Daily Archives: June 16, 2009

"90% Of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles"

The Onion Strikes Again.

Posted in Uncategorized

English bishops rush to defend expenses claims

Bishops’ expenses in the House of Lords were defended this week, as critics said they undermined the Church of England’s comments on MPs.

The president of the National Secular Society, Terry Sanderson, observed that some claims suggested a legalistic attitude similar to that in the House of Commons. He said: “Most of the bishops seem to be playing by the rules, although it is difficult to see why Tom Butler needed to attend the Lords on 83 days when he voted only 10 times. Given that he lives on the doorstep, I suppose it is easy for him to pop over, sign in and then pop back to his palace.

“We won’t be taking any sermons from him about the propriety of claiming expenses until he comes up with a satisfactory explanation for this.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Recount Offer Fails to Quell Political Tumult in Iran

Thousands of both pro- and anti-government demonstrators began massing in the streets here on Tuesday, increasing tensions a day after clashes left at least seven people dead during the largest antigovernment demonstration since the Iranian revolution.

But despite the enormous pressure on the government to answer opposition charges of vote-rigging in last Friday’s presidential election, the country’s powerful Guardian Council said Tuesday that it was prepared to order only a partial recount, according to state television and news reports.

The leading opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, and other opponents of the declared winner, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reportedly rejected the Guardian Council’s decision. They have held out for a new election to be held.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Middle East

David Brooks on Obama and Healthcare

The scrum will be an ugly, all-out scramble for dough. You can probably get expanded coverage out of it. You can hammer the hospitals and get much of the $1.2 trillion to pay for the expansion. But you won’t be able to honestly address the toughest issues and still hold your coalition. You won’t get the kind of structural change that will bring down costs long-term. In the scrum, Congress will embrace the easy stuff and bury the hard stuff.

Which is why you have MedPAC. That’s the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission that you want to turn into a health care Federal Reserve Board ”” an aloof technocratic body of experts that will make tough decisions beyond the reach of politics. You can take every thorny issue, throw it to MedPac and consider it solved.

Conservatives will claim you’re giving enormous power to an unelected bunch of wonks. They’ll say that health care is too complicated to be run by experts from Washington. But you’ll say that you are rising above politics. You’ll have your (partial) health care victory. Not bad for a skinny guy with big ears.

Read it all.

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

Speakers Announced for ACNA Assembly

Three Christian leaders, Pastor Rick Warren, Metropolitan Jonah, and the Rev. Todd Hunter have agreed to be among those addressing the organizing Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America scheduled for June 22”“25 at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, Texas.

Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church, will speak on June 23. Warren, a longtime friend of orthodox Anglicans, has been repeatedly recognized as a key spiritual leader in America. Named “America’s Most Influential Pastor” by Christianity Today in 2003, Warren has also been called one of “America’s 25 Best Leaders” (US News and World Report 2006), and one of the “15 People Who Make America Great” (Newsweek 2006). Saddleback Church, founded by Warren in 1980, is an innovative evangelical congregation of 22,000 in Lake Forest California.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Proposed Formation of a new North American Province, ACNA Inaugural Assembly June 2009, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Common Cause Partnership

Muslims Face Risk In Giving To Charities

President Obama is already popular among Muslims in the U.S., but one reference in a recent speech made many hearts swoon.

“Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together,” he told an audience in Cairo. “Rules on charitable giving made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That’s why I’m committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.”

The idea behind zakat is this: If every Muslim gives 2.5 percent of his savings to the poor, that will go a long way toward eradicating poverty. Imam Mohamed Magid at the ADAMS Center, a large mosque in Virginia, says that’s why zakat is one of the five pillars, or obligations, of Islam.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

Medvedev calls for new reserve currencies

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says the world needs new reserve currencies.

Medvedev told a regional summit Tuesday that the creation of new reserve currencies in addition to the dollar is needed to stabilize global finances.

Medvedev has made the proposal before. It reflects both the Kremlin’s push for greater international clout and a concern shared by other countries that soaring U.S. budget deficits could spur inflation and weaken the dollar.

Airing it at a summit meeting underlined the challenge to U.S. clout.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Europe, Globalization, Russia, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Iran 'to hold election recount'

Iran’s powerful Guardian Council says it is ready to recount disputed votes from Friday’s presidential poll.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election is being contested by rival Mir Hossein Mousavi and other moderate candidates, who are seeking a rerun.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Tehran says they may not accept the recount offer.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Middle East

TEC Attendance trends: 1992-2007

[color=red]UPDATE[/color]: We’ve now uploaded an Excel spreadsheet with all of this data, so you armchair statisticians can do further analysis yourselves. You will find every year’s ASA data for each diocese, calculations as to relative change in ASA and in diocesan size ranking, several tables providing summary data, and 3 graphs. (The worksheet has 3 pages).

View or download the Excel spreadsheet here: {filedir_4}ECUSA_1992-2007_attend.xls

T19 reader Karen B. has reviewed the 15-year trend in attendance (Average Sunday Attendance or ASA) data for the Episcopal church and circulated her findings via e-mail. The results are striking:

For TEC domestic dioceses
Total ASA change: 1992 – 1997 = 2,005 (0.2% increase)
Total ASA change: 1997 – 2002 = 5,195 (0.6% increase)
Total ASA change: 2002 – 2007 = -118,818 (-14% DECREASE)

Put it this way. Look at the 10 year increase between 1992 – 2002 of 7,200 attendees. It would take 16.5 such 10 year periods (i.e. 165 years!) to make up the ASA decrease since 2002. WOW.

Data is based on ASA data for TEC domestic dioceses only.

A few more interesting tidbits re: the 15 year ASA trend data:
44 dioceses grew from 1992-1997
42 dioceses grew from 1997-2002
1 diocese grew from 2002-2007 (South Carolina at 1.8%)

For the 15 year period as a whole (1992-2007), 9 dioceses grew:
South Carolina (33%)
Tennessee (23%)
Western North Carolina (10%)
North Carolina (10%)
Texas (8.5%)
Atlanta (7%)
East Carolina (6.5%)
Alaska (4%)
Utah (1%)

The worst 10 dioceses over the 15 years (each of these 10 dioceses has had an attendance decrease of 30-40%):
Navaho Missions, Western New York, Northern Michigan, Northwest Texas, Central New York, Eastern Michigan, Western Kansas, Rochester, Quincy, Western Massachusetts

See also the Stand Firm discussion thread on this data (the comments offer some comparison data regarding attendance trends in other mainline denominations).

Note: All data was originally downloaded from the TEC website. (two PDF files: 1992 – 2002, and 1997-2007). The 1992-2002 PDF file (Dr. Kirk Hadaway’s cleaned and corrected data) no longer seems to be online. I originally downloaded it from this link.

[We elves have uploaded the PDF file Karen sent us. You can now find the 1992-2002 ASA data here.]

The 1997 – 2007 ASA data is available from TEC here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Data

NPR: Regional Dictionary Tracks The Funny Things We Say

Ok, define the following terms:


flea in one’s ear



monkey’s wedding

devil’s strip

Read or listen to it all to find the answers.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Poetry & Literature

Hospital finds hope in umbilical stem cells

When Jennifer Garcia scheduled the birth of her daughter at South Miami Hospital, nurses asked her an unusual question: “After your baby is born, are you willing to donate the umbilical cord to save someone’s life?”

She said yes: “What’s the point of throwing it in the trash if it can help other people?”

When Natalia Garcia, seven pounds six ounces, arrived at 3:56 p.m. on a recent Wednesday, the blood from the cord and placenta ”” about a quarter cup ”” was collected by those nurses, working in the hospital’s new public Cord Blood Donation Center.

They flew it to a lab at Duke University in North Carolina, and the stem cells were spun off and stored at minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit. The cells became part of a rapidly growing national bank of cord blood stem cells waiting to treat patients with leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, aplastic anemia, sickle cell and other diseases.

Read it all from the front page of the local paper.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

Trip to Veteran's Hospital Turns potentially fatal for Some who Served

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces

Stratfor: Western Misconceptions Meet Iranian Reality

For a time on Friday, it seemed that Mousavi might be able to call for an uprising in Tehran. But the moment passed when Ahmadinejad’s security forces on motorcycles intervened. And that leaves the West with its worst-case scenario: a democratically elected anti-liberal.

Western democracies assume that publics will elect liberals who will protect their rights. In reality, it’s a more complicated world. Hitler is the classic example of someone who came to power constitutionally, and then proceeded to gut the constitution. Similarly, Ahmadinejad’s victory is a triumph of both democracy and repression.

The question now is what will happen next. Internally, we can expect Ahmadinejad to consolidate his position under the cover of anti-corruption. He wants to clean up the ayatollahs, many of whom are his enemies. He will need the support of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This election has made Ahmadinejad a powerful president, perhaps the most powerful in Iran since the revolution. Ahmadinejad does not want to challenge Khamenei, and we suspect that Khamenei will not want to challenge Ahmadinejad. A forced marriage is emerging, one which may place many other religious leaders in a difficult position.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Middle East

Notable and Quotable

What is the crux of your argument about the import­ance of eyewitnesses in the Gospel stories?

Richard Bauckham: The central idea is to put the eyewitnesses back into our thinking about how the Gospels originated. My argument is that they are not just people who started a long process of tradition that eventually took form in the written Gospels. They must have been people who had known Jesus and stayed around, who were well known in the Early Church ”” people you would go to if you wanted to learn about Jesus’s teach­ings or Jesus’s life.

If you think about the eyewitnesses in this way, it helps you to think differently about the process of oral tradition, and it becomes a great deal more likely the Gospel-writers would have been in a direct, or very close relationship, with the eyewit­nesses.

–Richard Bauckham speaking about his Michael Ramsey award winning book in this week’s Church Times (it is subscription only so I cannot link until next week)

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Child Turns to the Fold

Ryan finds the minister’s sermons “pretty interesting.” The coffees afterward are “pretty average,” he said. “We sit around and talk to a few people, talk to the priest a little bit.” When asked if he knows why his dad stopped going to church, Ryan said, “He probably just one day was watching a Mets game, said ”˜I don’t want to go to church’ and just stopped going.”

Among the many reasons Ryan wanted to go: he’s a big reader, enjoys fantasy literature and has seen theories suggesting the world may end in 2013 due to the configuration of magnetic forces. In that case, he said, it would be nice to be on good terms with God.

“I’ve come to look forward to Sunday morning,” Mr. Sweeney said. “The newspaper, the chores ”” all the other plans and good intentions can wait. It is a nice way to spend a couple of hours with my son and get him out of his room and off the computer. I reflect on the week.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture