Daily Archives: June 6, 2007
An Egyptian Coptic Christian who was permitted to stay in the United States because of the probable threat of torture back home is now fighting deportation on a murder charge in Egypt.
The office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has decided to deport the man, Sameh Khouzam, 38, of Lancaster, Pa., because Egypt’s government has given diplomatic assurances that Mr. Khouzam will not be tortured upon his return.
In fleeing to the United States nine years ago, Mr. Khouzam maintained that he was repeatedly detained and tortured because he refused to convert to Islam. He denies the murder accusation.
Human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, argue that the use of torture in Egypt is so routine and well-documented that deporting Mr. Khouzam would expose him to harsh treatment and would amount to a violation of the Convention Against Torture.
Under the convention, foreign citizens cannot be repatriated to countries where they stand a reasonable chance of being tortured.
Mr. Khouzam’s lawyers have won a temporary stay of deportation in federal court until tomorrow. The A.C.L.U., which has taken his case, is trying to get the stay prolonged so that it might argue for Mr. Khouzam’s ultimate release. He is being detained in Pennsylvania.
“The fundamental issue is whether the United States government can circumvent its obligation under CAT by obtaining inherently unreliable diplomatic assurances from the government of Egypt,” said Amrit Singh, staff lawyer at the A.C.L.U.’s immigrants’ rights project. “It’s particularly outrageous when the record is replete with evidence that he has been repeatedly tortured.”
Amnesty International has warned that the internet “could change beyond all recognition” unless action is taken against the erosion of online freedoms.
The warning comes ahead of a conference organised by Amnesty, where victims of repression will outline their plights.
The “virus of internet repression” has spread from a handful of countries to dozens of governments, said the group.
Amnesty accused companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo of being complicit in the problem.
You have written a great deal about liturgical theology, but missional theology seems more popular these days.
I think that missional theology is a very positive development. But some missional theology has not gone far enough. It hasn’t asked, What is the mission of the Trinity? And the answer to that question is communion. Ultimately, all things are to be brought back into communion with the triune God. Communion is the ultimate end, not mission.
If we see communion as central to the life of the church, we are going to have an important place for mission. And this is reflected in the ancient fourfold structure of worship: gathering, proclaiming the Word, celebrating the Eucharist, and going out into the world. The last, of course, is mission. But mission takes its place within a larger structure. It is this sense of communion that the evangelical world especially needs. Communion is not just introspection or fellowship among ourselves. It involves, ultimately, seeing God and seeing the heart of God as well, which is his love for the world.
In many services today, the dismissal into the world is quite perfunctory. But if you go to an Orthodox service, you’ll be amazed at the elaborate way in which the end of the service is conducted. It’s not just a word of dismissal””there are whole prayers and litanies that prepare us to go back out into the world.
Despite Lawrence’s differences with progressive leaders in the church, his conviction that God spoke to him is why he accepted the nomination for bishop of South Carolina from the Rt. Rev. Alden Hathaway, retired bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese, where Lawrence served for 13 years. (That diocese also asked to be placed under the leadership of someone other than Jefferts Schori.)
That same conviction has sustained Lawrence through his election tribulations.
First, Lawrence said, there was the grueling questioning by the bishops and the standing committee of the 111 dioceses in the Episcopal Church who voted to consent or not to the South Carolina election. Lawrence has called the process “abuse” and “harassment.”
“What would I do to keep the Diocese of South Carolina from leaving the Episcopal Church?” he said he was asked.
“That diocese has made no statement regarding leaving the Episcopal Church,” he said. “It’s analogous to asking a man who is about to be married to his fiancee what he’s going to do to keep her faithful to her vows,” he said, “as if she’s shown any signs of being unfaithful. It’s insulting to him. It’s insulting to her.
“I answered that I will work at least as hard at keeping the Diocese of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church as my sister and brother bishops work at keeping the Episcopal Church in covenant relationship with the Anglican Communion.”
That was seen by some as evasive, Lawrence said, but what he was trying to highlight was the need for greater mutual accountability, cooperation and respect.
“There’s no question that South Carolina wanted him,” said the Rev. Van McCalister, spokesman for the local San Joaquin Diocese. “He was elected overwhelmingly on a first ballot. He is an outstanding priest. I have not talked to anybody who doesn’t think he is bishop material.”
A house divided
A longtime friend of Lawrence’s, the Rev. Kevin Higgins, pastor of Bakersfield’s Quest Church, faced his own issues with the Episcopal Church.
His 40-member congregation split from the church in January 2006. He said it was a decision preceded by an entire year of consideration, prayer and meetings with the local bishop.
“I knew it would probably be interpreted by many as us leaving because of the issue of sexuality in the church,” Higgins said, referring to the 2003 appointment of Rev. Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, as bishop of New Hampshire.
“The issue has been the gradual slow move away from basic Christianity in the Episcopal Church,” Higgins said. “We have an environment in which many of our bishops, who are supposed to be the defenders of the faith, question whether Jesus rose from the dead and whether he was completely divine.
“Integrity would call that if you come to those views, that you would give up the collar. It’d be as if a member of Congress felt that the Constitution was not a valid document or obsolete.”
Dr. Fairfield: Classic Biblical and Anglican theology believes in a God who exists as a community of three Persons, who are nevertheless one God. We believe that these Persons exist beyond the universe, “other” than time and space. And we believe that God created the universe out of nothing.
Likewise we trust that God loves the universe and intervenes constantly to preserve it, and to heal it from the toxins that evil has mysteriously spread throughout it. We believe that Jesus was and is the Second Person of the Trinity. He existed and exists outside of all time and space. Nevertheless in His love he entered history in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago, to be with us, and to rescue us. We believe that Jesus died on the Cross to pay for our sins, thus to satisfy the norms of justice that He, the Father and the Spirit forever uphold.
And we believe that Jesus rose from the dead as a matter of historical fact – not as the resuscitation of a corpse, however, but as the first instance of a wholly new life that He wants to share with us for all eternity. Finally we believe that Jesus personally affirmed the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, and personally commissioned and sanctioned the teaching that the Church later acknowledged to be the New Testament.
These Scriptures represent God’s official message to the human race. And while its interpretation requires the utmost of care, scholarship and grace, its central message is non-negotiable. Modernism, taken to its logical conclusions, rejects all of these classic Biblical and Anglican affirmations. For Modernism, the word “god” refers to an impersonal force that is wholly within the universe.
There is no dimension of this “force” that is not fully invested in the cosmos. This “force” neither speaks nor acts. But we know it exists because we encounter it in the depths of our psyches, in moments of transformed experience that the 19th century German thinkers like Friedrich Schleiermacher called “god-consciousness.”
Modernists attribute these moments of transformed consciousness to an undefined “Spirit.” Modernism therefore rejects Jesus as the pre-existent Second Person of the Trinity.
For Modernism, Jesus was simply a Palestinian sage, who was the first human being in evolutionary history to experience “god-consciousness” fully and perfectly. Otherwise he was purely human. He did not rise from the dead. Rather, His followers experienced a “Christ event” in which their dead teacher seemed to be still present and alive to them. Therefore the prospect of an actual life after death is both iffy and unimportant for Modernism.
Finally Modernism views the Bible as it does all the holy books amongst the world religions, namely as a human artifact. The Bible represents one ancient people’s attempt to talk about “god-consciousness” and to pass on that experience to new converts.
But Modernists believe that the Bible was completely conditioned by its ancient environment, and has considerable historical interest but no authority for Christians today. As one Episcopal bishop recently put it, “The Church wrote the Bible, so the Church can re-write the Bible.” To sum it up, Modernism uses all the old familiar Christian words, but changes all the meanings. And it neglects to tell the laity. “Why does any of this matter anyway?”
Dr. Fairfield: As you can see, these two belief systems are mutually exclusive. Either you believe in a God who is both beyond time and space and within it, or you believe in a “god” who is merely an impersonal force completely inside the cosmos. There is no half-way point, no via media between these two opposing religions (the classic Anglican via media meant something entirely different).
Ask Rabbi Arthur Waskow how many books he’s written, and he strokes his long, white beard for a moment.
“It’s either 19 or 20,” he says, sitting in the sunlit garden of his Shalom Center in West Mount Airy. “My wife says it’s the same number as the times I’ve been arrested.”
And with that he laughs heartily.
Books. Liturgies. Civil disobedience. For the 73-year-old Waskow, all are devices for challenging convention and opening minds “at the God level.”
A peace and environmental activist, Waskow has also been bursting open Judaism for 39 years – ever since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination awoke him to Judaism’s powerful command to “heal the world.”
Esteemed in some circles for his prophetic liberalism, disdained in others, this icon of the Left is nonetheless hard to ignore. In April, Newsweek listed him as one of “the 50 most influential rabbis in America.”
In the battle to capture the soul of Anglicanism, the great loser -after the Anglican Communion itself–would seem to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, who in a desperate attempt to preserve the unity of the Communion has submitted to the machinations of an anachronistic evangelicalism which pretends to “complete” the English Reformation by imposing a monolithic uniformity on the manner in which we interpret Scripture and carry on the contextual ministry that our culture requires.
When he was appointed by the Crown to the See of Canterbury, the gentle Rowan Williams tried to ingratiate himself with the radical evangelicals in the Church of England, who did not find him congenial to their subversive plans to take over the soul of the Communion.
The Archbishop was acting in good faith and desirous to extend the hand of friendship to all factions, since he did not have to please anybody, much less those who had nothing to do with his appointment.
Once enthroned, Rowan Williams found himself caught in the web of a plot of international dimensions in which radical British evangelicals, ultraconservative American schismatics and an ambitious African Primate, with his band of assenting minions, had joined forces to capture the soul of Anglicanism, at the same time that they advanced their own particular agendas.
Up until the last meeting of the Primates in Dar es Salaam, the Archbishop of Canterbury tried to woo the leaders of the conspiracy by yielding to the majority of their wishes. As was to be expected, the ringleaders took Rowan Williams’ acquiescence for weakness, and redoubled their efforts to make him sanction an American schism.
Although he has not fully submitted to their demands, I do not understand why is it that he does not put a stop to Peter Akinola’s grandiloquent harangues, or to his incessant interventions in the Episcopal Church, or respond accordingly to his bullying threats, such as “We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers.” (2006 report of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa). Neither do I understand Rowan’s reluctance to meet with the House of Bishops.
If the Archbishop of Canterbury allows the conspirators to have their way, they will not only validate an American schism, but alienate the other 21st century Anglican Provinces, and, in effect, render asunder the Anglican Communion by erecting their own ecclesial body where his primacy and moral authority will become superfluous.
Let us pray for Rowan Williams as he faces the greatest challenge of his life.
–Sergio Carranza is an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles; this article appears in the June issue of Angelus, a publication for clergy in the Diocese of Los Angeles and is reproduced here with permission
I have personal experience of Vladimir Putin’s regime and the way the Russian President operates. I have been forced to seek asylum in Britain for criticising the Kremlin as an independent journalist. I have come to realise that to return to my homeland would be suicidal for me.
But this letter is not about me. I am writing to you because I fear that a tragedy is befalling Russia, with the restrictions on political and personal freedoms worsening every day. Having done away with the domestic opposition, Putin, on the eve of the G8 summit, has now decided to deal with the external “enemies”.
He has threatened to aim Russian missiles at targets in Europe once again, just like in the Cold War, and has warned of a nuclear arms race. It is now clear that the escalation of aggression by Kremlin is the direct result of the policy of appeasement pursued by Western leaders who, during the seven years of Putin’s rule, have turned a blind eye to his lynching of the opposition, the press, NGOs and all democratic institutions in Russia.
There has been no single example in history of a dictator who, sooner or later, did not become a danger to both his close and distant neighbours.
The goal is not the “revival of Russia” or the “revival of the national pride of the Russians”, as Putin and the Kremlin’s propaganda are trying to present it. It is a full-scale revenge by the secret services and the authoritarian regime with all their old methods and tricks.
Putin has shut all independent TV channels, introduced harsh censorship, blocked access to the press for the democratic opposition, accused Russian human rights activists and NGOs of being Western spies, and split up the country’s biggest oil company, Yukos, among his friends from the special services.
A revolutionary technique being developed by British scientists could cure blindness in millions of people around the world.
The first 45-minute operations could take place within five years and could be as commonplace as cataract surgery in a decade.
The improvement is likely to be great enough to transform lives, allowing the blind to regain the ability to carry out everyday tasks such as reading or driving.
The pioneering stem cell surgery tackles age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in the elderly. There are about 300,000 sufferers in this country and the number is expected to treble in the next 25 years to around one million as the population ages.
AMD, which affects a quarter of over-60s in the UK and more than half of over-75s to some degree, occurs in two forms. While the “wet” form can be combated with drugs, there is no treatment for the “dry” form which accounts for 90 per cent of cases.
The treatment centres on human embryonic stem cells grown in a laboratory. These are “blank” cells with the power to turn into different cell types and are used to create small patches identical to the cells damaged in the eyes of AMD sufferers.
In a rare public discussion of her husband’s infidelity, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that she probably could not have gotten through her marital troubles without relying on her faith in God.
Clinton stood by her actions in the aftermath of former President Clinton’s admission that he had an affair, including presumably her decision to stay in the marriage.
“I am very grateful that I had a grounding in faith that gave me the courage and the strength to do what I thought was right, regardless of what the world thought,” Clinton said during a forum where the three leading Democratic presidential candidates talked about faith and values.
“I’m not sure I would have gotten through it without my faith,” she said.
The forum, sponsored by the liberal Sojourners/Call to Renewal evangelical organization, provided an uncommon glimpse into the most personal beliefs of Clinton and rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama. The most intimate question came about the Clintons’ relationship, one of the world’s most debated marriages but one that the husband and wife rarely speak openly about.
Clinton said she’s “been tested in ways that are both publicly known and those that are not so well known or not known at all.” She said it’s those times when her personal faith and the prayers of others sustain her.
“At those moments in time when you are tested, it is absolutely essential that you be grounded in your faith,” she said.
Edwards revealed that he prays — and sins — every day. The crowd gasped loudly when moderator Soledad O’Brien asked Edwards to name the biggest sin he ever committed, and he won their applause when he said he would have a hard time naming one thing.
“I sin every single day,” said Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee. “We are all sinners and we all fall short.”
Let us know how things look for you (ease of readability, especially of the sidebar) and what browser you are using. Thanks. Feedback would be most helpful at this point. Also, we’ve got a question about individual article display.
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Beijing’s problem in dealing with such characteristics, however, is that the “normal” tools to rein in an overheated stock market would actually cause more problems than they would solve.
Perhaps the most reliable way to cool off any portion of an economy — stock markets included — is to jack up interest rates. Reducing access to capital slows investments of all types and certainly makes dubious practices that are common in China — like taking out a second mortgage or other loan to purchase shares — less attractive. It also would make traditional savings accounts far more appealing.
But such an obvious option is a nonstarter in China. The defining characteristic of the Chinese economic system has traditionally been cheap capital made possible by interest rates held below the rate of inflation. This cheap capital in turn is used for two key objectives: first, to prop up any and all state bank-funded projects that help ensure maximum employment and thus contain social pressures; second, to fund Chinese government purchases of U.S. Treasury bills, which helps contain the pace of the yuan’s appreciation. Though benchmark interest rates have been increased four times in the last year alone, such increases have been minor and aimed exclusively at dampening lending, not at changing savings patterns.
But the cheap capital ultimately has to come from somewhere — in this case, the famed Asian savings rate. Some of that cash has obviously leaked out of urban dwellers into the stock market in a manner that is flirting with disaster, but should the core cash that China’s millions of savers funnel to the state via their deposits actually pay meaningful interest the result would be disastrous. Should China lose the ability to capture that cash, interest rates would have to climb to maintain the size of this deposit pool. The subsequent shortage of cash would make it more expensive for banks to issue loans to loss-making state-owned enterprises, potentially causing some state-subsidized sectors to screech to a halt if not collapse outright.
Which means the only real way to slow the surge of liquidity into the stock markets is to offer more options. Of course the question then becomes: What options? Products like the U.S. 401k require a far deeper, more sophisticated and better regulated system. There are always property markets, but they already are suffering from a bubble more dangerous than the stock markets.
China does not yet have a mature corporate bond market, and its derivatives market and commodity markets are so new and underdeveloped that a large surge of capital into them now would simply institutionalize all of the stock market’s shortcomings into them as well. This leaves Chinese investors with few options — and Beijing with a stock market that simply cannot slow down without collapsing altogether.
My own view (and that of others) has long been that TEC’s behavior has been so brazenly destructive of the Communion’s conciliar life on a number of levels, that the entire American church’s college of bishops should not be invited to Lambeth at all. Without some major, formal, and agreed recommitment to the character of conciliar life, TEC’s participation in the Communion’s gathering threatens to be subversive, not edifying, inevitably confusing, not clarifying. The Anglican Communion is not “the Catholic Church” tout court, by a long shot, and requires a kind of conserving energy that goes beyond whole-sale pneumatic openness-within-order. Individual TEC bishops might, if they so chose, petition Canterbury and the Primates for a seat at Lambeth on the basis of affirming a commitment to the principles the Primates themselves laid out in their recent CommuniquÃ© (the “Camp Allen Principles”) ”“ this may already be implied in Canterbury’s current invitation, although this is not wholly clear — or at least a commitment to previous Lambeth resolutions, whose imposing legitimacy has now been clearly affirmed by the interlocking agreement of other Anglican Communion synods.
Perhaps something like this is still possible in the post ”“September 30th Anglican world, when TEC’s House of Bishops will have given their common response to the Primates. Many of us hope for this and urge this, of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates themselves. But my opinion is only that ”“ an opinion among many. I have no role in inviting, and I can only advise, from the farthest distance, on the character of prudence demanded by the current situation. The Lambeth Conference should go on with (preferably) or without imposed criteria. Even the most pessimistic “conservative” must agree that the numbers are there for traditionalist bishops to do whatever they discern as fitting, if they indeed show up and pursue it. That is the nature of a council: if “what they pursue” is right, it will stick.
But quite apart from Canterbury or this or that party’s hopes or judgments, Lambeth can be, in terms of the Holy Spirit’s leading, whatever it wants to be. Neither Canterbury, nor the Design Committee, nor those who do not attend can make or unmake the conciliar character of Lambeth. And those who do attend may well, should they choose to exercise the tools of the Spirit they are given (to the degree that any of us have such a “choice”), transform through the Spirit’s work whatever the Lambeth Conference may initially appear to be into a true and authoritative council of the Communion and even of the Church at large. The Holy Spirit controls the course of a gathering of saints; and the saints are eager to work with God. The Church of Christ eagerly seeks counsel together, even when its “formal councils” are obscured.
And why would anyone wish to be otherwise than eager in this regard? There are clearly those who want to declare the Lambeth Conference conciliarly ineffective, and to depose it from (or deny it) any conciliar role, even before it convenes. A question to be asked of these people is whether they want to declare themselves, before the fact, as letting go of the charismatic calling of the Church. For, in the context of the Christian faith and the Church’s life, they need not do so. “Talking down” the Conference or deliberately absenting oneself from it may or may not undermine the authority of Lambeth (indeed, depending on how it is done, it may in fact enhance it!). But if it so undermines it, it also may well undermine the authority of those who deliberately reject the Conference itself. For such preemptive rejection will cloud the eagerness, trouble the faith, dampen the fire, quench the Spirit. Let archbishops and their episcopal colleges come and “fight the good fight”, sustained ”“ as surely they will be ”“ by the Holy Spirit of God. These are good people, whose deepest hopes the Lord would shape and honor. Let those who pray, come together and pray; let those who serve, come together and serve; let those who teach, come together and teach; let those who heal, come together and heal. Let the Holy Spirit list where He will within the Church as she gathers in the name of Jesus.
We’ve just added a huge slew of links (nearly 70) to Anglican / Episcopal blogs on “both sides of the aisle” or debate. We’ve used Kendall’s “labels” reasserters & reappraisers as easy shorthand since that is understood by most regulars on the blogs. Of course there are nuances. (We could make a separate category for poor Fr. Greg Jones, the Anglican Centrist, perhaps?! 😉 )
These are by no means all the blogs on either side, but they are those which we’ve linked to with some regularity, and / or which provide good sources of news or commentary and thoughtful discussion. (We also tried to focus on those which are updated frequently, although there are a few exceptions to that on the list.)
Feel free to let us know what we’ve missed, and also if you find any broken links.
You can view the entire list of links on the sidebar here in a larger format that may be easier to read and use.
We’ll be working to add links to excellent non-Anglican sites and resources in the coming days. Stay tuned.