Friday, December 21, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An Advent Prayer

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do, seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy, seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking light.
To you we say, Come Lord Jesus....

Henri Nouwen

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Most U.S.-born Latinos fluent in English

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Nearly nine out of 10 Hispanic adults born in the United States are fluent in English, while less than a quarter of their immigrant parents say they are skilled English speakers, according to a study published on Thursday.

The report by the Pew Hispanic Center found that 23 percent of Latino immigrants surveyed said they could speak English very well, while 88 percent of their U.S.-born adult children said they were fluent.

Read Reuter's report on the study

Monday, November 26, 2007

Calvin Institute and "Multicultural" Worship

As a pastor I have found the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship to be a tremendous source of information on the rich theology, history and practice of Reformed Worship. How refreshing to see them dedicating a great deal of attention to multiculturality. If you agree with me that "Reformed" does NOT equal "euro-centric" or "stuck in the 1950's", you will find some useful resources in their Vital Worship page.

Americans Using Internet for Religion and Spirituality

WASHINGTON D.C. - The number of Americans going online to find religious information is growing and those who seek spiritual material are generally looking for things to complement already devout lives by educating themselves on their own faiths and finding resources to assist in prayer or devotions. Some 25% of adult Internet users -- about 28 million people -- have gone online to get religious and spiritual material, according to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That is a jump from the 20 million online Americans who reported last year they had used the Internet to get spiritual material.

More people have sought spiritual succor online than have gone to gambling Web sites, participated in online auctions, traded stocks online, or done online banking. "The Internet fills many niches for religious people," said Elena Larsen, a Research Fellow for Pew Internet Project and the principal author of the report. "It is a helpful reference and communications tool for those who are active in their church. Converts to new faiths can find volumes of information. People who feel their religions are unpopular can meet others safely online. People who do not belong to religious communities can find resources and experiences that might not otherwise have been available to them."

Visit Beliefnet for more details on the report

Friday, November 23, 2007

G.K. Chesterton on Thanksgiving

I found this quotes at Tod Bolsinger's blog:

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace."

"You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink."

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Newcomers and the Antelope Valley

PALMDALE - The Antelope Valley's population growth is driving the region's economic engine, adding more households with spending power and fueling local job growth.

Nearly 2,150 additional households a year have moved to the Antelope Valley since 2005, and the average household income of those living in the region less than four years is $67,900 - 3.5 percent higher than the overall area's average household income, a study has found.

"It's household economic stimulus to the economy and the job market," said Alonzo Pedrin, who led the study. "Every dollar spent by new households generates $1.28 in economic activity in the Antelope Valley."

Since 2000, the number of residents joining the work force has grown 1.56 percent annually; job growth has gone up 1.78 percent annually in the same period.

"You are adding local jobs at a faster rate than you are adding workers," Pedrin said.

The figures were part of a $55,000 labor market study done by Anaheim-based Alfred Gobar Associates for the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance, or GAVEA, a nonprofit economic development organization supported by local cities and businesses and other government agencies.

Read the entire Daily News Report

Monday, November 19, 2007

Catching Up With The Jones's?

Two Latino surnames are among the top 10 most common in the nation.

They are Garcia and Rodriguez and a third Latino surname, Martinez, nearly edged out Wilson for 10th place.

Garcia moved to No. 8 in 2000, up from No. 18, and Rodriguez jumped to No. 9, from 22nd place. The number of Latino surnames among the top 25 doubled, to six.

The number of Hispanics living in the U.S. grew by 58 percent in the 1990s to nearly 13 percent of the population.

Press here to read more about the Census report

Friday, November 16, 2007

Presbyterians on Cyberspace...

So what happens when John Stuart posts his daily devotions on his blog, “Heaven’s Highway”?

People write to him from India, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Folks from his congregation say things like, “That’s not what I believe,” or “I never thought about that,” and conversations begin.

And, as an added bonus, a teacher from a local high school is having students download his sermon podcasts. The students are preparing for an upcoming production of the musical “Brigadoon,” and their teacher wants them to get it right.

“They’re copying my accent,” Stuart, pastor of Erin Church in Knoxville and a native of Scotland, said with pleasure.

There is no blueprint to Web 2.0, but the simple truth is this. Presbyterians — like lots of other folks — are using Web-based technology more and more. They find it freeing, a doorway to discipleship, a way to creatively meld words and music and images and ideas.

Click here to read the complete Presbyterian Outlook article

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Good Preacher...

I found this at Rev. K.C Wahe's blog:

I came across this story about Clarence Jordan, who was instrumental in founding
Habitat for Humanity. He visited an integrated church in the Deep South. He was
surprised to find such a large church so thoroughly integrated not only black and white,
but rich and poor. So he asked the old hillbilly preacher, “How did you get the church this
way?” The preacher said, “Well, when our preacher left our small church, I went to the
Deacons and said, ‘I’ll be the preacher.’ And the first Sunday, I opened the book and read, ‘As many of you as has been baptized into Jesus has put on Jesus, and there is no longer any Jews or Greeks, slaves are free, males or females, because you is all one in Jesus.’ “Then I closed the book and said, ‘If you one with Jesus, you one with all kinds of folks, and if you ain’t, you ain’t.”
So Jordan asked what happened after that and the preacher said, “Well, the Deacons took
me into the back room and told me they didn’t want to hear that kind of preaching any more.”
Jordan asked, “What’d you do?” He said, ‘I fired them Deacons. I preached that church down to four people. And not long after that it grew and grew and grew. And I found out that revivals sometimes don’t mean bringing people in, but getting people out who don’t love Jesus.’ (William H. Willimon, Eating and Drinking Among the Lost, Pulpit Resource, Vol. 35, No. 4, Year C, p. 24)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On Reading the Bible

Curiously, the most serious religious people, or the most concerned
scholars, those who constantly read the Bible as a matter of
professional or pious duty, can often manage to evade a radically
involved dialogue with the book they are questioning.
Thomas Merton

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Prayer on Service

Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest;
to give, and not to count the cost,
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
to toil, and not to seek for rest,
to labor, and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do thy will.

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1566)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Presbyterian (USA) Multicultural Congregations

To qualify as multicultural, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation must have members from two or more racial-ethnic groups, with no more than 80 percent in any one racial-ethnic group. In 2006 we find that:

  • 291 congregations are multicultural (less than 3 percent of the total, but up from 120–125 in 1996).
  • Most are relatively small, with a median membership of 84, compared to a median of 105 for all congregations.
  • Two-thirds have a white majority (187 or 64 percent). In 29 (10 percent) the majority is African American; in 14 (5 percent), Hispanic; in 13 (4 percent), Asian; in 9 (3 percent), Native American; and in 3 (1 percent), other.
  • No one racial-ethnic group has a majority of the membership in 36 congregations; of these, 15 are located in the New York City area.
  • Overall, 37 states and Washington, D.C., have one or more multicultural congregations, with concentrations in New York (44), California (39) and New Jersey (22).
  • The largest percentages of congregations that are multicultural are in Massachusetts (8 of 36; 22 percent), Arizona (6 of 37; 14 percent) and Hawaii (1 of 7; 14 percent).
Press here to read more about the research

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Doxology...

"And now unto him who is able to keep us from falling and lift us from the dark valleys of despair to the mountains of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy; to him be power and authority, for ever and ever. Amen".
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Prayer as Uprising...

"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."
Karl Barth

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On Prayer and Service

"A Sister who does not pray cannot remain with us -- she might as well go. Through prayer you will believe and through belief you will love -- through love you will serve."
Mother Theresa

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Go and Plant Churches of All Peoples

An important insight about church planting as evangelism among the America's shifting population...

"Today's church plants often target immigrants, which means adjusting church traditions to diverse ethnic cultures. "Any denomination that has an aggressive church-planting program and doesn't have a bias toward the white community will be largely ethnic," says David Ripley, who leads ethnic ministries at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois. "If we are challenging people to reach their neighbors, the reality is that the neighborhood is changing." As an example, he notes that 25 languages are spoken at Wheaton North High School, formerly dominated by WASP students".

For more insights read the entire Christianity Today article

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Grad Student Etiquette

I identified with this cartoon...

Paul Hiebert...An amazing life!

Paul Gordon Hiebert, Distinguished Professor of Mission and Anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, arguably the world's leading missiological anthropologist, died on March 11 of cancer. He was 74.

Paul combined attributes not easily combined: anthropologically—and theologically—informed scholarship and a passion for God's global missionary purposes. The story of how Paul fruitfully merged these commitments is worth telling.

Read the entire article here

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Francis Bacon on Methods...

"If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must
expect to employ methods never before attempted".

Monday, September 17, 2007

Auditoire de Calvin

This was the place in Geneva where Calvin began expounding Reformed Theology in 1536. It was also used by the reformer John Knox, during his exile there in the 1550’s. Here Knox ministered to an English-speaking refugee congregation and developed many of the ideas that were to be influential in the Scottish Reformation. Later, it became a place used by numerous Protestant refugee groups including Italian Waldensians, Dutch Reformed and Scottish Presbyterians. Will we be able to re-discover this multi-cultural /multi-lingual legacy of our Reformed identity?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Census Data: Diversity in the US

Number of Immigrants Hits Record 37.5M- By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly one in five people living in the United States speaks a language at home other than English, according to new Census data that illustrate the wide-ranging effects of immigration.

The number of immigrants nationwide reached an all-time high of 37.5 million in 2006, affecting incomes and education levels in many cities across the country. But the effects have not been uniform.

In most states, immigrants have added to the number of those lacking a high-school diploma, with almost half of those from Latin America falling into that category.

However, at the other end of the education spectrum, Asian immigrants are raising average education levels in many states, with nearly half of them holding at least a bachelor's degree.

"There is no one-size-fits-all policy that you could apply for all immigrant groups," said Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau. "I think most of the attention has been on low-skilled workers coming from Mexico. But we have 10 million immigrants from Asia, a number that's growing."

The Census Bureau on Wednesday released a host of demographic data about the nation, including statistics on immigration, housing, education and employment.

The data come from the American Community Survey, an annual survey of 3 million households that has replaced the Census Bureau's long-form questionnaire from the once-a-decade census. It does not distinguish between illegal immigrants and those who are in the U.S. legally.

Mather analyzed the differences in education levels among immigrants from Asia and those from Latin America. Together, the groups account for about 80 percent of all immigrants.

About 48 percent of Asian immigrants held at least a bachelor's degree, compared with about 11 percent of immigrants from Latin America. Among people born in the U.S., about 27 percent were college graduates.

"Driving this are people coming from China and India," Mather said. "They are either coming with a bachelor's degree, or they are coming with visas and getting degrees once they arrive."

At the other end of the spectrum, 47 percent of adult immigrants from Latin America lacked a high school diploma, compared with 16 percent of Asian immigrants and 13 percent of people born in the U.S.

Those numbers are fueling overall increases in the number of high-school dropouts in four states: Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Texas, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"It used to be the poor southern states that had low levels of education and income. Now it is the high-immigration states as well," Frey said. "But that isn't to say that the second or third generation won't do better, because they will," he added. "There is upward mobility."

Among the other highlights from the 2006 data released by the Census Bureau:

_Massachusetts led all states in college graduates, with 37 percent of adults 25 and older holding at least a bachelor's degree. West Virginia came in last with 16.5 percent.

_Mississippi led all states in high-school dropouts, with 22.1 percent of adults 25 and older not graduating from high school. Minnesota was at the other end, with only 9.3 percent.

_California led the nation in immigrants, at 27 percent of the state's population, and in people who spoke a foreign language at home, at 43 percent.

_West Virginia had the smallest share of immigrants, at 1.2 percent. It also had the smallest share of people speaking a foreign language at home, at 2.3 percent.

_New York residents had the longest average commuting time to work at nearly 31 minutes, while North Dakota had the shortest, at 15.5 minutes.

_More Americans are working later in life. In 2006, 23.2 percent of people age 65 to 74 were still in the labor force _either working or looking for work — up from 19.6 percent in 2000.

_Fewer households consist of a married couple with children — 21.6 percent in 2006, down from 23.5 percent in 2000.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

What Does the Media Mean by "Presbyterian"

This is a Colorado journalist's attempt to answer that question...
A look at Presbyterian alphabet soup and what it means.

To follow Presbyterian news updates, outsiders need to learn a few key facts.

The Presbyterian Church in America is not the same thing as the American Presbyterian Church. Also, Orthodox Presbyterians are not to be confused with Bible Presbyterians, Cumberland Presbyterians, Reformed Presbyterians, Associate Reformed Presbyterians or Evangelical Presbyterians.
This Presbyterian alphabet soup became less complicated in 1983, when the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. joined with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., the so-called Southern branch. This created the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which today has about 2.3 million members.

Is that clear? If so, take a deep breath because Presbyterian affairs are about to get more complicated as new divisions and unions reshape the churches that trace their roots to John Calvin and his Reformed branch of Protestantism.

Read the daily camera article

Friday, August 31, 2007

Will "Minorities" Change US. Television?

"Hispanics and Asians remain the fastest-growing segments of the national population, with TV households increasing by 4.4% among Hispanics and 3.9% among Asians over last year, according to data released by Nielsen Co. Thursday.

Nielsen’s latest National Universe Estimates, the estimates of U.S. television households, also show that the number of Black or African-American television households grew faster than the national U.S. average, 1.5% versus 1.3%, respectively.

In local markets, Nielsen estimates that Los Angeles will continue to remain the No. 1 Hispanic market, followed by New York, Miami, Houston and Chicago.

Los Angeles also has the country’s largest Asian community, followed by New York, San Francisco, Honolulu and Chicago, according to Nielsen".

Read the entire Multichannel News report

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Are You Learned or a Learner?

"In the times of rapid change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."
Eric Hoffer (American social writer, recipient of the presidential medal of Freedom under president Reagan)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dead Sea Scrolls

Maricela and I had a chance to visit the exhibition on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the San Diego Museum of Natural History. It was an experience of a lifetime. We would highly recommend it to anybody.


Alfredo: When as teenagers we used to play baseball in Caracas I had no idea of the things God had for you in the future. But you have it in you, you are a child of Abraham! Congratulations on your new position as Director of Multicultural Ministries at Downey Presbyterian Church.

Alfredo Jose: Cuando jugabamos beisbol en Colinas de Bello Monte ni me imaginaba las cosas que Dios tenia para ti en el futuro. Pero "el futuro se te viene encima". A ti, hijo de Abraham te felicito por tu nueva funcion como Director de Ministerios Multiculturales en la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Downey.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Merton on Results...

In a letter to young activist Jim Forrest

"Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

You are fed up with words, and I don't blame you. I am nauseated by them sometimes. I am also, to tell the truth, nauseated by ideals and with causes. This sounds like heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean. It is so easy to get engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of meaning left in it. And then the temptation is to yell louder than ever in order to make the meaning be there again by magic. Going through this kind of reaction helps you to guard against this. Your system is complaining of too much verbalizing, and it is right.

The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.

The next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness. You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God's love. Think of this more, and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.

The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth: and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ's truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments. Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration and confusion. . .

The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see."

Hispanic Churches Add English Services

"While churches from every imaginable tradition have been adding Spanish services to meet the needs of new immigrants, an increasing number of Hispanic ethnic congregations are going the other way - starting English services.

It's an effort to meet the demands of second- and third-generation Hispanics, keep families together and reach non-Latinos.

In some cases, the greater English emphasis has contributed to a growing phenomenon: evangelical Protestant megachurches drawing crowds in the thousands that aren't white and suburban, but Hispanic and anchored in the inner city".

Press here to read the entire Associated Press article posted at

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


"The minister is constantly tempted to the reductionist strategy of making the Christian gospel intelligible, rather than helping strangers to discover through the gospel why their lives are unintelligible."

Stanley Hauerwas in "Preaching to Strangers"

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Surprising Findings about Diversity and Community

One of the sociologists that has influenced my dissertation proposal the most is Harvard's Robert Putnam. Through Tod Bolsinger's blog I learned about how his latest study (published in the Scandinavian Political Studies journal) has a lot of people puzzled... Click here to read the Wall Street Journal feature

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Presbyterians played catalyst role on road to reforms

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan played a significant role in pushing for democracy during the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) authoritarian rule.

When the nation celebrated the 20th anniversary of the lifting of martial law last month, little attention was paid to the "human rights declaration" proclaimed by the church 30 years ago.

Throughout the 1970s, the Presbyterian Church actively opposed political oppression, declaring a "human rights declaration" to help encourage the democratic movement that changed the fate of the country.

On Dec. 29, 1971, after then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger secretly visited Beijing, the church declared that the Taiwanese people had the right to self-determination. They asked the KMT government to implement democratic reforms, including direct elections for all representatives to the highest government body.

In the run-up to US president Gerald Ford's visit to China, the church on Nov. 18, 1975, called on the government to work on its diplomatic predicament and to establish a relationship of mutual trust with the church.

Click here for the Taipei Times article

Monday, August 13, 2007

Adverse Effects of Acculturation? posted a report on a sociological study claims that "U.S. Culture Boosts Hispanic Immigrants' Substance Abuse Risk"

MONDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Adoption of American culture and lifestyle makes Hispanic immigrants to the United States more likely to use illegal drugs and abuse alcohol, a new study suggests.

The study of more than 6,700 adults (including 1,690 Hispanics) in Washington state found that acculturated Hispanics were nearly 13 times more likely to report the use of illegal drugs than Hispanics who adhered to their traditional culture.

Acculturation refers to the adoption of new cultural beliefs and social skills by an immigrant group.

The study found that 7.2 percent of acculturated Hispanics reported using illegal drugs within the previous month, compared to less than one percent of non-acculturated Hispanics and 6.4 percent of whites.

Acculturated Hispanics were nearly twice as likely as non-acculturated Hispanics to report current binge drinking and more than three times more likely to report "bender" drinking -- consuming alcohol continuously for days in a row without sobering up.

"In general, recent Hispanic immigrants are more family-oriented and have less tolerant views of drugs and alcohol use," study lead author Scott Akins, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, said in a prepared statement. "Although immigration and assimilation will provide some migrants with benefits such as wealth and job stability, immigration and acculturation can be a difficult process which has negative consequences as well."

The study was scheduled to be presented Sunday at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting in New York City.

Kmart Launches Multicultural Doll Brands

Toy store aisles are getting a multicultural makeover. Bolstered by the success of Nickelodeon's popular bilingual children's character, Dora the Explorer, and the spending power of the nation's growing minority population, toy retailers across the country are filling their shelves with dolls whose skin colors and facial features reflect the girls and boys who play with them.

Although black and Hispanic dolls have been around for decades, the newer incarnations try harder at authenticity, rather than simply tinting the hair and skin from "white" doll molds.

Press here to read the Associated Press article.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

US Ethnic Shifts

I hope this report is not taken in alarming or triumphalistic ways. My intention in posting it is to provoke reflection in regards to the rapid changes and their implications for mission.

"Whites are now in the minority in nearly one in 10 U.S. counties. And that increased diversity, fueled by immigration and higher birth rates among blacks and Hispanics, is straining race relations and sparking a backlash against immigrants in many communities.

"There's some culture shock," said Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based research agency. "But I think there is a momentum building, and it is going to continue."

As of 2006, non-Hispanic whites made up less than half the population in 303 of the nation's 3,141 counties, according to figures the Census Bureau is releasing Thursday. Non-Hispanic whites were a minority in 262 counties in 2000, up from 183 in 1990".

Press here to read the entire Associated Press report

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Interview with Ruth Padilla DeBorst

One sign of the maturity of Latin American evangelicalism is Ruth Padilla DeBorst's familiar name. The eldest daughter of eminent theologian and missiologist René Padilla is a theologian and church leader in her own right. For many years, Padilla DeBorst worked with the growing Christian student movements of Latin America under the umbrella of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES); now she is president of the Latin American Theological Fellowship (whose Spanish initials are FTL), director of IFES's Spanish-speaking publishing house Ediciones Certeza Unida, and team leader of Christian Reformed World Mission's work in El Salvador. Educated at Wheaton College's graduate school and pursuing a doctoral degree at Boston University School of Theology, Padilla DeBorst brings her cross-cultural intelligence to this year's big question:

What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God's mission in the world?
She spoke with the Christian Vision Project's editorial director, Andy Crouch, at her eight-member family's cheerfully crowded apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Your life has unfolded through a series of moves across cultures.

I was born in Colombia to an Ecuadorian father and an American mother, but I grew up in Argentina. When I was in high school and university, Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship and U.S. intervention in Latin America was pervasive. There was great anger among my fellow students about how American power was being used in Latin America.

But I had to wrestle with the issue because the United States wasn't simply another country—it was part of my roots, my mother's family. So before I could even begin to understand what God was doing in the world, I had to allow God to do his work inside me, reconciling the different strands of my identity.

As I worked with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Latin America, I began to recognize as brothers and sisters those in other parts of the southern cone of Latin America, then in the rest of Latin America, and ultimately in the broader picture of the international fellowship. All of that was God at work in me, planting in me his heart for the world.

Working with university students in Latin America, especially when I moved to Ecuador, also made me much more aware of the anger and frustration that goes along with poverty. We would have very bright students who had no opportunity to work in their fields [of study] and to support their families. Ecuador also has a large indigenous population, which I hadn't really encountered in Buenos Aires. My ancestors in Ecuador were among the Spanish founders of the city of Quito. My family name was engraved on the cathedral. Yet we also have indigenous blood. You look at my dad, especially, and you know there is Inca there. What should I do with all this? And how do we respect these people who have been oppressed for so long? All these became not just political questions, but intensely personal, Christian questions for me.

When Christianity came into Latin America, many of the indigenous groups simply changed the names of their gods: They gave them Christian saints' names. But they really continued worshiping their original gods. Churches were built on top of temples. Seventy-five years ago, John Mackay wrote a wonderful book, The Other Spanish Christ, which asks whether Latin America could discover the Christ who was incarnate, who walked the streets and died and rose from the dead and is powerful today. This Christ was not widely portrayed in the first evangelization of Latin America. Christ was either a helpless baby, toward whom we feel affection and compassion, or a corpse, a dead body with no power or ethical demands. This is what happens when religion is too closely linked with power: The problem is not just that religion underwrites oppression, but that the gospel itself is lost. If Christ is just a baby or a dead body, I can keep on living and not allow Christ's lordship to shed light on all dimensions of my life.

Click here to read the whole Christianity Today interview

Friday, August 03, 2007

Small church takes huge risk, goes buildingless

Congregation moves to retirement home, invests proceeds in mission

By Emily Enders Odom

LOUISVILLE — Just call it the little church that could. And did.

Faced with declining membership, dwindling revenues, and an aging, non-handicapped accessible building, the Buechel Presbyterian Church here joyfully embraced what it saw as its only viable option for survival.

Rather than close its doors to future generations, the congregation voted in August 2006 to sell its building and make its new home across the street at Westminster Terrace, a neighboring independent living home.

The congregation held its first service at the retirement facility in late September 2006, the same time that the church building was put up for sale.

“The timing and the process were nothing short of a miracle,” said the Rev. Judy Hockenberry, Buechel’s temporary supply pastor, reflecting on how quickly and easily the congregation was led to its decision.

Of the church’s 50 worshiping members, only about five people did not make the transition to Westminster Terrace. The rest have “adapted beautifully” to the new situation, according to Hockenberry.

“They are a living witness to what we say we believe it means to be church,” she said. “In taking this action, they have said ‘it is more important to us to be with these same people as to where we meet with these same people.’”

For its part, Westminster Terrace, a facility of Presbyterian Homes & Services of Kentucky, opened wide its doors of welcome. The Rev. Hattie Wagner, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister who was then serving Westminster Terrace as director for pastoral care, made it possible for the church to be fully integrated into the retirement home’s programmatic ministry.

Westminster’s administration further decided that since there would be no incremental costs associated with hosting the Buechel church, there would be no rent required.

“This was a Presbyterian situation,” an amazed Hockenberry mused. “It couldn’t be this easy!”

And yet, for this little band of God’s people, it grew ever easier.

When Mark A. Gray arrived at Presbyterian Homes & Services of Kentucky on June 4, 2007, as its new president and CEO, Hattie Wagner was promoted to vice president for mission advancement, and was directed to choose her successor. Wagner immediately asked Hockenberry if she would be interested in serving as Westminster Terrace’s chaplain, with responsibilities, of course, for the Buechel church.

Hockenberry, who is presently employed full time with the PC(USA) as an associate for curriculum development as well as serving Buechel as temporary supply pastor, accepted the offer. Her last day at the Presbyterian Center here will be Aug. 9.

“God’s hand is so obvious here,” Hockenberry said. “Of course God is always there, but sometimes you can literally see God’s hand at work. This is one of those times.”

When Buechel’s building sold in April 2007, conversations began in earnest about how the proceeds should be spent. The session of the Buechel church immediately thought of the Mission Initiative: Joining Hearts & Hands (MIJHH).

MIJHH is a five-year campaign of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to raise $40 million for new overseas missionaries and church growth in this country, particularly racial ethnic and immigrant congregations.

The Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky, to which the Buechel church belongs, is currently partnered with MIJHH in a $1 million fundraising effort to support four major presbytery initiatives, including the development of a ministry strategy for the presbytery’s growing Hispanic/Latino population, which has been a key focus in recent years for Buechel.

One of the church’s hopes to rebuild its declining membership was to develop a Hispanic ministry. For years, the congregation sponsored ESL and citizenship classes, and in its current location at Westminster Terrace, still provides bilingual worship and simultaneous translation of the sermon for three church members of Cuban descent.

When the congregation, which has a long history of tithing for mission, made the connection between its own growing edge and the presbytery’s, their decision became obvious. They voted to designate 10% of the sale of the church building to the Hispanic/Latino piece of the presbytery’s vision for Joining Hearts & Hands.

At the July 16, 2007, meeting of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, the Buechel church presented presbytery campaign co-chairs, the Rev. Phil Lloyd-Sidle and Elder Augusta Thomas, with a check in the amount of $41,301, the largest gift to date in the Mid-Kentucky campaign. The presbytery is now a third of the way toward its $1 million goal.

In her prayer of thanksgiving before the presbytery, Hockenberry expressed gratitude to God that her congregation was in a position to give. She also prayed that Buechel might serve as an inspiration to other churches.

“This was truly a God thing,” said the Rev. Betty L. Meadows, general presbyter for Mid-Kentucky. “Because Hispanic ministry is their heart and soul, the session of Buechel covenanted to make this amazing gift. It is simply awesome!

Queen's Guitarrist Turns in PhD Dissertation

BBC Brasil reports that Brian May turned in his dissertation in Astronomy 36 years after abandoning his research project for playing with Queen. I guess "it's never too late"...

O músico fez trabalhos de observação astronômica recentemente em Tenerife, nas Ilhas Canárias (Espanha), onde estudou a formação de "nuvens de poeira zodiacal".

O assunto forma a base da tese de 48 mil palavras para o Imperial College de Londres, onde May - de 60 anos - estudava antes de se juntar ao Queen.

"Foi o maior período sábatico já registrado. Na época, foi uma decisão difícil deixar meus estudos pela música", disse o guitarrista.

"Estou muito orgulhoso por estar aqui hoje", acrescentou. "Astronomia sempre foi meu interesse."

"Fracasso público"

May entregou a tese, chamada "Velocidades Radiais na Nuvem de Poeira Zodiacal", para o chefe de astrofísica do Imperial College, o professor Paul Nandra.

O guitarrista deve discutir a tese com um painel de examinadores no dia 23 de agosto, de acordo com seu porta-voz. Os resultados deverão ser conhecidos logo depois desta data.

"Se eu fracassar, será grande", disse May. "Será um fracasso muito público com toda esta divulgação."

O guitarrista também prepara um concerto para marcar a inauguração de um telescópio em um observatório astronômico em Tenerife, onde completou os estudos em julho.

"Não tenho dúvidas de que Brian May teria tido uma brilhante carreira em ciências, se tivesse completado seu PhD em 1971", disse o astrofísico Garik Israelian, que trabalhou com May em Tenerife.

"No entanto, como fã do Queen, fico feliz que ele tenha deixando a ciência temporariamente", acrescentou.

May fez suas primeiras observações astronômicas para sua tese no Observatório del Teide, em Tenerife, em 1971, antes do sucesso com o Queen.

Recentemente, o guitarrista publicou um livro de astronomia em parceria com o apresentador de um programa da televisão britânica Patrick Moore.

A Roman Catholic Observation of the House Church Movement

Researcher says mainline US denominations losing members to “new form of church”

Is there a “transformation shift” going on in American Christianity? George Barna, founding director of the Barna Group, a Ventura-based firm that researches religious trends, says there is. “We predict that by the year 2025 the market share of conventional churches will be cut in half,” he told the July 23 Los Angeles Times. “People are creating a new form of church, and it’s really exciting.”

Barna has written a book, Revolution, about this “new form of church,” which goes by various names -- house church, living room church, underground church – but basically marks a departure of many Christians from conventional church structures, such as parishes or the mega-church. People gather in homes in small groups averaging anywhere from a dozen to twice that number, where they worship, pray, and engage in Bible reading. A 2006 Barna Group survey estimated that 9% of U.S. adults attend house churches every week, nine times the number that did so in the 1990s

Read the entire article

Black and white congregations join to meld cultures

A variety of cultures enrich educational experiences, said the Rev. Phil Showers, pastor of Park View United Methodist Church.
Major employers are also careful to assemble a workplace that resembles a multicultural melting pot.
But in the traditional Lynchburg church - and in churches across the country - it’s either black or white.
“I think it was Billy Graham who said that 11 o’clock on Sunday is the most segregated hour in America,” Showers said.
In other words, he said, the melting pot that’s present in most American places turns into a centrifuge, and the component parts go their
separate ways when it comes time to worship.
two United Methodist Church pastors in Lynchburg are trying to tackle
the problem of religious segregation by combining two predominantly
black churches with two predominantly white ones into a new “multicultural” mission.
“How can we reconcile people outside the church when we can’t even reconcile people in our own church?” Showers asked.

Click here to read the complete story

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Churches remember Korean hostages in Afghanistan after latest death

By Ekklesia staff writers31 Jul 2007

The killing of a second Korean Christian hostage in Afghanistan has led the Presbyterian Churchin the Republic of Korea (PROK) to make an urgent call for prayer amongthe “entire ecumenical community around the world [...] that the killings of innocent people may stop and that these hostages may safely return to their families.”

“We urge the global community to work for true peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan,” wrote Presbyterian general secretary the Rev Yoon Kil Soo in a letter yesterday. It continued: “We sincerely request the governments of both Afghanistan and the US to lead the negotiations with the Taliban for the sake of the safe return of the hostages.”

“The entire ecumenical community weeps at the senseless loss of life taking place in Afghanistan,” said Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, in response to the letter.

Dr Kobia said: “We invite our member churches to pray with our brothers and sister in Korea for a peaceful end to this crisis and that the hostages will be freed.”

The WCC chief also emphasized the need for a speedy and peaceful end to the violence in Afghanistan and for a nonviolent resolution to the long standing conflict there.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Anglicans and Catholics Reaching Out in the Digital World

This is a BBC Brasil article about Jesuits encouraging evangelization in the virtual world of Second Life which boasts a population of 8 million. Although I have not visited yet I recently came across the Anglican Church of Second Life. It is holding two Sunday services already: One for the US "Community" and another the Pacific & Europe "Community". They even have theologians working on issues like "How to have the Eucharist", "What is sin in Second Life" and "How to provide pastoral care". The article below focuses more on the Roman Catholic efforts...

Jesuítas estão incentivando fiéis católicos a entrar no Second Life, o mundo virtual da internet, do qual participam mais de oito milhões de usuários.

No Second Life, cada participante assume a forma de um 'avatar', como são chamados os residentes do site.

Em um artigo publicado na revista Civilità Cattolica, os jesuítas dizem que a internet é também uma oportunidade para evangelizar.

“Second Life é um sinal de modernidade, um instrumento que deve ser utilizado”, disse à BBC Brasil o padre Michele Simone, vice-diretor da Civilità Cattolica, uma publicação da Companhia de Jesus, congregação que reúne os jesuítas.

Simone lembra que outras religiões já estão presentes no mundo virtual e que, portanto, seria "oportuno" que a Igreja Católica fizesse o mesmo.

“Tem espaço para Deus no universo cibernético”, afirmou. “Seria bom que a idéia de Deus fosse apresentada de forma correta no Second Life.”


A proposta dos jesuítas é considerada inovadora no mundo católico. No artigo publicado na última edição da revista da congregação, eles dizem que é “preciso ter coragem de se aventurar no mundo do Second Life, o lugar na internet onde é possível viver em maneira simulada uma segunda vida, digital, e onde uma crescente população mundial de internautas tem necessidade de receber uma mensagem de fé”.

Riscos e oportunidades são analisados no texto da Companhia de Jesus. De acordo com os jesuítas, “a segunda vida virtual está cheia de locais de orações, mesquitas, igrejas, catedrais e conventos, sempre mais populosos de avatares, desejosos de meditar e encontrar Deus”.

Eles assinalam que, no Second Life, existem grupos ou lugares de caráter religioso e espiritual.

"São 23 igrejas. Também catedrais como as simulações das católicas Notre-Dame, de Paris, da catedral de Salzburgo, ou da anglicana Saint Paul, de Londres.”

'Terra de missão'

Na avaliação dos jesuítas, “qualquer iniciativa capaz de animar positivamente esse lugar deve ser considerada oportuna. A terra digital é, a seu modo, também terra de missão”, diz o texto.

Segundo o padre Simone, a idéia desse desafio nasce de um fato concreto: o fenômeno está em expansão. De acordo com ele, é importante que os católicos não estejam ausentes. Ao contrário, devem participar “para não deixar que a dimensão religiosa seja instrumentalizada ou ocupada por outros”.

Foi também a revista da Companhia de Jesus que, em 2005, convidou os católicos a entrar no mundo dos blogs e divulgar a fé por meio da internet.

Hoje, são inúmeros padres, bispos e cardeais ao redor do mundo que criaram blogs para se comunicar com os fiéis. Alguns, inclusive, criticam decisões tomadas pelo papa Bento 16.

Estima-se que existam atualmente na internet mais de nove mil páginas de paróquias e congregações católicas.

Uma versão religiosa do YouTube, o GodTube, também foi criada.

Até mesmo as irmãs carmelitas italianas, que vivem na clausura, contam seu dia-a-dia através de um blog.

Na última semana, foi a vez de o Vaticano inovar, lançando uma página virtual interativa na internet, colocando, inclusive, uma webcam direcionada à tumba do papa João Paulo 2º.

O padre Simone diz que o desafio é direcionado aos católicos e não sabe se o Vaticano apoiará a iniciativa. De qualquer maneira, ele lembra que a revista Civilità Cattolica é supervisionada pela Secretaria de Estado da Santa Sé e nenhum texto é publicado antes que conte com o aval oficial do Vaticano.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

On Importance and Significance

"I was brought up in a Christian environment where, because
God had to be given preeminence, nothing else was allowed to be important. I have broken through to the position that
because God exists, everything has significance.”

Evangeline Paterson, Irish Poet

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

USA Today touts Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

PC(USA) ranks high with more than 29,000 Gulf coast volunteers
by Jerry Van Marter Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - According to a report in USA Today - the largest newspaper in the country - the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has sent more volunteers to the Gulf coast to help relief and rebuilding efforts since Hurricane Katrina struck almost two years ago.

According to a list compiled by the newspaper, 29,345 Presbyterians have aided the Katrina relief efforts, ranking the PC(USA) fourth among all faith-based organizations.

Only the Southern Baptist Convention, Habitat for Humanity and the United Methodist Committee on Relief have contributed more volunteer workers to the relief effort.

Most of the PC(USA)'s efforts have been coordinated by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).

We are deeply indebted to all the Presbyterians who have so selflessly contributed to the rebuilding of the Gulf coast," said PDA coordinator Susan Ryan. "And while public recognition is not our reason for doing this work, it is gratifying to see USA Today tell its millions of readers that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is so effective in bearing Christ's love to those most in need."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nueva visión de CONELA quiere ser integral y llamar a la unidad

BOGOTÁ, 11 de julio (GospelNoticias.Com/ALC).-La Confraternidad Evangélica Latinoamericana (CONELA) inició una nueva serie de campañas estratégicas, alianzas pastorales, denominacionales, de liderazgo y de entidades que “representan el pensamiento y la vida de la iglesia evangélica latinoamericana”, dijo Ricardo Luna, recientemente elegido presidente de la organización en la asamblea realizada en esta ciudad.

Luna, de origen ecuatoriano, indicó que en unión con todos los miembros y socios de CONELA, el comité ejecutivo y los vicepresidentes regionales tienen la función de servir, mantener conectada, y representar la reflexión y acción de la iglesia evangélica en América Latina, “agradecidos con Dios y con los que nos han precedido y entregado una preciosa herencia de fe y vida en el evangelio; la nueva CONELA recibe esta herencia como nuestra guía de acción ante el mundo, y los retos de hoy y mañana”, dijo Luna.

“Durante los últimos 20 años, en medio de luchas y pruebas, hemos asimilado nuestra identidad de iglesias evangélicas; la Palabra de Dios y la proclamación del evangelio han sido la base de nuestra fe y misión basada en una relación personal con Jesucristo, que resulta en una transformación personal, por lo que seguimos con este compromiso hacia el futuro”, declaró el ex director del ministerio de Puertas Abiertas.

Luna reveló que la nueva CONELA, tiene principios como la inclusión, “asegurados de nuestra identidad, y desde ella, asimilamos una visión de relaciones y acciones inclusivas con las diferentes expresiones de la fe y la sociedad (educadores, políticos, economistas, científicos, artistas); transformación, como una palabra de alianzas de ministros nacionales, presidentes de países, lideres de alianzas pastorales, iglesias locales, y el liderazgo previo de CONELA a identificado como una prioridad de expresión y acción en nuestra amada América Latina. Es una palabra profética para nuestro continente”, indicó.

Como iglesias "haremos la contribución de América Latina al cumplimiento de la gran comisión en forma integral; esto nos ayudará a reconciliar los debates y las luchas entre los ricos y pobres, liberales y conservadores, la globalización y nacionalización económica, en iglesias numerosas y pequeñas; vamos a unirnos en expresión integral de nuestra fe con dos principios Bíblicos”, añadió el dirigente, citando los pasajes bíblicos de Mateo 28.

“Requerimos de una visión que conduzca a una voz y acción profética ante los retos sociales de la injusticia, el aborto, la pobreza, la definición bíblica del matrimonio, la eutanasia, la corrupción, el SIDA, la destrucción del medio ambiente, y la violencia familiar, comunal, nacional y entre las naciones” expresó Luna; “nos declaramos a favor de vivir los principios y valores bíblicos de la justicia, la integridad, la moralidad, el desarrollo económico sostenible, la vida, el perdón, la reconciliación, la tolerancia, la restauración y la paz”, señaló.

Conela, dijo Luna, convocará expresiones continentales de Unidad, comprendida como más que una teología o un buen concepto; es un principio que necesita ser expresado, por lo tanto, proponemos a la iglesia de Jesucristo en América Latina expresar la unidad, y nuestros valores de proclamación y transformación, en tres días a nivel continental: Día Continental de Oración (Jueves Santo), Día Continental de la Biblia (Octubre 31), Día Continental de Servicio Social (Mayo 1).

Luna, instó para que los ministros, lideres denominacionales, entidades pro-eclesiásticas y asociaciones pastorales expresen “nuestra unidad en la misión de la transformación individual, de nuestras familias, iglesias, comunidades y naciones, hasta “reunir en Él todas las cosas.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Something to learn from "Immigrants"

The word "immigrant" has not had the most positive connotations lately, This article presents some interesting facts...

"Hispanics born and raised in the United States may be in poorer health than new immigrants -- with higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

Poor eating habits, smoking and a lack of exercise are all likely to blame, the team at the University of Southern California, the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Pennsylvania said"
Click here to read the Reuters article

"Other Christians not true churches"

The recent statement of Benedict XVI statement brought swift criticism from Protestant leaders. "It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity," said the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, a fellowship of 75 million Protestants in more than 100 countries.
Click here to read the Associated Press Article

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Multi-Colored Future for the Golden State

The number of people in California, already the most populous U.S. state, will rise to 60 million by 2050 from 36 million now, and Hispanics will be in the majority by 2042, a state report released on Monday forecast. What are the implication of those realities for mission on this fascinating part of God's world?

Read the Reuters report here

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Bear in Trouble

Un osito se subio a uno de los postes de la ciudad donde vivimos y no se podia bajar

Why the Church?

An excerpt from "It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian". By Dr. Tod Bolsinger. Pastor at San Clemente Presbyterian Church

For most Christians, the local church is usually regarded as nothing more than a personally helpful but basically benign reality. Oh, sure, we honor the Church the way we honor our Mother’s on Mother’s Day or Veteran’s on Veteran’s day—because we have some genuine affection and mostly because we think it is the right thing to do. The more traditional of us, may even use exalted language in declaring it a "means of grace." But most often we think of the Church as nothing more than an optional "strategy" or a "system" for local evangelistic efforts, social change, or a dispenser of resources to help the individual on his or her Christian journey. Churches are offered like different shops are offered at a mall. Indeed, the largest churches offer themselves as a kind of spiritual mall in itself, bidding the seeker: Come here and choose from our wide array of Christian classes, teachings, activities, that which you need to live out your individual Christian life.

In this model the church is a repository of spiritual goods that assist the individual Christian. It is a vendor of religious services. It is The Home Depot for the spiritual do-it-yourselfer who wants to build a Christian home.

But that is not the Church of the first century. The Church of the first century is “a people.” And the transformed and transforming quality of “the people” serving as the flesh and blood witness to a life-transforming God is the point. As 1 Peter 2:9-10 says:

"You are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful life.

Once you were not a people;
now you are the people of God.
Once you received none of God's mercy;
now you have received mercy." (NLT)

This is what the Bible teaches: The Church is God's incarnation today. The Church is Jesus' body on earth. The Church is the temple of the Spirit. The Church is not a helpful thing for my individual spiritual journey. The Church is the journey. The Church is not a collection of “soul-winners” all seeking to tell unbelievers “the Way” to God. The Church is the Way. To be part of the Church is to be part of God—to be part of God’s Communion and to be part of God’s ministry. To belong to the people of God is to enjoy relationship with God and live out the purposes of God. This is why the Church is the only true means to be transformed into the likeness of God.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

On Knowing and Being Known

Globally, the vast majority of the world’s non-Christians have relatively little contact with Christians. In fact, more than 86 percent of all Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims do not even know a Christian. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, more than 80 percent of all non-Christians do not personally know a Christian.

Read Dr. James Emery White's article

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Traveling as a Mission Paradigm

I wanted to share an interview with Duke Divinity School professor Emmanuel Katongole in which he offers a new paradigm for missions. These words resonated with me...

"Being an immigrant can be a blessing. God's mission, as I read it in 2 Corinthians 5:17, is new creation. God is reconciling the world to himself. And there is a sense of journey that is connected with that. When, later on, Paul says that "we are ambassadors of God's reconciliation, God is appealing through us," he is inviting us into a journey toward a new kind of community. People looking at Christians should be confused. Who are these people? Are they black? Are they white? Are they Americans? Are they Ugandans? In Revelation, John sees people drawn from all languages and tribes and nations: an unprecedented congregation. Living on three continents has deepened my understanding of the church as such a congregation; at the same time, it has heightened my sense of Christian life as a journey and of what it means to live as a pilgrim, a resident alien"

Check out the entire Christianity Today interview

Monday, June 25, 2007

Trust in Organized Religion at Near-Record Low

Americans trust the military and the police force significantly more than the church and organized religion, a new Gallup Poll says.

Only 46 percent of respondents said they had either a "great deal"
or "quite a lot" of confidence in the church, compared with 69 percent who said they trusted the military and 54 percent who trust police officers.

Read more on the Poll

Friday, June 22, 2007

Megachurches Desegregate Worship

The proliferation of congregations with over 2000 regular attendees has captured the attention of sociologists of religion and drawn criticism as de-personalizing forces (see video below). This Associated Press article presents them under a very positive light...

LEXINGTON, Mass. (AP) - Sundays at the evangelical Grace Chapel megachurch look like the American ideal of race relations: African-American, Haitian, white, Chinese and Korean families sing along with a white, guitar-playing pastor.
U.S. churches rarely have this kind of ethnic mix. But that's changing. Researchers who study race and religion say Grace Chapel is among a vanguard of megachurches that are breaking down racial barriers in American Christianity, altering the long-segregated landscape of Sunday worship.

"Megachurches as a whole are significantly better than other congregations at holding together multiracial, multiethnic congregations," said Scott Thumma, an expert on megachurches and a professor at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. "It's absolutely clear."

A study by Thumma and the Leadership Network, a Dallas group that works with pioneering churches, found that minorities make up 20 percent or more of worshippers in nearly one-third of the nation's 1,200 megachurches. More than half of the megachurches say they are intentionally working to attract different ethnic groups, according to the 2005 study, part of a book that Thumma and network executive Dave Travis will publish in July.

The question now is whether the new diversity is just a fad or a permanent shift.

Although megachurches each draw at least 2,000 worshippers a week, they are a small percentage of the estimated 350,000 congregations across the United States. And leaders at Grace Chapel and other megachurches where whites remain the majority acknowledge enormous challenges in making minorities feel included so they'll stay for the long term.

Still, megachurches are trendsetters, and the change they've made is startling considering nearly all other American churches serve one ethnic group. Even churches with a large number of immigrants generally have separate English and non-English services. For black and white Christians, pre-Civil War church support for slavery and the general absence of white evangelicals from the civil rights movement continue to drive the two groups apart.

Most megachurches don't carry that historical burden; nearly all have been built since the 1970s and play down any ties to a denomination.

But that's not the main attraction.

Read More

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Looking for the "Right Church"- A King of the Hill parody to "Church shopping"

Lausanne III: Cape Town 2010

(4 May 2007) The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) today announced plans for the International Congress on World Evangelization, to be held 16-25 October, 2010, in Cape Town, South Africa. Lausanne III: Cape Town 2010 will gather mission and church leaders from every part of the globe to address challenges and opportunities that are before the church with respect to world evangelization. Lausanne III will be held in partnership with the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), whose leaders will participate in each dimension of the design and planning of the Congress. (Read More)

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Thought by Thomas Merton

Prayer and meditation have an important part to play in opening up new ways and new horizons. If your prayer is the expression of a deep and grace-inspired desire for newness of life—and not the mere blind attachment to what has always been familiar and "safe"—God will act in us and through us to renew the Church by preparing, in prayer, what we cannot yet imagine or understand. In this way our prayer and faith today will be oriented toward the future which we ourselves may never see fully realized on earth.

From "Contemplation in a World of Action"

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Current-er Prayer- By Cameron Semmens

Our media,
whose art is manipulation
hollow be thy game.
Thy cameras come, it will be done
on Nine as it is on Seven.
Give us this day our daily sensation,
and feed us our fears
as we feed the fear of others.
Lead us on with misinformation
and deliver us from thinking.
For thine is the king-maker
with the power of the story,
forever and ever,

Friday, June 15, 2007

Europe’s Christian Comeback

A very interesting article by Philip Jenkins in the Foreign Policy web site...

The West is awash with fear of the Islamization of Europe. The rise of Islam, many warn, could transform the continent into “Eurabia,” a term popularized by Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and other pundits. “A youthful Muslim society to the south and east of the Mediterranean is poised to colonize—the term is not too strong—a senescent Europe,” Ferguson has predicted. Such grim prophecies may sell books, but they ignore reality. For all we hear about Islam, Europe remains a stronger Christian fortress than people realize. What’s more, it is showing little sign of giving ground to Islam or any other faith for that matter.

To be fair, the trend is counterintuitive. Europe has long been a malarial swamp for any traditional or orthodox faith. Compared with the rest of the world, religious adherence in Europe is painfully weak. And it is easy to find evidence of the decay. Any traveler to the continent has seen Christianity’s abandoned and secularized churches, many now transformed into little more than museums. But this does not mean that European Christianity is nearing extinction. Rather, among the ruins of faith, European Christianity is adapting to a world in which its convinced adherents represent a small but vigorous minority.

In fact, the rapid decline in the continent’s church attendance over the past 40 years may have done Europe a favor. It has freed churches of trying to operate as national entities that attempt to serve all members of society. Today, no church stands a realistic chance of incorporating everyone. Smaller, more focused bodies, however, can be more passionate, enthusiastic, and rigorously committed to personal holiness. To use a scientific analogy, when a star collapses, it becomes a white dwarf—smaller in size than it once was, but burning much more intensely. Across Europe, white-dwarf faith communities are growing within the remnants of the old mass church.

Perhaps nowhere is this more true than within European Catholicism, where new religious currents have become a potent force. Examples include movements such as the Focolare, the Emmanuel Community, and the Neocatechumenate Way, all of which are committed to a re-evangelization of Europe. These movements use charismatic styles of worship and devotion that would seem more at home in an American Pentecostal church, but at the same time they are thoroughly Catholic. Though most of these movements originated in Spain and Italy, they have subsequently spread throughout Europe and across the Catholic world. Their influence over the younger clergy and lay leaders who will shape the church in the next generation is surprisingly strong.

Similar trends are at work within the Protestant churches of Northern and Western Europe. The most active sections of the Church of England today are the evangelical and charismatic parishes that have, in effect, become megachurches in their own right. These parishes have been incredibly successful at reaching out to a secular society that no longer knows much of anything about the Christian faith. Holy Trinity Brompton, a megaparish in Knightsbridge, London, that is now one of Britain’s largest churches, is home to the amazingly popular “Alpha Course,” a means of recruiting potential converts through systems of informal networking aimed chiefly at young adults and professionals. As with the Catholic movements, the course works because it makes no assumptions about any prior knowledge: Everyone is assumed to be a new recruit in need of basic teaching. Nor does the recruitment technique assume that people live or work in traditional settings of family or employment. The Alpha Course is successfully geared for postmodern believers in a postindustrial economy.

Read the whole article

Thursday, June 14, 2007

População ficou mais parda, velha e evangélica de 1940 a 2000

Em 60 anos, de 1940 a 2000, o Brasil quadruplicou sua população, que ficou mais parda e velha. O país deixou de ser rural, ficou mais evangélico, e reduziu em cinco vezes a taxa de analfabetismo.

Os dados constam no estudo “Tendências demográficas: uma análise da população com base nos resultados dos Censos Demográficos de 1940 e 2000”, documento divulgado no final de maio pelo Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE).

A população do Brasil passou de 41,2 milhões de habitantes, em 1940, para 169,8 milhões em 2000. Influenciadas pelo processo de miscigenação racial, mais pessoas se declararam pardas no último Censo – 38,5% -, quando não passavam de 21,2% nos anos 40 do século passado.

Os evangélicos cresceram, no período, de 2,6% do total da população para 15,4%. O estudo mostrou uma expressiva redução de católicos romanos, de 95% para 73,6% da população. Os evangélicos se expandiram em todas as regiões do país, mas foi no Norte onde mais cresceram, sobrepujando a região Sul, que concentrava o maior rebanho, segundo o Censo de 1940.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Is Your Gospel Robust?

Here are some of Scott McKnight's thoughts during the recent Spiritual Formation Forum as related by the editors of Leadership Journal...

He called the standard evangelical gospel, outlined below, “right, but not right enough.” Essentially, we’ve watered down the good news in a way that has marginalized the church in God’s plan of redemption.

This fact was driven home recently by a friend of mine who teaches at a Christian college. He said a hand in the class went up in the middle of his lecture about the church and culture. The student, in all sincerity, asked, “Do we really need the church?” My friend was struck by the question, and by the fact that the classroom was filled with future church leaders. Something is amiss when even Christian leaders are questioning the necessity of the church. That something, according to McKnight, is the gospel we’ve been preaching.

Scot McKnight summarized the “Standard Gospel Presentation” this way:

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
Your problem is that you are sinful; God can’t admit sinners into his presence.
Jesus died for you to deal with you “sin-problem.”
If you trust in Christ, you can be admitted into God’s presence.

He went on to say that the problems with this popular evangelical gospel include:

1. No one in the New Testament really preaches this gospel.
2. This gospel is about one thing: humans gaining access to God’s presence.
3. This gospel creates and individualist Christian life.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A "Radical" Thought by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objectives -- education, building, missions, holding services. The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christ's. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything is to be gathered together in Him.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ambidexterity as a Dynamic Capability: Resolving the Innovator's Dilemma

It seems to me that some of the insights of this Harvard Bussiness School paper could be useful for congregational re-development/transformation

Can organizations adapt and change—and if so, how does this occur? There are two major camps in the research on organizational change: those that argue for adaptation, and those that argue that as environments shift, inert organizations are replaced by new forms that better fit the changed context. There are data to support both arguments. This paper discusses the idea and practicality of ambidexterity and shows how the ability to simultaneously pursue emerging and mature strategies is a key element of long-term success. Key concepts include:

* Ambidexterity, the ability of a firm to simultaneously explore and exploit, is one solution to the innovator's dilemma as outlined by HBS professor Clayton Christensen.
* Under the appropriate conditions, organizations may be able to explore new avenues as well as exploit their existing capabilities.
* Strategic contradictions can be resolved by senior leaders who design and manage their own processes and, in turn, ambidextrous organizations. Leadership is therefore key.

Press here to read the paper

Monday, May 28, 2007

Evangelicals are 20% of Latin American's Population

In my lifetime I have seen the trajectory of protestants in Latin America from a persecuted minority to an increasingly influencial force in the area. I rejoice for it but along with David Martin (Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics) fear for the triumphalism that has come with the remarkable growth.

El movimiento evangélico ha provocado una "revolución religiosa" en América Latina. Se calcula que en la actualidad, el 20% de la población de la región es evangélica y su influencia sigue creciendo. Este incremento es visto con preocupación por la Iglesia Católica ya que la mitad de los más de 1.000 millones de católicos en el mundo vive en el continente.

¿Pero quiénes son los evangélicos? ¿Dónde se concentran? BBC Mundo le ofrece respuestas a éstas y otras preguntas claves sobre el movimiento evangélico en América Latina.

Lea aca el reporte de la BBC

Saturday, May 26, 2007

O Papa, Chavez e a "Cristianizacao" das Tribos

Benedict XVI was the aim of heavy criticism upon declaring in Sao Paulo that "the evangelization of the American continet did not, at any moment, promote the alienation of the pre-columbian cultures and was not an imposition of a foreign culture". Upon his return to Rome he did change his discourse to recognize the "pains" and "sufferings" of the natives peoples

Bento XVI disse que aconteceram ‘sofrimentos’ e ‘injustiças’ na colonização.
Antes, Papa recebera críticas principalmente de Hugo Chávez.

O Papa Bento XVI reconheceu nesta quarta-feira (23) que durante a colonização da América e de seus habitantes aconteceram com "sofrimentos" e "injustiças", ao fazer uma referência à recente viagem ao Brasil em sua audiência geral semanal.

"Não se pode ignorar as sombras que acompanharam a colonização da América Latina, nem esquecer os sofrimentos e as injustiças sofridas por seus habitantes", disse o Papa.

o dia 13 de maio, diante dos bispos da América Latina reunidos em Aparecida (Brasil), o Sumo Pontífice afirmara que a evangelização dos indígenas da América não implicou em nenhum momento uma alienação das culturas pré-colombianas e não impôs uma cultura estrangeira.

Bento XVI não mencionou as condições da evangelização, ao contrário de seu antecessor, João Paulo II, que em 1992, em Santo Domingo, pediu perdão às populações indígenas pelos atos de violência cometidos pelos cristãos na conquista da América.

A declaração provocou reações enérgicas dos representantes dos povos nativos. O presidente da Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, afirmou que a o Papa deveria pedir desculpas daquilo que chamou de holocausto indígena.

Confira o reporte da BBC

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Minority" Report

A look at California demographics according to US Census data...

The nation's minority population topped 100 million last year, about one-third of the total, and California had roughly 20 million minority residents, more than half of its total, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Between the rising minority population -- particularly of Latinos of any race -- and the low median age of Latinos, a new kind of generation gap is arising across the country, experts said Wednesday: Most people over 60 are non-Hispanic whites, and most under 40 are not.

California starkly reflects this new gap. Non-Hispanic white people account for 63 percent of the state's residents age 60 and older. But the population under 40 is 38 percent Latino of any race, 13 percent Asian American, 8 percent black and just 39 percent non-Hispanic white.

Some demographers suspect the new generation gap will heighten the nation's struggle to provide adequate social services and public education.

"The biggest problems will be related to language and culture," said Andrew Scharlach, a professor of aging at UC Berkeley. "The difference may make it hard for nonwhite elders to take advantage of services for English-speaking white elders. There may also be problems in caretaking of white seniors by nonwhite providers."

Mark Mather, director of the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., said researchers there found that states with the highest racial and ethnic diversity spend the least per pupil on education.

"It will be interesting to see if this new type of gap will affect funding for social programs and education spending for youth," he said.

The generation gap arises in part from a higher birth rate among Latino women, who average about three children compared to just under two children for non-Hispanic white, Asian and black people, said Hans Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California, in San Francisco. Mather said the chasm isn't likely to grow.

"We expect the gap to decline in the next 10 or 20 years with the aging of immigrants," Mather said.

Johnson agreed, noting that the immigration rate has been steady since the 1960s.

Latinos of any race were the fastest-growing minority group nationwide, reaching 44.2 million, up 3.4 percent from 2005, according to the annual estimates, which are being released to the public today. In California, Latinos also were the largest group, numbering 13.1 million, more than one-third of the state's total population.

Press here for the complete San Francisco Chronicle report