|Bonus Reports -- Only Available Here at ChallengeOnline|
By The Very Rev. John Spencer
Anyone following events in The Episcopal Church (TEC) can observe certain unwavering principles of change that have been propagated, in one form or another, by those leading the charge of revolutionary innovation. I would summarize these principles as follows:
“The Bible may offer guidance in some areas of life, but any scriptures that vary from current sociological and political presuppositions should be ignored as relics culturally conditioned by a now antiquated world view. We are therefore no longer bound by the authority of holy scripture, the teaching of the apostles, or the practice of catholic Christendom over the centuries. Gender no longer matters.
“The revolutionary changes we seek are matters of human rights and social justice. We in TEC are better informed than those who went before in discerning God’s hidden plan for his Church.
“The Holy Spirit guides us and sets us free from the past, so all we do will be consistent with the will of God. If some in our church resist our prophetic changes, we will push the change ahead anyway to demonstrate the rightness of our views.
“Eventually the rest of the Anglican Communion will recognize our wisdom and imitate us.”
-Not 2003 but 1976-
If any reader thinks I have just outlined how the 2003 General Convention rationalized its consent to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson and winked at the blessing of homosexual unions, think again. The principles just outlined did not first appear in 2003. Rather they are the exact principles The Episcopal Church acted on when it approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate in 1976.
A close examination of the principles will reveal that several run contrary to classical Anglican formularies, and others reveal nothing more than American arrogance.
These principles emerged with clarity in 1973 just after the General Convention in Louisville declined to authorize the ordination of women to the priesthood.
On 29 July 1974, the principle of “push ahead anyway” was activated when 11 female deacons were ordained to the priesthood in Philadelphia, in defiance of the General Convention and contrary to the Constitution and Canons.
How did the church respond? The 1976 General Convention (Minneapolis I) was persuaded that the illegal ordinations in Philadelphia, and four more in Washington, were prophetic rather than defiant.
By the margin of a hair’s breadth, the 1976 convention consented to a minor change in the canons that allowed the ordination of women as priests and bishops.
Contrary to recent assertions of Bonnie Anderson, the new president of the House of Deputies, this change was only pushed through because it was understood that the ordination of women would be permissive only, never mandatory. No bishop or diocese, we were assured at the time, would ever be forced to adopt this new practice which was contrary to the theology of holy orders held by many in our own church, and also flew in the face of Roman Catholics and Orthodox – with whom we were actively pursuing ecumenism.
-A firm assurance-
Consequently, after witnessing the firestorm unleashed by the 1976 convention, as individuals and whole parishes began to head for the door, the House of Bishops issued a pastoral letter in October, 1977, “On The Matter of Conscience,” which said in part, “We have sought to recognize that many were dismayed because of General Convention’s action concerning the ordination of women… We do affirm that one is not a disloyal Episcopalian if he or she abstains from supporting the decision or continues to be convinced it was an error.
“We call for careful avoidance of any kind of pressure which might lead either an advocate or an opponent of the action to offend against his or her conscience...
“The Minnesota Convention sought to permit but not to coerce. We affirm that no members of the Church should be penalized for conscientious objection to, or support of, the ordination of women.
“A vivid personal example is the Presiding Bishop himself. He has acknowledged his inability thus far to affirm such ordinations.”
Despite such assurances, the principles of revolutionary change outlined here took deep root and now hold TEC in an iron – and apparently unbreakable – grip.
They are the operative principles behind many of the actions of some of our bishops and others since Minneapolis I.
So it should have been no surprise when Minneapolis II (2003) consented to the consecration of a man living in a homosexual partnership, and tacitly approved the ongoing practice (of many years) of priests and bishops publicly endorsing homosexual conduct and blessing homosexual relationships.
While that same 1977 pastoral letter said “this Church confines its nuptial blessing to the union of male and female,” and that the bishops “agree to deny ordination to an advocating and/or practicing homosexual person,” arguing that “in each case we must not condone what we believe God wills to redeem,” the gay-rights lobby continued its unrelenting assault.
Its goal was to force acceptance of not only homosexual orientation but also of homosexual conduct, and to demand further that such conduct be not only tolerated but also blessed by the church.
This badgering wore down the resistance and carried the day when the 2003 convention consented to the consecration of a man who in many dioceses not many years before would have been deposed for immorality. The Episcopal Church had swallowed the “gay-rights” lure hook, line, and sinker.
Why the surprise? Have we lost our minds, or only our memories? Have Episcopalians forgotten that at least one of the “Philadelphia 11” illegally ordained to the priesthood in 1974, Carter Heyward, was a lesbian? The same Dr Heyward, described in a Sept. 10, 1981, Episcopal News Service article as “an openly avowed lesbian priest on the faculty of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., who has done much to speak out for justice for gay/lesbian people in the Church and elsewhere,” concelebrated at the altar during the consecration of Bishop Barbara Harris in 1989.
So the outcry over Gene Robinson’s consecration rings hollow, and comes too late. Let’s tune up our memories.
The principles of revolutionary change that reached full bloom at Minneapolis II were planted at Minneapolis I, where credulous Episcopalians either knowingly – or unwittingly – planted the seeds of destruction for apostolic faith and order in this part of God’s Church.
Though many will continue to deny it, the principles used to justify the ordination of women as priests and bishops, when watered and cultivated, grew into the justification for homosexual priests (and bishops) and for homosexual “marriage.”
Those who cannot see the clear connection and progression are, I suspect, simply blinding themselves to the plain, glaring facts of history.
The Very Rev. John R. Spencer is the vicar of St Francis’ Church, Dunlap, Illinois. His article first appeared in The Living Church, 17 June 2007, and subsequently in the July edition of England’s New Directions.
The Dennis Canon: Duly Passed?
Did the “Dennis Canon,” by which The Episcopal Church claimed all parish property for the diocese and national church, fail to properly pass the 1979 General Convention, as recurring claims allege? This article by George Conger (an abridged version of which appeared in The Living Church) lays out the facts and controversy surrounding the issue. In it, Conger asserts that the Dennis Canon was duly adopted, while also reporting that conclusive proof of that passage is lacking.
Claims the Dennis Canon failed to pass both Houses of the 1979 General Convention are unfounded.
While the minutes of the House of Deputies and other important papers from the 1979 General Convention have not survived, sufficient documentary evidence exists in the Archives of the Episcopal Church to cast doubt on published claims that the Dennis Canon was overlooked and not brought to a vote in the final hours of the 1979 General Convention.
However, the paper trail that would support a conclusive determination that the Dennis Canon did pass the House of Deputies on the 10th legislative day is incomplete, keeping open the door for further litigation.
Assertions and opinions about the legal sufficiency of Title I.7.4 (as the Dennis Canon is presently numbered) have circulated within traditionalist circles for three decades. The issue has taken on a heightened importance this past year with the blizzard of diocese/parish litigation, and threatened lawsuits by the national church offices against dioceses and bishops for "breach of fiduciary" duties in connection with the property canon.
The possibility that the canonical basis for the national church's legal offensive was flawed has stirred conservative imaginations, and has been discussed unofficially in a number of gatherings, including [July’s] Anglican Communion Network meeting in Fort Worth.
The latest round of controversy began June 5, 2005 with an article published on the Internet journal VirtueOnline. Citing a letter to a Virginia newspaper from the Rev. Lawrence W. Thompson, vicar of St. Matthias Anglican Church in Dothan, Ala., an independent congregation formerly affiliated with the United Episcopal Church of North America, VirtueOnline suggested that the canon did not properly pass convention.
"There is a large amount of church legislation that passes through a logjam on the last day and night of the legislative session. This is apparently what happened to the property change canon," VirtueOnline wrote.
Thompson claimed that a "priest (later a bishop) who was physically present at the General Convention and who closely watched to see whether or not this specific canonical change passed told me that it did not pass." While it may have passed the House of Bishops, it was possible that it did not pass the House of Deputies, VirtueOnline reported.
In support of this contention, Thompson noted [that] the 1981 printing of the Annotated Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, known colloquially as White & Dykman, reported an error in the 1979 Convention Journal.
"The account of this legislation [the Dennis Canon] does not appear in the list of Concurrent Actions," White & Dykman reported on page 269. The absence of the note in future editions of the church's standard reference work on the Constitution and Canons excited further suspicions.
Critics responded by noting the summary of legislation in the Convention Journal reported the passage of the Dennis Canon…
Deputies to the 1979 Convention offered mixed responses. One stated he recalled quite clearly the vote, another was equally adamant the vote did not take place, while the majority stated they could not remember.
"It was almost thirty years ago," Mr. A. Hugo Blankingship, Jr., a deputy from Virginia said. "I just don't recall."
Documentary evidence held by the Archives of the Episcopal Church in Austin suggests it is likely the legislation passed.
Located atop the library of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, the Archives contain all of the records of 1979 General Convention. Transferred to the Archives in 1996 by the General Convention office, the original documents from the Denver Convention are held in two boxes and distributed among a number of three ring binders.
The Dennis Canon began life as resolution D-24 submitted by the Rev. Canon Walter Dennis of New York. It asked Convention to amend Title I.6 (as then numbered) by adding a fourth clause that read in part:
"All real and personal property held by any parish, mission, congregation or institution is held subject to an express trust in favor of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese" where the property is located.
If the parish "disaffiliated" from the Church, trusteeship of the property would pass to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese, the original copy of the resolution in the Archives said.
The Resolution went first for action to the House of Bishops and on the fifth
legislative day, Sept. 13, 1979, the Bishops sent message 76 to the Deputies stating they had adopted the Resolution with amendment.
The resolution now read: "All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons."
On Sept 17, Committee 5 of the House of Deputies: Constitution and Canons issued its report on D-24, number 32, and recommended the House adopt the resolution as amended by the Bishops.
Each stage of the legislative process through the adoption by the Committee can be documented in the archives by reference to the original legislative papers. However on the 10th legislative day the record becomes unclear as the supporting documentation ends and the Journal of General Convention makes an error.
Page B-60 of the Journal reports the House of Bishops' approval of D-24. Page D-154 records the approval of the amended resolution D-24 by the Constitution and Canons committee and goes on to state that the Deputies concurred.
However, in support of the statement of concurrence the Journal refers to page C-150 for confirmation. However, page C-150 speaks not to the Dennis Canon, D-24, but to a different resolution, D-101.
Page B-144 of the Journal goes on to state that on the 11th legislative day the Deputies informed the Bishops that they had approved D-24 via message 204.
Missing from the Handbook of the Secretary of the House of Deputies which contains all of the legislative actions and committee reports were the reports on legislation from the 10th day of Convention. Days 1 through 9 and 11 were present as was the 10th day's consent calendar, but all that had survived in the documentary record was the day's agenda with annotations made by the Secretary of the House. While other agenda items were marked as amended, concurred or had check marks besides it, the Dennis Canon was not marked off.
At this stage, the documentary evidence supporting passage of the Dennis Canon, Resolution D-24, came to an end. No records of the House of Bishops, save for those appended to House of Deputies' Committee Reports have survived, nor have the minutes or the messages to the House of Bishops from the Deputies confirming its action been retained in the archival record.
A final examination of the remaining documents for the Convention in the Archives, however, unearthed the missing 10th day summary in the "print shop" binder, a record of all items sent for duplication. On page 10, the summary reports resolution D-24 as amended was adopted by the Deputies, and message 204 memorializing this action was sent to the House of Bishops. However, no copy of this message has survived, and it is known only by reference.
Given that the summary of legislation was produced on the same day as the actions it describes took place, it is reasonable to assume that it is a true and correct record of events. While this indirect evidence exists of passage of the Dennis Canon, no direct evidence has survived.
Wicks Stephens, chancellor of the Anglican Communion Network, said the "absence of usually present documentation is troubling and indeed suspicious."
While acknowledging that the documentary evidence in the Archives could be used to argue the Dennis Canon passed Convention, it also "suggests that it may not have been. In that event one can argue that the court should put the burden of proving its valid establishment on the party asserting its validity - TEC. At that point, how will TEC meet such a burden unless they can find the rest of the record?" he said.
Commentary By Canon Gary L'Hommedieu
"In the next century, God will call on us all in humility to redeem the evil deeds of the past." (From the sermon by Katharine Jefferts Schori on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the English settlement of Jamestown; text version,
On June 24 Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, preached a sermon near the site of the first English settlement in the New World 400 years ago. For fifteen minutes she spoke as one under a cloud.
Not the cloud of current events in the Episcopal Church, with its very visible demise. Her powers of denial are quite robust on that topic. While she played her familiar role as poster child for an ascendant revisionism, she seemed
to be gripped by an angst of her own. Her quiet poise and pleasant smiles were unconvincing.
Her text was peppered with the familiar sophistries of an urbane clergy. For example, as she retold the familiar stories of Captain John Smith and Pocahantas, she made a point of telling the "real story" behind the familiar legends. Intellectuals have to keep reminding us that they know
something the rest of us don't. Her interpretation of Scripture was a bookish word study unveiling the "real meaning" behind the word translated "devil" in 1 Peter 5:8 as "one who is given to malicious gossip". Thus she was able to debunk a well-known text while asserting a more erudite pedigree of faith than her listeners were accustomed to.
Keep in mind that Christian revisionism is all bluff. Revisionist preachers and scholars must constantly project themselves as superior -- not only superior to their listeners and readers, but also to the texts and traditions that legitimize them. Most people can be easily intimidated by those who call constant attention to their own cleverness.
Keep in mind also that the revisionist bluff is not necessarily an outright con. Revisionists are often quite taken with their own histrionics. The payoff for true believers is far greater than for shrewd, cynical con artists. In the present case, the Presiding Bishop is able to project her air of superiority with a certain innocence.
In spite of her innocence and poise, Katharine Jefferts Schori seemed driven by an instinct to make the simple complex. For fifteen minutes she unpacked a dense concept of "humility" as the appropriate Christian response to the moral ambiguities that try the souls of Americans 400 years after the settling of Jamestown. She spoke with a seriousness and a foreboding that suggested she
was out of touch with her audience.
"We are presently engrossed in a national search for the meaning of this place, a search that ebbs and flows, and is only tangentially connected to numerical anniversaries." Who was presently engrossed? This was billed as a festival of celebration with an appearance by a national celebrity. People didn't come to watch academicians wring their hands over how poorly nations conform to
utopian ideals. And who ever heard anyone refer to soul searching as something "tangentially connected to numerical anniversaries"? Does that mean something?
"What does it mean to be a Christian in this nation?" she asked, oddly imagining that was the question weighing on her listeners the way it haunts today's elite. I'm sure most of her listeners were quite happy with the notion that being a Christian in this nation means whatever they wanted it to mean. Or perhaps it means nothing at all. Either way it was not a question that hung heavy in the air.
"Our task is to humbly search for the good news of the seeds planted here 400 years ago." Apparently she couldn't think of any off the top of her head. She couldn't bring herself to say that in the ledger of history the good resulting from the Jamestown Experiment might outweigh the bad. People in her position don't believe that, even though they have benefited far more from that Experiment than those who flock to hear them speak. A Lady Primate standing in the line of the English Church that settled in Jamestown is a shining example of what is great about the American Experiment. Still Katharine Jefferts Schori is ashamed, and for fifteen minutes she tried to hide her personal shame behind a façade of "humility".
"The last episode of national soul-searching related to Jamestown coincided with the Viet Nam war. That is no coincidence." No coincidence indeed! Here the good Lady shows more than she knows. This is the voice of the Baby Boomer generation who never left the good old days of the
American Dream turning bad. The message of that generation has been ever since, "There will always be something to feel guilty about." The way to discharge this guilt has always been through some public display of moral indignation.
"In the next century, God will call on us all in humility to redeem the evil deeds of the past." What does it mean to redeem the evil deeds of the past? As she mentioned in her sermon, the history of slavery was "not yet fully redeemed". Presumably it was partly redeemed, as evidenced by the presence in the front rows of descendents of former slavers from Liverpool sitting alongside descendents of former slaves from Ghana. Perhaps humility is what enables someone like Schori to maintain her composure while continuing to reap the benefits of yesterday's injustice. Marxist academicians call this "complicity with oppression".
The descendents of the white ruling class are now CEOs, professors and bishops, just like they were in the years following Jamestown. While their ancestors capitalized on the old colonialism of tobacco and sugar cane, their descendents capitalize on a new form of colonialism – the management of an exploding underclass. It is a kinder, gentler colonialism for sure, but there is a similar co-dependency between the ruler and the ruled. Economist William Easterly calls this the transition "from colonialism to postmodern imperialism1," and cites this as the psychology underlying Millennium Development Goals. The observable result is a proliferation of experts and their attendant bureaucracies. Oh yes, and more of the same dysfunction that marked the growth of the underclass from the beginning.
The 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, like her recent predecessors, has a strategic role to play in managing the industry of social salvation. This is both an exhilarating and a sobering moment. The Madame Primate is painfully aware of the potential of her position for doing good, and yet she still she feels guilty about something. Apparently she doesn't know what, so she ducks behind a laborious humility based on a flawed exegesis. It is all a lot of defensive posturing and an attempt to draw attention to her good intentions.
According to a well-worn cliché, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This saying needs to be declassified as a cliche and registered as the next Christian doctrine for which there is ample empirical evidence -- the status G. K. Chesterton once conceded to the doctrine of original sin. The civilized world has been poisoned by the failed ideas of leftward leaning intellectuals, whose main motivation has been massaging their own angst. Multiple generations have grown up in the laboratory of social theories that were tried before they were tested; then, once tested, proven not only to fail, but to bring in their wake untold misery. The only response by the same utopian architects was to strengthen their own job security. In other words, the social service
industry now has an interest in maintaining social dysfunction.
In the church the cliche becomes a literal fact. Liberal denominations have traded the gospel of salvation from a literal hell for a metaphor of social improvement -- one which has consistently failed even on that level. The only response to failure has been to strengthen the institution in its
newfound vocation as chaplain to social dysfunction. The historic doctrine reminds us that eternal salvation still hangs in the balance. The churches' only concern has been to showcase their good intentions and try to feel good about them, even while proclaiming that the world is going to hell. It would appear
that today's church leaders have a vested interest in the "partial
redemption" of their people. They claim to be outraged about all the oppression their forbears have perpetrated, but which they are now so bold as to point out. On another level they may sense that the status quo is made to order.
If I were the American Primate, I would want to hide behind something too.
1 William Easterly, "The White Man's Burden", Penguin Books, 2006.
---The Rev. Canon J. Gary L'Hommedieu is Canon for Pastoral Care at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Orlando, Florida, and a regular columnist for VirtueOnline.
United Religions Initiative Prospers in Global South;
Attracts Prominent Secular and Roman Catholic Donors
By Lee Penn
The Christian Challenge
While most of the Anglican Communion has been occupied with the global conflict over The Episcopal Church’s acceptance of homosexual practice, an innovation spawned by a liberal Episcopal bishop - one that calls the First Commandment into question – is attracting little controversy as it spreads worldwide.
The United Religions Initiative (URI), launched in San Francisco in 1995 by former California Bishop William Swing (who retired in 2006), has put down roots in the Global South and many other places around the world, doubling its membership in the last five years.
In its charter, the URI describes itself as “a growing global community dedicated to promoting enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, ending religiously motivated violence and creating cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings…The URI, in time, aspires to have the visibility and stature of the United Nations.”
The URI hopes to bring together on a regular basis representatives of the major and minor faith systems, including those of the New Age/pagan/occult genre, to help resolve conflicts in the world. However, some of its critics believe the interfaith initiative envisions or could lead to a one-world religion hostile to orthodox Christianity.
In his 1998 book The Coming United Religions, for example, Bishop Swing said that if the First Commandment – “Thou shalt have no other gods but me” – leads billions of adherents of “exclusive religions” (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) to “oppose the godly claims of other exclusive religions, what hope is there for peace among religions?” Swing concluded that “In order for a United Religions to come about and for religions to pursue peace among each other, there will have to be a godly cease-fire, a temporary truce where the absolute exclusive claims of each will be honored but an agreed-upon neutrality will be exercised in terms of proselytizing, condemning, murdering, or dominating. These will not be tolerated in the United Religions zone” – which, potentially, is the whole world. (Note that Swing links “proselytizing” with “condemning, murdering, or dominating.”)
In 2003, Swing said that religions claiming to be “the true religion” are using “master race thinking.”
Worldwide, the URI now has 361 chapters (which it calls Cooperation Circles) in 59 countries – double the number at the end of 2002 (though the URI provides no information on the number of participants in the Circles). Notably, however, 70 percent of URI Cooperation Circles are where one would least expect them: the largely conservative Global South – Asia, Africa, and Latin America – along with the Middle East and the non-English-speaking nations of the Pacific Rim. Donald Frew, a Wiccan elder and a former member of the URI Global Council, said in June 2007 that the Cooperation Circles worldwide are “going gangbusters” and are successfully funding themselves. The Circles are active in lobbying national and international agencies for policy changes, conducting interfaith ceremonies and dialogues, environmental activism, and projects to assist the poor. As a rule, their activities are consistent with the goals of American and West European “progressives.”
Fourteen of the 24 members of the URI Global Council, its board of directors elected in 2005, are from the Third World. Thus, the URI’s base has expanded well beyond Western liberals, who have been the usual backers of interfaith movements.
URI allies include the United Nations (in particular, UNESCO and the UN Environmental Program), Mikhail Gorbachev’s star-studded State of the World Forum, and the Earth Charter movement, led by Maurice Strong, a wealthy Canadian advocate of world government. As of May 2007, the URI is recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the UN’s Economic and Social Council, which gives the movement “consultative status” with the UN; in turn, the URI promotes the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
The URI enjoys tacit support or active cooperation from most other interfaith organizations, including the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, the World Conference on Religion and Peace, the Temple of Understanding, and the North American Interfaith Network.
Anglican support for the URI is widespread; public opposition is rare among the clergy in communion with Canterbury.
Aside from Bishop Swing, a pro-gay liberal (who nonetheless claims to be a “conservative person”), 20 active and retired Anglican prelates have supported the URI. The most prominent of these are Frank Griswold, the former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (TEC); Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno; Bishop C. Christopher Epting, the Presiding Bishop’s Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations; Celso Franco de Oliveira, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Michael Ingham, Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada; and Desmond Tutu, Nobel laureate and retired Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. Most of the aforementioned bishops have publicly taken the liberal position in the current Anglican sexuality battle.
None of the active U.S. bishops who have been identified as URI supporters or donors voted against the confirmation of actively gay cleric Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire at the 2003 Episcopal General Convention. Bishop Griswold was Robinson’s chief consecrator in November 2003, and Bishop Ingham traveled from Canada to the U.S. to participate in that rite.
The Mar Thoma Church in India, which broke away from Oriental Orthodoxy in the 19th Century and is now in communion with Canterbury, has supported the URI from the beginning.
Several ultra-trendy TEC priests have donated to the URI in 2004 and later: James Parks Morton, the former dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City; Lauren Artress, who took the modern-day labyrinth fad worldwide from its beginnings at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco; and Donald Schell, the co-rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco – a parish that is known for liturgical dance, “icons” of Charles Darwin, Rumi, and Malcolm X, and hosting a well-publicized union in April 2004 between retired Utah Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles and his male partner.
Only two Anglican bishops recognized by Canterbury have spoken publicly against the URI, and both are retired: Archbishop Harry Goodhew of Australia, and Bishop FitzSimons Alison of South Carolina. The current and former Archbishops of Canterbury have not spoken publicly about the movement since its founding in 1995, and TEC General Conventions from 1997 through 2006 have likewise refrained from either praising or criticizing the URI.
The Eastern Orthodox and Evangelical Protestant churches do not support the URI. The Presbyterian Church USA has donated to the URI, an indicator of support for the movement among some mainline Protestant churches in the U.S.
Roman Catholic support for the URI, previously concentrated among dissidents (such as theologian Hans Küng, retired auxiliary Bishop of Detroit Thomas Gumbleton, and liberal orders of nuns), is becoming mainstream. Since 2004, the URI has received donations from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington DC.
During his tenure as Archbishop of San Francisco, William Levada had backed the URI – and within a few weeks of the election of Benedict XVI, the new Pope selected Levada to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body that guards against heresy in the Church. Levada became the highest ranked American prelate in Catholic history, and is now a member of the College of Cardinals – with a vote in the next Papal Conclave. Levada invited a group of URI leaders to accompany him to Rome for his March 2006 installation, and the URI delegation said that they were the first interfaith delegation ever to attend a consistory of Cardinals.
Since 2004, the URI has gained some additional, prominent supporters.
Among them is the European Union (EU). In 2005, the European Commission (EC) had funded a meeting of URI-Europe in Brussels to discuss “overcoming irritations and prejudices between people of different cultures, religions and convictions in the EU enlargement process.” The EC thought so highly of the URI event that they have given the URI a “Golden Star Award,” honoring the ten best projects funded in 2005 by the Active European Citizenship program of the European Union. The prize will be awarded in a ceremony in early November in Brussels, by Jan Figel, the EU Commissioner for Education and Culture.
Other noteworthy donors in recent years show the appeal of URI to Muslim lobbyists, advocates of globalism, and mainstream American institutions alike: the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, United Muslims of America, the Turner Foundation, Dr. Steven C. Rockefeller (who assisted in drafting the Earth Charter), United Way of the Bay Area, the Bank of America, and World Vision.
The URI also has bipartisan appeal.
In a November 6, 2001 letter, President Bush praised Bishop Swing and the URI for receiving a Citizen Diplomacy Award from the International Diplomacy Council (IDC), a private group that works with high-level State Department officials to assist overseas dignitaries who visit the U.S. George Shultz, Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, is one of the advisers for the IDC. In 2002. The federally-funded United States Institute of Peace (USIP) also has supported the URI with a $30,000 training grant and with an article favorable to the interfaith venture in 2001 and 2002.
In his 2005 inauguration speech, President Bush said that the “edifice of character” in America “is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran and the varied faiths of our people.” In an October 4, 2007, interview with Al Arabiya, the President said, “I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God.” This interfaith civil religion now being officially purveyed in America meshes with the URI worldview of religious unity.
On the other side of the aisle, former President Clinton invited Charles Gibbs, the executive director of the URI, to attend the September 2005 meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. Gibbs, who was among 1,000 invited “world leaders,” was asked to propose a project that would be funded and completed within a year. Gibbs proposed to expand the URI in India. His project succeeded; there were 31 URI Cooperation Circles there in September 2004, and there are 72 chapters in India now.
Before 2003, several Theosophical groups had donated to the URI: the Lucis Trust World Service Fund and the Rudolf Steiner Foundation. New Age groups and New Age authors have continued this support since then. They include Pathways to Peace, the Fetzer Institute, the authors of Spiritual Politics (a popularization of the Theosophical teachings of Alice Bailey), and two clergy from the Wittenberg Center for Alternative Resources, a New Age seminary.
For the most part, the URI toes the Western “politically correct” line on such issues as feminism, multiculturalism, global governance, the environment, and the like. There is one exception: homosexual activism. Unlike most churches in the West, the URI does not have a “gay caucus” akin to Integrity in The Episcopal Church or Dignity in the Roman Catholic Church. The homosexual issue has not appeared in URI documents or in reports of their global meetings since 1998. The URI’s Annual Report lists donors to the organization’s headquarters – and same-sex couples are very rarely seen on this roster of URI supporters. It may be that the URI’s silence on the gay issue is intended to garner backers from traditional religions, e.g. Muslims, who generally condemn homosexual practice.
Sources: United Religions Initiative, Annual Reports for 2004-2006, and other documents from http://www.uri.org; False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism, and the Quest for a One-World Religion, by Lee Penn (Sophia Perennis, 2005); President Bush, inaugural speech for 2005 and interview with Al-Arabiya TV in 2007.
Never Mind Liberal Revisionist Actions; Cunning Conservatives Make
Potent "Power Play" To Capture "Soul" Of Communion
The Christian Challenge
Liberal retired California Bishop William Swing is sure that conservatives in the church will not succeed.
Still, he felt the need to write in some depth recently about their dangerous plot, attributing to them a startling level of ill-intent, skill and cunning.
As Swing sees it, Global South Anglican primates and new African-backed American bishops are not responding to the contravention of historic faith by Episcopal bishops like himself, or to the latter's refusal to make adequate provision for the faithful.
No, they are making a "power play," and one that will fail, Swing maintains.
Writing in the July issue of Episcopal Life, the bishop said that the conservatives’ aim is not to reform The Episcopal Church (TEC) (something that they have already spent years trying to do) or to set up a permanent parallel authority.
"They intend to become the sole authorized Anglican presence in America. The other side of that coin is that they intend for [TEC] to be cut off from the Anglican Communion,” he said, again not addressing what role TEC’s liberal leaders would have in effecting such an outcome.
“It's quite a bold American strategy for an Englishman and a Nigerian," said Swing, referring to Bishop Martyn Minns of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and CANA's founder, Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, though other provinces are involved in providing pastoral care to TEC refugees. "In a brief time, they want to undo what it has taken many generations of Americans to build.
"This is way beyond theology or scriptural interpretations," he claimed. "This is a naked power play that is reminiscent of colonial aspiration in other centuries. Instead of England colonizing Nigeria, we are looking at a picture of a Nigerian and an Englishman trying to colonize the United States" with what he said is their "unique brand of Anglicanism."
The two villains in Swing's story are not restorers, but have a far-reaching strategy to "take away our birthright, our heritage, our Anglican connection, our ministries to the poor, our official prayer book tradition, our schools, churches, agencies and our resources."
"These two bishops and their colleagues are enjoying the first spoils that arise from our family struggle over human sexuality,” the bishop remarked. But they have "trampled on the taproot of our faithfulness to the mission of Jesus Christ" in the U.S., and TEC won't stand for it; it will withstand "this assault from across the ocean" and continue its mission, "God being our helper," he declared.
-Revisionist “Cutting Edge”
Sergio Carranza, the former Episcopal Bishop of Mexico who is now serving as bishop assistant in the liberal Diocese of Los Angeles, has adopted a similarly creative posture in offering his view of the current Anglican feud.
Carranza has previously distinguished himself in this arena, taking particular aim at Anglican primates. And in entering the fray again recently – this time with more focus on the Archbishop of Canterbury - he saw disruption in the church coming from "radical" and "schismatic" Anglicans. These seem to be people who want to maintain orthodoxy, but who Carranza evidently believes are trying to impose a heretofore unknown Anglican order.
"In the battle to capture the soul of Anglicanism," Carranza wrote in the June newsletter of the L.A. diocese, "the great loser - after the Anglican Communion itself - would seem to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, who in a desperate attempt to preserve the unity of the Communion has submitted to the machinations of an anachronistic evangelicalism which pretends to `complete' the English Reformation by imposing a monolithic uniformity on the manner in which we interpret Scripture and carry on the contextual ministry that our culture requires.
"When he was appointed by the Crown to the See of Canterbury, the gentle Rowan Williams tried to ingratiate himself with the radical Evangelicals in the Church of England, who did not find him congenial to their subversive plans to take over the soul of the Communion...
"Once enthroned," Carranza asserted, "Rowan Williams found himself caught in the web of a plot of international dimensions in which radical British evangelicals, ultra-conservative American schismatics and an ambitious African primate, with his band of assenting minions, had joined forces to capture the soul of Anglicanism, at the same time that they advanced their own particular agendas.
"Up until the last meeting of the primates in Dar es Salaam, the Archbishop of Canterbury tried to woo the leaders of the conspiracy by yielding to the majority of their wishes. As was to be expected, the ringleaders took Rowan Williams' acquiescence for weakness, and redoubled their efforts to make him sanction an American schism.
"Although he has not fully submitted to their demands," Carranza noted, "I do not understand why it is that he does not put a stop to Peter Akinola's grandiloquent harangues, or to his incessant interventions in the Episcopal Church, or respond accordingly to his bullying threats."
The bishop added that he did not understand Williams' initial nervousness about meeting with the Episcopal House of Bishops, though of course the Archbishop did meet with the House in September.
"If the Archbishop of Canterbury allows the conspirators to have their way, they will not only validate an American schism, but alienate the other 21st century Anglican provinces, and, in effect, render (sic) asunder the Anglican Communion by erecting their own ecclesial body where his primacy and moral authority will become superfluous. Let us pray for Rowan Williams as he faces the greatest challenge of his life."
In reaction, one of the more even-handed online commentators wrote that: "The interesting thing is that for every charge [Carranza] makes against the Evangelicals, an equivalent charge could be made against the revisionists. It is clear that we have left the arena of theological debate and entered the arena of the spin doctors, where rival factions of schismatics weave competing narratives to portray schism as inevitable and themselves as the innocent victims.
"I am not surprised to find [Carranza] at the forefront of this new phase of the game. A couple of years ago, he was the very first bishop I heard who abandoned the usual revisionist game of stalling, compromise, and obfuscation in favor of beginning to lay the groundwork for rationalizing schism. For me, that was the moment when the break-up of Anglicanism went from seeming like a distant possibility to a near-term probability. Once again, [Carranza] is at the cutting edge of revisionist strategy."
Dr. Williams has not "put a stop" to Akinola's "harangues...interventions" and "threats," the observer wrote, for the same reason he has not put a stop to The Episcopal Church's "deceptions and incipient schism: his power outside the Church of England is quite limited."
And if Williams was "nervous" about meeting with Episcopal bishops, it was because they were "clearly trying to pressure and manipulate [him] in pretty much the same way that [Carranza] accuses British Evangelicals of doing."
TEC And The Communion: Money Talks
The Christian Challenge
The U.S. Episcopal Church's (TEC’s) vast financial resources seem to be playing a larger role these days in church property disputes. Yet many conservatives believe they have had even greater impact for years on the wider Anglican Communion, successfully compromising orthodoxy or buying silence here and there, and lately appearing to stall serious repercussions for TEC's persistent revisionism.
The American Church’s role as a major source of funding in the Communion might add context to the Episcopal leaders’ huffy dismissal of the requests of Anglican primates back in March. In a final response in September, TEC bishops appeared to be more accommodating of the primates’ entreaties for them to come into line with the Communion’s teaching on sexuality. Already, however, some liberal bishops who supported the response have said it does not really mean what it seems to say, and a significant swath of Communion leaders are maintaining the same thing. Still, it remains to be seen in the current conflict whether concern for upholding Anglican doctrine will finally outweigh that for keeping American cash flowing.
“Money is the elixir that greases the wheels of [TEC] and allows them a seat at the [Anglican] table regardless of what they believe,” wrote Episcopal e-journalist David Virtue not long ago.
He noted that TEC’s “largesse pays most of the budget of the Anglican Consultative Council…hence the groveling before his American paymasters by Canon Kenneth Kearon,” the ACC’s general secretary. As well, TEC is relied upon to fund much of the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, which is next scheduled for July 2008.
According to Virtue, the American Church also subsidizes provinces in Central America and the church in Mexico, which “keeps them firmly in TEC’s back pocket.”
An untold amount of assistance has traditionally flowed from the American Church to developing world provinces, not just through the Communion budget but through such things as companion diocese relationships. Some African provinces have now refused money from liberal TEC sources, but not all appear prepared to follow suit at this point.
And as about half of Anglican provinces have declared broken or impaired communion with TEC over its pro-gay policies, the U.S. Church seems to have increased efforts to keep or win friends - or at least muted opponents - in needy parts of the Communion, with help from TEC’s dazzling financial resources.
TEC recently used its fabulously wealthy “proxy,” Trinity Church, Wall Street, to bankroll “a bogus missions summit in Spain” that attracted representatives of some conservative Global South provinces, Virtue wrote.
Bishops from 24 TEC dioceses and 31 African dioceses reportedly had a congenial encounter at the July 21-26 meeting in El Escorial, Spain, titled "Walking to Emmaus: Discovering New Mission Perspectives in Changing Times." The gathering was described by its sponsors – Trinity and the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church - as "a consultation to strengthen relationships, develop mission partnerships, and to discover new opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel."
The confab appeared to be among a series of TEC-backed meetings at different foreign venues over the last year or so that one informed observer believes are part of a TEC “charm offensive.” It is hard not to see in them an attempt to erode support in conservative provinces for TEC's possible exclusion from the Communion, though they may also be intended to help build alliances that would enable TEC - if necessary - to raise up a rival Communion.
According to Virtue, those in attendance at the missions meeting included the archbishops of Burundi, Central Africa, Congo, West Africa and Southern Africa (with the latter being the only “outright liberal” of the five). “This is a typical example of how money can buy, at least temporarily, the loyalty of faithful men,” Virtue commented.
Bishop Carlos Lozano Lopez of the Anglican Church in Spain said that a total of 12 African provinces were represented among the participants; prelates were also present from Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania, for example. Three Canadians attended, including Bishop Philip Poole of Toronto. U.S. prelates present included one conservative-leaning bishop, Charles Jenkins of Louisiana, and several liberals, among them Bishops Catherine Roskam, suffragan of New York; John Chane of Washington; Gayle Harris, suffragan of Massachusetts; and Kirk S. Smith of Arizona.
Topics of discussion at the meeting included the Millennium Development Goals, HIV/AIDS, women's empowerment, and the same-sex issue; bishops also could organize sessions around topics of their choice. Reportedly, a few of the African bishops suggested that TEC should be encouraged to apologize for its actions surrounding homosexuality.
But the "Walking to Emmaus" meeting issued no official statements, and the press was not invited to attend. And it seems to have had the desired effect. Several American participants came away from the conference buoyed in their hope that the Anglican Communion will stay together under a "business as usual" approach.
Liberal San Diego Episcopal Bishop James Mathes wrote in an August 6 letter to his flock that, “We spent our time in Bible Study, prayer and conversation about various missional opportunities. We came to know each other as fellow bishops and friends. I attended with Bishop Simon Oketch from the Diocese of Maseno North in Kenya. Through our conversations, Simon and I have committed to continue to build our partnership in mission…In a time when much has been made of the divisions around the Communion, I cannot emphasize what a different reality I experienced...Bishops from all but two provinces were in attendance. The consensus of this community of bishops is that we are fully capable of maintaining communion and mission partnerships despite disagreements.”
Mathes added his sense that “most provinces, including the Episcopal Church, will remain in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and thus fully a part of the Anglican Communion. In the end, I believe the…Communion will recover, I have accepted my invitation to Lambeth. If that meeting is like what I just experienced m Spain, then my optimism will only soar.”
TEC’s actively gay Bishop, Gene Robinson, said not long ago that, even if TEC were to be expelled from the Anglican Communion, the U.S. branch “has deep roots and connections with bishops in the Global South [that] are not likely to change."
This, Virtue suggested, should be translated as: “We have the money to buy and keep our friends.”
Reviewed By The Rev. Samuel L. Edwards
The Christian Challenge
The Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, has said that the Anglican Communion can no longer be thought of as the British Empire at prayer.
Writing in the August/September issue of the prestigious American intellectual journal First Things, Archbishop Orombi said that the "assumption that Anglican belief and practice must be clothed in historic British culture" has been put to rest by Anglican churches around the world, especially in Africa. Orombi's province counts over nine million Anglicans – at least four times the membership of The Episcopal Church (TEC) and a number second in the
world only to Nigeria's active Anglican communicants.
In an article somewhat unpromisingly titled, “What is Anglicanism?”, the Ugandan primate pins the blame for the current crisis of identity and faith within the Anglican Communion on a confusion of doctrine and discipline. This is attributable in part to the fact that, "for 400 years Anglicanism represented both the theological convictions of the English Reformation and the culture of the Christian Church in Britain. The 16th- and 17th-century Anglican divines gave voice to both: English Reformation theology (doctrine) and
British culture (discipline)."
As an example, Archbishop Orombi uses "the traditional Anglican characteristics of restraint and moderation. Are they a part of doctrine, as Anglican theology, or discipline, as British culture?" He gives an example of a recent episcopal consecration in the Ugandan diocese of Karamoja, at which the preacher - a bishop from a neighboring diocese whose tribal people have a long history of hostility with the dominant tribe of this diocese - so powerfully appealed for peace on the basis of the gospel of the Christ who breaks down "the dividing walls of hostility" that the whole congregation ended up singing and dancing in the aisles for joy - a most unEnglish thing to do, to say the least. "Surely," writes the Archbishop, "African joy in song and dance is an expression of discipline [i.e., culture]. Yet our confidence that the Word of God remains true, and our confidence that it transforms individuals and communities - all this is part of doctrine."
The essay emphasizes the transformation of Ugandan society by "the Word of God, the ground on which all is built." Archbishop Orombi makes it very clear that the Ugandan Church has an uncompromisingly high view of Scripture: "The Bible cannot appear to us as a cadaver, merely to be dissected, analyzed, and critiqued. Certainly we engage in biblical scholarship and criticism, but what is important to us is the power of the Word of God precisely as the Word
of God...written to bring transformation in our lives, our families, our communities, and our culture."
Since the transformation of which the Archbishop writes has taken place within recent historical memory and extends into the present, it is clear that compromise on what it requires of Christians would be a betrayal - "the undoing of 125 years of Christianity through which African life and society have been transformed." The transformations that have taken place include the
uprooting of oppressive superstitions, the elevation of the status of women, the abandonment of polygamy and of the idea that vengeance on the tribal level is virtuous, and the extension of a sense of social responsibility beyond the limits of blood kinship. (Similar effects have accompanied the Christianization of diverse cultures throughout history.)
According to its Archbishop, the Anglican Church in Uganda is built on three pillars anchored in this scriptural ground: "martyrs, revival, and the historic episcopate." The history of Christian martyrdom in Uganda is recent and virtually continuous, stretching from the January 1885 execution of three Anglican converts (ten months before the assassination of Bishop James
Hannington and his companions) to the celebrated burning of Anglican and Roman Catholic martyrs at Namugongo the following year, through the murder of Archbishop Janani Luwum by order of dictator Idi Amin Dada in 1977, and even into the present. (In a country that borders on the Islamist-ruled Sudan, the possibility of Christian martyrdom is quite real.) Archbishop
Orombi, interestingly, relates these martyrdoms less to those of the first generations of Christians than to those of Reformation-era Anglicans such as Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer, burnt at the behest of the Roman Catholic Queen Mary I.
The fact that a major issue in the Namugongo martyrdoms was the refusal of the victims on Christian principle to assent to the homosexual predilections of the Kabaka (king) Mwanga - said by some authorities to have been learned by him from Arab slave traders - goes a long way toward explaining why Ugandan Anglicans are especially provoked at the refusal of The
Episcopal Church and other First World Anglicans to unequivocally repudiate the agenda of their homosexual lobbies.
Another major contributor to the character of Ugandan Anglicanism cited by Archbishop Orombi is the influence of the East African Revival, which began in 1935 in the border regions of the neighboring country of Rwanda "and rapidly spread throughout Uganda." The initial fervor of Anglicans in Uganda had diminished significantly by the fourth decade of the 20th century, which is likely a by-product of the British rule imposed on the former kingdom of
Buganda, partly as a result of Mwanga's persecution of Christians and partly as a means of containing the colonial ambitions of other powers (principally Germany) in the region. "Much of Anglicanism in Uganda was nominal," writes the Archbishop. While "the missionaries [drawn from the low-church Evangelical Church Missionary Society] had emphasized liturgical and formal expressions of faith," it was the Revival that gave African Christians a sense that "what
they had learned...actually made a difference in their lives."
The East African Revival forged the character and culture of the Ugandan Anglican Church. It "taught us about living transparently with one another and before God about our sin," which has as its consequence the fact that, "in Uganda, a Christian is one who has a testimony." As with most revivals throughout church history, there was initially resistance "from the
missionaries and other church leaders because it challenged the status quo of nominal Anglicanism," but eventually the Revival came to dominate the Ugandan Church, to the point where "today most of our bishops and other church leaders are products of the East African Revival."
The third pillar of Ugandan Anglicanism that Archbishop Orombi designates is "the historic episcopate." He is aware that this may set his church apart from others among "our evangelical brothers and sisters," but points out that it is in keeping with the Reformation policy of the Church of England. He also makes it quite clear that its focus is "not just about the good order [i.e., the bene esse] of the Church," but "on apostolic faith and ministry." The "link between bishop and apostolicity gives Anglicans our trans-cultural identity." Genuine
apostolicity is not a mere matter of "a simple unbroken line of consecrations," but a matter of being "faithful to the apostolic message, submitted to apostolic authority in Scripture, committed to apostolic mission and ministry, and devoted to apostolic worship."
It is a measure of the distinctiveness of the character of African Anglican evangelicalism that this description of the essential nature of the historic episcopate would find clear echoes in both classical Anglo-Catholic teaching and (with the exception of those matters peculiar to the Petrine office) in the lines of Lumen Gentium. Indeed, as the Archbishop writes, "our
particular experience of Anglicanism in Uganda...has some universal applicability."
The source of the contemporary crisis of the Anglican Communion, says the Ugandan Primate, is the failure to uphold "the basic Reformation convictions about Holy Scripture: its primacy, clarity, sufficiency, and unity." (It is worth noting that these convictions were hardly new with the Reformers, but represented a recovery of Patristic convictions.) "The insistence
from some Anglican circles (mostly in the western world) on esoteric interpretations of Scripture borders on incipient Gnosticism that has no place in historic or global Anglicanism."
It is this illicit insistence that lies behind what the Archbishop describes as the flagrant defiance, even mockery and scorn of the resolutions of two of the Anglican Communion's so-called "instruments of unity" (lately “instruments of communion”), the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops and the Primates' Meetings. He finds that "the current crisis presents us with an opportunity to mature into a global communion that represents not just historic bonds of affection but also an advancing mission force for the Kingdom of God that Jesus inaugurated. For this to happen, our instruments of communion may also have to become instruments of discipline."
This observation is not merely academic. Archbishop Orombi clearly states how he personally is putting the principles into practice: Although invited as a member of the Primates' Standing Committee, he determined not to attend the New Orleans meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops in September. He did not wish to undermine the instruments of communion by doing something that the Primates' communiqué of February 2007 did not envision, which is "interference in the American House of Bishops while they are considering
our requests." Additionally, he cites his own church's House of Bishops resolution of last December stating that none of the Ugandan bishops will "attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution [1.10, on human sexuality] are invited as participants or observers," since to do so would further undermine the moral authority of that
Conference as an instrument of communion. He asks, "If our resolutions as a council of bishops do not have moral authority among ourselves, how can we expect our statements on world affairs to carry weight in the world's forums? An instrument of communion must also be an instrument of discipline in order to effectively facilitate meaningful communion among its autonomous
In a way, the picture of Anglicanism that Archbishop Orombi presents is not unlike the central shrine of Ugandan Christianity at Namugongo. Visitors to that site - of whom this writer has been one - will notice that it has a dual aspect. The Anglican shrine is not outwardly very prepossessing, consisting of some school buildings that overlook the site where the fires that took
the martyrs' lives were set - a site virtually unchanged over the years. The Roman Catholic shrine is a large church built in the shape of a traditional Ugandan hut in which the relics of the martyrs are housed in honor in kaleidoscopic-colored light filtering through stained glass into a
darkness that is yet warm. Grounded in history and memory, yet looking actively toward fulfillment of fellowship in Christ - this fairly describes the Christian vision, not just of Ugandan Anglicanism, not even just of Ugandan Christianity, but of the universal Church of which Christ is the head and all the baptized are members.
Sources: www.buganda.com/martyrs.html, First Things, Church Times,
Anglican Communion News Service
Within The Anglican Church
By Elizabeth O'Brien
June 20, 2007
ST. JOHN'S, June 20, 2007 (LifeSitenews.com) - Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, released a paper responding to a recent push for the official blessing of homosexual unions within the Anglican Church of Canada.
Just a few weeks prior to the 2007 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada in St. John's, a pro-homosexual "marriage" paper was sent to all the delegates attending the synod. Recently published by John Thorp, professor of philosophy at the University of Western Ontario, the paper was entitled "Making the Case: The Blessing of Same Sex Unions in the Anglican Church of Canada."
Gagnon's response, "Case Not Made: A Response to Prof. John Thorp's 'Making the Case,'" uses scripture, reason and tradition to show why homosexual unions are both immoral and unnatural. He refers to homosexuality as the "narcissism of being erotically aroused by the distinctive features of one's own sex" and also refers to what he calls "the self--and other--dishonoring
delusion of imaging a person of the same sex as the sexual complement to one's own sex."
In his paper promoting homosexual unions, Thorp cited several popular pro-homosexual arguments. First, he claims that homosexuality is "inborn." It is "statistically abnormal, but, like left-handedness, it is a normal abnormality." Gagnon points out, however, that being "born gay" is no justification because human nature is fallen, and people struggle with immoral desires all
Commenting to LifeSiteNews.com, Gagnon explained why the argument for homosexuality from nature doesn't hold weight, saying, "Nature is broader than the concept of innate impulse."
Thorp's argument that homosexuality is like "left-handedness" is also extremely weak, for "left-handedness is not an impulse to do something God expressly forbids. It is not a desire to merge sexually with another structurally discordant to oneself."
In the animal kingdom, objects Thorp, certain creatures exhibit gay behavior. Gagnon responds, "I never used my dear departed dog 'Cocoa' and her instinctive sexual habits as a basis for determining what is 'natural' behavior. You can find animals of various species where some part of the population at least practices incest, pedophilia, extreme polyamory, and cross-species sex,
along with same-sex activity."
Thirdly, Thorp states that non-procreativity cannot be used as an argument against homosexual unions because this would be inconsistent with the Church's acceptance of non-procreativity in heterosexual couples.
Gagnon answers, "There is a big difference between having equipment failure (infertility among heterosexual couples) and not having the equipment at all (the inherent incapacity for procreation in homosexual bonds)." Even when homosexuals seem well-adjusted in other aspects of their lives, says Gagnon, "Same-sex erotic bonds lack a person of the other sex to moderate the
extremes of a given sex or to fill in the gaps of the given sex." Homosexual men tend to have more partners and more sexually transmitted diseases, whereas lesbians tend to have shorter relationships and higher mental health issues.
The problem is that those who advocate for homosexuality fall into the trap of thinking that "love and commitment ultimately trump all formal requirements for a sexual union" as long as "intrinsic measurable harm cannot be demonstrated." This idea leads to many problems, for sexual love is distinct from other kinds of love. The "love" of a pedophile for a young child, for
example, is both morally abhorrent and illegal.
While Thorp argues that the Bible condemns only forced homosexual acts, Gagnon points out passages in St. Paul and throughout scripture that specifically condemn mutually consenting homosexual relations as shameful and impure. His response also indicates that while Christianity teaches that people should love and respect one another, Christ also makes the rules of sexual morality even stricter than the Old Testament.
Gagnon concludes his response, "When he [Prof. Thorp] concludes by saying that 'Gay liberation is clearly the work of the Spirit. How can it reasonably be otherwise?' one can only shake one's head in astonishment at the degree to which he is sadly mistaken..."
Dr. Gagnon commented to LifeSiteNews.com, "In his use of scripture, tradition and reason, Thorp's arguments are inconsistent and oftentimes illogical. Likewise, he lacks the Biblical, theological and scientific expertise to make a persuasive argument on this issue. He fails to properly deal with the structural complementary of male and female which is the basic reason why homosexuality is unnatural."
Since the ordination of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, an openly active homosexual, the Anglican Church was been increasingly torn apart by international debate over the morality of homosexuality and specifically same-sex marriage. [In June, the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod voted that same-sex blessings are not part of the church’s “core doctrine” but withheld permission for them, for now.]
The (Anglican) Church in Wales' "Bill to Enable Women to Be Ordained as Bishops" has been scored by the church's "flying bishop" as insufficient to protect orthodox consciences, and driven by a "post-1960s feminism" rather than sound doctrine.
The Provincial Assistant Bishop of Wales, David Thomas, who ministers to traditionalist Welsh parishes, said the legislation "rules out any possibility of a special episcopal jurisdiction being created for the sake of those who in conscience cannot agree to the ordination of women as bishops," and is "completely unsatisfactory."
The proposed bill was to be open to amendment until October 27, when a Select Committee was to consider any changes recommended by members of the Welsh Church's Governing Body. A vote on the final bill is expected when the Governing Body meets next April 2-3 in Lampeter.
As it stood at this writing, the legislation permitting women as well as men to be ordained as bishops says that the "Bench of Bishops will provide pastoral care and support" for conscientious objectors, but offers no further specifics on provisions for them. A third clause states that no bishop shall be obliged to initiate disciplinary proceedings against a cleric or other church member who dissents from the female prelates.
Bishop Thomas said that framers of the bill do not understand that the distinctive aspects of a bishop's ministry (as opposed to that of priests) creates "huge difficulties" for those theologically opposed to women's ordination.
He maintained that supporters of women in the episcopate have been led astray by the "Christian feminist slogan, “If you won't ordain us, don't baptize us.'”
"There is no necessary progression from baptism to priestly/episcopal ordination," Thomas said.
Source: The Church of England Newspaper
Church To Choose Bishops
Newly appointed Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced that his government's agenda will include permitting the Church of England to choose its own bishops.
The move is seen as another step toward ecclesiastical autonomy for the C of E and has raised fears among some that it is another push toward its eventual disestablishment. Most Church of England members who actually attend its services support the continuation of its legal status as the official church of the English nation.
The government's plans do not envision a change in the status of the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England nor her authority to appoint deans to the small number of churches and chapels (such as Westminster Abbey, St. James' Chapel, and St. George's, Windsor) which are under her direct authority, though reportedly the church will "engage in a constructive conversation" concerning the sovereign's prerogative in this matter. Such churches are known as "royal peculiars" and are not under the authority of the bishops in whose dioceses they are physically located.
Currently, for other senior appointments, the Crown Nominations Commission names two candidates to the Prime Minister, who then ranks them according to his preference and presents them to the Queen, who makes the final selection, almost always choosing the first nominee. Under the new system, the church itself will forward to the Prime Minister a single nominee, who will still be formally appointed by the Crown.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who acted as spokesman for the church while Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was on study sabbatical over the summer, welcomed the proposals and said that both Archbishops had been consulted on the changes. However, other clerics, such as General Synod member Canon David Houlding, expressed concern that the move could "threaten the diversity of senior appointments and could well lead to the old boy network running riot."
Sources: The Daily Telegraph, www.religiousintelligence.co.uk
Those who suspect that theology in the liberal Anglican world has become like a cartoon may be more right than they dare to imagine.
The Church of England has enlisted the cartoon characters from the animated American TV show, The Simpsons, to teach theology and Christian morals to children aged 10-14. Copies of the resultant book have been sent to youth workers in all dioceses, and clergy are urged to run episodes of the show that "focus on Christian themes such as love and punishment." The author, Owen Smith, is a youth worker in the Kent diocese of Rochester.
The publisher says on Amazon.co.uk that the series is "a rich resource for exploring Christian themes and theological concepts." According to the publisher, in 12 sessions (six for newcomers to the church, and six for those who have been attending for a longer time) the book "engages with everyday issues, from gossip to sibling rivalry, and looks at what the Christian message is for these themes," using "extracts from episodes to help your youth group connect with key Christian beliefs in a contemporary format." Each lesson includes "a Bible verse or passage dealing with the Christian perspective on the session's theme" and "prayer activity and response."
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams supports use of The Simpsons by the church. He has said that the show is "generally on the side of the angels and on the side of sense," and added that beneath the dysfunctional image of the cartoon family lay an example of "remarkable strength and remarkable mutual commitment."
This cartoon initiative is a response to declining Church attendance by youth - including a 12 percent drop between 2000 and 2005 for those under age 16.
Sources: Ekklesia, Christian Post, amazon.co.uk
Or Against TEC Now An Imperative
Survey Of “Episcopalian And Anglican Choices”
Will Measure Effects Of Schism
September 10, 2007, WAXHAW, NC -- Anglican Laity Fellowship, (ALF) formerly known as "Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion" (LEAC), has sent out a survey to all lay wardens of The Episcopal Church, asking them for help in assessing the magnitude of the changes being wrought in America's Anglican/Episcopalian landscape.
ALF announced today that it has sent out a survey to the wardens - the first in 40 years -- to examine the crisis and to obtain a clear sense of where the Episcopal Church's laity stands on the issues.
Two conferences this month - one that convenes The Episcopal Church's (TEC's) House of Bishops in New Orleans, and the other Common Cause Partners that stands in opposition to TEC, set a benchmark for what the laity should do in the coming months. The Archbishops of the Anglican Communion gave the American House of Bishops a Sept. 30 deadline to declare intentions with regard to adhering to Anglican standards, notably to not bless same-sex unions and to discontinue ordaining non-celibate homosexuals to the episcopacy. According to these Anglican leaders, failure by TEC to disavow its earlier actions could be viewed as its final declaration to be apart from the Anglican Communion.
The Anglican Laity Fellowship says it expects a lot of movement among the laity following the conferences, and the survey of "Episcopalian and Anglican Choices" will help to demonstrate what these two competing churches will look like in the months and years ahead. Most overseas Anglicans, and many in the USA, now believe that the Episcopal Church harbors an alien understanding of the Christian Faith.
Thousands of Episcopalians have already left The Episcopal Church, joining together in a movement that now includes some 1,350 Anglican parishes, many of which are former Episcopalian congregations. They are intent upon forming an official Anglican province within the United States.
"The main point of the survey," an ALF spokesman said, "is to demonstrate to lay leaders that the benefits of acting decisively now outweigh the costs. We know that many of these leaders are reluctant to enter into open rebellion against TEC, but we also know that their parishes, whether conservative or liberal, are experiencing tremendous losses as their members struggle painfully to straddle the fence."
ALF leaders believe there is now enough clear distinction between the competing factions to convince parish leaders to make up their minds and to lead their flocks in one direction or the other. The question is whether they want to maintain their allegiance with the majority of the Anglican Communion, or follow TEC as it "walks apart".
ALF, a conservative organization, says that it has assigned itself the task of helping the laity "to know the mind of Christ" as they struggle with this decision. Online versions of the survey, available to both laity and clergy, are available at their website: http://www.glimfeather.com/ALF.
ALF is a national advocacy organization for Episcopalian and Anglican laity. ALF is a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation.
Liberalizing and Pro-Homosexual Trends Cited in Alumni Revolt
Commentary Report By David W. Virtue
The University of the South at Sewanee faces an angered alumni body and has hired a new director of marketing and communications experienced in "crisis management" to jump-start its failed public relations.
"The homosexual agenda that is fracturing the Episcopal Church has come home to roost at the Episcopal University," one source on the mountain told VirtueOnline.
Based on a review of Sewanee's annual fund website, VirtueOnline investigations have discovered that fundraisers missed their alumni giving percentage goal by 10 percent. In a loud vote of no confidence, 60 percent of Sewanee's alumni did not give.
Conservative alumni have revolted against the liberal trends at the Episcopal Church's only university, with a clear majority finding good reasons not to give to their dear old alma mater.
"The faculty here at Sewanee keeps giving them plenty of good reasons not to give. Sewanee has gone over the cliff of hardcore feminist multiculturalism and pro-homosexual liberalism. Every deviancy of the Episcopal Church is now embraced and celebrated in Sewanee. Most alumni have decided that their money will no longer pay for the perversions," VirtueOnline was told.
"We think we have a problem now, but what happens when the students go home and tell their parents what they are learning in the classroom? How do we explain to parents the meaning of the `Diversity is our Strength’ flyers on the professors' office doors when everyone knows that the Episcopal diversity is divisive and destructive? What self-respecting parent would pay next
year's massive tuition bill just to get more of that? That's our future crisis."
VirtueOnline reported last year that 18 of Sewanee's faculty proposed that the Christian faith be removed from the University's purpose statement
That wasn't the first wake-up call for alumni. The alarm has sounded many times, but perhaps not ever as loudly as now. The 28 Southern dioceses of The Episcopal Church own Sewanee. As these fracture over the loss of the received faith, and its replacement by the anti-faith, Sewanee is bound to suffer even more. A few years ago, the University of the South agreed to change its name to Sewanee: the University of the South, for the sake of inclusive multiculturalism. That is a euphemism for "the inclusive church," which means nothing is a sin anymore except anti-homosexuality and white privilege. The alumni finally woke up and started taking a closer look at what their money was paying for.
The 60 percent no confidence vote means they obviously don't like what they find. Unlike the 40 percent, the 60 percent do not have to worry about where their money goes:
*B-Glad Sewanee welcomes students of all sexual orientations (including gay, straight, lesbian, and bisexual).
*GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) founded in 1988 to provide a setting for confidential and frank discussion concerning human sexuality. Its goal is to dispel stereotypes about sexual orientation by building community and providing education.
*The Women's Studies Department, which has long been known as a recruitment and training camp for Sewanee's many feminists - (Women's Studies 111 - Introduction to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies -- A survey of the history, politics, culture, psychology, biology and literature of LGBT people. Readings and lectures focusing on works by
and about LGBT people, http://www.sewanee.edu/womensstudies)
The 60 percent have a clean conscience. Their money did not pay for a visit to the mountain by homosexual Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson when he spoke on a recruitment mission to Sewanee. Nor will their money help pay for the Sewanee website that makes his heresy available to the whole world, marketed under the new "Sewanee: The University of the South" brand name (http://www2.sewanee.edu/communications/news?id=16452). Robinson was invited to campus in April by the Gay/Straight Alliance, a student organization, as the keynote speaker for a two-day Southeastern College Summit for Human Equality. The event billed itself as "a forum for communication, networking and discussion about the college-level gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) movement." Over 350 persons attended.
In his talk, Robinson explained his own concept of God and God's love as it related to his life and the controversy, saying "this is about God's unbelievable expansiveness and inexhaustible love for all God's children... this will not be over until all God's children are welcome at the table." He addressed previous controversies in the church and society, including the ordination of women and the civil rights struggles, seeing the current conflict as another step
along the same path. At no time did he question the morality of his behavior and its unacceptability to the vast majority of the Anglican Communion.
A number of faculty, students and alumni felt that Robinson's appearance was a tacit endorsement by the university of pan-sexuality…
Most are predicting that he will get an honorary degree from Sewanee…Such a move seems certain to increase the numbers of alumni who withhold support from the university.
Costs to attend the university have also risen. The following amounts were established for the 2007-2008 academic year:
* Tuition: $30,438
* Fees: $222
* Room & Board: $8,780
* Total: $39,440
Tuition and fees cover only about two-thirds of the real cost of a Sewanee education. Gifts from alumni, foundations, and friends, and the income from endowment provide each student with a hidden scholarship of more than $5,000 per year.
Students without adequate health insurance coverage may not be allowed to register for classes. A student medical insurance plan offered through an independent insurer is available for students who do not already have adequate health insurance. The Dean of Students sends information about the insurance plan to all students before the beginning of each school year. Students who
qualify may receive scholarships, grants, loans, and work based upon a system of aid allocation.
A common refrain on the mountain now states the obvious: "The costs will continue to rise, making it harder for the university to bring in multi-culturals on scholarships, which means the financial backlash against the homosexual agenda at Sewanee will hurt Sewanee's chances of seeing fewer whites in the name of diversity. Seeing the face of God in the classroom may become just too expensive.”
The university recently joined with a group of colleges who are considering pulling out of reporting to US News & World Report for their annual rankings. Sewanee was #25 in the year 2000, but has dropped to 34 and seems permanently relegated to the less respectable position.
Sewanee has become a lesson. As reported by Accuracy in Academia, Sewanee became politically corrected. Their investigation revealed the plan: "'In 20 years you won't know the place," Mary Maples Dunn gushed to Sewanee's Board of Trustees in 1998. She outlined for them exactly what she had in mind. '"
Through anecdote and observation, everyone knows that most of Sewanee's alumni are from conservative families in the South. They deeply resent the tinkerings that have changed the mountain by replacing its received wisdom with a new agenda. They refuse to pay for what Dunn wants.
The lesson is a painfully obvious one. The Episcopal Church has become so warped by the rejection of traditional Christianity that its flagship Episcopal university is twisted up in the same errors. What was once good is now bad, and what was once bad is now good. Supporting one's alma mater would normally be thought of as a good thing. Now it means giving aid and
comfort to the enemy.
Sewanee is celebrating its 150th anniversary while it sports a black eye from the majority of alumni who are disgusted with how wrong things are on the mountain. The founders and sustainers of Sewanee deserved much better than this.
While traditional Christians are fleeing with their children and their money from the spiritual and moral dangers in Episcopal churches, so are alumni fleeing from any implied obligation to give back to Sewanee. The Sewanee of today and of the future is not their Sewanee, so it will no
longer get their money. When will it stop getting their children?
*VIRTUEONLINE said it subsequently learned that Sewanee did attain its financial goal, but not from the majority of alumni. The substance of the foregoing article, that Sewanee University is going in a direction that most of the alumni do not support, has not changed, it said.
The national assembly of the 4.8 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) - the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. - has begun opening the door for partnered gay pastors to lead its congregations.
By a vote of 538 to 431, the delegates to the ELCA's biennial convention, held in Chicago August 6-11, voted not to repeal the church's ban against ordaining non-celibate homosexuals, but to urge bishops and regional synods "to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining" partnered gays who do end up in clergy ranks anyway.
Mark S. Hanson, who was re-elected as ELCA presiding bishop, described this resolution "as words of counsel," adding that, "They are not words that change the standards of the church. They reflect the mind of this assembly as it seeks to give counsel to the leaders of the church."
Emily Eastwood, executive director of Lutherans Concerned - the ELCA's gay lobby - said that the vote was a "giant step" for the denomination. She added, "Full inclusion and acceptance is still down the road, but the dam of discrimination has been broken."
Lutheran CORE, which opposes gay clergy, said that this vote invites ministers in same-sex relationships to "go to the back door and come in." And Jaynan Clark Egland, leader of the conservative WordAlone Network, said, "I don't know as a Christian, as a pastor and as a parent what really would be worse - a church with no biblical standards to govern our ministry, or standards we don't intend to enforce. To refrain from discipline in the home is bad parenting, but we're about to do so in Christ's church."
The delegates also voted to review ELCA's ban on actively gay clergy again in 2009, when the convention will discuss the results of a long-planned study on human sexuality.
The ELCA is in full communion with The Episcopal Church. One trigger for the assembly's gay debate was an announcement by 82 Lutheran pastors and seminarians who "came out" early in the convention. Another was the case of Bradley Schmeling, an Atlanta pastor who had been defrocked by his bishop in 2006 after Schmeling told him of his partnership with another male. (He had informed the bishop of his homosexual orientation before being ordained in 2000, but this was not a concern for the church authorities as long as he remained celibate.)
In January 2007, the discipline commission for the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA voted by 7-5 to remove Schmeling from his post at St. John's Lutheran Church. However, the commission said that it voted to do so only because church policy required it, and urged local synods to state their acceptance of clergy in faithful same-sex relationships. Twenty-two of the 65 ELCA synods have made such statements this year. The commission also urged the national church to repeal its policy against partnered homosexual clergy, and to reinstate clergy who have been removed in the past for this reason.
Moreover, Schmeling remains as pastor of his parish - with the approval of his congregation. (In the ELCA, local congregations hire their clergy.) Although his name is no longer on the ELCA clergy list, Schmeling said that this would only be a problem if he left St. John's and sought a new job elsewhere. At this writing, he had no plans to do so, and neither did the bishop of the local synod, Ronald Warren, intend to take further action against Schmeling or against St. John's.
Sources: The Christian Century, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Living Church, The Associated Press
Gay Wedding Charge Overturned
In a reversal of a lower church court ruling, the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr has been found guilty of violating a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) constitutional ban on same-sex "marriage" by performing weddings for two lesbian couples.
The Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) of the Synod of the Pacific ruled 6-2 in August that while the "lesbian evangelist" and longtime Presbyterian minister "acted with conscience and conviction," her actions were still at odds with the church's constitution.
The decision of the California-based synod tribunal overturned last year's ruling by the Presbytery of the Redwoods' PJC, which determined Spahr acted within her rights and conscience as an ordained minister when she presided over the nuptials of the two lesbian couples in 2004 and 2005.
The PCUSA's Book of Order defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and church courts have ruled that Presbyterian ministers may not utilize the marriage liturgy in same-sex ceremonies.
"Regardless of the expression of conscience by the Rev. Dr. Spahr, she may not circumvent the standards of the church," according to the synod PJC ruling. "Although the Rev. Dr. Spahr had acted with conscience and conviction, her actions were contrary to the [church] constitution as it is authoritatively interpreted, [and] is therefore subject to censure."
The synod PJC directed the presbytery PJC to "enter a finding of guilt" against the cleric and to impose the censure of rebuke, the mildest form of punishment that could be imposed. The admonition does not affect Spahr's clerical status, but it could lead to further discipline if she continues to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.
However, Spahr, a 65-year-old grandmother, was set to retire at the end of August. And one of her lawyers, Sara Taylor of San Francisco, vowed to appeal the ruling to the General Assembly PJC, the highest court in the PCUSA.
Source: Presbyterian News Service
Has the debate of the radical homosexual agenda been conceded by a leading gay activist, Roberta Sklar?
Eastern U.S. radio commentator Kevin McCullough thinks so.
McCullough - also the author of The Muscle Head Revolution: Overturning Liberalism with Commonsense Thinking - quoted Sklar, spokeswoman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as saying in August that: "These young women see sexuality as a fluid thing. It's not just between your legs. These relationships are physical, emotional and intellectual, and the boundaries are not hard set."
Speaking for an ABC News report, Sklar said a growing number of young women have a "more flexible view" of their sexual partners, and their early choices of gender may not be a "fixed path."
“I know a woman who had relationships of depth with members of both sexes," Sklar was quoted as saying. “She didn't put a tag on what her sexual identity was. Recently, I saw her at her wedding to a young, lovely man. In no way does she deny her history or say she has found her true sexuality. It was all her true sexuality."
Sklar thus lost the gay debate, McCullough wrote. “For the past 30 years radical homosexual activists have sought out a way to justify their desires and behaviors beyond pure human choice. And by all measure they have been quite effective - at least in moving public opinion - though they've made little headway on fact. They have sought from science a biological explanation of their sexual behavior. They have sought to find medical, genetic, even DNA related origins. These searches have been in vain as there is still no biological, genetic, or cellular explanation for their sexually related behaviors.
“This did not stop them from making the broader assumption in pop culture and media that an explanation would be found. Thusly, a 30-year public relations effort to redefine and hi-jack the civil rights movement to include people who engage in homosexual actions has succeeded in making people `think gays are “born that way” regardless of what science says.
“The indignity that the African-American community has expressed on this point is completely legitimate,” McCullough contended. “Why should a person who engages in homosexual activity be given preferential treatment (i.e. status for treatment they otherwise would not receive) based purely on who they choose to sexually engage? There is nothing a black man can (nor should) do about the color of his skin. Unjust treatment for such a condition is abhorrent and unbiblical. But there is not one person that has ever been born who did not enter into a consensual sex act without choosing to do so. And if one is able to choose between who they do or do not copulate with - then there is no similarity between the civil rights movement and the progressive preferential rights movement of today's homosexual activists.
“Liberals recognized that weakness in their arguments some time back and thus began attempting to also eliminate the idea of `the right to choose’ when it came to sexuality. They have spent millions attempting to smear legitimate psychologists who have determined that homosexuals can `change their orientation’...Activists have ridiculed prominent former homosexuals who no longer engage in homosexual behavior but rather have healthy and loving families and marriages.
“Radical homosexual activists have also attempted to slander my voice for speaking so openly about the comparisons of homosexual behavior to other sexual deviancy such as adultery, the use of pornography, incest, and pedophilia. All are sexual actions, all are chosen to be engaged in by the adult parties involved,” McCullough said.
“Long explanation short is - if homosexuals are not biologically compelled to act on their urges, but rather make them based on choice - then the discussion is over. The `born that way’ argument is dead, and does not apply. And if that is true - then the debate about marriage is equally already settled. Marriage is a sexual union that God has established, and that society has recognized as having certain benefits. Homosexual unions by their design don't measure up - because they are missing the key ingredients.
“What was shocking about Sklar's comments is that in her eagerness to appear uber-tolerant to the very sexual chic movement of the day (bisexual twenty-somethings) she passes condemnation on her own `belief system,’” McCullough contended.
“With sexual relationships being `more fluid’ with no `boundaries that are hard set,’ girls with more `flexible views’ towards their sex partners, gender choices not being on a `fixed path,’ and women who are leaving their lesbian amores for the security of a traditional marriage, Sklar is arguing choice, not biology.
“In doing so she is arguing for the foundational view that we humans choose to control who we engage in sexual acts with. And in arguing that she ends the debate on the radical agenda she has been working towards for the last three decades.”
Source: Salem Web Network
World Net Daily
July 3, 2007
By Michael Glatze
Homosexuality came easy to me, because I was already weak.
My mom died when I was 19. My father had died when I was 13. At an early age, I was already confused about who I was and how I felt about others.
My confusion about "desire" and the fact that I noticed I was "attracted" to guys made me put myself into the "gay" category at age 14. At age 20, I came out as gay to everybody else around me.
At age 22, I became an editor of the first magazine aimed at a young, gay male audience. It bordered on pornography in its photographic content, but I figured I could use it as a platform to bigger and better things.
Sure enough, Young Gay America came around. It was meant to fill the void that the other magazine I'd worked for had created – namely, anything not-so-pornographic, aimed at the population of young, gay Americans. Young Gay America took off.
Gay people How_A_“Gay_Rights”_Leader_Becameresponded happily to Young Gay America. It received awards, recognition, respectability and great honors, including the National Role Model Award from major gay organization Equality Forum – which was given to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien a year later – and a whole host of appearances in the media, from PBS to the Seattle Times, from MSNBC to the cover story in Time magazine.
I produced, with the help of PBS-affiliates and Equality Forum, the first major documentary film to tackle gay teen suicide, "Jim In Bold," which toured the world and received numerous "best in festival" awards.
Young Gay America created a photo exhibit, full of photographs and stories of gay youth all across the North American continent, which toured Europe, Canada and parts of the United States.
Young Gay America launched YGA Magazine in 2004, to pretend to provide a "virtuous counterpart" to the other newsstand media aimed at gay youth. I say "pretend" because the truth was, YGA was as damaging as anything else out there, just not overtly pornographic, so it was more "respected."
It took me almost 16 years to discover that homosexuality itself is not exactly "virtuous." It was difficult for me to clarify my feelings on the issue, given that my life was so caught up in it.
Homosexuality, delivered to young minds, is by its very nature pornographic. It destroys impressionable minds and confuses their developing sexuality; I did not realize this, however, until I was 30 years old.
YGA Magazine sold out of its first issue in several North American cities. There was extreme support, by all sides, for YGA Magazine; schools, parent groups, libraries, governmental associations, everyone seemed to want it. It tapped right into the zeitgeist of "accepting and promoting" homosexuality, and I was considered a leader. I was asked to speak on the prestigious JFK Jr. Forum at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in 2005.
It was, after viewing my words on a videotape of that "performance," that I began to seriously doubt what I was doing with my life and influence.
Knowing no one who I could approach with my questions and my doubts, I turned to God; I'd developed a growing relationship with God, thanks to a debilitating bout with intestinal cramps caused by the upset stomach-inducing behaviors I'd been engaged in.
Soon, I began to understand things I'd never known could possibly be real, such as the fact that I was leading a movement of sin and corruption – which is not to sound as though my discovery was based on dogma, because decidedly it was not.
I came to the conclusions on my own.
It became clear to me, as I really thought about it – and really prayed about it – that homosexuality prevents us from finding our true self within. We cannot see the truth when we're blinded by homosexuality.
We believe, under the influence of homosexuality, that lust is not just acceptable, but a virtue. But there is no homosexual "desire" that is apart from lust.
In denial of this fact, I'd fought to erase such truth at all costs, and participated in the various popular ways of taking responsibility out of human hands for challenging the temptations of lust and other behaviors. I was sure – thanks to culture and world leaders – that I was doing the right thing.
Driven to look for truth, because nothing felt right, I looked within. Jesus Christ repeatedly advises us not to trust anybody other than Him. I did what He said, knowing that the Kingdom of God does reside in the heart and mind of every man.
What I discovered – what I learned – about homosexuality was amazing. How I'd first "discovered" homosexual desires back in high school was by noticing that I looked at other guys. How I healed, when it became decidedly clear that I should – or risk hurting more people – is that I paid attention to myself.
Every time I was tempted to lust, I noticed it, caught it, dealt with it. I called it what it was, and then just let it disappear on its own. A huge and vital difference exists between superficial admiration – of yourself, or others – and integral admiration. In loving ourselves fully, we no longer need anything from the "outside" world of lustful desire, recognition from others, or physical satisfaction. Our drives become intrinsic to our very essence, unbridled by neurotic distractions.
Homosexuality allows us to avoid digging deeper, through superficiality and lust-inspired attractions – at least, as long as it remains "accepted" by law. As a result, countless miss out on their truest self, their God-given Christ-self.
Homosexuality, for me, began at age 13 and ended – once I "cut myself off" from outside influences and intensely focused on inner truth – when I discovered the depths of my God-given self at age 30.
God is regarded as an enemy by many in the grip of homosexuality or other lustful behavior, because He reminds them of who and what they truly are meant to be. People caught in the act would rather stay "blissfully ignorant" by silencing truth and those who speak it, through antagonism, condemnation and calling them words like "racist," "insensitive," "evil" and "discriminatory."
Healing from the wounds caused by homosexuality is not easy – there's little obvious support. What support remains is shamed, ridiculed, silenced by rhetoric or made illegal by twisting of laws. I had to sift through my own embarrassment and the disapproving "voices" of all I'd ever known to find it. Part of the homosexual agenda is getting people to stop considering that conversion is even a viable question to be asked, let alone whether or not it works.
In my experience, "coming out" from under the influence of the homosexual mindset was the most liberating, beautiful and astonishing thing I've ever experienced in my entire life.
Lust takes us out of our bodies, "attaching" our psyche onto someone else's physical form. That's why homosexual sex – and all other lust-based sex – is never satisfactory: It's a neurotic process rather than a natural, normal one. Normal is normal – and has been called normal for a reason.
Abnormal means "that which hurts us, hurts normal." Homosexuality takes us out of our normal state, of being perfectly united in all things, and divides us, causing us to forever pine for an outside physical object that we can never possess. Homosexual people – like all people – yearn for the mythical true love, which does actually exist. The problem with homosexuality is that true love only comes when we have nothing preventing us from letting it shine forth from within. We cannot fully be ourselves when our minds are trapped in a cycle and group-mentality of sanctioned, protected and celebrated lust.
God came to me when I was confused and lost, alone, afraid and upset. He told me – through prayer – that I had nothing at all to be afraid of, and that I was home; I just needed to do a little house cleaning in my mind.
I believe that all people, intrinsically, know the truth. I believe that is why Christianity scares people so much. It reminds them of their conscience, which we all possess.
Conscience tells us right from wrong and is a guide by which we can grow and become stronger and freer human beings. Healing from sin and ignorance is always possible, but the first thing anyone must do is get out of the mentalities that divide and conquer humanity.
Sexual truth can be found, provided we're all willing and driven to accept that our culture sanctions behaviors that harm life. Guilt should be no reason to avoid the difficult questions.
Homosexuality took almost 16 years of my life and compromised them with one lie or another, perpetuated through national media targeted at children. In European countries, homosexuality is considered so normal that grade-school children are being provided "gay" children's books as required reading in public schools.
Poland, a country all-too familiar with the destruction of its people by outside influences, is bravely attempting to stop the European Union from indoctrinating its children with homosexual propaganda. In response, the European Union has called the prime minister of Poland "repulsive."
I was repulsive for quite some time; I am still dealing with all of my guilt.
As a leader in the "gay rights" movement, I was given the opportunity to address the public many times. If I could take back some of the things I said, I would. Now I know that homosexuality is lust and pornography wrapped into one. I'll never let anybody try to convince me otherwise, no matter how slick their tongues or how sad their story. I have seen it. I know the truth.
God gave us truth for a reason. It exists so we could be ourselves. It exists so we could share that perfect self with the world, to make the perfect world. These are not fanciful schemes or strange ideals – these are the Truth.
Healing from the sins of the world will not happen in an instant; but, it will happen – if we don't pridefully block it. God wins in the end, in case you didn't know.
Bush's "Faith-Based Initiatives" Office
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an atheist group's lawsuit against President Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
By a 5-4 vote, led by Bush's two appointees, the high court said June 25 that the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) - which describes itself as "the largest group of atheists and agnostics in North America" - did not have standing (the right to sue) as taxpayers against the constitutionality of executive branch expenditures. The ruling did not judge whether the White
House initiative violates the separation of church and state.
In the majority decision, Justice Samuel Alito said, "The plaintiffs contend that they meet the standing requirements of Article III of the Constitution because they pay federal taxes. It has long been established, however, that the payment of taxes is generally not enough to establish standing to challenge an action taken by the federal government." He added, "It is a complete
fiction to argue that an unconstitutional federal expenditure causes an individual federal taxpayer any measurable economic harm. If every federal taxpayer could sue to challenge any Government expenditure, the federal courts would cease to function as courts of law and would be cast in the
role of general complaint bureaus." The four liberals on the Court dissented, and said that the plaintiffs had shown sufficient injury to their interests for their lawsuit to be allowed to continue.
Current law allows taxpayers to sue in response to congressional appropriation of specific funds that specifically injure them. This Supreme Court decision narrows an exception (the Court's 1968 Flast v. Cohen ruling) that had allowed taxpayers to file suit against some executive branch actions without having to prove personal injury.
After the ruling, the FFRF complained of their defeat by the "Roman Catholic majority" of the Supreme Court, and warned that now the president may do what Congress cannot use federal tax dollars to do, namely “promote religion without chance of taxpayer challenge or court review."
President Bush praised the decision, saying it was a "substantial victory" for "strengthening America's armies of compassion. Those in need are better served when government draws in the strengths of every willing community partner, secular and faith-based."
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (founded in 1990 by the Rev. Dr. Pat Robertson in opposition to the ACLU) said the court's ruling "eliminates an entire body of litigation," such as lawsuits against minister-led prayer at a president's inauguration. He added, "It really has changed the landscape. It's very sweeping in scope...Under no area of law can you file a lawsuit just because you disagree with something the government is doing."
President Bush established the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives by executive order on January 29, 2001, nine days after he took office. The office works to strengthen faith-based social service groups, and helps them obtain federal funding. Federal grants to religious charities reached $2.1 billion in fiscal 2005, a 16 percent increase from 2003.
Federal money cannot be used for worship, proselytizing, or religious instruction.
Sources: Freedom From Religion Foundation; Ethics and Religion; Wikipedia; The Washington
By The Rev. Samuel L. Edwards
The Christian Challenge
History was made in the U.S. Senate Chamber July 12 when a morning prayer was offered for the first time by a Hindu chaplain.
After three protestors were removed by security officers for loudly interrupting the prayer with shouts of "this is an abomination" and with their own prayers for forgiveness for the "betrayal" of Christian tradition, Rajan Zed continued with a prayer to "the supreme one" for enlightenment and peace.
Mr. Zed's appearance was at the invitation of his home-state Senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who was one of only two senators present for the day's opening ceremonies, which include the invocation and Pledge of Allegiance. Following the invocation, Reid thanked Zed, said that he keeps a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in his office, and asked his colleagues to "think of Gandhi."
The other senator in the chamber was Oklahoma Republican James Imhofe, who was present to deliver a speech on the "Fairness Doctrine" and had no reported comment on the invocation.
Prior word of the Hindu invocation had stirred the objections of conservative advocacy groups such as the American Family Association and the Family Research Council. The FRC's Tony Perkins objected that, "there is no historic connection between America and the polytheistic creed of the Hindu faith. I seriously doubt that Americans want to change their motto, `In God We Trust,' which Congress adopted in 1955, to `In gods we Trust.'"
On the left, Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State reacted to the disruption from the gallery by the three self-described Christian patriots by claiming that "religious rights activists want government to reflect only their religion."
Columnist Don Feder (a Jewish conservative) dubbed the incident "the battle of Krishna gap," and said that he doubted that the Hindu chaplain's invocation presaged "the institution of the caste system or the practice of suttee in the United States." He noted there is no Hindu equivalent of al-Qaeda in America and that "their clergy aren't preaching holy war against non-believers."
Feder said he was more concerned by a recent speech to the organization Atheists for Human Rights by Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), in which Ellison compared the 9-11 attacks with the 1933 Reichstag Fire (which was set by the Nazis and blamed on the Communists to enable the Nazis to seize dictatorial powers).
*A LUTHERAN-RELATED COLLEGE has appointed as head of its religion department a practicing Hindu who has been rather outspoken in his belief that some forms of Christian ministry produce violence. Anantanand Rambachan, who has taught religion and philosophy at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, since 1985, is the first non-Christian to head the religion department in the school's 133-year history.
Responding to inquiries, Charles Wilson, a professor of religion at St. Olaf, cited a former professor, Harold Ditmanson, who endorsed the hiring of Rambachan earlier. "He argued [that] St. Olaf is a church college in the Lutheran tradition, and Lutherans believe that studying religion at a college is not the work of the Church but rather the work of a liberal arts education in the religious things of the world."
Wrote one observer: "Someone should ask [Rambachan] about the Hindus killing Christians in India, and the violence towards Dahlits practiced by Hindus in India” (Dahlits being the “untouchables” at the bottom of the Hindu caste system). “Recently, Ecumenical News International reported a mass conversion of Dahlits to Buddhism, to escape this persecution. Christians were happy about it because conversion to Christianity by the Dahlits just exposes them to more persecution from the Hindus."
Sources: CNSNews, GrassTopsUSA, World Net Daily
Iraqi Christians’ Situation Dire
The Rev. Canon Andrew White, an Anglican cleric who has been serving in Iraq, was compelled to flee the country after pamphlets were distributed in Shi'ite neighborhoods of Baghdad accusing him of being a spy.
The targeting of White, the vicar of St. George's Memorial Chapel - the only Anglican church in Baghdad - came in the context of increasing pressure on non-Muslim religious groups throughout Iraq.
The cleric also said - in the wake of the July arrests of doctors for terrorist activities in the U.K. - that an al-Qaeda operative had told him three months earlier that, "those who cure you will kill you."
Canon White – who also leads the Foundation for Reconciliation and Reconstruction in the Middle East - spoke at a hearing before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington on July 25. He described the situation of Christians, Jews, and other minority groups in Iraq as desperate, adding that the international community and Coalition forces have done nothing to support them and restrain Islamist persecution. He told how Christians in Baghdad have been told to convert to Islam or be killed.
The result is that almost half of the indigenous Christians of Iraq now live outside that country, 85 percent of Mandaeans (a pacifist group) have fled, and the Jewish population has shrunk to just eight people. He reported that during the previous month three dozen members of his own congregation had been kidnapped, and that only one person had been returned.
While pointing out the serious shortcomings of the Coalition forces in dealing with this particular problem and calling for their redress, Canon White made it clear that he still believed that the war against Saddam Hussein was right. Withdrawal by the U.S.-led military force would make the situation for non-Muslim minorities far worse, he said. "If we leave them...I dread to think what would happen."
Sources: The Living Church, The Church of England Newspaper, The Washington Times
Christianity And Islam; Persecution Of
Christians Continues In Islamic World
By Lee Penn
The Christian Challenge
Mainstream Islamic religious leaders and scholars from around the world issued a call for peace between Islam and Christianity in early October, saying that they had “unanimously come together for the first time since the days of the Prophet to declare the common ground between Christianity and Islam.”
Nevertheless, persecution of Christians in Islamic lands continues unabated.
In early October, 138 Islamic clerics and professors – from most Islamic countries, and representing the Sunnis, Shi’ites, and other tendencies within Islam – sent the world’s Christian leaders an open letter, “A Common Word Between Us And You.” They called for peace between Muslims and Christians, based on common theological ground between the two faiths:
“Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world,” the letter said. “The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians. The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbor. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbor is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.”
The clerics quoted chapter and verse from the Koran and from the Old and New Testaments to make their case for peace between the two religions. The letter was drafted by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan, and was addressed to the Pope, the Patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Coptic Churches, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to the leaders of the World Council of Churches, Lutheran World Federation, World Methodist Council, Baptist World Alliance, and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
Archbishop Williams said that the message was “particularly important in underlining the need for respect towards minorities in contexts where either Islam or Christianity is the majority presence.” Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, stated that he expected a “significant response” to the Islamic message from the Pope and other Christian leaders.
The Islamic clerics and scholars warned that “the very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake” in a global conflict between Christians and Muslims. They said that finding common ground is imperative when one considers that “Christianity and Islam are the largest and second largest religions in the world and in history. Christians and Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively. Together they make up more than 55 percent of the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world…With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake. And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony.”
The Muslim leaders defended religious freedom for the followers of the three Abrahamic faiths. They cited the Koranic injunction, “Let there be no compulsion in religion,” and said that “Muslims, Christians and Jews should be free to each follow what God commanded them…This clearly relates to the Second Commandment and to love of the neighbor of which justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part. … As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them—so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes.”
DESPITE THE ISLAMIC LEADERS’ avowal that there should be “no compulsion in religion,” however, violent persecution of Christians is widespread in Islamic nations. Among recent instances of terrorism, mob violence, and state persecution are the following:
These incidents are a continuation of a long-term trend. In Bethlehem, the Christian proportion of the population fell from 85 percent in 1947 to 15 percent now – a decline that continued during Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian rule over the city.
Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades, summarized the plight of Christians under Islamic rule:
“In Egypt, Coptic Christians have suffered discrimination and harassment for centuries…with mob attacks on churches and individual Christians [now] becoming more frequent. Even those who have tried to call attention to that plight have been victimized. In June, rioters in Alexandria vandalized Christian shops, attacked and injured seven Christians, and damaged two Coptic churches. Police allowed the mob to roam free in Alexandria’s Christian quarter for an hour-and-a-half before intervening…In August, two Coptic rights activists were arrested for ‘publishing articles and declarations that are damaging to Islam and insulting to Prophet Mohammed on the United Copts Web site.’ Last February, rumors that a Coptic Christian man was having an affair with a Muslim woman – another violation of Islamic law – led to the destruction of several Christian-owned shops in southern Egypt.”
Spencer added, “In Pakistan the situation for Christians is no better. Fr. Emmanuel Asi, chairman of the Theological Institute for Laity in Lahore and secretary of the Catholic Bible Commission of Pakistan, said in August 2007 that Pakistani Christians are frequently denied equality of rights with Muslims and subjected to various forms of discrimination. Jihadist aggression, he said, ‘at any time’ can bring ‘every imaginable kind of problem’ upon Pakistan’s Christians. As in Egypt, Christians in Pakistan have been subjected to mob violence and threats. Christians (as well as Hindus) in Peshawar in northern Pakistan received letters in August from a jihadist group, telling them to convert to Islam by August 10 or ‘your colony will be ruined.’ Even after the deadline passed, the Christians continued, according to Compass Direct, ‘to live in fear, canceling church activities and skipping services.’ They had good reason to be worried, since jihadists have attacked Pakistani churches in the past; in one attack in October 2001, 18 Christians were murdered during a worship service.”
He continued, “The same dispiriting story is repeated all over the Islamic world. In June 2007 Christians in Gaza appealed to the international community for protection after jihadists destroyed a church and a school. Journalist Rod Dreher reported in 2002 that the Indonesian group Laskar Jihad ‘has killed as many as 10,000 Indonesian Christians, forcibly converted thousands more, and demolished hundreds of churches.’ In Sudan, the Khartoum regime for years waged a bloody jihad against the Christians in the southern part of the country, killing two million Sudanese Christians and displacing five million more. In Spring 2003 jihadists burned to death a Christian pastor and his family while carrying out an unprovoked massacre of 59 villagers. In Nigeria, Muslim mobs have torched churches and even enforced Sharia codes on Christians, horse-whipping female Christian college students whom they deemed to be dressed improperly.”
Sources: The Daily Telegraph, Catholic News Agency, Asia News, BosNewsLife, Front Page, New York Sun, Assyrian International News Agency, website for “A Common Word,” at http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en&page=option1.
And The Price They Pay
Daring Leaps of Faith
By Julia Duin
The Washington Times
Having just come out of church, they were at an indoor cafe, conversing about former Muslims they knew who were now Christians. Some married into the faith. Some of the converts no longer believed in the Koran. Others said they had had visions or dreams of Jesus Christ. And others felt the Christian message of God becoming a man was more compelling than their faith. These converts face all kinds of dangers for having left Islam: ostracism from family members and friends, kidnappings and even death threats.
"Most of the people who come here start to question the Koran," one of the Egyptians said. "They can read sources not available in our countries, especially sources in Arabic." The government of Saudi Arabia, for example, blocks thousands of Web sites through its Internet Services Unit in Riyadh, including anything criticizing Islam. A Harvard University study conducted in May showed that out of 2,038 sites banned by the Saudis, 250 were religious.
In the West, seekers who've never heard a serious debate on Islam can click on Exmuslim.com, Islamreview.com and Arabicbible.com. Then there's Paltalk.com, a chat site featuring discussions in various languages on a wide range of topics. Some former Muslims enter these chat rooms with the intent to convert Arabic speakers to Christianity, including "Sam Ash," a New Jersey hairdresser.
"I ask them to prove to me that Islam is the way to God," he said. "Jesus said He is the way, the truth and the life. If you can show I have eternal life through Muhammad, I'll become a Muslim this moment."
There is no lack of people who wish to challenge him, which is why he will not divulge his real name.
"I've been hacked" into, he said, "and you should see the viruses people send me."
Most of these converts keep their new affiliation secret, as Islam considers those who leave the faith to be apostates. According to Islamic law as practiced in countries such as Iran, Sudan, Pakistan and in northern regions of Nigeria, the penalty for changing one's religion is execution.
The U.S. State Department has documented numerous instances of religious persecution overseas against Muslim converts to Christianity. What is not so well known are the threats against such converts in the United States.
Some have simply been shunned by their families. Others have been kidnapped by family members and friends, and put on a plane back home. All are reluctant to ask for protection from U.S. law enforcement, especially those converts with Arabic surnames who are leery of getting their names on a U.S. police report. However, there are no known instances of converts from Islam to Christianity who have been killed in the United States for their decision to leave their faith.
Most established Christian denominations are unaware of the situation, as converts attend Bible study groups in their own language or small hidden churches that appear on no denominational radar. No academic research has been done on such converts. The closest figures are those by David Barrett, co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia, who estimates that within U.S. borders, 50,000 Christians per year turn to Islam while 20,000 Muslims adopt Christianity. Befriending the latter, the men say, is a dicey proposition.
"It's written in their books," one said. "You cannot be a friend with unbelievers."
-'Christ in the Koran'-
The Rev. Esper Ajaj, the Syrian-born pastor of Washington Arabic Baptist Church at 4605 Massachusetts Ave. NW in the District, concedes that there are dangers to working with Muslims. Situated within walking distance of American University, he gets a fair amount of seekers at his door.
"They want to ask questions," he said. "Sometimes they come to pray here. Then they have a cup of coffee, and I talk to them. Then I discuss the greatness of Christ in the Koran.
"We've seen more Muslims in [the 1990s] become Christians more than any time in history. If they are open-minded, it is easy. If they are closed-minded, it is not."
He is writing a book tentatively titled, "Difficult Questions a Muslim Asks" but confesses that "I don't know if I'll put my name on it."
"Look at Salman Rushdie," he said, referring to the Muslim author from India whose 1988 book "The Satanic Verses" earned him a death warrant from Persian mullahs.
"One guy called my wife and said, 'Let Esper die.' They could give a person $1,000 and shoot me, and no one would know."
Mr. Ajaj said Christianity is not logical to a Muslim mind that cannot fathom worshipping someone who was ridiculed, then killed. Muslims are divided on whether Jesus even died, and the Koran said Jesus was snatched up to heaven by God before the Crucifixion. Some Muslim commentators think Judas Iscariot or Simon of Cyrene died in His place, and none believe He rose from the dead.
The Rev. Hisham Kamel, pastor of the Arabic Evangelical Church in Temple City, Calif., said the certainty of heaven is what draws Muslims to risk losing family and friends when they accept Christ.
"In Islam, the only way they know they'll get to heaven is if they take part in jihad," he said.
But there is a downside of working with converts, said the Rev. Charles Farag of Trinity Arabic Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. Two years ago, he gave one convert, who showed up at his door with a hard-luck story, one of his favorite cars, a 1994 black Chrysler New Yorker.
The convert totaled the car the next day, then showed up back at the church, saying someone had tried to run him off the road.
"Sometimes people lie so they can apply for religious asylum," Mr. Farag said. "Then, after they receive help from you, you never hear from them again." The Immigration and Naturalization Service refused to provide details on religious asylum requests.
Sometimes even offering sympathy to a convert brings opposition. One Washington area pastor asked not to be named because of a nearby mosque that has been scrutinizing him.
"I have seven Muslims who have converted," he said. "I do not want any trouble."
Ann Buwalda, an immigration lawyer for Just Law International in Fairfax, said she's been approached by Pakistani converts who are refugees. One man, "Masih," was working at a retail store in Northern Virginia, she said, when a Muslim co-worker from Pakistan noticed he was wearing a cross. The man asked Masih why he was wearing it.
"I am Christian," said Masih. The Muslim co-worker became angry, called him derogatory names in their native language, shoved him in a hallway and thereafter tried to get him fired and threatened him after work one night.
"He told the security guards at the retail store, so the employer has separated the two," Ms. Buwalda said.
"I worry about these people. I have given him a cell phone so he can call 911 if these guys stalk him. He has informally told police about it but filed no report" because, she adds, most refugees view American law enforcement in the same light as police from their own countries: people to be avoided at all costs.
She tells of another young female convert who wears a cross and who was stalked by a Muslim Pakistani taxi driver in the retail store where she works. Yet another Pakistani woman who converted to Christianity was threatened with death by Pakistani neighbors. "That kind of stuff, it's frightening when it happens," Ms. Buwalda said.
Victor Gill, a Pakistani immigrant who lives in Philadelphia and who leads a ministry called Christian Voice of Pakistan, said converts are regularly harassed in the United States.
"The threat is real," he said. "They think they are doing something to earn credit with God when they kill Christians. When John Walker Lindh converted to Islam, his family supported him. But not so for the converts here. The Koran said people who leave Islam must be killed."
Actually, that instruction is in the Hadith, a collection of the sayings of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. It has been enforced in varying ways. Female converts are usually imprisoned in a room — for months or years — as a sort of psychological torture until they recant. As for the men, all the traditional schools of Shariah (Islamic) law stipulate that "apostates" — those who leave their faith — must die. But before they die, they lose all civil liberties. Their children are taken away, their marriage is dissolved, they lose their family inheritance and they cannot be buried in a Muslim graveyard.
One dissident to this traditional interpretation of the Hadith is Taha Jabir Alawani, president of the Graduate School for Islamic Social Sciences in Leesburg, Va. He said the apostate rule was formed in the early seventh century, when leaving one's religion was seen as a traitorous act.
"Mine is a minority opinion," he said. "There's a certain hadith [verse] that said if anyone changes his or her religion, he deserves to be killed. In my research, I found that was linked to some people who were trying to penetrate the Muslim community at the time in Medina. They came from Jewish or pagan communities, and announced they had become Muslims. Then after a few days, they announced they had found this religion to be very bad and they had decided to go back to their religions: Judaism, paganism, whatever.
"The Prophet was trying to stop that kind of conspiracy so he said that if anyone changes from the religion he has adopted, we will kill him. Islamic jurists [ scholars] have not paid attention to [the exceptional nature] of that event. They have generalized that hadith to say if anyone practices apostasy, we should kill him."
Not only has the Hadith been misunderstood, Mr. Alawani said, but the famous Koranic command that there is "no compulsion" in the choice of one's religion has been ignored.
"Everyone has the full right to choose his or her religion," he said. "No one should interfere with that." He is writing a book on the topic but jokes that it should never be released in countries where Islamic law is in full force.
"I should stay away from Pakistan and other places, or I would lose my neck," he said. "Some people living in America even, they don't like those kind of opinions. They will say: 'Don't listen to him. He is trying to Americanize Islam.'"
Some Muslims who convert to Christianity in this country are ordered home immediately, said Samy Tanagho, an Egyptian evangelist associated with Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Calif.
"Last year we had one of the princesses from the Saudi royal family who came with her mother who was seeking medical treatment," he said. "I led her to Christ. It was a huge problem with her family.
"Her faith was genuine. We tried to help her and even contacted Congress to try to protect her. All of a sudden, her family sent a limousine to where she was living and they took her away. She didn't have much support here from Christians, and her family had cut off all financial support."
A California lawyer, who asked to remain unnamed for safety reasons, confirmed this account, adding that a security firm hired by the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles nabbed the woman under the pretext of protecting the royal family.
"Religion and conversion and the royal family; those are the hottest buttons you can push," he said. A call by this newspaper to the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles asking for comment was not returned.
"Another convert I know here who is Lebanese, his family threatened to kill him," Mr. Tanagho said. Hence, he added, when he baptized a Persian woman a few years ago, she asked that her baptism be kept secret.
"Egyptians and Iranians show some of the greatest interest" in Christianity, he said. "They've seen the ugly side of Islam."
-Iranians 'feel free'-
Unlike the aforementioned Pakistanis, Egyptians, Saudi Arabians and Syrians, Iranian converts reported the fewest repercussions for their faith.
"I've seen some people who've come from Iran to the United States to persecute, if not kill, in order to bring back their relatives to Islam," said Kris Tedford, a Farsi-speaking American who pastors the Iranian Church of Eternal Life in Oakton. "That's not the general rule, though. More people tend to feel freer here."
"Of all the Muslim nations, Iranians are the most receptive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ," said Abe Ghaffari of Iranian Christians International in Colorado Springs, Colo. "They've been so well exposed to the Islamic republican government in Iran and they have a lot of disillusionment with life there and the economy."
He guesses that 7,000 evangelical Christian Iranians live in this country, mostly in California.
"There was one case of an Iranian who became a Christian in New York," he said. "His wife, a Muslim, reported this to their families in Iran. The next thing, the father put pressure on him to return to Islam and even had an imam in New York call him and try to pressure and intimidate him.
"He has applied for asylum here because he knows he can't return to Iran and be safe there. Under the Islamic law, he'd be severely punished and if he persisted in his Christian faith, he'd probably die.
"People here are in danger, including from family members in the United States, who shun them, disown them and deprive them of any inheritance. And their family members still back in Iran get used as hostages."
Mina Nevisa, an Iranian convert who lives in the Los Angeles area, has not seen her family since she and her husband fled the country in 1984. She had just started attending an underground church in Tehran with her 28-year-old female cousin when a police raid on the home of the pastor revealed a directory with a listing of names of secret converts to Christianity.
The cousin was arrested on charges of apostasy and taken to the notorious Evin prison, where she was raped, tortured and then killed by a firing squad. The pastor was also killed. Mrs. Nevisa and her husband fled first to Turkey, then to Spain and then Sweden. While in Sweden, she said, she got threatening letters from the Iranian government. She said she also received threatening phone calls.
The couple fled here in 1998, settling in Northern Virginia and setting up an evangelistic ministry geared toward Muslims. In 1999, she published a book: "Don't Keep Me Silent: One Woman's Escape from the Chains of Islam."
The threatening calls started up again. This past January, Mrs. Nevisa said she was alone at home when a caller informed her he knew her husband was out of town.
"Don't you know we know your schedule?" the caller asked. The couple decided to re-establish their ministry in Southern California, but their www.touchofchrist.net Web site leaves only e-mail addresses and post office box numbers with which to find them.
"We got a letter this past Christmas saying 'die' in English," she said. "It's not only the Iranian government that wants to hurt you; it's fanatic individuals."
-Muslim Background Believers-
At Millersville University, a small college in the gentle hills just southwest of Lancaster, Pa., several hundred Arabic-speaking Christians were having their annual conference.
Several called themselves MBBs: Muslim Background Believers. MBBs are former Muslims who become Christians.
One Jordanian who refused to have his photo taken — "Someone published my picture before and there was trouble" — went by the assumed name of Maxwell Mohammed.
"I go out of my way to find MBBs across the country," he said. "They have no one to talk to. Last week I got a call from New York, an Iranian couple. His family had cast him off because he had become a Christian."
Mr. Mohammed, 53, who said his family has disowned him as well, said Muslim groups meet all over northern New Jersey but in numbers of 10 to 20 to escape detection.
"These MBBs have unique problems," he said. "They become family-less and jobless. I help these people with money, jobs and visa problems. It's hard for these people to find mates as well. Even other Christians wonder if they'll go back to Islam.
"They need a family. It's like they carry a cross their whole life. My own mother said to me: 'Your father is dead and you, too.' If you convert, you are given three days to come back. If you do not, blood is shed."
He added: "It is not easy to minister to Muslims. They are good people who love and revere God. I was one of them, and if it weren't for a faithful Christian who loved me for three years, I wouldn't have seen the light of salvation through Jesus Christ."
Zechariah Ananni, a Lebanese who converted to Christianity in 1975 after hearing an American missionary preach on the streets of Beirut, was also at the conference. Convinced that his life was in danger, he emigrated first to Detroit, then to Windsor, Canada, where he spends his time trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. His wife is so afraid for their lives, she has fled back to Beirut, leaving him with two young daughters.
A Moroccan at the conference said his married daughters were threatened by their Muslim husbands with divorce if they so much as talked to him about his conversion to Christianity. A Palestinian woman told of how her father tore her New Testament in half when he learned she had converted.
"Noor," a woman from Algeria who was converted through an Arabic-language service at Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, said her husband divorced her soon afterward. A court in Algiers awarded him custody of their two sons. She retains custody of a daughter.
"He still bothers her a lot," Noor said. "He tells my daughter I am an unbeliever, and I am going to hell."
|Index :: Print :: E-mail|