Wednesday, December 19, 2007

19 December 2007


[1] Pity Poor Perth
[2] World Communion of Reformed Churches
[3] Paisley Calls for Restoration of Protestant Property
[4] Creation Surfaces in Hollywood
[5] Mystery Shrouds Release of Egyptian Woman Convert
[6] Ang Pulong sang Dios Hiligaynon Debuts
[7] Jack D. Higgins, Sr.
[8] Somerset Departs Presbyterian Church (USA)

Pity Poor Perth

A shortage of Church of Scotland ministers is impacting on many parishes throughout Perth and Kinross. Perth city centre is especially hard hit as three vacancies already exist there and a further one will arise with the retirement early next year of the Rev. David Denniston, minister at the North Church.

Even one of Scotland’s most significant churches, St John’s Kirk, in the heart of the city, has been without a minister since the Rev. David Ogston retired after almost 30 years at the helm of the historic church in which John Knox preached in May 1559.

The national church reports 1,200 pulpits and roughly 1000 ministers to fill them. There are 43 congregations in the Presbytery of Perth and currently 28 ministers plus two without charge. Vacant city pulpits are Craigie, St John’s and St Leonards-in-the-Fields and Trinity.

+ Church of Scotland, 121 George St., Edinburgh EH2 4YN Scotland

World Communion of Reformed Churches

The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) will host the inaugural meeting of the newly formed World Communion of Reformed Churches in 2010, CRC officials announced 14 December. The groups involved in the merger are the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), based in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC), based in Grand Rapids. The organizations have a combined membership of more than 80 million Christians.

"Together these two groups now represent a significant number of Reformed churches around the world," said Jerry Dykstra, the executive director of the CRC. "Since the CRC is one of the churches in both groups, our participation in the merger has been critical to the process."

The meeting of the new group's Uniting General Council, which is expected to draw more than 1,000 delegates and visitors from around the world, is scheduled for June 18-28, 2010 at the CRC's Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

WARC is a worldwide fellowship of 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches in 107 countries. REC represents 12 million Reformed Christians in 39 churches in 25 countries, with 27 of the churches also belonging to WARC.

Besides the traditional Reformed churches, the new organization will be open to Presbyterian, Congregational, and other denominations with a Reformed heritage, he added.

+ Henry Hess, Christian Reformed Church in North America, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave., SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560 (616) 241-1691

Paisley Calls for Restoration of Protestant Property

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Ian Paisley is demanding the civil authorities streamline compensation mechanisms for Orange halls after a mass demonstration by Order members outside Secretary of State Shaun Woodward's residence at Hillsborough Castle. According to reports published by the Belfast Telegraph, "The Northern Ireland Office also has a significant role to play in the restoration of Orange halls which suffer attack. Paisley further noted, "There are numerous halls around Northern Ireland which are currently not fit for purpose because of sectarian attacks yet compensation is slow and in some cases non-existent.”

Grand Master Robert Saulters of the Irish Grand Lodge noted, "The Orange Institution has invested a considerable amount of time, effort and finance in opening up its halls for community use in order to help bring isolated rural communities out of the trauma suffered by them during the Troubles. These on going attacks and the absence of an adequate Government response to them has led the Institution to doubt what practical benefits the St Andrews Agreement and subsequent establishment of the devolved assembly have brought to our community."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness joined Sinn Fein party president Gerry Adams in his condemnation of the arson attacks on the three Orange halls at the weekend, describing them as "despicable and disgraceful."

+ Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Schomberg House, 368 Cregagh Road, Belfast, Ulster BT6 9YE United Kingdom 440 (28) 9070-1122

Creation Surfaces in Hollywood

The creation–evolution battle and the battle for Hollywood converge in a new film to be released in February. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed brings us Ben Stein, TV personality, actor and former White House speech writer, on the big screen, asking one of life’s biggest questions: “Were we designed, or are we simply the end result of an ancient mud puddle struck by lightning?”

In the movie, Mr. Stein, who is also a lawyer, economist, former presidential speechwriter, author and social commentator, is stunned by what he discovers – an elitist scientific establishment that has traded in its open-mindedness for dogma.

Even worse, say publicists for the feature film, “along the way, Mr. Stein uncovers a long line of biologists, astronomers, chemists and philosophers who have had their reputations destroyed and their careers ruined by a scientific establishment that allows absolutely no dissent from Charles Darwin’s theory of random mutation and natural selection.”

“Big Science in this area of biology has lost its way,” says Mr. Stein. “Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are. Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-American, it’s anti-science. It’s anti the whole concept of learning.”

Expelled documents how teachers and scientists alike are being ridiculed daily, denied tenure and even fired for believing there is evidence of “design” in nature and challenging the current orthodoxy that life is entirely a result of random chance.

For example, Mr. Stein meets Richard Sternberg, a double Ph.D. biologist who allowed a peer-reviewed research paper describing the evidence for intelligence in the universe to be published in the scientific journal Proceedings. Shortly after publication, officials from the National Center for Science Education and the Smithsonian Institution, where Dr. Sternberg was a research fellow, began a coordinated smear-and-intimidation campaign to get the promising young scientist fired. The attack on scientific freedom was so egregious that it prompted a congressional investigation.

In the film, Mr. Stein meets other scientists like astrobiologist Guillermo Gonzalez, who was denied tenure at Iowa State University in spite of an extraordinary record of achievement. Gonzalez made the mistake of documenting the design he has observed in the universe.

And there are others, like Caroline Crocker, a brilliant biology teacher at George Mason University who was forced out of the university for briefly discussing problems with Darwinian theory and for telling the students that some scientists believe there is evidence of design in the universe.

Unlike other popular documentary films, Expelled isn’t one-sided – it confronts scientists like Oxford evolutionist Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, influential biologist and atheist blogger P.Z. Myers, and Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education. In fact, the creators of Expelled spent two years interviewing scores of scientists, doctors, philosophers and public leaders for the film.

According to the New York Times, Dawkins, Scott and other evolutionists are now claiming the film’s producers deceived them into going on camera by hiding the Intelligent Design orientation of the film. But Mr. Stein denies misleading anyone. “I don’t remember a single person asking me what the movie was about,” he told the Times.

“The incredible thing about Expelled is that we don’t resort to manipulating our interviews for the purpose of achieving the shock effect, something that has become common in documentary film these days,” said Walt Ruloff, co-founder of Premise Media and the film’s co-executive producer. “People will be stunned to actually find out what elitist scientists proclaim, which is that a large majority of Americans are simpletons who believe in a fairy tale.”

Expelled is produced by Premise Media, and marketed by Motive Entertainment, which has spearheaded The Passion of the Christ, Polar Express and The Chronicles of Narnia. It will be distributed by Rocky Mountain Pictures, with numerous box-office successes to its credit.

+ Michael Ireland, Assist News Service, PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609-0609

Mystery Shrouds Release of Egyptian Woman Convert

An Egyptian convert to Christianity released by police under murky circumstances has revealed details of her week-long detention last July that differ greatly from original reports of torture. Speaking by telephone from Egypt through a translator at her side, a woman claiming to be Shaymaa Muhammad al-Sayed said police in Alexandria angrily interrogated her about why she became a Christian but treated her “not good, but not badly.”

But contradictions between the convert’s version of her detention and the testimony of eyewitnesses have raised questions about whether al-Sayed is under ongoing police pressure. Of most concern now, Christian sources said, is Al-Sayed’s comment to Compass that police withheld her national ID card when they released her on 23 July. Egyptian citizens must produce a national ID to carry out bank transactions, acquire a job, obtain a pension check and travel within or outside Egypt.

Lawyer Ramses el-Nagar, who said he met with the convert while she was in police custody in July and several times since her release, confirmed that she does not have an official ID. According to El-Nagar, Egypt’s security police further complicated the issue of Al-Sayed’s identity by releasing the convert under her false Christian name – Maryan Eleya Saleeb.

Conversion from Islam to Christianity is forbidden in Egypt. The 26-year-old Al-Sayed had obtained forged papers under the last name Saleeb in order to live as a Christian when she left her family and converted in 2003. But some of Al-Sayed’s friends remain puzzled by the strange nature of her release and current living arrangement, on her own--far from her family, who live in Alexandria, and apart from her husband. “We are not sure if Shaymaa is out [of jail] yet, or if the one who was released was someone else,” one of the convert’s friends told Compass last month.

+ Compass News Direct, PO Box 27250, Santa Ana, CA 92799-7250 (949) 862-0304

Ang Pulong sang Dios Hiligaynon Debuts

More than 300 Philippine church leaders, government dignitaries, and IBS-STL translation partners celebrated the Ang Pulong sang Dios Hiligaynon Bible launch November 17, 2007, at Central Philippine University, in Iloilo, Panay, the Philippines. Dedications were also held November 19 in Bacolod City on Negros Island, and December 11 in Mindanao. The dedications were covered live on TV and radio.
“Long ago the Bible was only open to the clergy, and ordinary people were prohibited to have a Bible … But today we not only celebrate the liberty to read the Bible but to dedicate the Bible in the language of the people—a Bible they can read and understand,” Iloilo Provincial Governor Niel Tupas Sr. said.

Seven translators and 20 reviewers from various Christian denominations worked on the new Hiligaynon Bible, with SIL as a primary translation partner. Sixteen years in the making, it is an accurate, contemporary translation for 7 million Hiligaynon-speaking Filipinos. An additional 4 million people speak Hiligaynon as a second or third language.

Two older Hiligaynon Bible translations exist, but archaic language, unnatural grammatical constructions, and exegetical errors make them difficult to use.

International Bible Society and Send The Light merged as IBS-STL Global on 1 March 2007. The combined organization delivers more Bibles into the hands of more people, in more countries, more efficiently than either could individually. The organization holds the copyrights to the English New International Version® (NIV) and Today’s New International Version® (TNIV), as well as 42 international Bible translations.

+ International Bible Society, 1820 Jet Stream Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921

Jack D. Higgins, Sr.

Rev. Jack D. Higgins, Sr., former president and chief executive officer of American Baptist Homes of the Midwest (ABHM) died December 8 in Homestead Health Center, Wichita, Kansas, at age 82. A member of the American Baptist Churches USA General Board who served the Board of National Ministries in the 1980s and early 1990s, Higgins' ABHM tenure ran from 1973 to 1991. Prior to his appointment as chief executive officer in 1986, he served as treasurer and executive vice president.

Under Higgins' leadership, ABHM grew to include 21 facilities in six states; in the decade from 1981 to 1991, the number of individuals served by the organization increased from 760 to 3,708.

+ Mrs. Elizabeth Higgins, 1637 May Street #1001, Wichita, Kansas 67213

Somerset Departs Presbyterian Church (USA)

The waiting is over for a congregation near Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Members of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Somerset have voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA). According to reports distributed by the Pittsburgh Tribune Democrat, a vote of 173-10 in favor of leaving turned talk into action.

The Somerset has discussed transfer to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

According to recent denominational statistics, the congregation’s332 members donated US$471,000 in the last reporting period or about twice the average for a PC(USA) congregation.

A march meeting Redstone Presbytery will determine whether the church can keep its property without a court battle. The presbytery includes 85 churches in Somerset, Cambria, Fayette, and Westmoreland counties.

+ St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, 132 E Union St., Somerset, PA 15501 (814) 445-5341