Daily Archives: June 25, 2008

GAFCON Pilgrims Explore Church’s Response to HIV/AIDS

GAFCON pilgrims spent time on Tuesday, June 24, exploring how two Anglican provinces, Uganda and Nigeria, are working to limit new HIV/AIDS infections and care for those affected by the disease.

Keeping the Gospel message of transformation central is key to Uganda’s approach, said the Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, provincial secretary for the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda. Almost every diocese is directly engaged in fighting HIV/AIDS and its affects, he added.

Their efforts, with the efforts of many others, have been very successful. During the mid 1980’s as much as 30 percent of Uganda’s total population was infected with HIV/AIDS. By 2005 that figure had fallen dramatically to 6.7 percent.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

WSJ Front Page: Battered consumers turn glummer

American consumers, battered by falling home prices and soaring gasoline prices, are at their gloomiest in decades, raising fears they might cut back on spending later this year and tip the economy into a recession.

Consumer confidence plunged in June to its lowest level since 1992, and home-price declines accelerated in April, according to data released Tuesday. The renewed signs of economic weakness increased the likelihood that Federal Reserve policy makers, who wrap up a two-day meeting Wednesday, will hold the target for their benchmark interest rates steady at 2%.

The Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, said consumer confidence dropped to 50.4 in June from 58.1 last month. The scale — which uses as its benchmark a 1985 level of 100 — peaked most recently at 111.9 in July 2007. Consumers’ expectations of the economy six months ahead plunged to the lowest levels since the board began conducting its surveys in 1967.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Travis Kavulla: Remaking Anglicanism

Some Episcopalians have accused American conservatives of manipulating African bishops. Barbara Harris, an Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts, has even claimed that African bishops’ loyalty has been “bought with chicken dinners.” But it is clear that, at GAFCON, Africans are calling the shots. The event grew out of a Nairobi meeting of African bishops, and Africans are paying their own way. Peter Akinola, the primate of the Nigerian church and the chairman of the gathering, raised $1.2 million in three weeks for the conference. Indeed, his church even subsidized the attendance of a number of Americans, and Akinola has employed a young American priest as his private chaplain for the event.

At GAFCON, the African church ”” the largest church ”” is signalling that, by rights of dogma and demography, it should be calling the shots. Robert Duncan, the conservative bishop of Pittsburgh, says that the conference’s task is nothing less than to prepare for a “post-colonial” Anglicanism that has “come of age.” Certainly the choice to hold GAFCON in the Holy Land, and not in England, is a powerful statement about where conservatives see their origins and, too, their legitimacy.

There is, of course, a certain irony to all of this. The West once redeemed Africa for Christianity; now it is the Africans who seek to do the redeeming. African prelates see themselves as repaying a favor. Benjamin Nzimbi, archbishop of Nairobi, tells me that he sees GAFCON as a way of “reclaiming Anglicanism the way we received it.” Certainly Africans to have the advantage, as their churches grow and the Episcopal Church shrinks.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

NPR: Evangelical Leader Blasts 2006 Obama Speech

On Tuesday, James Dobson ”” a prominent evangelical leader ”” took exception to Obama’s 2006 speech.

“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,” Dobson said on his Focus on the Family radio program, which claims 200 million listeners worldwide.

For 18 minutes, Dobson excoriated Obama for his political stands ”” especially Obama’s belief that a politician must take into account a variety of views on moral issues.

“Now that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution,” Dobson said. “This is why we have elections. To support what we believe to be wise and moral. We don’t have to go to the lowest common denominator of morality, which is what he is suggesting.”

Not surprisingly, Shaun Casey, who advises Obama on religious issues, argues that the candidate’s view is a mainstream interpretation of the Constitution. Casey says Dobson’s criticism is not really about theology. On the one hand, Casey says, Dobson is frustrated that Republicans chose John McCain as their nominee, a man whom Dobson has said publicly he will not vote for.

“And I think on the other hand, he’s frustrated that Sen. Obama’s outreach to evangelicals seems to be getting some traction at the grass-roots level, as well as among a number of prominent evangelical leaders,” he adds.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

USA Today: U.S. poor are vulnerable to 'neglected' diseases

Tropical diseases that ravage Africa, Asia and Latin America commonly occur among the poor in the USA, leaving thousands of people shattered by debilitating complications including mental retardation, heart disease and epilepsy, an analysis showed Monday.

The diseases, caused by chronic viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, disproportionately strike women and children and are largely overlooked by doctors, says author Peter Hotez of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, part of Sabin Vaccine Institute.

Hotez says the diseases go untreated in hundreds of thousands of poor people who live mainly in inner cities, the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia and the Mexican borderlands.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Poverty

Pope Benedict XVI's letter to the Catholic Biblical Federation

Christianity is the Religion of the Word of God, “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living” (Saint Bernard, S. Missus est 4, 11 PL 183, 86). It is only Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, who through the Holy Spirit, can open our minds to understand the Scriptures (cf. Lk 24:15, Catechism, 108). I warmly encourage you therefore not only to continue to make known the profound relevance of the Scriptures to the contemporary experience of Catholics and particularly to the younger generations, but also to lead them to interpret them from the central perspective of Christ and his Paschal mystery. The community of believers can be the leaven of reconciliation, but only if “she remains docile to the Spirit and bears witness to the Gospel, only if she carries the Cross like Jesus and with Jesus” (Homily, Solemnity of Pentecost, 11 May 2008). In this regard, I wish to make my own a reflection from the Servant of God, Pope John Paul ii, who observed: “How indeed can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation between Christians?” (Ut Unum Sint, 98). Let this observation also find its way into your undertakings these days. May your hearts be guided always by the Holy Spirit in the unifying power of the word of God.

All Christians are called to imitate the openness of Mary who received the Word of God “in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world” (Lumen Gentium, 53). May the peoples of Africa receive this Word as the life-giving source of reconciliation and justice, and especially of the true peace that comes only from the Risen Lord.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,

fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

–Romans 4:21, 22

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Sister Denise Desil seeking to Make a Difference for Christ

Many hungry Haitians come to the sisters’ health clinics expecting food, but the stocks have dwindled.

Desperate bandits not long ago kidnapped one of the sisters and the community vehicle. The nun escaped, but the men demanded a hefty ransom for the car, which the sisters paid.

Asked why the dioceses and the government do not support the nuns’ ministry, Sister Denise explains that the church and civil officials have their own problems. The sisters do not involve themselves in advocacy in the halls of government. They try to let their work do the talking.

The cost of a 110-pound sack of rice in Haiti had risen to more than $50, or a fifth of the average worker’s annual salary. But unemployment rates have soared to 85 percent or more.

More than 60 percent of Haiti’s eight million people are malnourished. One in five Haitian children dies before age 5 because of disease and malnutrition.

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

Christian Novel–The Shack– Is a Surprise Best Seller

Eckhart Tolle may have Oprah Winfrey, but “The Shack” has people like Caleb Nowak.

Mr. Nowak, a maintenance worker near Yakima, Wash., first bought a copy of “The Shack,” a slim paperback novel by an unknown author about a grieving father who meets God in the form of a jolly African-American woman, at a Borders bookstore in March. He was so taken by the story of redemption and God’s love that he promptly bought 10 more copies to give to family and friends.

“Everybody that I know has bought at least 10 copies,” Mr. Nowak said. “There’s definitely something about the book that makes people want to share it.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Religion & Culture

Bill Atwood at GAFCON–Atwood – Anglicanism faces many challenges

Bishop Bill Atwood of Kenya emphasised in a press briefing Tuesday that there are many chore issues that have been a point of contention. Responding to a query from the international media about whether it is conscionable that “one narrow point should tear the church,” Atwood said:

The starkness of disagreement is not narrow. The identity of Jesus, the place of salvation, scripture application, and how to apply changes, are some of the issues which we have to look at to maintain the Christian way.”

Bishop Bill Atwood is one of the leaders of the workshop on Gospel and Culture at GAFCON.

He said that in examining the essentials of the Gospel against the expression of the Gospel, GAFCON is looking to discern the principles of how to go forward, mindful to see that culture does not overwhelm the message of the Gospel.

“There could be new voluntary associations emerging, with shared purpose and vision, which will look for new mechanisms of expression. Previous associations do not have to be terminated, but the new ones would have purpose and vision,” he said in response to whether there would be a break-away from the Anglican church. “It is not possible to tell how things will turn out at the end of the week. We have a number of workshops in which different people are making an input. We’ll put it all together to help show us the future.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

Charlie Martin: Why Trains Just Don’t Work in America

So why are trains so popular in Europe? Simple: Europe is smaller. My Basel to Paris trip is 250 miles; Denver to New York is 1,625 miles. Why is Amtrak popular in the Northeast? Because, here we go, the distances are comparable to Europe: Washington, DC, to New York is 203 miles.

To make train travel competitive, you’d need to raise airline ticket prices about 15 times, say with an excise tax or a tariff. Raising the airline ticket prices 15 times would, of course, pretty well end the airline industry as we know it; rock stars and CEOs would be about all that was left. Although I suppose they’d give their occasional traveler a second bag of peanuts if asked.

New technology won’t help all that much for a nationwide system, either. The French TGV train ”” I love French: train à grande vitesse just sounds so much inherently cooler than “really fast train” ”” really only travels about 200 miles an hour; even maglev trains are not a lot faster. That would cut the travel time in half, making the total travel time to New York only, hoo-hah, 45 hours.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Europe

The Independent: Is the Anglican Communion heading towards an inevitable split?

In recent decades the Anglican Communion has been sharply divided over a number of issues, particularly whether homosexuality should be accepted and tolerated in the Church. But things are really coming to a head. Next month bishops from around the world are due to gather in Canterbury for the once every-10-years Lambeth Conference, but more than 200 from conservative dioceses ”“ predominantly but not exclusively from Africa ”“ have boycotted the event and are this week attending a rival conference in Jerusalem instead.

Although organisers of the so-called Global Anglican Future Conference say they have no intention of splitting the Anglican Church or setting up a rival one, it represents one of the most serious threats to the authority of the global leader of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

John Kavanaugh: Pulpits, Politics and the person of the Proclaimer

As a preacher myself, I know there are few moments to compare with the affection and approval of parishioners after Mass, especially if you have been helpful in strengthening their faith. But the most distressing moment for me was the one homily I gave that evoked applause. Of course, it was gratifying; but it was disturbing. What was the applause for? The Gospel? The Eucharist? Maybe the stirring indictment of both church and state? Or for me?

There are many styles of preaching. But I have always felt a suspicion of styles that call too much attention to the preacher, whether by extravagant display or studied hyperbole. This becomes particularly dangerous when “preaching to the choir,” who applaud your indictments of everyone but the choir.

The priest preacher is a mediator. The danger is that the mediator can become the message. If the preacher is short on self-knowledge and personal restraint, his own preaching becomes, sadly, more important even than the Eucharist itself or, in non-eucharistic congregations, more important than even the Gospel. The preacher becomes the message. And that is disastrous.

The disaster finally hit Father Pfleger and the parish he loves. It also wounded Barack Obama. In the senator’s search for a new faith community, I hope he finds a church that nourishes his faith and family. I hope, also, he finds a preacher who is more into the Gospel than he is into his performance.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture

From the I didn't Know That Department

Both John McCain and Barack Obama are left-handed, as indeed four out of the last six American Presidents have been.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

A BBC Norhern Ireland set of Audio reports on GAFCON

There are two segments here, the first an introductory one with Robert Piggott and the second with two Church of Ireland leaders, one of whom is participating in GAFCON, the other of whom is a member of the Church of Ireland General Synod. Listen to them both (about 19 minutes total).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Ireland, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates