Monday, August 28, 2006

Sad

Pastor claims church voted to reject black membership, resigns
8/26/2006 8:34:40 AM
Daily Journal of Northeastern Mississippi
BY CHARITY GORDON
Daily Journal
SALTILLO - A pastor who says his congregation voted not to accept black membership has resigned. The church says it never made such a decision.The Rev. John Stevens says Fellowship Baptist Church in Saltillo voted not to approve blacks as members during a scheduled Sunday night business meeting Aug. 6. Because of the decision, Stevens stepped down from the Baptist Missionary Alliance congregation that has an average Sunday morning attendance of 30 people. According to Stevens, the church made race an issue after a biracial 12-year-old boy, Joe, began attending Fellowship Baptist with his temporary guardians.The church was "afraid Joe might come with his people and have blacks in the church," Stevens said. "I could not go along with that. There would always be a wall between us, so I resigned that night."After the Daily Journal contacted Fellowship Baptist members, they gathered Aug. 17 to form a response. Mike Dillard, who acted as spokesperson for the church, said the congregation "categorically denies" accusations that the church took such a vote and feels the charge is an attempt by a party to do them harm.Family leavesAfter being told of the vote, Cliff Hardy, an officer with the Tupelo Police Department, left the church. He and his family had been going to Fellowship Baptist for about a year and had been praying about becoming members there."I was asking the Lord to lead us," Hardy said.The police officer says there are good people at Fellowship Baptist, and the Bible was preached there. However, "You see, my best friend is a black man," he said. "I wouldn't be comfortable going to a place where I couldn't ask my best friend to go to church with me."Hardy says he knows there are still a lot of folks who are not comfortable with people from other races - there is still a lot of holdover from the past, there is still a lot of fear."But that's not what Christ died for," he said. Jesus' death and resurrection "is supposed to be a uniting force, not a separating thing."We're all God's children'In July Joe moved in with his uncle and aunt, Saltillo residents Jason and Melinda Kirk. The Kirks, who had been attending Fellowship Baptist for almost five months, were Joe's temporary guardians until recently, when his stepmother moved here from Ohio. During the week of July 23-26, Fellowship Baptist held revival services, and on July 26, Joe became a Christian. The following Sunday, people at the church asked the Kirks if they would become members, and the family started praying about it.The next Sunday morning, Aug. 6, the Kirks went to Fellowship Baptist. When company arrived at their house that afternoon, they decided not to go to the church that night. Later that evening, the Kirks received a phone call from their pastor, Stevens, who said the church had voted not to accept black membership. The minister, 72, who has now retired, said he had resigned from the church over the decision.Joe overheard the telephone conversation."We explained to him that everybody didn't feel like that," Melinda Kirk said. "But it really bothered him. He felt like our pastor had to quit his job because of him." The Kirks reassured their nephew that Stevens was just standing up for what is right. "People have got to realize we're all God's children," Jason Kirk said. "It's not God so loved the white people; it's God so loved the world."Since Stevens' resignation, one church member who was not at the Aug. 6 meeting has called the former pastor and told him he was in favor of what he did. Stevens estimates 80 percent of the church is against having blacks as members of the congregation."It's between them and God," police officer Hardy said. "I love those folks, but I can't agree with them."Contact Daily Journal religion editor Charity Gordon at 678-1586 or charity.gordon@djournal.com

Stats about the community I serve

What you need to know about the community of cornfields and an island between the rivers. This is from Wikipedia:
As of the census of 2000, there were 19,684 people, 7,604 households, and 4,737 families residing in the city. The population density was 920.1/km² (2,383.0/mi²). There were 8,026 housing units at an average density of 375.2/km² (971.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.79% White, 2.08% African American, 0.37% Native American, 0.90% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 5.63% from other races, and 1.18% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 12.58% of the population.

There were 7,604 households out of which 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.8% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 15.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 100.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,483, and the median income for a family was $40,497. Males had a median income of $28,785 versus $21,660 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,085. About 6.4% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.4% of those under age 18 and 4.8% of those age 65 or over.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

My Fantasy Football team

This is the team I drafted for The Homeless. Perhaps a better name would be The Homers.
QB P Manning (IND)
RB L Jordan (OAK)
TE Dallas Clark (IND)
WR H Ward (STL)
WR R Wayne (IND)
WR TJ Houshmandzadeh (CIN)
WR Deon Branch (NE)
RB Corey Dillon (NE)
RB A Green (GB)
RB T Bell (DEN)
WR N. Burleson (SEA)
RB D. Williams (CAR)
WR J Jurevicius (CLE)
QB B Leftwich (JAC)
K J. Elam (DEN)
Def Pittsburgh

I think it was a pretty good draft all in all. Only mistake was Tatum Bell with about the 7th pick. What do ya think?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More than corn


Tomato Juice was first served at a French Lick Hotel.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Full commitment to Jesus is costly

It’s August and we are quickly winding down the end of the baseball season. For some, those who root for other teams, you may be pleased that this season is almost over. For others whose team would go to the playoffs if the season ended today are still excited about the remaining season. Suffice it to say that I am a big baseball fan. I love my Reds. But there are some things about baseball which drive me batty.

For example, one thing that drives me crazy is when these major league, multi-million-dollar-a-year players, are up to bat, get a ground ball, which is probably a routine play for some infielder, and so they just trot to first base. Maybe it is just because I was spoiled growing up watching those replays of real baseball players like Pete Rose, aka Charlie Hustle. Today, the only players hustling are those trying to make the squad and stay on the squad. But those players with the long-term contracts and multi-million dollar deals they get a hit and just walk down the line until they are called out. They already know they are getting their cash. They assume that they will be out before they get to first base so they don’t even put forth the effort.

Partial effort didn’t seem to exist in Jesus’ vocabulary. Partial faith was not an option. It is all or nothing for Jesus. Therefore, commitment is key.

One of the reasons we skip out, one of the reasons we settle for partial completion, for a job half-done, is that we don’t like the cost of full commitment. Now don’t get me wrong we do commit to some things. There are somethings, like our jobs or maybe our families, to which we are fully committed. But full commitment is still limited. Read these words from George Barna in his great book The Frog and the Kettle:
“Commitment is viewed negatively because it limits our ability to feel independent and free, to experience new things, to change our minds on the spur of the moment and to focus on self-gratification rather than helping others. People willingly make commitments only when the expected outcome exceeds what they must sacrifice as a result of that commitment.”

I think Barna is right. People make commitments only when what they will get is greater than what they have to put in. And when we think we aren’t getting our fair shake then we are quick to break our commitments and divide our loyalties. It certainly is true in many marriages these days. The minute something goes wrong, no fault divorce becomes an easier option than working toward full-commitment. Sometimes we say things like, “Well it just isn’t worth the time and effort.” So we settle for a partial commitment and we are satisfied with that.

But Jesus just doesn’t seem to be satisfied with partial commitments. Jesus demands our all. It is all or nothing and there is no in-between. The fact of the matter is we are always moving closer to God or further away from God, there is not standing still. We can just settle down in the middle and say, “Well, I have faith and I do this or I do that. And that is good enough.” Or we can’t say, “I’ve paid my dues. I have served on this and that and done this and that. So I will just step back now.” It doesn’t work that way. We can’t stay in the middle because the spirit is always moving. If we stop and the Spirit keeps moving then we are falling behind. So we are either moving closer to God, by being in God’s presence, by praying for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, by getting involved in the church or other ministries, or we are not doing those things and falling behind. Commitment is key and commitment involves a steep price.

Proverbs 4:7 states: “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.”

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Bible shapes us

About 90% of us in this country own Bibles. And pollsters report that about 80% of the people say that the Bible is the most influential book in all literature.

We believe it is a sacred and influential book. We have it in our homes, and some of us actually read it. Maybe others of us assume that they know what the Bible has to say… after all they have grown up listening to it week after week. (pause) But in reality most people only know a few sayings or key ideas. For example, many people believe that the saying “God helps those who help themselves” is in the Bible but that is just a famous quote from Aesop’s fables. Or we hear the Scripture taken out of context and used as support for a debate. How many times have we heard some one say, “Judge not, lest you be judged” or “the poor will always be with us” during a debate or discussion. The problem isn’t knowing Scripture; The problem is not very many of us take it to heart.

The question we need to ask in regards to knowing Scripture is not “Do we believe it is Truth?” Even Satan believes in God… and I am sure Satan knows every word of Scripture better any one reading this blog. But the question is: Do we trust it enough to allow it to transform us? Or to ask it this way: Will we shape our lives by it?

Our limited knowledge of Bible trivia makes us Christians no more than knowing ninth grade Spanish or what we pick up from Dora the Explorer makes us Hispanic. The fact of the matter is… most people have almost no familiarity with the Bible or its teachings. We’re approaching a whole new level of illiteracy of the Bible. And when those people who think they know the Bible are coupled with the throngs who don’t know anything about the Bible then the faith of Jesus Christ is in deep, deep trouble. It is our responsibility as a Church to seek to change that, to make people hungry for God so that they will want to know what God’s Word has to say.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bishop Mike on being "Dumped on"

“Dumped On” – August 10, 2006

We were sitting at a lovely seaside restaurant in San Diego, looking forward to enjoying seafood, gazing at the sunset scenery of the harbor, and hearing the birds (pigeons and seagulls) chirp in the open air porch of that restaurant. Suddenly I heard and felt a “plop” on my shoulder, and I realized that a pigeon had landed on the light fixture overhead and had unceremoniously made an unwelcome deposit on me. Didn’t that pigeon know I am a bishop? Or perhaps the pigeon knew I am a bishop, and he was offering his evaluation!

Everyone around us, including the server and my wife Marsha and another diner at our table, rushed to help clean my shirt. The waitress apologized profusely, and the manager later arrived to make restitution for the damage to my shirt. Once everything settled down, we still enjoyed the lovely view (with the birds chased away), the meal, and the humor of it. But for a while there, I experienced first-hand what it means to be dumped on.

Have you ever been dumped on? Maybe not literally from a bird, but from other experiences in life? Have you ever been let down by someone you trusted? Have you ever been falsely or unfairly criticized? Have you ever been the topic of mean-spirited gossip? Have you ever experienced the discouragement of doing your best, but then hearing complaints that you did not do more? It is not much fun being dumped on, even if the event (like my experience) is funny.

How do you respond when you feel dumped on? In my case, I was forced to assess the situation to discern what had hit me. Since it was not a valuable contribution (and sometimes effective criticism is indeed a valuable contribution), I was glad to have it promptly brushed away. I had glad to rely upon the help of others, since I could not reach all of the deposit. And I felt some fairness in the restitution offered by the restaurant manager. But mostly, I just laughed, and went on with a delightful meal and evening with friends. That is not so easy to do in other situations when we dumped on, but it still may be the best answer.

One of my mentors, Bishop Woodie White, used to say to us in Cabinet meetings, “We should always take our ministry seriously, but never take ourselves too seriously.” Somehow having a pigeon dump on me was a good reminder not to take myself too seriously. So, I hope you are not often dumped on, but when it happens, I encourage you to laugh and to keep going.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of the United Methodist Church
"Making a Difference ... in Indiana and around the world”
---------------

Having been dumped on recently, I hope I can take my Bishop's advice.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More Evangelical Pastors Refuse to Play Politics

Not all evangelical churches willing to push political agendas
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Darrel Rowland - THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH


This is the story of the protest that didn’t happen, the speech not given, the campaign never launched.

As political activity exploded among religious conservatives in recent years, a certain profile of a politically active church emerged:
Evangelical Christian. A growing megachurch, defined as more than 2,000 in attendance. Predominantly white. Loose or no denominational ties. Often located in suburbia, not far from an outerbelt.

Such churches and affiliated groups are under the microscope these days for their role in picking a president and possibly Ohio’s next governor.

What’s often lost is the fact that many evangelical Christians are uncomfortable with the increasing intermingling of religion and politics. In reality, a majority even of those churches that fit "the profile" intentionally remain on the political sidelines.

Why?

To find out, The Dispatch went to pastors at three central Ohio churches that in many ways mirror those active in politics yet have deliberately steered their churches clear of the partisan political arena.

Interestingly, Rich Nathan, senior pastor of the Columbus Vineyard, Jim Leffel, teaching pastor of Xenos Christian Fellowship, and Mike Smith, pastor of spiritual formation at Heritage Christian Church, encourage the 14,000 combined who attend their services to learn about and get involved in politics on an individual level.

But all three draw the line when it comes to partisan campaigning or involving the church as a whole in a political undertaking.

Smith, 40, who has been with Heritage for seven years, said, "When a person comes in and says, ‘Hey, I believe strongly about this, and I want to do something about it,’ The answer is, ‘Great! Do it!’

"The problem is when they want to … use the church as their pulpit."

Nathan, 50, pastor of the Vineyard since 1987, said, "We think the Gospel has political implications, but it’s not partisan. And we don’t think that either the Republicans or the Democrats have the sole possession of the implications of the Gospel."

Leffel, 48, who has been with Xenos for 16 years, said, "We’re very concerned that the white evangelical church in America is almost becoming … guilty of adding to the Gospel itself through social identity, namely (the) political right for the most part."

While these three might speak for a largely silent majority of evangelicals, their stance runs counter to the current trend across America, said John Green, director of the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and a national expert on religion and politics.
"The pastors in this story are swimming against the tide of today’s highly polarized politics, which has been sweeping more and more ministers into politics because of issues with a strong moral imperative," he wrote in an e-mail.

"Many evangelical churches with all the characteristics that point to politics remain apolitical. And it is not an ‘either-or’ phenomenon. Many such churches are ‘just a little political.’ They might do a voterregistration drive once or only get involved in a really big issue, like same-sex marriage or the war."

Smith said allowing a member to use the church itself to advance a particular political cause, even if it’s one in which leaders believe, amounts to a bait and switch. Those attending are given the expectation that they’re going to hear about God and his word, not a list of things or people they should support or oppose.

Smith said Heritage faced a dilemma a couple of years ago when a member put leaflets on windshields in the church parking lot.

"Everybody came out of church and the assumption automatically is, ‘My church put this on here while I was in church,’ " he recalled. "It took us awhile to recover from that."
Nathan also raised the issue of mixed messages.

"We never want to communicate to somebody that comes here that they’ve got to go through two conversions in order to come to Christ," he said. "We don’t want to have somebody believe that first I must be converted politically from wherever I’m coming from politically, in order to then come through that to Christ."

Green said such views, a sort of "both Democrats and Republicans need Jesus," are common among evangelicals who avoid politics.

"This strongly implies that politics is secondary to faith, partly because politics passes away quickly and faith is eternal," the political-science professor said. "Many clergy with this view actually have strong political views, but they don’t think that politics should matter in the church."

Leffel pointed to today’s often harsh political battleground as potential source of unnecessary division within the church.

"We are mindful how polarized our culture is on political issues," he said.

Leffel said he isn’t afraid to challenge church members who go too far.

"Sometimes, there’s the smirky kind of language used against the other side. And when I hear that, I feel constrained to say, ‘That doesn’t really have a place here.’

"Or to characterize (Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted) Strickland as a theological liberal, and demonize in that way. I think that has happened in the broader evangelical church. And when I hear that in my church, I say that’s slander, and it’s wrong."

All three pastors say they agree with the "pro-life" and "pro-marriage" message of many politically involved churches. But they also see a mandate for other, broader issues that should be dealt with in the public square.

"I think it’s a mistake to have a political perspective that’s reduced to two issues: abortion and homosexuality," Nathan said.

"You know the Bible goes so far beyond those two issues. I think those are two very significant issues, but in terms of number of verses in the Bible or concerns that we find in the Sermon on the Mount, there’re just so many other concerns. And that also needs to shape the way that evangelicals engage politics."

More than Corn

Red Skelton was born in Vincennes, Indiana.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Forgiving Mel Gibson

In last Friday’s edition of our local newspaper, both syndicated columnists, Mona Charen and Mitch Albom, took their turns addressing the arrest and racially-charged profanity of actor/director Mel Gibson. Mitch Albom wrote in his column, Purgatory: Mel Gibson can find it by himself, “Despite what you might have heard last week, Mel Gibson is not Satan. He also is not God.” He would go on to write, “He is not savior. He is not God’s chosen messenger. He is another man walking the Earth who gets inflated to giant proportions because he makes movies and was once voted the sexiest man alive.” True, but this worldwide inflation has made Gibson a poster-boy for the Christian faith.

While making the most expensive and famous Jesus movie ever, Gibson knew that his celebrity status carried much wait in the public eye. The world was watching and waiting. So when Gibson was arrested, the enemies of both the Triune God and the Christian faith attacked. In one night he did something he never would have done in Braveheart or Lethal Weapon movies, he gave the enemy fresh ammunition.

Again Albom is right, Gibson is not God. That’s the point. God will let no one be greater than His son Jesus Christ. Consider all the great poster-children for the faith, Biblically and throughout our long history. Despite the high expectations of those who so publicly proclaim their faith, all of them fall and fail in some way. There is only one perfect poster-boy for the Christian faith and he died some 2000 years ago. All Christians, clergy, laity, and “Christian celebrities,” at one time or another will prove that another is still greater. I know I have made my share of mistakes.

No doubt, Gibson has embarrassed himself and the Lord he serves. Yet his reaction shows his faith and Christ-like compassion. Instead of using his over $850 million to get the best lawyers and experts, instead of arguing about the quality of breathalyzers, instead of debating the legal alcohol limit, he apologized. He has confessed his sin. He is making restitution to the people he offended. He is humbled.

So will we forgive? Forgiveness is a central discipline of the Christian faith. While the world and the enemies may not forgive Gibson, he deserves the Church’s forgiveness, prayers, and support. And if the Church is reluctant to forgive then perhaps we need to re-examine our own sinful nature.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

My Fantasy Baseball team

Starting for The Homeless:
C P. Lo Duca (NYM - C)
1B P. Konerko (CWS - 1B)
2B A. Soriano (Was - 2B,OF)
3B Á. Rodríguez (NYY - 3B)
SS J. Reyes (NYM - SS)
OF A. Dunn (Cin - 1B,OF)
OF M. Ramírez (Bos - OF)
OF Á. Ríos (Tor - OF)
Util M. Teixeira (Tex - 1B)
And on my bench:
BN Re. Johnson (Tor - OF)
BN J. Estrada (Ari - C)
DL H. Matsui (NYY - OF)

I also lead several categories of pitching, but I am still in fourth place!!!!
I will make a late comeback to be sure.

Livin' in the fish bowl

"Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” Paul writes to the tempted Corinthians. It is good advice. Everything that I do should be done for God’s glory. Agreeing to this statement means that I agree to be the best servant of Christ and the church I am called to be.

My personal life is just as important to my ministry as the church business. How I conduct my family life is just as crucial as my sermon preparation. My physical, mental, and emotional health are just as essential as the administrative council meetings. Personal care will impact my ability to conduct the ministry to which I am called.

I know that I must set the example. I should heed the words of St. Paul as he advises his protégé Timothy regarding his role as “overseer.”

Now an overseer must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money (1 Timothy. 3:2-3).

Paul’s advice to Timothy some two thousand years ago is just as relevant today. I am aware that people will be watching my family and me. People are paying attention to how I conduct myself. They will notice how I raise my children. People will care about how I spend my time and money. My opinions on current events and other cultural happenings may be sought after. When seen in public, people will expect the pastor to act “appropriately.”

Yet, while I know I live in a “fish bowl,” I am aware that I will never meet everyone’s expectations. I am nothing more than a redeemed sinner. I will let people down; for example, I may be late for a meeting. Mistakes will be made, such as making a joke that could be taken the wrong way. I will disappoint, in that some may expect I should speak more against certain social issues. Others may even be upset if they knew that I occasionally drink an alcoholic beverage, listen to secular music, or watch R-rated movies. At times, I will need to remind the congregation that their pastor is still human. Yet, everyone should know that I seek to bring glory to God in all that I do, even if they do not understand how God can be glorified by a certain action.

Individuals given authority in the church to be ministers should conduct themselves in a way that brings glory to God and gives a positive and effective witness to Jesus Christ. In my life, I pray I will do such by dedicating myself “to the highest ideals of the Christian life.”

Friday, August 11, 2006

Why, Mr. Webb, what is that you and your band are drinking?


He is never going to get played on the local Christian station by doing that. As if any Christian radio station has the guts to play the Truth of his message. But his CD is sold in our local Christian Bookstore, Canan Bible Bookstore.

PS: The answer is Guiness Draught. This pic is from the night he played Mercy Lounge on 7/31, not the night he played before Jerry Falwell at Liberty U. And for the record, I am not a fan of Guiness, something Derek and I disgree upon.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Derek Webb is "Christian" music

If you are not listening to Derek Webb then you haven't listened to real "Christian" music. Derek was teh lead singer with popular Christian band Caedmon's Call. His solo music is not the typical pious, shallow music that plays on your local Christian radio station. He challenges and indicts. He speaks Truth. In September you will be able to download Derek's newsest CD by clicking the link on the right side of my blog. Read these lyrics a csong off his new CD Mockingbird.

A King and A Kingdom by Derek Webb
vs. 1) who's your brother, who's your sister
you just walked passed him
i think you missed her
as we're all migrating to the place where our father lives'
cause we married in to a family of immigrants

(chorus) my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it's to a king & a kingdom

(vs. 2)
there are two great lies that i’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him

(chorus)

(bridge) but nothing unifies like a common enemy
and we’ve got one, sure as hell
but he may be living in your house
he may be raising up your kids
he may be sleeping with your wife
oh no, he may not look like you think

More than corn

An average of 400 funnel clouds are sighted each year in Indiana.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Today is National Underwear Day

In honor of this special holiday Sunday at our United Methodist Church all will be invited to strip down to our underwear and say a special prayer for the state of American's underwear. We will sing an ode to underwear and honor our underwear in many different ways.

All are welcome (you don't have to just be thin and muscular like this picture). Please join us at 10 AM. God bless our underwear. Thank you.

Monday, August 07, 2006

John Reuben rocks (well, raps)

"Christian" Rapper John Reuben released a powerful and revealing CD last year that I recommend, The Boy vs the Cynic (Gotee Records). While his music is appeals to a certain audience I am impressed that Goatee Records would produce this album. I am thrilled by the fact that Reuben is touring in major Christian venues with his new, more mature, and confrontational message. Read these lyrics from the song What About Them? Keep in mind that he is a "rapper" (so some of the lyrics are kind of elementary -- yet striking).

Puff the magic Jesus floats around the universe
the United States is his favorite place in the whole entire earth
so sing your songs and wave your flags
and thank the Lord for all you have
but what about the? What about them?

I am hopeful with music like this being produced under a popular "Christian" label.

More than corn


The world's first transistor radio was made in Indianapolis.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

North and South Indiana worship attendance tops national average

All United States annual conferences have now conducted their 2006 sessions. United Methodist Newscope reported summaries of each conference’s actions, including current membership and worship attendance figures. Although these figures are not “official” until later, some startling conclusions can be drawn from them. The North Central Jurisdiction had the highest average worship attendance of the five US jurisdictions — 49.1 percent. The North Indiana Conference had the highest worship attendance in the North Central Jurisdiction and the highest worship attendance of all US annual conferences — 69.7 percent. The West Michigan Conference had a worship attendance of 63.0 percent, the second highest in the jurisdiction and the third highest overall. The South Indiana Conference had a worship attendance of 57.3 percent, the third highest in the jurisdiction and the fifth highest overall.

- From e-news of inareumc.org

Something else to look forward to

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - August 1, 2006 - The latest green tea brew isn't something from a tea pot -- but a beer bottle.

Wisconsin micro brewer BluCreek is coming out with a new beer called Zen. The idea is to give a brewski the supposed health benefits of green tea. The brewery says the India Pale Ale could be the first of its kind and has a subtle green tea flavor. BluCreek Brewing has tried other unusual combinations before, including an ale made with fresh wild blueberries and a beer using Wisconsin ginseng. Zen will be available in some Midwest and Florida markets this month. It will sell for about eight bucks a six-pack.

Friday, August 04, 2006

More than Corn



Wabash, Indiana was the first electrified city in the U.S.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Conservative pastor addresses patriotic idolatry, pays huge price for speaking the Truth

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, The New York Times
MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (July 30) -- Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing -- and the church's -- to conservative political candidates and causes.

The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute “voters’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?

After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

Mr. Boyd says he is no liberal. He is opposed to abortion and thinks homosexuality is not God’s ideal. The response from his congregation at Woodland Hills Church here in suburban St. Paul -- packed mostly with politically and theologically conservative, middle-class evangelicals -- was passionate. Some members walked out of a sermon and never returned. By the time the dust had settled, Woodland Hills, which Mr. Boyd founded in 1992, had lost about 1,000 of its 5,000 members.

But there were also congregants who thanked Mr. Boyd, telling him they were moved to tears to hear him voice concerns they had been too afraid to share.

“Most of my friends are believers,” said Shannon Staiger, a psychotherapist and church member, “and they think if you’re a believer, you’ll vote for Bush. And it’s scary to go against that.”

Sermons like Mr. Boyd’s are hardly typical in today’s evangelical churches. But the upheaval at Woodland Hills is an example of the internal debates now going on in some evangelical colleges, magazines and churches. A common concern is that the Christian message is being compromised by the tendency to tie evangelical Christianity to the Republican Party and American nationalism, especially through the war in Iraq.

At least six books on this theme have been published recently, some by Christian publishing houses. Randall Balmer, a religion professor at Barnard College and an evangelical, has written “Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America -- an Evangelical’s Lament.”

And Mr. Boyd has a new book out, “The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church,” which is based on his sermons.

“There is a lot of discontent brewing,” said Brian D. McLaren, the founding pastor at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Gaithersburg, Md., and a leader in the evangelical movement known as the “emerging church,” which is at the forefront of challenging the more politicized evangelical establishment.

“More and more people are saying this has gone too far -- the dominance of the evangelical identity by the religious right,” Mr. McLaren said. “You cannot say the word ‘Jesus’ in 2006 without having an awful lot of baggage going along with it. You can’t say the word ‘Christian,’ and you certainly can’t say the word ‘evangelical’ without it now raising connotations and a certain cringe factor in people.

“Because people think, ‘Oh no, what is going to come next is homosexual bashing, or pro-war rhetoric, or complaining about ‘activist judges.’ ”

Mr. Boyd said he had cleared his sermons with the church’s board, but his words left some in his congregation stunned. Some said that he was disrespecting President Bush and the military, that he was soft on abortion or telling them not to vote.

“When we joined years ago, Greg was a conservative speaker,” said William Berggren, a lawyer who joined the church with his wife six years ago. “But we totally disagreed with him on this. You can’t be a Christian and ignore actions that you feel are wrong. A case in point is the abortion issue. If the church were awake when abortion was passed in the 70’s, it wouldn’t have happened. But the church was asleep.”

Mr. Boyd, 49, who preaches in blue jeans and rumpled plaid shirts, leads a church that occupies a squat block-long building that was once a home improvement chain store.

The church grew from 40 members in 12 years, based in no small part on Mr. Boyd’s draw as an electrifying preacher who stuck closely to Scripture. He has degrees from Yale Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary, and he taught theology at Bethel College in St. Paul, where he created a controversy a few years ago by questioning whether God fully knew the future. Some pastors in his own denomination, the Baptist General Conference, mounted an effort to evict Mr. Boyd from the denomination and his teaching post, but he won that battle.

He is known among evangelicals for a bestselling book, “Letters From a Skeptic,” based on correspondence with his father, a leftist union organizer and a lifelong agnostic -- an exchange that eventually persuaded his father to embrace Christianity.

Mr. Boyd said he never intended his sermons to be taken as merely a critique of the Republican Party or the religious right. He refuses to share his party affiliation, or whether he has one, for that reason. He said there were Christians on both the left and the right who had turned politics and patriotism into “idolatry.”

He said he first became alarmed while visiting another megachurch’s worship service on a Fourth of July years ago. The service finished with the chorus singing “God Bless America” and a video of fighter jets flying over a hill silhouetted with crosses.

“I thought to myself, ‘What just happened? Fighter jets mixed up with the cross?’ ” he said in an interview.

Patriotic displays are still a mainstay in some evangelical churches. Across town from Mr. Boyd’s church, the sanctuary of North Heights Lutheran Church was draped in bunting on the Sunday before the Fourth of July this year for a “freedom celebration.” Military veterans and flag twirlers paraded into the sanctuary, an enormous American flag rose slowly behind the stage, and a Marine major who had served in Afghanistan preached that the military was spending “your hard-earned money” on good causes.

In his six sermons, Mr. Boyd laid out a broad argument that the role of Christians was not to seek “power over” others -- by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars.
Christians should instead seek to have “power under” others — “winning people’s hearts” by sacrificing for those in need, as Jesus did, Mr. Boyd said.

“America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,” he said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.
“I am sorry to tell you,” he continued, “that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”

Mr. Boyd lambasted the “hypocrisy and pettiness” of Christians who focus on “sexual issues” like homosexuality, abortion or Janet Jackson’s breast-revealing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. He said Christians these days were constantly outraged about sex and perceived violations of their rights to display their faith in public.

“Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act,” he said. “And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed.”

Some Woodland Hills members said they applauded the sermons because they had resolved their conflicted feelings. David Churchill, a truck driver for U.P.S. and a Teamster for 26 years, said he had been “raised in a religious-right home” but was torn between the Republican expectations of faith and family and the Democratic expectations of his union.

When Mr. Boyd preached his sermons, “it was liberating to me,” Mr. Churchill said.

Mr. Boyd gave his sermons while his church was in the midst of a $7 million fund-raising campaign. But only $4 million came in, and 7 of the more than 50 staff members were laid off, he said.

Mary Van Sickle, the family pastor at Woodland Hills, said she lost 20 volunteers who had been the backbone of the church’s Sunday school.

“They said, ‘You’re not doing what the church is supposed to be doing, which is supporting the Republican way,’ ” she said. “It was some of my best volunteers.”

The Rev. Paul Eddy, a theology professor at Bethel College and the teaching pastor at Woodland Hills, said: “Greg is an anomaly in the megachurch world. He didn’t give a whit about church leadership, never read a book about church growth. His biggest fear is that people will think that all church is is a weekend carnival, with people liking the worship, the music, his speaking, and that’s it.”

In the end, those who left tended to be white, middle-class suburbanites, church staff members said. In their place, the church has added more members who live in the surrounding community — African-Americans, Hispanics and Hmong immigrants from Laos.

This suits Mr. Boyd. His vision for his church is an ethnically and economically diverse congregation that exemplifies Jesus’ teachings by its members’ actions. He, his wife and three other families from the church moved from the suburbs three years ago to a predominantly black neighborhood in St. Paul.

Mr. Boyd now says of the upheaval: “I don’t regret any aspect of it at all. It was a defining moment for us. We let go of something we were never called to be. We just didn’t know the price we were going to pay for doing it.”

His congregation of about 4,000 is still digesting his message. Mr. Boyd arranged a forum on a recent Wednesday night to allow members to sound off on his new book. The reception was warm, but many of the 56 questions submitted in writing were pointed: Isn’t abortion an evil that Christians should prevent? Are you saying Christians should not join the military? How can Christians possibly have “power under” Osama bin Laden? Didn’t the church play an enormously positive role in the civil rights movement?

One woman asked: “So why NOT us? If we contain the wisdom and grace and love and creativity of Jesus, why shouldn’t we be the ones involved in politics and setting laws?”

Mr. Boyd responded: “I don’t think there’s a particular angle we have on society that others lack. All good, decent people want good and order and justice. Just don’t slap the label ‘Christian’ on it.”
***
I have read Greg Boyd's book. It is important reading for all Christians in modern America.
This gives me hope. Thank you Rev. Boyd for blazing this trail!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Catholic nun, who will be canonized, honored at Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - State officials are honoring Mother Theodore Guerin, a 19th-century Roman Catholic nun who is to be named a saint, by hanging her portrait in the governor's office.
Gov. Mitch Daniels called it a tribute to a woman "who was brave, selfless and gave her life of service to others." At a Vatican ceremony Oct. 15, Guerin will become the first person from Indiana and the eighth from the United States to be canonized in the Catholic Church.
Guerin was a French nun who left her homeland in 1840 for the then-frontier state of Indiana, and within a year founded the Sisters of Providence Academy - now known as St. Mary-of-the-Woods College - near Terre Haute. She died in 1856.
St. Mary-of-the-Woods is the oldest Catholic liberal arts college for women in the United States, and under Guerin's leadership, the schools were expanded into Illinois, Massachusetts and California. Several members of the congregation near Terre Haute attended the July 21 portrait hanging.
Pope John Paul II had accepted a nun's recovery from cancer as a miracle attributed to Guerin. One miracle is needed for beatification, and Guerin was beatified in 1998.
Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI approved a second miracle - the regaining of eyesight by an employee at the order's mother house - as the result of Guerin's intercession.
It takes two miracles to move forward on the path to sainthood. Both of the healings took place after prayers to Guerin long after her death.
Cost of the War in Iraq
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