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Maupin revisits San Francisco’s aging hippies in new novel (6/13/07)
Stewards of God’s creation (10/2/07)
07/11/07 General Assembly news available online
INDIANAPOLIS (7/11/07) — Beginning Wednesday, July 18, DisciplesWorld will provide daily news from the Fort Worth, Texas 2007 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on its website, www.disciplesworld.com.
The General Assembly will officially convene on Saturday evening, July 21, with an opening worship led by Dr. Daisy Machado, former dean of Lexington Theological Seminary. The event will conclude Wednesday evening, July 25 with a service featuring Jim Wallis of Sojourners/Call to Renewal.
As they unfold, DisciplesWorld will report on business items, worship services, awards and banquets, as well as mission projects, programs for young people, and more. A cadre of 15 writers and photographers, including Editors Sherri Emmons, Rebecca Woods, and Verity Jones, will bring to online readers a full view of the event as it happens.
Although the General Assembly is not scheduled to begin until Saturday, July 21, DisciplesWorld will report on pre-assembly events such as the Mission Pre-Event. Stories about what to expect at General Assembly will also precede the first day’s opening ceremonies.
DisciplesWorld, a monthly journal of news, opinion, and mission for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), has set a goal of 1,000 new subscriptions by August 30, 2007, and another 1,000 new subscriptions by December, 31, 2007. In the June 2007 issue, Publisher and Editor Verity Jones discussed the five-year old journal’s current financial crisis, due largely in part to lagging circulation numbers. While DisciplesWorld’s financial picture has greatly improved since the June issue hit mailboxes, circulation continues to be a concern for long-term viability.
For more information about news and subscriptions, go to www.disciplesworld.com.
Ill. man sues priest who he says played answering machine tape of complaints to congregation (10/6/07)
CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP, 10/6/07) — A priest who received complaints from a parishioner on his answering machine played the tape in church, a lawsuit alleges, and then asked the congregation: “Should we send him to hell or to another parish?''
The parishioner, Angel Llavona, filed a defamation lawsuit Monday claiming the events at St. Thomas the Apostle Church caused him emotional distress that forced him to leave the Roman Catholic parish.
The dispute started about a year ago, when Llavona left a message for Luis Alfredo Rios, the parish priest, complaining about a sermon he had given, the lawsuit said. “I attended Mass on Sunday and I have seen poor homilies, but yesterday broke all records,'' Llavona said.
The lawsuit says Llavona, a high school teacher who helped out with the church's religious education program, tried to meet with Rios. But when the meeting fell apart, he left another complaint on the priest's answering machine.
Llavona said on Oct. 1, 2006, Rios played his voice messages for the congregation.
Then, according to the lawsuit, Rios said: “This is the person in charge of religious education here last year. That's why it is no surprise to me we had the kind of religious education we had. That's why we didn't get altar boys. What should we do, should we send him to hell or to another parish?''
Llavona is seeking at least $50,000 in damages. “Rios impugned Llavona's reputation as a teacher and as a good Catholic before his fellow parishioners,'' the suit said.
Penny Wiegert, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford, said Rios was at a retreat Wednesday and unavailable for comment.
The diocese is also named as a defendant. Wiegert said she couldn't comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, but released a diocese statement expressing hope for “a peaceful solution."
Finally, a true `Idol’ emerges in Lambert (11/23/09)
`Assassination of Jesse James’ is a dreamlike look at famous outlaw (9/24/07)
Nickelodeon’s ‘Naked Brothers Band’ Takes aim at minivan CD players across the country (10/19/07)
L. Merlin Norris passed away November 8 in Bothell, Washington, at the age of 97. He preached his first sermon in 1926 at the age of 19. Norris served 42 Disciples churches in Washington, Montana, and Oregon in either full-time or interim capacities during a 50-year period.
Leading Romanian Orthodox bishop accused of being former secret policeman (10/12/07)
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP, 10/12/07) — Bishop Pimen, an elderly Orthodox cleric who was once vocal in demanding the return of church lands confiscated by the communists was also a collaborator of the feared Securitate secret police, the council publishing the Securitate files said Tuesday.
Pimen declined to comment on Tuesday's verdict, wishing reporters “good health.''
Pimen is Archbishop for Suceava and Radauti and considered one of the luminaries of the church. He has hosted Romania's former King Michael and Britain's Prince Charles at the famous painted monasteries in northeast Romania.
The verdict came from the Council for Study of the Securitate Archives, which is also examining the Securitate files of other senior Orthodox clergy.
In September the council ruled that Andrei Andreicut, a Romanian Orthodox bishop for Alba, was a Securitate informant ordered to infiltrate groups of Eastern Rite Catholics. He said he was forced to become an informant.
Pimen is one of seven other senior Orthodox clergy who allegedly collaborated with the Securitate, some of whom were sent abroad on spying missions under communism, according to the council.
Pimen was an outspoken critic of Romania's former leftist government, which ran the country until 2004, until it promised to return lands confiscated by the communists. The bishop later called former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase “one of the great protectors of the monasteries'' after the order to return lands was passed. Another court overruled the return of the lands.
Costel Stoica, a spokesman for the Romanian Orthodox Church, defended Pimen. saying: “For the church it is important how the church carried out its activity in a very hostile time under the Communist regime. It is one thing to have given into pressures of the former Securitate to save a community and another thing to have done this for personal gain,'' he said.
Pimen was allegedly sent abroad both by the Church and the Securitate and informed on fellow clergy and members of Romania's expat community, NewsIn news agency reported.
The church, which has gained popularity and influence since communism ended in 1989, has been opposed to opening the files of its senior clergy.
During communism, thousands of priests were imprisoned or sent to labor camps, alongside tens of thousands of other political prisoners. Many signed pledges promising to be Securitate informants when they were released.
Russian patriarch attacks homosexuality, says human rights are undermining morality (10/4/07)
By Jan Sliva, Associated Press Writer
STRASBOURG, France (AP, 10/4/07) — The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, in comments laced with criticism of homosexuality, said Tuesday that too much emphasis is being placed on human rights in the Western world, resulting in “immoral behavior.''
In a speech to the Council of Europe, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II lamented what he called a tendency to ignore how “moral norms'' are transgressed “and declared to be relative.''
“We can see it in a new generation of rights that contradict morality,'' Alexy told the parliamentary assembly of the council, Europe's premier human rights body.
“It may undermine the whole world view of the Europeans.''
The patriarch branded homosexuality an “illness'' and a “distortion of a human being'' and attacked what he called “homosexual propaganda'' that influences young people.
Some members of the council walked out of the chamber in protest. Others, however, applauded.
“No one should be discriminated on the basis of conviction, but no one should try to keep us quiet when we call something a sin,'' the patriarch added.
The patriarch was invited by the Council of Europe as part of its regular debates with political and religious leaders.
He repeated a call for wide-ranging dialogue between cultures and religions, saying no world view, including secularism, should claim a monopoly in Europe or elsewhere.
On many topics, the Vatican sees the Orthodox Church as a partner in its efforts to push its conservative agenda. They share views on some bioethical, social and moral issues as well as opposition to embryonic stem cell research, abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.
Philippines’ bishops urge military and rebels: leave indigenous alone (10/19/07)
By Maurice Malanes, Ecumenical News International
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines (ENI, 10/19/07) —Roman Catholic bishops in the Philippines have called on the military and rebel groups to stop recruiting people from indigenous tribal communities, and to prevent their homelands from becoming battle grounds.
"We are alarmed by the systematic recruitment of indigenous peoples into paramilitary groups," said Bishop Sergio Utleg, chairperson of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples, in a recent statement.
His comments followed the Sept. 18-21 national convention of the commission's provincial coordinators and indigenous representatives in Baguio City.
Utleg said he learned during the convention that the Philippines military was giving between 1,000 and 3,000 pesos (around US$22-$66) and a sack of rice to each indigenous community member recruited to fight the New People's Army, the armed wing of the clandestine Communist Party of the Philippines.
The insurgent group has been waging a guerrilla war against the Philippines government for the past 38 years.
Utleg said he was equally alarmed by the recruitment of indigenous peoples into the New People's Army. "To involve indigenous peoples in military or New People's Army activities is to make their communities potential permanent battlegrounds," Utleg said. Members of indigenous communities are labeled by the military as "NPA sympathizers," and by the NPA as "military assets."
About 15 million of the 91 million Philippine population are indigenous peoples who, despite Spanish and American colonization, have maintained their distinct way of life.
Utleg also noted that mining companies have been recruiting indigenous peoples as part of their security forces in areas where there is strong indigenous community opposition to mining.
"Indigenous peoples have been so marginalized by the loss of their ancestral domain, the depletion of the forest due to logging, and the intrusion of mining. Let us not add more to their suffering," said Utleg.
Anderson’s `Darjeeling Limited’ crammed with baggage (10/3/07)
VA interfaith service focuses on healing together (4/21/07)
By Tammy Tripp, DisciplesWorld contributing writer
RICHMOND, Va. (4/21/07) — The toll of church bells echoed across the city and across Richmond’s Monroe Park for three minutes on Friday as people of all different faiths and denominations – most of them wearing maroon and orange – gathered for a moment of silence and an interfaith prayer service in the state’s capitol to honor those killed and wounded at Virginia Tech.
Smith was on his way to Blacksburg with Ryan Rinn, the grassroots organizer for the Interfaith Center, when he had a realization. He recalled something his friend Rick Augsburger said once: “Don’t become the disaster after the disaster.” So instead of continuing on to Blacksburg, they turned the car around and headed back toward Richmond to work with the state to organize a service that would aid the healing process and offer a response from the faith community.
The Virginia Interfaith Center designed and coordinated the worship service, which was attended by more than 2,500 people and was part of the statewide day of mourning called for by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. At least 42 other states held similar services, rang bells or held moments of silence for the victims on Friday.
Bishop Charlene Kammerer of the United Methodist Church of Virginia opened the interfaith service with words of unity. “Today we gather as one Virginia united in our grief and pain,” she said softly. “Today we are all part of the Hokie nation. We share the same creator God…”
Religious leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities spoke and read from their tradition’s sacred texts. Their messages were of remembrance, hope, forgiveness and encouragement. They shared the outdoor stage with three flags: the U.S. flag, Virginia’s state flag and the maroon Virginia Tech flag.
Disciples minister Rick Harrison attended the service and said he thought it was appropriate that so many faiths were represented.
“All those who died and were wounded were of all of those traditions,” said Harrison, who pastors Seventh Street Christian Church in Richmond. “It didn’t matter if the person was praying in Arabic, Hebrew or English, there was a common understanding that life is a gift of the holy, whatever we call the holy.”
Gov. Tim Kaine, Attorney General Robert McDonnell, Richmond Mayor Douglas Wilder and Lieutenant Gov. Bill Bolling were also part of the service and offered prayers for the victims and their families. Kaine spoke of the universality of grief, but also of the universalities of strength, hope and optimism.
Kaine, a former missionary of the Catholic Church, also recounted the story of Job in the Old Testament. “Job didn’t take it [suffering] lying down,” he told the crowd. “He argued with his creator, but he never lost his faith, never lost his hope, and that’s what we’re called to do.”
After a prayer for the victims and their families, the names of those lost were read by the victims’ family members, girlfriends, fiancées, suite mates, classmates, friends. A bell rang after each name was said. Some names were spoken softly. Other names were said through tears. Still others were read with a strong voice and a fond smile of remembrance.
To end the service, Archana Bhatt of the Hindu community evoked moving and symbolic images of the human bond with Virginia Tech’s unique and contrasting colors.
“We must focus on the maroon of our blood… and the orange of our sunrise, God’s constant reminder that going on is the truest form of courage,” she said. “We must embrace those who suffer and throw our questions of how and why out into the universe. And we must rise like our orange sun and beat and flow like our maroon blood. In His stillness, we will prevail.”
Bhatt closed the service by leading a chant familiar, almost sacred, to Tech fans. “Let’s go!” she yelled into the microphone. The crowd responded. “Hokies!” they screamed back and burst into applause.
Although, as Kaine reminded the crowd, the days of suffering are not yet over, there was a sense in Richmond that the service was an important step in the healing process. Smith said he believes that being in community is an important part of that process. As Christians, he said, we’re called to be with our neighbors, especially in times of suffering.
Smith said it was challenging to put together a service for people of so many different faiths because it is important to both affirm and be true your own faith while at the same time being mindful of other faiths.
“But,” he added, “Disciples of Christ have to work in interfaith ways, because that’s what Christ calls us to do.”
And, he said, being together and supportive of one another is part of what will help us heal.
Memoir traces grieving widow’s path to warden service ministry (7/30/07)
Bolivia’s racial, geographical divide sharpens with shots in air and talk of civil war (10/1/07)
By Dan Keane, Associated Press Writer
SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia (AP, 10/1/07) — Miguel Roda fires four shots into the palm trees and imagines a civil war.
“We will spill our last drop of blood, comrades!'' he shouts to a few dozen supporters gathered in a city plaza. “We will defend Santa Cruz inch by inch, street by street and town by town!''
The enemy, to this black-bereted, revolver-toting Bolivian, is his leftist president, Evo Morales. Roda's dream: to revive the Bolivian Socialist Falange, an ultranationalist party that was strong in the 1950s and then dormant for decades.
Civil war may seem unthinkable, but in Santa Cruz, a lowland city and anti-Morales stronghold, the appearance of Roda's fringe group reflects the alarm gripping the white elite. Morales' reforms are popular among his fellow highland Indians, but take dead aim at the frontier capitalism practiced in Santa Cruz state.
Old regional and racial rivalries, many Bolivians believe, are deepening the split.
“The elite feel absolutely violated by the changes taking place in Bolivian society,'' says Jose Mirtenbaum, a sociologist at Gabriel Rene Moreno University in Santa Cruz. “The situation here is very emotional, and very irrational. But as the saying goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you.''
Since his election 21 months ago, Morales' program has met fierce though almost exclusively peaceful resistance from the elite of Santa Cruz, a once isolated cow town that remains the richest city in South America's poorest country.
Its U.S.-style consumerism, bootstrap mentality and racial makeup don't easily mix with Morales' vision of a communal state ruled by the traditional values of Bolivia's long-oppressed Indian majority.
Santa Cruz's elite made their millions from soy plantations, cattle ranches and real estate and feel targeted by government plans to seize land judged idle or fraudulently obtained and give it to the needy.
Santa Cruz is also the center of Bolivia's energy industry, and some worry about foreign investment now that Morales has forced international gas companies to increase royalty payments. Its leaders want autonomy and a bigger share of their state's natural gas revenues, but Morales needs the cash for desperately poor highland states.
That makes his revolution much more of an uphill battle than that of his closest ally, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who has billions in petrodollars to spend.
All these are hot-button issues. But civil war?
“The Bolivian is a very impatient person. He always hopes for change, but he always sees the solution in catastrophe,'' says Victor Jemio, a retired Bolivian army general and military analyst. The country is notoriously unstable, he notes, having had 84 presidents and dictators in 182 years.
Morales, 47, was in New York last week for the U.N. General Assembly and showed up on Comedy Central's “Daily Show,'' denouncing capitalism as “the worst enemy of humanity'' while jokingly pleading not to be considered part of “the axis of evil.''
But in Santa Cruz, few are joking. Many believe uncorroborated whispers that Morales is flying in arms from Venezuela on unregistered midnight flights. A cryptic video recently posted on YouTube by a right-wing Santa Cruz group purports to show Indian “paramilitaries'' crawling around in the underbrush on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
This year's scariest yarn was given credence by O Globo, one of neighboring Brazil's largest newspapers. It quoted an anonymous Santa Cruz state official as bragging that a 12,000-strong anti-Morales militia was hidden in the jungle, awaiting the proper moment.
The newspaper's reporter never saw any militia, and no evidence has emerged to support any of the gossip.
Roda explains his gunshots as a tribute to the memory of a handful _ the exact number is in dispute — of Falange members killed in 1958 by Indian troops sent to quell their rebellion.
The “massacre'' has become a legend in Santa Cruz cafes and online chat rooms, where the bitter memory sometimes carries a racist shadow.
“The number of dead is less important than the humiliation (Santa Cruz) suffered at the hands of a pack of hounds blinded by alcohol and irrationality,'' Santa Cruz historian Alcides Parejas said in an e-mail interview.
It still echoes a half-century later as Indian immigrants _ largely Morales supporters _ arrive in search of work, driving Santa Cruz state's population from 2 million in 2001 to an estimated 2.5 million today.
Morales stoked the whites' fears last month when he hosted a parade of Indians alongside Bolivian soldiers at a Santa Cruz air base.
The tension sometimes spills into the streets.
The Cruceno Youth Union, an ally of Roda's group, was accused of organizing a pre-dawn raid in August on a largely Indian market. In footage shown on national television, drunken young men smashed car windows and threatened vendors with racial taunts. A car carrying fleeing thugs ran down and injured a vendor.
Union members deny any involvement. But the boys hanging around their ramshackle clubhouse twirl big sticks and baseball bats, and don't hide their distaste for pro-Morales newcomers.
“Either they adapt to Santa Cruz, or they return to their own territory,'' Union member Victor Hugo Vhistrox told The Associated Press.
Some fear the pistol-wavers' dreams will come true if common ground isn't found.
“We've arrived at a moment that we don't know exactly how to face,'' says Carlos Valverde, a Santa Cruz TV commentator and fierce Morales critic. Valverde belonged to the Falange as a teenager in the 1950s when his father was one of its leaders, but doesn't endorse violence.
“The fear I have is that one day we'll arrive at the cliff,'' he says, “and we'll arrive with such force that some will fall over the edge. And then it'll all go to hell.''
By David Wayne Brown
Verity A. Jones
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By Rebecca Bowman Woods
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‘Shaggy Muses’ reveals the dogs behind 5 great women of words (8/3/07)
National City CC celebrates 75 years
WASHINGTON (9/30/05) â National City Christian Church and Foundation will celebrate 75 years of witness and service in the nation’s capital in October.
Saturday, Oct. 22, R. Robert Cueni will be the featured speaker at a gala banquet at the church, located at 5 Thomas Circle, N.W., Washington, DC.
Sunday, Oct. 23, clergy and institutional representatives are invited to process in vestments and regalia at the 11 a.m. worship service.
A special lunch and concert are planned after worship on Oct. 23.
Office of Disciples Volunteering introduces mission pre-planning in Virginia (9/8/07)
Disciples News Service
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (DNS, 9/8/07) — The social hall at Diamond Springs Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Virginia Beach, Va., was filled to capacity on Aug. 26. The people came to hear Carl Zerweck, director of the Office of Disciples Volunteering in Disciples Home Missions (DHM). Zerweck was there to educate the district’s churches on how to become a mission station church like the churches that have hosted Disciples mission teams in the Gulf region.
In light of the devastation wreaked by hurricane Katrina, Disciples Home Missions is encouraging churches in the nation’s hurricane zones to take a proactive approach to natural disasters.
The Regional Minister of the Christian Church in Virginia, Lee Parker, kicked off the meeting with a brief introduction of the purpose of the meeting, which was “making decisions before a disaster.” Week of Compassion funding has historically been the primary response mechanism to disasters.
Since hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf region in 2005, DHM has decided to make a formal disaster relief program in concert with regional partners. District VIII was the first of the regional partners to respond and hence the reason for Zerweck’s presentation there. Disciples as a denomination have historically been known to be the last to leave a disaster area, meaning they are part of the long term process.
But now they are embarking on plans to become a first response denomination.
DHM has a goal of sending 750 work teams to the hurricane-impacted area from Sept. 1, 2006 to Aug. 31, 2008. To date, almost 500 groups have gone in the first year. There are still many slots open and many work opportunities available. In addition to the volunteering, Week of Compassion helps fund these missions. Already, 20 groups have been dispatched to Greensburg, Kan., to help with the tornado recovery.
The slogan of the Office of Disciples Volunteering is “Getting Dirty for Jesus.” Churches who desire transformation always undergo a significant transformation when they get dirty for Jesus.
Almost every church in District VIII has fielded a mission trip and each of the churches represented in the meeting at Diamond Springs Christian Church shared a sentence or two about how the trips have impacted/changed their lives. Most agreed the experience was life-changing and brought to life the true meaning of discipleship to the group and to their congregations.
It also blurred the lines between “them” and “us” and made a disaster real to those of us who have only seen the results on TV. The blessings included seeing hope on the faces of the folks they helped.
With disaster response there is a sequence to responding. The first phase is called the emergency phase, when trees are cleared and power lines and water service are restored. Disciples are not normally involved in this phase of response. The second stage is relief and the third is long-term recovery, which Disciples are currently doing.
If the steps aren’t followed, the victims could loose out on significant financial help because repairs were done before insurance adjusters could properly assess damages, etc. Disciples put a priority on helping Disciples-related churches and families.
Zerweck also provided the congregations present with a packet on how to become a mission station, and a sample covenant agreement between the mission station church, the Regional Church, the Office of Disciples Volunteering and Week of Compassion. Mission stations need to provide floor space for sleeping, a food preparation area and showers, either already onsite, built in after the disaster, or nearby. Week of Compassion will pay for the installation of showers.
Regions or districts need to work cooperatively to decide which churches are best equipped to meet all the needs required for a mission station. Week of Compassion will also help mission station churches with monthly stipends to help offset the additional utility expenses, if needed. It is important that groups going on mission trips not reach their destination before Sunday afternoon, and leave the mission by Saturday morning so the regular services of the mission church are not negatively impacted. Likewise, the local minister is not expected to be involved with the volunteer group management so as not to infringe on the mission church pastor’s normal ministerial duties. The intent is not to burden the host church.
Mission station churches may end up being as much as 100 miles away from the disaster site since they must have power and utilities, although they may be within the disaster area. Churches are also only expected to serve as a station for a specified amount of time. Week of Compassion also helps foster work groups by making a stipend available. Any group going on a work trip can apply for a grant of $500. Multiple groups from a church can also apply.
Zerweck closed the meeting by sharing numerous resources on how to “Get Dirty for Jesus” and Regional Minister Parker led those gathered in a closing prayer.