Daily Archives: October 27, 2008

Evangelical church program explores skepticism, atheism

When she was 20, Jessi Thull’s father died of cancer, an event that took seven months from diagnosis to death, and that she describes now as “overwhelming.”

Thull was brought up as a church-going Christian, but her father’s death and the resulting pain made her question God’s existence. “I had no sense as to how there could be a good God who would just watch as a family falls apart,” she said.

Thull, now 26 and reconciled with God, was examining her skepticism recently as part of a program at The Journey, a popular evangelical church in south St. Louis that is taking dead aim at the resurging popularity of doubt and skepticism in American society.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Atheism, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Theology

Seeing the enemy in Afghanistan

Richard Engle has been doing some terrific pieces like this one on the “other” war–watch it all..

The rest of the Richard Engle’s reports are here.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces

US public pension funds face big losses

California’s Calpers, the US’s biggest pension fund, last week reported a loss of 20 per cent of its assets, or more than $40bn, between July 1 and October 20 this year.

State and local pension funds comprise a patchwork of 2,700 funds that manage $1,400bn on behalf of 21m employees, including teachers, firefighters and other municipal workers.

About 40 per cent are underfunded, meaning that they would not be able to pay the future pensions that employees have been promised. State governments have lifted pension benefits ”“ a move that is politically popular ”“ but have often failed to put in more money to pay for them.

Richard Daley, mayor of Chicago, this year convened a taskforce to address the shortfalls in Illinois funds. For example, funding for the Police Fund has fallen to less than 50 per cent.

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

LA Times: Gay priest is true to his faith, at odds with his Roman Catholic Church

So who is this Catholic priest from Fresno who stood up and spoke out against Proposition 8, putting his career on the line? As a gay man who finds the church’s views on homosexuality so objectionable, why has he been a priest for more than 20 years and subjected himself to such moral conflict?

After reading my colleague Duke Helfand’s story about Father Geoffrey Farrow and his recent career-suicide from the pulpit, I was curious.

Farrow agreed to meet me for lunch in the middle of a schedule that’s gotten very busy since he became persona non grata to his employer. He’s been asked to appear all over the state for rallies against Prop. 8, which would amend the California Constitution to say marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ: God's Omnipotence

Over the years, I’ve gotten e-mails from a number of people asking me if planets, stars or constellations are mentioned in the Bible. Of course they are!

There are computer programs you can get that contain the whole text of the Bible and allow you to do global searches on words or phrases. When I just looked up “stars” I came across a number of instances. (And, in the process, I missed one of the most famous ones: the opening from Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.”)

But of course, that’s just gathering data. As a scientist, what I do instinctively is to look the data over and try to find trends. And over the next few days I want to share some of these insights here. It’s not just that stars are mentioned in passing in the Bible; what is fascinating to me is how they are used…

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Theology

San Diego Episcopal Diocese wins appeal of Fallbrook case

A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal reversed the decision of a lower court, which determined two years ago that the diocese failed to prove its case.

The civil lawsuit claimed that the leaders of what became St. John’s Anglican Church are not the legitimate officers because they are no longer Episcopalians. According to the lawsuit, new officers elected by members who did not break away from the congregation should have authority over the property.

Vista Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Stern disagreed in her November 2006 ruling.

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

William Rees-Mogg: The banks must rediscover Victorian values

Where relationship banking still survives, there have been relatively few problems of bad debts. The problems have arisen in transactional and unsecured credit card banking with one-off or completely unknown customers. Of course the customers have often behaved badly; if a bank does not know its customers, who are only blips on a computer screen, some of them will behave badly. The bank only has itself to blame.

The Sunday Times yesterday had a blazing example of the evils that can result. Banks issuing credit cards have found a legal way of turning unsecured debt into debt secured on house property. That means that credit card debt, which banks have been ladling out to all comers, can lead to the repossession of the family home. Which bank is notorious for the harsh use of this loophole of which credit card customers were given no prior warning? Apparently it is Northern Rock, which was “rescued” by being nationalised. So the grotesque situation has arisen in which the Government is repossessing the houses of credit card customers – to their considerable dismay – as part of the rescue of an incompetently run bank.

The decline of moral responsibility has damaged British banks; it is the real flaw behind the credit crisis. There will be new regulation of the world’s banking system after the crisis. Governments cannot risk another catastrophe on this scale. The banks need to change their behaviour. They need to re-establish relations with their clients and value experience in their staff.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Economy, England / UK, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

The Order of Saint Helena to close two convents

The order plans on closing its Augusta house also and is in the process of “refounding itself for new ministry opportunities in a new location, but with the same mission of prayer and service to God’s world.”

“We feel that the Holy Spirit is moving us to relocate to a new area and to re-found our community and mission,” said Sister Cintra Pemberton OSH. The closings bring “us much pain,” she said, “but we recognize that we can no longer afford to operate and staff three convents.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC)

Oliver Thomas: Is America living up to God’s expectations?

Don’t get me wrong. The U.S. is a great nation. She has pushed the bounds of science and technology and brought prosperity to the masses, creating the world’s largest middle class. She has defeated some of the world’s vilest villains and brought freedom and the rule of law to the farthest reaches of the planet. But she is not perfect. She has toppled democratically elected governments in favor of friendly dictators and firebombed civilians. She has consumed resources at a dangerous pace and ravaged the environment in the process. She has allowed her cities to fester and her family farms to wither and die. And, she has gone from a progressive tax structure, that was built upon the biblical premise that to whom much is given much is required, to one that provides massive tax relief to the people who need it least the rich.

The faith community has our work cut out for us if America is to become the “city upon a hill” envisioned by some of our greatest leaders. And if self-awareness is the beginning of wisdom, perhaps we should start by reading the Bible with different eyes. Let’s lose the hubris. Maybe we’re not ancient Israel. Maybe we’re Rome.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

Spiritual leaders see opening for poverty issue in election

At a time when more than 37 million Americans are in poverty, including many who are newly poor and paying keen attention, spiritual leaders are encouraging the young to vote and urging voters to select candidates who will fight poverty.

“I feel more momentum, energy and focus on poverty than I have in churches in three decades or more,” said Jim Wallis, chief executive officer of Sojourners social justice ministries in Washington.

“Partly, it’s a new generation. Baby boomers are becoming church leaders and speaking to a new generation that wants their lives to make a difference. It’s a new altar call, if you will,” he said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Poverty, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

William Witt Responds to D.C. Toedt

Luke is making the same point in Acts, and in his account the apostles’ sermons are summaries of this. It is not that Jesus was an ordinary human being, who received a celestial promotion after the resurrection; rather, from the beginning Jesus was the Lord (kyrios), the Son of God–and Luke lets his reader know this from the beginning of his gospel. However, Jesus’ Lordship and Deity were hidden in humility until the resurrection–he is the Lord who waits at tables. It is only after his resurrection, that Jesus is exalted to the right hand and his identity as “Lord of all” (panton kyrios) is finally recognized and proclaimed by his followers.

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Posted in Christology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Spending Stalls and Businesses Slash U.S. Jobs

As the financial crisis crimps demand for American goods and services, the workers who produce them are losing their jobs by the tens of thousands.

Layoffs have arrived in force, like a wrenching second act in the unfolding crisis. In just the last two weeks, the list of companies announcing their intention to cut workers has read like a Who’s Who of corporate America: Merck, Yahoo, General Electric, Xerox, Pratt & Whitney, Goldman Sachs, Whirlpool, Bank of America, Alcoa, Coca-Cola, the Detroit automakers and nearly all the airlines.

When October’s job losses are announced on Nov. 7, three days after the presidential election, many economists expect the number to exceed 200,000. The current unemployment rate of 6.1 percent is likely to rise, perhaps significantly.

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

Quick end to Bennison defense sends jurors home

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

New York State's top court rules against former Episcopal church in Irondequoit

The Episcopal Diocese of Rochester has the rights to the property of the All Saints Church in Irondequoit even though the parish voted to break away from the denomination, the state’s highest court ruled today.

In 1989, All Saints Church signed a document that placed all of its property in trust for the diocese and the national church. The church has since separated from the national church because it disagreed with the ordination of a gay bishop.

But the separation didn’t affect the diocese’s right to the property, the Court of Appeals said in a unanimous ruling, upholding decisions made by two lower courts.

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

Christians feud over Church of Holy Sepulcher

Two rival monks are posted at all times in a rooftop courtyard at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion: a bearded Copt in a black robe and an Ethiopian sunning himself on a wooden chair, studiously ignoring each other as they fight over the same sliver of sacred space.

For decades, Coptic and Ethiopian Christians have been fighting over the Deir el-Sultan monastery, which sits atop a chapel at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The monastery is little more than a cluster of dilapidated rooms and a passageway divided into two incense-filled chapels, an architectural afterthought alongside the Holy Sepulcher’s better-known features.

And yet Deir el-Sultan has become the subject of a feud that has gone far beyond the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. The Ethiopians control the site, but the Egypt-based Copts say they own it and see the Ethiopians as illegal squatters.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Middle East, Other Churches