Daily Archives: June 4, 2009

What the Iphone is Doing to World Youth Day

The 2011 World Youth Day will be much like its precedents — “a party that the Holy Father convokes” — but the role that networking will play in the event is sure to give it a special flair, according to its director of communications.

Santiago de la Cierva, founder and director of the “Rome Reports” TV agency and a professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, was asked by the host of ’11 Youth Day, Madrid’s archbishop, Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, to be the director of communications.

De la Cierva said the first thing that came to his mind in response was, “Is there no one else?” But, kidding aside, the communications professor admitted these kinds of opportunities are like trains that pass by: “Someone tells you, ‘get on board,’ and with a little faith, one can realize that even though it makes your life more complicated, though there are obviously no free evenings, no weekends or vacations ”¦ deep down you realize that it’s worth it.”

De la Cierva says leading communication for World Youth Day will be “a fantastic adventure.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth

AP: Muslims see shift in Obama speech, no breakthrough

Muslim shopkeepers, students and even radical groups such as Hamas praised President Barack Obama’s address Thursday as a positive shift in U.S. attitude and tone. But Arabs and Muslims of all political stripes said they want him to turn his words into action – particularly in standing up to Israel.

Obama impressed Muslims with his humility and respect and they were thrilled by his citing of Quranic verses. Aiming to repair ties with the Muslim world that had been strained under his predecessor George W. Bush, he opened with the traditional greeting in Arabic “Assalamu Aleikum,” which drew enthusiastic applause from his audience at Cairo University.

His address touched on many themes Muslims wanted to hear in the highly anticipated speech broadcast live across much of the Middle East and elsewhere in the Muslim world. He insisted Palestinians must have a state and said continued Israeli settlement in the West Bank is not legitimate. He assured them the U.S. would pull all it troops out of Iraq by 2012 and promised no permanent U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, President Barack Obama

Benefit spending soars to new high

Benefits, such as Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance and health care, accounted for 16.2% of personal income in the first quarter of 2009, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That’s the highest percentage since the government began compiling records in 1929.

In all, government spending on benefits will top $2 trillion in 2009 ”” an average of $17,000 provided to each U.S. household, federal data show. Benefits rose at a 19% annual rate in the first quarter compared to the last three months of 2008.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

Day 6 ”“ Trial of ANiC Parishes v Diocese of New Westminster

Counsel for the parishes, Geoff Cowper, QC, showed a screen shot of the ACoC website describing Anglican Identity which lists the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, the Articles of Religion, and the Solemn Declaration of 1893 (see: www.anglican.ca). Bishop Ingham agreed there were no references to any canons, but claimed these are only resources.

He agreed with Mr Cowper on the following statements:
Ӣ The office of the bishop is to have regard to the unity of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
”¢ The “unity of the church” includes the church beyond the boundaries of Canada.
Ӣ Generally, the structure is for the purpose of advancing the faith.
Ӣ Faith and order are equally important.

He would not agree that there is a “state of teaching” in the Anglican Communion, although he acknowledged his quote in a December 2003 interview in Maclean’s magazine where he said “[t]he official teaching of the Church everywhere, so far as I know, is that homosexual acts are sinful”. He responded “that was the teaching of some churches”.

He admitted that when he was a candidate for bishop, he made it known he would abide by the HOB guidelines until they were changed, and that to this day, the HOB has not changed it policy. In 1994, he wrote a memorandum saying “”¦I do not believe bishops have the right to act unilaterally”¦ I will be governed by these guidelines”¦ (but) I will continue to speak against them.” He said “the process of changing my mind took several years.”

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Law & Legal Issues, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Thomas Berry RIP

Thomas Berry articulated a vision of an approaching “Ecozoic Era” in which human societies would live in a sustainable and mutually beneficial manner with the natural world. The Center for Ecozoic Studies in Chapel Hill plans to publish a tribute to Berry this year.

“It’s a big loss,” said Nelson Stover, a Greensboro resident and Berry follower. “One of the great minds of the 20th century is not with us anymore. At the same time, there’s no question that his legacy will continue.”

Born William Nathan Berry, the third child of Elizabeth and William Berry, he took the name Thomas as a young adult in honor of the Catholic saint and philosopher Thomas Aquinas.

Nearly since that time, he was a student of the earth and the human condition.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Energy, Natural Resources, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

RNS: RCA to Consider Belhar Confession, More Talk on Same Sex Issues

For the first time in 390 years, the Reformed Church in America has a confession to make.

The Belhar Confession, a declaration of human unity, justice and reconciliation that was drafted in 1982 by Reformed churches in apartheid-era South Africa, will be up for approval at the RCA’s June 4-9 General Synod here.

Some in the 166,000-member RCA say the confession speaks to the church’s need to become more diverse as it pursues growth goals. But the Belhar’s text also might speak to an ongoing debate about homosexuality, which is back on the Synod’s agenda for the first time since 2006.

Read it all.

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

USA Today: A window into the faith of religion reporters

Check out the four portraits.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Religion & Culture

'Dumbest Generation'? Professor blames technology

[Mark] Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University in Atlanta, says Generation Y, ages 16-29, has been shaped by exposure to computer technology since elementary school.

The cost, he says, outweighs the convenience. Kids are writing more than ever online or in text messages, but it’s not the kind of narrative skill needed as adults, he says. “Those forms groove bad habits, so when it comes time to produce an academic paper ”¦ or when they enter the workplace, their capacity breaks down.”

Social networking sites can give young users “the sense of them being the center of the universe,” Bauerlein says.

That gives them a distorted understanding of how the world works, he says.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

Thomas Friedman: Obama on Obama

When it comes to dealing with the Middle East, the president noted, “there is a Kabuki dance going on constantly. That is what I would like to see broken down. I am going to be holding up a mirror and saying: ”˜Here is the situation, and the U.S. is prepared to work with all of you to deal with these problems. But we can’t impose a solution. You are all going to have to make some tough decisions.’ Leaders have to lead, and, hopefully, they will get supported by their people.”

It was clear from the 20-minute conversation that the president has no illusions that one speech will make lambs lie down with lions. Rather, he sees it as part of his broader diplomatic approach that says: If you go right into peoples’ living rooms, don’t be afraid to hold up a mirror to everything they are doing, but also engage them in a way that says ”˜I know and respect who you are.’ You end up ”” if nothing else ”” creating a little more space for U.S. diplomacy. And you never know when that can help.

“As somebody who ordered an additional 17,000 troops into Afghanistan,” said Mr. Obama, “you would be hard pressed to suggest that what we are doing is not backed up by hard power. I discount a lot of that criticism. What I do believe is that if we are engaged in speaking directly to the Arab street, and they are persuaded that we are operating in a straightforward manner, then, at the margins, both they and their leadership are more inclined and able to work with us.”

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Egypt, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle

Roger Cohen: Baker’s Ghost in Cairo

[James Baker said in 1989]: “Israeli interests in the West Bank and Gaza, security and otherwise, can be accommodated in a settlement based on Resolution 242. Forswear annexation; stop settlement activity.”

Those words make startling but depressing reading: Little has changed in 20 years. After Bush 41 and Baker, we got Clinton’s love affair with Yitzhak Rabin (“I had come to love him as I had rarely loved another man”); the disintegration of Oslo after Rabin’s tragic assassination; and the Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy of Bush 43.

Balance ”” the credential no honest broker can forsake ”” vanished from American diplomacy.

I don’t believe that’s been good for Israel. The Jewish state needs to be challenged by its inseparable ally if it is to achieve the security it craves.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Violence

The Full Text of President Barack Obama's Speech this morning in Egypt

As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, President Barack Obama

Live Video of President Obama's Speech

It is available via the whitehouse website; he just started speaking.

The precise link to the video feed is here in case you need it.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture

Obama Speech Will Seek to Alter Muslims’ View of U.S.

President Obama arrived in Egypt on Thursday aiming to repair America’s relationship with the Muslim world through a speech at Cairo University, a carefully planned address that aides said would challenge Muslim perceptions about the United States.

Mr. Obama arrived in Cairo at 9 a.m. (2 a.m. E.D.T.) and was greeted by the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmad Aboul Gheit. The streets were empty as he traveled toward the Quabba Palace, except for soldiers who lined the sidewalks. In advance of his speech, he met with President Hosni Mubarak. He was to be joined by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for a tour of the Sultan Hassan Mosque before arriving at Cairo University for his afternoon address.

After President Mubarak welcomed Mr. Obama, he told reporters that the two leaders had discussed “all problems here in the region,” including “the situation and everything related to Iran and to the region.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture

Notable and Quotable

We have to admit that evangelism is not our greatest gift. I say that because we have at least two situations where we have not been successful in evangelizing neighbourhoods and have rented space to other Christian fellowship groups who have gone on to do an amazing job and have quite large, healthy and vibrant congregations. Instead of thinking of the reasons why we didn’t manage it – there is no blame here – let’s find out how we could be more successful in the future. Don’t get me wrong, I am very pleased that through these other communities people have come to Christ, but I refuse to believe that we can’t be just as successful in our mission to make disciples.

Our proclamation is rooted in Christ where we find the power of life and change. Are we trying to keep Christ locked inside our churches? 2 Corinthians 5:17, So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! Do we consider ourselves new creations in Christ?

It is a risky business. I was talking to a young adult who has left the Anglican church about two weeks ago. He said that he liked the church but that he really didn’t know what we were about, so when he wanted answers and direction he felt lost. I was sad that he had not found the people to answer his questions. I have invited him to keep talking to me ”“ I don’t know if he will take me up on the offer but whether I have the answers or not I am called by my own baptismal promises to offer to talk.

In order to proclaim the gospel ”“ we need to know the gospel, to study it, to live it ”“all of it not just the parts we like the best or the parts that further our plans. We need an incredibly deep understanding of scripture. In fact, we need to wrestle with the scriptures ”“ it is meant to be work.

The Rt. Rev. Jane Alexander, Bishop of Edmonton, Canada

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry

The Bishop of Durham's Pentecost sermon

Pause on Ascension for a moment. The Ascension, frustratingly, is often radically misunderstood. The Ascension is not about Jesus going away and encouraging his followers to look forward to the time when they, too, will leave this sad old earth and follow him to heaven. The angels do not say to the watching disciples, ”˜This same Jesus, whom you have seen going into heaven, will look forward to welcoming you when you go to join him there,’ but ”˜this same Jesus, whom you have seen going into heaven, will come again in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’. And the point of that so-called ”˜second coming’, or ”˜reappearance’ as several New Testament writers put it, is not that he will then scoop us up and take us away from earth to heaven, but that he will celebrate the great party, the great banquet, the marriage of heaven and earth, establishing once and for all his rescuing, ransoming, restoring sovereignty over the whole creation. ”˜The kingdom of this world,’ says John the Seer, ”˜has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he shall reign for ever and ever.’ Amen, we say at the Ascension. This is the real Feast of Christ the King, and the sooner we abolish the fake one that has recently been inserted into our calendar in late November the more likely we shall be to get our political theology sorted out. And, boy, do we need to sort it out right now. If at a time like this we cannot think and speak and act Christianly and wisely and clearly and sharply into the mess and muddle of the rulers of the world we really should be ashamed of ourselves. Jesus is already reigning, is already in charge of this world. ”˜All authority,’ he says at the end of Matthew’s gospel, ”˜has been given to me in heaven and on earth.’ When he returns he will complete that work of transformative, restorative justice; but it has already begun, despite the sneers of the sceptics and the scorn of the powerful, and we celebrate it with every Eucharist but especially today at Pentecost.

Why especially today? Because at Pentecost we discover, as in last week’s Collect, that the Holy Spirit comes to strengthen or comfort us and exalt us to the same place where our saviour Christ has gone before. In other words, the Spirit is the power of heaven come to earth, or to put it the other way the Spirit is the power that enables surprised earthlings to share in the life of heaven. And, to say it once more, the point about heaven is that heaven is the control room for earth. The claim of Pentecost, from Acts 2 and Ephesians 4 and Romans 8 and all those other great Spirit-texts in the New Testament, especially John 13””16, is precisely that the rule which the ascended Lord Jesus exercises on earth is exercised through his Spirit-filled people. No doubt we do need ”˜comforting’ in the modern sense of that word, cheering up when we’re sad. But we need, far more do we need, ”˜comforting’ in the older sense of ”˜strengthening’, strengthening-by-coming-alongside. Just as, in human ”˜comfort’, a strange thing happens, that the sheer presence, even the silent presence, alongside us of a friend gives us fresh courage and hope, how much more will the presence alongside us and within us of the Spirit of Jesus himself give us courage and hope not simply to cheer up in ourselves but to be strong to witness to his Lordship, his sovereign rule, over the world where human rulers mess it up and ignorant armies clash by night.

So being ”˜exalted to the place where Jesus has gone before’ is precisely not about being snatched away from this wicked world and its concerns. On the contrary, it is to be taken in the power of the Spirit to the place from which the world is run.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, CoE Bishops, Parish Ministry, Pentecost, Preaching / Homiletics