Daily Archives: January 26, 2009

Washington Times: Virginia Episcopal diocese warms to gay unions

“There is a time to take that step and follow Christ,” said Matt Johnson, a delegate from Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains, Va. “I think this is one of those times. Yes, these relationships have integrity and are blessed. For 20 years, we have been talking about this. Let’s go do it.”

Frank Baxter, 70, a Front Royal resident who said he had been in a 24-year “committed relationship,” agreed.

“I would like to see the diocese accept us as full members of this church while we are still on the green side of the grass,” he said.

But opponents said the “relationships” could apply to any sexual partnership.

“I can envision that relationship with one of those persons married to someone else,” said a male delegate from Church of Our Saviour in Charlottesville. “What do we do about that?”

“I think we’re going to open some doors we do not wish to open,” said delegate Ann Davis from Louisa. “A 30-something woman told me her understanding of monogamy means ‘one at a time.’ There is nothing here about these relationships being ‘lifelong.’ ”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

Jonathan Turley with Further Thoughts on the new President and Religion

Obviously, important things are to be done in a host of other areas by Obama, but it is a dangerous precedent to have another president who treats constitutional principles as something of a distraction. Just as Bush dismissed abstract principles in his war on terror, Obama seems poised to do the same in his economic war. Again, it will simply be an inconvenient time for principle.

I joined millions around the world relishing the moment Obama took the oath and gave such eloquence and hope to a besieged nation. But there is a danger of a cult of personality developing around Obama, that supporters could, in all this adoration, confuse the man with his mandate. So, when Obama put his hand on the Lincoln Inaugural Bible, I silently prayed not for a president but for principle, and that Obama will be able to tell the difference.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture

Bishop of Sheffield ordained

DR STEVEN Croft has been ordained as the new Bishop of Sheffield in a packed service at York Minster.

Worshippers from churches across Sheffield joined Christians from around the region for the special ceremony led by Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.

Read it all.

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

Episcopal Diocese of Western New York forms new church

One friend told her, “Run away and run quickly.”

But the Rev. Sarah E. Gordy decided not to retreat from the intriguing task of establishing a new Episcopal congregation in the church building of her youth ”” a sanctuary that a thriving congregation packed up and left slightly more than a month ago.

On Sunday, Gordy, an Episcopal priest, will celebrate her first liturgy as vicar of Holy Apostle Episcopal Church in the Town of Tonawanda.

The mission parish was created by the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York following last month’s departure of most members of the former St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, a large, conservative congregation that had been at odds for years with the direction of the national church.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Departing Parishes, TEC Parishes

The Roman Catholic Bishop of New Hampshire: Racism has receded; abortion continues

Racism and abortion are grave moral evils. As progress is made on one front, we cannot stand idly by while protections for the unborn slip away. Catholics, along with all people of goodwill, need to remain steadfast in opposing abortion and in building respect for life. It is not a question of the church attempting to impose its will on others, as it is our determination to proclaim the value of innocent, human life. With God’s grace, our determination will enable others to see the fullness of life that exists at conception in the womb.

Regrettably, among political leaders, there are a precious few who speak up for life and against abortion.

Change is truly needed in our politics, not in our morality. Change is wonderfully manifest in Obama as our first African-American president. May change now come to our nation’s attitude toward human life so we all will increase the respect for all human life, from conception to natural death.

Read it all.

Update: A letter in response is here.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Events around nation mark 36th anniversary of Roe abortion decision

As the annual March for Life drew thousands to Washington Jan. 22, the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion was marked around the country.

At Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, on the eve of the Roe anniversary, students were encouraged to attend a Holy Hour for life from 10 to 11 p.m. before embarking on an overnight journey to Washington for the March for Life.

The school “is very pro-life and since the mission of the school is education, our main focus on campus is educating students about the pro-life movement and how they can be pro-life,” said Emily Espinola, Students for Life president, in a statement.

But her organization seeks to carry the pro-life message beyond campus, she said, with advocacy throughout the year such as praying outside abortion clinics four days a week, training sidewalk counselors, hosting pro-life speakers on campus, and connecting with other universities and colleges to train pro-life student leaders.

Read it all.

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

An ABC Nightline profile of one of Willow Creek's Outreach Ministries in the Midst of the Recession

A very interesting example of the gospel of transformation at work. Well worth viewing with a small group or vestry for discussion.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

The Day the British banks were just three hours from collapse

An interesting piece about last fall.

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

Der Spiegel: 'German Banks Are on the Edge of the Abyss'

Several government rescue packages later, the troubled German banking sector is still showing no sign of recovering from the financial crisis.

The discussion over what to do with the hundreds of billions of euros worth of toxic securities the banks still have on their balance sheets has received fresh impetus in Germany after it became clear that the Special Fund for Financial Market Stabilization — known as Soffin after its German acronym — is not succeeding in its intended aim of helping out troubled banks and jump-starting financial markets. Günther Merl, the head of the agency that manages Soffin, announced Wednesday that he was resigning — the second person to quit the agency’s steering committee within the last three months. Insiders say that Merl was frustrated at having his authority usurped by government and Finance Ministry officials.

Now the talk is of setting up a so-called “bad bank” to take over banks’ toxic securities — an approach backed by a number of leading German bankers. Sweden was able to successfully use this model in the early 1990s to combat its own credit crunch. The state even made money when distressed assets were later sold.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Economy, Europe, Germany, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Kendall Harmon on Obama and Religion: Cautious Hope Amidst Fractiousness

Obama’s appeals to unity should not be taken for granted, however. Much was made recently of Russian thinker Igor Panarin’s prediction that the US will disintegrate in 2010. While well short of the mark, Panarin put his finger on a painful truth: America has become more divided and frail than many believe. The last two presidents, both baby-boomers who fought the culture wars, were very polarising figures. In Obama many of us see hope for a real oneness that is much needed.

All that said, I have deep concerns, on nothing so much as the issue of the commodification of life so prevalent in America. Obama famously said at Saddleback Church that the exact moment when life begins was a question “above” his “pay grade”. But if there even is a question whether it is life or not surely the error to make is on the side of life, otherwise we are like the hunter who shoots first in the forest and asks questions later.

My other great worry: America is in crisis over what exactly marriage is. Is it a social contract for the fulfilment of personal and sexual needs, or is it a lifelong covenant for the raising of children and of citizens who promote the common good? We seem to be veering ever more strongly in favour of the former, at the expense of the latter.

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Posted in * By Kendall, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture

Suzanne Schwank: Split in church is tragically real, thanks to two opposing messages

Recent opinion pieces published in the Gazette about divisions in the Episcopal Church reveal more than intended.

One writes that only “four bishops” have left the church and that “the vast majority of Episcopal churches” don’t want to leave. This is the Episcopal Church’s oft repeated mantra — division in the church is numerically minor, therefore wildly overblown. This rhetoric fuels the crisis it seeks to deny. It isn’t helpful to claim that there is some smoke but no fire when there are flames everywhere.

It’s not simply four bishops but four dioceses that have left following arduous discernment processes that spanned two annual conventions. While only a small percentage of individual parishes have left, it’s a “figure’s lie and liar’s figure” argument.

The denomination’s membership has dropped by double digits annually in the last decade. By 2007, the average Sunday attendance had fallen to 103, the median attendance to only 69 people.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Departing Parishes, Theology

A Commonweal Editorial: Gamed

Until the markets collapsed, the now-disgraced fund manager Bernard L. Madoff also did what his clients expected him to do, producing mysteriously high returns on their investments. Neither his investors nor the Securities and Exchange Commission seemed to care very much how he did it. In this sense, Madoff is to Wall Street as Governor Rod Blagojevich (apparently) is to Illinois machine politics: an egregious emblem rather than a mere anomaly. Just as it is hard to imagine how a politician so mediocre and unscrupulous could have flourished in a healthy political environment, it seems unlikely that Madoff’s scam could have gone undetected for so long in a healthy-and properly regulated-financial industry. (Of course, most investment managers did not commit fraud, and some of them were no doubt as surprised as their clients by the market’s precipitous decline; there has been incompetence to rival the corruption.)

The credit crisis was caused partly by a lack of due caution, both on Wall Street and in Washington. Paradoxically, it is now excessive caution that may keep us from adequately addressing it. The problem is too big to be solved by minor adjustments or executive temporizing. The Obama administration will need to undertake several large-scale reforms, which are bound to be unpopular with the banking industry and devotees of laissez-faire economics. Credit-rating agencies, for example, must no longer be allowed to work for the companies whose bonds they rate. Credit-default swaps, which were originally designed as a kind of insurance but later turned into an instrument for high-stakes gambling, need to be regulated. Investment firms and banks with financial divisions should be required to hold more capital, so that when things go bad they can cover their own losses instead of cadging a government bailout.

Above all, Congress and the new administration should steer Wall Street back toward its principal function, which is to direct capital to the productive part of the economy, not to peddle complex derivatives or place high-risk bets with other people’s money.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Bernard Madoff Scandal, Economy, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Stock Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009

The Pope's Homily at the end of Christian Unity week: Why Have You Wounded the Unity of My Body?

We owe this choice of the passage from the prophet Ezekiel to our Korean brothers, who felt the call of this biblical passage strongly, both as Koreans and Christians. In the division of the Jewish people into two kingdoms they saw themselves reflected, the children of one land who, on account of political events, have been divided, north from south. Their human experience helped them to better understand the drama of the division among Christians.

Now, from this Word of God, chosen by our Korean brothers and proposed to all, a truth full of hope emerges: God allows his people a new unity, which must be a sign and an instrument of reconciliation and peace, even at the historical level, for all nations. The unity that God gives his Church, and for which we pray, is naturally communion in the spiritual sense, in faith and in charity; but we know that this unity in Christ is also the ferment of fraternity in the social sphere, in relations between nations and for the whole human family. It is the leaven of the Kingdom of God that makes all the dough rise (cf. Matthew 13:33).

In this sense, the prayer that we offer up in these days, taking our cue from the prophecy of Ezekiel, has also become intercession for the different situations of conflict that afflict humanity at present. There where human words become powerless, because the tragic noise of violence and arms prevails, the prophetic power of the Word of God does not weaken and it repeats to us that peace is possible, and that we must be instruments of reconciliation and peace. For this reason our prayer for unity and peace always requires confirmation by courageous gestures of reconciliation among us Christians.

Once again I think of the Holy Land: how important it is that the faithful who live there, and the pilgrims who travel there, offer a witness to everyone that diversity of rites and traditions need not be an obstacle to mutual respect and to fraternal charity. In the legitimate diversity of different positions we must seek unity in faith, in our fundamental “yes” to Christ and to his one Church. And thus the differences will no longer be an obstacle that separates but richness in the multiplicity of the expressions of a common faith.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Middle East, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Google plans to make PCs history

Google is to launch a service that would enable users to access their personal computer from any internet connection, according to industry reports. But campaigners warn that it would give the online behemoth unprecedented control over individuals’ personal data.

The Google Drive, or “GDrive”, could kill off the desktop computer, which relies on a powerful hard drive. Instead a user’s personal files and operating system could be stored on Google’s own servers and accessed via the internet.

The long-rumoured GDrive is expected to be launched this year, according to the technology news website TG Daily, which described it as “the most anticipated Google product so far”. It is seen as a paradigm shift away from Microsoft’s Windows operating system, which runs inside most of the world’s computers, in favour of “cloud computing”, where the processing and storage is done thousands of miles away in remote data centres.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Economy, Law & Legal Issues

Obama plans tighter financial oversight

President Barack Obama and his top advisers sought over the weekend to broaden the appeal of his proposed $825 billion economic-stimulus package and to defend the way they are pushing it through Congress, even as officials said the administration would move quickly to tighten the U.S. financial regulatory system.

But some senior Republicans said Sunday that they would oppose the stimulus plan as it now stands.

With action moving on several fronts, officials said the administration would make wide-ranging regulatory changes, including stricter federal rules for hedge funds, credit rating agencies and mortgage brokers, and greater oversight of the complex financial instruments that contributed to the economic crisis.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009