Daily Archives: February 23, 2009

What’s left of recently divided Western New York Episcopal church focuses on fresh thinking

For the few remaining members of the former St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal church in the Town of Tonawanda, starting over meant staying right where they were.

Just a dozen-or-so in number, they represent the beginning of a brand new church in the same old building, now called Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles, since the majority of their members left citing philosophical differences with the greater Episcopal Church late last year.

Those who remain sat in the very same pews they’ve occupied in some cases for decades Sunday, listening to a sermon about seeing beyond the old veneer.

“Allow your responses to change,” the Rev. Sarah Gordy told worshippers young and old, elaborating on a theme encouraging spiritual growth and leaving old assertions at the door as Lent approaches.

Read it all.

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

Tom Krattenmaker: A case for 'civil religion'

What, then, unites us?

Belief in the USA, answers Lear ”” belief in a Constitution that has brilliantly stood the test of time; belief in shared history, holidays and rituals; belief in the Founding Fathers and the founding documents.

Lear is describing what academics call “civil religion” ”” a national creed of sorts that unites people across sectarian, ethnic and other divides, and calls them to revere the nation’s ideals with something approaching “religious” intensity.

Like many decent things, civil religion can have a downside. Some of the past century’s ugliest chapters of history had civil religion underpinnings, from Hitler’s and Pol Pot’s genocides to Mussolini’s fascism. Worship of the state can be disastrous theologically as well as politically, a clear violation of the admonition against false gods emblazoned in the Ten Commandments.

Is Lear dipping our toes into troublesome waters with his Born Again American campaign? At least a few think so.

Read it all.

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

ABC News Nightline: Fat Town, Fit Town

Watch it all–a very interesting report.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Sports

Marketplace: Housing plan raises ethical questions

Vigeland: Let’s start with a little definition. How do you define ethical behavior?

Cohen: Ethics concerns are the effects of our actions on other people. And so ethical behavior is that which has a benign effect on other people, or certainly doesn’t do harm to other people.

Vigeland: Given that definition, you know, as we’ve just heard from Nancy, there’s a lot of, shall we say, frustration out there from people who say, “Look. I did nothing wrong. I was responsible. My neighbor’s going to get a bailout. Where’s mine, even though I don’t really need it?” How are we supposed to reconcile, I guess kind of the greater good, versus individual fairness, especially when it comes to the dollars in our pockets?

Cohen: It’s an understandable feeling, but it’s a poor guide to public policy. Once you start conjuring up this Victorian notion of the undeserving poor. Look, we help people who make mistakes all the time. When someone goes to the emergency room, the doctors don’t question their moral worth, they make a medical decision. We send the fire department to someone’s house without asking why did their house catch fire? What it is to live in a community is to shoulder the burden of responding to the needs of those around you, without making moral judgments.

Vigeland: But, you know, there seems to be this notion that helping people in trouble is equivalent to rewarding them for bad behavior. But, as you said, we choose as a society to help people all the time. Why is this different?

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The U.S. Government, Theology

Religious Intelligence: Second Fort Worth diocese created

Episcopalians loyal to the national Church in New York have formed a second Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth at a special convention held Feb 7.

The new diocese, formed around five congregations and individual Episcopalians who declined to follow the majority out of the Episcopal Church into the Province of the Southern Cone, invited the Bishop of Kentucky, the Rt Rev Edwin Gulick to serve as its provisional bishop for the next six months, and elected diocesan officers.

In November, the Synod of the Diocese of Fort Worth voted by a margin of 80 per cent to 20 per cent to quit the Episcopal Church for the temporary oversight of Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables and the Province of the Southern Cone. US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori responded by removing Bishop Jack Iker from the ordained ministry, saying she had accepted his voluntary renunciation of orders. However, Bishop Iker denied having given such a renunciation.

Read it all.

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

Britain faces summer of rage – police

Police are preparing for a “summer of rage” as victims of the economic downturn take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions, the Guardian has learned.

Britain’s most senior police officer with responsibility for public order raised the spectre of a return of the riots of the 1980s, with people who have lost their jobs, homes or savings becoming “footsoldiers” in a wave of potentially violent mass protests.

Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan police’s public order branch, told the Guardian that middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year.

Read it all.

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

The Best Explanation of the Current Financial Fiasco: NPR's the Giant Pool of Money

I get a lot of questions these days about sources for understanding the current massive financial crisis. CNBC’s House of Cards is good, and Frontline’s recent effort was solid, but by far the best is this program from NPR. You can download a transcipt, but I highly recommend listening to the whole thing–KSH.

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

As doubts grow, U.S. will judge banks' stability

The Obama administration will begin taking a hard look at the financial condition of the country’s 20 biggest banks this week to judge whether they could hold up even if the downturn worsens further than policy makers already expect.

These reviews of the banks’ books, known as “stress tests,” are heightening a dilemma for Obama aides about how candid they should be about the health of banks like Citigroup and Bank of America. The tests are expected to take several weeks.

Bank shares were pummeled last week, partly out of deepening fear that the government might nationalize some of the banks. Officials consider many of the top 20 banks “too big to fail.”

The stress tests come as anxiety grows among investors and industry analysts about the U.S. Treasury Department’s broader plans to shore up the overall banking system. People familiar with the plan, which has been criticized by industry executives and analysts as vague, say its crucial details may not be ready for another few weeks.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Western Parents Criticized

A new independent study sponsored by the Church of England rates the well-being of British and American children as worst among the world’s wealthiest nations.

More than 35,000 people contributed to the study, which concludes that rampant individualism and social irresponsibility have damaged the children of both societies.

Concentrating its criticism on Britain, the report cites evidence that “some of the worst rates of child unhappiness, poverty, family breakdown and child violence in the Western world” prevail in the United Kingdom.

The above headline is the one chosen by the local paper yesterday for this story. We have covered this before, but it is interesting to see how the American press is choosing to cover it. Read it all .

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, England / UK, Marriage & Family

North Carolina Roman Catholic diocese begins ministry for gays, lesbians

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., is starting a new ministry to gays and lesbians. Yet those who have embraced that identity may not like it.

The ministry is called Courage, and its aim, in the words of its executive director, is to “assist men and women who are afflicted with the thorn of same-sex attraction.” A 29-year-old international ministry with about 90 U.S. chapters, the Courage Apostolate will serve as a kind of support group – like Alcoholics Anonymous – for men and women who want to remain celibate.

The move is part of a more aggressive push by the dioceses of Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., to march in step with the Vatican on the issue of homosexuality.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

In Tough Economy many South Carolina towns at a loss

David Smyly fills out job applications in the unemployment office a couple of miles, give or take, from the old textile mill downtown, where he works for the time being.

He pages through the phone book to find the street address for his high school. In the pocket of his T-shirt, he has a pack of smokes, Basic menthols, the cheapest ones in the store.

Sometime around the first of June, his work ends at Milliken & Co., which announced plans to close the plant later this year.

“I don’t know if I can make it through, but I’m gonna try,” Smyly says. He recounts the tales of a hard-knock life: a buyout about five years ago from a high-paying job he could never replace, a failed marriage and the steady grip of depression.

Read it all from the front page of yesterday’s local paper.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Bishop Christopher Epting on the Communion of the Unbaptized

It was good to hear the keynote speaker ”” Dr. Louis Weil ”” at this year’s “Epiphany West” conference come out strongly against so-called “open communion” (communion of the un-baptized). That was especially courageous here in California where the practice is becoming widespread….

I am in absolute agreement with Louis Weil here. I am familiar with the “open table” of Jesus argument ”” that he ate with outcasts and sinners and never turned anyone away, etc. However, I am unpersuaded that this is the same thing as the Eucharist and would encourage congregations really to invite the poor into their homes and parish halls for meals rather than believe that they have actually exercized hospitality by inviting the unbaptized to communion.

Certainly, it is an ecumenical nightmare.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, TEC Bishops, Theology

Philip Turner: Church Governance And The Fate of Communion

I do not believe I would be guilty of exaggeration if I were to say Anglican polity simply couldn’t work apart from general acceptance of the account of communion TSAD sets out and defends. Apart from this understanding and its centrality, the mechanisms of governance and consultation Anglicans have put in place over the years will work largely in support of local concerns and commitments, and will move the life of the provinces relentlessly toward more and more fragmentation. Progressives will move toward increasingly particular moral and social agendas and those who place central importance on common confession will find themselves ever dividing into opposing theological camps.

Even under the most ideal circumstances, even if “mutual subjection” is agreed upon as the operating principle of the Communion, it is still the case that a covenant would be of no effect if it had no means to address the question of what happens if a province refuses to ratify its terms or, having ratified them, does not abide by its commitments. This question clearly posed the most difficulty for the drafters of TSAD. Given the Anglican propensity for muddling through, it is not surprising the proposal put forward presents an involved process for reconciling differences that can last up to five years.

Having said this, however, I hasten to add that the proposal, though it does not use the word discipline, does involve real consequences that would place a recalcitrant province in what the Archbishop of Canterbury has nicely termed “a diminished status” in relation to the Communion as a whole. Time does not allow me to sketch the entire process. In its present form it is cumbersome, complex and far too lengthy to be effective. But in brief, if a matter comes up that threatens the unity and mission of the Communion, it is referred to the Archbishop of Canterbury who in turn can send it on to three assessors who in turn can send it on one or another of the Instruments of Communion. If at the end of all this, it is determined that a province has gone beyond the limits of diversity and refuses to alter its behavior, either the offending church or the Instruments of Communion are to understand that “the force and meaning of the covenant” has been relinquished. In short, the offending province by its own choice or by the decision of the Instruments now is in a diminished status in relation of the rest of the provinces of the Communion. That means it will not take part in the common councils of the Communion, though it may enjoy bilateral relations with one or more of the provinces.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Identity, Ecclesiology, Instruments of Unity, Theology

John Mauldin is Worried About Eastern Europe

“‘This is much worse than the East Asia crisis in the 1990s,’ said Lars Christensen, at Danske Bank. ‘There are accidents waiting to happen across the region, but the EU institutions don’t have any framework for dealing with this. The day they decide not to save one of these one countries will be the trigger for a massive crisis with contagion spreading into the EU.’ Europe is already in deeper trouble than the ECB or EU leaders ever expected. Germany contracted at an annual rate of 8.4% in the fourth quarter. If Deutsche Bank is correct, the economy will have shrunk by nearly 9% before the end of this year. This is the sort of level that stokes popular revolt.

“The implications are obvious. Berlin is not going to rescue Ireland, Spain, Greece and Portugal as the collapse of their credit bubbles leads to rising defaults, or rescue Italy by accepting plans for EU “union bonds” should the debt markets take fright at the rocketing trajectory of Italy’s public debt (hitting 112pc of GDP next year, just revised up from 101pc — big change), or rescue Austria from its Habsburg adventurism. So we watch and wait as the lethal brush fires move closer. If one spark jumps across the eurozone line, we will have global systemic crisis within days. Are the firemen ready?”….

This has the potential to be a real crisis, far worse than in the US. Without concerted action on the part of the ECB and the European countries that are relatively strong, much of Europe could fall further into what would feel like a depression. There is a problem, though. Imagine being a politician in Germany, for instance. Your GDP is down by 8% last quarter. Unemployment is rising. Budgets are under pressure, as tax collections are down. And you are going to be asked to vote in favor of bailing out (pick a small country)? What will the voters who put you into office think?

We are going to find out this year whether the European Union is like the Three Musketeers. Are they “all for one and one for all?” or is it every country for itself? My bet (or hope) is that it is the former. Dissolution at this point would be devastating for all concerned, and for the world economy at large. Many of us in the US don’t think much about Europe or the rest of the world, but without a healthy Europe, much of our world trade would vanish.

However, getting all the parties to agree on what to do will take some serious leadership, which does not seem to be in evidence at this point.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Eastern Europe, Credit Markets, Economy, Europe, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Church offers respite in Tough Economic Times

Attendance appears to be on the rise at some churches as more people turn to religious centers not only for faith and fellowship but also for inexpensive entertainment and social engagement.

Though a recent poll indicates that overall attendance is stable, some parishes are reporting increases, according to local church leaders.

As the slumping economy forces people to cut back on expenses, free entertainment offered by churches is becoming increasingly popular. Colin Kerr, director of Christian education at Charleston’s Second Presbyterian Church, said young people are the beneficiaries at his church.

“Because our church does have such a small demographic, with one-third to half of the congregation being young adults, the majority of the church’s events are geared towards a younger generation,” Kerr said.

Read it all from the Faith and Values section of the local paper.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, * South Carolina, Economy, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--