"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Politics in the SBL

Readers of this blog might find this recent essay by Robert Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary to be of interest. He critiques recent moves by the leadership of the Society of Biblical Literature to enter contemporary American political debates in the name of the organization's membership. Since the readers of Texanglican span the political spectrum, your responses will no doubt vary widely!

Below is the text of the SBL Executive Committee's resolution Dr. Gagnon is criticizing:


The United States election of 2004 witnessed the emergence of “values,” often referred to as “Christian values” or “biblical values,” as key political issues. The “values” most commonly identified in public debates were the issues of gay marriage, abortion, and stem-cell research. The Society of Biblical Literature, which is the largest international, professional association of teachers and scholars of the Bible, calls attention to the fact that the “values” so prominently and divisively raised in this 2004 U.S. election are not major concerns in the Bible, and in fact are not even directly addressed in the Bible. Rather, they tend to reflect the underlying problems of homophobia, misogyny, control of reproductive rights, and restraint of expression (including scientific research) in U.S. society today. With over 7,000 members representing a broad range of political and religious leanings, the Society of Biblical Literature has fostered discussions of such fundamental problems against the background of biblical ethics and respect for all human beings. As many of our members have indicated in publications and lectures, the moral issues dominating the biblical texts focus instead on concerns such as the well-being of individuals, the integrity of community, care for the powerless and the vulnerable, economic justice, the establishment of peace, and the stewardship of the environment. The Society of Biblical Literature urges citizens and political agencies to direct their energies toward securing these goals and values of well-being and responsibility.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Sermon for Fourth Sunday in Epiphany

The text for my sermon at St. Vincent's Cathedral this morning were 1 Cor 1:18-31 and the Beatitudes in Matt 5:1-12.

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” from the First Letter of the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“The wisdom of the world” – Just what, exactly, is Saint Paul on about in our reading this morning, and how does it affect us? What is “the wisdom of this world” in contemporary America? Where should we go to find it? There would probably be dozens of different answers to these questions in this parish alone. Undoubtedly the “chattering classes” of our universities and news media are sources of wisdom for many of us, just as the “wise men” and “scribes” of ancient Greece and Rome were in their day. But intellectuals and journalists make up less than 5% of our population and their influence can be overestimated. We cannot halt our search there. No, if we want to discover the truly pervasive “wisdom” of our contemporary world we need to broaden our scope a bit. I’m persuaded that the collective wisdom of our nation may most readily be found in the place the majority of us get our information—television. And the definitive television programs of the early twenty-first century are surely the ubiquitous “reality” game shows. Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” the aspiring pop stars of “American Idol,” and the castaways of “Survivor” so dominate our television culture that the national networks actually cover their twists and turns as if they were news. If we’re looking for the wisdom of this present age, we can do no better than the lessons taught by these ratings juggernauts.

Without doubt, “reality programming” can be quite entertaining. The producers of these shows know how to get their hooks into you. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it now, but a few years back I actually planned my Thursday nights so I could watch the entire second season of “Survivor.” (I justified it as research into the effects of the Fall in the Garden of Eden!) The series proved a fascinating spectacle. But as amusing as these programs might be, surely no one claims they are morally uplifting. The contestants often behave in the most deplorable fashion. The worldly wisdom of “The Apprentice” and “Survivor” cynically affirms that the most consistently aggressive and duplicitous person usually gains the upper hand. Week after week alliances are solemnly formed and quickly betrayed. Promises are made that will not survive the night’s episode. The world of reality TV is a Darwinian jungle where the weak are fired and voted off the island while the strongest and most ruthless get million dollar paychecks and commercial endorsements. Trust no one, always be aggressive, hide your weaknesses, and never show compassion … unless there is something in it for you. In the world of reality TV, the law of the jungle applies to Harvard graduates with MBA’s as surely as it does to street hustlers from the wrong side of the tracks. “Do unto others before they do it unto you.” The wisdom of this world: Let us attend.

I pray that few of us here today live our daily lives in a world that is as harsh as that of reality television. But in truth, we all know people who resemble the backstabbing liars showcased on these programs. Experience tells us that if you put your trust in the wrong people, you can get hurt. There are plenty of rogues out there who prey on the helpless. The world can be a tough place. Perhaps the lessons of “Survivor” are not that far from the mark after all. What happens on these reality shows is exaggerated, to be sure, but it is recognizably like what we see around us every day. Common sense tells us to watch our backs and not become easy marks, to be careful whom we trust and not give away too much of ourselves. That’s been common sense in most cultures throughout the history of the world, I suspect. It certainly was in the Roman Empire of the first century.

Our Lord Jesus was at least as well informed about the cynical immorality of the “success culture” of his own times as the couch potato consumers of reality TV are today. Christ knew the hearts of men and women. He knew our weaknesses, and he was no fool. Yet he chose to begin his stump speech, the Sermon on the Mount, with the peculiar list of blessings we have just heard. When you have heard these verses as many times as most of us have, it is easy to just let them wash over you without giving them much thought. “Blessed are the poor in spirit … yada yada yada.” Yes, Lord. … But take a second and really think about what Christ is saying in the Beatitudes. The Greek word translated “blessed” here can also be translated “happy.” “Happy are the poor in spirit, “happy are those who mourn,” “happy are the persecuted.” Now this is a very odd business. Surely these people are not happy. They are the definition of LOSERS. These are the folks who get voted off the island, aren’t they? “Happy are the peacemakers,” “happy are the pure in heart,” “happy are the merciful.” People like that wouldn’t have a chance in Donald Trump’s boardroom. They lack the proper drive to succeed in our dog-eat-dog world. They certainly wouldn’t be able to undercut their competition when the chips were down. Pure and merciful peacemakers seldom get the corner office. If these people are happy, then they clearly don’t understand the situation properly.

Obviously our Lord has somewhere other than Survivor Island or Trump Tower in mind here. The key to the Beatitudes lies in the tense of their concluding phrases—the focus is on the future. The blessedness Christ promises is not yet fully realized when he speaks. For the time being mourning, persecution, and poverty are realities. Jesus knows that better than anyone. The focus of Christ’s promises, however, is the new world that is dawning with the coming of the Son of Man. Of course, these blessings will come in their fullness only at the end of the age, when they will mark the life of the world to come. But the regeneration of creation has already begun in Christ Jesus. Even now God is making everything new. To those who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, the Father will add blessings even in this present age. Those who place their faith in Christ already enjoy the first fruits of the new heaven and the new earth in the sacramental fellowship of Christ’ Body, the Church. Here and now, through the power of the Spirit, you and I have access to the comforts and satisfactions Christ promises in the Beatitudes. This is true even though we still eagerly await the fullness of His blessings on that glorious day when Christ sums up all things in Himself. It sounds paradoxical, but it is true nonetheless. The Church lives simultaneously in “the already” and the “not yet” of blessing and salvation.

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord will challenge the conventional wisdom of this present age. He preaches on forgiveness of enemies, non-retaliation, giving without expecting a return, treasure houses in heaven rather than on earth, and not passing judgment on others lest we be judged. In short, his entire sermon is at odds with the conventional wisdom of this present age. What Christ offers is a most uncommon sense to supplant the commonplace wisdom of a fallen world. Jesus teaches wisdom for the age to come, wisdom for the world that is being reborn even as He speaks. The wisdom of the world that is passing away is no longer of any account. “Street smarts” means something else entirely when the streets are paved with gold. The Beatitudes are a shot across the bow of the common sense of a dying world.

But if the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount call the wisdom of this world into question, Saint Paul boldly asserts in our reading today that the Savior’s life, death and resurrection has nullified “conventional wisdom” in its entirety. In writing to the church in Corinth, the apostle was addressing a social world similar to our own in many ways, so we do well to pay attention. The Corinth of Paul’s time was a major commercial center in the eastern Mediterranean. It was the transportation hub of central Greece, and by Paul’s time it had become swollen with immigrants from all over the Greek-speaking world and beyond, people looking for fame and fortune. A small number of Corinthian men did succeed in spectacular fashion, earning vast fortunes in sea borne commerce. You can still see the foundations of the great villas these ancient shipping magnates built on the hills that overlook the city. Their names are carved in stone all over Corinth, trumpeting their beneficiations to the metropolis. First-century Corinth had its share of Donald Trumps. I suspect its citizens would have loved “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.”

Few, if any, of the members of the infant Corinthian church would have rubbed elbows with the rich and famous. The apostle knew that not many of them had been wealthy or powerful before coming to the Faith, nor were they possessed of wisdom as the world defined it. They were not part of the success culture of the Roman Empire. The common sense of that time told Greeks and Romans that the lives of humble men and women were nasty, brutish and short. People like the Corinthian Christians were disposable, and no one would miss them when they were gone.

But according to St. Paul, God used the very lowliness of these Christians to make manifest the great reversal accomplished by the cross of Christ. God’s election of the lowly undermines the corrupt values of a fallen world. “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no flesh might boast in the presence of God.” By incorporating these few hundred Corinthian local merchants, self-employed artisans, household slaves, and their families into the body of Christ, God aimed a dagger straight at the heart of the getting and striving culture of the Greco-Roman world. The nobodies have become somebodies. They have surpassed the wise and the strong, but not by their own efforts. “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;” Paul says, “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” Salvation and righteousness are acquired only through the gracious gift of God’s sovereign will. “Therefore let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

In the cross of Christ, God has redefined success. It is the crucified Christ--God made present in weakness--who incarnates and actualizes divine power and wisdom. This is a paradox that flies in the face of everything the present age teaches us, yet it is the only saving truth the world has ever known. “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,” Saint Paul recognizes, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The very same Christ who redefined happiness in the Beatitudes has, by means of his precious death and glorious resurrection, become our wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Here is wisdom: Let us attend. Amen.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Developing world's Anglican leaders meet in advance of Belfast

Prior to the meeting of the world's Anglican primates in Northern Ireland at the end February, a group of Anglican leaders from the developing world have just concluded a meeting in Nairobi. You can find a news article on this topic here .

Friday, January 28, 2005

Feast of St. Thomas of Aquino

Today the Anglican Communion commemorates the life and ministry of St. Thomas Aquinas. Although the name of St. Thomas does not feature prominantly in the works of the early Anglican divines, even the most cursory reading of Hooker's "Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity" reveals the debt our tradition owes to the thought of the great Dominican from Aquino. As someone who has been called a "closet Thomist," I take some comfort in that fact! Blessed Thomas, pray for us. The image above is Fra Angelico,The Virgin and Child with SS Dominic and Thomas Aquinas, painted between 1424 and 1430. Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon calls our attention to a classic review of a book by McGrath

Russell Reno's interesting 1995 review of a valuable book by the principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, on the future of Anglicanism can be found here . I will try to read Fr. Alister McGrath's book myself soon and report my own assessment. Now I am off to Saint Vincent's Cathedral School to judge the fifth grade Chili Contest!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Natural Law in the Weekly Standard

The present Weekly Standard on-line has an interesting piece on a supposed revival of 'natural law' going on in the US. You may find it of interest. Please give it a read here .

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Christians on Campus

I would be interested in the responses to readers of this blog to a piece recently published in the Christian Science Monitor about the difficulties of being a Christian on college campuses these days. The story is found here . Please let us know what you think. You can post "anonymously" on this blog without having to register, if registration makes you uncomfortable. Thanks.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Bell Tower is Coming Along

This is the progress on our bell tower at Saint Vincent's as of last week, January 19th. The plan is to have the tower finished by March, before we host the convocation of the Anglican Communion Network in late April. There will probably be several archbishops in attendance at the ACN gathering. Hopefully the weather between now and then will cooperate and construction will remain on schedule. It would be nice to have the grounds looking attractive for the big meeting and greet our visitors with new bells! Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Post regarding Christian-Muslim relations

A dear friend of mine, who is one of the most thoughtful Christians I know, has a post regarding the responses of various Christians to the recent slayings of a Coptic family in New Jersey. Her post may be found here as "Rant of the Day."

This is a picture of the sunset last night, taken from the back yard of my home. The Lord has blessed us with marvelous weather lately.  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Persecution in NJ?

For those who may not have heard, there has recently been a possibly religiously-motivated masacre of an entire Coptic Christian family in New Jersey. It was reported on a cable news network last night that the family was bound and gagged before they were stabbed to death. Read the basic story here (though this story doesn't mention the manner of death). Let us remember to pray for all our brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing persecution, especially for the Coptic Church in Egypt. It has been the subject of substantial violence in recent months.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

This is me when I was nine, riding on a one-third scale model of a Fokker D-7 biplane my father and I made. It was a blast! Posted by Hello

Pray for the future of the Anglican Communion and for the world-wide primates as they prepare to meet in late February. (The view from the site of St. Thomas Beckett's tomb, Canterbury Cathedral) Posted by Hello

Feast of St. Anthony of Egypt, Father of Monks

"Anthony lay watching, however, with unshaken soul, groaning from bodily anguish; but his mind was clear, and as in mockery he said, `If there had been any power in you, it would have sufficed had one of you come, but since the Lord hath made you weak you attempt to terrify me by numbers: and a proof of your weakness is that you take the shapes of brute beasts.' And again with boldness he said, `If you are able, and have received power against me, delay not to attack; but if you are unable, why trouble me in vain? For faith in our Lord is a seal and a wall of safety to us.' So after many attempts they gnashed their teeth upon him, because they were mocking themselves rather than him." The Life of Anthony, ch. 9, by St. Athanasius.

May the same courage to fight the good fight of faith that dwelt in St Anthony also abide among leaders of the Church who today are battling the forces of darkness in defense of the Truth. (Sassetta, St Anthony the Hermit Tortured by the Devils, 1423)
Posted by Hello

Monday, January 17, 2005

Report of the Bishop of Fort Worth on the House of Bishops' Meeting

Readers of this blog will want to read the report my bishop, the Right Rev'd Jack Leo Iker of Fort Worth, has just published regarding the recently concluded meeting of ECUSA's House of Bishops. It may be found here and includes links to the official majority and minority communiques from that meeting. Let us all pray for wisdom for the primates of the Anglican Communion, who will meet in Northern Ireland in late February. Very important decisions are in the offing. Kyrie eleison.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Evangelical Anglicans in D.C.

MSNBC has an interesting piece on a bar and a parish church (two separate organizations, in case you are wondering) that are popular with Bush Administration officials in Washington. Give it a read here . The church is an evangelical ECUSA parish, The Falls Church. Although the style of worship there doesn't sound like it would be to my tastes (others may find it brings them closer to God, I admit), they do seem to be taking Scripture seriously there. You can find their parish web site here . Naturally, the piece from the secular media focuses on the "networking" opportunities for officials there, but let us hope they are encountering the Gospel, drawing closer to Christ and learning to love and serve the Lord first and foremost.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Vatican is Taking on Satanism

"Vatican courses on Satanism
News Analysis by Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI Religious Affairs EditorPARIS, Jan. 11 (UPI) --

Satanism is growing so quickly worldwide that as of next month a papal university in Rome will offer courses on this frightening phenomenon. According to Vatican sources, divinity students at the pontifical Regina Apostolorum (Queen of the Apostles) University will learn about devil worship, witchcraft, demonology and exorcism.They will learn to give pastoral care to youngsters who have joined satanic cults, but also their worried parents, a Vatican prelate told United Press International by telephone Tuesday.Type the word, "Satanism," into the Google search engine, and some461,000 hits will appear on your computer's monitor. That's more than the terms, "Lutheranism" and "Calvinism," the two oldest Protestant traditions, will produce - together. The U.S.-based "Church of Satan," which has about 10,000 members, showsup 56,000 times on Google, compared with the Evangelical Lutheran Churchin America's measly 15,000 hits, even though the ELCA counts nearly 5 million faithful."

Of course such figures reveal little about a subject's real importance," says the Rev. Albrecht Immanuel Herzog, executive vice-president of a based mission society headquartered in Neuendettelsau, Bavaria. On the other hand, the figures certainly do show one thing: In a global society dominated by the Internet, the devil and the occult garner a considerably greater interest right now than Lutheran or Calvinist theologies -- or Methodism, for that matter (245,000 hits). It is the Internet that, along with "black metal"-type rock music and its chilling lyrics, attracts the world's young to the Prince of Darkness. What makes them such easy prey? Loneliness, according to Italian professor Carlo Climati, who will teach the course at Regina Apostolorum-- the loneliness of the juvenile Internet surfer. Thus while the "Church of Satan," which advertises itself as a mix of hedonistic philosophy with the rituals of black magic, claims to liberate its adherents (from traditional stuffiness), Satanism really does not cater to a thirst for freedom, says the Rev. Herzog."Instead, it aims at a desire for dependency and thus enslaves," he goes on.

It is hard to argue with Herzog on this point since many satanism web sites are directly linked to others featuring bondage, discipline, sadomasochism and violent death, including photographs of aborted embryos in garbage cans. A cursory glance of gruesome incidents linked to Satanism worldwide proves that this is the true locus of the "culture of death" Pope JohnPaul II never ceases to denounce. "This phenomenon," a Catholic exorcist told United Press International some time ago, "is a growth industry for the pastoral care business, if only there were enough ministers prepared to deal with this situation - and to read the alarm signal when young people suddenly act strangely, walk around in black gear with chains and spikes, and hide their faces under grisly black makeup."Don't think this is in all cases just a form of entertainment," he warned. "It can be a sign of an enslavement to a growing lethal faith."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

EDS Newsletter

This must be seen to be believed: Episcopal Divinity School, home of all sorts of silliness, has an on-line version of its newletter posted. Check out pdf file of Page 3 here . There is actually a report by a transgendered, sock puppet mouse! Ms. Chapelle Mouse, that is. Read all of page 3. Amazing!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Joyful Epiphany to All

A blessed Epiphany of our Lord to you all, and may God's blessings be upon you this New Year!

The image is an Adoration of the Magi, ca. 1445, by Fra Angelico. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

An Update on Disturbing News from "World Net Daily"

Philadelphia accused of 'abuse of power'Attorney of arrested Christians defends action at homosexual event

The attorney for the Christians known as "the Philadelphia 4" who were arrested for protesting at a homosexual event last year defended his clients on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" last night, saying city officials are guilty of "abuse of power."
Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney at the American Family Association's Center for Law & Policy, appeared on the program to talk about the case. Also appearing was Charles Volz, a legal adviser to the homosexual "OutFest" event.
As WorldNetDaily reported, on Oct. 10, the group was "preaching God's Word" to a crowd of people attending the Philadelphia event and displaying banners with biblical messages.
After a confrontation with a group called the Pink Angels, described by protesters as "a militant mob of homosexuals," the 11 Christians were arrested and spent a night in jail.
Eight charges were filed: criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment of another person, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and obstructing highways.
None of the Pink Angels was cited or arrested.
After a preliminary hearing in December, Judge William Austin Meehan ordered four of the Christians to stand trial on the three felony and five misdemeanor charges. If convicted, they could get a maximum of 47 years in prison.
"My clients were peacefully evangelizing," Fahling told O'Reilly, referring viewers to the online video of the protesters.
Saying the protesters used "gentle voices," Fahling said, "What they were doing is what every evangelist does, and that's bring the message of the gospel of Jesus to those who don't know Christ. There's no crime in that."
Continued Fahling: "The real issue is the profound abuse of power that took place in Philadelphia. … I have not seen an abuse of power like this in this country ever."
Volz claimed the protesters refused to abide by the rules set out by the Philadelphia police, so they were arrested.
"Forty-seven years in jail for preaching the gospel?" Fahling asked rhetorically. "This is an historic case. … Now when you speak in the public square, at least in Philadelphia, you will be sent to prison if they have anything to say about it. That's frightening, that's chilling, and every American ought to be … outraged that this is happening in America."
Volz said he didn't think any of the protesters ultimately would go to jail.
"They might get six to 12 months probation," Volz said. "Nobody's going to jail for 47 years."
Related stories:
Prosecutor: Bible is 'fighting words'
City will prosecute Christian protesters

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Reflections from F. Giordano

My friend Francesco Giordano, a doctoral student in Italian Studies at the University of Chicago and a Roman Catholic seminarian, has recently composed these thought-provoking reflections:

"I was reading Gramsci this last quarter, and I found enormous similarities with Christianity in his communist ideology. Indeed, he was talking about the lifting up of masses to render them more intellectual, paralleling this to the attempts made by the Church's religious orders for centuries.

It is indeed true that the Church's struggles over the centuries have been to "raise the bar" of pious practices, rendering them more thoughtful. There has always been a tension between the intellectuals and the ignorant masses. However, the Church offered them more than something naturally elevating; the Church offered them supernatural grace.

This is where the communists cannot go. They cannot offer grace, and they know that they cannot elevate the masses intellectually. Not everyone has such capacities. Not everyone is called to lead. Not everyone is called to be a shepherd. But, everyone is called to grace. What the Church knew since the start, they knew as well. Their ideals would simply remain ideals.
Something cynical in me questions their ideals as simple fronts because I believe they were actually simply attacking the Church from without and from within, using the power of similar ideals. Their "ideals" led to totalitarianism because without God that is the only place where we can go since a human nature that is afflicted by the concupiscence of the flesh, by sin has to be controlled somehow. If the conscience which has a fear of God does not act internally, then an external force has to be used.The totalitarianism, in turn, led to wars which continued to lower the morale of the masses, and, before you know it, few believe in God, a God that is forgotten.

I am reminded of Jeremiah 6 here. Religion continues to be attacked, internally and externally. Internally, we see today how weare attacked by crazy liturgists and by various movements (from homosexuals to communists and secretive Masons) that have easy access to a people that is ignorant of its history with God. Externally, we see today how strong secularism has become. We are trying to compete with the secular media to get the message of Christ to people who are too ignorant to care. It is no wonder that other external forces like Islam have such easy access. We must pray and work to overcome these forces. I think of the Battle of Lepanto all the time; the Turks fought us 3:1, and they lost! That is my hope. Christ has already won, and we are simply here to bring His victory to fulfillment. Beyond us, He is also quite capable of using nature to show His strength."

Monday, January 03, 2005

News from near the epicenter--RC bishop of the Andaman Islands

Port Blair (AsiaNews) – In a message that has reached AsiaNews, Aleixo Dias, Bishop of Port Blair, capital of the Andaman Islands, writes that according to “information available, over 10,000 people have been killed in my diocese, [. . .] unconfirmed sources [say] the causalities [. . .] could rise to 15,000."
The diocese of Port Blair is one of the hardest-hit areas by the tsunami that pounded south-east Asia on December 26, 2004. Most casualties are said to be in the Nicobar group of islands, south of Port Blair.
Official Indian sources put the death toll at 712 known dead and 3,745 missing out of a population of 350,000. However, the Indian government has not allowed journalists and international NGOs to visit the islands.
The Andaman Islands (500 in total but many uninhabited) are located a few tens of kilometres from the epicentre of the earthquake that triggered a tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean off the island of Sumatra.
In his letter, Bishop Dias writes that the island of Car Nicobar was hardest-hit, an island inhabited by the tribal Nicobaris, most of whom are Anglicans. “Their Cathedral in Car Nicobar,” the text reads, “and the residence of their bishop are said to have been completely washed away. The Bishop himself is said to be marooned somewhere in the jungle.”
Bishop Dias “thanks God” that Church staff—fathers, sisters and our catechists—are well. “But the churches, presbyteries, convents, schools have been totally destroyed.”
Why all this? The Bishop asks. “Thanks to the Lord, in the last 20 years, since I became the first Bishop of this newly created diocese, much development had taken place here, particularly by way of creation of new parishes, convents, schools, hostels, etc. Now with this destruction I am asking myself what message the Lord is giving me and us. I bow before Him and say: Fiat Voluntas Tua.”
“We are doing our best,” the letter goes on to say, “to help in the relief work. [. . .] Thousands of people have been evacuated from the Nicobars by planes and ships and are being brought to Port Blair.”
The Bishop and his assistants are helping the suffering people who lost everything and who have sought refuge in the various camps which have been set up.
“It is heart-breaking to hear their tale of woe. Many of them have saved themselves by swimming, climbing trees, running and spending days and nights in the jungle”.
The Bishop finally urges others to “keep [. . .] us in your prayers and please tell your people to pray for us.”
The diocese of Port Blair includes 12 parishes, 38 priests, 24 men religious and 88 women religious for 38,860 Catholics.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Top Religion Stories of 2004 according to the Star-Telegram

Mel Gibson, gay clergy spark controversy in 2004
By Jim Jones, Special to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Happy New Year to all! The "God beat" is never too dull. Religion is an explosive subject with many twists and turns. It has to do with life and death, sacrifice and heartfelt arguments over matters of faith.
All of that's reflected in many ways in some of the top religion stories of 2004. Here are some of the stories that I consider the year's highlights:
1. Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ broke box-office records and stirred debate. Some area churches purchased tickets for their members, and pastors based their sermon series on the film. Critics thought it was too violent and anti-Semitic. It was the most gripping retelling of the Crucifixion I've seen, although very bloody. The discussions surrounding the film, now out on DVD, are still reverberating.
2. Politics and religion: Religion was a factor in this year's presidential election, and some evangelicals were accused of going too far in their politicking. The Rev. Jerry Falwell spoke out for the president at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in August. He singled out me and other reporters in the audience and said he wasn't going to talk politics other than to say "vote for the Bush of your choice."
3. Christian martyrs: Four Southern Baptist International Mission Board workers doing work on a water-purification plant were killed in March in northern Iraq. Assailants fired into their car with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. The dead included former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student David McDonnall, 29, of Rowlett. His wife, Carrie, 26, was critically wounded. Larry and Jean Elliott of Cary, N.C., also were killed.
4. Same-sex debates: Disputes occurred over gay clergy and same-sex marriage in United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and other denominations. Fort Worth Episcopal Bishop Jack Iker and the executive council of his diocese were among the first of several dioceses to approve joining the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes to protest the ordination of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is openly gay.
5. Florida hurricanes: Church groups from around the nation, including area residents who volunteer with Texas Baptist disaster-relief crews, spent long stints in Florida to help victims of four late-summer hurricanes that killed more than 100.
6. Apology for racism: The Rev. Eugene Florence, an upbeat 100-year-old minister who still drives his own car, tends his garden and preaches occasionally, received a long-delayed master's degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary last month. Seminary President Paige Patterson apologized for past racist policies at the seminary. Florence met requirements for the degree some 50 years ago, but at the time was given a diploma, not a master's, because blacks were not allowed into master's programs.
7. Do unto others: In July, I traveled to Honduras with a delegation from the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, which for the past five years has given generously in an ongoing partnership forged by Fort Worth Bishop Joseph Delaney and Bishop Mauro Muldoon of the Catholic Diocese of Olancho. One highlight was dedicating a huge water project spearheaded by contributions from the Fort Worth Diocese. It gives running water to several mountain villages.
8. Trial by fire: Retired Army Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell was honored on Heroes Day at Mansfield Church of Christ in September. He testified that his faith saw him through after he was burned over 60 percent of his body and not expected to live. He was only a few feet away from where terrorists crashed an American Airlines jet into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Now he ministers to others who have been severely burned.
9. Unitarian protest: Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, after hearing protests from across the nation, backed off from her ruling that the Red River Unitarian Universalist church in Denison should not receive a tax exemption because "it does not have one system of belief." Unitarian Universalists pride themselves on diversity and have members ranging from conservative Christians to atheists.
10. Baptist exodus: In June, the Southern Baptist Convention approved withdrawing from the 100-year-old Baptist World Alliance, taking away $300,000 a year in support. Leaders of the world Baptist group denied conservative claims that the group has become too liberal. Many moderate Baptists in Texas and elsewhere continue to financially support the alliance.

The Holy Name of Jesus 2005

A blessed feast of the Holy Name of Jesus and best wishes for a happy New Year to you all!

The image above is "The Adoration of the Holy Name" by El Greco, ca. 1578. The Pope, the Doge of Venice and Philip II are shown kneeling in adoration of the name of Jesus, shown in the heavens as IHS, these being the first letters of Jesus in Greek (IHSOUS). The name of Jesus was believed to have power over infidels, and the picture perhaps commemorates the League's victory over the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 which was led by Philip II's brother Don Juan. It may have been painted after the latter's death in 1578. Heretics are shown being swallowed by a monstrous beast, symbolising Hell, swimming in a sea of fire. Posted by Hello

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