Daily Archives: June 11, 2008

Survey Finds Evangelicals, 'Unaffiliated' at Play in Fall Elections

Nearly one in five evangelicals and Catholics are undecided about which presidential candidate to support, according to a survey released Monday.

In addition, fewer Protestants and Catholics identify themselves as Republicans than did four years ago, according to Calvin College’s Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics in Grand Rapids, Mich., which commissioned the survey.

Protestants, as well as Latino Catholics and religiously unaffiliated Americans, could be the crucial “swing vote in the electorate,” said Kevin den Dulk, a political scientist at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

Read it all.

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

Winter a Worry as Home Heating Oil Spikes in Maine

It isn’t even summer yet, and people in New England are already fretting about how they’ll pay to heat their homes next winter. The region relies heavily on home heating oil, and prices are well above $4 a gallon. Some families barely made it through last winter’s expensive heating season.

Listen to it all.

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

For Muslim women in Europe, a medical road back to virginity

The surgery in the private clinic off the Champs-Élysées involved one semicircular cut, 10 self-dissolving stitches and a discounted fee of $2,900.

But for the patient, a 23-year-old French student of Moroccan descent from Montpellier, the 30-minute procedure represented the key to a new life: the illusion of virginity.

Like an increasing number of other Muslim women in Europe, she had a “hymenoplasty,” a restoration of her hymen, the thin vaginal membrane that normally breaks during the first act of intercourse.

“In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt,” said the student, perched on a hospital bed as she awaited surgery Thursday. “Right now, virginity is more important to me than life.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Health & Medicine, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

Aid Falling Short for people Facing Foreclosures

Watch it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

Abuse victim testifies in trial of Episcopal bishop

The church trial of Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison, accused with concealing his brother’s abuse of a minor, resumed today in Philadelphia with further testimony by the adult victim.

Bishop Bennison, 64, is charged with failing to protect the victim when she was a teenager in his Upland, Calif., parish in the 1970s.

John Bennison, 59, was the parish’s youth minister. Charles Bennison was the rector of the parish.

Martha Alexis, 50, said that Charles Bennison took no steps to protect her from his brother after twice walking in on them while they were having sex on church property.

The church trial, called a Court for the Trial for a Bishop, is being held at the Philadelphia Marriott hotel in Center City.

Bennison has served as the bishop of the five-county Diocese of Pennsylvania for 10 years. He was suspended in October after a special church committee concluded that he had inappropriately protected his brother to further his career.

Read it all.

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

Ephraim Radner: The Counterfeit Claims of SPREAD and the Quest for an Anglican Communion

I, along with many others (”bewitched” or not according to Rodgers) recognize our sad failure as a Communion to make decisions about Scripture well, in the sense of carefully, communally, persuasively, and consensually. These decisions have not happened. TEC didn’t make any, the AMiA didn’t contribute to any, the Global South has not yet accomplished any in a widely persuasive manner. But why should this surprise us and why hold it against Williams in a particular way? Such careful, communal, persuasive, and consensual decisions regarding the meaning of Scripture’s direction of the Christian Church’s life is a rare gift, ever since the Jerusalem Council. Orientals and Catholics failed over centuries; Catholics and Greeks have failed; Lutherans and Roman Catholics on justification failed for years (and recent breakthroughs have not exactly changed the playing field); Anglicans and Presbyterians and Methodists have failed, and all to the rending of the Church’s integrity and subversion of her witness. And yet all these failed efforts engaged the minds, hearts, and labors of saints and theologians far greater than, I dare say, those active in most of our Anglican churches today. Still, for all this, Rodgers’ response to this is “separate!”, as if this will bring health, to anyone involved. It should be instead, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

But the Scripture is clear about all the contentious topic of sexuality, Rodgers would surely say. And I agree with him there; the problem is that not all in the church are persuaded by his or my assertions and arguments. Yes, but the church has already made its decision about this, e.g. at Lambeth. Again, I agree; but she has not made a clear decision about how to deal with those who have rejected Lambeth’s teaching. Yes, but in the meantime (even before!) we must separate from those who are either not persuaded, or have not decided, or who have rejected decision, or who do not yet know how to respond to the rejecters”¦ And why is that? Because the Scriptures are clear on the matter.

In part, this regressive dynamic seems driven by the fundamental belief Rodgers has that the Scriptures need no considered reflection and consensual interpretation in order to govern the Church effectively. For it would appear that the logic of Rodgers’ reasoning leads inexorably, not just to a “church of the like-minded” ”“ that would be fine, if there were such a thing (I am not afraid of agreeing with people; indeed I long for it!) ”“ but to the reduction of “church” to the passing moments of individual certainties where in fact like-mindedness has little chance of solidly emerging. Invitation-only conferences like GAFCON can serve a useful purpose; but not a decision-making one. For there are only some Christians among the Anglican family who are currently persuaded by the claim that the “Scriptures tell us we must separate from Canterbury and split the Communion”. If this were not the case, there would be no “urgent call” and pages of accusation. By definition, Rodgers and his colleagues have not persuaded; and by definition, those they will persuade (and they will, no doubt) will not themselves “be” the Anglican church in any integral way.

Read it all (and please note the original title as for reasons of space I was not able to include it all).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Identity, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Theology

Macroeconomics: A Vatican view on finer points of global food crisis

— …[The Vatican Document] also examined the structural causes of the crisis, and here things get a bit more complicated. The paper pointed to one important shift in developing countries: a lower demand for cereals and a higher demand for protein-rich foods. That has led to more land used to produce animal feed, and less for foods used in direct human consumption.

It said long-standing subsidies to agricultural producers in richer countries have artificially kept down the international price of food products and thus discouraged farming in poorer countries. The result has been large-scale abandonment of local agriculture and increasing urbanization. Today, most poor countries are net importers of food, making them highly vulnerable as prices continue to rise.

— The effects of the food crisis are not equal: The weakest suffer the most, especially children and the urban poor. The document cited U.N. statistics showing that for every 1 percent increase in food prices, 16 million more people fall into “food insecurity.” The way things are going, the number of chronically hungry in the world could rise to 1.2 billion by 2015.

— The document called for reconsideration of the rush to biofuel development, at least during the current crisis. Governments are called to protect the right to nourishment, and it is “unthinkable” for them to diminish the quantity of food products in favor of nonessential energy needs, it said.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Globalization, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Pope Benedict Urges Southeast Asian Bishops to Evangelize With Depth

Benedict XVI continued: “In particular, you need to ensure that the Christian Gospel is in no way confused in their minds with secular principles associated with the Enlightenment.

“On the contrary, by ‘speaking the truth in love’ you can help your fellow citizens to distinguish the wheat of the Gospel from the chaff of materialism and relativism.

“You can help them to respond to the urgent challenges posed by the Enlightenment, familiar to Western Christianity for over two centuries, but only now beginning to have a significant impact upon other parts of the world.”

“While resisting the ‘dictatorship of positivist reason’ that tries to exclude God from public discourse,” the Pope said, “we should welcome the ‘true conquests of the Enlightenment’ — especially the stress on human rights and the freedom of religion and its practice.”

“By stressing the universal character of human rights, grounded in the dignity of the human person created in God’s image, you carry out an important task of evangelization,” the Pontiff said, “since this teaching forms an essential aspect of the Gospel.”

“In so doing,” he added, “you are following in the footsteps of St. Paul, who knew how to express the essentials of Christian faith and practice in a way that could be assimilated by the Gentile communities to which he was sent.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Lauren Winner: Suffering, prayer, and divine healing

Where did this 19th-century movement lead? Although the Pentecostal embrace of divine healing in the 20th century is outside of the scope of Curtis’ study, she suggests some of the ways that Pentecostalism both borrowed from and reshaped the 19th-century tradition of faith healing. And Curtis also pokes, gently, at some of the subtle, and subtly pernicious, effects the faith healing movement might have had on the larger American cultural imagination. She suggests, intriguingly, that perhaps one of the more worrying fruits of the movement was the stigmatizing of invalids: in the context of a God who promised health, “chronic illness or infirmity became increasingly problematic.” Thus, likely unintentionally, the faith cure movement may have “helped foster disparaging attitudes toward the body in pain that have persisted” to the present. The faith healing movement, in other words, contributed to our culture’s assumption that God prefers the able-bodied to the infirm, the vigorous to the halt and the lame.

Heather Curtis has done both the historical guild and the church a great favor in so elegantly narrating the history of a movement that challenged long-standing assumptions about the spiritual utility of corporal pain””and, in so doing, remapped our imaginations and transformed our understanding of suffering.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Pentecostal, Theology

The Bishop of Albany's Diocesan Convention Address

In the Episcopal Church, every man or women ordained as a deacon, priest or bishop publicly states: “I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation.” (BCP) As your bishop, I take this declaration as part of the ordination vows very seriously. I believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are not only the Word of God, but the living Word of God that continues to speak to us to this day and for all time.

In so saying, I am very much aware that the Bible as we know it today is a compilation of works, representing various literary styles, written by human authors over hundreds of years. While parts are intended to be interpreted literally, other parts are figurative, and some are poetic or history. Underlying all of it, however, is God’s inspired truth, as referenced by Paul in II Timothy.

To argue as some have tried, that whatever prohibitions God may have had toward homosexual behavior, as revealed in Leviticus 18 or Romans 1, only applied to the people to which the original text was written, and therefore does not apply to today’s culture, and modern societies’ enlightened understanding of sexuality, would seem to suggest that somehow God was limited in His understanding of human sexuality. I might remind us of the faith we proclaim every time we say the Nicene Creed: “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.” If God is Almighty and if He created all that is, as we proclaim, and as Holy Scripture attests to, how can we say that we are more enlightened in this generation that God was when he first inspired Moses and Paul to write the words He gave them?

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

IEA cuts its forecast for global oil demand and supply; Gazprom predicts oil will reach $250

As expected, the IEA [International Energy Agency] cut slightly its forecast for annual oil demand growth, but surprised the market with a deep reduction in its forecast for supply growth from non-Opec nations, leaving the world more dependent on the producers’ cartel.

It cut its demand growth forecast further by 80,000 b/d to an annual increase of 800,000 b/d because of record high prices, the slowing US economy and the partial removal of fuel subsidies in some Asian countries.

However, the agency warned that so far, there were “very few signs of slowing demand in non-OECD countries where economic growth is far more significant than price in determining demand”.

The cut in the IEA’s forecast for oil demand growth was overshadowed by a larger cut in forecast supplies. The agency cut its forecast for non-Opec supply growth to just 455,000 b/d, or 225,000 b/d below last month’s forecast. It expected most of the non-Opec fresh output to be in the form of biofuels, which would account for 72 per cent of the supply increase.

The non-Opec supply growth forecast for 2008 is now below the growth achieved by the group both in 2007 and 2006, in spite of significantly higher oil prices.

Read it all.

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

To the Class of 2008…

Watch it all from NBC.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

Richard Treloar: Hermeneutics, Homosexuality, and Schism in Anglicanism

The Windsor Report invited the Episcopal Church in the US to explain “from within the sources of authority that we as Anglicans have received in scripture, the apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection, how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ” (§135). Among many other things, the Episcopal Church’s careful response lists a number of issues-stewardship of creation, usury, slavery, just war, abortion, capital punishment, contraception, marriage and divorce, evolution, labor laws, and property rights among them-with respect to which “the Church’s appropriation of Scripture has been complex and in many cases … at odds with the most obvious sense of the biblical text.”

Like “the threat of schism over the role of women in [ordained leadership of] the Church,” the current controversy represents a moment of “severe theological and institutional crisis” for the Episcopal Church, and indeed for the wider Anglican Communion. Following the Episcopal Church’s reconciliation of northern and southern church structures after the Civil War, the House of Bishops refrained from addressing the question of race relations in pastoral letters for the rest of the nineteenth century, resulting in a mass exodus of African Americans and prompting one historian to describe the General Convention of 1865 as “abhorring ecclesiastical schism more than the suffering of people held in bondage.”74 Today the Episcopal Church seems prophetically clear about which violence is greater, and the more greatly to be abhorred.

The “lesser” violence of schism, however, is not to be suffered lightly, for preserving ecclesial communion as the proper context for hermeneutical work is integral to an Anglican understanding of reception of the living Word through the written word, traditioned experience, and reasoned reflection. “In the process of discernment and reception,” urges the 1997 Virginia Report, “relationships need to be maintained, for only in fellowship is there opportunity for correcting one-sidedness or ignorance.”75 For good and ill, the Anglican Communion enjoys no structure equivalent to the Pontifical Biblical Commission in the Roman tradition. For good, possibly, a broad church with soft edges has flourished seasonally and regionally, creating a healthy dialectical environment for theological discourse. For ill, certainly, implicitness has for too long governed its hermeneutical theories and argumentative practice. Under such conditions it is too easy for ecclesial identity-formation to become culturally fraternal, and thus biblically fratricidal and idolatrous.

As the Anglican Church narrows and hardens-to the point of being brittle-around positions on what the Bible says (or doesn’t say) in relation to this issue, greater accountabihty is needed to what its own tradition teaches the Bible is, and, in the unprotected space of public discourse, to those wider canons of sense-making by which our structurally murderous desire is held in reasonable check. Clearly the resources exist within the formularies and plausibility structures of Anglicanism to make such things explicit. By attending to these more intentionally, perhaps we can learn to be more fully ourselves: to “come out” as Anghcans-gay, lesbian, and straight-precisely by “staying in” communion.

Please take the time to read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Ecclesiology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Iraqi Dominican details life in war-torn country

Before the war, life under sanctions was difficult, …[Sister Diana] said, but there was little violence and she and others were free to pursue their education and worship openly. Now, violence is rampant and random, medicine and medical care are in short supply, electricity is limited to several hours each day, travel is difficult and students only attend school sporadically.

“People thought (the war) would change Iraq, but it didn’t turn out the way they thought,” she said. “We thought it would be different. They promised us there would be freedom.”

Instead, Sister Diana said, “the future of our children is in danger. It’s kind of a tragedy when kids grow up seeing car bombs and bodies in the street. This is not normal. It’s like a fiction movie.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Iraq War, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

The Diocesan Synod Address of Bishop Bolton of Cork, Cloyne and Ross

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Identity, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of Ireland