Daily Archives: August 26, 2007

Anglican Churches Down Under face Mass Auction

THE country’s housing affordability crisis has become so dire that even God has been forced to sell off his weekenders.

Five churches in the country town of Young will go under the hammer due to rising costs of living and the falling attendance of parishioners.

The Anglican churches, which have a combined 428 years in the Lord’s service, will be auctioned next Saturday and are expected to sell for between $20,000 to $100,000 each.

Anglican Diocese of Canberra assistant Bishop Allan Ewing told The Daily Telegraph they simply couldn’t afford to keep the churches operating.

“We’re having to deal with reality. They became a real financial burden and while we made the decision relatively recently we’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Bishop Ewing said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

Robert Mcfarlane: A Fatwa Against Violence

Last week, I participated in a three day meeting here that included six of the most senior Iraqi Sunni and Shia religious leaders. At the meeting, held at a Marriott hotel in a Cairo suburb, they formally agreed to “end terrorist violence, and to disband militia activity in order to build a civilized country and work within the framework of law.”

This gathering was a truly historic event, given the authority of the participants — including Sheikh Ahmed al Kubaisi, acknowledged by all Iraqis as the senior Sunni religious authority (the weekly audience for his Friday sermons, broadcast from Dubai, number 20 million), and Ayatollah Sayyid Ammar Abu Ragheef, chief of staff for Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, the acknowledged leader of the Shia community in Iraq and beyond. One has only to consider the power of these specific religious leaders, and the instruments at their disposal for getting results, to grasp the gathering’s enormous potential importance.

Going well beyond traditional rhetoric in their closing statement late last week, they stated their intention to work for the early issuance of a joint Sunni-Shia fatwa to the Iraqi people. A fatwa such as this will carry the force of law for all followers. Think about that. After more than four years of brutal warfare and untold suffering, the leading religious authorities in Iraq have joined hands and said “Enough,” and have committed to use their authority to bring peace to their country.

How does this relate to the Iraqi government and coalition forces? Can these clerics achieve anything concrete? If so how soon? And will it be enforceable?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Iraq War, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Nashville teacher can't pin Shakespeare down on religion

William Shakespeare left no diary.

He inspired no tell-all biographer during his day. He wrote 36 plays (more or less) during a seething period of political convulsion and religious intrigue, but we know neither his politics nor his religion. Was he easy-going Anglican, closet Catholic, flashy atheist, space alien? Will won’t tell. This radiant anti-celebrity Englishman eludes us still.

Nashvillian Chris Hassel has puzzled over Shakespeare’s poker-faced religion his entire teaching career. Short of outing Shakespeare as heretic, choirboy or druid, Hassel has produced a 455-page dictionary of every religious reference in Shakespeare he can find, more than 1,000 words scrutinized.

“I’ve never been able to pin him down,” says Hassel, who taught Shakespeare 35 years at Vanderbilt until retirement in 2003.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture

Rector set to begin at newly constructed church in Texas

The brand-new doors at Christ Church Midland closed recently on Father Jon Stasney’s term as rector, but have opened on a new face.

Incoming rector Tom Finnie, formerly of the Pittsburgh area, will be on hand at the church today to welcome community members during the church’s first public open house.

Finnie, who arrived in West Texas in July, said he already feels welcome.

“Since you brought Pittsburgh weather down to welcome me, (adjusting) hasn’t been a problem,” he said, describing his hometown weather as “wet and 80s and high humidity.”

“I haven’t experienced West Texas yet,” he said joking.

Finnie replaces Stasney, who served the congregation for 19 years and also helmed it through the split from the National Episcopal Church.

“He has been an outstanding leader who has led us through very difficult times,” said Bob Bledsoe, 76, a member of Christ Church.

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

Darryl E. Owens–Note to Muslims: We didn't yield free speech on 9-11

Ah, dialogue. That would be refreshing when it involves Islam.

The truth is, the most virulent “Islamophobia” plaguing America is the fear of offending Muslims. We’ve grown gun-shy about speaking up and granted radical Islam a formidable power over us from which the Bill of Rights restrains Congress: abridging our freedom of speech.

Now, I’m not hanging a radical tag on Zaghari-Mask. While I believe that on this she was a mite thin-skinned, in America she owns the right to speak her mind. And that’s the point.

Yet, since 9-11, we’ve often ceded that right, often exercising free speech about Muslims with chilled restraint. Just look at Hollywood.

Two years ago, CAIR decried a story line about a Muslim sleeper cell on the popular Fox network series 24 because the portrayal might “increase Islamophobic stereotyping and bias.” So Fox issued a disclaimer.

That same year, Fox swaddled in the free-speech blanket when incensed Christians blasted an episode of Family Guy. God, in the episode, lies beside a blond bombshell who produces a condom.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Media, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Ron Lehew: Church rituals may be different, but the goal is the same

The whole of the Episcopalian faith is steeped in tradition. Our liturgy is from the Book of Common Prayer written in 1549. The beginnings of the Anglican Catholic faith are from the times of Shakespeare, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I of England. The structure of our service and liturgy has changed little since the 1500s.

When I am at St. John’s I am surrounded by wonderful memories of family and friends from over the years. This church fits me as comfortably as a well-worn pair of slippers or a favorite old sweater.

Perhaps the tangible is often more worshipped than the intangible.

Recently, my friend, Rev. Charles Brown, invited me to a special service at his church. Charles is the pastor of the Second Baptist Church on Wesley Street in Salem. Two dear friends of mine, Sandy Murphy and Margo Desparrois, were to be among those honored at a special Women’s and Men’s Day celebration.

What a wonderful spiritual experience it was to have been there. What a happy, joyful, hand-clapping good time it was. If true religion is to be happy, joyous and filled with praise, love and thanksgiving, then this Episcopalian and his two Catholic friends had finally found religion!

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Liturgy, Music, Worship

Notable and Quotable II

A flood of false doctrine has lately broken in upon us. Men are beginning to tell us “that God is too merciful to punish souls for ever…that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly…will sooner or later be saved.” We are to embrace what is called “kinder theology,” and treat hell as a pagan fable…This question lies at the very foundation of the whole Gospel. The moral attributes of God, His justice, His holiness, His purity, are all involved in it. The Scripture has spoken plainly and fully on the subject of hell… If words mean anything, there is such a place as hell. If texts are to be interpreted fairly, there are those who will be cast into it…

The same Bible which teaches that God in mercy and compassion sent Christ to die for sinners, does also teach that God hates sin, and must from His very nature punish all who cleave to sin or refuse the salvation He has provided. God knows that I never speak of hell without pain and sorrow. I would gladly offer the salvation of the Gospel to the very chief of sinners. I would willingly say to the vilest and most profligate of mankind on his deathbed, “Repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be save.” But God forbid that I should ever keep back from mortal man that scripture reveals a hell as well as heaven…that men may be lost as well as saved.

–Bishop J.C. Ryle of Liverpool, quoted in this morning’s sermon

Posted in Eschatology, Theology

Inside the Countrywide Lending Spree

ON its way to becoming the nation’s largest mortgage lender, the Countrywide Financial Corporation encouraged its sales force to court customers over the telephone with a seductive pitch that seldom varied. “I want to be sure you are getting the best loan possible,” the sales representatives would say.

But providing “the best loan possible” to customers wasn’t always the bank’s main goal, say some former employees. Instead, potential borrowers were often led to high-cost and sometimes unfavorable loans that resulted in richer commissions for Countrywide’s smooth-talking sales force, outsize fees to company affiliates providing services on the loans, and a roaring stock price that made Countrywide executives among the highest paid in America.

Countrywide’s entire operation, from its computer system to its incentive pay structure and financing arrangements, is intended to wring maximum profits out of the mortgage lending boom no matter what it costs borrowers, according to interviews with former employees and brokers who worked in different units of the company and internal documents they provided. One document, for instance, shows that until last September the computer system in the company’s subprime unit excluded borrowers’ cash reserves, which had the effect of steering them away from lower-cost loans to those that were more expensive to homeowners and more profitable to Countrywide.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Notable and Quotable

Two men were talking together. The first challenged the other, “If you are so religious, let’s hear you quote the Lord’s Prayer. I bet you $10.00 you can’t.” The second responded, “Now I lay my down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” The first pulled out his wallet and fished out a ten dollar bill, muttering, “I didn’t think you could do it!”

Posted in * General Interest, Humor / Trivia

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Brace yourself for the insolvency crunch

The liquidity crunch is not yet over: the insolvency crunch has hardly begun.
Repercussions will follow for the man on the street.

Yes, investors are jumping back into the stock markets, hoping this is just another routine shake-out – much like February 2007, or May 2006 – before the rally resumes. The `buy-on-dips’ orthodoxy dies hard.

And yes, speculators have renewed their leveraged bets on the yen and Swiss franc carry trades, borrowing cheap in Tokyo and Zurich to play global assets. The core belief is that nothing has really changed, that the world economy is still in rude good health.

Be very careful….

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

Drop Foreseen in Median Price of U.S. Homes

The median price of American homes is expected to fall this year for the first time since federal housing agencies began keeping statistics in 1950.

Economists say the decline, which could be foreshadowed in a widely followed government price index to be released this week, will probably be modest ”” from 1 percent to 2 percent ”” but could continue in 2008 and 2009. Rather than being limited to the once-booming Northeast and California, price declines are also occurring in cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Houston, where the increases of the last decade were modest by comparison.

The reversal is particularly striking because many government officials and housing-industry executives had said that a nationwide decline would never happen, even though prices had fallen in some coastal areas as recently as the early 1990s.

While the housing slump has already rattled financial markets, it has so far had only a modest effect on consumer spending and economic growth. But forecasters now believe that its impact will lead to a slowdown over the next year or two.

“For most people, this is not a disaster,” said Nigel Gault, an economist with Global Insight, a research firm in Waltham, Mass. “But it’s enough to cause them to pull back.”

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

A Summer Island Rallies Around Its Aging Chapel

Gray-shingled with an inviting porch, this little island’s tiny chapel looks like a summer home, its stained-glass windows the only sign that it is something more.

But look a little closer at the building, built in 1894, and the scars resulting from decades of pelting by the snow, wind and rain that come off Casco Bay can be seen. The roof needs work. A wall is bowing out. The paint is peeling.

Still, in a community with no stores, no discernible center and a population that for the most part exists only in summer, the church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has long been a meeting place, the most vibrant location in a tranquil summer retreat. “It’s really the mainstay of the island,” said Karl Winslow, 75, who has summered here for most of his life.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry

Religious Charges Swarm Around Louisiana Campaign

A Republican gubernatorial candidate accused Louisiana Democrats of reaching “a new low” with TV ads that accuse him of insulting Protestants, and demanded the ad be taken off the air.

Democratic Party officials continued to defend the spot, as did its two leading candidates for governor, despite cries of outrage from Republican officials about the ads aimed at U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal.

The commercial began running Monday in the Shreveport, Alexandria and Monroe media markets, which are more heavily Protestant than the southern part of the state. It features an unidentified woman narrator proclaiming that Jindal “insulted thousands of Louisiana Protestants” via articles he wrote in the mid-1990s.

“He has referred to Protestant religions as scandalous, depraved, selfish and heretical,” the narrator says. It then directs viewers to a Web site, www.jindalonreligion.com, where links to the articles are found.

Jindal, who converted to Catholicism as a teen after being raised by Hindu parents, said the commercial is defamatory and misleading and denied that he has ever insulted another branch of the Christian faith.

“They’re absolute lies. We’re not talking about an exaggeration,” Jindal said. “They’re completely out of bounds here.”

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

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Santa Fe Artists Retreat

FRED DE SAM LAZARO, guest anchor: For much of modern times, it seems, artists have parked their spirituality outside the studio, outside the gallery. Our next story takes us to a retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico, intended to bring back what one organizer calls “the intimate relationship between art and faith.”

Judy Valente has our report.

JUDY VALENTE: Santa Fé: a city whose spiritual heritage dates back to the Native Americans and Spanish missionaries; a place of stunning natural beauty — home to more than 250 artists’ galleries; a city where the spiritual and artistic come together easily.

Each summer, hundreds of artists from across the country journey here to St. John’s College, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, for what’s called the Glen Workshop — a weeklong gathering sponsored by the literary journal “Image.”

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

Interruption During Megapastors' Divorce Announcement Was Intentional

The Whites, who’ve been married nearly 18 years, said in interviews that the split is amicable and comes after visits to counselors over several years.

They blame two lives going in different directions.

Randy, however, said he takes “100 percent responsibility” for the breakup.

“I want to apologize for the poor decisions I’ve made in my life, to my congregation and to the body of Christ,” he told The Tampa Tribune. “I think I’ve let a lot of people down.”

Those regrets, he said, include how he has treated some people, lifestyle changes and being seen in public with women other than his wife, even if it was innocent.

He and Paula said the split involves no third party on either side.

Randy will stay at Without Walls as senior pastor while Paula concentrates on her ministry, which includes a TV show broadcast on several national networks including Black Entertainment Television, conferences, and book and video sales.

She’ll remain based in Tampa, with satellite operations in California, New York City and San Antonio.

Church attendance “will take a hit” from the news, Randy predicted. Without Walls reports having 23,000 members.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Other Churches