Published Bi-weekly by TPC Publications, Inc.
Publishers of The Progressive Christian Magazine
NeXus EDITOR Cynthia B. Astle, [email protected]
NeXus PUBLISHER Kathleen Palmer, [email protected]
Volume 1, Number 9

World Council of Churches Presidents’ Message - Pentecost 2008
Separations and Connections
By Lane Denson
Promise Keeper - A Mother Speaks Against the War that Killed Her Son
By Cynthia B. Astle


BURMA CYCLONE: As of May 6, some 22,000 people were believed dead and another 41,000 injured or missing in Myanmar (Burma) after tropical cyclone Nargis pushed ashore over the weekend, reported various news agencies. As one of the few church-related agencies with a permit to work in Myanmar, Church World Service, the relief arm of the National Council of Churches USA, posted an emergency appeal.
“BBC News reports three-quarters of structures in the Irrawaddy region were destroyed by fierce winds, rain and storm surge. A United Nations relief worker in Yangon tells the Associated Press [that] villages in the Irrawaddy Delta have been completely flattened. On Haing-gyi Island, along the country’s southwest coast, an estimated 20,000 homes have been destroyed, leaving at least 90,000 homeless.” In response, the CWS Asia Regional Office is in contact with the Myanmar Council of Churches and plans to expand its initial appeal for support for longer-term recovery efforts. Donate online or send donations to Church World Service, PO Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515 with designation: Myanmar (Burma) cyclone Nargis response (#699-A).

PERSECUTION: Ecumenical News International reports that former Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunonga says members of his church in Zimbabwe fear persecution, as police in Harare barred worshippers from attending church services at the city’s Anglican cathedral. The action by armed police came after Kunonga filed a claim in Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court claiming control of church property. Witnesses told ENI that police officers barred them from entering the cathedral in central Harare on May 4 for their main church service.

COMPASSION FORUM: Faith in Public Life this week dispatched a newsletter including various commentators’ praise for its Compassion Forum, held in early April at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. Writes FPL Executive Director Jennifer Butler: “More than a year ago, FPL’s Director of Communications Strategy, Katie Barge, conceived the idea of the Compassion Forum, an unprecedented bipartisan presidential discussion of pressing moral issues that are bridging ideological divides in the faith community. . . . Americans motivated by faith are bridging ideological divides to address domestic and international poverty, global AIDS, climate change, abortion, genocide in Darfur, and human rights and torture.” The 90-minute forum with Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was broadcast live on CNN and CNN International. Video. Faith in Public Life plans to set up another Compassion Forum this fall with the Democratic nominee and Sen. John McCain, the apparent Republican nominee.

JUSTICE MOVEMENT: Faith in Public Life also mentions a June 8-10 gathering called “Envision: The Gospel, Politics and the Future.” According to its website, “Envision ‘08 is about the power of the gospel to transform the public square. It’s about Jesus and justice, evangelical history and heritage, and practiced theology. It’s about the next one hundred years of the church and its impact on the common good.” The event will take place at Princeton University in Princeton, NJ. Its intended result is to create a vision statement to guide Christian involvement in the public sphere. Drafting the document will begin with an online dialogue June 2 - 4, not May 12 - 14 as previously noted.

CASE OF LOG-EYE: Meanwhile, a group of evangelical scholars and authors led by social critic Os Guinness has issued “An Evangelical Manifesto” that condemns Christians at both ends of the political spectrum for using faith to express political views “without regard to the truth of the Bible,” according to a draft that the Associated Press obtained May 2. The declaration encourages Christians to be politically engaged, but adds that evangelicals have often expressed “truth without love.” “All too often we have attacked the evils and injustices of others,” they wrote, “while we have condoned our own sins.” (See Matthew 7:5).

RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL? The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, reflects on the trend toward being “spiritual” rather than “religious” using one of today’s most prominent nondenominational Christians – Bono of the Irish rock band U2 as an example. The archbishop quotes the musician: “I’m not into religion. I am completely anti-religious. Religion is a term for a collection, a denomination. I am interested in personal experience of God.” The archbishop’s talk, part of a series on faith in Britain, is available in both text and podcast. Be forewarned: The archbishop is, after all, a church scholar, and he talks like it. But his insights make the effort worthwhile.

SCENT-SIBLE STUDY: Here’s this week’s climate change update: The Washington Post reports that Dr. Jose D. Fuentes, an environmental sciences professor at the University of Virginia, and graduate students Quinn S. McFrederick and James C. Kathilankal, appear to have solved a part of the puzzle about why the world’s bees are disappearing. Their mathematical model shows that ozone levels have gotten so bad, bees can’t smell the flowers they’re supposed to be pollinating. Most bees have poor eyesight, which makes scent particularly important, the researchers wrote in the March issue of the academic journal Atmospheric Environment (which doesn’t appear to have an online version). Without pollen to feed their colonies, the bees die off. When the bees die off, fewer flowers and vegetables are pollinated, reducing the world’s food supply for many species, including humans. For information on religious organizations’ efforts to get governments, business and individuals to reduce their carbon emissions, see the 1Sky Coalition, the Evangelical Climate Initiative, or the Eco-Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches USA.

A-LISTERS: Bartholomeos I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, has joined the Dalai Lama as one of two international religious figures named in the “Time 100″ list, the people deemed by Time magazine to be the world’s most influential people, reported Ecumenical News International. In a tribute to the 68-year-old Bartholomeos appearing in the May 12 issue, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, praised the “green patriarch” by noting Bartholomeos’ commitment to addressing issues related to the environment.

‘BUTT OUT.’ ‘SAME TO YOU.’: Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent a sharp letter April 29 to Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, asking him not to appear at an event last weekend in the Fort Worth, TX, Diocese headed by Bishop Jack Iker. Jefferts Schori said Venables’ appearance “with the expressed purpose of describing removal to the Province of the Southern Cone is an unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province.” In return, the Christian Post reported that Bishop Iker told his presiding bishop – whose authority he doesn’t recognize because he won’t ordain women — to mind her own business. Iker’s diocese has completed two of the steps required to withdraw from the Episcopal Church USA and join Venables’ branch along with the breakaway Diocese of San Joaquin (CA).

FAITH AND POLITICS: The Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life held a panel discussion May 1 to ask experts about the movement of religious progressives into politics and how they might affect this year’s election. Moderated by Senior Pew Fellow John Green, the panel included Laura Olson, author of the forthcoming book with the working title, Generals Without an Army: The Protestant Left in American Politics; Jennifer Butler, author of Born Again: The Christian Right Mobilized; and Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United. Transcript and video.

NOT MONOLITHIC: Hispanic evangelicals are another group that pundits are saying could affect the 2008 elections, and they’re not as monolithic as others might think, contends the Rev. Nino Gonzalez in an Orlando Sentinel story. Pastor at the Assemblies of God megachurch, Iglesia el Calvario south of Orlando, Gonzalez is an emerging national Hispanic leader who was propelled into politics by last year’s debate over immigration reform. See TPC NeXus Quotables. Sentinel writers Mark I. Pinsky and Jeannette Rivera-Iyles report that some experts expect Hispanic Pentecostals to be an important swing vote in the 2008 elections in key demographic battlegrounds such as Florida, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and North Carolina.

MARTIN AND MALCOLM: The furor over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has some folks taking another look at the 40-year-old perspectives of black liberation theology, including its view that God gives special privilege to oppressed peoples, reports a New York Times article by Michael Powell. Among those Powell interviewed was Dr. James H. Cone, one of the theology’s founders. “Christianity was seen as the white man’s religion,” Cone told the NY Times. “I wanted to say: ‘No! The Christian Gospel is not the white man’s religion. It is a religion of liberation, a religion that says God created all people to be free.’ But I realized that for black people to be free, they must first love their blackness. … You might say we took our Christianity from Martin [Luther King Jr.] and our emphasis on blackness from Malcolm [X],” he said.

FAMILY TROUBLES: Meanwhile, Dr. Wright’s own denomination, the United Church of Christ, is struggling with his provocative statements like his estranged parishioner, Sen. Barack Obama, the New York Times reported. The Rev. John H. Thomas, the denomination’s president, posted an open letter May 1 on the United Church of Christ’s web site saying he had heard concern from members about the well-being of the church and its congregations. The NY Times quoted Thomas: “While there is high regard for Reverend Wright’s ministry and leadership at Trinity U.C.C. in Chicago during the past 36 years, and for his prophetic, scriptural preaching, many of us today are troubled by some of his controversial comments and the substance and manner in which they have been communicated, both by him and as characterized by the media.”

NIGERIA PEACE EFFORTS: Nigerian Christian and Muslim religious leaders are meeting in the northern city of Maiduguri, seeking ways to rebuild broken relationships that were once harmonious between the two largest faiths in Africa’s most populous nation, reported Ecumenical News International. Conflicts, often triggered by inter-religious tensions, in the past 30 years are said to have claimed more than half a million lives and to have led to the displacement of millions in a country that has not officially experienced a war for four decades.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS: The United Methodist Church’s top legislative body, meeting April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, TX, has urged justice for migrants worldwide and reform of U.S. immigration laws, according to a United Methodist News Service report by Andrew J Schliecher. Unfortunately, the church’s support has come too late for some 66 immigrants who’ve died under suspicious circumstances while in custody. The New York Times reported on the death of Boubacar Bah, a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea who overstayed a tourist visa. His large circle of family and friends still have few details about how he died.

BODY OF WAR: Antiwar activist Celeste Zappala, a United Methodist, has recommended a new documentary, “Body of War,” which premiered this week in her hometown of Philadelphia. “It is the very powerful story of Tomas Young a soldier who was shot and paralyzed in early April 2004. It follows his struggle, family and eventual decision to bravely speak out … Most effectively the film intersperses Tomas’ story with the vote for war in 2002 and the faces, lies and paranoia of those days.” A co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, Ms. Zappala has actively campaigned against the war since her oldest son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed in Iraq April 26, 2004. (See this week’s Context). The website also reviews the documentary.

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