Friday, May 21, 2010

Colleagues List, May 22nd, 2010

Vol. V.  No. 39


Edited by Wayne A. Holst




Special Items:

A Focus on Marci McDonald
and her new book "The Armageddon Factor"

Writing recently in the Toronto Star -

"How Canada's Christian Right Was Built"


Speaking this week at the Unitarian Church of Calgary -

"Christian Nationalism:
 Does it Threaten Canadian Democracy?"


Colleague Contributions:

John Stackhouse
Margaret Somerville
Douglas John Hall
Martin Marty
Jonathon Bonk


Net Notes:

A Troubling Cultural Gap
All Religions Not the Same
Update on the Catholic Crisis
EFC Pans "The Armageddon Factor"
No Catholic Funeral for Woman Priest
British Coalition: A Lesson for Canada
Accused Haiti Missionary Now Back Home
Christian Zionism: Validating Oppression
ELCIC Bishop Encourages Participation in TRC
Gay Couple Sentenced to Fourteen Years in Malawi


Global Faith Potpourri:

Stories from Ecumenical News International


Quotes of the Week:

John Wesley
Emma Goldman
John Perkins
Thomas J. Norris
Craig Venter


On This Day (May 18th  - May 21st)

May 18, 1980 - Mount St. Helens volcano erupts
May 19, 1935 - T.E. Lawrence dies in England
May 19, 1890 - Ho Chi Minh born on this date
May 20, 1961 - Mob attacks Montgomery "Freedom Riders"
May 21, 1927 - Lindbergh Completes First Atlantic Flight


Closing Reflection - Paul Tillich



Dear Friends:

As warmer weather approaches, my thoughts turn
to a seasonal "slowing down-time." I plan to send
you a total of 42 issues of Colleagues List through
my current publication year which begins July 1st
and ends June 30th. That means three more issues in
the next five weeks and bi-weekly mailings through
July and August.

You too deserve a break!

During the next weeks Marlene and I anticipate the
birth of a second grandchild (the first was born
earlier this month.)

Surgery to remove what has just been diagnosed as a
"reduced" and "dead" colon tumour should happen soon.

I am very grateful to be at this point in my fight
against cancer. Tests and treatments have been very
effective, it seems. All cancer has been destroyed in
my system and it is now my goal to keep it that way.
Surgery of this kind is a lot less risky because of
the radiation and chemo treatments I seem to have
successfully completed. This week I told a friend -
"I can now claim to be a cancer survivor."

On to the surgery before the end of June I hope!
Thank God I am reaching the end of a big challenge!


One of the noisiest issues in Canadian religion this
week has been the appearance of Marci McDonald's new
book "The Armageddon Factor."

Marlene and I heard Ms. McDonald defend the thesis of
her book here in Calgary. She claims that there is a move
afoot on the part of evangelical Christians to create, by
strategy and stealth, a theocracy in this country.

Colleagues List seeks to be a forum for the exchange of
ideas. I include my notes on Ms. McDonald's presentation
as we heard it; as well as responses from colleagues
John Stackhouse of Vancouver and Margaret Somerville of
Montreal. Also, I share an official statement from the
Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Thanks John and Margaret!

I am currently reading "The Armageddon Factor" and hope
to include my thoughts about the book in a future issue
of Colleagues List.

In the meantime, there is already much to be read and
digested in the material I provide for you here.


Colleague Contributions:

On other subjects, I offer contributions from:

Douglas John Hall - who appreciated the news article
last week on Bishop Margot Kaesemann who resigned her
top post in the EKD (Germany) after she was charged
with drunk driving. Margot spoke at the recently
concluded Kirchentag held in Munich this month.
Doug writes from Montreal. Thanks, Doug!

Martin Marty - an underlying theme of this issue is
that of religious persecution. Many claim it today,
Marty says, but we need to focus on the genuine - not
the secondary - aspects of it. He writes from Chicago.
Thanks Marty!

Jonathon Bonk - longtime friend, colleague and
fellow-member of the American Society of Missiology,
writes the cover article for the April issue of the
International Bulletin of Missionary Research which
he edits from New Haven, CT. Jon believes that a good
deal of short-term 'mission' engagement by many North
American churches is counter-productive. Thanks, Jon!


Net Notes:

"A Troubling Cultural Gap" - What happens when a new
generation of religious migrants to North America
become alienated from their pastors who were trained
in the "old country?" This is not a new story, of course,
but for Muslim Americans it is. (

"All Religions Not the Same" - Stephen Prothero has
written a new book entitled "God is Not One" in which
he takes exception to the argument that all religions
are different paths to the same destination. Watch
the video. (PBS Religion and Ethics Weekly)

"Update on the Catholic Crisis" - As the pope changes
his tone from self-defense to self-scrutiny I share
interesting assessments provided by The Tablet (UK)
Zenit News from Rome, The US Conference of Catholic
Bishops and National Catholic Reporter)

"EFC Pans "The Armageddon Factor"  - The Evangelical
Fellowship of Canada was quick to rebut the thesis
presented this week in "The Armageddon Factor" by
Marci McDonald (

"No Catholic Funeral for Woman Priest" - following
a long Catholic tradition of refusal to bury heretics,
we learn this week that an American Catholic woman
priest was rejected a church burial (Cathnews Asia)

"British Coalition: A Lesson for Canada" - Joe
Couto, an evangelical Canadian commentator, writes
about what Canadians can learn from the political
compromises of the changed government currently
taking shape in Great Britain (

"Accused Haiti Missionary Comes Home" - at long
last, a missionary returns to the US after having
been arrested for kidnapping in Haiti. There is a
lot more to this story, than previously reported

"Christian Zionism: Validating Oppression" -
Tony Campolo, American evangelical writer and
speaker returns from the Holy Land with a story
that evangelicals in America and other Christians
too, need to hear (Sojourners Online)

"ELCIC Bishop Encourages Participation in TRC" -
The official Truth and Reconciliation Commission
established in Canada to hear the story of the
cultural genocide of our First Nations people is
supported  by colleague Susan Johnson, national
bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
Canada (ELCIC News)

"Gay Couple Sentenced to Fourteen Years in Malawi" -
two reports from Africa on the severe penalties
levied against persons attempting a gay marriage


Global Faith Potpourri:

Again this week, many stories are provided
by Ecumenical News International, Geneva.


Quotes of the Week:

John Wesley, Emma Goldman, John Perkins
Thomas J. Norris and Craig Venter contribute
their insights.


On This Day (May 18th  - May 21st)

Read these important stories, written at the time
they occurred, from the archives of the New York Times:

Mount St. Helens volcano erupted (1980)
"Lawrence of Arabia" died in England (1935)
Ho Chi Minh was born (1890)
Mob attacked Montgomery "Freedom Riders" (1961)
Charles Lindbergh completed first Atlantic flight (1927)


To end, some closing words by Paul Tillich,
German theologian and immigrant to America.

Thanks for allowing me to share this issue
of Colleagues List with you!




Contact us at: (or)
St. David's Web Address -

Listen to audio recordings of Sunday services -



Created and maintained by Colleague Jock McTavish




We plan a 15-day tour of special Celtic sites
in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England -
April 26th - May 10th, 2011.

A highlight of the tour will be a visit to
St. David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire.

Tour reservations - $300. Sale opens May 2nd.
Call church office for details: 403-284-2276


We are starting a waiting list for this trip;
also an interest list for a second tour in 2012.



Monday Night Study, January 18th - March 29th, 2010

An insightful description of where Christian faith
is moving in the twenty-first century.

Follow our class videos, power point presentations,
other notes and study resources. Bookmark this link:




A collection of twenty-five+ studies conducted since 2000 can
quickly be found at:

This collection of study resources represents a decade of
Monday Night Studies at St. David's, plus extra courses too!

You are welcome to use our course outlines, class notes and
resource pages in your personal and group reflections.



Writing in the -

Toronto Star
May 7th, 2010

"How Canada's Christian Right Was Built"

Excerpt from her new book "The Armageddon Factor"


Marci McDonald and  Donald Gutstein:

"Christian Nationalism & Business Propaganda
 Do They Threaten Canadian Democracy?"

Presentation at the Unitarian Church of Calgary
May 19th, 2010

My Comments:

(This reflection will focus only on the presentation
made by McDonald even though I found Gutstein's
"parallel comments" on Canadian business propaganda
to be quite insightful too. Perhaps I will speak to
his book "Not A Conspiracy Theory" on another occasion)


Marlene and I attended this event last Tuesday evening
because we were interested in the topic. It was
co-sponsored by the Council of Canadians, The
Arusha Centre of Calgary, and Pages of Kensington
bookstore. It was held in a packed Panebaker Hall
at the Unitarian Church. We can't ever recall being
in a Calgary audience as sympathetic to left wing
causes as this one! Most in attendance were supportive
of the speaker. For us, it seriously challenged any
assumption that our city is totally redneck!


Marci McDonald is a veteran journalist with credits
such as a stint with Macleans and US News and World
Report. She has also won several journalism awards.

Her most notable claim to fame was to write an
extremely informative and widely read article for
Walrus magazine some years ago. In it she took on
"The Calgary School" - mostly members of the
political science department at my university.

She targeted a friend of mine, Tom Flanagan, who was
Stephen Harper's campaign manager when he won the
election and became prime minister a few years ago.

You may wish to read this article as it is
available online. It is lengthy but enticing:

"The Calgary School" has been widely understood to
be the group that had a major influence in shaping
Harper's political and economic ideas. For some
years he was under the tutelage of teachers like
Flanagan, Barry Cooper, Ted Morton, Rainer Knopf
(political science) and Robert Mansell (economics.)

All of these men are known for their conservative
views (some would more technically use the term
'neo-liberal' credentials.)

I am quite aware of their philosophies, and while
I tend not to agree with much of what they say,
I respect their right to hold such views.

For many years, while the Calgary School was most
influential, my friend and current member of Colleagues
List - Dr. Tony Parel - was head of the political science
department at the U. of C.

I say this to suggest that the people Marci McDonald
criticizes in her Walrus article and the story she now
"fleshes out" in "The Armageddon Factor" are not a bunch
of rightist wackos. They are, generally, decent and
intelligent academics who happen to hold quite
conservative views that many fellow-academics decry.

(Parel is the exception - but his desire was to honour a
spectrum of philosophies in his department.)

I first met Tony on a feasibility committee set up to
establish St. Mary's Catholic College in Calgary. Later
I encountered him and his wife Rolande at a local Liberal
riding nomination meeting. We worked together to establish
the Gandhi Society of Calgary and have been friends for a
quarter century.

It is with this background on McDonald and her work that
we attended the "Christian Nationalism" lectures this week.

Ms McDonald is a winsome and engaging speaker, but she tends
to caricature and stereotype people in ways that create
considerable controversy but may not be that helpful in
terms of promoting constructive discourse. In other words,
she is a journalist that can err on the side of making
more heat than light. Still, she is worth attending.


The Presentation

McDonald has done considerable research into what she calls
"the religious-political movement run by conservatives" in
Canada today; their "spin control message" and their attempts
to manipulate government decisions by means of think tanks
and lobby organizations in Ottawa.

This movement is not the same hardball game that religious
conservatives have been playing in Washington for the last
two to three decades. Preston Manning, a recognized leader
and mentor of the Canadian movement advises his followers
to be - "wise a serpents but harmless as doves."

As Stephen Harper planned his election strategy, he
discovered he needed "theo-conservatives" on his team,
says McDonald, even though the current PM is himself
more focused on economic policy than theology.

Harper reached out to the Canadian conservative evangelical
community and has been a brilliant strategist. Through
stealth and guile, he brought many to his side, says

Evangelicals have felt betrayed by Harper's acceptance
of Canada's "same sex" policies but he has recognized
that "mainstream Canada" does not buy "morality +
God talk." The effective way to bring about many of the
changes conservative Christians desire is to be low key,
more incremental, and less strident than their American
counterparts, says McDonald.

In the years since Harper has been in power, there have
been clear, incremental changes. This is apparent in the
federal bureaucracy, the courts, and other public service

She singled out Trinity Western University, located in
Langley BC as counterparts to super-conservative,
elitist Liberty and Regent universities in Virginia, USA.
The goal of such schools is to "train godly leaders" who
will influence the highest levels of government.

"Make no mistake," says McDonald, "their purposes are the
same even if their national strategies may differ."

Canadian evangelicals keep reiterating that they are not
linked to controversial American figures like James Dobson
and Pat Robertson, but the goals of their lobby groups
and think tanks (such as Marriage and Family Canada headed
by conservative Lutheran pastor David Quist) are much the
same. These organizations are funded by well-heeled,
conservative Christians.

Harper is not a natural Christian conservative, said
McDonald. He is a "cerebral Christian" and a stealthy
strategist. Still, religious and moral change are part
of his political strategy and he boasts a growing team
of organized acolytes in Ottawa and elsewhere (e.g. -
the Fraser Institute in BC) to support his efforts.

"Read about the current cut-backs to Kairos and Women's
causes," she said, "Much of what I wrote in Walrus some
years ago is now on the front pages of the newspapers...

"Conservative Christians want to dispense with government-
run social services so that money can be turned over to
their particular churches and colleges.They will affect
the way this country operates. They realize that they
cannot make changes quickly but are disciplined and
determined to alter the direction of Canada over the
long haul..."

Then comes the clincher...

"We don't want American-styled religious right-wingers
and their antiquated philosophies operating in Canada,"
McDonald said in her concluding remarks...

"In spite of this, the signs are ever-clearer that the
same goals, using different strategies, are being pursued
in this country as in the States. Christian nationalism
is the desire of a growing cadre of calculating and
secretive religious conservatives...

"Some may caution that it is extreme to think this way,
but it is not. Let us be wise and disciplined. This deceit
must be exposed and countered for what it is," she ended
to considerable applause from her audience.


Comments from the Q and A Session:

"The left must assume new and intentional efforts to make
the changes and build the Canada that visionaries like
Knowles, Trudeau and Chretien stood for decades ago...

"Progressives exist in a hostile environment today and
the demonisation of liberals is common. We must create
new, intentional coalitions focused on societal and
environmental justice that is so lacking in the current
government's policies.

"We have dissipated our energies through internal
squabbling. We need to pull together to fight this
insidious encroachment on our rights and freedoms."


I plan to provide a book notice on
"The Armageddon Factor" in a future
issue of Colleagues List.

In the meantime:

Buy the Book:

Read below what colleagues John Stackhouse
and Margaret Somerville have to say in
response to McDonald's arguments.




Defending Conservative Christianity in Canada:

Stackhouse Blog Site
May 18th - 20th, 2010

Challenging Marci McDonald:

Part 1: Information


Part II: Interpretation


Part III: Conclusions


May 21st, 2010

Freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from
religion - we should hear all voices on issues
that shape society's values.

Read her views:


Montreal, QC

Dear Wayne,

Re: Colleagues List, May 15th, 2010:

I was particularly pleased with your report on Bishop
Margot Kaesemann.  I worked with her in Geneva during
the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation program of
the World Council of Churches.  She is... ein (eine?)
In the perfect church they would call for the resignation
of bishops and other clergy for reasons of stupidity,
pomposity, and lack of imagination.  Misdemeanors of
the flesh, unaccompanied by any of the above, would be
forgiven after suitable repentance.
O, deliver me from this utopianism!  Still, one can hope.




Sightings 5/17/10
Almost always Sightings takes off from a current text or image
lifted from news and opinion sources.  This week our "current"
text is 1900 years old... read more:




International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Overseas Ministry Study Center,
New Haven, CT

April, 2010




If today's young American Muslims can't relate to their imams,
where will they turn?
May 17th, 2010
by Farah Akbar



National Public Radio
Religion and Ethics Newsletter
May 14th, 2010

Stephen Prothero Interviewed:

Watch religion scholar Stephen Prothero, author of the new book
"God Is Not One," discuss why all religions are not different
paths to the same God and why distinctions among religions matter.
If you have questions or comments about the web site or program,
please send us your feedback:



US Bishops: What We've Learned From Abuse Victims
Survivors Concerned About Prevention Strategies

Zenit News from Rome
May 14th, 2010

The U.S. bishops' conference National Review Board is
publicizing a series of ten lessons learned from working
with the victims or survivors of child abuse by clergy.

The list was prepared by the head of the board, Diane
Knight, and publicized today by the conference.

"We have learned that it takes great courage for a victim/
survivor to come forward with his or her story after years,
sometimes decades, of silence and feelings of shame," the
communiqué stated.

"To the victim/survivor it is so important to finally
simply be believed," it added...

Read the rest of the article:

On the Net:

Ten things learned from child abuse victims:

The statement concluded:
"We have learned that we still have much to learn."


Church suffers persecution "through its own sins"

The Tablet
May 15th, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI has called the clergy sex-abuse
crisis a really terrifying reminder that the greatest
persecution of the Church does not come from enemies
on the outside, but is born from sin within the Church.

Read more... <>


Benedict's defence may mean tainting John Paul II

National Catholic Reporter
May 15th, 2010
by John L. Allen Jr.

Analysis -- Under ordinary circumstances, Pope Benedict
XVI's mastery of German literature might not seem an
obvious way of preparing for the papacy. At the moment,
however, it feels spot-on, because Benedict and his
admirers face a choice straight out of Goethe's Faust:
In order to salvage Benedict's reputation on the sexual
abuse crisis, they're almost compelled to tarnish that
of Pope John Paul II.

Cut and paste this link to your address bar/browser


Cracks in the wall of the curia

National Catholic Reporter
May 20th, 2010
by Jason Berry

The Roman Curia is the Vatican bureaucracy. Most people
know little about the men who run the curia. But press
coverage of the clergy abuse crisis is closing in on
cardinals whose blunders in the clergy abuse crisis have
begun to draw criticism from other Princes of the Church.
As words fire back and forth in the press, the wall of
secrecy that traditionally surrounds the curia is showing
cracks.

Paste this link into your address bar or browser:


May 21st, 2010

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada rejects the thesis
that Canadian Evangelicals are working to establish a
theocratic government where "non-believers have no place."



Cathnews Asia
May 21st, 2010



Christian Week
May 18th, 2010

Two young, energetic leaders have taken the helm of
Britain's new coalition government.

What can Canadians learn from their show of political



Ecumenical News International
News Highlights
20 May 2010

Last detained US missionary returns home from Haiti

Washington DC (ENI/RNS). Convicted of arranging illegal
travel, Baptist missionary Laura Silsby on 17 May became
the last of 10 Americans released for trying to take 33
children out of Haiti after the January earthquake that
killed up to 230,000 people. Silsby, released in Port-
au-Prince, was sentenced to the three months and eight
days she already spent in jail, according to The
Associated Press. Prosecutors had called for six months
of imprisonment on charges of kidnapping and criminal
association, Religion News Service reports.


For more details:
May 20th, 2010



Sojourners Online
May 19th, 2010
by Tony Campolo



Pastoral Letter
May 21st, 2010


May 21st, 2010


Ecumenical News International
News Highlights
20 May 2010

Church welcomes 14-year jail sentence
for Malawi gay couple

Blantyre (ENI). A Presbyterian church in Malawi has
welcomed a 14-year jail sentence handed down to two
Malawian men accused of homosexual offences after
publicly holding a traditional engagement ceremony in
a country where same-sex relationships are a crime.
"As a church we don't support homosexuality or same-sex
marriages. That is both un-African and un-Christian,"
the Rev. Levi Nyondo, general secretary of the Church
of Central Africa Presbyterian, Livingstonia Synod,
told ENI news. "We are happy they have been sentenced
to 14 years in jail," Nyondo said in a 20 May interview
from the northern city of Mzuzu. A magistrate's court
in Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre, on 20 May
gave Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga the
maximum sentence of 14 years in prison after
convicting them of buggery and gross indecency.
The two men were arrested in December after their
engagement ceremony.



Ecumenical News International
News Highlights
14 May 2010

Kenyan Christians, Muslims want
international court action

Nairobi (ENI). A number of Christian and Muslim leaders
in Kenya have called on the International Criminal Court
to punish those behind the 2007 to 2008 post-election
violence that tore apart the country, regardless of the
positions of the perpetrators. The religious leaders say
that the beginning of the ICC's investigations in Kenya,
plus the presence of Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo
in the east African country, were "a blessing", and proper
punishment would deter any future violence. "It (Ocampo's
arrival) is a blessing because there are issues that have
to be addressed in this country," Roman Catholic Cardinal
John Njue told journalists on 11 May in Nairobi.


Berlin Wall fall proves churches' change possible,
says WCC head

Munich, Germany (ENI). The fall of the Berlin Wall in
November 1989 is a sign for Christians to remain tenacious
in the face of the barriers that stop them sharing in Holy
Communion, the general secretary of the World Council of
Churches has said in Germany. "At the end of 1988, and even
in spring 1989, few people could imagine that the Berlin Wall
would fall," said WCC general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse
Tveit during a forum at Germany's Ecumenical Kirchentag, or
church convention, in Munich. "This is the proof that change
is possible, often in completely unexpected ways and at
unexpected times," said the Norwegian Lutheran theologian.
In 1961, the then East Germany's communist government built
the Berlin Wall to seal off the eastern sector of the city
from the western sectors. The wall was opened in 1989 amid
the collapse of communism. More than 125 000 people have
gathered in Munich for the 12-16 May Kirchentag, aimed at
strengthening common ground between Protestants a!
 nd Roman Catholics.


German bishop sex abuse investigation dropped

Munich, Germany (ENI). Prosecutors say they have dropped
a preliminary investigation into alleged sexual abuse by
the former Roman Catholic bishop of Augsburg, Walter Mixa,
due to a lack of evidence. "Suspicion of a crime of sexual
abuse could not be established," the Deutsche Presse-Agentur
news agency reported state attorney Helmut Walter of
Ingolstadt in Bavaria as saying on 14 May. Mixa's attorney
had rejected the accusations. Prosecutors opened a preliminary
investigation of Mixa on 7 May, the day before Pope Benedict
XVI accepted his resignation as bishop of Augsburg. Mixa had
offered his resignation in April after claims of financial
irregularities appeared in the media, along with reports
linking him to child beatings in the 1970s and 1980s in a
church-run children's home.


Historian, editor condemn 'downplaying'
of Scottish Reformation

Edinburgh (ENI). Scottish historian and professor,
Tom Devine, who is a Roman Catholic, and Harry Reid,
a former editor of a leading newspaper in the country,
have described as "scandalous" the low-key way the
450th anniversary of the Reformation in Scotland is
being marked in 2010. In an interview with ENInews,
Devine, a professor at Edinburgh University, said,
"Two of the greatest legislative events in Scottish
history are the Reformation of 1560 and the Act of
Union [when the Scottish and English parliaments
merged to form the Parliament of Great Britain] in
1707. "The [300th anniversary of the] latter was almost
ignored in Scotland. Now, there appears to be reluctance
on the part of both the Scottish government and the
Church of Scotland to mark the 450th anniversary of
the Reformation, which was an event which changed the
face of this country and paved the way for a Scottish
enlightenment and a new relationship with England.
I think this is scandalous."


US atheist lawyer plans appeal on
president's swearing-in ruling

Washington DC (ENI/RNS). Atheist lawyer Michael Newdow has
said he plans to appeal a court decision that said his bid
to halt prayers and the words "so help me God" in U.S.
presidential inaugurations are now moot and there is nothing
to rule on. "We will be petitioning for a rehearing," said
Newdow, who represented himself and other atheists in the
case on 11 May. "If the ruling stands, it seems to me that
the executive branch of government will henceforth be able
to trample on individual rights with impunity," Religion
News Service reports. In a 7 May ruling, Judge Janice Rogers
Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit said the issues of the case are no longer


17 May 2010

Church faces 'crisis' about sexual abuse,
German gathering told

Munich (ENI). The Roman Catholic Church in Germany is
facing a "profound crisis of confidence" because of the
scandal of sexual abuse by clergy that came to the fore
in January, an ecumenical convention gathering tens of
thousands of people in Munich has heard. "We hope this
crisis will lead to new cooperation in partnership
between lay people, priests and bishops," said Alois
Glück, president of the Central Committee of German
Catholics (ZdK), an organization for lay people. He
was addressing closing event of the 12-16 May Ecumenical
Kirchentag, or church convention, which brought more
than 130 000 people to the Bavarian capital. The Munich
meeting - several years in the planning - was organized
by the ZdK and the German Protestant Kirchentag to
demonstrate common ground between Christians in a country
where Catholic and Protestants each account for about 30
percent of the population.


Church leaders have concerns about
new Philippine president

Manila (ENI). Filipino church leaders, who began the
presidential election race in their country with optimism,
now say they have much lower hopes of the person who is
likely to become the next president. "It is too soon to
say but based on his campaign line, it will be hard work
pressing him to address people's issues," said the Rev.
Rex Reyes, general secretary of the National Council of
Churches in the Philippines. Reyes was one of a number of
church leaders interviewed about their expectations of
front-runner Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who is
so far convincingly ahead in the vote tally after the 10
May election. The official tally of votes is scheduled to
be done by a joint session of Congress scheduled to start
on 24 May.


18 May 2010

Struggle for oil may derail Sudan referendum,
warns church leader

Nairobi (ENI). A senior Sudan church official says political
parties in the country must agree on the sharing of oil wealth
to minimise border tensions between the divided north and south
of Africa's biggest country. The Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol,
general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, a grouping
of Orthodox Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, said the
south's ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the
north's governing National Congress Party must agree on how
they will split the oil wealth, before a 2011 referendum on
the possible secession of the south. "The central government
has depended on the oil from the south for its operations.
It will be difficult for it to just let oil go" Chan told
ENI news on 15 May in Nairobi. "Our position as the church
is for the parties concerned to agree on the share of oil
revenue in the post-referendum period. This will minimize
the tensions." Sudan is gearing for the 9 January 2011
plebiscite, mandated by 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.


Children of kidnapped German Christians freed in Yemen

Geneva (ENI). Two children belonging to a German Christian
family, who had been kidnapped in North Yemen by Shiite
rebels 11 months ago, have been freed. Family members told
the German evangelical news agency idea on 18 May that the
two daughters, Lydia, aged 6, and Anna, 4, are free. "Given
the very difficult situation, they are reasonably well,"
said German foreign minister Guido Westerwell. He said the
two children had been freed by Saudi Arabian security forces,
and that he had "great concern" about the other family members.
The fate of the parents, Johannes and Sabine Hentschel, both
38, is uncertain. Their youngest son Simon, 2, is believed
to be dead, idea reported. Bishop Martin Schindehütte, the
foreign relations head of the Evangelical Church in Germany
(EKD), said in a statement that he had feelings of "joy and
hope, and grief and pain at the same time" over the fate of
the family. Media reports stated that the two daughters had
been freed by Saudi Arabian special military forces in the
border region with Yemen.


India churches concerned about clerics involvement
in alleged crimes

Thrissur, India (ENI). Church leaders in south India say
the alleged involvement of a number of clerics in criminal
activities shows corruption needs urgent attention in the
church. "We are making wrong headlines. This is not how our
leaders should be known," the Rev. Mohan Labeer, a pastor
and former principal of Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary,
told ENI news. Labeer was reacting to the arrest of Church
of South India Bishop Manikiam Dorai of Coimbatore a week
earlier in connection with the assault on a priest of the
diocese for joining a street protest by church members
against alleged corruption by the bishop.


19 May 2010

Questions raised in US about
alleged Obama funds for Kenya vote

Nairobi (ENI). Allegations by Kenyan churches that the
administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is funding
the government-backed "yes" campaign for a constitutional
referendum in the East African country are being raised
by American lawmakers. In a letter to inspectors general
of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for
International Development, and the U.S. Government
Accountability Office, legislators  Chris Smith of New
Jersey, Darrell Issa of California and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
of Florida have outlined their concerns. The three U.S.
legislators are calling for a probe into the issue, Kenya's
Star daily newspaper reported on 16 May. The report follows
two week of allegations by Kenya's churches, which are
advocating a "no" vote in the referendum scheduled for
4 August. Kenya's churches say the draft law opens the
door to the legalisation of abortion and also back the
provision of special Islamic courts.


World churches' head calls for talks
to end Thailand violence

Geneva (ENI). The World Council of Churches has called
for an end to violence in the conflict between pro- and
anti-government forces in Thailand and urged a return to
negotiations. "We are alarmed at the use of deadly weapons
by individuals and government during the course of this
conflict," WCC general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse
Tveit said in a 19 May letter to the Church of Christ in
Thailand, a member of the Geneva-based church grouping.
"We are greatly concerned that certain groups have sought
to utilise violence as a means of achieving their political
goals." News reports on 19 May said that Bangkok had been
engulfed in rioting and fires after Thai troops stormed
anti-government protesters in a fortified encampment,
unleashing a wave of violence across the capital and
other parts of the country. Tveit said the WCC deplored
the way "in which various forms of media are being used
to fuel mistrust and label one's opponents in order to
justify one's own political, social or economic agenda".


German Protestant churches
investigate sexual abuse claims

Geneva/Frankfurt (ENI). Two of Germany's regional Protestant
churches say they are investigating allegations of sexual
abuse committed by pastors or church workers. The Evangelical
Lutheran Church of Hanover reported five new cases of the
sexual abuse of minors dating back several decades, the German
Protestant news agency epd reported on 19 May. "We want to
deal with this as openly and as transparently as possible,"
said Hanover's acting bishop Hans-Hermann Jantzen. "Any case
is one too many." The North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church
said it is investigating allegations of sexual abuse by a pastor,
who is now retired. The man is alleged to have sexually abused
several young people in the Ahrensburg congregation.


Religious leaders to raise voices as G8 meets in Canada

Toronto (ENI). Eighty international religious leaders will
gather in Canada in advance of the meeting of the Group of
Eight industrialised countries to press governments to honour
the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to reduce
poverty. "Our hope is that we can speak with one voice … that
we both encourage and challenge world leaders to really give
serious attention to commitments they made since 2000," said
Canadian Anglican Archbishop Fred Hiltz, who is heading the
Canadian delegation to the faith leaders' 21-23 June meeting
in Winnipeg. The G8 leaders are meeting in Huntsville, Ontario,
from 25 to 26 June. This is to be followed by a meeting of the
G20 - or Group of 20 leading economies of the world - in
Toronto from 26 to 27 June. The G8 groups Britain, Canada,
France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
The eight U.N. development goals adopted in 2000 range from
halving extreme poverty to stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS
and providing universal! primary education, all by 2015.


20 May 2010

H. Kong Christians use new media
to promote 'referendum'

Hong Kong (ENI). Governing authorities in Hong Kong took
the unusual step of encouraging voters to boycott a special
election, but Christian students used new media to promote
the poll as de-facto referendum on political reform, saying
Beijing is suppressing the democratic movement. The
governments in both Beijing and Hong Kong had strongly
criticised the 16 May by-election brought about by active
supporters of democracy in the former British colony. Hong
Kong government head Donald Tsang, a Roman Catholic, and
his administration team had been lukewarm about the special
election for months. Then on 14 May they officially
announced they would boycott the election saying it was,
"a waste of taxpayers' money". This spurred the former
chairperson of the Hong Kong Student Christian Movement
Poon Wan-yu to rewrite the lyrics of a hymn to promote
universal suffrage. The song was uploaded onto YouTube.


Muslim Miss USA: Progress, or immodesty? - Feature

Washington DC (ENI/RNS). Europe's burqa debate and
a steady stream of media images showing veiled women
have led to a widespread impression that all Muslims are
obsessed with covering the female body. It might be a
surprise, then, that many Muslim Americans are toasting
Rima Fakih, who made history on 16 May by becoming the
first Muslim crowned Miss USA, Religion News Service
reports. Fakih, who donned a gold bikini and a strapless
white dress for the pageant, will return to Las Vegas
in August when she represents America in the Miss
Universe contest. "There's recognition among Muslims
that this is not a traditionally Islamic way for a
woman to dress," said Shahed Amanullah, editor at, a news and commentary website. "But
in its own weird way, its progress." Many Muslims
are critical of beauty pageants as lewd and degrading
to women. At the same time, Fakih, 24, is being hailed
as a symbol of Muslim-American integration who shatters
the stereotype of the cloaked and dour Muslim woman.



Sojourners Online
May 17th, 2010

Have I rejoiced with and for my neighbor in virtue
or pleasure? grieved with [her] in pain, for him in
sin? … Have I revealed any evil of anyone, unless
it was necessary to some particular good I had in
view? Have I then done it with all the tenderness
of phrase and manner consistent with that end? …
Has goodwill been, and appeared to be, the spring
of all my actions toward others?

- John Wesley
  "A Guide to Prayer for All Gods People"


May 18th, 2010

One cannot be too extreme in dealing with social ills;
the extreme thing is generally the true thing.

- Emma Goldman, American writer and lecturer


May 19th, 2010

Family values and social justice aren't separate issues.
The health of the community depends on the health of the
family and the health of the family depends on the justice
of the community.

- John Perkins, from "Welcoming Justice"
       co-written with Charles Marsh


May 20th, 2010

If God comes down to earth through [the] Son made flesh,
then we ascend toward heaven through Jesus present in
each sister and brother for whom he died.

- Thomas J. Norris, Irish priest, professor, author


The Guardian (UK)
May 21st, 2010

"We were ecstatic when the cells booted up with all the
watermarks in place. It's a living species now, part of
our planet's inventory of life... This is an important
step both scientifically and philosophically. It has
certainly changed my views of definitions of life and
how life works.”

- Dr. Craig Venter, pioneering U.S. geneticist, who with
a research team has created the world’s first synthetic
life form.



On May 18, 1980, the Mount St. Helens volcano in
Washington state exploded, leaving 57 people dead
or missing.


On May 19, 1935, T.E. Lawrence, also known as
"Lawrence of Arabia," died in England from injuries
sustained in a motorcycle crash.


May 19, 1890, Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the Indochina
Communist Party and president of the Democratic Republic
of Vietnam from 1954 to 1969, was born.


On May 20, 1961, a white mob attacked a busload of
"Freedom Riders" in Montgomery, Ala., prompting the
federal government to send in United States marshals
to restore order.


May 21, 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh landed his Spirit
of St. Louis near Paris, completing the first solo
airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean.



"Being religious means asking passionately the question
of the meaning of our existence and being willing to
to receive answers, even if the answers hurt."


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