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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - Feb. 16, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 167)

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. Waco infrared simulation closed to public, pressS
2. Media protest secrecy of planned Waco tests

=== Falun Gong
3. Beijing mayor hails 'three triumphs'

=== Scientology
4. Hubbard humanitarian centre outlawed by Moscow court
5. Scientology judge transfers case, takes medical leave
6. Andriof wants to appeal Scientology decision

=== Other News
7. Attempt To Seize Kids Criticized (Aggressive Christianity Mission
Training Corps)
8. Gore on Tape at Fund-Raiser Trial (Ho No Hana Sanpogyo connection)
9. Group protests against secret society at Michigan (Michigamua society)
10. Palestinians sign Catholic deal

=== Science
11. The hunt for Noah's Ark

=== UFOs
12. UFOs 'Out There,' Prof Says

=== Religious Freedom
13. Religious Rights, Stock Market Eyed
14. Fears of threat to religious freedom not yet confirmed
15. European court to hear Russian religious rights case

=== Noted
16. A Pit Stop for Prayers (liveprayer.com / Bill Keller)
17. Unitarians offer haven for female clergy
18. 'Left Behind' series looks at Rapture

=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. Waco infrared simulation closed to public, press
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 14, 2000
The public and the press will be barred from next month's test to determine
whether the FBI fired on the Branch Davidians during the 1993 siege near
Waco, Texas. The public will also be barred from Wednesday's meeting to plan
the test.

U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. told the Post-Dispatch Monday that
reporters would not be able to attend the test.

"For national security and safety reasons, access will be strictly limited,"
he wrote. "Neither the media nor the public will be permitted to attend."

In a brief interview Monday, Smith said the decision was not his.

"You have two governments here, and the British government is the one with
the national security concerns," he said.

A British helicopter and infrared camera are being used in the re-enactment
to determine whether they record groundfire as flashes. Flashes appear on an
infrared videotape taken of the complex on the day of the assault, April, 19,

The decisions to close the test and the meeting about the test ran into
strong criticism on Monday from legal and constitutional experts and from
lawyers for those Branch Davidians who survived the 1993 siege and are suing
the government.

Paul McMasters, the First Amendment ombudsman at the Freedom Forum in
Arlington, Va., noted that the government had pushed back the press before
the ill-fated assault on the complex in 1993.

"If the press had been allowed to cover the actual event, we might not be
having to go through a court case and a government investigation seven years
later," said McMasters, the former managing editor of the Springfield (Mo.)

"It seems to me that to keep the press away from a test ordered by the court
and the Office of Special Counsel is just replicating one of the more
dangerous aspects of the original tragedy, and that is to assume that the
press can't play a vital role just by observing.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Media protest secrecy of planned Waco tests
Dallas Morning News, Feb. 16, 2000
Media organizations on Tuesday challenged the secrecy of a test to determine
whether government agents fired on Branch Davidians in the 1993 siege. And
lawyers for the sect publicly acknowledged disagreements about whether secret
plans for the test included enough safeguards to ensure its validity.

One lawyer for the Branch Davidians said Tuesday that he was so suspicious
about the plans for the infrared field test that he was preparing a backup
test at the site of the standoff.

James Brannon, one of several lawyers representing sect members in a federal
wrongful-death lawsuit, said his backup test would be carried out if the
court-sponsored field trial at Fort Hood in March did not clearly demonstrate
that the infrared camera used in the Waco siege could and did detect gunfire.

But Mike Caddell, lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians, said after meeting
Tuesday with the scientific experts who will supervise the test that he
thought its design would address not only valid scientific questions but even
popular theories unsupported by evidence.

The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press filed a joint motion Tuesday
requesting access to the test.

"The public's interest in having an independent and objective source for
information about the field test far outweighs any reason that might be
offered for prohibiting media access," the motion argued. "Insofar as the
government seeks to protect top secret or otherwise classified information,
the media's presence at the field test does not compromise any such secrets.

"The military equipment, ordnance and operations that will be utilized during
the field test is the same equipment, ordnance and operations the media
observed during . . . April 1993," the motion said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

3. Beijing mayor hails 'three triumphs'
Yahoo/South China Morning Post, Feb. 16, 2000
Beijing scored three "political victories" last year, including the crackdown
on Falun Gong, according to the city's Mayor, Liu Qi.

The other two triumphs mentioned by Mr Liu when he opened the annual meeting
of the Beijing People's Congress on Monday were "protesting the US-led Nato
bombing" of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and opposing the
"two-states" theory raised by Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui last summer.

The congress is the capital's highest law-making body and has the power to
dismiss officials.

Since the Government condemned Falun Gong as an "evil cult" last July, tens
of thousands of followers from across China and overseas have come to Beijing
to urge a lifting of the ban.

Most followers have been sent home after being detained briefly. But Mr Liu
made clear in his report that his administration had zero tolerance for the

He said the fight against the cult would continue this year, while "the
destructive activities of internal and foreign hostile forces to infiltrate,
overthrow and split [the city and country] will be smashed".
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

4. Hubbard humanitarian centre outlawed by Moscow court
Stetson University/Itar-Tass, Feb. 15, 2000
The ruling of the Ostankino Municipal Court of Moscow on recognizing as
invalid the registration of the Hubbard Humanitarian Centre, a regional
public organisation, came into force on Monday, a spokesman for the press
service of the Moscow prosecutor's office told Tass.

The Moscow prosecutor lodged a corresponding claim last autumn. It was
satisfied on October 6, but came into force only on February 14, after the
court collegium on civil cases passed a resolution on it.

The press service spokesman said as well that a preliminary investigation on
the case of the leader of a regional branch of the Hubbard Centre under
Article 171 of the Russian Criminal Code (illegal business activities) had
been completed by the prosecutor's office of the North-Eastern
Administrative District of Moscow and would be referred to court.

The Hubbard Centre was officially registered in Russian by the
Scientological Church. It was actually a sectarian centre. In the opinion of
Alexander Dvorkin, who handles the problem of religious sects at the Moscow
Patriarchate, "this is a very dangerous sect. In Germany it was put under
the control of the secret police. It is believed there that the Hubbard
Centre is not a religious, but a commercial organisation, which is after
power and money. In Greece it was outlawed early in 1998."

The organisation was named after Lafayette Ron Hubbard, American science
fiction writer, who suffered from persecution mania and declared a war on
what he described as "the world conspiracy of psychiatrists." He maintained,
for example, that the massive extermination of Jews during the Second World
War was organised not by the Nazi regime, but by "a secret union of German
[...entire item...]

5. Scientology judge transfers case, takes medical leave
Tampa Tribune, Feb. 15, 2000
The chief judge for Pasco and Pinellas counties is on medical leave and has
given another judge the job of handling one of the circuit's most complex and
time-consuming cases.

Chief Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer had taken responsibility for trying the
state's criminal case against the Church of Scientology's Flag Service
Organization because she said she expected it to be too time-consuming for a
regular judge with a docket full of other cases.

However, Schaeffer signed an order Thursday transferring the Scientology case
to Circuit Judge Brandt Downey. In the past, Schaeffer has said Downey is one
of the circuit's busiest and hardest- working judges.

The church was charged in late 1998 with abuse of a disabled adult and
practicing medicine without a license in the 1995 death of member Lisa

When the charges were filed, Schaeffer predicted the case would involve so
much work that no regular trial judge would have time to handle it. The case
file has grown to eight volumes. At one hearing, Schaeffer told the church's
lawyers that she would not be reading any of the several Scientology books
they have filed in support of the motion to dismiss.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Andriof wants to appeal Scientology decision
Sindelfinger Zeitung (Germany), Feb. 15, 2000
Translation: CISAR
The Stuttgart administrative presidium is undertaking a new attempt to
withdraw the legal capacity of Scientology's branch of Dianetics Stuttgart,
Inc., because it is said to be operating a commercial business and not
pursuing primarily ideal goals. After the agency chalked up a defeat before
the Stuttgart Administrative Court in 1999, it is now applying for an appeal.
Andriof believes there is a good chance that the Mannheim Administrative
Court will have to take up the matter.
[...entire item...]

=== Other News

7. Attempt To Seize Kids Criticized
Albaquerque Journal, Feb. 16, 2000
The children of an isolationist religious sect remained in hiding early this
week, more than two weeks after state authorities went to the group's
compound south of Gallup and tried to take two of the children into
protective custody.

Meanwhile, some local law enforcement officials are criticizing the action
by the state Children, Youth and Families Department, saying it was based on
statements of a single witness who has a history of making unfounded
allegations to police.

The attempt to remove the children from the Aggressive Christianity Mission
Training Corps
followed a series of television news reports by Darren White,
the state's former top police official, who recently quit his job as
secretary of the Department of Public Safety and is working as a reporter for
KRQE-TV, Channel 13.

In reports beginning in December, White compared the group to three cults
whose members died in dramatic fashion -- either mass suicides or, in the
case of Waco, a massive fire.

He also interviewed an unidentified woman who claimed in his reports that
children in the sect had been sexually abused and intentionally burned. That
interview was the basis of an investigation by New Mexico's child welfare
agency, according to law enforcement officials.

"None of this has been confirmed," said State Police Capt. Glenn Thomas of
Gallup, referring to the woman's allegations. "They're taking it from a
witness who is shaky."

White said he stood by his stories but declined to comment for this story.
The woman was identified by authorities as El Phalen, who law enforcement
officials said was a member of the group for a short time and is a transient.
Police said Phalen has made unfounded allegations in the past.

Valdez said Phalen had been kicked out of the sect and might have come
forward with stories of child abuse to punish the group.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. Gore on Tape at Fund-Raiser Trial
Washington Post/AP Stream, Feb. 16, 2000
Vice President Al Gore on videotape. Testimony about an envelope containing
$100,000 in donations. A jury at the federal courthouse Tuesday heard the
echoes of the 1996 campaign fund-raising scandal with testimony from former
Democratic Party operative John Huang and featuring a Gore video, his
appearance at a controversial Buddhist temple fund-raiser.

The Los Angeles immigration consultant and former colleague of Huang is
charged with five felony counts of causing false statements to be filed with
the Federal Election Commission about the true source of campaign donations.

Huang described how he, Hsia and the head of the Buddhist sect from Taiwan
visited the vice president at the White House in the spring of 1996, laying
the groundwork for what became the temple fund-raiser.

"The vice president gave the master (Gore's) book" as a gift and "the master
invited the vice president to visit the temple. ... The vice president said
he'd love to go and that he'd like to bring one of his daughters," Huang

9. Group protests against secret society at Michigan
CNN/AP, Feb. 15, 2000
For decades, members of the secretive Michigamua society had exclusive access
to their seventh-floor suite in the University of Michigan's student union.
That changed February 6 when eight minority students seized the office and
announced they wouldn't leave until the society abandons its alleged use of
Indian symbols.

Protesters say the society, which includes former President Ford among its
alumni, hasn't honored a 1989 promise to drop the use of "Native American
culture and pseudo-culture" from its rituals.

Other Michigamua rituals included wearing loincloths, body painting and
holding ceremonies around a totem pole. In response to growing criticism, the
group promised in 1989 to abandon such practices.

Current inductees of Michigamua, which counts six women and eight minorities
among its 24 members, claim they reject the old practices. Nick Delgado, 21,
a political science major and a member of Michigamua, said the group's
rituals were "completely overhauled" in 1990. He said the society was "trying
to alleviate the pain" they have caused American Indians.

But protesters said the legacy continues and displayed some examples Monday.
Among the items found in the club: feathered headdresses, recent directories
with songs such as "Indian No Forget" and a sign referring to the club's
headquarters as its "wigwam."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Palestinians sign Catholic deal
BBC, Feb. 15, 2000
The Palestinian Authority has signed an agreement with the Vatican giving it
an official footing in Palestinian areas, and calling for an "equitable
solution" to the contentious issue of Jerusalem.

The accord - signed as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat held talks with Pope
John Paul II in Rome - warned Israel that unilateral decisions on Jerusalem
were "morally and legally unacceptable".

Israel swiftly reacted by accusing the Vatican of meddling in its peace talks
with the Palestinians.

It has always maintained that no international mandate is needed because it
guarantees the city's special nature as sacred to the three great
monotheistic religions.

The accord sets out a framework for dealing with matters such as freedom of
religion, human rights and the status of church institutions in
Palestinian-ruled areas.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Science

11. The hunt for Noah's Ark
The Times (England), Feb. 15, 2000
He's found the Lusitania and the Bismarck, brought us the first views of the
Titanic since she sank to the ocean floor in 1912 and discovered Ancient
Roman and Phoenician vessels. Now Robert Ballard is going after the biggest
one of all - trawling the Black Sea for 7,500-year-old remnants of Noah's

Floods have happened for millennia with the coming and going of ice ages and
the freeze-and-thaw of Earth's polar caps. But geologists have never found
evidence that the world was ever inundated by one massive flood.

Recent research, however, points to a cataclysmic flood in the Black Sea,
accounts of which were probably told around evening fires for thousands of
years until the author of the Book of Genesis made a permanent record of it
some 2,500 years ago.

During the course of the flood, water levels rose six inches a day. On the
shallow north side water would have crept inland at the rate of a mile a day.
It was here, so the theory goes, that Noah built his boat, which floated off
into the Black Sea as the waters crept up.

Hershel Shanks, editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, is sceptical. "All
modern critical Bible scholars regard the tale of Noah as myth or legend," he
says. "There are other flood stories, but if you want to say the Black Sea
flood is Noah's flood, who's to say no?"
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== UFOs

12. UFOs 'Out There,' Prof Says
Omaha World-Herald, Feb. 15, 2000 (Column)
The latest flurry of UFO sightings has occurred in China, but in recent years
some Omahans, too, think they have seen something.

Under hypnotism in the office of John C. "Jack" Kasher, the woman described
being taken into the saucer and seeing people four feet tall with large
heads, wraparound eyes and four fingers on each hand. She recounted in a
hypnotic state that they told her telepathically: "You will not remember

Kasher teaches physics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, which has
honored him as a distinguished professor and with an "excellence in teaching"
award. He gave the above examples, and says about 60 people in the Omaha area
who believe they have been abducted by aliens hold support-group meetings.

Kasher knows that many people dismiss UFO sightings. No matter. "The
question is not whether they're out there," he said last week at the Omaha
Press Club. "The question is have they gotten here yet."

Kasher, who believes they have, spoke to about 40 people at a luncheon. He
showed photographic slides taken in various countries depicting saucerlike
objects in the sky.

Kasher, who speaks frequently on UFOs, brings a scientists' skepticism to his
research. But the universe is so incredibly immense, he said, that it's
unlikely our planet is the only one on which intelligent life has evolved.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Freedom

13. Religious Rights, Stock Market Eyed
AOL/AP, Feb. 15, 2000
A new government commission seeking to foster religious freedom opened its
first hearing Tuesday at odds with the Treasury Department over whether to
stop abusive governments from raising money on U.S. stock markets.

The hearing focused immediately on the link between a Chinese government oil
company, building a pipeline in Sudan, and that country's radical government,
which is accused of killing 14 children and a teacher in a bombing raid on a
Roman Catholic school last week.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which is to take up
abuses of religion in Russia and China later in the year, has appealed to
President Clinton to prohibit the Chinese company and others from using U.S.
capital markets to finance the Sudanese pipeline.

Commission members have said they plan to meet with experts and market
managers to explore ''voluntary adoption of human rights and
religious-freedom criteria'' for entry into U.S. stock markets, Robinson

He said going after entry into U.S. markets by rights abusers may be more
effective than sanctions, which tend to hurt U.S. exporters and investors.

The nine-member religious freedom commission appointed by the president and
congressional leaders was set up to advise the State Department and the White
House on protection of religious freedom around the world.

Organized under a 1998 law that arose partly out of rising congressional
unease about alleged persecution of Christians abroad, it is headed by a
rabbi and a law school dean and includes people of the Christian, Muslim and
Baha'i faiths.

Under the law that created the panel, the State Department designated China,
Iran, Iraq, Burma and Sudan as ''countries of particular concern'' for
religious freedom. That designation subjects them to diplomatic and economic
sanctions. The department also lists Serbia and the Taliban movement that
rules most of Afghanistan as ''particularly severe violators of religious
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. Fears of threat to religious freedom not yet confirmed
Newsroom, Feb. 11, 2000
Contrary to the fears of some religious rights advocates, Russian religious
minorities have not experienced a new wave of repression this year,
according to Lawrence Uzzell, director of Keston News Service. For the long
term, however, a general decline of liberties in Russia bodes ill for
religious freedom, Uzzell believes.

Uzzell told the U.S. State Department's religious liberty advisory panel on
January 24 that authorities largely have not taken advantage of the Duma's
failure to extend the December 31 deadline for compulsory registration of
every church, which leaves thousands of unregistered congregations
potentially vulnerable. Uzzell told the panel that once again the old
Russian maxim had proved accurate: "The salvation of Russia is the poor
implementation of bad laws."

One notable exception, however, is the charismatic "Church of Christ"
congregation that is being threatened with closure by the Chuvash Ministry
of Justice.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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15. European court to hear Russian religious rights case
Stetston University/Compass Direct, Feb. 18, 2000
The European Court of Human Rights has asked the Russian Federation to submit
observations by March 10 on "Pitkevich v. Russia," the first religious rights
case submitted from Russia to the European Court.

The case contests the impeachment of city court judge Galina Pitkevich of
Noyabrsk on religious grounds. Pitkevich, a member of the Pentecostal Living
Faith Church, was accused of using her position to attract people to the
church, discussing religion in the court building, and inviting co-workers
and parties involved in cases under her jurisdiction to church services.

Pitkevich denied the allegations and submitted affidavits by witnesses that
their testimonies against her were falsified in the hearing. The Slavic
Center for Law and Justice is representing Pitkevich in court.

Vladimir Ryakhovsky, a leading attorney with the Slavic Center, expects the
European Court to rule in Pitkevich's favor. "It will be a lesson for the
Russian Federation that freedom of conscience is an international problem and
not an internal problem of the government," he said.

The Slavic Center attorneys successfully defended the Kirov Christian Center
in the Kirov regional court when Judge Olga Khakhalina denied an appeal on
February 1 from the regional department of justice to liquidate the church.
Judge Khakhalina reprimanded the local justice department for "blatant
violations of the constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens,"
according to a Slavic Center information release.

Named by the local justice department as grounds for liquidation were
destruction of families, harming health by use of hypnosis, and violation of
citizens' personal rights.

The Kirov case follows a series of similar attempts to liquidate so-called
"nontraditional" churches by claiming they use psychiatry, including hypnotic
influence. The first prominent case involved the Word of Life Church in
Magadan last year; the main charge was that the pastor "hypnotized" church
members to extort money (tithes).

Ryakhovsky commented that financial gifts made to Orthodox churches even by
non-believers or unrelated businesses are considered normal and blessed. But
when an offering is made to Pentecostal, Baptist or other confessions the
pastor is accused of hypnotizing the person into giving.

Charismatic and Pentecostal churches have suffered from these types of
attacks. Part of it stems, in Ryakhovsky's opinion, from the fact that the
Charismatic style of worship is still comparatively new in Russia and
unfamiliar to most.

These churches also tend to be larger, attract young people and are more
dynamic. The churches actively reach out to the surrounding community and,
through home groups, involve every member.

He views acting president Vladimir Putin as a normal, thinking person who
won't try to fence the country in with the old system. Citing a debate
televised late last year, [Ryakhovsky noted that] Putin publicly stated that
Russia is a multi-confessional secular state and must treat all religions
equally under the law.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

16. A Pit Stop for Prayers
St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 15, 2000
Check out what's going on in a back room at Ace Motors. It's not church. Or
is it? Having financial problems? Health problems? Marital problems? No need
to get all gussied up to go to church. Just log on to Liveprayer.com, 24
hours a day, every day, and get in touch with God, or at least someone who
will pray for you.

If, as they say, a Web site can be started by anyone, anywhere,
Liveprayer.com fits the bill.

Anywhere is a tiny room in the back of Ace Motors, a used car lot at 6660
46th Ave. N in St. Petersburg, a shabby white building surrounded by
older-model cars. Anyone is Bill Keller, the brains behind the Web site, who
says he found God and decided to devote his life to ministry when he was
doing federal prison time for fraud.

His site, billed as the "World's Prayer Meeting," gets hits from all over the
world, 10,000 a day by Keller's count. And that's just the beginning. If the
donations roll in, he foresees an Internet studio rising amid the rusty Ford
Thunderbirds and Dodge Darts.

"She will be totally set free of Epstein-Barr Syndrome," Garnet Blakley says
in answer to an e-mail from South Carolina. "Something is happening in this
girl's life, I rebuke her from her past."

A few minutes later, Blakley prays for a couple in Ohio who want a lower
interest rate for a home loan. Blakley, pastor of Victory Fellowship Church
in Clearwater, is the preacher of the day on Liveprayer.com.

Some theologians caution about clicking onto these sites, especially ones not
affiliated with a church. They say it can be risky for vulnerable people to
pour their hearts out to strangers.

"I call these Web sites "prayer light,' " Foerst says. "It is a very reduced
understanding of prayer. You log on and you ask for something. That is not
necessarily what prayer is about. My experience is that true religion comes
in community and commitment."

Keller, formerly of Schaumburg, Ill., moved to Clearwater in 1994, two years
after his release from prison in Chicago, where he served nearly three years
for securities and mail fraud.

He ran Global Investment, which sold unregistered securities in the form of
investment contracts, according to court records. He scammed in excess of
$175,000 and defrauded vendors of office supplies worth hundreds of thousands
more, according to the records, moving the money through banks on the Grand
Cayman Islands.

After about a year behind bars, Keller says, he found God. He got an
undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies from Liberty University while still
in prison and went into evangelism when he got out.

When Keller went to register the site name and found out that
http://www.liveprayer.com was still available, he took it as a sign from God.

His company is registered as a non-profit religious organization. Keller says
he hopes to make enough money through his donations to cover expenses and pay
himself a modest amount.

He responds to e-mails himself.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Apologetics Index does not in any way recommend the services of liveprayer.com.

Following is a message I received from Bill Keller, sent to Apologetics
Index through our online message form. Check the claims and numbers:

My name is Bill Keller, president of Bill Keller Ministries and founder of
www.liveprayer.com . Liveprayer.Com is the ONLY internet site in
existance that broadcasts LIVE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I have
studios in St. Petersburg, Florida and a group of 50 pastors come to our
studios and sit in front of our cameras to pray for people worldwide that
log onto our webiste. Liveprayer.Com began broadcasting on Monday Augsut
30th 1999. In just 5 short months, we are getting over 10,000 people a
day visiting our website. Over 250,000 people worldwide get our Daily
Devotional in their email box each morning. My ministry team responds
personally to over 4,000 emails a day that come into our ministry from the
Daily Devotional. We are a non-profit organization (501 (c)(3) ) and make
all of our ministry services available free to anyone who accesses our
site. With all of the questionable content that exists on the internet,
this site has been constructed to simply give people the greatest
commodity there is...hope.

Our site is supported strictly by donations. We have been blessed that
after 5 months, we are currently generating a donation stream to support
our current monthly overhead of app. $40,000. As you know, live streaming
video eats up a considerable amount of bandwidth and we have no
restrictions on our feed or the number who can access it at one time.
That accounts for app. half of our overhead. The balance is mainly
staffing of our on-camera prayer partners and ministry team that
personally responds to over 4,000 email requests each and every day. My
ministry absorbed the initial start-up costs of app. $100,000, the first 5
months of operational costs of $200
[...cut off at this point because I limit the amount of info that can be
sent using the form...]

17. Unitarians offer haven for female clergy
Miami Herald, Feb. 15, 2000
A lesbian who is divorced. A single mother who adopts a child of another
race. A career-driven woman too busy working and traveling to settle down and
start a family.

Behind the pulpits of the Unitarian Universalist Church, women such as these
-- who likely wouldn't be first choice to lead even prayer circles in
fundamental congregations -- are ministering to flocks nationwide.

Acceptance, the mantra of Unitarian Universalists, is drawing them to the
pulpit in droves.

Since April, Unitarian Universalist female pastors have outnumbered their
male counterparts 431 to 422 nationally. In Florida pulpits, where as
recently as 1996 there were only five women Unitarian ministers, they now
outnumber men 17 to 14.

Tolerance also is leading to radical change at the church's highest levels.

''It is likely I could be the last straight white male president for a
while,'' said John Buehrens, outspoken leader of the Unitarian Universalist
Association of Boston, who will soon step down after serving two four-year
terms. ''There are three candidates to succeed me -- an African American, an
openly gay minister and a woman.''

Made up of about 216,000 mostly white, middle-class free-thinkers, the
Unitarian Universalist Church has a flexible belief system: It encourages the
search for truth and meaning in life and recognizes the worth of every being,
every religion and every question about faith.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. 'Left Behind' series looks at Rapture
Orange County Register, Feb. 12, 2000
(...) And so begins "Left Behind," the first in a series of books that have
enraptured the Christian publishing world. These part-fiction,
part-biblical-prophecy novels have sold more than 11 million copies and made
the authors, the Rev. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, household names in
many quarters.

Tyndale Press Publishers, a Nashville Christian bookseller, is printing 2
million copies of book No. 7, which will be released in May.

Publisher's Weekly, which tracks book sales, notes that the books have
crossed over from Christian to secular audiences, helped in part by sales in
places like Kmart and Wal-Mart.

The authors were in Orange County this week at the National Religious
Broadcasters convention. And in an interview with The Orange County Register,
discussed how their Apocalyptic novels have become as effective an evangelism
tool as the more traditional Christian altar calls and crusades.

Q. But there is some controversy about your End Times theology. In the books,
there is a group left behind that were not believers, and they eventually
become Christians who fight the Antichrist. Some critics of your books say
that the theology is wrong. That there won't be a chance to repent for those
left on Earth during the seven years of tribulation. And some even say that
there will be no tribulation before the coming of Jesus.

LaHaye: In the Book of Revelation (7:4), it says that 144,000 are converted
by the spirit of God after the Rapture.

Jenkins: Also, in Rev. 7:9-15, it talks about martyrs in white robes who have
endured the Tribulation.