July 28, 2009

Women's Ministry: Time to Get Back to Basics?

With every opportunity to speak at women’s ministry events, invariably the women of these churches never fail to surprise me with the many gifts and talents they have contributed to the preparations. Women’s ministry teams seem to know almost innately how to pull everything together: food, d├ęcor, worship, organization and all of the other fine details that go into making a brunch, lunch or similar gathering quite memorable.

But the reality is, most church women’s ministries only have the energy and “manpower” to offer these gatherings a few of times a year, In a calendar year, one can expect to plan for some sort of spring event, a Mother’s day gathering--often mother/daughter affair—and a Christmas tea. This would be in addition to the small groups and Bible studies. Of course, some ministries may do more because the size of their church allows for more women to be involved. But because the average church size in the U.S. is around 200 with many far fewer, the ability to plan for these three events can become quite burdensome. I do not believe any of these events should be eliminated from the master plan of any women’s ministry simply because they are laborious, because I also understand they have utility--glorifying God and ministry to women. This is worthy work toward the advancement of the Kingdom.

However, the flip side of the coin is the belief that every significant gathering must include ornate centerpieces, petit fours and elegant programs.

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July 18, 2009

Dr. Jameela George, MB BS: Black Market Organ Transplantation & Medical Tourism

Dr. George is a Christian bioethicist in India speaking today on medical tourism, those who are in pursuit of cost efffective, faster or better private medical care. In India there is medical tourism in many areas including cardiology, joint replacement, organ transplants, etc.Reasons for medical tourism include availability and low cost of services.With the cost of a heart valve replacement costing $10,000 as opposed to the $200,000 in the US. The following are some highlights from her presentation:

Surrogacy tourism - Wombs for Rent
Often contracted through hospitals in India.Surrogates live in dormatories or "baby farms."
Ethics issues: Exploitation, concept of family, comodification of physiological process.
Surrogates are paid $5000 - $7000, a relatively low cost.

Kidney Tourism
Donors enticed to go abroad for removal and subsequent tranplantation of their kidneys.
The first human kidney transplant - Boston 1954
Transplantation of the liver followed in 1963 and heart in 1967
The kidney is the most wanted organ for transplantation

Worldwide about 1.2 million suffer from kidney failure. In Israel the average wait is 4 years. Worldwide 50k transplants are performed annually.About 285k people are on dialysis in the US.

Laws about Organ Transplantation
Brazil - illegal to sell organs (1997)
1998 law -all Brazilian adults are organ donors at death

Kidney sales are legal and regulated

Transplantation of Human Organs Act of 1994
Altruistic donation of organs from close family members
Donation b y those who are emotionally attached to the recipients
The Act permits transplantation of various cadaver organs including kidneys

Countries practicing Black market organ trans
India, China, Russia, Turkey, Moldova, Romania...

Partners in Black Market Organ Transplant Business in India
  • Surgeons and medical teams
  • managers of hospitals
  • organ brokers
  • jobless people
  • tourism industry
Kidney donors can earn up to $2500
Recipients pay as much as $25k in India

Measures to decrease organ gap
  • Prevention of renal failure
  • Increase of domestic supply
Controversial solutions
  • Routine recovery from cadavers-implied consent
  • legalising sale of organs
  • legalizing rewarded gifting of unrelated donors
  • upgrading facilities to harvest and transport organs from resource poor settings
Ethical Issues in BMOT
  • Lack of respect for person
  • Coercion
  • Exploitation
  • Social Justice
  • Violation of Human Dignity

July 16, 2009

The Theological Roots of...Human Dignity: Dr. David Gushee

David Gushee provided a survey of the concept of human dignity throughout the Old and New testaments. Below are a few highlights.

Old Testament
"Transcendent legal/moral standard over human life creates a critically important human equality before the law. "

"The grounding of all moral obligation in God's law had a deep impact on the understanding of human law."

On Shalom
Shalom - the dream of God for a redeemed world, for an end to our division, hostility, fear, drivenness and misery.

Shalom happens when humans stop killing each other, and therefore life's dignity is honored at its fundamental level.

Shalom means: Delight, obedience to God (the precondition of shalom), the healing of broken bodies and spirits, enough to eat and drink, an inclusive community, the rebuilding of the human community

New Testament
Matthew 4 - Jesus did 2 new things
1. turned the eschatological future into an inaugurated eschatological present
2. Embodied the kingdom of justice, peace, and healing, in which human beings at last treat others and are treated, as God originally desired.

Jesus' inclusive ministry in a religious culture in which:
  • Women were devalued
  • Leaders subjugated human well being to legal observance
  • Sinners treated as beyond the pale of God's care
  • Children were devalued
  • The sick ere often cast out of the community
  • The occupying Romans were hated
  • Tensions between jews and Samaritans
  • A woman on her own faced desperate financial challenges
  • Social-economic divisions were acut
In sum, Jesus smashed the religious, cultural, economic, and political barriers of his context and demonstrated love, respect, and inclusion toward people of all descriptions. Jesus taught "good news" that God loves human beings with an immeasurable love.

"The paradox of the incarnation is that when divinity stooped low and took on humanity, humanity revealed its loliness and yet was elevated through God's mercy."

Jesus died for "the world" - everyone, people in all states, conditions, nations and orientations toward God and neighbor. Everyone should matter to us because everyone matters to God

Christ rose in a body, the victory of God over evil, and the resurrection marks the triumph of life.

Acts depicts rapidly growing church...more inclusive and hospitable community ethos.
Paul offers an expansive theological effort to defend transformation of relationships (Gal 3:28) All divisive human distinctions are transfigured and overcome through Jesus Christ.

Momentum toward radically inclusive and egalitarian community
Multi-ethnic, multi-racial, gender-inclusive, class-inclusive community

What emerged...
Congregations that believed that in their own experience of transformed human relations lay the beginnings of the redemption of the world.
"Only because God became human is it possible to know and not despise real human beings...this is not because of the real human being's inherent value, but because God has loved and taken on the real human being. The reason for God's love for human beings does not reside in them..." D. Bonhoeffer
"A secular, rootless human dignity ethic may be the best that our culture thinks it can manage. But Christians know not only that we can do better but that we must do better and that the resources for doing better are embedded in our tradition."

We must claim our own rich, theological heritage.

Global Bioethics - CBHD's 16th Annual Conference

If you aren't at the conference be sure to check back at Flash Point for the commentary on the plenary speakers and parallel paper sessions. Who is speaking tonite? David Gushee, PhD, and Frank Beckwith, PhD. Bet you wish you were here!