The Murky Waters of Regeneration

More news from around the world.
H/T: Fox News here

Tour Operators, Israel Reject Claims That Jordan River Is Unsafe for Baptisms

Operators of tours to the Holy Land are defending their services, yet proceeding with caution, in response to reports that one of the holiest sites in Christendom may pose serious health

Israeli officials are reassuring Christian pilgrims that the Jordan River, where many Christians go to be baptized, poses no health risk, despite reports from environmentalists that the waters are dangerously polluted.

The environmentalist group Friends of the Earth contends that high levels of coliform bacteria from sewage in the river have made it unsafe for bathing. But water tests released this week prove otherwise, Eli Dror of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority told Reuters.

“There’s absolutely no problem with the quality of the water. People can come and baptize here as much as they want, I guarantee it,” Dror said.

Israeli officials strongly denied any problem and pointed out that they had received no health complaints.Tour operators, meanwhile, said they were not alarmed by the report.

“This destination has increased in popularity in the last few years, and [the baptisms] are such a small component of our tour that people focus on a lot of other things,” Lael Kassis of Go Ahead Tours said.

“Israel has a religious history dating back thousands of years, so people will go for the incredible history and culture. And parts of the river are cleaner than others, so I don’t hear any comments.”

The Lower Jordan is a murky stream cut off from its source in the Sea of Galilee by the needs of towns and agribusiness and topped with waste water
and runoff. But Israeli officials and tour providers say they work hard to provide a safe experience for people coming to be baptized in the river, and they say Friends of the Earth’s claims should not scare visitors away.

“This site is one of the most important, most holy sites of the Christian people and they come from all over the world, so we’re investing a lot of money to prepare it,” Raphael Ben-Hur, an official with the Senior Ministry of Tourism, told Reuters. “It would be crazy to allow pilgrims to immerse themselves in pollution.”

Jocelyn Pimm, managing director of Worldwide Christian Travel, agrees.

“People go just to be baptized in the River Jordan so the site is well-managed, specially designated for baptism with proper facilities, and I’ve never had complaints about pollution,” Pimm said. “We have more people traveling to Israel now than we have ever had.”

She said people will continue to go to the river regardless of the pollution reports, because there are so many historical and religious aspects to the pilgrimage.

“People will go just go to see the site without being baptized,” Pimm said. “One person in about every 10 groups asks to be baptized. It’s a very small number.”

But Friends of the Earth insists the Jordan River is no place for a baptism.

“We’ve known for a long time that these waters are not healthy,” Friends of the Earth’s Gidon Bromberg told Reuters. “For most of the year they are four times more polluted than Israeli standards would permit.

“People who baptize in these waters presently, if they have a cut in their skin, could quickly develop a rash. If they swallow any of the water they could develop a stomach upset and start vomiting,” he said.

Friends of the Earth alleged that competition for tourism may have persuaded Israeli authorities to bend health norms in the interest of keeping the industry booming there. But Dror said the group’s health risk allegation was a scare campaign designed to promote its wider agenda — to get Israel and Jordan to restore a third of the river’s inflow from Galilee and return the river to better health.

“Of course it could be much better,” Dror told Reuters. “But we need the water. We don’t have any other choice.”

Dror, referring to water quality assessment statistics, explained that the Lower Jordan contains large quantities of saline water from the upper Galilee, farm runoff, water from fish farms and partially treated sewage from a buried pipe — but not “raw sewage” as charged by environmentalists.

Priest Reaches out ….. to dogs


Canadian priest sorry for giving dog Holy Communion

Priest with Communion wafer biscuits The dog took the biscuit but no wine was offered to the animal

A priest in Canada has apologised after giving Holy Communion to a dog.

Reverend Marguerite Rea of St Peter’s Anglican Church, in Toronto, received complaints from Christians all over Canada after she fed communion bread to a German Shepherd cross named Trapper.

Area Bishop Patrick Yu said the priest had contravened church policy with her “strange and shocking” actions.

Ms Rea said it had been a “simple church act of reaching out” to a new congregation member and his pet.

“If I have hurt, upset or embarrassed anyone, I apologise,” she told her congregation on Sunday morning, the Toronto Star reports.
Bone of contention

The canine controversy began last month when four-year-old Trapper and his owner, Donald Keith, 56, attended the church in Toronto’s downtown area for the first time.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

I don’t recall anything from the scripture about Jesus dying for the salvation of our pets”

End Quote Cheryl Chang Anglican Network in Canada

“The minister welcomed me and said come up and take communion, and Trapper came up with me and the minister gave him communion as well,” Mr Keith told the Toronto Star.

“I thought it was a nice way to welcome me into the church. I thought it was acceptable. There was an old lady in the front just beaming when she saw this.”

But not all parishioners at the service were quite so charmed by the sight of the priest leaning down and placing a wafer on the wagging tongue of Trapper, a German Shepherd-Rhodesian ridgeback cross.

Communion bread is considered by Anglicans to represent the body of Jesus Christ.

One onlooker filed a complaint with the Anglican Diocese of Toronto about the incident and has since left the church.

When news spread of the canine communion, St Peter’s Church began receiving e-mails from angry Christians all over the country.

“Communion is a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus’ body; he died for all of us. But I don’t recall anything from the scripture about Jesus dying for the salvation of our pets,” said Cheryl Chang, director of the Anglican Network in Canada, the National Post newspaper reports.

“I can see why people would be offended,” said Bishop Yu.

“I have never heard of it happening before. I think the reverend was overcome by what I consider a misguided gesture of welcoming.”

Mr Keith has since been told that he and his dog are most welcome at the church, but Trapper can no longer receive communion.

“This has blown me away. The church is even getting e-mails from Catholics,” said the truck driver.

“Ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of the people in the church love Trapper and the kids play with him. It was just one person who got his nose out of joint.

“Holy smokes. We are living in the downtown core. This is small stuff. I thought it was innocent and it made me think of the Blessing of the Animals.”

Walking on Water

This morning’s gospel lesson of Jesus walking on the water (Matt. 14:22-33) reminded me of this video of illusionist Criss Angel (who is Greek by the way) who pulled the same stunt at one of his shows. (Actually, almost the same – see here to find out how he did it.):

Kosovo and the Liberation of Texas

For those of you who are not aware, George Patsourakos summed up on his blog (here) what went down at the Hague today:

“The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, today (July 22, 2010)validated Kosovo’s declaration of independence, and rejected Belgrade’s argument that the declaration had no legal basis, according to the Serbianna website.

The ICJ judged that Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 2008 was not illegal under international law.

The opinion also said that the Resolution 1244 and the Constitutional court in Kosovo are legal frames for resolution of Kosovo’s status.

The ICJ did not approve a right to separation and has referred the matter to the United Nations for solution.

The vote was 9 in favor and 5 against.”

Actually, there was a piece posted on Ad Orientem as well (here). Anyway, this is good news for more than just Albanians. In fact, it’s GREAT news for Texas.  The article below is taken from the Texas Nationalist Movement (here) and they explain their excitement over today’s ruling:


Thursday’s ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague on whether the 2008 secession from Serbia by Kosovo violated international law takes a bite out of statists’ arguments against secession by Texas, Texas Nationalist Movement President Daniel Miller said.

“The recent opinion of the ICJ regarding the independence of Kosovo has tremendous meaning for Texas, Miller said Thursday. “While we decry the erosion of sovereignty to international bodies, the fact is that the United States government has systematically taken away the sovereignty of Texas and passed it along to international institutions which, by and large, do not represent the values of Texans.”

The world court ruled that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law. As read by ICJ President Hisashi Owada, international law contains “no prohibition on declarations of independence.”

Because the U.S. government, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has supported both the secession of Kosovo and rulings by the World Court, Miller said, it could not morally continue to insist that secession from the United States is “illegal” and would not be justified in using military force to prevent Texas secession.

“The United States and other European nations have acknowledged the right of unilateral secession of any state, thereby making any violent opposition to a seceding state unsustainable and unjustified,” Miller said.

He added that the court’s ruling merely reaffirms what TNM and other movements have maintained for years.

“As the ICJ has ruled that unilateral secession is not a violation of international law, the next lawful authority is the US Constitution. As the US Constitution is silent on the matter, the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights is supreme which states: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’ This places the lawfulness of a unilateral secession of Texas in the hands of Texans,” he said.

“The current Constitution of Texas, Article 1, Section 1 of the Texas Bill of Rights states: ‘…the maintenance of our free institutions and the perpetuity of the Union depend upon the preservation of the right of local self-government.’ It goes on further to say in Article 1, Section 2: ‘The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.’

“The bottom line is that the unilateral secession of Texas is lawful on a State, Federal and International level,” Miller said.

Miller said it was important, however, to recognize the stark differences between the Kosovo independence movement – a movement primarily ethnic in nature – and the Texas independence movement, which cuts across ethnicities and is instead political, cultural and economic. In fact, given the U.S. government’s failure to perform its constitutional duties in preventing foreign invasion, it becomes imperative for Texas to secede in order to prevent secession along ethnic lines.

“This is a cautionary tale for Texans. The independence of Kosovo occurred as an ethnic secession,” Miller said. “The ICJ ruling indicates that at any time, a majority of the people can rise up and declare their independence.

“While the Texas Nationalist Movement is encouraged by this ruling, we also recognize the fact that groups who adhere to the political goal of Reconquista are emboldened by it as well,” he added. “This ruling, when coupled with the decline of the American Union, bolsters our position that the independence of Texas is an inevitability. With the United States Federal Government actively engaged in denying Texas the right to protect our own borders, we are locked in a race with the Reconquista movement to secure the independence of Texas.”

Miller said the TNM is committed to continuing to work through elected officials to establish an independent republic where the unique culture, political and economic institutions of Texas are preserved.

“Texans must gain their independence now,” he said. “It is moral, lawful and imperative if we ever hope to protect our freedom, our system of government and our national interests.”

Go forth and….blog!

[H/T: Orthodixie here and here].

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill has urged the clergy to use Internet blogs for missionary work. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church warned against idle talk or passing one’s own thoughts for the postulates of the church. The Patriarch  was speaking ahead of his second pastoral visit to Ukraine.

This recent appeal by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, aimed at enhancing the church’s influence through blogging and networking, made the headlines throughout the Runet. IT-analyst Alexander Mitrofanov believes that the Internet is a good vehicle to carry the live language of the church to the people.

“Many priests and church hierarchs have their own blogs in the global network,” he says. “It helps people seeking their paths in life. Jesus Christ taught His apostles to attract people by the word. High technology and the Internet should serve the same purpose.”

Patriarch Kirill sees social networking as an opportunity for dialogue and revival of the epistolary genre. IT expert Alexander Kuzin says the patriarch wants to establish a dialogue with the Internet community in a user-friendly language.

“The Church wants to make itself understood to most readers,” he says. “This does not mean that church bloggers should use a primitive or false language. Unlike former Internet resources, social networks and blogs make it possible to talk and listen. Communication is crucial. A contemporary user wants two-way communication, so that they could ask questions and receive the answers, and could enter discussions with the others.”

The Vatican has been making an effective use of the Internet for years. According to expert Alexander Kuzin, expanding influence is common in church activity.

“In January 2009 Pope Benedict XVI opened a blog at YouTube with short videos about what’s new in the Vatican. In winter the same year the pontiff struck a deal with the Google search engine. As a result, Google got access to the Holy See’s photos and texts. Vatican press secretary, Father Federico Lombardi, has described the deal as a new chapter in the history of the Vatican.”

In the opinion of Alexander Kuzin, the Russian Orthodox Church will benefit a lot from borrowing this good practice from the Vatican. Entering the global communication network is a must for any religion if it aspires to provide spiritual guidance to those who seek God.

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

The reading from the gospel this morning is taken from the fourteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel. This chapter begins with the terrible news of the beheading of St. John the Baptist. This awful crime was not committed by criminals or thieves. Instead, it was committed by those whose duty it was to uphold peace and order in society. Namely, he was beheaded at the hands of Herod. Yet, to give him some credit, beheading John the Baptist, this voice in the wilderness, was not Herod’s idea. It was his wife’s idea. If we remember the Bible story, his wife was actually the wife of his brother Philip, whom he took as his own. It was because of this act that John the Baptist would rail about how improper this unlawful union was. Therefore, Herodias couldn’t stand John the Baptist and wanted him silenced. For good. And even though Herod had him thrown in jail we read in St. Mark’s gospel that “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And …. he heard him gladly” (Mark 6:20). In other words, Herod was a very tragic New Testament figure. On the one hand, he had John the Baptist thrown into jail but on the other hand he would go down to the dungeon and listen to him talk and, in the end, was afraid of actually hurting him. In fact, we read in the gospels that when he was to be beheaded Herod was “exceedingly sorry” (Mark 6: 26).

And so it is in this same chapter that we read how news of the beheading reached Jesus. Having heard this, St. Matthew writes that the Lord left the place He was at by boat and went to a deserted place. But all the people found out where He had gone and they followed Him. And out of His great compassion for this large multitude that sought Him out the gospel tells us that the Lord didn’t leave again to find another deserted place, but He “healed their sick”. There were five thousand of them, not counting women and children, which means there were over five thousand people. And as the evening approached the disciples begged the Lord to tell the people to go into town to get some food. But the Lord told them, “They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat.” When the disciples told Him that all they had was five loaves and two fish the Lord took that food and fed the multitude.

And so we have this morning’s gospel, the Bible story referred to as the feeding of the five thousand. It is another gospel account of a miracle which Jesus performed.  But there’s a big difference between the miracle that we read this morning and those we’ve been hearing about the past few weeks.  The difference is, nobody was sick. It was not sickness that the Lord healed but their hunger. Instead of sending them away somewhere to eat, He fed them Himself. In this morning’s gospel Jesus didn’t raise anyone from the dead nor did He give sight to the blind, all He did was feed the people.  And yet there is so much theological significance in this act that it’s the only miracle performed by Jesus which is recorded in all four gospels. This is interesting to consider especially when we remember that the story of Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the tomb after he was dead for four days  is only recorded in John’s gospel. Similarly, it is only in one gospel that we read how Jesus healed a man who was born blind even though it was explicitly stated in that gospel account that “since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind” (John 9:32).

But coming back to the beginning of this fourteenth chapter and the tragic event of the beheading of St. John and the person of Herod, who is perhaps even more tragic, we see that these two events have much in common. For while the Lord fed thousands and thousands we see that He still didn’t feed everyone, for not everyone came to Him. There are those who despise and hate Him like Herodias did and then there are those like Herod, blinded by wealth and power or whatever other thing of this world, who see and sense holiness in the person of Jesus but still reject Him and run from Him. Christ is the one who feeds us at every Divine Liturgy. However, we, like that multitude that  sought Him out, are also called to seek Him, to follow Him even to that deserted place and, more importantly, stay with Him until it gets late. Amen.