Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of stories on congregations committed to “Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide,” and emphasis of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to grow the church in discipleship, evangelism, servanthood and diversity. ― Jerry L. Van Marter
“What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?” Nothing, really, members of Wasatch Presbyterian Church here believe.
When Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Center, a fundamentalist Christian church in Florida, burned a copy of the Qur’an, an action that led to the killing of 20 people, including several U.N ...
“Religions as instruments of peace” is the subtitle of a 2011 summer course on “Building an interfaith community.” Twenty-three students from more than a dozen nations have assembled at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland for the course which runs from July 4-29.
One of the early lecturers admitted that many observers today see religions not as instruments of peace but as reasons for conflict. “Our hands as religious leaders are not clean,” said Rabbi Richard Marker of the International Jewish Committee on Inter-religious Consultations.
The experience of too many nations and their governments, he added, “is that religion is a cause of divisiveness that works against shared values.”
A Catholic bishop in south India has admitted that Dalit Christians were being forced to forsake their faith due to continued discrimination against them under Indian laws.
Responding to decades-old discrimination against Christian Dalits, Bishop Anthony Poola of Kurnool in southern Andhra Pradesh state told a seminar at Hyderabad on July 1 that “the Government is acting as missionary agent of Hinduism.”
“An estimated five million Christians have left their faith due to this continuing discrimination,” said Poola at the seminar organized by state unit of National Council of Dalit Christians and attended by several prominent people, including federal cabinet minister Gulam Nabi Azad.
Years before he was known as Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla hoped to become an actor. The late pontiff studied drama in his native Poland at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University. Later, while preparing for the priesthood at a clandestine seminary, he also was a member of the underground Rhapsodic theater company.
“Artistic talent is a gift from God,” John Paul once said. “And whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste his talent, but must develop it.” The Holy Wood Acting Studio in California is following the beloved pope’s direction by helping aspiring actors develop both their artistic and spiritual gifts.
On June 9, five months after graduating from design school, Hannah Friesen was on the set of “Good Morning America” waiting to hear if her wedding dress design would win the 2011 Brides magazine Operation Dream Dress contest.
Friesen, the daughter of two Presbyterian pastors, was one of five finalists selected from more than 300 applicants. She stood alongside the other finalists while waiting for the hosts to announce the winner of the $10,000 cash prize and a magazine cover featuring the design.
“I was kind of freaking out backstage,” the 22-year-old Friesen said. “I was waiting to trip up over my words or something, but adrenaline got me through.”
Union Presbyterian Seminary (UPS) here broke ground July 21 on a campus in the heart of Charlotte’s SouthPark area. When the $6.5 million, 22,000-square-foot building opens in summer 2012, it will give the seminary’s Charlotte operation its first permanent home.
“We think we have accomplished much in the past 10 years in training pastors and teachers for the life of the church,” said the Rev. Thomas Currie, dean of the seminary. “This new building will enable us to deepen and expand that work. It will also allow us to reach out to the community with new programs, outstanding speakers and opportunities for service.”
With the United Nations warning that the Horn of Africa and other parts of Africa are facing their worst drought in sixty years, Christian Aid and several other relief agencies have called on their supporters to help, despite global economic uncertainty.
“More than ten million people are thought to be affected across the region, with Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia hardest hit,” said Kirsty Smith, director of the Methodist Relief and Development Fund. “Two successive failed rainy seasons have meant lost harvests, and the decimation of livestock. Soaring food prices have exacerbated the situation, leaving people hungry and unable to meet their basic needs,” she said.
Mormon officials are telling their top, full-time leaders that they and their spouses should not participate in political campaigns, including making donations or endorsing candidates.
However, part-time leaders ― including local and regional congregational leaders ― are still allowed to do that, but are cautioned to make clear they are acting as individuals and do not represent the church.
Presbyterians are active in promoting compassion, peace, and justice in their communities and are supportive of most national Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ministries that promote these values. Majorities have personally engaged with the best known of those national ministries.
These are findings from the August 2010 Presbyterian Panel survey on compassion, peace, and justice ministries.
During the past year, majorities of members, elders, pastors, and non-parish ministers have prayed for healing for themselves or others; talked with a friend or family member about conflict in another country; intentionally changed their lifestyle to lower its impact on the environment; volunteered in their community to promote compassion, peace, or justice; and contributed money or materials for disaster relief, hunger relief, or development.
On his first official day as the 11th president of San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS), the Rev. James McDonald noticed one thing in particular as he was greeted by faculty, staff and students.
“Everyone is eager to begin our work together,” McDonald said. “I could feel it right away.”
McDonald comes to SFTS with valuable insights and experiences in Christian service, which complement SFTS’s historic commitment to social justice causes. For the past 13 years, McDonald worked for Bread for the World (BFW), a faith-based advocacy organization in Washington, DC, that urges national legislators to end hunger.