Daily Archives: February 4, 2008

In Uganda Lord’s Resistance Army angered by US proposal

UGANDA’S rebel outfit, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), has been angered by a new US proposal urging rebel leader Joseph Kony (pictured) and his other indicted colleagues to surrender to the government of Uganda and give up themselves to the national judicial process, largely to shake off the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The proposal, circulating to negotiators in the South Sudan regional capital Juba, has prompted Kony to accuse US President George Bush’s administration of exerting pressure on the rebels and using underhand methods. The US and EU last week joined the South Sudan mediated talks in Juba as observers.

In a document; Scenario For Peace and Justice in Northern Uganda, Mr Timothy Shortley, senior adviser to US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Dr Jendayi Fraser, who has been in Juba as a US observer to the peace talks, says his proposals are meant to expedite the negotiations.

In the paper, the US representative proposes that Joseph Kony and his colleagues who are wanted by the ICC, place themselves in the custody of the Ugandan authorities. This, he says, would ensure they are safe and a peace agreement signed in Juba.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Africa, Uganda

Chicago's new Episcopal bishop, national leader speak up for gay clergy

Chicago’s new Episcopal bishop and the church’s national leader sent a clear message Sunday about where they stand on gay clergy, a smoldering issue that threatens to tear apart the denomination.

Wrapping up a five-day tour in honor of Jeffrey Lee, the new Chicago bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori declared that the American church will not stand alone in its support of gay clergy during an international meeting in July in Lambeth, England.

“Many more [bishops] than you might expect are sympathetic,” Jefferts Schori, the presiding Episcopal bishop, told parishioners at St. Nicholas Church in Elk Grove Village. “They are not, however, the loudest voices.”

Later in Chicago, Lee was seated at St. James Cathedral and reminded audience members of their call to ministry by virtue of their baptism, not their liberal or conservative interpretations of Scripture.

“That’s one of the tragedies afflicting the church right now,” he said. “So many of us seem to think that salvation depends on our theological correctness.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops

Christopher Howse: An addiction to behaving badly

In Our Mutual Friend, the drunk Mr Dolls is regarded as a child by the young girl who cares for him, as if she were his parent. As for him, “it was always on the conscience of the paralytic scarecrow that he had betrayed his sharp parent for threepennyworths of rum, which were all gone, and that her sharpness would infallibly detect his having done it, sooner or later”.

There is a mixture of guilt and incapacity that, in our generation, we attach to a condition called alcoholism. Yet many people think of alcoholism as an illness. If so, it is not an illness like measles, which admits no admixture of guilt, resolution and disappointed reform.

Alcoholism falls within the category of addiction and, within the past generation, addiction seems to be blamed for an increasingly wide range of bad behaviour. Drugs, we suppose, are addictive. Cigarettes are a kind of drug. Patterns of eating seem to be addictive, not just eating chocolate, but comfort eating, over-eating and compulsive dieting.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology

Former President Bill Clinton becomes more of an Issue for Some Voters

Forty one percent of registered voters told the latest Pew Research Center survey that they disliked the idea of Mr. Clinton back at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which could happen if his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, is elected president. In October, 34 percent of voters disliked the idea.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Termites and Trusting God

Holy Cross, Stateburg, “Gets Serious about Ministry,”
Receives $1.5 Million in Anonymous Gift; $250,000 Grant

By Joy Hunter

(This article was originally appeared in the February/March 2008 issue of the Jubilate Deo, the Newspaper for the Diocese of South Carolina.)

Seven-and-a-half years are a long time to be out of your main church building. It’s also a long time to be without a full-time rector, but that was the reality for the parishioners of Holy Cross, Stateburg. Severe termite damage, discovered in 2000, rendered their historic building unusable. That same year their rector left, and the church was assigned an interim rector.

As the “interim” period stretched into years, Bishop Salmon called the vestry to get serious about ministry. He urged them to step out in faith, look for a full-time rector and purchase a rectory. (They had sold their dilapidated rectory a few years prior.)

Funds were available to cover a rector’s salary for two years. During the interim period they had been able to put money away. However they still were hesitant. With the building in severe disrepair, how could they spend funds on anything other than facilities?

Heeding the Bishop’s Call

Yet, in September 2007, they heeded the Bishop’s words and called The Reverend Tommy Allen to be their full-time Rector. When Tommy joined the parish, he and his wife, Kimberly, moved into a newly purchased rectory.

“When I came in September, I knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Allen. “The parish chapel, where we currently meet, is small and cramped. After a couple of nights of tossing and turning in bed, the Lord had to teach me to let it go.”

Bishop Salmon also reminded Allen to focus on pastoring and teaching. “This community is growing,” Allen said. “There are plenty of opportunities for ministry.” In addition to Shaw Air Force base, just two miles away, the Third Army US Headquarters is planning to move between five and eight thousand people to the area in the next two to three years.

Allen found it a stretch, but he focused, as the Bishop suggested, on pastoring and teaching, and he cast a vision for ministry. “I’ve always believed that if you have strong biblical teaching and preaching, traditional liturgy, and a genuine love for those you serve, there is no better recipe,” Allen said.

The week prior to Thanksgiving, Allen received a phone call from someone asking to meet him to discuss a financial donation. They agreed to meet the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving. Following the phone call, Allen received an engineering report that said their building was in need of “immediate shoring up” or the roof would collapse. “I already knew what it was going to cost to have the building restored,” said Allen. “This would be an additional $30,000 – $50,000.”

Jesus Takes Material Matters Seriously

The vestry was scheduled to meet the next Tuesday and, after praying about it, Tommy felt led to speak about making the incarnation relevant to how church business is conducted. “Jesus Christ came here in the flesh,” said Allen. “He takes material matters seriously. And we need to, too. I told them that it was our obligation to take care of the building. ”˜You can disagree,’ I said, ”˜but it’s important for all of us to be unified and on the same page. We need to shore up the building and make plans to expand our already existing chapel so we can grow and get back in our sanctuary.’”

“When we took a vote, everyone’s hand went up,” said Allen. “You could actually feel the Holy Spirit moving. It was as though a wind blew right through the room.”

“The parishioners of Holy Cross were determined to keep this ministry alive,” said Allen. They were ready for something to happen.”

Something did happen. The very next day Allen was handed a check for $1.5 million. To say the least, it was much more than he expected. “I had thought we might receive $10,000 – $15,000,” said Allen, “something we could use to offset the cost of the new landscaping at the rectory.”

Instead, the gift will enable Holy Cross to repair the damaged trusses, pay off the mortgage on the new rectory, set aside funds for ministry expansion and get them back into their sanctuary. In addition, the church received a $250,000 grant through SC Senator Jim DeMint’s office from America’s Treasures. “That program has to do with valuing and restoring buildings that are part of America’s rich history,” said Allen. The Vestry’s goal is to restore the sanctuary to its original condition.

“The moral of this story is profound,” says Allen. “The church has to decide to step out and engage the culture with the gospel. This was a movement of the Holy Spirit. The donor saw what was going on here, the enthusiasm and excitement and wanted to share in the vision. I could tell things were going to happen. I just didn’t think it would be this soon. We’re baptizing people. We’ve got weddings scheduled. Our youth ministry is starting: God is on the move.”

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Parish Ministry

Motivated by a Tax, Irish Spurn Plastic Bags

There is something missing from this otherwise typical bustling cityscape. There are taxis and buses. There are hip bars and pollution. Every other person is talking into a cellphone. But there are no plastic shopping bags, the ubiquitous symbol of urban life.

In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.

Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable ”” on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.

“When my roommate brings one in the flat it annoys the hell out of me,” said Edel Egan, a photographer, carrying groceries last week in a red backpack.

Drowning in a sea of plastic bags, countries from China to Australia, cities from San Francisco to New York have in the past year adopted a flurry of laws and regulations to address the problem, so far with mixed success. The New York City Council, for example, in the face of stiff resistance from business interests, passed a measure requiring only that stores that hand out plastic bags take them back for recycling.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK

Archbishop Drexel Gomez aims to save divided Church

The Anglican archbishop in charge of drawing up the document intended to reunite his warring Church said he believes that schism can still be averted in spite of divisions over the issue of homosexuals.

The Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Rev Drexel Gomez, said that a new formula had been found that would allow the disciplining of errant churches while respecting the traditional autonomy of the 38 worldwide Anglican provinces. Urging all Anglican bishops to attend the Lambeth Conference this year, he said that it would be a “tremendous tragedy” if the Church fell apart.

A new document to be published this week would form “a basic way of holding each other accountable as a Communion”, he said. But he indicated that the Episcopal Church of the United States was unlikely to face discipline or any form of exclusion from the Anglican Communion as a result of consecrating Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Lambeth 2008, West Indies

Giants Stun Patriots in Super Bowl XLII

The Giants were not even supposed to be here, taking an unlikely playoff path through the behemoths of their conference and regarded, once they alighted on Super Bowl XLII, as little more than charming foils for the New England Patriots’ assault on immortality.

But with their defense battering this season’s National Football League’s most valuable player, Tom Brady, and Giants quarterback Eli Manning playing more like Brady than Brady himself, the Giants produced one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history Sunday night, beating the previously undefeated Patriots, 17-14.

The Giants had seemingly been enlivened for the postseason by a 3-point loss to the Patriots in their regular-season finale on Dec. 29, a game in which the Giants had nothing on the line but pride and competitive spirit. A little more than a month later, they topped themselves, winning the franchise’s first championship since the 1991 Super Bowl.

Back then, Bill Belichick was the Giants’ defensive coordinator. On Sunday, he was the coach who had led the Patriots to the brink of a historic 19-0 perfect season, had survived a spying scandal that cost him money and his team a first-round draft pick, had weathered whispers in recent days that a previous title might be tainted. But he could only watch as it all collapsed under the weight of the Giants’ ferocious pass rush. For another year, the 1972 Miami Dolphins will stand alone with the only perfect season in N.F.L. history. The Patriots are, in the end, only almost perfect.

“It’s the greatest victory in the history of this franchise, without question,” the Giants co-owner John Mara said, his voice hoarse. “I just want to say to all you Giants fans who have supported us for more than 30 years at Giants Stadium, for all those years in Yankee Stadium and some of you even back to the Polo Grounds, this is for you.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

Terry Mattingly: A look at the language of the 'soaring' candidates

“I have a great respect for Barack Obama,” noted Huckabee, during a “Tonight Show” visit. “I think he’s a person who is trying to do in many ways what I hope I’m trying to do and that is to say, ‘Let’s quit what I call horizontal politics.’

“Everything in this country is not left, right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. I think the country is looking for somebody who is vertical, who is thinking, ‘Let’s take America up and not down.’ ”

This is how the Southern Baptist pastor tweaked his “vertical” credo on “Meet the Press,” facing journalist Tim Russert: “There has been a huge cultural shift in this country, Tim. And I think that’s why many Americans are seeking leadership that has a positive and optimistic spirit. … I think the American people are hungry for vertical politics, where we have leaders who lift us up rather than those who tear us down.”

The former Arkansas governor has used the word “vertical” so many times that enquiring politicos want to know: What’s “up” with this guy? Some worry that, as critic Josh Marshall put it, Huckabee is sending a “clever dog whistle call out to Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals that his politics are God’s politics.”

This kind of uplifting, vaguely spiritual language may make some people uncomfortable, but there is nothing unusual about it, according to former White House insider Michael Gerson, the evangelical scribe who helped craft the early speeches of President George W. Bush.

“Making use of these kinds of non-sectarian religious references is, itself, the great tradition of American political speechmaking,” said Gerson, who is now a Washington Post opinion columnist. “As a speechwriter, when I hear this kind of language it tells me that someone is trying to describe a politics of idealism and aspiration. It’s a kind of bringing-America-together language and there is certainly nothing new about political leaders trying to do that.”

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

65 years ago in the North Atlantic, they perished so others could live

It was shortly before 1 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1943 — 65 years ago today — and a German submarine had just blown a gaping hole in the converted cruise ship [named the Dorchester], which was packed with more than 900 soldiers, seamen and civilians headed for bases on the icy reaches of Greenland.

The ship would have about 25 minutes before it sank into the frigid North Atlantic.

As stunned soldiers clambered onto the deck, many started to gather around four officers who had grouped themselves together.

The officers — the Rev. George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, the Rev. Clark Poling and the Rev. John Washington — were the ship’s chaplains. They comforted the men, prayed with them, tried to calm them down, and scrounged up spare life jackets for the dozens who had failed to put on their own before the attack.

Then, at some point, witnesses said, one of the chaplains took off his own cork-filled life jacket and gave it to a soldier who didn’t have one. Before long, none of the chaplains was wearing one.

The ship tilted heavily to starboard and then slipped beneath the sea. Of the 904 men on board, only 229 survived

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces

The Giants Take the Lead

A defensive battle so far, and still anyone’s game.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

BBC World Service's Reporting Religion on the situation in Kenya

Most Kenyans have a strong faith. The majority are Christian with a considerable Muslim minority. But, some Kenyans are becoming increasingly upset with church leaders and are criticising them for letting their ethnic allegiances get in the way of promoting peace.

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

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Religious Support in the Presidential Primaries

Professor JOHN GREEN (Senior Fellow, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and Director, Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, University of Akron, Ohio): Well Kim, there’s a couple of interesting patterns here. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have competed very evenly for the votes of white Protestants, both mainline Protestants and evangelical Protestants. And in the states where Senator Obama has won, such as in Iowa, he tended to do a little bit better in that competition. Whereas the states where Senator Clinton won, she tended to do a little bit better — so a lot of division among white Protestants. Part of the dynamic here, though, is age. Barack Obama seems to have done very well with younger evangelicals, younger mainline Protestants — some of them very observant in religious terms, but also some of them perhaps not as observant. So he’s kind of gotten both ends of the spectrum. Whereas Senator Clinton really appealed much more to older mainline Protestants and evangelicals.

[KIM] LAWTON: And what about the Catholic vote, which is so important in this election?

Prof. GREEN: One of the really interesting things here is that Senator Clinton really has done a lot better in the Catholic vote in all of the early primary states. She’s done very well among white Catholics, a critical constituency for the fall campaign. She’s also done well among Hispanic Catholics. That’s one area where Senator Obama has not been able to compete as effectively thus far.

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

Christine Rosen–Heaven Help Us: Stars Expound on Scripture

In a culture awash in celebrity endorsements, it was only a matter of time before a clever publisher realized the value of branding the Bible. A few years ago, Canongate issued the “Pocket Canons” — individual books of the Bible reprinted with introductions by various cultural luminaries. As Canongate’s publisher, Jamie Byng, said: “The Bible’s daunting length only added to its inaccessibility.” Still, he fretted about his decision. “However we jazzed the Good Book up, would anyone actually buy such editions?”

They did — in droves. According to Canongate, the Pocket Canons sold more than 900,000 copies. They were followed up, in 2005, by “Revelations: Personal Responses to the Books of the Bible,” a collection of the introductions written for the Pocket Canons. In his own introduction to the collection, Richard Holloway (the maverick former Bishop of Edinburgh) notes that some Christians were appalled by the less-than-orthodox sensibility of the Pocket Canons; a few even found them blasphemous.

But he assures readers that “the best way to get to the layers of meaning in a great text is not to ask propagandists or special pleaders to explain it, but to get writers to bring their own passion and insight to the task.” The Bible, he tells us, is “above all, a work of literature.” Ardent Christians, in other words, might not have as sophisticated an understanding of Scripture as novelists do — given that believers actually embrace the Bible as the inspired word of God.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Jonathan Sacks: Love can teach us to listen to our enduring melodies

In his new book, Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks (no relative, alas) tells the poignant story of Clive Wearing, an eminent musician and musicologist, who was struck by a devastating brain infection. The result was acute amnesia. Wearing was unable to remember anything for more than a few seconds. As his wife Deborah put it: “It was as if every waking moment was the first waking moment.”

It is a heartbreaking story. Unable to thread experiences together, he was caught in an endless present that had no connection with anything that had gone before. He had no past at all. In a moment of awareness he said about himself: “I haven’t heard anything, seen anything, touched anything, smelt anything. It’s like being dead.”

Two things broke through his isolation. One was his love for his wife. Whenever he saw her he felt intense relief, knowing that he was not alone, that she was there, loving and caring for him. The other was music. He could still sing, play the organ and conduct a choir with all his old skill and verve.

What was it about music, Sacks asks, that enabled him, while playing or conducting, to overcome his amnesia? He suggests that when we “remember” a melody, we recall one note at a time, yet each note relates to the whole. He quotes Victor Zuckerkandl, who wrote: “Hearing a melody is hearing, having heard, and being about to hear, all at once. Every melody declares to us that the past can be there without being remembered, the future without being foreknown.” Music is a form of sensed continuity that can sometimes break through the most overpowering disconnections in our experience of time.

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