Daily Archives: March 3, 2008

GadgetVicar Reflects on On Inclusion

A priest visited our all-age worship yesterday. He has recently resigned from the leadership of a congregation. For a long time he had stood for what he understands to be Gospel imperatives. In the face of some opposition from his congregation (a few of whom left to go to other churches) and his bishop, he stood pretty much alone in his diocese. Yet he is a pastorally-hearted person, with a concern for both scripture and tradition. He and his wife feel pushed out, rejected and with little future in the Church. Unlike those clergy who who have entered same-sex Civil Partnerships (and who presumably see themselves as being in some sense married). Or those who conduct blessings of such partnerships using the new Scottish Episcopal Marriage liturgy (can someone please confirm that this isn’t happening?).

I’ve expressed my concerns about this kind of thing before: how can we ensure that those who take a traditionalist line on matters of sexuality, women’s ordination, etc, are both included and honoured in the life of the church? How can we ensure that having such views is not a bar to ordained ministry? Or will it be the case that only those that hold to the new way of thinking will be allowed to function in ministry? And I don’t mean that they should be tolerated as dinosaurs who will soon die out.

Any settlement of these issues in the Anglican Communion (or the Scottish Episcopal Church for that matter) needs to ensure that both reappraising and reasserting views are held in tension. At the moment, it remains a ‘winner-takes-all’ scenario, with neither side willing to allow the other a canonically protected place in the church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Episcopal Church (TEC), Scottish Episcopal Church, TEC Conflicts

Whats going on In Jefferson County Alabama?

The Birmingham News reported on Sunday that Alabama’s Jefferson County’s financial options are quickly shrinking after a large credit downgrade late Friday left the cash-strapped county with few options and increased the chances of bankruptcy. The abrupt downgrading of the county’s sewer bonds to junk status by Standard & Poor’s sent county officials scrambling… Moody’s Investors Service last week said Jefferson County’s menagerie of complex financial structures is unprecedented and that the county is teetering on default; furthermore they noted that its situation is opaque to outsiders who can’t get updated information from commissioners… The crisis stems from the collapse of Jefferson County’s sewer bonds.

Read more about it all here.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas: A path out of poverty

In the hardscrabble world of Depression-era Alabama, my daddy said there were two pictures on his wall: Jesus and President Franklin Roosevelt. There was more behind those pictures than a wall, of course. Both men were viewed as saviors. One from sin. The other from the next worst thing ”” poverty.

Poverty is a monster. It saps the will and can kill the spirit. For the nearly one in six American children who grow up in it, poverty is also a dream snatcher, oftentimes snatching the dream of a better life before it can rise above the cracked plaster ceiling.

Read it all.

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

Notable and Quotable

There are two sayings that astronomer Aileen O’Donoghue repeats to her students: “Science is the current best guess” and “You can’t do science in your basement.” By the first remark, she means that we can never be certain about scientific theories (which is not to say that theories are not to be taken seriously or that the theory of evolution, say, or Newton’s law of gravity can be discarded). Her second point is that though you can do experiments in a basement, findings must be brought into the light of day and subjected to the scrutiny of the scientific community. The testing of some findings can take a long time–it took 300 years for an error in Newton’s Principia.

–Aileen O’Donoghue as cited in the Christian Century, March 11, 2008, edition, page 9, in reference to her new book The Sky Is Not a Ceiling: An Astronomer’s Faith

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

A Bishop Unveiled God’s Secrets While Keeping His Own

The revelation of his hidden world comes at a time of deep tension within the Episcopal Church of the United States over the issue of homosexuality. Since the church ordained an openly gay bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, a dozen congregations in various parts of the country have withdrawn from the American branch of the church and aligned themselves with theologically conservative African or South American branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a part.

Those African and South American branches have described homosexuality as “an offense to God.”

At St. John the Divine, where inclusiveness toward those of all backgrounds and sexual orientations has long been fundamental to the culture of the congregation ”” in part as a result of Bishop Moore’s leadership ”” the reaction was more complicated.

“I’d like to say that we all have secret lives ”” and that’s why we come here,” said Mary Burrell, a longtime member of the congregation. “We are all sinners, trying to find our way.”

Read it all.

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

What responsibility do you think Web sites bear for the comments they host?

An interesting and important discussion.

We have had problems with comments on the blog in the last two weeks, particularly in regards to tone. I do not know if it is Winter, the national mood in America, the Anglican church struggle fatigue, or what, but I really do want to encourage people to try communicate in a Christ like way. Also, please remember our strong preference for the use of real names–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

Robert Shiller: How a Bubble Stayed Under the Radar

One great puzzle about the recent housing bubble is why even most experts didn’t recognize the bubble as it was forming.

Alan Greenspan, a very serious student of the markets, didn’t see it, and, moreover, he didn’t see the stock market bubble of the 1990s, either. In his 2007 autobiography, “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” he talks at some length about his suspicions in the 1990s that there was irrational exuberance in the stock market. But in the end, he says, he just couldn’t figure it out: “I’d come to realize that we’d never be able to identify irrational exuberance with certainty, much less act on it, until after the fact.”

With the housing bubble, Mr. Greenspan didn’t seem to have any doubt: “I would tell audiences that we were facing not a bubble but a froth ”” lots of small local bubbles that never grew to a scale that could threaten the health of the overall economy.”

The failure to recognize the housing bubble is the core reason for the collapsing house of cards we are seeing in financial markets in the United States and around the world. If people do not see any risk, and see only the prospect of outsized investment returns, they will pursue those returns with disregard for the risks.

Were all these people stupid? It can’t be. We have to consider the possibility that perfectly rational people can get caught up in a bubble. In this connection, it is helpful to refer to an important bit of economic theory about herd behavior.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

Phillip Cary: Eucharistic presence in Calvin

Calvin’s view that Christ’s body is objectively presented rather than objectively present–””as he would say, “truly presented to us” but not “enclosed in the bread” or “chewed with the teeth”””gives his teaching a distinctive place on the spectrum of Eucharistic doctrine. This is distinct not only from the Lutheran and Calvinist views but also from the low Protestant view usually attributed (I do not know how fairly) to Zwingli. In this low Protestant view the supper is merely a memorial, which means that the only link to Christ’s body is our state of mind, our faith. On the contrary, when Calvin insists that Christ’s body is truly presented, offered, and given to us, he is talking not about our state of mind but about the action of God, and perhaps the most important thing to pay attention to is the adverb truly, for what is at stake here is the truth of God’s word. Does God do as he says when he offers us Christ’s body? Calvin’s answer is an emphatic yes.

Read it all.

Posted in Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, Theology

One South Carolina Rector Writes the Presiding Bishop from the Heart

Dear Bp. Jefferts Schori,

I am an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of South Carolina and attended the [recent] meeting on Monday with you at St. Andrews, Mt. Pleasant. As I was rising to speak, time was called so I did not have an opportunity to offer my thoughts to you and those of us gathered.

First, thank you for your willingness to come and be with us. It seems always essential to meet face-to-face when there is conflict, mistrust and disagreement between parties. So, I am glad for the opportunity provided us to meet with you and listen to you in person. Perhaps you were able to listen to us as well.

I certainly won’t attempt to speak all that is on my mind, but as a 3rd generation Episcopal priest, the angst and sadness I feel for this province of the Anglican Communion could not be any deeper. I’ve written you once before about this, in fact””the only two occasions I have ever felt called to communicate with the Presiding Bishop. The perspective I offer is this. A majority of Episcopalians has chosen new directions with regards to an understanding of the primacy of Scripture and Biblical authority, with regards to the uniqueness and supremacy of Jesus Christ and his saving work, and finally with regards to marriage of same-sex persons. (If you only agree that it is the last of these three, the rest written below still can stand.)The side you are on has won the political battle for the high ground. Now that your battle has been won, one of the most urgent questions that remain is how to treat the losers. One can continue to wield power and simply beat us into submission or drive us out of the family. One can use every jot and tittle of the letter of the law to demean, belittle and thoroughly bind us by forceful, aggressive litigation and by a ”˜take no prisoners’ mentality. In other words, we are being told to do it the way the winners would have it or face various forms of reprisal. For those of us on the loser’s side, it is embarrassing, humiliating and heart-rending.

As Dr. [Kendall] Harmon highlighted on Monday [February 25th], this is not about 45 parishes. It is countless more! I have hundreds in my parish alone who are still in the Episcopal Church, but barely hanging on. For me, the operative word is thousands. That is the word for the winners to remember. There are thousands upon thousands who have left the Episcopal Church, are leaving the Episcopal Church, or simply have totally detached from the Episcopal Church solely for the reasons of General Convention decisions of the past decade. Thousands, tens of thousands, are spiritually dislocated and have lost their spiritual home””exiles, in other words. Are the winners certain they wish to jettison them all?

And yet as I read Episcopal Life or read quotations from Executive Council or from the Presiding Bishop’s office, I read that all is fine, there is great ministry going on (And I believe that is true in spite of the circumstances, but not relevant to the issues at hand.), and this is a little storm soon to pass over. I’ve been hearing that since 2000, but I do not believe it is true. Neither do I believe the storm is abating as I believe I heard you suggest on Monday.

Is there another alternative that the winners might choose in how they might treat the losers? Is there a Christ-alternative that rises above the law that transcends usual human behaviors that would be life-giving for all? I believe there is! It has not been heeded thus far because of the unwillingness to move from power to love. But, the gospel finally stands only on a measure of love whose depth is as wide and deep as the measure of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Paul Zahl in his book Grace in Practice writes:

”¦the case I know best, has occurred in relation to the loss of status on the part of the ”˜orthodox’ or ”˜conservative’ minority of the Episcopal Church in relation to the struggle over human sexuality”¦.The interest of it here is not in the issue of Christian social ethics that precipitated it, but in the political defeat of a minority by a majority in an institutional church, and the way this defeat played out. No mercy was given. The result was total loss and splitting.

This is what happened. A victory in the form of a political vote was won, and the winning group was unable to assure the losers that a place would remain for dissidents within a comprehensive church. The minority appealed to the majority for ”˜space’ or toleration: a place of safety, a ”˜no-fly’ sector within the American Episcopal Church. This was not granted, and the spin-out of the long process of applications for such a place of safety is a paper trail worthy of study. But the victors, to whom the losers constantly appealed, did not give grace. Formal concession was never granted. The result was a species of martyrdom for ”˜conservative’ Episcopalian Christians. The formal result was a long-term hemorrhage, and the end of what had once been an uneasy but official unity. (p. 230)

I would offer that this is clearly the perception of thousands of present and former Episcopal Christians. As a presbyter of the Church I appeal to your high office, Bp. Jefferts Schori, to seek for ways of creating space for us to co-exist while we sort out the turmoil of disparate views of sexuality, Biblical authority, the supremacy of Christ. What the winners are doing is not working. Oliver Cromwell’s plea to his adversaries applies here to the winners yet again, ”˜I beseech thee by the bowels of Christ, could ye be wrong?’

In Christ,

–(The Rev.) Mike Lumpkin is rector, Saint Paul’s, Summerville, South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, TEC Conflicts, Theology

In London, Joint Standing Committee members attend St. Paul's Cathedral Eucharist

Members of the Primates/Anglican Consultative Council Joint Standing Committee attended Sung Eucharist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on March 2, the midway point of their meeting which is being held behind closed doors at the Anglican Communion Office.

Meeting through March 4, a large portion of the committee’s time is being devoted to Lambeth Conference planning, the Windsor Process and budgetary discussions, said the Rev. Canon James M. Rosenthal, director of communications for the Anglican Communion.

The committee, which includes Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, will also meet with the Windsor Continuation Group, whose formation was announced February 12 by the Archbishop of Canterbury. That group has been charged with addressing outstanding questions arising from the Windsor Report and reviewing the various formal responses received from provinces and instruments of the Anglican Communion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Latest News

In Parts of U.S., Foreclosures Top Sales

Mortgage foreclosure notices are going out so fast that in some states the number of new foreclosure proceedings each month is greater than the number of homes sold that month.

The foreclosure problem appears to be greatest in the West, particularly in Nevada, where home prices soared in the housing boom and are now falling rapidly.

Worries about foreclosures have led to a variety of legislative proposals in Washington and in state capitals, as well as to a voluntary plan organized by the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., that seeks to delay foreclosures while homeowners and lenders try to work out agreements. But so far, no consensus has emerged on legislation, and the volume of foreclosure notices continues to rise.

During January, it was reported this week by RealtyTrac, there were 153,745 initial foreclosure notices sent out in the United States. That dwarfed the 43,000 total sales of newly built single-family homes and amounted to nearly half the total sales figure, which includes sales of existing homes and condominiums.

In the West, however, the picture was much worse.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

Dana Jennings: Religion Is Less a Birthright Than a Good Fit

I suspect that my path to Judaism isn’t much different from other American journeys to a new faith ”” whether it be from megachurch to Zen monastery, or from mosque to the Cross. We Americans lust after movement: from town to town, from spouse to spouse, from religion to religion.

I was brought up to believe unquestioningly in that loving yet grouchy God who sat Zeus-like on his golden throne. But in third grade, being an appallingly rational little brat, I made my mother cry when I told her that I didn’t believe in God. (Not being a complete idiot, though, I still believed in Santa Claus, if not the Easter Bunny.)

After that, came busy decades of indifference, agnosticism and vague stirrings in the soul, like winter squirrels in the attic. As with Moses and the Jews wandering in the desert for 40 years ”” which, from this vantage, doesn’t seem so long ”” it took me a good long while to reach my spiritual home.

My wife, Deborah, is Jewish, and we married in 1981 and later raised our two sons Jewish ”” so long, Santa, old pal. But I didn’t convert until 2004, didn’t officially and irrevocably spurn my Protestant roots till some 40 years after the fact.

Read it all.

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

Marc Ambinder–Inside Delegate Math: The Numbers

An interesting analysis.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Nightline: Is America Addicted to Porn?

Watch it all (and please note it is only appropriate for certain audiences). Pornography is also the topic of the cover story of Christianity Today this month (not yet available on the web).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Pornography

Riding a beat, from Cleveland to Beijing

This is just fantastic, the man deserves a medal.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Music