Daily Archives: August 16, 2007
HERE are some heretical thoughts to alarm Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen:
* Jesus was not born of a virgin;
* His father Joseph was a literary construct, as was Judas;
* His family thought he was out of his mind;
* There were probably not 12 disciples;
* There were no miraculous healings, no crown of thorns, no tomb, no angel; and
* Jesus did not rise from the dead.
The publishers of John Shelby Spong’s latest book, Jesus for the Non-Religious, had originally wanted it to be called Freeing Jesus from the Shackles of Religion, and that’s essentially what the iconoclastic retired Episcopal bishop claims to do. He portrays the supernatural elements of Jesus’s life, the very cornerstones of Christian doctrine, as fabrications woven into the biblical narrative decades after Jesus’s death. First-century Jewish interpretations of the Jesus experience had served to distort the very essence of Christianity, he says. And it’s the reason institutional Christianity has no future.
“This impending war has taught us some important things. Life is short. The world is fragile. All of us are vulnerable, but we are here because this is our calling. Our lives are rooted not only in time, but also in eternity, and the life of learning, humbly offered to God, is its own reward. It is one of the appointed approaches to the divine reality and the divine beauty, which we shall hereafter enjoy in heaven and which we are called to display even now amidst the brokenness all around us.”
That is our calling, too, amidst the brokenness””including the threat of terrorism””all around us. We are to be faithful to God’s calling, to bear witness to the beauty, the light, and the divine reality that we shall forever enjoy in heaven. We are to do this in a culture that seems, at times, like Augustine’s: a crumbling world beset by dangers we cannot predict.
The Christian attitude toward history is neither arrogant self-reliance (“We can make it on our own”) nor indifference (“It doesn’t matter what we do anyway”), but hope””the hope that radiates from a messy manger, a ruddy tree, and an empty tomb. Christians are those who know that time and this world do not terminate upon themselves; they are penultimate realities that can never satisfy the deepest longing of the human heart, the restless heart Augustine wrote so much about. And so we live in this world not self-indulgently nor triumphantly, as though our future were in our own hands, but humbly, compassionately, committedly, and yes, ambiguously, as those who belong ultimately to another City, one with foundations whose builder is God.
That means, as Augustine said, that we are called to live by love. Love is the one thing we can experience in time that will remain in eternity. Faith, hope, love, these three; but love is the greatest. Love is eternal.
I have searched the memory bank of my life for an example that will display what it is like to place one’s life on such a stage, within such a context; and I think of a story that has come to me of Phoebe Brown-Cave whom I knew during the years I lived in Uganda. Phoebe was a very plain but brilliant woman who read classical languages at university. She went to Uganda as a CMS missionary and taught all her life in a school in Lango. But she did more than that. For some 30 years each day she met with the elders working on a translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into the language of the Lango people. She also counseled people in distress, tended the sick, and sorted out disputes. Phoebe knew everyone and everyone knew her. When the time of her retirement approached, she told the people she would return to England to die. The elders came to her to say, “you can’t go. You belong to us. We want your bones!”
Well, Phoebe did go, and her departure went like this. It was the custom of the missionaries when one of their number came or went to go to the Entebbe airport to greet arrivals and say good by to those leaving. On this occasion, however, one could not get near the airport. There was no space because just about every living soul in Lango had come to the airport by foot, or bike, or taxi, or bus to say good by. Phoebe left carried by the singing of a great multitude. But she did return eventually and there she rests.
My question is this. Does not Phoebe’s life display what it is to place oneself within the vast providence of God? Is her life not a sign of God’s fidelity to his promise and of his power to evoke such a stance in the world? Can we not say of Phoebe, “Therefore, from one woman, and she as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the sea shore?” And can we not say the same thing of ourselves? And can we not say in response, “Thanks be to God?” AMEN.
Local Episcopalians have no immediate plans to investigate a former Cathedral of All Saints dean who has admitted sexually abusing four boys while working as a rector in central New York.
The Rev. Marshall Vang, the dean of the cathedral, said Wednesday he was not aware of any local complaints against the Rev. J. Edward Putnam, who led the Albany Episcopal Diocese’s mother church between 1993 and 1997. He also served as a chaplain for the state Assembly.
Putnam, 66, recently admitted in a written statement that he engaged in “inappropriate conduct with minors” as rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Skaneateles, Onondaga County, between 1986 and 1993, according to the Post-Standard newspaper of Syracuse.
“I think if anything had developed, we would have learned about it long before this,” Vang said.
U.S. National Guard Capt. Jeffrey Cox watched soldiers lose sight of God in the violence and daily grind of the war in Iraq.
He’s hoping they can find their faith again in an Episcopal monastery along the Charles River.
Prodded by Cox, the Society of Saint John the Evangelist is offering a “healing retreat” weekend in October to help soldiers returning from war adapt to life back home and reconnect with their faith.
The retreat aims to give soldiers space to reflect, worship and share their experiences.
“I’m not saying a weekend is going to solve any problems, but what it can do is it can give people a respite,” he said. “Not only are they able to talk about their heart and their mind, but they’re able to talk about their soul.”
Cox, who is studying to be an Episcopal priest, was a social worker for troops in Iraq and is now a contractor for the U.S. army’s Wounded Warrior program, which assists severely injured or disabled soldiers. War can wear out faith, he observed.
The venerable Oradell church was seeking a leader who could bring some life experience to the pulpit.
Enter the Rev. J. Barrington Bates, 51, an art history major who had done stints as choral singer, a pilgrimage leader at ancient Celtic sites and even once had a cameo role in the “Third Watch” television series.
Bates also worked as a computer programmer ”“ a career that made him reconsider his direction in life.
“I made a lot of money and I hated it,” he said. “I ended up taking one of those career tests and found out I was best suited to be in ministry or an opera singer.”
Those who are older than the trading floor average will have seen this before. But what makes this credit cycle more complicated and perhaps more hazardous is the very thing that the former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and others argued had made financial systems safer: the securitisation of credit. Securitisation brings benefits. But in these circumstances it will make the down cycle more severe and will transmit systemic risks along untraditional paths that may prove less sensitive to interest rate cuts than in the past.
Before securitisation, whenever the credit cycle turned down a bank’s loan officer could conclude, through his long relationship with the credit or a portfolio of them, that the market was under-pricing that credit. He could use the bank’s balance sheet to hold on to out-of-favour credits until the market stabilised. Banks have since earned fees for securitising credits and selling them on. Now, when credit prices fall and daily risk management systems scream that that risk should be sold, the fund manager with only a passing knowledge of the underlying credit and without a large balance sheet cannot hold on to it.
Over the past 20 years, governments built regulatory systems to avoid credit problems at one bank becoming systemic. These systems succeeded, but only by shifting risks elsewhere. A measure of this failure is that the instances of emergency rate cuts have become no less frequent. Think of 1987, 1989-92, 1995, 1998 and 2001-03. Today, the principal avenues of systemic risk are via investment losses, not bank runs.
The Labor Department’s most recent inflation data showed that U.S. food prices rose by 4.2 percent for the 12 months ending in July, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that the price of milk, eggs and other essentials in the American diet are actually rising by double digits.
Already stung by a two-year rise in gasoline prices, American consumers now face sharply higher prices for foods they can’t do without. This little-known fact may go a long way to explaining why, despite healthy job statistics, Americans remain glum about the economy.
“Sacred compulsion joined with a visceral revulsion against injustice to give him not just passion but unshakeable commitment.”
–Stephen Tomkins, William Wilberforce: A Biography (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2007), p.221
As of 2005, the median income for all U.S. households was ________ and the median income for family households was _______. Fill in the blanks. Guess before you look please.
David Lereah: The lender community got caught with their financial pants down, and now they’re afraid to make the loans. A lot of households that do have the financial wherewithal to purchase the homes are now unable to do so.
A New Jersey church group is suing the state over whether the organization should be required to allow a lesbian couple to hold a civil-union ceremony at a beachfront pavilion owned by the group.
The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist group, says its rights are being violated by a state investigation into its decision to reject the couple’s application. The group said it rejected the application because the church does not recognize same-sex unions.
Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster of Ocean Grove filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, saying the rejection was a violation of the state’s law against discrimination. In the lawsuit, filed yesterday, the organization said that if the group were to allow civil-union ceremonies for same-sex couples to take place, it would constitute approval of such unions.