LCMS leadership says Valpo broke church law with "syncretistic" service
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod's internal conflict over interfaith prayer in the wake of 9/11 continued this week as its presiding body, the Praesidium, issued a report on a September 11, 2002 service at Valparaiso University.

The Praesidium, which includes LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick and five of the synod's vice presidents, said the chapel service, which included prayers from Jews and Muslims, "was indeed worship of a unionistic and syncretistic nature," and thus a violation of church law.

"The Praesidium considers this matter to be concluded and can now report that those, who provided a setting within which blasphemy was uttered and syncretistic worship occurred have repented of their wrong," said a letter to several LCMS pastors who brought charges against the school. The letter said university president Alan Harre and four LCMS pastors involved in the service had "expressed sincere repentance" verbally and in writing, according to The Times of northwest Indiana.

Harre and the pastors had been cleared by a church investigation earlier this year, but the Praesidium stepped in and ordered further inquiry.

Disciples of Christ leader busted for "borrowing liberally" from Lew Smedes, Baltimore Sun
Speaking of 9/11 rememberances, The Washington Post reports that Chalice Press has withdrawn its book on the tragedy: Shaken Foundations: Sermons From America's Pulpits After the Terrorist Attacks. Disciples World, a magazine of the Disciples of Christ denomination, found that more than half of one of its chapters was lifted without attribution from How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong?, a 1982 book from the late Lew Smedes. The rest of it, it turns out, was largely culled from a Baltimore Sun article. (The sermon was online, but is now only available through Google's cache.)

The culprit is Alvin Jackson, pastor of National City Christian Church, the denomination's most prominent congregation. He's also the Disciples of Christ's moderator: the church's top elected position. Last month, The Washington Postrevealed that Jackson had "borrowed" without attribution in many of his sermons. Jackson apologized to his congregation, but told the Post that such preaching others' sermons without attribution "was legitimate as long the person using the old material was not publishing it in book form under his own name." Oops.

Head of Episcopal Church USA: Bible doesn't oppose same-sex relationships
In an interview with the Associated Press, Episcopal Church USA Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold doesn't say anything he hasn't said several times before, but they bear noting in light of the church's implosion.

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Griswold said he voted to confirm V. Gene Robinson as bishop because he believes New Hampshire Episcopalians have the right to call as bishop whomever they choose. "I wasn't settling the question of sexuality," Griswold said. "I was affirming the choice of a diocese."

But it's not just a church government issue. Griswold truly doesn't have any problem with Robinson's 13-year homosexual relationship.

"'Discreet acts of homosexuality' were condemned in the Bible because they were acts of lust instead of the 'love, forgiveness, grace' of committed same-sex relationships," the AP quotes him saying. Got any Scripture to back that up, bishop?

"Homosexuality, as we understand it as an orientation, is not mentioned in the Bible," he said. "I think the confirmation of the bishop of New Hampshire is acknowledging what is already a reality in the life of the church and the larger society of which we are a part."

Ah, that's a fun bit of gameplaying. No, the Bible doesn't say that homosexual relationships can lead to "love, forgiveness, and grace," so therefore it doesn't mention homosexuality as Griswold understands it. But that's not to say that the Bible doesn't talk about homosexual behavior and temptation.

Such comments are the reason that some Anglican leaders, such as Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen, says it's time to boot the Episcopal Church (and the Canadian diocese of New Westminster, which voted to bless same-sex unions) out of the global church. "There is a limit to Communion. It comes when souls are put at risk by sustained institutional disobedience to the word of God," he writes in the Anglican magazine New Directions. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Jensen writes, has "misjudged the present situation and his peaceable approach has run out of time."

Related Elsewhere

Religious liberty:

Politics and law (U.S.):

  • Church-and-state standoffs spread over USA | From Winder, Ga., to Everett, Wash., Americans are squaring off in courthouses, classrooms and city halls over religious monuments in government buildings and parks (USA Today)

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  • High court to consider 'One nation, under God' petition | Among many appeals before the justices comes a battle over the place of religion in America (Los Angeles Times)

  • Inmates won't aid churches | Boulder sheriff halts practice after complaint (Rocky Mountain News)

  • Pentagon says it will review chaplain policy | Whether the chaplains are Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist, the military relies on religious groups themselves to recommend and to educate their own candidates (The New York Times)

  • Religious right opposes Schwarzenegger | Conservative groups say actor is no different than Gov. Davis (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • McClintock advisor looks to Bible as basis for law | John Stoos' writings outline his vision of an antiabortion city council and other such action by government. The candidate says he was 'not aware' of his aide's writings (Los Angeles Times)

  • Are they really Catholic? | Don't politicians, including political greenhorns like Schwarzenegger and Clark, have bishops willing to excommunicate them or at least reading them the riot act for trampling the Church's teachings underfoot? (Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI)

  • Cross his heart | When US televangelist Pat Robertson talks, millions of Americans listen. And what he's telling George W. Bush is to beware of dividing the Land of Israel and creating a Palestinian state (Michael Freund, The Jerusalem Post)

  • Toodling while Rome burns? | Evangelicals do not have an agreed-upon road map to guide us in matters of public policy (Joel Belz, World)

  • Gods and country | America's civil religion is becoming polytheistic, raising the question: Should we prefer a naked public square to the pagan alternative? (Gene Edward Veith, World)

  • Religiosity as social policy | Bush's plan is to have taxpayers underwrite conversion (Robyn E. Blumner, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Bullies in the pulpit | Will a political Catholic Church help or hinder the GOP? (Sarah Wildman, The American Prospect)

Politics (International):

  • BJP will attack Jogi's faith | The BJP has started a campaign that Sonia Gandhi is spreading Christianity in the country of Hindus (Sify, India)

  • Church leaders hit out at Mugabe | A letter, signed by clergy from 59 Christian denominations, said the government was no longer upholding justice and the rule of law (BBC)

Ten Commandments:

  • Suspended Ala. justice files appeal | Moore's Supreme Court brief made public Monday says the court "has failed to provide a uniform rule of law" on separation of church and state issues involving the public display of religious items (Associated Press)

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  • Suspended Chief Justice responds to critics | For the first time since filing his appeal, suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore is talking about his decision to take his Ten Commandments case to the nation's highest court (WSFA, Ala.)

  • Capitol rally backs Ten Commandments | State's leaders voice support (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • S.C. statehouse rally backs Ten Commandments | The "Keep the Commandments Caravan" is stopping in five states to protest recent court decisions banning the religious doctrine from display in government buildings (Associated Press)

  • Official advises jurors on God's law | Jeffco treasurer distributes guides (The Denver Post)

  • Ten Commandments issue divides Casper City council | The city will look into the possibility of selling the small portion of the park on which the monument sits to some private party (Associated Press)

  • It's not about God | It is not God's will these groups are fighting for, it's their own gnarled versions of religion (Kaffie Sledge, The Ledger-Enquirer, Columbus, Oh.)

  • The Ten Commandments on trial | Both the founding fathers of our republic and the author of the Ten Commandments themselves would have agreed on this: Thou shalt not take the Ten Commandments to court. The role of the Ten Commandments in people's lives is an individual matter, and their place in public facilities is a decision of state governments, not federal courts (David Davenport, Scripps Howard News Service)


  • Rwanda's laity isn't forgetting | During the 1994 massacres, not even churches were safe. Clergy are among the charged, and the nation is in a spiritual crisis (Los Angeles Times)

  • South Africa's churches, after apartheid | The Rev. Molefe Tsele knows that the scars of his country's tumultuous past still run deep (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Ethiopian Psalms to be returned | The 300-year-old book, 7in square and written in the old Ethiopian language of Ge'ez, was part of a huge haul taken by troops in the 1868 invasion of Ethiopia to free Western diplomats imprisoned by Emperor Theodore II (The Independent, London)

  • Film opens up life, faith of isolated Ugandan Jews | A new documentary focuses on Abayudaya people. It renews a contentious question for modern Judaism: Who is a Jew? (Los Angeles Times)


  • An audit for the soul | Most religious traditions have their penitential seasons and regular occasions, when the faithful are enjoined to "search your deeds." But taking stock of one's soul, regularly and systematically, is not exactly encouraged by a culture that makes "I'm learning not to be hard on myself" a guiding principle (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)

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  • Norwegians least religious in Europe | A new study suggests that one in 10 Norwegians say they're not religious at all, while most say they're only moderately so (Aftenposten, Oslo)

  • Valuing search over certainty | What do you do when you have deep spiritual needs; when you feel despair at the rigidity and lack of openness offered at your traditional church home; when you can no longer accept past dogmas and yet still want to follow a Christian path with others? (Tom Harpur, The Toronto Star)

  • Promises always kept | St. Joachim School remembers longtime custodian Hau Chung, a Hong Kong immigrant, who died last week (Los Angeles Times)


  • Halloween ban casts spell on campus | Administrators at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith said their decision to ban the likenesses reflects the values of the community (Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.)

  • Missouri school officials halt Gideons' Bible giveaways | Parent's complaint also prompts Elsberry School District to bar group from making presentations during school day (Associated Press)

  • Private schools leery of voucher trade-offs | The heads of a number of private schools in the District say they would be reluctant to participate in the voucher plan Congress is considering, fearing that the program's rules would compromise their schools' independence in admissions, hiring, and other decisions (The Washington Post)

Other religions:

  • Afghan constitution proposes Muslim state | But it stops short of imposing Islamic Shari'ah law (Associated Press)

  • Also: Afghan constitution seeks balance | Draft document charts a course between Islamic and secular values (The Washington Post)

  • 'Read the Koran' | Christians should read the Koran to gain a better understanding of their Muslim neighbours and bring peace to Africa, says the secretary general of the Lutheran World Federation (Beeld, South Africa)

  • Was the Islam of Old Spain truly tolerant? | The impulse to idealize runs strong. (The New York Times)

  • Saved from stoning | As the legal codes of more places reflect the influence of Koranic principles, known as Shari'ah, they must do so in ways that do not violate international law and the rights of their citizens (Editorial, The New York Times)

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  • Cultural movement kindles interest of secular Jews | Nearly 200 secular humanistic Jews in Seattle will gather this week to honor the culture and values of their people (USA Today)

  • Others call Bible Belt home, too | On the journey from what one of our lunch buddies called tolerance to acceptance to inclusion to oneness, every step forward counts (Ken Garfield, The Charlotte Observer)

  • Time after time | For some faiths, separate calendars mark the passing of the seasons (The Dallas Morning News)

Church life:


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  • Female vicar was stalked by woman | In a campaign lasting almost two years, Miss Erdal received silent phone calls, had eggs hurled at her rectory windows and obscene graffiti painted on her church walls (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Former priest arrested | Suspect cashed check made out to church, police say (The Times, Northwest Indiana)

  • Grand jury indicts Ohio man in shooting | Driver accused of firing a shotgun into a cornfield in an Amish community, killing a prankster who was throwing tomatoes at his car (Associated Press)

  • Colombia Catholic Church to help free tourists | Colombia's Roman Catholic Church said on Tuesday it accepted a government request to try to persuade leftist ELN rebels to free seven foreign tourists they kidnapped from a jungle ruin (Reuters)


  • A victim discovers hope in the parish | It was planned as a night to hand out leaflets, not a night to shake the church or rock the parishioners (Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times)

  • Clergy sex scammers? | Here's a wicked twist in the Boston clergy sex-abuse scandal: Now that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has offered $85 million to settle 552 complaints, two leading plaintiff lawyers are suggesting some of the claims might be bogus (Forbes)

  • Archdiocese delays naming the priests it will ban | New York's Catholic leadership decided to make a last-minute check with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that all was in order (The New York Times)

  • Geoghan ruling sparks anger | Alleged victims protest erasure of conviction (The Boston Globe)

  • Earlier: Ex-priest Geoghan's conviction vacated | He was killed in prison while his appeal was pending (Associated Press)

  • Convicted priest asks for sentence safer than prison | The lawyer for the Rev. Robert Kelley said the prison slaying of defrocked priest John Geoghan has him seeking a more "creative recommendation" for his client's sentencing (The Sentinel and Enterprise, Boston)

  • Church's therapy guidelines questioned | It appears the archdiocese may be struggling to provide the promised support while living with the administrative and financial ramifications of its pledge (The Boston Globe)


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The new cardinals:

  • The new cardinals' virtues | Just about every news outlet in the world is united on two certainties about these new princes of the Catholic Church: They are all conservative, and they were named by the pope as part of his supposed plan to guarantee a conservative successor. The common wisdom is wrong on both counts (Editorial, The Washington Times)

  • Archbishop is third Scottish cardinal since the Reformation | Catholic leader is relaxed about an end to celibacy vows (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Pope leaves O'Malley off his list of 31 new cardinals | Some scholars had expected O'Malley to be included among this group of appointees, both because Boston's archbishops have traditionally been cardinals and because naming O'Malley a cardinal could signal the Vatican's support for him and for the Archdiocese of Boston as the new archbishop endeavors to heal the wounds caused by the clergy sexual abuse crisis (The Boston Globe)

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