Vatican magistrates, was ongoing.

The choir, made up of young boys and adult men, was established in 1471 and is believed to be the world’s oldest.

It consists of 20 adults – six first tenors, five second tenors, four first basses and five second basses – and around 30 boy sopranos and contraltos.

Choristers sing at all papal masses and also travel the world performing concerts.

La Stampa, the Italian newspaper that broke the story on Thursday, said the choir’s director and head of administration diverted earnings from concerts into a private bank account and used the cash to pay for personal expenses.

The head of administration is a layman while the director is a Salesian priest.

In 2015 the choir released a CD through the label Deutsche Grammophon, the first recording ever allowed to be made in the Sistine Chapel.

In May, the choir performed at the gala opening of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York called "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination," a celebration of the fashion world’s engagement with the devotional traditions of the Catholic Church.

Renowned for its Michelangelo frescoes, the Sistine Chapel was built between 1473 and 1481 for Pope Sixtus IV.

It also boasts frescoes by Renaissance masters Botticelli, Perugino and Pinturicchio.

When popes die, or resign as in the rare case of Benedict XVI, the chapel is closed to the outside world and becomes the setting for a conclave, the secret election of a new pontiff.

Hours after the Vatican confirmed the Sistine choir inquiry, it was mired in another scandal after Pope Francis ordered an investigation into an American bishop who has been accused of sexual abuse and harassment.

At the same time, the Pope accepted the resignation of the bishop, Michael Bransfield, from West Virginia.

The move came as Francis met with a delegation of US bishops to discuss the burgeoning sex abuse scandal within the Church, including allegations that he himself ignored allegations against American cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

In July, McCarrick became the first cardinal to resign in nearly a century after Church officials said allegations that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy almost 50 years ago were credible and substantiated.

The allegations that Francis knew about the abuse and did nothing about it were made last month by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican ambassador to Washington, who called on the Pope to resign.

In Germany, meanwhile, a leaked report found that more than 3,600 children were assaulted by nearly 1,700 Catholic priests between 1946 and 2014.

The report was commissioned by the Church in Germany and was due to have been published later this month but was leaked by the German media.

Most of the victims were boys, and more than half were aged 13 or younger. The Catholic Church said it was "dismayed and ashamed" by the findings.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Israel's Temple Institute certifies red heifer's birth

And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:
And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face:
And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times:
And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:
And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.
Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.
And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.
And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.
And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.
He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.
He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean.
Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.
This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.
And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.
And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.
And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel:
And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave:
And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.
But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the Lord: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean.
And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even.
And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.
Numbers 19:1-22

A red heifer without blemish is necessary for the reintroduction of Temple sacrifices. Whether the one mentioned in the following article qualifies remains to be seen, but the stage is being set for the rebuilding of the Temple and the reintroduction of sacrifices. As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Breaking Israel News, September 5, 2018 (links in original):

Last Tuesday, the Temple Institute’s Red Heifer program was blessed with results; an entirely red female calf was born, paving the way for re-establishing the Temple service and marking the final stage of redemption.

Almost three years ago the Temple Institute inaugurated its Raise a Red Heifer in Israel program. Due to laws restricting the importation of live cattle into Israel, the Temple Institute imported frozen embryos of red angus, implanting them in Israeli domestic cows. The pregnant cows were raised on cattle ranches in different locations throughout the country. The cows are giving birth this summer with several calves already having been born.

One week after its birth, the newborn red heifer was certified by a board of rabbis as fulfilling all the Biblical requirements. The rabbis emphasized that the heifer could, at any time, acquire a blemish rendering it unsuitable. They will be inspecting the calf periodically to verify its condition.

The red heifer was the main component in the Biblically mandated process of ritual purification for impurity that results from proximity or contact with a dead body. Because the elements needed for this ceremony have been lacking since the destruction of the Second Temple, all Jews today are considered ritually impure, thereby preventing the return of the Temple service...

...Several heifers have been found in recent years that seemed to qualify but ultimately were unsuited for the ritual. Earlier this month, two calves born in Israel to the Institute’s red heifer program were deemed to be unsuitable for the performance of the mitzvah. One calf was a bull while the second, a heifer, had a small patch of white hair which disqualified her.

The heifer, born from a natural birth, must be entirely red, with no more than two non-red hairs on its body. It must also never have been used for any labor or have been impregnated. The existence of such a heifer is considered a biological anomaly and very rare. Fortunately, the ritual requires an infinitesimally small quantity of ashes. From the time of Moses, who personally prepared the first heifer, until the destruction of the Temple, only nine red heifers were prepared. Nonetheless, this was sufficient to maintain the ritual purity of the entire nation for almost 2,000 years.

According to Jewish tradition, there will only be ten red heifers in human history with the tenth heifer ushering in the Messianic era. Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides), the most renowned medieval Jewish scholar known by the acronym Rambam, wrote in his explanation of the mitzvah that “the tenth red heifer will be accomplished by the king, the Messiah; may he be revealed speedily, Amen, May it be God’s will.”

Rabbi Chaim Richman, the International Director of the Temple Institute, commented on this on the institute’s website.

“If there has been no red heifer for the past 2,000 years, perhaps it is because the time was not right; Israel was far from being ready. But now… what could it mean for the times we live in, to have the means for purification so close at hand? With the words of Maimonides in mind, we cannot help but wonder and pray: If there are now red heifers… is ours the era that will need them?”

The laws pertaining to the mitzvah are myriad and considered by the sages to be the archetypal chok, an inexplicable Torah commandment accepted solely on faith. Before entering the land of Israel after the Exodus, the heifer was burned outside of the camp. In the days of the Temple, the heifer was taken to the Mount of Olives across a causeway built specifically for this purpose to ensure that there was no inadvertent contact with areas along the way that may have been contaminated by dead bodies.

Cedarwood, hyssop, and wool or yarn dyed scarlet are added to the fire, and the remaining ashes are placed in a vessel containing spring water to purify a person who has become ritually contaminated by contact with a corpse. Water from the vessel is sprinkled on the subject, using a bunch of hyssop, on the third and seventh day of the purification process. The priest who performs the ritual then becomes ritually unclean, and must then wash himself and his clothes in running waters. He is deemed impure until evening.

No less stringent than the laws pertaining to the heifer are the laws pertaining to the site where the heifer is burned. Almost 30 years ago, Rabbi Yonatan Adler, who is also an archaeologist, performed an in-depth study into the textual references to the site where the red heifer was burned, publishing his results in in the Torah journal Techumin. His calculations, based on the Holy of Holies being located where the Dome of the Rock stands today, led him to a spot where Dominus Flevit, a Catholic Church built in 1955, now stands. Archaeological surveys discovered unique characteristics of the site that corresponded to descriptions in the Talmud.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

125 years ago: The World's Parliament of Religions opens in Chicago

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

On September 11, 1893, the World's Parliament of Religions opened at the World's Congress Auxiliary Building (now the Art Institute of Chicago), in conjunction with the World's Columbian Exposition. The Parliament was the brainchild of Swedenborgian layman Charles C. Bonney, who appointed Rev. John Henry Barrows, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Chicago, as chairman of the General Committee. Religions represented at the Parliament, which ran until September 27, included not only ostensible Christianity, but Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Spiritualism, and Christian Science.

The most prominent speaker was Swami Vivekananda from India, who introduced Hinduism and spoke against fanaticism and in favour of tolerance and truth inherent in all religions. He opened his first speech on the afternoon of September 11 with the words, "Sisters and brothers of America!," prompting an immediate standing ovation from the crowd of 7,000, lasting for two minutes. While Swami Vivekananda, who had been on a speaking tour of the United States and Canada for several months before the Parliament, expressed criticism of the idea that any one religion possessed all truth, he used the Parliament as an occasion to promote Hinduism. Swami Vivekananda played a major role in promoting Vedanta--the school of Hinduism based on knowledge of the Upanishads, Brahma Sūtras, and Bhagavad Gītā--and Yoga in the West until his death in 1902 at the age of 39.

The World's Parliament of Religions was an event of major signifigance in introducing Eastern religion to the West, and thus an event helping to fulfil biblical prophecies of end-time deception. There have been several Parliaments of the World's Religions in recent years, beginning with one in 1993 in Chicago on the occasion of the centenary of the original Parliament, and most recently in 2015 in Salt Lake City. The number of religions represented has continued to expand, and the emphasis has increasingly been toward solving worldly problems, of the sort that Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and other so-called Evangelical leaders have also been addressing. Birds of a feather--including "unclean and hateful birds" (Revelation 18:2)--flock together.




Monday, 10 September 2018

Contemplative spirituality links various religions at syncretistic event in Little Rock

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:3

Associated Press expresses a dim view of unauthorized republication of its articles, and this blogger can't be bothered to obtain permission, so I'll merely reproduce the link to the article We gather 'together as one'; ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ interfaith event for belonging, oneness by Francisca Jones in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 1, 2018. The article is well worth reading as an indication of the way in which things are headed.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Pew survey finds that most Americans who don't regularly attend religious services are still believers

Given the claims of the Church Growth Movement, it's a wonder that there are any Americans who haven't found a service to their liking. As reported by Hannah Alani of the Charleston (South Carolina) Post & Courier, August 17, 2018 (links in original):

Church attendance has stagnated or decreased in recent years, causing major problems for religious institutions, even in the Bible Belt.

Pastors, priests, rabbis and imams may be left to wonder: Are Americans losing their religion?

Not necessarily, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center, titled, "Why Americans Go (And Don't Go) To Religious Services."

In a survey of thousands of Americans who attend and do not attend religious services, researchers found that most non-attenders are believers. And the top reason why attenders go to religious services was not rooted in tradition or a sense of obligation.

Across all religious groups, about 81 percent of Americans who said they regularly attend services cited their desire to grow closer to God as the key reason. (These people attend at least once or twice per month). The second-highest reason cited, at 69 percent, was for children to have a moral foundation. About 66 percent said they seek services during times of sorrow.

And it seems to work. About eight in 10 Christians surveyed said they regularly feel a sense of God’s presence during services.

While a few churches have faced closure in the Holy City in recent years due to diminishing membership, some of Charleston's faith leaders were encouraged by the Pew findings related to why Americans do continue to seek religious experiences.

The top two reasons — to feel closer to God and to give their children a moral foundation — in particular encouraged Rabbi Yossi Refson, who leads the Mount Pleasant-based Center for Jewish Life (also known as the Chabad of Charleston and the Low Country).

"I think we underestimate the interest in religion," he said. "Or we overestimate the lack of interest."

The Rev. Nancy Pellegrini is an assistant minister at the Unitarian Church in Charleston. Unlike traditional Christian churches, the Unitarian faith is bound by relationships and covenants, not by creeds.

"Instead of common theology, we have a set of common values," Pellegrini said.

While other churches have suffered losses in recent years, the Unitarian Church has more or less sustained its membership, she said. The Charleston chapter has about 400 members, and about 75 percent attend Sunday service regularly, she added.

Pelligrini agreed with Refson's assertion that people tend to underestimate the number of religious Americans.

"I think people are often yearning for spirituality and another dimension of their lives, rather than just the routine day to day, going to work," she said.

Of those surveyed who said they do not regularly attend services, only 28 percent chalked their decision up to nonbelief. In fact, a much larger share said they stay away for other reasons. About 37 percent said they practice their religion in other ways. (That number rose among Christians; more than four in 10 practice religion outside of church.)

Some said they haven't found a church or service they like. Others cited logistical reasons, including poor health and lack of time.

Whatever the reason, the effects have certainly been felt in the Holy City. Despite the tri-county region's steady influx of new residents, many historic churches have been on thin ice because of diminishing membership. In 2017, Shiloh AME Church and the Plymouth Congregational Church left the peninsula while several other churches had land for sale.

Convincing the spiritual masses to move from believer to regular attender of services is easier said than done.

Refson estimated that about 150 of the Charleston region's roughly 7,500 Jews regularly attend services. However, he said the Center attracts families through its free programs and activities. Still, he said attendance can be difficult when there are so many other outlets competing for parents' time.

For example, filling after-school Hebrew classes, a traditional staple of Jewish childhood, has become more of a struggle as children's extracurricular opportunities multiply. Parents now choose between Hebrew school and ballet classes, sports or music lessons.

"Sometimes religious opportunities get lost in the shuffle," Refson said. "People are being generous with their time. It’s not out of a sense of obligation that they have to do something."

That's true among most religious Americans, the Pew researchers found. Only 16 percent of those who regularly attend services said they do so to please their family, spouse or partner. And 31 percent said they do so out of obligation to continue tradition.

This information puts the onus on religious leaders to increase attendance by creating a meaningful experience of high quality, Refson said.

"This study speaks to our mission," he said. "Times have changed. We need to be proactive to make sure people know that they're welcome and do everything possible to create religious experiences for people, not just to fill the seats."

South Carolina church sues town administration over being banned from holding services in the civic center--and wins the fight

As reported by Noah Feit of the Columbia State, August 27, 2018 (links in original):

After a South Carolina town voted to ban religious groups from holding services in its civic center, one church decided not to turn the other cheek.

The church, Redeemer Fellowship of Edisto Island, filed a federal lawsuit against the town of Edisto Beach over the change, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the church.

The lawsuit alleges that Edisto Beach’s ban is “targeted discrimination against religious speech,” and a violation of the freedom of religion and of expression which are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Edisto Beach’s Town Council adopted the ban because it was afraid that it might have been violating the First Amendment by previously allowing Redeemer Fellowship to rent space in the civic center to hold religious services.

According to the minutes from the May 10 town council meeting, the town attorney recommended the council amend “civic center rental rules to prohibit rentals for religious worship services,” because it violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which establishes the separation of church and state.

“(W)hen you have worship services . . . you have signs that are put out at the Civic Center with the religious organization’s name on it and the Edisto Beach Civic Center’s name on it, there’s potential for flyers to be given out, and it gives the appearance that the Town is endorsing or supporting whichever particular religious organization that is,” town attorney Bert Duffie told the council, according to the council minutes.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the amendment, according to the minutes.

Duffie also encouraged the town to make the amendment because of a financial concern.

The attorney said if a religious group rented space at the civic center for less than it would pay another private business to use a facility, it could be perceived that Edisto Beach was providing a government subsidy of the church, another First Amendment violation, per the minutes.

In the June 14 town council meeting minutes the ban, referred to as the “Civic Center Facility Use Agreement,” was unanimously approved.

Redeemer Fellowship and the Alliance Defending Freedom have a different perspective.

“Churches shouldn’t be treated less favorably than other groups that want to rent facilities,” Christiana Holcomb, an attorney representing Redeemer Fellowship said in a news release. “The town of Edisto Beach tells the community that it welcomes ‘civic, political, business, social groups and others’ to use its civic center, but the town’s recent policy change singles out one form of expression, worship, as inferior to other forms of speech, and that’s clearly unconstitutional.

“Redeemer Fellowship and its members have invested in the Edisto community for years, and they deserve fair treatment and equal access to the town’s public civic center.”

The lawsuit documents that the Redeemer Fellowship congregation gathered at the civic center for services on April 1 and May 6, after the eight-month-old church of 35-45 members “outgrew its current meeting space in a church member’s home.”

According to its website, “Redeemer Fellowship exists to bring glory to God by making disciples of all kinds of people, beginning on Edisto Island and extending to the ends of the earth.”

Since the town council’s amendment, the congregation has been looking for places to hold services, reporting on Facebook about meeting at homes and recently at New First Missionary Baptist Church, according to its website.

The church is looking to get out of a member’s garage, which has been their most common meeting place of worship, according to the lawsuit, which stated that the congregation would like use the civic center again.

In addition to being able to hold services in the town facility, Redeemer Fellowship is also seeking to be awarded damages and have its legal fees paid for, according to the lawsuit.

“The government can’t discriminate against churches because of their beliefs,” Erik Stanley, director of the Alliance Defending Freedom Center for Christian Ministries, said in a news release. Stanley, Holcomb and Matthew Gerrald are the attorneys representing the church, per the lawsuit.

Calls looking for official response to the lawsuit were made to Edisto Beach Town Administrator, Iris Hill, but were not immediately answered.

This is similar to another lawsuit recently settled in North Carolina. As in this instance, the Alliance Defending Freedom represented a small baptist church in a federal lawsuit against local officials.

The Alliance Defending Freedom even used similar language.

The Charlotte Observer reported that the lawsuit brought by At The Cross Fellowship Church resulted in the city council of Monroe changing a rule “to allow churches to locate everywhere that businesses and other services can.” That change was made at the urging of Monroe’s municipal attorney.

At The Cross Fellowship has dropped its lawsuit against the city in response to the change, according to the Charlotte Observer, which reported that Stanley said “The government can’t discriminate against churches simply because they are religious.”
September 19, 2019 update: Good news, as reported by Rickey Dennis of the Charleston Post and Courier, September 1, 2019:

A lawsuit filed by a church against a South Carolina town last year for prohibiting worship services at a public facility has prompted the municipality to lift the ban.

Redeemer Fellowship of Edisto Island and the town of Edisto Beach agreed Aug. 19 to end the suit, which alleged the town violated Redeemer Fellowship’s right to free exercise of religion after the municipality banned all rentals for religious worship services at its Edisto Beach Civic Center.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the church in the case, commended the town for lifting its ban, which the alliance said was inconsistent with the town’s own statement that it welcomes “civic, political, business, social groups and others” to use its civic center.

“Churches shouldn’t be treated less favorably than other groups that want to rent facilities,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Its previous policy that singled out one form of expression — worship — as inferior to other forms of speech was clearly unconstitutional.”

The August 2018 lawsuit came after the church rented the civic center for worship services on two occasions. When the congregation proposed a third rental agreement, the town rejected the application. According to town meetings minutes when the application was discussed, the town’s attorney said that people passing around church flyers outside the facility would give the impression that the town is endorsing the church, which violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Meanwhile, ADF claimed in the the lawsuit that an Episcopal congregation had been using the public facility for five years to conduct Bible studies and theological training.

The town rescinded the prohibition in December 2018 and will have to pay $50,000 in attorney fees to the defendant.

The town would not provide comment on the incident.

It is not unusual for faith groups to use public facilities for worship and meeting space. Charleston County schools and the area convention center have been used often by churches for conferences and Sunday morning services.