Friday, September 29, 2006
ABCUSA: ABCUSA To Consider Sale Of Property In Valley Forge, PA
From "Jayne, Andy" <Ajayne@ABC-USA.org>Date Fri, 29 Sep 2006 11:35:15 -0400
VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 9/29/06)-The General Board Executive Committee (GBEC) unanimously voted at its September 9 meeting to recommend to the General Board that ABCUSA begin the process offering the Mission Center property for sale, acting upon the recommendation of the Building Management Council to sell the Mission Center property. This recommendation sets the stage for action by the General Board at its November meeting and accommodates any action that might require Board approval in the process. The General Executive Council which met from September 25 - 27 also endorsed the recommendation.
But the decision involves more than selling a building. The beautiful Mission Center in Valley Forge, PA, represents for many American Baptists an enduring symbol of God's work among the 1.5 million members. For many this building is iconic. The decision, therefore, was not entered into lightly. ABC enlisted the services of Cope Lindner Architects to perform a site development study and the GBEC thoroughly reviewed the use and development possibilities of the site. This internationally-recognized firm examined three options. Based upon analysis, however, of economic implications, timelines and needed expertise, among other things, the recommendation was not to pursue these.
The divestiture of this circular-shaped office building is responsible stewardship. "We believe that God is calling all denominations to a new direction," said General Secretary Roy Medley, "and we must remain open to what God is doing. We must also better position ourselves for ministry in the 21st century." In addition, the total office space occupied by ABC entities is less than 50 percent. The remainder is occupied by outside tenants and this fact exposes us to the risk of vacant space. "We want to be good stewards of our resources and to "right-size" to fit our current space requirements," Medley added. "We should not be in the real estate business. We need to remain focused on our primary work of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ as radical disciples." ABC's President Arlee Griffin,Jr. also expressed the thought that "in selling the building we are being responsible stewards and doing the right thing."
All buildings need extensive maintenance as they age, and this 42-year old Mission Center seems to have arrived at this point with its need for capital work, and costly maintenance is no exception. Over the years the Building Management Council and the Budget Review Committee of the General Board regularly reviewed the use of the building and has worked diligently to reconfigure the utilization of space for greater efficiency. "ABC needs to use its largest asset in a different way to enable its ministries," said Cheryl Wade, ABC's treasurer. "Just as the church is not a building," she continued, "so the Mission Center is not ABCUSA." The decision to sell the building at this time, therefore, is timely and this is a favorable real estate market. "It makes good business sense," said Lloyd Hamblin, ABC's Budget Review Officer.
The sale of the building will create an endowment fund for ABCUSA. Any negotiations will include an ABC option to stay in the building for a 3 -5 year period of time to determine where the core functions will be housed. It seems that ABCUSA has a very good opportunity to position itself for its mission and ministry well into the future, just as many other denominations are also reshaping themselves to be responsive to God's leading. ABCUSA is seeking to seize the moment to refocus on its true centers of mission, the local church.
Andrew C. Jayne American Baptist Churches, USA Mission Resource Development http://www.abc-usa.org/
Church to bring together 8 faiths in day of harmony
By Manya A. Brachear
Tribune staff reporter
Published September 29, 2006
In some ways, it was a traditional Baptist Sunday service. The pews creaked and groaned, and the congregation belted out a rousing rendition of "Down by the Riverside."But when parishioners pressed their palms together and bowed their heads, it was not only a greeting to God but a gassho greeting to their neighbors in the pews--a Buddhist rather than Baptist tradition.
Blending Buddhist philosophy with the Baptist faith is not uncommon at Lake Street Church in Evanston, where followers of eight religious traditions--Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Ethical Humanist--will converge Sunday to celebrate their harmony as one in humankind and share Communion.
"Divinity is a mighty river that cannot be dammed up or stopped," explains irreverent Rev. Bob Thompson, 57, borrowing a quote from Meister Eckhart, a 14th Century Christian mystic. "We all do drink from the same river, but we package the water differently."
Celebrated by Protestant churches, World Communion Sunday calls for all Christians to commemorate their unity in Christ and the sanctity of the Communion table. Inaugurated by the Presbyterian Church USA in 1936, the worship service has been embraced by other denominations and is celebrated the first Sunday in October.
At Lake Street Church, a liberal congregation affiliated with the American Baptist Churches of America, Thompson broadened the scope of Communion Sunday after preaching a sermon about the tradition 10 years ago.
"All of a sudden it struck me as so ironic the way we celebrate World Communion," he said. "Protestants get together in their own churches and think about each other while they're having Communion. What about the rest of the world? If we really believed in this stuff, we would invite the rest of the world in to share the Communion with us in the spirit of Jesus table fellowship."
[Note to Bob: please read again 1 Corinthians 10-11. Especially 10:20-22]
His approach reflects the autonomy that Baptists hold dear. They have what Thompson refers to as "soul liberty," freedom from a higher authority other than truth. But he acknowledges that Lake Street Church worships on the margins of the Baptist denomination."What we do here though on the margins is rooted in Baptist heritage, because soul liberty is inextricably part of our self-identity as Baptists," he said. "At least it was historically. Most Baptists have lost that awareness."
[Gasp! When 'soul liberty' attacks! Even Jesus must yield to the mighty god Soul Liberty!]
Rev. Larry Greenfield, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, said Thompson takes interfaith relations to the next level.
['to the next level'= winner of the understatement of the day award]
He said that while joint worship services and community service projects are worthwhile endeavors, encouraging parishioners to examine themselves before examining other religious traditions can yield to a deeper connection.
"There is an interest on Bob's part about the deep wellsprings of every human being," Greenfield said. "He has explored that within himself and helps others within the congregation to do that.... That might seem unrelated to relating to other traditions. But if you go deep enough, you're going to find some connections. There's a kind of bonding between people at a greater depth than simply saying, let's do some rituals together or let's understand each other's teachings."
"Bob and the church understand they are part of a wider fellowship that doesn't necessarily do the ministry the way they do it," Greenfield added, referring to the 1.5-million member American Baptist denomination. "But they are a very important part in contributing to our common life in dealing with interfaith sorts of issues."
Despite Thompson's unconventional ways, his path to the pulpit was common for clergy of his generation. His father, too, was an evangelical American Baptist preacher. After college, Thompson entered seminary to avoid the draft, though he had no intention of following in his father's footsteps.
In the late '70s he landed at Lake Street Church. He opened a soup kitchen in the basement of the building and encouraged parishioners to form mini-communities that embraced other spiritual traditions.
A typical calendar includes Meditation Satsang, Explorations in Mysticism and Dream Sharing. The church's Light of the Moon Society meets monthly at the sight of the full moon.
[What? No Asherah Pole Dancing Night? No High Place Celebrations? As Jar Jar would say, "How rude!"]
In 1995, the name of the church changed from First Baptist to Lake Street Church. The congregation also welcomed gay and lesbian parishioners. Attendance has since tripled, Thompson said.
"People are here not because they resonate with [the Baptist affiliation]. We're in a post-denominational era anyway," Thompson said.
Cheryl Graham grew up Lutheran, studied in a Presbyterian seminary and dabbled in Buddhism, the Baha'i faith and the Unitarian Church before she heard about Lake Street. There she said she found a community of "Christian misfits" like herself."
People come for Bob but stay because of the church," she said. "He tries to bring us as close to Christ as possible. He opens gates for all of us to be honest about our journey."
Can there be any doubt that this church should be tossed out of the American Baptist Churches this time yesterday? If you even hesitate to say yes, you do not comprehend the role of fidelity to the teaching of Christ and His apostles.
Friday, September 22, 2006
A missional church* is a reproducing body in which authentic disciples are being equipped as missionaries sent by God to live and proclaim His Kingdom in their world. Mission is the essence of the missional church, the reason for which Christ’s church exists. The mission is His, not ours. The missional church understands that every Christian is called into relationship with God and sent by Him as His missionary. The difference between being “missions minded” and “missional” is that missional is participative rather than supportive; missional is the essence of a church’s being rather than one of the things it does.
These are some of the characteristics of a missional church:
-High threshold for membership
-High value on authenticity and integrity
-Teaches obedience to, not just knowledge of, Scripture
-High value on creating a fresh new worship experience every week
-Attenders live apostolically, that is, with the belief that they are called into relationship with God and sent by Him as His missionary
-High expectation to change the world
-Mission driven: actions are ordered according to purpose
-Growth is measured by capacity to release, not retain
-Kingdom concerns have top priority
*Information about missional churches taken from Shaped by God’s Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches by Milfred Minatrea. Published by Jossey-Bass.
With Glenn Layne
It is essential to understand the times we live in. In Acts 13:36 Paul speaks about what a blessing it is to serve God’s purpose in his own time. There Paul speaks about King David, 1,000 years in his past, and says:
"For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.”
What a great thing! David knew that God’s unfolding plan was to unite and establish the kingdom of Israel, and he did it. He knew that his purpose was not that of Adam or Noah or Abraham or Moses or Samuel—all who had gone before him. And looking back, we can see that what God had planned for those who followed David would be completely different: for Solomon, or Elijah, or Isaiah, or John the Paul or the apostle Peter.
…men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do… (1 Chronicles 12:32)
The examples of David and the example of the “men of Issachar” are reminders that we are called to be people of discernment. We are called to be wise. We are called to think carefully. God does not change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. God’s word does not change. It’s the fully inspired, infallible word of God. God’s truth does not change. God’s standards of right and wrong do not change. But the times change. God’s plan for our moment in time is different that it was for 1906, or 1946, or even 1996.
I’m a real fan of the space program. When Armstrong and Aldrin landed Apollo 11 in July 1969, I was a few weeks short of my 12th birthday. At the time it seemed simple. Walter Cronkite and all the news media were slow to let us know just how close they came to crashing that day.
For months, the astronauts practiced their descent in a simulator. Armstrong was the best qualified Lunar Module pilot; he’d even been involved in the design of the simulator used to practice the actual landing. Two were built. One is still on display up at Edwards Air Force Base. The other was destroyed during training when it malfunctioned—and Armstrong was at the controls. He ejected with about a second to spare.
He had no way of knowing then how the real Lunar Module would try once again to kill him.
For a long part of their descent, the Lunar Module had to fly “on its back” with the astronauts looking up away from the moon. At the right time, they would pitch forward and then they would sight the landmarks they knew as the headed to “Tranquility Base”, the name for their landing spot—a very smooth section of soil that would make for an easy landing.
As Armstrong and Aldrin pitched forward, just 7,500 feet about the lunar soil, they were shocked to find that none of the landmarks they’d become familiar with in training were in sight. They were off target. Later analysis revealed that their “burn”, the firing of their descent engine, was mistimed by a critical few seconds, sending them off course. Instead of a smooth surface, the area before them was rugged and full of boulders and craters. Aldrin later wrote that his first thought was, “Where’s our craters? Who moved our craters?” Armstrong had to take over from the computer and manually land the Lunar Module. They pushed ahead, and Armstrong’s experience at Edwards AFB paid off. He maneuvered it like a helicopter. They spotted an area that looked good, only to find that it was a dark crater. Again, Armstrong hopped forward to a new spot. This time the spot was good. They came down straight the last 100 feet; it was important not to drift so as not to damage the legs. But it continued to drift; first forward, which they corrected, then to left. Armstrong tapped the right thruster and finally down, down, with lunar soil turning the landing site into a fog. He landed with only 19 seconds of fuel to spare.
Ever find yourself saying, “Where’s our craters? Who moved our craters? Where’s our community? Where are our friends? How come things changed so much? Who moved everything?” No matter how much the terrain has changed, I am convinced that God’s with us as we come in for a landing, and He’s provided us with all the fuel we need. We live in changing times. The task is to be wise like the men of Issachar, and to serve God’s purpose in our generation like David.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Some time back I mused over whether Roy Medley is more like Darth Sidious--the hidden hand behind the events--or like Ehud Olmert, fighting a two-front (Hamas/Hezbollah) war. Well, it's Olmert all the way. As evidenced by this little gem from the Pacific Coast Baptist Association.
What, pray tell is the PCBA? A fellowship of left-wing ABC wackos. Check their website . I couldn't help but notice that their vison statement has three references to deity and six references to American Baptists, as well as no reference whatsover to evangelism. Go figure.
Read it an' weep...
Roy Medley Speaks - Twice, or DoubleSpeak
General Secretary Roy Medley's recent "Call for American Baptists to Live Lives of High Moral and Ethical Responsibility," centers on a matter that he admits is "not the most important discipleship issue in the New Testament, nor our highest priority of ministry lest we focus on one set of sins above others." Yet he goes on to make it his most important issue.
Ignoring one of the denominational resolutions that acknowledges differences of understanding related to homosexuality, he selected another that he asserts is his responsibility to implement. His call goes on to infer that those who are gay and lesbian cannot "live exemplary lives of the highest ethical responsibility."
This statement has been received by many people as divisive, and they have responded with pain, anger, and sense of betrayal. In one local church earlier this month, the preacher praised Roy Medley's leadership at last year's Biennial for affirming a radical and inclusive love.
We are now a year from the 2005 Biennial gathering of American Baptists in Denver when General Secretary Roy Medley addressed assembled delegates and visitors regarding the "difficult season" in which we live as a denomination.
He said the issue of homosexuality was the one that "has brought us as a denomination to a cross-road in our life together. One road will lead to separation. The other path will lead us to shared ministry and mission in all the theological and ethnic richness that has come to make us the unique denomination we are."
He went on to describe his personal position on the matter and outline the way he would act as leader of the denomination: "I am conservative in matters related to human sexuality AND I do not want to be separated from those who differ from me. So, I want you to hear me clearly tonight: I am STILL traditional in matters of human sexuality AND I do not want to be separated from those who in Christian conscience differ from me on the issue of homosexuality. We have been a family where I have been granted the privilege of living in that paradox. With all my heart that is where I believe I have been called to be, where we have been called to be."
After listing sixteen ways American Baptists are immersed in Scripture and centered in Christ, he said: "I believe that the heart of our Baptist life is a call to radical personal discipleship lived in a community with a missional vocation. Our missional vocation is to embody and proclaim God's reign of grace to all the world that they might see in us, by the power of the Spirit, the life of Christ which has broken down the dividing wall of hostility between us and made us the new humanity, the beachhead of God's inbreaking reign."
He underscored the importance of a personal faith in the Baptist tradition and the need and the importance of soul liberty as a guarantor of respect for personal faith. He said: "As early Baptists read scripture they saw that God's call is a personal call addressed to each one, a call that requires a personal response. Birth into a Christian tradition or culture cannot substitute for the response required of each one as we stand in the awesome solitude of Christ's invitation to follow him. Baptists knew that only in freedom could one give one's heart and life in discipleship; that only in freedom could one appropriate the witness of scripture through the Spirit; that only in freedom did scripture have authority. For only truth freely found and freely embraced stands in the court of conscience. American Baptists, don't ever forget, 'For freedom Christ has set you free.'"
He affirmed his commitment to biblical authority and soul freedom when he declared: "Our commitment to biblical authority through soul freedom has been precious to us. And it is precious to us now! It doesn't make our life together easier, but it is essential for radical personal discipleship. That is why American Baptists grant the majority the right to say, 'This is what we believe' and also protect the right to speak a minority point of view."
He acknowledged that all this was "hard work," that we "owe one another stormy loyalty," and he aligned himself with the likes of Billy Graham who affirmed an "inclusive" ministry.
As he drew his thoughts to a close, he said: "the world needs the witness of a people bound together in love, committed to the difficult task of walking with one another in the midst of strong differences. We stand at a crossroads. In our world, the path of radical discipleship, the path of radical love is the road less taken. We dare not choose another. We dare not choose the wrong road...the road that leads to separation. That choice will certainly unite you with like-minded people, but will give you small souls, and make you comfortable Christians. The radical call of Jesus doesn't make us comfortable. Take the road-less-traveled - the rich road of love of one another and service for Christ in the midst of our differences."
Our General Secretary's statement was a bold talk in the midst of hard times. It offered his perspective, and it affirmed that he was aware of the hard times in which we are living. In spite of personal differences in matters of faith, he declared that our denomination and tradition was an inclusive gathering of Christians who respect one another and live with one another.
Now we have received this communication from our General Secretary. In words of his Biennial address, he appears to have chosen not to walk the path will lead us to shared ministry and mission in all the theological and ethnic richness that has come to make us the unique denomination we are, to have given up on living in paradox, to have lesser respect for the personal discipleship of some, and to have adopted a willingness to build the dividing wall.
It is well known that the so-called Resolution on which the General Secretary bases his "Call" does not fit the denominations' own definition of a Resolution. ("RESOLUTIONS - Adopted by a 2/3 majority vote of the General Board of American Baptist Churches, a resolution represents the position of the ABC on a specific issue and calls for some type implementing action. All resolutions must be based on a policy statement.") This so-called Resolution is based on no Policy Statement, includes no implementing action, and was adopted 110 Yes, 64 No, 5 Abstain by a post card ballot in October, 1992.
The personal call to each one is now judged by a majority of that post card ballot of General Board members more than a decade ago. Again, the road chosen appears not to be the road-less-traveled - the rich road of love of one another and service for Christ in the midst of our differences. And all because of a decision to change course and emphasize an issue that is admittedly "not the most important discipleship issue in the New Testament, nor our highest priority of ministry lest we focus on one set of sins above others."
This is unsettling, disturbing, distressing... Where do we go from here?
Italics are direct quotes from Roy Medley
Paul J. Hardwick
Association MinisterPacific Coast Baptist Association
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Thailand calm but uncertain after coup, reports church worker -20/09/06
The situation on the ground in Thailand appears to be calm but uncertain during the first hours of the coup reported yesterday (19 September 2006) – according to a church worker from International Ministries commenting back to the American Baptist Churches USA.
One soldier on a tank told a BBC reporter: "We don't know why we're here, we've been told to say nothing. We're just following orders." Others have described the situation as tense, but controlled.
Stanley Murray and the IM crisis management team say that they will be in close communication with partner church leaders as the situation develops. IM has a long relationship with the people of Thailand. IM's work in the country, then known as Siam, began in 1833, when pioneer workers John and Sarah Taylor Jones first arrived in Bangkok.
The coup on 19 September began when General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, the head of the Thai army, declared martial law, suspended the constitution and surrounded government buildings in the capital, Bangkok, with tanks.
The army has declared its loyalty to Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at the same time that it seeks to depose the nation's Prime Minister, Taksin Shinawatra. Shinawatra was in New York at the United Nations General Assembly session at the time of the coup.
Reuters has reported that the Thai Armed Forces chief announced the creation of a political ‘Reform Commission’, while army forces and police control Bangkok. The military later declared martial law, and the military then revoked the Thai Constitution and suspended Parliament.
Meanwhile, armed forces have taken up strategic positions around the town, occupying key intersections. Additionally, unauthorized military movements were swiftly banned, and all soldiers were ordered to report to their duty stations.
Charles Jones, IM's acting executive director, called for prayer on behalf of all the people of Thailand.
Some 94% of Thailand's population is Theravada Buddhist. As of 2003 there were 278,000 Catholics (0.4% of the total population) and 262,000 Protestants of various traditions.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Here's the unvarnished truth on Islam:
1. It is false. It doesn't tell the truth about God. Muhammad was a false prophet. (See Galatians 1:6-9)
2. It embraces violence in its genetic code. Jesus let Himself be killed. Muhammad killed his enemies.
3. It has no support from archaeology. None, zero, zip nada. Show me one scrap of evidence that Abraham lived in Arabia, not Palestine. There is none.
4. That emperor Benedict XVI quoted was right. There is nothing original in Islam, except the insistence on violence. Everything in Islam is a cheap knock-off of the originals, found in Judaism and Christianity.
5. Don't let Muslims cry "crusades" as an excuse for all kinds of evil. The crusades were unjustifiable. But there were counterattacks against Islamic forces who had taken lands that had been filled with Christians, who were forcibly converted, killed or relegated to dhimmi status.
6. Some have said that what Islam needs is a reformation. Wrong. The Christian Reformation was about getting back to Scriptural roots. When that happened in Islam, we got Wahabism. Get back to Quranic roots and you get back to the horrors, evils and lies of Muhammad.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Here's an except from the Study:
“WE AFFIRM that God intends marriage to be a monogamous, life-long, one flesh union of a woman and a man, who in response to God’s call leave father and mother and cleave to one another.
“We affirm God’s blessing and active presence in marriage relationships so entered in response to God’s call.”
(General Board Policy Statement, adopted June 1984)
WE ARE A BIBLICAL PEOPLE “who submit to the teaching of Scripture that God’s design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with biblical teaching.”
(American Baptist Identity Statement, revised November 2005)
WE AS A REGION ARE COMMITTED to the position expressed by our denomination.
We take seriously the statements that have been adopted with regard to human sexuality. Further, the Region Board and staff will not knowingly employ, appoint to leadership positions, or recommend for ordination any practicing homosexual persons.
WE ENCOURAGE CHURCHES to
• examine and remain faithful to the Scriptures,
• engage in grace-motivated ministries which respond to human needs and offer God’s love to all,
• practice compassion while holding to deeply held convictions,
• place in leadership positions individuals who live exemplary lives of the highest ethical responsibility in all matters, including matters of sexuality,
• remain in conversation and fellowship with those who hold differing views,
• welcome all who come, ministering to them in the name of Jesus, but not affirming any behavior contrary to scriptural teaching,
• condemn and seek to prevent all acts of hate, violence or injustice, and
• engage in ongoing discussions about this difficult and divisive issue under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Apart from the typical dialogue-babble, it bottom lines at a pretty solid position. How can that be squared with:
Colorado Church Groups Support Gay Partner Registry
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
September 15, 2006 - 3:00 pm ET
(Denver, Colorado) Three statewide organizations representing more than a dozen denominations have endorsed a referendum that would create a domestic partner registry and give same-sex couples many of the rights of marriage.
The Colorado Council of Churches, the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and Colorado Clergy for Equality in Marriage announced their support for the measure, called Referendum 1, in a joint statement on Thursday.
Ref 1 is one of two amendments involving same-sex relationships to be put to voters in November.
The other is a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage which is supported by the Catholic Church, some evangelical denominations, and the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family. They also are calling for the defeat of Ref 1.
The Colorado Council of Churches represents a dozen denominations including the United Church of Christ, the United Methodists, the American Baptist Church and the Jewish Reform Movement.
"People of faith from across Colorado are supporting Referendum I because it provides thousands of committed couples with the basic legal rights that they deserve,” said Rev. Craig Peterson, pastor at Mountain View Community Church in Aurora.
"It’s different than marriage and provides a common-sense solution to a gap in our laws."
Jeremy Shaver, campaign coordinator for The Interfaith Alliance, called it a matter of justice.
"We recognize that Referendum I does nothing to undermine marriage because domestic partnerships are different than marriage."
The groups supporting the proposed amendment banning gay marriage say Ref 1 is marriage in disguise. They are promoting rejection of the referendum and support for the amendment to maintain traditional marriage in the state.
The leadership of ABC Rocky Mountains owe an explanation to their churches, and they owe it NOW.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Three religious groups back gay rights
Ballot measure would grant status similar to marriage
Darin McGregor © Rocky Mountain New
September 15, 2006
Three state religious organizations endorsed a ballot measure Thursday that would grant gay couples many of the legal rights and responsibilities of married couples.
Among the groups backing Referendum I is the Colorado Council of Churches. It is the largest Christian coalition in the state, representing a dozen Protestant denominations and close to 1,000 churches, including the United Methodists, American Baptists and the United Church of Christ, according to Council executive the Rev. Jim Ryan.
The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and Colorado Clergy for Equality in Marriage, representing about 200 clergy statewide, also announced support for Referendum I during a news conference on the steps of the Denver City and County Building.
The endorsements add new religious voices to the debate. Until now, the highest profile group has been Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, which has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the effort to defeat Referendum I and win passage of a marriage amendment.
The pro Ref I clergy members said they are backing the initiative because it supports the view that gay couples should be treated as equals under God.
"Referendum I is the solution," said the Rev. Benjamin L. Reynolds, senior pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. "Referendum I is not marriage. It is not similar to marriage. It does not affect those who are married . . . Referendum I provides the most basic legal rights."
Referendum I would allow gay couples to register as domestic partners and thereby gain certain rights and responsibilities, including the right to make medical and funeral decisions for a partner.
Opponents call the measure gay marriage in disguise.
On Nov. 7, voters will decide on Referendum I and a related measure, Amendment 43, which would define marriage in the Colorado Constitution as a union only between a man and a woman.
The Council of Churches will not take a stand on Amendment 43 because of disagreement on the issue, Ryan said. The Interfaith Alliance and the Clergy for Equality in Marriage oppose Amendment 43.
Amendment 43 is sponsored by Coloradans for Marriage, a coalition of Christian organizations, including the Colorado Catholic Conference, National Association of Evangelicals and Focus on the Family.
While Focus on the Family has been the most vocal opponent of Referendum I, other major religious organizations, including the Catholic conference and Evangelical association, have not yet officially announced their position on the measure.
Supporters of Referendum I said religious community support is crucial.
"The other side wants Colorado to believe that there's only one appropriate and acceptable view of Referendum I from a religious perspective," said Sean Duffy, executive director of Coloradans for Fairness and Equality, the group sponsoring Referendum I and opposing Amendment 43.
"This is incredibly powerful to have leaders of congregations send a strong signal . . . that Referendum I is a strong step forward for Colorado."
Colorado Council of Churches member denominations
• African Methodist Episcopal Church
• American Baptist Churches of the Rockies
• Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) - Central Rocky Mountain Region
• Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
• Church of the Brethren
• Episcopal Church - Episcopal Diocese of Colorado
• Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - Rocky Mountain Synod
• National Baptist Convention
• Presbyterian Church (USA) - Denver, Plains & Peaks, and Pueblo Presbyteries
• United Church of Christ - Rocky Mountain Conference
• United Methodist Church - Rocky Mountain Conference
• Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches - Region 7
Source: Coloradans For Fairness &Amp; Equality
While I think the Pope's remarks are flawed--he commits the common error of Catholic theology of relying far too much on "reason", and he criticizes the Reformation for relying too much on "sola scriptura," his central critique of Islam is spot on.
APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO MUNICH, ALTÖTTING AND REGENSBURG
SEPTEMBER 9-14, 2006
MEETING WITH THE REPRESENTATIVES OF SCIENCE
LECTURE OF THE HOLY FATHER
Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg
Tuesday, 12 September 2006
Faith, Reason and the University
Memories and Reflections
Your Eminences, Your Magnificences, Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a moving experience for me to be back again in the university and to be able once again to give a lecture at this podium. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn. That was in 1959, in the days of the old university made up of ordinary professors. The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries, but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves. We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties. Once a semester there was a dies academicus, when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of universitas - something that you too, Magnificent Rector, just mentioned - the experience, in other words, of the fact that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason - this reality became a lived experience. The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the "whole" of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical scepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
In the seventh conversation (*4V8,>4H - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (F×< 8`(T) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.
At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the Logos". This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10) - this vision can be interpreted as a "distillation" of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.
In point of fact, this rapprochement had been going on for some time. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and simply declares "I am", already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates' attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy. Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile, when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: "I am". This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Ps 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature. Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria - the Septuagint - is more than a simple (and in that sense really less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act "with logos" is contrary to God's nature.
In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God's voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God's freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which - as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated - unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, "transcends" knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos. Consequently, Christian worship is, again to quote Paul, worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).
This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history - it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.
The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a dehellenization of Christianity - a call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. Viewed more closely, three stages can be observed in the programme of dehellenization: although interconnected, they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives.
Dehellenization first emerges in connection with the postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system. The principle of sola scriptura, on the other hand, sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source, from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself. When Kant stated that he needed to set thinking aside in order to make room for faith, he carried this programme forward with a radicalism that the Reformers could never have foreseen. He thus anchored faith exclusively in practical reason, denying it access to reality as a whole.
The liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of dehellenization, with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative. When I was a student, and in the early years of my teaching, this programme was highly influential in Catholic theology too. It took as its point of departure Pascal's distinction between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In my inaugural lecture at Bonn in 1959, I tried to address the issue, and I do not intend to repeat here what I said on that occasion, but I would like to describe at least briefly what was new about this second stage of dehellenization. Harnack's central idea was to return simply to the man Jesus and to his simple message, underneath the accretions of theology and indeed of hellenization: this simple message was seen as the culmination of the religious development of humanity. Jesus was said to have put an end to worship in favour of morality. In the end he was presented as the father of a humanitarian moral message. Fundamentally, Harnack's goal was to bring Christianity back into harmony with modern reason, liberating it, that is to say, from seemingly philosophical and theological elements, such as faith in Christ's divinity and the triune God. In this sense, historical-critical exegesis of the New Testament, as he saw it, restored to theology its place within the university: theology, for Harnack, is something essentially historical and therefore strictly scientific. What it is able to say critically about Jesus is, so to speak, an expression of practical reason and consequently it can take its rightful place within the university. Behind this thinking lies the modern self-limitation of reason, classically expressed in Kant's "Critiques", but in the meantime further radicalized by the impact of the natural sciences. This modern concept of reason is based, to put it briefly, on a synthesis between Platonism (Cartesianism) and empiricism, a synthesis confirmed by the success of technology. On the one hand it presupposes the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, which makes it possible to understand how matter works and use it efficiently: this basic premise is, so to speak, the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature. On the other hand, there is nature's capacity to be exploited for our purposes, and here only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield ultimate certainty. The weight between the two poles can, depending on the circumstances, shift from one side to the other. As strongly positivistic a thinker as J. Monod has declared himself a convinced Platonist/Cartesian.
This gives rise to two principles which are crucial for the issue we have raised. First, only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity. A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.
I will return to this problem later. In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology's claim to be "scientific" would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: if science as a whole is this and this alone, then it is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science", so understood, and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.
Before I draw the conclusions to which all this has been leading, I must briefly refer to the third stage of dehellenization, which is now in progress. In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.
And so I come to my conclusion. This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: we are all grateful for the marvellous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is - as you yourself mentioned, Magnificent Rector - the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which belongs to the essential decisions of the Christian spirit. The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.
Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought - to philosophy and theology. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding. Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: "It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss". The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur - this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. "Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God", said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.
Homosexuality is a flashpoint in the culture wars, but that lifestyle is more than simply a political issue for gays and lesbians who struggle with it. For those who want to change, there are a number of organizations which are willing to help them find freedom.
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) is one of them. It was founded in 1998 by families who had homosexual children, and by friends of the ex-gay community.
"PFOX was started because there were no organizations supporting parents in loving their homosexual children unconditionally," said Regina Griggs, executive director of PFOX, in an interview with AFA Journal. At the time, she added, the secular-minded organizations dealing with homosexuality insisted "that parents love their children only if they affirm the child's homosexual behavior."
But Griggs said PFOX takes a different approach, because it "believes that parents can love their children unconditionally and without any stipulations." That principle allows parents to love their children without surrendering parental beliefs about homosexuality itself.
The Ex-'Gay' Lifestyle
One of those core beliefs is that same-sex attraction is not immutable. While parents and friends can -- and must -- still love the homosexual, there is an open door of hope for those who want to change. That view, however, sticks in the craw of homosexual advocates, who believe that gays and lesbians have no choice in the matter of sexual orientation. It is the way they were born, activists insist, and it is best to accept that reality.
As it turns out, that's not the reality for everyone. "Each year men and women with same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave homosexuality," Griggs said.
Of course, the existence of ex-gays has become quite problematic for the homosexual community. The presence of men and women who once claimed to be homosexual, but who now say they have left the lifestyle for good, undercuts the agenda of activists.
Ironically, while the heart of the gay agenda is the demand for respect from society when gays and lesbians "come out of the closet" and declare their homosexual orientation, activists seem to forget about respect when it comes to ex-gays. Homosexuals "refuse to respect that decision .... Consequently, formerly gay men and women are reviled simply because they dare to exist," Griggs said. "Ex-gays are not respected or protected from harassment, and are in need of our support ...."
Moreover, she said, homosexual activists and those who are sympathetic to that community are vigorous in their attempts to squelch the ex-gay message. They "attempt to prevent Americans, including our children, from hearing the message that unwanted same-sex attractions can be overcome," Griggs said.
That is especially true in public schools, according to Griggs. "In too many schools, the ex-gay viewpoint is censored or marginalized," she said, adding that many educators act "to exclude some views merely because they disagree with them."
For example, a copy of the PFOX brochure "Preventing Bullying At Your School: Safe Schools for Everyone!" urges schools to act swiftly and firmly to prevent the bullying of students. "School safety" is one of the homosexual community's major rallying cries when they demand that public schools teach children to respect gay and lesbian students.
But the PFOX brochure takes a slightly different approach to the bullying issue. The group argues that schools should not promote homosexuality in order to make schools safer for homosexual students. Rather, PFOX urges school officials to simply develop a zero-tolerance policy against bullying all kids for any reason.
Moreover, PFOX asks schools to make students aware that leaving the gay lifestyle is possible, and students who are trying to do that -- or who have done so -- should also be respected.
Snubbed By the PTA?
Not everyone is thrilled with that approach. A case in point appears to be the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), with whom PFOX has had a conflict for the last three years. That's how many times PFOX has been turned down in its request for a booth at the PTA's annual convention. PFOX wanted to set up a display in order to offer to delegates its anti-bullying brochure. The PTA flatly refused to allow it.
In a letter to National PTA President Ann Marie Weselak, Griggs complained that not only did the PTA reject PFOX's application, but it had also "failed to respond to our repeated requests as to specifically what the exhibits committee read in our anti-bullying brochure that led to its rejection as exhibit booth material."
On the other hand, during those three annual conventions, PTA allowed a homosexual group -- Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) -- not only to have a booth in order to distribute materials, but also to present a workshop to PTA attendees.
Following the PTA-PFOX dust-up concerning the 2005 convention, AFA Journal interviewed Weselak to allow her to explain PTA's position. She said PFLAG was only present "to help educate and inform parents on the topic of bullying in order to help make their children more safe in schools. And that's what their invitation was based upon."
However, psychology professor Dr. Warren Throckmorton, director of the college counseling service at Grove City College in Pennsylvania and a spokesman for PFOX, said Weselak's explanation wasn't the whole story. "In fact, [PFLAG] had an article that was distributed to all the attendees criticizing my work in sexual identity therapy [that helps homosexuals leave that lifestyle]," he said. "Now what does that have to do with bullying?"
Furthermore, he said, PFLAG used its workshop in 2005 to stress the need to raise more "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender" issues in the shaping of public school policies and curricula. Once again, Throckmorton noted, such matters fall far outside a simple message about bullying.
What also troubles PFOX officials is the fact that PFLAG is a political advocacy group that promotes homosexual political causes like same-sex "marriage," hate-crime laws, and homosexual adoption. Griggs, for example, believes that giving PFLAG a forum at the PTA convention is nothing short of an implicit endorsement of the homosexual advocacy group's radical agenda.
Weselak disagreed with that assessment in her interview with AFA Journal, insisting that PFLAG was invited only because of its anti-bullying stance. "What their other platforms are, what their other works are in their organization is not what the invitation ... was about," she said.
Throckmorton doesn't buy that explanation. He said it is "kind of insulting to the intelligence of those conservative members for [the PTA] to say it's not going to support any political perspective -- but then to turn around and basically give a group an opportunity to do just that" at their convention.
AFA Journal contacted the PTA for their response to PFOX's complaint about once again being refused exhibit space at the 2006 PTA convention. However, PTA officials did not return phone call requests for an interview.
© 2006 AgapePress all rights reserved.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, September 13, 2006
By BETTYE WELLS MILLER
Many mainline Protestant denominations are wrestling with the ordination of homosexual clergy and blessing same-sex unions. Here are links to some web sites with information about those debates:
Episcopal Church USA: http://ecusa.anglican.org/
Transformation Ministries: www.transmin.org/
American Baptist Churches: www.abc-usa.org/
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: www.elca.org/
United Church of Christ: www.ucc.org/
United Methodist Church: www.umc.org/
United Presbyterian Church: www.pcusa.org/
Some Inland Episcopalians fear the church they love could be headed for a major split over whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry and to serve as clergy.
Eleven bishops meeting in New York said in a brief statement Wednesday they could not agree on how to respond to seven dioceses that want to split from the denomination because they oppose blessing same-sex unions and the ordination of gay clergy.
That is not a good sign, said Ward Lantier, a Redlands Episcopalian who converted from Roman Catholicism more than 30 years ago.
"The failure of these people to reach agreement is very serious," Lantier said. "It indicates that the division between liberal and orthodox Episcopalians is closing."
Nobody wants to see the church split, he said. "We all hope and pray that's not where we're headed. With the news from New York, that's what it seems."
Wednesday's meeting of the bishops -- called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who heads the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church -- recognizes how fractured the Episcopal Church is, said Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.
The institute describes itself as an ecumenical alliance of American Christians working to reform their churches.
The election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church this summer is probably accelerating that, Tooley said, because of her support of the denomination's first openly gay bishop and of the blessing of same-sex unions.
Several mainline Protestant denominations are wrestling with similar issues.
Locally, the Pacific Southwest Region of American Baptist Churches USA voted in May to withdraw from the denomination in part because they believed national leaders have not moved to stop the ordination of homosexual clergy or halt the appointment of gays to leadership positions.
The new Baptist organization, Transformation Ministries, will hold its first general meeting in Alhambra next month.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church USA are debating how to deal with homosexuality.
More than 100 churches that were affiliated with The United Church of Christ have left that denomination since it formally supported same-sex unions last year.
At least three parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, which covers westernmost San Bernardino and Riverside counties, withdrew from the diocese and affiliated with a diocese in Uganda that opposes gay clergy and same-sex unions.
Although denominational splits are painful, they are not new in the American church, Tooley said.
American Christianity "has always been somewhat individualistic and not bound to formalized structures," he said.
The debate is not just about sexuality, Tooley said.
"In large part it's over what are scriptures, the identity of Christ, human nature and the role of the church," he said. "Traditionalists say the role of Christ is redemptive and sal-vific. For others it's more of an affirmation. It's hard to rectify those two very different world views."
The Rev. Paul Price of St. George's Episcopal Church in Riverside said the debate centers on whether to place more authority on Scripture or on the Holy Spirit moving the church into a new era.
"In the Anglican tradition we look at Scripture, reason and tradition as a guide," Price said. "We want to explore what it means for people to be homosexual. . . . Many of our churches have said this is not something that is a choice by humans. It is a part of who they are, and we are embracing those people who are homosexuals."
The Rev. David Starr, priest in charge at St. John's Episcopal Church in San Bernardino, said a split is not inevitable.
"They're still talking," Starr said of the bishops. "When people are communicating and holding each other in prayer, there is hope."
Although denominational issues are important, they are not foremost in most parishioners' minds, said the Rev. John Saville of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Corona.
"Most people I know are focused on the Gospel and trying to live each day," Saville said.
The debate over homosexuality can distract the church from other important work such as mission and evangelism, said the Rev. Dr. David T. Gortner, director of the Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership at an Episcopal Church seminary in Berkeley.
The church is encouraging congregations to fight world poverty, improve the quality of education around the world and improve maternal health, Gortner said.
"This (differences over homosexuality) has pushed so many people in this country and around the world in such different directions," Gortner said. "Others of us wish this would stop. There is a broad middle that is saying we are Episcopalian and we will stick it out, no matter how much it hurts."
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Secular or 'unaffiliated'? Findings escalate debate
Posted 9/12/2006 1:20 AM ET
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE UNAFFILIATED
The Baylor survey delves into the beliefs of the 10.8% of respondents who claim no religious preference or identification:
Belief in God
Believe in higher power or cosmic force: 44.5%
Don’t believe in anything beyond the physical world: 37.1%
Believe in God with no doubts: 11.6%
Believe in God with some doubts: 4.8%
Sometimes believe in God: 2.1%
Source: Baylor survey
The USA is not losing its religion, as other recent surveys have suggested, Baylor University sociologists say.
The Baylor Religion Survey finds that 10.8% of Americans have no religious ties; other surveys place the figure at 14% and say secularization is increasing.
The numbers are close enough that margins of error need to be considered (Baylor's was plus or minus 4 percentage points), but Baylor researchers say other studies didn't ask the right questions.
Baylor asked, "With what religious family (40 choices and a write-in option) do you most closely identify?" It also asked people to name their specific denominations (such as Southern Baptist) and to write in the name and address of their "current place of worship." All but 10.8% of survey respondents answered at least one of these three questions.
By contrast, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) asked 50,000 people, "What is your religious identity, if any?" and found the percentage of those who listed "none" increased from 8% in 1990 to 14% in 2001.
The General Social Survey, by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found that the percentage of "nones" climbed during the '90s to 13.8% of Americans in 2004, survey director Tom Smith says.
Baylor sociologist Kevin Dougherty says that "when we asked the same questions other surveys asked about identification or preference, we got the same roughly 13% to 14% they get."
But, he says, "many of these so-called 'nones' named a place and even gave the address. They're not really 'nones,' they're just unaffiliated."
Baylor also says more than one-third (33.7%) of these unaffiliated read some kind of holy scripture weekly or more; 35.6% pray daily.
But Barry Kosmin, co-author of the 1990 and 2001 ARIS studies, calls Baylor's new unaffiliated category "nonsense." People who can name a church may be accompanying a spouse or hunting for social or business connections, he says.
They may have no sense of ownership, no commitment to teaching the faith to the next generation, adds Kosmin, who now directs the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
"That's secularization or cafeteria spirituality — form without the content."
Sunday, September 10, 2006
THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION
Sunday, September 10, 2006
By Ron Fonger
email@example.com • 810.766.6317
FLINT - The city's oldest Baptist church remains disaffiliated with area Baptists because of its stand on homosexuality.
The American Baptist Churches of Michigan Region Board, which represents about 160 ABC churches in the state, voted Saturday to support churches in a 10-county area that earlier had elected to sever ties with Woodside Church in Flint.
"Homosexuality is not acceptable ... with the majority of our churches," said the Rev. Ray A. Strawser II, who cast one of 22 votes against Woodside. Three members of the region board voted against the disaffiliation and one abstained during the meeting in East Lansing, Strawser said.
Strawser is pastor or First Baptist Church of Owosso and treasurer of an executive committee that recommended the removal of Woodside.
He said the congregation's decision in May to join the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists was "the final straw."
AWAB advocates for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons within Baptist churches.
American Baptist Churches USA has 1.5 million members with 5,800 churches in America. Woodside, located at 1508 E. Court St., has 275 members.
"With this vote today, we will explore fellowship with other areas within Michigan and or with other regions (of ABC) within the United States," said Jim Richardson, Woodside's chairman of Outreach and Social Action Committee.
"We want to stay part of the American Baptist Churches because it is part of our tradition to be there," he said. "Some of us feel in time attitudes may change."
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Get in the Boat!
September 10, 2006
When I pastored in New Hampshire, I had this one deacon in the church that worked for the phone company there. He went into work at 5 AM, which meant he got off early in the afternoon. Summer in central New Hampshire is amazing: warm days; clear skies; cool waters of the many lakes there. The crown jewel of the lakes is Lake Winnipesaukee, a large irregularly shaped lake that takes you seventy miles to drive around. In the summer, Lake Winnipesaukee is teaming with tourists and boats, and all along the shore summer cottages open up; it seemed that Boston closed down and sent everyone up to New Hampshire, where we were happy to take their tourist dollars.
Anyway, Dave Richardson would call me up at least three or four times a season and say conspiratorially, “Pastor—ya wanna play hooky?” I always knew what Dave meant. It meant that he was going out on the lake on his boat and wanted to invite me to come along. Unless I had an emergency going on, you bet, I played hooky with Dave. (I called it a pastoral call!)
Out we’d go from the dock, up to Weirs Beach and under the bridge, then the sail went up and we’d go do along Ellacoya Beach, out toward Snake Island. Then, open water and pray for a good stiff breeze! Dave taught me that there are no ropes on a boat—only sheets and lines. He taught me how to come about, how to tack, how to handle the rudder. There’s nothing that feels as good as spray from your own boat, powered by nothing more than the wind.
One time we were out. Actually, it wasn’t one of our hooky sessions. It was a Saturday, and we were going to meet up with our wives and kids (all toddlers at the time). The water was rough that day, so Dave took the till and asked me to get something from below. While I was down there, we had a big spray across the deck and when I came up, I slipped on the water and fell back down into the hold, about four feet hard. A rib in the hull caught me right on the diaphragm and knocked the wind right out of me, and I was wheezing like an old man with pneumonia.
Poor Dave was worried that I’d broken something—I was pretty sure that I hadn’t—at the same time he was stuck handling the boat in rough water by himself. But in a few minutes I stopped wheezing and shook it off, just getting a bruise and a sore belly for my clumsiness.
Dave was pretty relieved. He thought he had a full-blown emergency on the water, and he knew that was a crisis. “This thing don’t exactly go too fast to a hospital, ya know?”
Now here’s a little curiosity: even though Lake Winnipesaukee isn’t shaped the same, it’s about the same size as the Sea of Galilee. And there are several stories in the gospels about different kinds of crises on the water. The one I want to share with you today is found in Mark 4:35-41. Let’s read it in one gulp and then come back to it and see its lesson for us today.
35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
41They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
I think we can find here a profound lesson of what God wants to accomplish in our lives and in the life of our church. The lesson in a sentence is this: Jesus has a mission, a plan, that He invites us to be a part of, and it’s only when we get into the boat with Jesus that we find that mission and find the place of joy God has for our lives.
It’s easy to miss the lesson. Jesus wasn’t suggesting they get into the boat to go on a pleasure cruse. It wasn’t to go fishing. He has an objective in mind, and you have to skip over to Mark 5 to find out what it was. Over there was a man who was filled with demons. Not only that, on the other side of the lake the people weren’t Jews. They didn’t believe in One God, the Father of Jesus. They were Syrians and Greeks, who at the time were hardcore pagans.
Now, over on the Jewish side, Jesus was a big hit. People hung on His every word. People were getting healed. It would have been pretty comfortable to stay there. But Jesus was restless. The pagans out there needed to hear about God’s love too. The Gerasene area, full of pagans, was also full of people that God loved. The conversion and deliverance of this wild man who lived by the shore there would be the perfect beachhead for the advance of the good news. That’s why they got in the boat: Jesus was on a mission.
1. Jesus was mission-focused (v. 35)
He’s determined: He says, let’s go:
35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side."
Jesus leaves the crowd behind and goes where the unknown will certainly happen.
Isn’t it true that it’s a lot easier for “church people” to hang with other church people and to spend all their time with church people? It’s comfortable, pretty predictable, and it’s low risk. But Jesus sets the pattern for us. He says, “Guys, get in the boat. There’s a mission for us over there. There are people who need God over there. They’re not like you, but God loves them as much as He loves you. Let’s go.”
So we read in vs. 36:
36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
So it was a little flotilla: maybe three or four boats that went. Did you catch that little detail—it says, “they took Him, just as He was, into the boat.” No preparation. Didn’t pack a lunch. Didn’t grab His Visa card. Just, “let’s go”—and they were off.
That’s the way we need to be ready, to be nimble, to turn on a dime when the Spirit says to. This is living the lifestyle Jesus told us about in Matthew 6. In Matthew 6:25-27, He says,
25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
Now if you do live that way, you can expect people to misunderstand. I’m not talking about non-believers. I’m talking about people who are believers who try to “talk sense” to you. Let me put it this way:
2. When you are mission-minded, and follow Jesus wherever He sends you, expect a crisis (Mark 4:37)
Here’s what happened next:
37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
The Sea of Galilee is notorious for sudden storms. Mountains surround most of the lake, but there are a few gaps that sometimes allow furious winds, especially at night. That’s what happens here. Jesus is on mission to the pagans, and all heck breaks loose. In a similar way, when you follow Jesus on mission, you can expect that suddenly your life will be in a storm.
It may come with a family who think that you’ve lost your mind. It’s kind of like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He was being drawn to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming—he was obsessed by that image, so all his family and friends thought he was crazy. But in reality he was being drawn to an encounter beyond this world.
So your family, your friends, especially and even your Christian friends, will be the storm in the way. I recall a missionary couple whose greatest opposition was the woman’s mother. “You’re not going to some third world country and raise my grandchildren there!” And this woman was the leader of her church’s mission society! I guess missions is OK as long as her family doesn’t have to pay a price!
In ancient Israel, the sea was often a symbol of turmoil, of the untamed, the dangerous. Most ancient Hebrews came to fear the sea. In Solomon’s time, he had to hire non-Israelites to man his trading ships. The sea was dangerous. These fishermen from Galilee were the dramatic exception. But now, in the middle of the night, a storm threatens the mission.
Where was Jesus when the storm raged?
3. Jesus trusted in His Father’s plan (38a)
38a Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.
He’s in the stern—asleep! Why? He was tired! (And no fool—He was on a cushion)
No really, He was tired. Read Mark 4 and you’ll see it’s been quite a day.
But on another level, knowing what the Father’s mission was, He had total peace about it all. That meant leaving without packing a thing, it meant crossing Galilee in the middle of the night. If God is in it, there’s peace. Even if everybody around you thinks you addled, there’s peace.
If you follow Jesus wherever He leads, I guarantee that there will be storms. I also guarantee you that there will be peace as well. Now let’s see what happens next.
4. Jesus defuses the barrier to mission (v. 38b-39)
38b The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
Remember that in Jewish culture, water is seen as chaos. The Bible also says that only God can calm the seas. In Psalm 65:7, God is described as the one who “stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.”
I’m sure that the reason that the disciples woke Jesus up wasn’t to do a miracle. They were probably amazed that this landlubber carpenter could apparently sleep through anything, and they needed two more hands to bail. The last thing they expected was Jesus doing what He did.
Can’t you just see it? Jesus rubs the sleep out of His eyes, sees the fine mess that they’re in and straightens Himself up. He holds the line going from the mast to the stern and stretches out one hand. He says in an even voice, “Quiet! Be still!” and that’s it. It’s like somebody unplugged the storm.
Here’s a great little gem: when Jesus told off the storm, that word for “be still” is pepsimoso which has nothing to do with Pepsi, but is the verb form of the word for “muzzle.” It’s like Jesus was saying, “Put a muzzle on—and keep it on!” Is that great, or what?
What am I suggesting? Here’s what. Jesus calls us to go on mission with Him. Life is not about us doing what we want to do and hope that it’s OK with Jesus. He’s the man with the plan, and He has a plan for you and He has a plan for me. But when we go, we can expect a storm. Plan for the storm. There has never been someone who wanted to follow God that hasn’t hit a storm. The people of Israel at times hated Moses. Not once but twice David’s people almost overthrew him as king. Other believers—not pagans or unbelievers—at times wanted to brand the apostle Paul as a false teacher. That’s the kind of storm I’m talking about.
But the storm is OK. The storm makes us call out to Jesus. The storm makes us run to Him. The storm makes us stronger. The devil may stir up the water, but God can muzzle the water.
What’s your current chaos? It may be a good storm, a storm that came from following Him. But there are other storms. Recall the small detail that there were other boats going out as well? Maybe the passengers on one boat said, “Go over to the pagans? Not us! Let’s go down to Tiberius. I know a place with a great kosher taco salad.” Maybe another boat had a vote and decided to go east to Bethsaida. If you get in those boats, if go your own way, storms will still come, but there is no guarantee that Jesus goes with you, no promise that He will muzzle those storms.
No, let the storms we face be the storms that come from following Him. But that only comes as we attach ourselves to His mission, His way, His plan.
There is a term that you may not know; it’s the term missional. We know what a “mission” is, and what we mean by “missionary”, but what’s this term missional? In some corners, it’s become a buzzword, a word that people use a lot to sound trendy and on top of it, but really, if you catch the meaning of the word, it’s powerful.
Here’s the idea. Most churches, most Christians, think that “missions” is one thing on the Good Christian “To Do” List. There’s worship and Bible study and fellowship and some kind of ministry and then there’s all that outreach stuff—missions out of the country and evangelism inside.
The concept of missional Christianity presses us to recognize that the whole Jesus-following life is outward-oriented, that we are not called to do missions as one thing among many, but as the only thing that really matters. The whole Jesus-following life is getting in the boat with Jesus and doing His mission to take the good news to the pagans God loves so much that Jesus went to a cross for them. We worship in part for fuel to keep at God’s mission; we study His word so we know what the mission involves. We fellowship so we can conspire with other Jesus-followers on how to take the word to the world. We ministry to one another so we can be lifted up to get on Jesus’ boat and go with Him wherever He calls us. That’s a missional faith: the one that puts the mission of God at the center of the life of God’s people.
Jesus was calling His disciples into front-burner involvement with God’s mission, and into a missional mentality and lifestyle.
One last thing here:
5. Jesus forcefully calls us to get into His mission (v. 40-41)
40He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
41They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
He rebukes them, and tells them that they have a faith deficit. There’s no need to fear. The need is to believe. To get on board. What God’s called you to, He will provide for as well.
And the disciples are left reeling.
“Who is this?” they ask. Who can unplug a storm with a word? He’s the Creator, the Son of God, God in the flesh, that’s who.
Yes, Jesus’ calming of the sea points to His divine nature. But we can’t miss the big point here for us today: He calls us to get into the boat and to jump into His mission. This is the call on our lives, the point of why God called us into His family: to go with Him and do His mission.
Are you ready?
Monday, September 04, 2006
Description a Missional Church
A missional church is one where people are exploring and rediscovering what it means to be Jesus' sent people as their identity and vocation.
A missional church will be made up of individuals willing and ready to be Christ's people in their own situation and place.
A missional church knows that they must be a cross-cultural missionary (contextual) people in their own community.
A missional church will be engaged with the culture (in the world) without being absorbed by the culture (not of the world). They will become intentionally indigenous.
A missional church understands that God is already present in the culture where it finds itself. Therefore, a missional church doesn't view its purpose as bringing God into the culture or taking individuals out of the culture to a sacred space.
A missional church will seek to plant all types of missional communities to expand the Kingdom of God.
A missional church seeks to put the good of their neighbor over their own.
A missional church will give integrity, morality, good character and conduct, compassion, love and a resurrection life filled with hope preeminence to give credence to their reasoned verbal witness.
A missional church practices hospitality by welcoming the stranger into the midst of the community.
A missional church will see themselves as a community or family on a mission together. There are no "Lone Ranger" Christians in a missional church.
A missional church will see themselves as representatives of Jesus and will do nothing to dishonor his name.
A missional church will be totally reliant on God in all it does. It will move beyond superficial faith to a life of supernatural living.
A missional church will be desperately dependent on prayer.
A missional church gathered will be for the purpose of worship, encouragement, supplemental teaching, training, and to seek God's presence and to be realigned with his God's missionary purpose.
A missional church is orthodox in its view of the Gospel and Scripture, but culturally relevant in its methods and practice so that it can engage the world view of the hearers.
A missional church will feed deeply on the scriptures throughout the week so they are always ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why they're living the way they are.
A missional church will be a community where all members are involved in learning to be disciples of Jesus. Growth in discipleship is an expectation.
A missional church will help people discover and develop their spiritual gifts and will rely on gifted people for ministry instead of talented people.
A missional church is a healing community where people carry each other's burdens and help restore gently.
What Missional Church is Not
A missional church is not a dispenser of religious goods and services or a place where people come for their weekly spiritual fix.
A missional church is not a place where mature Christians come to be fed and have their needs met.
A missional church is not a place where professionals are hired to do the work of the church.
A missional church is not a place where the professionals teach their children and youth about God.
A missional church is not a church with a "good missions program." The people are the missions program and includes going to "Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
A missional church is not missional just because it is contemporary, young, hip, postmodern-sensitive, seeker-sensitive or even traditional.
A missional church is not about big programs and organizations to accomplish God's missionary purpose. This does not imply no program or organization, but that they will not drive mission. They will be used in support of people on mission.
A missional church is not involved in political party activism, either on the right or left. As Brian McLaren recently wrote, we need “purple peoplehood — people who don't want to be defined as red or blue, but have elements of both.
What Missional Church Looks Like
JR Woodward at Dream Awakener has a perspective on success that really helps my understanding of missional. His post "A Working Definition of Success" provides a working definition of what missional might look like. Here it is:
Not simply how many people come to our church services, but how many people our church serves.
Not simply how many people attend our ministry, but how many people have we equipped for ministry.
Not simply how many people minister inside the church, but how many minister outside the church.
Not simply helping people become more whole themselves, but helping people bring more wholeness to their world. (i.e. justice, healing, relief)
Not simply how many ministries we start, but how many ministries we help.
Not simply how many unbelievers we bring into the community of faith, but how many ‘believers' we help experience healthy community.
Not simply working through our past hurts, but working alongside the Spirit toward wholeness.
Not simply counting the resources that God gives us to steward, but counting how many good stewards are we developing for the sake of the world.
Not simply how we are connecting with our culture but how we are engaging our culture.
Not simply how much peace we bring to individuals, but how much peace we bring to our world.
Not simply how effective we are with our mission, but how faithful we are to our God.
Not simply how unified our local church is, but how unified is "the church" in our neighborhood, city and world?
Not simply how much we immerse ourselves in the text, but how faithfully we live in the story of God.
Not simply being concerned about how our country is doing, but being concern for the welfare of other countries.
Not simply how many people we bring into the kingdom, but how much of the kingdom we bring to the earth.