Daily Archives: October 9, 2007

Libby Purves: Zero tolerance for religious intolerance

Which brings me back to that sense of icy rage at modern intolerance, accepted and even sometimes encouraged in the name of delicacy or diversity. Sainsbury’s are allowing Muslim check-out staff to opt out of touching even sealed bottles containing alcohol. Worse, some Muslim medical students refuse to attend lectures or answer exam questions on alcohol-related or sexually transmitted diseases, and a few will not help patients of the opposite sex. The BMA and GMC confirm that such demands are being made. They have been turned down; moreover, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association condemn the requests and say rather nicely: “The prophet said, Learn about witchcraft but don’t practise it.”

But there it is: a terrible self-righteous minority who must not be indulged: not ever, not at all. Myself, I would not only fail such students but demand repayment of all the money spent on their training.

This is not an Islamophobic observation; intelligent Muslim scholars distance themselves from this nonsense. They also say the shopworkers “exploiting and misusing” Sainsbury’s goodwill. It is also not Islamophobic because precisely the same applies to Christians ”“ who also have been known to behave with disgraceful intolerance, and not only in the 16th century.

Last week’s statement by the Archbishop of Mozambique, Francisco Chimolo, that condoms are secretly infected is downright wicked. Simply because his co-religionists believe that fidelity and abstinence are the best life, the Archbishop utters nonsense like: “I know that there are two countries in Europe, they are making condoms with the virus on purpose . . . they want to finish with the African people.” He also claims that retroviral drugs sent from Europe to help Aids victims are infected with HIV. Similarly, there are US Christian charities that will not help African prostitutes; and closer to home, we have had plenty of soi-disant Catholic and Protestant Irish bombers who thought it fine to kill innocents, and clerics who did not condemn them.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, England / UK, Europe, Religion & Culture

U.S. tries rehab for religious extremists

A counseling program that employs Muslim clerics to rebut extremist views of detainees has steadily reduced their numbers over the past four years in Singapore, suggesting that religious-based rehabilitation may offer an alternative to indefinite detention without trial in the US-led war on terrorism.

Faced with swelling detention centers, US military commanders in Iraq have begun to take note. In recent months, they have introduced religious-education programs for adults and juveniles that are modeled, in part, on Singapore’s and on a much larger program in Saudi Arabia.

Setbacks in a similar program in Yemen, shelved in 2005 because of high rates of recidivism, had raised doubts about the approach. Experts also distinguish between rehabilitating low-level sympathizers and hardened leaders of terrorist groups, groups, who may see little to gain from cooperating with authorities.

But proponents say that an effective counterterrorism strategy must include efforts to combat religious indoctrination, especially for suspects held behind bars. Injustice is a recruiting tool, and open-ended detention of suspects is an affront to many Muslims. Releasing them into the community armed with Islamic teachings that debunk Al Qaeda’s do-or-die rhetoric can help to win a “war of ideas,” the proponents argue.

“Deprogramming is not 100-percent successful. Among suspects that you rehabilitate, some will go back (to militancy). But it’s the only intelligent thing to do,” says Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Nanyang Technological University and a consultant on the Singaporean program. “We’ve planted a seed.”¦ Iraq was the beginning. I believe America can take this idea to Guantánamo, Afghanistan, and other areas.”

Read it all.

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

Gene Robinson Writes an Open Letter and Tells the Truth–There was no Moratorium agreed to

On the issue of same sex unions, I argued that our statement be reflective of what is true right now in the Episcopal Church: that while same sex blessings are not officially permitted in most dioceses, they are going on and will continue to go on as an appropriate pastoral response to our gay and lesbian members and their relationships. Earlier versions of our response contained both sides of this truth. I argued to keep both sides of that truth in the final version, providing the clarity asked for by the Primates.

Others made the argument that to state that “a majority of Bishops do not sanction such blessings” implied that a minority do in fact sanction such blessings, and many more take no actions to prevent them. All this without coming right out and saying so. That argument won the day. I think it was a mistake.

Another issue to which I spoke was this notion of “public” versus “private” rites. I pointed out on the floor that our very theology of marriage is based on the communal nature of such a rite. Presumably, the couple has already made commitments to one another privately, or else they would not be seeking Holy Matrimony. What happens in a wedding is that the COMMUNITY is drawn into the relationship ”“ the vows are taken in the presence of that community and the community pledges itself to support the couple in the keeping of their vows. It is, by its very nature, a “public” event ”“ no matter how many or how few people are in attendance. The same goes for our solemn commitments to one another as lgbt couples.

I suspect that these efforts to keep such rites “private” is just another version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” If avoidance of further conflict is the goal, then I can understand it. But if speaking the truth in love is the standard by which we engage in our relationships with the Communion, then no.

Let me also state strongly that I believe that the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and Primates MISunderstood us when they stated that they understood that the HOB in fact “declared a ”˜moratorium on all such public Rites.’” Neither in our discussions nor in our statement did we agree to or declare such a moratorium on permitting such rites to take place. That may be true in many or most dioceses, but that is certainly not the case in my own diocese and many others. The General Convention has stated that such rites are indeed to be considered within the bounds of the pastoral ministry of this Church to its gay and lesbian members, and that remains the policy of The Episcopal Church.

Read it all. I applaud this truthful witness, and what I believe to be an accurate explanation that the bishops were misunderstood. Why can’t we have more people in this church who are willing to tell the truth?–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sept07 HoB Meeting, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

Chip Nix's Obituary

He served eventually in nine states, including a stint as associate rector of St. Stephen’s from 1982 to 1987. His last ministry was at Church of the Holy Apostles in the Houston suburb of Katy, Texas, where he led a service just four days before his death.

Dr. Nix’s warm and gentle demeanor made him well-suited to the clergy, even though he’d never focused much on religion when growing up.

“He became a different kind of doctor, not of medicine but of the souls,” said his younger brother, David of Akron, Ohio. “He was someone who would always devote all of his time and attention to you. He always made you feel like, right at the moment you’re with him, you’re the most important thing in his life right now.”

In addition to his brother, he is survived by his wife, Carol; two daughters, Joanna of Ambridge and Joy of Austin, Texas; and a sister, Eleanore Childs of Zelienople.

Read it all. He will be greatly missed–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry

Qatar says oil prices should top 100 dollars

Qatar’s energy minister said crude oil prices, which have surged recently to record levels above 80 dollars a barrel, should be more than 100 dollars.

“If we take into account inflation from 1972 to the present day, the real and fair price for oil should be more than 100 dollars,” Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah said in remarks aired by Al-Jazeera television on Tuesday.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources

Sunday morning with the Bishop of Mississippi

Is the church growing?

We have 18 congregations, including six on the Gulf Coast destroyed by Katrina, that have completed or are in the midst of capital campaigns for expansion. That’s a pretty good sign out of approximately 90 congregations. We are challenged in those parts of the state where the population is decreasing and, of course, the Coast has its own set of concerns. However, I think it is safe to say that the Episcopal Church is very healthy in Mississippi.

Your father and grandfather were bishops. Did you know you would be following that path?

Hardly. Though my experience with the church had been very positive and foundational, I went to college intending to be a teacher and a coach. My old football coach, Bob Tyler, talked me out of that career, and I tested other vocations – civil rights law and politics, in particular, while in college. Something kept being called out of me, I trust by God, that addressed societal reform, but that was far more intimate and personal than politics. After a year and a half working on Capitol Hill, I returned to seminary to complete my training for ordination. Only then did I fully understand that I was being called by God to the ordained ministry.

Read it all.

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

Michael Medved: America's public gloom contradicts people's enduring, if private, confidence

It’s no wonder that Americans feel so deeply disconnected from their elected leaders when their contradictory opinions show them similarly out of touch with themselves.

Public approval of Congress has plummeted to an historic low (18%, with a staggering 76% disapproval, according to a recent Gallup Poll) while an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey reports that more than two-thirds of us (68%) believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

Meanwhile, when asked about our own lives, Americans express overwhelming contentment and dazzling confidence. In a mid-August Harris Poll that asked respondents to evaluate their satisfaction levels “with the life you lead,” an amazing 94% declared themselves satisfied (with a clear majority ”” 56% ”” choosing the highest rating of “very satisfied”). Meanwhile, 62% expected their “personal situation” to get even better in the next five years, as opposed to a paltry 7% who anticipated that their circumstances would get worse.

On the surface, these responses look almost laughably inconsistent. Some 68% of us believe the nation is “off on the wrong track,” but by a ratio of nearly 9-to-1 we’re confident that our lives will improve, rather than deteriorate, in the next five years. Only 17% say our personal status “got worse” in the past five years (while 54% reported improvement), but by crushing margins of more than 4-to-1, we tell pollsters we disapprove of the job our leaders are doing.

In other words, Americans seem to embrace the odd conviction that each of us dwells upon some sun-kissed, optimistic island of happiness and advancement, while the rest of the country marches dramatically toward catastrophe and collapse.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch

Bishops' Statements: 40 down, 60 to go

As will be evident in this morning’s entries (see the next 3 posts below), we’re catching up on posting a batch of additional bishops’ responses to the New Orleans’ statement. Some of these statements are fairly new, some have been mouldering in our inbox for awhile. T19 and / or Stand Firm have now posted either excerpts or the full text to 40 bishops / dioceses’ statements.

Note: BabyBlue has posted a list of statements we compiled last night. These are all the statements we’ve seen so far. (A total of 40 dioceses). So you can easily see what we’re missing!

If your bishop has made a statement and it’s not yet been posted, please e-mail us the text or the link: T19elves@yahoo.com

Thanks to all who are sending in such helpful links. Keep ’em coming.

Posted in * Admin, * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

Other Bishops' Statement Quotes and links

A few excerpts from various bishops’ statements which haven’t yet been posted here. They are in no particular order and range quite widely in content. To view the full statements by each bishop quoted below, in most cases, just click on the name of the diocese.

+John Howard of Florida

I believe firmly that the Episcopal Church must be “true to itself.” It must honor its own nature and traditions in order to be an effective leader in this country, in the Anglican Communion, and in the world. [”¦] We affirmed our commitment not to adopt any rite or service for the blessing of same-sex unions, even though we acknowledged that in a relatively small handful of dioceses some priests are performing such services without an official liturgy and as a purely pastoral matter. This is, of course, not the case in the Diocese of Florida and will not be for so long as I am your bishop.

—————–

+Todd Ousley of Eastern Michigan

I believe that we have fully responded to the requests of the Primates and have demonstrated our intent to be faithful to the Windsor Process. Despite some media reports to the contrary, I believe the statement to be a significant step toward healing division within the Communion and a reaffirmation of The Episcopal Church’s commitment to justice and dignity for all people.

————–

+Chilton Knudson, Diocese of Maine:

In Maine, we are profoundly blessed by two realities: The ministries of gay and lesbian layfolk and clergy whom we cherish and support AND the ministries of people (lay and ordained) whose conscientious convictions cause them serious difficulty about the ministries of gay and lesbian folks in (at least) some aspects of our diocesan ministry. I pray we will always be an ANGLICAN diocese; a diocese which embraces and respects a great range of difference within the Body of Christ. My own personal, prayerful, position, has never been a secret: I believe that, by virtue of our baptism, God calls ALL of us into ministry and into all four orders of ministry (laypeople, deacon, priest and bishop). My position is unchanged.

Bp. Leo Frade of SE Florida has two statements here and here.

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is paramount in our governance, and unlike other Provinces where bishops are regarded as close to Almighty God in authority, we are committed to a democratic and inclusive form of government for our church.

A central charism of our church is that we all can be different–and differ widely from each other in opinion and practice–but always we are able to find our union in the Eucharist. Our history shows us our ability to remain united in the midst of controversies like slavery, discrimination and racism, birth control, remarriage of divorced persons, Prayer Book revisions and women’s ordination.

But his pastoral letter and written “reflections” are much tamer than what he is reported to have told the Diocesan clergy at their clergy day shortly after the HoB meeting.

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+Mark Hollingsworth of Ohio:

In the letter that proceeded from our meeting in March of this year, we stated, “We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church.” You will see that these words are repeated near the end of this week’s response to our Communion partners. It is a specific charism of The Episcopal Church to advocate for the civil rights and leadership gifts of gay and lesbian persons, by both our words and our actions. This need not conflict with our uncompromised commitment to continued relationship within the Anglican Communion, rather it may be an essential and valuable part of it.

————–

Bp Michael Smith of North Dakota:

Specifically, the Primates requested that we “make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention.” In response we pledged “not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action.” We also noted that “the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions.”

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+Carolyn Tanner Irish of Utah (Kendall already posted the news article in which this quote appears, but in the avalanche of news back then, it was easy for many to miss this statement, so I’m reposting it)

In the meantime, Bishop Irish said she will continue to bless same-sex unions, acknowledging that there are “all kinds” of restraints that she must follow to make those blessings happen. Those restraints include not doing the blessing during a Sunday service and making sure each person is a member of the church.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

+Persell of Chicago responds to New Orleans HoB Statement

In our statement””A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners””we were able to accommodate concerns of our more conservative members by reconfirming the charge of the 2006 General Convention (Resolution B033) for bishops and standing committees to “exercise restraint” in giving consent to episcopal elections in which the candidate’s lifestyle would pose a challenge to the wider church, and by acknowledging this charge applies to non-celibate gay and lesbian persons.In addition, we pledged not to authorize public rites of blessing for same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion.

Both of these declarations conflict with my understanding of an open and inclusive Church, a conviction that informed my vote against B033 in 2006 and one I reconfirmed in my message to our diocese following the Primates communiqué last February. However, from what I witnessed this past week in New Orleans, I realize these compromises are necessary at this point in our Communion’s discernment to ensure the fullest participation in our ongoing conversation. It is important to note that while our General Convention has acknowledged that blessings of same-sex unions have occurred in response to local pastoral needs, the Convention has never authorized the development of such rites. Our Church is likely to revisit both these matters at our next General Convention in 2009.

The full text is here

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

Bp. Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia's statement re: HoB meeting

The House of Bishops’ final statement, a response to the Dar es Salaam Communiqué and additional questions posed to the Episcopal Church, follows this letter. It is born out of much work, much challenge to one another and with a deep general conviction within the House of Bishops to remain deeply part of the Anglican Communion while at the same time being authentically who we are as part of that body in our context. We also wanted to claim where we have come thus far, believing our voice and our experience is of utmost importance to the life of the Anglican Communion and the Christian witness in the world. The House of Bishops is clear that we are not of one mind on many of these issues but we desire to remain a model for how differing views can in fact remain in conversation and yet still gather around one table. There was an overwhelming feeling that this is the true expression of Anglicanism and one we want to continue to live into.

The full text is here.

Note: Nothing in Bp. Rickel’s statement suggests he is in any way repudiating his earlier stated policy:

“Rickel says he is comfortable continuing Bishop Warner’s stance of letting individual priests decide whether to perform blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions.”

Seattle Times, Sept. 15, 2007

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

Jon Meachem: A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation

Andrew Jackson resisted bids in the 1820s to form a “Christian party in politics.” Abraham Lincoln buried a proposed “Christian amendment” to the Constitution to declare the nation’s fealty to Jesus. Theodore Roosevelt defended William Howard Taft, a Unitarian, from religious attacks by supporters of William Jennings Bryan.

The founders were not anti-religion. Many of them were faithful in their personal lives, and in their public language they evoked God. They grounded the founding principle of the nation ”” that all men are created equal ”” in the divine. But they wanted faith to be one thread in the country’s tapestry, not the whole tapestry.

In the 1790s, in the waters off Tripoli, pirates were making sport of American shipping near the Barbary Coast. Toward the end of his second term, Washington sent Joel Barlow, the diplomat-poet, to Tripoli to settle matters, and the resulting treaty, finished after Washington left office, bought a few years of peace. Article 11 of this long-ago document says that “as the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” there should be no cause for conflict over differences of “religious opinion” between countries.

The treaty passed the Senate unanimously. Mr. McCain is not the only American who would find it useful reading.

Read it all.

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

The Bishop of Hawaii's Letter re: the New Orleans HoB Statement

We encourage you to read this on the Diocese of Hawaii website, since Bp. Fitzpatrick intersperses his comments with the HoB statement — on the Hawaii site different colors are used making it easier to distinguish the original text and the bishop’s response. Here’s an excerpt:

While I believe that the blessing of same-sex unions is an important and right evolution in the life of Christ’s Church and I am formulating my own understanding of the topic for public teaching and critique, The Episcopal Church has not authorized such rites and we have no clear teaching (or even a mind of the House of Bishops preliminary report) on this matter. In keeping with this statement, I will therefore not authorize such public blessings of same-sex unions in the Diocese of Hawai`i and I formally ask the clergy of this Diocese to refrain from officiating in any liturgies in our churches that might be construed by the reasonable outside observer as a formal public “blessing” or “marriage” of a same-sex couple. As a Church in the catholic tradition, individual priests and vestries (or, in my mind, bishops and dioceses) have no authority to act unilaterally in such matters. We are not congregationalists or presbyterians. Our catholic heritage demands a broader action of a national church in consultation with the Communion worldwide (even if the local national church chooses to act on its own in keeping with its canons and governance). This part of the House of Bishops statement is a response, I think, to the need to have clearer teaching before acting. It is a fair statement of our Church at this time, though the limits for this Diocese noted above are my own.

The full text is here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sept07 HoB Meeting, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops

Notable and Quotable

Bishop John Bryson Chane said that the Diocese of Washington does not have an authorized rite for blessing same-sex relationships. However, he added that the statement passed by the bishops will allow such blessings to continue in the diocese.

From the front page of the latest Washington Window, a newsletter of the diocese of Washington. Could the degree of word games and the refusal to do what the Tanzania Communique asked for be any clearer?

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sept07 HoB Meeting, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

Pastor Provocateur: Christianity Today Profiles Mark Driscoll

He begins his talk about lessons learned as a church planter with common-sense advice about how pastors can blow off steam. Driscoll, 36, plays T-ball with his three sons or feeds ducks with his two daughters. Hardly the stuff that provokes raging blog debates and church pickets. As Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church in Seattle has grown to 6,000 members in 11 years, quiet moments like this with his family have preserved some of his sanity.

“I’m playing hurt right now,” Driscoll confesses to prospective church planters at a March meeting of Acts 29, his network of 170 churches around the world. “I wore out my adrenal glands at the end of last year, just living off adrenaline too much. My sleep has been really jacked up for some months.”

Those glands must have a little something left in the tank, because Driscoll warms up when he recounts the history of Mars Hill.

“My first core group was single indie and punk rockers committed to anarchy,” he says. “Needless to say, they didn’t naturally organize themselves or give generously. If I would have said, ‘Everybody tithe,’ it would have been in cigarettes.”

Driscoll can’t stand in front of a crowd for long without stirring things up. That’s what you get from a pastor who learned how to preach by watching comedian Chris Rock. Before long, he has the audience going. “If you’re going to be a fundamentalist or moralist ”¦ pick things like bathing with your wife to be legalistic about,” Driscoll says in his distinct, gravelly voice. “Don’t pick something stupid like, ‘Don’t listen to rock music.’ I don’t know who’s choosing all the legalisms, but they picked the worst ones. Eat meat, bathe together, and nap””those would be my legalisms. Those are things I can do.”

Driscoll “comes off as a smart-aleck former frat boy,” according to The Seattle Times. Guilty as charged. If he hasn’t offended you, you’ve never read his books or listened to his sermons. On any given Sunday at Mars Hill, it’s possible that a visiting fire marshal will get saved. But it’s just as likely that a guest will flip him off before walking out.

The spectrum of response speaks to his sharp tongue””his greatest strength and his glaring weakness. But Driscoll also disturbs many fellow evangelicals because he straddles the borders that divide us. His unflinching Reformed theology grates on the church-growth crowd. His plan to grow a large church strikes postmoderns as arrogant. His roots in the emerging church worry Calvinists. No one group can claim him. Maybe that’s why they all turn their guns on him.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry