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Southern Religion

Shaking his fist, Williamson leaves Argentina

Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson left Argentina today rather than be expelled.

The un-excommunicated arch conservative priest’s exit was not a graceful one. Bill Faries of Bloomberg Press wrote:

Williamson, wearing a black baseball cap and sunglasses, stopped to wave his fist in the face of a reporter for the Todo Noticias news channel at Buenos Aires’s international airport. The reporter was then held back by two unidentified men accompanying the cleric.

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February 24, 2009 Posted by | anti-Semitism, Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI | Comments Off on Shaking his fist, Williamson leaves Argentina

Largest Arkansas Presbyterian (USA) church elects homosexual deacon

Amid denomination-wide constitutional transition, Little Rock’s Second Presbyterian Church, which has 1,700 members, elected a slate of a dozen adult deacons, including openly gay member Michael Upson.

One day earlier, the Presbytery of Arkansas voted to remove restrictions on homosexual ordination from the national church’s Book of Order.

An amendment to change the constitution of the 2.3-million-member denomination to remove a bar to active, homosexual deacons, elders and ministers is under consideration, but not yet approved.

There is provision, however, for what is called a “scruple” or open objection to the bar. Upson clearly had one. As Interim General Presbyter Sallie Watson with the Presbytery of Arkansas explained, his church accepted his objection, and constitutionally elected him a deacon.

February 24, 2009 Posted by | Law, Religion | , , , | 1 Comment

Hawaii moves toward same-sex civil unions

Hawaii could become the fifth state to legalize same-sex civil unions (not quite gay marriage). The the Democrat-dominated Legislature and Republican governor must merely approve the measure, which passed by the state House this month. It faces Senate committee vote today (loss there may be circumvented).

Protesters and supporters are making themselves as visible as possible. They all know that Senate supporters may be able to muster the supermajority required to overcome a governor’s veto, should there be one.

February 24, 2009 Posted by | Law, Politics | Comments Off on Hawaii moves toward same-sex civil unions

Pro-choice evangelicals

Aaron Weaver finds some value in the argument that evangelicals can be part of a pro-choice consensus. Blake Ellis, writing for the History News Network says:

With the election of a president who is deeply religious and also strongly pro-choice, supporters of reproductive rights have a chance once again to reach out to potential allies in evangelical communities. Mindful of the pro-choice histories of southern evangelicals like [Foy] Valentine and [James] Dunn, progressives can build new alliances that might undermine the power of Christian Right leaders who would apparently rather block government support for poor women than work to actually reduce the number of abortions. In doing so, activists might achieve a pro-choice consensus that includes many members of evangelical communities.

Ellis does remind us that Baptists were and remain a far more diverse group than the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent response to dissent suggests.

February 24, 2009 Posted by | Medical Care, Politics, Religion | 1 Comment

Free expression in jeopardy

Online publication can not only attract the displeasure of boards of deacons to religious bloggers, but also often has a far higher price where governments seek to suppress free expression.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported in December:

Reflecting the rising influence of online reporting and commentary, more Internet journalists are jailed worldwide today than journalists working in any other medium. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, released today, the Committee to Protect Journalists found that 45 percent of all media workers jailed worldwide are bloggers, Web-based reporters, or online editors. Online journalists represent the largest professional category for the first time in CPJ’s prison census.

Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, vice president of International PEN and a board member of Human Rights Watch, writes in the Christian Science Monitor:

Today, the Internet is both the vehicle and the battleground for freedom of expression around the world. The struggle between writers and governments over this free flow of information has escalated this past year and promises to intensify. Those supporting open frontiers for ideas and information need to be on high alert and take steps necessary to protect those silenced and to keep the Internet unencumbered.

She suggests that the Global Network Initiative (GNI), “which sets voluntary standards to safeguard privacy and curtail censorship, is worthy of support.”

We agree and join her in suggesting that Congress to more actively consider the Global Online Freedom Act, which is intended to prevent Internet companies from assisting foreign governments in censoring content and revealing user information.

Ensuring the Internet’s free flow of information has become central to freedom of expression domestically and worldwide. Doing that is and will continue to be a struggle, at every level.

February 24, 2009 Posted by | WWW | , , | Comments Off on Free expression in jeopardy

How can the SBC single out homosexuality?

Lyn Robbins of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, blogs a careful assessment of the homosexuality issues for which his church has been brought to the brink of expulsion (disfellowship) from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). And offers a solution which would serve both his church and the SBC well.

Action was delayed last week and additional information sought by the SBC Executive Committee to which the matter was referred by the SBC annual meeting last June.

Speaking for himself, not in his role as the church’s attorney, Robbins argues that the SBC Executive Committee should find there is no compelling reason to expell Broadway Baptist from the denomination. The church’s acceptance of homosexuals as members, who serve on church committees, is not sufficient reason. He explains:

According to the most recent amendment to the Southern Baptist Convention constitution, a church is not in friendly cooperation with the SBC if it acts to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. I do not believe Broadway has so acted. Such actions would include things like open statements of affirmation of homosexual behavior or publications of such statements. Such acts could include things like performance of a marriage or marriage-like ceremony between persons of the same gender. Such acts could arguably include ordination of homosexuals. Broadway has done none of those things.

His argument is careful and of necessity therefore complex.

Buried in its core like a diamond deep in a vein of lesser rock, however, is one clear, final argument: If the SBC boots out churches which allow homosexuals to become members and serve on committees, must it not do the same for with regard to other sins?

As he puts it:

How can church pick this one issue as the touchstone for withdrawing membership? Are we next going to excommunicate the gossips, the mean, the greedy, the abusive, the lazy, the gluttonous? I know many who do not believe that tithing is required; I know others who believe that failure to tithe is a sin. Is one side of that debate going to disfellowship the other?

There he may have found the path back up out of the inquisitorial pit which threatens to see the SBC booting out one church after another for welcoming into its midst people who are known to be (in SBC terms) sinners, not to lead the faithful, but to pursue the faith.

If you are seriously concerned about SBC issues, the entire argument deserves your attention here.

Update

Texas Blogger Ken Coffee, a retired Baptist minister, makes a similar point. At his blog “Strong Coffee” he writes:

If I had been a member at Broadway I would have told the SBC that we will dismiss all homosexuals from our church as soon as you dismiss all adulterers from yours.”

When you get rid of all the adulterers, you can start on getting rid of all liars. When the liars are all gone, start getting rid of the gossipers. And on and on.

Now, I sincerely believe homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God, as is any lust of the flesh. But isn’t that what a church is for—to bring sinners under the gospel?

Christa Brown at “Stop Baptist Predators” asks:

If congregational autonomy doesn’t preclude the SBC from investigating a church with gay members, why does congregational autonomy preclude the SBC from investigating a church with a reported clergy child molester in the pulpit?

The author of “Deep in the heart …” agrees with Christa, asking:

If Broadway is under investigation, then why are these other churches, especially those where the abusers continue to serve, not under investigation also? All it would require, apparently, is a motion from the floor of a convention.

February 24, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion | , | 6 Comments