NY’s mainline Protestant leaders support proposed downtown Islamic center

It’s taken a while, but New York’s mainline Protestant leaders have issued statements about the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero.

No great surprises here. The NY bishops of the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church all gently support the project, while acknowledging the pain still felt by so many.

I’ll paste their full statements below.

United Methodist Bishop Jeremiah Park declares his support for the project, writing that “denying the fundamental right of a religious community, as long as it fulfills the same legal requirements applied to all other religious communities, by singling it out for the wrong reasons, compromises the integrity of who we are at our core.”

He also writes: “Our hearts break over the sacrifice of the dead from 9/11 and the pains and sufferings of their loved ones and our country. However, to truly honor them, to truly preserve the historic significance of the Ground Zero, and to truly triumph over the evil force of 9/11, it is necessary to stand firm on what America believes in and be willing to pay whatever the price to protect and preserve freedom and equality for all.”

ELCA Bishop Robert Rimbo doesn’t offer the same outright pledge of support, but concludes with this: “There is much pain very near the surface of our emotions with regard to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. But how will preventing this center from being constructed help us to deal with that pain? There is great fear driving our lives today. How do persons of faith respond to that fear? We commend ourselves to the reliable and merciful arms of the God of Abraham, the God whom Jesus calls Abba, the God whom Muslims and Christians in various parts of the world call Allah. This God promises a reign in which all shall be well. Our faith is bigger and stronger than all our fears.”

Italics mine. Sure sounds like he is in favor getting beyond the fear and building the place.

Finally, Episcopal Bishop Mark Sisk, as I noted last week, wrote a public letter supporting the Islamic center. It includes this: “The plan to build this center is, without doubt, an emotionally highly-charged issue. But as a nation with tolerance and religious freedom at its very foundation, we must not let our emotions lead us into the error of persecuting or condemning an entire religion for the sins of its most misguided adherents.”

Of course, Archbishop Tim Dolan has offered to be a conciliatory voice, but has stopped short of taking a position. In a recent blog post, he wrote: “Although I have no strong sentiment about what should be decided about the eventual where of the Islamic Center, I do have strong convictions about how such a discussion should be reached: civilly and charitably.  The hot-heads on either side must not dominate.”

Here are the full UMC, ELCA and Episcopal Church statements… Continue reading

Joel’s back, the exorcist speaks, United Methodist giving down

Catching up with a few things:

tjndc5-5olhb0ef0dg4tug9as6_layout1. Televangelist/media sensation/inspirational speaker Joel Osteen returns to the area tomorrow (Friday, March 19), offering a “Night of Hope” at the Meadowlands arena. I just took a quick look for two tickets on Ticketmaster and there are some left — although the best available was the upper deck.

He’ll come closer to filling the place than the Nets.

2. If you are so inclined, the Times of London ran a story on the Vatican’s official exorcist.

FatherGabrieleAmorthFather Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has held the top devil-chasing post for 25 years, says he has dealt with some 70,000 cases.

He also blames sex-abuse scandals and other problems on the devil infiltrating the Vatican. He speaks of “cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon.”

And if, like me, you’ve watched “The Exorcist” too many times, you’ll be interested to know that Amorth gives a thumbs up to the famous, 1973 film. It’s “exaggerated,” he says, but offers a “substantially exact” picture of demonic possession.

3. Want a pretty good sense of how the recession is affecting the day-to-day operations of a major denomination?

United Methodist churches contributed 84 percent of what the denomination budgeted to support worldwide ministries in 2009.

But the New York Conference was one of only 14 regional conferences (out of 63) that paid 100 percent of its budgeted contribution.