Wednesday, August 15, 2007

15 August 2007

[1] Second Oldest Pennsylvania Presbyterian Church Joins EPC
[2] David C. Hancock
[3] Groundbreaking at Atonement
[4] Bill Roberts, ARP Synod Historian
[5] Methodists Will Revisit Transgender Clergy Status
[6] Conversion Code of Conduct Emerging
[7] Kidnapped Christian Forced to Marry Muslim

Second Oldest Pennsylvania Presbyterian Church Joins EPC

Great Valley Presbyterian in Malvern, Pennsylvania. joined the New Wineskins/EPC Transitional Presbytery in July 2007. With the single exception of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia (1698), it is the oldest Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania. The founders were Welshmen who left their country for conscience’s sake. The church was gathered prior to 1710 and formally organized in 1714. Since the first pastor, Rev. David Evans, was called in 1720, 22 pastors have served the congregation including the current pastor, Rev. Daniel Stewart.

The original log church, erected in 1720, was located north of where the old vault building now stands in the cemetery. It is marked by the grave of Thomas Hutchinson, whose monument now stands where the pulpit once stood. The cornerstone for the second church was laid in 1793, on the same day George Washington laid the cornerstone of the capital building in Washington. In the 1880’s the second church was razed and a third church was built on the same site. A Christian Education Building was added in 1960, and the third church was renovated and expanded in 1968 and 1980 to become the structure we worship in today.

+ Great Valley Presbyterian Church, 2025 Swedesford Rd. Malvern, PA 19355 (610) 644-1995

+ Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 17197 N. Laurel Park Drive, Suite 567, Livonia, Michigan 48152

David C. Hancock

Rev. David C. Hancock, a longtime leader in Presbyterian Church (USA) efforts to minister with people suffering alcohol and drug addictions, died 1 Aug. in a Minneapolis nursing home aat age 93.

A graduate of Hanover College and McCormick Theological Seminary, Hancock was ordained to the ministry in 1951. Believing he had "failed miserably" to help parishioners overcome alcohol and drug problems, Hancock left parish ministry in 1964 to devote himself to alcohol and drug abuse prevention, becoming a co-founder and leader of the national non-profit Prevention of Alcohol Problems.

Hancock also served on numerous Presbyterian oards and commissions and was instrumental in the creation of the Presbyterian Network on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (PNAODA), a network of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association. A million copies of his pamphlet "I Can't Be an Alcoholic Because ..." have sold.

"He was really ahead of his time," said the Rev. Gordon Grimm, a retired Lutheran pastor and former staffer at Hazelden, a treatment center near Center City, Minnesota. "Rather than seeing everything about alcohol as negative, he would [teach] that it is a part of life, that people need to set boundaries, and if they can't, they need help," said Grimm.

+ Presbyterian Church (USA), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202

Groundbreaking at Atonement

Presbyterian Church of the Atonement, Silver Spring, Maryland, broke ground 29 July to ceremonially begin the long-planned renovation of the church grounds and facilities. On Sunday morning the congregation gathered on the lawn in the southwest corner of the church property. The congregation is the Associate Reformed Presbyterian anchor church on the Maryland side of the nation’s capital.

+ Church of the Atonement, 10613 Georgia Avenue Silver Spring, Maryland 20902

Bill Roberts, ARP Synod Historian

Rev. Bill Roberts, pastor of Effingham Presbyterian Church and Historian of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod, died 11 Aug. A second service will also be held later in the week at the Ebenezer Church, Blue Mountain, Mississippi, which is Bill's home Church. Roberts had been undergoing treatment for cancer since April.

+ Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, 1 Cleveland St., Suite 110 Greenville, SC 29601-3646 (864) 232-8297

Methodists Will Revisit Transgender Clergy Status

The United Methodist Church's top judicial authority will again be considering questions about sexuality - including the case of a pastor who switched gender from female to male - when it tackles a full docket at its fall meeting.

The Judicial Council, the top court for The United Methodist Church, is scheduled to meet 24-27 Oct. in San Francisco. At this year's Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference in late May, Bishop John R. Schol reappointed Drew Phoenix as pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church in Baltimore. Phoenix, 48, had been minister at St. John's for five years as the Rev. Ann Gordon. After surgery and hormone therapy in the past year, the pastor changed gender to male and adopted a new name.

Though the United Methodist Church bars self-avowed practicing gay clergy from appointment and does not support gay unions, the Book of Discipline says nothing about transgender clergy. In his ruling, Bishop Schol wrote that "There are no paragraphs in the 2004 Book of Discipline that prevent transgender clergy from serving in an appointment."

+ United Methodist Church, 810 12th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203

Conversion Code of Conduct Emerging

A World Evangelical Alliance theologian says his grouping of Christians that stresses its proclamation of the gospel is ready to support a code of conduct on seeking conversions to Christianity commonly agreed by traditional Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox churches as well as by Roman Catholics. "'Evangelical and ecumenical Christians have never been as close in this regard as they are today. Thus, something that would not have been possible 30 years ago has become achievable," said Thomas Schirrmacher, a German theologian who chairs the WEA's International Institute for Religious Freedom.

+ Ecumenical News International, PO Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2,

Kidnapped Christian Forced to Marry Muslim

A Christian university professor in Gaza was kidnapped, forced to marry a Muslim professor at the same university and now her family is being told she wants no contact with them unless they convert to Islam.

Sana al-Sayegh, head of the Science and Technology Department at Gaza City's Palestine International University, disappeared 24 June, according to Palestinian Authority officials and the woman's family. Five days later, she contacted her family to say she was being held against her will so she could be married to a Muslim man.

Officials of Gaza's Hamas government denied the charge, but her family says she would never willingly convert to Islam, according to Mission Network News. A few days after the phone call, they received a copy of conversion documents signed by two witnesses, one of which is the president of the university. Requests from Sayegh's family and Christian leaders for a meeting with Hamas leaders were denied.

Returning to Christianity is a crime worthy of death in many Muslim societies. The kidnapping, rape, "marriage" and "conversion" of Christian girls and women is a common occurrence in some predominantly Muslim countries.

+ Southern Baptist Convention, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203 (615) 244-2355