Daily Archives: April 28, 2008

Austin Dacey: A values voter's trap

I’m all for more serious moral debate in politics, and I support the right of all to display their conscience in public, whether it be red, blue, or purple. Yet, as an American who is both liberal-minded and entirely secular, I can’t help but wonder what we might be losing along the way.

For what it now means to say that poverty or health care are values issues is that evangelicals have started talking about them, and what it now means for liberals to take values seriously is to start talking about them as evangelicals do. As at the recent Compassion Forum among the Democratic candidates, faith and values are now running mates. Such thinking precludes the possibility of a public moral language that transcends sect and invokes the civic values we share as Americans and world citizens.

This would be a betrayal of a great tradition. The Judeo-Christian virtues of love, mercy and humility have a unique place in the moral heritage of the West. But no less important is the Stoic and neo-Stoic philosophers’ notion of universal human reason ”” a secular conscience ”” that reveals our earthly good and grounds our natural rights.

We Americans have our own civic scriptures. The American testament has its Creation narrative: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, The Declaration of Independence. It has an Exodus: the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation and the New Deal. Its Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists; its Psalms, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. The original moral values are enunciated in the Preamble to that American Talmud, the Constitution: justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare and liberty.

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

Atheists push own holidays

Now that Earth Day is over, let the planning begin for the summer solstice and World Humanist Day in June.

The Institute for Humanist Studies, an Albany, N.Y.-based nonprofit, is calling attention to its calendar of atheist holidays on its Web site, www.secular seasons.org. The group wants nonbelievers (or at least people who don’t celebrate religious holidays) to have a handy reference guide of the calendar of holidays honoring free-thinkers, banned books and nature, among other themes.

Matt Cherry, executive director of the Institute for Humanist Studies, said his group is trying to expand options and alternatives for secular holidays. He said he hopes even people affiliated with a particular religion will consider the options.

“Some religious holidays are about culture and tradition, not theology,” he says. “Even people who go to church only on Christmas or to synagogue on the High Holidays do so out of cultural heritage, not because they believe the religious doctrines associated with it.”

Read it all.

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

From the Local Paper: Pantries hurt by shortages

Demand is up for food assistance. Local soup kitchens and food pantries all report increased traffic since the beginning of the year, and some say donations are down.

Churches, a primary source of donated goods, continue to provide non-perishable items to agencies that distribute to the needy. But the growing demand is causing the need gap to widen.

Volunteers and program administrators at faith-based organizations such as Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach, Seacoast Church’s Dream Center, Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, Tricounty Family Ministries and Hillcrest Baptist Church independently confirmed that service providers have been especially challenged in recent weeks to satisfy the growing need.

Rising food prices have forced people to make hard choices and even forgo essentials, such as health care or child care in favor of food, several service providers said. Rising fuel prices have exacerbated the problem.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization, Poverty

Forward in Faith U.K.–Manchester Report – first reaction

From here:

The Catholic Group in General Synod and Forward in Faith warmly welcome the publication of the Report of the Legislative Drafting Group. We are most grateful to the Bishop of Manchester, to the members of the Group (particularly Fr Jonathan Baker SSC and Sister Anne Williams CA, members of both the Catholic Group and Forward in Faith) and to the Officers and staff of the General Synod for the very great care with which they have clearly approached this mammoth undertaking.

We are pleased to note that the Report appears to have addressed most, if not all, of the issues which we raised with the Group and that it seems, among the several possible ways forward described, to include proposals which those unable to receive the ordination of women as bishops could in good conscience embrace. However, we shall naturally need time fully to digest and reflect upon the Report before commenting further.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

Jeffrey Sachs: How to End the Global Food Shortage

The world economy has run into a brick wall. Despite countless warnings in recent years about the need to address a looming hunger crisis in poor countries and a looming energy crisis worldwide, world leaders failed to think ahead. The result is a global food crisis. Wheat, corn and rice prices have more than doubled in the past two years, and oil prices have more than tripled since the start of 2004. These food-price increases combined with soaring energy costs will slow if not stop economic growth in many parts of the world and will even undermine political stability, as evidenced by the protest riots that have erupted in places like Haiti, Bangladesh and Burkina Faso. Practical solutions to these growing woes do exist, but we’ll have to start thinking ahead and acting globally.

The crisis has its roots in four interlinked trends. The first is the chronically low productivity of farmers in the poorest countries, caused by their inability to pay for seeds, fertilizers and irrigation. The second is the misguided policy in the U.S. and Europe of subsidizing the diversion of food crops to produce biofuels like corn-based ethanol. The third is climate change; take the recent droughts in Australia and Europe, which cut the global production of grain in 2005 and ’06. The fourth is the growing global demand for food and feed grains brought on by swelling populations and incomes. In short, rising demand has hit a limited supply, with the poor taking the hardest blow.

So, what should be done? Here are three steps to ease the current crisis and avert the potential for a global disaster.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization

Bob Herbert: Clueless in America

We don’t hear a great deal about education in the presidential campaign. It’s much too serious a topic to compete with such fun stuff as Hillary tossing back a shot of whiskey, or Barack rolling a gutter ball.

The nation’s future may depend on how well we educate the current and future generations, but (like the renovation of the nation’s infrastructure, or a serious search for better sources of energy) that can wait. At the moment, no one seems to have the will to engage any of the most serious challenges facing the U.S.

An American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. That’s more than a million every year, a sign of big trouble for these largely clueless youngsters in an era in which a college education is crucial to maintaining a middle-class quality of life ”” and for the country as a whole in a world that is becoming more hotly competitive every day.

Ignorance in the United States is not just bliss, it’s widespread. A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.

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

Iran demands Russian nuclear shipment

Iran demanded Sunday that Azerbaijan deliver a Russian shipment of nuclear equipment blocked at its border with Iran for the past three weeks.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in his weekly briefing that his country has asked the Azerbaijani ambassador in Iran to get his government “to deliver the shipment as soon as possible.”

The blocked nuclear equipment “is in the framework of Iran-Russia cooperation” and there should be “no ban on it,” he said about the shipment destined for a Russian-built nuclear reactor in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr.

Azerbaijan has said it was seeking more information about the shipment due to fears that it might violate any of the three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran over its failure to halt uranium enrichment.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Russia

Women in the Episcopate ”“ Manchester Report published

The three approaches set out by the Legislative Drafting Group are:

Ӣ The simplest national statutory approach with no binding national arrangements;

Ӣ Legislation that would provide some basis for special arrangements for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops, such arrangements to be made within the present structures of the Church of England;

Ӣ Legislation that would create new structures within the Church of England for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops.

The Group does not offer a recommendation of its own but analyses the pros and cons of each approach, identifying, where relevant, various sub options.

Read the whole summary and download and read the whole report.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

Episcopal Church sues Binghamton parish

The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York has filed a lawsuit seeking the property of a Binghamton congregation that opposes the denomination’s policy on homosexuality.

It’s the second such lawsuit filed by the diocese and among dozens of similar cases across the country as the Episcopal Church faces ongoing opposition from congregations that disapprove of the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson. Robinson has publicly acknowledged being in a committed gay relationship.

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

At London hotel, room service brings bedtime stories

For two weeks starting Monday, Hyatt’s new Andaz Liverpool Street in London will host the hotel world’s first “Reader in Residence.”

Writer Damian Barr, 31, will read to guests or talk literature with them. “Most people haven’t been read to since they were children, and they don’t bring a lot of books to hotels,” he says. “I always pack a selection, because you get tired of being in the CNN world.”

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Posted in * General Interest

Terry Mattingly: The Pope's message

But there was more to this speech than one big quotation. While the pope’s address challenged the bishops to keep wrestling with the sexual-abuse scandal, he also put these evil acts in a wider framework — an era of revolt against the church’s moral teachings. And who is in charge of defending these doctrines, while finding ways to strengthen marriages and families?

That would be the church’s bishops, said Benedict. Thus, he urged them to address the sin of abuse within the “wider context of sexual mores,” thus setting an example for society as a whole. This crisis, he said, calls “for a determined, collective response,” a response led by the bishops.

“Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships,” he said. “They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. … What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?

“We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

“Ubuntu” is 2009 General Convention Theme

“I will work on educating the church specifically about General Convention, our bicameral system, and our theology of governance,” …[Bonnie Anderson] said in an address to the annual Episcopal Communicators’ Conference in Seattle recently. “The circular model of ministry ”“ clergy, laity, bishops working together, using their gifts to be the ministers of the church that attracted me to The Episcopal Church over 35 years ago ”“ has somewhat morphed itself into a pyramidal structure with the largest order, the laity, being at the bottom of a top-down approach to ministry.”

Mrs. Anderson, who is also chairwoman of the 17-member Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements, said the theme of the 76th General Convention will be Ubuntu, a Zulu word that describes humaneness encompassing a sense of caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation, according to an article in Episcopal Life, which noted that finding an exact translation for the word in English is difficult.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told Episcopal Life that she suggested Ubuntu as the convention theme for a variety of reasons.

“Because it is unfamiliar, it may be able to invite us into a larger and more expansive way of understanding identity in community,” she said.

In comments to Episcopal Life, Mrs. Anderson said Episcopalians often struggle to describe the identity of The Episcopal Church and relationships within it. She and other planners envision a deeper understanding of the church’s identity and relationships by having convention engage in a process known as public narrative.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention

Anne Coletta interviews Bishop Terry Kelshaw

Watch it all from Anglican TV.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Uganda, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Rio Grande

From the front page of the local paper– A choice: Bread or gasoline?

The costs finally became too much for Walter Tucker.

Three weeks ago, he swallowed his pride and took a place in the soup kitchen line at Our Lady of Mercy Church on Charleston’s East Side so he could extend his already stretched food dollar with a free meal.

Prices are up so much that many people are forced to make a choice, “either a gallon of gas or a loaf of bread,” he says.

“It was hard to come to a soup kitchen,” Tucker says. “You feel a little hesitant at first, like you may be seen as a bum.” But a choice has to be made, he says. “Come in to get something to eat, or don’t eat.”

Sister Pat Keating, who directs this Sisters of Charity soup kitchen on America Street, says the soup kitchen normally feeds fewer than 100 for lunch at the beginning of the month when people tend to have more money on hand. Now, she says, Our Lady of Mercy often finds 150 or more in the food line.

“They’re running out of money because food is expensive. We’re seeing people we have not seen before.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Economy, Poverty

Archbishop’s Letter to Lambeth Bishops Still Not Sent

A spokesman for Archbishop Williams told The Living Church the internet video presentation was “not related” to his forthcoming letter to the bishops of the Communion. In that letter, the archbishop is reported to ask that they predicate their attendance at the Lambeth Conference upon their willingness to accept the Windsor Report and Anglican Covenant processes.

The video presentation, titled “Better bishops for the sake of a better church,” was a pastoral didactic tool, the spokesman. The presentation broadcast on the internet video service, outlines the archbishop’s hopes for the conference.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth 2008