Daily Archives: April 5, 2008

The Economist: State fiscal crises may deepen America's downturn

APRIL is always a tense month in America. Their tax forms due in, Americans scramble to organise a year’s worth of assorted paperwork. Post offices stay open long past their usual closing times on the 15th, as last-minute filers dash to send off their returns and beat the deadline.

This spring promises to be even more nerve-racking than usual for treasurers in the 50 states who wonder how much, or how little, the tax filers will send them. As America’s economic doldrums persist, some states’ budgets are feeling the pinch. California has told 20,000 teachers and support staff that they may be sacked. People whose health insurance is subsidised by their state may face higher fees in Vermont or be cut out entirely in Maine. Massachusetts’s governor wants to legalise gambling in order to raise revenue.

Economic downturns depress tax receipts and boost demand for state-provided social services. And while the federal government can weather a slide in revenue by borrowing, most states are required by law to balance their operating budgets every year, leaving the cash-strapped with two unattractive options: raise taxes or cut spending. State legislatures usually take the second course, scaling back public services or freezing hiring.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General

From the Monasticism Blog

As Orthodox we believe that the church is a place for healing. That in fact the church is the hospital for our souls. I think the church should be an open and inclusive community regardless of race, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation! Love the sinner and hate the sin! Jesus hung around with some of the most despicable people because they needed him. But the church tells people unless they are this, and have done this, then you just stay in your seat because Jesus is not for you.

I guess I am advocating open communion. I don’t mean that anyone should come up they should at a minimum be baptized in some Christian denomination. After all when I come out of the Holy Place with the chalice in my hands I say approach in the fear of God with faith and with love. If we believe that we gain some grace from the reception of the sacraments then why would we tell people who are struggling with some sin that they cannot come and receive that grace. Jesus never told anyone who came to Him for healing to go away! He died on the cross with His holy arms open wide to welcome ALL of His children not just a select few.

Now I know that some of you that read this will have some strong points in the other direction and you are certainly welcome to that opinion. I also know that this puts me outside of the mainstream of the Orthodox Church. But I feel that we need to STOP using communion as a weapon to separate and we should begin to use it a tool for healing, welcoming, and dare I say pastoring!

Please note, for the purposes of clarity I much prefer the term communion of the unbaptized since the phrase open communion in many parts of the church means something else.
In any event, read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Eucharist, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Flowertown Festival: The Biggest Weekend of the Year in the Local Community

Terry Mallott of Goose Creek clutched a small bag with two metal and glass garden fairies as she made her way through the throngs at Azalea Park on Friday morning.

“Yes, I need them,” she said with a smile, “because I want them.”

Ah, this is the kind of person who keeps the local tourism industry happy.

Mallott was one of tens of thousands who turned out for the opening day of the Flowertown Festival. It’s the biggest annual event in the Charleston area in terms of attendance.

Coming at the start of spring, it’s another significant barometer of the tourist season, which pumps $5 billion a year into the local economy.

If Friday was any indication, the outlook is pretty good. Threatened rain didn’t materialize, and the sun was out by early afternoon. It was hard to walk through Azalea Park, throngs filled Main Street for blocks, lines snaked back from food vendors and scores of mothers pushed baby carriages toward the carnival rides.

Read it all and some pictures are there.

Posted in * South Carolina

David Brooks: The view from room 306

The key tension in King’s life was over how to push relentlessly for change but within an existing moral structure. But by the late-’60s many felt the social structure needed to be torn down. The assassin’s bullet set off a conflagration.

At King’s funeral, the marshals told the throngs that nobody should chew gum because it would look undignified. But niceties like that were obsolete.

Building the social fabric after the disruption of that period has been the work of the subsequent generations – weaving the invisible web of family, neighborhood and national obligations so that people stay in school, attend to their kids and have an opportunity to rise if they play by the rules.

Progress has been slow. Nearly a third of American high school students don’t graduate (half in the cities). Seventy percent of African-American kids are born out of wedlock. Poverty rates in Memphis have scarcely dropped.

Martin Luther King Jr. at least left behind a model of how to repair the social fabric. He was scholarly, formal, assertive and meticulously self-controlled in public. If Barack Obama’s campaign represents anything, it is the triumph of King’s early-’60s style of activism over the angry and reckless late-’60s style. King was in crisis when he was gunned down. But his inspiration is outlasting his critics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Muslim is spared a speeding ban so he can drive between his two wives

When it comes to avoiding a ban for speeding, the courts hear every excuse in the book.

But yesterday one motorist offered what must be a unique reason why he should keep his licence.

Mohammed Anwar said a ban would make it difficult to commute between his two wives and fulfil his matrimonial duties.

His lawyer told a Scottish court the Muslim restaurant owner has one wife in Motherwell and another in Glasgow – he is allowed up to four under his religion – and sleeps with them on alternate nights.

He also needed his driving licence to run his restaurant in Falkirk, Stirlingshire.

Airdrie Sheriff Court had heard that Anwar was caught driving at 64mph in a 30mph zone in Glasgow, fast enough to qualify for instant disqualification.

Anwar admitted the offence, but Sheriff John C. Morris accepted his plea not to be banned and allowed him to keep his licence.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, England / UK

Americans postpone retirement as housing, stocks swoon

As the falling real-estate and stock markets erode their savings, many aging Americans are delaying retirement, electing labor over leisure in uncertain times.

A three-decade veteran at International Business Machines Corp., Dick Boice had planned to sell his house, pack up and move to Arizona with his wife, Lauren, to take early retirement. But two months after the January date he set to exit the work world, Mr. Boice, who is 59 years old, is still on the job. He figures he’ll stay put for another couple of years.

The Boices had counted on proceeds from the house sale to boost their retirement income. After a year on the market, the roomy colonial in Blue Springs, Mo., didn’t move, forcing the couple to cut the asking price by $40,000 to around $250,000. The house remains unsold. Meanwhile, Mr. Boice has watched the value of his 401(k) and individual retirement accounts fall by roughly 20 percent so far this year, to a combined $240,000.

“Everything is just heading south,” says Mr. Boice, who works in client support for IBM in Kansas City, Mo. “You can’t hardly make any kinds of plans because you don’t know what you can count on.”

Mr. Boice has plenty of graying company at the grindstone. Millions of retirement-age Americans, stung by the recent economic pall, suddenly are having to reassess their plans ”” with many forced to quickly change course. In February, the proportion of people ages 55 to 64 in the work force rose to 64.8 percent, up 1.5 percentage points from last April. That translates to more than an additional million people in the job pool, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The ranks of those 65 and over in the work force rose to 16.2 percent from 16 percent in the same time span ”” meaning 212,000 more hands on deck. So far, the numbers for March continue to show a “sharp” increase, says Steve Hipple, a department economist.

Read it all (originally from the front page of this past Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal).

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

Jonathan Sacks on Faith and Globalization

The real question, which has echoed time and again through the corridors of history, is whether we can find ways of living together, despite the fact that we can’t find ways of believing or worshipping together.

That is what the Bible teaches in its very first chapter, when it says that we are all, every one of us, in the image of God. Our love of God must lead us to a love of humanity.

I find it extraordinary that in an age in which globalization is forcing us together, all too often, across the globe, faith is driving us apart. We should be fighting environmental destruction, political oppression, poverty and disease, not fighting one another, least of all in the name of God whose image we all bear.

That is why I believe the time has now come, even in Britain, to bring a message of religious tolerance into the public square. For if the voice of reconciliation does not speak, the voices of extremism will.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Globalization, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Diocese of Ohio Litigation Ends 'Peaceful Way to Coexist'

The Diocese of Ohio recently filed a declaratory judgment with the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland, asking that it, the diocesan trustees, and a minority of members at five dissident congregations be declared the rightful owners of church properties where the congregations voted overwhelmingly to leave in 2005.

The March 26 filing came just a month after an article in the Akron Beacon Journal described how the relationship between the five dissenting congregations and the diocese was an exception to the personal acrimony and litigation prevalent throughout many other dioceses of The Episcopal Church. In another break with standard practice in most other dioceses, Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, Jr., of Ohio did not depose the clergy when they requested transfer of their canonical license to the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

In the Beacon Journal article, Martha Wright, communications officer for the Diocese of Ohio, had said, “We are looking for a faithful resolution to the property issue involving the congregations that have elected to leave the diocese. The priests in those congregations have asked to be released from their orders and their requests have been granted, but we have not taken any action where property is concerned.”

Ms. Wright told The Living Church she was not aware in February of any plans to file legal papers at the time of her interview with the Beacon Journal. But she denied that the decision to pursue litigation at this time represents a new approach in dealing with the five congregations.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts

Notable and Quotable on How to Grow in Grace

I repeat my advice”¦to read the scriptures with prayer, to keep close to the important points, of human depravity, atonement, and the necessity of divine teaching. If a man is born again, hates sin, and depends upon the saviour for life and grace, I care not whether he be an arminian or a Calvinist. If he be not born again, he is nothing, let him be called by what name he will.

–John Newton (1725-1807)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History

Hilton Head Island Presbyterian church sues denomination's branch over land ownership

The Providence Presbyterian Church of Hilton Head Island filed a civil suit last Friday against the regional branch of its denomination in an effort to prove ownership of two island properties.

While the church has butted heads over theological issues with its denomination — the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), or PCUSA — a local church leader stressed that the suit, filed at the Beaufort County Courthouse, was strictly about ownership of the two properties.

The church has almost 26.5 acres of land, roughly 16 of it undeveloped, and Paul Cifaldi, an elder at the church, said the congregation wants to ensure it won’t be taken away by the regional arm of the church and the defendant in the suit, the Charleston Atlantic Presbytery.

“We’re just asking the court to let us know that it really is in fact our property, as we develop it and invest money in it in the future,” Cifaldi said.

That future, he acknowledged, is far from certain for the local church, which has been increasingly unhappy with the direction of national church over the last two decades.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Presbyterian

In Alaska One Church constructs unusual building to attract converts

There’s a curious landmark pushing skyward from a muddy lot on Fireweed Lane near Gold Cache Bingo and the Grab-A-Dab.

It’s a whitish, pointy, corrugated metal structure that started slowing traffic last year. At the light near A Street, idling drivers gawked as a towering steel cone morphed into what now looks like a stack of giant hatboxes piled 10 stories high.

The mysterious building isn’t yet finished, but describing it has become a neighborhood pastime. It’s a teepee. An upside-down ice cream cone. A pagoda, done in Danish Modern. It’s even piqued the imagination of the construction workers.

“Does this look like a giant wedding cake to you?” one asked on a recent, icy morning.

The building is, in fact, a church for La Luz del Mundo, an evangelical nondenomination Christian group based in Mexico. It’s built in a shape meant to funnel God’s light — in the form of rainbow-colored electric beams — upon the faithful.

When it’s completed, the spire will preside over the dusty mishmash of Midtown, an architectural standout among the bland angles of ’70s strip malls and office buildings, gas pumps and garages. The twisted icon on the roof is already visible from the parking lot of Wal-mart to streets of downtown, beckoning all to a Hispanic spiritual oasis in Anchorage’s Little Korea.

Read it all.

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

A Round Up of links on the Virginia Court Ruling

Given that there are new articles and press releases, etc. being released frequently, and the potential significance of the story, we thought it would be helpful to provide a roundup of all the Virginia court ruling links in one place. We’ll keep updating this periodically:

Primary Source documents: Court Ruling and Press Releases or Letters

The Court Ruling: [Stand Firm has a PDF here]

The Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) Press Release:

The Diocese of Virginia Press Release:

The CANA Press Release:

The Presiding Bishop’s Statement:

A letter from the Rev. John Yates, rector of the Falls Church

A letter from Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee

Articles / Analysis / Commentary: (in the order we came across them)

The main T19 comment thread is here

Stand Firm — long comment thread is here.

Washington Times:
Va. judge sides with breakaway Episcopal parishes, By Julia Duin

Washington Post:
Judge’s Initial Decision Favors Breakaway Churches, By Michelle Boorstein
[note BabyBlue has an important bit of background on this article here (Patrick Getlein used to be the Communications Director for the Diocese of VA)]

Ruth Gledhill (The London Times)

Christianity Today:
Big Win for Va.’s Breakaway Anglican Parishes in Property Fight, by Sheryl Henderson Blunt

Episcopal News Service:
Virginia judge issues preliminary ruling on application of state statute, by Mary Frances Schjonberg

“The Lead” (one of the primary reappraising TEC blogs)

Thinking Anglicans (a reappraising blog from the UK) which provides a roundup of links and some commentary

The Living Church: Favoring Parishes, Virginia Judge Cites ”˜Division of First Magnitude’

Reuters: US judge rules for Episcopal Church secessionists, By Michael Conlon

The Institute on Religion and Democracy

Brad Drell (Louisiana attorney and Anglican Blogger at Drell’s Descants)

David Trimble (an attorney in KY, and Anglican blogger at Still on Patrol)

Hills of the North (a Georgia attorney)

Bishop David Anderson of the AAC (via Anglican Mainstream)

Note: BabyBlue’s blog is, of course, one of the best places to keep up with the news as it happens, since BabyBlue is directly connected to the story, being a member of Truro, one of the ADV congregations.

Feel free to add other links in the comments. We’ll update this as we are able.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Latest News, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, CANA, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes

Nonprofit Hospitals, Once For the Poor, Strike It Rich

Nonprofit hospitals, originally set up to serve the poor, have transformed themselves into profit machines. And as the money rolls in, the large tax breaks they receive are drawing fire.

Riding gains from investment portfolios and enjoying the pricing power that came from a decade of mergers, many nonprofit hospitals have seen earnings soar in recent years. The combined net income of the 50 largest nonprofit hospitals jumped nearly eight-fold to $4.27 billion between 2001 and 2006, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the American Hospital Directory. AHD, an information-service company, compiles data that hospitals report to the federal government.

The Cleveland Clinic swung from a loss to net income of $229 million during that period. No fewer than 25 nonprofit hospitals or hospital systems now earn more than $250 million a year. One nonprofit hospital system, Ascension Health, has a treasure chest of $7.4 billion — more than many large, publicly traded companies.

Nonprofits, which account for a majority of U.S. hospitals, are faring even better than their for-profit counterparts: 77% of the 2,033 U.S. nonprofit hospitals are in the black, while just 61% of for-profit hospitals are profitable, according to the AHD data.

Read it all from the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

Leaders Urge Obama to Make Religion Speech

The first Muslim elected to Congress on Thursday urged Sen. Barack Obama to show “transcendent leadership” by tackling issues of religion–including allegations that Obama is a Muslim–in the same way he addressed racial divisions.

“Religious pluralism is under threat,” Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said at a forum on Capitol Hill. “A candidate who could pull off a speech (on religion) that would allow us to be who we are, and at the same time tolerate others and be proud of the religious diversity of this country would be a great service.”

According to a Pew Research Center poll published last month, one in 10 Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, despite denials from Obama and his campaign and his well-publicized membership at a Chicago megachurch.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, a progressive evangelical leader, praised Obama’s handling of his former pastor’s controversial statements in his March 18 speech on race, and called on the senator to “do the equivalent” on relations with Islam.

Read it all.

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

Richard John Neuhaus: Remembering, and Misremembering, Martin Luther King Jr.

As Abernathy tells it”“and I believe he is right”“he and King were first of all Christians, then Southerners, and then blacks living under an oppressive segregationist regime. King of course came from the black bourgeoisie of Atlanta in which his father, “Daddy King,” had succeeded in establishing himself as a king. Abernathy came from much more modest circumstances, but he was proud of his heritage and, as he writes, wanted nothing more than that whites would address his father as Mr. Abernathy. He and Martin loved the South, and envisioned its coming into its own once the sin of segregation had been expunged.

“Years later,” Abernathy writes that, “after the civil rights movement had peaked and I had taken over [after Martin’s death] as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” he met with Governor George Wallace. “Governor Wallace, by then restricted to a wheel chair after having been paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet, shook hands with me and welcomed me to the State of Alabama. I smiled, realizing that he had forgotten all about Montgomery and Birmingham, and particularly Selma. ”˜This is not my first visit,’ I said. ”˜I was born in Alabama”“in Marengo County.’ ”˜Good,’ said Governor Wallace, ”˜then welcome back.’ I really believe he meant it. In his later years he had become one of the greatest friends the blacks had ever had in Montgomery. Where once he had stood in the doorway and barred federal marshals from entering, he now made certain that our people were first in line for jobs, new schools, and other benefits of state government.” Abernathy concludes, “It was a time for reconciliations.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture