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#1949 - Thursday, October 14, 2004 - Editor: Jerry    

    This issue includes a few interesting and gripping articles from a new website, SpiritHit:    

    "Hunger No More" Documentary to Air Oct. 24 on ABC-TV Affiliates Posted: Tuesday October 12, 2004 3:20 PM EST

  By Christina Bahamonde Ali [email protected]

NEW YORK / Elkhart, IN –"Hunger No More: Faces Behind the Facts,” a new TV documentary, takes an unflinching look at the persistent problem of hunger in the 21st century – and offers solutions.

Just as Church World Service CROP Walkers march to raise funds to fight hunger, the agency’s executive director and CEO, the Rev. John L. McCullough, joins Senator George McGovern and others in this documentary to bring awareness of the enormity of the issue of hunger and issues related to hunger throughout the world.

A program of the National Council of Churches USA for the ABC-TV “Vision and Values” series, the one-hour, closed-captioned special will begin airing on ABC affiliates on October 24, 2004. (Check local listings.)

Most of us don’t often ask where our next meal is coming from. But for millions of people in the United States and nearly a billion people worldwide, such food insecurity is a daily reality.

“Hunger No More: Faces Behind the Facts” approaches hunger from the perspective of faith, declaring that hunger is more than a social issue. “World hunger exists for a variety of reasons,” says McCullough. “Certainly one of these we’ve learned over time is the constancy of instability around the world … I think we underestimate the magnitude of conflict and the kind of impact that it creates.”

The program includes footage of CROP Walks.

In addition to Rev. McCullough, featured interviewees include:

• former Senator and presidential candidate Ambassador George McGovern,

• Senator Elizabeth Dole,

• ethicist Jeffrey Sachs of The Earth Institute at Columbia University,

• Bread for the World President David Beckmann,

• NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar,

• Joan Holmes of the United Nations-related Hunger Project,

• Ken Horne, Executive Director of the Society of St. Andrew,

• Joe Young, Director of Community Development, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,

• June Kim, Executive Secretary for World Hunger of the United Methodist Committee on Relief,

• and leaders from several other hunger programs mobilized by CWS member communions.

These key figures in the movement to end hunger in America and overseas provide insight on the political, economic and cultural factors that allow hunger to grow, and conclude that the problem can be solved if enough people take action.

Former Senator McGovern says in the program, “Every religion in the world instructs its adherents to feed the hungry.” A multitude of faith-based efforts to end hunger enact this teaching – everything from community gardens to campaigns for equitable agricultural trade policies. The documentary highlights specific programs that point the way out of the hunger crisis.

After airing, the program will be available on DVD and VHS video, along with a study guide. For information, call 800-999-3534.

In addition to Church World Service and Mennonite Media, the NCC’s sponsoring partners for the production are the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the World Hunger Program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Society of St. Andrew, with cooperation from Bread for the World and United Methodist Communication.

Church World Service is a cooperative ministry of 36 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations, providing sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief, and refugee assistance in more than 80 countries.

To join a CWS CROP Walk in your area, log on to

Media Contact:
Christina Bahamonde Ali
[email protected]
Tel: 212 870 2658

Source: Reproduced with permission from Church World Service.
Copyright 2004 Church World Service. All Rights Reserved.    

    Confucius birth anniversary remembered   Posted: Wednesday September 29, 2004 11:39 PM EST

  By Xinhuanet


China held a public memorial service to mark the 2555th birth anniversary of Confucius, a brilliant “sacred man” in ancient China, on Tuesday.

More than 3,000 people from home and abroad attended the public memorial service in his hometown, Qufu city in east China’s Shandong province, the first official public memorial service for the world-renowned scholar and ethicist since the foundation of the Republic of China in 1949.

Confucius’s descendants, government officials and representatives from all walks of life saluted the altar in turn and offered flowers to statue of the “sacred man.”

People dressed in traditional ancient costumes represented the same activities held in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Tourists attended from the Republic of Korea (ROK), Malaysia and the United States.

Confucius (551 BC-479 BC), or Kong Fuzi in Chinese, was a great ancient Chinese educator and philosopher. Among his three thousand disciples, seventy-two were versed in Six Arts, ceremonies, music,archery, charioteering, writing and mathematics. His profound thinking and the centuries of commentary it spawned are central to China’s culture system.


    The Gospel of Mary Magdalene   Posted: Wednesday July 07, 2004 7:03 PM EST

  By Jason Jeffrey

Of all the earliest followers of Christ, none has sparked the level of interest generated by one particular woman – the biblical figure known as Mary Magdalene. Revered as a saint, maligned as a prostitute, imagined as the literal bride of Christ, Mary of Magdala stands apart as an enigmatic individual about whom little is actually known, despite centuries of scholarly scrutiny and wild conjecture.  

All that most Western Christians know about her is presented in the New Testament Gospels, and even that information is disputed. But there is some general agreement: She was a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ whom he had delivered from “evil spirits and infirmities.” Along with several other women, she ministered to Christ and witnessed his death on the Cross. She was there when his body was placed in the tomb, when the stone was rolled away to reveal an empty chamber, when an angel announced that Christ had risen from the dead – and when he made his first post-Resurrection appearance to the living. She brought the news of his Resurrection to the other disciples.

For 1,500 years, Mary Magdalene was portrayed, in art and theology, as a prostitute whose life was transformed by Jesus’ forgiveness. This notion, based on Luke 7:38, was the result of an erroneous sermon preached in 591 by Pope Gregory the Great. Noted French author Jean-Yves Leloup states that “only in 1969 did the Catholic Church officially repeal Gregory’s labeling of Mary Magdalene as a whore, thereby admitting their error.”

The stain of immorality attached to the figure of Mary Magdalene averted attention away from the significant role she plays in the unfolding of Christ’s teachings. The importance of Mary is especially apparent in Gnostic texts – some among the earliest accounts of Jesus’ ministry – which have been largely suppressed and ignored by Church authorities.

The Gnostic picture of Mary departs – in some ways, dramatically – from the historical and biblical image of perhaps the most significant female follower of Jesus.

The second-century Gospel of Mary was found in the late 19th century by archaeologists but remained largely ignored and untranslated for 50 years. It is the only account named for a woman and offers a different view of Christianity – one that describes an “interior spirituality,” says Karen L. King, author of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle.

In the Mary Magdalene account, “salvation is not something that comes from an external saviour,” says King. “One has to seek salvation within.” Thus, the Magdalene gospel depicts Jesus as a teacher rather than as a saviour who dies to atone for humanity’s sins.

In her introduction in The Complete Gospels, King says:

…the Gospel of Mary communicates a vision that the world is passing away, not toward a new creation or a new world order, but toward the dissolution of an illusory chaos of suffering, death, and illegitimate domination. The Saviour has come so that each soul might discover its own true spiritual nature, its ‘root’ in the Good, and return to the place of eternal rest beyond the constraints of time, matter, and false morality.


Another Gnostic text – the Gospel of Thomas – reveals that women were disciples of Christ. However the New Testament only includes gospels written by men and distinguishes between the women of Christ’s life, and the ‘disciples’ – who are all male.

“You find in the [Gnostic] Gospel of Thomas that six disciples are named: Matthew and Thomas, James and Peter, Mary Magdalene and Salome,” says Prof. Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton University, and author of The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas.

“Here, explicitly, Mary Magdalene is Jesus’ disciple. In the Gospel of Thomas and also the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, she is seen as an evangelist and a teacher, somebody who is gifted with revelations and teachings from Jesus which are very powerful and which enable her to be a spiritual inspiration to others.”

The Gnostics honoured equally the feminine and masculine aspects of nature, and Prof. Pagels argues Christian Gnostic women enjoyed a far greater degree of social and ecclesiastical equality than their orthodox sisters.

For Jean Yves-Leloup, the founder of the Institute of Other Civilisation Studies and the International College of Therapists, Mary Magdalene is the intimate friend of Jesus and the initiate who transmits his most subtle teachings.

His translation of the Gospel of Mary is presented in his book The Gospel of Mary Magdalene along with a commentary on the text which was discovered in 1896, nearly 50 years before the Gnostic Gospels at Nag Hammadi were found.

The Gospel of Mary can easily be divided into two parts. The first section (7,1-9,24) describes the dialogue between the risen Christ and the disciples. He answers their questions concerning matter and sin.

“Christ teaches that sin is not a problem of moral ignorance so much as a manifestation of imbalance of the soul,” says James Robinson, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Claremont Graduate University in The Nag Hammadi Library in English. “Christ then encourages the disciples to spread his teachings and warns them against those who teach of spirituality as an external concept rather than as an internal, Gnostic experience,” says Robinson.

After he departs, however, the disciples are grieved and in considerable doubt and consternation. Mary Magdalene comforts them and turns their hearts toward the Good and a consideration of Christ’s words.

The second section of the text (10,1-23; 15,1-19,2) contains a description by Mary of special revelation given to her by Christ. At Peter’s request, she tells the disciples about things that were hidden from them. The basis for her knowledge is a vision of the Lord and a private dialogue with Him. Unfortunately four pages of the text are missing here so only the beginning and end of Mary’s revelation are available.

This fragment of the gospel describes Mary’s vision of the soul’s ascent beyond the “powers” including the powers of fear. For the Gnostics, these “powers” are the Archons which act as cosmic prison wardens, attempting to prevent souls ascending to the True God. “It (the soul) has to overcome the powers of fear and the powers that threaten it as it proceeds into a life beyond death,” Prof. Elaine Pagels explains.

After Mary finishes recounting her vision to the disciples, Andrew and then Peter challenge her on two grounds. First of all, Andrew says, these teachings are strange. Secondly, Peter questions, would Christ really have told such things to a woman and kept them from the male disciples. Levi admonishes Peter for contending with the woman as against their adversaries and acknowledges that Christ loved her more than the other disciples. He entreats them to be ashamed, to put on the “perfect man”, and to go forth and preach as Christ had instructed them to do. They immediately go forth to preach and the text ends.

This confrontation between Mary and Peter is well documented in a number of Gnostic scriptures. Mary exposes the small mindedness and superficiality of Peter and Andrew who find it difficult to comprehend, let alone accept, the deeper spiritual understanding Mary acquired through her personal experience and closer relationship with Christ.

James Robinson observes:

Indeed Peter and Andrew seem to prefer the very thing against which Christ warned them – a religion based on arbitrary ideas (in this case represented by Peter’s male chauvinism and Andrew’s ignorance). And yet many of their ideas have shaped modern Christianity while, paradoxically, Mary Magdalene’s spirituality, which here seems more consistent with the teachings of Christ, is unheard of today.



Transforming the Faiths of Our Fathers : Women Who Changed American Religion Posted: Saturday July 10, 2004 4:31 PM EST

  Buy This Book Now!

Far from being a dry anthology of essays about the movers and shakers of religious feminism in the late 20th century, this book dares to let these iconoclastic women speak for themselves, in all their pain, wisdom and glorious humor. Some of the writers’ names may sound familiar, particularly to those who have read feminist and womanist theology: the roster includes Rosemary Radford Ruether, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Judith Plaskow, Carol Christ and Delores Williams.

Other contributors, such as Lois Miriam Wilson, the first female moderator of the United Church of Canada, are not household names, but readers will be fascinated by their experiences. The contributors come from mainline Protestant, evangelical Protestant, Catholic, Islamic, Jewish, Mormon, Buddhist and goddess backgrounds. As the women share their spiritual journeys, they talk about how religion has both limited and empowered them. The book can be revisionist; several essays challenge the idea that womanist theology was created by black and Latina women because “whitefeminist” theology had ignored their needs. (Ruether in particular argues that religious feminism was concerned about racism from the beginning.) Readers will be encouraged by these women’s bravery, as well as by the book’s implicit reminder of how far women have come in a relatively short time.

Book Description

Pundits on both the right and the left often portray religion and feminism as inherently incompatible, as opposing forces in American culture. This book seeks to dispel that notion by asking sixteen well-known religious figures to tell the story of how they became involved in the women’s movement. Their work-much of it ongoing-has helped transform the way religion is practiced in this country. They have worked for the ordination of women, for inclusive language and liturgy, for new interpretations of scripture, theology, and religious law, and for an end to religious teachings that contributed to destructive gender stereotypes.

Authors include Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Evangelical, and goddess feminists. Contributors were selected because their personal stories include watershed events in American religion and society over the last forty years. Each one of them has made history and seen it made, and gives her own version of what she has witnessed and experienced. They demonstrate the roots of their feminist activism in religious commitments, and the significance of struggles within religious arenas for expanding women’s possibilities in society and culture.

Contributors include: Lois M. Wilson, first woman moderator of the United Church of Canada * Letty Cottin Pogrebin, cofounder of Ms. Magazine * Azizah al-Hibri, President of Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights * Virginia Ramey Mollenkot, founding member of Evangelical Women’s Caucus * Rosemary Radford Ruether, Catholic feminist theologian * Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Latina feminist theologian * Riffat Hassan, Muslim feminist theologian * Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, feminist Biblical scholar * Carol P. Christ, leader of the Goddess movement * Margaret Toscano, founder of the Mormon Women’s Forum * Charlotte Bunch, President of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership * Blu Greenberg, President of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance * Delores Williams, womanist theologian * Judith Plaskow, Jewish feminist theologian

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