Article 1 - United Methodists Want New Policies
In a letter to bishops, 363 United Methodist clergy and laity urged the church to end its ban on celebrating gay and lesbian marriages.
The letter was released Sunday by the Rev. Jimmy Creech of Raleigh, who was asked to leave a church in Omaha, Neb., after performing a same-sex blessing ceremony for two women in September 1997.
``Clergy colleagues will stand together, supporting one another, in the celebration of these unions,'' said the letter, signed by people in 37 states and Washington, D.C. ``Our church is adrift, buffeted by forces that seek to steer our course away from the prophetic, just and compassionate course of Christ.''
In August, the 9.5 million-member United Methodist Church elevated a guideline against same-sex marriages into church canon and said ministers performing the ceremonies could be defrocked. The action came after a church jury acquitted Creech, who is on a voluntary leave of absence, of disobeying the church's Social Principles.
This is more of a moral issue. The church has made a judgment against the gay community. Does not the Bible say Judge not yet ye be judged? Many Christians will argue that the Bible also clearly states that being gay is an abomination against God, quoting man shall not lie down with another man. The truth is that Christians take this passage out of context, just like any other passage they wave in their moral outcry. I applaud these ministers and brethren who will no longer appeal to the moral insanity.
United Methodist spokesman Tom McAnally in Nashville, Tenn., did not immediately return a message at his home.
There is no surprise here. The church, often when faced with reasonable opposition, fails to have a voice.
Article 2 - White S. African Church May Change
South Africa was poised to take another step toward reconciliation Tuesday when the white church that formed the religious backbone of apartheid began considering integration with its non-white counterpart.
But the proposal reportedly has angered provincial branches, who are threatening to secede from the Dutch Reformed Church to keep their religion segregated.
Who would have ever thought there would be a race issue within the church. Are not all human beings created equal in the eyes of God? Sounds like this church needs to reform again. At least they are trying.
The Dutch Reformed Church is the main religious denomination of Afrikaners, the Dutch-descended white settlers of South Africa.
During the apartheid era, when the Afrikaner-led National Party governed the country, the church told members that white minority rule was ordained by biblical teachings.
I would like them to point that out in the bible.
Starting in 1982, the church gradually renounced its position but kept separate branches for blacks and mixed-race congregants. In 1994, the black and mixed-race branches merged to become the United Reformed Church of South Africa.
Last year, a Dutch Reformed Church official reaffirmed its contrition over its racist teachings.
Sure took them a while.
``We have indeed taught our people wrongly with regard to apartheid as a biblical instruction,'' Dutch Reformed Church moderator Freek Swanepoel told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is working to heal country's divisions.
The admission was hailed by panel chairman Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop, as a great contribution to ``the process of healing in our land.''
What is really sad is that these same leaders are the people that scarred the land. They came from a far away land, destroyed their beliefs, and yet shut them out from the very temples of worship they were supposed to worship in because they were savages.
Article 3 - Group: Catholics Detained in China
Chinese authorities have detained a priest, a nun and dozens of members of the underground Roman Catholic church in the northern province of Hebei, a U.S.-based group says.
Father Wei Jingkun, a priest in the underground church in Baoding, was detained while leading a Mass at a nearby village. He still remains in police custody, the group said.
Police also stopped 100 church members who were en route to an early morning Mass and ordered them to turn back. The report said 11 of them were detained for 15 days and some were fined up to $120.
China's underground Roman Catholic church remains loyal to the Vatican and rejects the state-approved Catholic church set up by the government in the 1950s.
Many clerics and adherents of the underground church have been imprisoned for refusing to participate in the official Catholic church.
This article is here for the simple reason that the Chinese government should not have sanctioned an outside church. There is no reason for an underground church in China. If the Chinese government wants to allow Christianity through their doors, they should not control it.
Article 4 - Co-Marketing, Traffic Sharing Agreement Announced Between Christianity Today's AOL/Web Sites and DIDAX INC.'s 'crosswalk.com(TM)
DIDAX INC. (Nasdaq: AMEN) today announced an agreement with Christianity Today, Inc. to integrate distinct elements of Christianity Online_ AOL and Web sites with the award-winning crosswalk.com(TM) site (http://www.crosswalk.com) beginning October 15, 1998. Terms of the agreement include the provision to DIDAX of the AOL keyword: crosswalk, making access to the crosswalk.com Web site simpler for AOL's 13 million members.
You mean it wasn't easy enough to find Christian beliefs on AOL or the web?
The agreement creates traffic-building and e-commerce synergies between two of the largest_ online brands targeting the Christian community. Christianity Today is the largest publisher of Christian periodicals, with 13 magazine titles and a cumulative circulation of over 1.5 million subscribers, and is a Members Choice/Top 50 destination on AOL. The crosswalk.com Web site, under its previous name of Christian Community Network, was named the Christian Web site of the year in 1997 by Best of the Christian Web. The agreement signals the broadening of an existing online relationship between the two firms that dates back to 1996.
I did not know that Christians were having a hard time finding either of these services.
Initial plans call for Christianity Online (AOL keyword: CO) to provide fixed navigational placement and prominent graphical links on specific AOL and Web pages, connecting CO site visitors directly with specific areas of crosswalk.com that were chosen to augment CO's offerings. In exchange, crosswalk.com will provide fixed navigational placement for unique CO site components as well as merchandising throughout the crosswalk.com site for trial subscriptions to Christianity Today's leading magazine titles.
Does AOL plan to create links and keywords to the other religions of the world?
"This is a big win for the online Christian consumer and our two organizations" William Parker, CEO and president of DIDAX INC., said.
What about the on-line Muslim consumer? What about the on-line Buddhist consumer?
"When it comes to Christian publishing, you can't find a bigger name than Christianity Today. By linking our AOL and Web sites in this way -- and hopefully in even more substantial ways in the future -- Christian consumers can more easily access the excellent content and services on CO plus experience the increasingly comprehensive, integrated, multimedia community that makes crosswalk.com a unique resource and advocate for the online Christian community.
The future of Christianity on the web is in the hands of those who exploit the technology of today.
Article 5 - QuikBiz Subsidiary Receives National Media Attention With Local "God Speaking" Ad Campaign; Addresses Important Issues in a 90s Kind of Way
QuikBiz Internet Group, Inc. (OTC BB: QBIZ) announced today that a local ad campaign created by its wholly-owned subsidiary, The Smith Agency, designed to promote GOD and sponsored by an anonymous client, has generated print and broadcast publicity on a national scale.
The campaigo, called "God Speaking," is a non-denominational campaign created on behalf of an anonymous client, and appears on billboards and traosit buses in Broward County, Florida. It is targeted at people who no longer attend church on a regular basis and includes 18 separate messages all signed "God," such as:
-- What Part of "Thou Shalt Not" ... Didn't You Understand? - GOD
-- Keep Using My Name in Vain and I'll Make Rush Hour Longer. - GOD
-- That "Love Thy Neighbor" Thing, I Meant It. - GOD
Introduced on September 1, 1998, the campaign covered several topics including marriage, children, the Bible and commuoication. It received unprecedented national media response, with word of the campaign appearing on national network, cable, aod local television, radio and oewspapers across the United States and bringing national attention to QuikBiz's The Smith Agency.
This is actually a very clever idea. I wish I had thought of it. I appreciate that the people behind this wish to remain anonymous. They perform God's work with imagination unseen in this day and age.
Andrew Smith, President of QuikBiz, and President of The Smith Ageocy, said, "We never imagined that a campaign aimed at a local market would receive such nationwide exposure. The reaction to the "God" campaign was sensational." Mr. Smith added, "Within a few days TV stations and newspapers were calling us about the campaign. In addition to all of the national publicity, we received 33,000 'hits' on our 'Marketing God' website." To view actual billboards from the campaign, please visit the Marketing God website at www.thesmithagency.com.
I bet they made a good deal of money from it as well.
The objective of the campaign, which will end November 30, 1998, was not to preach to the audience, but rather to position God as a regular guy. Charlie Robb, the agency's creative director, said, "The campaign addresses important issues in a 90s kind of way."
I wish more Christians would think before they thump.
Article 6 - Pope Symbolizes Poland's Soul
Every Pole, it seems, has a story about Pope John Paul II, the favorite son who celebrates the 20th anniversary of his papacy on Friday.
Poland has a favorite son, the voice of the Roman Catholic God.
Some remember him as Krakow Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, a one-time actor and playwright with a passion for hiking and skiing in the Tatra mountains. Others tell of spiritual fulfillment -- former President Lech Walesa called it ``charging the batteries'' -- from encounters close or peripheral during one his seven pilgrimages to his homeland.
The Pope was an actor and a writer. Who is to say he is not acting now? Being the Pope does have its advantages. You get to make regular trips home at the expense of your believers.
John Paul's popularity is almost overwhelming here. Plaques and portraits bearing his image are everywhere -- in churches, offices, shops. An old joke advises that if you want development money, arrange for the pope to visit your church or town.
This is frightening. You can get money for knowing the Pope.
John Paul's ascension as the first Polish pope on Oct. 16, 1978, brought immediate change at a time when repeated protest movements and uprisings against the communists has been relentlessly quelled.
A year later, John Paul made his first pilgrimage to his celebrating homeland, a trip that had long-lasting repercussions.
``People went out into the streets to greet their pope and saw that there are millions of them, thinking the same way,'' said Zbigniew Romaszewski, a former Solidarity activist who now sits in the Senate chamber of parliament.
``They realized they are a community and understood that their oppressor is weak. The crowds participating in papal masses were the foundation of ... Solidarity, formed a year later,'' he said.
Led by Walesa, Solidarity frightened the government so much it banned the labor movement and imposed martial law in 1981. During papal pilgrimages in 1983 and 1987, John Paul rallied the anti-communist cause with thinly veiled calls for national solidarity, while banners for the outlawed movement waved in the crowds.
Here is another case of no separation between church and state. If the religious masses had acted calmly and rationally, they may not have had to deal with the strife they have had over the years. They might have ended up like Germany, free.
Two years after Walesa and Solidarity finally ousted the communists in 1989, John Paul made another pilgrimage, but to a vastly different country. The newfound freedom in a shifting society created new divisions, including a general chafing against the political influence exerted by the church.
Szostek, the university rector, said people expected the pope to praise them for gaining their freedom.
Instead, they heard harsh homilies against abortion -- which many Poles consider a personal choice -- as well as pornography and consumerism, with the pope urging Poles to cope with their new freedoms by building their lives on the ``rock'' of the Ten Commandments.
Serves them right. Did the Poles believe they were the chosen of God, the new Israel?
Article 7 - Pope Defends Church Central Truths
Pope John Paul II called on Roman Catholics today to battle challenges to their most fundamental religious beliefs, cautioning them not to lose their way ``in the shifting sands of widespread skepticism.''
Summing up one of the central themes of his papacy over the past 20 years, John Paul issued an encyclical that warned against the temptations posed by some modern schools of philosophy and theology.
Why does every church believe they are the one true church? When will they learn that God's people do not belong to any exclusive organization.
It did not go into specifics of church teaching for which John Paul has repeatedly demanded fidelity, but he made clear he rejected any positions that ``called into question the certitudes of faith.''
Or anything he says.
An encyclical is one of the most important documents a pope can issue. This one, the 13th of John Paul's papacy, was timed for the 20th anniversary Friday of his election as pope.
It was addressed to his bishops, in effect a call to action for the proper education of Catholics.
``For it is undeniable that this time of rapid and complex change can leave, especially the younger generation, to whom the future belongs and on whom it depends, with a sense they have no valid points of reference,'' he wrote.
In other words, he doesn't believe that the education provided by the state is good enough. Well, I can't argue with him too much, but going to a stricter religious system is not the answer.
The encyclical, however, effectively sums up the views he has expressed over the past 20 years, particularly his preaching against the idea that there are no absolute truths.
This makes no sense to me. The Pope says we must go back to our theologic roots, yet there are no absolute truths. He is a good actor.
The pope said he encouraged scientific progress but that it ``should be wedded to the philosophical and ethical values which are the distinctive and indelible mark of the human being.''
The distinctive and indelible mark of human beings is free will. With free will comes free thought and free spirit. We can already go our own way.
Article 8 - Pope Unhappy About Annulments
Pope John Paul II on Saturday made plain his displeasure with the number of Catholic marriages that are annulled, saying annulments are granted too easily.
Could it be that marriages are granted to easily?
The pope's statements came during a meeting with bishops from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Most Catholic annulments occur in the United States.
Annulments ``should be a last resort,'' the pope said, cautioning that great care should be taken in explaining them ``to avoid the danger of its being conceived as divorce under a different name.''
The church allows annulment under specific circumstance, such as when a husband or wife refuses to have children, or if a spouse was psychologically incapable of contracting a valid marriage.
The song "Every Sperm is Sacred" comes to mind here.
The pope said that church tribunals, when in doubt about the validity of a marriage, should rule in favor of the union.
This sounds like contradiction to me. Same old song and dance.
Article 9 - Top Female Catholic Fired
A female theologian whose prominent role on the altar at a Roman Catholic church violated Vatican rules has been removed from her job as an associate pastor.
For a dozen years at Corpus Christi Church, under the guidance of the Rev. James Callan, Mary Ramerman had lifted the communion cup and recited prayers in violation of traditions regarding the role of women in liturgy.
``My heart's broken,'' said Ramerman, a 43-year-old mother of three who holds a master's degree in theology. ``I also feel angry with the church that it can't stand up for what it believes in.''
She should feel angry. I believe she should go to a church that will accept her.
Callan himself was reassigned to another parish in western New York last month for conducting same-sex weddings, serving Holy Communion to non-Catholics and allowing a woman a place on the altar -- actions forbidden by Rome.
He had ministered for 22 years at the downtown church, creating programs to help the poor and swelling attendance at Mass to nearly 4,000 people from just 200 in 1976.
Someone needs to stand up to Rome. For lack of a better phrase, who made them God anyway?
Callan, 50, said his ejection was ordered by senior officials at the Vatican, but Bishop Matthew Clark of the Catholic Diocese of Rochester said he removed Callan for not following ``definitive church teachings.''
Ramerman said she was ``terminated'' Thursday morning by interim administrators assigned to Corpus Christi. The diocese did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Ramerman, who joined the church 15 years ago, said she couldn't agree with the church officials' request ``not to go near the altar and not participate in the liturgy in any way except preaching, which is allowed in this diocese.''
``The reason that women are not allowed near the altar goes back in church history to a time when women were considered unclean and unholy,'' she said. ``Those feelings are still present in many ways in the church.''
After all, it was a woman who brought the downfall of man. This is just silly. Religious leaders have claimed for years that women can't possibly be holy enough to teach and enlighten. Yet it was Adam's mistake that we were cast out of the garden. When will people learn?
Article 10 - Witches Take Mass. Governor To Task
A small firestorm is brewing in this community famous for its centuries-old history of witch trials.
Modern-day practitioners of the pagan religion Wicca say Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci is promoting degrading stereotypes in a new campaign advertisement that pokes fun at his gubernatorial opponent.
Why must those who don't believe poke fun at that which they don't understand. Does Paul Cellucci really believe that he can play on people's fear and paranoia this way?
In the ad that began running this week, a pointy-hatted, wart-nosed witch stands in a police lineup along with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
``I was so infuriated by the time they got to the statement about the attorney general I didn't even hear the next few seconds of the ad,'' said Cheryl Sulyma-Masson, a 38-year-old mother who heads the Witches' League for Public Awareness in Rehoboth.
``I was just portrayed, along with every other witch across the country, as some fantasy creature, and that's appalling to me.''
It is appalling to us as well. Q.U.A.R.L. does not support organized religion, but we support the bashing of one even less. I'm sure the Wicca have their share of problems. However, in fairness they are one of the quietist groups and the most open-minded of all the religions in the world. Everyone can learn a lot from them.
Today's local witches practice Wicca, a religion formally recognized by Massachusetts that is similar to the ancient Druid faith. Adherents believe in the sacredness of nature and practice witchcraft as part of their religious observances.
The witches say they don't make compacts with the devil, and they don't appreciate the governor promoting a black-magic stereotype.
``Witches are real people. They're doctors, they're lawyers, they're mothers, they're fathers,'' Sulyma-Masson said. ``And most important, they are voters.''
With the Pope about to celebrate being in office for twenty years, he certainly has been a busy-body. He certainly seems driven to get the Roman Catholic church back on track. It is a shame he can't get the Roman Catholic church to get back to bible basics.
Speaking of basics, it would be wise for Crosswalk to hire a better press release agency. Preferably one that can spell. However, it seems that all basics are forgotten when spreading the word of God.