Monday, July 26 2004 @ 11:42 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
With the congregational ordination of Jay Wiesner (30) at Bethany Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) now has at least 3 open homosexuals serving in its pastoral ranks in the Twin Cities. Jay Wiesner was ordained Sunday afternoon by the Bethany congregation in a service held at Plymouth Congregational Church because there was not enough room in the sanctuary for the crowd at Bethany. Those in attendance included Timothy Anthony, Wiesner's partner, and Timothy's mother, Candace. Wiesner will be installed officially at Bethany next month.
The ELCA is the largest association of Lutherans in America, ahead of the conservative Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod)(LCMS) and other smaller and generally more conservative Lutheran associations. Although the ELCA policy forbids the ordination of those in a same sex relationship unless they declare that they are celibate, many at Sunday's ceremony believe openly active homosexual partnerships will be more and more represented among the ELCA clergy. Said Bethany congregation member Dora Lofstrom, "I kind of feel like we're paving the way for the Lutheran Church. I think the tide is with us. I think little by little the church will come."
Sunday's service was not attended by ELCA Bishop Craig Johnson of the Minneapolis Synod. Previously Johnson refused to recognize the ordination of a local lesbian pastor. A national group of ELCA leaders opposed to the ordination of active homosexuals, Solid Rock Lutherans, is fighting to change the ELCA trend. Executive Director Roy Harrisville III, an ELCA pastor, said, "To ordain an active homosexual man is to reject the foundations of scripture and the Lutheran confessions. When I was ordained, I vowed that I would preach and teach according to scripture and the confessions, yet Mr. Wiesner is living contrary to both. How then can he possibly keep the sacred vow? And why has Bethany Lutheran Church placed Bishop Johnson and the Minnesota Synod in a difficult spot?"
Bishop Johnson has a variety of courses open to him, from open acceptance of Bethany's ordination of Wiesner to dismissing the congregation from the ELCA and firing its pastor. Most predict that Johnson will do nothing.
Monday, July 26 2004 @ 11:12 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Presbyterian minister the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, and his organization are planning to file a suit against the United States Secret Service for the restrictions that agency placed on their plans to hold a prayer vigil outside Senator John Kerry's house during the Democratic National Convention this week in Boston. The group was told by the Secret Service that it could not hold the prayer vigil even after it received a permit to do so from the city of Boston.
Mahoney said the group planned a prayer vigil for each night of the convention. He said the group also planned to leave a dozen roses each night "to encourage him [Kerry] to remember to protect America's greatest natural resource: her children." Kerry is a strong abortion rights supporter.
Mahoney says that when the city capitulated to their request under threat of a similar suit, he should have realized that there were more hurdles for his group to conquer. He's skeptical that the city did not know the plans of the Secret Service, saying, "They knew, I think, all along that the Secret Service would shut the area down. So in a way, Boston wants to have their cake and eat it too." He says this way, the city looks cooperative but is still letting the Secret Service infringe on his group's constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech. Mahoney is confident his group will eventually prevail, warning, "They already saw we're not bluffing" regarding filing suit if they are not permitted to hold the prayer vigil.
Mahoney said he's willing to limit the size of the prayer group, but added that "it's a public sidewalk and we're the only group that has a permit."
Speaking for the city, Lisa Pollack of the Boston mayor's office said the issue was between the Secret Service and Mahoney's group: "We give permits in good faith. Unfortunately, the hard security zones are in the purview of the Secret Service. And they do have ultimate authority in that case."
The event held in Atlanta is one of 24 gay rodeos in the United States and Canada that combine to form the International Gay Rodeo Association, which began in 1976. The annual grand championship will be held in October in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Atlanta gay rodeo was like most other rodeos and drew attendance from 1,400 people, including families and heterosexual couples. The only actual event that distinguished this rodeo from most was the wild drag race -- where contestants in drag competed at the traditional steer wrestling event.
A board member for the popular event, Dean Sepp, R.N., commented that gay rodeo breaks "the typical stereotype of how people perceive the gay community." It is also a place where homosexuals with like interests meet and often pair up. Several committed same sex couples say they first met at the Southern Spurs Rodeo.
Friday, July 23 2004 @ 12:03 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Yesterday, Church of Scotland minister the Rev. Iain Whyte blessed the rings and the ceremony uniting a same sex couple, Robert Wicksted (43) and Alex Valentine (36), in Edinburgh's Phoenix Pub, popular with Scottish homosexuals. The "blessing ceremony" is not sanctioned by the Church of Scotland, but in Wicksted's opinion, it is a true church wedding: "This is the first time the two rings have been exchanged and blessed. This has never ever been done before. Basically, we are making history. Normally a blessing says these two people are committed to each other, but this is an actual ceremony where the the rings are exchanged and blessed." He concluded, "We feel we are married in under the church."
The Church of Scotland defended Rev. Whyte's decision to conduct the ceremony, a spokesman saying, "The Church of Scotland has no official ceremony for such an event and it is left to the minister's own judgment as to what is appropriate pastorally."
Rev. Whyte added, "There is no question of it being a wedding or even like a wedding. It is a blessing of commitment they are making to each other which is accompanied by rings." Whyte says he is "comfortable" with guiding the commitment, adding, "I believe it is right to give whatever comfort and support a chaplain can to people in these circumstances." Robert Wicksted suffers from terminal leukemia, but says his illness is not the reason for their ceremony. He explained, "I did not do it because I am ill. I have done it because we care for each other. We are quite happy together and committed and at the end of the day, I want to make sure he is financially sure."
Although there is no legal recognition of same sex unions in Scotland, there is a Civil Partnership Union being considered in the British Parliament that would cover the entire UK including Scotland. If enacted, the law would permit civil registrars to record same-sex relationships and grant them the same legal benefits and restrictions enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
The United Kingdom company that brought us Big Brother, Endemol, is set to bring us what may be the ultimate in reality TV sex-ploitation -- a sperm donor winner who wins the chance to Make Me a Mum, a program currently in the "creative" stages from Endemol subsidiary Brighter Pictures, which also brings the UK reality shows such as Casino, Caught on Camera, Dirty Weekend, Looking Like Diana, and Tabloid Tales.
The proposed program will solicit men who want to father a child. The men will be judged as best in either form or substance -- one male will be chosen by the woman on the basis of his sex appeal, personality, and wealth; while a second man will be chosen on the basis of genetic compatibility with the mother and the quality of his sperm. The climax to the program will be a televised sperm race -- with viewers watching which of the two finalists' sperm reaches the female's egg first.
Ethicists, family values organizations, and pro-life groups are unanimous in their condemnation of the planned series, but Brighter Picture's creative director Remy Blumenfeld told Broadcast magazine (a British radio and television industry publication), "There's a tremendous amount of science to this show. It's completely fascinating. It's much more about the rule of science than the rules of attraction."
The London Times published a series of articles beginning June 20 examing the state of abortion in the United Kingdom. Among the findings was that in a number of cases, babies born alive from abortions had been left to die unattended. A midwife who spoke on condition of anonymity claimed that in the hospital where she practiced, there was an unwritten policy that babies who survived abortions were not to be cared for. The newspaper reported about one baby that lived with nourishment but without medical care for 3 days before finally dying after the child survived the mother's abortion.
In Great Britain, abortion for any reason is legal through the 24th week of gestation, but abortions can also be obtained after 24 weeks in cases of "hanidcaps." Because "handicaps" is not defined in the law, it is up to the discretion of the medical team if the case qualifies. This has resulted in what some people say is several dozens of babies being aborted with minor handicaps that are clearly not life-threatening, such as a cleft palate or club foot.
The June 27 Times article reported on a baby who was scheduled to be aborted at 25 weeks gestation but who was born prematurely only hours before the scheduled surgery. The baby was completely healthy although premature. That child survived since the child was born rather than surviving an abortion procedure.
Shortly after the stories were published, the British Medical Association held its annual conference and approved by 65.3% of the voting doctors a resolution calling for babies surviving abortions to be given "the same full neonatal care as that available to other babies."
David Steel, who introduced to the House of Commons the bill that became Britain's 1967 abortion law has now proposed modifying the law. In an opinion piece in the July 6 Guardian newspaper, Steel explained that the law originally set no limits to abortions until the 28th week of gestation, but that it was revised to the beginning of the 25th week in 1990 because of advances in medical technology, testing, and treatment. Steel still insists that abortion remain legal, but he is urging that first trimester abortions be more easily accessible and their availability more publicized, that abortions after 12 weeks should remain legal but discouraged, and that serious consideration should be given to restricting abortions to handicaps after only 22 weeks instead of the current 24 weeks.
One of the basic tenets of modern physics is that cosmological information (the stuff of the universe) is always conserved and at least hypothetically recoverable -- that is, that one can always reconstruct the past from the residue of information of today. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, cosmologist Stephen Hawking and others postulated that in the case of "black holes" -- locations in the universe where "gravitational abysses" swallow matter, energy, and even light -- such information was irretrievable, overturning this basic assumption of modern physics. Since then, many physicists, especially those working with "string theory" -- which hopes to produce a "Theory of Everything" that would explain all the forces of nature -- believed they had discovered evidence that information from black holes was hypothetically recoverable and that Hawking's assumption was false. This week the world famous physicist capitulated and announced at the 17th International Conference of General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, Ireland, that he was wrong and then presented a short summary of his new calculation that led him to change his mind.
He accompanied his announcement with the presentation of a baseball encyclopedia to California Institute of Technology's John Preskill -- the stake in a famous bet made in 1997 between Preskill and Hawking and another Cal Tech physicist, Kip Thorne, who agreed at the time with Hawking that what had been "swallowed" by a black hole was eternally irretrievable.
On the basis of a new calculation, Hawking has concluded that this basic assumption of physics is true and that information can escape a black hole. He told those in the audience at the general relativity conference, "I want to report that I think that I have solved a major problem in theoretical physics." Preskill, asked later, said that he had always dreamed of besting Hawking on this point in front of witnesses, but never dreamed it would be before the bulk of their peers.
Although Hawking talked as though he had nearly single handedly solved the problem, many physicists were somewhat reticent. Some agreed that his solution sounded credible, but that it would take time to understand and test his solution. Other remarked that many theorists in physics have proposed solutions to the problem over the last several years, although Hawking would not acknowledge the possible validity of their work before. In fact, Leonard Susskind, a theorist at Stanford, remarked, "Until Stephen's recent reversal, he was about the only person still getting it wrong."
Hawking (62) is a giant among theoretical physicists, not only for his ground-breaking theories, but also for making the wonder of physics and cosmology intriguing to the general public through his popular level books such as his Brief History of Time and also for mastering a challenging career as he suffers from the extremely debilitating disease of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), which has confined him to a wheelchair, practically imobilizing him, and forcing him to "speak" by means of a specially modified voice synthesizer connected to a specially modified computer keyboard.
Susskind and his Dutch colleague, Gerar 't Hooft of the University of Utrecht, welcomed Hawking's change of mind, noting of his previous denial that information could be retrieved from black holes, "Stephen correctly understood that if this was true, it would lead to the downfall of much of 20th-century physics."
Thursday, July 22 2004 @ 10:40 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
A federal appeals court in Atlanta yesterday narrowly affirmed a Florida law banning gays from adopting children when the court became split 6-6 on the issue. It takes a majority affirmative vote from the court to accept a case for appeal. The result of the deadlock is that the appeal will not be heard and the lower court ruling affirming the controversial law will stand. Both Democrat and Republican appointees voted on both sides.
The Florida law was passed in 1977 and Florida is the only state that explicitly denies any homosexual or lesbian from adopting a child. Other states may deny same sex couples but not gay singles or may have some conditions under which same sex couples, homosexuals, or lesbians may adopt.
The appeal came a Florida case brought by 4 homosexuals, Douglas Houghton, Steven Lofton, Wayne Smith, and Daniel Skahen, who were allowed by the state to serve as permanent guardians or foster parents while they were in same sex couple relationships, but who were forbidden to adopt any children. They maintained in their suit that they were denied their constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
Judge Stanley Birch, who issued the original decision in January on behalf of the 3 judge panel hearing the case, said that he thought the law ought to be changed and that he was impressed by the good parenting displayed by the plaintiffs. He said that "For these children, these men are the only parents they have ever known." He continued that he was confident the law would be changed when state legislators "will see the best interest of these children in a different light." Nevertheless, he said he would not let his personal opinions and beliefs affect his administration of the law, which was to be interpreted and upheld by the courts, not changed. He commented, "as compelling as this perspective is to me, I will not allow my personal views to conflict with my judicial duty -- conduct that apparently fewer and fewer citizens, commentators and senators seem to understand or appreciate."
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta was evenly divided on whether or not to hear the appeal of the lower Birch court's ruling, effectively ruling that they would not accept the case for review. Of the 6 judges who wanted to accept the case for appeal, 3 were convinced that the law was unconstitutional and 3 were convinced that whether the law was unconstitutional or not, the case was important enough to be considered by the appeals court. Speaking for those judges who believed the law was unconstitutional, Judge Rosemary Barkett wrote in her 50 page dissent, "Neither child molesters, drug addicts, nor domestic abusers are categorically barred by the statute from serving as adoptive parents." She continued, "In a very real sense, Florida's adoption statute treats homosexuals less favorably than even those individuals with characteristics that may pose a threat to the well-being of children."
Great Britain's government agency British Telecommunications (BT), which provides Internet service to the country, has adopted a new filtering program that blocks access to sites containing child pornography that has been judged illegal in England. In its first month of operation, the technology, "BT Clean Feed," recorded an average of 23,000 hits a day on illegal URLs from sources in the UK.
The database of objectionable URLs was developed by the Internet Watch Foundation, based in Oakington, UK. A spokeswoman explained, "The sites listed in our database contain images of child abuse which have been examined and judged to be illegal in the UK. This is not a personal moral judgment, but an assessment of what is and is not legal in this country." She continued, describing the work of BT, "BT has developed this filtering technology and along with our database are now blocking access to these URLs, and have said they will be willing to share the technology with other Internet Service Providers."
The technology does not record the identity of those attempting to access blocked sites, so it is unknown how many individuals are represented by the 23,000 hits. It may be many individuals, each attempting to access one or a few sites, or it may be a few individuals, each attempting to access many sites.
A Cambridge police spokesman said, "Clearly any software which hinders a paedophile's ability to access child pornography on the Internet is a good thing. We hope the development of technologies in the future will bring an end to this market."
More than 100 church leaders attending a retreat in northwest China to train Christian workers were arrested by police on July 12. About 200 officers in 46 police and military vehicles made the arrests at the Retreat Center for Railroad Workers in Liugong (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region).
According to the China Aid Association, the workers were being trained in teaching the Bible, evangelism, and discipleship. There has been no official word on any charges brought against them, no information about whether or when they will be released, and no information about whether they will be tried for participating in religious activity that has not been licensed by the government.
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26