The Monthly Update

February 2004 Update

February 2004
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Thank you for your support of Concerned Methodists’ ministry this past year. We appreciate so much both the prayers and financial support; indeed, it would not be possible for us to engage in our work without both. Although we are still a bit short financially in what is needed in our preparations for the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh, we know that it will work out. We operate in the Lord’s provision.

This Monthly Update contains more data of what is happening in the National Council of Churches and our United Methodist Church to include our bishops. It also contains a touching story from Iraq. Also included is an article that talks to the greater health benefits from living in a faithful marriage environment.

In an attempt to squeeze in more information that we had wanted to convey to you, some of the longer topics are in smaller lettering.

There is information on homosexual advocacy in our society that will, in turn, affect what happens in our church. As I am sure you are aware, there will be an attempt by the pro-homosexual lobby to overturn our church’s Biblical stand on the issue. We will be there working to maintain our Scriptural stand and, hopefully, to gain in our support of the orthodox position. There will be forty more delegates from overseas churches which have been strong supporters of the church in this issue. This should buttress the votes in this area.

As you know, other mainline denominations are battling this issue. The Episcopal Church is seeing a split resulting from their consecrating homosexual bishop Gene Robinson. It seems that the presiding bishop Frank Griswold still underestimates the furor this action has created among the more traditional Episcopalians who sit in the pews and support the church with their money.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is grappling with this as is the Presbyterian Church (USA). This is reflective of the prevailing drift in our society.

May we ask that you continue to pray for our United Methodist Church, and also that you would continue to remember us in your prayers as we prepare for General Conference?

Once again, we thank you for allowing us to serve the Lord through your support.

In His service,

Allen O. Morris,
Executive Director

February 2004 Update


Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church


Tolerance is the virtue of people who do not believe in anything. – G. K. Chesterton, as quoted by Dr. Joseph Stowell

Of Interest.

+ Connectional Table would bring church together, advocates say

PITTSBURGH (UMNS) - Bringing money and ministry together is an important reason to support the creation of a "Connectional Table" that would guide the work of the United Methodist Church, but it's not the only goal, according to a proponent for the plan. “The other important thing is to bring the whole church, the worldwide church, together in a new way,” said Oyvind Helliesen, a director of the United Methodist General Council on Ministries. The "Living Into the Future" proposal calls for a common table where leaders from around the church would coordinate the work of most of the denomination's general agencies.  As part of the proposal, the Council on Ministries and the General Council on Finance and Administration would be phased out by December 2006 and their functions merged into the Connectional Table, which would be fully operational Jan. 1, 2007.

The table would consist of:

· One member from each of the 64 U.S. annual conferences.

· Three members from each of the seven central conferences - regional units in Europe, Africa and Asia.

· The president and top staff executive of each general agency.

· Up to 14 bishops.

· Up to 12 at-large members for balance.


“The elected membership of the table would be 50 percent laity, 50 percent clergy, 50 percent female, 50 percent male,” Helliesen said. “No less than 30 percent of the members would be persons of racial-ethnic heritage, and no less than 10 percent would be youth and young adults.”  - United Methodist News Service (UMNS); Nashville {04045}; Feb. 6, 2004.


+ U.S. Clergy Shortage Is in Small Congregations, Sociologist Says

The perception of a clergy shortage in U.S. denominations is more accurately  described as a shortage of pastors interested and able to serve small congregations, according to a recent report by Boston College sociologist Patricia M.Y.

Chang. In the report “Assessing Clergy Supply in the 21st Century” from the Pulpit & Pew research initiative of UM-related Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., Chang says that the UMC has 1.2 clergy per church when considering the total number of clergy, using unofficial 2000 numbers. However, when excluding those persons who do not serve in a local church, there are 0.7 clergy per church. Nevertheless, the UMC has a more balanced relationship between clergy and local churches compared with the other Protestant denominations examined. “One reason for this may be their appointment system,” Chang writes, which “allows the [bishop] to exercise greater leverage in the clergy job market.” Chang notes that in 2000, unordained local pastors served 25% of UM local churches. – Newscope, February 6, 2004.


+ Close Up: What comes after “I do”?

 Would you like to live longer, be happier, healthier and wealthier, and have a better sex life? Get married. Married people are less likely to be violent or involved in substance abuse, and they have lower rates of injury, illness and disability than singles, according to Linda J. Waite, professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially. But if marriage is the answer to a happier, longer life, why is the institution in so much trouble? From 1975 to 2000, in the United States alone:

· One-third of all children were born to single mothers.

· Half of all marriages ended in divorce.

· Two-thirds of all juvenile offenders came from homes of divorce.

· Three-quarters of all African-American children were raised without fathers.

In addition, divorce rates have doubled in the United Kingdom, France and Australia in the last four decades, according to John Witte Jr., the Jonas Robitscher professor of law and ethics at United Methodist-related Emory University and director of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion in Atlanta. Marriage rates have dramatically decreased, while illegitimacy, domestic violence and sexually transmitted diseases have increased around the globe. Revolution, earthquake and whirlwinds describe the tremendous changes sex, marriage, and the family have undergone in the past 100 years, says Rebecca S. Chopp, president of Colgate University and former provost at Emory University, speaking at the closing session of the conference. Does marriage have a future? Should marriage be celebrated as a community strength that makes men and women healthier and happier; abolished as a legal category that discriminates against single or cohabiting couples; maintained as a way of keeping fathers involved in childrearing; or kept as a societal control to ward off sexual chaos? "Why should marriage be the price of entry into state-supported subsidies of families?" Marriage has important implications for the father's role in the life of the family. Healthy, viable marriages encourage responsible fathering, says William J. Doherty, professor of family social science and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy program at the University of Minnesota. "Fathering outside a good-enough marriage is an endangered species," Doherty says. "In two-parent families, father involvement is more dependent on the wife's expectations than (the father's) own." Also, fathers are more likely to withdraw from their children if the marriage is in trouble. "Men co-parent with mothers," he explains. Ideally, fathers would provide lifelong emotional and financial support for their children and the children's mother, even if the marriage fails. But in reality, this may not occur. "The utilitarian approach is not robust enough to ground an ethic of fatherhood," Doherty says. "We need our religious traditions to do that." Looking for a soul mate In a national survey conducted for Rutgers University's National Marriage Project by the Gallup Organization, young adults ages 20-29 are searching for a deep emotional and spiritual connection with one person for life. "At the same time, the bases for marriage as a religious, economic or parental partnership are receding in importance for many men and women in their 20s," says Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of Rutgers' National Marriage Project. "Taken together, the survey findings present a portrait of marriage as emotionally deep and socially shallow." Survey results show: · Ninety-four percent of never-married singles agree, "When you marry you want your spouse to be your soul mate, first and foremost." Less than half (42 percent) of single young adults believe it is important to find a spouse who shares their religion. More than 80 percent of women agree it is more important to them to have a husband who can communicate about his deepest feelings than to have one who makes a good living. A high percentage of young adults (86 percent) agree that marriage is hard work and a full-time job. Close to nine out of 10 (88 percent) agree that the divorce rate is too high and that the nation would be better off if it could have fewer divorces; 47 percent agree the laws should be changed so that divorces are more difficult to get. What's love got to do with it? The Rev. Sheron C. Patterson, pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Dallas, calls herself the "Love Doctor." In 1995, she says, the Lord sent her a vision that has evolved into "the Love Clinic," a seminar on issues affecting dating, marriage and parenting. "The Lord told me to go and share information about healthy relationships with the general public," she says. "There was evidence they did not know (how to have healthy relationships) from looking at the divorce rates and the domestic violence rates and the teen pregnancies rates." The healing power and love of Jesus Christ is the answer to relationship problems, Patterson says. "People have to understand that when Jesus is in a marriage, he is the glue that keeps them together. Human beings can't love each other the right way all by themselves. He needs to be the third party in every marriage." When asked if marriage has a future, she laughs and says yes, but it must keep up with the times. "I think marriage is going to have to continue to evolve, needs to change, is changing," she says. "Marriage as it used to be in the '50s and '40s is a dying thing, and I think it needed to die." The old stereotypes about the "strong silent man who brings home the bacon" and "the meek, stay-at-home, take-care-of-the-house-and-kids woman" are gone, she says. "Men have to do a lot more in a contemporary marriage. They have to understand the money is good but we need a lot more of them the husbands].

                Killearn United Methodist Church is "the flagship church" in the community marriage policy, according to church member Richard Albertson. Albertson is also president of "Live the Life Ministries" a local ministry in Tallahassee that is part of Marriage Savers, a national nonprofit organization founded in 1996 by Mike J. McManus. "The Lord created marriages, and two-thirds of marriages occur in churches, synagogues and houses of worship," he says. "Clearly, we have access to most marriages, and we need to do a better job of preparing and restoring marriages." Albertson says the divorce rate in Leon County, Florida's capital county, has dropped 12.9 percent since the policy was adopted four years ago. That's been documented by the Institute for Independent Research outside Salt Lake City, he says. "And they directly attribute it to the community marriage policy." The divorce rate at Killearn, a 2,000-plus-member church, has dropped dramatically. Of the couples that have gone through the program in the last four years, only one or two have divorced. "That is staggering," Albertson says. "And couples who have completed the crisis intervention program (for marriages that are in trouble) have had zero divorces." Premarital counseling is vital. Sometimes couples, especially the men, are reluctant to commit to the counseling sessions, Albertson says. However, once they go through the program they are changed people, he says. Albertson says he sets up a booth at bridal shows next to caterers, photographers and florists. A big poster over his booth states: "Before you tie the knot, let us teach you the ropes." "They (young couples) are more interested in the cake, the honeymoon, what kind of food they are going to have, what band will play. They are not thinking about the marriage. "The magic is Christ," he says. "We point them to Christ; it is all about Christ. We tell people, 'Your marriage crisis is more about you and God than it is about you and your spouse.'”        

    - UMNS; by Kathy Gilbert; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-71BI{300}; May 29, 2003.


Abortion, Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia & Other Life Issues.

* Why Do We Fight Planned Parenthood?  According to its own data, Planned Parenthood Federation of America still commits 197,000 abortions a year. In addition, Planned Parenthood’s sex education classes and PPFA's web site for teens teach children a perverted philosophy which denies the truth and meaning of human sexuality. Planned Parenthood seeks to break down a child's natural inhibitions and foster greater promiscuity.  This increases Planned Parenthood's customer base for both contraception and abortion.
     Finally, the Planned Parenthood empire has been built and sustained in large part by money from the U.S. taxpayer.  Planned Parenthood's own annual reports indicate that it received $2.2 billion of taxpaper money between 1987 and 2001.

- Received by E-mail.                                                                              - Agapepress;



+ Twenty U.S. Bishops Announce Their Retirement

The General Council on Finance and Administration reports that twenty of the fifty bishops under current appointment in the United States have requested to be placed in the retired relationship effective August 31, 2004. Of this number, six would have been eligible to serve another term. At the end of the previous quadrennium, 13 bishops retired. The increase in this year's retirements comes from the Northeast and Southeast jurisdictions.

      In 2000, there was one bishop retirement in the NEJ. This year, five of the ten active bishops in the jurisdiction have announced retirements, one of whom would be eligible to serve another term. In the SEJ, the number of retiring bishops has doubled from three to six. Three of those retiring would be eligible to serve another term. There are a total of 14 active bishops in the SEJ. The remaining jurisdictions have the same number of bishops retiring as they did in 2000:

North Central, three of ten (two eligible to serve another term); South Central, four of ten; and Western, two of six.

      Under present rules, bishops who have served for one quadrennium as well as twenty years under full-time appointment may seek to be placed in the retired relationship. Retirement is required when a bishop reaches the age of sixty-six on or before July 1 in the year of the jurisdictional conference. Those retiring without being required to do so are Kenneth L. Carder, Marion M. Edwards, Susan Wolfe Hassinger, Joe E. Pennel Jr., Sharon Zimmerman Rader, and C. Joseph Sprague. The other retirees are Bruce P. Blake, Ray W. Chamberlain Jr., William W. Dew Jr., Robert Fannin, Elias G. Galvan, Neil Irons, S. Clifton Ives, Hae-Jong Kim, Felton E. May, William W. Morris, Albert Mutti, Alfred Norris, William B. Oden, and Woodie White.                                                                     Newscope, January 21, 2004.


+ Sam Wynn of the Southeastern Jurisdiction and Evaline “Tweedy” Sombrero of the Western Jurisdiction have been endorsed for the episcopacy by the National UM Native American Center. - Newscope, January 21, 2004.



+  Pacific Northwest Conference to Proceed with Dammann Trial

 Meeting on January 12, the Pacific Northwest Conference Committee on Investigation in a 5-2 vote recommended that Karen Dammann be brought to trial. Dammann, a clergy member, had earlier stipulated to Bishop Elias Galvan (Seattle

Area) that she was “living in a partnered, covenanted homosexual relationship with another woman.” Galvan, in compliance with the Discipline, referred the admission to the Committee on Investigation. The committee heard the

complaint and decided in a 3-3 vote not to proceed with the complaint. The decision of the committee was appealed to the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council remanded the case back to the Committee on Investigation, with the stipulation that committee members who were unwilling to uphold the Discipline “must step aside in this matter.” In compliance with that directive, one member did step aside, permitting an alternate member to serve. - Newscope, January 21, 2004.


+ Trial date set for lesbian clergywoman in Pacific Northwest

A March 17 clergy trial date has been set for Karen Dammann  at Bothell United Methodist Church, outside Seattle, according to Bishop Elias Galvan, who leads the Pacific Northwest Annual (regional) Conference. Bishop William B. Grove will preside over the trial. Dammann is represented by the Rev. Robert C. Ward of Tacoma, Wash., and Seattle attorney Lindsay Thompson is associate counsel.   - UMNS; by Tim Tanton; Nashville, Tenn.{04041}; Feb. 5, 2004.


+ Those fighting for legalized homosexual “marriage” in California have been issued a temporary setback in court -- and those making a similar bid in Arizona have been blocked by the court of appeals in that state. But a court decision in Canada has added to the momentum of the homosexual marriage juggernaut there.

In California...
In one of his last assaults against family values, California Governor Gray Davis signed into law a measure that for all practical purposes is a “gay marriage” bill. The language of Assembly Bill 205 states that “registered domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law,” whatever their source, “as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.” The bill also says it “shall be construed liberally in order to secure to eligible couples who register as domestic partners the full range of legal rights ... as the laws of California extend to and impose upon spouses.” Despite the wording of the bill, pro-family groups say AB 205 was a direct attack on Proposition 22, which was passed by 62% of those voting in March 2000 in the Golden State. That proposition, which became law, defines legal marriage as one between one man and one woman. The California constitution prohibits any amendments to that law without further voter approval.

Homosexual activists in Arizona have tried to force the State of Arizona to recognize homosexual “marriage,” relying on a Supreme Court decision this summer that struck down sodomy laws in Texas (Lawrence v. Texas). But the court did not buy that argument, and instead criticized the attempt to “redefine the legal meaning of marriage.” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council <> applauded the decision. Perkins said, "Marriage has always been defined as the union of one man and one woman -- and no court should feel empowered to change that."

Canada's Supreme Court has refused to let conservative religious and family groups even appeal a lower-court ruling that legalized same-sex unions in Ontario. In a unanimous decision, a five-judge Supreme Court panel said the groups cannot appeal the Ontario court's ruling that the traditional definition of marriage as uniting a man and a woman is unconstitutional. The pro-family groups filed for the appeal after Canada's federal government refused to do so. Instead, the government is seeking to change the legal definition of marriage to the union of two people, regardless of gender. In fact, according to the Globe & Mail newspaper, the federal government joined homosexuals in asking the high court to rule against the religious coalitions.

'Culture Warriors'
For pro-family activists, the efforts by homosexuals to redefine marriage to include unions of same-sex couples has become the "line in the sand" for their movement. Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission <> says this is a crucial moment in the culture war. “There's a huge difference between what this society is willing to tolerate as deviant behavior between consenting adults in private, and what we’re willing to have affirmed and modeled before our children as normal, healthy, acceptable behavior,” the Baptist leader says. Land believes this struggle marks a "critical juncture" in America's history, since traditional marriage is the foundation of its society.

     And pro-family activist and defender of the traditional view of marriage, Dr. James Dobson, finds homosexual activists’ efforts to redefine marriage somewhat confusing. He says what they want does not fit with their lifestyle. “Research shows that homosexuals are not usually monogamous. They have as many as 300 to a thousand partners in a lifetime. So why would they want to enter into a  binding, legal arrangement that prohibited that kind of variation in sexual activity?” Dobson asks. The founder of Focus on the Family <> has concluded that the homosexual movement wants to destroy marriage and get whatever benefits it can from the transient relationships the participants choose.

 - Rusty Pugh, Bill Fancher, and Fred Jackson, AgapePress; October 10, 2003.


World Methodist Council.  World Methodists plan evangelistic witness events in '05

World Methodists are planning a year of intense evangelistic witness that will follow a series of events marking "Ten Days of Faith" between Pentecost and Aldersgate observances in 2005. The celebrations will be a focal point of the World Methodist Evangelism Emphasis 2004-2006, a response to a resolution of the 2001 World Methodist Conference in Brighton, England, which called “the Methodist people around the world to prayer and fasting and to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.” On a global level, the Methodist movement is growing at a rate of more than 1 million believers annually, according to the Rev. Eddie Fox, director of World Methodist Evangelism, a program of the World Methodist Council. He said he hopes the growth rate can be doubled during 2004-06.

     The “Ten Days of Faith” events will be 10 “high-visibility” evangelistic celebrations held May 15-24, 2005, in different parts of the world. Faith-sharing training, local church evangelism workshops and evangelism leadership training will be part of the celebrations. In addition, resources will be available to help churches, districts and conferences throughout the connection plan their own celebrations.

      Throughout the year after those celebrations, Methodists around the world will be trained and equipped for evangelistic witness. One of the special events will be the 8th International Christian Youth Conference on Evangelism, set for July 19-26 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

      Plans for the evangelism emphasis are being finalized in a series of evangelism leadership summits in different regions of the world. From Jan. 7-14, for example, more than 120 Methodist and Wesleyan leaders from the Americas and Caribbean met for a summit in Havana, Cuba. The meeting was sponsored by the council's world evangelism division and by the World Methodist Evangelism Institute at Candler School of Theology, at Emory University in Atlanta. Participants witnessed the vitality of Cuban worship, particularly in the Methodist Church of Cuba, and attended a mass baptism of more than 200 adults. Fox and Methodist Bishop Ricardo Pereira of Cuba also blessed the final 10 of 500 new bicycles, dubbed "Evangebicys," which were given to the Cuban church through World Methodist Evangelism.

     A delegation of World Methodist leaders also received permission to meet with Caridad Diego, director of religious affairs for the Cuban government, to discuss relations between the government and the Methodist Church in Cuba. The delegation said it received affirmation that further interaction between Cuban Methodists and churches outside that country was possible and that the government would consider allowing the Cuban church to construct some desperately needed church buildings. Delegation members were Fox; Pereira; Lockmann; the Rev. Winston Worrell, director of the World Methodist Evangelism Institute; the Rev. George Freeman, executive director, World Methodist Council; United Methodist Bishop Robert Fannin, vice chairperson of World Evangelism; Bishop Nathaniel Linsey of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, regional secretary for North America; and Costa Rican Bishop Luis Palomo, regional secretary for Central America, who was accompanied by his wife.

      More information is available from World Methodist Evangelism at online.

- UMNS; by Linda Bloom; New York {04037}; Feb. 5, 2004.

*           *           *           *           *


Temper is the one thing you can’t get rid of by losing it. – Jack Nicholson, in Anger Management


Global Outlook


Be not merely good; be good for something. – Henry David Thoreau


*           *           *           *           *

The Episcopal Church.

+ As Russians cut ties with US church, Orthodox edge closer to splinter group
Moscow. (ENI) The Russian Orthodox Church has broken ties with the Episcopal Church, USA, following the appointment of a gay bishop in the US church, but at the same time the Russian church is moving closer to a reunion with an Orthodox church abroad that has run its own affairs since a schism after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. “Homosexual sexual contact has always been considered a grave sin by the Christian Church,” the Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow Patriarchate said in a statement posted on its Web site on 17 November. “Biblical passages that condemn homosexuality are clear and unequivocal.” The statement said the 2 November consecration of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop had “forced” the Russian Orthodox Church to “freeze its relations” with the US church, which is part of the 75-million strong Anglican Communion. “The Russian Orthodox Church has maintained good relations with the Episcopal Church in the USA for almost 200 years,” said the Russian Orthodox Church statement. “Our relations remained warm and friendly even in the period of the ‘Cold War’, when Christians had mutual understanding and supported one another in a world divided into confronting military blocks.”

- By Ilya Arkhipov; Ecumenical News International Daily News Service (ENI); ENI-03-0631; 24 November 2003. As received by e-mail. Ilya Arkhipov is from the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.


+ Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA, has resigned as the leading Anglican representative to the body that has fostered dialogue between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. Griswold's resignation will not prevent the Vatican from calling off talks between the two churches after a final meeting sometime early next year.

- ENI, as reported in Newscope December 5, 2003.


+ Conservative Episcopalians who opposed the consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are building a separate network of Episcopal churches and are asking Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to provide direct oversight for them. The American Anglican Council says 13 conservative Episcopal bishops have agreed to establish the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Congregations, with Pittsburgh's Bishop Robert Duncan as moderator.                 - Agape Press, December 11, 2003.


+ ...Dissident Episcopalians upset over the consecration of a homosexual bishop have formed the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. The network's founding charter has been approved at a meeting in suburban Dallas by about 100 delegates from 12 Episcopal dioceses and other parts of the nation. It says decisions by the Episcopal Church “have departed from the historic faith and order and have brought immense harm.” Network leaders contend they are not leaving the Episcopal Church, but that the church left them when it began allowing homosexual clergy and blessings for same-sex couples. The network's charter says local congregations joining the group from liberal dioceses will “come under the spiritual authority of a bishop” approved by network leaders -- a direct challenge to the Episcopal Church’s top officials.                                                              - AgapePress, January 21, 2004.


Iraq.   The ultimate sacrifice, Are you prepared?

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany - Like most Americans! , I find that I am pretty selfish sometimes. I learned just how selfish on a recent trip to Iraq. I was sitting on a C-130 Hercules, awaiting to leave for a location I cant spell or pronounce, when we got delayed. I was annoyed. I'd been traveling for hours trying to get to my destination and here we were, stuck in some out-of-the-way place, and I was hot, tired and ready to get there already. Then it happened. I found out we were waiting on another passenger.

      I didn't know his name. I say his, but I didn't know if he was actually a he or she. I didn't know what branch of service he was in or what rank he was. All I knew was that this passenger cost me another hour and a half on that plane. Little did I know how profound an impact “The Passenger” would have on me? You see this “Passenger” that we had to wait on, who delayed our trip and annoyed me and the other passengers, was a casualty of war.

      The ground crew brought him on board in a body bag. They laid him down between the jump seats and the cargo pallet, and covered him up with Old Glory. At that moment, I felt the heat of shame in my face. Who was I to worry about a little lost sleep or a few extra hours on a plane when he had given his life in this war?

      By this time, everyone on board had stood up out of respect and, when they had the “Passenger” secure, the sergeant leading the crew called the plane to attention and barked a quick command. Every man and woman on that plane, from private to colonel immediately snapped a crisp salute in honor of the ultimate sacrifice made by “The Passenger.” It was a moment of perfect unity. Every eye on that flag, every arm raised in respect, every breath caught in every throat for just one-second.

      With our respects paid, everyone took his or her seat and prepared for take-off. I don't know about anyone else on that plane but I found myself contemplating what this “Passenger’s” sacrifice meant: to me, to our country, but mostly to his family. I found myself wondering what he gave up for the war on terror. Did he leave a wife behind when he deployed? Did he have children out there somewhere who would never see their father again? What about his parents, brothers and sisters? How would his family cope with his death?

      Was the sacrifice he made for his country worth it? To his family, perhaps not. To the Iraqi families, maybe.

      You see, I learned something else on this trip. I learned how the Iraqi people are living. Ramshackle houses, no cars, no central air or any air conditioning for that matter, none of the so-called “modern conveniences.” I also learned that, thanks to our efforts, some of the kids are now able to go to school for the first time in years. Teachers are allowed to teach multiple languages and cover subjects that were banned during the old regime.

      Clinics are opening all over the country, doctors are no longer afraid that if they misdiagnose someone it will cost them their lives. That's right; there is no malpractice insurance in Iraq. A doctor at one of the clinics told me that under the old regime, if a doctor made a mistake, he paid for it with his life. So was the “Passenger’s” sacrifice worth it? I guess it depends on your point of view.




      Then I started thinking about my own family. How would my wife deal with my death if it came on this trip? Would my children be

OK? How horrible would it be for my parents to outlive me? I thought of my brother and his family in California. How many times have I meant to call them only to get distracted and forget? I haven’t seen then in almost four years. My sister in Illinois hasn’t seen me in a couple of years either. When was the last time I called her? Why haven’t I e-mailed her or my niece lately? I used to send he e-mails every week or so, but I seem to have let my oh-so-busy life get in the way of communicating with the ones I love. Do I write enough? Call enough? Definitely not! I think that's what it all comes down to.

      We all get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget about the other people in this world. We forget that not everyone lives in a free society. We forget that sometimes you have to stand up for people who can't stand up for themselves. We forget that we have a responsibility to the people of the world, and not because we are a super power or have the best military in the world, but simply because we all share this planet.

      So don’t forget to tell the people who are most important to you how much you love them, and how much you miss them. Don’t forget to take time out of your busy schedule to call your family and friends. Don’t forget to do something today that will make a difference tomorrow, so that when your time comes someone can say, “Thank you for the sacrifice you made-you had a profound impact on my life.”

      So to “The Passenger”, I say thank you. Thank you for serving your country. Thank you for making the ultimate sacrifice. Most importantly, thank you for making me realize that our time on this earth is never certain and we’d better do our best to make it worthwhile. May you find peace and happiness wherever you may be.

- By Staff Sgt. Jeramie Brown; Detachment 4, Air Force News Agency


The National Council of Churches.  African churches adopt 10-point plan for HIV/AIDS

 YAOUNDE, Cameroon (UMNS) - Christian leaders from around Africa have pledged to support a 10-point covenant for fighting HIV/AIDS that emphasizes prevention and the provision of affordable drugs for all who need them. "As far as we are concerned, this is war," said the Rev. Mvume Dandala, a Methodist pastor who serves as chief executive for the All Africa Conference of Churches. "We declare unequivocally that HIV/AIDS is not the will of God for Africa. We will try with all we have to resist it." In the 10-point covenant, delegates pledged to:

 · Undertake HIV prevention for all people - Christian and non-Christian, married and single, young and old, women and men, poor and rich, black, white, yellow.

· Do all that is necessary to encourage both men and women to love, care, support and heal all those infected and affected in communities throughout the continent.

· Undertake prophetic advocacy until anti-retroviral drugs are available to all who need them.

· Practice zero tolerance for stigmatizing and discriminating against HIV-positive people, and do whatever possible to eliminate the isolation, rejection, fear and oppression of the infected and affected in the community.

· Work to empower the poor and denounce all laws and policies that have condemned billions to poverty, denying them quality care and treatment.

· Denounce gender inequalities that lead men and boys to risky sexual behavior, domination and violence, and that deny girls and women decision-making powers in sexual matters, deprive them of property rights and expose them to violence.

· Empower and protect all children, denouncing laws and policies that expose them to sexual abuse and exploitation.

· Become a community of compassion and healing, providing a place for all people living with AIDS to live openly and productively.

· Test for infection, abstain from sex before marriage, be faithful in marriage and practice protected sex.

· "Declare jubilee and proclaim liberty, for until justice is served to all people, until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, HIV/AIDS cannot be uprooted."


The All Africa Conference of Churches has 169 national member denominations and 27 national ecumenical councils, comprising 120 million Christians in 39 countries to include The United Methodist Church.

[The Christian president and first lady of Uganda have instituted the abstinence message and program in their country, which is the only one to experience a dramatic decrease of the AIDS epidemic on the African continent. The All Africa Conference of Churches is supported with apportionment dollars.]

- By Carol Fouke; UMNS; New York {03576}; Dec. 1, 2003. Fouke is a communications staff member of

the U.S. National Council of Churches.

*           *           *           *           *

We are not Christ’s lawyers; we are His witnesses. – The Daily Walk, December 24, 1992.