The Gideons are celebrating their 100th anniversary. In 1908 the Gideons placed Bibles in the rooms at the Superior Hotel, Superior, Montana. 1.5 Billion Bibles later, the Gideons International is still giving the scriptures away, now in 187 countries and in 85 different languages. Executive director Jerry Burden said, "We've never been an association that dwelt on the past. We always work in the present and look to the future. For us, we look to be around another 100 years." The Gideons have become more environmentally friendly, new Bibles placed in hotels are made of 30 % recycled paper.
The San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival announced it's 2009 Winners. A film titled "Widow's Might" was the surprise winner of the coveted "Best of Festival" award. (It comes with a $ 101,000 cash prize.) This film is a comedy about an aspiring filmmaker who helps out an elderly widow. It was written and directed by 19-year-old John Moore of Kaufmann, Texas. Remember the name, there will be Moore films for years to come.
Winner in the Best Feature Film category was "Fireproof," from Sherwood Baptist Church, out of Albany, Georgia. The touching film tells the story of a firefighter's struggle to save his marriage. (This film actually did very well at the box office, earning $ 33 million- the highest-grossing independent film of 2008.)
Other films of note included "The Prodigal Trilogy," winner of Best Dramatic Short, a wonderful collection of monologues based on the three characters of the Prodigal Son story from Luke 15. And the winner of Best Creation Film was "Noah's Ark: Thinking Outside the Box.
There has been more controversy this week about people praying at inaugural events. Several weeks ago President-Elect Barak Obama picked the Rev. Rick Warren to pray at his Inauguration, January 20, 2009. This choice was met with protests from gay advocacy groups, which did not appreciate Warren's support of Proposition 8 - the Constitutional Amendment in California making same-sex marriages illegal. In an apparent balancing act, President-Elect Obama has now asked Bishop Gene Robinson to pray at an inaugural "kick-off" event on January 18. Robinson came to national attention as the first openly non-celibate homosexual person to be elected a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. After accepting the invitation, Robinson said, "The fact Rick Warren and I are each giving invocations during inauguration festivities just shows that the new president means to include all Americans."
Part of the debate over the invocations has centered on how they should conclude. Should the minister say "in Jesus name" at the end of the prayer? Or should the prayer be more inclusive, or maybe just end with an "Amen?" At President George W. Bush's inaugurations Franklin Graham (2001) and Kirbyjon Caldwell (2005) prayed "in the name of Jesus" and were soundly criticized in the media. Rick Warren was asked if he would dedicate his prayer to Jesus. He said, "I'm a Christian pastor so I will pray the only kind of prayer I know how to pray." We will be listening ... and praying with you.
(Rev. John Donaldson is the Pastor at Newborn & Mansfield UMC and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)