Daily Archives: December 21, 2007

S.M. Hutchens: Clean Ambition

Ambition is an excellent thing. As a father, nothing would dismay me more than having my daughters submit to me as husband material a man with no reasonable ambitions. (I say “reasonable” because I would not be happy with some guy whose ambition was to read every science fiction novel that had ever been written, or who wanted to be the Hobo King.)

But many, early in life, err, transgressing our Lord’s teaching by cheating to get ahead, for much of what He is talking about here involves just that. “Taking the lowest place” includes resolving not to limit one’s ambitions, but to maintain the conscience in a healthy, working state, and then taking only so much advancement as a clear conscience before Him will allow. This will most often mean taking a far lower seat than a man with healthy ambitions suspects he deserves. (It will sometimes mean taking a far higher one, which is another subject.) But if he is a Christian, he must believe his vindication will come, usually later, most often after his death, and from the hand of God, within the Ultimate, “Friend, go up higher.”

Deporting one’s self in this way requires faith, without which it is impossible to please God. It is a sin, I believe, either to kill the desire for the highest achievement–to accept the self as some sort of craven, servile, mediocrity, thus risking hell for rejecting the talents one has been given–or to step outside the rules we have for the deportment of life to rise in the estimation of the world, but not of the Lord.

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Posted in Pastoral Theology, Theology

Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream: Three (Christmas) Cheers for Rowan Williams

There are some really terrible headlines in the papers at the moment about what Rowan Williams ‘said’ about the Christmas story:

“It’s all a Christmas tall story” The Times
“Three Wise Men are just a legend, says Archbishop of Canterbury” The Daily Mail
“Archbishop says nativity ‘a legend'” Daily Telegraph

I’m sure there’s plenty more around like this. The only problem is, none of it is true. Instead, one ‘journalist’ seems to have fed on another.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury

Tony Woodleif: Starting new traditions to reclaim the holiday's spirit

But we realize that we must choose between furthering a malfunctioning traditionalism and cultivating deliberate traditions that we hope will flourish in the hearts of our children. So this year we’re doing things differently. For starters, we will stay where we live rather than trek back to our home state. We love our families, but our days of re-enacting Santa’s frantic house-to-house dash are over. We’re also scaling back on gifts. Our former co-workers and cousins’ second wives are all very nice people, but it’s time to stop the madness. The same goes for our burgeoning card list, with its fine gradations (“Should the Walkers get a card with a picture, or a letter, or just a signature? Would the Goldsteins prefer a Hanukkah card, or something generic?”). This holiday, we are unilaterally disarming. No matter how many acquaintances inundate us with Starbucks gift cards and Pepperidge Farm sampler baskets, we will not retaliate.

Instead, we’re going to make cookies. Sugar cookies and chocolate-chip cookies and gingerbread cookies. We might give some away–but solely on the spur of the moment and without consulting a gift list. While other people throw elbows in last-minute shopping kerfuffles, we’ll be driving through neighborhoods looking at lights. Every night during Advent, we’ve read stories from the Old and New Testaments, and our children have hung handmade ornaments representing these stories. This week they gave a musical recital in a nursing home. And if I can work up the nerve, we may even go caroling.

Will we succeed in making this season mean something to our children besides gifts and harried schedules? I don’t know. But recently we received a solicitation from the Ronald McDonald House, which lodges families of hospitalized children. Our 7-year-old read it, a serious look on his face. Then he announced he was giving them the $50 he’d saved toward a robot. “It makes me feel better when I give to someone else,” he said, “than when someone gives things to me.” Maybe it’s not a matter, after all, of engendering the Christmas spirit out of nothing. Maybe the challenge, with children, is just to keep the trappings of the holidays from squashing the spirit that’s already there.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

San Joaquin Reacts to Rowan Williams Advent Letter

the Diocese of San Joaquin has welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advent letter to the Primates, seeing it as a validation of its secession from The Episcopal Church to the Church of the Province of the Southern Cone.

“I find it difficult to imagine any other reading of Canterbury’s Advent letter than the intent to recognize ”” or maybe I should say, to allow San Joaquin to be recognized as a legitimate member of the Anglican Communion,” Diocesan spokesman the Rev Van McCalister (pictured) told The Church of England Newspaper. In his Dec 14 Advent letter to the Primates, Dr Williams distinguished between the various responses made by North American traditionalists to the disputes over doctrine and discipline.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

The All Africa Anglican – Lutheran Commission, Communique

Participants described current relations among Anglicans and Lutherans in their home countries. They discovered considerable diversity but also identified a number of practices which already reflect mutual recognition, support, and common mission. They reviewed the work of earlier meetings of the Commission, particularly from Harare in 1999. They discussed Dr Ishmael Noko’s analysis of steps that would lead toward a full communion agreement: mapping current relationships among our churches; analyzing the contexts; taking account of the changing ecumenical landscape; developing common projects; and giving responses to historically divisive issues, both making use of ecumenical resources and speaking from African contexts.

The Commission decided to move ahead simultaneously along several lines. First, it will seek to work with bishops to plan a joint regional meeting of Anglican and Lutheran bishops in 2009: movement to full communion will require that the bishops deepen their networks of personal relationships, commit the resources of their churches, and endorse the theological vision in their communications. Second, it will ask the LWF and CAPA offices, with other structures, to seek ways to bring together sub-regional groups from all areas of the churches’ life – youth, women, theologians, etc.: movement to full communion will require staff support from appropriate international bodies. Third, members themselves will continue to develop the narratives of local relationships which were shared during the meeting in order to contribute to the process of mapping. These narratives will form the basis for the work of a group of theologians who will meet before the next full Commission meeting. This theological reflection will allow a proposal for full communion to emerge from the life of these communities in Africa.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Lutheran, Other Churches

NY Times The Board Blog–Religion & Politics: Abe Lincoln’s Perspective

As primary season unfolds, health care and the mortgage crisis seem to be taking a backseat to religion ”” specifically, the candidates’ eager assertions about how Christian they are.
Mitt Romney gave a much-heralded speech about the depth of his Christian faith. Mike Huckabee is emphasizing his background as a Baptist minister and airing a commercial that appears to feature a cross behind his head.

It has gotten way out of hand. What would great American leaders of the past think of all of this religiousity in the middle of a political campaign? What Would Abe Lincoln Do?

Actually, the historical record gives us a pretty good idea….

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

Risky sex returns syphilis to Europe

In the last decade, however, syphilis has unexpectedly returned, driven by risky sexual behavior and outbreaks in major cities across Europe, including London, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin.

Ӣ In Britain, syphilis cases have leapt more than tenfold for men and women in the past decade to 3,702 in 2006, according to the Health Protection Agency. Among men in England, the syphilis rate jumped from one per 100,000 in 1997 to nine per 100,000 last year.

Ӣ In Germany, the rate among men was fewer than two per 100,000 in 1991; by 2003, it was six per 100,000.

”¢ In France, there were 428 cases in 2003 ”” almost 16 times the number just three years earlier.

Ӣ In the Netherlands, cases doubled from 2000 to 2004. In Amsterdam, up to 31 men per 100,000 were infected, while the rate was much lower in other regions.

Similar trends have been seen in the United States.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Sexuality

Joel Stein: Doubting the hereafter doesn't mean you can't meet an angel now and then

The book is 533 pages long, so I decided to just call [Randy C.] Alcorn at his ministry in Oregon. He’s one of the foremost non-dead experts on heaven, having also written “50 Days of Heaven,” “In Light of Eternity: Perspectives on Heaven” and “Heaven for Kids.” Alcorn said that a few outraged people had shown him my Venti cup. It made him laugh. “Not because I thought it was silly, but because I believed it, in essence,” he said. “Hey, I agree. The Christian church has communicated an extremely boring view of heaven. I think it’s wrongheaded and flat unbiblical.”

The clouds-and-harp version came about for two reasons, Alcorn told me. One is Satan. The other is the early church fathers who tried to blend the Bible with Greek philosophy and wound up with a Platonic version of the afterlife stripped of the physical. In the heaven in Alcorn’s book, he imagines we’ll be riding on the backs of brontosauruses and throwing baseballs with Andy Pettitte. This does not sound like it will be heaven for brontosauruses or Andy Pettitte.

But that’s actually the heaven on Earth that only gets going after the return of Christ. Until then, our souls are hanging out in intermediate heaven — a place a lot less physical and awesome — and much of our time is spent watching events on Earth. Which sounds pretty boring. “If you didn’t have the promise of resurrection and new Earth, and all you had was this unnatural state, I would say that, yeah, by our present standards, that doesn’t sound exciting to us,” Alcorn said. And remember, some Christians have been in intermediate heaven for about 2,000 years. The brontosaursuses maybe a few thousand years longer, depending on your views on science.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Theology

USA Today: This month's mass killings a reminder of vulnerability

Jerry Auger finds himself “profiling people” when he’s at a mall or other crowded place to gauge whether they might be dangerous. Victor Cotton tells his kids that if they see people running away from something, they should, too. Barbara Murch rarely goes out alone and always looks for potential threats.
Auger, Cotton and Murch share a sense of vulnerability that was reinforced by shootings this month in places few people consider obvious targets of violence: a shopping mall, a church, a school bus stop.

The cluster of shootings reminded people that they can become victims even in the most benign public places and revived the sort of insecurity that swept the country after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, more than two dozen interviews show.

Three-fourths of Americans followed the news about the latest incidents very or somewhat closely, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,011 adults last Friday through Sunday found. Three in 10 people said they worry they could be victims of similar attacks.

“Right now in the world, anything can happen to you at any time,” says Cotton, 37, a corrections officer in Lexington, Ky. When he’s with his children, he avoids malls and amusement parks. He’s always on alert. “Nobody gets too close to me,” he says.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Violence

Gerald Baker: 2007, a bad year for God squadders

The retreat continues, despite the best efforts of the Anglicans to keep making concessions to disbelieving modernity, as the Archbishop of Canterbury did again this week with his observation that we were obliged to treat the Christmas Story really as just a legend. Like Alfred and the burnt cakes, I suppose.

Christmas closes another year that has been pretty brutal on the God squadders, a year in which the swelling tide of unbelief crashed further through the structures of our cultural architecture….

But the atheists didn’t confine their advances to the rather narrow field of non-fiction for grown-ups. Seizing on the old Jesuit principle of getting them while their young, Philip Pullman went Hollywood this year with the Dark Materials trilogy.

Mr Pullman, knowing a commercial opportunity when he saw one, described Catholics who objected to the adaptation of his books, which feature as the principal villain a thinly disguised Papacy, as “nitwits”.

This seems to be wanting to have your polemical cake and eating it. You can hardly blame Catholics for feeling a bit defensive. He told an interviewer a few years ago that the main purpose in writing his books was to undermine belief in God. Now belief in God may be increasingly optional these days for the more lukewarm leaders of Anglicanism but it is still pretty much a prerequisite for Catholics.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

San Joaquin Vicar Questions Bishop Schofield’s Visitation

The Rev. Fred Risard, vicar of St. Nicholas’ Church, Atwater, Calif., has written to Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin, informing him that the congregation has retained legal counsel, and asking for clarification regarding a planned visitation on Dec. 23.

“If you do decide to come, please let us know in advance your purpose and your status as a bishop of The Episcopal Church,” Fr. Risard wrote. “Will you be coming as our Episcopal Bishop, having repented of your actions at diocesan convention, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation? Or will you be coming to worship as a visiting foreign bishop seeking to reconcile with your former congregation and vicar, and, following the Mass, to join us as we take groceries and coats to the poor?”

In an interview with a reporter for The Living Church, Fr. Risard said he is concerned that Bishop Schofield was planning to relieve him of his responsibilities as vicar at St. Nicholas. Fr. Risard said he wants to remain a priest of The Episcopal Church. He abstained from the votes to leave The Episcopal Church and from the one to affiliate with the Southern Cone on Dec. 8 during diocesan convention.

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

Bishop Stacy Sauls: The Wisdom of the Constitution

There are proposals, of course, to make us either a federation or a confederation, or God forbid, a unitary governmental structure such as the Roman Catholic Church has. The draft Anglican Covenant is a serious concern in this regard, particularly because it abrogates the constitutional principles that make us Anglicans. It abrogates the principle of lay participation in the governance of the Church by placing disproportionate emphasis on the views of the highest ranking bishops. It abrogates the principle of toleration by imposing a standard, and more frighteningly a mechanism, for judging orthodoxy other than the idea of common worship. Most dangerously of all, it appears merely to compromise the principle of autonomy when, if fact, it virtually destroys it by vesting the right to determine what is a matter of common concern, what the common mind of the Communion is, and what punishment is appropriate for violations of the common mind in the Primates Meeting. It is as if the English Reformation, to say nothing either of the Elizabethan Settlement or the constitutional development over time of independent churches voluntarily cooperating on the basis of a shared heritage, never happened.

I do not believe it is impossible to create an Anglican covenant that is constitutionally consistent with existing Anglican polity. The Inter-Anglican Commission on Mission and Evangelism has proposed one.(24) I do believe the current draft being considered, rather than being an expression of our constitutional identity, would be a complete replacement of it with something far less significant as an experiment in being the Church than is the Elizabethan Settlement.

In truth, the Anglican Communion does not exist with a governmental structure at all. It is, rather, a voluntary association of autonomous churches bound together by a shared heritage from the Church of England and enjoying cooperative relationships for the purpose of mission, nothing more. It is not at all unlike the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches in that regard, and they somehow manage to function reasonably well without a central government.
The term Anglican Communion arose, after all, not from an international constitutional convention but from the usage of Horatio Southgate, the American missionary bishop to Turkey in 1847.(25) Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as the Anglican Communion at all in an institutional sense. There are, instead, ways in which Anglican Christians affirm their heritage and further their missional ends by mutual respect for the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and participation in the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates Meeting, as well as, probably more importantly, countless informal relationships that bring them together across racial, cultural, and geographic barriers for a common purpose in the service of the Gospel of Christ. What the Anglican Communion already is, I would suggest, is quite enough.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Identity, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Polity & Canons

Nasser Weddady: The spirit of Eid al-Adha

The Muslim new year has come in with a bang. On the eve of the high holiday of Eid al-Adha, explosions abound. Outside Beirut a car bomb kills four. A double-blast in Quetta, Pakistan, destroys eight lives. Twin suicide bombings in Iraq’s Diyala Province murder 26, including six women and children. Two bombers in Algiers, one a grandfather, claim over 35 victims.

This year-end killing spree – whose victims were nearly all Muslim – has again revealed a profound failure to stop violent extremism across the Muslim world. The international community, increasingly numb to a steady tide of slaughter in Muslim lands, has little to say. Muslim leaders offer a ritual disclaimer that the radicals don’t represent Islam – a “religion of peace” – and then retreat into silence.

We have failed to offer a robust response to the brutal wave of human sacrifice. This failure has allowed extremists to garner headlines and define the agenda without meeting an equally passionate response from the moderate center. It is long past time to mount a vigorous campaign against the cult of death and reaffirm a culture of life.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Other Faiths

US News: A Debate About Teaching Abstinence

To prevent teen pregnancy, should students be taught only the merits of abstaining from sex? Or should they also learn about contraception, just in case? Believers on both sides are facing off again, after a government announcement in early December that teen birthrates rose 3 percent last year following a 14-year decline. Some public-health experts blame increasingly popular sex-ed programs that preach abstinence only and keep kids in the dark about other pregnancy-prevention methods: A study published recently in the American Journal of Public Health attributed most of the 14-year birthrate drop to wider contraceptive use. “Abstinence-only programs are ideology driven,” says Marilyn Keefe, director of reproductive health and rights at the nonprofit National Partnership for Women and Families, “and not a good use of our public-health dollars.”

Abstinence advocates, meanwhile, are crying foul, saying the uptick in pregnancies is a sign that a stronger pitch for delaying sex is needed. “Any kind of assertion of blame is a disingenuous attempt to turn these statistics into a political agenda,” insists Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association. Even with more schools teaching the benefits of abstinence, she says, most still emphasize contraceptive techniques over waiting. Huber believes the purist approach is bound to lead to less sex among teens.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Sexuality, Teens / Youth

Chuck Collins Writes His Parish Leadership about the ABC's Advent Letter

The much-anticipated Advent Letter has arrived! It is hard to overemphasize the importance of the Archbishop’s letter to the Primates and to the rest of the Anglican Communion.

There is much to commend in this letter (The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon’s analysis is very helpful). It reaffirms the Bible as our primary authority, reaffirms the traditional view of Christian sexual ethics (1998 Lambeth 1.10), and it acknowledges the hurt caused the Anglican Communion when one province acts without regard for the entire Communion.

However, what is not said in this letter may be its most important feature. History might say that this was one of the greatest missed opportunities of all time.

Archbishop Williams could have simply said, “With the advice of the Primates and for the sake of healing our Communion, I rescind the previous invitations to the July 2008 Lambeth Conference, and I hereby invite every bishop in the Anglican Communion who will agree (in writing) to the processes outlined in the Windsor Report and the Dar es Salaam Primates Communiqué, including their personal pledge to uphold 1998 Lambeth resolution 1.10 as the agreed upon standard of conduct for Anglicans worldwide.”

Instead, the Archbishop let stand the previous invitations to Lambeth which includes the attendance of bishops who supported and voted for Gene Robinson’s consecration against the advice of the Primates, and even allows for the possibility that Bishop Robinson himself will attend Lambeth 2008 with visitor status. The invitation list includes bishops who currently allow and sanction same-gender blessings, who ordain noncelibate gays and lesbians to holy orders, and who have said they will not stop these practices no matter what the rest of the Communion says. And the invitations specifically excludes all bishops ordained by Rwanda (AMiA), Nigeria (CANA), Uganda, etc. for U.S. oversight, no matter how loyal they are to the teaching of Anglicanism.

In his genteel English (Welsh) style, Rowan Williams does say that “acceptance of the invitation must be taken as implying willingness to work with those aspects of the Conference’s agenda that relate to implementing the recommendations of Windsor,” but such a wishy-washy reminder will clearly not deter revisionist bishops from attending. We have indeed become a church without boundaries. In case there’s any question about this, Williams goes on to say, “I have repeatedly said that an invitation to Lambeth does not constitute a certificate of orthodoxy but simply a challenge to pray seriously together and to seek a resolution that will be as widely owned as may be.” The “let’s vote on what Anglicans believe this week” – the lowest common denominator approach – empties our Anglican heritage of any content.

In another miscalculation, Archbishop Williams has chosen to not convene a Primates meeting before Lambeth. Instead, he will “convene a small group of primates and others…to work on answering questions arising from the inconc> lusive evaluation of the primates to New Orleans.” The Archbishop told the Primates at Dar es Salaam that he would consult them on invitations to Lambeth, which he did not do. He could have upheld the Windsor Report by inviting those who uphold the traditional values endorsed in the Windsor Report, but he did not. He could have revised the invitation list in the Advent Letter to support Windsor, but he chose not to do so. And the end result is the Windsor Report is rendered virtually meaningless, and the Windsor process has been exposed as a ploy to buy time. There could be very detrimental results from this Letter, including the disintegration of one of the Instruments of Unity (Lambeth Conference) and the diminution of the authority of another Instrument, the Primates Meeting. It looks to me like the man behind the curtain has been exposed.

The telling part will be how the Primates respond to the Advent Letter in the weeks to come.

In the meantime, Christ Church continues to maintain its strong gospel ministry and strong relationships with the healthy parts of the Communion, while working with Bishop Lillibridge for the realignment. Bishop Lillibridge has valiantly fought for the Windsor Report, and it is the Windsor bishops who are most hurt by these developments. I agree with Bishop Iker, the Episcopal Church is not going to turn back from its present course. That means that our future will be very interesting and challenging – and hopeful. I continue to think that it has never been more exciting to be a Bible-believing Anglican in America, and that God has prepared us for such a time as this!

–The Rev. Chuck Collins is rector of Christ Church, San Antonio, Texas

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Parishes