Ministry News


Vatican to Priests: Don’t Offend the Homosexuals

Just how far has the gay agenda expanded in the last decade? The Vatican released a pamphlet last week warning Roman Catholic priests not to use any language in their parishes that might be deemed offensive to gays and lesbians. The brochure, created by bishops and given to those priests under them, instructs priests to no longer assume every parishioner is heterosexual and therefore to refrain from using "heterosexist" language: "Remember that homophobic jokes and asides can be cruel and hurtful—a careless word can mean another experience of rejection and pain." Adding insult to injury, priests have also been told to put up posters promoting various "support services" for homosexuals attending church.

"It is things like this that are enfeebling the Church at the moment—the concentration on things that don't matter and missing the things that do," commented Catholic author and activist Lynette Burrows. "What is pitiful as well as demeaning is that the Church is running after homosexual opinion but nothing is going to make homosexuals like the Catholic Church. This is because the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a disorder and whatever the bishops say will not change that." [dailymail.co.uk, 11/29/08; UPI, 11/29/08]

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Pledging to God

George M. Docherty, the Washington, D.C., pastor credited with helping to insert the phrase "under God" in the United States' Pledge of Allegiance, died of a heart ailment Thanksgiving day at the age of 97. Originally from Scotland, Docherty served for 26 years as pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, the historic downtown church attended by Abraham Lincoln and many other presidents.

In 1952, Docherty heard his 7-year-old son recite the pledge—which he was unfamiliar with at the time—and decided to preach a sermon urging that the pledge to the flag be amended. "To omit the words 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is to omit the definitive factor in the American way of life," he said, adding that the Godless pledge was just as applicable to the then-communist Soviet Union. "I could hear little Muscovites recite a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity."

His original sermon did little to change things. But on Feb. 7, 1954, with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in attendance, Docherty repeated his message—only this time with near-instant results. Congress introduced a bill that same week, and Eisenhower signed the "under God" act four months later.

In his later years, Docherty addressed those who criticized the inclusion of God's name in the pledge as a violation of church-and-state separation. He believed the phrase "under God" was broad enough to include "the great Jewish community and the people of the Muslim faith," yet he pulled no punches when it came to atheists. "An atheistic American is a contradiction in terms," Docherty said in his sermon. "If you deny the Christian ethic, you fall short of the American ideal of life." [washingtonpost.com, 11/30/08; AP, 11/31/08]

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Is There Value in a Name?

QUOTE: "'Under God' didn't enter the pledge until after World War II, after the oft-called Greatest Generation had proved its values. These men and women who fought overseas and sacrificed on the home front all grew up with a passion for their country but none pledged to God every morning facing the flag when they were school children. It wasn't essential to the formation of their character, evidently. When I read about civic battles today to add the name of God or a Ten Commandments to every public event or venue, I wonder: What is the desired effect to adding—or blocking—this? Do you have to say 'God' everywhere to know God? To develop good values?" —USA Today's "Faith & Reason" blogger Cathy Lynn Grossman [usatoday.com, 12/1/08]

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Unearthing a Biblical Past

In the last month, archaeologists in the Middle East have unearthed a trio of biblical-times finds that offer important glimpses into both ancient Holy Land culture and the early Christian church.

Earlier this month, an Israeli archaeologist digging amid ruins of an ancient town outside Jerusalem discovered a pottery shard containing the oldest Hebrew inscription ever found. Penned almost 3,000 years ago, the five lines of text on the ceramic piece use proto-Canaanite characters, a precursor of the Hebrew alphabet. Artifacts found around the shard were carbon-dated to between 1,000 and 975 B.C., which corresponds with the time King David ruled in Jerusalem. Although the writing has not been completely translated, Yossi Garfinkel, the Hebrew University archaeologist in charge of the dig, believes it already indicates that a powerful Israeli kingdom existed at the time of King David.

Last week another Israeli archaeologist digging outside Jerusalem found what he believes are the 2,000-year-old remains of two tombs that once held a wife and daughter-in-law of King Herod—the same Herod that the Gospel of Matthew says conducted a mass slaughter of male infants around the time of Jesus’ birth. Along with the tomb artifacts, additional relics found by Ehud Netzer, who is a Herodian excavation expert from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, seem to further his case for discovering Herod’s tomb last year. “I would eat my hat if it were someone else’s tomb,” Netzer said.

Almost 300 miles down the road in Syria, a Syrian-Polish archaeological team unearthed the remains of an eighth-century church. Although the church is the fourth found in the ancient city of Palmyra, which is almost 150 miles northeast of Damascus, it is the largest such discovery to date. Walid al-Assaad, head of the Palmyra Antiquities and Museums Department, said that besides an amphitheater used for gatherings and services, the church contains at least “two rooms that are believed to have been used for baptisms, religious ceremonies, prayers and other rituals.” [AP, 10/31/08; AP, 11/17/08; Reuters, 11/19/08]

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Convergence of Truth

QUOTE: “We can’t believe everything ancient writings tell us, but this research represents a confluence between the archaeological and scientific data and the Bible.” —Thomas Levy, an archaeologist from the University of California, San Diego, who, along with a team of researchers from Jordan, recently discovered a copper-production center in the Middle Eastern country dating back to the time of King Solomon’s reign (10th century B.C.). Artifacts found at the site of Levy’s digging were previously traced back to the seventh century, making this the oldest discovery so far and solidifying the growing case that the site is actually the legendary King Solomon’s Mines. [AP, 10/28/08]

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When the Word Marked Time

QUOTE: “I love series preaching. I used to try to preach every verse of a particular book, but I would get worn out. There used to be a time with pastors like W.A. Criswell—when people would preach or join his church, and they’d ask ‘When did you become a member of First Church?’ They’d say, ‘Oh, I became a member when he was preaching Leviticus or Daniel.’ I don’t know if the attention span is the same in the culture now. So if I were to preach through a book like 1 Peter, I’d just take selected themes—four, five or six at the most.” —Ralph Douglas West, founding pastor of The Church Without Walls in Houston, on one of the major cultural shifts in recent years that has affected preaching [Preaching, 10/08]

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