Daily Archives: July 20, 2007

Bishop Dabney Smith: Challenges to faith are a chance to grow

We have a problem of theology in our time and culture. I am not talking about the headline issues of human sexuality. I am talking about God.

It is fascinating that recent best-seller lists of books contain titles such as The God Delusion and God Is Not Great. I read another book recently of the same mindset titled Letter to a Christian Nation that argued that God is a hoax and religion is a detriment to healthy society.

Interestingly, I discovered that I agreed with many statements that the author made because religion in general, and Christianity specifically, can be used to launch fear, mistrust and destruction. Clearly, though, the God I worship is real and does not operate from fear and violence.

I noticed several things in reading this book. One is that the author valued something that Anglicans also deeply value: human reason. Our faith tradition encourages questions and the seeking of truth so as to deepen faith. We do not see faith as an attribute that avoids the intellect.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Apologetics, Episcopal Church (TEC), Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops, Theology

Lawrence Wright: Lady Bird’s Lost Legacy

The obituaries for Lady Bird Johnson last week focused mainly on her advocacy for highway beautification, largely failing to note that nearly all of the 200 laws related to the environment during the Johnson administration had her stamp on them, including the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and many additions to the national parks system. She worked to protect the redwoods and block the damming of the Grand Canyon.

The environmental movement was just being born ”” Rachel Carson had published “Silent Spring” the year before Johnson took office ”” but it found in Lady Bird its most effective advocate. She hoped to leave the country more beautiful than she found it, and there is no doubt that she did so ”” beginning with her efforts at cleaning up the slums of the nation’s capital to the creation of the National Wildflower Research Center here in Austin.

From the start, however, the centerpiece of Mrs. Johnson’s legacy was crippled by compromises with the billboard lobby. You wouldn’t know it from last week’s coverage, but Lyndon Johnson realized when he signed the bill that it was a failure. “We have placed a wall of civilization between us and between the beauty of our land and of our countryside,” he reflected. “This bill … does not represent what the national interest requires. But it is a first step, and there will be other steps.”

There were no other steps.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources

Feds Seize Rocket Launcher In N.J; Weapon Found On Jersey City Lawn, In Flight Path Of Newark Airpt

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

Naomi Schaefer Riley: Democrats try to squeeze secular and religious voters under one tent

In a speech on Tuesday, Barack Obama told his audience that the 2008 presidential election would answer the question: “What kind of America will our daughters grow up in?” What, one might wonder, does he want to protect our daughters from? An oversexualized culture? Predators on the Internet? Alas, no. Mr. Obama was addressing a Planned Parenthood convention and worried that if the wrong person got into the White House, our daughters might grow up in a country without . . . partial-birth abortions.

Polls conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life show that Americans believe the Democrats to be less friendly to faith than they had been even a few years ago. Yet a donkey with a halo over his head graces the cover of Time magazine this week and the story inside chronicles “How the Democrats Got Religion.” From faith working groups to faith breakfasts, Mr. Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are all participating in what strategist Mike McCurry tells Time is “a Great Awakening in the Democratic Party.”

And as far as Leslie Brown is concerned, the Democrats are making progress. Ms. Brown, the coordinator of the Faith in Action initiative at the Democratic National Committee, says she is working for a “big tent party,” with plenty of room for people of faith. She tells me, for instance, that “evangelicals often get painted in broad strokes, as a monolith,” but they’re not. Efforts to get these potential swing voters include speeches by DNC chair Howard Dean at various religious institutions and the addition of both national and local religious leaders to the organization’s advisers.

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, is probably less than excited by such initiatives. She recently said in a speech, “I don’t want a progressive evangelical movement any more than I want the conservative one we have right now.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture

Church Times Editorial: The Crown’s right to choose priests

The subject of patronage is so complex that it is hard to discover who is responsible for what. The bishops and archbishops control 49 per cent of livings, and the Crown about eight per cent. About one third of patrons are private individuals, ecclesiastical societies, or bodies such as Oxford or Cambridge colleges. The reorganisation of benefices in recent years means that, in about one third of parishes, the patronage rotates by turns between two or three patrons.

The office of Lord Chancellor was threatened with abolition in 2003, but, in the end, merely diminished. In the consultation, Lord Falconer asked for views about the disposal of the 450 livings: whether the patronage should be exercised by (a) another government minister, such as the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs; (b) the Prime Minister’s office, with the other Crown livings; (c) the Church. There were 239 responses, of which only seven per cent favoured the transfer of control to another minister. The majority of the respondents were split evenly between those who wanted all the Crown livings to be dealt with by Downing Street (44 per cent) and those who favoured a transfer to the Church (43 per cent).

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church-State Issues, England / UK

This is a critical time – A Statement from the Global South Steering Committee

This is a critical time – A Statement from the Global South Steering Committee
London, July 16-18, 2007

1. We are grateful for the prayers and witness of the millions of Anglicans around the world who live out their Christian faith in complex and sometimes hostile situations. Their lives and witness offer hope to a world that is in desperate need and we have been greatly encouraged by their testimony. Their commitment to the ”˜faith once and for all delivered to the saints’ deepens our determination to stay true to the biblical revelation and our historic tradition.

2. We reaffirm our dedication to the vision of the church that has a passion to reach all those who have not yet come to a saving knowledge of Christ and one that is truly good news for the poor and freedom for those who are oppressed. We are saddened that the actions of a small part of our Communion family have caused such division, confusion and pain and we are grieved that our witness to the oneness of Christ and his Church has been sorely compromised.

3. We in the Global South remain committed to the underlying principles and recommendations of the Windsor Report and the various Communiqués that we have issued, especially the statement that was produced during the most recent Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam. It was the result of enormous effort and heart-felt prayer and we remain convinced that it offers the best way forward for our beloved Communion. In particular, we are hopeful that the development and endorsement of an Anglican Covenant will help us move past this debilitating season into a new focus of growth and missionary zeal.

4. We were distressed by the initial response of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church USA issued on March 20th, 2007, reaffirmed by the Executive Council on June 14th, 2007, in which they rejected the underlying principles and requests of the Dar es Salaam Communiqué. We urge them, once again, to reconsider their position because it is their rejection of the clear teaching of the Church and their continuing intransigence that have divided the Church and has brought our beloved Communion to the breaking point. Without heartfelt repentance and genuine change there can be no restoration of the communion that we all earnestly desire and which is our Lord’s clear intent.

5. We have also been pained to hear of the continuing and growing resort to civil litigation by The Episcopal Church against congregations and individuals which wish to remain Anglican but are unable to do so within TEC. This is in defiance of the urgent plea agreed to by all of the Primates in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué. This approach to use power and coercion to resolve our current dispute is both enormously costly and doomed to failure and again, we urge the immediate suspension of all such activities and a return to biblical practices of prayer, reconciliation and mediation.

6. Because of the categorical rejection of the unanimously agreed Pastoral Scheme and the urgent needs of the growing number of congregations now linked to various Provinces in the Global South, we have had no choice but to provide additional episcopal oversight from the concerned Provinces. We believe that failure to do so would have resulted in many individuals and congregations lost to the Anglican Communion. The rejection of the proposed Pastoral Scheme has also had a profound impact on those dioceses that had requested alternative primatial oversight. We are aware that they are exploring various ways in which they can maintain their Anglican identity apart from The Episcopal Church. We are encouraged by this and also that they are working together within the Common Cause Partnership to avoid unnecessary fragmentation. We recognize that this is a temporary measure and look forward to the time when it is either no longer necessary or they are all part of a new ecclesiastical structure in the USA.

7. We are aware of the anticipated visit by the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the ACC to the September meeting of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church USA. Sadly we are convinced that this decision, made jointly by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chair of the ACC, undermines the integrity of the Dar es Salaam Communiqué. We believe that the Primates Meeting, which initiated the request to the TEC House of Bishops, must make any determination as to the adequacy of their response. We strongly urge the scheduling of a Primates’ Meeting for this purpose at the earliest possible moment.

8. We have also noted the decisions of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada and are dismayed by their unilateral declaration that ”˜same-sex blessing is not core doctrine’. While we were grateful for the temporary restraint shown in not proceeding with any further authorization, we have observed that a number of the bishops are continuing to defy the recommendations of the Windsor process. We are exploring the possibility of additional pastoral provisions for those who want to remain faithful to Communion teaching and have been affected by the continuing actions of their own bishops.

9. We are concerned for the future of our Communion as a truly global fellowship and our witness before the world as a respected ecclesial family within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In regards to the proposed Lambeth Conference in 2008, we are concerned that the publicly stated expectations for participation have changed its character and function. It is now difficult to see it either as an instrument of unity or communion. At a time when the world needs a vision of reconciliation and unity, our failure to restore the ”˜torn fabric’ of our Communion threatens to show the world a contrary example.

10. We remain committed to the convictions expressed in the CAPA report “The Road to Lambeth” and urge immediate reconsideration of the current Lambeth plans. It is impossible for us to see how, without discipline in the Communion and without the reconciliation that we urge, we can participate in the proposed conference; to be present but unable to participate in sacramental fellowship would all the more painfully demonstrate our brokenness. The polarization surrounding the Lambeth meeting has been exacerbated because we are also unable to take part in an event from which a number of our own bishops have been arbitrarily excluded while those whose actions have precipitated our current crisis are included.

11. We have received requests from around the Communion to call a gathering of Anglican Communion leaders. We expect to call a Fourth Global South Encounter to bring together faithful Anglican leaders across the Communion to renew our focus on the apostolic faith and our common mission.

12. This is a critical time for the Anglican Communion and one that will shape our future for many years to come. We are praying for all those in leadership that the decisions made and the actions taken will bring glory to God and encouragement to all God’s people. We are hopeful for the future because our confidence is not in ourselves but in Jesus the Christ who gave his life that we might have life. (see John 10:10)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Identity, Anglican Primates, Global South Churches & Primates

Mark Helprin: Under the rubble in the Middle East, new opportunities

When considering President Bush’s new plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, it would be wise to bear in mind that because political initiatives in the Middle East are cursed with such a high failure rate analysts sometimes use the odds as a substitute for craft.

After Anwar Sadat’s spectacular trip to Jerusalem in November 1977, the press, mistaking cynicism for wisdom, was skeptical. After all, in the first 25 years of its existence, Israel had had to fight Egypt four times. But the past was no guide to the future, for in the last 30 years the peace of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat has been unbroken.

Yet, at the time, few people were able to see the way ahead even as it was clearly illuminated by the facts. Educated opinion was attentive to the vicissitudes of negotiation rather than to the structural imperatives that would eventually prevail.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Middle East

The Economist: John Edwards and American populism

HE STRIDES into an Iowa primary school where more than a hundred people have skipped their lunch to hear him, wearing jeans and flashing a smile that could sell toothpaste. He begins, as always, by mentioning his wife, who was diagnosed with incurable cancer in March. “She’s doing great.” But within seconds, John Edwards dives into the details of his health-care scheme. Then on to questions. The subjects range from high medical costs to the influence of Iran. “Here’s what I think,” he answers, before launching into a detailed plan to fix the problem.

Mr Edwards is a man of big plans. No other presidential candidate, of either party, can match the sheer quantity, let alone the ambition, of his policy ideas. He has grand, progressive, goals””to end the war in Iraq (obviously), provide universal health care, address global warming, eliminate poverty in America within 30 years””and detailed blueprints of how to do it all.

All this is a big change from 2004, when he first ran, unsuccessfully, for the Democratic nomination and then (equally unsuccessfully) as John Kerry’s vice-presidential running-mate. Those campaigns were built around his youthful charm, made-for-politics biography (the son of a mill-worker in North Carolina; the first member of his family to go to college) and a rousing stump speech about “two Americas”, one for the rich and one for the rest.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Amy Sullivan: The Origins of the God Gap

In the beginning, as they say, religion in America was a decidedly nonpartisan affair. Presidents of all political stripes sprinkled their speeches with references to the Almighty. Religious Americans led political movements to battle communism and poverty, to promote temperance and civil rights. If anything, the contours of the religious landscape favored Democrats: their voters were evangelical Southerners and ethnic Catholics, while Republicans appealed to Northeasterners who were more private about their faith.

The relationship between religion and politics changed abruptly in the turbulent decade that spanned the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. The twin disappointments of Vietnam and Watergate led to widespread disillusionment with traditional institutions, and the cynicism tainted religious authority as well.

It’s hard to believe now, but it was the Democratic Party that first responded to these disillusionments in a way that appealed to religious voters. When Jimmy Carter said, “I’ll never lie to you,” that promise””in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation””was potent. Carter recognized that voters now wanted to know more about a candidate than simply his position on energy policy or taxes; they cared about the moral fiber of their President as well. And they increasingly saw religious faith as a proxy, an efficient way to get a sense of a candidate’s character.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture

Time Magazine: How the Democrats Got Religion

A President has to be a preacher of sorts, instructing, consoling, summoning citizens to sacrifice for some common good. But candidates are competitors, which means they seldom manage to talk about faith in a way that doesn’t disturb people, doesn’t divide them, doesn’t nail campaign posters on the gates of heaven. Republicans have been charged with exploiting religious voters, Democrats with ignoring them: Hillary Clinton’s voice gets tight as she recalls the mocking response she received when she first spoke in spiritual terms about the longing that people felt to invest in causes larger than self-interest. “I talked about my faith years ago and was pilloried for it,” she says, and it is hard to tell if she is more impatient with the conservatives who presumed they held the patent on piety or with the liberals whose worship of diversity all but excluded the devout.

But maybe, she suggests, candidates have learned something from the holy wars of recent years. “Maybe we’re getting back to where people can be who they are,” she says. “If faith is an element of who you legitimately, authentically are, great. But don’t make it up, don’t use it, don’t beat people over the head with it.”

In this campaign season, if Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards are any measure, there will be nothing unusual in Democrats’ talking about the God who guides them and the beliefs that sustain them. Clinton has hired Burns Strider, a Congressional staffer (and evangelical Baptist from Mississippi) who is assembling a faith steering group from major denominations and sends out a weekly wrap-up, Faith, Family and Values. Edwards has been organizing conference calls with progressive religious leaders and is about to embark on a 12-city poverty tour. In the past month alone, Obama’s campaign has run six faith forums in New Hampshire, where local clergy and laypeople discuss religious engagement in politics. “We talk about ways people of faith have gone wrong in the past, what they have done right and where they see it going in the future,” says his faith-outreach adviser, Joshua DuBois. Speeches on everything from the budget to immigration to stem-cell research are carefully marinated in Scripture. “Science is a gift of God to all of us,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a debate on increased embryo-research funding, “and science has taken us to a place that is biblical in its power to cure.”

The Democrats are so fired up, you could call them the new Moral Majority. This time, however, the emphasis is as much on the majority as on the morality as they try to frame a message in terms of broadly shared values that don’t alarm members of minority religions or secular voters….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture

Will Ferguson: Canada’s Black Heart

FORGET the cowboy. The true all-American hero is the confidence man: breezy, self-invented, ambitious, protean. So too with Canada. Ignore the scarlet-jacketed Mountie who is strong of jaw and pure of heart. Up here, the voyageur ”” a jaunty, indomitable, unpretentious, rough-hewn New World figure ”” is closer to the mythical Canadian heart.

But just as the Puritan stands in thin-lipped contrast to the American confidence man, so does the Upper Canadian Anglophile oppose the woodsman. (Never mind that the back-breaking reality for the French-Canadian fur trappers was far removed from this romanticized image. We are dealing with iconography here.)

Which brings us to Conrad Black, Canada’s fallen press baron. Although from Quebec, and therefore technically a Lower Canadian, Mr. Black has a character that is Anglo and Upper all the way through. Though newly convicted on three counts of fraud and one of obstruction, Mr. Black could just as easily be considered as guilty of one crime: hubris. He thought he could bully American prosecutors in the same way he bullied his shareholders.

Standing up to Americans is normally the sort of thing that would endear a Canadian to his countrymen. But not in this case. Instead, there is a quiet feeling of glee among Canadians over Mr. Black’s comeuppance. Not because Mr. Black is rich and powerful or in need of ego deflation. And not because he was revealed to be a swindler on a grand scale. The schadenfreude up here is because Conrad Black ”” for reasons that were purely Upper Anglo ”” publicly renounced his Canadian citizenship.

Was Mr. Black’s repudiation of Canada an act of protest against government policies abroad or at home? The seal hunt, say, or the export of cold fronts, prescription medicines and Celine Dion? No, Conrad Black renounced his citizenship in 2001 so that he could dress up as a British lord and play out the ultimate Upper Canadian dream.

Mr. Black was forced to choose between his Canadian-ness and his love for the aristocracy because his entry into the British House of Lords was blocked, you see. Blocked by a French-Canadian voyageur, as it were.

Read it all from Tuesday’s New York Times.

Posted in * Culture-Watch

'Sexy' billboard not what it seems

Motorists driving east on the Santan Freeway may be dismayed if not shocked to see a new billboard near Kyrene Road advertising HowSexyAmI.com – especially since the Gila River Indian Communitypromised any signs on their land would not promote sexually oriented businesses.

The billboard, which is on the Gila River Reservation just south of Chandler, includes a photo of the bottoms of two pair of feet under a sheet, leaving no doubt about what the ad is referring to.

But it turns out the billboard actually is promoting a six-week series of sex-ed talks at Cornerstone Christian Church in Chandler. The church paid for the space and also has spots on the My Space and You Tube Web sites.

“We are not promoting promiscuity,” said Michelle Rauscher, a Chandler resident and director of women’s ministry at the church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

Anglican wedding rules to be eased

From the Bolton News:

A JUDGE from Bolton is playing a key role in modernising the Church of England’s rules.

As a member of the General Synod, the body which sets the church’s laws, Geoffrey Tattersall QC, aged 59, from Lostock, recently chaired a group that proposed a relaxing of the rules on where people can marry.

Its recommendation has been adopted by the Synod and when the legislation is introduced, it will mean couples are no longer tied to churches where one of them is resident or on the parish electoral role.

They will now be able to tie the knot in any church where they have a “qualifying connection.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Marriage & Family

Evangelicals and The Vitter Effect

From Newsweek:

By now, Washington has grown accustomed to its sex scandals. In the capital, obsessed with Iraq and the coming presidential election, the news that Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter’s phone number had turned up in possession of a D.C. escort service created a relatively modest stir. The press dutifully pointed out Vitter’s hypocrisy; a devout Catholic who has been an outspoken moralist, he was a vocal crusader for President Clinton’s impeachment during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, accusing Clinton of draining “any sense of values left in our political culture.” Vitter swiftly copped to the transgression via an e-mail to the AP. After rumors of other dalliances began cropping up in the New Orleans papers (he denied them), Vitter grimly took to the microphone, his embattled wife by his side, and, in an all-too-familiar D.C. ritual, apologies for letting his wife, friends and supporters down, then told the world he was pressing on with the people’s business.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

In Colorado, Grace's paper chase

Nearly 80 years ago, leaders at Grace Church joined and, in writing, invoked “the name of God.”

With a few pen strokes, Grace’s rector, wardens and vestry ”” its board ”” signed away their grand, young church, placing it under the “spiritual jurisdiction and authority” of Bishop Irving P. Johnson, then the highest Episcopal authority in Colorado.

The leaders relinquished “all claim to any right of disposing” the building at 601 N. Tejon St. in Colorado Springs without Johnson’s consent or that of his successors, according to the “instrument of donation,” signed on Nov. 15, 1929.

The one-page form could be a Holy Grail for a diocese eager to return to the building now being used by hundreds of entrenched Episcopal secessionists and their embattled patriarch, the Rev. Don Armstrong.

Martin Nussbaum, an attorney for the diocese, says the form, which surfaced as part of the legal battle for the building, bodes well for hundreds of exiled Episcopal loyalists hoping to return to the gray building described when it opened in 1926 as perhaps the most beautiful church west of the Mississippi River.

Alan Crippen, a spokesman for the secessionists, downplayed the document’s significance, saying only that it “looks ceremonial, but not legal.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Colorado