Southern Religion

British Baptists’ unprecedented letter to the Prime Minister

Appealing for action against global warming in an unprecedented, front-page letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the The Baptist Times, Britain’s only Baptist newspaper, the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) wrote:

Prime Minister, we wholeheartedly support the personal commitment that you have shown towards ensuring that the crisis of climate change is addressed as a moral issue, and not just an economic or scientific issue. The poorest people in the world will suffer the most unless we, the richest, take a strong lead.

We therefore ask that you continue to do all you can to make sure that at the Copenhagen Conference the United Kingdom speaks for the interests of the poor of the world on these issues, and provides clear leadership to other nations in this regard.

Written in support of the PM’s efforts at the Copenhagen Climate Conference 2009 in December, the open letter is believed to be “the first time in its 217-year history BMS has written directly to a serving British prime minister.”

Signed by Baptist partners from 23 countries and representing a British community of more than a quarter of a million people in 2,500 churches, the letter makes no demands.
Instead, acting with biblical civility and defying the pervasive shrillness of our times, the signatories promise to pray for the PM and his efforts.
Like those who subscribe to Southern Baptist Creation Care, the letter takes the position that “we have a fundamental responsibility to care for God’s world and God’s people.” Thus it is in keeping with the BMS heritage “which led past generations to combat the evil of slavery, and more recently, support the Jubilee debt campaign … .”
In an editorial in the same issue, Baptist Times Editor Mark Woods adds:

Climate change has been described by leading scientists as a weapon of mass destruction. There is a widespread consensus that while there are of course natural cycles of global warming and cooling, the rate and pattern of change we are seeing now can only be adequately explained by the quantity of greenhouse gases we are putting into the atmosphere. Without the most strenuous efforts to reduce these quantities and mitigate the effects of the change which is now inevitable, the consequences for the world’s peoples – particularly the poorest peoples – are beyond imagining.

At the same time, we need to be aware of the psychological aspects of the climate change campaign. It is clearly wrong, for instance, to demonise those who deny the influence of human beings on climate change. To put them in the same category as Holocaust deniers, as some of the more intemperate campaigners do, is unacceptable.

Science proceeds on the basis of doubt, and progress is based on a willingness to think the unthinkable.

He concludes and in view of the evidence [1, 2, 3, 4] we agree without reservation:

The natural world takes no account of public opinion: the world will not grow cool again because enough people believe that it should. We should be prepared to be led by the facts … .

November 3, 2009 Posted by | environment, Religion | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Focus on the Family banned pending investigation from Australian Capital Territory schools

Focus on the Family has been banned from Australian Capital Territory (ACT) schools while its practices are investigated.

Focus on the Family has been accused [by a parent at a Canberra high school] of vilifying homosexuality, and preaching religion to students without parental consent.

The group runs a values-based program in that school and five others. It covers issues including marriag, abstinence and “the dangers of pornography.”

Odds that their team didn’t make clear their views on homosexuality seem vanishingly small from here. We’ll see.

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Education, Law | | Comments Off on Focus on the Family banned pending investigation from Australian Capital Territory schools

News about online, socially networked churches

Congregations connect on social networks, reports the Nasheville Tennessean, and it works. Some have reservations, but the trend is irresistible.

This week’s Associated Press story about online churches even has a few few links. Too few. Here is a slightly expanded list of links for the very busy:

Feel free to tweet us your recommended additions.

Are you among the skeptical who wonder why you should care? Via Tim Schrader:

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Churches, WWW | | Comments Off on News about online, socially networked churches

Stretching the button point

About that “One nation …” button on your apron:

West Palm Beach, FL—A former employee of a Home Depot store in Okeechobee, Florida claims he was unfairly terminated after he refused to remove a button from his work apron, which had an American flag with the words “One nation under God, indivisible” imprinted on it. The 20-year-old worker is planning on filing a lawsuit against the home improvement company for religious discrimination, as reported by the Sun-Sentinel.

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Law, Religion | 1 Comment

Photo of the night: Galaxy cluster & quasar

galaxy cluster called SDSS J1004+4112

Bright at the center of this Hubble Space Telescope (HST) photograph of galaxy cluster SDSS J1004+4112, is a quasar. The gravity lens create by the cluster warps and magnifies the quasar’s light. The quasar was the first discovered to be multiply-image lensed by the gravity of a galaxy cluster.

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Education | Comments Off on Photo of the night: Galaxy cluster & quasar

Religious Right will draw blood tomorrow


Sarah Palin, queen of oogedy-boogedy, recorded a Va. robocall, mostly about herself. She also endorsed the New York 23rd District Conservative Party candidate, turning that race on it’s head.

In April conservative columnist Kathleen Parker was mulling the obituary of the Religious Right – the oogedy-boogedy branch of the Republican Party. And tomorrow, very much alive, they’re likely to romp here and there.

Progressive Sara Posner writes:

From Virginia to New York to Maine, the religious right is playing a key in tomorrow’s off-year elections. The reports of its death were greatly exaggerated.

. . .

Every other election cycle or so, the religious right makes noises that it might have to form a third party of its own. Although the likelihood of success for Christianist third party is nil, this “values voters” grandstanding is not an empty threat. It moves GOP candidates, particularly in the primaries, to the right. They can’t win without the Christian right money or ground troops.

She then conducts a tour of races in which the Religious Right has imposed its will, most notably in NY-23 where, win or lose, Sarah Palin & Co. ejected a Republican moderate and put a Conservative Party candidate in the lead.

They’re not the same, but the search for a redeeming new name isn’t on the minds of the prevailing Religious Right leaders tonight. That doesn’t mean they’re really back in electoral charge, however. It means they aren’t dead.

Did someone seriously think they would be dead? They have long made their political living by manipulating a target audience they know well and they are, of course, still good at it.

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , | 2 Comments

Coming: Documentation of the church’s handling of priestly sexual abuse [Update & Addendum]

Release of documents generated for sexual abuse lawsuits against priests in a Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut came a step closer Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene, and news stories will certainly follow from those documents.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan may be even less happy than when he wrote FOUL BALL! last week, accusing the New York Times of “anti-catholicism.” One might legitimately wonder whether his criticism was motivated in part by the prospective release of those documents. Preparations intended to cushion the impact were certainly being made elsewhere.

The documents promise to be revealing of internal church handling of sexually predatory clergy. That is in part why New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and the Hartford Courant “have been fighting for eight years to get the documents unsealed.” They include more than 12,000 pages from 23 lawsuits against the six priests.

A little is already known about what they contain. As the Hartford Courant explained:

Among the court documents are three depositions by former Bishop Edward Egan, who was in charge of the Bridgeport diocese when most of the lawsuits against priests under his control were filed and adjudicated. Egan retired last year as the archbishop of New York.

The Courant obtained copies of [former Bishop] Egan’s depositions, which show that he knowingly transferred priests who had been accused of sexually molesting boys to different parishes and rarely removed an alleged pedophile priest from service.

Dolan’s attempts to minimize the magnitude of church mishandling of decades of priestly sexual predation aren’t likely to reflect well upon him as revelations from the release of these documents are considered.


The Courant reports: “A status conference on how the documents might be made public will be held Nov. 9 at Superior Court in Waterbury.”

The Bridgeport diocese responds, still arguing the correctness of its case:

We were disappointed to learn that the United States Supreme Court has decided not to hear our case. The Court reviews only about 80 cases out of more than 10,000 cases presented, and regularly reminds the public that it must decline to review many cases that were wrongly decided by the lower courts. Unfortunately, ours was one of those cases.


Archival Courant stories indicate why the documents may be revealing:

  • Now-retired New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan, while serving as bishop of the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese, protected abusive priests.
  • Psychiatric hospital doctors believe they were deceived by the Roman Catholic Church to provide cover for the transfer of abusive priests.
  • Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in disgrace “for protecting sexually abusive priests and covering up their misdeeds.”

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Crime | , , | Comments Off on Coming: Documentation of the church’s handling of priestly sexual abuse [Update & Addendum]