Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Christian Scholars Apologise for Crusades

Islam Online, 27 Nov 07
by IOL Staff

CAIRO — Reciprocating a goodwill gesture by 138 Muslim scholars, more than 300 Christian scholars and clergymen from across the globe have signed a letter apologising to Muslims for the Crusades and the repercussions of America's so-called war on terror.

"We want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the war on terror) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors," says the letter made available to the press at a news conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday, November 26.

"Before we 'shake your hand' in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world," added the "Loving God and Neighbor Together" letter.

The Crusades were a series of military conflicts of a religious character waged by much of Christian Europe during 1095–1291, most of which were sanctioned by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church to originally capture Al-Quds from Muslim rule.

The Vatican has never apologised for the Christian expeditions.

"It is an unprecedented gesture to bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians, who make up 55 percent of the world's population," Muslim preacher Al-Habib Ali Al-Jafri told the press conference.

Early October, 138 Muslim scholars and dignitaries, including Jafri, sent a letter to the world's Christian clergy, including Pope Benedict XVI, for dialogue based on common essentials between Islam and Christianity.

The call has already won plaudits from many non-Catholic leaders, including Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Lutheran World Federation head Bishop Mark Hanson, World Council of Churches head Rev.Samuel Kobia and US Presbyterian Church head Clifton Kirkpatrick.

Roman Catholic cardinals said Sunday, November 25, the Vatican will have a positive response in the near future.

Actions not Words

The signatories of the new letter, mostly clergymen from the United States, said they were deeply "encouraged" and "challenged" by the Muslim letter.

"We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians world-wide," they wrote.

"In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbors."

Miroslav Volf, founder and director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture who compiled the response letter, said they hope to narrow all differences between Muslims and Christians.

He hopes the Muslim and Christian letters would serve as a springboard for a more serious and respectful rather than a "polite ecumenical" dialogue between the two religions.

"We are persuaded that our next step should be for our leaders at every level to meet together and begin the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another."

Al-Jafri, the Muslim preacher, said Muslims would take more positive steps in the days to come.

"We will hold more conferences and meetings at all levels to enrich inter-faith dialogue."

(read the letter here)

"Loving God and Neighbor together: A Christian Response to 'A Common Word Between Us and You" (Yale Center for Faith and Culture)

Christians, Muslims seek 'Common Ground' at Historic Conference (Christianpost, 27 Jul 2008)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, 17 November 2007

"You are Special" Children's Musical - based on Max Lucado's books

This heart-warming tale from Max Lucado’s classic bestseller storybooks transports you to Wemmicksville, the nicest town of all - crammed with quirky, eccentric and loveable characters. We join accident-prone Punch as he tries to solve some of the mysteries of life whilst trying to avoid one catastrophe after another. On the way, he makes a few surprising discoveries, meets some faithful friends, and makes one or two disastrous mistakes! It raises questions all of us have to answer sooner or later - Who am I? and Why am I Special?
Date: 7-18 Dec 2007 @ Drama Centre, National Library
Created & directed by: Brian Seward, Victory Family Centre

Labels: , , ,

Friday, 16 November 2007

Worrying encounters with overzealous evangelists - ST Forum (16 Nov 2007)


AFTER the third time meeting evangelists at bus stops, buses and trains over a period of a few months, I decided to write this letter.

The first time was at a bus stop in Pasir Panjang, another time was in a East-West train, and the third time in a crowded bus in Bukit Timah Road. I notice that they always work in pairs, neatly-dressed and wearing a name-tag.

If I stood near one of them, or if I were sitting, one of them would sit beside me, and start a friendly chat (Where are you going? The weather is a bit hot, isn't it?, etc). I also noticed how they would chat with other, usually English-educated, locals, and after a while would either give the obliging listeners their card or take down their addresses (obviously to visit them for further evangelising).

Having experienced decades of such evangelising, and as a practising Buddhist, I immediately recognised them and told them I am not interested to chat. The reason is simply it will always be a dead-end 'sinful' talk which would benefit neither side.

On two occasions, however, the evangelists were somewhat overzealous.

After I said 'No', he continued to prod: 'You must be a Buddhist...' Only after repeatedly telling him, to my great embarrassment, that I do not wish to carry on the conversation, did he stop. However, on another occasion, the evangelist started with a 'Hello', and when I said that I am not interested in chatting at all, he curtly remarked: 'You must be deeply hurt inside!'

I simply remained silent, and when the train reached my destination, I alighted with a great sense of relief.

However, I do somewhat wonder about those others who are obliging to talk to such strangers, or submissive, not knowing what would transpire.

My advice: If you are approached by these evangelists (or any evangelist): simply say 'No' and just walk away.

Piya Tan Beng Sin

Labels: , ,

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Book - Reveal: Where are you? by Cally Parkinson & Greg Hawkins (A study of Hybel's Willow Creek Community Church)

Willow Creek Community Church has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study's findings are in a new book titled "Reveal: Where Are You?," co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels himself called the findings "ground breaking," "earth shaking" and "mind blowing." And no wonder: It seems that the "experts" were wrong.

If you’d like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins here. And Bill Hybels’ reactions, recorded at last summer’s Leadership Summit, can be seen here. Both videos are worth watching in their entirety, but below are few highlights.

The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:

"Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn't helping people that much. Other things that we didn't put that much money into and didn't put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for."

Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life.

If you simply want a crowd, the "seeker-sensitive" model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it's a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states:

"We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own."

In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage. Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their Bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth.

Willow Creek Repents? - Article by Christianity Today (18 Oct 2007)

First-person: A shocking confession from Willow Creek Community Church leaders - Article by Baptist Press (6 Nov 2007)

A summary of the book

A review of the book

Exploring the Megachurch Phenomena: Their characteristics & cultural context (Scott Thumma, PhD)

Does Size Matter?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Secularism has a role in providing a common space for all

by Yeo Chow Khoon (ST Forum, 15 Nov 2007)

I REFER to the letter written by Mr Heng Cho Choon, 'Religion cannot be divorced from politics, society or culture' (Online forum, Nov 10), commenting on the article of Mr Janadas Devan, 'What place religion in a secular society?' (ST, Nov 9).
It stresses the importance of religion, but seems to have overlooked the points on state secularism and accommodation. It is precisely that these do not come easily that they and not religion have to be argued for.

That Matteo Ricci was able to reach what might be called the contextualisation of Christianity for the Chinese culture, shows that he was ahead of his time. It is even more significant when we consider that he lived through the Protestant Reformation, a period when religious feelings flared, while even in the matter there are still detractors even in pluralistic Singapore.

Secularism might be more acceptable if one sees it as not a negation of any religion, but a position taken to accommodate all by excluding religious views where they disagree or are irrelevant. In these cases, secular knowledge, conceived outside any religiously based doctrinal framework and based on empiricism, could be a less contentious and more effective guide.

Another example of a person who understood the pragmatism of tacitly ceding ground to secularism was the Italian Jesuit Martino Martini, who was a missionary to China involved in the Chinese Rites Affair. Being conversant with Chinese history, he came to be aware of a problem with a biblical chronology to encompass all histories and genealogies. Being a contemporary of James Ussher, who calculated the age of the earth based on such a chronology, he was again ahead of his time. In fact, the construction of a biblical chronology remained a respectable pursuit for most of the Age of Reason even for scientists as illustrious as Isaac Newton. It has to be left to the Age of Enlightenment to sort out the proper places for religion and empiricism in the many fields of human knowledge.

While not denying Mr Heng's point that 'religion basically teaches peace, love, harmony and accommodation but the radicals and the extremists have turned it into a militant movement to serve their own ends', it must also be admitted that religions do disagree on important points and adherents do not need to have excessive zeal for this to show. Thus, secularism has a role in providing a common space to all where creed is irrelevant. It is also not against peace, love, harmony and accommodation and more importantly it need not be exclusivistic.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Religion cannot be divorced from politics, society or culture

by Heng Cho Choon (ST Forum, 10 Nov 2007)

MR JANADAS Devan in his article, 'What place religion in a secular society?' (ST, Nov 9), rightly pointed out the relevance of Matteo Ricci in today's Singapore society.

Our Government, though a secular government, has Cabinet ministers who are Buddhists, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus and freethinkers. Religion cannot be divorced from politics, society or culture though it may transcend ethnic groups.

CCTV has always referred to Hezbollah (literally Allah's Party) or Party of God as 'zhen1 zhu3 dang3' as this was a political party which emerged in Lebanon in the early 1980s and became the region's leading radical Islamic movement, determined to drive Israeli troops from Lebanon. Chinese Christians refer to God as 'shang4 di4' (literally the Supreme Being). The Chinese word for ship is 'chuan2' and as a pictorial language the word is composed of a boat and eight mouths. This is due to the fact that during Noah's time only eight souls were saved when he built the ark (Genesis 6:14).

The early English Christian missionary Hudson Taylor spent 51 years in China and established the China Inland Mission which sent 968 missionaries to China by 1911. One day, a man asked Taylor to explain why he had buttons on the back of his coat. Taylor realised that his Western-style dress was distracting his listeners from his message. He then decided to dress like a Mandarin, a Chinese teacher. He was amazed at how dressing Chinese allowed him to travel more freely and be accepted more readily by the people. Taylor's goal was not to have the Chinese become like English Christians, but to have them become Chinese Christians.

The Chinese refer to the Italian Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) as 'Li4 Ma3 dou4'. Ricci could speak Chinese as well as read and write classical Chinese (wen2 yan2). He appreciated the indigenous culture of the Chinese. He found that Chinese culture was intertwined with Confucian values and therefore decided that Christianity had to be changed to fit Chinese culture in order to be attractive to the Chinese. He called himself a 'Western Confucian' and the credibility of Confucius helped to make Christianity take root in China.

Religion basically teaches peace, love, harmony and accommodation but the radicals and the extremists have turned it into a militant movement to serve their own ends.

Labels: , , , , ,

China's Olympic blacklist

WorldNetDaily, 10 Nov 07

Targets 43 'types' of religious infiltrators, media employees, 'cult' members

A man who escaped from China after being imprisoned for teaching Bible classes and now runs an organization to help persecuted Christians is confirming that nation will target 43 types of people with investigations – and possibly bans – when the 2008 Olympics are held in Beijing.

And those targeted will include "religious infiltrators," employees of media organizations, those tied to "illegal" religious organizations and others, the report said.

China Aid Association, run by Bob Fu, says the information comes from a "secretly issued" notice from China's Ministry of Public Security that went to security officials and departments throughout the nation.

(read more)

Labels: , , , ,

Counselling Articles

Integration in the practice of Christian counsellors - behaviour, belief, being


Friday, 9 November 2007

What place religion in a secular society?

by Janadas Devan (ST, 09 Nov 2007)

HISTORY remembers it as the 'Rites Controversy'. It consumed Europeans for close to a century and it finally led a Chinese emperor to issue an ultimatum to the Roman Catholic Church.

Despite its centrality, however, general histories of China do not give it much play. John King Fairbank and J.A.G. Roberts mention it only in passing in their histories, and Jonathan Spence not at all. Donald Lach discusses it in detail in his Asia In The Making Of Europe, but disperses his account over several volumes of his monumental work. There are many specialist accounts and an official Church history of the Controversy, but these are not easily accessible to the general reading public.

The following account draws heavily on some of these studies, especially Lach's. The 'Rites Controversy' is interesting not only for its own sake but also for the light it sheds on some contemporary issues - in particular, how different cultures might relate to one another, and the role of religion in secular societies.

(read more)

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Pastors under probe for lavish lifestyles

ATLANTA - TELEVANGELIST leaders at several mega-churches in the United States have come under scrutiny following accusations that they have used donations illegally to fund opulent lifestyles.

A Senate committee is investigating leaders from six ministries, including Mr Creflo Dollar, the senior pastor of World Changers Church International, who preaches that God will reward the faithful with material riches.

It is a gospel that has won him a 25,000-strong congregation - and a Rolls Royce, a mansion and a private Gulfstream jet.

In a separate case, Mr Richard Roberts, president of the evangelical Oral Roberts University (ORU), is facing similar accusations of living lavishly on misspent university funds.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a veteran senator and top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has announced a Senate investigation into whether six televangelists violated their organizations' tax-exempt status by living lavishly on the backs of small donors. The Robertses were not among the six. But those targeted include three members of the school's Board of Regents: Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.

Grassley's questions are similar to allegations aired last month about ORU President Richard Roberts and his wife, Lindsay Roberts.

Prosperity of Televangelist's Friends, Family Raises Flags (Eric Gorski, AP, 27 Jul 2008)

Preacher Rebuffs Senate Spending Inquiry (mail.com, 5 Dec 2007)

Pastors under probe for lavish lifestyles (Straits Times, 15 Nov 2007)

ORU regents get queries - Tulsa World (7 Nov 2007) http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?articleID=071107_238_A1_hThey54662

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Blogs on Preaching

Noteworthy blogs on preaching:

Biblical Preaching
Exegetical Reflections
Expository Thoughts
Preaching that Matters
PreachingToday Blog
Theocentric Preaching

Labels: ,