- Created on 01 November 2012
The Rev. Charles Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago receive eight Stellar Gospel Music Award nominations for their critically-acclaimed No. 1 debut CD, The Best of Both Worlds, which remained at #1 for three consecutive weeks.
The nominations include Artist of the Year, Song of the Year (awarded to songwriter), New Artist of the Year, CD of the Year, Choir of the Year, Traditional CD of the Year, Traditional Choir of the Year and Recorded Music Package of the Year. Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago are scheduled to perform on the 28th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards on Jan. 19, 2013 at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn.
- Created on 30 October 2012
on O'Brien says he's a good Catholic.
Though his leadership of the group "Catholics for Choice" puts him in clear opposition to Church positions on contraception and reproduction, "I believe in the totality of Catholic teaching, and that includes the right to dissent and freedom of conscience," he said.
"I'm a real traditionalist," he adds, with a hint of the subversive humor prevalent in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops disagrees.
"Catholics for Choice is not a Catholic organization. It never has been and was established to oppose the Catholic position on abortion," Sister Mary Ann Walsh said in an email from the conference.
National Right to Life has called Catholics for Choice "militantly pro-abortion."
Catholics for Choice was founded in 1973 by three Catholic women responding to opposition to the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion. It has clashed for nearly 40 years with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which says the group is funded by "powerful and wealthy private foundations ... to promote abortion as a method of population control."
Not so, according to Catholics for Choice, which operates on a $3 million annual budget. It describes itself as pro-choice — that is, that people should be able to choose to have as many, or as few, children as they want. "The Catholic hierarchy's ban on contraception and abortion has a disastrous impact on women's lives," according to the CFC.
The group drew attention in 1984. Abortion was an exceptionally hot-button issue in the presidential campaign, especially because of the views of abortion-rights supporter Geraldine Ferraro — the Democratic candidate for vice president, and the first woman from a major party on the nation's top ticket. Catholics for Choice took out an ad in the New York Times signed by Catholic theologians and clergy, saying committed Catholics had "a diversity of opinions" on abortion.
O'Brien, 46, who has headed Catholics for Choice since 2007, is in town to accept an award from an abortion-rights group, Personal PAC.
"We've seen here in Illinois, even, bishops comparing the president to Stalin and Hitler;" he said, "condemning a Catholic governor for celebrating the bravery of a rape survivor in Chicago."
O'Brien was speaking of two local controversies.
In a homily last April, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky linked Hitler and Stalin and President Barack Obama's health care mandate. The plan has drawn strong opposition from Catholic and other faith-based institutions that say it infringes on their religious beliefs by requiring them to cover birth control.
In the U.S., "you're granted freedom of religion and freedom from religion," O'Brien said. "You can't have one religion discriminating against other folk."
Last year, Illinois bishops slammed Gov. Pat Quinn for his participation in a Personal PAC event. After it was revealed Quinn was presenting an award to a rape survivor — and the woman charged the bishops with insensitivity — Cardinal Francis George said he had not been given all the facts by the Catholic Conference of Illinois before he spoke against Quinn.
"The church is actually all of the people," O'Brien said. "The bishops are part of it, but they're not the church. We are all the church. Our position is people should be able to follow their consciences."
He rejects the notion that so-called "cafeteria Catholics" — who pick and choose which official stances of their faith they accept — are not real Catholics.
"What makes you a Catholic," he says, "is your Baptism."
O'Brien's life is intertwined with the gradual dilution of the Church's power in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Ireland, and the continuing battle between anti-abortion and abortion-rights supporters in America.
He previously worked at the Irish Family Planning Association. In the early 1990s, the organization was fined for selling condoms. "We got a call, that 'the boys' were very concerned about what was happening, and they wanted to help out," O'Brien said.
" 'The Boys' turned out to be U2," he said. The rockers paid the fines.
A watershed event occurred in 1992, when an Irish court prohibited a 14-year-old rape victim from traveling to England to get an abortion. The decision roiled Ireland. A higher court cleared the way for the termination, saying the girl had become suicidal and her life was in danger.
"If you grow up in a country where contraception was seriously restricted, abortion is illegal, and people couldn't get divorced — the litany of personal rights taken away was unbelievable," O'Brien said.
- Created on 26 October 2012
Despite the separation of church and state and the fact that the US does not have a an official religion, many people in this country continue to face discrimination based on their respective faiths. So much so that Chicago has a specific section of its Human Rights Ordinance dedicated to religious rights in regards to employment.
The section guarantees that no employer can refuse to accommodate the religious beliefs of current and prospective employees UNLESS the employer can show that respecting someone's religious beliefs would cause "undue hardship" on how the business conducts itself. Call me sensitive, but in what situation would respecting someone's religious beliefs cause so much hardship that the employer wouldn't be able to properly follow the Constitution? I would think that since the ordinance requires the employee to give ample notification (five days) before a religious holiday, that any "undue hardship" could be predicted and corrected.
However, the ordinance does give examples of "reasonable accommodations" for religious holidays. The employee can:
- take a day of paid leave or vacation, where applicable under the employee's employment agreement
- be excused from work without pay and without discipline or other penalty
- elect to take the day off with pay in order to practice the employee's religious beliefs, and to make up the lost work time at a time and date consistent with the operational need of the employer's business. Any employee who elects such deferred work shall be compensated at his or her regular rate of pay, regardless of the time and date at which the work is made up. The employer may require that any employee who plans to exercise option
So, the example solutions are not guaranteed or consistent. They depends on the employer. Someone who could get a paid day off at one company could switch jobs and then not get paid or even get the day off. Basically, someone with religious beliefs isn't guaranteed their first amendment right to practice it, because it might cause monetary issues with the company. This wording is basically guaranteeing that only people of the same religion will work at one company. How are we, as a city/country, supposed to foster intercultural understanding and peace, if the respect of deeply held spiritual beliefs is not guaranteed?
- Created on 29 October 2012
CAIRO – A council of Egypt's Coptic Christians voted on Monday in a process that will lead to the selection of a new pope for the ancient church, as the community struggles to assert its identity and rights amid a rising tide of Islamism that has left many Copts fearful for their future.
The succession follows the March death of the charismatic Pope Shenouda III at the age of 88, after 40 years as the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The congregation represents the majority of Egypt's Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the country's 83 million people.
About 2,400 clergymen, community leaders and Egyptian Coptic notables gathered in the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo for the voting — parts of which were shown live on state TV. They were choosing a short-list of three candidates from a field of five monks and auxiliary bishops.
The final selection of the new pope will take place in a ceremony Sunday, when the three names are put in a box and a blindfolded child picks one out, a step believed to reflect God's will in the choice.
Egypt's Coptic Christians have long complained of discrimination by the state and the country's Muslim majority. Clashes with Muslims have occasionally broken out, sparked by church construction, land disputes or Muslim-Christian love affairs.
The new election comes amid a shift in Christian attitudes on their relation to the state. For years, Christians largely relied on the Church to secure some protection for their rights, using Shenouda's close relationship with longtime President Hosni Mubarak.
Now with Mubarak's ouster in a popular uprising last year and Shenouda's death in March, many in the community have been emboldened to act beyond the Church's hold and try to participate more directly in the nation's politics to demand rights, better representation and freedom of worship and expression. Signs of rebellion over the close relation with the state had already begun to surface before the uprising in January 2011.
"If Egyptian Copts are represented by the Church, they will be considered second-class citizens because they are subjects of the church first before they are subjects of the state," said Yousef Sidhom, the editor of Egypt's main Coptic newspaper. "Many have mocked this, saying how can the Copts demand citizenship rights while accepting to remain under the umbrella of the church in the face of the state."
The more vocal stance among Copts, particularly the youth who organized into movements and groups independent of the church, has come with the rising power of Islamist groups long repressed under Mubarak, and after a series of violent attacks against churches and Christians, including by the security forces, and a crackdown on freedom of expression.
The election of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi heightened fears among the Copts and other minorities that their rights would be curtailed, and that they might become targets of extremist Muslim attacks. The fears have been further fueled by the process of writing a new constitution, which is dominated by Islamist groups seeking to increase the role of Islam in legislation.
Mina Thabet, a 23-year old Coptic activist, said young Christians have rejected the previous isolation of their community from national debate, which he said was imposed in part by the Church to try to insulate Christians from both Mubarak's police state and the mushrooming of radical Islamists in past decades.
"Our battle now is the constitution," Thabet said. "Everyone should have a say in its writing. The religious institutions, like the church on the one hand, must have a say ... but also civil groups and activists," like himself.
Bishop Basanti, a member of the Coptic church's Holy Synod, said the new pope will work with the Church's layman council, known as el-Maglis el-Melly, to address the community's demands and reach out to the country's leadership.
"The new pope will be a preacher of peace," Basanti told pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television in Egypt. His priorities "will be to demand the rights of the Copts, the rights of all those killed" in violence, as well as freedom of worship.
Morsi has promised to be inclusive in decision-making and reach out to Christians, but Basanti said the new president has yet to back up the words with steps that would reassure the Copts.
Rights groups and the U.S. State Department have criticized the Egyptian government recently for failing to curb violence against the Christian minority, saying that at times security forces themselves were involved. In a recent flare-up of violence after a dispute between a Christian and Muslim, the whole Christian population of the village of Dahshour was forced to flee because of threats and failure of police to protect them.
There has also been an increase in court cases accusing Christians of insulting Islam. Usually there is little evidence, but radical Islamist outrage over the alleged insults often forces authorities to detain the Christians, allegedly to protect them.
Many among the Coptic community are demanding the Church become more inclusive as well, seeking changes in the Church's internal laws to allow for more representation in the running of the church's affairs and selection of the pope.
The five candidates among whom the voters were choosing the short-list Monday included three monks and two auxiliary bishops.
The youngest of the candidates, at 49, is Father Pachomios, a monk in a monastery in Wadi Natrun in western Egypt. The oldest is 70-year-old Father Raphael Ava Mina, a monk in a monastery near Alexandria and a student of the pope who preceded Shenouda.
The candidates also include Bishop Raphael, 58, once an aide to Shenouda, and Bishop Tawadros, 59, an aide to the acting pope. The fifth candidate is Father Seraphim, a 53-year-old monk who resides in the U.S., according to the state-owned Al-Ahram online newspaper.
The five candidates were selected by a group of clergymen, who winnowed them down from an initial 17 applicants. Among those who did not make the cut were a number of senior figures from Shenouda's papacy who were seen as too hardline — making controversial statements against Islam, trying to impose a heavy conservatism among Copts and aggressively putting bishops before disciplinary committees.
The disqualified figures were "polarizing," said Sameh Fawzi, a Coptic scholar. Coptic leaders "are looking for consensus figures to build the Church from inside."
"They were also looking for a candidate who had no public and media debates and disagreements. They are looking for new faces."
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/10/29/egypt-coptic-christian-church-votes-on-successor-to-charismatic-longtime-pope/#ixzz2AimFchpp
- Created on 24 October 2012
By Rev. Dr. Howard Randolph, New Faith M.B. Church
If you're reading this, you're a leader. What is the business of a leader? The business of a leader is to turn weakness into strength, obstacles into stepping stones and disaster into triumph.
A good leader inspires men to have confidence in him; a great leader inspires them to have confidence in themselves. The world is looking for leaders who can show them the way to the light. You have been called to leadership. It is time to step up and step out to the front of the line. You might say, "the front of the line is the firing line" and you are right. The firing line is where all the action is.
It is where your value as a leader is tried and proven. You do have help in your leadership, however, God and his angels are right there with you to lead and guide you to your victory. Look behind you, there are millions of people waiting to follow you. You have been chosen to lead the way. Step up to the challenge and your world will never be the same.