Wednesday, July 21 2004 @ 12:01 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Australia's Charli Southern, born prematurely 6 weeks ago, suffered from an extremely rare birth defect, ectopia cordis: her heart developed outside her chest cavity and she was born with her heart external to her body, beating strongly but completely open to the outside and unprotected. Her chances of survival were less than 1 in 2 million, but she beat the odds and after 2 surgeries and careful neo-natal intensive care, doctors expect her to make a full recovery and lead a relatively normal life. Before the surgery to insert her heart into her chest cavity, doctors used ordinary kitchen plastic wrap to keep her heart sterile and moist. She will require at least one more surgery when she is older to close her sternum so that her breastbone can protect her heart cavity.
Charli was born to Peter and Peta Southern by Ceasarean section at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital in Brisbane, Australia. Doctors had monitored her progress with ultrasound and believed that the early delivery was necessary to keep her alive long enough to have the corrective surgery. Unlike 70% of the children born with ectopia cordis, Charli's heart was completely normal and healthy, other than being external to her body.
Her father is justifiably proud of his daughter, commenting, "She's a little battler, all right." He continued, "She doesn't realize the fuss she's caused, but Charli's lucky to be here. She has beaten all the odds, so we can't thank the medical staff enough."
Charli's mother described her daughter's life as a miracle, adding, "It was touch-and-go at times and I shed plenty of tears. . . . She's got the heart of a lion." Charli also suffered from kidney failure and a chest infection, but she has recovered so rapidly, now breathing on her own and gaining weight through breast feeding, that she may be allowed home to St. George, Queensland, and her 2 year old brother, Max, in only a few weeks.
Doctors said they scrambled to be fully prepared to handle the rare circumstances, consulting experts worldwide, the Internet, and even medical textbooks to be sure they could give Charli the best chances possible. Obstetrician Carol Portman commented, "We expect Charli to run around like a normal child. We don't see that many babies with this condition who make it this far." Added heart specialist Dr. Mark Davies, who performed the operations, "I think she has done remarkably well. Her recovery has been startling."
When he was born, he weighed less than a half-empty 5 pound bag of sugar, but little Wallis Roughead, born in Cambridge, England, on April 19, 2003, is now a thriving 15 month old who is expected to mature into complete physical and mental maturity, thanks to a dedicated hospital staff, state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care technology, and the faith of his parents, Michael and Helen Roughead.
Helen, who suffered from diabetes, delivered Wallis just past the mid-point of her pregnancy. The child was a mere one pound, five and a half ounces, and spent nearly 3 months in the neo-natal intensive care wing of the Rosie Materinty Hospital in Cambridge. For many weeks, the Roughead's weren't sure Wallis would survive. Commented his father, "When he was taken to the nursery rooms" [from neo-natal intensive care], "that's when we started to really look ahead." He added compliments for the hospital, noting, "We always felt this area was the best possible place for treatment, and feel very lucky to have the Rosie on our doorstep. All the staff are very kind and always found time to look after us as parents while keeping the focus on the baby."
Wallis's mother knows how blessed they are to have Wallis with them, healthy, happy, and developing normally: "We're very lucky -- he's such a beautiful baby and we know we are one of the fortunate ones to come out the other side and take him home with us."
It was once common medical belief that a baby born below 2 1/2 pounds, or that early in the pregnancy, was incapable of surviving outside the womb. Most second trimester abortion laws count on that rule of thumb in describing the beginning of fetal viability, the point at which the absolute rights of the mother to terminate her pregnancy must be measured against the child's life. With many children like Wallis, born considerably below the 2 1/2 pound and 2/3 of the term limits, and yet surviving and thriving, some doctors and ethicists are rethinking their support of second trimester abortion rights.
Archbishop of York Dr. David Hope is in the vanguard of those leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion who are proposing a mediated division within the denomination when it comes time to ordain the first woman bishop in the Anglican Church. Although women began to be ordained as priests more than a decade ago, none has yet been proposed for consecration as a bishop. Dr. Hope and others believe that when the event occurs, traditionalist clergy, numbering more than 300 in Great Britian alone, would resign en masse rather than submit to a female bishop or a hierarchy that supports female bishops. The solution, he and others propose, is to encourage a compromise that guarantees the rights of traditionalist churches in dioceses that could come under a female bishop to be governed instead by a "visiting" bishop, a traditionalist from another area who would function as their acting bishop without overturning the overall structure of one dioscese per geographical region. This is the system already adopted informally by bishops since the ordination of women began. Dr. Hope's proposal would make the agreement formal and binding.
The alternatives, Dr. Hope says, are more disruptive, would cause more division in the worldwide communion, and would potentially cost more than the church can afford in "hardship" payments to dissenting clergy who leave because the rules under which they agreed to serve have been changed.
Although the governing body of the Anglican Communion, the General Synod under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has the authority to make no concessions to the traditionalists, any measures must be passed also by the British Parliament since the Anglican Communion is headed by the state Church of England. Church leaders and members of Parliament (MPs) are convinced that measures that allow the consecration of female bishops without providing remuneration for dissenting clergy who leave the communion will not be passed. The church previously paid £26 million to clergy who left when women were first ordained.
While Protestants continue to be by far the largest religious group in the United States, their wedge of the population pie is shrinking rapidly and may have already dipped below the 50% mark, according to a survey from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), affiliated with the University of Chicago.
According to the survey that has been tracking social trends for the last 32 years, the percentage of the US population that is Protestant has shrunk from 63% in 1993 to 52% in 2002 and may soon -- or just has -- dipped below 50%. Not only have an increasing number of Americans identified themselves as "no religion," many people who previously would have considered themselves Protestants now consider themselves simply "Christians." The term "Protestant" was defined in the survey to include all post-Reformation churches including Baptist, Methodist, Episcoplaian, Lutheran, and even Mormons and New Age Spirituality churches.
During the same time period, the percentage of Catholics has remained virtually the same at 25%, in part due to the influx of mostly Catholic immigrants from Mexico, Central, and South America. The percentage of Jews has also remained steady at just under 2%.
Those identifying themselves as "no religion" rose from 9% in 1993 to nearly 14% in 2002. People who said they belonged to other religions, including Eastern faiths (like Hindusim and Buddhism) and Islam, Orthodox Christians, interdenominational Christians, and Native American Faiths rose from 3% to 7% during the same time period.
Pope John Paul II named Bishop Klaus Kung of Feldkirch as apostolic visitor to the troubled Austrain Diocese of Sankt Poelten after authorities found a gigantic store of child pornography at its seminary. Among those implicated are the seminary rector, vice rector, and several seminarians.
"It is an important step to remedy the situation," said Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna. He continued, "The apostolic visitor will have to report on all aspects of this matter and make the necessary decisions."
Bishop Kung told the media that his "is a delicate and difficult task" that he will conduct with "determination and thoroughness."
Father Werner Schmid, the new director of the seminary, told the media that officials of the church must start from zero, redefining "the behavior that cannot take place in a seminary."
Park Bo-hi (74), long-time number two man in the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (Unification Church) has been arrested in Seoul, South Korea, on charges of fraud for failing to consumate a commerical real estate deal as promised. Park allegedly received $1.7 million from a real estate developer in December as the down payment for land in Guri, Gyeonggi Province (South Korea) on which stood an unused Unification Church-owned food processing company. The land was going to be used as the site for an apartment complex. When the deal fell through, Park only returned about 2/3 of the down payment. Although the terms of the contract were not clear, it is thought that the entire down payment should have been refunded.
A Unification Church spokesman told the media that Park was no longer a leader of the church and had no legal standing to represent the church, but that he was only a lay member. He added that Park had not asked the church to pay back any of the funds that had been returned to the developer by Park. It is not clear whether Park was acting for himself or the church in the deal.
The founder and leader of the Unification Church, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, has proclaimed that he is the "Lord of the Second Advent;" that he had completed the job Jesus had only partially fulfilled in His death, burial, and resurrection; and that, with his wife and loyal followers he was creating the perfect human family to complete God's redemptive plan. He is also the owner and founder of the conservative Washington Times.
Monday, July 19 2004 @ 11:26 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
This week the House of Representatives is expected to address a bill that protects the 1966 Defense of Marriage Act, which explicitly defines marriage, for the purposes of federal law, as the "legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife," and makes it clear that no state is required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states or countries. In recent years the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been challenged and weakened repeatedly by local and appeals court judges. The new House legislation, H. R. 3313, the Marriage Protection Act (MPA) would preclude federal judges, federal appeals courts, and the US Supreme Court from overturning DOMA.
A variety of conservative leaders and organizations have urged support of HR3313, and most are encouraging voters this week to contact their representatives and urge them to vote for the bill. The conservative Campaign for California Families (CCF) organization is among the MPA's supporters, telling voters to call their Representatives, explaining, "The wonderful impact for family values would be this: HR 3313 would prevent federal courts from exporting homosexual 'marriage' from Massachusetts into any other state."
Another conservative values organization, Concerned Women for America, adds that the MPA "builds a firewall against having same-sex marriage spread through the federal courts like a virus from Massachusetts to the rest of the nation. Without protection like that, by the time we get a constitutional amendment through Congress, it will be too late." Unlike a Constitutional Amendment, FMA requires only a majority vote from both houses of Congress and President Bush's signature to become law.
Although the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA)'s Mission Statement is to "put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all," the East Cobb YMCA outside of Atlanta, Georgia, recently revoked the membership of Larry Lee because he had witnessed to 2 young men on the public sidewalk outside the main entrance.
Lee said that as he approached his local Y to work out, he saw the men outside and stopped to witness briefly to both of them. Then he went inside to work out. The next day the YMCA director called him and told him his family membership had been terminated "because I was talking about religion at the Y." Lee, director of "Down to Earth Ministry," says that other East Cobb YMCA officials characterized his witnessing as "bizarre" and "uncalled for," and that the director told him the young men "were not there to talk about religion" and that he "was interrupting their exercise." Lee says the 2 were high school seniors who had just finished playing basketball at the Y and were outside, preparing to leave. He said they appeared to enjoy the conversation and thanked him.
Here is the bizarre and uncalled for conversation in Lee's own words: "Last Friday afternoon, I went to work out at the local YMCA that my family belongs to. As I approached the building, I noticed two young men hanging out on the front sidewalk just outside the main entrance, apparently having just finished a game of basketball inside. As is my custom in my ministry, I walked up to these guys to see if I could talk with them about Christianity. I almost always start out by asking some fun trivia questions and give dollar bills for correct answers - questions like, 'What's the capital of France?' and 'Who is the Prime Minister of England?' These guys, who were seniors at a local high school, were bright - they got almost all the trivia right. I told them that I run a local ministry and that I like to turn the tables a bit by giving money away rather than asking for it. They thought that was cool.
I then did what I always do, which is to transition to 'the good person test,' in which we use the Ten Commandments to see if we are 'good' enough in God's eyes to enter heaven. Of course everyone fails the test, but it proves a wonderful point - we need God's grace in order to enter heaven - we need Jesus Christ. These guys were really into the conversation. I told them that even though they didn't pass the good person test, I was going to give them the grand prize anyway - $20 - as an illustration of God's grace.
Even though they didn't deserve the $20, I was giving it to them as a gift, just like none of us deserves to go to heaven, but God offers us everlasting life through Jesus Christ as a gift. These guys were so excited - I told them they could use the $20 to have dinner on me - they couldn't stop thanking me. One kid stood up and said,'"Man, I really appreciate this, thanks man.' The other guy said, 'Yeah, thanks, this is cool.' I gave them some tracts that reviewed the gospel and told them I'd see them around. They thanked me again, and I left to go work out inside."
Although the East Cobb YMCA will not comment publicly on the termination of Lee's membership, reportedly some who have inquired personally have been told that the action was taken because of fears that adults who were offering money to children posed a potential sex or violence threat unacceptable to parents who had their children enrolled in YMCA programs. Allegedly the YMCA spokesman did not explain how using money in a gospel illustration with high school senior boys constituted a reasonable example of such a kind of threat.
Donny Osmond, pop star of the 1970s, is on a UK tour that takes him tonight to a sold-out performance at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. But Thursday night he gave a different kind of performance, also sold-out, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) in Brigham Terrace in the Scottish city of Dundee. He addressed the relatively small crowd of 1000 faithful Mormons, talking about his faith and his family at a "fireside evening," a Mormon custom that constitutes families spending quality time together once a week at home, focusing on their faith and family values.
Appearing with Donny was his son, Brandon, who is currently serving a 2 year stint as a Mormon missionary in Scotland. Two of Donny's other sons have held similar positions. Don is currently a missionary in London and Jeremy completed a 2 year mission in Italy. Mormons encourage all young, faithful Mormon men to devote 2 years as missionaries, and many women and older, retired couples serve as missionaries as well.
Donny's talk at the Mormon church centered on his love for his mother, who died recently, and how his Mormon faith helped him cope with the loss of her. He talked about the importance of families and noted that his family had travelled in on 4 different flights to be united for the evening. He added that Scotland was important to his family, since he could trace his ancestors back to Lanark and his wife's family to Uphall in West Lothian, both in Scotland.
In the July 1 editorial, Falwell stated, "For conservative people of faith, voting for principle this year means voting for the re-election of George W. Bush. The alternative, in my mind, is simply unthinkable. To the pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage, pro-America voters in this nation, we must determine that President Bush is the man with our interests at heart. It is that simple." Falwell also asked for donations to a political action committee headed by conservative public interest figure Gary Bauer, American Values.
Lynn argued that Falwell had disseminated the message in violation of tax rules, which restrict tax-exempt religious groups and charitable organizations from engaging in politics. He said in a press conference, "I certainly hope that this sends a clear message that religious organizations have got to operate within the federal tax laws restricting partisan politicking. And I think the message is that the campaign has been reckless in its approach to churches, especially trying to lure them into political activities."
Although most people are not aware of it, the IRS guidelines do not preclude all partisan endorsements from religious organizations or their leaders. However, such political involvement is greatly proscribed, can be only a small fraction of the activity and expense of the organization, and must meet other stringent federal guidelines. As a private citizen, Falwell is free to endorse whomever he wishes as his personal opinion. Falwell responded to Lynn's accusations by saying he fell well within the IRS restrictions, noting that the message in his e-mail and repeated on his website both came from his affiliated tax-exempt lobbying organization, Liberty Alliance, not his religious organization.
He explained, "I support President Bush. I support him on Sunday mornings from the pulpit where it doesn't cost the church or anybody anything. I make it very clear, just like at most African-American churches and many liberal churches, that as a tax-paying citizen I vote. And I tell people who I vote for." He indicated that he and Liberty Alliance exercise their constitutional freedom of speech in a variety of forums and on a variety of topics, but that his non-profit, tax-exempt religious organizations as such do not endorse particular candidates or election issues. He accused Lynn and others like him of trying to frighten religious leaders away from standing up for the values important to people of faith and the candidates who promote or protect those values. The conservative media organization NewsMax noted, "Because of Mr. Falwell's high profile, just raising the issue against him again this year may have a dampening effect on other ministers' activities during the fall election."
According to NewsMax, "Corwin Smidt, a political science professor at Calvin College who oversaw a survey of pastors during the 2000 election, said most members of the clergy were reluctant to make political statements even outside of church for fear of alienating some members of their congregations." Smidt concluded from his survey that "about 5 percent of all pastors and about 15 percent of African-American pastors said they had endorsed a candidate for public office from the pulpit."
The dispute between Lynn and Falwell is whether or not Falwell's endorsement more or less fits the pattern of, for example, former Vice President Al Gore speaking before and receiving a large contribution from a Buddhist Temple or the Rev. Jesse Jackson giving a campaign speech in an African-American church service.
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