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Faith in the News

Bikers with Boxes
heads to Graham Library next weekend

The 7th annual Bikers with Boxes, a charity ride to the Billy Graham Library, will take place on Saturday, Oct. 18.

Last year, big-hearted bikers delivered more than 2,400 gift-filled shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Participants can ride alone, with a club, or meet up with one of the groups around the region who are riding together.

All attendees are invited to a tour of the library, the Graham Family Homeplace and Memorial Prayer Garden, shop at Ruth’s Attic for unique books and gifts, then stop by the Graham Brothers Dairy Bar.

For more information or to find out how to meet up with a group in your area, call 704-401-3256 or email LibraryEvents@bgea.org.

For information on Operation Christmas Child and how to pack a shoe box, please visit The Operation Christmas Child website.

Church giving won’t rise unless pastors embrace Jesus’ teachings on poor, report says

(RNS) Christian researchers tracking decades of decline in charitable giving say the trend will not be reversed until pastors challenge congregants to embrace Jesus’ teachings on the poor.

But that, says Sylvia Ronsvalle, one of the authors of the annual “Empty Tomb” reports on Christian giving, will take a different kind of pastor than the counselors and comforters that seminaries and divinity schools have trained for ministry.

Seminaries instead need to school future clergy on the affluence of American congregations, and remind church members of “God’s agenda to love a hurting world,” the report said.

“The State of Church Giving through 2012: What are Christian Seminaries and Intellectuals Thinking — or Are They?” was issued by Empty Tomb, an Illinois-based nonprofit that tracks the percentage of church members’ income that they give to their congregation.

“Pastors are not being prepared to effectively pastor their people within an age of affluence,” said Ronsvalle, who wrote the report with her husband, John L. Ronsvalle.

“People are richer,” she said. “They have a lot more to spend on. If the church is not giving them a real challenge, the church becomes less important.”

Vatican debate on gays provokes strong reaction from all corners

VATICAN CITY (RNS) From questions of welcoming a gay son home for Christmas to denying the sacraments for the children of gay and lesbian parents, an ongoing debate on the Catholic Church’s approach to homosexuality has raised the hopes of some LGBT advocates and provoked the ire of the church’s right wing.

At the two-week Synod on the Family convened by Pope Francis here, the issue of homosexuality is competing for air time with similar questions of denying Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics or how to respond to couples that live together outside of marriage.

But with a rapidly shifting legal landscape, and a pope who famously asked “Who am I to judge?”, the debate over homosexuality is eliciting personal and charged reactions from all corners of the church.

The controversial debate was unwittingly fired up by Australians Ron and Mavis Pirola, the parents of four and delegates to the church family summit.

The Sydney couple told nearly 200 bishops about friends who had invited their gay son and his partner home for Christmas.

“They fully believed in the church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family,” the couple told those assembled in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall. “Their response could be summed up in three words: ‘He’s our son.’”

American hard-liner Cardinal Raymond Burke shot back on Thursday that children should be protected from “exposure” to gay relationships, which he rejected as “evil.”

But that’s exactly the approach that sends gay and lesbian Catholics — and members of their extended families — running away from the church, said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the largest Catholic gay and lesbian rights group, DignityUSA.

“It is clear this ‘love the sinner’ but ‘hate the sin’ approach does not work,” she said from Boston. “It is inappropriate in dealing with gay people.”

Council of Churches to hold meeting in Charlotte

The North Carolina Council of Churches will hold a meeting 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 17 in at Park Road Baptist Church, Charlotte.

Participants should take a bag lunch and join council staff and friends for fellowship at 11:30 a.m. Drinks and dessert will be provided.

Beginning at noon,  Executive Director George Reed will provide an update on the council’s work for social justice. Then the group will have  break-out sessions focused on specific areas of work:

• Creation care, led by N.C. Interfaith Power and Light Director Susannah Tuttle.

• Legislative advocacy, led by George Reed.

• Farmworkers and immigration, led by Program Associate Jennie Wilburn.

• Improving the health of clergy and congregants, led by Partners in Health and Wholeness Coordinator Willona Stallings

There is no cost. Participants should make reservations by calling 919-828-6501 or emailing info@ncchurches.org.For more information, go to www.ncchurches.org.

ACC Football Church Day next week at Wake Forest

The Wake Forest Deacons will have plenty of fans on hand for their game against Syracuse next Saturday; it’s the 2014 ACC Football Church Day at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, according to BaptistsonMission.org.

A program will be held from  9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Kickoff is at noon. Ticket sales have closed.

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