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Help Float Our Boat!
Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 2:28 PM

iStock 46357804 SMALL 300x200 Help Float Our Boat!

On behalf of The Fellowship of St. James, publisher of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, I request your crucial assistance in supporting this ministry. Please make a generous donation today to help us cut our deficit by July 1st. More than 60 percent of our annual revenues come from donations. We are  92 percent of the way to our goal! You can help us reach it. Thank you and God bless you!

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You can still donate online or, if you prefer, a check may be dated June 30 and mailed to PO Box 410788, Chicago, IL 60641. Thank you.



Never Give Up!
Monday, June 27, 2016, 4:36 PM
Growing asparagus takes some planning and patience. From seed, it takes several years before you get a decent crop that you can harvest without hurting future yields. The plants come back every year and last 20 years or more.
I tried seeds two years ago, which didn’t sprout; this winter I ordered some bare-root one-year-old plants, which I was supposed to plant soon after arrival in late spring. I needed to dig a full 20-foot long trench and replace some of the soil, which meant I couldn’t just pop them in the ground. I needed several hours on a Saturday do all the preparatory work, including purchases. Alas, a combination of bad timing, bad weather, and an overseas trip meant that I planted them much later than I hoped to. They looked dead. I planted them anyway.
I called the place I bought the asparagus from and was told not to give up. The advisor said she had replanted all sorts of seemingly dead plants returned to them in the mail and nearly everything came back after a time. She said to give it 4-6 weeks. “You never know.”Rather than dig them up, I kept watering them, though it seemed pointless. The soil beneath is wonderfully rich, as I add compost, potting soil, bone meal, and more.
I planted some new asparagus seeds in a kit just in case I could get something going. After a couple of weeks, 8 seeds sprouted and I transplanted them between the dry-root plants, which looked as dead as ever. I lost track of how many weeks my dead plants have been faithfully watered, but this morning I was shocked when one of them sported two sprouts a couple of inches tall. Back from the dead!
I don’t know if any of the others will come back; they still look dead to me. But “you never know” and even just one coming back makes the watering seem worthwhile.
And so it goes with the culture, too. Many have given up. I understand. The incoherence of what passes for education in public universities suggests we are only in more of the same decline we have witnessed. While there is little room for debate on when a plant is dead, there is no agreement today on what “progress” means in a culture or whether or not an institution is salvageable.
Birds, bees, and other animals know exactly what to do to flourish.Only human beings seem capable of confusion on what is best for them. They allow their cities to decay, cultures to die, and nations to collapse. While the birds of the air and lilies of the field seem to do just fine, the children of Adam and Eve need help and re-direction.
Touchstone and the Fellowship are committed to giving help and direction, to planting seeds, watering, weeding, cultivating, and nourishing the faith of anyone receptive to the Truth.
Those whom we serve range from high school students to nonagenarians, Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox and everything in between. Some are soldiers, Sunday School teachers, lawyers, farmers, housewives, homeschoolers, even former atheists. Even clergy and college professors!
Your support of the ministry can be like sunlight, water, and soil for many, and you will never know the full results of what you support–we are making a real difference, one soul at a time. Every letter, email, or phone call telling us we’ve made difference makes it all worthwhile. Don’t give up. Keep praying for others. 
Would you please help us keep watering the plants, as we labor in the fields, reaching readers young and old with the unchanging Word? We need the generous donations of as many as possible by June 30 to help us get through the next several months. Please, anything you can give today will be greatly appreciated!  Thank you, very much!



Midsummer Gladness
Friday, June 24, 2016, 3:12 PM

The Fellowship of St. James needs at least $74,960 by June 30. I look to the generosity of those who appreciate and support the ministry. Please join with us if you are able with an online donation, or mail a check to The Fellowship of St. James, PO Box 410788, Chicago, IL 60641. All gifts, large and small, are welcome and needed.

June 24, midsummer day, is the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist in the traditional Calendar of the Christian Year. John’s birth is related only in Luke’s Gospel, which presents us with the theme of God’s mercy. John’s coming, prophesies his father Zachariah, is a vehicle through which the Lord God of Israel will “perform the mercy promised to our fathers.” John will “give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, through the tender mercy of God…” (Lk. 1:72, 77-78)

Mercy is also invoked twice in Mary’s Magnificat, inspired by the Spirit when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was with child (John the Baptist). At John’s birth, Luke says the neighbors all heard how the Lord had shown mercy to Elizabeth.

Anthony Coniaris cites the book Orthodox Worship on the word mercy (oleos) used (early and often!) in Orthodox worship:

“The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for ‘Lord, have mercy,’ are ‘Kyrie, eleison’ that is to say, ‘Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.’ Thus mercy… refer[s]… to the infinite lovingkindness of God, and his compassion for his suffering children! It is in this sense that we pray ‘Lord, have mercy,’ with great frequency throughout the Divine Liturgy.”

I would also add another word to fill out the amplified sense of the petition to say, “Lord, heal me.” I say this because the goal of using oil, it would seem, is also healing:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)

On the Feast of St. John’s Nativity, I am reminded that an icon of John the Baptist (not pictured) in Homer Glen, a far southern suburb of Chicago, has been “weeping” oil since sometime last year. The oil has been used to anoint those seeking healing. I know, because I visited the church shortly after Easter this year.

Ahead of me in line outside was a young woman, Bridget, in a wheelchair, who greeted those around her with a disarming solicitude, complimenting one girl on her beautiful appearance. Bridget exuded warmth and love. I thought, “Her body needs healing, but she may be the healthiest person here!”

What I’ve come to understand is that divine healing is meant for the whole person, body and soul. Sometimes the body itself may not be healed much at all while an inner personal healing we didn’t even know we needed takes place. Such healing of our sinsick spiritual hearts does not happen, usually, all at once.

We are made whole by being joined to Christ, which is a daily experience. The mission of God since the fall has been to restore the human race, to bring us back to the Father. Gabriel said that John “will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God… to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just…” (Lk. 1:16-17)

This turning of the heart, in ongoing repentance, is the cure for our ancestral heart disease. It is a gateway and response to the Good News. It is the forerunner of the kingdom. Gabriel said to Zachariah, “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” Today, we are still rejoicing.



“Surprise & Wonder” Signals Battle at the Long-Awaited Orthodox Council?
Monday, June 6, 2016, 3:09 PM

Just days away from the upcoming meeting of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Churches from around the world (which lately has been meeting very roughly every thousand years or so), this communication has been received from Constantinople, that is, from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, host of the event:

The Sacred Endemousa Synod was informed with surprise and wonder of the positions and opinions expressed recently by some sister Orthodox Churches and, after evaluating these, ascertained that no institutional framework allows for the revision of the Synodal process already under way. Therefore, it is expected that the Primates of the most holy Orthodox Churches will bring, in accordance with the Organization and Working Procedure of the Holy and Great Council, any “proposals to amend, correct, or append the Synodal texts that were unanimously approved by the Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings and by Synaxes of the Primates pertaining to the agenda topics” (see Article 11) for final formulation and decision during the sessions of the Holy and Great Council, with the invocation and inspiration of the All-Holy Spirit.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, which bears the first responsibility for safeguarding the unity of Orthodoxy, calls all to rise to the occasion and participate, on the pre-determined dates, in the sessions of the Holy and Great Council, as was decided and signed on a pan-Orthodox level both by the Primates during the Sacred Synaxes, as well as by those authorized by each Delegation during the entire lengthy preparatory process of the Council.

I suspect, in part, this is a response to a recent meeting of the Holy Synod of the Bishops of the Orthodox Church of Georgia, which wishes to revise the synodal texts on the agenda, as reported at the Orthodox Christian Laity site:

The Holy Synod concluded that two places in the text of “The Sacrament of Marriage and Impediments to It” require alterations, which are, specifically:

Article 10 of the subchapter “Orthodox Marriage”; Subparagraph “a” of article 5 in the subchapter “Impediments to Marriage”;

Article 10 of the subchapter “Orthodox Marriage” reads: “The Church does not accept a marriage between her members of the same sex; neither does she accept any kind of living together other than that within the bond of Holy Matrimony. The Church directs all her pastoral efforts towards the goal that her members living within such bonds attain true repentance and love, blessed by the Church”.

This subparagraph must be changed in the following way:

“The Church cannot accept a sexual relationship between persons of the same sex, neither can she accept any kind of living together other than in Holy Matrimony, and condemns this sin. The Church is concerned about the eternal lot of the immortal souls of people who continue to live with such a sin, and directs all her pastoral efforts towards their help in cognizing the extreme grievance of this sin to depart from it by way of the true repentance”.

The clear change here includes an explicit condemnation of any “sexual relationship between persons of the same sex” and not just “marriage between members of the same sex.” Then there is another disagreement on what is sometimes called inter-marriage. In this case, the Church of Georgia seems far to the right of many Orthodox.

Subparagraph “a” of article 5 of the second subchapter of “Impediments to Marriage” reads:

“Marriage between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox is forbidden according to the canonical akriveia and is not blessed (canon 72 of the Trullo Council); however, it can be blessed through tolerance and loving-kindness, but only on condition that the children born within such a marriage will be baptised and brought up in the bosom of the Orthodox Church”.

In the aforementioned article, the first part of the text must be maintained, which reads: “Marriage between an Orthodox and a non-Orthodox is forbidden according to the canonical acribia and is not blessed (canon 72 of the Trullo Council);” but the second part, which reads: “however, it can be blessed through tolerance and loving-kindness, but only on condition that the children born within such a marriage will be baptised and brought up in the bosom of the Orthodox Church”, must be removed as it contradicts the 72nd canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

There are other changes noted. “The Holy Synod has concluded that the mentioned document contains ecclesiological and terminological errors and requires serious alterations. If the alterations are not made, the Church of Georgia will not sign the text.” What will be the final outcome?



Canterbury’s Produces (New) Stool
Wednesday, February 17, 2016, 2:25 PM

Official Anglicanism, adrift on the high seas and blown about by every doctrinal wind, in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, may have another stool to ponder. Rather than simply the three-legged stool of “Scripture, Tradition, and Reason,” Welby proposes adding a new one:

“… in the tension in which we live in a Global Church, there is another trio – of freedom, order and human flourishing – set out by Tim Jenkins in an article in 2002. As a Communion (and as churches) where authority is found in discernment, and expressed in relationship, this trio is of huge importance. It anchors us in the breaking down of barriers, in facing each other, in the beauty of human interaction in love.”

Anglicans who dissent from such drivel continue to meet, plan, labor, and evangelize; this particular story came to me via The American Anglican Council. If you want to speak with real Anglicans nowadays, this is a good place to start.



Events: Paul Copan, Matthew Levering, Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Met. Kallistos Ware
Tuesday, February 9, 2016, 2:25 PM

Debate:
Feb. 11, Trinity International University, Deerfield, Illinois: 7 – 9 PM.
Paul Copan, Pavel Gavrilyuk, Matthew Levering, Dennis Magary on Divine Action, Human Suffering, and the Old Testament.

Talk & Book Signing:
March 1, Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Warrenville, IL, Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon will be given a Lenten Meditation on the Atonement at 7:30 PM. Afterwards, he will be signing copies of his new book: Reclaiming the Atonement: An Orthodox Theology of Redemption. Volume 1: The Incarnation. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Lecture Series:
March 5, 10 AM – 3:30 PM, Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) will be giving two talks at North Park University, Chicago, on The Unchanging Gospel in an Ever-Changing Culture, with responses from Father John Behr, dean, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, Dr. Hauna Ondrey, teaching fellow in church history, North Park Seminar, Dr. Marcus Plested, associate professor of theology, Marquette University. The event is free. Register here.



The Mark of the Zucker-Borg?
Tuesday, January 5, 2016, 2:26 PM
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife’s letter to our daughter (Dec. 1, 2015) is not really a letter to their daughter but a publicized agenda for the rest of us. They want to improve the world by increasing our human potential and promoting equality. The only way to do that is “to channel the talents, ideas and contribution of very person in the world.” They also aim to “connect the world so you have access to every idea, person, and opportunity.”  (How much capacity does one person have?) They see the key to the future in connecting all of the worlds’s billions of people.
But the only way someone could actually do these things is for technological elites to enforce an agenda on the rest of us and create something I’d call a Zucker-Borg.
Whether the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative can actually do that is another matter. So, should we fear this? Is this another yellow brick in the golden road to One-World and antichrist? Well, it is not likely that billions of dollars will actually be spent effectively–consider government spending on social programs, for example. Look at all the money given to foreign governments for aid. How much of it actually reaches the people it was intended to help?
Certainly, some of their money may do some good in helping cure or alleviate diseases and improve health and education for many. But the grand vision of global equality and empowerment won’t be achieved by mere mortals or the profits from Facebook.
The things that make people happy are not cell phones, computers, websites, and digital information flooding them with endless choices and possibilities. The Zuckerbergs acknowledge what people really need, apparently without realizing it or making it a real priority: At the end of their letter they list what they wish for their daughter Max,
“We wish you a life filled with the same love, hope and joy you give us.”
Imagine that–they want a world filled with such priceless gifts that can be secured from the presence of a mere child! Welcoming the child, and children in general, then, would seem to be a more sure route to human happiness than indulging the child-throwaway world we now have with all of its cell phones, computers and websites. Perhaps they should fund adoptions for the world’s orphans and fund a campaign to end abortions. Health care begins when life begins.



1 Deadline, 3 Decades & a Funeral (joke)
Thursday, December 31, 2015, 3:04 PM
A few hours ago we were $31,798 short of our goal of $175,000 by January 6. In less than four hours that amount has dropped to $26,240!

Please consider joining other friends of the Fellowship of St. James by making an online gift at this time to reach our goal. Every year we receive contributions in early January, some of them through mail postmarked December, some checks dated in December or January. Which year they come doesn’t affect us, as our fiscal year ends June 30.

There is another reason to consider a special donation today or in the opening days of 2016. The year 2016 marks Touchtone‘s 30th year of publication, and I invite you to help us celebrate. We are holding a Touchstoneconference October 13-15, 2016 on the campus of Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois, and I invite you to join us there. We are seeking your support to help us pay for this conference. Allan Carlson, Anthony Esolen, Robert P. George, James Hitchcock, S. M. Hutchens, Russell Moore, Leon Podles, and Patrick Henry Reardon all plan to be there and speak. It promises to be memorable meeting!

I admit that I am disappointed that we have yet to cover our expenses this year–but I do hope to make that up between now and the end of our fiscal year on June 30. Let me hasten to add that, in the Providence of God, we have come this far over the course of 30 years, so I must leave the quantity of our financial resources ultimately up to our donors and friends, without whom we would be a former publication that folded. 
Wherever I go I meet people who praise Touchstone, say they read it (usually they mean online only), share articles with others, but who are not currently subscribers. I usually get a laugh from hearers when I quip that, while Touchstone might someday go under for lack of subscribers, still 50,000 people will show up at its funeral!

Anyway, it makes me smile to make that joke with no regrets–I put my trust in the Lord for his will for the fortunes and future of ministry. I refuse to treat it as a given which must survive, but will accept it as a gift that as long as it pleases God will be a gift that keeps on giving treasures old and new to others–for the sake of the upbuilding of the Body of Christ.

Thank you once again for your kind consideration and support. God bless you and yours.

A Blessed Christmastide & Happy New Year,
Jim Kushiner, Executive Director
PS. If you ADD $1 to your gift (so it ends with the digit 1 or 6) I will send you a FREE 2016 Calendar of the Christian Year! Your Year-End Gift will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!



End A.D. 2015 With a Gift & Free Calendar
Wednesday, December 30, 2015, 3:49 PM

The Fellowship of St. James for going on 30 years now has published Touchstone, and since then has developed a rich website, another publication (Salv0), and digital versionsb61e5f0ac9cf39ad82be155ed0a73339 282x300 End A.D. 2015 With a Gift & Free Calendar
of each. Our archived articles are visited by many thousands of readers who are not subscribers–we’d like to make sure our resources are available to as many as possible. But we need your charitable support in order to pay our bills each year. We run a tight ship, no fancy offices, high rents, splashy media promotions, just solid food and ammunition for those who seek to follow the Lord and bear witness to His saving Truth in our generation.

Would you kindly make a contribution today? If you wish to count your tax-deductible gift in 2015, you may make a donation online today or tomorrow. If you prefer to rollover a contribution for the 2016 tax year, we have extended our campaign this year to include the Twelve Days of Christmas, through January 6, 2016. You may mail a check to The Fellowship of St. James, PO Box 410788, Chicago, IL 60641 or contribute online.

Please support Touchstone, Mere Comments, and the rest with a generous donation today (or tomorrow or the next day!) We have about $39,000 left to raise to meet our need for this time of year. Every gift large or small, is gratefully received. Plus I am happy to offer this as an added incentive: if you add $1 to any gift (so that the final digit is either 1 or 6) I will send you a FREE COPY of our new 2016 Calendar of the Christian Year. The timing couldn’t be better.



How JFK Doomed the Vietnam War in 1963
Thursday, December 3, 2015, 3:58 PM

Fascinating interview here at MercatorNet, with Canadian military historian Geoffrey Shaw, author of a new book, The Lost Mandate of Heaven: the American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam. I am not well-read on the Vietnam War, but this piques my interest. Worth a look!


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