Daily Archives: June 5, 2007

Dennis Overbye: The Universe, Expanding Beyond All Understanding

When Albert Einstein was starting out on his cosmological quest 100 years ago, the universe was apparently a pretty simple and static place. Common wisdom had it that all creation consisted of an island of stars and nebulae known as the Milky Way surrounded by infinite darkness.

We like to think we’re smarter than that now. We know space is sprinkled from now to forever with galaxies rushing away from one another under the impetus of the Big Bang.

Bask in your knowledge while you can. Our successors, whoever and wherever they are, may have no way of finding out about the Big Bang and the expanding universe, according to one of the more depressing scientific papers I have ever read.

If things keep going the way they are, Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University and Robert J. Scherrer of Vanderbilt University calculate, in 100 billion years the only galaxies left visible in the sky will be the half-dozen or so bound together gravitationally into what is known as the Local Group, which is not expanding and in fact will probably merge into one starry ball.

Unable to see any galaxies flying away, those astronomers will not know the universe is expanding and will think instead that they are back in the static island universe of Einstein. As the authors, who are physicists, write in a paper to be published in The Journal of Relativity and Gravitation, “observers in our ”˜island universe’ will be fundamentally incapable of determining the true nature of the universe.”

It is hard to count all the ways in which this is sad. Forget the implied mortality of our species and everything it has or has not accomplished. If you are of a certain science fiction age, like me, you might have grown up with a vague notion of the evolution of the universe as a form of growing self-awareness: the universe coming to know itself, getting smarter and smarter, culminating in some grand understanding, commanding the power to engineer galaxies and redesign local spacetime.

Instead, we have the prospect of a million separate Sisyphean efforts with one species after another pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll back down and be forgotten.

Worse, it makes you wonder just how smug we should feel about our own knowledge.

“There may be fundamentally important things that determine the universe that we can’t see,” Dr. Krauss said in an interview.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

Gene Robinson will let priests decide about performing same-gender civil unions

As the governor of New Hampshire signed a law May 31 establishing civil unions for same-gender couples in the state, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson said he will not direct Episcopal priests in the diocese to bless same-gender unions, letting priests decide that individually.

Robinson attended the ceremony in Concord during which Gov. John Lynch signed the bill. The new law allows same-gender couples to apply for the same rights as married people as early as January 2008. Same-gender unions from other states also will be recognized if they were legal in the state where they were performed.

New Hampshire will be the fourth State to offer civil unions and the first to do so without a court order or threat of one.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Forward in Faith Publishes Its Submission to the Legislative Drafting Group

Our proposals for a new province were designed to permit all in the Church of England to flourish, and represent the only solution thus far suggested which would enable women bishops to exercise their ministry without hindrance in their own dioceses, thus fulfilling the aspiration lying behind Canon Jane Sinclair’s amendment to the motion passed by General Synod on 10 July, 2006. The proposals were, of course, set out in forensic detail in 2004 in Part Two of Consecrated Women?; we would respectfully submit to the Legislative Drafting Group that, two and a half years on, they would repay careful re-reading.

In particular, we would ask the Group to note the following key features of the solution which we proposed:

Ӣ a province which would be an integral part of the Church of England
Ӣ a province which would provide a stable and secure solution to the problem
Ӣ a province the bishops of which would have ordinary jurisdiction
Ӣ a province the boundaries of which would be entirely permeable
Ӣ a province in which only male priests and bishops would minister sacramentally
Ӣ a province in which orders would derive from the historic episcopate as traditionally understood
Ӣ a province which would thus provide the necessary sacramental assurance
Ӣ a province which would enable renewal in mission and evangelism
Ӣ a province which would bring peace to the Church of England

Read the whole proposal.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, - Anglican: Latest News, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Organizations, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

Diocese of Niagara elects new bishop

Archdeacon Michael Bird, 49, a married father of three whose interests include curling and playing the bagpipes, on June 2 was elected bishop of the diocese of Niagara.

He was elected on the fifth ballot at an episcopal election synod held at Christ’s Church Cathedral in Hamilton, Ont., the diocese’s see city. On the final ballot, he received 71 out of 110 clergy votes and 149 out of 243 lay votes, according to synod officials. The election lasted four hours and started with a slate of 12 candidates.

Bishop-elect Bird’s consecration as new bishop has been set for Sept. 30. He will succeed Bishop Ralph Spence, who has announced he intends to retire at the end of February, 2008.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Latest News, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces

Nigeria: Relinquish Unholy Wealth, Cleric Tells Obasanjo

Apparently making reference to the accumulation of wealth by the former president, Akinola who is ranked among the 100 most famous people in the world, also charged Obasanjo to dedicate the rest of his life to the service of God and his poor neighbours. He said: “This is not an option. You are used to giving orders to people. Now we give you order and decree from this pulpit, that you must dedicate the rest of your life to the service of God and in humble service of your poor neigh-bours. Two, you must seek reconciliation with people you deliberately or inadver-tently antagonised these many years. By the grace of God, you have everything in life.

“What is left for you is to be humble and to shed off everything of that excesses luggage that you have, all those side attractions. Every political expediency.

“All those military adven-turism, all those unholy financial pursuit must go. They must go!.

“You must seek reconci-liation with people you deliberately or inadvertently antagonised these many years. What is left for you is to be humble and to shed off everything of that excess luggage that you have and all those side attractions”.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Religion & Culture

Cardinal Pell slams "open slather" for stem cell research

Cardinal Pell said all members of parliament should reject the cloning of human embryos for experimentation and destruction.

“No Catholic politician, indeed no Christian or person with respect for human life who has properly informed his conscience about the facts and ethics in this area should vote in favour of this immoral legislation,” he said in a statement.

“If this bill is passed, the enemies of human life will soon be back with further proposals, disguised with sweet words and promises of cures, to roll back the few remaining barriers to the regular destruction of early human life.”

Cardinal Pell said NSW should not simply follow the commonwealth’s lead in overturning the therapeutic cloning ban.

“The Catholic Church in NSW, through grants and through its hospitals and research institutes, is a promoter of ethical stem cell research on adult and umbilical cord stem cells,” he said.

“But allowing scientists open slather on human embryos for unethical research is not the best way forward.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

Supreme Court Ruling Brings Split to the Pro-Life Movement

In a highly visible rift in the anti-abortion movement, a coalition of evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic groups is attacking a longtime ally, Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson.

Using rhetoric that they have reserved in the past for abortion clinics, some of the coalition’s leaders accuse Dobson and other national antiabortion leaders of building an “industry” around relentless fundraising and misleading information.

At the center of the dispute is the Supreme Court’s April 18 decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, a federal law against a procedure in which a doctor partially delivers a late-term fetus before crushing its skull.

Dobson and many other antiabortion leaders hailed the 5 to 4 ruling as a victory; abortion-rights organizations saw it as a defeat. But six weeks later, its consequences have been, in part, the reverse.

“The Supreme Court decision totally galvanized our supporters” by raising the prospect that the court could soon overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 opinion that established a woman’s right to choose an abortion, said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Both our direct-mail and online giving got a serious bump,” she said.

Among antiabortion activists, meanwhile, the decision in Gonzales v. Carhart has reopened an old split between incrementalists who support piecemeal restrictions and purists who seek a wholesale prohibition on abortions.

In an open letter to Dobson that was published as a full-page ad May 23 in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Focus on the Family’s hometown newspaper, and May 30 in the Washington Times, the heads of five small but vocal groups called the Carhart decision “wicked,” and accused Dobson of misleading Christians by applauding it.

Carhart is even “more wicked than Roe” because it is “not a ban, but a partial-birth abortion manual” that affirms the legality of late-term abortions “as long as you follow its guidelines,” the ads said. “Yet, for many years you have misled the Body of Christ about the ban, and now about the ruling itself.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Supreme Court

Clifford Longley: Religion, power and money can be a dangerous combination

The association of religion with power and money has always been bad for religion, doubly so for Christianity. You’d have to admit the Catholic Church has been one of the most powerful institutions in the whole of world history. So hostile opinion sees Catholicism as fair game because it’s strong and powerful.

The last word on this ought to belong to the Methodist preacher, Dr Colin Morris. Something he said 25 years ago stuck with me. “The Gospel cannot be preached from the strong to the weak,” he said. This was John Wesley’s objection to the mighty Church of England of his time, when he founded Methodism. The Latin American liberation theologians are saying much the same about the Catholic Church there.

Jesus was a political outcast and itinerant preacher with neither power nor wealth, who got on the nerves of the powers-that-be to the extent that they had him done away with. What Colin Morris meant was that even if you came up with technically the right words, the mere fact of them being uttered from the pulpits – or radio stations – of the strong and powerful meant they weren’t the Gospel. If you’re rich you can’t expect to be listened to when you say “Blessed are the poor.” In this case the medium is the message and so the message is wrong. And that’s a Gospel truth all the Churches need to see from time to time when they look in the mirror.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

Professor John Macquarrie RIP

After nine years at Glasgow, he moved in 1962 to be Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York. He became known very widely and lectured all around the world. During this period he also changed his ecclesiastical allegiance and became an Anglican priest.

This was a gradual process influenced in two particular ways. In his book on spirituality he described the experience of attending the service of Benediction at the extreme Anglo-Catholic Church of St Andrew’s, Willesden Green, just after the war. From then on an Anglican Catholic spirituality began to imbue his life.

For many years he was a priest associate of the Order of the Holy Cross (an American Anglican Benedictine religious order).

The other influence was his colleague, John Knox, the New Testament theologian. Knox became convinced that episcopacy was an essential element in the continuing expression of “the Christ myth”. Knox became an Anglican, and Macquarrie followed him.

In 1968, when he had been an Anglican for only three years, Macquarrie was invited to be a consultant at the Lambeth Conference, a role he again took ten years later. In 1970 he was appointed Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford and Canon of Christ Church. After New York, he found Christ Church quaint and eccentric but attractive. He enjoyed its traditions and lifestyle. His and his wife’s friendship and hospitality were widely appreciated.

Macquarrie delivered the Gifford Lectures in 1979 and turned down the opportunity to become a bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church. He served on the Church of England Doctrine Commission and was often engaged in ecumenical dialogue. In his Christian Unity and Christian Diversity (1975) he argued that both were needed in the Church. He could see a place for a reformed papacy in a united Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * General Interest, In Memoriam, Theology

Question from the Elves: RSS feeds by category?

A quick question for any readers who would like to weigh in.

Now that you can see a list of all 12 of the parent categories on the sidebar, we’re wondering: If we can figure out how to do it: would you be interested in the possibility of individual RSS feeds for any or all of these 12 categories? (e.g. to get only the Anglican / Episcopal stories)

If there’s interest, we can see about setting up such feeds.

In the meantime, you can subscribe to the RSS feed for all T19 entries here. The Atom feed is here.

Posted in * Admin, Blog Tips & Features

JFK Plot Shows Dangers of Mundane Targets

Until a suspected terrorist plot was revealed, few people even knew there was a pipeline of highly combustible jet fuel snaking beneath the nation’s largest city.

But authorities said Monday that it’s one of countless lesser-known targets – including waterway retaining walls, dingy rail yards and tunnel ventilation systems – that they struggle to protect from attacks.

New York police spend “considerable time and resources protecting the landmarks nearly everyone would recognize as emblematic of New York and America,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. “But we also protect the anonymous, unheralded elements of infrastructure that are essential to the life of the city.”

Police were aware that the fuel system feeding John F. Kennedy International Airport posed a risk well before investigators unearthed an alleged conspiracy by a homegrown Muslim terror cell to blow it up, with the goal of killing thousands of people and inflicting major damage on the U.S. economy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military

ACI–Enhanced Responsibility: What Happened? Three Points and Four Questions in Our Present Season

Given this situation, we would make the following points and raise the following questions:

1. ACI has defended not only a collaborative understanding of the Instruments of Unity, but their integrity as well. The failure of the ABC publicly to state that the Dar es Salaam Communiqué is alive and well has been injurious to our common life. It has also been intimated in certain quarters that the adjudication of the Communiqué will be undertaken by a Joint Steering Committee of the Primates and the ACC. We trust that this rumor is mistaken. The Primates have worked hard and declared their intention, and their recommendations and requests are fully within their remit as an Instrument with enhanced responsibility, whose present character was requested by other Instruments of Communion. Lacking any clear understanding of the precise fate of the Communiqué has left the field open for manipulation and the multiplication of other initiatives, borne of fear, concern, power balancing and so on.

2. ACI has sought to work with the Windsor Report, the Covenant, and within the US, the Windsor Bishops. One can watch with curiosity and concern the proliferating of various groups within the conservative ranks, most recently, a Common Cause College of Bishops (as proposed), CANA, and others. The Anglican Communion Network would appear to have split into those bishops now headed toward the Common Cause College, and those who wish to continue on the Windsor path. But to the degree that the Windsor Bishops have no clarity about the future of the Primates’ Tanzanian Communiqué, and hence a comprehensive, ordered response to their Communion life in troubled times, they will collapse altogether. Indeed, one wonders what role they might be expected to exercise in the light of such unclarity.

3. It is our understanding that the recent issuing of Lambeth invitations was done in the light of organizational concerns and the timing of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s leave. The ways in which the Archbishop has reserved to himself all manner of options, discernment, and counsel regarding the ultimate character of invitations–which is his right to do–means that speculation about the character of the conference is bound to be only that. Still, it is speculation capable of generating unease and reaction that is not always constructive.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Resources & Links, - Anglican: Analysis, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Primates, Instruments of Unity, Lambeth 2008, Primates Mtg Dar es Salaam, Feb 2007, Resources: ACI docs

Jack Kevorkian Speaks with the New York Times

In an interview here on Sunday, two days after his release from prison, Mr. Kevorkian, 79, let loose a rush of fierce words about a nation that did not pass any new laws allowing assisted suicide while he was in prison. Again and again, he called the government “the tyrant.” He called the public “sheep.” He called some of his harshest critics “religious fanatics or nuts.”

Mr. Kevorkian says he assisted with more than 130 suicides in the 1990s, when he drew national attention to questions about what rights people have when it comes to dying. Asked whether he would turn away a gravely ill person seeking his guidance now, he said gruffly, “I can’t help them.”

Mr. Kevorkian, convicted in one of those 130 cases of second-degree murder, has agreed in his parole provisions not to help anyone else commit suicide. “Sorry,” he said. “Don’t blame me. Blame your government for passing the laws.”

Mr. Kevorkian seemed gloomy, too, about whether laws allowing assisted suicide would ever expand much beyond Oregon, the only state that has legalized the practice under certain circumstances. Of the United States becoming one of the countries to allow it, he said: “It’ll be the last one, if it does ever. It’s a tyrannical country.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Theology

Is Religious Conversion a Crime?

Lina Joy chose her faith long ago. Born a Muslim in the multiethnic nation of Malaysia, she started attending church in 1990 and was baptized as a Christian eight years later. But on Wednesday, Malaysia’s highest court blocked her final attempt to have her conversion legally recognized by the state. It was a blow to her heart as well as her soul. Malaysian law prohibits marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims, so Joy will not be able to wed the Christian man she loves.

Malaysia has long trumpeted itself as a moderate Muslim nation committed to safeguarding the rights of its diverse population, an ethnic olio worthy of a Benetton ad: Muslim Malays, Christian and Buddhist Chinese, Hindu and Sikh Indians, animist indigenous peoples. Indeed, earlier this week in the capital Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi hosted the annual World Islamic Economic Forum, where he held up his homeland as proof that Islam did not equal extremism.

Yet the Federal Court’s ruling on the Joy case undermines Malaysia’s claim of tolerance. Already, several Malaysian states have made renunciation of Islam punishable with prison time. Wednesday’s court decision was greeted by shouts of “God is great” from Muslims gathered outside the courthouse. Those supporting the separation of mosque and state were less jubilant. “This case is not just a question of religious preference but of a potential dismantling of Malaysia’s … multiethnic, multireligious [character],” said Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a lawyer for Joy, before the verdict was announced.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

Bishop Jack Iker on the March Meeting of the American House of Bishops

A palpable sense of apprehension was in the air as the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church gathered at Camp Allen in Texas on 16 March 2007, for their five-day spring meeting. Everyone was in a dither about the recently issued Communique from the Dar es Salaam meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, calling for an ‘unequivocal’ response from the American bishops to the Windsor Report requests for a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions and the consecration of any bishop living in a same-sex partnership. The bishops have to give an answer by 30 September 2007.

Gracious conversation

In the days leading up to the meeting, all the bishops had been peppered by emails and letters from the lesbi-gay lobby group to ‘just say no!’ to this interference in our internal affairs. The Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, preparing to preside at her first meeting of the HOB, wrote to all the bishops to assure them that no decisions were to be made on the Communique at this meeting and to publicize that fact to others. This was to be a time for gracious conversation and careful listening to one another. Decisions were to be put off until the September meeting of the House in order to comply with the Primates’ deadline.

However, the liberals were not buying that approach and were determined to take a stand now, perhaps not on the issue of the requested moratoria, which could wait until September, but certainly on the proposed Pastoral Scheme that would undermine the canonical integrity of TEC. A small group of bishops had been discussing a paper that they would spring on the meeting near its end and had arrived at Camp Allen with draft copies in hand. Their urgency was driven by a fear that the Archbishop of Canterbury was moving too quickly in the formation of the Pastoral Council and the selection by Windsor Bishops of a Primatial Vicar who would minister to those congregations and dioceses who were alienated from their church by recent actions of the General Convention.

So after much talk and prayer, as the final day approached, a business session was called and the bishops moved into the legislative mode, adopting two ‘Mind of the House’ resolutions, ‘A Communication to The Episcopal Church,’ and a pastoral letter entitled ‘A Message to God’s People.’

Two resolutions

The first resolution, while affirming the desire for TEC to remain a full member of the Anglican Communion, called the proposed Pastoral Scheme ‘injurious to The Episcopal Church’ and urged the Executive Council to ‘decline to participate in it.’ Never mind that the Communique never asked the Executive Council to do anything about the Pastoral Scheme and that the Presiding Bishop had declared her support of such an arrangement at the Primates’ Meeting; the majority of the bishops felt the need to act quickly and decisively to protect ‘our own polity and canons.’

The second resolution, proposed by Central Florida Bishop John Howe, a member of the Anglican Communion Network, again affirmed a ‘passionate desire to remain in full constituent membership’ in the Anglican Communion, underscored that ‘we are unable to accept the proposed Pastoral Scheme,’ and went on to cite ‘an urgent need’ for the HOB ‘to meet face to face’ with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates’ Standing Committee ‘at the earliest possible opportunity’ The resolution even went on to give the assurance that such a meeting would be ‘at our expense for three days of prayer and conversation regarding these important matters’ But, one might ask, why the need for such an additional meeting? Do they expect the ABC and Standing Committee to repudiate the requests for moratoria made by the Windsor Report and reaffirmed by the Primates? Is it an opportunity to explain once again the unique polity of TEC that all orders – bishops, priests and laity – have to be involved in making policy decisions for this church? Is it just an effort to delay the inevitable decision to walk apart? The resolution was adopted without dissent.

Then it was time to perfect the ‘Message to God’s People,’ which some bishops had been working on for days in advance of arriving at Camp Allen ‘for conversation.’ After carefully pointing out the international make up of TEC – ‘we represent fifteen sovereign nations, the fifty United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands, and Micronesia’ – the statement trumpets the ‘ health and vitality of our Church.’ Mention is made of the Millennium Development Goals (but of course!), the work of the Covenant Drafting Committee, the war in Iraq, and the progress of the Bishop’s Task Force on Property Disputes. Then comes the heart of the matter: the Communique from the Primates.

Millennium development goals

In a rather self-serving and defensive fashion, the statement goes on to say (once again!) that though we really want to remain in the Anglican Communion, we must do so on our own terms. Down with the Pastoral Scheme, down with the appointment of a Primatial Vicar and Pastoral Council, down with foreign interference in the life of TEC! The Primates are chastised for the Communique’s failure to draw attention to ‘the pressing issues of violence against gay and lesbian people around the world, and the criminalization of homosexual behavior in many nations of the world.’ The statement concludes with the promise of ‘a teaching guide’ that will be provided for the study of the Communique and the proposed Covenant. We can hardly wait!

As for the last document, the pastoral letter – it contains more of the same. You really must read it to believe it! It is the most robust defence of our rights and privileges as American Episcopalians that I have seen to this date! The Windsor Bishops and the Anglican Communion Network have yet to make a specific response to the Camp Allen decisions and declarations. And as for the HOB of TEC, they shall meet again in the fall for more graceful conversation and careful listening.’ As we say in Texas: ‘Well, bless their hearts!’

–(The Rt. Rev.) Jack Iker is Bishop of Fort Worth; this article appears in the May 2007 issue of New Directions Magazine

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Anglican Primates, Episcopal Church (TEC), Primates Mtg Dar es Salaam, Feb 2007, TEC Bishops