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  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
     
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Corporate sin
  By Terry Mattingly  
  LIKE most people born and raised in Biloxi, Miss., theologian Russell Moore grew up about 10 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico.

It cost too much to live near the water, but that didn't really matter since the sights, smells and rhythms of the coast defined the whole community. Driving away from his hometown has always been emotional, but the last time he pulled onto U.S. Highway 90 was different.

Hurricane Katrina was terrible. Now, the locals are facing what some writers have called "Katrina meets Chernobyl."

"I've never left like this, wondering if ... my children's children will ever know what Biloxi was," wrote Moore, in an online meditation about a recent visit. Gazing at Gulf, he knew that "there's a Pale Horse" out there, the rupture in deep water that is creating "plumes of petroleum great enough to threaten to destroy the sea-life there for my lifetime, if not forever.

"Everything is endangered, from the seafood and tourism industries to the crabs and seagulls on the beach to the churches where I first heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is more than a threat to my hometown... It is a threat to national security greater than most Americans can even contemplate, because so few of them know how dependent they are on the eco-systems of the Gulf of Mexico."

It would raise few eyebrows if Baptists such as Al Gore, Bill Clinton or Bill Moyers voiced these views. Russell, however, is dean of the theology school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., a vital hub for conservatives in the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention and in the wider world of evangelicalism.

Moore served as chairman of the resolutions committee this past week in Orlando when Southern Baptists gathered for their annual national meeting. Thus, in addition to dealing with scores of internal SBC issues, the convention also expressed its concerns about the unfolding catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

Noting that the Bible teaches that those who harm the vulnerable should be held accountable, the convention called on "governing authorities to act determinatively and with undeterred resolve to end this crisis; to fortify our coastal defenses; to ensure full corporate accountability for damages, clean-up, and restoration; to ensure that government and private industry are not again caught without planning for such possibilities; and to promote future energy policies based on prudence, conservation, accountability, and safety."

The resolution urged Southern Baptist churches to recruit waves of volunteers for clean-up crews, just as they did after hurricane Katrina.

The resolution stressed that "our God-given dominion over the creation is not unlimited, as though we were gods and not creatures, so therefore, all persons and all industries are then accountable to higher standards than to profit alone."

The key, said Moore, is that Baptists need a broader view of a key word -- "sin."

"A solid doctrine of sin is what has kept most evangelicals from sliding into a utopian view of government," he said, in a telephone interview. "We understand the sin nature of human beings. We understand that checks and balances are needed, when you are dealing with human institutions. Well, now we need to understand that corporations must be watched carefully. Planned Parenthood is a corporation. Playboy is a corporation. British Petroleum is a corporation, too."

The April 20th explosion in the Gulf, said Moore, could be a turning point for many conservative Christians on issues of pollution, ecology and environmental stewardship. It will be hard to ignore the worst oil spill in US history, especially when the wider economic and human toll begins to close church doors and threaten generations of Bible Belt traditions -- like youth camps on or near the beach.

It hasn't helped that the first things most conservative Christians think about when they hear the word "environmentalism" is Hollywood, New Age spirituality and politicos who suggest that human beings are "parasites on a world that would be better off without them," he said.

This evangelical silence has not been constructive.

"This is one of those issues that, if evangelicals concede it to extremists on both sides, we are going to miss our opportunity to let our voices be heard on what the Gospel says about God's creation and our stewardship of the resources we've been given," said Moore. "Without a biblically conservative voice in that debate, something vital will be missing."

Courtesy: www.tmatt.net
 
   
   
An Orthodox question
  By Terry Mattingly  
  THE first Orthodox missionaries to reach Alaska traveled with the early Russian explorers and, in 1794, a party of monks established the Orthodox Christian Mission to America.

When Orthodox believers venerate icons of the "Saints of North America," many of the images are of missionaries. One is St. Herman of Alaska, a pioneer monk, and another is St. Innocent, an early missionary bishop. Then there is St. Tikhon of Moscow, who envisioned one united Orthodox body in America, a church without ethnic divisions. He later became Russia's patriarch, but died a martyr in the Bolshevik era.

"Before the 1920s, there was only one jurisdiction in North America -- that of the Russian Orthodox Church, which, as we know, was open to ... the widest variety of ethnic communities," said Archbishop Justinian of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, during last week's Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs in North and Central America.

"Much has changed since that time. The tumultuous events of the 20th Century forced many citizens of traditionally Orthodox countries to leave their native homes and seek refuge in other countries, which led to the rise of large ethnic Orthodox communities beyond the boundaries of corresponding local churches."

But the key to conditions today, he stressed, is the fact that an "increasing number of our faithful belong to the Orthodox Church not as the result of their ethnic background, but of a conscious choice in favor of Orthodoxy's truth."

There's the rub, the source of one of the tensions that pulled the bishops behind tightly closed doors in New York City. Even in the public speech texts, it was clear they were wrestling with this question: Is America best described as a mission field in which Orthodoxy is growing or as a strange land in which immigrants have found shelter during a painful diaspora era?

How the hierarchs answer that question will help shape the future, especially if there is to be a way to unite Greeks, Russians, Arabs, Ukrainians, Serbs, Romanians and other Orthodox believers into one American church, with one hierarchy -- as required by Orthodox tradition.

If America is truly a mission field, that would favor the Russian roots of the Orthodox Church in America, which now worships in English. Its claim to be an autocephalous, or independent, national church is based on a declaration to that effect by leaders of the giant Russian Orthodox Church. Meanwhile, a "diaspora" framework favors leadership claims by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Istanbul, the symbolic, "first among equals" of the Orthodox patriarchs.

Last week's assembly was led by Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and was one of 12 meetings in regions containing multiple Orthodox bodies. However, Demetrios declined Bartholomew's request to exclude Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America. Jonah was seated as a bishop -- but not as the OCA primate. He is a convert to the faith.

At this point, said Demetrios, it's impossible to end the overlapping jurisdictions, which means that bishops from ethnically defined flocks control their own parishes in the same locations. America is both a mission field and part of a diaspora phenomenon caused by immigration, he said. So the new Episcopal Assembly is in control -- for now.

"The vital presence of our churches ... world bears witness to the ongoing work of pastoral care of our flocks who have moved around the globe," he said. "It also bears witness to the continuous preaching of the Gospel that has brought an abundance of converts to the faith. Neither of these realities stands in opposition to the other. They are merely the facts of our existence."

But it's time to see the big picture, stressed Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, another flock affected by thousands of converts. If anyone is living in diaspora, he claimed, it's the tiny Orthodox flocks in Jerusalem, Constantinople and other besieged Old World cities.

Meanwhile, the Orthodox in America, he said, are "no longer little children to have rules imposed on us from 5,000 miles away. Orthodoxy in America has its own ethos. We have our own theological institutions and we have our own theologians, authors, publications and magazines... We have been here for a long, long time and we are very grateful to the Almighty God that in our theology and worship, we do express the fullness of the Holy Orthodox faith."
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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