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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