Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In UK, Methodist Church calls for boycott

In Great Britain today, it is reported that the Methodist Church adopted a measure to boycott "all products from Israeli settlements" in Palestinian territories. It is the first major religion in England to approve such a course of action as a policy. Methodist leaders made the decision at the denomination's recent conference in Portsmouth. This will inevitably place the Methodist denomination in England at odds with the country's Jewish population.

DA yet to make final decision about motivation of alleged Old Bridge killers

The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, New Jersey, has not conclusively ruled out racial motivation in the case of the June 28th murder of Old Bridge resident Divyendu Sinha, 49, a Hindu. However, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan noted that "preliminary findings" lead authorities to believe that Sinha's killers were not racially motivated.

Three 17-year-olds, whose names have not yet been released by police, have been arrested by police in connection with the murder.

Sinha was reportedly beaten to death while walking around his residential block, in front of his family.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pope calls for council to address 'new evangelization'

In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI announced the formation of a new pontifical council to consider "new evangelization" in order to innovate ways to present the Gospel in areas of the world where secularism is outweighing church teachings.

The Pope said he created the "new organism, in the form of a pontifical council" with the idea of renewing evangelization in the countries where the "first proclamation of faith" has already been received and where ancient foundations of the church already exist.

Monday, June 28, 2010

ChurchRater becomes online church shopping outlet

For years, people have been finding dates online through sites dedicated to pairing people. Now, there is a website that seeks to pair people and churches.

According to the Detroit Free Press, is a church shopping site founded by a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew. And, this trio of entrepreneurs are inviting users to actually review and recommend churches for their online audience.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Women allowed access to education in Pakistan

Islamic schools in Pakistan, while "a driver of conservative Islam," reportedly allow women to attend schools in a widespread manner, in addition to allow those women who wish to sit in. Pakistan is allegedly going through a transition where Sufi Islam is facing a decline while the more conservative, Saudi-influenced Islam is on the rise.

Hindu temple erected in Mississippi; builders hope to draw throngs

A 3,500-square-foot Hindu structure has been constructed according to ancient rules of temple design, known as "agama sastra," near Brandon, Mississippi. The structure, which was made from all-natural materials such as granite, wood, straw and marble, was formed by Indian artisans.

Members of the Hindu Society of Mississippi hope that the new temple will be a draw for many Hindus and tourists alike in the Deep South. Notably, temple organizers are expecting as many as 1,000 people at the temple's upcoming dedication.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Daoism is on the decline in China

Recently, Daoist leaders met with top Chinese political adviser Jia Quiglin, and were counseled to employ conventional Daoist thought to "support society and socialism." Daoism is the smallest religion in China, and the only native religion. It is also fading in the number of people adhering to it, despite its rich history.

Researchers are saying that Daoism's decline can be tracked back to its "poor social networking and the lack of available information about its teachings." There is also increased competition for Daoism from Christianity. Meanwhile, the Chinese government, which is officially atheist, recognizes: Buddhism, Protestantism, Islam, Catholicism and Daoism.

Questions about the spill that deserve answers

How far has the oil advanced along the Gulf Coast? How much oil has spilled so far? How might BP plug the leak? Is there a sure long-term fix for the spill?

These are all good questions, and the New York Times is asking them and getting answers.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Philly leads nation in new HIV, AIDS cases

Even though cases of HIV and AIDS peaked during the 1990s, and have fallen off to a great degree since, Philadelphians are becoming infected at a rate five times the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Reportedly, Philadelphia area residents are being infected at a rate of 114 persons per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the national average for rate of infection is 23 persons per 100,000 people.

Consequently, more than a hundred educators and human services professionals from as far away as Maryland are gathering in Bensalem to discuss the latest trends involving HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The conference is being sponsored by the Family Service Association, the Bucks County Health Department and the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Episcopal clergy considers response following Fremont vote

In Nebraska, Fremont clergy are considering the impact following a controversial immigration vote. In addition, a pastoral response is being considered in the wake of a June 22nd vote of a local ordinance to ban undocumented immigrants from renting, residing or working within the city limits. Reportedly, the Rev. Jay Gabb, an Episcopal priest, was disappointed by the decision.

Stem cell treatment restores sight to blind

Italian researchers assert that a "regenerative treatment" using stem cells from patients' own eyes has resulted in successful corneal transplantation in three-quarters of cases, with preexisting blindness in one or both eyes present. Consequentially, vision was at least partially restored to patients that did not have other parts of an eye damaged.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First images of apostles revealed in Rome

In Rome, on Tuesday, June 22, Vatican officials announced the discovery of the earliest images of the apostles Peter and John deep within the catacombs beneath Rome. In addition, the Vatican released that, within an underground burial chamber, paintings of the apostles John and Andrew were also recovered.

The icons within the catacombs reportedly date back to the 4th century. Where it involves the images of Andrew and John, the images are allegedly pictured as much younger than usually encountered.

The Vatican's Sacred Archaeology Office is reported to have overseen the two-year project that yielded these finds.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rev. Francine Hernandez addresses BP oil spill

Rev. Francine Hernandez, a doctoral student at New York Theological Seminary, discusses the ongoing BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP, U.S. Gov't disagree about amount of oil pouring into Gulf

According to BP, the company is capturing about 1,000 barrels of oil every day from the ongoing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. The company reports that figure represents about one-fifth of the oil leaking from the 21-inch severed pipe near the gulf's floor, severed in the wake of an April 20th explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon.

Contrasting these numbers are U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that assert BP's accounting represents only one-tenth of the total amount of oil being released into gulf waters daily.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

NYTS Students Speak Out about Gulf Spill

New York Theological Seminary has recently created a page for students to speak out regarding the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. The new page presents seminarians offering commentary about a catastrophe that is shaping up to be the most significant in U.S. history.

Rev. Wanda Lang discusses consequences in the Gulf of Mexico

The Rev. Wanda Lang, a Doctor of Ministry student at the New York Theological Seminary, in Manhattan, discusses the impact of the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rare species in peril as a result of leak; lawmakers lay blame

According to CNN, some of the early victims of the ongoing BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico include wildlife ranging from oyster beds to pelicans and delicate marshland. Among the wildlife casualties from the spill is the Louisiana pancake batfish, known as halieutichthys aculeatus.

The list of environmental victims mounts as the U.S. Government squarely lays the blame for the gulf's environmental catastrophe at the feet of British Petroleum.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rev. Alfonso Wyatt comments about Gulf spill

The Rev. Alfonso Wyatt, a D.Min candidate at the N.Y. Theological Seminary, discusses the ongoing Gulf spill catastrophe.

BP to establish $20B Fund for Gulf spill victims

According to NPR, on June 16, the Federal Government released that British Petroleum will place $20 billion into a special fund to compensate victims of the company's Gulf of Mexico oil spill and leak, which is ongoing at this point.

This action comes two months after BP's deepwater drilling rig exploded, sending untold deposits of oil into waters off Louisiana stretching to Florida. Notably, as recent as two weeks ago, oil deposits began washing ashore along Florida beaches.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

NYTS President speaks out about BP oil leak

The Rev. Dr. Dale Irvin, president of the New York Theological Seminary, discusses the impact of the BP oil spill, and the biblical relationship between mankind and the environment.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Central Jersey group: 'Stop endless war now'

Exclusive for NYTS Dialogues

The Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War is an eight-year-old group that has been protesting U.S. involvement in the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. On Saturday, June 12th, a handful of the coalition's 20 active members protested these wars at the intersection of Route 27 and South Adelaide Avenue, in Highland Park, as they have for eight years, according to coalition member Dorothy Schwartz, of Piscataway.

"People in the group come from around the Central Jersey area," Ms. Schwartz said. "I think the thing we all have in common is that we each have faith for the future, in a world without war and where there is peace." After she said that, Ms. Schwartz wondered if that remark was enough to represent the whole group. However, East Brunswick resident and fellow member Jim Fusco assured her "that's perfect."

Coalition members held up their signs to passing cars. Some cars honked in support while other motorists called out hawkish opinions like "Nuke Iran!" Nevertheless, the coalition's members continued to lobby for peace.

The day's group from the coalition included not only Ms. Schwartz and Mr. Fusco, but also: Dr. Sandra Atickes, New Brunswick; Dave Hancock, Roselle; Bernice Rosen, New Brunswick; and Paula Antebi, Highland Park.

The protest concluded after a reading of a some of the newest among the list of dead service members from the wars, read from a Blackberry by Dr. Atickes.

Far from being opposed to the interests of American service members, coalition protesters said the best way possible to support the armed forces is for the United States to depart the region, ensuring an end to military and civilian casualties.

As the group was breaking up for the day, around 1 p.m., Ms. Schwartz announced that the coalition's next meeting would take place in New Brunswick, at the Friends Meeting House, at the intersection of McHale and Nichol, at the Douglas Campus, on June 27th at 5 p.m.    -- Story and Photos by Jim Purcell

Friday, June 11, 2010

A way of life disappears along Gulf Coast

The P and J Oyster Company has called New Orleans home for the past century. It's the oldest continuously operating oyster processor in America, according to some reports. However, according to oysterman Mitch Jurisich, oil leaking from the BP spill site has contaminated oyster beds his family has leased for many years. And, where it involves working the Gulf of Mexico for oysters, Jurisich said, "It's over."

As BP scientists and engineers, along with the U.S. Government, seek to stem the oil leak, already communities are seeing their way of life disappear before their eyes, as in the case of P&J.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Essene controversy at Qumran?

An apparent controversy has shaped up between academics involving the relationship of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Essenes.This controversy challenges the essence of Dead Sea Scrolls research for more than a half-century. From the very beginning, when Eleazar Sukenik bought the original scrolls, in 1947, a connection between the documents and the Essenes were suggested. However, Rachel Elior claims that the Essenes did not have a relationship to the scrolls. And, she notes, the scrolls do not portray the people described by the Roman historian Josephus.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Micah Institute launched at New York Theological Seminary

In February, the New York Theological Seminary (NYTS) announced the launch of its Micah Institute, which is an initiative aimed at educating churches and religious leaders in the New York Metro Area about global poverty and injustice issues.

To assist with this, the Micah Institute at NYTS has partnered with the Micah Challenge USA Campaign, which is also headquartered at NYTS. This initiative is part of a global Micah Challenge that is geared to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which seek to cut extreme poverty in half by the year 2015.

Groups offer prayer for the environment in the wake of BP calamity

Well before some other groups began praying for the environmental catastrophe surrounding the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there was this group (which posted its video on May 8th).

Since then, groups around the country have joined together to offer prayer for an the end to that oil leak, and for relief to the communities, residents and wildlife that call the Gulf of Mexico home.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

2010 Women's Conference to be held June 16-18

The Resource Center for Women in Ministry, in collaboration with the 50th Anniversary of The Interchurch Center, is hosting the 2010 Women's Conference June 16-18 at The Interchurch Center, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, New York 10115. The theme of this year's event is  "Unlimited Journey: 50 Years of Women In Service."

For information about participating in this event, contact the Resource Center for Women in Ministry Director Dr. Cynthia Diaz, at 212-870-1212, E-mail: or The Interfaith Church Tenant Relations Manager Rachel Rivera, at 212-870-2954, E-mail:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rev. Dr. Eugenia Lee Hancock passes away

Our beloved colleague, the Rev. Dr. Eugenia Lee Hancock, Professor of Urban Studies and Spirituality and Director of the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion (CSPUR) at the Seminary, died at home on Tuesday, June 1, 2010. Lee, as she was affectionately known, was an extraordinary spiritual presence in our midst. Her disarming smile and intense eyes communicated a genuine affection and sense of engagement with everyone she encountered.

Lee was relentless in her pursuit of academic excellence in the classroom. Students who worked with her during the years she served first as an adjunct professor then as a member of the Seminary’s core faculty will testify to that. But she also had a pastor’s heart. Her passion expressed itself in a real desire to integrate intellect and spirit in constructive, creative ways. She applied these gifts masterfully in a number of positions of community and institutional leadership beyond the classroom, including on the Seminary’s Board of Trustees where she served prior to joining the faculty.

Lee was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, and graduated from Mary Baldwin College before going on to Union Theological Seminary in New York where she earned her M. Div. degree, then to Drew University where she earned her Ph.D. While at Drew she served as the program officer for the Newark Project, a research program designed to enable students and community leaders to gain a better understanding of the role of religion in contemporary urban life. Her dissertation, which was completed in the area of Religion and Society, was an ethnographic study of those “infected and affected” by HIV/AIDS in Newark, NJ.

After graduating from Drew, Lee served as the Dean of Auburn Theological Seminary and the Director of Auburn’s Center for Church Life and the Center for Multifaith Education. One of the projects she developed at Auburn was the New York Sabbatical Institute, which brought together more than 60 working pastors from diverse theological and cultural traditions over a two-year period for work and play around pastoral excellence and self-care.

An ordained member of the Presbyterian Church USA, Lee previously served as a minister at Judson Memorial Church and Central Presbyterian Church in New York, as Associate Executive Presbyter for the Presbytery of the City of New York, and as Seminary Pastor at Union. She lectured widely and was well-known for her inspirational preaching. Lee was the editor of The Book of Women’s Sermons: Hearing God in Each Other's Voices (Riverhead Books, 2000). Her love for the city, for religious communities, and for humanity will continue to inspire us long into the future.

A private funeral service for family members has been planned. Further information on a public memorial service as well as suggested ways for contributions to be made in her honor will be announced in the days ahead.

Religion Link: Religion, the Environment and BP

According to Religion Link, the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is becoming both an environmental and social disaster. As this ecological catastrophe continues, national soul-searching is being sparked where it involves energy needs and preserving our natural resources.

Additionally, according to ABC News, with five-times more oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico than originally projected, British Petroleum is scrambling to find answers about how to stem the leak.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

US: Peace in Afghanistan means women's rights

According to USA Today's Aamer Madhani, women's rights are a significant factor for American diplomats as Afghanistan readies for a peace conference between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Reportedly, the American Government sees the rights of Afghan women as a vital element to a potential peace.