Daily Archives: November 13, 2008

A NY Episcopal Church removes pews in bid to attract believers

An Episcopal church in the New York suburbs is hoping that the removal of two dozen pews from the sanctuary will make the church feel less empty and more inviting.

St. Bartholomew’s Church in White Plains, an 80-year-old congregation that like many mainline Protestant churches has experienced shrinking membership, hatched the plan as part of an effort to create a more intimate space for worship that could appeal to visitors.

“When people visited before, it seemed like a museum,” said the Rev. Gawain de Leeuw, rector of St. Bart’s for five years. “The church seemed empty. Each person could have had their own pew. Changing our sanctuary space immediately changed the way people feel in the church. It’s an important start.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

Stand Firm Interviews: Bishop Jack Iker

Greg Griffith: So not just from a conceptual standpoint, but really from an official standpoint, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is not a creation of General Convention.

Bishop Iker: Not at all. If it’s a “creation” of anything, it’s a creation of the Diocese of Dallas, which decided for missionary and church growth purposes that they would divide the diocese in two. Two-thirds of the geographical area remained the diocese of Dallas. They wanted to create a new diocese which at the time didn’t have a name; it was referred to as the “western diocese,” so the first convention had to, among other things, choose our name – it wasn’t given to us by someone else. There were several proposals, and the vote was that we call ourselves the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

Greg Griffith: Provided the resolutions at your convention pass, you’ll be joining Bishop Schofield and San Joaquin, Bishop Duncan and Pittsburgh, as well as the diocese of Quincy, which voted yesterday, in a realignment with the Southern Cone under Archbishop Venables. I think we have to be candid and say that’s probably it for the near term – that’s probably all the dioceses that will be aligning with the Cone for the time being.

Bishop Iker: I think so. It’s interesting, though, that historically to form a new province it’s been customary to have 4 dioceses.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Common Cause Partnership, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Conflicts: Quincy, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

Detroit City Council wants $10 billion Federal bailout for city

The Detroit City Council wants a $10 billion federal bail out for the city, to pay for public works projects to create jobs, such as a mass transit system, and to deal with high foreclosure rates.

The council passed the resolution today 7-1, with Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel as the only opposition. It urges Mayor Kenneth Cockrel and Council President Monica Conyers to push for the funds by meeting with Gov. Jennifer Granholm, congressional officials, President George W. Bush’s administration and President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team.

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

US May Lose Its 'AAA' Rating

The United States may be on course to lose its ‘AAA’ rating due to the large amount of debt it has accumulated, according to Martin Hennecke, senior manager of private clients at Tyche.

“The U.S. might really have to look at a default on the bankruptcy reorganization of the present financial system” and the bankruptcy of the government is not out of the realm of possibility, Hennecke said.

“In the United States there is already a funding crisis, and they will have to sell a lot more bonds next year to fund the bailout packages that have already been signed off,” Hennecke told CNBC.

Read or watch it all.

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

Pope Benedict XVI: Three Positive Effects of Faith in the Afterlife

“The first attitude [for Christians],” he said, “is the certainty that Jesus has risen, is with the Father, and because of that, is with us forever. [”¦] Because of this, we are secure and free of fear. This was an essential effect of Christian preaching. Fear of spirits and gods was spread throughout the entire ancient world. And today as well, missionaries find — together with so many good elements in natural religions — the fear of spirits and the ill-fated powers that threaten us. Christ is alive; he has overcome death and has overcome all these powers. With this certainty, with this freedom, with this joy, we live. This is the first element of our living directed to the future.”

The second attitude for faith-filled Christians is the certainty that Christ “is with me,” the Pontiff continued.

“And that in Christ the future world has already begun — this also gives the certainty of hope,” he said. “The future is not a darkness in which no one gets one’s bearings. It is not like that. Without Christ, also for the world today, the future is dark; there is fear of the future — a lot of fear of the future. The Christian knows that the light of Christ is stronger and because of this, lives in a hope that is not vague, in a hope that gives certainty and courage to face the future.”

But this certainty, Benedict XVI affirmed in noting the third attitude, in no way justifies an escape from responsibilities in the present life.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Eschatology, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

Thomas Friedman on Fixing the Auto Industry

I am as terrified as anyone of the domino effect on industry and workers if GM were to collapse. But if we are going to use taxpayer money to rescue Detroit, then it should be done along the lines proposed in The Wall Street Journal on Monday by Paul Ingrassia, a former Detroit bureau chief for that paper.

“In return for any direct government aid,” he wrote, “the board and the management [of GM] should go. Shareholders should lose their paltry remaining equity. And a government-appointed receiver – someone hard-nosed and nonpolitical – should have broad power to revamp GM with a viable business plan and return it to a private operation as soon as possible. That will mean tearing up existing contracts with unions, dealers and suppliers, closing some operations and selling others and downsizing the company. … Giving GM a blank check – which the company and the United Auto Workers union badly want, and which Washington will be tempted to grant – would be an enormous mistake.”

I would add other conditions: Any car company that gets taxpayer money must demonstrate a plan for transforming every vehicle in its fleet to a hybrid-electric engine with flex-fuel capability, so its entire fleet can also run on next generation cellulosic ethanol.

Lastly, somebody ought to call Steve Jobs, who doesn’t need to be bribed to do innovation, and ask him if he’d like to do national service and run a car company for a year. I’d bet it wouldn’t take him much longer than that to come up with the GM iCar.

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

1,200-year-old church uncovered in Syria

Archeologists in central Syria have unearthed a 1,200-year-old church believed to be the largest ever discovered in this Mideast country, an antiquities official said Thursday.

Walid al-Assaad, the head of the Palmyra Antiquities and Museums Department said the church, dating back to the 8th century B.C., was discovered recently by a joint Syrian-Polish archaeological team.

The discovery took place at an excavation site in the ancient town of Palmyra, some 153 miles (245 kilometers) northeast of the capital Damascus, the official said but did not provide a more specific timing.

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

Mary Fallon Defends Euthanasia

Dutch law gives the doctor the final decision to allow euthanasia. Doctors risk legal action, and every euthanasia case is reviewed to ensure the doctor in charge had kept to the legislated requirements.

Riet was shocked and distressed when her wish was refused. Her doctors’ consensus was they were not yet convinced she was making a consistent and rational decision.

Rob de Graaf was her specialist at Valkenhof hospital, where three doctors have performed seven voluntary euthanasias over the past five years.

De Graaf, who says he has had nightmares after performing euthanasias, volunteers to assist those eligible for euthanasia to relieve suffering. “Every doctor knows this is a cry for help,” he says. “The loss of human dignity is the major reason to ask for euthanasia.”

In Riet’s case, de Graaf said, doctors were unsure about her mental competency. Could she make a rational, consistent decision to end her life, or was the tumour affecting her mental state? She had to convince the doctors to help her end her life before the tumour took over and she lost her capacity to choose.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Theology

Chris Sugden: Lambeth 2008 – a retrospect

What agenda did emerge? When the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked this question at the closing press conference, he immediately referred to the statement of the Windsor Continuation Group that came at the beginning of the conference.
This called for a complete cessation of
(a) the celebration of blessings for same-sex unions,
(b) consecrations of those living in openly gay relationships and
(c) all cross-border interventions and inter-provincial claims of jurisdiction

The group writes that “cessation of activity. .. applies to practices that may have already been authorised as well as proposed for authorisation in the future. “ The agenda also included the Pastoral Forum, for which bishops from overseas jurisdictions in the United States had not asked.

Had this agenda been discussed with the Primates, or endorsed by the conference? The closing presidential address had enumerated these and received a standing ovation, but not from the Presiding Bishop of TEC who stood with arms folded.
Some bishops probably saw from afar this attempt to produce an agenda out of what were only styled as reflections. The Moderators from the Churches of North and South India, Pakistan and Bangladesh issued their own statement as the conference ended. As other bishops had claimed to represent over half the church going Anglicans, they claimed to “represent nearly a quarter of the human race practicing and living all the major faiths of the world”. In other words, they knew what they were talking about in inter-faith matters. They applauded the walk of witness on world poverty but concluded that this “will mean an equitable sharing of resources within the Communion”. They were saddened and disturbed by the ”˜fractured nature of the Anglican Communion’ which “seems primarily to have been caused by the issue of human sexuality”¦”¦We acknowledge the biblical norms on human sexuality and urge that within the Anglican Communion this may be upheld for the effective witness of the Gospel.” They ask that “our differences, self-justifications and arrogant attitudes may be crucified and that we all experience the power of the resurrection for the transformation of our life together in the Communion.” Primates from the Global South, the Council of Anglican Province of Africa Bishops and the Bishops of Egypt also made public statements as the conference ended. Did this flurry of ”˜minority reports’ represent a frustration at not having any opportunity to express a common mind and a protest against the Conference leadership?

Missing most glaringly from the Reflections are the presence of sin and disobedience in the leadership of the communion, clear disobedience to revealed truth in Scripture and a total avoidance of the issues of power in any relationships local or global. Mere repetition of being gracious and not rushing to judgment is the ploy that unethical power uses to mask its strategies of continuing hegemony.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth 2008

“Extraordinary ordination” has no United Methodist status, bishops say

In a Nov. 7 statement, the United Methodist bishops declared the ecumenical ordination of a lesbian and another woman who champions gay rights, which took place Oct. 19 at a United Methodist Church in Baltimore, “was not approved by any United Methodist annual conference, board of ordained ministry or cabinet.”

The ordinations “belong to Church Within A Church,” according to the council of 69 active and 91 retired bishops from the United States, Africa, Europe and the Philippines.

Church Within a Church is a six-year old organization of Methodists who describe themselves as “dedicated to being the inclusive church.” During the ecumenical ordination service, hands were laid on the two women by retired United Methodist Bishops Susan Morrison and Jessie DeWitt, along with leaders from the United Church of Christ, Catholic, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches and the women’s sponsors.

While ordinations are ecclesial actions, the bishops said the ordination, “has no effect within The United Methodist Church,” has no official status, and will not qualify individuals for appointment within the denomination. The bishops upheld the clarity of the church’s proscription that it does not ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Methodist, Other Churches, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Obama makes first phone call to pope

President-elect Barack Obama made his first telephone call to Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday (Nov. 11), thanking the pontiff for sending a personal message of good will for his election victory, the Vatican confirmed.

“Mr. Obama made a call to the Holy Father in response to the congratulatory message the pope had sent to him upon his election. He wanted to call him, evidently, to thank him,” Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said by telephone. He gave no further details about the conversation.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, US Presidential Election 2008

Nashotah House extends Robert Munday's contract as dean

The Very Rev. Canon Robert S. Munday will serve as dean and president of Nashotah House for a further five years, the board of trustees for the Wisconsin-based seminary announced recently.

Excellent news–read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Quincy Promises 'Christian Charity' for Remaining Episcopalians

Along with ending its affiliation with The Episcopal Church during its annual synod last weekend, the Diocese of Quincy established a protocol for clergy and parishes that do not wish to join the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone.

The Rev. Canon Ed den Blaauwen, president of the diocesan standing committee, was named vicar general by Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone. Canon den Blaauwen announced that members of the clergy would receive a certificate indicating they are members in good standing of the South American province. Clergy who wish to remain with The Episcopal Church were asked to write the word “rejected” on the certificate, sign and date it, and return it to the diocesan office.

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

An Open Letter to the Church of England House of Bishops

Most Reverend and Right Reverend Fathers in God,

Tomorrow [today on the time of posting] you will meet as a House of Bishops to discuss the current state of the Church of England and, particularly, the decision made at General Synod over the summer. As young people training for the ministerial priesthood in the Church of England we have attempted to put into words our concerns and anxieties about the future, and to offer you, in some small way, an insight into our hopes and fears for, potentially, forty years of ordained ministry.

The decision by General Synod in July to consider a Code of Practice, rather than structural alternatives, presents a significant problem for those who are opposed to the ordination of women. Many of this integrity have suggested that it is “too soon to give up” and that something effective can come from the next Group of Sessions. We fear this is unlikely. If the Church of England chooses not to provide appropriate structural solutions, as this resolution by General Synod would seem to indicate, it would be foolhardy – and even disingenuous – to continue to prepare for a life of ordained ministry in the Church of England.

Read it carefully and read it all.

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

ABC World News' Daily Blog: Want Some Government Money? Apply Now!

…here’s ABC’s Dan Arnall on whether there has been, as he puts it, a “Great TARP Bait & Switch”.

No Troubled Asset Purchases? Then what are they doing with that $700 billion blank check? They are buying bank stock, not troubled assets. We probably shouldn’t call it the TARP anymore. Instead, they are focused on a capital purchase plan (CPP) which is the widely reported $250 billion plan to use taxpayer money to purchase a stake in banks. “By October 26th we had $115 billion out the door to eight large institutions,” said Paulson. “In Washington that is a land-speed record from announcing a program to getting funds out the door. We now have approved dozens of additional applications, and investments are being made in approved institutions.” When we’ll get a list of those dozens of additional applicants which will be getting a piece of the $125 billion in remaining taxpayer case remains to be seen. The original CPP participants were told about the program at a closed-door meeting at Treasury and no minutes have been released on what was said during the meeting.

So, is this the biggest bait and switch in American history?

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