Wednesday, June 11, 2008

11 June 2008

Presbyterians Week Headlines

[1] Three Churches Demand Drastic Action from South African Government
[2] California Court Won't Delay 'Gay Marriages'
[3] American Bible Society Investigates President
[4] Presbyterian Church in Canada Commissioner Calls for Help from Churches
[5] Embattled Pro-Life Prosecutor Seeks Re-Election
[6] Ecclesiastical Trial Reveals Dramatic Testimony of Sexual Abuse

Quick Links

[1] In Memoriam: Mrs. Edmund P. (Jean) Clowney
[2] Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies Offers Courses
[3] Reformed Theological Seminary Chancellor’s Surgery Successful

[1] Three Churches Demand Drastic Action from South African Government

Three Reformed churches in South Africa have sent a strong letter to their government, declaring that South Africa was in a crisis that required drastic action from the government. They cited several areas that were driving South Africans citizens to despair and fear, including Violence, crime and corruption, Shortcomings in security and infrastructure, racism, agriculture and food provision, and the Zimbabwe crisis.

The three churches declared that innocent people in the land were living in fear and that rape, child molestation and large-scale corruption were becoming daily occurrences. Most people had the perception that the land was taking rapid strides backwards. They noted the country was losing many persons with necessary social skills to emigration.

The letter said that the failure of South Africa President Mbeki to take a clear standpoint in the Zimbabwe crisis against the immoral and undemocratic conduct of the ruling party, and its accompanying violation of human rights, created the impression that this could also happen in South Africa.

The Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), the Netherdutch Reformed Church of Africa (NHKA) and the Reformed Churches of South Africa (GKSA) were the signatories of the letter.

+ The Reformed Ecumenical Council, 2050 Breton Road Southeast, Suite 102, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546, 616-949-2910,

[2] California Court Won't Delay 'Gay Marriages'

The California Supreme Court turned back pro-family groups June 4 by refusing to delay its "gay marriage" decision from going into effect, giving the green light for same-sex couples statewide to get "married" 17 June.

The 4-3 margin ruling -- identical to its earlier decision -- came without comment and was a serious blow to social conservatives who had hoped the justices would stay their ruling until citizens consider a proposed constitutional marriage amendment on the November ballot.

Two Christian legal groups, the Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Counsel, had filed legal briefs requesting the delay.

+ The Baptist Press, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tennessee 37203-3699,

[3] American Bible Society Investigates President

Rusty Leonard and Warren Cole Smith report that a board member of the American Bible Society (ABS) confirmed that a forensic accounting firm will probe the organization's financial records. The investigation comes after ABS suspended its two top executives following embarrassing revelations in The New York Times that linked ABS president Paul Irwin to a technology company, Exciting New Technologies (ENT), with ties to the internet-pornography and gambling industries.

Founded in 1816, ABS is one of the nation's oldest and best-endowed charities, with nearly $693 million in cash and investments on its balance sheet at the end of 2007. But ABS had a $72.8 million operating deficit in 2003 and operating deficits totaling more than $160 million between 2002 and 2006.

When the story of Irwin's and the Bible Society's association with ENT was laid out in the 4,000-word Times exposé, the ABS board acted quickly, suspending with pay CEO Irwin and Chief Financial Officer Richard Stewart. ABS spokesperson Roy Lloyd said the suspension was "without prejudice," meaning that there is no assumption of guilt on the part of either Irwin or Stewart. However, said Lloyd, "We want to deal with any hint of impropriety." Lloyd also said ABS has terminated all ties with Exciting New Technologies.

Ironically, before these recent revelations, it appeared that some of Irwin's innovations at ABS had been working. In 2007, the organization saw a dramatic rebound in revenue, to $120 million, much of the increase coming in the form of increased donations.

+ World Magazine, 85 Tunnel Road, Suite 12, Asheville, North Carolina 28805, 800-951-4974,

+ American Bible Society, 1865 Broadway, New York, New York 10023-7505, 212-408-1200,

[4] Presbyterian Church in Canada Commissioner Calls for Help from Churches

Andrew Thompson reports that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Indian residential schools has begun its work with a call to Canada's largest churches for help in healing decades-old wounds.

Commissioner Claudette Dumont-Smith, a nurse, writer, and member of the Kitigan Zibi Algonquin community near Maniwaki, told about 300 Presbyterians yesterday that Canada needed to "fill blank pages and move forward as a nation" through a "truth-sharing process."

Formerly a senior health adviser with the Native Women's Association, Ms. Dumont-Smith made her first public remarks as a commissioner to the Presbyterian Church in Canada's 134th General Assembly at Carleton University.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission officially opened on 9 June with a five-year mandate. It resulted from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement implemented last September between former students, churches, the federal government and aboriginal groups after the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history.

The last residential schools, run by churches on behalf of the federal government, were closed in the 1970s. Thousands of aboriginal and Métis children attended the schools, where they were not allowed to speak their languages or practice their culture. Many students reported physical, psychological and sexual abuse while in the schools.

The Presbyterian Church has agreed to provide documents and take part in commission events. The commission hopes its presence at the General Assembly will carry over to other denominations.

A public confession and apology issued by Presbyterians in 1994 was repeated yesterday, followed by a lengthy prayer for truth and forgiveness.

The Presbyterian General Assembly concludes 10 June.

+ The Ottawa Citizen, 1101 Baxter Road, Box 5020, Ottawa, OntarioK2C 3M4, 613-829-9100,

+ The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 50 Wynford Drive, Toronto, Ontario M3C 1J7, 800-619-7301,

[5] Embattled Pro-Life Prosecutor Seeks Re-Election

Tom Hess reports that Phill Kline, the Kansas City-area district attorney who’s waging a court battle over allegations that Planned Parenthood violated state law, announced late Monday to family and friends that he’s running for re-election.

Pro-life leaders in Kansas applauded his decision.

“I’m elated, because he won’t let Planned Parenthood off the hook,” said Pat Adair, Kansas director for Women Influencing the Nation. “The rule of law is what this campaign will be about. The law is broken here in Kansas.”

Kline filed 107 charges in Johnson County last October against Planned Parenthood over allegations of falsified reports and illegal late-term abortions. If he leaves office, the case likely would die.

Kline’s opponent in the Republican primary on Aug. 5 is Steve Howe, one of seven assistant prosecutors Kline fired when he took office. Howe and the others then sued Kline.

Kline told CitizenLink he and his wife and daughter prayed for months before making the decision.

“I’ve been a prosecutor for quite some time now, and I’ve never seen a greater threat to the rule of law, such a powerful interest to purchase positions in government,” he said. “For a long, long time, I’ve been an advocate for the mentally disabled, the elderly, those who are particularly vulnerable and exploited by people with more power.”

Kline will ask the Kansas Supreme Court in Topeka on Thursday to reject demands by Planned Parenthood that he surrender records that he says show evidence of the abortion provider’s criminal activity.

+ Focus on the Family Action, Incorporated, 8605 Explorer Drive Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920, 866-655-4545,

[6] Ecclesiastical Trial Reveals Dramatic Testimony of Sexual Abuse

David W. Virtue reports that on the first day of the ecclesiastical trial of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison, victim Martha Alexis told a hushed court of five bishops, two clergy and two laity that Bishop Bennison stumbled in on his brother John's sexual activity with her… turned on his heel in the church office and walked away.

The then 14-year-old victim described to the court and some 60 persons at the Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia, how she was repeatedly sexually abused by the Rev. John Bennison, describing his acts as "persistent, intense and frequent" as many as "three or four times a week, for four years."

Alexis, now 50, and the mother of three, said that what occurred in 1973 between herself and Bennison was "unspeakable perversion and too horrific to name."

Alexis said Charles Bennison witnessed two occurrences of his sexual behavior in the summer of 1973. The second occasion occurred when she was 15 (Bennison was married to Margaret Bennison and 25). Charles was the priest of St. Mark's Church in Upland, California in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Other testimony at the trial included June Alexis, Martha's mother and Andrew "Andy" Alexis her brother, both of whom testified that Charles Bennison knew about the sexual abuse and that he did nothing about it.

Church attorney White said, in his opening statement, that the church took no pleasure or relish in this trial, but that he was clear that Bennison had committed acts unbecoming a member of the clergy and should be deposed under Title IV.5 of the Church canons.

+ VirtueOnline, 1236 Waterford Road, West Chester, Pennsylvania 19380,