Daily Archives: June 9, 2008

Albany Episcopal Diocese affirms defense of traditional marriage

The conservative-led Episcopal Diocese of Albany staked out a firm defense of traditional marriage on Saturday, a move that comes as gay unions have gained new ground in California and New York.

The hundreds of clergy and lay delegates who converged for their annual convention in this lakeside Adirondack community resoundingly approved a resolution that lays down this rule: Only heterosexual marriages can be celebrated in the diocese.

Read it all and there is more here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Marriage & Family, Theology

'Hypermilers': Squeezing Out Every Mile Per Gallon

With gas prices relentlessly soaring, Americans are being forced to rethink their driving habits. Many are combining trips, driving less or shifting to mass transit.

Then there are the “hypermilers,” drivers who strive to boost their gas mileage by changing their behavior behind the wheel.

They include Kent Johnson, who was found recently at a parking lot outside Laurel, Md., leaning against his red Chevy Aveo hatchback, holding his right shoe.

He had driven there with one shoe off, the one for the accelerator foot, “so you can feel the pedal pressure a little bit easier,” he explains. “You know, when you’re trying to eke that extra little bit, then, just small things can add up.”

Most of Johnson’s techniques are simple: Slow down, ease up on the accelerator, coast in neutral down hills.

“I drive with my shoe off ”” that’s extreme,” he says.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources

Internet motivates more schools to fight back against plagiarism

Buying a research paper online or just recycling a friend’s work might have seemed like a good idea to stressed-out students who’ve been crunching to finish spring-semester projects in recent weeks.

But in the escalating the fight against academic fraud, the work of even high school students is being judged using anti-plagiarism software familiar to their college counterparts.

“It is something that all the high schools need to have,” said Christine Phenix, coordinator of the International Baccalaureate program at Bowie High School in Arlington. The $2,300 annual licensing fee for the Turnitin anti-plagiarism software used on the campus is money well-spent, she said. “The rationale is that plagiarism is a problem worldwide because students have access to everything. It has a great deterrent effect.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Education

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas: A minister's Father's Day wisdom

Here’s my observation: One doesn’t have to suspend his good judgment to have a close relationship with a child. My own dad was fiercely devoted to us kids, but that never caused him to side with us against our teachers at school or do anything else to “win” our affection. He was quite content to earn it. Your children have plenty of pals. You be the dad.

The best dads discipline themselves first, their children second. Most dads understand the importance of disciplining their children, but disciplining themselves can be a different matter. Some dads are notorious for their unpredictability. They laugh at a child’s antics one day and punish the same behavior the next. This sort of emotional roller coaster can be maddening for a child who needs adults to be steady and consistent. As the Book of Proverbs puts it: “A man of understanding walks straight.”

One of the great saboteurs of parental consistency is alcohol. As a family law attorney, I once ran a domestic violence clinic in which we represented abused women and their children. I was surprised to learn that in many cases, the defendant father was a nice guy ”” when he was sober. Most abusive behavior seemed to occur when the defendant was under the influence. Again, as Proverbs puts it: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler.” My own father was the son of an abusive, alcoholic father. As a result, Dad became a teetotaler. Other responsible fathers choose to drink alcohol in moderation. Either option is acceptable. What isn’t acceptable is chaos and unpredictability. Children need structure and stability. Dads require self-discipline in order to provide it.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

Ben Stein: When You Weren’t Looking, They Were Working

“O, brilliant kids, I was a fool just like you. I was in my mid-40s before I properly thanked my father for his decades of hard work ”” paying for me to laze around in the cars he bought me, to get drunk in the frat house whose dues he paid, to spend the afternoons with my girlfriends looking at trees and rivers while Pop worked and got so anxious that he took up smoking three packs of Kents a day.

“O, brilliant kids, you get to put on the garments of the morally righteous and upstanding while your parents work ”” because mothers work now and always have worked ”” and your parents must say, ”˜Yes, sir,’ or ”˜No, sir,’ to those who hire them. O, golden children, you get to talk about how you’ll never ”˜sell out,’ and meanwhile your parents stay up late in torment, thinking of how they can pay your tuition. Because, brilliant kids, work (business) involves exhaustion and eating humble pie and going on even when you think you can’t. And you are the beneficiaries of it in your gilded youth.

“Be smarter than Ben Stein ever was. Be a better person than I ever was. Right now, today, thank your parents for working to support you. Don’t act as if it’s the divine right of students. Get right up in their faces and say, ”˜Thank you for what you do so I can live like this.’ Say something. Say it, so that when they’re at O’Hare or Dallas-Fort Worth and they’ve just learned that their flight is canceled and they’ll have to stay overnight at the airport, they will know you appreciate them.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family

The Bishop of East Tennessee Talks about the Lambeth Conference

What is the Lambeth Conference? It is a once-a-decade gathering of bishops from the worldwide Anglican Communion. Every 10 years, bishops come together, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for a time of prayer, Bible study, fellowship and collegiality. Much of our ministry in the church involves work that we share as
bishops, even though we live and work in very different circumstances. It is important to note, however, that the conference is not primarily a legislative body. Each province in the Anglican Communion (the Episcopal Church is one example) has its own canons and sets of rules that govern its common life.

Read it all (pages 1 and 4).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008, TEC Bishops

George Sumner: A Sermon on "The Nuptial Mystery"

It is at this point that the third and final gnomic utterance from the Gwitchen, to leave is to die, rings in our ears. The male and the female bound together in fidelity is a gift to the Church which bespeaks our bond, one with another, in the Body of Jesus Christ, until we too are parted by death. The conservative who says, “I can bear this corruption no more” and leaves, is deaf to this word. The revisionist who says “we can wait no longer, justice demands this remedy now, whatever the rending,” is deaf to this word. To our fallen minds, in the presence of strife, another child of the fall, bonds are to be loosed. But marriage is a sign of the love of God by which he covenantally binds himself to his people and to his world, and is ready sacrificially to suffer for her.

It is a curious fact of North American Anglicanism that most of our brothers and sisters, of the most divergent points of view, nod their heads in vehement approval when it is suggested that the post-modern and post-Constantinian Church must now be countercultural. It sounds curmudgeonly to some, sixties-ish to others, but it sounds good and bold to us all. Counter-cultural is another way to say we are indeed bound to the culture, to the world around us, for we and they need one another for definition. But we are bound in ways that neither they nor we will find easy. Still we welcome the notion. But as with most vows of fidelity, they work themselves out over the long haul to be something harder, and yet more gracious, than we reckoned. “Peter, do you love me? Yes Lord you know I love you”¦” What if counter-cultural means hanging together in this three-pronged Qwitchen Christian wisdom? All would be counter-cultural, and so all shall have surprises. For the social conservatives, there is making room and welcome for gay Anglicans. For the revisionists, there would be the hard admission of the logic: blessings have promises, so blessings are marriages, and gay marriages are, from the foundations of creation, impossible. With that admission would come what Anglicans fear most, opprobrium in elite and progressive society. And, for the fed-up on both sides, there is the interminable putting up with one another in a very prolonged family argument. What if all that together is a part of what counter-cultural actually looks like? As with marriage itself, that would be the day when the glamour and romance had worn off, and reality sets in. Our fraying, individualist, gratification-oriented, impatient, balkanized society needs to see real marriages of man and woman, and it needs equally to see that real marriage which is the Church in its protracted unity-in-conflict. As is real marriage, of the no-no-fault kind Jesus describes in Mark 10, so is our counter-cultural witness, as a bound and avowed Body, to the costly, covenantal, enduring grace of God in Jesus Christ.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ecclesiology, Marriage & Family, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Gasoline Hits Average of $4 a Gallon

The average price of gasoline in the U.S. hit $4 a gallon for the first time Sunday, the latest milestone in a run-up in fuel prices that is sapping consumer confidence and threatening to nudge the nation into recession.

The record nationwide average for regular-gasoline prices, announced by auto club AAA, follows Friday’s near-$11 surge in oil prices to a record $138.54 a barrel. Both are part of what, by some measures, is the worst energy-price shock Americans have faced for a generation, in terms of its toll on their pocketbooks.

In recent days, soaring fuel prices and disappointing employment data have reignited fears that the nation’s economy — which has taken a pounding over the past year from a housing downturn, credit crunch and weakening job market — will slip into recession, or pull back further if a recession is already under way. Rising fuel prices are straining household budgets, damping the spending that drives more than two-thirds of the nation’s economic activity.

“What we’re seeing here is a lot of additional pressure on a consumer sector that was soft to begin with,” said Alliance Bernstein economist Joseph Carson. “Is it a tipping point by itself? It’s close.”

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

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

Make way for the economic power of Generation A

They may earn only about £2,000 a year but they are 400 million-strong, scattered across the globe and have just bought themselves a fridge.

Meet Generation A, who soon could become the most important economic force on Earth.

Aged between 30 and 40, their per capita income is rising fast and their numbers are forecast to hit one billion within the next two decades. And it is a group whose consumerist aspirations (the “A”) are not about to stop with that fridge.

The emergence of Generation A coincides with a tipping-point reached this year, in which the world’s urban population equals its rural population for the first time. The concept of Generation A has been developed by analysts at Macquarie to explain and track many of the “mega trends” holding the global economy in their sway.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Globalization

Israel tries to play down minister's warning of attack on Iran

Israel yesterday attempted to play down a warning from a senior government minister that an attack on Iran was “unavoidable” if Tehran continued to develop nuclear weapons. The transportation minister, Shaul Mofaz, a key figure in Israel’s dialogue with the US on Iran’s nuclear programme, raised the prospect of a unilateral Israeli attack against Tehran on Friday, adding that international sanctions had been ineffective.

The threat, which is at odds with Israel’s support so far for an international campaign to curtail and, if necessary, confront Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, contributed to frenzied buying in the financial markets, where oil prices soared to a record $139, and sparked an international furore.

Yesterday, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said that “all options must remain on the table”, adding that “tangible steps by the international community” were needed to “put pressure on the regime in Tehran”.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Israel, Middle East

Time Magazine: Bishop vs. Bishop in the Anglican Wars

The first bishop married his gay partner in New Hampshire this weekend. The second bishop will be settling into a new house with his wife in a New Jersey suburb, chosen so that he can shuttle more easily between conservative churches opposed to the first one’s theology and lifestyle.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Church USA and Bishop Martyn Minns of the Anglican Church of Nigeria are the twin bookends of the current struggle within the worldwide Anglican Communion. Fallen bookends, one might add, insofar as they are the only two Anglican bishops so far to be dis-invited from the Communion’s once-a-decade Lambeth Conference this July by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

The tall, British-born Minns, 65, got the boot because he led a batch of U.S. Episcopal congregations, including the one where he was church rector, out of Episcopalianism and into the authority of the Anglican archdiocese of Nigeria ”” primarily out of dismay that Episcopalianism had elected the openly-gay Robinson to be the bishop of New Hampshire. And Robinson, 61, a chatty, gray-haired Kentuckian who once said he looked forward to being a “June bride,” was blackballed from Lambeth, (which will convene in Canterbury), because Williams felt that the Episcopal church in the U.S. had made him a bishop in the teeth of advice by the Anglican leadership not to engage in such a divisive move.

So where does that leave the two antagonists this summer? In each case, the present is about family and the near future about religious politicking. Robinson got hitched Saturday to his partner of 20 years, Mark Andrew, at St. Paul’s Episcopal church in Concord, N.H. in a civil union presided over by a justice of the peace, according to the Concord Monitor. In a recent essay he says he regretted the June bride remark, noting that he should have made a more sober statement about the longing of gays and lesbians to celebrate their own “faithful, monogamous, lifelong-intentioned, holy vows,” the kind of sentiment he also expressed in his recent book In the Eye of the Storm: Pulled to the Center by God.

Minns, meanwhile, is spending his weekend in Morristown, N.J, where he moved last month.

Read it all.

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

Charles Krauthammer: The market is fixing our gasoline problem

Unfortunately, instead of hiking the price ourselves by means of a gasoline tax that could be instantly refunded to the American people in the form of lower payroll taxes, we let the Saudis, Venezuelans, Russians and Iranians do the taxing for us ”” and pocket the money that the tax would have recycled back to the American worker.

This is insanity. For 25 years and with utter futility (starting with “The Oil-Bust Panic,” The New Republic, February 1983), I have been advocating the cure: a U.S. energy tax as a way to curtail consumption and keep the money at home. In this space in May 2004 (and again in November 2005), I called for “the government ”” through a tax ”” to establish a new floor for gasoline,” by fully taxing any drop in price below a certain benchmark. The point was to suppress demand and to keep the savings (from any subsequent world price drop) at home in the U.S. Treasury rather than going abroad. At the time, oil was $41 a barrel. It is now $123.

But instead of doing the obvious ”” tax the damn thing ”” we go through spasms of destructive alternatives, such as efficiency standards, ethanol mandates, and now a crazy carbon cap-and-trade system the Senate debated last week. These are infinitely complex mandates for inefficiency and invitations to corruption. But they have a singular virtue: They hide the cost to the American consumer.

Want to wean us off oil? Be open and honest. The British are paying $8 a gallon for petrol. Goldman Sachs is predicting we will be paying $6 by next year. Why have the extra $2 (above the current $4) go abroad? Have it go to the U.S. Treasury as a gasoline tax and be recycled back into lower payroll taxes.

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

South Carolina to offer license plates with crosses

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Religion & Culture

From the front page of the local paper: Matt's Final Tour

Lucy Dillon is baking cookies when the doorbell rings.

It is two weeks before Christmas in 2006, and her son Matthew and all his Marine Corps buddies want snacks for the holidays. As usual, they’ve turned to her.

Matt asked for the cookies and a fruitcake on one of his frequent calls home the day before. He is in Iraq serving his second tour of duty but sounds so casual he could be phoning from down the street. For some reason Lucy doesn’t understand, those boys over there love fruitcake. Maybe it reminds them of home.

Lucy and her husband, Neal, hear the bell, ask each other “Who could that be?” Neal guesses it is the UPS man. Matt said he sent a Marine Corps flag for the new flagpole in the front yard and that it should arrive any day. Maybe 7:30 p.m. was late for UPS but not out of the question.

Neal is so sure the flag has come that he doesn’t even look up when he opens the door, expecting to find a package from Matt on the front porch.

Instead, he sees two pairs of black patent leather shoes. Two Marines stand at attention on his stoop.

Neal is a veteran, all his boys have served, and he knows what this means. Before the soldiers can speak, Neal quietly asks, “Is my boy dead?”

Before the sergeants can finish ”” “We regret to inform you …” ”” Neal Dillon’s knees buckle and he falls. The Marines can do nothing but catch him.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Iraq War

Orlando Sentinel: Houses of worship entice newcomers with the fellowship of meals

Churches are known for Sunday potlucks and feeding the homeless. But an increasing number of congregations — from small, neighborhood houses of worship to mega-churches — are returning to the timeless tradition of using shared meals as a form of outreach for new members among the unaffiliated and recent arrivals.

Every Wednesday night there is a free dinner for prospective members at First Baptist Church of Orlando, featuring sandwiches, homemade cookies and sodas. Although the fare is simple, great care is taken in the preparation and presentation.

“If it’s a fantastic meal, and then you have a gospel message presentation, it all goes together in creating an environment where someone feels comfortable making a decision for Christ,” said Marcus White, the congregation’s director of food services. “We believe we’re a ministry in itself.”

Using food and fellowship harks back to the earliest days of Christianity. In the first century, the shared meal was a primary method of outreach, fellowship and evangelization following the crucifixion of Jesus.

“A strategy for evangelism based on table fellowship is very much at home in the Christian tradition,” said David Steinmetz of the Duke Divinity School. “There’s nothing new about the importance of food and drink for a genuinely religious life.”

Martin Marty of the University of Chicago agreed — in part.

“We know that the earliest Christians did not have ‘Evangelism Committees’ with sub-committees on ‘How to attract converts with food,’ ” he said. “They had something better: hospitality as a way of life.”

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry