Tuesday, August 02 2005 @ 11:35 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
A Texas group calling itself the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) has announced opposition to a curriculum designed to explore the literary & historical value of the Bible that has been adopted in many public school districts across the nation & in Texas. TFN spokesman the Rev. Ragan Courtney said, "No public school student should have to have a particular religious belief forced upon them." The pastor of Tarrytown Baptist Church (The Sanctuary) in Austin spoke at a news conference denouncing the popular curriculum produced by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBC) based in Greensboro, NC.
NCBC is used in more than 300 school disticts in 37 states. It was expected to be adopted by the Odessa, TX public school district to provide curriculum for a Bible class voted for by the school board last spring & slated to be offered not this coming school year, but in September 2006. NCBC is used in 52 Texas school districts.
The NCBC curriculum was reviewed at the request of TFN by Southern Methodist University professor Mark Chancey, who reported that the curriculum, which is supposed to be religiously neutral, calls the Bible inspired by God, refers to science in the context of the biblical account of creation, affirms that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah, says that archaeology affirms the historical veracity of scripture, & says the Bible, not the Constitution, is the founding document of the United States. According to TFN, all such assertions overstep the boundaries of what a public school curriculum can teach.
TFN is an interreligious organization that works to ensure that there is no government sponsorship or involvement in religion in Texas.
Elizabeth Ridenour, president of NCBC, said of TFN, "They are actually quite fearful of academic freedom & of local schools deciding for themselves what elective courses to offer their citizens."
Police in Sparta, Tennessee are investigating the 3rd act of vandalism against a church in recent days after an Apostolic Church was vandalized early in the weekend. The church had windows broken & graffiti scrawled on its walls, including Satanic messages & symbols & threats against the church's pastor & his family. The small congregation of around 30 people held services in the vandalized church & prayed for the perpetrators on Sunday.
Two other black churches in the area have also been vandalized in recent days, although police say they don't know that the attacks are related.
Police in northeast Pennsylvania are continuing their investigation into the death of Steven Novack (24), who was pinned under a friend's family's Jeep July 16 in Nanticoke. The homicide investigation has identified several individuals "of interest," but there are no named suspects or arrests. Because of the large amount of "occult paraphrenalia" among the victim's belongings & those of a close friend, police are not ruling out that some sort of ritual or religious aspect may be involved in the murder.
In the execution of a search warrant on Novack's friend, Brandon Obaza, police confiscated more than 45 items, including candles, a metal statue of the Grim Reaper, a "666" sticker, a ceremonial dagger, two dolls, a metal coffin with a gargoyle on it, and a black box containing various religious items such as a crucifix and holy water bottles. Police also seized a gold-colored ceremonial dagger, spikes, a star-shaped candle holder, a black box containing religious items, syringes, bibles, two dolls, six guns, and a pistol crossbow. They are in the process of obtaining 3 more search warrants, for 2 plastic trash bags of materials Obaza's mother collected from his room & thought were suspicious and for Obaza's computer. In addition to the occult-related items, police found a number of weapons & ammunition at the homes of victim Novack & friend Obaza.
According to a 3rd friend, Josh Jones, none of the circle of friends including Novack had any religious allegience to Satanism, the occult, or other aberrant religious ideas. Jones explained that the group liked the same music, art, & items related to acting out & expressing their desire for rebellion, but none were religiously motivated or violent. "We've been stereotyped," he complained.
Police have said that they do not know if religion or the occult are at all related to the murder, but that it bears investigating.
Dutch scientists working on material from a second century Roman catacomb have determined that the site was used by Jewish people in the early second century. The earliest catacomb evidence we have for Christians is from the early 3rd century. That the catacombs were used by Jews & not Christians or Romans was determined by the symbols etched into the walls.
The carbon dating tests done by the Dutch scientists established the early 2nd century date using carbon remains in the limestone used to caulk & finish the walls & burial spaces, or loculi. The catacombs were dug 50 to 100 feet into the soft volcanic rock that is abundant in & around Rome.
The dating gives credence to the hypothesis that the Jews & Christians shared similar burial habits & symbology, or that the Christians copied from the Jews rather than the other way around, since our earliest yet discovered Christian catacombs are from a century later than this. Whether the Christians & Jews were contemporaneously similar or borrowed one from the other, the discovery at least puts to rest a previously held supposition that early Christianity, especially that outside of Israel, was anti-Jewish or had disavowed its Jewish roots early on.
Archaeologist Leonard Rutgers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, which conducted the carbon dating, commented, "The Jewish roots of Christianity were more important than believed previously. There was a time when Christianity was proud of its Jewish origins."
The Roman Catholic Church has taken the offensive in answering misstatements of fact & assumptions about the Christian faith as described in the perennially best-selling book by novelist Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, which perports to tell the true story of Jesus's romantic relationship with Mary Magdalene, their children, & the nearly successful plot by the Roman authorities to turn simple Christianity into the male-dominated Roman Catholic Church.
Today marks the Catholic Church's Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene and so was chosen as the debut day for the website, Freebies for the 'Da Vinci Code' Enthusiasts, which contains accurate information about the saint, Jesus Christ, & the Church.
The Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation (CASE) in the UK devised the web site because, although the book is fiction, the author claims it is based on fact, and, in the preface, says, "all descriptions of documents & secret rituals are accurate." Consequently, many readers believe what the book purports about Christianity. Clare Ward, speaking for CASE, said, "This site is very much a reaction to the number of inquiries we have received from non-Catholics, and also we were disturbed by the nature of some of these, asking if Jesus had been married & whether St. Magdalene had children."
At the General Conference of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) on Thursday, the Rev. Troy Perry, who in Los Angeles founded the first church of its kind expressly welcoming gays, lesbians, and those of transgender orientation, will retire. He is expected to be succeeded by the Rev. Nancy Wilson, who would take over as Moderator on October 8.
Perry (65) was a married father and minister when he fully embraced his homosexuality and lost it all before he began a new ministry specifically oriented toward addressing the spiritual needs of the homosexual community from an approval perspective. Perry has been working on the transition in leadership for 3 years and is expected to continue to be a strong presesnce in the movement even as he semi-retires to his home in Los Angeles with his partner of 17 years.
The MCC has 43,000 members in 23 countries. Wilson, who lives in Florida with her partner of 27 years, was the youngest ever elected to the MCC Board od Elders (1976) & and has also served as Vice-Moderator for 10 years. She has pastored churches in Massachusetts, Michigan, & California, including the original church in Los Angeles. She is currently the senior pastor of Church of the Trinity MCC in Sarasota, Florida.
Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan has always put his money where his faith is, often funding Christian & especially Catholic causes through his various charitable outlets, using the vast fortune he amassed since founding Domino's Pizza in 1960 in Ypsilanti, MI. Last year he pledged to foot the majority of the bill for the first new Roman Catholic University to be built in more than 40 years, and to plant the nation's largest Catholic Cathedral on its grounds. Now rising construction costs have forced him to scale back the size of the cathedral to ensure that necessary funds are available to protect the quality of the university, Ave Maria University, in Naples, Florida.
"I'm disappointed, but there have been such dramatic increases in construction costs . . . the church would have cost some $100 million, and it just didn't make sense," explained Monaghan (68). "If we were to spend that kind of money on a church, we wouldn't have had much of a university."
The new plans call for the church to be 2/3 smaller than previously planned, although it will still seat 1,100 worshipers & soar 100 feet into the air with natural light streaming through the soaring ceiling past gothic-style arches.
Although no one in his family is hazarding a public guess as to how his faith might influence his decisions should he join the US Supreme Court, the family of President Bush's nominee, John Roberts, agrees that religious faith was an important part of the family. President Bush has nominated Roberts to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Roberts' appointment is subject to the confirmation of the Senate & he is currently undergoing scrutiny by that body. Generally, Roberts has been endorsed by conservatives, while liberals are at best dubious & at worst completely dismissive.
When asked if the family's Roman Catholic faith had been important in the family, mother Rosemary (76) said, "Yes, it is, yes." Rosemary spoke at a family news conference Thursday at her home.
Other family members, including his father, Jack (77), and sisters Peggy & Barbara, spoke of John's support to the family, experience, advice, & suitability to serve on the country's highest court. Asked to remark on his expected decisions, they declined, Peggy declaring, "This is about John today, not us. Our opinion is not relevant."
Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, who founded the PTL Television Network with her former husband, televangelist Jim Bakker, has announced that she is battling cancer for the 3rd time. She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1995, was apparently in remission for a number of years, then the same colon cancer was found in her lungs in 2004. Treatment sent it into remission again, but it has now reappeared in her lungs.
A Women's Entertainment Channel television documentary on her struggle & faith, Tammy Faye: Death Defying, is scheduled to premiere on July 25. Speaking of the documentary, Messner said, "I wanted to help people. I felt with cancer & AIDS & these debilitating diseases, we could maybe show the inside and make it a little less frightening."
Messner is said to be in good spirits & confident in her faith. She said in an interview from New York City, "I'm not worried, I'm not afraid. By the third time you have cancer, you begin to think about your mortality." She continued, "I thank God, I'm truly one of the lucky ones. There's always people that are worse off than you are, and that's what I look at to give me strength."
Messner has devoted a significant portion of her time in recent years appearing at gatherings of gay activists and others often shunned by traditional evangelists. Despite the controversy surrounding her appearances from both fellow Christians and those often hostile to televangelism, Messner has insisted that her simple message of "Jesus loves you" is meant for everyone, even those whom others in her profession often publicly castigate.
Bethany Christian Services (BCS), a respected national adoption organization, has clarified its national policy affirming that Catholics will be accepted through the program in the same standing as all other Christians. The clarification came after a local affiliate in Mississippi, Bethany Mississippi, earlier this month rejected an adoption request by a family in Jackson, MS, noting that their Catholic faith conflicted with the organization's Statement of Faith. While fully 16% of BCS's adopting families nationwide last year were Catholic, each affiliate in the 32 states served by BCS are independent subsidiaries, so the national office allows "some discretion on some issues," according to President & CEO Glenn DeMots.
The national clarification is binding on all state offices, but at nearly the same time the Mississippi Board of Directors also voted unanimously on Tuesday to include Catholics in its programs. National President DeMots said Wednesday that the Mississippi organization would probably have voted to include Catholics even without the national directive. DeMots explained, "We are sorry for offending families and all partners of Bethany, and regret any pain & hurt caused by this issue."
BCS was founded in 1944 in Grand Rapids, MI as the dream of 2 Christian women to establish a Christian residence for homeless children. Today the organization has 75 locations in 30 states & 15 foreign countries with nearly 1,000 professionals on staff.
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