Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tension these days often within faiths

When I went on an interfaith trip to Israel earlier this year, I expected some sparks between members from the two congregations traveling together.

After all, one congregation was Jewish and one was Baptist.

Yes, Temple Beth El and Myers Park Baptist – the two houses of worship sponsoring the trip – share a liberal approach to politics and social justice.

But their theologies are different. You won’t hear “Jesus Christ” during Shabbat services at Temple Beth El. And on Sunday at Myers Park Baptist, you’ll hear that name over and over – in song, prayer and Scripture.

But, even though we went to Jewish sites and Christian sites, members of the two congregations bonded, agreed to disagree on theology and even discussed Jesus’ Judaism.

So no tension?

Not between them.

But there was some between the Reform Jews in Charlotte and the Orthodox Jews who make many of the rules in Israel.

And between the Baptists from Charlotte and the other Christians – mostly Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox – who run so many of the ancient churches in Israel.

At the Western Wall, Rabbi Judy Schindler of Temple Beth El and a few other women from her congregation risked getting arrested by wearing a tallit, or prayer shawl. Orthodox Jews believe only men should wear a tallit, and most Orthodox do not think women should read from the Torah, especially in mixed company.

A court in Israel has since ruled that women should not be arrested for wearing a tallit or reading from the Torah at the Western Wall. But that hasn’t changed the Orthodox view.

And some of the Baptists from Charlotte were turned off by what they considered the grandiose images at, say, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There, Catholic pilgrims from Eastern Europe rubbed rosaries on an oiled slab of rock where some believe Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.

The group was scheduled to attend a Sunday service at a Baptist church in Jerusalem. But plans were changed when it was discovered that the church was Southern Baptist – much too conservative for the Myers Park Baptists and, they worried, much too interested in converting those from Temple Beth El to Christianity.

You don’t have to travel 5,000-plus miles to pick up on this intrafaith tension.

Several mainline faiths – Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist – have been fighting among themselves over whether to ordain and marry gays and lesbians.

Conservative Episcopalians have rebelled against their church’s liberal leaders by becoming Anglicans.

And liberal Catholics upset with their conservative leaders? Some of them have become Episcopalians.

--Tim Funk

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Charlotte diocese pays for young pilgrims to see pope

Young Catholics -- a few hundred thousand of them, at least -- are in Rio de Janeiro to join Pope Francis in celebrating the annual World Youth Day festival.

It's the Argentinian pope's first overseas trip since he became leader of the Roman Catholic Church in March.

The revelers there to cheer him on include a dozen or so young people and their adult chaperones from the Diocese of Charlotte.

These local pilgrims almost didn't get to go: ITC Tours, the travel agency arranging World Youth Day packages for young people in 20 U.S. dioceses claimed bankruptcy in June.

Gone, suddenly, was the $25,000 the Charlotte group had paid for the trip to Brazil.

But there's a happy ending: The diocese came to the rescue, paying for the group's airfare and hotel stay.

For more details on what happened, check out the report in Charlotte's diocesan newspaper, The Catholic News Herald.

To follow the Charlotte pilgrims on Twitter: @queencityym. Also check out the Charlotte Youth Ministry's Facebook page.

One of the tweets includes a link to a photo of the group at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Identified in the photo are: Rebekah Torres, Katie Herzing, Evan Lance, Michael Myers, Daniel Torres and Brandon Berryhill.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, NPR previewed World Youth Day by interviewing a young S.C. woman who had converted to Catholicism.

Hannah Mayo lives in Charleston, and here's what she had to say.

-- Tim Funk