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Out with the old, in with the New World. Order and organization continues with the election of new elderly leader of the Catholic Church. The New York Times writes:
The new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pronounced ber-GOAL-io), 76, will be called Francis. Chosen Wednesday by a gathering of Roman Catholic cardinals, he is in some ways a history-making pontiff, the first from the Jesuit order and the first pope from Latin America.
But Cardinal Bergoglio is also a conventional choice, a theological conservative of Italian ancestry who vigorously backs Vatican positions on abortion, gay marriage, the ordination of women and other major issues — leading to heated clashes with Argentina’s left-leaning president.
He was less energetic, however, when it came to standing up to Argentina’s military dictatorship during the 1970s as the country was consumed by a conflict between right and left that became known as the Dirty War. He has been accused of knowing about abuses and failing to do enough to stop them while as many as 30,000 people were disappeared, tortured or killed by the dictatorship.
Despite the criticism, many here praise Cardinal Bergoglio — who likes the more humble title of Father Jorge — as a passionate defender of the poor and disenfranchised.
The folks over at Catholicism and Adventism seem pretty happy. They write: "A prayerful pope. A humble pope. May he lead Christ’s Church well!"
On the other hand, fresh off a Facebook upgrade, Doug Batchelor already has about 100 "likes" and about 45 "shares" of his quick post of the old anti-Catholic conspiracy theories.
...virtually every other major Protestant reformer identified the Catholic Church as the beast of Revelation 13 and the Pope as Antichrist. But today most Protestants and evangelicals have historical amnesia when it comes to what separates Protestants and Catholics. Don’t get me wrong, Pope Francis may be an absolutely wonderful individual and I expect to meet millions of former Roman Catholics in the heavenly kingdom. But I am frankly surprised to hear so many Protestant leaders fawning over the new Pope.
Note that only former Catholics will see Batchelor in heaven.
On a more charitable note, the Battle Creek Enquirer asks an Argentinian who happens to be a local Adventist pastor what he thinks of the new Pope news.
Though he's not Catholic, he said Wednesday, “for (that) country, it is great, great news.”
“The people in Argentina are very happy because of course Catholicism is very, very big in Argentina” and Bergoglio has a history of service there. “It's a great opportunity for the Americas.”
What are your thoughts on Pope Francis I?
According to the producers, Journey Films, this sequel will be shown on PBS stations in early 2013.
The ADVENTISTS is the award-winning documentary that was released in 2010 and continues airing on PBS stations and became became an Amazon best-selling DVD. The film explores why Seventh-day Adventists are some of the healthiest people on the planet and how they have created some of the most remarkable hospitals and medical centers in America. But that’s only part of the story.
The ADVENTISTS 2 will travel the globe to see how for more than a century the Seventh-day Adventists have taken their health message and care for the “whole person” to the far reaches of the globe, establishing extraordinary health clinics and hospitals in the large cites of developing nations and in some of the world’s more remote settings – all to benefit those who would otherwise be un-served. Filming is taking place in Haiti, the Amazon regions of Brazil, Malawi Africa, the Dominican Republic and Asia.
From the outset, Adventist pioneers strongly supported the disestablishment of religion, that is, the separation of church and state. The Adventist church preserves this historic commitment by defending and promoting freedom of conscience for all, not only because it serves our personal interests but also because we believe that’s what Christ has called us to do.
Where does this important Adventist value come from? And what can it teach us about marriage and the relationship between the family and the state?
Families are like small churches. They are centers of moral development, nurturing and support. They instill values and virtues that build our character and shape our conscience. Like churches, families are extrapolitical sources of authority that challenge and, at times, subvert the power of the state. Yet the government and the church treat these two institutions differently. Why?
In its Declaration on Church-State Relations, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC) argues that, if anyone in history ever had the authority to establish an official state church, it was Jesus Christ, “[y]et Jesus never used force to advance the gospel.” The church can easily say the same thing about Jesus and the establishment of an official state family. In fact, in the same Declaration, the church proclaims that “God is love” and that “[l]ove . . . is not subject to civil regulation.”
This tenet of our faith and the analogy between the church and the family provide the basis for why Adventists are uniquely positioned among Christians to support the disestablishment of the family, that is, depriving any model of the family of official state status.
Religious Disestablishment Is an Important Tenet of the Adventist Faith
The story and values behind the church’s commitment to religious disestablishment have something to teach us about familial disestablishment.
When early Adventists adopted their belief and practice of seventh-day Sabbath worship, they became concerned that the Christian establishment would someday be influenced largely by a politically powerful Roman papacy in imposing the mainstream model of Christianity, including Sunday worship, upon everyone. Whether such concerns were legitimate or not is not the point. Early Adventists wisely understood the importance of separating the authorities of the church and the state as a way of ensuring the survival of their new faith.
In short, Adventist pioneers feared the dangers of what political thinkers of their time called the “tyranny of the majority.” About a century later, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini coined the term “totalitarian” to describe a state that “is all-embracing” and that “interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people.” Today, we still find a variety of authoritarian regimes that officially adopt one set of values over others and try to coerce their citizens to conform to those values, allegedly to protect against political disorder and social chaos.
The Adventist Church’s commitment to religious liberty is born out of and intricately connected to antiauthoritarian values because it is embedded in a distrust of a centralized authority that is capable of exercising religious control over everyone’s lives. In this regard, the dissatisfaction that same-sex couples feel with the establishment of the heterosexual family as the only official state family can be compared to the anxiety that early Adventists felt towards the possibility that someday the mainstream model of Christianity, including Sunday worship, would be established as the official state church.
Fortunately for Adventists, the framers of the Constitution understood the risks of centralizing political and religious authorities in the state. Combined with the other freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (speech, association and petition), the disestablishment of the church has contributed to a rich fabric of religious diversity in the U.S. and in other countries with similar values. Where these values are lacking, state-sponsored oppression continues to push religious and other minorities into the shadows.
Although religious freedom had its risks in the American experiment, the framers of the Constitution and the founders of the Adventist Church favored religious diversity over conformity.
Familial Disestablishment Is Consistent with Adventist Values
The arguments in favor of disestablishing the family are rooted in the same democratic values that motivated Adventist pioneers to incorporate the political ideology of religious disestablishment into the Adventist faith. For this reason, law professors Alice Ristroph’s and Melissa Murray’s antitotalitarian arguments in favor of disestablishing the family resonate with Adventist values.
While the government and the church generally respect and defend religious differences, they have been less receptive towards diversity in family structures. Because marriage has been the traditional means for establishing a family, “[o]ne of the most obvious ways in which states—and the federal government—have established a particular vision of the family is by limiting civil marriage to heterosexual couples.” Not surprisingly, the law has been used to channel people into this established model of the family, sometimes through criminal or other social sanctions (such as laws in our history that prohibited adultery, divorce, bigamy, fornication and sodomy).
To be fair, the government and society have gradually opened their minds to granting people substantial liberties that amount to what Ristroph and Murray call “free exercise of the family,” or to what Adventists would characterize as freedom of conscience, such as “rights to marry [including marrying interracially] and to divorce, to procreate or avoid procreation, to direct the education of one’s children, and to cohabit with relatives.” If churches and families are equally worthy of the state’s protection, it is puzzling, then, why the Adventist commitment or, as these two professors ponder, “the liberal commitment to religious disestablishment has never led to any similar call for familial disestablishment.” After all, the basis for oppressing familial and religious minorities is the same.
Just as the disestablishment of the church is not a rejection of religion or an endorsement of an immoral free-for-all, the disestablishment of the family does not seek to abolish the family or the values for which it stands. On the contrary, it reaffirms the important role that family plays in a stable society.
In this context, the state’s role in family life would be similar to its current role in religious life; it would stay out of the affairs of both with limited exceptions. It would not impose or endorse one model of the family over another, but would seek instead to protect the freedom of all to enter voluntarily into family structures that best suit their needs just as it protects the rights of all to adopt or abandon a church or religion in accordance with their conscience. Churches would still be free to define marriage and family for themselves just as they’re free to choose their day of worship. Whether the state continues to perform civil marriages, civil unions or something different shouldn’t matter, as long as it doesn’t deny access to one class of people simply because one segment of the population doesn’t approve of their model of the family.
As it does with churches, the state would protect against legitimate threats and dangers posed by harmful or destructive forms of familial arrangements (such as laws guarding against domestic violence or child abuse and neglect). The state would continue to respect the rights of churches and families to exclude from their ranks those members who do not embrace their norms and values, such as legal protections for religious employers that prefer to hire only from within their community of believers.
The church’s current theological understanding of marriage and sexuality is not a problem for supporting the disestablishment of the family, in the same way that the church’s theology regarding Sunday worship is irrelevant in the context of religious liberty. If disestablishment were dependent on theology, then the church would necessarily have to oppose the legal right to Sunday worship, because church doctrine teaches that such practice violates God’s law. Quite the opposite, the church affirmatively defends the right of everyone to worship on their day of choice.
If familial diversity like religious diversity is allowed to thrive, future generations of Adventists and other minorities will be less likely to live under the oppression of an authoritarian state that abuses its power by imposing the moral will of the many to the disadvantage of the few. This is a risky undertaking without any guarantees, but if the disestablishment of the church has taught us anything, it is that the potential reward of freedom far outweighs any concerns.
Adventists Have a Moral Duty to Stand up for the Legitimate Rights of Others
The church’s commitment to freedom of conscience is not purely self-serving. The Declaration on Church-State Relations states unapologetically that “[f]reedom of religion can only exist in the context of the protection of the legitimate and equal rights of others in society,” and cautions that any “[l]imitation of freedom of conscience in order to protect society from . . . hypothetical dangers or to impose social or religious conformity . . . are not legitimate limitations on freedom” (emphasis added).
The Declaration goes farther and commits the church “to work on behalf of groups whose freedom of conscience is inappropriately impinged by the state,” even if it results in “personal and corporate loss,” because “[t]his is the price we must be willing to pay in order to follow our Savior who consistently spoke for the disfavored and dispossessed.”
Like many other minorities living under the laws of less hospitable governments, Adventists in different countries have suffered discriminatory treatment, criminal penalties and violent aggression simply because they believe and behave differently than the religious majority in those places. Even in the U.S., Adventists have had to resort to the courts for protection of their freedom to exercise their beliefs without being subjected to discriminatory treatment by the state. As a result, the church has earned a well-deserved reputation for standing up against the efforts of oppressive governments abroad and special interest groups at home that seek to stifle the freedom of conscience of religious minorities.
Today, the leaders of the church have the same historic opportunity that its founders had—to share God’s unconditional love and proclaim freedom of conscience for all. The GC and its advocacy arm, the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), should speak up in favor of granting same-sex couples equal treatment under the law before the Supreme Court takes up two cases dealing with this issue on March 26 and 27. To remain silent would betray our Adventist heritage.
Declaration of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Church-State Relations, http://adventist.org/beliefs/other-documents/other-doc8.html (“The Seventh-day Adventist Church has, from its inception, attempted to follow the example of Christ by championing freedom of conscience as an integral part of its gospel mission.”).
Ellen White envisioned a scenario in which “in our land of boasted freedom, a Protestant government should sacrifice every principle which enters into its Constitution, and propagate papal falsehood and delusion,” and “[t]he rulers of our nation . . . shall enact laws to bind the consciences of men in regard to their religious privileges, enforcing Sunday observance, and bringing oppressive power to bear against those who keep the seventh-day Sabbath . . . .” Ellen White, David’s Prayer, Review and Herald art. A, ¶ 6 (Dec. 18, 1888).
Ellen White, The Great Controversy 442 (1888) (“The founders of the nation wisely sought to guard against the employment of secular power on the part of the church, with its inevitable result—intolerance and persecution.”).
See, e.g., Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835).
 Benito Mussolini, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions 11 (1935) cited by Ristroph and Murray, supra, n. 2.
 Ristroph and Murray, supra, n. 2.
Id. at 1240.
Id. at 1251.
Excluding same-sex couples from “civil marriage” or excluding heterosexual couples from “civil unions” is a extension of the “separate but equal” policies of the early 1900s. Such policies have been firmly rejected in American law. See Brown v. Bd. of Educ., 347 U.S. 483 (1954), and its progeny.
In the seminal case Sherbert v. Berner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963), the Supreme Court overruled the decision of a lower court that denied a Seventh-day Adventist woman her right to unemployment benefits after her employer fired her for refusing to work on the Sabbath.
—Juan O. Perla is is an associate in the New York office of an international law firm. He’s a graduate of Andrews University, the University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. After college, he spent eight months representing the GC and IRLA as a field intern at the U.N. Council on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Home Depot has created a program called "Retool Your School" that provides resources to help historically black colleges and universities improve their campus and facilities. Adventism's own HBCU, Oakwood University, currently has a very good chance of winning the $25,000 Campus Pride Grant. Click on the school's name here to vote for Oakwood University. http://www.retoolyourschool.com/vote-now.aspx
A person can vote for Oakwood once each day. Voting ends April 15. The announcement will be made on May 3.
The Home Depot explains:
This year, we are doing even more to increase the number of grants offered to HBCUs by creating an additional Tier II Grant award in the amount of $10,000, for a total of 12 Tier II Grants. We will continue to award the $50,000 Tier I Grant and the $25,000 Campus Pride Grant. Fourteen grants totaling $195,000 will be awarded this year!
Tier I and Tier II Grants will be awarded based on a ratio of consumer voting and advisory board panel selection. The application with the highest score will be awarded with the Tier I Grant ($50,000 level funding); twelve (12) subsequent applications will be awarded Tier II Grants ($10,000 level funding). This year’s Campus Pride Grant will award $25,000 to the school that has the most votes and social media activity, as assessed by The Home Depot.
Oakwood University states it plans to use any winnings for the following two projects.
Major Project: Oakwood University will build an outdoor pavilion, equipped with outdoor kitchen appliances, grills and fireplaces.
Minor Project: Oakwood University will use the Tier II grant funds to install sprinkler systems for its softball and football fields and to re-seed those fields.
Two of this week's films come from the TED archive, the most recent, Amanda Palmer's "The Art of Asking" is the most recent; she spoke at this year's TED just this last Wednesday. Each video offers a new way of viewing giving, gratitude, and vulnerability; each speaker presenting ideas of how to be in Western society while simultaneously challenging some of our society's deeply held precepts. It's certainly excellent food for thought for Christians as we continue to wrestle with how to be in but not of this world.
1. Charles Eisenstein: The More You Give, the Richer You Are
2.The Art of Asking
3. Gratitude, Gifting, and Grandpa
1. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Czech Republic will receive US$1.5 million annually for the next 30 years as redress for property damage committed by the Communist regime.
2. In Poland, launch of Adventist television cements growing media ministry.
3. The Northeastern Conference Administration will be holding an open Town Hall Meeting at the Faith Adventist Church in Hartford, Connecticut on Sabbath, March 9, 2013, at 5:00 p.m.
At the end of February, the North Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee postponed action on their previous decision to call a special constituency session to discuss women’s ordination. The session will take place potentially in two years, after the General Conference theology of ordination study committee completes its work with a report to the October 2014 Annual Council. Final action on the report would not occur until the 2015 General Conference Session.
Less than a month before the NPUC Executive Committee’s February meeting, the NPUC Supporting Pastors, a group that opposes women’s ordination, sent a Jan. 30 letter to NPUC president Max Torkelsen III, requesting that the NPUC Executive Committee “rescind its action to hold a special constituency meeting.” They suggested that the NPUC wait for the response of the 2015 General Conference, before giving the conference’s “full support” to the world church’s decision.
Steve Vistaunet, NPUC communication director, says, “The November 2012 executive committee decision stated an intention to call a constituency session, but never set a specific date for that to happen.” He adds,
“Independent of any concerns expressed by the pastors group, NPUC administrators had been considering how to positively relate to the world church process already underway. The February 20 executive committee action therefore confirmed an intention to encourage the General Conference to resolve this important issue in a timely manner. If there is no clear resolution or directive from the world church by the 2014 Autumn Council as it sets its final agenda for the 2015 General Conference session, the NPUC will likely then set a specific date for its own special constituency session.”
According to Andre Wang, a member of the NPUC's executive committee and its ad hoc committee on ordination, “The efforts of the NPUC pastors opposing ordination equality (the folks behind www.ordinationtruth.com) were never mentioned at the meeting.”
The official statement from the NPUC notes, “The members of the NPUC executive committee have a consensual conviction that choosing candidates for leadership roles and the way those leaders are affirmed should both be conducted without reference to gender.”