Daily Archives: April 25, 2008

Richard Lischer: Ministering Angels

I ran into a young minister friend of mine during Easter week in the checkout line at Target. His name is Isaac Villegas, and he is pastor of a small Mennonite congregation in Chapel Hill, N.C. Isaac told me he had gotten up early to finish his Maundy Thursday homily, and now he was waiting to pay for two large plastic tubs to be used in the foot-washing ritual that evening. Not an untypical swing of duties for him or any small-church minister — from the solitary study of Scripture to the public drama of a high holy day, with the running of errands in between.

Isaac’s congregation cannot afford to pay him a full salary. He and his wife tithe much of what they do get back to the church. Despite eight years of higher education, including a degree from Duke Divinity School, he has always had to supplement his income with other work. He assists in teaching theology courses at Duke, including one of mine. Before that he combined ministry with carpentry (for which there is precedent in Christianity).

Mostly he works for his church. When he is not preparing Bible studies and sermons, he is in the jails and hospitals counseling the troubled or praying with the dying. Like the duties of most pastors, Isaac’s touch every notch on the life cycle, from baptism to last rites. Some of his best pastoral care is delivered on park benches in verdant Chapel Hill. And since Isaac’s congregation prefers renting space, he doesn’t have an office. This is OK: The ministry itself is called an “office,” giving the office-holder a privileged place in the lives of those who accept him as their shepherd. And all the shepherd has to do in return is model a life of service and apply the assorted symbols of God to every occasion or dilemma known to humankind.

Isaac’s improvisational ministry reflects the realities of a shrinking Protestant church in America.

Read it all.

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

From the You Cannot Make this Stuff up Department

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — What’s black and white and warm all over? A penguin in a wetsuit, naturally. Sounds like a joke, but it’s quite serious for biologists at the California Academy of Sciences, who had a wetsuit created for an African penguin to help him get back in the swim of things.

Posted in * General Interest

Anglican Communion Network Diocesan Bishops Meet

Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, has released a short statement at the conclusion of the meeting of Network diocesan bishops in Chicago on April 24.

The diocesan bishop of every Network diocese, as well as a dean representing all the Network convocations, met together in Chicago on April 24. It was an extraordinarily productive meeting. As has happened so many times before in the Network’s five year history, deepened understanding and deeper unity, despite remarkably different contexts and strategies regarding the Episcopal Church, were the fruit of the meeting. The Network’s vision of a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism was again affirmed and embraced,” stated Bishop Duncan.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Communion Network

Robert Kelleman reviews Thomas Oden's "How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind"

For Oden, and for “How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind,” the “Africa” he speaks of is anything that happened on the African continent and anyone who lived and ministered on that continent. This avoids the endless debate, for instance, about which Church Father was or was not “African.” How does one define that? By skin color? And by what amount of pigmentation? By nationality? Why wouldn’t any nation in Africa be by definition African? By ancestry?

The ancestry issue coupled with geographical/cultural impact is Oden’s most important contribution. In sum, he argues that even if Augustine, for instance, had a father whose ancestry was Greco-Roman, would that mean that Augustine, living his entire life in Africa was not African? Additionally, given that his famous mother, Monica, was almost definitely of Berber (north African) descent, would that not make Augustine African? And just as important to Oden, can we wipe out the impact on Augustine’s parents and on Augustine of living in the African geography and partaking of the African culture?

So, for Oden, “African Christianity” is the Christianity of any person who was born and/or lived on the African continent. Thus, for Europeans to claim Augustine, Origen, Tertullian, and others is a robbery of immense proportion in Oden’s thinking.

Given this perspective, Oden’s entire book is actually a call for others to build upon his small start. It is a call to take seriously the oral and written tradition of material spoken and penned on the African continent. It is then a call to explore the past, present, and future impact of that legacy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Books, Church History

From TLS: A new Evangelism for the US

As the second Iraq War turned from a quick liberation into a bloodily contested occupation, long-standing liberal fears about the supposed theocratic ambitions of a reactionary American Evangelicalism were supplemented by suspicions of an apocalyptic fanaticism infecting the White House. The fears were always exaggerated and sometimes hysterical, particularly over foreign policy where actions attributed to the malign influence of Zionism, Jewish and Christian alike, are as easily recognized as the standard expression of realpolitik in America’s strategic interest, alongside a long tradition of liberal imperialism. Two developments are crucial in relegating all this to historical rather than current concern. The first is that whoever wins this year’s Presidential election will not be a hostage to the Religious Right, as George W. Bush has half-plausibly been seen as being. The second is a seismic shift in the nature of American Evangelicalism, particularly among the younger generation.

The terms of engagement in America’s “culture wars” have been subtly changing since the 1990s with the economic, intellectual, social and political coming of age of many Evangelicals in the Bible Belt. This has been brought about by the rise of the oil and real-estate industries, and the occupational and geographical mobility of a considerable part of the younger generation of Evangelicals. They have flocked not only to Evangelical private colleges but also to the Ivy League universities (partly through radical access initiatives after the 1960s) and on to New York, Silicon Valley and even Hollywood as lawyers, bankers, IT professionals, academics and filmmakers.

They constitute a new cosmopolitan Evangelical stratum….

Read it all.

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

The sociology of the mega-home

In this, the third of four excerpts from Daniel McGinn’s new book House Lust, McGinn explores what is behind the growing obsession with homes — it’s “house lust,” a phenomenon that says as much about our times as it does about the homes we live in.

When I tell people who live in ordinary-size houses that I’ve been visiting 9,000-(and even 29,000-) square-foot homes, I hear two common reactions. The first involves the cost of these homes: People marvel at how anyone could (or would want to) foot the seven-(or eight) figure price tags homes like this carry. But the second reaction is more common, and it has less to do with finances and everything to do with family dynamics. People worry that if they lived in such a large space, they’d become disconnected or isolated from other family members, as everyone hangs out solo in sunrooms, grand conservatories or luxurious bedrooms. In Potomac View, Md., where nearly every child’s bedroom features an en suite sitting area and bath (and very often their own TV and video-game system), it seems like a valid concern. Indeed, so many kids today are being raised in homes that feature a bathroom for every bedroom, some experts say today’s teenagers have grown unusually squeamish about undressing in school locker rooms or sharing gang-style dormitory showers.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Canada, Economy

Cutoffs and Pleas for Aid Rise With Heat Costs

After struggling with soaring heating costs through the winter, millions of Americans are behind on electric and gas bills, and a record number of families could face energy shut-offs over the next two months, according to state energy officials and utilities around the country.

The escalating costs of heating oil, propane and kerosene, most commonly used in the Northeast, have posed the greatest burdens, officials say, but natural gas and electricity prices have also climbed at a time when low-end incomes are stagnant and prices have also jumped for food and gasoline.

In New Hampshire, applicants for fuel subsidies under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program received an average of $600 in a one-time grant and up to $975 for the extremely poor who rely on heating oil or propane, the costliest fuels. But those grants, which in recent years have covered 60 percent of heating costs, covered only about 35 percent of those costs this winter, said Celeste Lovett, director of the state’s energy aid program. The state will have given aid to about 34,500 people by the end of April, Ms. Lovett said, a 5 percent increase over last year and the highest number ever.

The most immediate challenge is to help the high number of consumers who are far behind in electric and gas payments, said Mark Wolfe, director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, which represents state aid officials in Washington.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

Vancouver Sun: Anglican splinter group to welcome South American primate

As a global battle pits senior Anglicans against each other, more than 300 conservative Christians who have broken from the Anglican Church of Canada will gather at an evangelical church in Delta on Friday to welcome their new leader, South American Anglican Archbishop Gregory Venables.

The meeting takes place the same week 11 Anglican Church of Canada clergy in Greater Vancouver resigned from the denomination to serve under the authority of the South American primate, who was asked this week by Canadian Primate Fred Hiltz not to intervene in his jurisdiction.

The gathering of the Anglican Network in Canada Friday and Saturday at South Delta Baptist Church includes 15 congregations, eight from B.C., that have severed ties with the 700,000-member Anglican Church of Canada.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Ontario Anglican Parish thinking green

A high-efficiency furnace seems like a good choice for any aging building. But two?

That’s right, says Rev. Robert Lemon of St. John-in-the-Wilderness church.

When he and his congregation in Bright’s Grove decided it was time to “go green” they opted for two new furnaces so that portions of the church, hall and office can be separately heated.

In one year, the church has saved about $700 in natural gas consumption, making the investment economical as well as ecological. “That’s very good and over time it means the furnaces will pay for themselves,” Lemon said.

St. John-in-the-Wilderness Anglican church is 152 years old and has had numerous upgrades over the years. But in 2006, when an office was added, the congregation began to take energy efficiency seriously.

“We realized we could do better and we began to make changes,” Lemon said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Energy, Natural Resources, Parish Ministry

Australia: Canon Barbara Darling to become Victoria's first female bishop

Canon Darling is the vicar of the parish of St James in Dandenong and was among the first women in Australia to be ordained a priest in St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, in 1992.

She will become an assistant bishop.

The Melbourne Anglican Diocese made the announcement today.

Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier said Canon Darling was a woman of deep faith and outstanding pastoral ability.

Canon Darling said she was delighted by her appointment for women in general.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

NY Times: Gay Bishop Plans His Civil Union Rite

It is up to the bishop of each diocese to decide whether to permit such blessings. Bishop Robinson, after consulting with a council in his diocese, has approved his own ceremony.

Bishop Robinson said he was surprised at another controversy that arose last year when he endorsed Senator Barack Obama before the New Hampshire primary. Some voters in the state said religious leaders should stay out of politics. Bishop Robinson said he had talked three times with Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and advised him on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Bishop Robinson spoke in an interview at The New York Times, and is promoting his new book, “In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God” (Seabury Books). The publicity tour will take him to a few unexpected places: a conference of black church leaders and the Hay Festival, a literary gathering in England.

In England, the Anglican church has plenty of gay clergymen, he said, but the difference with the church in the United States is that they are in the closet.

“I myself have probably met 300 partnered gay clergy there,” Bishop Robinson said. “I have met bishops who will go and have a lovely dinner with a priest and his gay partner, and then warn the priest that if the dinner becomes public, the bishop will be your worst enemy.”

Read it all.

I will consider posting comments on this article submitted first by email to Kendall’s E-mail: KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

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

NY Sun: Food Crisis Eclipsing Climate Change

With prices for rice, wheat, and corn soaring, food-related unrest has broken out in places such as Haiti, Indonesia, and Afghanistan. Several countries have blocked the export of grain. There is even talk that governments could fall if they cannot bring food costs down.

One factor being blamed for the price hikes is the use of government subsidies to promote the use of corn for ethanol production. An estimated 30% of America’s corn crop now goes to fuel, not food.

“I don’t think anybody knows precisely how much ethanol contributes to the run-up in food prices, but the contribution is clearly substantial,” a professor of applied economics and law at the University of Minnesota, C. Ford Runge, said. A study by a Washington think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute, indicated that between a quarter and a third of the recent hike in commodities prices is attributable to biofuels.

Last year, Mr. Runge and a colleague, Benjamin Senauer, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs, “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor.”

“We were criticized for being alarmist at the time,” Mr. Runge said. “I think our views, looking back a year, were probably too conservative.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Climate Change, Weather, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

The Episcopal Bishop of Dallas was Invited to the White House to see the Pope

Check it out.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, TEC Bishops

Florida lawmakers debate offering a Christian license plate

Florida drivers can order more than 100 specialty license plates celebrating everything from manatees to the Miami Heat, but one now under consideration would be the first in the nation to explicitly promote a specific religion.
The Florida Legislature is considering a specialty plate with a design that includes a Christian cross, a stained-glass window and the words “I Believe.”

Rep. Edward Bullard, the plate’s sponsor, said people who “believe in their college or university” or “believe in their football team” already have license plates they can buy. The new design is a chance for others to put a tag on their cars with “something they believe in,” he said.

If the plate is approved, Florida would become the first state to have a license plate featuring a religious symbol that’s not part of a college logo. Approval would almost certainly face a court challenge.

The problem with the state manufacturing the plate is that it “sends a message that Florida is essentially a Christian state” and, second, gives the “appearance that the state is endorsing a particular religious preference,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

Green Berets Recount Deadly Taliban Ambush

Watch it all–deeply moving

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces