Saturday, June 30, 2007

Our future leaders?

The future of the Global South church is with our teenagers and young people. If we do not get the message of hope in Christ to them, then the Global South Church will be weak and anemic. Compounded with the problems of growing persecutions, superstitions, and false teachings, we have a lot of challenge in front of us.

Teenagers in Crisis?

Young people need new role models and a new definition of a positive lifestyle.

by Maria Mackay
Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2007, 16:23 (BST)

When most of us think back to our teen years, we think of a world where school was comfortably predictable, ‘bills’ and ‘mortgage’ belonged safely to the vocabulary of parents, and free time really meant free time. Yet it seems that what were supposed to be the best years of our life have now become some of the hardest.

Just last week, a report from the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health raised the red flag on the “sexual health crisis” facing Britain’s teenagers and warned that young people are increasingly “defining their lifestyle” by alcohol, drugs and risky sexual behaviour. This, the report said, was being encouraged by the “positive media coverage” of celebrity behaviour involving sex, alcohol and drugs.

The pressure on young people is enormous, whether it is to succeed, to be beautiful, to have the latest gadgets, or to fit in. Then there is the added confusion that exists in trying to figure out just where you belong and why on earth you should bother – with anything. Yet the coping mechanisms seem to have changed over time. While teenagers used to play loud music, drink a little bit or swear occasionally to vent their frustrations it seems the solution today for most teenagers is to indulge in even more alcohol, even more drugs and even more sex. The line of excess has been well and truly crossed.

My mother was always a passionate gardener and there were times I would offer my “help” as a child. The only job I was ever entrusted with – much to my disappointment - was to pull out the weeds. And pull them I did, whole bunches of them. Yet it was always a job failed. My one fatal mistake? As my despairing mother told me, I only pulled out the leaves but not the root.

The IAG report suggests a holistic and joined up intervention, bringing together all major related agencies and governmental departments to work on a strategy that will “disco urage” young people from using drugs and alcohol, which it hopes will in turn reduce the number of risky sexual encounters they enter into.

But my fear is that this will simply end up like my own childhood attempt at weeding – an exercise in cutting off leaves without actually taking out the root. It might work to an extent, it might work for some time, but it won’t take away the problem completely. And so long as even a little bit of the root remains, there is always a chance that the root will grow back again and all the leaves with it.

A strategy of discouragement suggests simply showing young people all the bad that could result from their wanton behaviour, no doubt a well-put together and well-meaning package of startling statistics on a list of yucky STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Even if that shocked some young people into sobering up, however, I suspect many will remain largely indifferent so long as they see no better or more appealing escape from the pressures of daily life and whatever meaninglessness or worthlessness they might be feeling.

It is easy to get lost in the leaves because there are so many. Yet, whether it is alcohol and drug dependency, depression, or licentious behaviour, the root is one and the same: many teenagers simply do not know that they were made to love and be loved by God. They are the prodigal sons of the modern world on a mission to fill their hearts yet missing the one thing that could truly bring meaning to their lives.

I am not naïve enough to think that the Government will adopt a wholly Christian solution to the problem tomorrow, but it would do well to incorporate at the very least a spiritual element into any strategy to deal with the worrying dependency on alcohol, drugs and sex so prevalent among teenagers today. The faith communities, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish, simply do not have to grapple with these issues to the same extent.

The Government should also help create a climate in which alternative – and here I mean Christian - lifestyles can be safely promoted and where the words ‘abstinence’ and ‘chastity’ are no longer feared or ridiculed but embraced as viable alternatives to the dominant safe sex approach to the STDs crisis.

If young people are defining their lifestyles according to alcohol, drugs and risky sexual behaviour then we Christians have a challenge on our hands to present them with an alternative lifestyle of faith, grace and the heavenly love that we share with God and our brothers and sisters. And if they are being encouraged to live hedonistic lifestyles by today’s celebrities then we have an even bigger task to come up with some new role models. Thankfully, we already have a great one: Jesus Christ.

Theology of persecution?

Anyone of you have any good articles on how Christians should respond to persecution? Something along the line of the theology of suffering, theology of persecution, etc. I read a few but I think there could be better ones. So if you have, please send to me, and i will post them.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Man Sexually Assaulted in Pakistan After Refusing to Convert

Lawyers in Pakistan are investigating a report that up to 30 men tortured and gang-raped a young Christian man for refusing to convert to Islam.

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2007, 7:54 (BST)

Lawyers in Pakistan are investigating a report that up to 30 men tortured and gang-raped a young Christian man for refusing to convert to Islam.

The victim is seriously injured and unable to move, Release International’s partner in Pakistan has reported. However, according to the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) the police are keeping him locked up and have denied him medical treatment.

The police are also refusing to register the rape following a counter-claim made by his principal attacker – “a man of influence”, Release International has told Christian Today.

A ccording to CLAAS, the Christian was invited to a game of cricket. A quarrel broke out and he was beaten up. Later that evening, the father of one of the Muslims asked the Christian over to his house.

Joseph Francis, the National Director of CLAAS, explained: “When he entered the drawing room, he found it filled with unknown people. They began to beat him severely. They threatened him with dire consequences if he did not accept Islam. After his refusal, they committed sodomy with him one by one for the whole night.”

Francis said that they later threw their victim out on the street unconscious.

CLAAS has visited the victim and his family. They believe the counter accusation that he stole money and a mobile phone is false. They say the charges were drawn up by the attacker, who has used his influence to put pressure on the authorities.

“We’re deeply concerned about the growing number of attacks against Christians in Pakistan,” says Release International’s CEO Andy Dipper. “We are receiving reports of rape, abductions and forced conversion. Pakistan is becoming an increasingly difficult place for Christians to live.

“To make matters worse, the government is pushing through a law which could impose the death penalty for any Muslim man who converts to Christianity – and life imprisonment for any woman."

"As well as being an attack on the basic human rights of Muslims, this will also make things harder for Christians who preach the gospel," concluded Dipper.

Release International is appealing to Christians to pray for the victim and for the lawyers at CLAAS, who are dealing with a growing number of atrocities against Christians.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Missional even when persecuted!

Global South Churches are in constant threat of persecution. Pray that we will faithful witnesses to the One who has suffered and died on our behalf, especially when we are chosen to be worthy to suffer for His name sake.

Three Indonesian Sunday School Teachers Released From Prison

The three Indonesian women who have been serving a prison sentence for their Christian beliefs and witness, have been released from Indramayu State Prison, West Java.

by Special Report from Open Doors
Posted: Monday, June 11, 2007, 12:57 (BST)

The three Indonesian women who have been serving a prison sentence for their Christian beliefs and witness, have been released from Indramayu State Prison, West Java.

The three had served two years of a three-year sentence handed out for running a ‘Sunday School’ for local Muslim children.

Dr Rebekka Zakaria, Ratna Bangun and Eti Pangesti were sentenced in 2005, after the court in Indramayu found them guilty to charges brought by the Indonesian Clerics Council of breaching the country’s 2002 Child Protection Law. They were freed on parole at 6am local time and went immediately to be reunited with their families.

Rebbeka told Open Doors, “These [prison] gates are a university of trust.”

She continued, “This is nothing compared with the suffering and persecution faced by others. Compared with the Lord’s love and what He has given me, it is worth it.”

Eddie Lyle, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland, said “This is wonderful news. Rebekka, Ratna and Eti were an inspiration to me when I visited them; I was profoundly impressed by their courage and commitment.”

The women of the Christian Church of David's Camp set up a ‘Happy Sunday’ programme, with Christian songs, games and Bible studies for the children, under the direction of pastor Dr Rebekka, in Eti’s home.

After 18 months, the programme was so popular, there were 40 children attending, but only 10 were from Christian homes. The Muslim children attending did so with the full consent of their parents.

However, opposition to the programme resulted in the forced closure of the church building in December 2004 but the three women continued to run the Happy Sunday programme from Eti’s home.

On 13 May 2005, the women were arrested and taken to the police station for questioning. They were accused of breaching the Child Protection Law, Chapter 86, No. 23/2002. Throughout the trial, Islamic extremists made murderous threats to the three mothers from both inside and outside the courtroom. Several bus loads of Islamic militants arrived each day, bringing with them a coffin to bury the ladies if they were found innocent.

Throughout their imprisonment, the ladies have remained powerful witnesses for their Christian faith. They transformed the prison by cleaning washrooms and toilets, scrubbing cells, working on the garden and even painting in bright yellow and blue the walls of the room they used for church meetings.

Within the women’s section, quarrelling was reduced and because of Rebekka, Ratna and Eti’s calming influence the guards overruled prison protocol and allowed each woman to have her own knife and spoon in their cell.

The case of these ladies sparked international concern among the Christian community resulting in a global letter writing campaign and prayer vigils.

Eddie concluded, “Elsewhere in the world, in countries such as North Korea and Eritrea, thousands of Christians remain unjustly imprisoned for their faith. As with any family we experience rights and responsibilities, and our responsibility as the Christian brothers and sisters of those in prison, is to continue serving and encouraging them through our prayers and practical support.”

Copyright © 2007 Christian Today. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Where's your toyol?

I thot since I blogged about the Thailand's amulet and the Chinese coffin, I thot i should complete it with some Malay-Indonesian amulets. But Google gave me toyols instead. So I thot it would be interesting reading for some of you. (If it resembles you in anyway - either in appearance or behavior - it is pure coincidence and unintentional! However if there are any similarities, it will have SERIOUS legal and biblical consequences, of an earthquake proportion!)

A Toyol or Tuyul is a mythical spirit in the Malay mythology of South-East Asia (notably Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore). It is a small child spirit invoked by a bomoh (Malay witch doctor) from a dead human foetus using black magic. It is possible to buy a toyol from such a bomoh.

Some say that toyol has its origins from Mecca near the Kaaba (the belief refers to the Pre-Islamic Era where the Arabs used to kill their children and bury them all around Mecca. The Chinese name for the toyol is guǐ zai (literally "ghost child"). The corresponding term in the Hokkien dialect is kwee kia.

A person who owns a toyol uses it mainly to steal things from other people, or to do mischief. According to a well-known superstition, if money or jewellery keeps disappearing mysteriously from your house, a toyol might be responsible.

One way to ward off a toyol is to place some needles under your money, for toyols are afraid of being hurt by needles.

A Malay source give us a bit more details.

The toyol’s main task is to steal for his master. It is believed among the Malays that a toyol may be brought back from Middle East or Holy Mecca, after paying a sum of money to its’ keeper.

However, a toyol only steals some amount equivalent to his own price. It is said his owner may never get rich but will never be short of cash. The toyol has to be fed with a blood charm drawn from the toe of its owner.

The toyol is known to be short and small with a bulging stomach, wide-eyed, and with big pointed ears and childish nature.

According to the Malay beliefs, one way of deterring the toyol from stealing, is to place live crabs near the house. The toyol is believed to be fond of playing with the crabs until dawn and thus not be able to steal any money.

There are some slight differences in the toyol folklore of the region, such as Thailand, Indonesia, The Philippines or Brunei.

Some Western ghost resembles the Malay toyol. Their characters are identical; mischievous, playful and dull-witted.

The Malay Language version

Mengikut kepercayaan orang Melayu, toyol dibeli dengan harga tertentu daripada penyimpannya di Timur Tengah. Toyol dikatakan bertubuh kecil, pendek, berperut buncit, berkepala botak, mepunyai mata dan telinga yang besar serta bersifat keanak-anakan.

Pemilik toyol memberi makan kepada toyolnya dengan menghisap ibu jari kakinya dalam sebuah bilik gelap. Toyol digunakan oleh tuannya untuk mencuri wang, namun toyol tidak boleh mencuri wang yang melebihi daripada harga beliannya pada setiap kali curiannya. Walaubagaimanapun, pemilik toyol dikatakan tidak akan kaya raya, tetapi dapat hidup selesa kerana tidak pernah kehabisan wang.

Mengikut kepercayaan masyarakat Melayu, bagi mengelakkan toyol mencuri, ketam diletakkan didalam rumah supaya apabila toyol masuk, dia akan leka bermain dengan ketam hingga ke pagi dan tidak jadi mencuri. Namun demikian, terdapat pelbagai versi cerita toyol dalam masyarakat di Nusantara, Indonesia, Filipina, Brunei, Malaysia dan Thailand.

Ada hantu Barat yang menyerupai toyol. Kelakuannya sama, iaitu nakal, suka bermain dan bersifat kebodoh-bodohan.

Where's your coffin?

Global South Churches are confronted with different worldviews, like this story below. How can we make the Gospel relevant in such circumstances?

A career boost with ‘coffin luck’

G.S. Narinder Singh
NST, Malaysia

GEORGE TOWN: A coffin is not your run-of-the-mill piece of home decor. But according to a calligrapher, it’s not uncommon for people to have one.

Tan Ah Seng says he sells the scaled-down models of coffins to those seeking job promotions and prosperity in life.

"Customers come from all corners of Malaysia and overseas, especially China, to buy the coffins.

"A person aspiring to make a career breakthrough can have his wish granted by keeping these small coffins," he said.

To make it more effective, Tan carves four auspicious Chinese characters on the coffins.
"I use the ‘Seng Koon Fatt Choy’ lineage as it means gaining promotions."

Tan said he started making and selling the miniature coffins after meeting a nun 15 years ago.

"She asked me to carve a small coffin to rid herself of evil spirit from the death of an unborn baby," he said.

After that, word spread and people anxious to climb the corporate ladder began asking for the coffins.

"The small coffins are made of jelutong wood and are available in two sizes for RM15 or RM30," he said, adding that the design was a replica of a real coffin.

Depending on how complicated the design was, Tan said it took about two hours to make a miniature piece.

Tan is also a renowned calligrapher and is often engaged to inscribe auspicious characters on lanterns, especially during Chinese New Year.

He also makes mini wooden clogs to be sold as novelty items in souvenir stores.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Where's your amulet?

The Global South Church is always confronted with spiritual warfare matters and superstitions. Below is an article that reflects this situation.

Flag of Thailand

Thailand caught in an amulet craze
By Todd Crowell

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT, Thailand - This city lies at roughly the same latitude as as the internationally renowned resort destination of Phuket, except that it is on the Gulf of Thailand side of the Malay Peninsula, while Phuket is an island in the Andaman Sea.

Nakhon Si Thammarat is an ancient city, tracing its present incarnation to the 13th century. One can easily discern the outlines of the old city in the current layout of streets and in the remnants of the city wall.

Lately, Nakhon Si Thammarat has become a tourist destination, possibly the biggest in Thailand. Four flights a day from Bangkok disgorge visitors. They stream off buses and trains. The city estimates that 1.6 million people visited in 2006, straining its modest accommodations.

Very few of the visitors are foreign tourists - no sun-seeking Europeans, no backpackers, no beachcombers. During the weekend I spent there, I encountered only one other farang (ethnic-European foreigner), a Dane who was attending his brother-in-law's wedding, and he seemed happy enough to get back to Chiang Mai.

The Thai visitors are pilgrims, really. They don't come because of the city's rich history, the Makhalon archeological site to the north or the Phrom Lok Waterfall or any of the other attractions touted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Southern Region. No, they come for just one reason: Jatukam!

All of Thailand is in the grip of Jatukam fever and the supposed magical powers of the talisman, but nowhere else is it so all-consuming as in this city, where it all began. It seems every other citizen is wearing one of the amulets.

They are easy to spot, since they look like Olympic bronze medals suspended by a chain around the neck. Sometimes more than one. (Thai joke: A man goes to the doctor complaining of neck and shoulder pain. The doctor points to the five Jatukam medallions strung around his neck and suggests he lighten the load.)

It is impossible to ignore the phenomenon here. Billboards plastered on the side of buildings display the latest models. Sound trucks that in any other Thai city might be advertising boxing matches or the candidates in local elections broadcast information on new medals.

Along Ratchadamoen Road, the city's main street, whole shops are given over to display cases stocked with the medallions in their little plastic cases, generally priced from 2,000-5,000 baht (US$62-$154). Even stores that sell ordinary household items still have a few cases displaying the latest amulets.

Even e-bay is selling them!

The Jatukam craze has become a huge bonanza for Nakhon Si Thammarat and the Buddhist temples that give the medals their blessing. Of the city's 560 temples, 200 produce the amulets, and more are planning to do so. The sales and visitors have brought in more than 10 billion baht. (Nationally the amulets trade is estimated at 40 billion baht.)

Jatukam fever is bringing in so much money that the Thai Revenue Department is considering whether to tax the amulets, helping to offset loss of tax revenue from the general downturn in the economy. "There's a tremendous amount of money floating around in the amulet market," said department director general Sanit Rangnoi.

What is Jatukam?

The amulet's full name actually refers to two people, Jatukam Rammathep, and their origin is obscure and difficult to understand for someone not steeped in Hindu-Buddhist mythology. By some accounts, they were princes in the 13th-century Srivijay Kingdom of which Nakhon Si Thammarat was the center.

Another theory is that the names are a corruption of Khuttugama and Ramadeva, two Hindu guardians that can be seen alongside the stairway leading into the inner sanctum of the Great Stupa of Wat Pra Mahathat, which is said to be the most important and historic Buddhist wat (temple complex) in southern Thailand.

The first Jatukam amulets were stuck and sold in 1987 (they now fetch prices in excess of a million baht, or nearly $30,000). But only a few of the amulets were sold for many years. The craze only took off last year.

Most Jatukam enthusiasts associate the amulets with a much more contemporary figure, Police Major-General Phantarak Rajadej, the provincial police chief who died last September at age 103. He was said to have magical powers and was instrumental in building the holy site called the City Pillar, now a center of the amulet trade.

His cremation ceremony here in February drew tens of thousands of people, some hoping to obtain one of the talismans distributed to mourners. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn presided.

On a rainy Saturday, I found my way to the City Pillar to observe the consecration of a new Jatukam amulet. The pillar is a golden stele, with the four faces of Buddha at the top enclosed in a white alabaster structure.

In the late morning, the courtyard was already crowded with people. A huge offering table displayed a feast of symbolic offerings: heaps of grapes, bananas, crabs, durians, even two hogs' heads. A loudspeaker blared out constant announcements or prayers. Every now and then one heard the crackling of fireworks.

At 1:30pm, 10 saffron-clad monks took their seats on a long bench on one side of the pillar and began a steady, droning prayer chant that lasted for 40 minutes as people paid their respects by listening respectfully, their hands folded in prayer.

On the far side of the pillar complex, several men were kneading clay that would be pressed into amulets. The chanting came to a close, and a senior monk took his place in front of a press, having the privilege of striking off the first amulet.

Then he stood up, cupping the newly minted medallion in the palm of his hand for all to see. People crowded around to gape and take pictures as if it were some kind of exotic and fabulously expensive rare jewel. Another little Buddha was born.

Hope amid uncertainty

There are plenty of theories to explain the enormous popularity of the Jatukam phenomenon in Thailand at this time in its history. And there are plenty of people happy to testify about motorbike accidents survived, of diseases cured by the miraculous power of the amulet.

Some argue that the phenomenon is symptomatic of the "confused state of Thai Buddhism" - to quote The Nation newspaper - where temples and monks are willing to debase their religion and calling for the enormous profits that can be had from amulet sales, sales that dwarf the traditional temple trinkets by a huge margin.

Some argue that Thais are feeling insecure given the country's political turmoil and the aging of their beloved monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and thus put their faith in objects they think can bring them good fortune, or at least keep away the bad.

One should not discount their sheer collectibility. New amulets are issued almost every day. Glossy, four-color catalogues display the latest models complete with the numbers of each limited edition and their prices.

And there is also the simple excitement of one young woman at the City Pillar as she struggled to convey in her limited English to this unenlightened farang why she was so happy to be present at the consecration of a new Jatukam amulet: "It gives you everything."

Todd Crowell is a Thailand-based correspondent for Asia Times Online.

(Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved.)


NUNS GONE WILD: Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate Get Down for Jesus Under the Spiritual "Guidance" of Father Charles Faso, O.F.M.
6/24/2007 7:31:00 PM
By -Matt Abbott

You can click to read more about this issue.
Not my place to comment.

More reason for decline in the West?


This is an edited version. Please click to read the whole article.

Eve Gets Naked in Church

December 23, 2005

What to do if you're a church youth group leader and need some money? Make an erotic calendar of course. That's what Stefan Wiest did in Germany.

In April, the youth group of the Lutheran congregation of Katzwang decided to come up with a fundraiser; the youth center rooms needed a new coat of paint. Somebody thought of making a calendar, one that could be sold in the community. The members of the youth group would be the models, depicting scenes from the Bible, but in a modern interpretation. Oh, and the calendar should be erotic, too. Why not, after all?

Nude photos it was.

They wanted to do everything properly: parents were informed, the pastor was asked to suggest suitable excerpts from the bible. Everyone under 18 needed written permission from their parents. A few members of the church board felt that showing naked women in the church was offensive, but they were clearly in the minority.

And so they took a few photographs. An exhibition was planned. Created a Web site. The young people thought about maybe advertising as well, otherwise nobody might come. The pastor talked to the evangelical press service and the church newspaper Sonntagsblatt. The next day he got a call from a Munich paper tz. "Why are you interested in our calendar?" he asked. He could hardly believe it. Why, Munich is 150 km away.

Soon thereafter, the Internet server crashed. A Reuters report on the bible calendar had been distributed across the globe, along with the Web site address. Within three days the site received 6 million hits, the entire first print run of the 2,000 calendars were sold, at €12.50 a pop. The next 3,000 copies were also snapped up and Wiest was forced to remove the order form from the site -- they just couldn't cope with any more customers.

Wiest gave interviews to the BBC, Colombian radio and dozens of German stations, while orders were coming in from Korea, India and the USA. Suddenly, there were arguments amongst the parish council, hostile reactions from Christian fundamentalists and criticism from the Catholic bishop. Last Thursday the parish community released a statement: It was never their intention to offend the religious feelings of others, the statement said.

Then the TV film crews got in on the act.

In the meantime these young people have got organized. The calendar has already made €40,000.

In Nuremberg-Katzwang the models have achieved a sort of notoriety, and they even seem to have achieved the original aim of the whole project: to get people interested in the Bible.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another reason why Global North is declining?

Hundreds queue for 'Erotic Church Service'

June 12, 2007
Ruth Gledhill is The Times
Religion Correspondent.

Yes, this really is a picture from a recent liturgy celebrated at a Protestant church in Cologne, as reported here. Thanks to Chris Gillibrand for his translation, which I've shamelessly lifted from his CathCon blog. I think this is a first for the Protestant Church anywhere. What a relief that it should have happened in Germany, and not the US or the UK.

Is this Church of Carthusians part of one of the numerous Protestant assemblies worldwide that are 'in bed with' with the CofE or TEC, so to speak? Preliminary enquiries with the CofE in London suggest they think not, because they're not part of the EKD. However, Chris's own clarification, that I've put at the end, indicates otherwise. Meanwhile, read on for Chris's translation or the original in Kölner Stadt-Anzeigerbelow. (Update: CofE insists are definitely neither 'in bed with' nor 'in communion with' this lot. See end for their statement.)

[PIC - which I decided not to post here]
'A female dancer dances in a skin coloured stocking in the middle of the church in front of the altar. She crawls about on the floor and wraps herself in a hanging down white cloth. Is this a blasphemous provocation, a scoffing at the Christian religion?

'No it is only one of the items on the agenda of the Protestant Church Assembly. The six-hundred-year-old church, the Church of the Carthusians in the south of Cologne has become the stage for an erotic church service. Nearly one thousand interested people waited outside the door of the former monastery, despite a thunderstorm- but in the end there was only room for four hundred people.

'For those who managed to get in, they had to take off their shoes on a white painted church interior. Above the entrance, there was the caption, “a warm welcome to the Vineyard of Love”. The space between the benches had been overlaid with velvet and from the ceiling wine and rose leaves were strewn onto the spectators. A man came to the microphone and announced, This is an erotic church service, can you move a bit closer together, all of you. This was followed by saxophone music and dance.

'The vicar arrived in a black cassock and barefoot. He announced that eroticism and lust are not taboo areas pushed aside by God. In fact, "lust has to be lived out", said Armin Beuscher, who tempered his speech immediately, by saying, “we are of course today in this service only able to implement this in a limited manner”.

'He talks about his family doctor who once surprised him with the question, “Do you pray with your wife regularly and do you make love regularly?” He was at first embarrassed and later became conscious of the deep meaning in this question, that both spirituality and eroticism are nourished by repetition. It is therefore certainly part of life which has been shown in the TV series “O God, Vicar” when he immediately after sleeping with a woman then went to a funeral. The speech at the grave, immediately thereafter came under the motto of the Church Assembly, “Lively, Powerful and more Spicy”. Beuscher’s conclusion was therefore “ perhaps we clergy should go more often to bed with our loved ones.”

'The faithful were then asked to take part in an anointing ritual in which they should massage the forehead and hands of the person sitting next to them. Some go further and embrace each other whilst others kiss. The atmosphere gets more relaxed. This is how most church services should be said Birgit Kruger (59 years old) from near Hamburg and the Bavarian Gertrude Schirmer (72 years old) said “I found the anointment most beautiful”. Then they all said an Our Father together and then Vicar Beuscher admonishes the parish with the words “praise God with your body, your lust and tenderness”. Judging by the enthusiastic applause, the audience fully intend to do this.'

The Church of Carthusians is part of the Protestant Church Assembly. During its recent meeting, where this service was discussed, Cardinal Meisner invited delegates to Cologne Cathedral. So this indicates that this body is well within the ecumenical loop. If so, is it conceivable that an 'ecumenical representative' of this lot might end up at Lambeth 2008 as an observer? In the meantime the unimpeachable Martyn Minns, the discreetly faithful Gene Robinson and a number of other extremely orthodox Anglican bishops will be excluded.

According to Chris, who saw this reported on German television, the newspaper article translated above in no way conveys the full sordid reality of the whole thing. Ironic, as he comments on his blog, that one reason behind the Reformation was the supposed 'decadence' of the Catholic Church. St Augustine would have had fun with this lot, both before and after his own Damascene experience I suspect. But what would the authors of the Carthusian Rule make of it? Reading this certainly helped me understand better some of the reasons for the Catholic priestly rule of celibacy. Original sin? There's nothing original here, that's for sure. Pity those who imagine there is.

Update: Is the Church of Carthusians in communion with the CofE? No, says the CofE.

This is what Chris says: 'The congregration there is part of Kirche-Koelne. The Cologne church grouping is part of the Rheinland Protestants which hosted the Kirchentag, which is itself nominally independent from the EKD [the body the Meissen agreement was made with] as a result of Second World War [no more officially organised mass rallies]. The Rheinland Protestants however are part of the EKD. The erotic event itself was part of the official programme of the Kirchentag. Things are never simple in Germany.'

This is what CofE says: 'The German Protestant Kirchentag (DEKT) is a lay-led festival launched in 1949, whose organisation is independent of the 'official' Church. As we understand it, the 'Erotic Church Service' was organised by an independent special interest group as part of this year's DEKT programme, among approximately 3,000 other debates, church services, concerts etc, which together form one of the largest Christian festivals in Europe.

'The venue where the church service took place, the Evangelische Karthäuserkirche, is part of the Evangelischer Kirchenverband Köln und Region, which again is part of the regional church Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland, which is a member Church of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). The Church of England and the EKD are in ecumenical relationship (not 'communion') through the Meissen Agreement.'

So they are in 'ecumenical relationship'. Is that how the Anglican Communion might end up describing its relationship with its own constituent parts? Still conceivable that some of them might end up at Lambeth as ecumenical observers.

IT IS FINISHED! well almost ...

PTL! After sloughing for the past 6 years, wife is allowed to submit her PhD thesis. That's a great relieve for her (and for me!)

In Singapore education process, once you are allowed to submit your thesis, it normally means that you have almost passed.

Now have to wait for the external examiner to come back and probably with some suggestions for revisions.

Then there is the viva (Oral Test) which probably be scheduled in Q1 of 2008 (so long?!). They probably will ask her to do some minor revisions here and there.

If all goes well, she will shake hands with the Chancellor in July 2008, and get another piece of paper to add to the toiletries.

Thank you for all your prayers, support, and patience!

May God be glorified.

Now my turn to slough for the next few years! :(

Monday, June 25, 2007

Missionaries from abroad rock secular Denmark

Foreign Missionaries Find Fertile Ground in Europe
Singaporean Pastor Fires Up Staid Danes

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, June 11, 2007; A01

Denmark's Flag

COPENHAGEN -- The "Amens!" flew like popcorn in hot oil as 120 Christian worshipers clapped and danced and praised Jesus as if He'd just walked into the room. In a country where about 2 percent of the population attend church regularly and many churches draw barely enough worshipers to fill a single pew, the Sunday morning service at this old mission hall was one rocking celebration.

In the middle of all the keyboards, drums and hallelujahs, Stendor Johansen, a blond Danish sea captain built like a 180-pound ice cube, sang along and danced, as he said, like a Dane -- without moving.

"The Danish church is boring," said Johansen, 45, who left the state-run Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church three years ago and joined this high-octane interdenominational church run by a missionary pastor from Singapore. "I feel energized when I leave one of these services."

The International Christian Community (ICC) is one of about 150 churches in Denmark that are run by foreigners, many from Africa, Asia and Latin America, part of a growing trend of preachers from developing nations coming to Western Europe to set up new churches or to try to reinvigorate old ones.

For centuries, when Europe was the global center of Christianity, millions of European missionaries traveled to other continents to spread their faith by establishing schools and churches. Now, with European church attendance at all-time lows and a dearth of preachers in the pulpits, thousands of "reverse missionaries" are flocking back, migrating from poor countries to rich ones to preach the Gospel where it has fallen out of fashion.

The phenomenon signals a fundamental shift in the power, style and geography of Christianity, the world's largest religion. Most of its more than 2 billion adherents now live in the developing world. And as vast numbers of them migrate to Europe, as well as to the United States, they are filling pews and changing worship styles.

Stendor Johansen and his wife eat lunch with their children after Sunday services run by Singaporean-born pastor Ravi Chandran in Copenhagen.

Churches in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, South Korea and the Philippines have sent thousands of missionaries to Europe to set up churches in homes, office buildings and storefronts. Officials from the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Pentecostal church based in Nigeria, said they have 250 churches in Britain now and plan to create 100 more this year. Britain's largest church, run by a Nigerian pastor in London, attracts up to 12,000 people over three services every Sunday.

The trend is vivid in Denmark, where charismatic preachers from Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, India, Iran and Latin America have set up vibrant Protestant and Catholic churches.

'We Came Back to the West'

"When we became Christians in the East, we read the Bible and it said, 'Go out into the world and spread the Gospel,' " Pastor Ravi Chandran said to the congregation gathered at the ICC's hall in Copenhagen one recent Sunday morning. "And guess what? We came back to the West!"

Chandran, a youthful 42, grinned broadly as he looked out at the rainbow of worshipers.

"Can you say 'Amen' to that?" he asked, and Johansen, his wife and children joined the rest of the congregation in a thunderous "Amen!"

Back home after church, tucking into a lunch of traditional Danish open-faced sandwiches, Johansen said that for most of his life he hadn't bothered going to services at the "state church," as the Lutheran Church is known here.

"As kids, we were not allowed to make any noise on Sundays," he said. The church seemed to him to place a higher value on order and ancient traditions than on tending to the concerns of parishioners. "The church didn't add any value to me. It gave me nothing I could use in my day-to-day life."

Danish people joke that almost everyone in Denmark is Lutheran but almost no one is religious. On a typical Sunday morning, most of Denmark's 2,100 parish churches are lucky to attract 20 worshipers each.

Karsten Nissen, one of the country's 10 Lutheran bishops, said that a quarter to a third of all people in church in Copenhagen any given Sunday morning are attending a foreign-run service. "These churches are a gift to our Danish Lutheran Church," Nissen said. "They open our eyes to a more human way of being Christians. It's the way we were Christians 100 years ago -- a very simple way, a good way, a more pious way and a more open and happy way of worship."

Denmark's ambivalence on matters of faith spurred a national debate in 2003 after a Danish Lutheran priest admitted publicly that he didn't believe in God. Church officials suspended him for a month, but hundreds of sympathetic parishioners rallied to his defense, saying that a priest didn't have to believe in God to promote Christian values."

This is a Christian country, but the population has forgotten what that means," said Bess Serner-Pedersen, who runs Alpha Denmark, a private group that offers adult courses in the basics of Christianity, including how to pray and read the Bible.

Serner-Pedersen said that since the 18th-century Enlightenment, which stressed reason and science as means of understanding the divine, European religious teaching has focused more on the intellectual than on the spiritual. "We have a country where the churches are talking to the mind, but we've forgotten that spirituality is about the heart as well," she said. "Our population is looking for churches that are more alive. We need these immigrant churches because they are bringing a message that we have forgotten."

Denmark is a wealthy nation of 5.5 million people that always scores near the top of surveys of the world's happiest nations. To Johansen, the problem is clear: "We're just too well-off in Europe." He earns a good salary working for the Danish shipping giant Maersk, skippering high-powered tugboats. He and his wife, Lene, a lawyer and teacher, have children ages 12, 10 and 7 months, with a minivan and bikes parked in the carport of their bright, sleekly designed home in an orderly suburb.

Johansen's work takes him all over the world, he said, and he has noticed much stronger religious faith in poorer societies. "What we call a crisis here is nothing compared to what people have to cope with in other parts of the world," he said. "We're basically rich and spoiled."

Over coffee and cakes, his friend Ib Johansen said European government leaders were partly to blame for the Continent's waning religious life. In his view, governments have zealously promoted the secular while regarding religious faith as a bit backward: "We're told, 'Grow up, man. Leave that behind. We are doing well now, we don't need God anymore.' "

U.S. Ambassador James P. Cain said that he and his family wanted to go to church shortly after they arrived in Denmark in the summer of 2005. But when they turned up for a scheduled

Sunday service at a Danish Lutheran church, they found the door chained and padlocked. The next week, he said, they tried a different Lutheran church, where the entire attendance at the service was nine people -- his family and bodyguards, plus two Danes.

Cain said Denmark's lack of religious culture was partly to blame for last year's Muhammad cartoons controversy, in which a Danish paper published unflattering caricatures of Islam's most revered prophet, touching off Muslim fury around the world.

"That, for the first time in a generation, caused the Danes to realize that their loss of faith and their increasing secularism made it very difficult for them to understand, or even feel empathy for, people who felt offended by caricatures of religious images," Cain said.

'No Judging, No Doomsday Talk'

Stendor Johansen said he had all but given up on religion before he heard about Chandran three years ago. Johansen and his wife went to one of the pastor's Sunday services, then held in a hotel ballroom, and were thrilled. Chandran seemed completely different from staid Lutheran ministers -- not just because of his dark South Asian skin, but because of his sheer enthusiasm for God.

The room was filled to capacity, Johansen recalled. Africans, Asians, Europeans, Americans and Danes were dancing and singing and listening to Chandran preach in his engaging style on topics ranging from current events such as the Iraq war to the meaning of Valentine's Day.

"There was no judging, no doomsday talk," Johansen said. "Ravi made it fun and practical. He was preaching ordinary stuff that everybody needs, not things that happened 2,000 years ago. He brought the Gospel to a level where it fit my life."

On a rainy Sunday morning recently, Chandran stood on a stage in a crisp black shirt and gray blazer and faced his congregation, a wireless microphone headset fixed over his ear. Behind him were a drum set, two electronic keyboards and a 20-by-20-foot video screen. A Mexican man with a laptop and a video projector clicked a few keys to display Bible verses on the massive screen.

Before Chandran sat children wearing baseball caps turned backward, men in ties, women in colorful African dresses, teenagers in jeans and sneakers -- black, white and Asian. Chandran did a quick head count. His 120-strong congregation that day hailed from 33 countries, including 17 in Africa, 6 in Europe, 6 in Asia and 4 in the Americas. Eighteen blond Danes were mixed in among the rest.

"Heaven is going to be very, very colorful," Chandran said, to laughter and more "Amens!"

By Chandran's account, he has preached and done missionary work in 45 countries. He and his wife, Lillian Leow Mui Choo, arrived in Denmark 12 years ago as Pentecostal missionaries sent by a Singaporean church. Five years ago, Chandran decided he wanted to start his own independent church, so he began the ICC as an interdenominational Christian church, which he said now has about 150 regular members.

The church advertises in local newspapers and on television to attract members, but he has to be careful not to offend Danish sensibilities. "Religion is very private here," he said. "Among Danes, you're not allowed to talk about God. But they make an exception for foreigners."

As part of his missionary work, Chandran serves on a local government council that deals with immigrant integration. He also recently joined a government health organization, counseling people with HIV-AIDS and training other counselors. He said both positions allow him to meet many Danes.

"There is a void, an emptiness that people feel that can't be filled with 'stuff,' " he said. "Sometimes there are certain holes that can only be filled with the right peg, and sometimes that is spiritual."

From the stage, Chandran looked out past Johansen and his family, past the beaming black and white faces singing "Amazing Grace," to rows of empty seats toward the back of the 500-seat hall.

In time, Chandran said, he's going to fill every one of them.

How Korea embraced Christianity

Former missionaries look back at a nation that's now the No. 2 source of Christian mission workers.

Source: from the March 07, 2007 edition -

| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

While Christianity's explosive growth has swept through much of the Southern Hemisphere – particularly across Africa – another dramatic story has unfolded in Asia. Some have dubbed it the "Korean miracle."

About one-third of South Koreans are now Christian. Seoul, the capital, boasts 10 of the 11 largest Christian congregations in the world. And South Korea sends more missionaries abroad to spread the word than any other country except the United States.

Christianity has grown from a few hundred adherents in the late 19th century to "about 9 million Protestants and 3 to 4 million Catholics in South Korea today," says the Rev. Samuel Moffett, professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey.

Dr. Moffett and his wife, Eileen, experienced "the miracle" firsthand. As a son of the first long-term Protestant missionary in northern Korea, he was born in Pyongyang in 1916 and grew up there. Later, the couple spent 25 years serving as missionaries in South Korea, starting in 1955 after the Korean War ended.

No one knows how many Christians remain in North Korea. Two-thirds of Korean Christians lived there before the war, but many fled to escape Communist rule.

The Moffetts have watched South Korea turn into an economic wunderkind, move from authoritarianism to democracy, and become a bastion of Christianity.

"Koreans are natural evangelists – they love to tell the good news," Moffett says during a recent phone interview from his home in Princeton, N.J.

For example, Mrs. Moffett remembers a drive they once took into the Korean countryside in their jeep, stopping along the road to buy a watermelon. "After the transaction, the man looked up and said in Korean, 'Are you a Christian?' I said 'yes,' " she recalls. "Then he said, 'Oh, that's wonderful. If you weren't, I was going to tell you how much you were missing!' "

Today, thousands of Koreans rise to attend prayer services in huge city churches at 4:30 a.m. before heading for work.

"Their prayer life is remarkable, and the whole congregation prays together," Sam says. "In the country churches, you sometimes have to ring a bell to get them to stop."

Yet when the Moffetts arrived after the war, "Korea was very much torn up, with only one paved road in what is now South Korea," Eileen remembers. The per-capita income was only $80 a year. "Many people had no adequate housing, and some were starving at certain times of year before the next crop came in."

The newlyweds headed to the rural southeastern area known as Andong, where they learned the language, helped provide food and clothing for the needy, and traveled around to serve the country churches. Despite desperate conditions, Eileen says, "the people were wonderful – so committed, of good humor, and devoted."

Eileen Moffett (l.), seen in this 1958 photo, went to South Korea after the Korean War with her husband Sam on a Protestant mission. For years, they worked in the rural Andong region and in the capital, Seoul.

The dynamism of Korean Christianity, many observers agree, is an outgrowth of the peninsula's unique history as well as the early role of indigenous leadership. Christian teachings were first brought to Korea not by foreigners, but by Korean diplomats who came in contact with Roman Catholicism in Japan and Manchuria. An active lay movement developed, but it led to controversy and periods of great persecution.

The first Protestant missionaries, American Presbyterians and Methodists, arrived in the late 1800s. The introduction of the Bible in the local language and the founding of schools for boys and girls helped spread the faith beyond the elites. Moffett's father, also named Samuel, was an early Presbyterian missionary.

"He landed in Pyongyang in 1890 on his 26th birthday and stayed for 46 years," Sam says. He founded the first seminary and began training Koreans.

After the Korean War, Sam Moffett (l.), seen in this 1958 photo, and his wife Eileen went to South Korea as Protestant missionaries. For years, they worked in the rural Andong region and in the capital, Seoul.

"Samuel Moffett Sr. was a missionary of great vision and commitment – a major figure who educated native pastors," says Timothy Kiho Park, a Korean who directs Korean studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.

One key to the rapid growth was the strategy adopted by the young pioneer missionaries, which emphasized developing indigenous leadership: "self-government, self-propagation of the faith, and self-support."

"This encouraged national leaders to take care of their own affairs without foreign control or funding," Dr. Park says. "They practiced it from the beginning, advising but letting the Koreans preach and run the churches."

And the Korean people, in desperate straits, were hungry for what the preachers had to offer. Japan colonized the peninsula from 1905 to 1945, and attempted to "Japanize" the population. In the midst of great suffering, Christianity apparently met people's spiritual needs. While some Koreans were Confucianists or Buddhists, "mostly [they were] shamanists and animists," Eileen says. "People often lived in fear of evil spirits."

The faith also grew rapidly as it became closely identified with the Korean independence movement. Some native Christians were imprisoned by the Japanese for pro-independence activities, including refusing to worship Japan's emperor. Missionaries were seen as supporting the movement. Sam's father was forced to leave the country in 1936 when he refused to send his students to the Shinto shrines.

Sam himself had not intended to become a missionary, he says, yet he got "hooked by the Lord." During a talk he attended while studying in the US, he recalls, the speaker said, "Gentlemen, your watches could tick for 9-1/2 years without numbering the people in China who have never heard the gospel."

That did it. With a Yale doctorate in hand, he headed off as a missionary to China in 1947, and soon faced the Communist revolution. "I stayed too long, was interrogated, detained, and finally given a people's trial," he says. He was thrown out of the country in 1951.

For most of the couple's quarter century in Korea, Sam taught ministry candidates at the Presbyterian College and Seminary in Seoul, where the seminary founded by his father in Pyongyang was reestablished. It has since become one of the largest in the world.

"Presbyterians are to Korea what Baptists are to Texas," he says with a chuckle.

Eileen, who has a master's degree in Christian education, for seven years served as director of the Korea Bible Club Movement, a network of schools for some 50,000 underprivileged children. Even children who worked in factories during the day would come to school at night, she says.

Christian chaplains active in factories and in the Army have been another key element in the Korean "miracle," as are the regular revivals held by churches.

Today, more than 16,000 Korean missionaries are working in countries around the globe. "Korea had a mission movement from the very beginning, with students from among the earliest seminary graduates going to Japan, Mexico, California, and Siberia," Park says.

The Moffetts stay in touch by phone with close Korean friends and still travel there quite often. Eight years ago, they went to North Korea, the home of Sam's childhood. They took food and medical supplies, working with a North Carolina-based group, Christian Friends of Korea.

Just last May, they took an unusual and unexpected trip back to the peninsula.The church in Korea asked to rebury Sam's father on the campus of the seminary he founded. "We were a little shocked," he says, "but we realized that was exactly what he would have loved." The couple took his parents' ashes to Korea with them.

Today, although a nonagenarian, Sam is busy working with a colleague on the third volume of his "History of Christianity in Asia." Eileen is archiving the letters of Korean missionaries from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Missional Community?

Community as the Goal (and Therefore Means) of Mission

"Mission is God acting through the church-community." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

(1) The starting point for any faithful understanding of the nature and mission of the church is an understanding of the nature and mission of the God who has created the church and sent it into the world. This "theocentric" focus on missions, often referred to as Missio Dei (the Mission, or Sending, of God), has risen in influence over the last fifty years.

(2) It has relocated the emphasis on the origins of mission from being one of many tasks given to the church to being the singular motivation that drives every action of God in the world. The reason that the church is to be a missional people is that its God is a missional God, the three Persons of the Trinity sending and being sent into the world to announce and enact God's Reign of shalom and agape.

(3) Therefore, if we are to understand what it means for the church of Jesus Christ to be sent into the world, we must know what it says about the character of the Triune God that the Head of that church - Jesus Christ, God the Son - and the Breath that fills, animates, and empowers that church - God the Holy Spirit- are sent by God the Father into the world.

Are we a missional community, that reflects the Triune God's character? Do we understand the meaning of sending and being sent? Are we passionate for mission, just as God is?

Friday, June 22, 2007

More coming problems in Global North?

Canadian Anglicans Elect Leader

The Associated Press
Friday, June 22, 2007; 6:25 PM

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- A liberal-leaning bishop who has expressed support in the past for full acceptance of gays and lesbians was elected Friday to lead the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishop Fred Hiltz of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island was chosen on the fifth ballot by clergy and lay people at the church's national meeting. Among the three other nominees for the post was Edmonton Bishop Victoria Matthews, who would have been the church's first woman leader.

The vote came one day before the assembly, called the General Synod, is to decide whether to allow Anglican priests to bless same-sex couples _ a step short of performing same-sex marriage, which is legal in Canada.

Chris Ambidge, president of the Toronto chapter of gay advocacy group Integrity, said Hiltz "has long been an advocate of opening church doors to all people" and that his election signals to gays and lesbians "that they are welcomed and affirmed in their church."

The leader of the Anglican church, called a primate, does not directly set such policy for the church; that is the role of the General Synod.

Still, the Rev. Canon Charlie Masters, head of the conservative Canadian group Anglican Essentials, said the election of Hiltz raised "fears" about the future of the denomination.

"He is the first bishop who has publicly given his support to same-sex marriage so there are concerns of his position," Masters said.

Hiltz, 53, will succeed Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, who is retiring at the end of this meeting.

Hiltz, who is married to Lynne Samways and has a son, refused to discuss his personal views after the election, but he said he worries that a vote in favor of same-sex blessings could lead some theologically conservatives to break away from the church.

"I will do all I can to encourage people to stay in the church and remain respectful at table and in conversations," Hiltz said.

The vote comes at a time when divisions over the Bible and homosexuality are tearing at the world Anglican Communion, a 77 million-member fellowship of churches that trace their roots back hundreds of years to the Church of England.

Most of the world's Anglicans are theological conservatives who believe gay relationships violate Scripture. More liberal Anglicans emphasize social justice teachings in the Bible, leading them to support full acceptance of same-sex couples.

Even before this week's Canadian meeting, the world Anglican Communion was already in an uproar over the U.S. Episcopal Church's 2003 consecration of the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United States. Anglican leaders have given the U.S. denomination until Sept. 30 to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another openly gay bishop or authorize official prayers for same-sex couples. If Episcopalians fail to agree to the demands, they risk losing their full membership in the communion.

Separately, the Anglican Church of Canada came under fire in 2002, after Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia allowed parishes in his region to bless gay couples. In 2004, the Diocese of Niagara voted to follow suit, but its bishop has barred the ceremonies for now.