Daily Archives: August 17, 2007

Vick's co-defendants plead guilty

Two of Michael Vick’s alleged cohorts in a grisly dogfighting case pleaded guilty today, and one said the Atlanta Falcons quarterback joined them in drowning and hanging dogs that underperformed.

With his NFL career in jeopardy and a superseding indictment in the works to add more charges, Vick and his lawyers have been talking with federal prosecutors about a possible plea agreement.

Now that all three co-defendants have entered plea bargains, Vick is on his own to cut a deal or face trial on federal charges.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

From the WSJ: How Your Brain Allows you to Walk In Another's Shoes

In subtle patterns of brain cells, researchers are exploring empathy — an essential intuition that helps us understand our fellow human beings.

These unusual brain circuits are mirrors in the mind that reflect the actions and intentions of others as if they were our own, new research has revealed. Scientists call them mirror neurons. They allow us to feel a loved one’s pain, or suffer the pangs of appetite when we hear someone crunch into an apple. They are a reason we are moved by the images of art and can feel the appeal of characters in a book. They supply the voyeuristic thrill of pornography, a German brain-scanning team documented. They also are a hidden persuader in advertising, UCLA researchers said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

Church-State Group Complains After Baptist Endorses Mike Huckabee

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Church-State Issues, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

Joe Loconte: It's OK for Candidates to Stay Mum on Religion

Commentator Joe Loconte, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., says that while religion is going to be a big issue in the upcoming presidential election, it’s OK for candidates to opt out of talking about it ”” like Republican Rudolph Giuliani did.

Listen to it all from NPR.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

Jennifer Graham: Vacationing With Jesus

Vacation Bible School was the brainchild of a Mrs. D.T. Miles, wife of a Methodist minister in Hopedale, Ill. Mrs. Miles, it is said, was concerned that the children of her husband’s congregation weren’t learning enough on Sundays and needed a monthlong course of study over the summer. The first session, in 1884, had 37 students. Like its modern-day counterparts, it included arts and crafts, singing, exercise, drama and Bible study.

Today, more than half of American churches offer VBS. Many provide a weeklong, half-day program during the summer, primarily for grade-schoolers. Increasingly, however, churches are switching to evening sessions, and offering classes for adults, as well, said the Rev. Mayra Castaneda, assistant director of education and leadership ministries for the National Council of Churches.

VBS is big business for the publishing houses of the major denominations, which develop an annual theme–ranging from ranching to hot-air ballooning–and sell workbooks, teacher manuals, decorations and computer games wrapped around it. More than 70% of the 35,000 United Methodist churches in the U.S. offer Vacation Bible School, and they learned next year’s theme, “Beach Party: Surfin’ Through the Scriptures,” this July. The 2008 material will be available by December, allowing churches, if they choose, to conduct a summer-themed VBS over Christmas vacation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry

NY Times: Advocates Hail Lutheran Act on Gay Clergy Members

The country’s largest Lutheran denomination officially bars openly gay people from the ministry. But in a move that advocates for gay men and lesbians are hailing as a step toward changing that policy, the denomination is urging its bishops to refrain from disciplining gay members of the clergy who are in committed same-sex relationships.

A resolution to that effect was passed last weekend in Chicago by delegates to the biennial meeting of the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Church officials said it did not signal a change in policy. But they said that a denomination task force was completing “a social statement,” or theological document, on human sexuality, to be discussed in 2009, and that the resolution allowed bishops to hold off, in the interim, on taking action against gay and lesbian ministers in their jurisdictions.

Robert Tuttle, counsel to the bishop of the synod of metropolitan Washington, D.C., said, “What it changes is that it gives bishops some cover who want to exercise discretion to not bring charges.”

Supporters of the ordination of openly gay men and lesbians hailed the vote.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Lutheran, Other Churches, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

In Surprise Move, Fed Cuts Discount Rate

The Federal Reserve, declaring that increased economic uncertainty poses risks for U.S. business growth, announced Friday that it has approved a half-percentage point cut in its discount rate on loans to banks.

The action was the most dramatic effort yet by the central bank to restore calm to global financial markets which have been roiled in the past week by a widening credit crisis.

The decision means that the discount rate, the interest rate that the Fed charges to make direct loans to banks will be lowered to 5.75 percent, down from 6.25 percent.

The Fed did not change its target for the more important federal funds rate, which has remained at 5.25 percent for more than a year.

However, it has been infusing billions of dollars in money into the banking system over the past week to keep that rate from rising above the target level.

Many economists believe if the financial market crisis worsens the Fed will soon move to cut the federal funds rate as well.

Read it all.

Update: There is more there also.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Bishop Stephen Platten accuses media of ”˜mischief’ with regard to Lambeth 2008

A Bishop has roundly accused newspapers and television of “machinations and mischief” over next year’s Lambeth Conference. The charge is levelled by the
Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten, in the latest issue of Awake, the newspaper of theWakefield diocese. Controversial issues ”” including gay bishops ”” threaten the unity of the Anglican Communion and make the Lambeth Conference pointless, sections of the media have claimed.

But the Lambeth Conference ”” the first took place in 1867 ””sprang from “dispute, disagreement and division,” Bishop Platten suggests. He says: “John Colenso, vicar of the tiny Norfolk village of Forncett St Mary, was made Bishop of Natal, South Africa. Colenso was a clever man ”” but no diplomat.
“He had been well educated and understood something of the emerging critical study of theology. He proceeded to preach and teach about this, and great controversy followed. “So much fuss ensued that Bishop Robert Gray of Cape Town decided that he must go. Colenso dug his heels in, and loyalties divided.
It was this dispute, effectively, which led Charles Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury, to convene the first Lambeth Conference.”
Now, newspapers “and other media” have, says Bishop Platten, tried to turn the Lambeth Conference on its head, saying that controversy makes it pointless ”” or even unnecessary. “But controversy was where Lambeth Conferences began” says the bishop, who declares:

“Despite the machinations and mischief of the media, we should rejoice at the preparations for the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Communion worldwide is not only
desirable”” it is essential.” Bishop Platten claims: “Last year’s experience with the drought in Mara proved the point. Our communion in Christ with our brothers and sisters averted a terrifying human catastrophe; we have grown together over 20 years.”

The bishop concedes that Anglicans won’t always agree “on every moral issue” ”” and suggests that that “is the nature of a multicultural world.” But we shall
“all benefit by talking and listening to each other about our different views and cultures,” he claims.

–This article appears in the Church of England Newspaper, August 17th, 2007, edition, page 3

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Lambeth 2008

At Countrywide, A rush to pull out cash

Anxious customers jammed the phone lines and website of Countrywide Bank and crowded its branch offices to pull out their savings because of concerns about the financial problems of the mortgage lender that owns the bank.

Countrywide Financial Corp., the biggest home-loan company in the nation, sought Thursday to assure depositors and the financial industry that both it and its bank were fiscally stable. And federal regulators said they weren’t alarmed by the volume of withdrawals from the bank.

The mortgage lender said it would further tighten its loan standards and make fewer large mortgages. Those moves could make it harder to get a home loan and further depress the housing market in California and other states.

The rush to withdraw money — by depositors that included a former Los Angeles Kings star hockey player and an executive of a rival home-loan company — came a day after fears arose that Countrywide Financial could file for bankruptcy protection because of a worsening credit crunch stemming from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy

FBI says bomb charges against pair may be proven false

The FBI says allegations against two Egyptian men accused of carrying pipe bombs in the trunk of a car may not be true.

The agency’s Tampa, Fla., office issued a rare press release urging the public to withhold judgment of Youssef Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed until it completes its investigation.

“The FBI would like to remind everyone that this is an ongoing investigation and there is the possibility that the publicly reported allegations involving the students may be proven false,” the release states.

Berkeley County sheriff’s investigators charged Megahed, 21, and Mohamed, either 24 or 26, with possession of explosives on Aug. 6 after the investigators found what they said were pipe bombs in the trunk of Megahed’s car after Megahed was stopped for speeding on the evening of Aug. 4.

The FBI’s statement from late Wednesday was news to Berkeley County sheriff’s Capt. Rick Ollic, who said Thursday that he hadn’t heard about it until a reporter brought it up. He said the Sheriff’s Office made the proper charges and referred any other questions to the FBI’s Tampa office.

“As far as I know, nothing is going to change,” he said. “We will continue our path toward the prosecution of these individuals.”

Read it all from the front page of the local newspaper, another cautionary tale about being careful not to rush to judgment.

Posted in * South Carolina

David C. Anderson: An Appalling Lack of Orthodoxy

Two weeks ago The Church of England Newspaper titled my article “Why the Archbishop of York got it wrong.”

My purpose in writing then was twofold: to point out that York had made a statement that went against the facts; and to provide the facts on why the Episcopal Church in the US was not theologically orthodox, especially in the top levels of leadership.

The response of York, or rather the staff member Arun Arora who wrote for York, was to ignore what was actually said in my article and to assume two things, both incorrect.

First, the assumption was made that I was attacking York, and this is patently not so. I was encouraging York to look and listen harder to what the American Church was saying.

Second, the assumption was made that anyone who is retired from a major position has lost influence and fallen out of importance in the shaping of the American Church mind.

In the USA, Episcopal bishops continue after retirement to have seat, voice and vote in the House of Bishops, and often are asked to assist in other dioceses or to teach in seminaries.
The problem is that Arora, in missing the point of the article, misses it in a most embarrassing way, believing it is an attack on his boss. Thus he brings up somewhat arcane references to Hitler, Nazis and children’s games involving donkeys, and feels the need to relegate prematurely Bishop John Shelby Spong to the old people¹s home.

Although I would find little in Spong¹s writings to endorse, his latest book in hardcover was released February 27, 2007. He has a busy speaking schedule in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa going through October.

Bishop Bruno is written off by Arora, as Bishop Borsch¹s successor, with hardly a notice that the Diocese of Los Angeles is the second or third largest TEC diocese, and that John Bruno was instrumental in the election of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, and has initiated the second largest number of lawsuits against departing congregations.

It is good to see the many citations of orthodoxy by the Archbishop of York, but no claim was made to the contrary despite Arora’s excitement.

The American Anglican Council and I do assert clearly and with facts before us that the majority leadership of the Episcopal Church in the USA has significantly departed from historic Christianity and Anglicanism in belief about the person and work of Jesus Christ and the authority of Holy Scripture.

Although we have NOT made any suggestion that the Archbishop of York holds such beliefs, nor Arora himself, it would be well for York, and perhaps Arora, to become more familiar with the American theological scene.

Although the leaders of TEC greet other Anglicans with smiling faces and generous words, it is finally not the cordiality of the moment that determines orthodoxy, but the actions, deeds and spiritual pronouncements that are behind the glad hand extended. Arun Arora states, “Anderson’s objections lie not in the consideration of the mainstream of TEC, but rather by reference, by and large to its extremities.”

Oh that the statement might be so! Who does he think Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (pictured) is, if not the mainstream? The problem did not arrive on our doorstep yesterday, but has been building, and when significant deviation from orthodoxy occurs, those in leadership in TEC and in the Anglican Communion have NOT been willing to provide discipline.

For example, a panel of TEC bishops dismissed heresy charges against Spong, and to this day his writings have never been repudiated by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops. Are we ignoring the Episcopalians who “are faithfully reciting the creeds and liturgy?” No, we are pointing to their leaders who are putting them in spiritual peril. The current bishop of Washington, DC, John Chane was previously dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, California and in his Easter sermon of 2002 remarked, “The Easter story … the event of the resurrection, which defines the core of our Christian theology, is at best, conjectural, based upon what we are able to read from the Gospel accounts and the Book of Acts.”

David Booth Beers, the Chancellor for TEC, speaking to a meeting of Episcopal chancellors remarked recently, “The Presiding Bishop wants the Communion to understand the peculiar genius of the Episcopal Church. If others understood ECUSA they would see us as holy … The New Hampshire consecration was not sprung on the Communion – it seems people haven’t been paying attention to what’s been coming for 30 years and that¹s naive.”

It is not just the top level of TEC’s leadership that has theologically and spiritually gone astray. The Rev James Knowles of Grace Church in Syracuse, New York, during a service in 2005 dipped an eagle feather into cedar ashes and brushed the smoke towards worshippers and asked the congregation to face the four cardinal points as he read a prayer praising the sun, the moon, the alligator and the turtle. I imagine they skipped the creed at that service. Adding things and skipping things has become very common in Episcopal Churches down on the grassroots level as well, and cumulatively these do impact the present and the future.

It is now quite common NOT to require Holy Baptism for someone to partake of Holy Communion in many liberal dioceses and parishes. We are certain that the Archbishop of York would not agree to such practices, yet it is happening constantly in many areas of TEC.

There is a published account of a University of the South (Sewanee, Tennessee) student who some years ago sought counsel from the school’s chaplain over his discomfort reciting the Nicene Creed because he had doubts about some of the statements.

The chaplain said, “…he saw no problem at all. If joining in the Creed distressed him, why not just speak only those portions of it that didn’t offend?” This counsel revealed to the student, V Gene Robinson, that “although the Anglican faith had cherished creeds, it had no absolute doctrine,” (The New Yorker, April 17, 2006).

Approximately 10 years ago when charges were brought against Bishop Walter Righter, the ecclesiastical court dismissed the charges saying TEC did not have “core doctrine.” One of the bishops making that determination was Bishop Frederick H Borsch.

Recently an Episcopal priest working in the Diocese of Olympia confessed that she is a practicing Muslim and seems to believe there is no contradiction involved. The Rev Dr Ann Holmes Redding has been functioning with the bishop of Olympia’s permission, and was until recently serving as director of faith formation at St Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle.

Another bishop, Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island where Redding is canonically resident, has suspended her from exercising her ministry for a year to give her the opportunity “to reflect upon the doctrines of the Christian faith”. The bishop of Rhode Island would seem relatively more orthodox than the bishop of Olympia. Were the Archbishop of York desirous, the American Anglican Council could provide additional quotes from TEC bishops in the USA to show the lack of orthodoxy.

At the end of the day, John Sentamu should change his mind about TEC’s orthodoxy or, if the Archbishop, or his press officer, or both, continue to regard TEC as orthodox in its doctrine, then that raises questions about their standard for Anglican orthodoxy.

–This article appears on page 7 of the August 17th, 2007, edition of the Church of England Newspaper

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts

U.S. Bishops Ask Archbishop of Canterbury for Clarity

Bishops who have made a public commitment to support the Windsor Report have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to be clear and articulate in explaining what the consequences will be if the House of Bishops fails to give the assurances sought by the primates.

Seventeen diocesan bishops and one bishop suffragan from The Episcopal Church received an extensive briefing on the primates’ communiqué from the Rev. Canon Gregory Cameron, and shared with him their hopes for the meeting in September between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the House of Bishops during a conference held Aug. 9-10 at Camp Allen near Houston.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Primates, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Primates Mtg Dar es Salaam, Feb 2007, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

Margaret Rodgers: Saving Anglicanism

Global South is a term frequently used these days by journalists and bloggers commenting on Anglican Communion issues. It seems at first glance to be a geographical term. But that’s not so. It is really a theological term used by conservative Anglicans, coming mainly from the developing world, to describe themselves. It is much more elegant and apt than the term ”˜Third World’ which Anglican leaders from the developing world always disavowed as demeaning.

There now exists a Global South Network which is making its presence forcefully felt, especially through its leaders’ presence in Anglican Communion primates’ meetings.

Some ”˜liberal’ commentators I have read from the US occasionally use the term ”˜Akinola-ites’ when referring to Global South leaders. It implies they are all simply doing what the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Akinola, tells them to do. In itself, that term is a put-down and akin to racism, for it refuses to accept the theological acuity, Christian leadership and strategic skills of these leaders. For example, call any of those primates an ”˜Akinola-ite’ and you are failing to recognise the scholarship, pastoral experience, leadership skills and biblical commitment of each one in his own right. No one, not even a brother primate, tells any of them what to do!

Read it all.

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

CIA, FBI computers used for Wikipedia edits

People using CIA and FBI computers have edited entries in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia on topics including the Iraq war and the Guantanamo prison, according to a new tracing program.

The changes may violate Wikipedia’s conflict-of-interest guidelines, a spokeswoman for the site said on Thursday.

The program, WikiScanner, was developed by Virgil Griffith of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico and posted this month on a Web site that was quickly overwhelmed with searches.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

Russian Town Offers Rewards for Baby-Making

Russia’s birth rate is declining, and the government is experimenting with some creative measures to turn that statistic around.

Georgetown University professor emeritus Murray Feschback talks with Michele Norris.

I happened to catch this last night on the way home from a doctor’s appointment. Fascinating to hear some of their incentives. Listen to it all from NPR.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Children, Marriage & Family