Daily Archives: August 21, 2008

Minette Marrin: I’m not religious, but there’s something about funerals

Something strange seems to happen at one of the most important and terrible moments of life and I hardly believe it is only to me; throughout one of the central moments of our culture and our personal experiences one has to keep editing out, so to speak, the bits that one truly cannot accept. This is even worse if one is unlucky enough to have a silly or tactless vicar, a rash intruding priest who tramples on gentle Anglican ambiguities and uncertainties.

I feel the same reading religious poetry or sermons, some of which I love. Poetry, like religion, is supposed to be about truth, or at least to be truthful, and yet if one has constantly to translate, so to speak, some of its central ideas into another idiom ”“ if one has to translate the religious notion of redemption into something secular, for example ”“ there comes a moment when it loses its power, or at least when one cannot take it seriously.

Some people I talked to, a couple of them actors and agnostics, were not troubled by any of this. They said that they are affected by sound, performance, the power of words; they don’t seem to be confined by my literal-mindedness. I do see that literal-mindedness can be petty and reductive; a great deal of communication happens outside literal meaning. All the same, for an unbeliever what meaning can there be at all in Julian of Norwich’s saying that all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well? Words are only partly music; they must offer sense as well as sensation.

Yet what alternative can there be to one’s own tradition? It is hard, unilaterally and suddenly, to create a new ritual…

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

A.S. Haley: Victories in Virginia

Chancellor [Daivd] Beers goes on to recount all the many ways in which the actions of the churches, their rectors and their vestries have violated “numerous rules of the Church and state law,” and notes that the Dar-es-Salaam communique called for assurances that no property would be alienated (conveyed away to others) without appropriate consent. He then observes: “The Church is unaware of any movement in this regard on the part of the congregations involved in the pending litigation.”

“Movement?” All he has to do is propose a stipulation that there will be no conveyances; the parties can sign it, the court approves it, and there is the requisite “assurance.” No, this is not the real reason why TEC will not agree to a standstill. The letter goes on to reveal the true reasons:

In these circumstances, it would be premature, to say the least, for the Church at this time to withdraw from or agree to suspend the litigation, thereby ceasing its efforts to protect its interests and that of its past, current, and future members in seeing that parish property be used for the Church’s ministry and mission. Any proposal for such a step should be considered by the Church in connection with all the other recommendations of the Primates’ communique that are under consideration by the leaders and other interested persons within the Church, and in the context of developments that may protect the Church’s interests in other ways. As noted, this involves a process that will be undertaken over time, in accordance with the rules and procedures of the Church.

Thus, the suspension of this litigation at this time would not be appropriate.

Translation: “A standstill with you will never happen, because there are just too many bishops and ‘other interested persons within the Church’ [??!] who want this fight to go forward. There is just too much at stake in terms of power, and any one bishop or church chancellor, or even a few of them together, who called for such a step would immediately be branded as cowards in the eyes of their colleagues. See you back in court.” (And this interpretation of Mr. Beers’s letter was borne out just weeks later, by the pugnacious statements in response to the communique issued from Camp Allen by the House of Bishops.)

Well, here we are now, one year and six months later, and what has this stubborn strategy obtained for TEC and the Diocese of Virginia? The score, by my tally, is currently five to nothing in favor of the withdrawing CANA churches….

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

Christopher Bantick: Divided church cannot stand

Lambeth has not resolved the matter of the ordination of gay clergy and consecration of gay bishops.

It is this issue, together with the ordination of female bishops, which has divided the church. While there was no defined schism at Lambeth, the Anglican church us a suppurating sore.

There is no easy way of saying this. The Anglican Church is fast becoming, if not already, dysfunctional. It is a divided house, it cannot stand.

Moreover, there is a significant delusion regarding its future. Over gay clergy, never the twain shall meet.

To this end, the covenant or moratorium over the ordination of gay clergy, achieved at the Lambeth conference, is unlikely to last.

The North American branch of Anglicanism is being held entirely accountable for the demise of the church’s unity over the 2003 ordination of gay bishop Gene Robinson. It has not given a rolled gold assurance it will desist from ordination of gay bishops or bless same sex unions.

In fact, Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, said: “For people who think this is going to lead us to disenfranchise any gay or lesbian person, they are sadly mistaken.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Lambeth 2008

USA Today: Speak out, lose job

Speaking up in the military can be hazardous to the health of your career, even when it’s done to help wounded soldiers or the families of fallen warriors.

Last Friday, an Army social services coordinator who told USA TODAY about poor conditions in barracks for wounded soldiers at Fort Sill, Okla., was forced to resign. In June, the public affairs director at Arlington National Cemetery was fired after she defended news coverage of funerals when the families of fallen soldiers wanted that coverage.

Chuck Roeder, the now ex-social worker at Fort Sill, was a strong advocate for soldiers’ concerns. He “saved a couple of soldiers’ lives” by helping them get through tough times, Sgt. Willard Barnett, a veteran of the Iraq war, told USA TODAY’s Gregg Zoroya. Based on a tip from Roeder, later confirmed by several soldiers, Zoroya reported Monday that a unit for wounded soldiers was infested with mold and that soldiers had been ordered not to speak about the conditions. Fort Sill’s commander said the problems are being fixed. But Roeder won’t be around to see the results of his advocacy.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces

Presbyterian pastor due back in church court over gay wedding

A Presbyterian minister who officiated at a lesbian wedding in 2005 is heading for church court again, two years after charges against her were dismissed on a technicality.

The Rev. Janet Edwards of Pittsburgh will again face possible expulsion if convicted by the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Pittsburgh Presbytery.

Edwards will appear before the commission Oct. 1, to answer charges that she defied her ordination vows and Presbyterian Church (USA) rules by officiating at the Pittsburgh wedding of a lesbian couple in 2005.

“I am trying really hard to speak clearly about how what I did reflects Jesus’ love and justice, and so I hope the permanent judicial council acquits me,” Edwards said.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Exiting Iraq, Petraeus Says Gains Are Fragile

In the final days of his campaign to bring Iraq under control, Gen. David H. Petraeus sat in his office at the American Embassy here looking drawn, exhausted, and more than a few years older than when he took command 18 months ago.

More than once as he spoke of his tenure, the general stopped to cough. An intensely energetic man who prides himself on besting young recruits in tests of strength and endurance, General Petraeus, 55, said Monday that he had been forced to scale back his punishing daily workouts to three a week.

“There is not much in the tank at the end of the day,” he said.

Yet for all the signs of fatigue, General Petraeus is preparing to leave Iraq a remarkably safer place than it was when he arrived. Violence has plummeted from its apocalyptic peaks, Iraqi leaders are asserting themselves, and streets that once seemed dead are flourishing with life. The worst, for now, has been averted.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

Consumer fallout: Fannie, Freddie make loans impossible for many

Lenders who must satisfy the requirements of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ”” the dominant buyers of U.S. mortgage debt ””now are demanding bank statements, big cash reserves and second appraisals before they approve a loan to refinance a home.

“The lenders are making it so difficult to qualify,” said Jaye, who now mainly works with homebuyers snapping up foreclosed properties and homes selling for deep discounts.

“I know everybody’s scared right now, but It’s just so over-the top.”

Mortgage rates are hovering around 6.6 percent, about the same level as a year ago. But if investors weren’t so nervous, rates would be about 1 percentage point lower, based on historical comparisons.

“Mortgage debt is viewed as much riskier now than it was a couple of years ago during the housing boom,” said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

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

Chinese math students believe destiny is in numbers

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Education

The Diocese of Virginia Statement on Yesterday's Court Ruling

From here:

While we are disappointed in today’s ruling, we are committed to exploring every option available to restore constitutional and legal protections for all churches in Virginia. Meanwhile, we look ahead to the October trial and the issues to be considered in the fall.

The Diocese remains firmly committed to ensuring that loyal Episcopalians, who have been forced to worship elsewhere, will be able to return to their Episcopal homes. Generations of Episcopalians pledged themselves to the Diocese in order to ensure a lasting legacy of Episcopal faith and worship in Virginia.

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

Washington Times: Diocese of Virginia Effort to retain church property suffers third defeat in court

A Fairfax County judge dealt the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia a third defeat in their efforts to retain millions of dollars of church property being held by 11 breakaway congregations.

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Randy I. Bellows ruled on whether the U.S. Constitution’s contracts clause applies to the case and whether the breakaway churches had the right to invoke what’s been termed the “division statute,” an 1867 law that allows a majority of a breakaway church to retain the property.

The judge said the contracts clause would apply to any church property before 1867; however, historically in Virginia, denominations could not own church property at the time; only trustees of each church could.

The diocese and the Episcopal Church had asserted in an Aug. 11 hearing that even if they did not own the properties, they had vested pre-contractual rights to them.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues

Graham Kings–Patience and Urgency: Lambeth Conference 2008

In his second Presidential Address, the Archbishop stated that he hoped that Lambeth 2008 would ”˜speak from the centre’, which is not ”˜the middle point between two extremes’, but ”˜the heart of our identity as Anglicans’, which ultimately is that ”˜deepest centre which is our awareness of living in, and as, the Body of Christ.’ He went on, riskily and imaginatively, to enter the world of the ”˜innovator’ and the ”˜traditionalist’ concerning sexuality and tried to describe them from the inside and their respective calls for generosity. Surprisingly, and perhaps deliberately, he left little room to develop the depth of the ”˜centre’.

This was left for the Concluding Presidential Address, on the last Sunday. At the end of a conference without ”˜resolutions’, it was magisterially resolute. The Archbishop not only held the Communion together but moved it deeper into Christ and forward in intensification. Intriguingly, he used the phrase ”˜Anglican Church’ several times, and time will be needed to elucidate this hint.

Bishops from The Episcopal Church USA who wanted to press ahead with their ecclesial sexual inclusion project and ignore the Windsor Process and the Anglican Covenant, had been carefully ”˜minded’ by their media advisers not to react in anger. They went away tight lipped. They were angry, but not in public. Their thoughts were expressed by Susan Russell, the President of Integrity USA, when she called this address an ”˜11th-hour sucker punch’.
The Archbishop lucidly expressed the mind of the Lambeth Conference, drawing on the reflections from the indaba groups, and clearly articulated the central way forward, which is the continuation of the Windsor Process and the Covenant. On the two key subjects of sexual ethics and ecclesiology, he reiterated the vital importance of three moratoria: on the authorisation of same-sex blessings, on the consecration of bishops in same-sex unions and on cross provincial interventions.

These interventions by some conservative Primates from Africa and the Southern Cone of Latin America had been declared by them, from the beginning, to be ”˜temporary’ until something officially was set up. Something official has now been announced and is being urgently set up – the Pastoral Forum, ”˜strengthened by arrangements like the suggested Communion Partners initiative in the USA’. There is no real need for them, on their side, to be angry or tight lipped. In fact, there is encouragement in the Archbishop’s final words concerning inviting ”˜those absent from Lambeth to be involved in these next stages’ and of looking for ”˜the best ways of building bridges’ with GAFCON.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Forward in Faith: A Letter from fourteen bishops of the Church of England

The Lambeth Conference has given us good opportunities to meet together to talk and support one another. We want to share with you the experience that through our time together we have discovered a new sense of unity among us as bishops, and indeed our need of one another. In conversation we have become increasingly aware of the many priests and deacons, as well as other faithful, who are looking to us for a lead at the moment.

It is particularly to you, the 1,400 clergy who signed the open letter to the Archbishops, that we are writing, but we hope you will share this letter, as we shall, with others, both clergy and parish members, who share our concerns.
We write to assure you that we understand the difficulties we are all facing in the light of the instruction by General Synod to the Legislative Drafting Group (“The Manchester Group”) to prepare legislation with only a statutory code of practice for those unable for reasons of theological conviction to recognise or accept the ordination of women to the episcopate in the absence of wider Catholic consensus.

We identify with your difficult and painful feelings because they are ours too. It is now clear that the majority in this General Synod, and probably in the Church of England at large, believes it is right to admit women to the episcopate.

If that is so, it is vital for the most catholic of reasons that there must be no qualifications or restrictions to their ministry. That means however that proper ecclesial provision must be made for those who cannot accept this innovation.

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

Why 'Godspell' won't be on Broadway this fall

Now it’s “Godspell” that is saying “no go” on Broadway.

A revival of the 1970s Stephen Schwartz flower-power musical about Jesus has announced it will not open as scheduled, the fourth production to put on hold plans for a New York run this season.

“I am devastated that, due to the loss of a major investor in the harsh reality of a slowing economy, there were no other options at this time than to postpone,” Adam Epstein, “Godspell” producer, said Tuesday in a statement.

“Godspell” had been set to open October 23 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The musical, reportedly budgeted at more than $4 million, joins a growing number of shows that are doubtful for Broadway engagements in a nervous, recession-wary environment.

“There are so many variables in bringing a production to Broadway — theater availability, artists’ schedules, and securing capitalization to name but a few,” said Howard Sherman, executive director of the American Theatre Wing.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays

Bishop Pierre Whalon: On polygamy, homosexuality, and generosity

There are examples of exceptions to the Church’s moral teaching made for pastoral reasons. The African adaptation of the teaching on marriage so as to be able to incorporate polygamists and their wives is a good example. This exception also allows African Anglicans to teach the classic doctrine that marriage is for one man, one woman. One could object that allowing polygamists into the church””at whatever level””is de facto an approval of adultery. That in fact was the initial objection, and on the face of it, polygamy (or polyandry, or its contemporary expression in the West, polyamory), is adulterous in nature. However, the overriding concerns of justice for the wives and children, and mercy for the polygamist, allow the exception to be made. From the biblical perspective, some evidence is found to allow polygamy, as the Mormons will tell you, even though the prophets and the church of the New Testament did not accept it. This ambiguity also gives the exception some sort of biblical backing.

On this basis an exception can be made, and it is clear that Anglicans everywhere now accept it. That the Lambeth Conference came into being to advise on the case of Bishop Colenso, deposed for, among other things, advocating this exception, is proof that this process of approval is by no means automatic or rapid.

However, while a province may make such exceptions, there are limits. Polygamists are not allowed to add more wives, for instance. In particular, when one makes a pastoral exception for a certain group of people, ordaining them to the ministry, and especially the episcopate, is unacceptable. It must be pointed out, however, that the first consecrations of bishops of color were justified as pastoral exceptions made for the sake of mission””while sinfully continuing to deny the equality of those first bishops with others, since they were themselves part of an “inferior race.”

The churches that are dealing with the open presence of gay people in their midst are developing strategies to reach out to them. This Conference recognized that this development in these churches is not the fruit of doctrinal drift or abandonment of the faith. They are trying to create ways of incorporating gay people as part of their mission. As the Lambeth Indaba document states (para. 22), the church exists as the instrument of God’s mission””God is doing the sending, and the church is the extension into humanity of that mission. Furthermore, successive Lambeth Conferences have affirmed for thirty years that gay people are worthy to be received into the church, equally beloved with the rest of us by God.

As those churches trying to accomplish this mission in their context wrestle with the appropriate missional approach to and with gay people, they are trying to discern whether a pastoral exception is called for, as with polygamy, or whether in fact homosexuality can be fully accepted as part of living a holy Christian life for those who are so oriented. As Bishop Gene Robinson has pointed out a number of times, there is still significant indecision in the American context itself.

But I think Bishop Wright put the question squarely: can homosexual practice be validated as an acceptable way of life for those whose sexuality orients them toward it? The answer will clearly outline the shape of evangelism and mission to gays and lesbians, as well as pastoral and ascetical practice with gay people.

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