People often are surprised at how many religious or at least faith-based organizations make their home in the Kansas City area.
As you may know, this is the home of the international headquarters of the Church of the Nazarene, Unity and the Community of Christ. And we have seminaries hither and yon, including but not limited to St. Paul School of Theology to Central Baptist Theological Seminary to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to the Nazarene Theological Seminary and beyond. To say nothing of many Bible colleges.
And some people just realized recently that our area also is the home of the Society of St. Piux X, a traditionalist Catholic movement that has been in the news because Pope Benedict XVI recently rescinded the excommunication of four of its members, including a Holocaust denier.
One KC-based religious organization that I've discovered not many people know about was founded in Topeka in 1892 as the Gospel Missionary Union, and today is known as Avant Ministries. Its founder, George S. Fisher, died 89 years ago on Sunday, March 22, 1920. Fisher, a Minnesota native, became secretary of the YMCA in Kansas in 1890.
The anniversary of Fisher's death is a good time to acquaint you with this ministry, which has a global reach. So I invite you to surf around on the Avant Web site to see what's there. You'll discover, among other things, that Avant describes itself as "one of the oldest missionary sending agencies in the United States."
Missionary work has changed in many ways from that depicted by author Barbara Kingsolver in her novel, The Poisonwood Bible. And thank goodness.
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JOHNNY, WE'RE STILL GETTING TO KNOW YE
John Calvin, theological father of the Reformed Tradition of Protestant Christianity, in which I find my home as a Presbyterian, is making something of a comeback in this, the year of the 500th anniversary of his birth in France. As my friend Cathy Lee Grossman of USA Today notes in her blog, he is the thinker behind several books that just won awards. A note about Calvin: He surely didn't get everything right. And some of what he said his followers distorted almost beyond recognition, though Calvin himself gets blamed for that thinking. Still, he possessed a marvelous mind. By the way, for a complete list of this year's book winners from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, click here.
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P.S.: The Hallmark Channel will air another Odyssey Networks production at 6 a.m. this Sunday morning, this one called "Finding Hope in Recovery: Families Living with Addiction." As you may know, Odyssey is a coalition of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith groups dedicated to media production and distribution. Yes, its documentaries air at a ridiculous time but that's why people have the capability of taping shows to watch later.
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ANOTHER P.S.: A few days ago in this blog entry, I wrote about -- and criticized -- Pope Benedict XVI saying that condoms not only don't help solve the spreading of AIDS in Africa but actually may contribute to the problem. I wanted you to read another point of view today -- someone who says the pope got it right. For that, click here.