Lutheran bishop leaving NY for national post

Not many people outside of Lutheran circles probably know very much about Bishop Stephen Bouman, the spiritual leader since 1996 of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s “New York Synod.”:

But Bouman, a longtime resident of New City, is leaving and it’s a big loss for the ELCA.

tjndc5-5dxoalzio0h226pio0o_layout.jpgHe’s been appointed to an influential national post with the denomination, effective Jan. 1. He’ll be in charge of developing new ministries for one of the country’s bellwether mainline Protestant denominations and for helping the ELCA’s 10,549 congregations grow.

It’s a big job.

His second-term was going to be up in May anyway, so his departure is just a bit early. The synod will either name an interim leader soon or simply move up elections. We’ll see.

Bouman has been a very approachable and engaging leader during a challenging period for the ELCA and other mainline churches. With the denomination’s old-time membership dropping, Bouman has helped diversify the ELCA, welcoming people of numerous ethnicities.

He likes to brag that worship takes place in over 25 languages across the synod, which stretches from NYC up through the mid-Hudson Valley.

Bouman was one of NY’s most active and visible religious leaders after 9/11. Under his leadership, the synod reached out in every way it could to people affected by the attacks.

He continues to talk often about 9/11. I’m sure he will continue to do so in his new job.

The potential of monkey cloning

Father Thomas Berg is executive director of the “Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person,”: a Catholic bioethics think tank based right here in Thornwood.

He was quoted today in a “Washington Post”: story (that also ran in the Journal News) about the news that an Oregon-based scientist has cloned monkey embryos and derived embryonic stem cells from them.

Berg’s quote looked like this:

This breakthrough is a double-edged sword. Insomuch as research on cloned primates can provide basic biological insights into human disease and tissue growth, this is a golden opportunity. The risk lies in applying the cloning technique to humans. Such a pursuit, if successful, would be one of humanity’s darkest endeavors.

thomasberg2.jpgBerg is a priest with the Legionaries of Christ, a Catholic order (always described as conservative) that has a strong presence in Westchester.

Both he and Brother Daniel Sulmasy, a physician and Franciscan Friar who is director of the Bioethics Institute of New York Medical College in Valhalla, are members of the “ethics committee”: for the new New York State Stem Cell Board. The board’s job is to distribute funds for stem cell research.

In a statement today from the Westchester Institute, Berg says that he has been in contact for months with monkey-cloning scientist Shoukrat Mitalipov. Berg says this:

Notwithstanding this new breakthrough, it’s still not clear that researchers will have success if they apply Mitalipov’s techniques to human cells. It would be unfortunate to divert time, energy, and funding into human cloning, when much needed insights into treating human diseases and maladies can be garnered just as easily from cloned monkeys.

I spoke with Dr. Mitalipov and he himself underlined how this new kind of research in monkey cloning can actually further our pursuit of ethically uncontroversial alternatives in stem cell research, such as direct cell reprogramming. If scientists can learn how monkey egg cells reprogram body cells to an embryonic-like state, this could give us the key to reprogramming human body cells without having to damage or destroy, let alone clone, human embryos.

Get your kosher sushi and soy sauce

“Kosherfest 2007”: concluded this week at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in NYC.

More than 10,000 people attended the 19th Kosherfest, billed as the world’s only annual trade event for the kosher food industry. Over 400 companies showed off the latest kosher foods and drinks, including many with an international flavor.

image0018.jpgAdam Kaufman, an exhibitor — and Best in Show winner of this year’s New Kosher Product Competition for Mikee’s Shiitake Teriyaki sauce — said:

Kosher consumers are looking for the same gourmet, new and exotic products that the non-kosher consumer enjoys. They want the ethnic foods and flavors, sauces and dips that are Asian, Hispanic and Italian. And, they want it healthier, with less sodium, no preservatives, and organic or all-natural, when possible. That’s the new in kosher.

Organizers estimate that the kosher food “aisle” now includes about 102,000 packaged goods and some 300,000 ingredient items.

Menachem Lubinsky, co-producer and founder of Kosherfest, said: “If you walk into a supermarket store today you’re likely to see hundreds of kosher products, from sushi to soy sauce, that you wouldn’t normally associate with kosher.”

Prayers for Britney, Paris and even young Miley

In this celebrity-obsessed culture, it should be no surprise that some folks are praying for our deeply troubled royalty.

The “Hollywood Prayer Network”: is a nondenominational Christian group that organizes prayer chains for Hollywood and its players. The group says it “believes that by mobilizing global prayer we can be a part of God’s miraculous work of changing the spiritual climate of Hollywood, from the inside out.”

tjndc5-5h6u0o35wx4o2jifo59_layout.jpgThe AP’s Gillian Flaccus reports that Britney Spears is the group’s top prayer-getter. The group recently gave a Bible to Paris Hilton (didn’t she have a religious revelation when she was doing hard time?).

The group also targets prayers at child stars, who we all know often fare poorly later in life. Among those who have been the recipients of “stay away from temptation” prayers: Miley Cyrus (that’s Hannah Montana to you), Dakota Fanning and Daniel Radcliffe.

Here’s the AP story in full:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anyone who thinks Britney Spears’ best days are behind should know this — she does have a prayer.
The celebuwreck, who has been struggling to get custody of her kids while launching a comeback, is the top prayer-getter at the Hollywood Prayer Network, a group of more than 5,000 Christians that prays for stars instead of writing them off as lost causes. Continue reading

Remember baby Joey’s baptism?

I heard something on the radio this morning about TV Land’s new list of the “50 Greatest TV icons.”:

There was some surprise that Carroll O’Connor — Archie Bunker himself — only came in 20th. I’d have to agree that he should be higher.

0648_0011.jpgI couldn’t help thinking of one of my favorite episodes of All in the Family, when Archie took his newborn grandson to church and attempted to baptize the infant himself. Archie’s nemesis son-in-law, “Meathead,” was an atheist and didn’t want little Joey baptized.

Can’t you recall Archie cradling the baby by the baptismal font and sprinkling a few drops of water on Joey’s forehead. And when it’s over, Archie offers a classic line: “I hope that took, Lord, because they’re gonna kill me when I get home.”

The episode aired, by the way, on Feb. 23, 1976 (which I found on the TV Land “webpage”: for that episode).

Any “religious figures” on the big list? Well, Oprah, who often talks spirituality, came in at 3. Homer Simpson, whose show deals frequently with matters of faith, came in at 9. Mr. Rodgers is 55.

Catholic bishops offer ‘voting guide’

As the presidential campaigns “heat up”:…

The U.S. Bishops Conference today adopted a statement on what Catholics should take into consideration when voting. Short and long versions are available “here.”:

The document pretty much restates the traditional church positions on “voting while Catholic.” It endorses “social justice” positions that are identified with the Democratic Party (providing health care, protecting immigrants, etc.) and “moral issues” that are IDed with the GOP (abortion, stem-cell research, etc.).

The statement says:

A consistent ethic of life should guide all Catholic engagement in political life. This Catholic ethic neither treats all issues as morally equivalent nor reduces Catholic teaching to one or two issues. It anchors the Catholic commitment to defend human life and other rights, from conception until natural death, in the fundamental obligation to respect the dignity of every human being as a child of God.


Human life is sacred. Direct attacks on innocent human beings are never morally acceptable. Within our society, life is under direct attack from abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, and destruction of human embryos for research. These intrinsic evils must always be opposed.

The statement says that “principled debate” is required on the issues, but that when it comes to moral issues such debate does not “permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore church teaching.â€?

The bishops do not lean toward one party or the other and do not endorse particular laws. They urge Catholic voters to only use “voters’ guides” that are approved by the church.

Does FutureChurch have a future?

FutureChurch. Call to Action. Voice of the Faithful.

Do these Catholic “reformist” groups have a future?

Sister Christine Schenk, executive director of “FutureChurch,”: is speaking in New Rochelle tonight. Her topic is “Back to the Future: Trends and Traditions Shaping the Future of the Catholic Church.â€?

p_news_schenk.jpgOf course, Schenk hopes that the future will include female priests and married priests. It is a vision that her group and Call to Action have put forth for some time. But one has to wonder if their day has passed.

These groups — and the newcomer, Voice of the Faithful — have been energized by liberal Catholics who came of age after Vatican II and grew up expecting to see the Catholic Church “modernize” in their lifetimes. But these folks are getting older and are not being replaced by younger Catholics.

Polls consistently show that a large minority or small majority of Catholics in the U.S. would like to see married priests and female priests. But these folks don’t speak up, perhaps because they can see the Vatican is not interested in the agenda of liberal American Catholics.

Voice of the Faithful rose up only five years ago, after the greatest crisis in the history of the Catholic Church in the U.S. But, outside of Boston, the group has been able to build minimal momentum. Catholics who were disgusted by the sex-abuse scandal have either left, chosen to stay quiet or simply moved on.

Schenk will speak at 7:30 p.m. today at the Greek Orthodox Church at 10 Mill Road in New Rochelle. I’m sure she doesn’t get many invites to speak at Catholic churches…

Her talk is being sponsored by Friends of FutureChurch and the Upper Room, the latter being a group of progressive Catholics from the New Rochelle area.

St. Louis temple hosts female ‘ordinations’

A St. Louis synagogue “went through”: with plans to host the “ordination” of two female priests — even though Catholic officials in the city urged the Reform temple not to do so.

The two women, grandmothers and lifelong Catholics, were “ordained” by a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests that is, of course, not recognized by the Catholic Church.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:

To members of the diverse crowd — the dozen ministers in robes and stoles of different colors, those wearing yarmulke, and some wearing buttons saying “God loves us, just ask her” — the ceremony showed unity and understanding.

“What a day, what an occasion, what a case, what a rabbi,” said Patricia Fresen, the ordaining bishop with Roman Catholic Womenpriests, referring to the synagogue’s rabbi, Susan Talve. The room boomed with applause.

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke promised to excommunicate the women and asked Central Reform Congregation to respect Catholic belief and not host the event.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis says it will no longer participate in interfaith events if Central Reform Congregation is involved.

The picture shows a “bishop” from Womenpriests with her two new priests.


Let in rain, let it rain…

They’re praying for rain in Georgia today, as the AP’s Greg Bluestein reports:

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue stepped up to a podium outside the state Capitol on Tuesday and led a solemn crowd of several hundred people in a prayer for rain on his drought-stricken state.
tjndc5-5hekqrlqzub9mdjs9om_layout.jpg “We’ve come together here simply for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm,â€? Perdue said (that’s him, with his wife, Mary) after a choir provided a hymn.
Georgia and its neighboring states are caught in a drought that threatens public water supplies. Perdue has ordered water restrictions, launched a legal battle against the release of water from federal reservoirs and appealed to President Bush.
“It’s time to appeal to him who can and will make a difference,� Perdue told the crowd.
A church choir belted out “What a Mighty God We Serve� and “Amazing Grace� as a keyboardist swayed to the rhythm. While preachers spoke, worshippers chanted “amen,� and some stood with eyes closed and arms outstretched.
“God, we need you,� Perdue said. “We need rain.� Continue reading