Thursday, January 24, 2008

23 January 2008


Times Are Changing in Ulster
[2] San Francisco Proposes Lesbian Ministerial Candidate
[3] Revisiting Galileo's Revenge
[4] India Sets New Standard for Persecuting Christians
[5] Harry Alexander
[1] Times Are Changing in Ulster

The Free Presbyterian Church of Ireland has a new leader. For the first time in 56 years the Irish have a new leader. Stepping down as Moderator, Ian Paisley said on 18 January, “We can now get on with the job that the Church is engaged in, to preach the Gospel, to build more buildings and to push on with our work.”

Rev. Mr. Ron Johnstone of Armagh was elected to the moderatorship. Some reports indicate the former Deputy Moderator received unanimous support. According to the Belfast Telegraph, the new Moderator read out a unanimous tribute from the church's 200-plus ministers and elders in attendance and praised his predecessor for "his sacrificial labour of commencing and consolidating the Free Presbyterian witness".

Often ranked with King William and Lord Carson as champion of Protestant Ireland, Paisley has taken office as First Minister in Ulster’s Storemont Parliament.

Having broken with the Orange Lodge over its moderation toward Papists, Paisley was an unlikely candidate to sit down with Margin Maginnis, the public face of Sinn Fein and the reputed voice for the terrorist wing of the Irish Republican Army to fashion a peace for Ulster.

+ Rev. Ron Johnstone, 1 Drummanmore Grange, Armagh BT61 8RQ Northern Ireland

[2] San Francisco Proposes Lesbian Ministerial Candidate

San Francisco Presbytery opened the door for an openly gay candidate for ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to begin the ordination process under a controversial Authoritative Interpretation approved by the 2006 General Assembly.

After three hours of debate in closed session, the presbytery voted 167 to 151 on 15 January to approve as “ready for examination, with departure” Lisa Larges, a lesbian who has been blocked from ordination for more than 20 years.

Larges’ case marks the first time a presbytery has approved action to consider a candidate who declared a conscientious objection — or “scruple” — to the denomination’s ordination standards involving sexual practice.

According to denominational sources, Larges, who is blind, is a deacon at Noe Valley Ministry Presbyterian Church in San Francisco.

Larges graduated from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1989. In 1985 she became a candidate for ministry in the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area in Minnesota, where she grew up.

+ Presbyterian Church (USA),
Office of the General Assembly, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202-1396 (888) 728-7228

[3] Revisiting Galileo's Revenge

The rector of Rome's La Sapienza university has said he plans to re-invite Pope Benedict XVI to address his institution after the pontiff cancelled a visit he was to have made following protests from some professors and students. "I will offer a new invitation to the Pope," said the university rector, Renato Guarini, adding that such a step would be in accordance with the desire of the majority of Sapienza's academic community, the Zenit news agency reported on 17 January More than 60 professors at the university, which was founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII and whose name means "wisdom", had objected to the invitation for Pope Benedict to deliver a lecture on 17 January at the start of its academic year. The protesting academics asserted that in 1990 the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict in 2005, had described as "rational and just" a 17th century church trial against Galileo Galilei for championing the view that the sun, and not the earth, is the centre of the universe.

+ Ecumenical News International, PO Box 2100, CH - 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

India Sets New Standard for Persecuting Christians

With more than 800 attacks around Christmas time in Orissa state, the number of attacks on Christians in 2007 crossed 1,000 for the first time since India’s Independence in 1947.

At least 200 incidents of anti-Christian attacks, including four murders, had been recorded before violence erupted in Orissa’s Kandhamal district that killed at least four Christians and burned 730 houses and 95 churches, according to a report of a fact-finding team released by Christian leaders 8 January.

The report, released by the All India Christian Council (AICC) in conjunction with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) and the Christian Legal Association, says that while four Christians were confirmed dead, at least six were seriously injured and numerous others are missing who are presumed killed by Hindu extremists in the rampage that began in Kandhamal on Christmas Eve.

The report notes that the violence could have been averted if authorities had enforced the law. “In all the villages we have visited, people testify that the attacks, destruction and looting was done in the presence of the police,” the report says.

It states that Hindu extremists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) attacked members of the minority community with guns, knives, tridents, bombs, and other weapons.

+ Compass Direct News Service, PO Box 27250, Santa Ana CA 92799

Harry Alexander

Long time leader of the United States branch of the Loyal Orange Institution Harold R. Alexander died in Philadelphia late on 22 January following a protracted struggle with heart disease.

Born in Ulster, Alexander presided over the transitional generation of the movement, reversing a substantial decline in membership and placing the institution on a sound financial footing. Under his direction, the fraternal home, which had become a serious burden to the body, was converted into a foundation providing extensive scholarships to young people attending college and trade schools.

Dr. John Paul Elliott, founding Master of Virginia’s Patrick Henry LOL 1105 said of Alexander, “Though very much an Ulsterman, Alexander displayed a vision for reaching beyond the immigrant communities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. On Brother Alexander’s watch, new lodges sprang up in Alabama, New York, and Virginia. Missouri even established its own Grand Lodge. New lodges are projected in South Carolina and Maryland.”

While never forgetting the international Orange heritage, Alexander cultivated a distinctively American version of the fraternity. According to fraternal historian, Dr. Edwin Powers Elliott, Alexander had an extensive knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon heritage which he brought to the formation of a distinctively Protestant fraternity in America.

Alexander was publisher and business manager of the Journal of Scotch-Irish Studies. Dr. Joyce M. Alexander, his widow, is a noted historian and co-editor of the journal.

Among his numerous honors and distinctions, Alexander held membership in the Royal Order of Scotland.

+ Walter C. Wilson, Supreme Grand Secretary, Loyal Orange Institution in the USA, 1315 Biggs Road, Wilmington, DE 19805 (302) 998-3549