Century Marks

Century Marks

Bar none

Last month the regional council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America approved “Church-in-a-Pub” in Fort Worth, Texas, as a synod­ically authorized worshiping community. “I’m not interested, frankly, in making more church members,” Pastor Philip Heinze said. “I’m interested in having people have significant relationships around Jesus. And if it turns out to be [over] craft beer, fine” (NPR, November 3).

The R-word

Graylan Hagler, senior minister of the Plymouth United Church of Christ in the District of Columbia, says he has commitments from about 100 clergy members in the area who will urge the Washington Redskins to change their team name. Sometimes referred to as the R-word, the team name is something Hagler has been speaking out against for over 20 years. The move to alter the name has been championed by the Oneida Indian Nation’s Change the Mascot campaign. Oneida representatives hope to meet with National Football League officials to talk about the need for the name change (USA Today, October 23).

Home again

Some 80 Assyrian Christian families have returned to southeastern Turkey, a region they fled for Europe in the 1980s when caught by clashes between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatists. They have been assured protection by the conservative Islamic government of Turkey and the return of land confiscated from the 1,200-year-old Mor Gabriel Monastery, revered by Assyrian Christians around the world. However, life for these Assyrian Christians is still difficult. They are not permitted to have their own seminaries, and they complain about legal and bureaucratic harassment. Between 600,000 and 700,000 Assyrians lived in Turkey prior to the 20th century. Many of them were killed as a result of ethnic cleansing in the last throes of the Ottoman Empire (Christian Science Monitor, October 30).

Jesus on the mount

In the midst of a civil war, a 40-foot statue of Jesus was erected last month on a mountain in Syria. It overlooks an ancient pilgrimage route connecting Constantinople and Jerusalem. The project, which took eight years and was stalled by the civil war, was backed by the London-based St. Paul and St. George Foundation, with support from Russian Orthodox churches. The statue, designed to encourage Syrian Christians, was inspired by Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro (AP).

Theology without faith

When Tara Isabella Burton went to Oxford University to study theology, her liberal, secular New York mother thought her studies would be as useless as speculating about the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin. Burton argues that the academic study of theology is important not just to people of faith but to those who care about history, humans and culture. “To study theology well requires not faith, but empathy.” In her studies, she says, she is able to get inside the minds and hearts, fears and concerns, of those in circumstances vastly different from her own and of people who shape much of the world (Atlantic, October 30).