Daily Archives: August 27, 2007

The Kibbutz Sheds Socialism and Gains Popularity

For much of Israel’s existence, the kibbutz embodied its highest ideals: collective labor, love of the land and a no-frills egalitarianism.

But starting in the 1980s, when socialism was on a global downward spiral and the country was mired in hyperinflation, Israel’s 250 or so kibbutzim seemed doomed. Their debt mounted and their group dining halls grew empty as the young moved away.

Now, in a surprising third act, the kibbutzim are again thriving. Only in 2007 they are less about pure socialism than a kind of suburbanized version of it.

On most kibbutzim, food and laundry services are now privatized; on many, houses may be transferred to individual members, and newcomers can buy in. While the major assets of the kibbutzim are still collectively owned, the communities are now largely run by professional managers rather than by popular vote. And, most important, not everyone is paid the same.

Once again, people are lining up to get in.

“What we love here is the simplicity,” said Boaz Varol, 38, who rides his bike along wooded pathways to work at the swimming pool, once for communal use, that he rents and runs as a private business at Kibbutz Yasur, in the rolling hills of the Western Galilee, northeast of Haifa. “Everyone does what they want, we have our independence, but without the kind of competition you find outside.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Middle East

Debating Whether medieval priests could marry in the letters of the London Times

In response to this letter, Elizabeth Longrigg of Oxford writes:

Sir, If S. M. Bowden’s letter (August 17) is accurate, how is it that the Anglo-Saxon cleric Aelfric, Abbot of Eynsham, Oxfordshire, from 1005, and writing in the late 10th and early 11th centuries, speaks in the preface to his translation of Genesis about priests complaining that they are forbidden to marry?

“They often speak of Peter, [asking] why they are not permitted to have a wife as Peter the apostle had, and they do not want to hear or to know that . . .” and, when Peter was chosen to follow Christ, “then he immediately gave up his wife, and all the twelve apostles, those who had wives, gave up both wife and possessions and followed Christ in the new law and the purity which he himself then established.”

Check out the discussion also.

Posted in Theology

In Colorado The Church of the Holy Comforter Announces Resignation of Church Leadership

BROOMFIELD, COLORADO ”“ August 27, 2007”“ The Church of the Holy Comforter today announced the resignation of its leader, The Reverend Dr. Charles Reeder and his departure from The Episcopal Church effective October 1, 2007. Holy Comforter also announces that Vestry, the Children’s Minister, Youth Minister and Treasurer will resign and follow Father Reeder’s move within the greater worldwide Anglican Communion Network (ACN).

“We are saddened by the current state of The Episcopal Church in the US which we believe has strayed from the orthodox, scriptural beliefs of the worldwide Anglican Communion,” said Reeder. “Many church members have demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the Episcopal Church’s actions and words through the withholding of contributions. This has led us to examine the best possible future for Holy Comforter and our desire to remain part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.”

Near term, Reeder, Vestry, the core ministry team and members of Holy Comforter continue in a period of prayer and fasting as they look for guidance around the future of the congregation. Reeder has not yet determined his future place within the Anglican Communion.

About The Church of the Holy Comforter
Located in Broomfield, Colorado, Holy Comforter is a traditional, biblically-based community which provides spiritual leadership and outreach locally and globally. The church, founded in 1958, believes the Scripture is the foundation and authority for The Episcopal Church USA and the greater Anglican Communion of which it is a member. For more information, visit www.holycomforterchurch.net

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

Wyoming Lutherans debate recent Decisions

Pastor Roger W. Rapp of the St. Paul Lutheran Church agrees that it is important to listen to differing opinions. And local congregations always have been open to all people, regardless of lifestyle choices.

“We in the Lutheran church are really trying hard to be respectful of differing opinions, and in the respect of differing opinions, we grow and journey together,” Rapp said.

“We live together in a very opinionated church. If we stay together, we are more likely to avoid a split and learn from those who differ from us.”

Rapp added that there are many Evangelical Lutheran Church of America churches that say all are welcome.

“(They) state openly that all are welcome, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation,” he said. “As far as local congregations, we’ve always been open to all people. People are people.”

But although local Lutheran congregations appear open to the same-gender relationship issue, at least one other local congregation disagrees.

The Rev. Hume W. “Skip” Reeves of The Church of St. Peter, Apostle and Confessor says the debate will split the Lutheran church apart.

Reeves was a former member of St. Mark’s Episcopal here before splitting to form The Church of St. Peter last year, separating from the Episcopal Church.

The split was in large part due to the same issue: allowing same-gender relationships within church leadership.

“I was hoping that they would kind of learn a lesson from the Episcopal Church,” Reeves said. “The church has conformed itself to the culture instead of trying to reform the culture into the vision of God’s culture.

“It looks like they’re moving in the same direction that the Episcopalian church did. They’ll pay a huge price for that.”

Read it all.

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

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas: Will we stop to help New Orleans?

Jesus’ famous parable of the Good Samaritan is being writ large in the alluvial soil of southern Louisiana. You remember the ancient story: A man was mugged and left for dead by the roadside. The first person to arrive was a priest. He passed by the other side, probably on his way to the temple. Next came a Levite or lay leader, and he did the same. Only an outcast foreigner bothered to stop, tend the man’s wounds and take him to a nearby inn.

This time, it’s New Orleans that lies bleeding in the ditch while most of the nation goes about its business: dropping the kids off in Missoula, catching a train to work in Manhattan, running errands in Little Rock. Now, almost two years after Hurricane Katrina, the question remains: Will we stop to lend a hand?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch

A Soldier Named Alison K. Speaks out from Iraq

I couldn’t believe my ears. This was by far the most devastating story I’d heard from any soldier here, and yet there she was, telling it to me in an completely calm and amiable voice. I had absolutely no idea how to respond. What do you say when a soldier tells you, without missing a beat, let alone breaking down sobbing as one might expect, that in addition to losing her two best friends and being in the middle of an ugly divorce, she has also been wounded by an Iranian bomb, found out she was pregnant with twins, found out they were dead, and then learned that, by the way, she also had cancer and had better leave her unit and start treatment right away? Nothing I could possibly say would come even close to acknowledging what she’d gone through and, beyond that, the stunning courage she was displaying in dealing with it.

While I stared at her, trying to figure out how to reply, Alison continued: “I definitely want to stay in the Army, but I think after this they probably won’t let me. Andt blows that I have to leave my unit early, though. They still have three months to go. But I’ve been here for a year — I guess I’ve done my duty.”

I’ve met some pretty impressive soldiers over here, from Gen. Petraeus to Lt. Col. Peterson, but none of them hold a candle to this one. I hope that if I remember one thing from this summer, it’s that this is what service and sacrifice are all about: heroes like Spec. Alison K.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

A NY Times Editorial: The College Credit Scam

The credit card industry has made a profitable art of corralling consumers into ruinous interest rates and hidden penalties that keep even people who pay their bills permanently mired in debt. The companies are especially eager to target freshly minted college students, who are naïve in money matters and especially vulnerable to credit card offers that are too good to be true.

Colleges, which often allow solicitation on campus, need to do more to protect their students from taking on credit card debt that can severely damage their economic prospects once they graduate from school and join the world of work.

College students need to be told right off the bat about the dangers associated with the cards that the companies are going to throw at them once school starts. The students need to know, for example, that the penalties associated with delinquent debts will accrue to them ”” and not to their parents, as many students seem to think. They should also be told that delinquent debts can cause their interest rates to soar not just on their credit cards, but on car loans and mortgages as well.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

Notable and Quotable

“We can’t win at home. We can’t win on the road. I just can’t figure where else to play.”

–Orlando Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams, from the June 2007 Reader’s Digest, page 196

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

Schools Fight for Teachers Because of High Turnover

The retirement of thousands of baby boomer teachers coupled with the departure of younger teachers frustrated by the stress of working in low-performing schools is fueling a crisis in teacher turnover that is costing school districts substantial amounts of money as they scramble to fill their ranks for the fall term.

Superintendents and recruiters across the nation say the challenge of putting a qualified teacher in every classroom is heightened in subjects like math and science and is a particular struggle in high-poverty schools, where the turnover is highest. Thousands of classes in such schools have opened with substitute teachers in recent years.

Here in Guilford County, N.C., turnover had become so severe in some high-poverty schools that principals were hiring new teachers for nearly every class, every term. To staff its neediest schools before classes start on Aug. 28, recruiters have been advertising nationwide, organizing teacher fairs and offering one of the nation’s largest recruitment bonuses, $10,000 to instructors who sign up to teach Algebra I.

“We had schools where we didn’t have a single certified math teacher,” said Terry Grier, the schools superintendent. “We needed an incentive, because we couldn’t convince teachers to go to these schools without one.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

Jason Zengerle: Evangelicals Turn toward…The Orthodox Church?

From a spiritual perspective, however, [Wilbur] Ellsworth was suffering. Over the past 20 years, a growing number of evangelical churches have joined what is called the “church growth movement,” which favors a more contemporary, market-driven style of worship–with rock ‘n’ roll “praise songs” supplanting traditional hymns and dramatic sketches replacing preachy sermons–in the hope of attracting new members and turning churches into megachurches. First Baptist of Wheaton was not immune to this trend: Ellsworth increasingly found himself fighting with congregants about the way worship was being done. “They wanted to replace our organ with a drum set and do similar things that boiled down not to doctrine, but to personal preference,” he explains. “I said, That’s not going to happen as long as I’m here.'” It didn’t. In 2000, after 13 years as the pastor of First Baptist, Ellsworth was forced out.

For Ellsworth, his departure from First Baptist triggered both a professional and a spiritual crisis. But, before he could deal with the former, he felt he had to address the latter. He devoted himself to reading theology and church history. At first, he seemed headed in the direction of the Calvinist-influenced Reformed Baptist Church or the Anglican Church, which are where evangelicals in search of a more classical Christian style of worship often end up. But, as Ellsworth continued in his own personal search, his readings and discussions began taking him further and further past the Reformation and ever deeper into church history. And, gradually, much to his surprise, he found himself growing increasingly interested in a church he once knew virtually nothing about: the Orthodox Church. “I really thought he’d go to Canterbury,” says Alan Jacobs, a Wheaton College English professor and Anglican who is friendly with Ellsworth. “But he took a sudden right turn and wound up in Constantinople.”

Ellsworth began reading more and more about Orthodox Christianity–eventually spending close to $10,000 on Orthodox books. By 2005, he was regularly visiting an Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago (the Antiochian Orthodox Church is Middle Eastern in background and the seat of its patriarchate is in Damascus). By late 2006, Ellsworth realized that he wanted to be Orthodox himself. On the first Sunday of the following February, an Orthodox priest in Chicago anointed him with holy oil and he was chrismated–or formally received–into the Orthodox Church. A month later, at the age of 62, he was ordained as an Orthodox priest himself.

Ellsworth’s story is hardly unique. Most of the approximately 150 members of the Orthodox parish he now leads are former evangelicals themselves. Even Ellsworth’s transition from evangelical minister to Orthodox priest is not uncommon. Of the more than 250 parishes of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, some 60 percent are led by convert priests, most of whom are from evangelical backgrounds.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Orthodox Church, Other Churches

Ken Burger: John McKissick, a national treasure

Over time, we’ve gotten used to John McKissick being known as the winningest football coach in the country. Every year we see him out on the practice field, starting yet another high school football season in Summerville.

This, by the way, is his 56th.

Think about that for a moment. Truman was president when McKissick started coaching the Green Wave in 1952. He shook Winston Churchhill’s hand. Studebakers were still big sellers.

With that kind of longevity, nobody is even close to his on-going record of 543 victories. He also has 10 state championships to his credit.

If you live around here, you’ve probably heard all this before. His story has been told and retold here in the Palmetto State. But if there’s a way legends can become commonplace, it’s the way McKissick has always been a low-key kind of guy around the Lowcountry.

Unassuming, pleasant and a pleasure to deal with, the 80-year-old coach simply goes about his business of coaching kids and trying to win football games. He’s been coaching so long that many of his former players are now in their 70s. Most turned out OK. And most give some of the credit to their high school football coach, John McKissick.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

Mark Shea: Patriotism As Idolatry

The moment we put the creature before God, it stops being a means of grace and becomes instead an idol. We can do this with virtually any creature, but three of the most popular idols are money, sex and power. (The golden calf symbolized all three, showing you that not much has changed in 5,000 years.)

The danger of the modern nation-state (a danger incarnated again and again in the 20th century) is that the tempting offer to deliver these three goods will become a substitute for heaven.

We saw this in Nazi Germany, which elevated patriotism to the idolatry of the race. We saw it in various communist nations, which elevated the state to the place of God with the promise of bread and land. And we see it in the post-Christian West today. Again and again, the promise is the same: “a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth” (Catechism, No. 675).

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Theology

Lowcountry home buyers struggle to find financing during market crisis

Susan Brooks has found the house of her dreams. The perfect place to watch her 14-year-old daughter grow and fly the nest.

As a single mother of three, two of whom already are grown, Brooks, 47, has worked at Summerville Medical Center for 17 years and works a second job part-time in the evenings at a nearby Wal-Mart.

She has a contract on a home in the Archdale area of North Charleston and has 20 percent to put down on a mortgage. Her Bacons Bridge Road mobile home is paid in full and a buyer wants to move in Sept. 10.

Her credit could be better, she said, but she’s almost debt-free and has labored to improve her score.

But no one’s giving her credit for the hard work.

“I have the money, but no one will finance me,” Brooks said. “I really want this house.”

Read it all from the local paper.

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

Presbyterian Minister ruled guilty over gay weddings

A retired Presbyterian minister with roots on the North Side was found guilty of violating church law in officiating at two lesbian weddings.

Jane Spahr of San Rafael, Calif., is an openly gay ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She was ruled to be at odds with the church’s constitution when she married the couples in 2004 and 2005.

A judicial commission with the Synod of the Pacific, a multistate governing body, ruled 6-2 that while Ms. Spahr “acted with conscience and conviction,” she was guilty of misconduct. It reversed a local Presbytery decision in March 2006 that said Ms. Spahr was within her rights as an ordained minister when she married the couples. The decision came with the recommendation that Ms. Spahr be rebuked.

Ms. Spahr said the decision made her sad, calling it second-class treatment for people who are different and “perpetuates myths and stereotypes that give license to violence.”

Read it all.

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

Archbishop Alwyn Rice Jones RIP

Alwyn Rice Jones’s time as Archbishop of Wales involved big changes in the Church. Having once failed to get the ordination of women as priests through the governing body, he brought it back in 1996 when it was approved and, unlike in England, no clergy left the Church in Wales. He also steered through the legislation for the remarriage of divorcees in church.

A theological liberal, Jones was a committed ecumenist. While a priest at Porthmadog he developed close relations with the Roman Catholic Church and was secretary of the Gwynedd Ecumenical Forum. From 1985 to 1987 he was the chairman of the Commission of Covenanting Churches in Wales. He steered a Bill through the governing body for the creation of local ecumenical projects and became chairman of the religious advisory committee for the Welsh-language TV channel.

He was committed to social justice and was not afraid of political issues. He condemned the bombing of Kos-ovo and was a strong supporter of devolution and the creation of the National Assembly of Wales. A year after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, he wrote to his clergy saying that he thought too much was being made of her status. He left it to the discretion of his clergy as to whether prayers should be said on the anniversary of her death.

Read it all.

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