Thursday, September 29, 2005


The layman's constitutional view is that what he likes is constitutional and that which he doesn't like is unconstitutional.
-- Hugo Black

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Immaculate Conception?

One of our readers sent us the following response to our Feb. 26 posting, Ontario Christian (?) School: Sounds like the administration is saying that at least one parent must be sinless. Are the rest of the students products of immaculate conception?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Catholic-Lutheran Document on Apostolicity Is Near

The Holy See and the Lutheran World Federation are in the final stages of writing a joint document "on the Church's apostolicity and apostolic succession." In 1999 a joint document was published on the doctrine of justification, which resolved the principal disagreement with Martin Luther and to which the Methodists hope to adhere "next year," said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the pontifical council on Christian unity. Read more at Sept. 26 posting.

Ontario Christian (?) School

A 14-year-old student was expelled from a Christian school because her parents are lesbians, the school's superintendent said in a letter: "Your family does not meet the policies of admission," Superintendent Leonard Stob wrote to Tina Clark, the girl's biological mother. He stated that school policy requires that at least one parent may not engage in practices "immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian life style, such as cohabitating without marriage or in a homosexual relationship." Read more ...

There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?
-- James 4:12 NRSV

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Flooding in India

We have posted new information on the recent disastrous flooding in India in the vicinity of St. Paul's Lutheran School. Check their site's news and photo blogs.

One family's struggle . . .

. . . with their church's attitude toward homosexuality. Read this commentary and appreciate their pain.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Battle for God

Karen Armstrong, one of my favorite authors on religion, will be speaking at St. Mark's Cathedral, 519 Oak Grove Street, Mpls., next Saturday, Oct. 1, at 8 p.m. Her topic is the same as the title of one of her books: The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Unfortunately, admission is $30 ($20 for students/seniors) which is more than the price of her book.

Friday, September 23, 2005


Evangelicals, conservatives, etc. love to bash the ACLU. What they fail to understand is that the ACLU is not anti religion but rather pro liberties under our Constitution. Example:

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today announced that it is seeking to participate as a friend-of-the-court in the case of a second-grade student who was barred from singing a religious song in a voluntary, after-school talent show.

"There is a distinction between speech by a school and speech by individual students," said ACLU of New Jersey cooperating attorney Jennifer Klear in New York City. "The Constitution protects a student's individual right to express herself, including the right to express herself religiously."

Read more ...

"The Purpose Driven Life"

The Sept. 12, issue of The New Yorker has an insightful analysis of Rick Warren's success in growing his Saddleback church as well as publishing several best sellers.
What's his secret for church growth? Small groups.
Why is he popular? He understands small group psychology, whether of lay people or pastors.
How sound is his theology? Malcolm Gladwell writes:
Warren's God is not awesome or angry and does not stand in judgment of human sin. He's genial and mellow.
"Warren's God 'wants to be your best friend,' and this means, in turn, that God's most daunting property, the exercise of eternal judgment, is strategically downsized," the critic Chris Lehmann writes, echoing a common complaint:

When Warren turns his utility-minded feel-speak upon the symbolic iconography of the faith, the results are offensively bathetic: "When Jesus stretched his arms wide on the cross, he was saying, 'I love you this much.'" But God needs to be at a greater remove than a group hug.

Yes, Warren is popular. Yes, his followers do a lot of good works. But at what cost? Where is sin? Where is repentance? Where is salvation from eternal punishment? Where is our true freedom in Christ?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Status of religion

Some excerpts from Huston Smith's new book The Soul of Christianity: Restoring the Great Tradition:
Science is not omnicompetent. 'Our physical senses are not the only senses we have.'No one has ever seen a thought. No one has ever seen a feeling. Yet our thoughts and feelings are where we primarily live our lives.

Religion is everywhere, except in the intelligentsia, the people who rule our country, and in the media.

The mainline churches have surrendered too much to modern secularism. The language they preserve -- but the fire isn't in their souls.

Liberal Christianity has turned religion into mere morality, leaving churches with nothing to offer their members except rallying cries to be good. ... The authority of religion has waned along with the mystery of the sacred.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Are churches/monasteries granting sanctuary to criminals?

The chief prosecutor at the U.N. war crimes tribunal accused the Vatican on Tuesday of hindering the hunt for a fugitive Croatian general. Read more ...
The Holy See says it has offered no type of refuge to the suspected Croatian war criminal Ante Gotovina. In fact, the Holy See is waiting for the United Nations' chief prosecutor for the former Yugoslavia to give it information so that it can aid in the search for Gotovina, said Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls. Read more ...

Gay rights in the Anglican church

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams faces a recurring nightmare trying to stop Anglican liberals and conservatives heading for schism over the increasingly divisive issue of gay rights. Read more ...
The Anglican Church of Nigeria has deleted from its Constitution all references to "the See of Canterbury," the British "mother" church that links Anglican churches worldwide. Read more ...

Monday, September 19, 2005

"Love means never having to say you're sorry."

Perhaps the dumbest sentiment ever uttered in a movie was in the 1970 hit "Love Story," when actress Ali McGraw immortalized the phrase "Love means never having to say you're sorry." At the time, I thought this sentiment was immensely profound. Now I am in my mid-40s and know better: Love means always being ready to say you're sorry. According to Jewish thought, there's no better time for self-reflection and saying sorry than the 10-day period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, beginning Oct. 4, when God is more available to us than ever, waiting for us to come closer to him. God cannot absolve us for wrongs that we have committed against others, which is why we are commanded to ask forgiveness directly from anyone we may have wronged. But God wants to forgive us for transgressions we have committed against him, against Jewish values and even against ourselves.
-- Judy Gruen

Was Katrina an act of God?

God is a good God and doesn't have or need to throw temper tantrums like a spoiled and undisciplined child, in order to get his way or because he appears not to have it. We should not attempt to reduce God to such mundane human variables.

-- Bishop Carlton D. Pearson of Higher Dimensions Ministries in Tulsa, Okla., commenting on his belief that Hurricane Katrina was not an act of God.

Palm in the pulpit

Preachers, toss your notes & start up your Palm Pilots. Read more ...

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Update from Pr. David re hurricane relief

Some of you have either asked what is going on down near the path of Hurricane Katrina or have sent dollars to help victims impacted by this major disaster. You will remember that we at Zion Lutheran Church are on the periphery of the damage. Damage in Silverhill itself is minimal. Thirty miles to our west is significant damage, the closer to the Gulf, the worse it is. There continues to be local organization to respond to the disaster and a new local church organization to deal with disaster is emerging--more on that when it happens.

Our church council has decided on the following strategy: help those that we know with specific needs within our congregation or our extended family. We met this noon after morning worship and have identified three families with virtually nothing left after the hurricane and one family with maybe a salvageable shell of a house. Remember that many people had been advised to take out no flood insurance by their mortgage agents because "it hadn't flooded there for 500 years." Bottom line: many of the refugee/evacuee households have literally nothing and insurance will not cover and resources are limited. Three of these homes are located in Louisiana and one in Alabama.

Zion has allocated a grant of $1000 to each of these four families that we know specifically about. We have allocated an additional $1000 to a church we have had a relationship with for perhaps 80 years located near the Gulf in extreme southern Mobile County--the damage there is as bad as in Mississippi. Prior to this we provided a couple hundred dollars worth of socks to a local nursing home impacted by folks being placed there from Mississippi.

Here's our situation. These dollars will be appreciated when received, but the need is so big and the resources so little. Would you or your church consider taking on support of a family for 6 months or a year. The economy is in a shambles--business and jobs will not generate income for at least the mid-term in most cases. Mobile County just west of our county of Baldwin declared EVERYONE ELIGIBLE FOR FOODSTAMPS REGARDLESS OF SO-CALLED INCOME within the last couple days. The need is great. If we could provide any income stream to these families it would help so much. During the Vietnam and Hmong refugee days many of our congregations supported a refugee family for a year or so--I think the time has come again. Our focus is on these four families, but if God should choose to bless this idea with additional funds, we can probably find dozens in similar situations.

We would be happy to team with you and connect you with a specific family or receive funds and relay them to a specific family for support. How long? I just don't know, but I think we are looking maybe longer than a year, but a commitment of even 6 months at this time will accomplish much for the name of Christ. If you can help us, would you get back to me ASAP.

--Pastor Dave, Zion Lutheran Church, Silverhill, AL

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Rabbi Kushner

Were it not for another commitment, I'd be attending a talk by Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People. He will talk about the state of faith in the United States and the reemergence of fundamentalism - 7 to 8:30 p.m., Monday, at Wayzata Community Church, 125 W. Wayzata Blvd., Wayzata, MN. If you attend, tells us about it.

Word Alone?

In order to make these posts more readable, I usually don't incorporate whole articles. However, the following one by Sven Erlandson, a writer & former lay pastor, in today's Star Tribune deserves our careful attention.

There are two types of secrets: those that one or two people know, but never tell; and those that everyone knows, but no one wants to talk about.

In light of the recent vote of the national assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Orlando effectively continuing the ban on full incorporation of homosexuals in the ELCA, it becomes obvious that the church is still terrified of its dirty little secret, the one everyone knows but no one wants to talk about.

Since the Reformation, the Protestant wing of Christianity has sought, above all else, to do away with human accoutrements to religion, and instead pare it down to the basics intoned by Martin Luther, namely sola gratia, sola fides, sola scriptura -- grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone.

At the essence of the homosexuality debate that has gripped several Protestant denominations, most recently the ELCA, is this notion of "scripture alone," or "word alone."Word alone" means simply this: Do what the Bible says, and nothing less.

In the last few years a vocal group of Lutheran scholars and pastors has taken "Word Alone" as its moniker, committing itself to defending the ELCA against anti-scriptural movements, such as efforts to offer marriage to gay couples and to ordain practicing homosexuals. If we simply follow the Bible, they contend, the debate would be over. For the Bible is clear in saying that homosexuality is a sin.

And in fact, they're right. The Bible states this three times, none more clearly than in Leviticus 20:13a, "If a man lies with a man as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination ..."

But there is one small problem with "word alone" thinking, a problem that has metastasized into the one big Lutheran secret. The problem is that there are no truly "word alone" people in the ELCA, or any other Christian denomination. Plenty of people claim to be Bible-based, literal interpreters of scripture, or "word alone" Bible readers, but none truly is.

It is a problem and secret seen never more plainly than in this homosexuality debate. See, Leviticus 20:13a is not the whole story.

There is a Leviticus 20:13b. This second half of the verse reads, "...and they shall both be put to death. Their blood is on their heads." Within the same verse there is a second Biblical mandate. Not only is homosexuality a sin, but it demands death for the perpetrators.

The great Lutheran secret is that there is a whole lot that the Bible says that no one wants to acknowledge. We Lutherans claim to follow scripture exactly, but then pick and choose to meet our fancy.

If we, or any Protestant denomination, truly follow God's "word alone," if we are to claim any measure of Biblical integrity, we would be required to demand not only the condemnation but also the execution of all homosexuals.

But it wouldn't stop there. The Bible explicitly states that no less than 35 different acts are capital crimes. The list includes incorrigible children, working on the Sabbath, premarital sex, adultery, worshipping a God of another religion and blasphemy, as well as a few others a bit more blue.

The great Lutheran secret is that no one is reading the Bible literally, for imagine the carnage. Despite "word alone" claims within conservative factions, every Christian alive picks and chooses what is to be his or her canon of scripture, in part because it long ago fell out of vogue to kill people for Biblical reasons.

In truth, "word alone" has become nothing more than a watered-down euphemism for "conservative yet culturally acceptable Christianity."

Modern sensibility requires some measure of picking-and-choosing. However, the crime is committed when those claiming strict Biblical adherence then portray themselves as not picking and choosing, setting up the very hypocrisy that scripture condemns as one of the most grievous of all sins.

The heart-wrenching struggles of the ELCA will only abate when we Lutherans have the courage to discuss our secret openly and honestly. Until we admit that we deny as much scripture as we embrace, we will continue to fight among ourselves unnecessarily, and continue to be seen as the hypocrites that we are.

Friday, September 16, 2005

More on the pledge

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has promised the Justice Department's vigorous opposition to district court judge's ruling that a reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.

More on the Inquisition

Will gays be banned from Catholic Seminaries? Read more ...
For another view on how to serve gays in the church, read more ...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Return of the Inquisition?

Catholic Church investigators tasked by the Vatican to review U.S. seminaries will be looking for ''evidence of homosexuality'' and for professors who dissent from Church teaching. Read more ...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Another quote from Judge Roberts

“My faith and religious beliefs do not play a role in judging. I look to the law books. I don't look to the Bible.”

Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional

A California federal judge declared today, in a ruling that virtually guarantees another long and emotional battle in the courts, that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional. Read more ...

Supreme Court nomination hearings

Senator Specter:
When you talk about your personal views and, as they may relate to your own faith, would you say that your views are the same as those expressed by John Kennedy when he was a candidate, when he spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September of 1960, quote, "I do not speak for my church on public matters and the church does not speak for me," close quote?

Judge Roberts:
I agree with that, Senator. Yes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Synagogue destruction

The destruction of a synagogue is akin to a knife being thrust into our very being. When synagogues are destroyed, with ... lack of action of a governing authority, we can only ask, "What kind of government is this?"
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, lamenting the destruction of former Jewish synagogues by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The synagogues were abandoned when Israel forcibly removed all its citizens from the Gaza settlements.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


I've always been fascinated by this small group of believers. Last year I bought a book & CD of their music and enjoyed it very much. Are they still a viable religious group? Read more ...

Friday, September 09, 2005

Morality ringtones for your cell phone

A Thai Buddhist monk has developed "dhamma doctrine", or morality, ringtones for cell phones that will consist of Buddhist mantras such as "Anger is stupidity; fury is madness"; "Compose yourself before answering this call"; and "Don't let mobile phone conversations lead to premature sex and pregnancy."

God's punishment?

Jewish groups have strongly condemned remarks by a leading Israeli rabbi who said that Hurricane Katrina was God's way of punishing the United States.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

How to run a church

This article discusses how the Catholic Church should be run from a businessperson's viewpoint. The principles may very well apply to other denominations. Too many small churches do not even have budgets, much less formalized plans for the future (the latter includes small denominations as well).

Hurricane needs

You might get the word out about blood. Learned last night that supply is very stretched down here. Of course it relates to Katrina. If folks in churches that give blood could move up their schedules a bit, it might help the national supply.
--Alabama Dave

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Are you ready to clean up your life?

I am always looking for more efficient ways to accomplish the tasks before me. Yesterday, in perusing the Internet, I came across the above title. The web page is about the Clean Sweep Program, which purports to "give one complete personal freedom." Granted, there are many useful thoughts in the provided checklist. But where is God in all this?
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

-- Col. 2:8

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Conflicting messare from churches re Katrina

Different churches have differing points of view of God's role in the devastation precipitated by Katrina. Some believe the churches should stay out of the fray.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Methodists also

Methodists join the fray arguing about the inclusion of gays in the church.

Hurricane update from Alabama

Pastor David writes:
A number of churches have made inquiries about Zion and the Gulf Coast. Here's a thumbnail sketch as of noon today.

I think they said it was a storm with an eye of 902 microbars, the most intense storm ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. By now you have heard that it came ashore near New Orleans as a Category 4 hurricane, but the storm extended a couple hundred miles on all sides, definitely carrying hurricane winds perhaps 200 miles from its center. It remained a hurricane for over ten hours after it came ashore, remarkable in itself. We were perhaps 150 miles from the storm center, and endured hurricane winds throughout the day where we were. Mobile, about a half hour drive on the west from us, and Mobile Bay had major flooding, a storm surge may have reached 18 feet in the Bay--parts of Mobile were flooded and total rainfall exceeded 12 inches there in less than 24 hours. Louisiana and Mississippi took major damage and the county immediately south of Mobile also took heavy hits with the flooding along the coast of Alabama being significant. (It would have made the news except for New Orleans.) Those who experienced Hurricane Georges feel the flooding with Hurricane Katrina is worse; the extent of damage was worse than Camille 30 years ago.

We boarded up our windows and "hunkered" down through the storm. Our power was out for 6 to 7 hours, but there are 900,000 people still without electricity on the coast and it is expected that many of them will have no power for a month or more--the power grid has to be rebuilt, substation by substation and line by line in Mississippi. Our own assessment around our home in Silverhill showed some tree damage, but ours and the houses of our congregation appear intact. A curfew in the evening remains in place on the coastal counties in some municipalities. Mobile is less than 30 miles away, but our rain level is reportedly less than 5 inches, so I suspect less damage on our side of the Bay, but rest assured that there is major flooding down here with much structural damage. We heard that Redeemer Lutheran in Fairhope about 15 miles to our west on Mobile Bay has a nice hole in its sanctuary roof.

Loss of life along the shore counties in Mississippi especially and in the city of New Orleans are still emerging. We have congregational members putting up family from Mississippi and Louisiana. Shelters are up and running in our county. I attended a meeting at Loxley Church of God this morning--there is limited Emergency Management support and it is attempting to build a team of churches to serve refugees coming to their shelter when it opens.

Needs are beginning to emerge. Refugees are a problem as are those who are attempting to return to their homes in Mississippi and Louisiana. Our fuel supplies are severely taxed so that gas lines are extremely long. The major east-west freeway runs through the center of our county, and people must have gas to get home, so I guess they gas up here if they can. And don't forget that it takes gas to run portable power generators. Supplies are short, but there still seems to be some. I saw gas lines today, but they appeared to be slightly shorter. Mobile is another story! The good news is that the Intercoastal Canal is again shipping fuel and a major pipeline into Alabama is again pumping fuel. Refineries are still compromised. You can't just turn them on because the refinery cooking process requires things to be turned on sequentially over a number of days.

As I see it, the biggest emerging need is related to how to absorb the refugees for a period of at least two months and probably several months beyond that. On top of that is determining how to incorporate children into a school system which is designed for much fewer children. Of course, there are job issues and that kind of thing. For shelters and food shelves, issues related to food and paper products and diapers are significant items.

Zion has arranged for a local district matching grant. Thrivent will give us 50 cents for every dollar raised. Our funds raised will be directed to Hurricane Katrina Thrivent Relief. The funds may go to shelter support or to education support related to these refugees, maybe to specific refugees with identified needs. We would welcome any support in fund raising by other AFLC churches and friends. If our fund raising partners would designate funds for Katrina Thrivent matching offering, we would appreciate it. Funds could be directed to us at the address below--all funds will go through our church accounting system. If people would desire a receipt, we could probably come up with one, but with a check, I think a check would be its own receipt. Annotation of the check as "offering" would no doubt be good.

A word about World Relief--please recognize that we are not opposed to giving to World Relief per the e-mail from Pastor Lee. Our local church is in a fund-raiser mode for Baldwin County using matching funds. Yes, we would like to have you partner with us in our fund-raiser, but would urge support of whatever vehicle your church would use to get help into the dollar-pipeline to the coast area, whether it is us or World Relief or Red Cross or Salvation army.
--Alabama Dave Johnson, Zion Lutheran Church, PO Box 266, Silverhill, AL 36576

Hurricane help

Where to give help.


Rome may be near ending its schism with Lefebvrists.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

India flood aid

World Missions, AFLC, has provided $1800 for relief work in India, which has been devastated by flooding. St. Paul's School distributed 20 kgs. of rice to each family affected by the flood.
Keep these folks in your prayers!

For more pictures check out St. Paul School's news blog and photo blog.

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