Daily Archives: January 13, 2009

The NY Times Magazine Profiles Mark Driscoll of Seattle's Mars Hill Church

At a time when the once-vaunted unity of the religious right has eroded and the mainstream media is proclaiming an “evangelical crackup,” [Mark] Driscoll represents a movement to revamp the style and substance of evangelicalism. With his taste for vintage baseball caps and omnipresence on Facebook and iTunes, Driscoll, who is 38, is on the cutting edge of American pop culture. Yet his message seems radically unfashionable, even un-American: you are not captain of your soul or master of your fate but a depraved worm whose hard work and good deeds will get you nowhere, because God marked you for heaven or condemned you to hell before the beginning of time. Yet a significant number of young people in Seattle ”” and nationwide ”” say this is exactly what they want to hear. Calvinism has somehow become cool, and just as startling, this generally bookish creed has fused with a macho ethos. At Mars Hill, members say their favorite movie isn’t “Amazing Grace” or “The Chronicles of Narnia” ”” it’s “Fight Club.”

Mars Hill Church is the furthest thing from a Puritan meetinghouse. This is Seattle, and Mars Hill epitomizes the city that spawned it. Headquartered in a converted marine supply store, the church is a boxy gray building near the diesel-infused din of the Ballard Bridge. In the lobby one Sunday not long ago, college kids in jeans ”” some sporting nose rings or kitchen-sink dye jobs ”” lounged on ottomans and thumbed text messages to their friends. The front desk, black and slick, looked as if it ought to offer lattes rather than Bibles and membership pamphlets. Buzz-cut and tattooed security guards mumbled into their headpieces and directed the crowd toward the auditorium, where the worship band was warming up for an hour of hymns with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”

On that Sunday, Driscoll preached for an hour and 10 minutes ”” nearly three times longer than most pastors. As hip as he looks, his message brooks no compromise with Seattle’s permissive culture. New members can keep their taste in music, their retro T-shirts and their intimidating facial hair, but they had better abandon their feminism, premarital sex and any “modern” interpretations of the Bible. Driscoll is adamantly not the “weepy worship dude” he associates with liberal and mainstream evangelical churches, “singing prom songs to a Jesus who is presented as a wuss who took a beating and spent a lot of time putting product in his long hair.”

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

Vatican official urges family groups to increase lobbying efforts

On the eve of the Sixth World Meeting of Families, a Vatican official said Christian family groups must increase their efforts to have an impact on legislation and government programs.

Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said government decisions — particularly regarding the economy, job creation and housing — have a huge impact on families and their voices must be heard.

“Policies must be developed not only for families, but with families,” he told reporters Jan. 9.

“All laws and programs have an impact on the family and legislators must have a better understanding of the needs and desires of families,” the cardinal said at a briefing to present the final program for the Jan. 14-18 World Meeting of Families in Mexico City.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Thomas L. Friedman: Tax cuts for teachers

JFK took us to the moon. Let BHO take America back to school.

But that will take time. There’s simply no shortcut for a stimulus that stimulates minds not just salaries. “You can bail out a bank; you can’t bail out a generation,” says the great American inventor, Dean Kamen, who has designed everything from the Segway to artificial limbs. “You can print money, but you can’t print knowledge. It takes 12 years.”

Sure, we’ll waste some money doing that. That will happen with bridges, too. But a bridge is just a bridge. Once it’s up, it stops stimulating. A student who normally would not be interested in science but gets stimulated by a better teacher or more exposure to a lab, or a scientist who gets the funding for new research, is potentially the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. They create good jobs for years.

Perhaps more bridges can bail us out of a depression, but only more Bills and Steves can bail us into prosperity.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Education, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009

Israelis United on War as Censure Rises Abroad

To Israel’s critics abroad, the picture could not be clearer: Israel’s war in Gaza is a wildly disproportionate response to the rockets of Hamas, causing untold human suffering and bombing an already isolated and impoverished population into the Stone Age, and it must be stopped.

Yet here in Israel very few, at least among the Jewish population, see it that way.

Since Israeli warplanes opened the assault on Gaza 17 days ago, about 900 Palestinians have been reported killed, many of them civilians. Red Cross workers were denied access to scores of dead and wounded Gazans, and a civilian crowd near a United Nations school was hit, with at least 40 people killed.

But voices of dissent in this country have been rare. And while tens of thousands have poured into the streets of world capitals demonstrating against the Israeli military operation, antiwar rallies here have struggled to draw 1,000 participants. The Peace Now organization has received many messages from supporters telling it to stay out of the streets on this one.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Globalization, Israel, Middle East, Terrorism, Violence, War in Gaza December 2008--

The Papal Homily for Mass with Baptisms

The meaning of Christmas, and more generally the meaning of the liturgical year, is precisely that of us drawing near to these divine signs, to recognize in them the events of every day, so that our hearts will open to the love of God. And if Christmas and Epiphany serve above all to make us capable of seeing, to opening our eyes and hearts to the mystery of a God who comes to be with us, the feast of the baptism of Jesus introduces us, we could say, to the everydayness of a personal relationship with him. In fact, through the immersion in the waters of the Jordan, Jesus united himself to us.

Baptism is, so to speak, the bridge that he has built between him and us, the road by which he is accessible to us; it is the divine rainbow over our life, the promise of the great yes of God, the gateway to hope and, at the same time, the sign that indicates the road we must take in an active and joyous way to meet him and feel loved by him.

Dear friends, I am truly happy that this year too, on this feast day, I have been given the opportunity to baptize children. Today God’s pleasure is upon them. From the time that the only-begotten Son of the Father was baptized, heaven has truly opened and continues to open itself, and we can entrust every new life that blossoms to the hands of God, who is stronger than the dark powers of evil. This in effect leads to baptism: We restore to God that which has come from him. The child is not the parents’ property, but is rather entrusted by the Creator to their responsibility, freely and in an ever new way, so that they help him to be a free child of God.

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

LA Times: Anglicans in L.A. and Newport Beach discuss the split

[Richard] Crocker added that the congregation would consider its options but that reconciliation was unlikely.

“Our disagreements [with the Episcopal Church] are profound,” he said in an interview. Parishioners at St. James, he said, are “convinced of the appropriateness of the decision [to leave] and will see it through….”

Forty miles to the north, near the end of Sunday’s service at St. John’s, Kowalewski sounded a different theme: He said the Episcopal Church was “not a collective of individual operators.”

Kowalewski read a letter from the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, the bishop of the Los Angeles diocese, saying, “The Episcopal Church continues its long tradition of welcoming among its members a diversity of opinion, including loyal dissent. Our church remains a large tent expansive enough to include many views and voices while united in common prayer.”

After the service at St. John’s, just blocks from USC, congregants said they were hopeful the disaffiliated parishes would return to the church.

“I think you can have diverse opinions,” said Karen Uhler, 68.

Read it all.

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

School officials want a cut of federal bailout

In Olmstead Falls, Ohio, Superintendent Todd Hoadley sent in the paperwork two days before Thanksgiving to request $100 million from the federal government, half of it for school construction. He has yet to see a check and concedes he dabbling in a bit of hyperbole by latching onto the program, but he says the problems are real.

“We were trying to make the statement: ‘Don’t forget public education,’ ” Hoadley says.

In Olmstead Falls, 1,200 students cram into a 40-year-old high school built for 800. The school board wants to cut $1 million from the district’s $34 million budget, and Gov. Ted Strickland has asked advisers to see what a 25% statewide school funding cut would look like.

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

Despite skepticism, release of rest of U.S. bailout funds gains favor

Republican and Democratic Senate leaders signaled on Monday that they would support the release of the second half of the Treasury’s $700 billion financial system bailout fund, despite anger among many rank-and-file lawmakers over the Bush administration’s management of the program.

As Congress prepared to act, regulators directed thousands of banks to provide more information about how they have used the money received through the bailout program, responding to concern that financial institutions were hoarding the cash rather than lending it to businesses and consumers.

President-elect Barack Obama said on Monday that like Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, his administration would demand substantially greater oversight of the program.

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

USA Today: Activists cheer Obama's choice of gay bishop

Barack Obama’s decision to have a prominent gay bishop open his inaugural festivities Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial is the latest in a series of moves that have heartened gay rights advocates smarting over evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s prime spot at the swearing-in ceremony next week.

The families accompanying Obama on a train ride here from Philadelphia on Sunday include a lesbian couple. Nancy Sutley, a Los Angeles deputy mayor who is gay, has been named to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Gay advocates say they believe more gay appointments are in the offing.

Incoming White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, though he didn’t give a time frame, recently told a questioner at www.change.gov that Obama plans to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that requires gay members of the military to hide their sexual orientation.

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Der Spiegel Interviews James Wolfensohn: Global Downturn 'Is an Earthquake, not a Tremor'

SPIEGEL: Our former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt says it’s all a matter of so-called predatory capitalism. Do you agree?

Wolfensohn: Well, it’s not the system, the system did not drive it. It was driven by individuals, and the individuals created a capitalist system that was full of excesses and not regulated. So it wasn’t because there was a system; it was because individuals took advantage in the absence of appropriate regulation.

SPIEGEL: Has it to do with the American way of doing business, the American way of life, the American dream?

Wolfensohn: Well, your banks — also in their international activities — engaged heavily in this practice and had substantial losses as a consequence of this crisis.

SPIEGEL: But they didn’t invent this business.

Wolfensohn: Avarice is not contained only in the United States. So if something is making money here, it’s very apparent from the reports of your financial institutions and your investors, as well as other foreign banks, that sophisticated investors were investing very heavily in this system. So I give you that it was invented here, but I must say that there were some willing buyers and participants in other parts of the world.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Europe, Germany, Globalization, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Barack Obama asks Sharon Watkins to lead National Prayer Service

(Disciples News Service) President-Elect Obama has invited the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins to preach at the National Prayer Service in the National Cathedral on January 21.

Watkins is General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and an active member of the National Council of Churches Governing Board.

“The President-Elect has chosen a preacher with exceptional skill and theological insight,” said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the NCC, also a Disciples minister. “She speaks out of a deep personal faith commitment and with profound respect for the views of others, which is the historic stance of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I’m sure she’ll sound just the right note to bring people of faith together at this crucial moment in history.”

The National Prayer Service will be attended by President Obama and Vice President Biden, high ranking members of the legislative and judicial branches of government, as well as clergy and laypersons from a wide range of communions and traditions.

Watkins is the first woman selected to preach at the service.

As General Minister, Watkins is general pastor of the 700,000-member Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), responsible for representing the wholeness of the church, for reconciling differences, and for helping the church retain its clarity of mission and identity.

As General President, she is the chief executive officer for the denomination, responsible for overseeing the work of the church’s various structures. She strives to help the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) remain faithful to God’s calling and to do its work effectively and efficiently. She is serving a six-year term that extends through the 2011 General Assembly.

Dr. Watkins is regarded in the ecumenical world as “head of communion” and as the chief representative of the church in national and world ecumenical councils. Disciples often speak of the GMP as the Disciples’ primary leader.

Dr. Watkins has an extensive background of service both in this country and abroad. She is a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches based in Geneva, and serves on the WCC’s Permanent Committee for Consensus and Collaboration. In 2006, she was a representative at the World Council’s General Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

She served for two years as a missionary in the Congo, working on adult literacy programs early in her professional career. In 2008, she returned to the Congo, renewing her ties with the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo there. In 2007, she visited several Middle East countries, focusing specifically on the plight of Iraqi refugees.

She serves on the National Council of Church’s governing board, based in New York City. Dr. Watkins also is a board member of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, a Washington, D.C. based group which seeks to build a movement that puts faith to work for justice.

She is former pastor of Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, Okla. where she served for eight years. In the academic world, she held positions as Director of Student Services at Phillips Theological Seminary in Oklahoma and Associate Vice-President for University Relations at Phillips University. She has been a member of the Church’s General Board Task Force on Reconciliation Mission, Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma, and part of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue Group, which looks, in part, at the traditions and history of the Disciples. She also served as pastor of Boone Grove Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Boone Grove, Ind., and Assistant Minister at Spring Glen Church (United Church of Christ) in Hamden, Conn.

Dr. Watkins has been engaged in a number of ecumenical discussions, conversations on stewardship, and has made presentations on worship, Bible study and women in the ministry. She also has served as an adjunct professor at Phillips Theological Seminary, teaching about pastoral vocation, history, theology and practices of worship as well as spiritual dimensions.

She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Phillips Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from the Yale Divinity School, and a Bachelor’s Degree in French and Economics from Butler University. In 2007, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Phillips Theological Seminary.

She is married to the Rev. Dr. Richard (Rick) H. Lowery, Interim Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. They have two children, Bethany and Christopher.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Disciples of Christ, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture

Christopher Brittain: Confession Obsession? Core Doctrine and the Anxieties of Anglican Theology

This essay focuses on theological reasons for being suspicious of recent proposals within the Anglican Communion for resolving the conflict over homosexuality, including the suggestion that the Communion introduce novel doctrinal specificity, or more rigid forms of Communion authority. The substantial weaknesses of these initiatives are explored particularly through an analysis of the recently introduced concept of “core doctrine.” The paper argues that Anglicanism’s approach to the authority of Scripture, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the nature of doctrinal confession serve as important speed bumps to place in the path of the present momentum toward ecclesial innovation. Although there are considerable practical and ethical questions to raise about the present crisis within the Anglican tradition, this essay focuses on theological reasons for caution, as many of the current proposed solutions to the crisis represent substantial and problematic modifications to Anglican theology and ecclesiology.

The uproar within the Anglican Communion over the question of sexual orientation is threatening to alter the very nature of Anglicanism. Many theologians and church leaders have responded to the contemporary crisis by calling for a novel emphasis on doctrinal confession within the churches of the Communion. One symptom of this concern is the emergence of the concept of core doctrine, which some recent church authorities have resorted to in order to respond to the current dispute. Since the “heresy” trial of Bishop Righter in 1996, the term “core doctrine” has been invoked by the Windsor Report issued by the Lambeth Commission in October of 2004, and subsequently by the St. Michael Report of the Anglican Church of Canada in 2005. Although this desire for greater doctrinal clarity is understandable, such recent innovations are plagued by considerable theological problems. Careful analysis of the limitations of the concept of core doctrine and consideration of proposals for more centralized ecclesial authority within the Communion demonstrate that further theological reflection is required before such proposals are adopted formally by churches of the Communion.

Although there are considerable practical and ethical questions to raise about the present crisis within the Anglican tradition, this essay focuses on theological reasons for being cautious about the introduction of core doctrine and Communion-wide forms of canon law. Throughout this discussion, I question whether the current obsession with securing more rigid forms of church authority is consistent with the Anglican tradition, particularly its emphases on the authority of Scripture, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the nature of doctrinal confession.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Identity, Church History, Theology

Living Church: Gene Robinson Plans ”˜Not Especially Christian’ Prayer for Inaugural Event

The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, has accepted an invitation to offer a prayer at a Jan. 18 inaugural event to welcome the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama.

Bishop Robinson said he has not yet composed the prayer he will offer, but said he will not use a Bible.

“While that is a holy and sacred text to me,” he said, “it is not for many Americans. I will be careful not to be especially Christian in my prayer. This is a prayer for the whole nation. It won’t a happy clappy prayer.”

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

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Episcopal Church (TEC), Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, TEC Bishops

When Serving the Lord, Ministers Are Often Found to Neglect Themselves

One day in 1993, the Rev. Steve Hickle picked up his phone and received news of a death. Even for a minister who deals with funerals and burials at least once a month, this particular demise was especially troubling. The victim was just 48 years old, a father of five and, like Mr. Hickle, a Methodist pastor in the Piedmont foothills.

Until recently, Mr. Hickle had thought of his colleague’s death as an object lesson in the capricious impermanence of life. Several months ago, though, as he attended a discussion on the subject of health in the clergy convened by the Divinity School at Duke University here, he began to wonder if there was more involved in a middle-age man’s fatal heart attack than the mystery of the divine plan.

That discussion was one of the first stages of an ambitious effort by Duke to assess and improve the health of ministers, specifically the 1,800 United Methodist pastors in North Carolina because the Divinity School serves as a seminary for the denomination. What underlies the study ”” and what Mr. Hickle, among others, has experienced firsthand ”” is a concern that in serving the Lord, ministers neglect themselves.

“It’s a personality trait that accompanies the sense of divine calling,” said Mr. Hickle, 58, who has been the pastor at Fairmont United Methodist Church in Raleigh for 19 years. “You’re feeding your need to be liked, your need to be valued, your need to be needed.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Catherine Pepinster Reviews the New Book Rowan's Rule by Rupert Shortt

Rowan’s Rule, to a Catholic like me, suggests something monastic. Indeed, there are several instances where Williams, despite being married and the leading Anglican primate, does seem monk-like, with his devotion to a structured prayer life, a love of study and simplicity. But both the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion have been extremely unruly during his time at the top.

Some of the most interesting material is in Shortt’s account of Williams’s life before Canterbury. As a child, he was prodigiously clever, studious and pious. His parents were Nonconformists but when the 11-year-old Rowan discovered the High Anglican church of All Saints, Oystermouth, above Swansea where they had moved, he persuaded them to forsake their background for the Book of Common Prayer and the Catholic strand of the Church of England. This is not to say he was without the hint of fun and humour which his many friends attest. Nevertheless, he retained an appetite for solitude. He made his way through Cambridge and Oxford as both student and academic, finishing in 1986 as Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford, before embarking upon an episcopal career first in Monmouth and later as archbishop of Wales. This account highlights early incidents where Williams seemed too kindly to deal toughly with those causing conflict. Those traits have not helped in Canterbury. Indeed, his seeming ability to see both sides of an argument has sometimes led both parties in a row to think he agrees with them.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Books, Church of England (CoE), England / UK