The Monthly Update
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The last edition of the Update was sent out weeks early so that you would be alerted to the urgent need for our brothers and sisters at St. Paul Church in Fairbanks, Alaska. As you will remember, the good people of this congregation had their property taken from them for no apparent reason by leaders of the Alaska Missionary Conference. Their parsonage was used to house the other more liberal church’s UM pastor, and the church itself has been vacant and then was ostensibly rented to members of another denomination for their use (and the money going to the Alaska Missionary Conference).
The hearing for their case went before the Alaska Supreme Court on January 25th and is now being deliberated. Our sources from the St. Paul Church tell us that a decision will not be rendered for at least six months as the justices consider all of the nuances of the issue.
I had asked you all to pray for this situation. For my part, I have been praying for them ever since I learned of their situation and was included in trying to achieve justice in their case. When we learned of their court date, I started praying with greater urgency. In addition to asking God to give the people of the congregation favor with the justices of the court, I also asked Him to confound the opposition and asked that when the attorneys for the Alaska Missionary Conference were arguing their case, make their speech as if they had marbles in their mouths and cause their arguments to sound as if fingernails were scraping across the blackboard. Mrs. Cam Carlson, who is taking a lead in the fight for their church property, later told me that when the opposing counsel started reading their arguments before the court, one of the Alaska Supreme Court justices told him to give oral arguments. When he continued to read the case for the Alaska Missionary Conference, she (the justice) told him very sternly to give oral arguments and did not seem too happy with him. Then the attorney just stood there in silence for a couple of minutes and then gave a “less than stellar” plea for the Alaska Missionary Conference’s case.
In addition to all of the other things you have to do, I would ask each of you to continue to pray that the Godly people of this church will find favor with the judges of the Alaska Supreme Court and that their property will be restored to them.
In His service,
Allen O. Morris,
March 2006 Update
Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church
Trust God to move your mountain, but keep on climbing - As quoted in Our Daily Bread, March-May 2005
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+ A pro-family leaders says amidst all the positive images being portrayed in the media this week over the latest "Powerball" lottery winners, people need to be reminded just how devastating gambling is to American society. The eight Nebraska meat-packing company employees who will share the $365 million win became instant celebrities this week, with each painting a picture of all the good things their money will give them. But Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council says the media neglects to report the high percentage of lottery winners who go bankrupt, and to convey to the public that the odds of winning a lottery are less than being struck by lightning twice. Perkins also takes issue with politicians who promote lotteries as a way of generating funds for good causes such as education, only to see that money disappear into general expenditures. He notes that three of the Nebraska winners were immigrants from Vietnam and the Congo -- and that one of them reacted by saying, "What a great country!" As Perkins puts it: "How sad that this is the message we send to would-be Americans. Gambling corrupts no only politicians and politics, but it also corrupts the American dream." - Fred Jackson, AgapePress, February 24, 2006.
+ Tampa, not Richmond, to host 2012 General Conference
[Note: This would appear to be a case of “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” when there are more important things to worry about - such as the persecution of Christians around the world.]
The United Methodist Church's top legislative assembly won't be meeting in Richmond, Va., in 2012, as announced last fall, but will convene in Tampa, Fla., instead. In making the change, the United Methodist Commission on the General Conference cited a church policy regarding meeting in cities that are home to professional sports teams with Native American names.
The 2012 General Conference will be held April 25 to May 4 in the 600,000-square-foot Tampa Convention Center.
At the time of the initial selection, commission members were unaware that Richmond is home to the Richmond Braves, a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Atlanta Braves.
The General Conference meets every four years to set policy for the church and adopt or renew resolutions on hundreds of issues and concerns. It draws nearly 1,000 delegates from around the world. The 2004 conference was held in Pittsburgh, and the 2008 gathering will be in Fort Worth, Texas.
A resolution passed by the 2004 General Conference called for United Methodist agencies and organizations to avoid holding meetings and events in cities that sponsor sport teams using Native America names and symbols. "The United Methodist Church rejects the use of Native American names and symbols for sport teams, and considers the practice a blatant expression of racism," the assembly stated.
"We reviewed many issues when considering the finalists, but the name of the minor league sports team never came up in our discussions," said Gail Murphy-Geiss of Centennial, Colo., chairperson of the Commission on the General Conference. "We had earlier eliminated Atlanta from consideration because it was home to the major league baseball team, the Braves. When the minor league Braves issue was quickly brought to our attention after the original announcement, we believed we were obligated to revisit the issue. "We are sad for the great United Methodists in Virginia who were excited about hosting the General Conference but are pleased to take a strong stance against teams with offensive names. However well intended, sports teams named after Native Americans demean the heritage of native peoples. They perpetuate unhealthy and unfair stereotypes."
Murphy-Geiss said the commission is working with the Rev. Alan Morrison, the business manager of the General Conference, to develop detailed written procedures and policies to help the commission consider future sites of the General Conference, including reviews of cities' major and minor professional sports team names.
Tampa was a finalist in the original search process for the 2012 General Conference. When the commission reopened its search, negotiations resulted in Tampa offering the strongest proposal, Murphy-Geiss said.
In addition to the 1,000 or so delegates, the 10-day gathering is expected to attract about 4,000 other people to the Tampa area and will generate about $20 million in anticipated direct spending. Tampa is part of the Florida Annual (regional) Conference, which is third in membership size, behind Virginia and North Georgia. It has 728 local churches and a total membership of more than 329,000.
- Press release, United Methodist News Service (UMNS); #091;Feb. 17, 2006.
...With South Dakota moving toward the strictest limits on abortion in the nation, all sides on the question are preparing for a possible showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court. A South Dakota bill -- designed to spark a courtroom showdown over the legality of abortion by targeting Roe v. Wade -- would ban abortions except when the woman's life is in danger. Governor Mike Rounds says lawyers would take a close look at a bill which would ban most abortions. Rounds says he is pro-life and believes Roe will ultimately be taken apart "piece by piece" by the high court. But he says a lot of people in his state and elsewhere think it is worth trying a "full frontal attack" on the ruling. Opponents say it is too extreme and unconstitutional. Planned Parenthood, which operates the only clinic that provides abortions in South Dakota, pledges to challenge the measure if it becomes law. Pro-life advocates say with the recent appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, the chances for banning abortion have improved. Meanwhile, pro-life legislation was passed by the Oklahoma House Thursday and sent to the Senate, where the measures are likely to face strong opposition. In bipartisan votes, the House overwhelmingly approved bills that would require girls under 18 to get their parents' permission before they get an abortion, and that women who are 20 weeks or more pregnant be informed that their fetus could experience pain during an abortion. Both measures were opposed by the legislature's only physician, Representative Doug Cox, who said they would burden doctors with paperwork, interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, and bloat the size of government. He is also worried the parental consent bill would create problems for young women who are incest victims. Similar abortion bills in the Oklahoma Senate have died in committee.
- AP, as reported in AgapePress, February 24, 2006.
The General Board of Global Ministries. United Methodists learn Palestinians' side on Mideast trip
[Note: This is an example of one-sided reporting in political advocacy and a questionable use of church money.]
A group of 51 United Methodists from across the United States spent 10 days in Israel and the Palestinian territories searching for ways to bring peace and justice to that conflicted area. The study trip, "Seeking Peace and Pursuing Justice: Mission Education and Advocacy for Israel and Palestine," was sponsored Jan. 17-27 by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "a deeply spiritual crisis that involves all of us - American, Israeli and Palestinian," said Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, who leads the denomination's Chicago Area. In a sermon delivered on the trip, he called on Americans to repent of their part in the conflict and work toward a just peace in the area. "Somebody said you can't be a Christian if you're not a peacemaker," he said. "I truly believe that."
[Note: The fact that “somebody said it” does not make it true. Being a Christian depends on a person accepting the salvation offered by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross – any definition added to that is heresy.]
Jung led 16 church members from his area on the trip. The delegation also included a person from the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, three from the California-Nevada Annual (regional) Conference, nine from Virginia, 11 from the California-Pacific Conference and 11 from North Central New York. The trip was organized by the Rev. Sandra Olewine, a United Methodist missionary serving as liaison to Jerusalem, and David Wildman, the Board of Global Ministries' executive secretary for human rights and racial justice. It was designed to strengthen the United Methodist Church's human rights and peace-building advocacy work both in the Middle East and in the United States. The board is working to create advocacy teams in the church's annual (regional) conferences.
Emphasis was on hearing the Palestinian side of the story, Wildman said, because most Americans are already familiar with the Israeli side of the issue. Wildman said, "It included meeting with Palestinians, Israeli peace groups, human rights groups and our mission partners. One day was devoted to visiting mission projects and partners supported by the United Methodist Church to learn how they are impacted and how they are working under the current situation."
The group heard representatives from the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolition, Israeli Information Center on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Council for Unrecognized Villages, Coalition of Women for Peace, Rabbis for Human Rights and "Breaking the Silence" organization of former Israeli soldiers.
- By Linda S. Rhodes, United Methodist News Service (UMNS); #107; Feb.212, 2006.
Homosexuality. Lesbian Teacher, Suspected Sex Offender, Uses Post to Indoctrinate Students, Parent Says
A lesbian teacher who helped lead a controversial pro-homosexual seminar at the North Carolina Governor's School last year is being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct with a student. Social studies teacher Susan Wiseman was suspended from East Forsyth High School without pay recently after allegations arose of her having had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student. A local district judge recently revoked a gag order that had prevented Forsyth County officials from notifying parents of the identity of the suspected sex offender.
Wiseman, a youth coordinator for the Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) of Winston-Salem, has been under investigation both by police and the school system for the incidents that allegedly took place some time between February and May of last year. However, according to a Winston-Salem Journal report, the teenage victim in the case has, along with family members, chosen not to press charges. Therefore, District Attorney Tom Keith announced yesterday that no criminal charges will be brought against Wiseman. With a victim unwilling to cooperate with prosecution and in the absence of corroborating evidence, Keith stated that his office had "closed the matter."
However, the matter is not closed as far as officials with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools are concerned. Wiseman remains on suspension without pay, and Superintendent Don Martin says D.A. Keith 's decision will not affect the school system. Martin told the Journal that the police's inquiry and the school system's are "two separate investigations" and "employment and criminal matters are two separate things." He hopes to finish the district's investigation and have a recommendation ready for school board members before he talks to them about the case, which could happen as early as the March 14 school board meeting. Although firing Wiseman would require a vote by the school board, Martin would not need board approval if he decides to end the teacher's suspension and allow her to return to her post at East Forsyth High School. However, at least one parent in the community feels strongly that, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the lesbian teacher is a dangerous influence in the classroom.
Last summer, Wiseman co-led a seminar at the North Carolina Governor's School called "The New Gay Teenager." Jim Burrows, whose son attended the pro-homosexual seminar, believes it is clear the lesbian instructor is bent on indoctrinating young people with a favorable view of the homosexual lifestyle. "This was an agenda that she had," Burrows contends, "and she just basically took advantage of the situation that she was in to promote her agenda." He says the lesbian instructor's "New Gay Teenager" course influenced his son to question his sexuality and also to question Bible passages condemning homosexuality.
And the concerned father has reason to believe the seminar that led to his son's experience was "obviously was not a one-time deal," he contends. "Actually, we have had several other parents with kids who went to Governor's School in past years that have told us that this went on there too," he says. "In fact, this has been going on at Governor's school for many years." Burrows believes Wiseman and other instructors at the North Carolina Governor's School are committed to promoting homosexuality to children. For him, recent events have simply reinforced his suspicions about the lesbian teacher having a pro-homosexual agenda and being willing to use her position as an educator to carry it out.
- By Jim Brown and Jenni Parker, as reported in AgapePress, February 24, 2006.
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Preach the gospel constantly. If necessary, use words. – St. Francis of Assisi
Faith is reason at rest with God. – As quoted in The Daily Walk, September 20, 1994.
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+ Longtime U.S. Ally Denmark Needs Americans' Support, Says Native Dane
A Danish-born columnist and scholar is encouraging Americans to support her native country in the face of continuous abuse from Islamic extremists in the wake of the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.
Violence of the controversial caricatures continued unabated this week. During a rally in Pakistan this week, thousands of angry Muslims shouted "Death to Denmark!" In Iraq, a crowd burned Danish flags and demanded that the government sever diplomatic ties with Denmark. In the midst of this controversy, Helle Dale -- a native Dane who is director of foreign policy and defense studies at the Heritage Foundation -- reminds people that Denmark has been one of the United States' staunchest allies in the war on terrorism. "There has never been any wavering on the part of the Danish government or the Danish people about the need to help the United States when it needed allies," Dale shares. "They have very warm feelings towards the United States." Her native country, she adds, "has been with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq from the very beginning."
As an example of Denmark's close ties with the U.S., the policy analyst shares that her homeland celebrates America's own Independence Day. "It has the second-largest July 4th celebration in the world -- that makes it the largest outside the United States," she says. Along with the celebration, she states, is a special honoree. "Almost every year an American politician is invited to give a speech -- usually [it is] somebody who has family ties to Denmark."
Dale says she is hopeful that Americans will "understand that and appreciate that as part of the picture."
- Chad Groening, as reported in AgapePress, February 24, 2006.
+ Tens of thousands of Lebanese Shiites beat their chests in mourning Thursday and shouted anti-American slogans to protest Wednesday's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, north of Baghdad. Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told tens of thousands in south Beirut that Shiites should limit their accusations to "the American occupation" in Iraq and to Sunni extremists. And the hard-line president of Iran, a predominantly Shiite nation, accused the U.S. and Israel of carrying out the bombing to divide Muslims because "they oppose God and justice." In Cairo, representatives to the Arab League condemned the bombings and the reprisals against Sunni mosques that followed, and are calling on Iraqi religious and political leaders to show self-restraint. President Bush says the bombing of the historic Shiite shrine is an "evil act" aimed at provoking sectarian bloodshed -- and he is thanking Iraqis and others who have called for calm. Speaking to reporters during a Cabinet meeting, the president said the destruction of the Golden Mosque was a "political act intending to create strife." And he said America is serious about helping to rebuild the mosque. Meanwhile, the president says he is glad "voices of reason" in Iraq have appealed for restraint. However, there have been scores of reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques. – AP wire service, as reported in AgapePress, February 24, 2006.
+ A Messianic Jewish believer who runs a ministry dedicated to supporting Israel says it's time for the civilized world to demand an end to the "temper tantrums" of Muslims who are offended by the publishing of cartoons depicting Muhammad as a terrorist. It is a story that refuses to die down. Students in Afghanistan recently demonstrated at a college, burning American and Danish flags, as well as pictures of President Bush. Jan Markell, founder and director of Olive Tree Ministries in Minnesota, says the West needs to stop being pushovers. "Some people call it the 'great media wimp-out' -- and I think that's fairly accurate," says Markell. "And I think there's political correctness at play [as well]. But I do think some of them are afraid of some kind of retaliation as well." She adds that "it doesn't help when the leader of our country actually calls Islam a noble religion." Markell is hopeful the West has finally had a wake-up call. "In a way I'm kind of glad to see some of these things that are erupting because it is giving the Western world a much clearer look at the antics of Islam, and the fact that they cannot tolerate anything. And yet they demand tolerance on us all the time." On Monday, even Iran's foreign minister said it is time to end the violence over the cartoons, saying "We should try to cool down the situation." - Chad Groening, as reported in AgapePress, February 24, 2006.
+ On Wednesday, terrorists detonated bombs inside the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines, destroying its golden dome and triggering more than 90 reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques. The nation's largest Sunni group says at least seven people, including three clerics, were killed in the attacks, which were mainly in Baghdad and predominantly Shiite provinces south of the capital. President Bush urged restraint among rival religious factions in Iraq after the bombing. In a written statement, the president said "the terrorists in Iraq have again proven that they are enemies of all faiths and of all humanity" and that "the world must stand united against them, and steadfast behind the people of Iraq." The president said it was a senseless, cowardly crime that is an affront to people of faith throughout the world. Bush said the American people pledge to work with the people of Iraq to rebuild and restore the Golden Mosque to its former glory. Meanwhile, a key spokesman for Islamic-Americans says Iraqis should reject the lead of those who attacked the shrine and who retaliated by attacking Sunni mosques. Ibrahim Hooper, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says the attacks are meant to incite full-blown civil war. And he says religion is not the only source of conflict; that it is also over politics, ethnicity and geography. - AP, as reported in AgapePress, February 24, 2006.
The National Council of Churches (NCC).
Bankrupt Council of Churches turns to lobbyists and foundations - Liberal lobbying
Note: [This was published last year but is of ongoing interest.] The NCC is not today bankrupt financially. It was close to that state in 2000, when Robert Edgar started sharpening its partisan political edge and winning support from liberal foundations. Whether the council is morally bankrupt is an open question.
For at least the past two years, many pronouncements and statements from the National Council of Churches (NCC) and its general secretary, Bob Edgar, have been increasingly strident, critical of the Bush administration, and supportive of liberal Democratic viewpoints.
Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), a Washington-based conservative research and advocacy group, may have discovered why. He monitored the NCC Governing Board's fall meeting in New York and learned that the NCC now receives more money from private foundations—most of them secular and politically liberal —than from its member denominations ($1.76 million vs. $1.75 million the last fiscal year).
In a bid to stave off bankruptcy of the NCC five years ago, Mr. Edgar—a former Democratic congressman—turned to foundations for funding. Most of their grants went to NCC political work, such as pushing for stricter environmental regulations and greater liberal voter turnout, and opposing U.S. foreign policy—mirroring the agendas of the foundations, Mr. Tooley noted.
The rhetoric got too hot for even some liberal NCC leaders. In response to a blistering fundraising letter the NCC sent to thousands of churches earlier this year, the United Methodist Church's ecumenical agency urged the NCC to "avoid partisan politics" and adopt a "more temperate tone." The letter, Mr. Tooley said, appealed for donations to the NCC to defeat the alleged totalitarian ambitions of a vast right-wing conspiracy involving President Bush, Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson, the IRD, and others. (The letter led to the withdrawal of the Antiochian Orthodox Church from the NCC.)
Mr. Edgar insisted to board members that the foundation money goes to church-based programs and doesn't "dilute our responsibility to the churches."
- By Edward E. Plowman, World Magazine, November 12, 2005, Vol. 20, No. 44.
The World Council of Churches (WCC).
+ IRD Regrets 'False Penitence' of U.S. Church Leaders' Letter to WCC
Responding to a fierce letter from U.S. church leaders at the
World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly, who used the form of a
penitential liturgy to denounce Bush administration policies,
IRD Interim President Alan Wisdom commented, "This penitence is
false. These church leaders are not confessing their own sins;
they are trying to confess the sins of George W. Bush, who never
asked them to perform that service for him. Nor did the members
of their own churches ask them to make this kind of statement on
their behalf. This letter is a blatant political abuse of the
sacred Christian rite of confession."
The group asserted that their letter had consensus support among the heads of U.S. delegations at the Assembly. Other U.S. denominations represented at the Assembly include the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Episcopal Church, and various African-American Baptist and Methodist churches.
The church leaders' letter was written in the form of a penitential rite, with paragraphs ending, "Lord, have mercy"; "Christ, have mercy" and "Lord, have mercy." It regretted that, since September 11, the United States has been "entering into imperial projects that seek to dominate and control" and "raining down terror on the truly vulnerable among our global neighbors." The church leaders painted the Bush administration's motives in the most negative light, accusing it of "idolatrous" agendas and "deception." They also charged the administration with grave sins against the environment and the poor, and they pointed a finger at "racism that infects our policies around the world."
"Of course, confession of sin is a duty for all Christians," commented the IRD's Wisdom. "But it is our own sins that we should confess - not the sins for which we wish to fault our political opponents. These church leaders are not convincing when they try to assume personal responsibility, claiming that 'we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to deter our leaders.' In fact, they have issued many previous statements harshly condemning the Bush administration for virtually all its policies."
Wisdom observed that those previous statements "were not heeded
because they lacked the support of most active church members.
It is not clear why U.S. denominational officials believe that
another, still shriller denunciation, in this latest letter to
the WCC, will make them any more effective in swaying the
president or their own church members."
- Mark Tooley, The Institute on Religion & Democracy; Tuesday, February 21, 2006:
+ WCC looks for alternatives to globalization
[Note: This reflects the WCC’s anti-capitalist worldview and its underlying anti-American position.]
Increasingly, as the Rev. Nancy Cardoso Pereira, a Brazilian Methodist, pointed out to participants at the World Council of Churches 9th Assembly, bread and cereal items - along with meat and dairy products - come from transnational corporations located in the United States and Europe. "So, 'on earth as in heaven,' globalized capitalism … is punishing farmers in poor countries, whom they are treating as permanent debtors, while at the same time, the debts of agriculture in rich countries are being cancelled in the form of subsidies, tariffs and free trade treaties - and there is no one who 'can deliver us from that evil,'" she declared.
Cardoso spoke during a Feb. 16 plenary session on “economic justice” [Note: This “economic justice” is a veiled term that is sometimes used to denote anti-capitalism.] That issue will be a continuing topic of discussion during the Feb. 14-23 WCC assembly in Porto Alegre. In a press conference before the session, Cardoso said globalization has been particularly hard on Latin America. "What we call globalization is the new face … of a savage capitalism," she explained. It's an economic system created by a specific policy first developed in the 1980s by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, according to Yashpal Tandon, an economist from Uganda and executive director of the South Centre, a think tank in Geneva, Switzerland. The policy has only generated more poverty in the past 20 years, he said, and the assembly "must challenge this ideology that masquerades as science/economics."
Bishop Wolfgang Huber of the Evangelical Church in Germany opened the session by noting that the Christian faith cannot be neutral on issues of economic justice. "Economic decisions do not produce ethical values," he added. The WCC has been discussing the phenomenon of globalization since its 1998 assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, and developed a document called Alternative Globalization Addressing People and Earth (AGAPE), which was finalized by the executive committee last September.
Written in the form of a uniting prayer, AGAPE invites the churches "to act together for transformation of economic injustice and to continue analyzing and reflecting on challenges of economic globalization and the link between poverty and wealth."
Alternatives to the current system can be achieved and are already happening in some places on the local level, according to Tandon. "People are experimenting with creating their own currencies or exchanging goods and services using the barter system," he explained. "They are pooling their labor together to build boreholes and damming rivers to generate electricity. They are growing food in abandoned lands to fight against hunger and poverty, collecting waste and turning them into assets for survival."
"We don't have to have globalization," Cardoso told the assembly. "All we have to have is solidarity and passion for life."
Churches also have discovered that trade issues must be considered "if our fight against poverty is going to make a difference," according to Baffour Amoa, chief executive of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa, who was part of a press briefing organized by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.
Atle Sommerfeldt, chief executive of Norwegian Church Aid - which has partner relationships with the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Church World Service - said the World Trade Organization is the only realistic way to regulate the "most powerful actors" [Note: Read “Western capitalist countries”] in free trade. But churches need to find a way to ensure the WTO process becomes more focused on justice to the less powerful nations, he said. "The true measure of trade should be the measure of its impact on those already on the margins," added Mary Corkery, executive director of the KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.
- By Linda Bloom, as reported from Porto Alegre, Brazil, United Methodist News Service (UMNS); #093; Feb. 17, 2006.
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Keep your thoughts in line or they’ll lead you astray .- As quoted in Our Daily Bread, March-May 2005
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