Fr Stephen Smuts

Archive for December 2011

Traditional Anglican Communion: Trouble in India

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UPDATE:  It has been brought to my attention that what is noted below is in fact a reference to the historical situation in India and not ‘news’ per se. There is no TAC trouble in India. Rather The Most Rev Samuel P Prakash (Metropolitan) is highlighting some of the difficulties that they have had to face up until now. Our prayers are with them.


Fr Anthony Chadwick alerts us to the news of trouble in India:

In the Latest News of Anglican Church of India (member church of the TAC) on the Anglican Church of India’s website, we read that Archbishop Prakash has removed four prominent leaders for some kind of “mutiny”. At least two of the names given seem to be those of bishops (John Augustine and Masih). They also spread a false rumour that Archbishop Prakash was bedridden and seriously ill.

The Anglican Church in India has been in litigation with the Anglican Catholic Church – Original Province over property for years, so I was told some time ago by Archbishop Hepworth. I don’t know if this is presently the case. Something is going on, and it would seem that the devil is working overtime these days!

From the above links:

… The following members were removed from the Anglican Church of India (CIPBC) in accordance to the Constitution, Canons and Rules of the Anglican Church. John Augustine, Gabriel Buxla, Johnson T. John, and Suraj Masih for their self interest. Such persons spread rumour against the highest office of the Metropolitan. Some say that Archbishop Samuel P. Prakash is no more, or he is serious in bed and all of them claim to replace the Most Rev. Samuel P. Prakash, Metropolitan. They misguide the Government offices and general public. We must be careful from these persons who are claiming to be Anglican leaders only to sell the dedicated and consecrated Anglican Church properties in their own interest. They are defeated in Court cases up to the High Court and Supreme of India…

More here.

Divisive squabbling and bickering is fast becoming a TAC Continuing Anglicans hallmark. So sad when one is to consider that of the main intentions behind the formation of the Communion was actually to unite (alienated) Continuing Anglicans on various levels.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 30, 2011 at 12:28

Orthodox Priests Fighting In Church of the Nativity – A Personal Reflection by a Catholic Priest

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[For a background on brawl between the Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests, click here]

Writes Msgr Charles Pope:

One of the more surprising, and personally saddest things I have encountered in my trips to the Holy Land, is the encounter with Orthodox clergy. While I had been trained to expect tensions between Jews and Arabs, my experience involving the Orthodox clergy was actually the most tense and shocking. It also surprised me since, speaking for myself, I have always had great admiration for the beautiful liturgies of the Orthodox.  And, while I know little of the internal realities of those Churches, I have always hoped for reunion. My experiences in the Holy Land showed me very clearly how difficult and unlikely such a reunion may be. A few personal stories.

1. Mass at the Calvary – On my last trip, two years ago I was given the magnificent privilege of celebrating Holy Mass with my parishioners right up on the Calvary, at the Latin Altar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (See photo at upper right). It remains one of the highlights of my entire life. There I was celebrating Mass just feet away from where the cross had once stood, and over the sight of the nailing.

I had reported to the Latin sacristy at 5:30 AM and vested for the 6:00 AM Mass. One of the Franciscan Friars spoke to me in a kind but firm way about the rules that must be observed. He warned me that under no circumstances was I to set foot outside of the sacristy once I had vested. To do so, he warned me, would likely provoke a violent response from the Orthodox clergy, standing twenty feet away near the entrance to the supulchre. When I smiled in stunned wonderment, he reiterated, “Father I am very serious, if you do so you will provoke an international incident.”

The only way we could get to the Calvary Altar at the other end of the Church was to be led there by an approved escort. Any singing was also forbidden during the Mass, a restriction that made sense given the need not to disturb other liturgies underway.

We were also warned severely not to stray from the Latin Chapel with while wearing our Roman vestments. During the Mass, which was a beautiful experience otherwise, the deacon with me strayed just a little too far to my left and the Orthodox priest standing guard at the Greek altar, wildly gestured that he must step back. Following the Mass, we clergy had, once again, to be carefully escorted back to the sacristy.

2. I do not claim to understand the hostility directed toward Roman clergy by the Orthodox priests of different nationalities. I am sure it is ancient and we are not likely innocent. But I also learned how hostile they are to one another.

Behind the Sepulchre is the Jacobite (Syrian Orthodox) chapel. In it, according to tradition, one can enter a cave said to be the burial chamber of Nicodemus (though it is empty). But the Chapel is scorched black, and in a ruinous state by a fire that happened back in the 1800s. It was explained to me by one of the docents that the chapel has never been repaired because no agreement could be reached among the Orthodox clergy on how to get supplies in to repair the chapel. “Amazing!” I said. “Its pretty normal for here,” said the docent.

3. These sorts of tensions also lead to the Church of the Nativity and the Holy Sepulchre having a cluttered, dingy, and unrepaired quality to them. Even pushing a broom requires delicate negotiations.

4. Cronyism – Over at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem similar tensions exist, as you can see in the video below.  When I was last there, the line to go down into the grotto of the nativity below the high altar,  came to a halt and did not move for almost an hour. Our tour guide discovered that the reason for this was that a Russian Orthodox priest was conducting a private tour for a group that had paid him to do so. That group had walked past the rest of us in line and the priest took them down and conducted a service and raised funds. The other tour guides finally had to summon the Palestinian police to force an end to the unscheduled and unpermitted  “fundraiser.”

Our tour guide told us she always felt the most tense going to the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, since the hostility and unpredictability of the the Orthodox clergy often led to complications. I can attest to that!

The rest of the sites in the Holy land, both in Jerusalem and up in Galilee, were largely overseen by the Franciscans of the Holy Land, and they are most agreeable and kind to people of every faith. They were true gentlemen everywhere we went and they do a splendid job maintaining the shrines too. God bless the Franciscans of the Holy Land and I would encourage you to be generous to them. They do good work in a difficult land.

All this leads to the video below: A sad and disturbing sight of dozens of orthodox and Armenian priests bashing each other with broom handles.

It reminds me of the great sadness I felt in Jerusalem as I was led by a guard to go and say Mass at the seat of mercy. What an odd juxtaposition, and yet what a strong reminder of how much we need the power of the Cross. As the guard led me out and up the steep steps to the Calvary Chapel,  I thought of Christ being led up the same hillside, not for his protection, but for my salvation.

And even to this day, at the two holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, it seems Satan still lurks and sulks. The video below shows that he is still able to lash out from time to time and, sadly, we connive in his plots.

Lord have mercy on us and grant us peace on earth.

And while I agree that the Franciscans do a fantastic job (which makes the Galilee a far more tranquil experience) some can be quite brusque when it comes to an erring tourist.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 30, 2011 at 06:44

God’s Quarterback, Tim Tebow, Has the US in a Frenzy

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The Telegraph:

God’s quarterback, Tim Tebow, is an American football player and evangelical Christian who has the US in a frenzy. Initially it was his performance on the sidelines that had people talking. Before every match he plays for the Denver Broncos, he drops to one knee and prays. His gesture, reminiscent of Rodin’s The Thinker, has spawned much debate, a verb – “Tebowing” – and a website on which fans post pictures of themselves imitating the pose. Photographs of him in conversation with the Almighty have dominated sports pages here. If you were to imagine a similar scene in Britain, it would improbably involve Wayne Rooney or David Beckham pausing to genuflect before Jesus, while fans look on in awe.

But then Tebow’s underdog team started winning, something no one ever expected, and more attention was paid to his actions on the pitch. The quarterback’s story jumped from the back pages to the front as he seemingly miraculously proceeded to wipe the floor with all opposition, always in the final minutes – sometimes seconds – of a game.

Unusually for a sportsman, Tebow talks openly about his relationship with Jesus Christ in interviews. He appeared in an advertisement for Focus on the Family, a Christian charity, alongside his mother during the Super Bowl last year with an anti-abortion message. When it was suggested that Jesus was helping him win, all hell broke loose. Saturday Night Live ran a sketch featuring Christ visiting Tebow’s locker room and Jewish Week had to apologise after publishing a column by a rabbi that suggested a win for the Broncos in the Super Bowl could incite religious violence.

“Can God take credit for the victories of a thick-set NFL quarterback who scrambles in a weirdly jittery fashion, throws one of the ugliest balls in the game, completes fewer than half of his passes and has somehow won six of his team’s last seven games?” asked Frank Bruni, of the New York Times. (His conclusion was “yes”).

But for believers and atheists alike, the real miracle here is a football player who appears to practise what he preaches. Not for Tebow the venal lifestyles of many sportsmen. Instead, he has become a poster boy for the Christian Right; a role model of such virtue that mothers across the Bible Belt would happily trust him to take their daughters to the prom. That’s because Tebow has said he’s “saving himself for marriage”. How many British footballers could say the same?


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 30, 2011 at 00:35

Why Drinking Too Much During the Festive Season Is Never a Good Idea

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Enjoying the holidays? Looking forward to New Year’s Eve? Well, here is a video that could well sober you right up…



Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 29, 2011 at 21:34

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Muslim Extremists in Uganda Throw Acid on Bishop

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This in via The Christian Post:

Uganda – Islamic extremists threw acid on a church leader on Christmas Eve shortly after a seven-day revival at his church, leaving him with severe burns that have blinded one eye and threaten sight in the other.

Bishop Umar Mulinde, 37, a sheikh (Islamic teacher) before his conversion to Christianity, was attacked on Saturday night (Dec. 24) outside his Gospel Life Church International building in Namasuba, about 10 kilometers (six miles) outside of Kampala. From his hospital bed in Kampala, he told Compass that he was on his way back to the site for a party with the entire congregation and hundreds of new converts to Christianity when a man who claimed to be a Christian approached him.

“I heard him say in a loud voice, ‘Pastor, pastor,’ and as I made a turn and looked at him, he poured the liquid onto my face as others poured more liquid on my back and then fled away shouting, ‘Allahu akbar [God is greater],’” Mulinde said, still visibly traumatized two days after the assault.

A neighbor and church members rushed him to a hospital in the Mengo area of Kampala, and he was then transferred to International Hospital Kampala.

“I have to continue fighting this pain – it is too much,” Mulinde said. “My entire body is in pain. Most of the night I miss sleep.”

His face, neck and arms bore deep black scars from the acid, and his lips were swollen.

“The burn caused by the acid is so severe that there is an urgent need for specialized treatment,” said area Christian Musa Baluku Symutsangira. “I suggest that he be flown outside the country as soon as possible; otherwise Mulinde might lose both of his eyes, coupled with the spread of the burns. The burns seemed to spread and go very deep. He might need some plastic surgery.”

A doctor told Compass that acid burns cover about 30 percent of his face and has cost him sight in one eye.

“We are doing all we can to save his other remaining eye and to contain the acid from spreading to other parts of the body,” the doctor said.

Mulinde’s shirt, tie and suit were in tatters after the attack…

Despicable! You can read more on the horrific attack here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 29, 2011 at 21:13

A Church Built Entirely of Ice and Snow

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Has opened in Germany:

Germany – A church built entirely of ice and snow has opened in Bavaria — a century after villagers first built a snow church in an act of protest.

The church at Mitterfirmiansreut, near the Czech border, is more than 65 feet in length and boasts a tower. It’s made up of some 49,000 cubic feet of snow.

The structure was bathed in blue light as it opened Wednesday evening with a blessing from Dean Kajetan Steinbeisser.

But when the ancestors of today’s villagers built the first snow church in 1911, they weren’t thinking just of architectural achievement.

Steinbeisser says: “It was meant as an act of provocation — believers from the village got together and built a snow church because they didn’t have a church here.”


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 29, 2011 at 17:09

Bulldozing Jewish History

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World should not allow Arab effort to deny Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

It’s the site where humanity received the gift of one God. It’s where God’s “shechina”, or presence, dwelt. Even the secular imagination, Jewish or not, has been shaped by the “Holy of Holies,” the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the most sacred site of the Jewish people.

It’s there that King David raised a sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant and King Solomon and Herod built the Temples. This holy place – not Shenkin Street, Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood, or Herzliya Pituach’s high-tech hub – prompted the Jews’ return to their land after two millennia of dispersion and pogroms.

In theory, Israel currently controls the Temple Mount. In reality, since 1967, when the Israeli army seized the “holy basin” from Jordanian forces, the Jewish state gave up religious freedom for the Jews.

This is one of the darkest chapters in modern Israel’s short history. Immediately after the liberation of Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan handed over the keys of the Temple Mount to the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust that serves as custodian of the site, which includes four minarets and the holiest Jewish site in the world. It was a disastrous decision.

Threatened by Arab countries, Israeli authorities just closed the Mughabri Bridge, preventing Jews and Christians from entering Temple Mount. Historically it should be noted that only under Israeli rule was the site open for everyone, Muslims, Christians and Jews. The Waqf is now attempting to deliberately destroy all archaeological evidence of Jewish claims to this site, while using terror and intimidation to impose its exclusive claim to Temple Mount.

The Waqf has removed every sign of ancient Jewish presence at the site. At the entrance, a Waqf sign says “The Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard and everything in it is Islamic property.” Today Jews are barred from praying on the Mount and are not even allowed to carry any holy articles with them. With Muslim observers supervising visits, Israeli police have frequently arrested Jews for various violations, such as singing or reciting a prayer even in a whisper.

Repeated lies

This week, a Jewish woman was arrested following claims by police and Waqf officials that they noticed she was praying on Temple Mount. Why is it a crime for a Jew to mention God’s name on Temple Mount? And why is the State of Israel complicit in enforcing this anti-Semitic rule?

European autocrats and the global media are also trying to downplay the Jewish connection to the site. Jewish archeologist Gabi Barkai stated that “it’s a lie more terrible than the denial of the Holocaust, yet connected to it.” UN and EU funded textbooks in the Palestinian areas all repeat the canard denying any Jewish legitimacy in the “Noble Sanctuary.”

The World Council of Churches, the largest umbrella for the Protestant Churches, in its “Promised Land” conference in Switzerland denied any Jewish connection with the Mount. Recently, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, just asked to place some Israeli holy places around Temple Mount under Vatican or international authority.

“The part of Jerusalem within the wall – with the holy sites of the three religions – is humanity’s heritage”, Tauran said. “The sacred and unique character of the area must be safeguarded and it can only be done with a special, internationally guaranteed statute.”

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama’s plan also designates the Old City as an “international zone.”

It’s not only Chief Palestinian Justice Sheik Taysir Tamimi who declared the Jewish temples “never existed.” The supposedly more moderate Sari Nusseibeh also claimed that “the historical ties and attachments of the Palestinians precede any Israeli claim to Jerusalem.”

Erasing the cultural Jewish heritage in Israel means erasing the right of Jews to live in their native land. Meanwhile, the Palestinians just planned the targeting of another Jewish holy site, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. They will ask UNESCO to formally recognize their cultural attachment to the site in February, a move only made possible by their admission to the UN body two months ago.

Lies are obsessive: The Jews, said Arafat, have never been in Jerusalem and the Temple never existed. This canard was repeated since. As Joseph Goebbels famously said, if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. Next time they will say that the Jews never existed as a people. Israel should mobilize the international community to stop this bulldozing of history.

HTPolitics, archaeology, and Jerusalem

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 29, 2011 at 14:05


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