Former federal officials have dubbed Citigroup the “Death Star,” comparing the bank’s threat to the financial system with the planet-destroying super weapon in the “Star Wars” movies. Privately, in the words of one official, they regard the banking giant as “unmanageable.”
Daily Archives: February 25, 2009
Toward the end of Monday’s meetings on fiscal responsibility at the White House, Senator Kent Conrad stood up and produced a little bolt of honesty. “Revenue is the thing almost nobody wants to talk about,” said Mr. Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “But I think if we’re going to be honest with each other, we’ve got to recognize that is part of a solution as well.”
Mr. Conrad’s frankness was delivered in the cryptic language of budget experts, and many people might have missed the point. So allow me to translate:
Your taxes are going up.
Some of the things that stood out to me:
A majority (62%) of Episcopal parishes and missions report that more than half of their members are age 50+.
Episcopalians tend to be older than the general population. Overall, 27% of Episcopal members are age 65+, as compared to only 13% of the U.S. population in 2008. The Episcopal Church has proportionately fewer children, youth and younger adults.
The Anglican Communion’s first Anglican-Buddhist Bishop was elected this week at a special convention of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. The sole candidate on the ballot, the Rev Kevin Thew Forrester received the support of 88 per cent of the delegates and 91 per cent of congregations, according to a diocesan news release.
The nomination of Fr Forrester sparked controversy last month, when the diocese announced that he was the sole candidate for election. Critics charged it was unseemly that a single candidate was chosen by the search committee — which included Fr Forrester among its members — to stand for election. Concerns were also raised about the suitability of a professed Buddhist who said he had received Buddhist “lay ordination” and was “walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together” being consecrated a bishop.
Known also by his Buddhist name, “Genpo” which means “Way of Universal Wisdom”, Fr Forrester holds progressive views on a number of traditional Christian doctrines. Writing in the diocese’s news letter he stated: “Sin has little, if anything, to do with being bad. It has everything to do, as far as I can tell, with being blind to our own goodness.”
Twenty-five years ago, people involved in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa would say wistfully: “Look at Zimbabwe. It’s come through a bitter war of liberation without wrecking its social cohesion, it’s developed a proper democratic culture and it’s feeding itself.”
Granted, this was, even then, a slightly too rosy picture, but it wasn’t nonsense. It represented a conviction that Zimbabwe was showing what was possible to its neighbours and indeed to the whole continent.
And this means that one of the worst of the countless casualties inflicted by Robert Mugabe on his wretched country is the destruction of many people’s hopes, both in Zimbabwe itself and throughout Africa. The continent can’t afford more failed states, mass hunger, contempt for the rule of law. And how much more painful it is when a country has been held up as a sign of promise.
“Confess your faults one to another” (Jas. 5:16). He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. This pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. so we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!
But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. 23:26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but He hates sin.
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Smoke weed — help the state?
Marijuana would be sold and taxed openly in California to adults 21 and older if legislation proposed this week is signed into law.
California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat, said his bill could generate big bucks for a cash-starved state while freeing law enforcement agencies to focus on worse crimes.
“I think there’s a mentality throughout the state and the country that this isn’t the highest priority — and that maybe we should start to reassess,” he said.
Facing an economic crisis, a banking crisis, a housing crisis and an auto industry crisis, President Obama used the opportunity of his address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night to load his plate with even more. Mr. Obama said he would press ahead with plans to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, bolster education and lead the transition to new forms of energy — all while curing cancer and getting the deficit under control.
We understand the president’s instinct not to let short-term demands obscure the need to meet the country’s long-term challenges. His priorities for fundamental reform, the causes that animated his campaign, are admirable ones. Yet we cannot help wondering: Isn’t the most critical task to ensure a swift and effective response to the stomach-churning downturn? Does a new, understaffed administration have the capacity to try so much so fast? And does the political system have the bandwidth to accommodate all that Mr. Obama is asking from it?
[Houston] Mayor Bill White yanked a controversial plan Tuesday that called for the city to use taxpayer funds to pay off some personal debts for first-time homebuyers, following a flood of outrage and criticism from across the city and beyond.
“I don’t think we ought to be in the business of paying off someone’s debt so they can buy a house,” White conceded during an impassioned City Council meeting. “Paying off people’s credit cards is ridiculous.”
Many council members expressed “embarrassment” over the idea, which received national media attention after the Chronicle wrote about it in Tuesday’s editions. The story appeared to strike a nerve among taxpayers already angry over the recession, the housing meltdown, and federal bailouts of banks and automobile companies.
“Everybody’s outraged about this,” said Councilman Ron Greene, adding that a constituent e-mailed him a copy of a bill and asked him to pay it. “This was not well reasoned.”
On August 3, 1965, just before the end of the council, at the age of twenty-eight, I was received into the Roman Catholic Church in St. Patrick’s, Soho Square. Would it have happened if there had never been a Pope John or a Vatican II? Humanly speaking, the answer must be no.
So what am I to feel now when Pope Benedict XVI unconditionally lifts the excommunications of the four bishops ordained illicitly by Archbishop Lefebvre? Lefebvre held that after fighting the principles of the French Revolution tooth and nail, the church had succumbed to liberalism and modernism at Vatican II and had let all these enemies in: liberty (religious freedom), equality (collegiality of pope and bishops, and the church as the people of God), and fraternity (ecumenism). Such a marriage with the French Revolution was an “adulterous union,” he declared, from which could only come “bastards” such as the new rite of the Mass.
The pope has asserted that the Lefebvrist bishops, who remain suspended from celebrating the sacraments licitly, must now show true acceptance of Vatican II. But how could they ever do that? The only practical possibility would be an ambiguous formula that would allow them to sign while continuing in the same belief and practice as before. It would not matter so much if this brought these bishops back within the embrace of the church universal. It would matter a great deal if it brought the church universal closer to them.
Were those like me deceived when we saw a vision of what the church truly was at Vatican II and followed it? Was the council a flash in the pan, a hiccup in the church’s life, as it were, before the Catholic organism, challenged, closed back in on itself? I could never believe that. The currents of renewal have affected the river of Catholic belief too deeply and strongly to be denied. But what has happened to the wholehearted affirmation of the council that Joseph Ratzinger memorably expressed in his brilliant little book Theological Highlights of Vatican II, published in 1966 just after the bishops had finished their work?
I do not want to feel an orphan. And there are so many like me.
I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community ”“ how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. “The tragedy was terrible,” said one of the men who helped them rebuild. “But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity.”
And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina -”“ a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters.” We are not quitters.
These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.
Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.
I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed.
Addressing a nation on an economic precipice, President Barack Obama plans to ask worried Americans to pull together Tuesday night and declare reassuringly that the U.S. “will emerge stronger than before.”
Mr. Obama aims to balance candor with can-do in his first address to a joint session of Congress.
“The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation,” Mr. Obama plans to say. “Tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”
The comments were included in excerpts from the speech that were released early by the White House.
Dear Friends in Christ,
It’s been said that like stars in constellation around the nearer planets are the lesser figures around the central characters in the Baroque paintings of Peter Paul Ruben. One of his finer works, Samson and Delilah, hangs in the British Museum of Art. Behind the young, beautiful and voluptuous Delilah lurks a wizened old lady who holds a candle brightening the central action, where a young man cuts the locks of Samson’s luxurious hair, while the biblical hero sleeps, his head upon Delilah’s lap, her breasts exposed, her body and clothes looking recently ravished. Samson’s shaded muscular torso shows the influence of Michelangelo upon the painter’s portrayal of human form. Further back in the darkness, behind Samson’s extended massive body, the Philistine soldiers are just entering the door, their dark shadows have preceded them into the room.
Ruben’s painting vividly portrays the scene of Samson’s life just before the moment when the biblical Book of Judges says, “And he awoke from his sleep, and said, ”˜I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free.’ And he did not know that the Lord had left him.” (Judges 16:20) Samson’s career as a spiritually anointed deliverer of Israel is a particularly instructive example for our era. He lived in an age of economical, political, and moral upheaval. Many of the older models of leadership and social order were faltering or seemed inadequate in the present environment. Although he was raised from birth for his leadership role, he had lost connection with the formative discipline chosen for him as his birthright. His failure cannot be attributed to any inadequacy in his experience of God or to a lack of the Spirit’s presence in his life. The breakdown and consequent vulnerability which led to his personal failure, depicted so graphically in Ruben’s painting, was the result of his poor understanding and subsequent neglect of the spiritual discipline that was designed by God to channel the anointing that God’s presence brought. He lived too much in the moment, which was the curse of his age and ours as well””in the doctrine of instant gratification. In such an era it is not enough to have a personal experience of God. We must also learn and embrace the disciplines of the spiritual life if we expect to replace old destructive habits with the new life-giving behavior of faith. Enter then Lent.
I noticed it while thumbing through my appointment book the other day””Ash Wednesday and Lent. When I was a busy parish priest it at times struck dread in my heart. Yet occasionally it brought a calmness to my soul, not unlike reading a book on the spiritual life by Evelyn Underhill; or spying a bud opening on the Elberta Peach tree in the backyard; or maybe glancing around a corner at a long missed friend just dropping into town with some time to spare and an inclination to get caught up on one another’s life. I remember one week just before Lent when a parishioner dropped a note in my mail slot. “Fr. Mark, when you get the time give me a call. I need an appointment. Time for a spiritual checkup.” The handwriting didn’t look frazzled. No trace of dreadfulness in the phrasing. If any mood came from the note it was anticipation””more akin to a visit with one’s travel agent than to the dentist.
Time for a spiritual checkup; that’s what Ash Wednesday is. Samson could’ve used it. And Lent, well among other things, it’s a spiritual shape-up for one’s Christian life; a godly housecleaning before a welcomed visitor; a spring spading and planting of the garden; even a long intimate walk with Christ. Repentance after all, once you commit yourself to it, usually ends in joy. I know the downside of the season as well as anyone. There are a lot of Lenten hymns I don’t care for. Some are dirge-like, others drab””(incidentally, Fr. Michael Wright has written a fine one and is willing to share it); the Kyrie can’t compare with the Gloria (surely there’s a good one out there, I’m just wanting to find it); and mea culpas just don’t yield themselves to full-throated praise from the heart as do Alleluias! Still, I have to admit when the pall of purple finally does give way on Easter morning, it’s like the end and the beginning of all things: the packed car starting out on vacation; the tied-fly cast lightly on the water; the closing of a good book: the opening of a better one.
May a rejuvenating Lent come your way!
Blessings in Christ our Savior and Lord,
–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence is Bishop of South Carolina
New Jersey Civil Unions in the Diocese of Newark
A Practicum for Clergy
Addressing the Legal and Pastoral Components of Preparing a Couple for a Civil Union and Discussion about Marriage Equality
Thursday, March 5th, 2009
9 AM to 1 PM
St. Agnes, Little Falls
Sponsored by the Diocesan Civil Union Task Force
To help us plan, please email your intention to attend to [name] Chair of the Task Force Education Committee, at [email address]
Please provide your name and the names of those who will be coming with you.
The Practicum will address questions such as:
How do I work with the couple to plan and prepare for the Civil Union?
What do I need to know to be pastorally sensitive to same-sex couples?
What resources are available for working with same-sex couples?
What can I do to prepare my congregation for civil unions?
What family issues may be unique to same-sex couples?
How do I record a civil union in church records?
Walk me through paperwork of a civil union?
What ifs about Marriage Equality?