Fr Stephen Smuts

Archive for March 22nd, 2011

Israel’s Messianic Jews Face Orthodox Persecution

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Via BosNewsLife:

Representatives of a Messianic Jewish community in the southern Israeli town of Arad said Monday, March 21, they face “increased persecution” by ultra-Orthodox Jews who accuse the believers of missionary activities and want them to leave Israel.

“Last week they were two times at my house with megaphones,” said a Christian involved in one of four Messianic congregations here. He spoke to BosNewsLife on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

He said the religious war in this town of 25,000 residents also impacts other members of his Messianic congregation.

Among those targeted is widow Polly Sigulim, a Jewish mother of three Israeli soldiers. Last week, a crowd of some 200 Orthodox Jews gathered in front of her home shouting that she and other Messianic Jews should “leave Arad and Israel, a Jewish state.”

“We hope that after we will be here and demonstrate and really speak from the heart, we won’t need to return again for demonstrations because the Messianic Jews, as they call themselves, will be erased from Arad,” demonstrator Benny Vulcan was heard saying.

In 2008, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled however that Messianic Jews have the same rights regarding automatic citizenship as Jews who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah…

The demonstrations against the Messianic community are linked to concerns among Orthodox Jewish leaders about the growing number of Israelis in Arad region who view Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Messianic Jews say Jesus came to the world to offer salvation and eternal life to everyone who believes in Him.

Mainstream Christian groups generally view Messianic Jews also as Christians and part of the ‘Body of Christ’, a Biblical term used to describe the worldwide Church of believers.

As noisy protests continue in front her home, Sigulim told reporters that she is not against Jewish traditions. “I do believe in the Torah, the prophets and also the New Covenant,” she added.

A neighbor expressed concerns about her situation. “In Europe they shouted ‘Jews out’, here they shout ‘Messianics out’.”

This is not right! Not right at all. Religious persecution is never acceptable. Ever.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 22, 2011 at 20:51

Why Bethsaida Is Not Found Along the Shore of the Sea of Galilee

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There is one common misconception. When people stand on the Tell and look out over the Beteiha Plain toward the lake, their immediate response is, “You mean the water level was higher then?” The answer must be a clear and unequivocal, “No.” Silt filled in the northern portion of the lake. It is not a case of receding water levels…

Read further at The Bible and Interpretation here.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 22, 2011 at 18:57

Megachurches Becoming Gigachurches

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Over the last decade, America’s 100 largest churches doubled in size:

In 2000, the 100 largest churches in the United States all had average weekly attendance of 4,000 people or more.

In 2010, only churches with average weekly attendance of 8,000 or more made the 100 largest churches list, according to megachurch researcher John N. Vaughan.

About half the churches on the list (49 percent) are non-denominational.

Sixteen percent are in the Los Angeles area, while 7 percent are in Dallas and 7 percent are in Houston. (Atlanta finishes fourth with 6 percent of the megachurches.)

The title and post hat tip go to First Thoughts.

Consumer Christianity seems to be doing really well. Let’s hope that the rest of the world is not soon polluted too by this fad, modern, innovative and crossless form of ‘church’.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 22, 2011 at 17:05

Secret Hoard of Ancient Sealed Books Found in Jordan

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Following on yesterday’s news on the ‘Jesus Tablets’, we have the full press release:

View this document on Scribd

Note: Found on the codices:

  • The codices show many symbols of the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot, which wasassociated with the enthronement of the ancient Davidic kings in Jerusalem, and laterwith the coming of the Messiah. 
  • There are clear images of the menorah (the seven branched lamp), leafy branches andetrogim, the large citrus fruits used at Tabernacles.
  • There are also fruiting palm trees, well known from coins of the late second templeperiod and the time of the Bar Kochba war.

Sounds very exciting! More will follow I’m sure.

HT:   who else?

UPDATE I:  A photo:

UPDATE II:   The BBC has more details and photos here.

UPDATE III:  A video of the above here.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 22, 2011 at 16:44

Franciscan Guardians of Holy Land Sites Launch New Website

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Well if the website is as neat and well looked after as the sites they look after (guarded) in the Holy Land are, then it should be fantastic:

The Franciscans in the Holy Land, who’ve been charged by the Vatican with preserving Catholic sanctuaries in the area throughout the last 800 years, have launched a new website offering more information about the sacred sites as well as pilgrimages to the region.

“It is the love and care for the places of the incarnation of Jesus that create the desire for all Christians to feel closer to the Holy Land,” Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, major superior of the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, said in a March 21 announcement.

“The renewed internet site meets this desire,” he said, explaining that it will continue to inform the faithful around the globe who are interested in “the life of the Holy Land and its community.”

The new website, available in six languages, details the historical significance of the Franciscan’s work to preserve the places where the Christian faith originated in the Middle East. The site also explains the importance of each sanctuary and provides information on pilgrimages to the area.

Since the 13th century, the friars have been tasked by the Vatican with having “custody” over the holy sites within areas of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus and Rhodes. The job involves coordinating and directing the reception of faithful who make pilgrimages to the Holy Land to pray at the shrines.

“The present site will be a ‘work in progress,’ growing gradually in time,” Fr. Pizzaballa said. “In addition to the life of the Custody of the Holy Land, the Places of Salvation that the Franciscans have looked after with passion for 800 years will be presented with more detailed information.”

The website is English here.

It is well worth a visit!

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 22, 2011 at 13:11

‘Sex’ Potion Kills Four Women

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Stupid… Really stupid:

Four women, who include an inyanga’s daughter, have died trying to enhance their sexual prowess.

Three of the women were employed by a hair salon in the same building as the inyanga whose daughter died.

The building is in Pinetown, just outside Durban.

Two of the women were identified as Nomusa Ndlovu and Bhunu Mbongwa, and the third employee of the salon was only known as Nana. Police could not disclose the identity of the inyanga’s daughter.

The women allegedly drank a concoction that allegedly “enhances sexual appetite and performance”.

They had allegedly bought the concoction from a traditional healer’s daughter, whose father operates from the same building in the central business district.

The distraught family member of one of the dead women was yesterday still in shock.

Nicholas Ndlovu said his dead sister Nomusa had without fail took a cup of the medicine she said “heals all illnesses”.

“On Friday she came home with a different concoction. She started getting sick that night, complaining of a terrible stomach ache.

“On Saturday she was rushed to the local KwaDabeka Clinic, where she died,” said the distraught brother.

Police spokesperson Vincent Mdunge confirmed the deaths but said the traditional healer had not been arrested because there was no evidence that he was responsible for the deaths of the four women.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 22, 2011 at 13:03

Posted in Culture

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The Sad State of the Traditional Anglican Communion

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TAC: The Unhappy Anglican House of Archbishop John Hepworth
Confusion reigns over Pope’s offer of Anglicanorum Coetibus

VirtueOnline reports:

A personal ordinariate offered by Pope Benedict XVI for traditionalist Anglicans has divided the American branch of the of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) – the Anglican Church in America – causing an irreparable schism in that body of Anglo-Catholics.

The Traditional Anglican Communion was formed in 1991. Archbishop Louis Falk served as its first primate. He was succeeded in 2002 by Archbishop John Hepworth of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia. The TAC exists in Africa, Australia, the Torres Strait, Canada, Central and South America, England, Ireland, India, Pakistan, Japan and the United States. The vast majority of its members are in India and the Torres Strait.

The TAC is not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and is independent of the Anglican Communion. The TAC upholds the theological doctrines of the Affirmation of St. Louis (1977) with its members self-described as Anglo-Catholics in their theology and liturgical practice. Some parishes use the Anglican Missal in their liturgies. The TAC is guided by a college of bishops from across the communion and headed by an elected primate. TAC churches separated themselves from Anglicans principally over the ordination of women, liturgical revisions, the acceptance of homosexuality and the importance of tradition.

The Pope’s offer to orthodox Anglicans, however, has produced unintended consequences.

Five Church of England bishops with 800 former Anglicans and some 60 priests under their instruction have been the chief beneficiaries of the ordinariate. It also includes three SSM Sisters from Walsingham. There are also three more women who have joined them. Three former C of E bishops have been made monsignors. So far, there has been no mention of the Traditional Anglican Communion, even though they have been in the forefront of wanting such an arrangement with Rome.

The truth is, however, Rome is being very cautious with them. Archbishop Vincent Nichols recently invited Bishop David L. Moyer, who also doubles as a priest of the TEC Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, PA, and his wife to England for the Beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman in September 2010. However, he was politely given the brush off when he sought to be an Episcopal Visitor at the ordination of the English bishops to Rome when he was told that it was an “English” event where he would not be welcome. In a letter written to TAC clergy, Moyer described his feelings waiting on the sidelines as “frustrating” and “regrettable, but it is the reality”.

There is more reality to come. The Vatican has answered the requests of various Anglican groups for full communion by issuing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, thus opening the possibility of corporate reunion with Rome for some Anglicans. To date, it has not embraced the TAC even though overtures between TAC and Cardinal William Joseph Levada, the pope’s representative on the Ordinariate and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Roman Curia, have been strong.

The question is why? There are several reasons…

Whatever the future holds for the Traditional Anglican Communion and its Archbishop John Hepworth, Rome’s silence speaks volumes

You can read on here.

It’s messy, speaks of schism and is, in reality, very sad!

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 22, 2011 at 10:55


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