Friday, April 30, 2010

Safe From Persecution, a refugee group finds a home church in Albany NY

There's an "amazing grace" Methodist church in Albany, NY called Emmaus--it has taken in and resettled many refugees including survivors of a 2004 massacre in a United Nations refugee camp called Gatumba, which lies in Burundi near the border with Congo.
    "After decades of ethnic oppression, the Banyamulenge, third-generation Christians, identify strongly with the tribulations of Old Testament Jews. In their gospel songs, the survivors seek solace from the violence at Gatumba, which echoed the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s, and still threatens those they left behind.

    Albany might seem an unlikely place for resettlement of refugees like Christine Nyabatware, a widow with five small children, and Butoto Ndbarishe, 13, whose twin sister was killed at his side during the massacre, along with his father, a pastor, and two brothers. But since the first family arrived here in March, coatless and stunned to find what appeared to be a cold desert of leafless trees, the city has become a beacon to other Gatumba survivors around the country. . . “The Americans show us love,” said Mr. Mandevu after a potluck meal in the basement of the church, where a congregation that includes members from Pakistan, Iran and the Philippines traded hugs. “People are so nice. Here no one can throw stones on you."

Safe From Persecution, Still Bearing Its Scars - New York Times

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg (1746-1807)

John Muhlenberg, Lutheran and Anglican pastor, was discussed on tonight's Glenn Beck show about the Black Regiment--the pastors who led in the colonies' fight for independence from Britain. He was the eldest son of Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, Lutheran missionary to America and for whom Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania is named.

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg (1746-1807), University of Pennsylvania Archives

The epic story of the heroic Muhlenberg family,...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Augsburg Fortress Pensions

"Employees and retirees of Minneapolis publisher Augsburg Fortress are suing their employer, alleging in their complaint that it allowed their pension plan to fail, and used its connection to the Lutheran church as a legal shield to avoid paying them all their pensions.

The suit, filed in federal court in Minneapolis on Wednesday, comes more than three months after the company announced it was terminating the plan, saying it had been underfunded for nine years. The plan had only $8.6 million to pay $24.2 million in pension obligations to 500 employees and retirees, said the company, which publishes books for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, including hymnals, the works of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Garrison Keillor's latest book."

Publisher's Employees Sue Over Church-Related Pension -

Pension Rights explained

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What's the point if there is no point?

From Genesis to Revelation, it is all about Jesus and salvation. That's the point. When Christians begin pointing to Easter just once a year, that's when we get into trouble and start working on getting to heaven on our own steam or denying what we have to others.

Yesterday I "fanned" a site recommended by a member of my church. On the Facebook page I thought the "mission statement" sounded a bit academic, almost jargon of the type that often signals trouble ahead. My years as a liberal didn't fail me. I clicked over to the webpage of this group that attempts to save people from some of the horrors of this life--mostly political and material--evidence that we do indeed live in a fallen world. There was not a word about Jesus on any page I looked at. It was Christ-less, God-less and hope-less, and it quickly brought me back to 1974 when I looked out the dining room window of my nice home in the suburbs with adorable healthy children and happy marriage and realized I didn't know God and it meant nothing.

The Gospel is also for believers. It is by hearing it from our pulpits or in our small groups or in our mission work, even if some think it's too often and too much, that the good news takes us out of our own little séance of navel gazing, thinking it's all about us.

Too often organized Christianity uses the misfortunes of others either to whip themselves into guilt over material blessings or to elevate themselves by doing good works. The poor and hungry need the gospel just as much as the CEO out in the suburbs with the comfortable home and fat investment account, so let's not leave them without hope in the event we don't get the well dug or the school opened or the home built as we move on to the next crisis that hits the headlines.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

LutheranCORE - Theological Implications of the 2009 ELCA Decisions

The LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) has consistently expressed its understanding that same-gender sexual activity is contrary to the Scriptures. It has also joined together with the other 33 members of the International Lutheran Council in unanimously affirming that:
    [T]he lifelong committed union of one man and one woman is the place the Lord intends for human sexuality to be lived out. Biblical passages which address the practice of homosexuality do so in terms of disapproval. Rooted in the Bible‘s witness and in keeping with Christian teaching through 2000 years, we continue to believe that the practice of homosexuality—in any and all situations—violates the will of the Creator God and must be recognized as sin.
While the current discord in Lutheranism and other Christian traditions regarding these questions is distressing in many ways, we believe this is also a time of opportunity. Many are asking not only what various churches teach and practice, but are also wondering about the theological implications of these beliefs and practices. In debates about homosexual issues, churches have an opportunity to testify to even more foundational truths and convictions, such as different understandings of biblical authority and also a different understanding of marriage. This is revelatory of something more than matters of sexuality and sexual behavior.

Full document LutheranCORE - Theological Implications of the 2009 ELCA Decisions

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The first time I watched this Vidi Aquam by the monks of St. Bernard Abbey I didn't realize there were 5 singers, because of the formating--couldn't see the man on the far right. I was watching the director, whom no one was watching except perhaps from the corner of their eye. Two men have their hand inside their robes; one appears to have 12 fingers; the director slips in a little smile--either because he knows what he's saying (I don't), or he's just really pleased with the sound and quality.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Coloring inside the lines

Yesterday at Marc's I bought three Bible stories coloring books for 99 cents each. The drawings probably aren't great art, but the stories of Noah, David, Adam and Eve, Moses and Job are accurate and faithful to Scripture. A Christian who knows the hope of a Redeemer for sin and how that story is woven through out the Old Testament can use this book easily to explain things to children.

I loved coloring books when I was a kid, and it didn't squash my talent at all (you are born with talent and no amount of "expressing" yourself throwing globs on canvas will create what isn't there). I drew and wrote stories all the time--especially about horses and dogs. I particularly enjoyed coloring as a group activity where we could discuss and debate the colors, and why you chose to do something a certain way. It was only the academics in art, teachers and the critics who decided learning to color inside the lines was bad for creativity. Hey! Not everyone can be a leader--this world needs some good followers, too!

Here's another example of "inside the lines" working outward. Mary Polin was a professor education steeped in the radical assumptions of deconstructivism--advancing her career by deciding authors didn't really mean what they said, and that truth was simply a social construction bound to culture and gender which today's academic could set free.

Then in 1993 she met Jesus and was really set free from radical feminism and secular humanism. She then began to write the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs out by hand, word for word, and as she did so, her mind began to heal. That's a beautiful story (found in "A professor reconstructed," A faith and culture devotional, by Kelly Kullberg and Lael Arrington, Zondervan, 2008). Kelly is on Facebook and so are the fans of this book. And I see her husband regularly at the coffee shop.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The churches and the U.S. Census

Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio wants me to be sure to complete my Census form to bring much-needed federal dollars to help pay for community and social services (The Leader Newsletter, Spring, 2010). For every person not counted, Ohio could lose $12,000 over the 10-year census cycle we‘re told. Yes, Jesus was adamant about asking the government for money so we could “love our neighbor.”