Wednesday, June 18, 2008

18 June 2008

Presbyterians Week Headlines

[1] School Drops Pledge of Allegiance from Promotion Ceremony

[2] Ex-Lesbian Mother Loses Appeal to Keep Former Civil Union Partner Away from Daughter

[3] South Canterbury Presbyterian Church Overcoming Shortage of Ministers

[4] California Bishop Urges All Couples to Seek Civil Union First, Then Church Blessing

[5] Reformed Theology Leaders Encouraged

[6] Tribunal Quashes Ex-Pastor's Right to Free Speech

[1] School Drops Pledge of Allegiance from Promotion Ceremony

The principal of Capitol Hill Elementary School in Portland Oregon excluded the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and its use of the words “under God” from the school’s end-of-year promotion ceremony for the fifth graders in order to promote diversity and to not offend the families of the Muslim students that attend the school.

The Portland School District said there had been no prior complaints about the pledge.

The students instead memorized and sang the Preamble to the Constitution.

+ KATU, 2153 North East Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon 97232, 503-231-4222,

[2] Ex-Lesbian Mother Loses Appeal to Keep Former Civil Union Partner Away from Daughter

Peter J. Smith reports that a mother trying to retain sole parental rights over her biological child from her former lesbian lover has lost her appeal in the Virginia Supreme Court, even though the state has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex civil unions.

The Virginia high court on 6 June agreed with the state appeals court ruling, which stated a Virginia trial court had overstepped its bounds by invalidating a Vermont trial court's orders that mandated Lisa Miller allow her former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins, visitation rights to Miller's biological child Isabella.

David Corry, a lawyer with the Liberty Counsel, told media he hopes the US Supreme Court will agree to hear the case. "It's an important issue as to whether citizens from one state can have another state decide custody of their children that were not born in that state and, as citizens of Virginia, they weren't even entitled to enter into a civil union."

The Liberty Counsel released a statement saying, "Lisa is the fit, biological mother of a five-year-old daughter, with whom Janet has neither a biological nor an adoptive relationship."

"Same-sex unions disrupt the traditional family structure and pit one state against another. Children are the collateral damage of those pressing the same-sex union agenda."

The Liberty Counsel expects to argue the case in Virginia in April.

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+ Liberty Counsel, Post Office Box 540774, Orlando, Florida 32854, 800-671-1776,

[3] South Canterbury Presbyterian Church Overcoming Shortage of Ministers

Graeme Stilwell reports that the Presbyterian Church in South Canterbury, New Zealand has been labeled courageous and innovative by the church's national leader as it adopts a team approach to overcome a shortage of full-time, ordained Presbyterian ministers in the district.

The ministries have become vacant through natural attrition.

However, the parishes have not suffered unduly, the newly appointed moderator for the Presbyterian Church in South Canterbury, the Reverend Ian Hyslop, of Geraldine, says.

‘‘These days there are a variety of ways to offer ministry. The transitional team approach is one model and it works well in South Canterbury.”

Options within the transitional team concept included a mix of visiting ordained and lay preachers, and parishioners.

‘‘The way forward does not necessarily rest in any one model, but in a tailored resource that encompasses a variety of approaches. Teams supported by the wider church resource were but one.''

Hyslop said to remain relevant, a church needed to move with the times. He had embraced technology in delivering his key messages of faith.

‘‘In one of my recent church services, for example, we showed a DVD clip. We have electronic presentation equipment for the congregation.”

‘‘We also send emails of support and encouragement every week to tertiary students we know of around the world.''

+ Otago Daily Times, 52 Stuart Street, Post Office Box 517, Dunedin, New Zealand, +64 3 477 4760,

[4] California Bishop Urges All Couples to Seek Civil Union First, Then Church Blessing

Pat McCaughan reports that Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California is encouraging all couples, regardless of sexual orientation, to obtain secular marriages before seeking the church's blessing, as a way to support same-gender couples and "our continued witness to God's inclusive love."

Andrus also said he intends to serve as a deputy marriage commissioner, and urged clergy and lay Episcopalians also to "be deputized" and volunteer to preside at same-gender marriages, which are slated to begin 17 June.

Andrus also said he opposes a 4 November ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman. If passed, it would overrule the California Supreme Court decision, which struck down an eight-year-old ban on gay marriage. The court on 6 June refused to stay its decision, paving the way for same-sex couples to legally marry starting 17 June.

Proponents of the November 4 ballot initiative hope to add California to the list of 26 states that have approved constitutional amendments banning same-gender marriage. If passed, it is unclear how the measure would affect the status of marriages performed prior to November 4.

+ Episcopal Life Online, 815 Second Avenue, New York, New York 10017, 212-716-6000,

[5] Reformed Theology Leaders Encouraged

Christie Campbell reports that Charles Burge, executive director of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, says that the future of reformed Christian theology is a positive one.

Burge spoke Saturday to those attending the committee's Faith and Life Conference at Waynesburg University. The committee is a conservative watchdog of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA).

Burge is encouraged by reports that young people are discovering reformed theology. Many, he noted, are moving away from mainline denominations, tired of worship services that focus on men, not God.

Burge pointed to Passion Conferences in which between 10,000 and 15,000 college students regularly attend. The renewed interest also is being led by elders. He cited Timothy Keller's book, "The Reason for God," which is on The New York Times best-seller list and the works of Baptist minister John Piper.

Also speaking during the State of the Church report was the Reverend Parker Williamson, editor emeritus.

Williamson said when the General Assembly of the PCUSA meets 18 June in San Jose, Calif., at stake is how $2 billion in donor-designated contributions to the church will be used. Williamson said the Presbyterian Foundation is the fiduciary authority of those funds and they should not be used by the General Assembly Council, as has been proposed.

"I think it's the most important issue that's coming to this General Assembly,” Williamson said.

+ The Observer Reporter, 122 South Main Street, Washington, Pennsylvania, 15301, 724-941-7725,

[6] Tribunal Quashes Ex-Pastor's Right to Free Speech

Deborah Gyapong reports that an Alberta Human Rights Commission panel has ordered a former Christian youth pastor to apologize in the pages of the Red Deer Advocate for a 2002 letter to the editor he wrote opposing homosexual activism.

In a 30 May decision, AHRC panelist Lori Andreachuk also ordered Stephen Boissoin, 41, to request The Advocate publish her judgment against him.

She has also imposed a lifetime ban on ever speaking or writing "disparagingly" about homosexuals - in the media, on the Internet, in speaking engagements or in emails. She also ordered him to take down any "disparaging" remarks from his website.

Catholic Civil Rights League president Phil Horgan compared the forced apology to a "re-education program" one might find in a totalitarian state. He called Andreachuk's decision "highly problematic," "intrusive" and "frankly unworkable."

Boissoin stands by every word he wrote, even though he has been branded a hatemonger on the front pages of his local paper and said he has been refused the opportunity to effectively rebut accusations against him.

"I will never apologize," Boissoin said. "The only way I will pay the money is if it prevents me from appealing."

Boissoin has been left penniless by the six-year legal battle.

+ Western Catholic Reporter, 8421-101 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T6A 0L1, Canada, 780-465-8030,