Daily Archives: August 25, 2009

U.S. Raises Estimate for 10-Year Deficit to $9 Trillion

The Obama administration, citing an economic downturn that has been deeper than it had first thought, raised its estimate on Tuesday of the government’s deficit over the next decade to $9 trillion from $7.1 trillion.

The Office of Management and Budget also said that it expected the economy to contract 2.8 percent this year, substantially more than previously estimated, and that employment would peak at around 10 percent.

Despite the budget shortfall, White House officials said they saw no reason to back away from President Obama’s ambitious and costly goal of overhauling the health care system. The new amount includes the cost of the health care overhaul as well as about $600 billion in additional revenue that the administration hopes to raise, two initiatives Congress has yet to approve.

“I know there are going to be some who say that this report proves that we can’t afford health reform,” said Peter R. Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. But he said the opposite was true: the only way to control spiraling Medicare costs, he said, was to get control of overall health care costs by overhauling the system.

Read it all.

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 National Deficit, The U.S. Government

With Dad Laid Off, Finding Ways to Hold On

Among the flotsam and jetsam that gather over the years in a home, there is now the random taillight behind the Winklers’ living room couch. And a 1967 Buick Riviera dashboard under the desk. When jobs are short and the savings account dwindles, selling spare parts on the Internet can help put braces in mouths, and pay a credit card bill or two.

“Check it out,” Phil Winkler said, hoisting a chrome piece of trunk onto his lap. “This one is next.”

Unemployed for a year, Mr. Winkler, 41, who until last August had never lost a job, has sold his favorite car, canceled the cable and is now scavenging junkyards for auto parts that he resells on eBay.

It is a role that Mr. Winkler, a teddy-bearish, clean-cut guy ”” the sort whose tattoo from the first gulf war is thoroughly unintimidating ”” has stopped wearing with discomfort. It is boring, it is unpleasant, but it is also something he has learned to live with, as he has made the transition from the primary breadwinner for his family of four to its bus driver, disciplinarian, schedule organizer and head chef.

Read it all from the front page of yesterday’s NY Times.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

RNS: Lutherans Cautious on Split After Gay Vote

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had debated lifting its ban on non-celibate gay clergy for years, with tensions flaring at each biennial Churchwide Assembly.

Still, when the ban was finally lifted late Friday (Aug. 21), it came as a surprise””and an unwelcome one at that””to some conservatives in the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination.

“The first reaction is that they are stunned,” said the Rev. Jonathan Jenkins, who addressed the new clergy policy at his Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Pa. “We’ve been talking about this as a possibility for some time, but I think most of our people did not expect this to happen.”

Jenkins said that many, but not all, members of his congregation, where 185 gather for worship each Sunday, were dismayed by the change. Jenkins is one of several pastors who are organizing a meeting in Central Pennsylvania this week to discuss the new policy and whether to stay in the ELCA.

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

Jewish leaders say bishops' June statement could hurt dialogue

U.S. Jewish leaders have expressed concern over a June statement issued by the U.S. bishops to clarify a 2002 document that raised questions about the church’s mission of evangelization and how the church relates to the Jewish community.

In a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the leaders said that because of the statement dialogue between the two faiths is at risk.

Representatives of the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee and rabbis from various branches of Judaism sent the letter Aug. 20.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Roman Catholic

Post-Gazette–Lutheran vote accepting 'monogamous' gay clergy greeted with mixed reaction

The 85,000-member Synod of Southwestern Pennsylvania is theologically conservative, and had asked the Churchwide Assembly to keep a requirement for gay clergy to remain celibate.

“At this point, what I’ve heard is a lot of deep sadness, and it comes from different places,” said Bishop Kurt Kusserow of the Southwestern Pennsylvania synod. “It comes from people who feel that the church they know and love has become different from what they know and love. But we are also hearing deep sadness from those who for decades have been waiting for change, because it is so evident that many others in the church that they know and love are feeling sad.”

At the meeting in Minneapolis, Bishop Kusserow pressed successfully for language that spelled out the obligation to respect those who believe that the Bible forbids sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage. No congregation can be forced to accept a partnered gay pastor.

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

Buffalo News: More same-sex couples find support for 'blessed unions'

The United Methodist Church, for example, officially considers marriage an act between a man and a woman and forbids same-sex ceremonies.

But as a United Methodist minister, the Rev. Vivian R. Waltz doesn’t see the fairness in the prohibition.

“Gay people,” she said, also “are God’s children.”

Nor would she dismiss the possibility of presiding over a gay wedding.

“I would have to pray on that,” said Waltz, minister of discipleship at Hamburg United Methodist Church. “I’m fully cognizant that such an act could jeopardize my credentials in the church. At the same time, I serve a God of justice, and the church’s position is unjust.”

The state’s Roman Catholic bishops, including Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of the Diocese of Buffalo, have staunchly opposed the same-sex marriage legislation. And while the majority of Catholics also were opposed, a significant number of Catholics in New York ”” 39 percent ”” expressed support for legal gay marriage, according to a Quinnipiac College poll in May.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Debra Haffner–Sex and the Single Minister

All of this is excellent news for same-sex couples, of course, but the emphasis on “committed, lifelong relationships” leaves out the single minister, the divorced minister, the widowed minister — whether gay, straight, or bisexual — who must still adhere to a standard of celibacy unless their partner status changes.

I’ve long believed that the major sexuality problem denominations face is that they are unable to acknowledge that celibacy until marriage doesn’t apply to most single adults. There are more than 75 million American adults who are single — more than at any time in history. We are marrying later, divorcing at high levels, and living longer, so more of us will be widowed. And as a whole, we’re having sexual relationships when we aren’t in marriages….

The Religious Institute has long called for a new sexual ethic to replace the traditional “celibacy until marriage, chastity after.” This new ethic is free of double standards based on sexual orientation, sex, gender or marital status. It calls for sexual relationships to be consensual, non-exploitative, honest, pleasurable and protected, whether inside or outside of a covenanted relationship. It insists that intimate relationships be grounded in communication and shared values.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Lutheran, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology

Ed Renner–A Church divided – Church holds itself above biblical Christianity

At its convention in Anaheim last month, the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Anglican Communion, lifted an informal ban on the ordination of gay bishops and took other steps that further exacerbated tensions with domestic conservatives and the global church.

There is an attitude among many of the Episcopal Church’s leaders that dismisses Holy Scripture without even a “by your leave.”

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

RNS: New archbishop aims to grow troubled New Orleans archdiocese

“You know the joke,” …[Gregory Aymond] said in an interview before his installation as New Orleans’ 14th archbishop on Thursday (Aug. 20). “There are two things every bishop can count on ”” never missing a meal, and never hearing the truth.”

Politically, while he says abortion and other life issues like euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research are fundamental, during the last election cycle he urged Austin voters also to be mindful of candidates’ approach to other social issues, like the death penalty, racism and poverty.

“We’re lucky to have had him,” said the Rev. Louis Brusatti, dean of the school of humanities at St. Edward’s University in Austin. “He’s moderate; he’s consensual; he’s low-key. He’s not an ideologue. We could’ve done a lot worse.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Hurricane Katrina, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

William R. Mattox–Teach the Bible? Of course

“Students who want to do serious study of Western civilization need to know the Bible,” says Barbara Newman, Northwestern University professor of English, Religion and Classics. “They need to know the Bible, even if they do not believe the Bible.”

Harvard professor Robert Kiely, for one, agrees. In 2006, he participated in an academic survey of professors from many of America’s leading universities ”” including Yale, Princeton, Brown, Rice, California-Berkeley and Stanford. The survey ”” commissioned by the Bible Literacy Project, which promotes academic Bible study in public schools ”” found an overwhelming consensus among top professors that incoming college students need to be well-versed in the stories, themes and words of the Bible.

“If a student doesn’t know any Bible literature, he or she will simply not understand whole elements of Shakespeare, Sidney, Spenser, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth. One could go on and on and on,” Kiely told Concordia professor Marie Wachlin and her research team.

“Knowledge of the Bible can be a key to unlocking other subjects. . . especially literature, art, music and social studies,” say Chuck Stetson, co-editor of the visually stunning high school textbook The Bible and Its Influence, and founder of the Bible Literacy Project.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

CIA 'threatened September 11 suspect's children'

The Obama Administration will launch criminal investigations into brutal Bush-era terror interrogations, after a report last night revealed that operatives threatened to kill the children of a key September 11 suspect and told another that his mother would be sexually assaulted in front of him.

The report, which also said that detainees suffered mock executions and death threats, convinced Eric Holder, President Obama’s Attorney-General, to appoint the veteran federal prosecutor John Durham to investigate CIA abuse of terror suspects.

The 2004 report, which has been suppressed for five years but was released after a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), lays out in detail the abuse of suspects between 2002 and 2004 at secret CIA “black site” prisons.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President George Bush, Terrorism, The U.S. Government

Millions face shrinking Social Security payments

Millions of older people face shrinking Social Security checks next year, the first time in a generation that payments would not rise. The trustees who oversee Social Security are projecting there won’t be a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the next two years. That hasn’t happened since automatic increases were adopted in 1975.

By law, Social Security benefits cannot go down. Nevertheless, monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to go up slightly.

Read it all I see this one made the front page of yesterday’s local paper.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Economy

Bernanke to Be Reappointed as Fed Chairman

President Obama will reappoint Ben S. Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve, administration officials said Monday night, electing to maintain continuity in the nation’s most powerful economic policymaking job in a time of crisis.

The decision, expected to be announced Tuesday morning, ends speculation about the fate of the nation’s top banker. Bernanke won praise for the unprecedented actions taken to contain the recession, but came under withering criticism from lawmakers for not preventing the financial meltdown that dragged the country and the rest of the world into a deep downturn.

If the Senate confirms him, Bernanke would serve a second four-year term when his current one ends on Jan. 31. He would, in his second term, begin the difficult task of unwinding the Fed’s extensive interventions in the economy.

A senior White House official said Obama has been impressed by Bernanke’s handling of the economic crisis over the past year and wants to maintain a steady hand in place as the economy begins to recover.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Give ear to my words, O LORD; give heed to my groaning. Hearken to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to thee do I pray. O LORD, in the morning thou dost hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for thee, and watch.

–Psalm 5:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon: And He is Gone

Elizabeth and I dropped our son Nathaniel off at Boston University yesterday to begin his freshman year. Where does the time go–KSH?

Posted in * By Kendall, * Culture-Watch, Education, Harmon Family