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Dutch pastor says he can believe in a 'God who doesn't exist'
Utrecht (ENI) December 12, 2007

A Dutch Protestant cleric who describes himself as an "atheist pastor", saying he does not believe in God's existence, has become a publishing success in the Netherlands. The Rev. Klaas Hendrikse published a book at the beginning of November entitled "Believing in a God who does not exist: Manifesto of an atheist pastor", which by the end of the month had gone into its third printing. In his book, Hendrikse tells how his conviction that God does not exist has become stronger over time. He suggests, however, that it is still possible to speak of God, but in this case it refers to the quality of a relationship rather than the existence of a divine being.

 


Some Christian pastors embrace Scientology
Tamopa Florida, Cnn - November 2007

Some Christian congregations, particularly in lower income, urban areas, are turning to an unlikely source for help -- the Church of Scientology.

Scientologists do not worship God, much less Jesus Christ. The church has seen plenty of controversy and critics consider it a cult. So why are observant Christians embracing some its teachings?

Two pastors who spoke recently with CNN explained that when it comes to religion, they still preach the core beliefs of Christianity. But when it comes to practicing what they preach in a modern world, borrowing from Scientology helps. The Rev. Charles Kennedy, of the Glorious Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal church in Tampa, Florida, and the Rev. James McLaughlin, of the Wayman Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, are among the theological hybrids. They say they are not scared off by programs with ties to a church that critics say has aggressive recruiting, secretive ways and rigid theology. As men of God rooted in Christian values, they do not see Scientology as a threat to their faith, but rather as a tool to augment it.

Scientology was founded in the 1950s by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer. Followers are taught that they are immortal spiritual beings called thetans. Although the church says there is a supreme being, its practices do not include worshipping God. "I'm looking for solutions, and the people that I help, they don't ask me who L. Ron Hubbard is," said McLaughlin, who works with addicts. "You know what they say? 'Thank God.' "

Critic Rick Ross, a court-certified Scientology expert, sees something more sinister at work. He warned that mainstream acceptance makes it easier for the Scientologists to achieve their ultimate goal -- new recruits. "Their hope is that through these programs, people will become more interested in L. Ron Hubbard, what else Mr. Hubbard had to offer, and this will lead them eventually to Scientology," Ross said. The church has long been in the headlines for practices critics say are little more than cult-like mind control. It is also known for its stable of devout celebrity followers.

And according to published reports, Scientology has been recently diversifying its outreach to include other religions and ethnic groups.

Kennedy, McLaughlin and a handful of other Christian church leaders -- no one can say how many -- are finding answers to their communities' needs in Scientology's social programs.


Presbyterians 'Receive' Policy on Worship
Breitbart.com - June 19, 2006

The divine Trinity _ "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" _ could also be known as "Mother, Child and Womb" or "Rock, Redeemer, Friend" at some Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) services under an action Monday by the church's national assembly.

Delegates to the meeting voted to "receive" a policy paper on gender- inclusive language for the Trinity, a step short of approving it. That means church officials can propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the Trinity, but congregations won't be required to use them.

"This does not alter the church's theological position, but provides an educational resource to enhance the spiritual life of our membership," legislative committee chair Nancy Olthoff, an Iowa laywoman, said during Monday's debate on the Trinity. The assembly narrowly defeated a conservative bid to refer the paper back for further study.

A panel that worked on the issue since 2000 said the classical language for the Trinity should still be used, but added that Presbyterians also should seek "fresh ways to speak of the mystery of the triune God" to "expand the church's vocabulary of praise and wonder." One reason is that language limited to the Father and Son "has been used to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women," the panel said. Conservatives responded that the church should stick close to the way God is named in the Bible and noted that Jesus' most famous prayer was addressed to "Our Father."

Besides "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer, Friend," proposed Trinity options drawn from biblical material include:

_ "Lover, Beloved, Love"

_ "Creator, Savior, Sanctifier"

_ "King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love."

Early in Monday's business session, the Presbyterian assembly sang a revised version of a familiar doxology, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" that avoided male nouns and pronouns for God.

Youth delegate Dorothy Hill, a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, was uncomfortable with changing the Trinity wording. She said the paper "suggests viewpoints that seem to be in tension with what our church has always held to be true about our Trinitarian God." Hill reminded delegates that the Ten Commandments say "the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."

The Rev. Deborah Funke of Montana warned that the paper would be "theologically confusing and divisive" at a time when the denomination of 2.3 million members faces other troublesome issues. On Tuesday, the assembly will vote on a proposal to give local congregations and regional "presbyteries" some leeway on ordaining clergy and lay officers living in gay relationships. Ten conservative Presbyterian groups have warned jointly that approval of what they call "local option" would "promote schism by permitting the disregard of clear standards of Scripture."


New US church leader says homosexuality no sin
Reuters - Mon Jun 19, 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Newly elected leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said on Monday she believed homosexuality was no sin and homosexuals were created by God to love people of the same gender.

Jefferts Schori, bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, was elected on Sunday as the first woman leader of the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church. the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. She will formally take office later this year. Interviewed on CNN, Jefferts Schori was asked if it was a sin to be homosexual.

"I don't believe so. I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us," she said. "Some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender."

Jefferts Schori's election seemed certain to exacerbate splits within a Episcopal Church that is already deeply divided over homosexuality with several dioceses and parishes threatening to break away. It could also widen divisions with other Anglican communities, including the Church of England, which do not allow women bishops. In the worldwide Anglican church women are bishops only in Canada, the United States and New Zealand.


United Church of Christ in US endorses same-sex marriage New York
(ENI) July 2005

The United Church of Christ has become the first major denomination in the United States to endorse same-sex marriage. In a move heralded as historic by gay-rights proponents and criticised by opponents of same sex relationships, the UCC's general synod, meeting in Atlanta, on 4 July voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution that "affirms equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender".


Danish pastor who said he didn't believe in God preaches again Copenhagen
(ENI) May 2005

Danish pastor Thorkild Grosboll, who was suspended by his bishop for not believing in God as creator, has been reinstated and on Sunday started preaching again at his church in Tarnbaek, a small town north of Copenhagen. The pastor, who looked likely to face a trial in a clerical court, was instead welcomed back after the service by his flock with red wine and snacks. Some Christians, however, criticised the Church of Denmark for accepting him back as a practising cleric. [349 words, ENI-05-0404]


US Lutheran Church to consider new rules for gay clergy
New York (ENI). April 2005

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) says it will consider a resolution later this year at its church-wide assembly permitting openly gay and lesbian clergy to serve the church if they are in committed relationships. The resolution would alter present denominational policy on gay and lesbian clergy, the church said in a statement on 11 April. Currently such clergy can only serve on the condition that they vow to be celibate. The resolution will be considered at an 8-14 August denominational assembly in Orlando, Florida.


Anglican bishops in Scotland say gays not barred from priesthood
London (ENI). March 2005

Leaders of the Scottish Episcopal Church have added fuel to a controversy dividing their Anglican Communion worldwide by declaring for the first time that in their church practising homosexuals are not barred from becoming priests. They also criticised the leaders of the 78-million communion for seeking to isolate Anglican churches in North America following the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the United States and the introduction of a blessing for same-sex couples in a part of Canada. [348 words, ENI-05-0202]

 


Copenhagen's Pentecostalists seek inspiration from 'Catholic' symbols
Copenhagen (ENI). March 2004

Pentecostal Christians in Denmark who until now have shunned symbols such as altars, crosses or candles as being Roman Catholic are showing a new interest in adopting these traditional signs. "We have lost the symbols, and therefore we have lost the hook on which to hang our faith," said the Rev. Rene Ottesen from Copenhagen's biggest Pentecostal church where a sacristy - a special room for meditation and prayer - is to be dedicated in February.
"It has a cross, icons, water, candles and other Christian symbols," he said. "The symbols give a physical and tangible dimension to our faith."


Vicar with no faith keeps his job
nettavisen, October 2003

A Danish vicar has admitted to not believing in resurrection or eternal life, and thinking that God is no more real than Robin Hood. Still, the vicar keeps his job.

Two months ago the Danish priest Thorkild Grosbøll stated that he did not believe in God, he did not believe in resurrection, nor did he believe in eternal life. Because of the statements he was dismissed form his position as a priest. The priest later apologised and has now been given his job back. The statements from the priest caused upheaval in the Danish church, media and the political community. Yesterday, bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel confirmed that the priest's suspension had been annulled. Danish media are now questioning the priest's credibility and the bishop's right to decide whether the vicar's faith is strong enough.


Northern Illinois United Methodist Conference Urges: Homosexuality/bisexuality "gift of God"
June 6, 2003

Highlights of text:
...human sexuality is a good gift of God...
...homosexuality, heterosexuality and bi-sexuality all share that gift...
...we commit to proclaim that homosexual orientation (no less or more than heterosexual orientation) can be compatible with Christian teaching
... We encourage clergy to preach this from our pulpits ...
...we encourage lay people to teach it in our Sunday school classes and tell it to our children...
...we affirm that loving, monogamous, intimate relationships between persons of the same or opposite gender, are an expression of God's love...
...we affirm that persons of all sexual orientations are equally called to ordained ministry...
...as lay persons we will similarly affirm that call and we will offer ourselves fully in mutual ministry with pastors of our churches regardless of that person's sexual orientation....



United Methodist Bishop Denies the Gospel on International Television
The Christian Sentinel - April 1, 2003

There he was -- a representative of the second largest Protestant denomination on March 11 with a perfect opportunity to share his faith in Christ with the world watching him on "Larry King Live" on CNN. From the way the calls were coming in from from the U.S. and overseas during the show's Q&A time period, the viewers were attentive -- and on edge over the possibility of a U.S. coalition war with Iraq. Many callers were seeking guidance from the five Christian leaders gathered that evening for the telecast.

But retired Bishop Melvin Talbert, the ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Church, not only blew the opportunity to tell the world about God's gift to humanity through Christ's sacrificial death on the cross for their sins, but he preached a different gospel and he affirmed universalism. His comments may have helped some viewers move to an eternity apart from Christ, because what he clearly said was that other roads also lead to salvation, including those caught in the twisted world of Islam.

Moreover, Talbert seriously warped Scripture during his appearance and misrepresented it -- declaring that it calls for things it does not, and in doing so he misrepresented the Christian faith and betrayed the Wesleyan tradition of his own denomination. This is heresy, folks. It is part of an increasing flood of apostasy, a falling away by so called Christian leaders in the Main Line denominations. Few leaders today represent the face of apostasy and the voice of treachery and treason within Christianity better than Bishop Talbert.

This latest controversy, however, is not new with Talbert. He has been brought up on discipline charges before the UMC in the past, with various evangelicals accusing him of lying and of deliberately defying church law. In more recent years he has angered many within Methodism for his promotion of homosexuality -- even sanctioning gay marriages in direct defiance of his church, not to mention Scripture.


Archbishop of Canterbury Is Enthroned
LONDON -- March 2003

Rowan Williams, a self-styled "hairy lefty" who has stirred the Church of England with high hopes for his charismatic intelligence and fears for his sometimes provocative views, was enthroned Thursday as the 104th archbishop of Canterbury.

Williams, an academic theologian and formerly the archbishop of Wales, has generated controversy because of his protests against possible military action against Iraq, his decision to ordain a homosexual as priest and his advocacy of women bishops.
He now leads a Church of England divided by such controversies and suffering a continuing decline in attendance -- down to about 2 percent of the nation on any Sunday.
He also heads the worldwide Anglican communion, which is strong and growing in Africa but divided -- as within the U.S. Episcopal Church -- between traditionalists and liberals.

Some evangelicals in the Church of England have said they are considering looking abroad for spiritual leadership because they believe Williams disregards the Bible's teaching on homosexuality and other issues.

"The appointment of Rowan Williams marks a sad day because it means that the Church of England now has as its most visible person someone who holds wrong views about the Bible," said the Rev. Tim Chapman, one of seven clergymen who stood outside the cathedral wearing black armbands in protest.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who invaded the pulpit at Canterbury Cathedral at Easter in 1998 to protest church teaching on homosexuality, also was outside, supporting Williams. "The enthronement of Rowan Williams is the beginning of the end of Anglican homophobia," Tatchell said.
The 900-year-old cathedral was packed with leaders of Christian churches and other faiths. Prince Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair -- who appointed Williams -- led the lay dignitaries.

Williams, who sports a bushy, graying beard, is a political leftist and has described himself as a "hairy lefty."

There was gentle harp music from the archbishop's native Wales, thundering drums from South Africa and references to the 17th-century divine George Herbert, like Williams a poet and a priest.

Addressing differences among the faithful, Williams said the church "can't believe and say whatever it likes, for the very sound reason that it is a community of people who have been changed because and only because of Jesus Christ."
"But there is a further dimension," he added. "Living in Jesus' company, I have to live in a community that is more than just the gathering of those who happen to agree with me, because I need also to be surprised and challenged by the Jesus each of you will have experienced.

"As long as we can still identify the same Jesus in each other's life, we have something to share and to learn."

Copyright © 2003, The Associated Press


Dean accused of heresy on internet is unrepentant
By PJ Bonthrone - Aug. 2002

AN Anglican dean who was put on trial for heresy after describing Christ as a "misguided prophet" yesterday refused to repent.
The Dean of Clonmacnoise, the Very Rev Andrew Furlong, was told that he would have to appear before the Court of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland after writing on the internet that "Jesus was a mistaken and misguided end-time prophet".

He was to have appeared at a special consistory court on Friday, but the hearing was called off after he announced his resignation on Tuesday. He has lost his living and will shortly lose his home in Trim, Co Meath. Mr Furlong said yesterday he had resigned because he felt that if he lost the case, it would "damage the liberal cause in Ireland". But he said that he still believed in the right, and obligation, of everyone in the Church to engage in "the lifelong quest for truth".

He affirmed that he did not believe in Jesus in the sense of "a human person and a divine person somehow blended into one individual". His accuser, the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, the Most Rev Richard Clarke, who was also interviewed on Radio 4's Sunday programme, said: "I have no problem with people who explore, people who question, people who doubt . . . but there is a huge chasm between that and saying 'I deny the core beliefs of the Christian Church'.

 


Jesus not God's son: priest
Agence France-Presse - Apr. 09 2002

FOR the first time in more than a century, the highest court of the Protestant Church of Ireland today put one of its clerics on trial after he denied Jesus was the son of God, a spokesman said.

The Very Reverend Andrew Furlong, Dean of Clonmacnoise, faced seven judges at the church court in Dublin after his Bishop, Richard Clarke of the diocese of Meath and Kildare, asked he be charged and brought to trial.
In his petition, Clarke said Furlong, 55, has denied "the divinity of Christ and efficacy of the sacraments" in website, print and broadcast media since November.

In December, Furlong, who served parishes north of Dublin, was suspended and his clerical licence withdrawn.
Furlong declined an invitation to resign, saying he wanted to remain within the Church of Ireland -- the largest of the small Protestant churches in the predominantly Roman Catholic Republic of Ireland.

On a parish website Furlong said he believed Jesus was "neither a mediator nor a saviour, neither super-human nor divine; we need to leave him to his place in history and move on".
"The world has seen religions come and go; to my mind, no religion is guaranteed permanence, only the searching human spirit, mind and heart are perennial."

The court has the power to admonish Furlong, remove him from his position and stop his pay or defrock him.
The court has only sat 39 times in 130 years, mostly to rule on technical church matters. It has only ruled on matters of doctrine on two previous occasions, both of those over a century ago.
Dublin-born Furlong, who was ordained as a cleric in 1972, has also served in parishes in Northern Ireland, England and Zimbabwe.

 


A government minister has launched an unspoken attack on Church leaders in a new collection of prayers written for homosexuals.
Telegraph Group Limited (March 10, 2002):

Ben Bradshaw, the Foreign Office ministers, accuses Christian leaders of "hostility" to homosexuals in a foreword to the controversial anthology, which includes contributions by Church of England clergy.

One prayer in the book is addressed to "the wife of my lover," another prays that the next Pope "shall be young, colored and gay," and one contributor argues that Jesus was homosexual. There are prayers in the book for same-sex "marriages," sex changes and "fantasy and fetish."

Mr. Bradshaw, who is himself gay, said that the new book would "provide strength and inspiration for those who want to celebrate their God-given sexuality in the face of continuing rejection and hostility from Church leaders."

The collection, Courage to Love, which is published tomorrow by Darton, Longman & Todd, encourages Christians to speak openly, "whether we are gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual or transgender." Among the contributors are Canon Jeffrey John, the chancellor and theologian of Southwark Cathedral, and the Rev. Jean Mayland, a Church of England priest and an official in the ecumenical organization, Churches Together, in Britain and Ireland. The book also contains a number of prayers for holy communion and other church services.

Canon John defended the prayers, saying that the Church should be pressured into offering blessings for gay Christian couples. "The liturgy needs to bless gay relationships which are based on the same commitment as marriage. The Church shouldn't accept anything else."

 


Catholic Church adopting new-age practices
London Times, Jan. 2002

Irish priests are adopting new-age philosophies in an attempt to woo people turned off by traditional Catholicism. A number of religious orders have started to offer courses in Buddhist meditation, yoga and reflexology in the hope of bringing people closer to God.

The Sisters of Sion offer reflexology, relaxation and prayer courses, along with a retreat called Woman in Search of Wholeness. The first combines hand and foot massage with relaxation techniques, while the second is aimed at middle-aged women and provides "prayer art and optional dance."

Sister Carmel Niland explained that the courses are a way of reaching those interested in self-development who may not be practicing Catholics. "There was a stage when I thought that reflexology might not be the best way to help people, but you would be surprised by the numbers who start at that level and then discover a deeper spirituality. Like yoga and trans-cendental meditation, it can be a tool that brings people back to God," she said.

Father Flann Lynch is a Capuchin who has combined psychotherapy, Buddhist meditation, tai-chi and neurolinguistic programming for a 1-1/2 day course called the Vision Programme. He said it challenges negative world views and teaches people to live life as "a peak experience." Lynch said he was inspired to devise the programme by Pope John XXIII. "He said the church needed to find ways of presenting the gospels to educate the modern mind."

Father Louis Hughes, a Dominican, travels the country providing body-mind meditation couirses. He was based in India for seven years and developed an interest in yoga while visiting ashrams and learning from local Hindu leaders. He has written two books, Body/Mind Meditation and Yoga: a Path to God. Hughes said many of those who attend his courses are not regular churchgoers. "They might not attend church but they are seeking something deeper. It's indicative of the spiritual hunger in our society."

Bellinter House runs courses in the Enneagram, which is a way of analyzing personalities by categorizing people according to nine predominant traits, according to Father Myles O'Reilly who runs weekends in Dublin....Used by Islamic mystics, it was adopted by Jesuits in California and Chicago in the 1970s. A Jesuit himself, O'Reilly said the courses have proved helpful.

 


Retired bishop John Spong stirs the ecclesiastical community with his unorthodox views
Kate Jennison, National Post - Jan 2002

'I am a Christian," declares John Shelby Spong, the now retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, N.J., in his most recent book A New Christianity for a New World (HarperCollins, September, 2001) "Yet I do not define God as a supernatural being ... I do not believe in a deity who can help a nation win a war ... intervene to cure a loved one's sickness ... I do not believe Jesus entered this world by a virgin birth or did in any literal way raise the dead, overcome a medically diagnosed paralysis, restore sight to a blind person ... I do not believe that a literal star guided literal wise men to bring Jesus gifts or that literal angels sang to hillside shepherds to announce his birth ... I do not believe that the experience Christians celebrate at Easter was the physical resuscitation of the three-days-dead body of Jesus ..."

Like a reversed Nicene Creed, Spong's list of disbelief goes on, confidently rejecting Christianity's core doctrines of incarnation, atonement and resurrection. It is followed by Spong's equally confident assertion that Christianity, as we know it, is dying. If Christianity is to survive it has to discard such offensive notions as sin, and abandon the language of worship in which the faithful grovel "as slaves might be expected to before a master." It must recognize that Jesus was totally human, that Love is God and God is Love. And that the way to worship this God is by living fully, loving wastefully and being all that you can be.

 


After court ruling, more churches in Germany consider same-sex blessings
ENI - Oct. 2001

Amsterdam - As same-sex couples in Germany begin practising their new right to legally register their partnerships, a number of Protestant churches are considering whether to offer church blessings for such unions. Already two of Germany's 24 Protestant regional churches - in North Elbia and in the Rhineland - offer such a blessing. These developments follow the enacting on 1 August of Germany's new partnership law allowing what have been dubbed "gay marriages".

 


Schools to show 'cocaine and sex' film about Jesus
The Daily Telegraph - September 4 / 2001

A FILM crammed with references to sex and drugs and featuring Jesus as a 15-year-old schoolboy and Mary Magdalene as a single mother is the latest ploy to woo young people back to church. In an effort to curb the decline in young church-goers, a missionary agency has made a 30-minute film on an £ 8'000 budget with teenagers playing the leading parts.

Called "An Absence of Stones," the film will be screened in secondary schools this autumn with the aim of convincing teenagers of the relevance of the Bible to their lives. It contains references to drugs and violence with the Judas figure portrayed as a drug-taking schoolgirl who betrays Jesus for a "hit" of cocaine.At one point Jesus accompanies Mary Magdalene to an abortion clinic, although he says he "hates" what she has done. In the end she decides to keep the baby. Instead of a crucifixion scene, Jesus is murdered by a schoolfriend and is resurrected in a Leicestershire beauty spot. Nigel Roberts, scriptwriter and producer for Youth for Christ, said his aim was to defy the Church's "stuffy" image. Anthony Kilmister, spokesman for the Prayer Book Society, which has the Bishop of London as its patron, attacked the film as "a distortion" of the Bible and "harmful" to young people.

 


Church adverts attacked as blasphemous
The Daily Telegraph - August 31 / 2001

THE Church of England faced widespread criticism yesterday after an advertising drive designed to attract a younger congregation compared body piercing with the Crucifixion. The advertisements, to be put on hoardings, were also aimed at depressed drug users but were branded "blasphemous" and "tasteless" by Christian charities.

Aimed at the 18-30 market, which the Church has difficulty trying to attract, the advertisements are part of a more "realistic" approach to halt the drop in congregation numbers. One poster says: "Body piercing? Jesus had his done 2,000 years ago." Another reads: "Life gone to pot? Made a Hash of Things? Things not to E-asy? Love is the drug."

The posters will appear on hoardings and bus shelters in Birmingham in October and aim to attract a generation of young people that has never been to church. However, the advertisements have incurred the wrath of traditionalists. Colin Hart, the director of the Christian Institute, said they were trivialising Christianity into something it is not" and accused the Church of trying to become "too trendy".

He said: "It is blasphemous to compare the Crucifixion with an earring. And to suggest we are offering a drug makes the Church sound like it is a fantasy world. Promoting the Church through body piercing and drugs is tasteless and will offend a lot of Christians." Two other advertisements are less controversial. One, mimicking the National Canine Defence League slogan, says: "The Church is for life, not just for Christians" while the other refers to the American television programme Friends, reading: "I'll be there for you, when the rain starts to fall. Friends. Start a new series of them."

The advertisements were designed by the communication department at the Diocese of Birmingham and ratified by the Church of England's communication advisory board. They are part of a drive by the diocese in Birmingham to reassess itself, which will include a census later this year determine the concerns and challenges facing the Church in the new century. A spokesman for the diocese said: "The problem is that people are shocked when the Church is associated with things such as drugs and body piercing, but we are only trying to talk to young people in their own language.

"Traditionally, the Church has not had a good relationship with people between 18 and 30 who tend to drift, so we need to make them stop and think. The Church has been attacked for being out of touch but with these adverts I think we are being realistic." David Hilsley, the director of the National Council for Christian Standards, said the advertisements were "gimmicks". He added:"Jesus suffered a form of torture and to then make it sound like a piercing is, quite frankly, disgusting."

 


First dog church caters for all creeds and breeds
The Daily Telegraph - August 28 / 2001

THE world's first chapel for dogs has opened in the American state of Vermont, with pews and stained-glass windows depicting black labradors with halos. Up to 15 dogs at a time have been attending chapel in a forest near the small town of St Johnsbury, in accordance with the doctrine on the noticeboard outside: "All creeds, all breeds, no dogma."

The chapel is a gesture of thanks from Stephen Huneck, a folk artist, to his five dogs who, he says, helped him to recuperate from a serious illness three years ago. He said: "They played a really important part in my recovery. They understood that I needed to become well and would surround me whenever I went out." After recovering from a virus that left him in a coma for two months, Mr Huneck, 51, went to work on the chapel, which is modelled on a traditional early-19th-century design and made out of white clapboard. His devotion to dogs is in the details. The weathervane is a running dog while carved dogs hold up the pews. Light plays through stained-glass windows that show dogs and the legends: "Peace", "Play" and "Love".

Mr Huneck, who spent £140,000 on the chapel, is an artist with a growing reputation, with works in the Smithsonian in Washington, the Museum of American Folk Art and the American Kennel Club in New York. After opening this summer, the chapel has become a haven for man and dog, particularly owners who have lost pets. "I was up there today," he said, "and there were 15 dogs. They seemed really happy to be there." The entrance to the building is already covered with photographs and messages from bereaved owners. "I want dogs and people to feel as if they are in a cathedral," he said. Later this year, he hopes to hold "blessing of the animals" services. Local clergy, he said, had raised no objections either to the idea or the canine theme. "In fact, quite a few of them have been to see if there is anything they can do."

 


Salvation, homosexuality rock Presbyterian confab
WorldNetDaily.com - July 1, 2001 (abridged)

At the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly this month, delegates from across the country and around the world voted to remove the ban on ordination of homosexuals, sending shock waves throughout the denomination. But an even bigger issue is simultaneously in question: salvation of humanity through Jesus Christ.

The very essence of Christianity was debated at the annual denominational conference as some delegates proclaimed Jesus is one way to salvation – but not the only way. The significance of this issue cannot be overstated, as Presbyterianism has historically been considered the bastion of conservative Christian theology.

Theological matters pertaining to Jesus Christ – known as Christology – made waves in the denomination last year during a "Peace-Making Conference." At the conference, some attendees declared their belief that humanity can attain salvation through various religions. Belief in the death of Christ as atonement for humanity's sin is just one of those methods, they claimed.

Outraged, several groups of congregations known as "sessions" wrote to the denomination's general counsel demanding disciplinary action against the proponents of such theology. Additionally, the congregations asked for a reaffirmation of the church's historical doctrine that Jesus Christ is the one and only way through which humankind can be saved. The denomination ultimately decided against disciplinary action, and the christological question was debated at General Assembly.

In the end, an acceptable resolution affirming Jesus as "uniquely Savior" was approved by nearly 80 percent of the Assembly's commissioners – about 550 delegates representing presbyteries in the United States and around the world. But the debate has left more conservative members of the church wondering where their denomination is heading.

"Everything in the life of the church has become so politicized" that it has become difficult to find agreement even on the most basic of issues, said Joe Rightmyer, executive director of Presbyterians for Renewal. "It doesn't get any more basic," he said of the christological issue. "That's the bottom line." Indeed, Rightmyer overheard one attendee at the debate remark, "I didn't know that was something you could debate."

Though the christological resolution received less media attention than the one allowing ordination of "self-affirming homosexuals," it deserves to be noted as commissioners believe the issue will come up again. Indeed, Rightmyer believes the church's division over ordination of homosexuals is just a symptom of the deeper theological issue of the nature of salvation. And it's a symptom that won't go away.

Local presbyteries must now decide whether to accept the General Assembly's decision on accepting homosexual leaders. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a representative democracy, not unlike the federal government. Changing the church's constitution to reflect the new proposal requires ratification of the proposal by a majority vote of the presbyteries over the next year.

If the resolution is approved within the presbyteries and the local option installed, "then there needs to be a huge apology to those who opposed the ordination of women," noted Rightmyer. The denomination "bound the conscience" – or made a binding, denomination-wide decision – affirming the inclusion of women pastors. Basically, congregations were told, "If you don't agree, you don't stay in the church," according to Rightmyer.

"Whether or not [the homosexual ordination resolution] passes, it is a disturbing development in the denomination, and it's kind of the latest extreme in a 20-year battle over sexual ethics in the leadership of the church," said Greg Roth, senior pastor of Centerville Presbyterian Church in Fremont, Calif., and a General Assembly delegate. "Many people believe that the extreme liberal factions have been advocating their own agenda and imposing it upon the church. Many conservative leaders in churches are frustrated and feel like this might become the last straw for them to feel included in what has been historically a very conservative and grounded church denomination."

But proponents of homosexual leadership spoke out at a press conference, rejoicing in the resolution's passage.

"We join together in giving thanks to God for this action of the General Assembly that paves the way for the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians," said Bill Moss, co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians and an openly homosexual elder at Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. "Today the church has returned to its historic principles of allowing local churches and presbyteries to make decisions about ordination."

In response to what many in the denomination categorize as heretical teachings by liberal PCUSA theologians, conservatives have begun the "Confessing Church movement." Individual congregations sign up as "Confessing Churches," which affirms its "historic faith that Jesus Christ is lord. It affirms secondly the authority of scripture, and thirdly, it holds up holiness and righteousness in personal relationships and as standards for leadership," Roth said.

About 400 churches out of the PCUSA's 12,000 congregations across the country have already joined the Confessing Church movement, "and I imagine the actions at General Assembly will kind of add fuel to that movement," continued Roth, who commented on the oft-cited virtue of tolerance.

"Tolerance doesn't mean inclusion everywhere all the time. It says you can have a right to believe what you want, but go where that's one of the norms," he remarked.

So what does the future hold for one of Christianity's largest denominations?

"This is the end of the church as we know it," remarked Roth.

There will likely be a move toward non-geographic presbyteries, allowing like-minded churches from varying locations to network more closely, rather than relying on geography to form local presbyteries, he explained.

Both the homosexual and christological debates have diminished the church's ability to minister, observed Rightmyer.

"We as Presbyterians don't have an effective witness to our world. Think about what we're saying. We're a church who questions the deity of Jesus and now has approved homosexual unions so that the rest of the world's just laughing at us. It just diminishes our witness, and I think the witness of Christianity overall," he said.

"The lines are really drawn in the sand," Rightmyer summed up, adding, "The amazing thing is that the Lord still loves us."

 


Homosexuality is divinely ordered, says catechism
Electronic Telegraph - June 11, 2001

A RADICAL rethink of Church teaching on homosexuality that declares it to be "divinely ordered" is revealed this week in a catechism commissioned by the Archbishop of York.

The second most senior churchman in the Church of England, the Most Rev David Hope, has given the new catechism his imprimatur and describes it in his foreword as "a celebration of Christian living". Written by Canon Edward Norman, canon and treasurer of York Minster, the catechism seeks to define Anglicanism for the first time since Thomas Cranmer wrote The Book of Common Prayer in 1662. The Prayer Book version was a brief inquisitorial text intended for use in a pre-literate age. Canon Norman's is the first attempt fully to define Anglican teaching. In the section on sexuality, he contradicts official teaching and the views of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey.

"Homosexuality," says the catechism, "may well not be a condition to be regretted but to have divinely ordered and positive qualities." It continues: "Homosexual Christian believers should be encouraged to find in their sexual preferences such elements of moral beauty as may enhance their general understanding of Christ's calling."

The Anglican Church is deeply divided over its teaching on homosexuality and at the last Lambeth Conference bishops rowed openly about the issue. In the end, Dr Carey, supported by African and Asian bishops, passed a resolution saying homosexual acts were "incompatible with Scripture". The resolution said "abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage".

A discussion document by the House of Bishops called Issues in Human Sexuality, published in 1991, forbade clergy from entering into homosexual relationships. Canon Norman, a highly respected theologian who writes "meditations" in The Telegraph, was asked to write the catechism by Dr Hope to provide a tool in training for ministry. An "official" catechism is being written and published by Church House but the project will take several years.

Called An Anglican Catechism, the text is praised by Dr Hope for managing to "explore the relevant issues for today" in the context of "an unchanging doctrinal basis of faith". Dr Hope was targeted by the homosexual rights group, Outrage!. After a night of prayer in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, he said his sexuality was "a grey area" and that he was celibate. Canon Norman addresses the contradictions in what the Church teaches and practises, saying: "The Church continues to classify homosexuality as an intrinsically disordered condition, yet significant numbers of Christians are and always have been homosexual."

The catechism declares that homosexuality "is not in general chosen: it is an expression of sexuality which derives from conditions of inherited impulsions or of early infant experience". Richard Kirker, general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, welcomed the text as a "refreshing statement which the Church is crying out for".

An Anglican Catechism by Edward Norman (Continuum £10.99) is available for £8.99 plus 99p p&p. To order call 0870 1557222.

 


American bishop who says the Bible no longer makes sense
The Herald Sun, Australia - June 8, 2001

Theologian John Shelby Spong wants Christians to break away from concepts such as Jesus's virgin birth and the resurrection to embrace 21st century ideas.

He will speak at St Michael's Uniting Church in Collins St on June 19 as part of an Australian book tour. Bishop Spong, 68, retired last January after 25 years as bishop of the Episcopal Church, part of the worldwide Anglican church. He refuses to take literally stories of the virgin birth, the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus, and believes St Paul may have been a repressed homosexual. His latest book is an autobiography, Here I Stand. Another book, A New Christianity For A New World, on the future of Christianity, will follow in September.

Bishop Spong said Bible stories of miracles, illnesses being due to sin and demonic possession, and the devaluing of women were no longer relevant to society. In 1989, he became the first bishop to ordain an openly gay man, which he described as being "one of the most exquisite times of gospel proclamation in my life". Bishop Spong will give a free public lecture at St Michael's Uniting Church on June 19 at 7pm. Executive minister Dr Francis Macnab said he had invited Bishop Spong because his radical thinking brought fresh ideas to religion. Bishop Spong will also speak at Readings Bookshop in Carlton on June 18 and Reader's Feast Bookshop in Bourke St on June 20.

 


Space aliens
SheepTrax - Bryan Hupperts © 2001 - May 2001

In a recent poll of 200 Anglican priests, only 68 could recite all Ten Commandments, but half said they believed in space aliens!

 


Priesthood haven for homosexuals
NewZealand News - May 5, 2001

LONDON - The Catholic priesthood in Britain is fast becoming a gay profession.

Proportionately, those training to be priests include significantly more homosexuals than there are in the general population, says the rector of one of the Church's seven English seminaries, Father Kevin Haggerty of St John's at Wonersh, Surrey. As well, an increasing number of gay men are training to be priests at other seminaries.

Father James Overton, the rector of Allen Hall in Westminster diocese, has said "a sizeable number" of his students are now homosexual - a trend which could cause "enormous problems" in seminaries. And now a forthcoming British Channel 4 documentary, Queer and Catholic, is to allege that, while many of the gay men remain celibate, others do not. Homosexual sex - which the Catholic Church insists is "grave depravity" - has taken place inside the English College in Rome, where elite candidates for the priesthood are sent.

The programme claims that seminarians there have also cruised Rome's gay bars and parks. Student priests in the college frequently referred to one another by girls' names and the culture in parts of some seminaries is one of "high camp." Taken together, all this suggests that, a gay subculture is emerging in some seminaries, similar to that which has developed in the United States, where it has been suggested that as many as a quarter of American priests are gay. Father Donald Cozzens, rector of one of the leading US seminaries, St Mary's in Cleveland, Ohio, suggested that among priests under the age of 40 it could be as high as 60 per cent. It was reported last year that the number of priests who had died of Aids was proportionally four times that of the general population. American seminaries now demand an Aids test before ordination.

Cozzens wrote in a book called The Changing Face of the Priesthood: "The priesthood of the 21st century will likely be perceived as a predominantly gay profession." Seminaries, he said, were becoming "significantly gay" places.

 


Ecumenical appointment is a 'milestone' in church attitudes to sexuality
ENI - 29 March 2001

New York - The new president of the California Council of Churches, in the United States, believes that her appointment is a recognition of the growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in the nation's religious life. Gwynne Guibord is also chief ecumenical officer of the predominantly gay and lesbian Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC). She said in an interview with ENI that while she recognised her appointment was a milestone - she is the first openly gay person to become a president of a state ecumenical council in the US - she also felt it was part of a process of wider cultural acceptance of gays and lesbians.

 


Elvis impersonator
Christian News, March 2001

By day, the Rev. Dorian Baxter heads up a parish in the Anglican church. But when evening rolls around, he sheds his holy robe and becomes - elvis priest-ly! Baxter, 47, is the only ordained priest in the world who is also an Elvis impersonator-and his wild, sexy performances are driving audiences crazy.

"I love his hip movements," says fan Maggie Hampton, who tried to climb onstage during a recent concert. "He really rocks. And he's so gorgeous I just want to dance with him."

"I don't do this for the money," says Baxter, who donates his concert profits to charity. "As St. Paul says: 'I have become all things that I might win all people for the cause of the glory of the gospel of Christ.' And that includes becoming Elvis, if that's what it takes....They never dreamed they'd hear a priest sing like Elvis," he says. "They really went berserk. Through Elvis, I have reached many people and brought them to Christ."

 


Gay Rights a Hot Topic At Anglicans Meeting
San Francisco Chronicle - March 2, 2001

Amid a growing schism over gay rights, the top 38 leaders of the worldwide Anglican church will gather at a retreat center in the North Carolina mountains today for eight days of prayer and politics. According to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev. George Carey, the private meeting will be a time of "spiritual refreshment" for the presiding bishops of the 70 million-strong Anglican Communion, including the U.S. Episcopal Church.

Others envision a less serene gathering. They say conservative Anglican primates from Africa and South America -- upset over a gay rights crusade in the Episcopal Church -- will attempt an unprecedented crackdown on their liberal North American brethren. Conservatives here and abroad are upset over the increasing number of openly gay and lesbian priests in the Episcopal Church, along with the performance of "holy union" church ceremonies for homosexual couples.

In recent years, bishops like Swing and Griswold -- those from the United States, Great Britain and other Western nations -- find themselves in the minority in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Rapid church growth in Africa and Asia has shifted the balance of power in a global body of worshipers once ruled by the Church of England.

In recent years, conservative Episcopalians in the U.S. have sought to forge a new alliance with bishops from Africa and other developing countries - convinced that they share a common opposition to gay rights. "Many orthodox Episcopalians are intensely frustrated and discouraged by the state of our church," said David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council. His conservative Dallas-based group has urged the Anglican primates to defend the "biblical standard of marriage" and provide "alternative Episcopal oversight" for conservative parishes in the U.S. Swing, who has ordained many gay and lesbian priests in the Bay Area, favors the tolerant stand on sexuality adopted at last year's Episcopal General Convention in Denver. It skirts the gay-straight debate by addressing "couples living both in marriage and in other lifelong relationships." It calls on them to work for "fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful and honest communication and holy love."

 


Texas religious university to offer same-sex benefits to its workers
The Dallas morning News - March 1, 2001

Southern Methodist University will offer medical benefits and reduced tuition to the same-sex partners of employees beginning next year, administrators said. The decision makes SMU the second university in Texas and one of a relatively few religious schools in the country to extend such benefits. Nationally, about 150 of 3,300 higher education institutions have similar policies.

The issue of same-sex benefits has sparked heated debates and protracted battles at schools nationwide, but SMU made the decision without fanfare or public notice. Opponents of the proposal were few in number and virtually silent, administrators and faculty members said. The benefits plan was simply a good business decision that will allow SMU to remain competitive for top teaching talent, said Dr. Morgan Olsen, vice president for business and finance.

Trustees were briefed on the policy in private, but they did not take a position on the issue, Olsen said. SMU trustees include American Airlines chairman and chief executive Donald J. Carty, whose company was one of the first major employers in the area to extend same-sex benefits. More than 100 companies on the Fortune 500 list offer similar benefits, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay and lesbian political organization. Universities have begun to follow businesses' lead, said Kim Mills, the group's education director.

"We still have a long way to go," she said.

Religious schools that offer same-sex benefits remain relatively rare, she said. But SMU isn't alone. For example, Emory University, which is also affiliated with the United Methodist Church, has a similar policy, as does Wake Forest University, which has Baptist ties. Nationally, most of the schools offering same-sex benefits are private, but some public schools, including the California State University System, have implemented such policies.

In Texas, Rice University is the only other university to extend benefits to same-sex partners, according to Human Rights Campaign research. Patricia Davis, president of SMU's Faculty Senate, said the decision sends a signal. "Not only is this important for certain people, but it sends a message that this is a place that's inclusive," she said.

 

 


Bishop says the Bible is wrong
VANCOUVER (CKNW/AM980) - Jan. 2001

A controversial Episcopalian bishop from the United States has told a Vancouver conference of homosexual medical professionals that the Bible is wrong. Bishop John Shelby Spong was given a standing ovation by the delegates for his views on religion and sexuality. Spong says a new consciousness toward sexual orientation is being born around the world. He said the Bible is wrong from many historical aspects, including its ancient judgment of homosexuals. The American Bishop says he tries to reach out to the millions of people to whom organized religion no longer speaks, including gays and lesbians. He was in Vancouver to close the annual conference of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

 


Lutheran Church makes "history"
ENI news, Oct 6, 2000

Copenhagen (ENI). The Lutheran Church of Norway has made history by appointing to a parish a homosexual priest living openly with another man. The priest will work in Majorstua, a suburb of Oslo. His appointment was narrowly approved by the Oslo Bishop's Council, with four members voting in favour, three against. The council is the ruling body for the diocese of Oslo, capital of Norway. Like other Scandinavian countries, Norway is often considered a liberal country on issues such as sexuality. But the decision has caused some conflict within the Church of Norway, the country's biggest denomination, and debate is still continuing.

 


Norway allows precedent-setting appointment of gay clergyman
The Associated Press - July 14, 2000

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- Norway's minister of churches has upheld the appointment of an openly gay clergyman -- a precedent-setting ruling that defies the state Lutheran church's religious guidelines.

Minister of Churches and Education Trond Giske announced Thursday that he had hired Jens Torstein Olsen. "He was clearly the best qualified," Giske said. The decision makes Olsen the first clergyman hired to preach in the Church of Norway while openly living in a homosexual relationship. The appointment has caused furious debate that some fear could split the church.

In 1997, the church's highest body, the national congress, ruled that clergy who enter homosexual partnerships could not hold consecrated jobs. But the church, which counts more 85 percent of Norway's 4.5 million people as members, has remained locked in an anguished debate on the topic. Last month, the Oslo Bishop's Council, made up of clergy and church members, voted 4-3 to employ the 51-year-old Olsen even though he noted on his application that he was living with a gay partner. Some council members appealed the vote to Giske, a government official who formally employs state church clergy, saying the appointment violated the national congress ruling.

Olsen lost a 1988 lawsuit against the church council after it denied him a preaching job because he was openly living with a man. He has been fighting to be allowed to preach ever since. "I'm really looking forward to starting as a chaplain," he was quoted as telling the Norwegian news agency NTB. After Olsen's selection in June, seven of Norway's 11 bishops issued a statement strongly opposing the decision. At the time, head Bishop Odd Bondevik said the appointment could split the church.

Last year, Norway's only female bishop, Rosmarie Kohn, faced a revolt among her own clergy when she allowed openly lesbian Siri Sunde to return to the pulpit. Sunde had been barred after she married her female companion. Gay marriages are legal in Norway, with all the rights of heterosexual marriages except church weddings and the right to adopt.

 


Church of England vicar changes sex
BY Simon De Bruxelles, TIMES NEWSPAPERS Ltd - July 3, 2000

Please click HERE for this story.

 


United Church Makes Gay Scholarship
Associated Press Online - June 16, 2000

CLEVELAND (AP) - The United Church of Christ set up a $500,000 scholarship fund for gay and lesbian seminarians Friday and urged wider acceptance of homosexuals by other denominations.

 

The fund, which the Cleveland-based, 1.4 million-member church will seek to double, will provide as many as 10 annual scholarships of at least $2,500 to openly gay men and lesbian women planning to serve in the church ministry. The fund is intended to underscore the church's openness to gays and lesbians, both as members and as ministers. It was named for the first openly gay man to be ordained by the UCC, the Rev. William R. Johnson, currently a staff member at the church's national offices.

 

Johnson, who was ordained in 1972, said he lost his seminary field job in 1970 after he disclosed his sexual orientation. Only a scholarship arranged by an elderly church member allowed him to remain at the seminary, he said. While the church says it has no figures on how many of its seminarians are gay or lesbian, it has accepted them in the ministry for decades. Johnson said he is hopeful the scholarship program would encourage other denominations, especially the Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches, to review policies against active homosexuals in the clergy.

The Rev. Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches and a United Methodist minister, said he wasn't surprised by the UCC's action. Edgar predicted it will be applauded by some, but not all, of the council's 35 Protestant and Orthodox denominations. "You have to respect the prophetic work of the United Church of Christ," he said. The United Church of Christ was formed in 1957 with the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.

 


BISHOP SAYS GAYS EQUAL
By Ruth Gledhill, London Times 5/23/00

One of the most senior bishops in the Church of England has said that homosexuals are equal to heterosexuals in the eyes of God and should not be condemned for being gay.  The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev Richard Harries, made his call in a paper in which he sets out the arguments in support of homosexual relationships. The issue of homosexual ordination and gay blessing is proving one of the most divisive to confront the church, even more than the issue of women priests.  The bishop's intervention, while intended to bring the two sides together, looks set to intensify the debate.

In Same Sex Relations - the Unresolved Questions, which he has also released as a video and CD and published on his diocesan website, the bishop refers to St Paul's statement that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free".  He argues that to this should be added the phrase: "There is neither heterosexual nor homosexual."  He adds: "There are people who are predominantly attracted to members of their own sex in every age and every culture."

Colin Hart, of the Christian Institute, an evangelical think-tank, said that the bishop was close to blasphemy, adding: "He is going as far as he can without actually saying that the Holy Spirit backs same-sex relationships."

 


Alarm over Church talks with Druids
Jonatan Petre, London Telegraph, May 21, 2000

SENIOR Church of England clergy are to join Druids and pagans at a controversial conference designed to help "reconcile" the traditions, much to the alarm of Church leaders.

The conference, Spirit of the Land 2000, is described as "a Christian-Druid dialogue and reconciliation meeting for the new Millennium". It is being held against a background of growing interest in New Age religion and white magic. Organisers of the event include Emma Restall Orr, the joint chief of the British Druid Order, the Rev Marcus Small, a vicar in Hertfordshire, and the Dean of Guildford, the Very Rev Alexander Wedderspoon.

According to one of the speakers, a number of clergy already participated in joint Christian and pagan services, but there was still too much ignorance and hostility. Mark Graham, of the Pagan Federation, which represents Druidry, wicca and sharmanism, said: "Some pagans believe in magic, just like some Christians believe in the power of prayer and miracles. "We celebrate our connectedness to nature and I will sometimes dance naked around a fire. They aren't doing much dancing around a fire naked at matins or evensong but perhaps they should. Perhaps they will like it."

The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Rev Robert Hardy, who warned about the growth of paganism in a General Synod debate, said the event was "very dubious" and warned that it might lend credibility to questionable beliefs. "I don't think we serve the cause of Christianity by trying to dilute it or saying it doesn't matter. I can't think how it is possible to engage in dialogue when you don't know what they believe."

The day-long conferenceat Amesbury, Wiltshire, in June, will be chaired by Rosemary Hartill, the former BBC religious affairs correspondent. Speakers include Martin Palmer, a former adviser to Prince Philip, and Ronald Hutton, a professor of history at Bristol University. The event will end with a Christian service and a Druid ceremony in which a green-robed priestess will make offerings of bread and mead. Canon Michael Cole, an honorary canon of Chelmsford Cathedral who has studied New Age religions, said: "Pagans don't make any distinction between God as creator and what He created. A plant and a planet are equally 'God' to them, which is crazy.

"This type of event gives them credibility, which they ought not to have. It becomes dangerous if it gives the impression that it is okay for Christians to become involved in such things."

 


Reform rabbis vote to recognize gay unions
By Linda Kulman
US NEWS 00/04/10

Two weeks after Vermont legislators took the first step toward recognizing same-sex unions in the eyes of the law, the nation's Reform Jewish rabbis became the largest religious denomination in the country to officially sanction such unions in the eyes of God.

The resolution that passed overwhelmingly last week at the annual gathering of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Jews, declared gay couples "worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual."

"It's a forceful statement for a religious organization to make," says Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice president of the CCAR. But it came as little surprise to participants-particularly since the resolution allows rabbis to officiate at same-sex ceremonies but does not mandate that they do so. Menitoff sees the vote as "the natural outgrowth" of steps the Reform movement has taken over the past 25 years to create a "hospitable environment" for gay men and lesbians. In 1977, the rabbis called for an end to discrimination against homosexuals. In 1990, they moved to allow ordination of gay men and women; many of the 1,800 rabbis had begun performing same-gender ceremonies already.

Yet their embrace of gay and lesbian couples is not reflected in the Torah, which calls homosexuality an abomination. Reform Jews do not interpret the document as the literal word of God, believing instead that it was written by men responding to their time, place, and situation. "We have more information," says Menitoff. "Sexual orientation isn't something we decide. We are who we are."

Justyn Lezin, 28, and Kim Haveson, 33, tied the knot at a ceremony outside San Francisco last June. "A commitment ceremony didn't do it for us," Lezin says. "It lacked the weight. A potluck in the park was too alternative." Rabbi Susan Schnur of Princeton, N.J., who officiated, says, "When you do a gay wedding, it's like pushing back on apartheid. It feels morally irresponsible not to help two people who love each other." Wedge issue. Orthodox and Conservative Jews do not agree. "It's driven another wedge between [Reform Jews] and the rest of the Jewish religion," says Mandell Ganchrow, president of the Orthodox Union.

The debate over homosexual unions is also expected to dominate this year's United Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal Church conventions. Other denominations have taken strong stands against homosexuality. But Reconstructionist Judaism, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the United Church of Christ have blessed same-sex marriages. Many gay Jewish couples are waiting for the day when they can have a civil ceremony. Meanwhile, because many people look to the pulpit for sanction, Lezin observes, "more families will be experiencing [same-sex unions] as a joy and not as a curse."

 


SATAN WORSHIPPERS OPEN TEMPLE OF LUCIFER IN DENMARK
January 16, 2000, Denmark (Reuters)

A group of Satan worshippers inaugurated what they called a Temple of Lucifer on Saturday, saying it was the first of its kind in Denmark.  "We believe in something, in some power...he (Satan) is the symbol of nature," cult leader Petra Johansson said.  "We don't believe in the Satan mentioned in the Bible," she told Reuters in an interview, referring to the scriptures forming the basis for the Christian religion.  Instead, the cult's roughly 20 members, mostly Danes but also a few Swedes, base their faith on a work called the Satanic Bible, which says disciples are "dedicated to the acceptance of Man's true nature -- that of a carnal beast, living in a cosmos which is permeated and motivated by the Dark Force".

Lighting clusters of dark candles, Johansson, 37, spoke inside the temple -- a low rectangular room on the second floor of an annex to a neat two-storey house on the outskirts of the sleepy town of Tved on Denmark's central island Funen.  A small sign on the high wooden fence around the property identified it as "Temple of Lucifer".  The ceiling and inner walls of the temple were painted black and red, adorned with pictures of demons and "The Four Princes of Hell" -- Satan, representing fire, Lucifer, air, Leviathan, water, and Belial, earth.  Among artefacts placed on a low altar in front of a huge pentagram in red with a goat head at its centre -- the ancient symbol of the devil -- were a black chalice and a long sword, which Johansson said were used in rituals and ceremonies.

Less than two km (1 mile) from the Temple of Lucifer in the Protestant Christian town church of Tved, parish priest Bjoern Moe told Reuters that the appearance of Satan worshippers had raised some eyebrows in the community but not caused much concern, yet.

 


BENNY HINN SAYS DEAD WILL BE RAISED TO LIFE AT TV SETS
December 15, 1999

"Charismatic leader Benny Hinn on Paul & Jan Crouch's TBN said people are going to be raised from the dead watching TBN.  He said 'People are going to be canceling funeral services and bringing their dead in their caskets, placing them before a TV set, waiting for God's power to touch them.'  He said they would be raised from the dead by the thousands (11/22 Chr.  News). . . Hinn . . .  has left his Orlando church and moved to Dallas.  In Jan. he breaks ground for a $30-$35 million Healing Center in Dallas, which will operate 24 hours a day when opened in 2001."

 


CHURCH APPROVES NEW PRAYER TO GOD THE MOTHER
THE TIMES, London www.the-times.co.uk/
Nov 19, 1999

GOD will be described as a mother in a prayer overwhelming approved by the Church of England General Synod yesterday, as bishops vehemently denied that they were victims of modern feminist fashions.

Supporters of the prayer claimed that God had been described in feminine language from the times of the Old Testament Prophets, in the time of Jesus in the New Testament, and during the Middle Ages.

The prayer will be included in a new book, Common Worship, which will be the first collection of Anglican literature to be put on the Internet and sold as software disks. Instead of prayer books, worshippers of the future will be able to download the text onto laptops and palm-held computers, and scroll their way through the service.

The inclusion of a prayer comparing God to a mother was a victory for the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend Richard Harries, who had a similar proposal rejected by the synod in 1996. The words are included in one of eight new prayers for the Eucharist that are said at the most sacred part of the Church service. The prayer reads: "As a mother tenderly gathers her children, you embraced a people as your own."

Bishop Harries told the synod: "Is it not vital to have, in at least one Eucharistic prayer today, some image of motherhood, of feminine imagery? Personally, I would like to see a lot more, given the importance of this to some people today." The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Right Rev Kenneth Stevenson, said: "This allusion to motherhood in the Godhead is not a creation of strident late 20th-century feminism."

He pointed to Isaiah 49:15: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?" In the New Testament, at Matthew 23:37, Jesus compared Himself to a mother: "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings." The medieval female hermit and mystic, Julian of Norwich, had used feminine imagery to describe God, Bishop Stevenson added.

Sir Patrick Cormack, MP, representing the Lichfield diocese, condemned the new Eucharistic prayers on the grounds that eight was too many, and he pleaded for churchgoers to have a common bond of literature to unite them, instead of not knowing what they would be confronted with when they went to church. "The great thing about Cranmer's Prayer Book is that it created phrases and concepts which resonated in our people for centuries," Sir Patrick said. A call to include in Common Worship the 39 Articles - the founding principles that distinguish the Anglican faith from Catholicism and date from Elizabeth I's reign in 1571 - was defeated despite support from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey. The Articles are in the Book of Common Prayer.

 


CANADA'S UNITED CHURCH'S NEW PRAYERBOOK
The Daily News Sunday, October 31, 1999

The draft version of a new United Church book of service has sparked protest from conservatives in Canada's largest Protestant denomination, who complain it reflects radical feminist ideology and a gay and lesbian agenda. The draft - titled Celebrate God's Presence - refers to Mother and Father God. It changes Father, Son and Holy Spirit into Creator, Liberator and Healer. It also suggests a good alternative to the term "husband and wife" is "life partners." By including the word partner, critics complain the new term is general enough to include same-sex relationships.

"There is no doubt at all that it permits any number of scenarios to unfold," says Fred Graham, program officer for worship at the United Church of Canada head offices in Toronto. "If the book goes to publication, it will be the first time in the United Church of Canada that such broad language has been used." And that broad language is unacceptable senior minister at North Lonsdale United Church in North Vancouver. In an article in the newsletter of the conservative Community of Concern within the United Church of Canada, Faris suggests that if published, the new service book will include "prayers and services which are nothing less than an attack on the father, the faith, and the family." In the first 100 pages of prayer, he wrote, only one is addressed to the Father.

Replacing Father with God and Mother Goddess panders to a radical feminist agenda, say critics, and is another step toward abandonment of scripture.

 


ANGLICAN CHIEF QUESTIONS JESUS' RESURRECTION
Reuters August 1, 1999 London

Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, leader of the world's 70 million Anglican faithful, has triggered a religious storm after questioning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a report in the Mail Sunday said. Carey undermines the central tenet of Christian belief in his Millennial message which will tell millions of Anglicans that we "cannot know'' whether Jesus rose from t he dead, said the report. "I can tell you frankly that while we can be absolutely sure that Jesus lived and that he was certainly crucified on the cross, we cannot with the same certainty say that we know he was raised by God from the dead.'' The report said Carey's message, to be given in a few months time, goes on to say that while he firmly believes in the resurrection, "it goes against human experience and our first instinct is incredulity."

 


BAN ON GAY ADOPTIONS LIFTED BY CHURCH OF ENGLAND CHILDREN'S AGENCY
Copyright 1999 Nando Media 1999 Associated Press London July 27, 1999

A leading children's charity affiliated with the Church of England has lifted its ban on allowing gay people to serve as foster parents and adopt children. The Children's Society said Tuesday it has decided to consider placing children with homosexuals because of a shortage of families willing to take on problem children.

The change of policy also aligns the charity with British government guidelines that recommend people should not be excluded from adopting or fostering children because they are gay. The decision divided officials at the highest levels of the Church of England, which takes a strict line against homosexuality, but a spokesman said the Church continued to support the charity.

 


PHOTOS OF JESUS AND GAYS TO BE SHOWN IN SWEDISH PARLIAMENT
February 4, 1999 By Jim Heintz, Associated Press Stockholm,
Sweden (AP)

A photo exhibit depicting Jesus among homosexuals and as an AIDS victim will be shown in Sweden's parliament building despite objections from conservative leaders. The "Ecce Homo'' exhibit by Swedish photographer Elisabeth Ohlson has sparked controversy since it was first shown last summer in Sweden, which is generally liberal about homosexuality and gives legal recognition to gay partnership. But the decision to show it in the Riksdag has outraged politicians like former Prime Minister Carl Bildt, leader of the largest conservative party, the Moderates.

 


FINLAND: LEADING MINISTER OF LUTHERAN CHURCH DECLARES HELL DOES NOT EXIST
The Washington Times Sat Apr 25, 1998

Sinners fretting about the fate awaiting them in the hereafter may like to consider a move to Finland, where a leading minister of the normally austere Lutheran Church in Finland, has declared that hell does not exist and everyone will end up in heaven anyway. "It's an entirely false construct," said the Rev. Antti Kylliainen, a Helsindi priest and author of a book that has sparked a furious row among the generally docile Finnish faithful. "Fire, brimstone and eternal torment -- they're all part of the same sad myth."

Adding fuel to the flames on earch is another outspoken minister, the Rev. Olli Arola, who told a newspaper last week that Jesus Christ was "in all probability" married to Mary Magdalene and that the immaculate conception and virgin birth were "highly unlikely ever to have happened."

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