Daily Archives: August 16, 2008

Notable and Quotable (II)

With the Fall programs, and regular attendance in church, every member canvasses will be getting to their final stages””unless you use year-round canvasses. But, has your Vestry implemented a planned giving program to benefit your church? I had a phone message last week from a Rector informing me of a $50,000 bequest of which the church was notified. That is one Vestry with a pleasant task of dealing with the remembrance of its mission efforts. This type of task is one that comes from a planned giving program which starts with wills””have you remembered the Church in your will?

The receiving of bequests is the result of intentional teaching of the gospel and its message of abundance and thanksgiving. The Foundation is a resource to provide you with materials, speakers, and information to assist you in informing our members of this scriptural requirement. It would be a blessing to report to Convention that EVERY church in the Diocese had received an appropriate bequest. This will not happen without intentional instruction from our church leaders.

–Rick Harrison Smith, the Executive Director of the Episcopal Foundation, as quoted in the Aurora, the online newsletter of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry, Stewardship

A Letter from Assisting Bishop of Pittsburgh Henry Scriven to the Diocese

I am writing to share with you the news that I have been invited (and have accepted) the invitation to take up a key mission post for South America with South American Mission Society (SAMS)/Church Mission Society (CMS). SAMS and CMS are currently finalizing integration talks that may well lead to the formation of a single organization of both of these mission agencies. Their final decisions are expected by early December, after which I will become either Director for South America in the newly-integrated society or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for a continuing SAMS.

CMS has a very exciting vision for worldwide mission in the Anglican Communion and SAMS will complete the vision with the South American contribution. SAMS administratively has been scattered around England and this move would consolidate all the staff at the CMS headquarters in Oxford. The long term vision is to enable a South American mission office which would coordinate mission work in, from and to South America. Obviously my history with SAMS both in Argentina and Spain (now 18 years ago) and my experience on the SAMS USA board will be very useful.

So, apart from the excitement of a new challenge, why am I leaving Pittsburgh now? One thing I need to be very clear about is that my decision does not reflect any change of heart regarding realignment or my confidence in the vision and leadership of the diocese. Most of you will know of the birth of our first granddaughter in December 2007. Sophie is certainly a major pull for both Catherine and me; we would love to be nearer the family to be able to support them. It is an added bonus that our son, Joel, and his wife Sarah, live in Oxford, at least until he finishes his doctoral studies.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Episcopal Church (TEC), Missions, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh

Pitt letters focus spotlight on Archbishop of Canterbury’s view of gay sex

However, in an interview with The Church of England Newspaper in April 2008, Dr Williams backed away from his conclusive views on the morality of homosexual conduct, while statements last week at the Lambeth Conference about “wrong” sexual conduct, have further muddied the waters.

In a 1989 essay The Body’s Grace, Dr Williams wrote that “the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous biblical texts or on a problematical and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation.”

Asked in April by CEN whether he still held to this view, Dr Williams replied, “What I said about the ambiguity of the scriptural texts would need a lot of qualification. “What we have to say theologically about the nature of sexual identity is still to me unfinished business,” Dr Williams stated.

Asked during a July 21 press conference what he believed would constitute “wrong” sexual behaviour, Dr Williams responded in language that appeared to affirm the moral validity of public same-sex unions or partnerships. What would be “wrong” would be “any relationship which is outside a covenant, public covenant of mutual support, love in the presence of God.” Dr Williams added: “I don’t believe that sex outside marriage is as God purposes it.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ethics / Moral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Ken Briggs in NCR: Anglicans at Lambeth, familiar divisions, different resolutions

The just-completed Lambeth Conference opened itself to instant ridicule by doing little more than talking and keeping a formal split at bay for the moment. Liberals refused to declare an ultimatum that would force the dissenters to stay or go. Some were angered by what they saw as Lambeth’s toothlessness. Conservatives didn’t quite defect, though many scoffed at Lambeth as a waste of time and $12 million, and proclaimed their readiness to quit.

But to dismiss the conference as a failure of nerve would miss the point that is so vividly illustrated in this crisis: that Christianity itself, in all of its varieties, is a fragile thing indeed. There is every reason to believe that Anglicanism is beset by as many serious moral and theological problems as any church body. The distinctions arise in how denominations meet those challenges.

The Anglican way of openness to opposing views and a decentralized form of government that allows for broad deliberation has much to commend it. Like democracy with which it shares much, Anglican decision making is messy and inefficient, but it comports well with what many leading historians believe to be the method used by the churches of early Christianity. It allows for considerable diversity in belief and practices but sometimes an issue like homosexuality becomes divisive and demands attention.

The archbishop of Canterbury more resembles the Eastern Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople as the “first among equals” than he does the pope. He can do almost nothing by himself. At every level, from parishes to dioceses to regions to the world conferences, Anglicans argue and vote. The question is whether this is a God-given means of deciding church teaching. In some form or other, it appears that the early church believed it to be.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Lambeth 2008, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

A Church Times Article on still more Bishop's Reflections on Lambeth 2008

The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, said that he had been “exhilarated and moved” by the Conference, and found positives in the “definite steer” towards commitment to a Covenant process and in “recognition that a covenant clearly has to have some teeth”. He described the develop­ment of structures as “a huge achievement. . . The Anglican Communion has not had over­arching structures capable of bearing this strain.”

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael Perham, said that “people came to realise that they wanted us at all costs to find ways of staying together in one Communion, recognising the huge loss if we do not.”

There had been some shifting of ground between “the liberal bishops who came to Lambeth very doubtful about the concept of the Covenant; the more conservative bishops and provinces clear it was needed”. Moratoriums had best been described as “a gracious season of restraint”, Bishop Perham said.

He observed: “One of the key changes in the Anglican picture as a result of Lambeth is the enhanced authority of Archbishop Rowan. Conservatives and liberals alike, as well as all those of us who don’t fit either label, were inspired by his scholarly, gentle and holy leadership.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008, TEC Bishops

James Bowman: Is Stupid Making Us Google?

Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.” Sound familiar? Describing, in The Atlantic Monthly, his own struggles to keep his attention span from contracting like the wild ass’s skin in Balzac’s novel, Nicholas Carr cites a British study of research habits among visitors to two serious scholarly websites which suggests a more general problem: that “users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of ”˜reading’ are emerging as users ”˜power browse’ horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.”

Almost seems? I don’t know about Mr. Carr, but I have no doubt that I go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense. The question is, how guilty do I need to feel about this? In his view, presumably, quite a lot guilty, since by reading online as much as I do I am depriving myself of the ability to read offline. He takes this insight to an even more alarming conclusion in the end, writing that “as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.” And if that’s the case for veteran readers, think how much worse it must be for the jeunesse dorée of the information age, if they never developed the habits that accompany “deep reading” in the first place.
It is these poor cultural orphans, for whom “information retrieval” online is the only kind of reading they know, who are the main concern of Mark Bauerlein in his new book, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. One would think that a whole future in jeopardy would be too serious a matter for the flippancy of the rest of the subtitle: Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30. But Professor Bauerlein, who teaches English at Emory University and is a former director of research and analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts, is not always sure just how much a matter of mirth “the dumbest generation” is, or isn’t. After all, it is not really their fault if, as he says, they have been “betrayed” by the mentors who should have taught them better. Yet he seems to agree with Nicholas Carr that what we are witnessing is not just an educational breakdown but a deformation of the very idea of intelligence.

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

Religious center falls far short, Olympians say

The Olympic Village’s religious center has become the target of a quiet protest by athletes, coaches and other delegates who say its staffing and services fall woefully short of the promises made by Chinese organizers.

Previous Olympic hosts welcomed foreign chaplains, but China has banned them from living with the athletes. It has instead pledged that it will provide equivalent services from its pool of state-employed pastors, imams and other clerics.

Josh McAdams, 28, an American athlete who runs the 3,000-meter steeplechase, said members of the U.S. track and field team have been “quite dissatisfied” with the center. Not only are the services conducted in broken English, most staff members do not have experience with sports or with foreigners.

“They should allow chaplains””perhaps one from each country””to be in the village. … This is important, because for many of us, athletics is not only physical and mental but spiritual,” said McAdams, who is Mormon.

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

Bishop Lamb: Unlikely to Depose San Joaquin Clergy Friday

Bishop Lamb noted that his efforts to communicate with alienated clergy have been hampered by the fact that he does not have an updated list of clergy and addresses. That information remains in the possession of the Anglican Diocese of the San Joaquin, led by Bishop John-David Schofield.

On Aug. 4, Bishop Schofield, his standing committee and diocesan council wrote to Bishop Lamb informing him that “we accept the recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury of our bishop and reject any purported authority of The Episcopal Church, or Bishop Jerry Lamb, over any of our ministries. Our obligation is to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the world-wide Anglican Communion.”

Bishop Lamb expressed cautious optimism about the Windsor Continuation Group proposals unveiled during the Lambeth Conference.

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