A new survey from Ipsos Reid, a Canadian marketing research company, on behalf of the Canadian Muttart Foundation, shows that Canadians trust church charities less than they do fundraisers for animal welfare, the environment, & social services. Charity leaders, however, fared better, coming in behind only nurses & doctors as the most trustworthy professionals.
The survey, Talking About Charities 2006, of nearly 4,000 Canadians conducted this spring & released Thursday shows that Canadians' trust in church-related charities has decreased over time, while trust in hospitals, children's charities, health research, & education have remained very high (89%, 85%, 84%, & 77%, respectively).
While the survey did not address why people did or did not trust kinds of charities or kinds of professionals, some leaders expressed theories of their own. Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCC) CEO John Pellowe speculated that vestiges of doubt from churches' sex abuse scandals & well-known television evangelist scandals may play a part, as well as the fact that many recent immigrants to Canada are from non-Christian countries & therefore are unfamiliar with churches & church charities.
Even though trust in church charities is declining, it is still the case that 45% of all Canadian donations in 2003-2004 went to church charities, & 57% of those polled in this survey gave "at least some" trust to church charities.
When Pope Benedict XVI quoted an obscure historical source on Islam's penchant for spreading its power, control, & religion by force, he stirred a maelstrom of reaction from the Islamic world. Some demand the Holy Father apologize to all Muslims in the world.
A Closer Look at the Speech. Pope Benedict introduced the quotes by noting that their theme was "on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both." Providing the context for the quote that would subsequently incite contemporary Muslims, he continued, "In the seventh conversation. . . the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 2:256 reads: 'There is no compulsion in religion.' It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under [threat]. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning holy war." Benedict then characterizes the emperor's next statement as "brusque," & quotes it -- with the clear intention of providing the framework for the main thrust of the emperor's speech, as Benedict summarizes it: "The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. 'God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably . . . is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....'"
The rest of Benedict's speech, including a summary of the work's translator's discussion of the nature of God & His will, is a call to join faith & reason, to reject the false dichotomy between the truncated reason of modernism (limited entirely to the empirical) & the shallow immitation of faith as blind, & to approach our inter-cultural, inter-religious dialogs with reasonable faith, not an oxymoron.
The translator's note is essential to an understanding of Benedict's use of the emperor's dialog. Translator Adel Theodore Khoury noted that the Muslim concept of God so stresses his transcendent & ineffable, unknowable nature, that reason may be meaningless to ascribe to him. Benedict summarizing Khoury's warning: "For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry."
From this framework of contrasts -- the emperor urging reason as obedience to God from whom reason flows, & Islam's view that reason could be apart from God & not coming from God, Benedict then argues that our Western world over the centuries has mistakenly divorced reason from theology & in doing so diminished the value of both reason & faith. End of the Closer Look.
The speech concludes, "'Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God,' said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university."
Meanwhile, internationally, Muslim reactions are not to the Pope's plea for reasonable faith & reasonable dialog about faith, but to what they perceive as an unfair accusation of violence in Islam historically. Senior Muslim representatives (there is no central Muslim leadership or authority) have called for the Pope to apologize, have asked their governments to sever ties with the Vatican, urged the expulsion of Vatican representatives from their countries, & even urged the government of Turkey to cancel a papal tour of the country scheduled for November.
Ending years of legal appeals & delays, the Japanese Supreme Court has ruled on the last appeal to save the life of Shoko Asahara, who was sentenced to death for his masterminding of various terrorist attacks against civilians, including the murder of 12 people & the injury of dozens in the deadly sarin gas attack in Tokyo, Japan's subway system in 1995. Asahara was the leader of a doomsday religious group called Aum Shinrikyo(Supreme Truth)(AS), which still exists in Japan, although it is carefully monitored by Japanese law enforcement. It was founded by Asahara in 1987 after he returned from a spiritual experience in India & proclaimed to his followers that he had achieved enlightenment. Through a series of intensive yoga exercises, followers were said to be able to control their oxygen intake, heart activity, & brain wave patterns.
Asahara has been convicted of crimes that resulted in 27 deaths & several thousand injuries, many with chronic consequences. According to evidence presented at trial, Asahara was paranoid that authorities were prepared to raid the group's compound & kill him & his followers with sarin gas, so he ordered premptive strikes by his group in crowded areas to warn off authorities. He was sentenced to death in February 2004.
Piggy-backing on the phenomenonally popular teen Internet connection Myspace, Cnet.com has launched a public Beta version of a new "community" for churches & organizations called Mychurch.com.
MyChurch.org is a free service to churches and individuals, with monthly subscriptions available to churches desiring more support, features, and bandwidth. MyChurch is cross-compatible with many of the existing social networking sites – for example, users can invite all their Myspace friends with one click, and they can import their blog feeds if they maintain a weblog on another platform.
MyChurch.org was founded by a husband and wife engineering team, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Suh, to deliver Web 2.0 to church communities. With an emphasis on clean layouts, authentic community, and smooth usability, MyChurch.org is completely void of advertisements and steers away from these pitfalls that have plagued Myspace.
The Church of God of Prophecy (COGOP), a charismaticProtestant assmbly of churches headquartered in Cleveland, Tennessee, has voted in its annual General Assembly to change its position on divorce & remarriage. The previous policy said that any remarriage after any divorce was considered adultery. The new position is that church pastors can now determine on a case-by-case basis the reasons for a divorce & whether a divorced person who remarries is in an adulterous relationship.
Blackmore is said to have more than 20 wives & more than 100 children. He has not been arrested or convicted in regard to his community activities & leadership. Canada is much less aggressive in pursuing enforcement of family law when it appears that all participants are willing.
Interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Blackmore said he has "absolutely no interest" in resuming his role as leader of the BC branch of Jeffs' movement, which maintains a branch in Bountiful composed of the half of the community that did not join Blackmore when he was excommunicated. "All I'm really interested in doing is continuing to have my family & to enjoy them & to enjoy our lives that we've found that we never had," he continued.
The families in both groups in Bountiful, & many families in Jeffs' communities in Utah & Arizona, are related through intermarriage. The rival groups in Bountiful have no association with each other, even splitting families.
He was wanted by the FBI on federal charges of sexual misconduct for allegedly arranging marriages between underage girls & older men in his religious movement. Former members have also said he sexually molested many children over the years, including young boys & his own family members. He has been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list since May, with a $100,000 reward offered.
Jeffs' traveling companions were identified as one of his wives, Naomi Jeffs (32), & one of his brothers, Isacc Steve Jeffs (32). Jeffs is being held in Las Vegas pending a hearing on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. He may face extradition to Arizona or Utah.
An indpendent Baptist center in the Ozark mountains of Missouri has been raided by officials this week to take into custody the remaining children amid charges that principle adults at the center had sexually abused various children over a 30 year span. The last children associated with the group were taken into custody & placed in foster care on Wednesday.
The group, which lives in 2 compounds in southwest Missouri, has been in operation since the 1970s. The two compounds are Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church (McDonald County) & Grandview Valley Baptist Church North (Granby, 75 miles sw of Springfield).
Officials have charged Rev. George O. Johnson (63), Rev. Raymond Lambert (51), his wife Patty Lambert (49), Paul Epling (53), & Tom Epling (51) on various charges including sexually abusing minor former members from 1977-2005, child molestation, & sodomy. Victims allegedly ranged from 4 years old to 17. Johnson is still being sought by authorities. The others turned themselves in earlier in the week & posted bond.
According to the court filing, the abuse was "part of a ritual or ceremony."
For further information on the group, its teachings, & the charges against its leaders, check information from journalist Randy Turner. While we cannot guarantee his citations or opinions, he has collected the most information on the group in one place on the Internet.
The North American Anglicans, the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) & the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), have made ecclesiastical decisions in the last few years that have gone far beyond the worldwide Anglican concensus regarding same-sex issues. In 2003, the ECUSA consecrated V. Gene Robinson bishop of the New Hampshire diocese. Robinson has been in a long term same sex relationship. This year, the ECUSA elected a new presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, who had approved Robinson's controversial consecration & has indicated support for formal ECUSA adoption of same-sex union blessings & ceremonies. At the ECUSA convention this summer, the ECUSA refused to adopt a policy recommended by the AC which would have precluded the ECUSA from making any further decisions or performing any further actions that would go beyond the worldwide AC concensus regarding same-sex & other contentious issues. Instead, the ECUSA adopted a series of resolutions indicating that they would proceed cautiously in making such decisions. Both the ECUSA & the ACC have used same-sex union blessings & services & have generally tended to move much more quickly toward normalizing homosexual relations within the church than has the AC worldwide.
Williams has called for a summit meeting next month involving leading AC, ECUSA, & ACC bishops to discuss the growing divide between the larger body of more conservative Anglicans worldwide & the smaller but more visible & vocal more liberal factions, mostly represented in the North American churches. The division threatens not only to divide the ECUSA & ACC from the wider AC, but also to tear apart the ECUSA itself, with many of its congregations already withdrawing from its supervision, asking for alternative authority from the AC, or threatening to become independent.
In the Dutch newspaper interview, Williams warned that if the North American groups are so committed to "listening," "communing," & getting along with their international brethren, they should not be so hasty as to take action precipitously. "We really don't need people saying,'We must change it now.' The discussion must not be foreclosed by a radical agenda," Williams observed.
Williams explained his reluctance to take action in response to those American congregations who have asked him to assign alternative oversight, saying he didn't want to "make up church law on the back of an envelope."
"My nightmare is that action is now going forward that will tie us up in law courts in 10 years. In disputes about property," Williams warned. "That would take so much energy from what we're meant to be doing . . . . We can prevent those endless lawsuits, I think, if there is enough cooperation in the central mission of the Church."
Salt Lake City, UT, home of the 12 million member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) (LDS), this last weekend hosted a convention of a much smaller group of like-minded religious folks when 250 or so members of polygamy-practicing alternatives to the LDS rallied to promote their right to their own kind of amily values -- one father, multiple wives, & lots of children. The rally, organized with the help of Principle Voices of Polygamy & its co-founder, Mary Batchelor, featured testimonies by a dozen children from polygamous families.
The rally called for a change in state laws, which ban polygamy as a felony offense according to the Utah Constitution, & the legal freedom to choose polygamy for themselves & their families.
Usually polygamous families actively shun public attention, fearful that their lives & families will be disrupted by criminal charges, conviction, & even imprisonment, usually of the husband/fathers who see themselves as "patriarchs" like Old Testament figures such as King David or his son, King Solomon, both of whom had multiple wives. The exception this weekend was to bring attention to a movement that some think will change Utah law in the next few years.
Seventeen year old Jessica insisted, "We are not brainwashed, mistrated, neglected, m anourished, illiterate, defective or dysfunctional. My brothers & sisters are freethinking, independent people; some who have chosen this lifestyle, while others have branched out to a diversity of religions."
While many of those present traced their religious affiliations to offshoots of the LDS, others said they followed other religious persuasions or that their religious affiliation (or lack of it) had nothing to do with their or their parents' choice of a polygamous lifestyle.
LDS founder Joseph Smith, Jr. introduced polygamy to the LDS church just a few years before his death in 1844, saying it was commanded by God through prophecy. The LDS prophet & a later successor to Smith, Wilford Woodruff, banned the practice by LDS followers as a federally mandated condition of statehood for Utah in 1890. Woodruff said he received a revelation from God that it should no longer be practiced in this life. There are still many groups descended from the LDS (but repudiated by the official church) that practice polygamy.
To be precise, while polygamy refers generally to men or women or both having multiple partners, Mormons have almost exclusively practiced polygyny, where only the husband is allowed more than one wife, but no wife may have more than one husband. The practice goes by other names both within LDS literature & in offshoot groups. It may be called plural marriage, the Law of Abraham, the Patriarchal Order of Marriage, Celestial Plural Marriage, or the Law of the Priesthood. In a non-Mormon setting, it is called by various other names. Some Mormon offshoots also refer to the Law of Sarah. In the LDS sacred scripture called the Doctrine & Covenants (D&C), the section revealing & commanding polygamy, Section 132, says that the first wife in a marriage has the right to affirm or accept the subsequent wives her husband says God has given him. Critics note that according to D&C, if a first wife does not affirm the husband's choice, she will be judged by God.
The religious practice of polygamy has gained further public attention with the original series Big Love on HBO. The story follows fictional polygynist Bill Henrickson, his 3 wives, 7 children, parents, the Mormon offshoot "prophet"/leader, & Bill's struggles to manage faith, family, & a growing chain of hardware stores he owns. The fictional family lives in Salt Lake City & avoids both the law & the mainstream LDS church. Tom Hanks is one of the producers.
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