Saturday, July 31, 2010

Church fully joins the Digital Age with new digital director position

The Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, Iowa.
In West Des Moines, Iowa, the Lutheran Church of Hope is taking on the Digital Age head on, as it launches into social media strategies geared to capturing the attention of online users.

In addition, according to Digital Director Justin Wise, who is also spearheading the church's social media training and education program, as well as the church's online campus. Justin holds a Master's of Divinity degree from Bethel Seminary and also operates the top-rated website

According to Justin, social media is the next wave of communication. He believes social media is going to have not only a lasting impact but also an ever more popular one with people.

New York Theological Seminary launched its blog earlier this year, in an effort to advance meaningful discussions regarding faith, religion and social ministry. As part of its mission, NYTS seeks to prepare men and women for ministry in the 21st century and the world as it is today.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Stelton Baptist Church bids farewell to its first female pastor

Pastor Kathleen Tice attended NYTS before graduating with an M/Div. at Princeton Seminary.
In Edison Township, New Jersey, Stelton Baptist Church was established in 1689 and eventually became a charter member of the Philadelphia Association (which eventually became American Baptist Churches). Though the small congregation is used to being a part of history, an important chapter in its history is ending as a new one begins.

Stelton Baptist Church, Edison, NJ
A decade ago, Stelton Baptist Church called its first female pastor, the Rev. Kathleen Tice. On Aug. 30th, the congregation will bid farewell to Pastor Tice, as she and her husband (the church's musical director), David, depart the congregation upon Pastor Tice's retirement.

Pastor Tice has been a mainstay at Stelton, and also at ABCNJ as a member of several of its key committees, most notably the state denomination's Ordination Committee. Pastor Tice attended New York Theological Seminary and graduated with her Master's of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.

During her time at NYTS, Pastor Tice reflects upon so many friendships there, among them with current NYTS President Dr. Dale Irvin and former Prof. Dr. Norman K. Gottwald.

As part of her future plans, Rev. Tice, a trained spiritual direction counselor, intends to remain active in that field.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Amish are growing westward; eyeing settlements in Alaska, Mexico

A recently published study of Amish Americans measured a significant increase, 10 percent, in population during the past two years. Thus far, there are Amish settlements in 28 states and Ontario, Canada.According to the study, the Amish population is charted at 249,000, and has risen from 227,000 in 2008. However, a clear majority of Amish still reside in the traditional Pennsylvania strongholds they've established.

The study was undertaken by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, in Elizabethtown, Pa.The study noted that additional potential Amish settlements are being scouted in Ontario as well as Mexico.

Historically, the Amish are descendant from approximately 5,000 immigrants who came to the United States during the early 20th century.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to religious diversity and tolerance. As part of its mission, NYTS prepares men and women from a wide array of backgrounds for ministry.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mennonite service team member discovers new path on assignment

A member of a Mennonite Service Adventure team in Albuquerque, New Mexico, found her life's passion not in a classroom but while serving her faith. Originally assigned to a daycare center in Albuquerque, MaryBeth Cornelsen, an Oklahoma native, became involved with serving the homeless.

What began with Cornelsen's efforts to help one homeless man then blossomed into a new purpose in her life. Bethany Bauman Baker was Cornelsen's Service Adventure unit leader and said that Cornelsen's work with the homeless inspired her entire team. Consequently, Cornelsen reported that she intends on studying social work next fall at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., with the intention of working to empower people who need services.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to interfaith discussion and tolerance. Among its other missions, NYTS prepares men and women for ministry and related career fields.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Florida church seeks to begin 'Int'l Burn A Quran Day'

The Dove World Outreach Center, in Gainesville, Florida, is planning to institute "International Burn A Quran Day" during the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks.

This proposed event would reportedly also coincide with an Islamic holiday, known as "Eid al-Fitr." El al-Fitr is reported to be a feast day at the conclusion of the Ramadan fast. This initiative by the Dove World Outreach Center is, according to some, adding to the controversy surrounding a proposed mosque being considered for construction nearby the site of the Sept. 11th attacks.

The New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to teaching religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Greek Orthodox priest finds God on a board

Is it possible to find God while surfing? For one Greek Orthodox priest, Martin Ritsi, who lives on St. Augustine Beach in Florida, challenging the waves is an important element to communing with God.

As well as being a surfer, Fr. Ritsi is also executive director of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center in St. Augustine. Fr. Ritsi, 51, says there is real peace in surfing, which facilitates the human connection to the world and nature.

Perhaps Fr. Ritsi has taken the road less traveled, but he has followed the tune of a different drummer for most of his life. Once a self-described atheist, Fr. Ritsi traveled a path of faith that eventually led him to the Greek Orthodox Church.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to inter-religious dialogue and tolerance. One mission at NYTS is to train men and women, from various stages in their life and backgrounds, for careers in ministry.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Survey says U.S. Catholics liberal on same-sex marriage

A July 21, report on religion and same-sex marriage in California has yielded some interesting results. Based on the June polling of almost 3,500 adults (with oversamples of Latinos), it was learned 57 percent of Latino Catholics would vote for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Contrasting this demographic are Latino Protestants, only 22 percent of which would vote for the legalization of same-sex marriages. According to the Pew Forum, Catholics constitute about 31 percent of California's population.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to welcoming diversity. NYTS helps to prepare men and women from many backgrounds for ordination as part of its mission.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Israeli PM: Jewish conversion bill delayed pending negotiations

A controversial Israeli bill would place authority for Jewish religious conversion strictly in the hands of the chief rabbinate and "declared Orthodox Jewish law" within the Jewish state. However, the bill has sparked great concern for American Jews, who believe this latest bill, should it become law, would invalidate more lenient conversion process in the United States.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement, though, announcing the bill would be delayed while opponents and proponents of the conversion bill negotiate further. Both sides agreed to a six-month negotiation window.

According to Rabbi David Schuck, from the Pelham Jewish Center in Westchester, the bill disrespects "Diaspora Jews" and would restrict Judaism to a fundamentalist perspective worldwide.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to inter-faith dialogue and diversity. NYTS prepares men and women for ministry worldwide.

Friday, July 23, 2010

PCUSA votes to lift ban on gay ordination

Earlier this month, leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) adopted a measure that opens ordination up to partnered homosexuals. This latest vote comes after 15 years of effort to lobby PCUSA's General Assembly, which is the highest legislative body in that organization, to lift sanctions against openly gay men and women.

The assembly's moderator, Cynthia Bolbach, commented that the recent vote is just another dimension of an "ongoing conversation" within PCUSA.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to diversity and inclusion. As part of its mission, NYTS prepares men and women from a wide array of backgrounds for careers in ministry.


Day Four
Thursday July 22, 2010

Searching for Sean Penn

Today we went to the Petio-Ville Club Camp. This 9 hole golf course was hub of Haitian's elite in one of the most affluent neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince. After the earthquake on January 12th, the golf course became a landing pad for U. S. Blackhawk Helicopters who brought in supplies after the earthquake. It was quickly transformed into tent city, but this one was different as it was led by an American, not any American, but Sean Penn. Sean Penn is one of my favorite actors. From Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High to Harvey Milk in Milk, Penn always acts with immediacy, irony and a twinkle in his eyes. While I enjoy his acting, I am even more inspired by his activism. In September of 2005 Penn went to New Orleans to participate in the rescue and rebuilding of New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina. Then less than a week after the earthquake in Haiti hit, Penn co-founded J/P Haitian Relief Organization “to save lives and bring relief to the Haitian people quickly and effectively” J/P Haitian Relief Organization now manages the Petio-Ville Club Camp, the largest tent city in the country housing 50,500 Haitians.

Preaching in the Tent Cities

To approach the camp we drove up a stone road through an affluent neighborhood that included the Ambassador from America's villa. We came to a gate and were let in by a security guard who was carrying a rifle. As we drove up to the old club house surrounded by palm trees and banana trees, we met our host for the day Pastor Jean St. Cyr. Pastor St. Cyr was a big Haitian man, with an even bigger Haitian smile. Around his neck he proudly wore medals that JP HRO has been awarded for their humanitarian efforts, like the Commander's Award for Service by Lieutenant Colonel Mike Foster of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division. Penn gets along well with with US military who like his pragmatic, no-nonsense style of development work. Pastor St. Cyr grew up in Port-au-Prince, but moved to New Jersey in the 1980s. He returned to Haiti in 2003 and was in the country after the earthquake. His church was just a few minutes away from the country club. After the quake he wanted to minister to earthquake victims, and started a church in this country club camp just down the road from his home and church building.

We turned on the four-wheel drive on our truck and the pastor jumped in the truck with us and drove down into the camp through muddy roads under an overcast sky. We rolled down the windows and saw an endless rows of tents in blue, red and gray from US AID, Oxfam, and even Walmart. With over two million Haitians living in tents, I wonder how long will these temporary towns exist?

Compared to other camps that we have driven by each day, this camp appeared to be well cordinated and running smoothly. It had a playground for the children, an amphitheater that screened films, a chapel, a health center and was well secured with barbed wire around the golf course and a large security staff. With the sweltering Haitian heat, being cooped up in a tent is often unbearable, covering your entire body in sweat. While there are latrines, there are often no bathing facilities so in this camp and others you often see folks bathing outside in the open air. It is hard to maintain your dignity in such rough circumstances, yet the Haitian people forge ahead amidst this daily struggle for survival.

Pastor St. Cyr led us up a hill to see the church he pastors, holding services every night. His congregation meets underneath a tent with a massive sound system that can projected throughout the camp. He has seen many people's lives transformed, but he said that it comes with a great cost. He is separated from his family who is in New Jersey, and has had his life threatened several times. Yet, amidst these challenges, he has a clear sense of calling. He said he feels like God is using all of the challenges in his life up till this point to equip him to lead courageously at this moment.

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

While we talked to St. Cyr, a young Haitian man named Jean who was part of the worship team, quietly played his guitar. Subtle and sonorous, his song was a small glimpse of hope amidst the great struggles of life in a tent city.

In the end we didn't meet Sean Penn. Pastor St. Cyr said he was meeting with “the General” today, after recently meeting with his friends Spike Lee and Shakira. Yet, we were able to meet with several ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That night Jean would lead the church in worship, while Pastor St. Cyr would preach, both exercising their gifts of ministry to bring healing and hope to the people of Haiti. How are we using the gifts of ministry that God has given us? Do we have the courage to step up and lead in the struggle against injustice? By sowing small seeds of justice, with time we will reap a harvest of shalom.


Peter Heltzel

Director, Micah Institute

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Day Three
Wednesday July 21, 2010

Integral to the Mission of the Church is the Ministry of Justice

Today we began the day talking to Jean Valery Vital-Herne, the national coordinator of Micah Challenge Haiti. Micah Challenge is a world-wide Christian-led movement in 40 countries that are working together to keep their elected officials accountable for the promises that governments from around the world made to cut poverty in half by 2015. These promises are the UN Millennium Development Goals.

The Micah Movement

In January of this year Micah Challenge USA came to New York Theological Seminary, bringing with it a deeply theological vision for justice. Inspired by the Micah Challenge, the Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary was launched in April to educate the next generation of Christian leaders for ministries of peace and justice.

Through teaching a theology class in Haiti, I hope that new friendships are formed that will begin to establish a restorative network of healing and hope between Christians in the North and South. In our current global moment, we need a new prophetic paradigm of theological education based on a vision of integral mission. 

In the past, evangelical theology has emphasized the importance of converting people on the field of mission. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 to go into all the world and make disciples has been the mantra of the movement. Yet, as founder of the Micah movement in Haiti Jean Claude Cerin told us, “Jesus not only gave us a great commission, but also a great commandment—to love our neighbor as ourself.” Thus, integral mission brings together the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Prophetic Christianity must engage in both evangelism and social witness. It is time for an integral theology—the whole Gospel for the whole people for the whole world.

Integral Mission in Haiti 

Prophetic theology today challenges both the church in the North and the Global South. Jean Valery says when he works with Haitian pastors, he encourages them to “re-read the bible” in relationship to the poor so that they can gain a fresh understanding of scripture that is connected to the Hebrew prophet's vision of justice.

Justice is God's Word manifest in a lived context, but what does that mean in post-earthquake Haiti?

Jean Valery said that top priorities for Haitians now are new jobs, good governance, and social services. The needs in Haiti are great. Port-au-Prince is surrounded by tent cities, but when will these families move into homes? When will the Haitians who are unemployed and underemployed find good jobs? When will half of the children in Haiti who are not in school find a school to attend? If the Micah Challenge movement seeks to inspire Christians to do their role in cutting poverty in half by 2015, they have their work cut out for them in Haiti.

Since 193 nations signed onto the MDGs in 2000, gains have been made in primary education world-wide. Yet, the aftermath of the earthquake, a history of neo-colonialism, and deep cultural conservatism provide serious obstacles to the struggle to end poverty in Haiti.

A Challenge to American Christians 

When asked what American Christians should do, Jean Valery, said, “I would encourage all American Christians to make a trip to the southern hemisphere. Through these trips they can get to know the ways that the majority of the people in the world who are poor live. Through understanding the challenges of their sisters and brothers in the global South, they will be in a better position to keep their elected officials accountable for justice. Thoughtful, prophetic advocacy for justice in solidarity with the poor is vital for the renewal of North American Christianity.

It is time for American Christians to get out of their comfort zone and join the global struggle for justice. The crisis in Haiti presents an urgent opportunity for American Christians to respond.

Conversations are currently afoot between the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Haiti, Azusa Pacific University in California and new urban monastic groups, to send people into the tent cities to live with the people for relationship building in the short-term and community organizing in the long-term. Father Oge Beauvoir, the Dean of the Episcopal Theological Seminary, is seeking to open the gates of his seminary to be an open space for Haitian religious leaders and leaders from other countries to get to know each other and conspire together for the Kingdom of God. Today we will travel to Sean Penn's tent city to learn of their example. Moving into tent cities raise a host of issues and potential problems, yet doing so opens up the possibility of developing a deeper understanding of the plight of those living on the margin.

The challenges in Haiti are great, so a multi-dimensional approach is vital. Direct advocacy, short-term trips, incarnational living, and prayer are a few of the ways that American Christians get involved.

President Obama has said the UN MDGs are the United States' development goals. What will the American Church do to help achieve these goals? What is our distinct role in the Micah movement for justice? 


Peter Heltzel

Director, Micah Institute

Adoptions are on the rise, says Christian agencies

According to representatives from the Christian-based Nightlight Christian Adoptions and Buckner International, there has been an increase in couples seeking to adopt.

In addition, the adoption service Bethany Christian Services noted a significant rise in adoptions, leaders say. And, Bethany is linking the upswing to increased Christian involvement that is being characterized as a "movement."

Recently, the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference placed a special emphasis upon adoption and offered adoption scholarships for pastors and missionaries.
There is "no doubt" that there is a trend toward adoptions today, said Ron Stoddart, executive director for Nightlight.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedication to the study of religion and faith in contemporary America and globally. As part of its mission, NYTS seeks dialogue about social issues that impact society at-large.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Tuesday July 20, 2010

Forty Seconds
In forty seconds the life of a nation changed forever. When the earthquake hit Haiti on January 12th, in less than one minute, the nation experienced mass destruction and loss of life. It is estimated that 230,000 people were killed. Over six months later, I find myself in Haiti teaching a theology class at New York Theological Seminary searching for meaning amidst the morass and hope after the horror.

Today I met a true hero Father Samuel St. Louis, an Episcopalian priest and educator. On our way to Leogane, the epicenter of the earthquake, we stopped in Darbonne. In the middle this small country town was Paroisse Annonciation, the Episcopal Church of the Ascension which includes a large campus with five schools and known as one of the best schools in the area. But on January 12th, the church and the schools were brought to the ground. The complex was reduced rubble and children no longer had a place to go to school.

A Process of Years
Father Samuel faced the greatest challenge of his ministry to rebuild what was destroyed in less than a minute. Underneath the rubble, he rose up, sought partners to help him clear the campus and began to rebuild, a process that will take years.

We sat in a circle in an empty room that used to be his office introducing ourselves and sharing why we came to Haiti. Then Father Samuel told us about the vast array of ministries on his campus—a church, pre-school, grammar school, middle school, high school, and professional school, as well as a health center and most recently a new dormitory for students from afar.

Prophetic Partnership
Father Samuel was encouraged by our visit and open to partnering, saying, “We are in a difficult situation in Darbonne. I am happy about what kind of partnership can emerge and even more excited about becoming good friends. We can do much apart, but together we can do so much more.”

Father Samuel has put this principle of prophetic partnership into concrete educational practice. After the earthquake, he teamed up with Episcopal Relief and Development and the Lutheran World Federation to keep his school going through these tough times.

Three Months
It took three months before the students could come back to school on April 12th, this time, meeting in large white tents with wooden desks and chalk boards. Today we saw the students in light blue shirts and navy blue pants and skirts, still meeting in those tent classrooms. Since they missed three months of school, they have to work through the entire summer to complete their studies. After surviving an earthquake, this summer most Haitian kids will not get a summer vacation.

During our time at the Episcopal campus you could hear the sounds of hammers and saws, as the construction work on campus forged on. This is a model of religious education on the move. The aftermath of disaster gives education purpose to become fully human amidst the tragedy of life.

Challenge for the Future
Curiosity is integral to what it means to be human. In good times and bad times, the desire to learn is insatiable. Life becomes more meaningful as we fully engage our mind in seeking to understand and imagine innovative ways to address the great global challenges of our day. Educating through a crisis demonstrates that active learning is of the utmost urgency for the future of the community of creation.

At this moment Haiti has to fight for education. It is estimated that over 50 percent of Haitian school- aged young do not attend school. Why? What can be done?

Today I thought a lot about Henri, the 14 year old boy I met yesterday, who can't read and does not go to school. It baffled me that so many young people in Haiti do not have the opportunity to go to school. I saw Henri again tonight at the fruit and vegetable market. After bartering for some avocados with Henri watching and laughing, I told him he needed to go to school and learn how to read. His future depends on it. The decision is his, and the deck is stacked against him. Education is an ongoing struggle.

How We Live Matters
Being a successful educational leader today takes creativity and tenacity. After the earthquake, the student's families could no longer pay tuition at the Episcopalian school, which meant teachers couldn't get paid. Father Samuel has been successful in getting grants to cover his teachers' salaries, so the families don't have to pay. But, he realizes this can't work forever. That it fosters a culture of dependence.

Now he is trying to develop a strategy for student's families to begin to shoulder the burden of their children's education once again. Given the herculean task ahead, rebuilding a church, several schools and paying teachers' salaries with shrinking assets, Father Samuel fights on, offering an active life that exemplifies “every minute of our lives matters.” Our lives are short. Do we live in a way that truly makes a difference?

Tomorrow’s Fight
I remain struck by the fact that the earthquake took place in less than a minute. Yes there were tremors afterwards, even last week. Yet, that one minute ended the lives of many Haitians and forever changed the lives of those they left behind. Realizing how quickly this natural disaster struck and witnessing its aftermath the past two days, has put my life and problems into perspective. I am full of deep gratitude to God, my family, friends, students and colleagues at New York Theological Seminary for the gift and opportunity to living a good life. I want to use the rest of the minutes that God gives me on this earth to love and serve others, working with members of the global church to build beloved community. Fighting alone we are weak; but when we pull together for the good of humanity, the possibilities are endless.

Tomorrow Father Samuel will host a gathering of over three hundred Haitians inaugurating a new work for cash program through which many local Haitians in Darbonne will be employed through rebuilding their children's schools. Father Samuel says, Ansanm nap rebatid Darbonne (together we can rebuild Darbonne). What Father Samuel sees is that rebuilding Haiti is the work of everyone in the town of Darbonne and beyond. It is only through partnership, both local and global, that Haiti can rebuild and not just survive, but thrive, moving collectively into a new future.

Peter Heltzel
Associate Proferssor of Systematic Theology

Tanzanian bishops translate Dodoma Statement into English

The Dodoma Statement by the Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania is now available in English. The statement by the bishops of the largest Lutheran church on the African continent changes church teaching by the ELCA and the Church of Sweden regarding same-sex marriage.

The news of the statement comes from the Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal), which operates a news and discussion site.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to the study and practice of religion and faith. As part of its mission, NYTS seeks global, faith-focused dialogue.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010



Day 1: Monday July 19, 2010

The Journey
Today I flew into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and the experience opened my eyes and heart to the warmth and resilience of the Haitian people. When the plane came down I could see tent cities all over the area surrounding the airport. They say over 2 million Haitians are living in tents. It is so sweltering hot here I can't imagine living in a tent for the past six months, but the Haitian people are courageously forging ahead in the aftermath of disaster.

When Haiti experienced the earthquake my heart was broken. I grieved and wanted to respond. Shortly after the earthquake, Daryl Bloodsaw, New York Theological Seminary’s Student Association President, organized a group of leaders from NYTS, Union Theological Seminary and Drew Theological School to discuss what we could do. Some of us wanted to go immediately, but the consensus was that it was too early and we would only get in the way. I said I would like to lead a small class over to Haiti during the summer. Now that dream is becoming a reality. On this advocacy trip with me is Chloe Breyer, Director of the Interfaith Center of New York and advisory board member of the Micah Institute, Carl F. Nazaire and Kenel Saint. Vil who are seminarians of NYTS.

The Connection
Talking to Carl and Kenel, my two Haitian students in the Deep South made me realize that offering a theology course in Haiti was doable. Carl and Kenel were on the “Going Home” class I teach each Spring with NYTS Dean Rev. Dr. Eleanor Moody-Shepard on prophetic religion and civil rights movement. During our sojourn in the South, I discovered Carl Nazaire was in Haiti during the earthquake. While he felt the shocks and saw people die, his life was spared. God saved his life so he could do something for his country.

NYTS President Dale Irvin expresses prophetic outreach to the earthquake victims as "working to build the realm of God.” Working to rebuild a living and just Haiti is vital to the mission of the global church. We come to Haiti with open eyes and hearts to discern the movement of Gods spirit in the healing and restoration of our neighboring nation.

The Rebuilding
Before I came to Haiti, all I knew was that it was a poor and struggling nation. It is also one of 180 countries that has a role to play in the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals—8 goals aimed at ending extreme global poverty by 2015. It is one of the goals of the Micah Institute in partnership with the Micah Challenge to seek to inspire and equip Christians to end extreme poverty. Now, I see a people who are resilient and have a tenacity to rebuild. Rebuilding Haiti will take time and tenacity.

After a long day of driving around Port-au-Prince through rubble and tent towns, at dusk we stopped at a fruit and vegetable stand in Petion-Dille. We were mobbed by six women who tried to sell us tomatoes, avocados, mangos and pineapples. I met a little boy named Henri. He was 14, not in school, and sleeping in a broken down red truck a block from the fruit stand. My heart was broken as I realized street kids like Henri would not be able to go to school, unless schools were created for them.

Our Haiti Partner
This is precisely what our host organization Haiti Partners seeks to do, to build and support schools in Haiti. Since the Micah Institute mission is to educate for justice, we are eager to discern if there are schools and seminaries in Haiti we can partner with. I am looking forward to meeting principals, teachers and students in schools to better understand the current challenges and the pressing needs that they have.

As I end my first day I am glad that we are here and that NYTS remains committed to encountering the full breath of world Christianity, especially in the places of great suffering. We are seeking to train students to be responsive to the needs of the world so in their calling their hearts will sing when they are able to use their gifts at the places of the worlds’ greatest needs.


Peter Heltzel

Director, Micah Institute

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

Religion flourishes quietly within mainland China

In China, a "religion boom" is quietly taking place, whereby millions of Chinese citizens are awakening to new spirituality. Indeed, Christianity has grown strong roots within the Chinese mainland, as governmental control over the day-to-day lives of ordinary citizens has receded in recent years.

According to a major survey, 31.4 percent of Chinese citizens characterize themselves as "religious." Although proselytizing is illegal in the world's most populace country, many preachers and missionaries have been undeterred by that law.

Though the government has exerted little control over the new age of religion in the country, Chinese officials continue to uphold a principle of atheism (modeled after that of the former Soviet Union).

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to discussing faith and religion, locally, nationally and globally.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Religious leaders need popular support on immigration reform

Immigration reform is a vital issue nationally, and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, based in Sacramento, California, is among the groups that are pressing for change.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is the national president for the group, as well as a preacher working out of the Christian Worship Center in Sacramento.

Rodriguez is one among many voices for reforming America's immigration policies and laws. However, according to Alan Wisdom, vice president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, change isn't going to occur unless the people in the pews get behind these religious leaders.

Meanwhile, Arizona's controversial new immigration measure, adopted earlier this year, takes effect on July 29.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to religious and social dialogue, nationally and globally.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

USC awards grant money for study of charismatic Pentecostalism

The University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago are among the educational institutions that will receive grant money to research the spread of the charismatic Pentecostal movement.

The University of Southern California will award five centers and 16 individual scholars a total of $3.5 million to study this religious phenomenon.

Pennsylvania State University History and Religious Studies Professor Philip Jenkins said the charismatic Pentecostal movement has been significant but rarely received the credit it has been due.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to the study of history and religion, as well as its contemporary social dynamics.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Washington Dollars for the Marginalized

Access to federal dollars was the thrust of the recent Capitol Hill Summit of African American Faith-Based Leaders hosted by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The event was attended by around 200 spiritual leaders from New York looking for stimulus dollars, much of which, surprisingly, has not yet been awarded for this year.

Money is available to address the problems at the margins of society—employment, education, housing, prison, police and other social issues, according to Gillibrand who wants to make sure these dollars are used to make a difference.

While Gillibrand and her team appear committed to helping any church or organization through the process, nothing could mask the reality of how cumbersome the government grant process can be. To her credit, Gillibrand had streamlined a directory categorizing grants available.

The Reverend Al Sharpton spoke fervently during the light lunch pleading with everyone to make this opportunity count. “We are running out of time, we have to do this while we have the opportunity, or it may not come back around.”

Senator Charles Schumer complemented Gillibrand as a “trailblazer” and referred to the gathering as “the largest assembly ever of New York clergy gathered in Washington D.C.” Other notables on hand included Congressman Charles Rangel, Congressman Eliot Engel, Acting HUD Director Rev. Miniard Culpepper, Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black, Rev. Calvin O Butts III, and Rev Dr. Floyd Flake.

Peter Zehren is Vice President for Development and Insitutional Advancement at New York Theological Seminary.

Vatican details new ruling in sexual abuse cases

In the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's announcement of Catholic reforms involving sexual abuse, on Thursday, a Vatican spokesman has further detailed the extent of the new rules for Catholics.

According to Fr. Federico Lombardi, speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church, new actions are eligible to be placed in the category of "delicta graviora," which is under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In addition, the "statutes of limitation" regulating sexual abuse cases has been extended by the Pope.

Notably, Fr. Lombardi noted that, among other reforms, a doctorate degree in canon law is "no longer required for a person," including the laity, to take part in church judicial processes as a member of the tribunal, lawyer or prosecutor.

The New York Theological Seminary is an institution that is dedicated to inter-faith dialogue and the dynamics of social ministry.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Missionaries caught in Ugandan explosion; 2 seriously injured

Last Sunday, two explosions in Kampala, Uganda, claimed the lives of 75 people. Among the injured were five missionaries from Christ Community United Methodist Church, in Selinsgrove, Penn.

Two of those injured, Emily Kerstetter, 16, and her grandmother, Joanne, were reported to be in very serious condition.

It is being reported that Emily Kerstetter was transferred to Johannesburg, South Africa, on the order of her parents, in the hope she might receive improved medical attention than what can be provided in Uganda.

The New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to interfaith dialogue concerning global issues.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hindustan Times seeks to track Indian hunger

The Hindustan Times is launching a nationwide effort in India to "track, investigate and report every aspect of the struggle to rid the nation of hunger." Reportedly, India is ranked 66th out of 88 countries in the Global Hunger Index.

The index is drawn up by the International Food Policy Research Institute. Currently, there are about 230 million people going hungry in that country. There are approximately 455 million Indians who survive on $1.25 a day of less, compared with 420 million in 1981.

The New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to discussing social issues on a global level.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dallas News blogger questions planned mosque near Ground Zero

From his religion blog at the Dallas News website, blogger Wayne Slater asks the question: "Is a mosque at Ground Zero religious freedom too far?"

Slater discusses plans for a $100 million mosque to be constructed nearby the scene of the attack, in Lower Manhattan.

Within his post, Slater describes the contour of decisions by U.S. courts to support his editorial, as well as comments from area lawmakers. He also poses questions about religious freedom to religious personalities within his newspaper's home state.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to interfaith dialogue. During the 9/11 attacks, NYTS had many students and faculty volunteering in support of rescue efforts at the site of the Twin Towers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Churches for Middle East Peace meet with White House official

In Washington, D.C., the Rev. Mark S. Hanson and Denis McDonough, chief of staff for the White House Security Council, recently met during an event organized by the Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., also.

Rev. Hanson is the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and president of the Lutheran World Federation. During the CMEP event, Hanson and McDonough were joined by officials from several other national-level churches.

After the session, Rev. Hanson said that, among other topics, concerns about Israeli settlement construction in the Gaza Strip were discussed.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution dedicated to interfaith dialogue and social action.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New statue of St. Annibale Di Francia blessed by Pope Benedict XVI

Historically, the Vatican has been the patron responsible for countless works of art through the march of time, from before the Italian Renaissance until today. Most recently, Pope Benedict XVI blessed a 16-foot-tall statue of Annibale Di Francia, in marble. The statue's blessing took place July 7th along a recess that runs alongside St. Peter's Basilica.

Of some note, the statue reportedly could have cost more than $250,000 and its sculptor had to use the prized Carrara marble.

New York Theological Seminary is an institution devoted to interfaith dialogue and celebration. The seminary welcomes students and faculty from a variety of faith experiences.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Former NYTS President George "Bill" Webber passes away

George W. "Bill" Webber, a legendary figure in urban ministry, former dean of students at Union Theological Seminary, and former president of New York Theological Seminary, passed Saturday morning, July 10, 2010. He died peacefully in his sleep at home. The family is planning a public memorial service in New York later in the fall. There will also be a celebration of Bill's life on August 15 in in Sorrento, Maine, where the Webbers have their summer home.

Please keep his wife Helen and the entire Webber family in prayer. We have lost a giant in theological education and a good friend. His legacy will continue to live on as he now joins that heavenly host of witnesses that surrounds us.

14th Dalai Lama recently celebrated 75th birthday

Last week, on July 6th, the 75th birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was celebrated worldwide by the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhists, but His Holiness has made his impact felt globally insofar as preaching messages of peace and religious tolerance to many nations.

The current Dalai Lama was recognized as a future Dalai Lama in 1937, but has officially reigned from 1950 up to now. He succeeded the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubtan Gyatso, who reigned from 1879-1933.

The first Dalai Lama was named in 1578 by the Mongoil ruler Atlan Khan, who bestowed the title upon Sonam Gyatso.

NYTS VP of Institutional Advancement Peter Zehren had an opportunity recently to be blessed by the Dalai Lama at Riverside Church.

The New York Theological Seminary has remained committed to interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance. For more information, go to the seminary's website.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

St. Peter's Church installs solar panel system to power its building

St. Peter's Episcopal Church, in Medford, New Jersey, is generating a lot of energy in its community…literally. The church just recently unveiled a new, 50,000-watt solar panel system atop the roof of its building. Reportedly, the system will come to generate about 80 percent of the power needs of the parish. According to the Rev. Canon Donald J. Muller, St. Paul's rector, the idea for the switch to solar power arose out of the church's annual meeting two years ago.

New York Theological Seminary continues to be an institution dedicated to discussing and exploring environmental ethics through the medium of faith.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sikh womanhood explored in Kauer's 'Daughter of Khalsa'

What is it to be a Sikh woman today? Harminder Kauer discusses the continuity between women in Sikh history and life today in "Daughter of Khalsa," at Global Sikh News. According to Kauer, "It is thru our parents that Guru Ji always tells us to listen and respect our parents. Bibi Bhani Ji once again gives us a great example of this by marrying Bhai Jetha Ji (who later becomes Guru Ram Das J) as per the wishes of her parents."

From it's inception, New York Theological Seminary has been involved in woman's issues. In the 1920's NYTS, then known as The Bible Teacher's Training School,  blazed new trails by graduating a Korean woman.  NYTS' recent woman's conference covered a myriad of issues impacting men and women.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Homeless pancake breakfast averts court

A case where a pancake breakfast goes to court was averted recently, when CrossRoads United Methodist Church, in Phoenix, Ariz., reached an agreement with the city regarding the church's Saturday pancake breakfast for the homeless.

One part of the agreement between the two formerly feuding factions involved feeding homeless people in the church, as opposed to outside of it on the grounds.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

NYTS Student Helps Serve Justice to Restaurant Workers

New York Theological Seminary (NYTS) has always supported diversity and issues of gender equity. Topics of discussion at a recent Gender in the Workplace Summit where panelist Manhattan Deputy Borough President Rosemonde Pierre-Louis summed it up, “we need to create buzz and build allies to create change.”

The Restaraunt Industry Coalition, in tandem with Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), hosted the event at La Palapa Restarant. NYTS student Prabhu Subramanyam is also a case manager for ROC-NY. Like so many of our students, Prahbu combines his education with his work at ROC-NY.

“It is unfair,” says Prahbu, ”that we cry out for justice in the church and in government, yet we don’t seek justice here in the least expected of places, with workers in the restaurant field. We want service and a smile, but we do not understand what workers in the workplace go through behind kitchen doors; sexual harassment, verbal harassment, and minimum wage. We must do something about this.”

The summit demonstrated the prevalence and impact of gender inequality in the New York City Restaurant Industry and provides best practices that can foster equality and greater opportunities for all workers. In tandem with the summit ROC-NY handed out a report titled “Waiting on Equality: The Role and Impact of Gender in the New York City Restaurant Industry.” Other panelists included Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Diana Reyna, Colors Restaurant Manager Loretta Pang, and La Palapa owners Margaritte Malfy and Barbara Sibley.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The New Testament and the BP oil spill

BP clean-up of Gulf nowhere near promised result

Since the ongoing BP spill catastrophe began on April 20th in the Gulf of Mexico, skimming has captured only 67,143 barrels of oil, while burning has accounted for 238,095 barrels. However, more than 2 million barrels have been released into the gulf. In response to BP's efforts at cleaning oil from the gulf, one corporate spokesman said, "The numbers are what they are."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Seminary launches graduate program for Muslim-American clergy

The Claremont School of Theology received launched a new project geared to providing additional training for Jewish and Christian divinity programs. Consequently, this will mark the first Islamic seminary in the country focused upon teaching tolerance and engaged with clergy from other faiths right here in the United States.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

In wake of Sufi shrine killings, Sunni leader calls for end to 'extremism'

In Lahore, Pakistan, seven hours ago today, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited the site of a double suicide Thursday at a crowded Sufi shrine. The attack left 43 people dead. While police continue to investigate the killings, Sunni Muslim leader Raghib Naeemi said a major rally was being planned aimed at protesting extremism.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Israel's age-old enemies see new tactic in civil disobedience

Radical Islamic leaders within Hamas and Hezbollah, which have a long history of terrorist violence, have possibly found a new way to express themselves. Reportedly, these groups have just begun to recognize civil disobedience techniques, such as protests marches, lawsuits, boycotts, etc., as an effective tool in making political change. This marks a dramatic change from the groups' previous strategies, which focused simply upon armed struggle and the use of terrorism.

As a result of this, Israeli security police have had to adapt their procedures in dealing with crowds. In the past, security police have not had widespread experience in handling crowds using civil disobedience.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Obama makes a case for immigration overhaul

Today, President Barack Obama explained the need for repairing the immigration system in the United States, through reforming immigration laws. Since his presidency began, this was President Obama's first speech focusing upon immigration needs, particularly where it involves America's Hispanic community.

Speaking from the American University, in Washington DC, President Obama offered no new programs as of yet. Some ideas President Obama previously expressed reportedly included greater security along the United States' borders, as well as providing a "path to citizenship" for those here illegally.

Obama to push for immigration reform in American University speech

President Barack Obama is expected to issue a call for change during today's upcoming speech at the American University School of International Service, in Washington. The president may be discussing the need for fixing the immigration system, but it leaves the question open whether this renewed interest will be enough to spark new energy in Congress to get legislation passed.