Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sheila Jackson Lee falsely claims Dems never tried to impeach George Bush


Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, falsely claims Democrats never tried to impeach George W. Bush.Jeff Dunetz

Getty Images

July 31, 2014

While speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the Texas Democrat once dubbed the "Congressional boss from Hell," falsely claimed Democrats never tried to impeach George W. Bush. There's only one problem, as Jeff Dunetz noted at Yid with Lid. Not only did Democrats try to impeach Bush, Jackson Lee sponsored the measure.

"I ask my colleagues to oppose this resolution for it is in fact a veiled attempt at impeachment and it undermines the law that allows a president to do his job," she said, speaking against a GOP resolution authorizing a lawsuit against President Obama. "A historical fact: President Bush pushed this nation into a war it had little to do with apprehending terrorists. We did not seek an impeachment of President Bush, because as an executive, he had his authority. President Obama has the authority."

But, Dunetz noted, former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, introduced H.Res.1258, a measure intended to impeach Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors in June 2008. The 167-page measure was sponsored by 11 Democrats -- Barbara Lee of California, Robert Wexler of Florida, Lynn Woolsey of California, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Maurice Hinchey of New York, Sam Farr of California, Ed Towns of New York, Jim McDermott of Washington, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Bob Filner of California, the disgraced former mayor of San Diego. Listed last, but certainly not least, is Sheila Jackson Lee.

Dunetz wondered if Jackson Lee was either "lying or too stupid to remember" that she had sponsored the bill. After all, she once claimed the Constitution is 400 years old.

"Granted it was over six years ago and she is of feeble mind, but it is all in Govtrack (it's in as well)," he noted. The bill, according to Govtrack, was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, but died.

It's not the only impeachment measure Kucinich filed against Bush, however. In July 2008, he introduced a shorter measure, H. Res 1345, alleging Bush "deceived Congress with fabricated threats of Iraq weapons of mass destruction to fraudulently obtain support for the authorization of use of force against Iraq and to commit troops to combat in Iraq."

That measure attracted four sponsors, including Lee, Wexler, Filner and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. That measure also died. Jackson Lee did not sign on as a co-sponsor, however, she or her staff could easily have found the measure had they done their homework.

"So I ask you dear readers was Ms. Jackson Lee be succumbing to her low metal capacity when she said the Democrats never tried to impeach Bush 43? You know--something like the time she stood on the floor of the house discussing how North and South Vietnam are living peacefully side by side, even though there hasn't been both a North and South Vietnam since Gerald Ford was President," Dunetz asked. Or, he added, was she simply lying?


In Church Attics, Clues to the Private Life of Early America

JULY 29, 2014

Preserving the Church’s Past

Margaret Bendroth, the executive director at the Congregational Library in Boston, reflected on its mission to preserve centuries-old artifacts that come from churches in Massachusetts. Video Credit By Katherine Taylor on Publish Date July 29, 2014.

STURBRIDGE, Mass. — Sarah Blanchard was sorry she skipped a worship service. Sarah Wood apologized for denouncing infant baptisms. And as for the Cheneys, Joseph and Abigail? Well, “with shame, humiliation and sorrow,” they acknowledged having had sex before marriage.

More than 250 years ago, their confessions of sin were dutifully logged by the minister of the church here, alongside records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, notes about meetings heated and routine, accounts of finances, texts of sermons, and, in some cases, personal accounts of conversion experiences from young adults. 

Now, in a regionwide scavenger hunt, a pair of historians is rummaging through New England church basements and attics, file cabinets, safes and even coat closets, searching for these records of early American life. The historians are racing against inexorable church closings, occasional fires, and a more mundane but not uncommon peril: the actual loss of documents, which most often occurs when a church elder dies and no one can remember the whereabouts of historical papers.

A congregation record dating to 1744, found in the basement of a church in Dudley, Mass. Credit Katherine Taylor for The New York Times

“I have seen them be destroyed, lost, covered with mold or just forgotten,” said the Rev. Janet Leighninger, the pastor of the Federated Church of Sturbridge and Fiskdale here. “And as finances get tighter, as they are everywhere, and as congregations shrink, and they are doing that in many places, it becomes a matter of, ‘Do we do the ministry we are called to do, or do we preserve the past?’ ”

The historians — James Fenimore Cooper Jr., a professor of history at Oklahoma State University, and Margaret Bendroth, the executive director of the Congregational Library in Boston — are trying to persuade small town church leaders to turn over their records for digitization and preservation. They are focusing largely on Massachusetts because the record keeping there was especially careful, and on congregational churches, or their successors, because those were the official churches in colonial Massachusetts.

“There is no other discrete set of sources that will similarly transport us into colonial America,” said Dr. Cooper, who has been searching for hidden church records for years. Among the treasures he has described: a 1773 application from a slave named Cuffee to join a church in Middleboro.

The records, especially those that are not bound into books, are often in poor shape. In Sturbridge, a church member in 1896 described a set of papers as “much worn and mutilated”; now, more than a century later, those same papers are in a faded yellow envelope marked “extremely poor condition.” The churches themselves, which are Protestant and are called Congregational because each is independent and has the authority to make its own decisions, are endangered as well. There remain 372 in Massachusetts affiliated with the United Church of Christ, the largest congregational denomination, down from 625 in 1932.

James Fenimore Cooper Jr. worked with Linda Grant, the administrator of the Faith Community Church of Hopkinton, Mass., to find and preserve treasures. Credit Katherine Taylor for The New York Times

The record-retrieval effort is painstaking. Every summer, Dr. Cooper (no relation to the 19th-century author; his grandparents were just admirers) and Dr. Bendroth travel from church to church, trying to persuade ministers and lay leaders to part with treasured documents. In some cases, churches are excited to do so. But for some of the churches, letting go of documents is difficult — the papers, even if brittle and faded, are a form of patrimony, like silver and pewter communion vessels, to be treasured.

One evening this summer, Dr. Cooper visited the Federated Church of Sturbridge and Fiskdale, a congregation that resulted from a merger of several different churches and that is now affiliated with the United Church of Christ, the American Baptist Churches, and the Unitarian Universalist Association. The congregation’s records — at least those representing its congregational past, which began in 1736 — had been retrieved from a safe at a member’s office.

As about a dozen members of a church council sat on folding chairs and tired couches, Dr. Cooper made his pitch. He showed them an iPad photo of a recent church fire in Somers, Conn., as a cautionary tale, and he urged them to make a permanent, but revocable, loan of the records to the Congregational Library, which could store them in a climate-controlled rare book room. After a number of questions about security, access and backup plans, and a brief closed-door debate, the congregation agreed. Ms. Leighninger called the decision a relief and a godsend, because the records would be protected and available to genealogists, historians and anyone else through the library’s digital archive.

Dr. Cooper methodically went through dozens of documents, looking for those published before 1860, and choosing about 25 he deemed of historical significance. There were letters bound with string, accounts of “meetings of the brethren,” lists of “confessions for scandals and offenses,” and ledgers detailing the activities of the Sturbridge Ladies Benevolent Society. He packed them in boxes and loaded them in his red Prius before walking across the street to take pictures of the historic cemetery in the fading light.

Dr. Cooper, a historian at Oklahoma State University, looked over documents at the First Congregational Church of Dudley, Mass. He and a colleague, Margaret Bendroth, are visiting churches in New England in their search for records of early American life. Credit Katherine Taylor for The New York Times

The next day, in Dudley, Mass., where a congregation was established in 1732, Thompson Boyd, a history teacher who volunteers as the church’s historian, showed Dr. Cooper a page from a Bible translated into Algonquian by John Eliot, who was seeking to convert the local Nipmuc Indians. There were also notes for an 1822 sermon (opening line: “The corruption of mankind is very great”); molten metal from the church’s bell before it was destroyed by fire; and shards of glass from a stained-glass window before it was blown out in a hurricane. The church’s documents had been kept in a narthex cloakroom for years, but were recently moved into a locked fireproof file cabinet.

Mr. Boyd said he would have to discuss with his church’s council whether to allow the transfer of the documents to Boston for safekeeping, noting that from time to time people stop by looking for records of their ancestors, and that they like seeing the original papers.

“I have mixed feelings,” he said. “I still use them. But what if something happens to me?”

A few hours later, Dr. Cooper and Dr. Bendroth visited an evangelical congregation in Hopkinton, Mass. Faith Community Church is the successor of the original Congregational church in town, founded in 1724, and had the original records carefully cataloged, boxed and stored in a locked basement room, alongside an early pastor’s 1740 Queen Anne side chair with a bullet hole in the back.

The documents included a list of excommunicants and notification of a fine levied against a local man who resisted joining the Army during the Revolution, as well as multiple “relations” — letters describing faith journeys. They include one from Benjamin Pond, who described how, despite being raised in a Christian home, he had fallen “into a state of stupidity and wickedness” until, after multiple deaths in his family, including of his child, he had a conversion experience. “That’s the first time that’s been heard in 200 years,” Dr. Bendroth said after reading Mr. Pond’s relation. “I just think that’s really amazing.”

A version of this article appears in print on July 30, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Church Attics, Private Life of Early America.  


Best Seat In The House Of Worship: The Temple Hollywood Built

by Susan Stamberg
July 31, 2014 5:07 AM ET

Listen to the Story
Morning Edition
7 min 19 sec

The Wilshire Boulevard Temple (pictured above circa 1939) was dedicated 85 years ago in 1929. Rabbi Steve Leder says, "This was the Los Angeles Jewish community's statement to itself — and to the majoritarian culture that surrounded it — that 'We are here, and we are prepared to be a great cultural and religious and civic force in our community.' " Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

There's an 85-year-old building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles that has been a venue for the Dalai Lama, the LA Philharmonic and even scenes in Entourage and The West Wing. But extracurricular activities aside, the Wilshire Boulevard Temple is a house of worship. Recently refurbished, and given a preservation award by the Los Angeles Conservancy, the temple has a special place in the history of Hollywood.

At the top of the temple's dome are the words of the Hebrew prayer Shema: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." Tom Bonner/

Rabbi Steve Leder is much too discreet to share the names of his movie-biz congregants, but he will say that some big-time Hollywood studio heads, producers, directors, writers and agents have attended the temple over the years. Some of the congregants who helped build — which was dedicated in 1929 — were pillars of the movie industry. Their descendants worship here today.

The restored Moorish-style sanctuary, complete with pillars and stained glass, is massive and magnificent.

"It would be one thing if this was in Paris or Rome or Florence or even Manhattan," Leder says. "But this is Los Angeles. There's nothing like this in Los Angeles."

Modeled after Rome's Pantheon, the Wilshire temple was built by movie moguls — Louis B. Mayer of MGM; Irving Thalberg, MGM's production head; Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal; and the Warner brothers. They all deployed craftsmen from their studios to adorn the temple.

"They brought in their guys," Leder says. And their "guys" put Hollywood touches on what the rabbi calls this Jewish cathedral.

Imposing marble columns aren't marble at all — they're hollow.

"They're plaster painted and waxed to look like marble," Leder explains. "So there's a lot of Hollywood trickery, and it brought together the best of both worlds. It melded the techniques of great religious architecture and the techniques of Hollywood set design."

Just like most movie theaters — but unlike most sanctuaries — the Wilshire Boulevard Temple has no center aisle — after all, that's where the best seats are. Tom Bonner/

Unlike most sanctuaries, Wilshire Boulevard Temple has no center aisle. Why?

"Because these guys built movie theaters," Leder says. "There's never a center aisle in a movie theater either — it's where the best seats are. Why would you put an aisle where the best seats are?"

With the money they made from The Jazz Singer — the first talking picture — the Warner brothers paid for a gleaming mural of Bible scenes, painted by studio artist Hugo Ballin. The synagogue is lavish, with a gilded, coffered ceiling, filigreed brass doors and a soaring dome.

"These were Hollywood Jews," Leder says. "They were theatrical and they were visual. And so they decided, well, that's all well and good that Jews have been shy and timid about this — we are not."

The Wilshire Boulevard Temple under construction circa 1928. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

This is how the interior of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple looked just after it opened, circa 1930. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

They moved their temple — it was founded in 1862 — and changed its name. B'nai Brith became Wilshire Boulevard Temple. These Jews originally came from Germany and Eastern Europe. They were raised in Orthodox Jewish households. And in building this temple they were saying: We are assimilated Americans. Their larger-than-life rabbi, Edgar Magnin — who served for almost 70 years — was the driving force of the building, and the Jewish community.

"I sort of describe him as the John Wayne of rabbis," says Neal Gabler, author of the 1989 book An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood.

"He felt it was his job to be an ambassador from the Jewish community to the gentile community. Some people called him 'Cardinal Magnin.' "

Magnin was also known as "Rabbi to the stars." Over the decades those stars included the Marx brothers, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, the Three Stooges and Henry Winkler — "The Fonz." Magnin was himself a star in Hollywood. He appeared at all the important events and even took voice lessons to grab the attention of his congregation. He was a showman, creating an aesthetic theater — a movie palace for religion, but a secularized religion.

"In Hollywood, for many, many, many, many years, the studios were open and operating on Saturday," Gabler says. "Even though virtually every studio was run by a Jew, that didn't stop them. There was no day of rest."

Observant or not, the Wilshire Boulevard Temple moguls were culturally Jewish, and sensitive to world events. By the early 1940s, while Nazism enveloped Europe, Harry Warner felt Hollywood should sound the alarm in films.

The Warner Bros. studio provided the colorful murals that recount the history of Judaism as they stretch across the walls inside the Wilshire Boulevard Temple's huge, gold-domed sanctuary. Louis B. Mayer of MGM gave the stained glass windows. Jae C. Hong/AP

"He was the only mogul that wanted to depict what was happening in Germany," says Martin Kaplan, who ran a conference on propaganda in World War II Hollywood, at the University of Southern California's Norman Lear center.

"But the other studios were afraid of losing the German market revenues, which were enormous, and so they didn't want to risk it. And the Roosevelt administration wasn't happy to see Hollywood being anti-Nazi because they were afraid that it would get the American public to press them to enter World War II."

All that ended when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Then the Wilshire Boulevard Temple moguls — and the film industry — filled their silver screens with American patriotism. And they prayed for peace in their glorious house of God. It was a house that Hollywood built — an announcement of arrival and ambition, says Leder:

"This was the Los Angeles Jewish community's statement to itself — and to the majoritarian culture that surrounded it — that 'We are here, and we are prepared to be a great cultural and religious and civic force in our community.' "

Now Wilshire Boulevard Temple is building a family resource center — with free dental and vision care — for its primarily Korean- and Spanish-speaking neighbors. A celebratory groundbreaking party drew temple members from all over LA. They stood in the bright Southern California sun, sipping that beloved old American Jewish drink: sangria.


These are the women helping child migrants as they make their way to the US (VIDEO)

Deborah Bonello

July 15, 2014 10:39

While the United States is grappling with how to handle the thousands of child migrants arriving at its borders from Central America, a group of women in central Mexico has quietly attended to them for years.

VERACRUZ, Mexico — While the United States is grappling with how to handle the thousands of child migrants arriving at its borders from Central America, a group of women in central Mexico has been quietly attending to them for years.

"Las Patronas" throw bags of food and bottles of water to the travelers who speed by on the train heading north to the US-Mexico border.

"Before it was just the men who migrated, but not anymore. The whole family goes — women, pregnant women, young children and babies. We've seen mothers on the train with their babies," says Julia Ramirez of Las Patronas as she spoons rice into bags to be wrapped up and thrown onto the trains.

Thousands of migrants traveling north from countries like Honduras and El Salvador ride on the top of the freight trains, known as "La Bestia" or The Beast, that rumble through Mexico every day. The children who are increasingly making that journey are even more vulnerable than their adult counterparts. Death and mutilation under La Bestia is a huge risk, as is extortion and murder at the hands of criminal gangs and corrupt Mexican officials. For women migrants, rape is a constant threat.

With international attention now focused on what NGOs and the United Nations are dubbing a "humanitarian crisis" on the US-Mexico border, the Mexican government has finally acknowledged a problem it's been ignoring for decades. Mexico's Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong said in a radio interview Friday that the time has come to halt the dangerous journeys north.

"The Beast is for cargo, not passengers," said Chong, vowing to take responsbilty for those migrants in Mexican territory.

However, the move could spell even more danger for Central American migrants here, placing more power into the hand of Mexican immigration officials and forcing those moving north to find other, more invisible, routes.


Sunday Law News Report - Power Brokers


Published on Jul 18, 2014 - Right now there are seven tremendously large and powerful organizations that promote Sunday as the day of rest. These huge entities comprise Catholic and Protestant churches that together represent billions of Christians worldwide.

It seems as though there's no hope for the little company of Sabbath keepers. How can the small group of God's remnant hope to withstand the tide of these monstrously large organizations?

The deadly wound is about to be healed. We are in the final stages of life being breathed into the beast. What is your plan of action?

Former World Bank Lawyer Exposes Jesuits and Vatican


Published on Nov 8, 2013

Former World Bank lawyer Karen Hudes calls out the Jesuits and the Vatican in this interesting online interview.

From Protestant-Historicism to Jesuit-Dispensationalism/Futurism (Christianity Hijacked)


Published on Mar 24, 2014

The Reformers, as well as most early (non-Catholic) Christians were Historicist. "Historicism" as defined by Wikipedia ( "is a method of interpretation in Christian eschatology which associates biblical prophecies with actual historical events... This broad form of HISTORICISM HELD SWAY IN CHRISTIANITY FROM THE 4th CENTURY UNTIL [and throughout] THE REFORMATION. The Protestant Reformation was born in reaction to the Catholic doctrine of works-only salvation and identifying the papacy as the Antichrist. Protestant historicists saw prophecy fulfilled down through the centuries and into the modern era. Rather than expecting a single Antichrist to rule the earth during a future Tribulation period, Martin Luther, John Calvin and other Protestant Reformers saw the Antichrist as a present feature in the world of their time, fulfilled in the papacy. They were unanimous in this interpretation lending emphasis to their reformation. It led them to protest against Rome and it became their rally and battle cry. Isaac Newton was a strong proponent of the historicist approach especially in the work published in 1733 after his death: Observations upon the Prophesies of the Book of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John which has a similar stance toward the papacy of the reformers. Controversial features of the Reformation's Historicist interpretation is the identification of the Antichrist (1 and 2 John), the Beasts of Revelation 13, the Man of Sin (or Man of Lawlessness) in 2 Thessalonians 2, the "Little horn" of Daniel 7 and 8, and the Whore of Babylon (Revelation 17) with the Roman Catholic Church, the Papacy and Papal States, and each successive Pope himself. Out of the Reformation came the Counter Reformation... As such, the pro-Catholic positions took root when the Jesuit Doctor of Theology, Francisco Ribera proposed Futurism in 1590, as well as the Spanish Jesuit Luis de Alcazar who proposed Preterism." (Wikipedia, "Historicism (Christianity)) **** "First, note the fact that Rome's reply to the Reformation in the 16th century included an answer to the prophetic teachings of the Reformers. Through the Jesuits Ribera and Bellarmine, Rome put forth her futurist interpretation of prophecy. Ribera was a Jesuit priest of Salamanca. In 1585 he published a commentary on the Apocalypse, denying the application of the prophecies concerning antichrist to the existing Church of Rome. He was followed by Cardinal Bellarmine, a nephew of Pope Marcellus II...Bellarmine, like Ribera, advocated the futurist interpretation of prophecy. He taught that antichrist would be one particular man, that he would be a Jew, that he would be preceded by the reappearance of the literal Enoch and Elias, that he would rebuild the Jewish temple at Jerusalem, compel circumcision, abolish the Christian sacraments, abolish every other form of religion, would manifestly and avowedly deny Christ, would assume to be Christ, and would be received by the Jews as their Messiah, would pretend to be God, would make a literal image speak, would feign himself dead and rise again, and would conquer the whole world, Christian, Mohammedan, and heathen; and all this in the space of three and a half years. He insisted that the prophecies of Daniel, Paul and John, with reference to the antichrist, had no application whatever to the Papal power." (Romanism and the Reformation - H. Grattan Guinness) **** "Historicism, once the dominant view of Protestants from the Reformation until the middle of the last century, appears to exert little attraction as a system of prophetic interpretation to conservative Christians (outside of Seventh-day Adventist circles)... Within evangelicalism during the last one hundred fifty years, futurism has grown to dominate and overcome historicism." (T. Ice / K.L. Gentry Jr., The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? p. 6,) *** "Prior to 1826 this Roman Catholic view, first set forth by Francisco Ribera to counter the Reformation exposition, had found no acceptance among Protestants..." (L.E. Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Vol.3, p.533) **** "It would probably come as a shock to many modern futurists to be told that the first scholar in relatively modern times who returned to the patristic futuristic interpretation was a Spanish Jesuit named Ribera. In 1590 Ribera published a commentary on the Revelation as a counter-interpretation to the prevailing view among Protestants which identified the Papacy with the Antichrist. Ribera applied all of Revelation but the earliest chapters to the end time rather than to the history of the Church. Antichrist would be a single evil person who would be received by the Jews and would rebuild Jerusalem, abolish Christianity, deny Christ, persecute the Church and rule the world for three and a half years." (George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope [1972] p. 37) ___ [condensed to fit]

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jesuits Call on Jesuit Alumni in Congress to Protect Central American Children Crossing U.S. Border

July 30, 2014 — The Society of Jesus in the United States (the Jesuit order) is making a personal plea to the 43 Congressional representatives who graduated from U.S. Jesuit high schools and colleges to “uphold the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of human life” when considering policy solutions to address the influx of children fleeing violence in Central America.

In a letter to Speaker John Boehner (Xavier University), copied to Jesuit alumni in Congress, Fr. Thomas H. Smolich, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference, called on Congress to uphold the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA).

Currently, most unaccompanied minors detained by Border Patrol agents are handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which coordinates their care and provides an opportunity for children to tell their story to an adult they can trust. As part of his response to the increase in the number of children arriving at the border, President Obama asked Congress to consider weakening the TVPRA in order to fast-track deportations of children. Now, House leadership is seeking to change the law, which would allow a single Border Patrol agent to render a deportation decision and quickly deport a child back to his or her home country.

Fr. Smolich said that a change to the TVPRA, “would result in children having a one-shot chance to disclose their persecution to a Customs and Border Protection agent or officer…” He called any attempt to dilute TVPRA “inhumane and an insult to American values,” particularly since some children might have been “victimized by armed men in uniform.”

The letter also asked Speaker Boehner and Congressional alumni of Jesuit institutions to protect the due process rights of vulnerable children and examine the root causes leading children to flee in unprecedented numbers.

“This is not a new crisis, nor is it primarily at our border. Rather it has been escalating over the last decade…90 children are murdered or disappeared in Honduras every month,” said Fr. Smolich, who also reminds Speaker Boehner that “this is the equivalent of eight children being executed in your Congressional district every thirty days.”

Recalling the assassination of six Jesuits in El Salvador nearly 25 years ago, Fr. Smolich emphasized the Jesuits’ commitment to working with fellow Jesuits and lay partners in Central America, who live the reality of widespread violence. They see “the elementary school teacher murdered when he tried to prevent gangs from forcibly recruiting his students; the young girl pulled from her home, offered as a birthday present to a gang leader and then raped by 16 men; lay colleagues of Jesuits assassinated and harassed by the police.”

Fr. Smolich closed his letter by asking the Speaker and his fellow Jesuit alumni in Congress to “uphold an American tradition” of welcoming “the refugee, the victim of trafficking, the child who has been abused or abandoned.”


Jesuits & Other Faith Groups Urge President & Congress to Protect Central American Children & Families

Fr. Thomas Smolich, SJ, (far right) participated in a discussion with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (far left) and other Democratic congressional representatives on how the U.S. should respond to the humanitarian situation in Central America.

July 25, 2014 — The Society of Jesus in the United States, along with over 300 other faith-based organizations, delivered a letter to President Barack Obama and members of Congress yesterday urging protection, care and legal counsel for the thousands of Central American children who have fled escalating violence, conflict and exploitation in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The letter was sent as Congress considers rolling back critical legal protections for children.

On the same day the letter was delivered, Fr. Thomas H. Smolich, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference, the organization that represents Jesuits in the U.S., along with other members of the Conference staff, met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, several other Democratic congressional representatives and a number of political and community leaders from the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas. Their wide-ranging conversation included a discussion on how the U.S. should respond to the humanitarian situation in Central America and the arrival of children and families fleeing harm in Central America. The meeting was organized by Congressman Filemon Vela, who represents the Brownsville area of southern Texas.

Shaina Aber, Policy Director for the National Advocacy Office at the Jesuit Conference, said the Conference has been working on human rights issues and tracking issues of migration and violence in Central America, particularly in Honduras, for the past three years. They began to notice the migrants arriving at shelters run by the Jesuits in Mexico were getting younger. “They weren’t looking for economic opportunity but for safer lives outside of gang-ridden neighborhoods,” Aber said.

“The rhetoric we’ve been hearing recently from Congress and the administration has been disturbing,” said Aber. “They are talking about cutting down on protections the children are currently due under the law … at a time when we think Congress should be looking at what the driving factors are that are leading kids to have to flee their communities. They should be looking for ways in which we can protect these children in the tradition we have welcomed and protected other refugees in the past.”

The Jesuit Conference and Jesuit Refugee Service were two of the organizations that led the efforts in drafting the letter, which was signed by 40 national faith organizations and 269 regional and local groups from 42 states.

The letter articulates policy recommendations for Congress and the administration and calls for strengthening the humanitarian response in the U.S.; legal counsel for all unaccompanied children; no rollbacks to the provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 relating to unaccompanied children; cost-effective community-based alternatives to detention; and addressing the violence and corruption that has driven so many youth to flee.

The letter stated, “Forcibly and hurriedly returning people in need of international protection back to the dangerous situations they fled without adequate due process would undermine our obligations under international law and our position as a global humanitarian leader and would be a moral disgrace.”

The faith groups urged that the U.S. government must also address the root causes of the crisis faced by children in Central America. Aber said that the violence from organized crime has destabilized the security of the entire region. “Honduras is No. 1 in the world in terms of its homicide rate, El Salvador is No. 3 and Guatemala is No. 8, so it is literally one of the most violent regions in the world. And children in particular are the target of violence because gangs seek to recruit children.”

To read the full text of the letter, click here.


Jehovah's Witnesses:Witnessing to the Witnesses

Patrick Zukeran

History of the Watch Tower

One of the most aggressive and fastest growing cults is the Jehovah's Witnesses. Today they have a worldwide organization that numbers about 3.5 million members operating in 205 countries. Several factors account for this rapid growth. The first is their zealous door-to-door evangelism. Second, we Christians have failed to make a solid defense of our faith against their attacks when they have come to our door. The result is the Witnesses continue unchallenged in the propagation of their organization and deceive many. Third, the rise of the cults are a fulfillment of the prophetic warnings given by Jesus and the Apostles.

In this essay I want to look at the beliefs of the Witnesses and then give the reader practical witnessing strategies. The history of the Jehovah's Witnesses begins with the founder of the organization Charles Taze Russell. He was a member of the Congregational Church who came to reject the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment. In 1870, with no formal education, he began a Bible society which eventually named him pastor. In 1884, he founded Zion's Watchtower and Tract Society in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is now the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. Since then they have mushroomed into an organization which produces more literature in one year than the Christian and Catholic churches combined. And, of all the cults, their missionary forces are the most well trained in evangelism.

Witnesses deviate from biblical Christianity in several areas. I will discuss some of their major doctrinal errors. First, like all the cults, they deny the Trinity. They believe there is one God, Jehovah. Jesus, is actually Michael the Archangel, the first of God's creation, who became flesh at the incarnation. After the resurrection, He returned to heaven as Michael the Archangel.(1) The Holy Spirit is not God but an active force much like electricity or fire.(2)

Second, Witnesses deny the bodily resurrection of Christ, but instead believe He was raised as a spirit and manifested Himself several times in different materialized bodies.(3)

Third, they deny the existence of hell and eternal punishment, but believe in total annihilation after death. Only the elite ruling class, the 144,000, are allowed to go to heaven. The faithful Jehovah's Witnesses remain unconscious after death till they are resurrected in the Millennium. Those who are not in the organization are annihilated after death.(4)

Fourth, Witnesses have a works-oriented salvation. Salvation is not based upon a relationship with Christ, but found in the organization. One must serve the society, and depending on one's faithfulness and absolute obedience, one may be saved.(5)

Fifth, they believe that Jesus returned invisibly in 1914 and established His throne in heaven. At Armageddon, God will destroy all evil, and abolish all the world's governments, and establish a new Paradise on earth. Then the living and resurrected Jehovah's Witnesses will inherit Paradise earth. The 144,000 mentioned earlier will rule with Jesus. At this time all unbelievers who have died will be raised (with some exceptions) and will study under the Witnesses during the Millennium, a period of a thousand years. Studying with them will be the unbelievers who have survived Armageddon. After the thousand years, their faith will be tested because God will release Satan from the abyss. At that point all unbelievers will have to choose between Satan or Jehovah. Those who reject Jehovah will be annihilated.(6)

Clearly the doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses deviate in critical ways from sound biblical principles. Next, I want to discuss approaches to evangelizing Jehovah's Witnesses.

False Prophecies of the Watch Tower

One of the most effective ways to evangelize Jehovah's Witnesses is to destroy their faith in the Society. Remember, salvation is found only in this organization. The Watch Tower Society is seen as the spokesman for God. If you can show Witnesses the serious errors of the organization, they will begin to have doubts and questions. This can sometimes lead them to leave the Society.

Attacking the Society's record of false prophecy can cause JWs to to question the organization. This approach is effective because they claim to have the true understanding of the end times. If we can show them that the organization has been constantly wrong in the area of prophecy, this will certainly make an impact. When the Jehovah's Witnesses show up at your door again, begin first by asking them, "Are you prophets of God?" Some will say, "Yes." Others may say, "We are prophets in a sense." You must make it clear there is no such thing as "a prophet in a sense." There are only true prophets and false prophets. Some may deny being prophets. If so, show them a copy of the April 1, 1972, Watch Tower article on page 297, which states clearly that they are prophets.

Second, define clearly what makes a true prophet and a false prophet using Deuteronomy 18:20-22. A true prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and predicts future things which come to pass. A false prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and predicts future things which do not come to pass. Make sure they understand this, for this is the most critical step.

Third, ask them, "Is there an organization that fits the character of a false prophet?" That's when you say, "Let's take a look at the Watch Tower Organization." Have handy copies of the articles mentioned here. The 1889 issue, "The Time is at Hand," page 101 states, "The battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev. 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914, with the complete overthrow of earth's present rulership, is already commenced." This 1914 prediction of Christ's return never came true.

Then the Watch Tower predicted that Christ would return in 1925. The 1918 issue of, "Millions Now Living Will Never Die," p. 89 states, "Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the apostle in Hebrews 11 to the condition of human perfection." This proved to be another false prophecy.

The Watch Tower made a third prophecy of the return of Christ; this one was to occur in 1975. The August 15, 1968, issue of, Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?, p. 494, predicted the return of Christ in 1975. Once again the Witnesses were shown to be false prophets. If the Witnesses don't believe these articles are real, tell them to look them up in their church's library.

Another interesting prophecy is found on page 154 of their book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth. Here they state, "Some of the generation living in 1914 will see the end of the system of things and survive it." Most of the 1914 generation are dead, and the few remaining are very old. In just a few years, the Watch Tower will again have another false prophecy. When presented clearly, the record of the Watch Tower's false prophecies is a very effective tool in witnessing to JWs.

The Name of God

Another effective avenue of witnessing to the Witnesses is in the name of God. Jehovah's Witnesses state that God's true name is "Jehovah." They say the term "God," is merely a title, and that the real name for God is "Jehovah." In fact they go so far as to say that unless one calls on the true name of God, "Jehovah," one cannot be saved.(7)

Let's take a real close look at the name "Jehovah" and see if it is in fact the true name of God. The term "Jehovah" is actually a false reading of the Hebrew pronunciation of God, or YAHWEH. Allow me to explain where the word "Jehovah" comes from. The words in the Hebrew Old Testament contained no vowels. The words were constructed of consonant letters only. The Scribes knew what vowels to use in the pronunciation of the words by the construction of the consonants, the context, and memory. It was written this way until the fifth century when the Masoretes added the vowels under the consonants in their version of the Old Testament known as the Masoretic Text.

The name of God in the Old Testament spelled YHWH, was considered holy, and was not to be read aloud. Instead, when the Hebrews came upon YHWH, they would say ADONAY, which means "Lord." In order to indicate this substitution, the Massoretes placed the vowels of ADONAY or the English equivalent of e, o, and a underneath the consonants of YHWH. Later some Christian translators mistakenly combined the vowels of ADONAY with the consonants of YHWH producing the word "Jehovah." Now the term is recognized to be a late hybrid form never used by the Jews. That's the origin of the word "Jehovah." Let's now look at what other scholars say about the name "Jehovah."

Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: "Jehovah" -- False reading of the Hebrew YAHWEH.(8)

Encyclopedia Americana: "Jehovah" -- erroneous form of the name of the God of Israel.(9)

Encyclopedia Britannica: The Masoretes who from the 6th to the 10th century worked to reproduce the original text of the Hebrew Bible replaced the vowels of the name YHWH with the vowel signs of Adonai or Elohim. Thus the artificial name Jehovah came into being.(10)

The Jewish Encyclopedia: "Jehovah" -- a mispronunciation of the Hebrew YHWH the name of God. This pronunciation is grammatically impossible.(11)

The New Jewish Encyclopedia: It is clear that the word Jehovah is an artificial composite.(12)

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, p. 680, vol. 7, "the true pronunciation of the tetragrammaton YHWH was never lost. The name was pronounced Yahweh. It was regularly pronounced this way at least until 586 B.C., as is clear from the Lachish Letters written shortly before this date."

Therefore, for Jehovah's Witnesses to insist Jehovah is the true name of God and that one is saved only if he calls on that name, is an error. When Witnesses appear at your door explain to them the name "Jehovah" and read what the scholars say about Jehovah. Also remember, God uses many names for Himself such as, King of Kings, the Lion of Judah, the Alpha and the Omega, and others. When JWs realize what the authoritative sources have to say, especially the encyclopedia references, they will begin to realize the need to take a serious look at this error in the organization.

The Bodily Resurrection of Christ

A third subject area for effective witnessing to Witnesses is the bodily resurrection of Christ. Witnesses believe that Christ's crucified body was disintegrated by Jehovah never to exist again. Accordingly, Jesus was raised as a spirit who then materialized and appeared in several different fleshly bodies as the angels had done. Indeed, it was in this form that He appeared to His disciples; i.e., He wasn't in a human body; He just appeared to be human. He ascended into heaven as a spirit and once again became Michael the Archangel.(13) This doctrine can be easily disproved.

First, in Luke 24:36-43, Jesus clearly states in verse 39 that He is not a spirit but a man of flesh and bone. He even ate food to prove that He was not a spirit but had a physical body. In John 20:24-27, Jesus shows Thomas His wounds. Jesus is clearly demonstrating to His disciples that the body previously on the cross had been resurrected. If Jesus had a different body than the one on the cross, He would have been deliberately deceiving the disciples. Ask the Witness, "Would Jesus deliberately deceive His disciples into believing something that was not true?"

Next, turn to some passages where Jesus predicts the resurrection of His body. In John 2:19-21 Jesus says, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." See Acts 2:26-27, another prophecy of the Messiah's bodily resurrection. Clearly the prophecies and Jesus' appearances prove a bodily resurrection.

Witnesses cite 1 Peter 3:18 and 1 Cor. 15:44-50 to back up their belief. In 1 Peter 3:18 we read, "Christ died once and for all... he being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the spirit." This verse does not prove Jesus is a spirit. This verse says that Jesus was raised in the Spirit and by the Spirit of God who gives life. Romans 8:11 states that the Holy Spirit was involved in raising Jesus from the dead. Jesus was not raised as a spirit but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

According to 1 Cor. 15:50, "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." Since Jesus is in heaven, Witnesses say He must be a spirit.(14) They are correct in saying that the earthly body cannot enter heaven. However, when Jesus rose, He had a glorified body (Luke 24:39). Therefore, He can dwell in heaven because of His glorified state. According to 1 Cor 15:39, "All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another.... There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies." Christ's glorified body allows Him to travel in the earthly and heavenly dimensions. Some verses indicate that Christ exists in heaven in bodily form. "For in him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" Colossians 2:9. The verb "dwells" in the Greek is katoikei, and is in the present tense. In other words, Jesus has a glorified body in heaven, the one that was resurrected. Note also 1 Timothy 2:5, "There is one God and one mediator, the man Christ Jesus." The verb "is," is a present tense verb also. How can Jesus be a man if He is Michael the Archangel? Seeing these errors may prompt them to seek the truth.

The Holy Spirit

A fourth avenue of effective evangelism with Jehovah's Witnesses is the subject of the deity of the Holy Spirit. As I mentioned earlier, the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is not a person because they see the Holy Spirit as a force--much like electricity or fire. Here is what Jehovah's Witnesses say about the Holy Spirit.

In their book You Can Live Forever In Paradise on Earth, they state, "As for the `Holy Spirit,' the so-called third person of the Trinity, we have already seen that this is not a person but God's active force."(15)

In their magazine Why Should You Believe in the Trinity? they state, "To a certain extent it (Holy Spirit) can be likened to electricity, a force that can be adapted to perform a great variety of operations."(16)

Here are some verses that are effective in proving the deity of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 5 Ananaias and Sapphira lied to the church about the amount they sold their land for and the amount they gave to the church. Peter confronts them on this issue and states in 5:3, "Ananaias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit...?" Peter later states in the next verse, "You have not lied to men but to God." Here the Holy Spirit is called "God" with a capital G both in our Bibles and in the Witnesses' Bible. Another interesting question to ask Witnesses is, "Can you lie to a force like fire or electricity?" The answer is "No." You can only lie to an intelligence, a person.

In Acts 13:2 the Holy Spirit speaks, "While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, `Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" Ask the Witness, "When was the last time electricity or fire spoke to you?" It is obvious only an intelligent person can communicate in language.

Ephesians 4:30 states, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God." Any logical person should realize you can only grieve a living being. Ask a Jehovah's Witness, "How can you grieve or bring sorrow to an impersonal force like electricity?"

When you put all these facts together, the fact that the Holy Spirit is called God, He can be lied to, He speaks, and He can be grieved, the evidence shows that the Holy Spirit is a person, not an inanimate force. When presented clearly, I have not met any Jehovah's Witness who have been able to refute these verses.

God bless and good Witnessing!

© 1994 Probe Ministries


1. You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (Brooklyn: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1982), p. 39.

2. Ibid., p. 40.

3. Reasoning From the Scriptures (Brooklyn: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1985), pp.333-36.

4. Ibid., pp. 76-80.

5. Live Forever, pp. 350-55.

6. Ibid., pp. 170-84.

7. Ibid., pp. 41-44.

8. "Jehovah," Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1973 ed.

9. Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 16., 1972 ed.

10. "Yahweh," The New Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 12, 1993 ed.

11. "Jehovah," The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 7, 1904 ed.

12. "Jehovah," The New Jewish Encyclopedia, 1962 ed.

13. Live Forever, pp. 143-45.

14. Ibid., pp. 143-46.

15. Ibid., p. 40.

16. Should You Believe in the Trinity? (Brooklyn: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1989), p. 20.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

40 years of women's priestly ministry in the US

Posted on: July 29, 2014 12:21 PM

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori with some of those involved with the Philadelphia 11 ordinations
Photo Credit: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] A joyous celebration of the 40th anniversary of women’s priestly ordination on July 26 here included calls for people to realize that the dream of a more egalitarian and less patriarchal Episcopal Church – and society – that was embodied by the Philadelphia 11′s ordinations requires much more work.

“I wonder why we cannot speed up the work of gender justice and aligned oppressions in the days and years ahead,” Fredrica Thompsett Harris, Mary Wolfe Professor Emerita of Historical Theology at Episcopal Divinity School, asked during her keynote address to a symposium that kicked off a day meant to celebrate the July 29, 1974, ordinations of 11 women deacons at Church of the Advocate here. “This would be one way to honor our courageous sisters and those who stood with them.”

The Rev. Merrill Bittner, the Rev. Alison Cheek, the Rev. Alla Bozarth, the Rev. Emily C. Hewitt, the Rev. Carter Heyward, the Rev. Suzanne R. Hiatt, the Rev. Marie Moorefield, the Rev. Jeanette Piccard, the Rev. Betty Bone Schiess, the Rev. Katrina Welles Swanson and the Rev. Nancy Hatch Wittig were ordained on that day in 1974, slightly more than two years before the General Convention of the Episcopal Church gave its explicit permission for women to become priests.

Retired Colorado Bishop Suffragan Daniel Corrigan, retired Pennsylvania Bishop Robert L. DeWitt and retired West Missouri Bishop Edward R. Welles II (Katrina Wells Swanson’s father) were the ordaining bishops. They were joined by Costa Rica Bishop Antonio Ramos, the only one of the four who then was exercising jurisdiction in the church. Ramos did not participate in the actual ordination, but joined in the laying on of hands.

The group “40 Years Ordained – 2,000 Years in Ministry”, organized by the Diocese of Pennsylvania in conjunction with others throughout the church, designed the July 26 celebration not just to mark the Philadelphia 11’s ordinations – and those of the Washington Four on Sept. 7, 1975, at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. – but also to celebrate the ministry of all women, lay and ordained, in the past, present and future. The gathering included Holy Eucharist at Church of the Advocate, followed by a reception amid displays of various ministries in which women are engaged.

Speeding up the progress towards gender justice and eliminating other interlocking oppressions would be a good way to honor the first women ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, says Fredrica Thompsett Harris, Mary Wolfe Professor Emerita of Historical Theology at Episcopal Divinity School, during her July 26 keynote address. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“This celebration must not be honored by excluding others,” Harris Thompsett said during her keynote address. “It should not be sentimentalized by Hallmark [greeting] card theology, or trivialized by invoking a too-small God, a non-controversial, semi-engaged complacent divinity.”

She gave three challenges to the approximately 230 women and men who attended the symposium. The first was to honor the first ordinations of women by becoming “much more insistent advocates for baptism as being chief among Holy Orders,” warning against what she called “creepy theology out there in everyday use” which assumes that deacons, priests and bishops are somehow more connected to God and called to be more prophetic than lay people.

The second challenge was to live truly into the “embodied nature of Anglican theology” that emphasizes the goodness of all creation and the dwelling of the incarnate Christ in us and us in him. All people, she said, must claim their bodies “as sacred vehicles of spiritual authority.”

Harris Thompsett’s third challenge was very specific, calling for making the House of Bishops 30 percent female in the next 10 years. That would mean electing about 50 or more “highly and diversely qualified women bishops,” she said. To do so would require more attention being paid to discrimination and tokenism in all search processes, including those for the episcopate, she added.

The symposium at Temple University also featured a panel of lay and ordained women who responded to Harris Thompsett’s speech. Participants included Bishop Carol Gallagher, the Rev. Miguelina Howell, the Rev. Pamela Nesbit, the Rev. Sandye Wilson and educator and social worker Nokomis Wood. The panel was moderated by the Very Rev. Katherine H. Ragsdale, EDS dean and president. Philadelphia 11 member Wittig closed the symposium with a meditation.

Wilson, the rector of St. Andrew and Holy Communion in South Orange, New Jersey, echoed comments made by her fellow panelists and Harris Thompsett about interlocking oppressions. For years black women were invisible in the Episcopal Church, she said.

“When they spoke of women, they spoke of white women, and when they spoke of black, they spoke of black men,” she said, adding that “we have to name these things because if we don’t name them, we’re subject to repeat them.”

Wilson, who was the fourth African-American woman ordained in the Episcopal Church, said “we need to be sure that we are radically welcoming everyone and that no one is left out or left behind, that the table is set for everyone and that no one on a committee has to advocate for one group or another.”

Ragsdale told the symposium that she heard a recurring theme about the “celebration of diversity along with the painful and … grief-giving and infuriating reality of how far we have yet to go in the church and the world to really celebrate that diversity” and the justice that ought to come with it.

She added that she also heard a call for people to value all four orders of ministry and to recognize that those in ordained orders must listen to the stories of the work done by lay people outside the doors of the church and empower those ministers to carry on.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori during her sermon at Church of the Advocate uses a pair of red high heels to illustrate the expectations set upon ordained women. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, preaching and presiding at the celebratory Eucharist later in the day, said the entire Episcopal Church gives thanks that women now serve in all orders of ministry. As the congregation of about 600 roared its approval, she turned in the Advocate’s ornate pulpit and bowed to the five members of the Philadelphia 11 and one of the Washington Four who participated in the Eucharist.

Jefferts Schori reminded the congregation that women priests have been told that they should not wear high heels or dangly earrings in the pulpit or at the altar. After brandishing a pair of red high heels, she said “Women in all orders of ministry – baptized, deacons, priests, and bishops – can walk proudly today, in whatever kind of shoes they want to wear, because of what happened here 40 years ago.”

“We can walk proudly, even if not yet in full equality, knowing that the ranks of those who walk in solidarity are expanding,” she continued.

“Try to walk in the shoes of abused and trafficked women. Walk on to Zion carrying the children who are born and suffer in the midst of war,” the presiding bishop said. “Gather up the girls married before they are grown, gather up the schoolgirls still missing in Nigeria, and gather up all those lives wasted in war and prison. March boldly, proclaiming good news to all who have been pushed aside, and call them to the table of God, to Wisdom’s feast.”

Video and text of the presiding bishop’s sermon is here.

Attending the celebration from among the 11 members of the 1974 ordinations were the Rev. Alison Cheek, the Rev. Carter Heyward, the Rev. Merrill Bittner, the Rev. Marie Moorefield Fleischer and the Rev. Nancy Wittig.

Retired Bishop of Costa Rica Antonio Ramos, who assisted at the Philadelphia ordinations but did not participate in the laying on of hands that day, processed with the women, as did the Rev. Betty Powell, one of the Washington Four, and retired Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris, who this year is celebrating her 25th anniversary of being the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion.

Speaking during the announcement time, Ramos told the congregation that on July 26, 1974, “we decided to disobey the order of the church for the sake of the orders of the church.”

“We decided to end a discriminatory set of canons to make all the orders of the church both equally inclusive for men and women,” he said.

Pennsylvania Bishop Provisional Clifton “Dan” Daniel had been a priest for a year when he decided to participate in the Philadelphia ordinations (priests are often invited to join the ordaining bishop or bishops in the laying on of hands). He reminded the gathering that while the ordinations changed the history of the Episcopal Church, it was also a very personal event for the 11 ordinands.

“At the time I think we had a very different sense of what was at stake for us and of how much we had to gain or lose,” Heyward told ENS in an interview. “I just knew it was an important step to take given where the church was and given where I was in my life.”

In the same interview, Cheek said her already-raised consciousness “got raised a lot higher after her ordination. “It was a real big turning point in my life and I think that that was because quite a few oppressed groups of folk then reached out to us and wanted us to come celebrate for them,” she said.

The Rev. Merrill Bittner, one of the Philadelphia 11 who was honored at the 40th anniversary celebration July 26, distributes communion at the Eucharist. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

In addition to experiencing the typical feelings of a person preparing for and then being ordained, before and after, the women were barraged with criticism that veered into outright threats. Called unprintable names, their appearances and their voices were examined and found wanting as were their personalities and intellects. Some were told they would be good for the church because it would be better to see them in the pulpit than ugly, old male rectors. They were accused of being immoral and self-indulgent. One received a length of fish cord with the suggestion that she use it to hang herself, according Darlene O’Dell in her new book “The Story of the Philadelphia Eleven.”

On the day of the ordinations, buckets were lined up along the church’s wall in case of bombs or fire, plain-clothed police officers were among the 2,000 congregants, a busload of police were stationed down the street and the congregation included a group of radical lesbians, some trained in crowd control and karate, O’Dell wrote.

The path to the Church of the Advocate and beyond

When, after years of struggle and rejection, the Philadelphia 11 broke the traditional prohibition against the ordination of women to the priesthood of the Episcopal and Anglican Churches they entered a sort of limbo. There was no canon in church law that specifically forbade women from being priests and there was no canon that said only men could become priests.

However, the canons did and do still outline a process leading to ordination first to the transitional diaconate and then to the priesthood. The final step of that process before priestly ordination is the approval by one’s standing committee. For women, that never happened.

While all 11 had been through the canonical process for ordination to the diaconate (which had been open to women only since 1970), just one of them had received the necessary Standing Committee approval for priestly ordination. Her bishop refused to ordain her. Another’s bishop said he would ordain her if the Standing Committee approved. It did not.

None of the eight bishops who had authority over the 11 agreed to the ordinations and the bishop of Pennsylvania objected to the ordinations taking place in that diocese. Bishops in the Episcopal Church are required to ordain only those people who have gone through the ordination process in their dioceses, or they must have the permission of the bishop who supervised that process. Thus, the Philadelphia 11′s ordaining bishops were seen to have violated church law as well as tradition.

Charles V. Willie, who preached at the Philadelphia 11 ordinations, is greeted during the peace by the Rev. Renee McKenzie, vicar and chaplain of Church of the Advocate. Willie was vice president of the House of Deputies and a member of the Episcopal Church Executive Council at the time of the ordinations but he resigned both positions in protest when, three weeks later, the House of Bishops invalidated the ordinations. Willie read one of the readings during the July 26 Eucharist. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

On Aug. 15, 1974, the House of Bishops, called to an emergency meeting that reportedly was by turns rancorous and confused,denounced the ordinations and declared that “the necessary conditions for valid ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church were not fulfilled.” In effect, the bishops said, nothing had happened at the Church of the Advocate and the 11 were still deacons – to whom they offered pastoral care.

Charges were filed against the ordaining bishops and attempts, ecclesial and otherwise, were made to prevent the women from exercising their priestly ministries.

Still, women’s ordination movement continued. Resigned Rochester Bishop George W. Barrett ordained four women deacons on Sept. 7, 1975, at the Church of St. Stephen and the Incarnation in Washington, D.C., despite Washington Bishop William F. Creighton’s refusal to allow the action. About 1,200, including 50 priests, attended. The Rev. Lee McGee, the Rev. Alison Palmer, the Rev. Betty Powell, all of Washington, D.C., and the Rev. Diane Tickell of Anchorage, Alaska, became known as the Washington Four.

In September 1976, the General Convention approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate by adding a new section to the church’s ordination canons that read: “The provisions of these canons for the admission of Candidates, and for the Ordination to the three Orders: Bishops, Priests and Deacons shall be equally applicable to men and women.”

The House of Bishops, during the 1976 convention, at first ruled that the Philadelphia 11 and the Washington Four would have to be re-ordained, calling the first actions “conditional ordinations” similar to the conditional baptism allowed in emergency situations when one is not sure if a person was baptized. The women said they would refuse to be re-ordained and, the next day, the bishops voted unanimously for a “completion” ceremony that would avoid the laying on of hands.

The Rev. Betty Powell, one of the Washington Four who were ordained in September 1975 and who was honored during the 40th anniversary celebration July 26, asperges the congregation during the Eucharist that emphasized the ministry of all the baptized. All six of the first women who attended the service sprinkled the congregation members with water from the baptismal font. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The story was not yet over. In October 1977, the House of Bishops adopted “A Statement of Conscience” that assured that “No Bishop, Priest, or Lay Person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities as a result of his or her conscientious objection to or support of the sixty-fifth General Convention’s actions with regard to the ordination of women to the priesthood or episcopate.”

The statement arose out of a meeting that began with Presiding Bishop John Allin saying he did not think “that women can be priests any more than they can become fathers or husbands,” and offering to resign as presiding bishop. The House of Bishops affirmed Allin’s leadership and adopted the “conscience clause” contained in a pastoral letter issued after the meeting.

Since the clause was never adopted by the House of Deputies, it had no canonical authority but a handful of bishops and their dioceses used it to bar women from the priesthood for 33 more years.

A more complete timeline of the history of women’s ordination in the Anglican Communion is here.


U.S. Jesuit named next head of Jesuit Refugee Service

Fr. Thomas H. Smolich, SJ, to Become International Director of Jesuit Refugee Service in 2015

July 28, 2014 — As president of the Jesuit Conference of the U.S. for the last eight years, Fr. Tom Smolich has traveled to the far corners of the world as the U.S. Jesuits’ liaison to the global Society of Jesus. With his new assignment as the next international director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Fr. Smolich will need to free up pages in his passport.

Founded in 1980 by former Jesuit Superior General Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, JRS accompanies, serves and advocates for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced people. Headquartered in Rome with ten regional offices around the world, the organization has more than 1,800 staff and volunteers, including 70 Jesuits, and serves upwards of 950,000 refugees per year. In addition to health and social services, JRS offers formal and informal instruction — from pre-school to vocational training to computer and language classes — to approximately 280,000 children, young people and adults each year.

Appointed by Jesuit Superior General Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, Fr. Smolich begins his term on November 1, 2015. “I’m deeply honored and grateful that Fr. General missioned me to this assignment, because JRS speaks to the heart of Jesuit identity and our Jesuit mission,” Fr. Smolich says. “JRS goes where the need is greatest, to places where others are unable oridentity and  unwilling to go. JRS witnesses to who we are as evangelizing people. Whether someone is a Catholic or not is not the question — we are there to preach the good news.” 

Because of its work in war-torn regions, JRS employees and volunteers often find themselves in the crosshairs of global conflict. In June, JRS Country Director Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar, SJ, was kidnapped in Afghanistan, and his whereabouts are still unknown. Fr. Smolich acknowledges that “the Church often is called upon to do challenging work. I think one has to prepare for this as much as possible, but ultimately, we realize we are called to be on the frontiers, and the frontiers are sometimes dangerous.”

As he steps down this week as president of the Jesuit Conference, Fr. Smolich begins a five-month stay at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, where he will study French and work on special projects. Already a Spanish speaker, he hopes to become proficient in both French and Italian before beginning his new job.

To prepare for his new role, Fr. Smolich will begin 2015 by spending four months with JRS in Eastern Congo, working with refugees from that country’s war as well as with refugees from Rwanda and other parts of Central Africa. He will be part of the JRS team but is not sure exactly what he’ll be doing, saying it depends on “how good or bad my French is by then.”

In May of next year, he heads to Lebanon to work with JRS Middle East, currently the largest of the organization’s ten regions. There, he’ll help respond to the needs of displaced people within Syria and of refugees in Beirut and Amman, Jordan.

Next summer, he’ll travel to Rome to study Italian and will spend the fall of 2015 working side-by-side with outgoing JRS international director, Fr. Peter Balleis, SJ. Once he assumes the reins of JRS, Fr. Smolich will travel extensively, with annual visits to all of JRS’ regional operations.

JRS international director, Fr. Peter Balleis, SJ, and Fr. Tom Smolich, SJ. (Photo: Christian Fuchs, JRS/USA)

Fr. Balleis says, “Over the last ten years, JRS has doubled in size. Fr. Smolich is the right man to lead us in this period of continued expansion given his previous commitment to social issues. He understands JRS and what drives us, the importance of accompaniment and our closeness to refugees. The time he spends with JRS field staff before he takes over as international director in Rome will allow him to experience the compassion and love which drive our projects.”

Ordained in 1986, Fr. Smolich’s first assignment was to Bolivia to learn Spanish. He was supposed to stay for a year but his visit was cut short by typhoid because “you’re supposed to peel the fruit, but I thought I had been there long enough that I didn’t have to do that. My fault.” He came back early and was temporarily assigned to Dolores Mission, a Latino parish in East Los Angeles, so he could practice his Spanish. The three-month assignment lasted seven years, with Fr. Smolich serving as associate pastor and running the church’s community development nonprofit, Proyecto Pastoral. “Being executive director of Proyecto was a lot of fun, but I couldn’t read a balance sheet.”

He wanted to stay in community development work and asked his provincial if he could acquire some management skills. Approval in hand, he headed to Stanford University, where he earned an MBA in 1996. After an assignment with an affordable housing developer in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fr. Smolich was tapped to serve as the director of planning, formation and vocations for the California Province Jesuits. From 1999 through 2005, he served as provincial of the California Province, followed by his most recent assignment, eight years as president of the Jesuit Conference.

As he considers his next assignment, Fr. Smolich laughs as he recalls how his life as a Jesuit is nothing like the one he imagined when he entered the Society of Jesus as a 19-year-old novice. “I was attracted to the Society when I was in high school, and I imagined that after ordination, I would return to teach at a Jesuit high school. That didn’t happen, and it’s been a terrific run.”


Pope Francis apologizes for persecution of Pentecostals

Josephine McKenna | July 28, 2014

CASERTA, Italy (RNS) Pope Francis sought forgiveness for decades of persecution of Italian Pentecostals when he met with around 300 evangelicals from the U.S., Argentina and Italy in the southern town of Caserta on Monday (July 28).

Pope Francis talks with Giovanni Traettino, a Protestant pastor and his friend, in Caserta, Italy, July 28. Pope Francis said he knew people would be shocked that he would make such a trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, “but I went to visit my friends.” CNS photo/ L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

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The pope made his second visit in as many days to the Mafia stronghold near Naples, this time to meet evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino, whom he befriended while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

During the visit, Francis apologized for the persecution suffered by Pentecostals under Italy’s fascist regime in the 1920s and 1930s and urged Christians to celebrate their diversity and unity.

“Catholics were among those who persecuted and denounced the Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazy,” Francis said.

“I am the shepherd of the Catholics and I ask you to forgive my Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil.”

READ: Italy’s Pentecostals: Time to stand against Rome? (First Things)

Since his election last year, the pope has been reaching out to other faiths and has held talks with Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders. On Monday, he went even further by apologizing for what Catholics had done.

Luca Baratto, a pastor from the Italian Federation of Evangelical Churches, said the pope’s apology was unexpected and greatly appreciated.

“It is very important to remember the racial laws through which the Pentecostals were victims under fascism,” he told the Italian news agency, AdnKronos. “We really appreciate the opening of dialogue by this pope.”

Calling the pope “my beloved brother,” Traettino said the evangelical community was deeply grateful for the visit, which would have been unthinkable until recently.

James Robison explains a “high five” to Pope Francis at the Vatican on June 24, 2014. During their meeting, they agreed all Catholics and Protestants need to come to know Jesus personally. RNS photo courtesy LIFE Outreach International

Indeed, whereas now-retired Pope Benedict XVI channeled his energies into trying to reconcile with traditionalist Catholics, Francis has spent more time reaching out to conservative evangelical leaders; his recent three-hour meeting with American televangelists raised some eyebrows and resulted in what was dubbed the first-ever papal high-five.

“With a single gesture he has opened the door wider, overcoming any complications of protocol and going directly to the heart of human relations,” Traettino said of his meeting with Francis.

One participant said it was a very emotional moment when the pope asked forgiveness, and “everyone was in tears.”

The pope arrived in Caserta by helicopter and after a private conversation at Traettino’s home, he met with the community of the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation at the site of their church, which is under construction.

A notable absentee was Bishop Tony Palmer, the charismatic preacher who used a cellphone camera to record Francis’ appeal for unity between Catholics and evangelicals. He was killed just over a week ago (July 20) in a motorcycle crash in the United Kingdom.

On Saturday, around 200,000 faithful gathered for the pope’s first stop in Caserta, a stronghold of the notorious Naples Mafia known as Camorra.

The pontiff did not mention the Camorra, which runs a vast organized crime empire including drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion, but spoke out against “corruption and lawlessness” during his address.




Vatican City, 29 July 2014 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today announced that His Holiness Francis, accepting the invitation from the civil authorities and the bishops, will make an Apostolic trip to Sri Lanka from 12 to 15 January and the Philippines from 15 to 19 January 2015. The program for the trip will be published shortly.


AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Guerrilla groups become political parties: for the Church this is a positive step


Cucuta - Several groups of former paramilitary guerillas are turning into political parties and intend to act as actors in a democratic future in Colombia. This is the case of the "Alianza de la unidad Colombiana" that announced its transformation into a political movement: Alianza Colombiana de la Unidad por la Paz". While public opinion in the country is still divided on the possibility to accept these changes, from the Diocese of Cucuta, Mgr. Julio César Vidal Ortiz expressed himself in a positive way: "If one gives them the opportunity to do so, then they have every right. If, the FARC did it, and even ELN , it is clear that others want to do it, because all are expressions of the same reality: they are born because of poverty in the country, injustice and corruption. These are the factors that have given rise to these groups", said the Bishop in a note sent to Fides.

The note refers to former members of the paramilitary group, claiming that the agreement between the government and the FARC on political participation should expand opportunities for those who belong to armed groups, although they were "outlaws". Mgr. Vidal Ortiz, in the period from 2002 until 2006, acted as an intermediary in the peace process between paramilitary groups and the government of Alvaro Uribe. His speech was of great weight to the rapprochement between the parties at that time. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 28/07/2014)


International Religious Freedom Report

Secretary Kerry (July 28): "The release of this report here today is a demonstration of the abiding commitment of the American people and the entire U.S. Government to the advancement of freedom of religion worldwide." Full Text» Briefing» Fact Sheet»

"Take heed that no man deceive you"

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

All these are the beginning of sorrows

Matthew 24:4-8
King James Version (KJV)