Daily Archives: May 28, 2008

From Zenit: About 17% of the World is Roman Catholic

Catholics still make up almost a fifth of the world’s population, a ratio that has stayed steady with the start of the new millennium.

This is one of the many statistics found in the Vatican Publishing House’s new edition of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, comprising information on the main aspects of Catholic Church in various countries for the period 2000-2006.

Over these seven years, Catholic presence in the world has remained stable at around 17.3% of the total population.

In Europe, despite the fact that 25% of all Catholics live there, the growth in the number of faithful was less than 1%. In the Americas and in Oceania, numbers grew, respectively, by 8.4% and 7.6%. In Asia the number remained more or less stable with respect to population growth, whereas in Africa the number of Catholics increased from 130 million in 2000 to 158.3 million in 2006.

The number of bishops in the world went up from 4,541 in 2000 to 4,898 in 2006.

Read it all.

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

Atheist, agnostic families opt for own sleep-away camp

When Joe Fox sends his daughters away to summer camp, he’s confident they’ll be surrounded by kids who share his family’s beliefs and values.
Caitlin, 16, and Elizabeth, 10, go to Camp Quest, which in 1996 created a niche getaway for children who are agnostic, atheist, or just not sure what to believe yet.

American parents have plenty of summer camp options, from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to the YMCA to soccer, dance, music and drama camps. Many claim no religious affiliation while others are Jewish, Catholic or evangelical Christian. The Camp Quest concept started in 1996 with 20 kids at a site in Ohio with the slogan “Beyond Belief.”

Since then, demand has grown and week-long camps have been added in Minnesota, Michigan, California, Tennessee, and Ontario in Canada. In 2007 the camps accommodated 150 kids, generally ages 8-17. The projection for 2008 is more than 200 campers and new camps are also being considered in Vermont and Britain.

“They’re good, moral kids without organized religion,” Fox said of his daughters. “They can feel comfortable being who they are.”

Read it all.

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

The Religion Report (II): Dr Patricia Brennan on Australia's first female Anglican bishops

In his famous book ‘The End of Ideology’, American sociologist Daniel Bell makes the point that those individuals who start revolutions are not usually fated to be the ones to finish them. Because breaking down the walls is a different kind of task to the task of consolidation.

Which brings us to that tenacious former President of the Movement for the Ordination of Women, Dr Patricia Brennan. She was in Perth last week to see Kay Goldsworthy made a bishop; how has she seen this latest step for women in the Anglican church?

Patricia Brennan: I think it was inevitable and I think it’s been received with quiet celebration in most camps. I don’t think it has sort of taken the country by storm, I think it was expected, and I think it was completion of something that started about 30 years ago; it started with a great passion when women were excluded fairly violently form the company of the ordered male, and women priests have been multiplying in various guises, people have been getting used to it. Kay Goldsworthy was the 23rd bishop in the world, Barbara Darling on Saturday will be the 24th. It will just roll on now automatically as it would in any institution. And so now it’s not only that they’re used to women bishops, they want women bishops. They think it’s normal, even people with no interest in the church are very sympathetic to it.

Stephen Crittenden: Yes Patricia, I’ve been struck by how little controversy there’s been. I mean obviously the Australian Anglican bishops have handled this very carefully so that there wouldn’t be controversy, but why do you think all of a sudden public opinion seems to have got to a point where after all those years of controversy, that you played such a leading role in, the Australian public seems to have looked at each other and said, ‘OK, we’re ready to cross the road together now on this.’

Patricia Brennan: I think that happens in social change. I mean the notion of a woman priest was obscene when I was in my 30s, and we first put the word ‘woman’ with ‘priest’, and I think that level of taboo was that there’d never been women in the sanctuary.

Read it all.

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

The Religion Report Down Under (I): Canon Darling on Australia's first female Anglican bishops

Stephen Crittenden: How has evangelical Anglicanism in Victoria, in Melbourne, taken to the idea of women priests and women bishops? Has that been more difficult perhaps than some other strands that make up Australian Anglicanism, or down in Melbourne is it pretty much par for the course?

Barbara Darling: It differs. There are different people who have different understandings. Again Dr Leon Morris was pivotal in my understanding and acceptance that women could be in positions of authority in the church. When he first asked me to preach I was really working through the whole of what the Bible was saying about the understanding of women. He had written a little booklet, together with two other people on a woman’s place, looking at the Biblical understanding, and that helped me very much to look at this and to work this through. So too did Bishop John Wilson who was at that stage an Old Testament lecturer at Ridley College. So too, Dr Charles Sherlock. So there were a group of very, very supportive academics, theologians, people who were very much going by the Bible and their understanding of the Bible was that women could be in leadership.

Stephen Crittenden: Do you think that the set of protocols that have been worked out, and unanimously agreed to, which is interesting in itself, do they still perhaps leave women bishops as second-class bishops? Until you’re able to be a bishop without conditions, are you going to be a first-class bishop?

Barbara Darling: There were some conditions. I believe we are called to be bishops and we are going to be consecrated as bishops. There are certain protocols put there because there are some people who are not happy to have women in authority, and that’s sad, but it is a reality in the church today, and we need to be able to move forward and to accept each other, and this is a way we can move forward. I’ve received letters of support from people who are opposed to women in the episcopacy and yet can see there is a genuine call and that God is calling women to this. They will be praying for us, even though they may not be able to accept the authority that is there at the moment. They may change, they may not.

Stephen Crittenden: And what about the work you’re going to take up as a bishop, because you’re not going to be working as a kind of an assistant bishop in the parishes, are you? You’re going to be working in a very particular area of diocesan ministry to family and women and children and young people.

Barbara Darling: That’s part of the area. There’s four main areas, to my understanding, and this still needs to be worked through in detail. But one of them is looking with health and welfare chaplains in schools, school chaplaincy. Another one is with youth and children’s ministry, and the fourth area is multicultural ministry. These are all areas that are not directly parish but it will involve parishes. So I don’t have a geographical territory, but I will be able and welcome to go into the different regions of our diocese.

Read it all.

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

A Statement from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Northern Indiana

We, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Northern Indiana strongly protest the failure of the Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori and Chancellor David Booth Beers to follow the Canons of our Episcopal Church in the depositions of Bishops John Schofield and William Cox. Deposition is the harshest punishment that can be handed a bishop. It is essential that both the letter and the spirit of the Canons be followed since, in this case, the rights of the accused are protected, in part, by the extraordinarily high level of involvement and concord called for within the House of Bishops by Canon IV.9.2. As others have pointed out, the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church at various times distinguishes between a majority of the Bishops at a meeting, from a vote by a majority of the whole. Mr. Beers was incorrect in his assertion, reaffirmed by the Presiding Bishop in a letter to the House of Bishops (April 30, 2008), that the Canonical language of “the whole number of bishops entitled to vote” can be taken to mean only “those in attendance at a particular meeting.” This makes deposition an action with no higher standard than any matter of routine business. We agree with the analysis provided by the Bishops and Standing Committees of the Dioceses of South Carolina and Central Florida that the Canons plainly require a majority of all Bishops entitled to vote, not just those in attendance at a particular meeting.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Polity & Canons

Kevin Martin: TEC is "an anxious and reactive community"

So, what are we to do? When I suggested in a previous post that it will be 2010 before we will have the opportunity to move beyond our present stuckness, one reader, Sarah, stated her opinion that this will go on much longer. It certainly could. The result of such on-going anxiety will be the essential demise of our community. Sure, a remnant will remain, but it will be the remnant so burned out and dysfunctional that it will have no future.

Or we could simply have it out by fight or flight. The 2009 General Convention could be an essential sweep of the issues even at the expense of our membership in the wider Anglican Community. I have certainly heard this attitude expressed by some Progressives. We could see the withdrawal of more leaders, congregations and even dioceses. We (and they) kid ourselves if we think that such flight does not affect those who leave. I think a few folks who have left have managed to move beyond our present situation, but most clearly have not.

The answer in another way is quite simple, keep engaged and refuse to either win or withdraw. This is not a very easy road to take, nor a very comfortable one. Finally, one way to survive this is to surrender “the illusion of control.” As I said in my sermon May 25th, most human beings greatly over-estimate what we can really control. Worse, in believing we can control, we only create greater anxiety in ourselves and in our communities. Here is my summary comment for myself and the church I love, “When control is the issue, Jesus has left the building!”

Read it all.

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

Apple raises prospect of solar-powered iPhone

Owners of Apple devices such as iPods and iPhones may soon be able to charge them up by leaving them out in the sun.

Apple has filed a patent for a technology which would enable a layer of solar cells to be inserted under a touch-sensitive screen of the sort used in the iPhone.

The patent, should it be awarded, has the potential to make the iPhone a truly portable device, dispensing with the need for it to be connected to a power supply by wires.

There is usually little room for solar panels on portable devices, once space taken up by the screen and keypad is taken into account – a fact which has plagued previous attempts to power MP3 players and mobile phones via the sun.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

A Stroke Leads a Brain Scientist to a new Spirituality

After experiencing [a stroke accompanied by] intense pain, …[Jill Bolte Taylor] said, her body disconnected from her mind. “I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle,” she wrote in her book. “The energy of my spirit seemed to flow like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria.”

While her spirit soared, her body struggled to live. She had a clot the size of a golf ball in her head, and without the use of her left hemisphere she lost basic analytical functions like her ability to speak, to understand numbers or letters, and even, at first, to recognize her mother. A friend took her to the hospital. Surgery and eight years of recovery followed.

Her desire to teach others about nirvana, Dr. Taylor said, strongly motivated her to squeeze her spirit back into her body and to get well.

This story is not typical of stroke victims. Left-brain injuries don’t necessarily lead to blissful enlightenment; people sometimes sink into a helplessly moody state: their emotions run riot. Dr. Taylor was also helped because her left hemisphere was not destroyed, and that probably explains how she was able to recover fully.

Today, she says, she is a new person, one who “can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere” on command and be “one with all that is.”

To her it is not faith, but science. She brings a deep personal understanding to something she long studied: that the two lobes of the brain have very different personalities. Generally, the left brain gives us context, ego, time, logic. The right brain gives us creativity and empathy. For most English-speakers, the left brain, which processes language, is dominant. Dr. Taylor’s insight is that it doesn’t have to be so.

Her message, that people can choose to live a more peaceful, spiritual life by sidestepping their left brain, has resonated widely.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology, Science & Technology

NPR: Some Muslims in U.S. Quietly Engage in Polygamy

Although polygamy is illegal in the U.S. and most mosques try to discourage plural marriages, some Muslim men in America have quietly married multiple wives.

No one knows how many Muslims in the U.S. live in polygamous families. But according to academics researching the issue, estimates range from 50,000 to 100,000 people.

You can see some of the women involved in polygamous marriages in the lobby of Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit women’s center in New York City. It bursts with color as a dozen women in bright African dresses and head wraps gather for a weekly noon meeting for West African immigrants. The women come each week to this support group where they discuss hard issues, such as domestic abuse, medical problems, immigration hurdles and polygamy.

Read or listen to it all.

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

Al Qaeda Tape to Call for Use of WMDs

Intelligence and law enforcement sources tell ABC News they are expecting al Qaeda operatives will post a new video on the Internet in the next 24 hours, calling for what one source said is “jihadists to use biological, chemical and nuclear weapons to attack the West.”

“There have been several reports that al Qaeda will release a new message calling for the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against civilians,” FBI spokesman Richard Kolko told ABC News in an e-mail.

“Although there have been similar messages in the past, the FBI and [Department of Homeland Security] have no intelligence of any specific plot or indication of a threat to the U.S.,” the e-mail said. “The FBI and U.S. intelligence community will review the message for any intelligence value.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

Robert Frank reviews Steven Greenhouse's new book "The Big Squeeze"

Eight years ago, Deborah Shank was seriously injured when a semitrailer rig struck the driver’s side of her minivan. Because Shank, then a shelf stocker at a Wal-Mart store in Cape Girardeau, Mo., had recently qualified for the company’s health plan, most of her immediate hospital expenses were covered. But because the accident left her in a wheelchair, with permanent brain damage, she continues to require full-time nursing care. To help pay for it, a court set up a $417,000 trust, using the proceeds of a lawsuit against the company whose driver caused the accident.

As The Wall Street Journal reported last year, however, a court ordered the family to reimburse Wal-Mart for the $470,000 it had spent for Shank’s medical care. The court’s ruling cited a clause in the company’s health plan that gave it the right to recoup medical expenses if an injured employee collected damage payments in a lawsuit.

This practice of expense recovery, known as subrogation, has been defended on the grounds that it is unfair for someone to be reimbursed twice for the same medical expenses. The proceeds of Shank’s lawsuit, however, were insufficient to cover even her nursing care, much less her original hospital expenses. Until recently, companies rarely filed subrogation suits in such cases. These suits are now widespread.

In this and a host of other ways, the environment confronting American workers has grown nastier in the last three decades. Millions of workers have seen their employers abandon longstanding company pension plans, and even larger numbers have lost their health insurance. Violations of safety regulations and other work rules are increasingly common. The median hourly wage, adjusted for inflation, has scarcely increased at all, even as the risk of being laid off has risen sharply.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Wall Street Journal: Attacks in Iraq Reach 4-Year Low

U.S. and Iraqi military officials said violence in Iraq has decreased significantly in recent weeks to levels not seen in four years.

That offers some hope to officials that Iraqi security services may be making gains, following recent Iraqi-led military campaigns in Basra in the south, Baghdad’s Sadr City, and Mosul in the north. But similar ebbs in violence have fizzled, the latest as recent as earlier this year, and it was far from clear whether the most recent gains can hold.

U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll said at a news conference here Sunday that weekly attacks in Iraq are down to March 2004 levels, which were about 300 attacks a week.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Iraq War, Military / Armed Forces

Andrew Gerns: Taking an appreciative path at Lambeth

The conventional wisdom is wrong. At least about the Lambeth Conference.

I watched the video news-conference by The Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori yesterday. I had these big ideas about live-blogging it, but that wasn’t practical. I am glad I didn’t. In attempting to draw immediate conclusions, I would have missed the heart of the story.

My gut feeling was very positive…that the attempt is to build a basis for resolution of thorny issues by building on relationships. But I was still perplexed, at a time when Anglican divisions are at their highest and most delicate…how can we move forward? And when everyone is itching for a solution (theirs) how can consensus be reached?

One of the most perplexing things about Lambeth is that there will be no legislation, no plenary reports from which resolutions will be drawn, no voting and no Big Reports. This has driven many people a little crazy. If they aren’t going to Say Something Definitive, then what’s the point?

The conventional wisdom is that Lambeth will attempt to paper over differences. There is plenty of precedent.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Another BBC Radio Four Audio Segment: Christians 'should evangelise Muslims'

In less than two months leaders of the Anglican Church will meet at the Lambeth Conference. A motion that will be put forward by Paul Eddy, a lay member of the General Synod, urges the Church to evangelise Muslims before they evangelise Britain. It has the signatures of 124 members of Synod, including the Bishops of Rochester, Chester and Carlisle. Paul Eddy joined Sunday to explain his motion.

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

A BBC Radio Four Audio Report: Christian registrars and gay civil partnerships

Lillian Ladele, a civil registrar at Islington Council in north London, has told an employment tribunal that her Christian faith means she cannot perform civil partnerships for gay couples. She says she is being forced to choose between her faith and her job. The Council says Ms Ladele’s position breaches its “dignity for all” policy and its code of conduct for employees.

The hearing has finished but the judgement is being reserved until September. Neither the Council nor Mr Ladele will comment further until judgement is given, but Mike Judge of the Christian Institute, who was at the tribunal, and Clare Murray, a lawyer and employment rights expert, joined Sunday.

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality