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Weekly News In Review

January 8 - 14, 2006
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The following articles were posted at this past week:

Pope Baptizes Newborns in Sistine Chapel
Pontiff Backs Dialogue With "Reformed Churches"
Purpose-Driven Pastor
New locust threat emerges
Pope adds red to wardrobe
Mecca Stampede Kills 345, Wounds 289 During Hajj Pilgrimage
Computer chips get under skin of enthusiasts
Stem cell experts seek rabbit-human embryo
Federal judge seeks to define 'creationism'
Calvin Seminar to Look at 30 Years of Worship Renewal and Feature McClaren, Peterson and More
Study recommends repealing polygamy ban in Canada
Muslim Cleric Says Killing Unbelievers Is 'Okay'
Russia May Legalize Polygamy for "10 Million Lonely Women"
Rakon Develops World's Smallest Receiver

This Weeks Commentary by Roger Oakland
Contemplative Prayer Or Terror?

Article: Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days

January 8, 2006 - Pope Baptizes Newborns in Sistine Chapel

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Wails rang out in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday as Pope Benedict XVI baptized 10 newborns, continuing a beloved tradition of Pope John Paul II by personally welcoming some of the newest members of the Roman Catholic Church.

Babies in white lace gowns squirmed in their parents' arms, slept or cried as Benedict poured holy water over their heads to administer the sacrament - his first public baptisms since becoming pope.

"Dear children, with great joy the Christian community welcomes you," Benedict said as he made the sign of the cross on each of the 10 infants' heads.

Benedict disregarded his prepared homily and spoke off-the-cuff to the small gathering of parents, children, godparents and other relatives in the frescoed chapel, telling them that by baptizing the babies, they were ensuring them eternal life with Christ.

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Article: Ecumenical Movement - Protestants Uniting with Roman Catholics

January 8, 2006 - Pontiff Backs Dialogue With "Reformed Churches"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2006 ( Benedict XVI gave new impetus to dialogue with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches when receiving its representatives for the first time in audience.
"I pray that our meeting today will itself bear fruit in a renewed commitment to work for the unity of all Christians," said the Pope during the audience on Saturday. "The way before us calls for wisdom, humility, patient study and exchange."

...The Pope noted that the dialogues between Catholic and Reformed theologians had shown significant convergence on the understanding of the nature of the Church of Jesus Christ.
"It is an encouraging sign that the current phase of dialogue continues to explore the richness and complementarity of these approaches," he added.

From within:
Benedict XVI stated that "there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion."

In particular, to foster understanding between Catholics and Reformed Christians, the Holy Father suggested the promotion of endeavors of "purification of memory," which Reformed Churches are already carrying out, and which John Paul II promoted, especially during the Jubilee Year 2000.

Clifton Kirkpatrick said in his address to the Pope that "the Reformed family is grateful to God for the three phases of the Reformed-Catholic dialogue that have been completed" and added that the alliance is eager to move closer to the Catholic Church "in common faith and witness."
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Article: Social Gospel

January 8, 2006 - Purpose-Driven Pastor

Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist preacher's son from tiny Redwood Valley, Calif., is much in demand these days.

The founding pastor of the Saddleback mega-church south of Los Angeles and the author of the best-selling The Purpose Driven Life, Warren is perhaps the most influential evangelical Christian in America.

With his book - the best-selling hardback nonfiction book in the nation - and Purpose-Driven Life videos and 40-day Bible study plans, Warren has created an unparalleled international network of millions of individuals and 400,000 churches, spanning faiths and denominations.

Warren "is able to cast the Christian story so people can hear it in fresh ways," said Donald E. Miller, director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. He is "a very important figure in evangelical Christianity," part of a "trend we'll see more of," Miller said, citing Warren's independence, social activism, informality and ability to reach across racial and national lines.

Now he wants to use his growing influence - and wealth - for an ambitious global attack on poverty, AIDS, illiteracy and disease.

The Purpose Driven Life has sold more than 24 million English-language copies since 2002, with millions more in other languages. It has been popular with Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, with pastors and priests using it as a Bible-study handbook.

Evangelicals are often equated with fundamentalists or the religious right, which annoys Warren.
Although he's politically conservative - opposing abortion and gay marriage and supporting the death penalty - he pushes a much broader agenda and disdains both politics and fundamentalism.

Warren is a friend of President Bush and a repeat visitor to the White House. But he also met for several hours at Saddleback last month with Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, to discuss issues such as poverty and the environment.

Warren said he sees religious institutions as more powerful forces than governments for solving the world's problems.

"I would trust any imam or priest or rabbi to know what is going on in a community before I would any government agency."

Warren predicts that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be "one of the big enemies of the 21st century."

"Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism - they're all motivated by fear. Fear of each other."

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Article: Signs Of The Last Times

January 9, 2006 - New locust threat emerges

Farmers in north central Victoria are being urged to prepare for a new generation of plague locusts.

Hatchings have started at big egg beds at Boort, Gunbower Island, Laanecoorie, Bridgewater and Inglewood.

The Department of Primary Industries' principal scientist, Malcolm Campbell, says the new generation could be far bigger than the first which decimated many pastures.

He says farmers will have to wait a few weeks before they spray insecticide.

"We need to wait for a couple of weeks, at the moment they are a millimetre long and far too small to find very easily and they haven't all hatched, so what they need to do is wait until a good proportion of them hatch and they have become a little bit bigger so they can be easily found," he said.
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Article: Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days

January 11, 2006 - Pope adds red to wardrobe


Just days before Christmas, Benedict showed up at his weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square wearing a fur-trimmed stocking cap that could have passed for a Santa Claus hat.

Early in December, he made another fashion statement -- donning a red velvet cape trimmed in ermine for the traditional papal visit to the statue of the Madonna near the Spanish Steps, the event that marks the beginning of Rome's Christmas season.

The bright red Santa cap certainly has a distinguished papal pedigree.

Called a "caumaro," the long forgotten head-covering dates back to the Middle Ages and figures in many famous papal portraits, including one of Julius II by Raphael. It was last worn by John XXIII, who was pontiff more than 40 years ago.
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Article: Islam

January 12, 2006 - Mecca Stampede Kills 345, Wounds 289 During Hajj Pilgrimage

At least 345 people died today during a stampede at the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, the Saudi Arabian health minister said.

About 289 people were mildly wounded in the incident just after sunset, which resulted from ``unruly pilgrims and a problem of luggage,'' the minister, Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Maneh, was quoted by the official Saudi Arabian news agency as saying.

People were crushed at the Jamarat Bridge during a ritual in which pilgrims cast pebbles at a pillar to symbolize the stoning of Satan.

Crowding has been a factor in many deaths during the annual event, including the 1990 Hajj, when more than 1,400 died, and in 2004, when about 250 were crushed.


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Article: One World Government

January 9, 2006 - Computer chips get under skin of enthusiasts

Forgetting computer passwords is an everyday source of frustration, but a solution may literally be at hand -- in the form of computer chip implants.

The computer chips, which cost about $2, interact with a device installed in computers and other electronics. The chips are activated when they come within 3 inches of a so-called reader, which scans the data on the chips. The "reader" devices are available for as little as $50.
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Article: Cloning and Genetic Engineering

January 13, 2006 - Stem cell experts seek rabbit-human embryo

British scientists are seeking permission to create hybrid embryos in the lab by fusing human cells with rabbit eggs. If granted consent, the team will use the embryos to produce stem cells that carry genetic defects, in the hope that studying them will help understand the complex mechanisms behind incurable human diseases.

The proposal drew strong criticism from opponents to embryo research who yesterday challenged the ethics of the research and branded the work repugnant.

Plans for the experiments have been put forward by Professor Chris Shaw, a neurologist and expert in motor neurone disease at King's College London, and Professor Ian Wilmut, the Edinburgh University-based creator of Dolly the sheep, as a way of overcoming the shortage of fresh human eggs available for research.

The proposal exposes a grey area in British regulation, however, as officials at the HFEA admitted it was questionable whether the resulting embryo was human. "That's the question and it's for the government, the HFEA and lawyers to work out," said Prof Shaw.

Josephine Quintavalle of the lobby group Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "There is a lot of innate wisdom in the yuk factor, or repugnance as it is also known. My question is: what will they actually create? It is simplistic or deliberately deceptive to say they are simply making stem cells. In order to obtain stem cells they surely have to go through the blastocyst stage; they have to create a 'something' from which to derive the new cells. What is this something? It must be human to be of any use to researchers."

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Article: Creation - Evolution Debate

January 12, 2006 - Federal judge seeks to define 'creationism'


By: RICHARD OSTLING - Associated Press

The definition of "creationism" has become cloudier with a federal judge's decision last Dec. 20 that barred mention of "intelligent design" theory when schools teach evolution ---- a ruling that's likely to affect disputes in Georgia, Kansas, Ohio and elsewhere.
Most Americans are creationists in the sense of belief in God as the Creator taught by Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

...The poll found that 42 percent of Americans hold this belief (and thus reject Darwin's theory of evolution), 18 percent think life evolved over time "guided by a Supreme Being," 26 percent say life evolved "through natural selection" and 14 percent are unsure.

The narrow definition of "creationism" was established by a cluster of organizations that emerged in the 1960s. The movement also champions a "young earth" merely thousands of years old and the literal creation account in the Book of Genesis, often including six 24-hour days.

The new ruling from Pennsylvania's Judge John E. Jones endorses a third definition advocated by liberal and scientific groups. In this version, creationism covers the belief that a guiding intelligence is required to explain the origin and complexity of nature, the contention of the "intelligent design" (ID) movement.

So, is ID merely warmed-over creationism?
Most ID proponents aren't Fundamentalists and a few are non-Christians or nonreligious. Inside and outside the courtroom, defenders distinguish ID from creationism, saying it doesn't necessarily identify the "intelligence" with God or teach creationists' Bible-based particulars.
University of Wisconsin science historian Ronald L. Numbers, a critic of ID and author of "The Creationists," thinks it's inaccurate to lump ID and creationism together, commenting that this is "the easiest way to discredit intelligent design."
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Article: Bridges to Rome

January 11, 2006 - Calvin Seminar to Look at 30 Years of Worship Renewal and Feature McClaren, Peterson and More

One highlight of the 2006 Symposium on Worship at Calvin College will be a seminar on Thursday, January 26 on how Christianity has changed over the last 30 years.

The panel is titled "What We've Learned Along the Way: Thirty Years of Worship Renewal" and will see noted authors Brian McClaren, Eugene Peterson and Nancy Beach examine such religious beacons as Vatican II, Willow Creek and the Emerging Church movement.

Says John Witvliet, director of the Worship Institute at Calvin (the host for the Symposium): "Arguably, Christian worship practices have changed more, and in more different directions, in the last 30 to 40 years than in any single period, with the possible exception of the earliest days of the church. How we conceptualize this change-whether we see it as mostly good or mostly harmful-significantly affects the attitudes and trajectories of our ministries today. During the day, we will hear very different perspectives on the last three to four decades."

Panelists include:

*Brian D. McLaren, pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland, and author of many books on the emerging church, including A Generous Orthodoxy (Zondervan, 2004)

*Nancy Beach, programming director for Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Illinois

*Eugene Peterson, author of many books, including his widely acclaimed paraphrase of the Bible, The Message

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Article: Perilous Times

January 12, 2006 - Study recommends repealing polygamy ban in Canada

Dean Beeby, The Canadian Press
Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006

OTTAWA -- A new study for the federal Justice Department says Canada should get rid of its law banning polygamy, and change other legislation to help women and children living in such multiple-spouse relationships.

Criminalization does not address the harms associated with valid foreign polygamous marriages and plural unions, in particular the harms to women,'' says the report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The report therefore recommends that this provision be repealed.''
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Article: Islam

January 13, 2006 - Muslim Cleric Says Killing Unbelievers Is 'Okay'

London ( - The prosecution in the U.K. trial of Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri said Friday he preached that killing non-Muslims was justified, even if there was no reason for it.

"Killing an adulterer, even if he is a Muslim is okay. Killing a Kaffir (infidel) who is fighting you is okay. Killing a Kaffir for any reason you can say it is okay even if there is no reason for it," the jury heard Hamza say in a video of his September 1999 sermon, entitled "Adherence to Islam in the Western World."

In it, Hamza argued that Islamic beliefs should be spread with the help of the sword. "Dawa (propagation of Islam through word and action) needs a sword next to it and also needs effort," the alleged race-hate cleric said in the video.

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Article: Perilous Times

January 13, 2006 - Russia May Legalize Polygamy for "10 Million Lonely Women"


MOSCOW, January 13, 2006 ( - The polygamy trend is catching on around the world. In an interview with a Russian radio station, Ramzan Kadyrov, a militia leader and Deputy Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic, said that the depopulation of Chechnya by war justifies legalizing polygamy.
"(Polygamy) is necessary for Chechnya, because we have war. We have more women than men," the pro-Moscow Kadyrov told Ekho Moskvy radio. The Muslim Chechen rebels are fighting to gain independence from Russia and are largely of the fundamentalist Wahabist sect.

In response to the suggestion, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Deputy speaker of the State Duma, said the idea of introducing legal polygamy in Chechnya is "absolutely right," and proposed to spread it for the whole of Russia.

"We must welcome (this idea) and spread (polygamy) for the whole Russia because we have 10 million lonely women."
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Article: Technology for a Global Monetary System

January, 2006 - Rakon Develops World's Smallest Receiver

The quest for ever smaller GPS-enabled equipment, such as mobile phones, PDAs and even watches has just taken a giant step forward with the development of the world's smallest GPS radio frequency receiver module by a New Zealand company.

Auckland electronics company Rakon has just developed a module, as tiny as a baby's fingernail, and is already fielding calls from GPS manufacturers keen to imbed the product in their own new developments.

Brent Robinson, Rakon's Managing Director, says the tiny radio receiver is a complete 'plug and play' unit, which makes it uniquely simple for GPS designers to embed into their devices.

..."Our R&D team has come up with a high sensitivity unit that can enable quite weak signals to be received, which is a real breakthrough in an industry that needs to have products that will function in urban environments with very high interference."
He says the company is now further developing the unit to provide up to three times greater sensitivity in its next generation, even before the first development is out the door.

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Commentary : Trends and Fads In The Church

Contemplative Prayer Or Terror?

The Bible warns about false teachers that promote doctrines of demons in the last days before Jesus returns. [1] It would seem reasonable then, for Christians to be aware of the possibility of being seduced and deceived.

It is also a fact we are living at a time when many Christians seem to be convinced they cannot be deceived. A growing number have abandoned the idea that the return of Jesus Christ is at hand. They believe we are entering into a period when the Kingdom of God will be established here on earth by human effort. These “Kingdom Now” enthusiasts see church growth and the methods that promote it as a sign Christianity is being “reinvented” and becoming a more powerful force, day by day.


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