Daily Archives: October 5, 2008

Pope decries godless nature of modern societies

Pope Benedict XVI warned Sunday that modern culture is pushing God out of people’s lives, causing nations once rich in religious faith to lose their identities.

Benedict celebrated a Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to open a worldwide meeting of bishops on the relevance of the Bible for contemporary Catholics.

“Today, nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture,” said Benedict, who has been pushing for religion to be given more room in society.

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Posted in * South Carolina

Niall Ferguson in Time: The End of Prosperity?

In the case of households, debt rose from about 50% of GDP in 1980 to a peak of 100% in 2006. In other words, households now owe as much as the entire U.S. economy can produce in a year. Much of the increase in debt was used to invest in real estate. The result was a bubble; at its peak, average U.S. house prices were rising at 20% a year. Then ”” as bubbles always do ”” it burst. The S&P Case-Shiller index of house prices in 20 cities has been falling since February 2007. And the decline is accelerating. In June prices were down 16% compared with a year earlier. In some cities ”” like Phoenix and Miami ”” they have fallen by as much as a third from their peaks. The U.S. real estate market hasn’t faced anything like this since the Depression. And the pain is not over. Credit Suisse predicts that 13% of U.S. homeowners with mortgages could end up losing their homes.

Banks and other financial institutions are in an even worse position: their debts are accumulating even faster. By 2007 the financial sector’s debt was equivalent to 116% of GDP, compared with a mere 21% in 1980. And the assets the banks loaded up on have fallen even further in value than the average home ”” by as much as 55% in the case of BBB-rated mortgage-backed securities.

To date, U.S. banks have admitted to $334 billion in losses and write-downs, and the final total will almost certainly be much higher. To compensate, they have managed to raise $235 billion in new capital. The trouble is that the net loss of $99 billion implies that they will need to shrink their balance sheets by 10 times that figure ”” almost a trillion dollars ”” to maintain a constant ratio between their assets and capital. That suggests a drastic reduction of credit, since a bank’s assets are its loans. Fewer loans mean tighter business conditions on Main Street. Your local car dealer won’t be able to get the credit he needs to maintain his inventory of automobiles. To survive, he’ll have to lay off some of his employees. Expect higher unemployment nationwide.

Anyone who doubts that the U.S. is heading for recession is living in denial. On an annualized basis, real retail sales and industrial production are both declining. Unemployment is already at its highest level in five years. The question is whether we’re headed for a short, relatively mild recession like that of 2001 ”” or a latter-day version of what the world went through in the 1930s: Depression 2.0.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Credit Markets, Economy, Globalization, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, Stock Market, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Notable and quotable

I’ve been frightened for my country only a few times in my life: In 1962, when, even as a boy of 9, I followed the tension of the Cuban missile crisis; in 1963, with the assassination of J.F.K.; on Sept. 11, 2001; and on [this past] Monday, when the House Republicans brought down the bipartisan rescue package.

–Thomas Friedman, in Rescuing the Rescue

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Google launches blog tracking service

Google has launched an enhanced blog tracking service that helps people mine a growing mountain of online commentary for gems worth reading.

The Google Blog Search tool rolled out this week competes with Techmeme, Polymeme, Wikio and other “memetrackers” that sort and organize blog posts into categories.

“Did you know that millions of bloggers around the world write new posts each week?” Google product manager Michael Cohen wrote in an Internet posting of his own.

“We’re pleased to launch a new homepage for Google Blog Search so that you too can browse and discover the most interesting stories in the blogosphere.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

NY Times: As Credit Crisis Spiraled, Alarm Led to Action

Panic was spreading on two of the scariest days ever in financial markets, and the biggest investors ”” not small investors ”” were panicking the most. Nobody was sure how much damage it would cause before it ended.

This is what a credit crisis looks like. It’s not like a stock market crisis, where the scary plunge of stocks is obvious to all. The credit crisis has played out in places most people can’t see. It’s banks refusing to lend to other banks ”” even though that is one of the most essential functions of the banking system. It’s a loss of confidence in seemingly healthy institutions like Morgan Stanley and Goldman ”” both of which reported profits even as the pressure was mounting. It is panicked hedge funds pulling out cash. It is frightened investors protecting themselves by buying credit-default swaps ”” a financial insurance policy against potential bankruptcy ”” at prices 30 times what they normally would pay.

It was this 36-hour period two weeks ago ”” from the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 17, to the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 18 ”” that spooked policy makers by opening fissures in the worldwide financial system.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Stock Market, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Telegraph–Church of England 'flying bishops' plan offers traditionalists new hope

However, in a typically Anglican effort to find a compromise, the group responsible for drafting the crucial legislation is now suggesting that traditionalist clergy should be given their own “flying bishops”.

This is being proposed as a potential solution to avert a mass exodus of clergy despite the General Synod rejecting this option.

While traditionalists may not be getting the separate areas for male-clergy only that they wanted, this nevertheless represents a remarkable about-turn.

If the bishops meeting this week decide to back this proposal, many of those who had celebrated only three months ago that the prospect of the Church’s first woman bishop was drawing nearer will feel betrayed.

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

David Wilson's Sermon at the Diocese of Pittsburgh Convention

Sermon ”“ Diocese of Pittsburgh Convention October 4, 2008

This year is different. For as long as I can remember diocesan convention has been held the first week in November: As it comes it always reminds me to remember my wedding anniversary, also in the first week of November. November 3rd to be exact or is it November 2nd ? And every year Gale asks me where are we going to dinner for our anniversary? And I say, “To a hotel ballroom for a scrumptious meal! And you can even have your choice of beef tips over noodles, stuffed chicken breast or vegetable lasagna!
I have attended every diocesan and special convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh since 1982, save one, that is, in 1985 when Gale and I and our family resided in Fairfax VA. This is my 26th diocesan convention either as a lay member or as a presbyter of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. If anyone is a son of this diocese, it is me. I came to Christ here as an Episcopalian, I was raised up for ministry here as an Episcopalian and I have ministered as a layman in three parishes and also as an ordained pastor in three parishes, and I interviewed to be rector in two others in the diocese though not called (now there’s two parishes that knew what they were doing!), I have preached in at least 20 different parishes in our diocese and have visited over sixty. I have served on more committees, task forces, Cursillo teams and diocesan search committees than I can remember, I been on Diocesan Council and served on the Standing Committee —now as the President. In short, I spent my whole Christian life here in this diocese as an Episcopalian. There is no other diocese that has claimed me and no other diocese I have ever desired to be part of. I am thoroughly a Pittsburgh Anglican — I bleed Stiller Black and Gold.
For the previous twenty-five conventions I sat out there and faced this way during Convention sermons and addresses. Now in this my twenty-sixth instead of standing with you I now stand before you and so I ask your prayers that I might be adequate to the task that I have called to do.
This morning I would like to reflect on our gospel lesson from Matthew chapter 14 that Karen just read. I want to hone in on verse 27 “Jesus immediately said to them [his disciples] Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”.
Three short sentences, no sentence more than three words — Take courage! —It is I. — Don’t be afraid.
First sentence: “Take courage”. It took courage for Peter to get of the boat and walk on the water, to attempt something he had never done before, something beyond his human experience, something outside of his comfort zone –something beyond his rational, cognitive being — something that takes total faith and trust. The safe place is in the boat. The safe place will always be in the boat. Getting out of the boat is risky and being a risk taker requires courage. A well known Anglican evangelist once said there are three kind of “takers” in this world, caretakers, undertakers and risk takers. If nothing else Peter was a risk taker. Throughout the scriptures risk-taking for the sake of Christ was one of Peter’s most admirable qualities and God wants us to be risk takers for him too.
What does it mean to have courage. The word itself comes from the French word for heart “coeur”. Literally to have courage means to have heart or to take heart. The dictionary defines courage this way: it is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, without fear; bravery. Some synonyms are fearlessness, acting with daring and an intrepid boldness, pluck, spirit, “guts”. What we are about to do in this convention will take courage. It will take courage from all of us, both clergy and laity and both re-aligners and re-organizers. It is a courageous act to acknowledge the truth — to acknowledge that our differences cannot be reconciled without one side or the other capitulating to the other. That will not happen ”“nor should it. Among other things, many in the majority and many in the minority have diametrically different beliefs about the nature of sin, about the meaning and scope of salvation and about the authority and interpretation of Scripture. To be true to our beliefs, it would be far better to bless each other in separating, each going our own way than to continue the internecine warfare of winner-take-all. It will take courage to let each other go and to bless each other in the going. We have an opportunity today to make this convention a testimony to love and forbearance among brothers and sisters in Christ. To be a blessing to each other. Do we have the courage to do it? Will we do it? Can we forgo parliamentary shenanigans that in the end will cause more pain and more distrust and bless nobody? Can we get on with it decently and in order?
One of the watchwords from our bishop, first spoken in the fall of 2003, has been — Courage breeds Courage. These words, when first uttered, instantly transversed the whole of the Anglican Communion. They inspired many, including me. But I don’t believe they were meant simply for one side or the other in the divide we find ourselves, but for all of us in this Diocese. Does the courage of Nano Chalfont Walker inspire me to be courageous: it does. Does the courage of Mary Hays encourage Bruce Robison to be courageous, I believe it does. Does the courage of Doug Wicker inspire Doug Toth and vice versa ”“ I believe it does. We may be opponents today but can we be worthy opponents. That is, can we be opponents that honor God and honor each other even as we disagree and as we separate. Can we be amicable as opposed to hostile, even in the midst of strongly held views. That takes heart. That takes courage.
In November 2005 over 3,000 Anglican Christians gathered in Pittsburgh including hundreds from our diocese at the “Hope and A Future Conference”, last month about 300 Anglican Christians from our diocese gathered in Mount Lebanon at the “A Hopeful Future” meeting. Each side is looking to its own future and looking to its future with hope and with confidence. Now is the time for both sides to put the strife of the past behind us and bless each other’s efforts to make their hope a reality.
With courage Peter was able to get out of the boat and walk on the water. When he became afraid ”“ he sank. Will we operate today courageously or fearfully? Will we bless or curse? Will we walk or will we sink? It’s our choice to make.
Second short sentence, “It is I” Jesus reminds Peter of who it is that is calling to him. Only one person calls and only one person saves. ””Jesus Christ. The scriptures say Salvation is found in no one else[than Jesus], for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.” Without Christ we flounder. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us in chapter 12 verse 2, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith As long as Peter kept his eyes fixed on Jesus he was able to walk on the water but when he began to focus on the storm about him, he sank. Our text says But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Shortly after hearing the news of Bishop Duncan’s deposition, I received an email from the Rt. Rev. Stanley Ntagali of Bishop Masindi-Kitara diocese, who had preached in my parish early last month, he wrote, Dear Rev. David: My wife Beatrice and I would like to assure you and the entire Diocese of Pittsburgh that we are praying for you at this very difficult moment in the history of your Diocese. We know how much you love your dear Bishop Bob Duncan and have enjoyed his ministry over the years. We are praying for Bishop Bob and Nara too. We pray that God will give you his peace and you will have courage to withstand the storm. Was that a timely prayer! A coincidence? I don’t think so””Just like Peter, the appeal is for courage to withstand the storm.
Peter cries out “Lord, save me!” Only one person calls and only one person saves. First Jesus calls out to Peter “It is I” and then as he is sinking Jesus saves Peter. Our text says verse in 31, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Bible teacher and Episcopal priest Chuck Irish once said, “If you don’t think you are helpless and in need of a Savior perhaps you are still helpless and in need of a Savior. God loves us so much that he was willing to offer his only Son so that we might not only be saved but that we might be transformed, made new, made whole, delivered and set free from a life of sin and death —transferred from the Kingdom of darkness into his marvelous light. That’s the good news, brothers and sisters. The gospel isn’t an affirmation of who we are in our sin but a transformation from it. There’s change involved
I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior in 1981 through the witness of a priest of this diocese. He had the courage, the heart, to share the gospel with me. And it was good news for me. Before I responded to this free gift of God’s grace, I was, as St Paul reminds us in Ephesians “without God and without hope in the world”. My life was aimless. Like Peter I was unfocussed and sinking fast. Adrift, without direction, I lived from one day to next without a thought of tomorrow. I was self-centered and I was self-directed, lost in my sin and separated from God. Just like with Peter on the water, Jesus reached out his hand and caught me. He saved me, rescued me from my sin. The Bible says, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us ”“the godly for the ungodly”. He didn’t wait till I cleaned up my act. He didn’t demand I work harder, or do better. He snatched me up as is — “Just as I am, without one plea!”. But he didn’t leave me there. He transformed me. He gave me new direction in my life, joy, peace and contentment. He gave me deeper love for my wife and children. He gave me a depth of commitment to my family which had been so very weak. After I surrendered my life to Christ, I strived to be Christ- centered rather than me-centered. And my life has never been the same since. Thanks be to God.
Third and last sentence, Jesus said “Don’t be afraid”. This third and last sentence reminds me of the first words uttered to the faithful by John Paul II upon becoming Pope. “Do not be afraid to open your heart to Jesus… I’m begging you, please do not be afraid.” Brothers and sisters, we have nothing to fear. God is with us in this. He really is.
In this great debate we have been having these past years I have heard many analogies to past wars and inspiring war leaders, men like Thomas Paine, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill and even Neville Chamberlain and Marshall Petain. Even the title of this convention “A house divided against itself cannot stand” from Matthew 12:25 was quoted most famously by Lincoln.
In the midst of the Civil War a question was asked of President Lincoln. The inquirer said: “Mr. President, we trust during this time of trial in which the nation is engaged, God is on our side, and will give us victory.” Lincoln replied: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side. My great concern is to be on God’s side. For God is always right!” I think Mr. Lincoln was right on target.
If we act out of godly motives, with godly love toward each other then both sides will be on God’s side and no matter which side carries the vote, both sides will win in the end. And if that be the case we have nothing to fear. Moses spoke these words to the people of Israel as they prepared to engage the Amorites, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified [because of them], for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” So it is with us. God has not given us a spirit of fear. He will see every re-organizer and every re-aligner through this challenging time, every one who puts their full faith and trust in him. Can we trust him in this vote. Can we trust that His will for all of us will prevail in this convention today? Can we bless each other as we separate? In the last several years our Bishop’s final blessing has often begun with these words of St. Paul from I Corinthians 16:12-14. Be watchful; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. Let it be so today and always.
For His sake I pray, Amen.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

AP: Pittsburgh diocese OKs split over Bible and Leaders in Noncelibate Same Sex Relationships

Clergy and lay members of the theologically conservative Pittsburgh diocese voted overwhelmingly Saturday to break from the liberal Episcopal Church, with which it differs on issues ranging from homosexuality to biblical teachings on salvation.

Assistant Bishop Henry Scriven said the vote means the Pittsburgh diocese is now more firmly aligned with the majority of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, which is more conservative than the communion’s 2.2 million-member U.S. church.

“I am delighted,” Scriven said, “that what we have done today is bringing the Diocese of Pittsburgh back into the mainstream of worldwide Anglicanism.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, Theology, Theology: Scripture

An ENS Article on the Pittsburgh Decision

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh

A.S. Haley: Logic Wins in Pittsburgh!

No doubt he can’t help it: the Rev. Mark Harris provides us with a textbook example of a liberal’s utter lack of logic in commenting for his readers on what has in fact happened today with the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

If it is the majority [that votes to change the Constitution], they will claim that “The Diocese of Pittsburgh” has left. That will be completely inaccurate. What will be true is that a majority of the delegates representing their parishes will have voted to leave. Not all the members of a parish voting to leave will do so, just as not all members of a parish voting not to leave will stay. Instead, PEOPLE will leave or stay.

(Bold added for emphasis.) It is woolly thinking such as this that has landed The Episcopal Church in all its current difficulties. The Rev. Harris sits on TEC’s Executive Council—just think how that body reacted to the proposed changes by various dioceses to their Constitutions: it passed a resolution proclaiming the changes to be null and void. Groupthink of the kind engaged in by Mark Harris and his liberal colleagues who currently hold the reins of The Episcopal Church has produced the current atmosphere of unChristian lawsuits, depositions and dunderheaded proposals for more legislation “to fix the problem.” (Hint to the liberals [which they will never get, but I’ll make it anyway]: If you are the problem to begin with, what do you think passing yet more loopy laws and crazy canons will accomplish? That’s right: more problems.)

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Polity & Canons

Pittsburgh Diocese to Recall Bishop Robert Duncan

(Press Release) The Standing Committee of The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh today took action to recall Bishop Robert Duncan to his position as diocesan bishop. Bishop Duncan was involuntarily removed from the post by The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on September 18. While the diocese remained in The Episcopal Church, it submitted to the decision. Now that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is part of the Province of The Southern Cone, it is free to invite Bishop Duncan back into leadership.

The move came minutes after the close of the 143rd Diocesan Convention. After a short meeting, the Standing Committee officially announced the diocese’s plans to elect a bishop on November 7. The election will take place during a special convention of the diocese. It is expected that Bishop Duncan will be the only candidate on the ballot.

“This is a great day for the diocese. Bishop Duncan has served the Lord and this diocese faithfully and well through one of the most significant periods of our diocesan history. We look forward to welcoming him back to his episcopal office,” said the Rev. David Wilson, president of the diocese’s standing committee. Fr. Wilson also announced that the Standing Committee had agreed to ask Bishop Duncan to function in the diocese between now and November 7.

Archbishop Gregory Venables has appointed Bishop Duncan to be the Southern Cone’s “commissary,” or representative, in the diocese. In this role, Bishop Duncan will be able to visit parishes and offer episcopal ministry such as confirmation on behalf of the Standing Committee while it continues to serve as the Ecclesiastical Authority until the completion of the election on November 7,” explained Fr. Wilson.

“I am deeply grateful for the possibility of serving as both the seventh and eighth bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. We have been through much together over the last years, but I am convinced a new day is dawning for all of us,” said Bishop Robert Duncan.

Posted in Uncategorized

Pittsburgh Diocese Joins Anglican Province

(Press Release) Deputies to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’s 143rd Annual diocesan convention voted by strong margins on October 4 to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Vote totals on the key constitutional provision that opened the way for the change were as follows. A total of 191 laity voted. 119 voted in favor. 69 voted against, 3 abstained. A total of 160 clergy voted. 121 voted in favor. 33 voted no. 3 abstained. 2 invalid ballots were cast.

“We deeply value our shared heritage and years of friendship with those still within that denomination, but this diocese could not in good conscience continue down the road away from mainstream Christianity that the leadership of The Episcopal Church is so determined to follow,” said the Rev. Peter Frank, director of communications for the diocese.

The passage of the vote by the diocesan convention, the diocese’s highest governing authority, means that the entire Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, including all of its congregations and clergy, is now part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The diocese expects a small group of 210 clergy and a minority of its 70 parishes to withdraw from the diocese and reorganize under the authority of The Episcopal Church. The diocese is committed to making such decisions of conscience as easy as possible for all those involved.

The Province of The Southern Cone decided in 2007 to offer temporary oversight and pastoral care to mainstream Anglicans disengaging from The Episcopal Church. They hope there will be a new Anglican province in North America for those Anglicans who hold to historic faith and order. In the meantime, scores of individual congregations and four dioceses either have, or are considering, accepting the generous offer of The Southern Cone. The dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy will both make their final decision in November.

“We are deeply thankful to the Province of the Southern Cone for offering us a clear way to stay within The Anglican Communion as the necessary work of building a new province goes forward. We also owe a debt of gratitude to Christians of many denominations and traditions both here in Pittsburgh and around the world that have prayed for us, encouraged us and stood with us as we have made this decision,” said Frank.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh