Daily Archives: December 24, 2007

LA Times: San Joaquin Bishop at forefront of Episcopal divide

Bishop John-David Schofield’s tone was urgent this month as he exhorted delegates from his Central California diocese to leave the Episcopal Church.

For more than 20 years, Schofield said, he had watched in dismay as the national church strayed from Scripture and made controversial decisions about theology and sexuality, including the role of gays in the church. Now, he told delegates to his diocese’s annual convention, it was time to act.

“God’s timing is essential!” the bishop declared, his voice rising. “Delayed obedience to Scripture is seen as disobedience when opportunities and blessings are lost.”

Schofield has emerged as a pivotal player in the drama surrounding the future of one of the nation’s most influential denominations. At the meeting of delegates from across the Diocese of San Joaquin, he displayed the strong-willed personality that has won him both admirers and detractors.

There was no time to lose, he told the delegates. The national church could put new rules in place to prevent such secession attempts. The moment might never come again, he said.

The measures passed, by huge margins.

San Joaquin, a Fresno-based diocese of 47 parishes, had elected to become the first diocese in the nation to break with the Episcopal Church over theological issues and align with a conservative Anglican province in South America. And Schofield, according to supporters and critics alike, had played the central role in those historic Dec. 8 decisions, propelling his largely conservative flock along a path that could prove risky for all concerned.

Read it all.

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

The Archbishop of Wales' Christmas Message

To have a coherent and rational debate about the tenets of the Christianity is perfectly natural. To have a virulent, almost irrational attack upon it claiming that what is being said is self evidently true is dangerous, not just because it refuses to allow any contrary viewpoint but also because it affects the public perception of religion. It leads, for example, to local authorities calling Christmas ”˜Winterval’, to hospitals removing all Christian symbols from hospital chapels, or to schools refusing to put on nativity plays, or allowing children to send Christmas cards with a Christian message, or airlines refusing staff the freedom to wear a cross round their necks.

All of this is what I would call the new ”˜fundamentalism’ of our age and any kind of fundamentalism, be it Biblical, atheistic or Islamic, is dangerous, because it allows no room for disagreement, for doubt, for debate, for discussion. It leads to the language of expulsion and exclusivity, of extremism and polarisation, and the claim that because God is on our side, He is not on yours.

Contrast all that with the message of the angel to the shepherds in the nativity story in St Luke’s Gospel, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people”. It is a message of joy and good news for everyone
”“ no one is excluded, everyone is embraced, from the shepherds, who would have been seen as nobodies by respectable Jewish society, to the magi – Gentiles, who would have been strangers in the land.

The Gospel writers make the point that Jesus is the focus of all God’s promises and purposes from the beginning of creation. God is not exclusive, he is on the side of the whole of humanity with all its variety.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church of Wales, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

Archbishop Rowan Williams: The stable door is open. Anyone can come in

You’re just welcome for who you are. It’s a bit of a paradox.

We usually spend the weeks before Christmas in a feverish nightmare of anxiety and driven busyness, as if we were going to celebrate the festival by making our normal situation even worse! But then there comes a moment when we really have to take time out if we’re going to stay sane. That’s the moment when people start thinking about church.

We still have this half-buried conviction that church is a place where, at least at this time of year, we ought to be able to feel at home. We turn up, tired and overwrought, perhaps, still thinking vaguely about what we haven’t done and need to do before tomorrow. And then the story unfolds. Yes, this is our story, and yes, we can for a moment believe that this birth makes a difference. Yes, God cares about the kind of world we want to see and his faithful love is the basis of what makes a really liveable life. And no, we don’t have to do anything for this time except take it in. There are no entrance qualifications. The door of Jesus’s stable is open and anyone can come in and sit down.

None of this ”“ I can hear the atheist protesting ”“ means it’s true, surely? Not in itself, no. But it suggests that, if God is a “delusion”, as some would like us to believe, then quite a lot more of our human life is a delusion as well, including many of our deepest values and our hopes for forgiveness and peace. All sorts of things will make up your mind about whether it is true or not ”“ and naturally I want people to believe it is and I’m happy to have the arguments. But you will never understand why it might matter for it to be true unless you can take in what the Christmas story is saying to us about who we are and the world we live in.

So, arrive early! There are millions who still want to ask these questions and hear the story. And there are millions for whom it’s not just a piece of our “heritage” ”“ a stately home to visit ”“ but a place to live. God is for life, not just for Christmas.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Archbishop of Canterbury, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

Notable and Quotable

Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.

— Dave Barry

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Economy

Local San Joaquin Leader has a vision for the future

“The Diocese of South Carolina and I face a very different set of challenges and opportunities, and l’m looking forward to how we can affect positively the life of the Episcopal Church,” [Mark Lawrence]… said.

He said that, with the exception of a couple of occasions, he has not preached church politics from his pulpit at St. Paul’s.

“I use the pulpit to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.

He did, however, at one time defend “the San Joaquin Diocesan Standing Committee’s posture for an appeal for an alternative primatial oversight,” by a leader other than Jefferts Schori.

“That was not a move to leave the Episcopal Church,” Lawrence said. “That was the overture that seven or so dioceses were asking from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“At that time, the question was, ”˜How can we differentiate ourselves in such a way from the leadership in the Episcopal Church in order that we may maintain our place within the Episcopal Church?’” he said.

Read it all.

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

Bruce Kluger: A Christmas over there, and the pain back here

Sure, the season invites a lot of clatter, from deck-the-halling Pepsi commercials to the predictable prattle over some alleged “war on Christmas.” But for most of us, the holiday remains a time of family, a time of reflection, and a time of love.

Which is why, this Christmas, my thoughts keep returning to the 184,000 American soldiers currently stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, honoring our nation with their service while fighting wars whose consequences have nothing and everything to do with the humanity at the heart of the holiday.

It is easy to say “let us remember our troops” during the Christmas season, but how many of us really understand the painful nobility of this sacrifice? Who among us can actually put ourselves in the dusty boots of these men and women, and imagine what it must be like to spend this most beloved of holidays away from those who give our spirits their greatest nourishment, our lives their greatest purpose?

In Baghdad, it is hardly Christmasy. Temperatures are mild, sand swirls instead of snow, and the closest our soldiers can get to the serene sounds of church bells and caroling is the enchanting call to prayer from the local mosques ”” and even that is all too often disrupted by the thunder of gunfire and roadside bombs.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Iraq War, Military / Armed Forces

Haifa Technion scientists create world's smallest bible

Local scientists have inscribed the entire Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible onto a space less than half the size of grain of sugar.

Nanotechnology experts at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa say the surface of the text measures less than 0.5 square millimeters (0.01 square inches). They chose the Jewish Bible to highlight how vast quantities of information can be stored in minimum amounts of space.

It took the team about an hour to etch the 300,000 words of the Bible onto a tiny silicon surface, says Ohad Zohar, the university’s scientific adviser for educational programs. The Technion’s microscopic Bible was created by blasting tiny particles called gallium ions at an object that then rebounded, causing an etching affect.

When a particle beam is directed toward a point on the surface, the gold atoms bounce off and expose the silicon layer underneath just like a hammer and chisel, Zohar explains. He adds that the technology will in the future be used as a way to store vast amounts of data on bio-molecules and DNA.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Archbishop of Nigeria's Christmas message

Christmas is here again despite all covert and overt attempts to wish it away. The celebration in remembrance of the love of God in giving the Saviour to the world is so important, it cannot be wished away.

Though few human beings rejoiced at the birth of the baby Jesus, the Gospels tell about multitudes rejoicing in the heavens, about a bright star leading wise men to worship the new born king, and they also tell about the trouble his birth brought to those unwilling to have him as their Lord and King.

The incarnation is the divine condescension. The birth of Christ which we celebrate is the decisive divine intervention into human history. By it, history is measured and judged. Before the birth of Christ, all of history is categorized as era ”˜Before Christ’ (B.C.) and since then, we have been in the era of ”˜the year of Our Lord’ (anno domini, A.D.)

Today, multitudes of human beings join the angels to rejoice. Christians shining as light lead many to Christ and there still exists, great trouble among those who would not have Jesus. Efforts to turn Christmas into a mere holiday season continue unabated all around us. ”˜Christmas Greetings’ are replaced with ”˜Season Greetings’ as if it possible to have a Christmas without Christ. ”˜B.C.’ and ”˜A.D’ are changed to ”˜B.C.E.’ (Before Common Era), and ”˜C.E’ (Common Era) all in an attempt to conceal the fact that Jesus came to save an erring world from sin and eternal condemnation.

The cross of Christ which is the main reason we boast (Gal. 6:14) remains a stumbling block and a symbol of offense to those unwilling to receive God’s free gift of salvation. (Romans 9: 33) Under the guise of political correctness, symbols of Christianity in our daily lives and history are being challenged and subtly removed. All these subtle and calculated attempts of the non-believing world to mislead the unsuspecting believers and make them deny Christ should not deter us from celebrating for we are confident the efforts are bound to fail. As we celebrate Jesus’ birth this year, let us be mindful of the activities of the first celebrants; the joyous angels who while celebrating proclaimed the Good News to the shepherds.

We should also be bold to proclaim to an increasingly secularized world, the good news of the Saviour-born. We call on all Christians in positions of authority and indeed all ministers of the Gospel to vigorously resist attempts to remove Christ from Christmas and His centrality and importance in human history. We should be vigilant and avoid being misguided and misled by their seemingly innocent and socially acceptable philosophy. In being politically correct, we should not join in denying Christ his rightful place. Let all of us unashamedly proclaim the news of the greatest gift of all, the love behind the gift and peace the gift brings to all. Jesus the Christ is our Saviour, Lord, King and the best gift ever given by God to humanity. (John 3:16)

May God incarnate, give you true joy as you celebrate Him this Christmas and throughout the coming year.

Every Blessing,

Signed

The Most Revd. Peter J Akinola, CON,
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of all Nigeria.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church of Nigeria, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

Bishop Schofield Talks to The Liivng Church

“You are talking to someone who loves the tradition of the church. It is my heritage,” Bishop Schofield said during an interview with a reporter from The Living Church. “I don’t have any personal antagonism toward The Episcopal Church or its leaders, but day by day they seem to depart more and more from what is asked of us in scripture.

“It is not my wish to leave The Episcopal Church. If I saw signs that they were returning [to the historic faith] it is possible I would approach my convention about revisiting this decision.”

Bishop Schofield said he has grown frustrated with those who continue to characterize the current division in the church as the work of a small minority.

“Thousands of members are leaving The Episcopal Church every week,” he said. “San Joaquin is not the point. That just happens to be where a majority of evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics are concentrated. For more than 20 years they have tried to drive us away. As a protest movement, I would hope that this would have an effect on The Episcopal Church.”

Read it all.

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

Unpaid Credit Cards Bedevil Americans

Americans are falling behind on their credit card payments at an alarming rate, sending delinquencies and defaults surging by double-digit percentages in the last year and prompting warnings of worse to come.

An Associated Press analysis of financial data from the country’s largest card issuers also found that the greatest rise was among accounts more than 90 days in arrears.

Experts say these signs of the deterioration of finances of many households are partly a byproduct of the subprime mortgage crisis and could spell more trouble ahead for an already sputtering economy.

“Debt eventually leaks into other areas, whether it starts with the mortgage and goes to the credit card or vice versa,” said Cliff Tan, a visiting scholar at Stanford University and an expert on credit risk. “We’re starting to see leaks now.”

The value of credit card accounts at least 30 days late jumped 26 percent to $17.3 billion in October from a year earlier at 17 large credit card trusts examined by the AP. That represented more than 4 percent of the total outstanding principal balances owed to the trusts on credit cards that were issued by banks such as Bank of America and Capital One and for retailers like Home Depot and Wal-Mart.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

S.C. native investigates paranormal while attending college

The great unknown of college life gave Ryan Buell pause when he left his home in Sumter to attend Penn State University. But far more frightening experiences awaited him.

In 2001, while majoring in journalism, Buell formed the Paranormal Research Society (PRS) to investigate the spooky and unexplained.

Now he’s one of the stars of a new A&E network series, “Paranormal State,” which chronicles PRS cases.

We talked with the 25-year-old about the haunted, possession and fate.

How did the Paranormal Research Society come about?

I had an experience when I was young that was frightening. And I didn’t have anyone to talk to, especially growing up in the South. It was especially taboo down there. … I was kind of taught to just forget about it and pretend like it never happened.

When I moved to Penn State, I said, “I want to do something a little more serious,” and I wanted to learn about paranormal investigating. … I researched this and that, and I was surprised there was nothing. So I was left in this predicament of OK, do I wait till one day while I’m in college someone starts something, or do I start it? And so I decided to start it.

Was it a one-man show at first?

It was me at first. … It was kind of a weird thing, and people definitely raised their eyebrows about it. But you know, people came. I was surprised. … And now we have faculty, staff and graduates who are part of it. It’s not just students anymore.

Why do you think people have always shown up?

I think we’ve always had an interest in the unexplained. I mean it’s part of who we are. I’d almost go as far as saying it’s in our DNA. Ever since man was around, we always realized there was a supernatural element to life. Is there a God? Is there an afterlife?… I think that now, more so than ever, people are much more willing to take the time and question what’s out there.

Read it all. I just love that last section–quoting it would be a great way to start an evangelism class or an adult sunday school class on apologetics, for example.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, * South Carolina, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Shopping online could help planet

Holiday shopping online could save more than time. Researchers say it might also help save the planet.

A holiday-themed study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory suggests that even a modest number of shopping trips to the mall can create a large volume of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles – the so-called greenhouse gases linked to global warming in the atmosphere.

“Using several assumptions and data from several authoritative sources, we can reasonably estimate that nearly a half-billion kilograms of carbon dioxide are kept out of the atmosphere by shopping online,” environmental researcher Jesse Miller said Thursday.

That’s roughly 500,000 metric tons, according to the scientist at the Department of Energy research complex.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Climate Change, Weather, Economy

John Richardson– Leadership and Lambeth – Dr Williams’ Advent challenge to the Communion

The problem, at this point, is a lack of clarity as to what Dr Williams means and intends. It would be remarkable, given what else he says in this letter, if he then sought to treat TEC and the Global South with strict parity, on the one hand with regard to reinterpreting Scripture and on the other hand with regard to cross-border interventions: remarkable because the former has precipitated the crisis and the latter has responded to it. Nevertheless, a certain doubt remains.

Despite this, however, there is some reason to be positive. Dr Williams has acknowledged that the Anglican Communion must have boundaries. Moreover, in identifying these he has rightly put Scripture first, and has insisted that a novel reading of Scripture cannot simply be imposed by one group in the Church as acceptable over against the wider reading and the longer tradition.

Most importantly, he affirms that the reading of Scripture currently adopted by TEC and others (if it is a ”˜reading’ at all), renders its recognition as Anglican (and therefore traditionally Christian) problematic, to say the least.

More questionable is his attempt to finesse the continuing acceptance of TEC by the rest of the Anglican Communion by an appeal to the fact that some elements within TEC want to distance themselves from it!

Most difficult of all, however, is his attempt to isolate into watertight compartments the three elements of his boundaries: Scripture, ministry and mission. Indeed, his presenting the boundaries in that order is also problematic, for mission is, in the end, surely more important than the formal nature of our ministries.

It is precisely here that the decisions and actions of TEC most clearly confront Dr Williams’ analysis. As Dr Bonnie Perry, partnered gay clergywoman, Rector of All Saints Church, Chicago, and candidate for the episcopate of California has said recently, ”˜Some people call it the gay agenda, but we call it the Gospel Agenda.’ It cannot be argued, in the present circumstances, that although TEC’s reading of Scripture may be defective, its mission is intact. Nor can it be suggested that because its ministry contains some who are faithful to the Communion’s understanding of Scripture, the province is thereby faithful to the Communion’s notion of ”˜church’.

Yet for all this, Dr Williams must be commended for giving a lead ”” for stepping up to the plate when it was needed. We may (indeed, I do) disagree with some of what he has said. But we need not (and I do not) disagree with it all, even though considerable anxieties may remain.

Read it all.

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

Japan's "Hidden Christians" face extinction

One by one, the sacred relics — a medal of the Virgin Mary, a crucifix and other revered objects — are taken from a cupboard and placed on an altar for a Christmas Eve rite passed down through centuries from Japan’s earliest Christians.

Then, kneeling in the simple hall built where martyrs are said to have been burned on this tiny, remote island 400 years ago, five elders murmur chants as they bow and make the sign of the cross.

The kimono-clad deacons are descendants of “Kakure Kirishitan,” or Hidden Christians, who kept their religion alive on Ikitsuki and in other isolated pockets of Japan during 250 years of suppression, adapting their rites to the demands of secrecy and blending them with local beliefs.

These days, the religion faces a modern threat of extinction as young people, like those elsewhere in rural Japan, leave their homes in search of jobs, drifting away from their gods and the rituals that honor them.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Religion & Culture

Comedian Ricky Gervais in debate with Archbishop Rowan Williams

Comedian Ricky Gervais has engaged in a debate about theology with the Archbishop of Canterbury ”“ confessing at the end that he might have “blown his image” by taking life seriously.

The ‘Office’ star told Dr Rowan Williams he was concerned about “brainwashing” of children who are sent to faith schools at an early age, comparing teaching that God exists to belief in Father Christmas.

“Because I believe in evolution, I believe that a child’s brain is a sponge, and it is meant to be because it believes everything it is taught because it has to survive,” Gervais said on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Simon Mayo show.

“I think if the first thing you are exposed to is that there is a God and you should do these things, I think there is a problem with that.

“For example, if your kids at the age of seven came to you and said: ’There isn’t a Santa is there?’ you would say: ’No there isn’t’ would you?”

Dr Williams replied that faith schools expose children to the full range of human experience and values and he did not believe they indoctrinated people.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Religion & Culture