Son Held for Cleric Father’s Murder

A 28-year-old man has been arrested for the murder of his cleric father, Free State police said on Saturday.

Times Live:

“He was arrested on Friday after a lengthy interrogation by the police,” spokesman Sergeant Mmako Mophiring said.

The 60-year-old clergyman and his future son-in-law were killed at their home on Thursday night.

The cleric was in the living room with his wife, son, and daughter’s fiance when three intruders entered the house.

The assailants locked the reverend’s son in the bathroom. He was not hurt.

The daughter’s 25-year-old fiance was shot in the head and died at the scene.

The reverend was wounded and taken to hospital. He died on Friday morning.

His 59-year-old wife was taken to hospital, but it was unknown if she was shot or assaulted.

The cleric’s son will appear in the Harrismith Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

A man spotted by police walking on the N3 highway and covered in blood was arrested on Friday.

He was found in possession of five cellphones and a firearm. One of the cellphones belonged to a member of the family.

The man is also set to appear in the same court on Monday.



Jerusalem Meets Russian Patriarch Kirill

Plenty of photos here.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, who arrived in Jerusalem on Friday, was accompanied by a solemn procession of clerics and laypeople on his way from the Jaffa Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the Old City.

Thousands of believers gathered in front of the church, which is the holiest site for Christians across the world, to greet Patriarch Kirill and Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, who met him. The two patriarchs held a short divine service.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has for centuries been one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for millions of Christians as the purported site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Patriarch Theophilos III addressed Patriarch Kirill, for whom it is the first visit to the Holy Land since he was elected to head the Russian Orthodox Church in 2009, with a solemn speech, in which he noted the importance of brotherly relations between the two Orthodox Churches.

Patriarch Kirill said each Christian dreams of visiting the Holy Land. “For the first time I have come to the Holy Land to offer prayers on behalf of the entire Russian Church that chose me as its Primate,” the patriarch said, adding that he will in particular pray for peace around the world. During his six-day stay, Patriarch Kirill is expected to visit Christian holy sites in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre earlier in November threatened to close its doors as its bank account was frozen over a debt to an Israeli water company. The church had been exempt from water charges in a tacit agreement with Jerusalem authorities for decades but the Hagihon company, which took over water supply to Jerusalem in the late 1990s, recently demanded payment of a $2.3 million bill dating back 15 years, including interest.

Theophilos III even wrote letters to the leaders of Russia, Israel, the United States, Greece, Cyprus and Jordan with an appeal to intervene with the standoff and put a stop “to this flagrant act against the church.” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the presidential administration will thoroughly study Theophilos’s request for help.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem shares control of the church with the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate and the Roman Catholic Franciscan Order through complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for centuries. The site, located within the Christian Quarter of the walled Old City of Jerusalem, attracts more than 1 million pilgrims annually.


I Don’t Recognize Jesus in the Protestant Church Today

The Times of Israel:

Protestant clergymen painted a largely pessimistic view of the church’s relationship with Israel and the Jewish community during a  visit to the Holy Land, suggesting that anti-Semitism is a deep-seated problem based in Christian theology that will be difficult to uproot.

Jewish-Protestant relations are currently undergoing a severe crisis after senior leaders of Mainline Protestant churches in the US last month accused Israel of “widespread” human rights violations and urged Congress to reconsider military aid to Jerusalem.

“I am completely pessimistic in terms of believing that I, we, are going to overturn 2,000 years of erroneous theology that has manifested itself in all kinds of diatribes and anti-Semitic factions,” said the Rev. Paul Wilkinson, the associate minister at Hazel Grove Full Gospel Church, a small pro-Israel congregation in Stockport, England. “I believe we’d be fooling ourselves if we believed that we can overturn and change what I perceive to be a Goliath of theology in the church. The Goliath we face is the Goliath of replacement theology, the Goliath of Christian Palestinianism that taunts Israel, that goads Israel, that accuses Israel, that condemns Israel and those Christians who stand with Israel.”

Replacement theology, also called supercessionism, is the belief that Christendom has taken the Jewish people’s place as the recipients of promises God made in the Old Testament.

‘The problem isn’t political, the problem isn’t sociological, the problem isn’t about lack of education or lack of dialogue. The problem is a spiritual one’

“That Goliath cannot be felled with a stone and a sling as in the days of King David, because the problem isn’t political, the problem isn’t sociological, the problem isn’t about lack of education or lack of dialogue,” Wilkinson said. “The problem is a spiritual one. The problem is that there is an adversary of God, of Israel, of Christians”…

Wilkinson, the reverend from England, on the other hand, was adamant that Mainline Protestant churches are a lost cause when it comes to their views of Jews. Speaking at the consultation on Monday night, he recalled attending an international conference organized by the pro-Palestinian Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center a few years ago, which he said proved to him how deeply ingrained anti-Semitic notions are within some Christian denominations.

“That conference was my first exposure to the absolute hatred toward Israel that exists in the heart — in the heart — of the Protestant Church.”

During the conference, Wilkinson witnessed how organizers and participants denounced Israel as an apartheid state guilty of ethnically cleansing the Palestinian people, and were told that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. One speaker called the God of the Christian Zionists “the great ethnic cleanser, the genocidist,” and described the biblical Joshua as the “patron saint of ethnic cleansing,” Wilkinson said. Not one Protestant clergymen protested, he added.

In 2010, a Scottish Baptist minister gave a devotional address to members of the Scottish parliament, Wilkinson continued. “He spoke about the hope of Christmas being found in the birth of another Palestinian child, born a refugee, living under military occupation,” he recalled.

“I don’t recognize Jesus in the Protestant church today,” added Wilkinson, who wrote his dissertation about Christian Zionism and studied for some time at the International School of Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. “What we’re finding now is a propaganda campaign being waged by the Palestinian Authority, the Islamic world and by the Protestant church, including the Evangelical church.”

Speaking about Islam, Wilkinson struck a particularly bitter note: “I understand the desire to engage in interfaith dialogue with the Islamic community. Of course there will be Muslims who are friends of Israel, friends of the Jewish people. But a leopard cannot change its spots,” he said. “The world is afraid to speak out and denounce what is so blatantly obvious — that this is a religion of hate, a religion of death, a religion of subjection and oppression. And there is no hope for that religion, even though there is hope for many Muslims.”

US-born Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, of Efrat, struck a more upbeat and conciliatory tone.

“What unites us is far more important than what divides us, especially against fundamentalist Islam whose god is a god of power, not love, and who preaches jihad and war. Islam does not have to be like that, and in the far past it was not,” he said at the consultation.“Wahhabi Islam that has taken over the Middle East is not monotheism but mono-Satanism,” added Riskin, who founded the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation. “We have to have a united voice that talks about a God of love; then perhaps, with Jewish and Christians united in this mission, we can teach it to the world and give strength to the moderate Muslims to join us.”

Jewish-Protestant relations have been troubled for decades, but the crisis worsened drastically last month after leaders of major Protestant groups sent a joint letter to Congress, calling on US lawmakers to reconsider military aid to Israel.

The letter speaks of “widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinians, including killing of civilians, home demolitions and forced displacement, and restrictions on Palestinian movement, among others.” The 15 signatories further stated that they saw “a troubling and consistent pattern of disregard by the government of Israel for U.S. policies that support a just and lasting peace.”

While the letter asserts that the Israeli government has “a right and a duty to protect both the state and its citizens,” the signatories nonetheless urge Congress “to undertake careful scrutiny to ensure that [US military] aid is not supporting actions by the government of Israel that undermine prospects for peace.”

“As Christian leaders in the United States,” the letter states, “it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel,” which “will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

Immediately after the letter’s publication, seven major Jewish organizations withdrew their participation from an interfaith meeting scheduled for later that month.

The so-called Christian-Jewish Roundtable was planed to take place on October 22-23, but the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups canceled their participation in protest over the controversial missive.

“In addition to being completely baseless, this letter demonstrates that all of our work, all of our dialogue, all of our goodwill and all of our Protestant partners’ pledges of commitment to coexistence amount to very little if such a letter can be sent to Congress without even the courtesy of a heads-up,” stated Rabbi Steven Wernick, the head of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

“There have always been ups and downs in the relations between Mainline Protestants and American Jews, but they have now hit a 45-year low,” Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the former president of the Union for Reform Judaism, wrote in an op-ed two weeks ago. “And this time, they may not recover.”

However, Christians United for Israel, a group that calls itself “one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world,” claimed the letter did not speak for mainstream Christianity, at least in the US.

“The vast majority of American Christians realize that when Israel confronts Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, it is confronting shared enemies on our behalf,” the group’s director, David Brog, said. “And the vast majority of American Christians know that while Israel — like the US — is not perfect, both of our nations are committed to fighting terrorism while adhering to the highest moral standards.”



Chaplains Support Sandy Relief Operations

US Department of Defense:

National Guard chaplains are providing support as part of Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery operations.

“The chaplains are providing religious services and prayer for recovery teams,” said Air Force Chaplain Brig. Gen. Alphonse Stephenson, director of the National Guard joint chaplaincy at the National Guard Bureau and Air National Guard assistant to the Air Force chief of chaplains. “They’re providing on-the-spot counseling and encouragement to not only military personnel but to everyone who is affected.”

Many of the chaplains who have responded are from the New Jersey and New York areas, which provides for a greater connection to the communities affected by the storm, Stephenson said.

“They’re from the community and they put on the uniform and report to where they are supposed to be and then they go right back out into the community again,” he said.

And while chaplains in the affected areas are primarily there to support military members, they have ministered to non-military members as well, Stephenson said. One way they have done this is by engaging with members of the local clergy.

When it comes to providing support, “a chaplain just doesn’t say no,” Stephenson said. “There is no such thing.”

For Stephenson, a New Jersey native, the storm affected him personally and he found himself providing support to his 89-year-old father in the days after the storm.

“He lives on the Jersey Shore and his lights were out,” Stephenson said. “Thank God his house was standing and everything else was fine, but his power went out.”

After eight days without power, Stephenson said his father was beginning to feel frustrated and somewhat overwhelmed.

“I said to him, ‘You were in World War II in seven invasions and right now you’re sitting in Brick Township, N.J., with a house where the power is out. How tough is that?’” Stephenson said. “And he said, ‘Ya know, you’re right.’”

“And I think that’s what the chaplain has to do — put it in perspective,” Stephenson added.

Putting things in perspective is one way that chaplains work to provide hope and encouragement for those they support, Stephenson said.

“The presence of the chaplain is to bring hope,” he said. “That’s our best product, our most important product. I think the cross or tablets or whatever religious insignia is on the uniform of the chaplain, it’s a symbol of a trusted agent.”

And from the chaplain’s perspective, Stephenson said, that mission of providing hope is the same whether it’s responding to a Hurricane Sandy-type event or as part of the overseas or warfighting mission.

“It’s approached with the same vigor,” he said.

And in a disaster situation such as Sandy, chaplains provide an essential element, Stephenson said.

“I think the chaplain’s presence is absolutely necessary in these situations,” he said.

And being there, he added, is part of the chaplain’s mission.

“We are spiritual strength, wherever needed, whenever required,” Stephenson said.



So What Happened to Archbishop John Sentamu?

Could it have to do with the colour of his skin?

When I tweeted this morning a certain un-awed wonder at news reports that a middle-aged white dude, Durham bishop Justin Welby, has apparently been tapped as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, one of my Twitter followers snapped quickly back: “Almost all the candidates were middle-aged and white. Should they have gone with [anti-gay Archbishop John] Semantu just because he’s black?” So, too, a British Facebook friend complained about my “prejudice” toward the Church of England. “You wouldn’t have preferred [the bishop of] York, would you?”

Of course, that was not my thinking at all—Twitter’s mere 140 characters creates a certain barrier to nuance.

The “almost all the candidates were middle-aged and white” bit was more to the point, Bishop of York Dr. Semantu being the “only” non-white Church of England bishop who made up the “almost.” The tweeter doubled down on in a follow-up message: “but you’d have to have more non-white bishops in the Church of England to begin with.” Exactly. Or, you’d have to look outside the C of E for archepiscopal “Focus of Unity” of a worldwide communion that may well draw deeply on its colonial English roots, but that’s been coloring richly outside the lines of its WASP lineage for several centuries by now.

Dr. Semantu, well known for his own lack of nuance, promised to be a divisive choice in the global Anglican Communion—if not in the Church of England proper, where he is much admired by the Anglican laity despite, or perhaps because of, periodic fits of ideological and interpersonal pique. Given his much more conservative views on matters like the role of women and homosexuals in the church, an oft-noted “lack of diplomatic skill,” and the fact that at 62 he is older than out-going ABC Rowan Williams, Semantu was dropped from serious consideration early in the recommendation process.

All the enduring contenders, thus, were drawn from the soft, white center of the Church of England, allowing Welby, an affable former oil company executive with a familiar Eton-Cambridge pedigree, to move to the top of the list…

Read the rest of 80 Million Anglicans Can’t Be Wrong – Or Can They?



Africa Warms to New Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Members of Africa’s largely conservative Anglican communion say Welby understands the challenges that the church faces on the continent and can stave off a schism

The Christian Monitor has the rest.

In South Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town says he is delighted at the appointment.

… “It is clear that he will bring great gifts to his new role,” says Archbishop Makgoba, adding that Welby’s experience in the secular world of business and finance will help with the church’s primary concerns of overcoming poverty and promoting comprehensive justice and peace.

“He has faced the tough realities with which so many live, and even looked the possibility of violent death in the face. He knows the harsh daily experience of so many here and around the world.”