‘Died from’ or ‘died with’ COVID-19? We need a transparent approach to counting coronavirus deaths


Marc Trabsky, La Trobe University and Courtney Hempton, Deakin University

The COVID-19 death toll is reported every day by state and federal governments. These numbers are often used, alongside case numbers, to assess how public health policies are faring in controlling the pandemic, and to gauge the success of various drugs or interventions.

There’s been confusion, however, over whether reported death statistics reflect those who’ve died from COVID-19, or those who’ve died with the virus. Often it’s hard for medical practitioners to determine which of these categories a death falls into.

But the COVID-19 death toll publicised daily on Australian state and territory government websites and reported to the press does not differentiate between the two. It includes all people who’ve died with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in their body. It’s unclear if the federal government currently makes this distinction or not.

Lumping these statistics together makes it hard for the public to understand the true impact of the virus. Clarifying what’s being counted as a COVID-19 death is necessary for understanding the impact of the virus, and for informing public health and clinical responses to the pandemic. If we know who is susceptible to dying with COVID-19 because of pre-existing conditions, public health responses could more effectively target and protect potentially vulnerable people and communities.

We are not suggesting this is a reason to downplay the seriousness of the virus, but rather that successful public health engagement requires open communication of death causation data, especially in a pandemic. Therefore, we need a transparent approach to counting and reporting coronavirus deaths in Australia.

Cause of death is not straightforward

Federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth acknowledged that determining cause of death is complex when questioned by reporters on Tuesday, saying:

I remember as a junior doctor trying to do death certificates – it’s not always an easy thing […] I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, think it’s a reason to underplay the severe impact that COVID has on people who have [pre-existing] conditions.

Indeed, distinguishing between dying with and dying from COVID-19 may require a more complex investigation into the cause of a death, beyond citing a positive SARS-CoV-2 test that was completed prior to the person’s death.

For example, Victoria’s coroner is currently investigating the death of a man in his twenties, who was widely reported as being Australia’s youngest coronavirus death. The coroner is investigating whether his death was primarily caused by SARS-CoV-2, or whether the virus contributed less substantially to his death.

While this death was reported on August 14 in Victoria’s daily death toll, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, as of August 28 it wasn’t counted in the federal COVID-19 death tally. It remains unclear whether the death has been added to the federal count as of today.

Generally when a person dies a medical practitioner is responsible for indicating the cause of death. The doctor will complete a “medical certificate of cause of death”, and inform the Registry of Births, Death and Marriages in their state or territory.

In some circumstances, the cause of a death can also be reported by a coroner, but they typically investigate deaths that are sudden, unnatural, violent or accidental, or which occur during or after medical procedures. The cause of death may be initially unclear at the beginning of a coronial investigation. Sometimes, the determined cause of death may be multiple, while other times it may change when more information is revealed, for example through a post-mortem examination or toxicology tests, or when new information comes to light about how a virus affects the body.

We don’t know the true death rate

The lack of nuance in Australia’s COVID-19 death tally means the true death rate may be unknown, and may be adjusted in the future.

For example, on August 31 Victoria recorded only eight COVID-19 deaths from the previous 24 hours, but also added 33 historical deaths to the toll. According to the state’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, this backlog was due to changes in how aged care providers reported COVID-19 deaths, and differences in reporting methods between the state and federal governments.

On September 4 there were six deaths recorded over the previous 24-hours, but a further 53 historical deaths were added to the daily toll, 50 of which were related to aged care.

There is a lack of transparency about why there is a discrepancy between how Victoria and the Commonwealth count COVID-19 deaths.

A spokesperson for federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck suggested delays in data collection and reporting are the primary reasons for the discrepancies. But there appeared to be confusion in early August in the aged care sector about the necessity of reporting “all COVID-19 related deaths, including those involving other causes or comorbidity factors”, according to a letter written to Victorian aged care providers from the secretary for the Department of Health, Brendan Murphy.




Read more:
Have there been uncounted coronavirus deaths in Australia? We can’t say for sure, but the latest ABS data holds clues


Delays may have been caused by aged care providers struggling to verify not only residents who died from COVID-19, but also those suspected to have died with the virus.

The Victorian and Commonwealth governments are reportedly working to reconcile how COVID-19 deaths are counted and reported. But it may be months or years before detailed death data can be analysed.

In the meantime, we need more detail about what’s being reported in the daily COVID-19 death data, and governments should be transparent about what is (and is not) being counted as a COVID-19 death.The Conversation

Marc Trabsky, Senior Lecturer, La Trobe Law School and Director, Centre for Health, Law and Society, La Trobe University and Courtney Hempton, Associate Research Fellow, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Healing the urban-rural divide: Why a ‘locals-first’ approach doesn’t work in a pandemic



DARREN ENGLAND/AAP

Timothy Baker, Deakin University; Emma Tumilty, Deakin University, and Kristy Hess, Deakin University

Toilet paper and ventilators may be unlikely bedfellows, but they serve as powerful symbols of the growing tensions between urban and rural regions in Australia and elsewhere amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, the media reported dozens of frenetic “supermarket swoops” across the nation. Busloads of city residents converged on rural grocery stores to fill their trolleys with supplies, leaving the shelves bare for local shoppers.

As a result, supermarket managers and security guards stepped in to be custodians of the local, refusing access to those who did not look familiar.

It is important to note that “local” is a powerful cultural idea. Local shoppers don’t legally have a right to toilet paper in this instance, but there is a moral perception they should have first dibs based on their need for essential services and in the interests of social order.

No ‘locals only’ option for hospitals

The toilet paper fiasco serves as an analogy for a much graver issue as the pandemic spreads around the world.

What happens if overwhelmed city hospitals hoard the staff and resources needed to manage COVID-19, leaving rural areas to fend for themselves? Rural areas of the United States are already confronting this reality.

To compound the problem, many people have been eager to escape crowded cities like Sydney, London, New York and San Francisco for the imagined safety of the countryside. This places strain on rural healthcare providers, making it difficult to prepare for and utilise already stretched resources.

Small town health services cannot plaster “locals only” posters on their doors or allow only “familiar faces” access to lifesaving equipment.

As rural professionals in medicine, ethics and media/cultural studies, we bring an interdisciplinary perspective to the issue of local resourcing and implications for the urban-rural divide.

We understand that in a pandemic, urban health care workers would also feel a need to protect and ensure supplies at their local hospitals first. But the equity of urban-rural resourcing during the COVID-19 crisis warrants more attention.




Read more:
COVID-19 may hit rural residents hard, and that spells trouble because of lack of rural health care


Big media focus on urban problems

Urban areas in Australia already have almost three times as many hospital specialists per capita as outer regional areas and many times more critical care specialists.

Our regional health systems are struggling. Many hospitals rely on fly-in-fly-out emergency, anaesthetic and intensive care doctors. These doctors (often from city hospitals on short-term contracts to fill gaps in the local roster) are now limited by quarantine restrictions. They also want to stay near their metropolitan hospitals in case they are needed.




Read more:
Geographical narcissism: when city folk just assume they’re better


There’s a concern that a capital city’s rush for resources could also leave patients in rural hospitals without medical necessities, similar to the panic buying of supermarket goods that has left some remote Indigenous communities without basic food and hygiene necessities.

Yet, these issues have not been discussed enough. Big media tends to focus on the impact of this health crisis on major metropolitan areas where more people live.

How we can more equitably share resources

We need a better strategy for rural-urban resource allocation during the crisis.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen suggests solutions may have to be tailored to specific contexts (like rural and urban settings) to be effective and ensure everyone’s health is of equal value. Drawing on his “capability approach”, we need to allocate resources in a way that is community-centred, equity-focused and puts an emphasis on deliberative democratic processes.

To hash out solutions, stakeholders in rural and urban hospitals should gather around a “virtual” table to discuss their differing needs. Government organisations and medical colleges have already begun this process.




Read more:
‘Coronavirus holidays’ stoke rural fury


Effective resource allocation could impact who gets critical care treatment. Centralising resources is a proven lifesaver in normal times when transport is secure, but pandemics threaten to overwhelm our ability to move rural patients to hospitals in big cities. Transport could be delayed by days or even cease for a time.

Accessibility of life-saving equipment becomes key. We need to increase the capacity of transport services to get rural patients to cities when need be and ensure there is enough staff and equipment in regional areas to treat as many patients as possible locally.

The long-term benefits of better urban-rural cooperation

An unexpected upside to COVID-19 may be an increased sharing of knowledge and ideas between rural and urban communities.

Regional Australia has many general practitioners with anaesthetic skills, for instance. They are experienced in short-term ventilation for operations. These doctors can become “accidental intensivists”, meaning they could take care of critically ill patients, with preparatory online courses and real-time video support from urban specialists (who get to remain in their urban communities).

Urban doctors may also benefit from interacting with rural doctors who are already experts in making do with fewer resources. This kind of digital interaction could be useful long after the crisis has abated, too.

Civil wars have been fought over access to resources many times in the past. There is no reason to broaden the urban-rural divide in a war against a virus that has no borders.The Conversation

Timothy Baker, Associate Professor and Director, Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine, Deakin University; Emma Tumilty, Lecturer, Deakin University, and Kristy Hess, Associate Professor (Communication), Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

US approach to security is deeply troubling – and it’s not just about Trump



File 20180208 74512 1ctlotn.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Is Donald Trump really the one setting the direction of US security policy?
Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Joseph Camilleri, La Trobe University

Media coverage of Donald Trump’s presidency has fixated on his outlandish, off-the-cuff tweets, his ill-conceived and inflammatory positions on immigration, race relations and climate change, his “America First” mantra, and his unrelenting attacks on the various inquiries into collusion with Russia.

The image created has been of a man who, though ignorant, vulgar and deeply polarising, struts the political stage. But is Trump really setting the direction of US security policy?

Mounting evidence suggests the theatre around Trump is so mesmerising that we have lost sight of how the US security establishment wields power – and to what end.

The picture is becoming clear

The security establishment is no monolith, nor does it function as a conspiratorial cabal. Personalities and institutional interests compete for attention and resources.

Yet it has a reasonably coherent mindset, which has its origins in the early days of the Cold War. It is a sense of belonging to a club that connects first and foremost the Department of Defence, various arms of the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies, but also significant voices in other key government departments, areas of the judiciary and Congress, and some of America’s most influential think-tanks and corporations – in particular the leading arms manufacturers.

How this security establishment is handling the Trump phenomenon is an intriguing story, highly complex, and still unfolding. However, several pieces of the jigsaw are beginning to fall into place. Three merit special attention:

  • the competition for influence within the Trump administration

  • the Russia investigation

  • the unmistakable shift in US strategic planning.

Taken together these form a picture of a political and military elite intent on maintaining control of US security policy. They feel the need to immunise it from Trump’s erratic behaviour and his supposedly pro-Russian inclinations, and revive a Cold War mindset that views Russia and China as major adversaries.

The battle for influence

Though Trump and the security establishment may be suspicious of one another, there is also common ground. They disagree not about placing “America first”, but about how this should be done.

The security establishment prefers a carefully devised, longer-term strategy and a less confrontational approach toward friends and allies. It sees value in continuing to extol the virtues of free trade and democracy, though it does not necessarily practise what it preaches.

And it is generally suspicious of personal deal-making – especially where this involves Russia – to which Trump is drawn by instinct, and commercial interest and experience.

The security establishment has therefore made it a priority to gain influence within the administration. It took no more than six months for reliable establishment figures to be firmly in the saddle: Jim Mattis as defence secretary, John Kelly as White House chief-of-staff and H.R. McMaster as national security adviser.

Key Trump campaign advisers thought to have cultivated links with Russia or be otherwise unreliable – including Michael Flynn (whom Trump initially appointed as national security adviser), George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Stephen Bannon and even Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner – have been gently or not-so-gently eased out of their previously influential roles.

Trump himself is seen at best as an unknown quantity, and at worst prone to dangerous illusions about the prospects of cultivating a fruitful personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Behind the lurid accusations of Russian meddling in the US presidential election and alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and more recently behind the claims and counterclaims of obstruction of justice by the Trump administration, we can now discern a far more significant jostling for control of US policy.

The ‘new’ Russian threat

The Russia investigations being conducted by congressional committees and by special counsel Robert Mueller are clearly designed to put Trump on the defensive. Congressional Democrats are doing all they can to prolong these inquiries – in some cases with the support of senior Republican senators close to the intelligence community.

Hundreds of witnesses have already given evidence to these inquiries. Many more are expected to appear. And in public comments and her recently published memoir, Hillary Clinton, well known for her antipathy to Putin and his reassertion of Russian influence, has been at pains to identify Russia’s meddling in the election as a key factor in her defeat.

Yet the hard evidence so far produced to support the charges of Russian interference has been scant to say the least.

Putin and his underlings are no angels. But as journalist Aaron Mate has argued:

In Russiagate, unverified claims are reported with little to no scepticism … developments are cherry-picked and overhyped, while countervailing ones are minimised or ignored. Front-page headlines advertise explosive and incriminating developments, only to often be undermined by the article’s content, or retracted entirely.

Whatever the outcome of these various inquiries, one thing is clear. The security establishment has concluded that a resurgent Russia needs to be contained and that any advocacy of dialogue with it must be nipped in the bud.

Allegations of Russian interference in the politics of the US and other Western countries are part of a larger strategy that aims to magnify the threat Russia poses and to thwart any intention on Trump’s part to reset the relationship.

Donald Trump has been keen to offer a hand of friendship to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Reuters/Carlos Barria

Back to the Cold War

The national defence strategy Mattis recently unveiled delivers a stark message. Countering China’s rise and Russia’s resurgence are now at the heart of US policy. The Cold War outlook is back with a vengeance.

To this end, the US military will confront its adversaries across the spectrum of conflicts – mainly in Europe and the Indo-Pacific region, but without neglecting the Middle East.

American armed forces will modernise and build its readiness for future conflicts and consolidate military ties with allies and partners around the world. But conspicuously absent is any notion of neo-isolationism or renewed dialogue with Russia – both of which featured prominently during Trump’s presidential campaign.

The national defence strategy should, in any case, be read in conjunction with the national security strategy released in December 2017 and the more recent nuclear posture review released last week.

The shift in US strategic priorities, which is well under way, will affect all aspects of defence budgeting, weapons development and force management. Training is already focused on high-intensity conflict with major adversaries. Heavily armed deployments are stationed continuously in Europe and across East and Central Asia.

The plan is to modernise all three arms of the US nuclear arsenal – land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles – and design low-yield nuclear weapons that make them more readily usable. In other words, the US is boosting its capacity to escalate non-nuclear conflicts into nuclear war, thereby lowering the nuclear threshold.

Trump’s rhetoric of “fire and fury” is at first sight in accord with these developments. Whether he fully understands them is another matter.

The ConversationWe may not much like what Trump says or wants to do. But even more troubling is the US security establishment’s vision of the future. For US allies, not least Australia, it spells danger and much heartache.

Joseph Camilleri, Emeritus Professor of International Relations, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Snuggery: Turning Hugging into a Business


  1. In what can only be described as a novel approach to employment, Jacqueline Samuel has turned hugging into a business. What other ‘odd’ and ‘crazy’ ideas can be turned into a business – I’m sure someone out there is thinking about doing it if they haven’t already done so.

Christians in Middle East Fear Violence from Anti-Quran Protests


Those in the West who provoke Muslim extremists are not the ones who will suffer, they say.

ISTANBUL, October 5 (CDN) — Christians across the Middle East said they will be the ones to suffer if a group of anti-Islamic protestors in the United States goes through with its plans to publicly tear up or otherwise desecrate the Quran.

They roundly condemned the proposed actions as political stunts that are unwise, unnecessary and unchristian.

“This kind of negative propaganda is very harmful to our situation in Muslim countries,” said Atef Samy, assistant pastor for networking at Kasr El Dobara, the largest Protestant congregation in Egypt. “It generates uncontrollable anger among the people around us and gives the impression that all Christians feel this way about Islam.”

Samy said U.S. Christians who are protesting Islam need to think about the results of their “irrational actions.” The desecration, he said, will lead to protests and will incite people to commit anti-Christian violence.

“How do they expect Muslims to react?” he said. “And has anybody thought how we will pay for their actions or even their words?”

Tomorrow and Thursday (Oct. 6 and 7), political activist Randall Terry will host “Hear Muhammad Speak!” a series of demonstrations across the United States that he said are meant to “ignite national and world-wide debate/dialogue/education on the anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and at times violent message of the Quran.” During these protests, Terry plans to tear out pages from the Quran and encourage others to do the same.

He has said he is conducting the protest because he wants to focus attention also on the Hadith and the Sunnah, the recorded sayings and actions of Muhammad that Muslims use to guide their lives. Terry said these religious documents call “for the murder, beheadings, etc. of Christians and Jews, and the suppression of religious freedom.”

Known for his incendiary political approach, Terry is founder of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion rights group. After stepping down from Operation Rescue, he publicly supported the actions of Scott Roeder, who murdered a Kansas physician who performed late-term abortions. Terry also arranged to have a protestor present an aborted fetus to then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

On this year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Terry stood outside the White House and denounced Islam as one of five other protestors ripped out pages from the Quran and threw them into a plastic trash bag, which along with Florida Pastor Terry Jones’ planned (though ultimately cancelled) Quran-burning provoked isolated attacks across the Islamic world that left at least 19 dead.

Terry is part of a seemingly growing tide of people destroying or threatening to destroy the Quran as an act of protest against Islam or “Islamic extremism.”

 

Objections

Terry has said that he wants to “highlight the suffering of Christians inflicted by Muslims” and to call on Islamic leaders “to stop persecuting and killing Christians and Jews, and well as ‘apostates’ who leave Islam.”

But Christian leaders in the Middle East said protests in which the Quran is desecrated have the opposite effect. They are bracing themselves for more attacks. Protestors in the West can speak freely – about free speech, among other things – but it’s Christians in the Middle East who will be doing the dying, they said.

“This message of hate antagonizes Muslims and promotes hatred,” said Samia Sidhom, a Christian and managing editor of the Cairo-based newspaper Watani. “Thus churches and Christians become targets of counter-hate and violence. Islam is in no way chastised, nor Christianity exalted. Only hate is strengthened. Churches and Christians here find they need to defend themselves against the allegations of being hateful and against the hate and violence directed at them.”

Martin Accad, a Lebanese Christian and director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, agreed with Sidhom.

“We are held guilty by association by extremist Muslims, even though the vast majority of Muslims will be able to dissociate between crazy American right-wingers and true followers of Jesus,” he said.

Leaders in the Arabic-speaking Christian world said Terry’s protests and others like it do nothing positive. Such provocations won’t make violent Muslim extremists re-examine their beliefs or go away.

“Islam will not disappear because we call it names,” said Samy, of the Egyptian Protestant church. “So we must witness to our belief in Jesus without aggressively attacking the others.”

Accad, a specialist in Christian-Muslim relations and also associate professor of Islamic Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, said positive engagement is the best approach for Christians to take toward Islam.

“Visit their places of worship and get to know them, and invite them to yours,” Accad said. “Educate your own congregation about Islam in a balanced way. Engage in transformational partnerships with moderate Muslim leaders who are working towards a more peaceful world.”

The element of the protests that most baffled Christians living in the Muslim world was that burning or tearing another religion’s book seemed so unchristian, they said.

“In what way can burning or ripping the Quran serve Christianity or Christians?” Sidhom of Watani said. “It is not an action fit for a servant of Christianity. It merely expresses hate and sends out a message of extreme hostility to Islam.”

Accad called publicly desecrating the Quran an act of “sheer moral and ethical absurdity.”

“These are not acts committed by followers of a Jesus ethic,” Accad said. “They will affect the image of Christianity as badly as the destruction of the World Trade Center affected the image of Islam.”

Accad added, “Since when do followers of Jesus rip an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?”

Such protests also defeat the purposes of churches in Islamic nations, Christians said. H. Ramdani, a church leader in Algeria, said Christians must strive to build bridges with Muslims in order to proclaim Christ.

“It’s destroying what we are doing and what we are planning to do,” he said of the protests. “People refuse to hear the gospel, but they ask the reason for the event. Muslims are more radical and sometimes they are brutal.”

At press time Compass was unable to reach Terry by phone or e-mail for a reply to the Middle Eastern Christians’ complaints about the planned protests, but after he staged a Sept. 11 Quran-tearing event he released a statement expressing “great sadness” over the deaths that followed while denying that it was right for Muslims to react violently to such protests.

“Such logic is like saying that a woman who is abused by her boyfriend or husband is guilty of bringing violence on herself because she said or did something that irritated him,” Terry stated.

In the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack, Terry Jones, leader of a small congregation in Gainesville, Fla., made his mark in the media by threatening to burn a stack of Qurans in protest of Islam. At the last minute, after wide condemnation from around the world, Jones stated that he felt “God is telling us to stop” and backed out of the protest.

Despite Jones’ retreat, protestors unaffiliated with him burned Qurans in New York and Tennessee, and demonstrations swept across the Muslim world. In the relatively isolated attacks that ensued, protestors set fire to a Christian school and various government buildings, burning the school and the other structures to the ground. In Kashmir, 17 people were killed in Islamic assaults, and two protestors were killed in demonstrations in Afghanistan.

Report from Compass Direct News

Despite Court Victories, Church Building in Indonesia Blocked


Islamists attack, issue threats to halt construction of worship center in West Java.

JAKARTA, Indonesia, September 22 (CDN) — A year after a church in West Java won a court battle over whether it could erect a worship building, Islamic extremists have blocked construction through attacks and intimidation tactics, church leaders said.

A mob of 50 Muslim extremists on Sept. 12 attacked construction workers at the Batak Christian Protestant Church (Huria Kristen Batak Protestan, or HKBP) site in Cinere village, near Depok City, in Limo district, eyewitnesses said; the 24 workers, who were on break, fled from the attackers, who chased them brandishing wooden boards studded with nails. Cinere village police arrived to restore order, but the mob left behind seven banners opposing the construction.

Three days later, Islamic groups demonstrated near the construction site on Puri Pesanggarahan IV St., demanding that all Christian activities in the area cease. About 70 Muslims participated in the demonstration, trying to approach the construction site until hundreds of police repelled them. Police have continued guarding the site.

The church won a case in West Java State Administrative Court on Sept. 17, 2009, rescinding a local order that had revoked the church’s building permit. The Supreme Court later upheld the Bandung court’s ruling, but threats have kept the church from proceeding.

Betty Sitompul, vice-chair of the church building committee, said she has received many intimidating text messages from a group opposed to the construction.

“They demanded that the church construction be halted,” she told Compass.

Sitompul added that some of the messages were intensely angry, and that all were aimed at stopping construction.

She said she an official of the Depok municipal government contacted her requesting that construction be delayed two months in order to discuss it with area residents. With a Supreme Court decision backing their case, church leaders declined and continued building.

Sitompul said she never yielded to threat or intimidation because the church construction project has a firm legal basis in the Supreme Court decision.

“There was no need to worry any longer,” she said. “I felt the problem was solved. It is normal for some to be dissatisfied.”

The Muslim Defenders’ Front (Front Pembela Islam, or FPI) reportedly participated in the Sept. 15 demonstration, but the FPI leader for Depok City, Habib Idrus Al Gadhri, denied opposing the area HKBP church.

“The rejection is from the Cinere Islam Solidarity Forum [FSUM] not from the FPI,” Al Gadhri told Compass.

He said that the HKBP church in Cinere is not facing opposition from the FPI but from the entire Muslim community.

“If FPI members are involved, I’m not responsible,” Al Gadhri said. “My advice is for the entire Muslim community in Cinere to sit down together and not demonstrate.”

The church had originally been granted a building permit in 1998. Applications for church permits are often fraught with difficulty in Indonesia, leaving many congregations no choice but to worship in private homes, hotels or rented conference facilities. Such gatherings leave churches open to threats and intimidation from activist groups such as the FPI, which in recent years has been responsible for the closure of many unregistered churches.

 

Congregational Concern

Despite having the law on their side, church leaders said many in the congregation are haunted with dread amid outbreaks of Islamic ire at the presence of churches in West Java, such as the Sept. 12 attack on the HKBP church in Ciketing, Bekasi, in which an elder was seriously wounded and a pastor injured.

Peter Tobing, head of the Cinere HKBP church building committee, said that some in the congregation and building committee feared that the outbreaks of Islamic opposition will lead to chaos.

The church is planning to sue the Depok municipality based on the allegation that its actions were illegal and caused deterioration at the site. When Depok Mayor Nur Mahmudi Ismail revoked the building permit for a multipurpose building and house of worship on March 27, 2009, it led to losses for the church as the congregation had to leave it unattended for a year, according to Tobing.

“Because of this, construction began with the clearing of weeds and building materials [such as paint] that had degraded,” Tobing said.

Sitompul said the bases for the lawsuit are the court decisions declaring the Depok mayor’s revocation of the building permit to be illegal.

“The Depok municipal government must take responsibility for the losses incurred when the building permit was revoked,” she said.

The lawsuit will seek compensation for damages incurred over the last two years, she said.

“We are going to submit all the data to the Depok government,” Sitompul said. “Then we will file our suit in the Depok Municipal Court.”

The church plans to construct its multipurpose building on a 5,000-square meter lot. Construction was halted in the initial stages, with the bottom floor 30 percent completed. The church had spent some 600 million rupiahs (US$66,000), with total costs projected at 2 billion rupiahs (US$220,000).

Report from Compass Direct News

50 000 Visitors


The Random Thoughts Blog has reached something of a milestone – we have now had 50 000 visitors since we moved to the WordPress.com blogging platform. This isn’t a huge number of visitors when compared/contrasted with other sites, but it is still a big thing for this Blog. I wasn’t sure how many visitors we would get – I certainly wasn’t expecting that many. So thank you to everyone who has ever visited the site – even if you weren’t among our happier site viewers.

To mark this occasion I have changed the appearance of the Blog, to one that I hope is aesthetically more appealing and that will making the reading experience here so much better. The previous red-coloured links were getting to me, so I think this new look improves the reading experience here. Hopefully that proves to be the case. I do prefer the more clean approach to a Blog – much like a magazine or article in a book. It just allows me to enjoy the reading experience without having to struggle to stay focused on what I’m reading.

Anyhow – thanks again – and please come back.

A Problem with Expository Preaching?


I have recently come across an article on the Banner of Truth website that ‘deals’ with expository preaching, or rather, attempts to define the dangers of what goes by ‘expository preaching’ in this day and age. The basic explanation or definition given in the article is pretty good really – that of a preacher confining himself to the text of Scripture and making it plain to others. That in itself is a fairly good explanation of being ‘expository’ I think. I do however think that some other things are probably required to fulfill the definition of what preaching ought to be – such as there being a place for application to the listeners, etc.

My point of disagreement with the article in question, is that of the need to issue a ‘caution’ to what goes by expository preaching today, which according to the article is the method of preaching through a passage or a book of Scripture week by week. I have no issue with saying that this is not the only way of being expository, but to issue a caution about the ‘modern way’ seems somewhat extreme to me.

I wouldn’t say that the ‘modern way’ is the only way to preach, nor would I go so far as to say it is the best way of preaching. I would say that I find it the best way of preaching for me, but I wouldn’t lay it down as a rule for others. I think the method of preaching used by a preacher is best left to that preacher and between himself and the Lord. I don’t think I would even call most of the preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon expository, yet you cannot argue that he didn’t preach in a manner used of God. So I think caution needs to be used in laying down ‘rules’ as to what method of preaching is best for a preacher, etc.

I have heard ‘preaching’ that has been systematic in its approach to a book of the Bible and it has left me bored, dry and thinking ‘what was the point of listening to it.’ However, as a person commented on the Banner of Truth article, this has probably got more to do with the validity of the preacher’s call than anything else. Perhaps the preacher is in a not so good place before God at the time of preaching also. Who knows – but a bad experience of someone ‘preaching’ systematically through a book of the Bible or passage doesn’t necessarily mean that that method is therefore proven to be a bad one. There are other variables that come into the picture.

So the Banner of Truth article is probably leading off in the wrong direction in my opinion. Readers of this Blog can make up their own opinion by reading the said article at:

http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?1777

Church of England moves towards ordaining women


Over the weekend, the Church of England introduced draft legislation putting the country’s Anglican communion on the fast track to allowing women’s ordination, reports Catholic News Agency.

On Saturday, May 8, the Church of England’s revision committee published a 142-page review in favor of draft proposals that support women being consecrated as bishops and priests.

According to Reuters, the church’s revision committee also proposed safeguards for more traditional parishes who have expressed opposition to ordaining women, including the right to request that a male bishop perform blessings and ordinations. However, the committee proposals did not meet the requests by these parishes for new dioceses or a special class of bishops.

“After much discussion the Committee rejected proposals aimed at fundamentally changing the approach of the legislation for those unable to receive the ministry of female bishops,” wrote Church of England officials in a statement Monday.

The draft proposals will now go forward for debate at the Church’s General Synod, in July in York, Northern England. If passed, the Church of England will hold the same position on female ordination as the Anglican Communion in the United States and New Zealand.

Monday’s statement also clarified that the “earliest that the legislation could achieve final approval in Synod (when two-thirds majorities in each of the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity will be required) is 2012, following which parliamentary approval and the Royal Assent would be needed.”

The statement added that “2014 remains the earliest realistic date when the first women might be consecrated as bishops.”

This move is likely to increase interest among traditionalist Anglicans in the Pope’s recent invitation for Church of England members to become Catholic. Last November, the Holy Father released “Anglicanorum coetibus,” a motu propio which offered Vatican guidelines for Anglican groups to enter into communion with the Catholic Church.

The Sunday Telegraph in Britain reported on May 2 that several Anglican bishops recently met with Vatican officials to discuss the process of converting to Catholicism.

Despite the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams reportedly urging them not to leave the Church of England, several bishops are looking to break from the Anglican Communion over their opposition to the introduction of women bishops and priests.

According to the British paper, Bishops John Broadhurst, Keith Newton and Andrew Burnham, from the Dioceses of Fulham, Richborough and Ebbsfleet respectively, all met with senior Vatican officials last week.

Report from the Christian Telegraph