June 22, 2007
June 25, 2007

June 23-24, 2007, weekend

MORMONISM AS A TARGET

Mitt Romney says he's troubled by the continuing criticism of his Mormon faith. My guess is that we'll hear such criticism for as long as Romney is a candidate -- and for even longer, if he's elected.

* * *

MUSLIMS SEEK A PLACE IN AMERICA

The Chicago Tribune reports on a festival this weekend that has to do with the way Muslims are seeking to find their way in American culture. The question is whether non-Muslim Americans are willing to let them do that without insisting on a particular outcome, which is to say without insisting that Muslims wind up looking, sounding and acting no different from Baptists or Lutherans or Reform Jews.

* * *

A GOOD LONG LOOK IN THE MIRROR

Sometimes it's good to take a slow, careful look at who you have been, who you are now and where you are headed.

UmccrossA section of the United Methodist Church has spent some of the last year doing just that and has produced a "State of the Church" report that should give Methodists a reasonably good picture of themselves.

This weekend I invite you to have a look at the report as well as some of the related material -- not because I imagine that all of you are United Methodists (I'm not, though one of my daughters and her family belong to a Methodist church) and will care deeply about this but because it may serve as a useful example of a way to assess the condition -- theological, social, spiritual, financial and otherwise -- of your own faith community.

Sometimes I think those of us in congregations and/or denominations simply drift along and don't notice that we've wandered from positions and practices we inherited from those who came before us. Or we may not be paying attention to views of newer members in our congregations, so we are surprised and alarmed when we divide as a people when we never imagined there was any disagreement.

The Methodist survey, for instance, found that nearly everyone was on board with a commitment to the triune God but began to divide over the importance of mission and service as they relate to salvation.

So have a look at what the Methodists have done and tell us whether you think something similar would be of any help to your community of faith, if any.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (In my Saturday column this weekend, I ask where the passion is in faith communities on issues of racial harmony and poverty.)

Comments

Joe Barone

I looked over the Methodists' State of the Church report. Methodical as always. There is a high degree of agreement on abstract doctrine (the trinity, for example) and a huge gap between sections of the church on human rights issues such as the treatment of gays.

As a Unitarian-Universalist myself, I think we go at it in just the opposite way. At least in our own congregation, we have high agreement on human rights issues and we couldn't be more diverse in regard to the doctrines (or lack of doctrines) all of us believe.

Obviously, I prefer the second route.

Joe Barone

Wow! TypeKey keeps trying to get me. Just mention the word "gay" and you have to type out those little letters.

Patricia

Great commentary on poverty and race, Bill. The news yesterday was filled with the incredible profits made by investors yesterday. PBS should receive kudos for linking the story to the widening poverty gap.

Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago was magnificent at working to create a bridge to poverty and the black community. The now defunct projects were treated as the church base, although it was still majority white faces that showed up on Sundays.

It took a regular bus service between church and neighborhoods, tent services in the hood, daily soup kitchen, and daily tutoring/childcare program to create and maintain a diverse church community. Not easy, but with clear benefits for everyone.

Patricia

I don't want to burst your bubble, Joe, but Type Key does not practice sexual discrimination. Type out the word "straight", and it will make you type those little letters, too.

Patricia

In fact, when I just posted the word "straight", I had to type out TWO sets of little letters. : )

Just Thinking

Churches die when they won't reach out to people. This is the fundamental reason that those Churches that regularly tie the message into the Gospel messages are thriving, while the Methodist Church in this country is failing. This is one of the themes of the report, too, which is surprisingly candid.

"Evangelism is not optional, but no church-wide consensus exists about outreach and expectations. Forty-two percent of United Methodist congregations in the United States failed to receive a member by profession of faith in 2004."

I've had discussion with Methodist Pastors who even refused to put out literature about the beliefs of the Church so that someone would have a starting point. It may be typical of the new clergy who seem afraid to point to any core beliefs, even though the Methodist Church itself is quite clear about a core set of beliefs. But in the process, it leaves those who know very little about Christianity unable to find a single place to break into this complex maze of thought.

"Some say dramatic change is needed to reshape the church so it can meet the needs of the world and share the gospel with persons yearning for meaning in their lives. Others say answers lie in a move back to basic principles of evangelism and church building."

In places where the theology is less of a straining-at-a-gnat or angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin intellectual exercise, there is growth in the Church.

Just Thinking

"When asked to the extent they agree that core values are important to United Methodists, 60 percent of the Europeans agree strongly, compared to 98 percent in Africa, 92 percent in the Philippines and 70 percent in the United States."

One Methodist Pastor I asked about making sure that fundamentals were out there where new people could learn about them and build a foundation said to me, "I'm not going to let the fundamentalists destroy my fundamentals." Cutesy, but ignorant. If you don't have any foundational teaching, then you have nothing but adherence to the quixotic beliefs of a Pastor, which is dangerously close to a cult. Methodist Pastors often hate to be pinned down on any foundational issue whatsoever. I suspect that a large number of (Methodist) clergy in this country don't believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Just Thinking

Here is a PCUSA survey of seminary graduates. For example, there were to agree or disagree with:

"There will be divine judgment after death, with rewards/punishments"

PCUSA - 62%
Fuller/Gordon-Conwell - 94%
Other - 57%

http://www.pcusa.org/research/monday/pastorsm.htm

Dolores Lear

Sorry. Could not make this shorter and get in all the information.
The Only Way to Unite religion is to accept High Tech Knowledge of the Science action on Earth 'in the beginning'. Our scientists have projected Colonizing a Planet.
We had an explosion of all kinds of High Tech knowledge in the 1960s on, with Colonizing a planet, and making space colonies.

"NASA. "The history of the idea of space colonization extends back into myths and legends of ancient times, but the first account of an actual space colony appeared in 1869 when Edward Everett Hale's novel, Brick Moon, described how a colony in space happened by accident. Many other events."
I got this information from the Public library in Independence, who have on file on all types of information.

I also received the information about the blue-green algae I misplaced from the K.C. Star article about our scientists predicting using a blue-green algae bomb, to break down a soupy atmosphere around a planet, like Earth had 'in the beginning', or Venus has today.

"Science" Magazine, March 24, 1961. "The Planet Venus" By Carl Sagan.
"The planet Venus is enshouded by clouds which prevent telescopic examination of its surface. In the absence of direct observations, reasons have been adduced for proposing a variety of differing and mutually inconsistent surface conditions. Since only water clouds were familiar to terrestrial observers, the apparent thickness of the Cytherean (1) cloud layer seemed to argue for a great abundance of water. From there it was only a step to the assertion (2) that "everything on Venus is dripping wet. - Although the oxygen is derived from water, the over-all effect would be to restore the water metabolized in photosynthesis to the atmosphere, and to dissociate carbon dioxide to carbon and oxygen. - In order to have appreciable photosynthesis before thermal dissociation, the life form deposited must be a microorganism. Since there is no liquid water anywhere on Venus, the organism must be able to utilize water vapor (from the atmosphere) or ice crystals (from the cloud layer). The only known microorganisms which photosynthesize evolving molecular oxygen are the algae. It would be desirable to have an organism with resistance to extremes of temperature. Blue-green algae are known to survive immersion in liquid nitrogen, and some foms ordinarily live in hot springs at 80 degrees C. - But it is conceivable that these problems can be solved, and that the microbiological re-engineering of Venus will become possible."

Many of our young bloggers will not remember all the High Tech activity, we had in in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and also with space colonies. All this space knowledge was put on the back burner because of lack of funds. Our resources went into building enough nuclear bombs instead, to blow up our Home.

Genesis 1:1. KJV. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
This is about the atmosphere and land mass on Planet Earth, not the Universes, and is like Sagan described about Venus.
The Spirit of God was the blue-green aglae bomb that started separating the oxygen from the water atmosphere, and an Ice Crystal Canopy and Ozone Canopy resulted. The water below made the Ocean. This was Day 1 and 2 of the Colonization.
Then the bushes, trees, grass, etc. were added on Day 3 to finish the divisions of water.

Genesis 1: 3-5. KJV. "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day."
These 2 verses were translated in the wrong place, and should be added after Day 3. This was day 1 of the Sun on Earth, when the sun, moon and stars , the Universe could be seen from land on Day 4.
An Earth cannot be created before a Universe.
Day 5 the fish and fowl were added and on Day 6 the beasts and Humans were added.
This is the blueprint of how we would Colonize a Planet today, only this happened 12,000 years ago. A Day with the Lord space travel time, is as 1000 years, Earth time.

Hope High Tech Knowledge in the past on Earth, will stop Humans today from killing each other. It is too late to Save Planet Earth from Death. The Eco System 'in the beginning' has been destroyed by Fallen Humans.
There is still the same Hope, for the return of the Lord/Our High Tech Ancestors that Colonized Earth, and Jesus, at the Judgement Day of the Fallen Human's Caretaking of their Home.

Ron

"I suspect that a large number of (Methodist) clergy in this country don't believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Unfortuantely, I"m sure you are correct, JT, not only with regard to Methodists, but also most other mainline denominations.

Joe, the Unitarian Universalist model is excellent for a human rights/social organization. Unfortunately, UU calls itself a church. For an organization which prides itself on having no particular doctrine, that's ridiculous. UU should give up the church pretense, and just become a human rights/secular humanist social organization.

Patricia

Perhaps before "suspicions" and prejudices run amok, you two Popes of the Holy Luth-Evangel-Grape BlogoSphere should study with and talk to some Methodists.

I completely agree with you, Ron. Every church should be just like MO Synod. Lots of ritual and doctrine. Little concern for people and human rights. I'm thinking of joining, myself, and becoming their first female pastor.

Patricia

Ex-CUSE me. MO Synod not only won't ordain female pastors, they like to call women ministers from all those wrong religions "pastor-ettes".

Ron

You're right. No women pastors, pastor-ettes, or
"priest-titues."

Ritual is good. It is how true doctrine is taught and handed down through the centuries. Not "happy clappy" contemporary worship services. Not book reports. No one but a "called and ordained servant of the Word" preaches in a Lutheran Church. No joint worship or prayer with pastors of other denominations or religions. Well, except Rev. David Benke, who worshipped and prayed to false gods after 9/11. Even LCMS leaders can succumb to the temptation of worldly glory and a national television audience over true doctrine. Because of David Benke's actions, millions of people were misled into believing that all religions, cults and pagans worship the same God. This is what happens when "open minds" supplants true doctrine. "Open minds" is synonomous with "anything goes," and "no one can know what is truth, so all beliefs are acceptable."

Patricia

Christianity Today
Benke Suspended for 'Syncretism' after 9/11 Event
Interfaith prayer exposes divisions in LCMS
Todd Hertz

July 1, 2002

Twelve days after the September 11 attacks, David Benke followed Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu clerics to the podium of a Yankee Stadium event to honor the missing and the dead. Benke asked attendees to join hands and pray with him "on this field of dreams turned into God's house of prayer." He prayed "in the precious name of Jesus" and sat down.

That prayer has led to Benke's suspension from the clergy roster of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). It has also exposed deep divisions in the church. Denomination pastors, on condition of anonymity, say the dispute is partly an attempt to unseat synod President Gerald Kieshnick, who approved Benke's participation in the "Prayer for America" event.

Some pastors fault Kieshnick for a more open stance to other churches. Insiders say he was elected last summer at the synod convention in St. Louis after two other candidates split the more conservative vote.

"There are long-simmering tensions in our denomination," Benke told Christianity Today. "To me, it is a shame that they have to bubble to the surface over an issue of prayer at a time of national crisis."

Twenty-one pastors and churches charged Benke, president of the church's Atlantic District, with six sets of ecclesiastical violations, including syncretism (mixing religions), unionism (worshiping with non-LCMS Christian clergy), and violating the Bible's commandment against worship of other gods. Wallace Schulz, synod second vice-president, investigated the charges and suspended Benke, pastor of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, in July.

Under appeal, the decision now goes before a three-member dispute resolution board. Its ruling could lift the suspension or remove Benke from the LCMS clergy roster.

Ron

Patricia, the end of the Benke story is that he was not punished because he had the permission of the LCMS President to participate in the multi-faith Yankee Stadium worship service, which included prayers to false gods. It's embarrassing what some people will do when seeking publicity and the approval of the secular society.

Ron

The comments made about the Mormon Church by the Brownback campgain worker in Iowa were entirely accurate. I'm surprised Brownback apologized for them. Why apologize for the truth?

Patricia

Boy, it is really awful when a minister delivers a prayer with other Americans. On the event of a tragedy like 9/11. Maybe Benke just wanted to share his religion with the grieving, Ron. What if, in the moment that Benke prayed, the very special and MO Synod-only God was cheering. Because She wasn't excluded from the opportunity to give blessings and solace?

Joe Barone

It is important to look at people's religious beliefs before you elect them. For example, George W. Bush has vetoed federal funding for more extensive stem cell research twice now. People on both sides of that issue needed to know where he stood before he was elected. It is the same for things like pro-life, pro-choice; federal funding of church agencies; whether a church is or is not restrictive of women's rights; etc.

I notice Time magazine made a big thing of John F. Kennedy this week. I always thought Kennedy was what I would call a "secular" Roman Catholic. He went to church regularly, had his children baptized, etc., and then did what he darned pleased. As a child growing up Catholic, I knew a whole hoard of those.

Patricia

Brownback's "comments" were really his campaign worker's memo. The employee was trying to come up with a strategy to beat Romney up with his religion. Now, that's a really fine activity for the organization of someone who is always invoking God's name and would have us believe he represents righteousness.

And speaking of righteousness. James Kennedy is focusing on tithing this morning. He must need money for another political propaganda film. Did you know that 10 percent of your income is.......well, only OK. But MORE than that is when the "windows of Heaven fly open and the REAL blessings start." And SATAN doesn't want you to have those blessings. Ergo, only SATAN would stop you from giving lots of your money to such a stunning Christian example of a man like Kennedy.

Patricia

James Hagee scaring up some support by invoking End of Times. He's "hell-bent" on tithing, too. This must be the month when all the tele-preachers get the bill from their media people.

Hagee has an audio-visual aid of a huge painted chart behind him, so that he can really scare the sheep with pictures of monsters and flames. I find it highly appropriate that the words, "The Satanic Trinity" would be over Hagee's right shoulder as he speaks. Don't pay those media people yet, Hagee!

Just Thinking

The summer months, when everyone goes on vacation, is when the coffers start to empty out. So they always trot out that tired old tithing message. Never mind that tithing is not a New Testament principle. They want more money and they're going to do whatever they think they can do to get it, even if it means implying that tithing IS a New Testament principle. And they certainly cannot leave it to God, because He's not going to yell about tithing even more than He's demanding animal sacrifices under the New Covenant.

Tithing had it's place when fully one tribe of the Israelites were priests. Now everyone is a minister of the message of reconciliation, and there is only one High Priest: Jesus Christ. But obviously that message does not appeal to preachers like Hagee who want to live better, far better, than the typical person who supports them.

Ruth from Tucson

Methodists – role of homosexuals
The Methodists are divided on the issue just like almost all of the mainline denominations. Technically a Methodist minister can be defrocked for conducting a same sex union and some have been. There is what the Presbyterians call a “more light” UMC congregation here is Tucson. They have a very active AIDS and homosexual support group and the minister conducts same sex unions. He said that the UMC knew where to find him.

A Methodist minister at our inter-religious group verified that it was against Methodist policy to conduct same sex unions. When I said that a Methodist minister here was openly conducting same sex unions, she replied, “It depends on the meaning of ‘openly’ ”. Then I realized that he does not make an issue of it. He just does it. That way the bishop can ignore the situation. Other denominations - and the US military seem to be doing the same thing.

Theology and doctrine like the Trinity are non-issues here - these are personal. When people of different faiths gather for a common cause like protesting the war in Iraq or the death of immigrants in the desert, the Virgin of Guadalupe is often displayed. This does not mean that we are all embracing Catholic doctrine. It is one important uniting symbol.

But that said, it is important for a congregation to maintain balance so we do not lose sight of God and become just another social service group. Our congregation reinforces Christian values and inspires us to go out in the community as individuals and express our faith.

Wayne

Boy oh boy, Patricia, I, like you, do love me some TV preacherin'. Thank goodness for The Church Channel. Hagee used to be my favorite, but that title is now filled by a fellow named LeRoy Jenkins. Maybe you've seen him? Lots of faith healin' and layin' on o' hands. He usually has a large tent meeting going somewhere in the the south, with everyone gyrating and fanning themselves and wiping the beads of sweat from their brows. Once the crowd is worked into a proper froth, he'll plunge directly in and pull out someone with terminal bone cancer or some other equally debilitating and lethal malady, and chat them up for a few mintutes:

"Now you and I ain't never met, have we?"

"No sir, we hain't never."

"Then it would be impossible for me to know that your doctor just gave you less than 6 weeks to live, and it would be impossible for me to know that you been in that there wheelchair goin' on a year-and-a-half, haven't you?"

"Praise the Lord, there ain't no way you coulda known that!"

[placing hands on the womans forehead]

"I command you foul cancer demons, you git on outta her! By the power of the Holy Ghost, you git on outta there! Now ma'am, I want you to git up there on that stage and dance!!"

And so it goes. Best entertainment on television.

Of course, if you want a more polished sheister, Benny Hinn is hard to beat.

Wayne

Boy oh boy, Patricia, I, like you, do love me some TV preacherin'. Thank goodness for The Church Channel. Hagee used to be my favorite, but that title is now filled by a fellow named LeRoy Jenkins. Maybe you've seen him? Lots of faith healin' and layin' on o' hands. He usually has a large tent meeting going somewhere in the the south, with everyone gyrating and fanning themselves and wiping the beads of sweat from their brows. Once the crowd is worked into a proper froth, he'll plunge directly in and pull out someone with terminal bone cancer or some other equally debilitating and lethal malady, and chat them up for a few mintutes:

"Now you and I ain't never met, have we?"

"No sir, we hain't never."

"Then it would be impossible for me to know that your doctor just gave you less than 6 weeks to live, and it would be impossible for me to know that you been in that there wheelchair goin' on a year-and-a-half, haven't you?"

"Praise the Lord, there ain't no way you coulda known that!"

[placing hands on the womans forehead]

"I command you foul cancer demons, you git on outta her! By the power of the Holy Ghost, you git on outta there! Now ma'am, I want you to git up there on that stage and dance!!"

And so it goes. Best entertainment on television.

Of course, if you want a more polished sheister, Benny Hinn is hard to beat.

Wayne

And another good one is Robert Tilton, who, sadly, is no longer on the air since, last I heard, is doing time for tax evasion.

http://www.youtube.com/v/bfVfATEtAzw

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