Daily Archives: December 18, 2007

Religion Writers Name Evangelicals in Election as 2007's Top Story

The political grappling of evangelicals for a GOP presidential candidate is considered the top religion story of 2007 among the nation’s religion writers.

Members of the Religion Newswriters Association picked the Buddhist monks in Myanmar, who protested in September in support of democracy and were subdued by government forces, as the top religion newsmaker of the year.

The entire Top 10 list includes:

1. Evangelical voters ponder if they can support the eventual Republican candidate due to questions about the leaders’ platforms and/or faith.

2. Leading Democratic presidential candidates make conscious efforts to attract faith-based voters after acknowledging their failure to do so in 2004.

3. The role of gay and lesbian clergy continues to be a deeply divisive issue, with the Episcopal Church’s pledge of restraint on gay issues failing to halt the number of congregations making plans to leave the denomination.

4. Global warming increases in importance among religious groups, with mainline leaders considering it a high priority and evangelical leaders divided over its importance compared to other issues.

Read it all.

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

From ACNS: The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations

The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER) met in Cairo, Egypt, from Wednesday, 5th to Monday, 10th December 2007, under the chairmanship of the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, Primate of the Church in the Province of the West Indies. The Commission is charged with reviewing current international ecumenical dialogues involving Anglicans, and provincial and regional initiatives towards unity with other Christians. IASCER consists of representatives from each international dialogue involving Anglicans, including the multilateral dialogue of Faith and Order, and of certain other commissions and networks, and consultants who bring particular regional or theological expertise.

Reports were received of all current bilateral theological dialogues of the Anglican Communion, as well as of developments from particular regions of the globe. In the course of reflections on the current life of the Anglican Communion, the commission also responded further to the proposals for an Anglican Covenant following the publication of the initial work of the Covenant Design Group, which presented a first draft for a covenant to the Primates’ Meeting in February 2007. The Commission gave consideration to issues relating to the practice of admitting the non-baptised to Holy Communion, to issues raised by the recent Responses on the Doctrine of the Church issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church, and received information on the ecumenical dimensions of the forthcoming Lambeth Conference.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Latest News, Ecumenical Relations

Kendall Harmon: Narratives, CounterNarratives, & Decisions

See what you make of it.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, - Anglican: Analysis, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts

James Carroll: America's politics of religion

What is discouraging here is that the bishops, aiming to reinforce their squandered moral authority, are resuscitating an image of a threatening, violent God that religious people generally, and Catholics in particular, have struggled to leave behind. Religion aims not to “save” from an unmerciful God, but to reveal that God’s mercy is complete.

Is Mormonism a religion of myth? The answer, of course, is that every religion is a religion of myth. The symbols, rituals, and sacred texts of every faith grow out of contingent historical circumstances that seem at odds with the transcendent claims that religions make. Joseph Smith’s origins in upstate New York might seem disqualifyingly banal, yet so did Jerusalem to those who lived in Rome, as did Galilee to those who lived in Jerusalem. Religions claim to be above such history, and that myths are revelations – but the glory of God is that God reveals through human invention. What Mormons believe is outlandish – which is the point.

Politics and religion, like art and music, aim to accomplish the same thing, which is to overcome absurdity with meaning. Religion does this by seeing God’s hand in history. Politics does it by affirming that, if history is all there is, it is enough.

Read it all.

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

Larry Elliott: Goldilocks economy comes a cropper

After years of believing in the gorgeous beauty that was the Goldilocks economy, financial markets have had a rude awakening. Goldilocks has a spiteful twin sister: stagflation is not nice at all; the porridge she offers is both cold and expensive. She is the alter ego of Goldilocks. And we are going to hear a lot more of her next year.

Even the threat that stagflation might be about to make a reappearance has come as a shock. She has been living a reclusive life since the late 1970s, stuck away in the attic like Mrs Rochester. Life has gone on, but at the back of every policy-maker’s mind is the fear that there will be a return to the violent behaviour of 30 years ago when inflation soared and economies stagnated.

At this point it has to be said that the years may have mellowed stagflation. At present, even the gloomiest forecasters are predicting only a slowdown in growth next year rather than an outright contraction.

That said, even the whiff of stagflation complicates matters for policy-makers. They are nowhere near sorting out the global credit crunch, so the idea that a slowing in activity next year could be accompanied by rising inflation is unwelcome, to say the least.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Nathaniel Peters: The Glories of Anglo-Catholicism

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry

A Midnight Service Helps African Immigrants Combat Demons

At an hour when most people here are sleeping or sinning, the worshipers of the Spiritual Warfare ministry gather in the cold sanctuary of a neighborhood church to battle evil.

The students, taxicab drivers, homemakers and entrepreneurs, all Christians, mostly from French-speaking Africa, attend a midnight service four nights a week to seek deliverance from lust, anger, fear and sadness.

They sing. They pray fervently. Finally, they kick and shadowbox with what they contend is the real force behind life’s problems: the witches and devils whose curses they believe have ground down their families, towns, entire nations in Africa and that have pursued them to a new country, making it hard to find work, be healthy and survive.

“Some situations you need to address at night, because in the ministry of spiritual warfare, demons, the spirits bewitching people, choose this time to work,” said Nicole Sangamay, 40, who came from Congo in 1998 to study and is a co-pastor of the ministry. “And we pick this time to pray to nullify what they are doing.”

Founded by a Congolese couple, Spiritual Warfare is one of many ministries and congregations in the growing African diaspora in the United States and abroad grappling with witchcraft. In most other churches, Mrs. Sangamay said, you could not even raise the issue, let alone pray to combat its effects.

Those other churches might argue that such a focus on witchcraft is a relic of Africans’ old beliefs, a dangerously pagan preoccupation. But scholars say this is Christianity made profoundly African. Spiritual Warfare considers itself Pentecostal, and like many other Pentecostals, worshipers see the battle between God and Satan, or what they also call the Bible against witchcraft, shaping the world.

“Religion for them is not like in the West,” said Jacob K. Olupona, professor of African religious traditions at the Harvard Divinity School. “It’s not simply seen as meaning and reference to a transcendental order. Religion is seen as something that works. It has a utilitarian view, and people are looking for solutions in different angles and different ways.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Religion & Culture

What Every Parent Should Know About Philip Pullman's Golden Compass

Another example is Pullman’s portrayal of the Judeo-Christian God. Pullman refers to him as “The Authority,” although a number of passages make clear that this is the God of the Bible. The Authority is a liar and a mere angel, and as we discover in the third book, senile as well. He was locked in some sort of jewel and held prisoner by the patriarch Enoch, who is now called Metatron and who rules in the Authority’s name. When the children find the jewel and accidentally release the Authority, he falls apart and dies.

Additionally, Pullman uses the imagery of C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” chronicles. “His Dark Materials” opens with the young heroine stuck in a wardrobe belonging to an old academic, conversing with a talking animal, when she discovers multiple worlds. So the young reader is lulled early on with the familiar feel of Lewis.

Nevertheless, Pullman’s work isn’t simply about using fairy-tale magic to tell a good story. He openly proselytizes for atheism, corrupting the imagery of Lewis and Tolkien to undermine children’s faith in God and the Church.

Q: Many Catholics, including William Donohue of the Catholic League, are speaking out against the movie. What should parents know before they let their children watch this film?

Vere: I don’t recommend any parent allow their children to view the film. While the movie has reportedly been sanitized of its more anti-Christian and anti-religious elements, it will do nothing but pique children’s curiosity about the books. I’m a parent myself. My children would think it hypocritical if I told them it was OK to see the movie, but not to read the books. And they would be right.

It’s not OK for children — impressionable as they are — to read stories in which the plot revolves around the supreme blasphemy, namely, that God is a liar and a mortal. It is not appropriate for children to read books in which the heroine is the product of adultery and murder; priests act as professional hit men, torturers and authorize occult experimentation on young children; an ex-nun engages in occult practices and promiscuous behavior, and speaks of it openly with a 12-year-old couple; and the angels who rebel against God are good, while those who fight on God’s side are evil. This is wrong. And while it’s been softened in the movie — or at least that’s what Hollywood is telling us — it’s still there in the books.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Movies & Television, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Holy Waiting

One Episcopal Church rector’s recent Advent sermon (about 21 minutes, an MP3 download).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

Dan Fogelberg RIP

He will be sorely missed as a marvelous lyricist with a sweet soothing voice.

Mr. Fogelberg learned he had advanced prostate cancer in 2004. In a statement then, he thanked fans for their support. “It is truly overwhelming and humbling to realize how many lives my music has touched so deeply all these years,” he wrote. “I thank you from the very depths of my heart.”

Mr. Fogelberg’s music was powerful in its simplicity. He did not rely on the volume of his voice to convey his emotions; instead, they came through in his soft, tender delivery and his poignant lyrics. Songs like “Same Old Lang Syne,” in which a man reminisces after meeting an old girlfriend by chance during the holidays, became classics not only for his performance, but also for their engaging story lines.

Mr. Fogelberg’s heyday was in the 1970s and early ’80s, when he scored several platinum and multiplatinum records fueled by such hits as “The Power of Gold” and “Leader of the Band,” a touching tribute he wrote to his father, a bandleader. Mr. Fogelberg put out his first album in 1972.

Read it all. It seems such a commonplace to say it now, but there is no substitute for music and I have a memory of a teenage boy growing up in New Jersey in the 1970’s whose heart was repeatedly touched and helped by Dan Fogelberg in a way for which even now I am genuinely grateful–KSH

Update: I enjoyed this too.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Music

The Summary text of the Recent Roman Catholic Doctrinal Note

Here is one section:

III. Some Ecclesiological Implications

9. “Since the day of Pentecost ”¦ the Gospel, in the power of the Holy Spirit, is proclaimed to all people so that they might believe and become disciples of Christ and members of his Church.” “Conversion” is a “change in thinking and of acting,” expressing our new life in Christ; it is an ongoing dimension of Christian life.

10. For Christian evangelization, “the incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power-group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and ages.” In this sense, then, “the Church is the bearer of the presence of God and thus the instrument of the true humanization of man and the world.” (n. 9)

11. The Doctrinal Note cites the Second Vatican Council’s “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et Spes) to say that respect for religious freedom and its promotion “must not in any way make us indifferent towards truth and goodness. Indeed, love impels the followers of Christ to proclaim to all the truth which saves.” [n.10] This mission of love must be accomplished by both proclamation of the word and witness of life. “Above all, the witness of holiness is necessary, if the light of truth is to reach all human beings. If the word is contradicted by behavior, its acceptance will be difficult.” On the other hand, citing Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, the Note says that “even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run, if it is not explained, justified”¦ and made explicit by a clear und unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus.” [n. 11]

Read it all.

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

Former Episcopal Priest Explores Christianity and Druidry in New Novel

Melnyk’s problems within the Episcopal Church began when he was ”˜exposed’ by a conservative Christian website seeking more ammunition for attacking the Episcopal Church’s consecration of a gay priest as Bishop. They accused Melnyk of taking part in rituals celebrating the Divine Feminine. Although he never practised anything but orthodox rites in his church, steadfastly maintained that he was not “in conflict with the Baptismal Covenant and the historical Creeds of the Church,” and had the support of the majority of his parishioners, he felt he had no option but to resign his ministry. ”I was told I could stay if I agreed to sever ties with my friends and never again write about Druidry,” Melnyk said. “But I knew The Apple and the Thorn was on the way, and I would not agree to being silenced.”

“Like Eosaidh, I found myself suddenly at odds with the faith I had grown up in,” he explains. “Like the new group of ’Christians’ who found their way to the Isle of Mist, many Church leaders were quick to demonise Druidry and my connection with this ancient ancestor of Anglicanism. It is not only the gay rights issue that currently threatens conservatives in the Church; they are even more fearful of the threat they perceive in the free marketplace of inter-faith dialogue. Today I continue to be a walker between both worlds, celebrating the two faiths that have formed me but, when the Church told me I had to choose between my priesthood and my friends in the Druid community, I chose the path that honored relationship.”

“In the final analysis,” Melnyk continues, “this is not a novel about Druidry or the Church. It is a tale of human relationships and the choices they entail. Eosaidh and Vivian are able to convert one another because they care about one another. Characters in the tale who do not care about human relationship remain captive to their own dogmas. In matters of theology it is always the underlying human equation that matters. Christians and Pagans alike will find challenges in this tale. I hope they will also find joy”

Read it all.

I will consider posting comments on this article submitted first by email to Kendall’s E-mail: KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com–KSH.

Posted in Uncategorized

Remembering Algernon Crapsey

On a Sunday evening in February 1905, the Rev. Algernon Crapsey stood at the pulpit of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Rochester to deliver the 12th and final lecture in a series that had proven very popular.

He chastised the illogical thinking of Protestants who criticized all the other alleged miracles of the world’s religions except their own. He further suggested that: “A belief in the inerrancy of the Bible is no longer possible to an educated man, or for anyone in fact, who reads his Bible with reasonable intelligence and attention.”

What he said next was, to the hierarchy of his church, utterly unthinkable.

He challenged the notion that the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth and Christ’s resurrection from the dead were literal, actual occurrences.

“In the light of scientific research, the founder of Christianity no longer stands apart from the common destiny of man in life and death, but he is in all things physical like as we are, born as we are born, dying as we die, and both in life and death in the keeping of that same Divine Power, that Heavenly fatherhood, which delivers us from the womb and carries us down to the grave. When we come to know Jesus in his historical relations, we see that miracle is not a help, it is a hindrance, to an intelligent comprehension of his person, His character and his mission. We are not alarmed, we are relieved when scientific history proves to us that the fact of his miraculous birth was unknown to himself, unknown to his mother, and unknown to the whole Christian community of the first generation.”

Crapsey’s comments touched off a firestorm.

Read it all.

Update: A brief obituary of Algernon Crapsey is here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Theology

Washington Post: Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

It has been 50 years since scientists first created DNA in a test tube, stitching ordinary chemical ingredients together to make life’s most extraordinary molecule. Until recently, however, even the most sophisticated laboratories could make only small snippets of DNA — an extra gene or two to be inserted into corn plants, for example, to help the plants ward off insects or tolerate drought.

Now researchers are poised to cross a dramatic barrier: the creation of life forms driven by completely artificial DNA.

Scientists in Maryland have already built the world’s first entirely handcrafted chromosome — a large looping strand of DNA made from scratch in a laboratory, containing all the instructions a microbe needs to live and reproduce.

In the coming year, they hope to transplant it into a cell, where it is expected to “boot itself up,” like software downloaded from the Internet, and cajole the waiting cell to do its bidding. And while the first synthetic chromosome is a plagiarized version of a natural one, others that code for life forms that have never existed before are already under construction.

The cobbling together of life from synthetic DNA, scientists and philosophers agree, will be a watershed event, blurring the line between biological and artificial — and forcing a rethinking of what it means for a thing to be alive.

“This raises a range of big questions about what nature is and what it could be,” said Paul Rabinow, an anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley who studies science’s effects on society. “Evolutionary processes are no longer seen as sacred or inviolable. People in labs are figuring them out so they can improve upon them for different purposes.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Science & Technology, Theology

Newsweek: A New American Holy War

The speech was written, the stagecraft set. Last Wednesday evening, about 12 hours before he was to speak on faith and public life as the guest of George H.W. Bush in College Station, Texas, Mitt Romney was musing aloud about the task before him. The former Massachusetts governor was happy with the text, which had taken him nearly a week to write and polish: it was rife with allusions to the Founding Fathers and to what Romney called “our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty.” He was thrilled, too, that the 41st president was going to introduce him; Romney would not have chosen the Bush library as the venue if the senior President Bush had declined to be there. (Bush 41 offered no endorsement, but tacit benediction””and, before the morning speech, cold cereal, which Romney declined, leaving the former president to have a bowl by himself while the governor drank a caffeine-free Diet Coke.) “My view is that when a person of faith is running for office””particularly a person of a faith you may not be familiar with””there are some questions that are legitimate,” Romney said from the road in Houston. Would the authorities of a president’s church exert influence on White House decisions? Would a president of a given faith put his country’s traditions and laws above those of his church’s? “Those are real issues, and people have a right to hear a candidate address them,” Romney said. But there had to be a line drawn somewhere: “There are some particular doctrines, some theological concepts, that we don’t need to go into, no matter what faith it is.”

Or so Romney hopes””and, given the poll numbers in Iowa, which votes in three weeks, perhaps prays. At almost exactly the same hour on Wednesday, Mike Huckabee was spending a rare night at home in Little Rock, packing for a campaign trip to South Carolina. In a telephone interview with NEWSWEEK’S Holly Bailey, Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, declined to say whether he agreed with evangelical Christians who believe Mormonism is a heretical cult. “First of all, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to start evaluating other religions,” Huckabee said. “The more I answer these questions, the more people want to say, ‘Ah, you describe yourself as a theologian,’ or ‘Oh, you’re the one who is setting yourself up as a judge of religions.’ I am damned if I do; I am damned if I don’t.”

Then he did. Asked if he thought Scriptural revelations from God ended when the Bible was completed, Huckabee said: “I don’t have any evidence or indication that he’s handed us a new book to add to the ones, the 66, that were canonized in 325 A.D. ”¦ It was a careful process that adopted those books. That was something I did study in college and seminary ”¦ the process by which we ended up with those books. I don’t know that there’s any other books.”

Which no doubt comes as a surprise to the world’s nearly 13 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who, like Romney, believe that God did indeed reveal another text in 19th-century America, the Book of Mormon.

Read it all.

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