Daily Archives: October 14, 2008

Terry Mattingly: When do winks and nods become illegal?

The political endorsement was clear, although the words were carefully chosen.

New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, clearly wanted to inspire his supporters, even his own priests, to back Barack Obama for president. Still, he stressed that his endorsement was personal, not corporate.

”I will not be speaking about the campaign from the pulpit or at any church function,” the bishop told reporters in a 2007 conference call that drew low-key, calm news coverage. ”That is completely inappropriate. But as a private citizen, I will be at campaign events and help in any way that I can.”

The reaction was different after the Rev. Luke Emrich preached to about 100 evangelicals at New Life Church this past weekend, near Milwaukee.

Veering from Scripture into politics, he said his beliefs about abortion would control his vote.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

David Brooks: Big Government Ahead

The new situation will reopen old rifts in the Democratic Party. One the one side, liberals will argue (are already arguing) that it was deregulation and trickle-down economic policies that led us to this crisis. Fears of fiscal insolvency are overblown. Democrats should use their control of government and the economic crisis as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make some overdue changes. Liberals will make a full-bore push for European-style economic policies…

Obama will try to straddle the two camps ”” he seems to sympathize with both sides ”” but the liberals will win. Over the past decade, liberals have mounted a campaign against Robert Rubin-style economic policies, and they control the Congressional power centers. Even if he’s so inclined, it’s difficult for a president to overrule the committee chairmen of his own party. It is more difficult to do that when the president is a Washington novice and the chairmen are skilled political hands. It is most difficult when the president has no record of confronting his own party elders. It’s completely impossible when the economy is in a steep recession, and an air of economic crisis pervades the nation.

What we’re going to see, in short, is the Gingrich revolution in reverse and on steroids. There will be a big increase in spending and deficits. In normal times, moderates could have restrained the zeal on the left. In an economic crisis, not a chance. The over-reach is coming. The backlash is next.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, US Presidential Election 2008

The Archbishop of Sydney's Presidential Address at Synod

Fifth, partnership. Most of our churches have engaged in formal evangelism over the years. The difference this time is that we are all involved in doing it together. It is a co-ordinated campaign, with local variations, but the same aims. This provides us with an opportunity to partner with each other in this important work – to ask the parish next door for ideas or for help, for example. I have had a dream that churches may even offer each other teams of people to help to do some of the necessary work. The team itself will return rejoicing and so much better equipped for gospel work than when they left. We also have great resources in this Diocese in organisations like Anglicare, ARV, Youthworks, Moore College, the Schools Corporation and the Secretariat. I have been excited by the way that the leadership of these organisations have been excited by Connect 09. They are true partners.

Sixth, preparation. I mean by this preparing our churches for new people to join. Many churches would say that there are already between 100 and 200 such people per year, or three or four a week. For some there are fewer; for others many more, in some cases over a thousand. In most cases Rectors have plans about what to do with new people in order to integrate them. But this cannot be the Rector’s job alone. We must all be aware of the phenomenon of the visitor and ask ourselves what we intend to do to make people welcome and feel that they can come back.

How seriously do we take this? Have we already begun a thorough shaking up of our welcome, our facilities, our signage, our seating, our cry-rooms, our morning tea, the temperature in the building, our music, our follow-up, our lighting, our accessibility to the disabled”¦ the list is endless. Sometimes we need to look again at what we do in church, our reading, our prayers, our preaching. Sometimes ministers want to do these things but are discouraged by lay resistance; sometimes ministers are the problem. Can I urge you to work together on this?

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

Anglican fight over church property heads to court in Vancouver

Three Anglican congregations that split from the Vancouver-area diocese over its support for same-sex blessings have gone to court to avoid being kicked out of their churches.

The three congregations – St. John’s Shaughnessy in Vancouver, St. Matthias/St. Luke in Vancouver and St. Matthew’s in Abbotsford – argue in court documents that they should be allowed to remain because their opposition to same-sex blessings is consistent with “historic, orthodox Anglican doctrine.”

However, the Diocese of New Westminster and its bishop, Michael Ingham, argue that church doctrine evolves and there is no legal basis for congregations that leave the diocese to take church property with them.

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

Ben Bernanke: We're Laying the Groundwork for Recovery

As in all past crises, at the root of the problem is a loss of confidence by investors and the public in the strength of key financial institutions and markets. This has had cascading and unwelcome effects on credit availability for households and businesses, and on the value of savings. Under these circumstances, steps to restore confidence in our institutions and markets will go far toward resolving the current market stress. Our economy will not be able to function at its best unless and until financial market stability returns. The bold actions taken by the Congress, the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and other agencies, together with the normal recuperative powers of the financial markets, will lay the groundwork for financial and economic recovery.

The most immediate responsibility of policy makers and elected officials is to restore confidence in our credit markets. Even as we do this, we must begin to consider long-term reforms that will mitigate similar crises in the future. A comprehensive review of our regulatory structures is an essential task in the coming year. The events of the past year or two have highlighted regulatory gaps and deficiencies that we must address to improve the structure of our markets and the resiliency of our economy. As we recover from the current crisis, it will be important to address these issues as soon as possible, to develop a regulatory structure that will better respond to future economic challenges.

Policy makers here and around the globe have taken a series of extraordinary steps. Americans can be confident that every resource is being brought to bear: historical understanding, technical expertise, economic analysis and political leadership.

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

Michael Yon: The Road to Hell in Afghanistan

This is exactly what the Taliban want, to split off our allies and create a sense of desperation among those willing to stay. The Canadians are also getting hit hard. And the Brits as well. By picking off our allies, and undermining the domestic support crucial to supporting the war effort, our enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan are trying to isolate the U.S. so that they can eventually force us to leave.

Is this war winnable? I don’t know, but my gut instinct is that Afghanistan/Pakistan will devolve into something worse than Iraq ever was.

Afghanistan is considered “The Good War” only by people who don’t realize (or refuse to acknowledge) how difficult the situation is. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And that seems to be the road we’re on in Afghanistan.

But for the moment, let’s forget geopolitics, and remember the soldiers who gave their lives not just for their country, or Afghanistan, but also for us.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Military / Armed Forces

Evan Sparks: The 'Great Commission' or Glorified Sightseeing?

This past summer, from evangelical churches nationwide, more than one million of the faithful departed for the mission field, taking up Jesus’ “Great Commission” to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The churchgoers hoped to convert souls, establish churches and meet other human needs. But they did not intend to serve for years or whole lifetimes, like such pioneers as Jim Elliott, who was killed in Ecuador in 1956 evangelizing to native people; or Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission; or even the awful fictional caricatures of African missionaries in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel “The Poisonwood Bible.” These new missionaries came home after only a week or two.

Short-term mission trips to Africa, South America and Southeast Asia have become very popular in the past few years. They are a keystone strategy of evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s plans to help Rwanda. These trips, like Christian missionary endeavors overall, encompass a wide variety of activities, from evangelization and “church planting” to health care and economic development. The billion-dollar question, however, is whether they’re worth the cost. Are short-term missions the best way to achieve the goals of Christians? Critics argue that sightseeing often takes up too much of the itinerary, leading some to call short-termers “vacationaries.”

It’s hard to judge the fairness of this characterization, since almost no one runs the numbers. Estimates of how much churches spend on short-term missions go as high as $4 billion a year, according to the Capital Research Center. The literature is sparse, most of it focusing on the spiritual aspects, for the missionaries themselves. And these aspects are sometimes oversold.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Missions, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

LA Times: The next president and the economy

‘It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing.” Those lines from a Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign commercial invoked images of a president responding in the dead of night to “evil” forces threatening Americans’ safety. These days, however, the 3 a.m. phone call to the White House is just as likely to come from the secretary of the Treasury, warning of an Asian stock market plummeting or a European government taking over another major bank. That’s not a political scare tactic; it’s an all-too-real consequence of the subprime mortgage fiasco.

The deepening problems in the financial markets have shifted the public’s — and the candidates’ — focus from homeland security to economic security. Rising unemployment, slowing production and stubbornly tight credit are all signs of a recession that’s not likely to be cured by the time either John McCain or Barack Obama takes the oath of office in January. As we’ve seen in recent months, even dramatic action by the Bush administration and the Federal Reserve hasn’t been able to stop the stock market from falling and credit from evaporating. We need a president with the grit and credibility to force harsh medicine into the financial system, identifying which banks are too troubled to save and making temporary, taxpayer-friendly investments in healthier institutions to jump-start lending. These efforts are fraught with risk, and they’ll inflict more pain in the short term. But it’s better to endure that pain now than to pretend the banks’ illiquid assets are worth more than the market will pay for them, as some have advocated.

Read it all.

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

Joe Roberts on the Western Louisiana Diocesan Convention

So what did happen at convention? Actually quite a bit happened, and some of it was pretty positive. First, our bishop, though obviously quite contemplative during the convention Eucharist and the opening business session (and clearly focused upon what he was going to include in his convention address) quite boldly stood squarely on the side of “doing the right thing” and standing firm in upholding the constitution and canons of TEC against the blatant abuses of power by the Presiding Bishop of TEC, her chancellor and the House of Bishops. Knowing full well that the PB’s eyes and ears were present in our convention hall, your bishop stood tall and not only outlined the abuses of power that have occurred in three recent depositions of orthodox bishops, but declared that these types of abuses must be opposed and stopped. In the Alice in Wonderland world that is TEC at this time, this action is no small thing.

Four resolutions were proposed for consideration, three of which were approved by large margins. Two of the resolutions addressed the Communion Partners Plan which +MacPherson favors as a structure for the support of orthodox Episcopalians during the completion of the Windsor Process and pending a vote on the anticipated Anglican Covenant. Both passed overwhelmingly. The other two addressed the deposition of Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. One of the resolutions dealt directly with the Duncan deposition and the abuse of constitutional and canonical process in securing the deposition. I had the pleasure of speaking in favor of that resolution and it passed. The second Duncan resolution did not pass and it appears to me that it did not pass principally because it sought to cite a statement by the Primates Council of GAFCON that condemned the Duncan deposition but that also called for the establishment of a separate province in North America for orthodox Anglicans (I also voted for that resolution). At this point in the life of our diocese, the overwhelming view of both the clergy and the lay orders is that we are not willing to speculate about a new province and, for now at least, our diocese prefers to work within the existing Anglican structures and particularly toward our consideration of an Anglican covenant.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils, Windsor Report / Process

Ideas for Better Roman Catholic Sermons Emerge at Synod

A general instruction on homilies and a jubilee year dedicated to the art of preaching were two ideas that emerged from the world Synod of Bishops after several prelates voiced a concern regarding the poor quality of sermons.

The theme was addressed Monday by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the archbishop of Quebec and relator-general of the synod on the Word of God, under way in Rome through the end of October.

“Despite […] that the homily was made subject of the [Second Vatican Council], we still feel great lack of satisfaction on the part of many faithful with regard to the ministry of preaching,” said the cardinal.

He said this “lack of satisfaction explains why many Catholics turned toward other groups and religions.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

WSJ: U.S. to Buy Stakes in Nation's Largest Banks

The Bush administration is expected to take stakes in the nation’s top financial institutions as part of a wide-ranging effort to restore confidence to the battered banking system, following similar moves by European governments that sent global stock markets soaring.

As part of its new plan, the government is set to buy preferred equity stakes in nine top financial institutions, according to people familiar with the situation. It’s unclear how much would be invested in each institution. The move is designed to remove any stigma that might come with a government investment.

Banks receiving government funds include Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of New York Mellon.

Not all of the banks involved are happy with the move, but agreed under pressure from the government.

Read it all. Also, note that Nouriel Roubini is still concerned.

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

In Arkansas Court rules against dad in faith case

A Benton County father found in contempt for violating a custody agreement that barred him from promoting Mormonism to his two sons lost his appeal at the Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

Joel Mark Rownak and Lisa Monette Rownak agreed in their 2005 divorce to raise their children “in the Protestant faith.” The decree bars them from promoting another religion without the other’s consent.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

Christopher Howse: A tax on the font water of our struggling churches

One does not like to play fast and loose with Scripture, but imagine if, after John had baptised Jesus, a man in a peaked cap with a leather satchel slung on his shoulder had come down from the banks of the Jordan and presented the Baptist with a bill for the water he had used. That is what is suddenly happening to churches in England.

They are having to pay water bills for the first time, even though some of them use no water. Where churches are struggling to survive, the extra expense may tip the scales and make them close. This is the prospect faced by Park Lane Unitarian Chapel at Bryn, near Wigan, which was founded in 1697.

“If suddenly you propose something like a 20 per cent increase on our outgoings, we would very quickly find ourselves eating into our very limited resources,” commented Ian Lowe, a trustee of the chapel. “It is unthinkable, but we could go out of existence.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think

Is it ever justifiable to intentionally target innocent civilians in order to achieve political or military ends? Eighty, 81 and 86 percent of British, Canadian and American citizens say never. But only 46 percent of Iranians say never. A striking 24 percent of Iranians say attacks on civilians are often or sometimes justified, and 6 percent say such attacks are completely justified.

The previous sentences are lies, dangerous lies.

The fact that these lies nestle so easily into our presumed knowledge suggests why we need to reconsider what many of us think we know about Islam””and ourselves. This important new book is a great place to begin such a rethinking.

If Americans who aim to follow the way of Jesus are indeed interested in removing the planks from our own outlook before surgically removing the splinters from the perspectives of others, Who Speaks for Islam? provides a mirror to help us compare our crude stereotypes and rough-cut assumptions with a much more nuanced and surprising reality.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Other Faiths