Daily Archives: October 9, 2008

New Bishop of Bangor elected

The Archdeacon of Cardigan, the Venerable Andrew John, is the Bishop Elect of the Diocese of Bangor.

The announcement was made this afternoon by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, at the west door of Bangor Cathedral on the third and final day of the meeting of the Electoral College.

The election follows the death of the Rt Rev Anthony Crockett in June, who served as bishop of the diocese from 2004. The new bishop will be the 81st Bishop of Bangor, serving an area stretching across north-west Wales from Holyhead to Llanidloes.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Wales

And what was the real problem with AIG? Why their CDS positions of course

AIG suffered huge losses when its credit rating was cut, thanks largely to complex financial transactions known as “credit default swaps.” AIG was a major seller of the swaps, which are a form of insurance, though they are not regulated that way.

The swap contracts promise payment to investors in mortgage bonds in the event of a default. AIG has been forced to raise billions of dollars in collateral to back up those guarantees. AIG stopped selling credit default swaps in 2005 to limit its exposure, but the damage was done.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Evangelicals see moral decline in Wall St. woes

Conservative U.S. Christians say the culture has gone to hell and it has taken the economy and Wall Street down with it.

It is a view which outsiders may find puzzling but has wide resonance in the U.S. heartland: the notion that moral decay and a lost sense of responsibility has brought on the worst banking and credit crisis since the Great Depression.

Such a view helps explain the unpopularity in conservative Christian circles — which have a big influence on the Republican Party — of a $700 billion bailout plan which the U.S. House of Representatives rejected on Monday, rocking financial markets.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Michael Novak reviews John O'Malley's Book on Vatican II

His main point is that Vatican II differed in its way of thinking from every other doctrine-setting gathering in the church’s history, from the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. to the First Vatican Council in 1869. His preferred word for this is “style,” though sometimes he says “method,” “approach” or “language.” Vatican II was distinctive, he contends, in its attention to the liberty of the human person and to the connectedness of the human community. The new spirit was to affirm, not condemn; to be open, not closed; to focus on ideals to live by, not things forbidden.

“Vatican II was unprecedented,” he writes, “for the notice it took of changes in society at large and for its refusal to see them in globally negative terms as devolutions from an older and happier era.” He says the council underscored the authority of bishops while, at the same time, trying to make them “less authoritarian.” For bishops, priests and everybody in authority, it recommended the ideal of the servant-leader. It upheld the legitimacy of modern methods in the study of the Bible. It condemned anti-Semitism and discrimination “on the basis of race, color, condition in life, or religion.” It called on Catholics to cooperate with people of all faiths, or no faith, in projects aimed at the common good. And it supplied “the impetus,” O’Malley writes, “for later official dialogues of the Catholic Church with other churches….”

But to my thinking, O’Malley’s approach is a little too lacking in irony, a little too blind to the council’s negative effects and much too blind to errors committed by progressives in pursuit of noble goals: Translations of council documents (and important texts of the Scriptures) were so ideologically cast that they distorted the meaning. The abruptness of changes in the sacred liturgy unloosed a sense of instability and make-it-up-yourself theology. In some places, there followed a “me decade” of “cafeteria Catholics” who felt they could pick and choose from church doctrines.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Economic woes may give planet a breather

A slowdown in the world economy may give the planet a breather from the excessively high carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions responsible for climate change, a Nobel Prize winning scientist said on Tuesday.

Atmospheric scientist Paul J Crutzen, who has in the past floated the possibility of blitzing the stratosphere with sulfur particles to cool the earth, said clouds gathering over the world economy could ease the earth’s environmental burden.

Slower economic growth worldwide could help slow growth of carbon dioxide emissions and trigger more careful use of energy resources, though the global economic turmoil may also divert focus from efforts to counter climate change, said Crutzen, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the depletion of the ozone layer.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Climate Change, Weather, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Notable and Quotable

“The core problem is that the smart people are realizing that the banking system is broken,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics. “Nobody knows who is holding the tainted assets, how much they have and how it affects their balance sheets. So nobody is willing to believe that anybody else isn’t insolvent, until it’s proven otherwise.”

From the IHT

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Cox's SEC Censors Report on Bear Stearns Collapse

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox’s regulators stood by as shrinking capital ratios and growing subprime holdings led to the collapse of Bear Stearns Cos., according to an unedited version of a study by the agency’s inspector general.

The report, by Inspector General H. David Kotz, was requested by Senator Charles Grassley to examine the role of regulators prior to the firm’s collapse in March. Before it was released to the public on Sept. 26, Kotz deleted 136 references, many detailing SEC memos, meetings or comments, at the request of the agency’s Division of Trading and Markets that oversees investment banks.

“People can judge for themselves, but it sure looks like the SEC didn’t want the public to know about the red flags it apparently ignored in allowing Bear Stearns and other investment banks to engage in excessively risky behavior,” the Iowa Republican said in an e-mailed statement.

Read it all. I find this really frustrating. When I hear all the talk of “more regulation” being needed, I worry about the poor record of the current SEC. In some cases, we do need more regulation, as for example the CDS market. But more than anything we need wiser regulation and better regulators–KSH.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Economy, Politics in General, Stock Market

Some Recent Blog Correspondence

Not long ago I received the following email:

Kendall,

I have to say that I’m surprised by what I would call the level of secular/partisan posting on T19 of late.

You are certainly free to post and say whatever you like – it’s your blog. But on a blog which is nominally focused on things Episcopal/Anglican, the number of items posted regarding the federal bailout, politics, and various secular issues may well make readers think that you have a political agenda.

There can well be disagreeing opinions on how the federal government should approach the meltdown of financial institutions, and related topics. When you post items endorsing a particular perspective/resolution, you change the focus of T19 from religion to sociology. Please – think about what your priorities are. And if they’re socio-political – well, that’s fine. But you should say so.

And just to make things clear – I’m a Republican through-and-through; well, actually, a “Libertarian” – I believe in the “Federalist” approach which was envisioned by the Founding Fathers. But I believe that everyone should have the right to make their voices heard – and I fear that you are espousing a position which some may believe equates with doctrine, which is certainly not the case.

My response was as follows:

[Dear xxxxxx]:

This is a response which illustrates (a) a surprising lack of understanding of the blog [“A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it”¦”] and (b) a strange interpretation of the posts themselves.

There is no way I am going not to post about one of the larger financial crises in American history. It is something all Christians have to engage with, and I am not letting my readers off the hook.

I am posting perspectives, also, from both “sides,” hence the J.K. Galbraith piece and the piece saying it all started on Main Street. If you think there is a certain perspective, which it sounds as if you do, I would be interested to know what that is. And please do not confuse the commenters with the main blog entries.

As I have said numerous times, I am registered with neither party; though I grew up in a staunchly democratic family that is only where I began. And for this election, it is very clear the Republicans deserve to lose and the Democrats do not deserve to win.

But my main goal remains the original purpose of the blog, to think and pray all of life through and with Christ. When a major crisis hits, as it does now, then that becomes one of the places the blog will focus.

This has happened numerous times in the past, and will again in the future.

Thanks very much for the response.

Warmly

Posted in * By Kendall, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Economy, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

NY Times: U.S. May Take Ownership Stake in Banks

Having tried without success to unlock frozen credit markets, the Treasury Department is considering taking ownership stakes in many United States banks to try to restore confidence in the financial system, according to government officials.

Treasury officials say the just-passed $700 billion bailout bill gives them the authority to inject cash directly into banks that request it. Such a move would quickly strengthen banks’ balance sheets and, officials hope, persuade them to resume lending. In return, the law gives the Treasury the right to take ownership positions in banks, including healthy ones.

The Treasury plan was still preliminary and it was unclear how the process would work, but it appeared that it would be voluntary for banks.

The proposal resembles one announced on Wednesday in Britain. Under that plan, the British government would offer banks like the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and HSBC Holdings up to $87 billion to shore up their capital in exchange for preference shares. It also would provide a guarantee of about $430 billion to help banks refinance debt.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

In Ontario the great Anglican divide

…things are not the same at St. George’s, and likely never will be.

While about 20 parishioners pray under the old wooden beams of the church, most of the congregation is farther south, inside the natural light and modern teal and white colours of a chapel in the Crossroads Centre along the QEW.

Both congregations still bow before the cross and recite roughly the same 220 words of the essential creed of the Anglican faith, proclaiming their belief “in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth … and in Jesus Christ the only Son of God.” But, on most of the rest of the details, the divide is wide indeed.

Last February, most of the St. George’s congregation broke away from the umbrella of the Niagara Diocese, citing creeping liberalism in the Anglican Church of Canada — the sanctioning of gay marriage being one of the last straws. The congregation voted 128-3 to align with the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), which adheres to more conservative Christian orthodoxy, and is under the auspices of an Anglican authority based in Argentina.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces

Pakistan facing bankruptcy

Officially, the central bank holds $8.14 billion (£4.65 billion) of foreign currency, but if forward liabilities are included, the real reserves may be only $3 billion – enough to buy about 30 days of imports like oil and food.

Nine months ago, Pakistan had $16 bn in the coffers.

The government is engulfed by crises left behind by Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler who resigned the presidency in August. High oil prices have combined with endemic corruption and mismanagement to inflict huge damage on the economy.

Given the country’s standing as a frontline state in the US-led “war on terrorism”, the economic crisis has profound consequences….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Economy, Pakistan, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

A Northern California rector writes his Parish About the Financial Crisis

With permission–KSH.

Author’s note–When I began this missive it was the 29th of September and the stock market was down 700 points. Appropriately, it was also the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels.

President Sarkozy of France is saying that the world is staring into a financial abyss, and plenty of politicans and other people are speaking of current events as an unprecedented crisis.

Of course, this is flat not true, except that maybe in the details, but this perspective arises from a profoundly shortsighted view of the sweep of history. If you care to, look up the South Sea Bubble (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sea_Bubble) or the Mississippi Bubble (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_Company).

It is certainly a very difficult business situation that we find ourselves in, which impacts us all. Several of our own fellow members of Trinity Parish have told me that they’ve had very serious losses in their investments, and this affects everyone. Did you know that Nevada County is the only county in California where more than half of population’s income derives from dividends and interest?

That’s due to the fact that our population has a higher median age than most counties (43 years, compared with 38 years for Nevada County, Arkansas, and 34 years in California as a whole), which is because we have a higher than average number of retired people.

This past August I was in Uganda, visiting our parish’s Mission. Uganda’s population has a median age of 15, and the average wage earner brings home $350 per year, versus $45,864 for Nevada County, California. In Uganda gasoline costs around $8.00 per gallon, nearly twice as much as in our county. Few people have cars, or television, and most people cook over an open fire. Ugandan life expectancy is more than 25 years less than ours, if a person manages to live past the age of five.

So, yes, the developed world is having some economic difficulties at the moment. But these problems are a matter of perspective. Our challenges are going to be temporary. The Ugandans’ problems are mosty likely permanent, and more than likely will get worse.

For nearly thirty years I’ve had the privilege of working with people at the end of their earthly existence. I can say with perfect confidence that no matter what happens, it’s going to be all right.

In Psalm 37 we hear, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken.” Now, does that mean that the faithful person will not experience hardship? Of course not. Those who love God and try to follow Him aren’t immune to the ordinary vicissitudes of life, but God does not forsake them. Are there no angels -God’s emissaries- left in the world? Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and human experience testify to the existence and ministry of the Holy Angels.

If you’re worried, pray. Ask the Lord for comfort, for assurance of His love and protection. Give yourself completely into God’s hands. Pray for the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Angels.

The medieval mind, following the earlier Greco-Roman tradition, saw life as a wheel of fortune, which raises up people and then casts them down, only to raise them up again.

“O Fortune, like the Moon,
changeable in state, always waxing, or waning;
poverty, power, they dissolve like ice….”

Or, as Dante put it:

No mortal power may stay her spinning wheel.
The nations rise and fall by her decree.
None may foresee where she will set her heel:
she passes, and things pass.

Man’s mortal reason cannot encompass her…
Season by season her changes change her changes endlessly,
and those whose turn has come press on her so,
she must be swift by hard necessity.

Every empire, every great king or ruler, every prosperous person -even people who are only relatively prosperous, like you and me- finds it difficult to consider that everything changes, and that what goes up must come down.

We don’t have to like situations like the one our economy finds itself in, of course! But the Bible teaches us that, in the words of Ecclesiastes 3.1, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for everything under heaven.” The same chapter goes on tell us that God has made everything appropriate for its time, and that (perhaps by way of reassurance) He has put the eternity in our hearts.

It’s when we forget eternity and instead get caught up in the moment that we become overwrought and fearful. Because you and I both know that it’s going to be all right, even if it’s very annoying, inconvenient, and perhaps excruciatingly painful.

Look – seriously – does anyone think that next year there’s a strong likelihood that the average wage earner in the USA is going to make no more than $350 dollars a year with gasoline standing at $8.00 a gallon? Do any of the talking heads on television or bloggers on the Internet really believe that 80% or more of the American population is going to be eating nothing but potatoes and baked bananas for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of their lives?

On the other hand, people will be very negatively impacted by what is happening in the economy. We are all obliged by our faith to reach out in every way to help. Our own congregation already does this in many ways, both in out public ministries to the homeless (Hospitality House) and hungry (Nevada City Food Bank). We also help people financially on a private and confidential basis through our Charitable Fund. Perhaps God will ask us to do more in the future. And that, too will be a blessing.

Let’s not be naive and hysterical about the things of this world, which is as impermanent as as the early morning fog and changes more often than day turns to night. Leave the naivete and hysteria to those who are faithless. Trust God with your future; only He knows what it will be, anyway. As Romans 8:28 truthfully declares, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”

Or, as Jesus so perfectly put it,

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father
knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

–The Rev. Christopher Seal is rector, Holy Trinity Church, Nevada City, California

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Parishes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

Jonathan Weil: Henry Paulson's Reasons for Delaying Day of Reckoning

If you think this bailout is expensive, just wait until you see the next one.

The $700 billion rescue plan approved by the U.S. Senate won’t fix the core problem with the nation’s ailing financial institutions. And it almost guarantees that you and I will have to pony up for an even costlier bailout someday….

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has correctly identified the quandary: Lots of shaky banks and insurance companies are showing strangely high values for assets that aren’t worth squat in the market. Many need more capital and can’t raise it. And he’s right in saying the outlook is grim if we don’t get this fixed.

What’s stunning is how little the taxpayers would get in return for their money under Paulson’s package, and how illusory much of the banks’ newly minted capital would be.

Read it all.

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

The Dean of Fort Worth's Cathedral Writes his Parish

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the coming months, we are entering what could be a challenging time for our diocese and our parish. While I believe that great challenges can lead to great opportunities, everything we face must be grounded in prayer. As you are aware, the November 14th and 15th Convention will consider the second reading of changes to our constitution that would remove this diocese from under the umbrella of General Convention and into the Synod of the Province of the Southern Cone. This move is temporary, as there are many people in the United States and Canada working for the creation of a biblical and missionary province of the Anglican Communion in North America.

How did we get to this difficult time? Let me offer you some real-life illustrations. We live in a church that refused to discipline Bishop Pike who denied the doctrine of the Trinity. We live a church that refused to discipline Bishop Spong who denied the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and other Creedal doctrines. We live in a church that refused to discipline Bishop Righter for ordaining a priest who was openly engaging in same-sex activities. We live in a church where the Executive Council joins the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; then General Convention refuses to even discuss our continued membership. We live in a church that rejoices over the election of a bishop living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. We live in a church where, on a weekly basis, clergy teach a different Gospel by denying the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and there is no discipline. However, we also live in a church that after General Convention 2009, if you sit on a vestry or committee and you complain about any of the things I’ve listed above, you can be brought before a provincial court, charged and removed from office, even as a lay member. Finally, we live in a church that has just deposed our good friend Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh for abandoning the Communion of this Church because he believes a diocese has the right to determine its future. What is wrong with the picture I have just shared? Well, this apparently is how the Episcopal House of Bishops “wages reconciliation.”

As our diocese prepares for convention, we are operating under the knowledge that any day, it is likely that our Bishop will be inhibited as well. He has asked all parishes in the diocese to go through the “40 days of discernment” before convention convenes. We will incorporate some of this program into our corporate life in October and November. Over the last six years, we have worked hard to communicate to all what is taking place across the Episcopal Church, discussing both the choices before us and the reasons for those choices.

At this time, I ask each member to keep our clergy, our parish, our diocese, our bishop, and the entire Episcopal Church in your prayers. I also offer you a thought. Regardless of how the vote turns out, on Sunday, November 16th, the day after Convention, we will continue to do what we have always done here. We will continue to teach what we have always taught. Same faith, same rector, same music, same prayer book, same familiar faces that you have come to know and love in the pews around you. Right now, we have Episcopalians, non-Episcopal Anglicans, and non-Anglicans who consider themselves members of St. Vincent’s, and this will not change on November 16th. No one can unmake you an Episcopalian, and at the same time we have never asked for membership cards of anyone who came to the altar. We never will, either. This altar does not belong to the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, to me or to you. It belongs to Jesus Christ. And if we keep Jesus Christ first and each other next, then all the church politics, all the intimidation and threats of depositions and lawsuits, as stressful and distasteful as they are, pale in comparison to knowing and serving our Lord. There is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And that is where our hope rests and the reason we can live in peace and charity with one another. In the face of all the change and upheaval in the American branch of the Anglican Communion, remember this: Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

To him be glory and honor forever.

Because He lives,

–(The Very Rev.) Ryan Reed is Dean of at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, Texas

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, Theology

John Gapper: Some of the fault lies closer to home

There is no question that professionals of many nationalities ”“ bankers, financiers, estate agents and regulators ”“ behaved badly. They got paid a lot of money and wilfully loosened credit restrictions to keep house prices rising and bonuses flowing. Many of them, although far from all, were American.

But I would like to propose another culprit for the difficulty that many economies are in: you and I. We home buyers and mortgage borrowers share the blame, whether we are American, British or Icelandic.

Take nationality first. A year ago, when the US subprime mortgage debacle was evident but the British housing market was still doing well, I took a trip to London from my home in New York. On a visit to friends in west London, I was struck by the number of houses in their street with “To Let” boards outside.

At the time, there was a lot of talk about how the UK housing market differed from that of the US because it was a small island with a limited housing stock, there was no equivalent of subprime lending and so on. But those “To Let” boards said something different to me.

They showed that cheap debt and rising asset prices had led to housing speculation all over the world; it just took different forms….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, England / UK, Globalization, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--