After months of charges & disciplinary hearings, the ELCA ordered the removal of Rev. Schmeling from the ELCA roster of approved pastors & from the pastorate of St. John's, the largest & oldest Lutheran church in Atlanta. (The church was founded in 1869.)
This action was in keeping with the ELCA policy that pastors who identified themselves as gay could continue in pastoral service as long as they were celibate. When Rev. Schmeling informed his bishop that he had begun a "life-long" committed relationship with Rev. Easler, the bishop began the proceedings against him. Although Rev. Schmeling has been given multiple opportunities to resign or to end his relationship with Rev. Easler, he has steadfastly refused. The majority of his congregation sides with him. "We are not an activist church, even though we can stand for issues of justice," explained member Charles Fox. But, he added, Rev. Schmeling "exemplifies the kind of love & empathy I envision Christ to have had."
The decision was reached behind closed doors by the ELCA disciplinary committee, which ordered Schmeling to leave the pulpit by August 15, 2007. Although the committee affirmed that the ECLA policy required the removal of Rev. Schmeling, they also said that if it were not for the rule, they believed Rev. Schmeling "is not engaged in conduct that is incompatible with the ministerial office." They also recommended that the ELCA change its policy & reinstate other pastors who had been removed or had resigned because they violated the policy. To change the policy, the ELCA general voting body would have to approve the change by a 2/3 majority. At the last national convention in 2005, a similar proposal fell just short of 50% affirmation.
Tuesday, February 13 2007 @ 11:43 AM EST Contributed by: AIA
A 30 year old British woman who suffers from a complication of painful conditions & whose doctor has said has less than a year to live has applied for a court order to force her doctors to comply with her wishes to end her life immediately. Kelly Taylor, supported by her husband, Richard, wants her doctors to sedate her to a coma-like condition & then withhold food & water from her until she dies. Her doctors have refused, saying to do so would be to directly & deliberately take her life. Taylor's lawyers had their first hearing before the High Court in London yesterday. Taylor is arguing that the European Convention on Human Rights supports her by banning "inhuman or degrading treatment." She says it would be degrading & painful to let her condition run its course.
Last year Taylor attempted to starve herself, but found it too painful. She also investigated using controversial Swiss clinics which offer assisted suicide, but was concerned with the legal risk it would bring her husband & then she became too ill to travel by plane.
Catholic ethicist Jason T. Eberl, commenting on terminal human suffering, has noted, "Suffering as it were contains a special call to the virtue which man must exercise on his own part. And this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintains in him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, that it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity linked to awareness of the meaning of life" (Recognizing the Value of Human Suffering in Caring for Terminally Ill Patients).
Monday, February 12 2007 @ 04:11 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
Despite such a low voter turn-out that a referendum to legalize abortion in this mostly Catholic country failed to pass, Prime Minister Jose Socrates has vowed to do whatever is necessary to bring abortion to his country.
The Sunday turn-out was only 44%, but of those who voted, nearly 60% voted to legalize abortion through the tenth week of baby development. There are 8.9 million registered voters in Portugal.
Prime Minister Socrates claims the Sunday vote gave him a "mandate" to achieve legalization of abortion in his country one way or another. "The law will now be discussed & approved in Parliament," he vowed. "The people have spoken & they have spoken with a clear vote."
According to Roger Kiska, legal counsel for the European Center for Law & Justice, the Prime Minister did not receive a mandate. "In essence, it does not mean, as the prime minister is saying, that Portugal is overwhelmingly saying they want to liberalize the abortion laws. Constitutionally, he is committing a strong violation of the current abortion law."
Friday, January 12 2007 @ 05:06 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
By a vote of 253 to 174, the US House of Representatives today voted to lift President George Bush's restrictions on using federal funds to fund research using embryonic stem cells, which destroys the embryos. The bill passed is identical to one passed by both houses of Congress last year but was vetoed by President Bush. He is expected to veto this one should it pass the US Senate & land on his desk for signing into law. Based on today's voting, which fell 4 votes short of the 2/3 majority necessary to supercede a presidential veto, the bill is not likely to pass into law.
Dave Weldon (R-FL), who is also a medical doctor, & other pro-life representatives noted for the record that research that is approved for federal funding, such as with stem cells from umbilical cords, placentas, nasal passages, & elsewhwere have already resulted in treatments that are sucessfully treating illnesses while no new & successful treatments have resulted from the controversial embryonic stem cell research that necessarily destroys the unborn child in the early stages of embryonic development.
Dan Lungren (R-CA) added that the score was "70 to 0," meaning 70 or more successful treatments from stem cell research other than embryonic, & 0 for successful treatments from embryonic stem cell research.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) noted that embryonic stem cell research "has shown no therapeutic value to date, is highly controversial, & many taxpayers do not wish to have their money spent here." He continued, "Why not invest our limited resources in adult stem cell research that is showing real promise & giving real hope? This is good public policy, this is the right thing to do."
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) commented, "It is not necessary to sacrifice the life of embryos to obtain cells that could become embryonic stem cell lines. It is wrong to use federal taxpayer dollars for research which offends the morals & ethics of millions of Americans."
Monday, January 08 2007 @ 03:32 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
Scientists report that they have found a rich source of usable stem cells in the fluid that cushions preborn babies in the womb. They have already produced a variety of tissue types from these cells. Researchers at Wake Forest University & Harvard University reported that the stem cells recovered from donations by pregnant women without harm to their preborn babies seem to hold the same promise as adult stem cells & more promise than stem cells from embryos, who must be destroyed to extract their stem cells.
"Our hope is that these cells will provide a valuable resource for tissue repair & for engineered organs as well," related Dr. Anthony Atala, head of Wake Forest's regenerative medicine institute & the senior researcher on the project.
Thursday, December 28 2006 @ 03:45 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
In what international religious-rights watchers see as an attempt by the atheistic Chinese national government to quash Christian Christmas celebrations in China, a leading Christian pastor was re-arrested just 2 days before Christmas. Brother Lou Yuanqi, an unregistered (& therefore illegal) house church pastor, was arrested again on December 23, having been released from prison on November 26 after 32 days of uncharged detention by local police in Xinjiang. He had been arrested in connection with unauthorized Christian gatherings in Qingshuihe town, Huocheng County, Yili city, in the autonomous area of Xinjiang.
According to the China Aid Association (CAA), Brother Lou is being held at the Detention Center of Huocheng County. None of his family has received official notice, but the Christians in his church & CAA believe his arrest was to deter Christians from celebrating Christmas together.
Christmas celebrations in Beijing were disrupted when about 150 Christians gathered in a private home were ousted by two dozen PSB officers & officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau. The Christians meeting in that home had been pastored by Cai Zhuohua, who is serving a 3 year prison term for printing Bibles & portions of Bibles. All of the attendees were videotaped & forced to provide their identification numbers.
"We are very concerned about the arbitrary detention of Brother Lou again," said Bob Fu of CAA. "We urge the Xinjiang government to release him immediately."
Thursday, December 28 2006 @ 03:06 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
French conductor Michel Tabachnik, a leading member & writer in an esoteric religious sect, has again been acquitted of involvement in inciting murder-suicide among group members.
When 69 members of the science-fiction like religious group Solar Temple (the International Chivalric Order Solar Tradition) (OST) died in a muder-suicide pact in 1994 & 1995, the famed French conductor was implicated because as a leading member, authorities attributed some of the impetous for the gruesome ritual to his esoteric writings. A lower court had ruled to acquit him in 2001, & this week the court in the French city of Grenoble upheld that ruling. His attorney had argued both times that his writings were "esoteric ramblings" with no ulterior motive.
The members of OST took their own lives or were murdered in 1994 & 1995 in Switzerland, Canada, & France. They believed that they were escaping the horrors of this world for a better world. OST was founded in 1984 by Luc Jouret, who claimed he had been a member of the 14th century Knights Templar in a previous lifetime. He also claimed to be the Christ & that his daughter, Immanuel, was the "cosmic child." He claimed he would lead his followers to a better life on a planet orbiting the star Sirius. He taught that this life was an illusion. His religious beliefs mingled Christianity, New Ageism, high finance, & apocalypticism. Believing that a world-wide economic collapse was imminent, & that OST was being persecuted by various government agencies, Jouret's followers were primed to follow him in suicide as their mode of escape. Jouret committed suicide in 1994, along with many of his followers, some suicides & some murdered by other group members, in 1994 & 1995.
Somewhere between 30 & 500 members are still alive & active in the group, scattered around the world. Whether any or all may commit suicide or be murdered in the future is unknown.
Thursday, December 28 2006 @ 02:35 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
Up to 3 million Muslims are expected to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage rituals in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca this week. It is an obligation for all Muslims at least once in their lifetimes to either take part in or sponsor representatives to take part in a reinactment of Muhammed's original journey to Mecca shortly after he founded the religion of Islam in the 7th century AD.
In previous years, the huge press of people around the holy site has resulted in violence, injury, & death. Last year 345 people died in a stone-throwing ritual, up from the 251 who were trampled to death in 2004. The highest recorded number of fatilties occured in 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims were killed in a tunnel collapse enroute to the site. Officials say their security this year should prevent any deaths or serious injuries.
There are a variety of ceremonies pilgrims practice during the 6 days of the pilgrimage. At the holy site, called the Kaaba (a cube-like building in the center of the city's Great Mosque), pilgrims must walk seven times around the building in a counter-clockwise direction, chanting "Here I am at they service, Oh Lord" in Arabic.
Friday, November 17 2006 @ 01:44 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
Amid increasing Muslim anti-Christian factors, Christian residents of the Palestinian controlled areas of Israel are increasingly apt to leave thier homes for more hospitible locations. The dwindling Christian Arab population in Bethlehem mirrors what is happening in other Arab countries as well. "Most of the Christians here are either in the process of leaving, planning to leave, or thinking of leaving," said Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust, a non-profit humanitarian organization working with destitute families throughout the Middle East. On his own web site Awad was quick to explain, "all Palestinians have handled the political pressures of the Israeli occupation for decades, but when the pressures became economic, Palestinian families experienced serious difficulties in putting food on the table and because Christians have stronger family relations outside the country some made the difficult decision to leave seeking employment elsewhere." Awad noted that since the number of Christian Arabs is so much lower than Muslim Arabs, for equal numbers to leave causes there to be a much smaller percentage of Christian Arabs left.
BBC News reporter Matthew Price noted, "The little town of Bethlehem is perhaps more associated with Christianity than any other place in the world. But now there are fears that soon it could be home to hardly any Chrsitians at all." Price said the latest figures published in early November 2006 show that Christians now comprise only 15% of the population of Bethlehem. Fairly recently they were 80%.
Edwards identifies herself as an advocate for gays & lesbians & has spent 28 years as a Presbyterian minister. She says that the core of the marriage ceremony is the covenant, or love & commitment, of the partners, not their gender(s).
A similar trial held under the authority of a west coast regional judicial commission in March ruled that a Presbyterian minister in California did not violate her ordination rights when she married two lesbian couples, one in 2004 & one in 2005. That ruling has been appealed by more conservative members of the western region. The western ruling is not binding on any other regional commission.
Should Edwards be convicted in the church court, she faces punishment as light as a written reprimand or as severe as being removed from the ministry.
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