Daily Archives: June 8, 2008

Toby Cohen: English bishops' worry over clergy quality

THE CHURCH of England has been thrown in to turmoil following the leak of a restricted Ministry Division report finding that clergy are not up to the job.

While the Archbishop of Canterbury’s spokesman insisted that they were not aware of many complaints, shortly after The Sunday Telegraph revealed the findings of the report, Quality and Quantity Issues in Ministry, ecclesiastical blogs filled with bitter remarks illustrating the betrayal and hypocrisy observed by clergy.

In a response to concerns expressed by bishops over the standard of clergy, the report surveyed the opinions of 37 diocesan bishops, about 90 per cent of the House of Bishops. A third of those replied that half of the stipendiary priests in their diocese were unable to meet the challenges of ministry. Only one bishop replied that he was very confident that the newly ordained have the gifts and abilities to meet those challenges.

In response to the furoré, the Ministry Division issued a press statement which said: “One insight not reported was that more than eight in ten bishops expressed confidence that our newly ordained clergy have the gifts and abilities to meet such challenges and opportunities.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry

Christian Century: Gene Robinson takes on more risky ventures

Interviewed at New York’s General Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1973, Robinson was asked to identify the most common misstatement made about him. “The most persistent and hurtful one is that I abandoned my wife and children to move in with my lover.” It was an amicable divorce, he said.

“I did not meet the person who has been my partner for 20 years until two months after my wife was remarried,” he said. “My daughters could not be more devoted to me; one was with me at the 2003 Episcopal General Convention, and my former wife was one of my presenters at my consecration.”

He and his wife “went back to church to end the marriage,” he said. “We asked for each other’s forgiveness, pledged our joint raising of our children, and gave our wedding rings back to each other” in the context of a Eucharist. “It was one of the most feeling and wonderful moments of my life.”

Robinson said he hopes that readers of his book will find out “how theologically conservative I am.” Many conservative Episcopalians, he said, have told him they see the church’s relaxed stance on gay and lesbian people “as a precursor to the deconstruction of virtually everything that we believe.”

Some critics, he said, may be thinking of John Shelby Spong, the former bishop of Newark, New Jersey, an early advocate of gay and lesbian inclusion in church life. “Either he evolved, or devolved, depending on your perspective, into serious questioning of the bodily resurrection, the virgin birth and the divinity of Christ,” Robinson said.

Read it all.

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

Colin Bates: Our Vulnerability Is Our Strength

Most of the people I know are embarrassed by what they can’t do. They see it as a sign of weakness and consequently walk around with burdened hearts. For my generation, the notion that success equals fulfillment has been pounded into our brains as if it were the truth. My generation is being told that if you can’t do something alone, if you’re not smart enough or capable enough, then you’ve failed.

So far, the turning points in my life have not been the times I succeeded at something, but the times I’ve whispered, “I’m lost,” or, “Help me,” or, “I need a friend.” In becoming helpless, I’ve allowed myself to be shaped and supported by those who love me ”” which makes helplessness a gift.

And I have my bosses to thank for it. We’ve discovered the joy of helping and being helped. I believe sometimes our vulnerability is our strength.

Read or listen to it all.

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

(London) Times: Ignored and spurned, the Church of England has lost its faith – in government

The Church of England feels itself to be marginalised, excluded and neglected. This message, gathered from every diocese in the country, including dozens of bishops, members of Parliament, peers and academics, is relentlessly consistent.

It comes in a landmark report, to be published next Monday, which marks the most damning critique by the Church of a serving Government since the 1980s.

While Muslim communities are courted, funded and feted, the country’s majority Christian communities are barely given a second thought when it comes to Government focus on “faith”, the report says.

The report, called Moral, Without a Compass, says the attitude of ministers is particularly galling for the Church, which, the authors of the report say, has spent centuries pioneering welfare provision, in particular in health, education and care for the poor and marginalised of society.

Read it all.

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

Irwin Stelzer: Politicians in search of the quick fix for oil

Toss a barrel of $139 oil into the economy and the ripples will swamp some of the boats trying to stay afloat in the current sea of economic troubles. And planes. Airlines are grounding their least fuel-efficient planes in an attempt to cut costs. So fewer budget-priced seats will be available to holidaymakers. Businessmen, too, are beginning to respond to the rising cost of company meetings by discovering the virtues of teleconferencing. Of course, home-bound consumers and desk-bound businessmen could drive, but petrol prices being what they are, that, too, is expensive.

All of which adds to the pressure on politicians to do something. Not for them Ronald Reagan’s famous plea to his officials: “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Some sensible new policies are badly needed but that is not on the cards, since the inclination of politicians is to do the opposite of what needs doing.

In their never-ending hunt for the quick fix, politicians in America and Britain want to ease the pain at the pumps by lowering petrol taxes. Never mind that prices would soon rise so that the net effect would be to lower the tax receipts of the US and UK Treasuries and increase those of the House of Saud, Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin and others not kindly disposed to western democracies. Even if prices did fall, the result would be to encourage greater use of petrol, and to discourage the development of alternatives to the use of oil-based products.

Read the whole article.

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

Pennsylvania Episcopal bishop to face his accusers

Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr., 64, still wears a purple vest, a pectoral cross, and an engraved gold ring – symbols of his stature as leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.

But tomorrow morning this white-haired and controversial prelate, suspended from office in the fall, will step off an elevator at the Philadelphia Marriott Hotel and into a Court for the Trial of a Bishop.

There, nine judges from around the country will consider whether Bennison improperly concealed his brother John’s sexual abuse of a minor decades ago, and decide if he may continue as head of the five-county, 55,000-member diocese.

“The allegations are sensational,” his lawyer, James Pabarue, said in a lengthy interview Thursday. But they are “half-truths,” he added, concocted by parties in the diocese eager for Bennison’s ouster.

Read it all.

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

Washington Times: Tough financial times for 11 Washington D.C. area churches

The big question is how much money both sides are spending on this debacle. Today, the Rev. John Yates, rector of the Falls Church, the largest of the 11 congregations at 2,500 members, will ask congregants for a “one-time special sacrificial gift” – his words – to make up for a $300,000 shortfall in contributions.

The church recently slashed its $6 million budget by 5.4 percent.

Judge Bellows’ decision to allow some 250 years worth of records to be reviewed for the case “puts a burden on us we had hoped to avoid,” he wrote. “The costs of defending our church are great.”

The ADV folks say they have raised and spent $2.1 million; $1.3 million of which has come from the Falls Church, $1 million from Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, $400,000 from Church of the Apostles in Fairfax and the rest from the remaining eight churches.

Neal Brown, the rector of St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in Woodbridge – formerly St. Margaret’s Episcopal – said his congregation of 170 souls eked out $40,000 from their operating budget for legal fees.

“Things are so bad, we can’t make any color copies on our copy machine,” he told me.

Read it all.

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

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Alzheimer's Testing

FAW: Indeed, for some, like Eva Finelle, the decision to take such a test is easy.

Ms. FINNELLE: I want to know. I want to know. I don’t want my family, my children to go through what I’ve gone though. It would give me preparation time to do what I want to do, to say what I want to say, to get my affairs in order, so to speak, for when I can’t think for myself.

FAW: For others, though, like Susan Davis, almost as old now as her father was when he started showing signs of the disease, the prospect of such a test is agonizing.

Ms. DAVIS: Hit the music”¦

FAW: Now a successful producer at North Carolina Public Radio and the mother of two, Susan Davis says that learning she might develop Alzheimer’s would not be a source of comfort but alarm.

Ms. DAVIS: I could find this out, and it really means nothing. It means nothing until they know what it means or until they can do something.

FAW (to Ms. Davis): Knowing that you might get it — it wouldn’t be helpful?

Ms. DAVIS: You know what this would do? This might drive me crazy.

FAW: Most of all, says Davis, if she learned she’ll develop Alzheimer’s that would be a cruel ethical dilemma: wait for the disease or take her life?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Theology

The Amazing Joni Mitchell

Worth the time.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Music

Baby Miraculously Survives Abortion, Expected to Live 'Normal' Life

A mother who decided to abort her son because he may have inherited a life-threatening kidney condition is overjoyed that he survived the procedure.

Jodie Percival of Nottinghamshire, England, said she and her fiancee made the decision to abort baby Finley when she was eight weeks pregnant.

Percival’s first son Thane died of multicystic dysplastic kidneys ”” which causes cysts to grow on the kidneys of an unborn baby ”” and her second child Lewis was born with serious kidney damage and currently has just one kidney, the Daily Mail reported.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Life Ethics

The Economist: America at its best

The choice will be starkest over Iraq. Mr McCain backed the war in the first place, and he proposes to stay the course there no matter how long it takes. Mr Obama opposed the “dumb” war from the start and has pledged to withdraw all combat troops within 16 months, though he has lately wriggled a little on this commitment. Although most Americans now think the war was a mistake, polls suggest that Mr McCain’s determination to see it through may stand him in better stead with voters than Mr Obama’s determination to pull out whatever the consequences, especially since the tide of war seems at last to have shifted firmly in America’s favour. In general, Mr McCain will offer a much more robust approach to security issues than Mr Obama””and that may help him.

That said, the war is clearly receding as a political issue, just as concerns about recession are growing. America no longer has a Hummer economy (General Motors is considering selling off the gas guzzler). And there are clear choices about how to fix it. Mr McCain offers orthodox supply-side solutions, stressing deregulation, free trade, competitiveness and the use of market mechanisms to cure the problems in everything from health care to education to pensions. The trouble for him is that America is already a pretty deregulated place, and many voters feel that globalisation has brought them much less than was promised (and bankers a lot more). Mr Obama offers a very different vision: more spending on education and training, an expensive expansion of health care to (almost) all Americans and better benefits for the unemployed. His problem will be convincing sceptics that his sums add up, though it may well be that voters, battered by falling house prices and rising oil prices prefer not to worry too much about that.

Both candidates have their flaws and their admirable points; the doughty but sometimes cranky old warrior makes a fine contrast with the inspirational but sometimes vaporous young visionary. Voters now have those five months to study them before making up their minds (and The Economist will be doing the same). But, on the face of it, this is the most impressive choice America has had for a very long time.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Notable and Quotable

The [theological] schools doing well “tend to be the ones that take their academic mission seriously. … Institutions that meet real challenges with a real commitment of resources will do better than ones that say ‘It’s not that bad.’ A great many institutions don’t seem to realize that actually knowing stuff about the Bible and theological tradition makes for better pastors.”

Dr. A.K.M. Adam

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture

U.N. Official: Mixed Racism Picture in U.S.

Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy is evidence that the United States has made significant strides in race relations, according to Doudou Diene, a U.N. official who reports on contemporary forms of racism. But Diene tells Scott Simon that the resegregation of American cities and the poor state of public education remain key areas of concern.

Listen to it all from NPR.

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

Bishop Bennison's Lawyer Criticizes Presentment’s ”˜Narrow Perspective’

The lawyer for the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison Jr., the inhibited bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, has offered a preview of the defense’s case as the bishop prepares for his days in court.

Bishop Bennison goes on trial June 9 in Philadelphia before the Court for the Trial of a Bishop. Bishop Bennison faces two charges related to how he responded, in the mid-1970s, after learning that his younger brother, John, was involved in sexual relations with a female teenager. A presentment against Bishop Bennison charges him with “contemporaneous failure to respond appropriately” and “subsequent suppression of pertinent information.”

The teenager was 14 when the sexual relations began. At the time, Bishop Bennison was rector of St. Mark’s Church in Upland, Calif., and his brother, a married man attending Claremont School of Religion, was on staff.

Bishop Bennison has expressed remorse about how he responded. “My efforts to maintain confidentiality and prevent scandal were very misguided,” he wrote to his diocese in November 2006.

Nevertheless, says defense lawyer James A.A. Pabarue of Philadelphia, Bishop Bennison’s efforts were consistent with the church’s limited understanding at that time””and even into the early 1990s””of how to respond to sexual predation by clergy.

Read it all.

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