Daily Archives: September 9, 2009

Overspending on Debit Cards Is a Boon for Banks

When Peter Means returned to graduate school after a career as a civil servant, he turned to a debit card to help him spend his money more carefully.

So he was stunned when his bank charged him seven $34 fees to cover seven purchases when there was not enough cash in his account, notifying him only afterward. He paid $4.14 for a coffee at Starbucks ”” and a $34 fee. He got the $6.50 student discount at the movie theater ”” but no discount on the $34 fee. He paid $6.76 at Lowe’s for screws ”” and yet another $34 fee. All told, he owed $238 in extra charges for just a day’s worth of activity.

Mr. Means, who is 59 and lives in Colorado, figured employees at his bank, Wells Fargo, would show some mercy since each purchase was less than $12. In addition, a deposit from a few days earlier would have covered everything had it not taken days to clear. But they would not budge.

Banks and credit unions have long pitched debit cards as a convenient and prudent way to buy. But a growing number are now allowing consumers to exceed their balances ”” for a price.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance, The Banking System/Sector

Press Release: St. Andrew’s Church begins 40 Days of Discernment

St. Andrew’s Church begins 40 Days of Discernmentâ„¢

September 9, 2009 ”“ Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: The clergy and lay leadership of St. Andrew’s Church have invited the congregation to explore 40 Days of Discernmentâ„¢, a process where the church seeks God’s will for their place within the Anglican Communion. The process encourages parishioners to seek Jesus Christ personally and in community through Bible study, prayer and fasting, and through open and honest discussion.

“Our vision in this process is simple: We will come together to study the Scriptures, pray with one another, listen to each other, and seek to hear and the trust the Lord together as the body of Christ,” said The Rev. Steve Wood, who has been rector of St. Andrew’s since 2001. “Our intention to work through 40 Days of Discernmentâ„¢ represents our church’s desire to engage our entire community in one of the most important decisions we will ever make. We want to hear from the Lord about our place in the Anglican Communion as we pursue the vision God has for us. We believe God has given us the mission of playing our part in the re-evangelization of the world by telling people of the great hope and love found in Jesus Christ.”

40 Days of Discernmentâ„¢ is centered around a 40 Days Guidebook, with content written by a variety of Christian leaders on critical topics of concern. The Guidebook is designed to facilitate weekly small group discussions during the process.

St. Andrew’s is a Bible-based, mission-minded congregation. Among the many formal and informal ties to mission organizations and others in the community and internationally, the church’s members are involved in East Cooper Community Outreach, Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy, Habitat for Humanity, Global Health Outreach, Palmetto Medical Initiative, and the Christian Medical Clinic, housed at St. Andrew’s Church. In addition, St. Andrew’s has international partners and missionaries in Honduras, Brazil, Haiti, Rwanda, Switzerland, India, Burundi, Uganda, and Liberia.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Parishes, Theology

AP: New frugality is the new normal, by necessity

For most of this decade, Americans enjoyed a credit-fueled binge that allowed them to spend more than they made. They snatched up everything from gadgets to houses.

Those houses soared in value and became as valuable a source of cash as a bank ATM. Home equity was tapped to pay for vacations, new cars and kitchen renovations. The rising stock market gave people an inflated sense of wealth as they watched their retirement accounts grow.

Not unlike the Roaring ’20s, which preceded the Great Depression three generations ago, people believed the good times would never end. Per capita personal spending ballooned 25 percent from 2003 to 2005, according to data from Euromonitor International.

When the party ended, the nation was left with more than just a hangover. Personal debt had doubled in a decade. As of July, it stood at $13.8 trillion, or about $124,000 per household. Despite months of frugality, that was only slightly below its 2008 peak.

It will take years to work down the debt, which will prolong people’s thriftiness. Paying it down will be harder because of the layoffs, pay cuts, freezes and furloughs. Personal income has fallen or been flat eight of the past 10 months.

Read it all.

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

The Rector of Saint Andrew's Mount Pleasant Writes his Parish

For many years now, the clergy and lay leadership of St. Andrew’s Church have wrestled with the increasing tension between St. Andrew’s and The Episcopal Church caused by the decisions of The Episcopal Church to “walk apart” from both the biblical faith and the Anglican Communion. Throughout this time we have sought the Lord desiring to be prayerful and graceful in our response to the challenges presented to us by the actions of The Episcopal Church. And so in the late 1990’s we began a process of differentiation in which we took steps that have included the cessation of funding for the national church, and, more recently recognizing that we are in a state of broken communion with The Episcopal Church. The Vestry has continually sought to discern the Lord’s will for our place within the Anglican Communion, as well as our expressed relationship to The Episcopal Church. Twice in August the Vestry met for prayer, confession, repentance and conversation about this matter. The conclusion of this long, prayerful process is the unanimous sense that the entire parish of St. Andrew’s, Mt. Pleasant be invited into an intentional, parish-wide discernment process called, “40 Days of Discernment.” Joining the Vestry in this invitation are the Staff and former Senior Wardens of the parish dating back to 1989.

What is the problem? The most fundamental issue in conflict within The Episcopal Church is the gospel message itself. St. Paul spoke repeatedly of faithfully passing on that which he received. Great care was taken to ensure that the gospel message would be entrusted to those who would not add to nor subtract from The Story. In the three most recent General Conventions of The Episcopal Church (2003, 2006, 2009) the gospel message of a loving Father who seeks to draw all people unto Himself through the cross of His Son has been replaced. Offered instead is a therapeutic gospel which refuses to acknowledge the falleness of our nature and our deep need for spiritual and moral transformation. While this gospel appears kind in its inclusivity, it nevertheless leaves us unchanged and enslaved to our sins and is therefore unspeakably cruel.

Read it all.

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

ACI: Communion Partner Dioceses and The Anglican Covenant

8. The autonomy of TEC dioceses has long been recognized as a feature of TEC polity. For example, the standard text on polity when many of TEC’s current bishops were trained was the volume in the widely-distributed official series in the 1950s and 1960s entitled “The Church’s Teaching.” It was written by the long-time sub-dean and professor of church history at the General Theological Seminary with the assistance of an “Authors’ Committee” composed of numerous church leaders. The author, Dr. Powel Mills Dawley, summarized the role of the diocese as follows:

Diocesan participation in any national program or effort, for example, must be voluntarily given; it cannot be forced. Again, while the bishop’s exercise of independent power within the diocese is restricted by the share in church government possessed by the Diocesan Convention or the Standing Committee, his independence in respect to the rest of the Church is almost complete.

9. Moreover, the preamble of TEC’s constitution explicitly identifies TEC as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, which it characterizes (quoting the well-known Lambeth Conference resolution) as a fellowship of “Dioceses, Provinces and regional Churches.”

10. Thus, in the case of TEC the relevant constitutional procedures for adopting the Covenant include direct adoption by its autonomous dioceses, which are the highest governing bodies within their territory and enjoy a particular constitutional prerogative concerning constituent membership in the Anglican Communion. Indeed, given the autonomy of TEC dioceses, central bodies such as General Convention could not commit individual dioceses to the Covenant over their objection. Thus, when the Covenant is sent to the member churches, dioceses are appropriate bodies to respond at that time under the unique constitutional procedures of TEC.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Covenant, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Instruments of Unity, Windsor Report / Process

Religious Intelligence: US Religious leaders condemn Lockerbie bomber release

US religious leaders have denounced as “horrific” Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill’s decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

In a series of interviews broadcast by NBC on Aug 25, New York’s Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders were united in denouncing the return of al-Megrahi to Libya saying it was a mockery of justice and false compassion.

“It seems to me to be a truly terrible misunderstanding of what compassion is,” the Episcopal Bishop of New York, the Rt Rev Mark Sisk, said, as “it truly undercut the sensibilities of those who are the survivors. And in that sense, it is, I think horrific.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

Chronic conditions crank up health costs

Raymond Harris is only 54, but he already has gone through three kidneys.

Like most people, Harris was born with two working kidneys. He lost one at age 8 because of a fall. He lost the second to high blood pressure at 42. He lost the third ”” donated by his wife ”” at age 48, because of a rare reaction to a dye that doctors used to view the blockages in his arteries.

And while Harris gets a lot of health care, he isn’t exactly healthy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

AP: Christian couples share one e-mail account to stay faithful

Lance Maggiacomo was out of work, bored and lonely when he started hiding his online relationships from his wife.

There was no affair, only chatting through e-mail, yet it felt like cheating just the same.

A few years later, a reformed Maggiacomo has an in-house check on his impulses. He and his wife Lori, like other Christian couples around the country, share one e-mail account as a safeguard against the ever-expanding temptations of the Internet.

Read it all

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Private motive for Egypt’s public embrace of a Jewish past

Egyptians generally do not make any distinction between Jewish people and Israelis. Israelis are seen as the enemy, so Jews are, too.

Khalid Badr, 40, is pretty typical in that regard, living in a neighborhood of winding, rutted roads in Old Cairo, selling snacks from a kiosk while listening to the Koran on the radio. Asked his feelings about Jews, he replied matter-of-factly. “We hate them for everything they have done to us,” Mr. Badr said, as casually as if he had been asked the time.

But Mr. Badr’s ideas have recently been challenged. He has had to confront the reality that his neighborhood was once filled with Jews — Egyptian Jews — and that his nation’s history is interwoven with Jewish history. Not far from his shop, down another narrow, winding alley once called the Alley of the Jews, the government is busy renovating an abandoned, dilapidated synagogue.

In fact, the government is not just renovating the crumbling, flooded old building. It is publicly embracing its Jewish past — not the kind of thing you ordinarily hear from Egyptian officials.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Lush Land Dries Up, Withering Kenya’s Hopes

A devastating drought is sweeping across Kenya, killing livestock, crops and children. It is stirring up tensions in the ramshackle slums where the water taps have run dry, and spawning ethnic conflict in the hinterland as communities fight over the last remaining pieces of fertile grazing land.

The twin hearts of Kenya’s economy, agriculture and tourism, are especially imperiled. The fabled game animals that safari-goers fly thousands of miles to see are keeling over from hunger and the picturesque savanna is now littered with an unusually large number of sun-bleached bones.

Ethiopia. Sudan. Somalia. Maybe even Niger and Chad. These countries have become almost synonymous with drought and famine. But Kenya? This nation is one of the most developed in Africa, home to a typically robust economy, countless United Nations offices and thousands of aid workers.

The aid community here has been predicting a disaster for months, saying that the rains had failed once again and that this could be the worst drought in more than a decade. But the Kenyan government, paralyzed by infighting and political maneuvering, seemed to shrug off the warnings.

I caught this one coming home last night on the plane. Read it all and look at that remarkable picture.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Energy, Natural Resources, Kenya, Weather

Big U.S. Bases Are Part of Iraq, but a World Apart

It takes the masseuse, Mila from Kyrgyzstan, an hour to commute to work by bus on this sprawling American base. Her massage parlor is one of three on the base’s 6,300 acres, and sits next to a Subway sandwich shop in a trailer, surrounded by blast walls, sand and rock.

At the Subway, workers from India and Bangladesh make sandwiches for American soldiers looking for a taste of home. When the sandwich makers’ shifts end, the journey home takes them past a power plant, an ice-making plant, a sewage treatment center, a hospital and dozens of other facilities one would expect to find in a small city.

And in more than six years, that is what Americans have created here: cities in the sand.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Iraq War, Military / Armed Forces

Stockbroker/clergyman resigns from Episcopal priesthood

Stockbroker/clergyman William Warnky has resigned from the Episcopal priesthood, church representatives say.

Meanwhile, Dallas Episcopal leaders are cautioning clergy not to talk to me about discipline scandals — whether Warnky and fellow broker/priest Raymond Jennison’s financial dealings with parishioners or another priest’s three-year suspension for harassment.

Episcopal bosses also have hired one of the Dallas area’s top crisis-management consultants, the LeMaster Group.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Stock Market, Theology

George Werner To Lead Invocation In U.S. House

The Very Rev. George L. W. Werner of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will lead the United States House of Representatives in prayer when it convenes Thursday morning, September 10, at 10:00 a.m.

“Strengthen our vision and courage to do right,” his prayer says, in part.

No stranger to the national spotlight, Werner served two terms as President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church and is currently a trustee of the Church Pension Board. He is also Dean Emeritus of Trinity Cathedral in Pittsburgh. But Thursday’s honor is a first for him.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Episcopal Church (TEC), House of Representatives, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Spirituality/Prayer

ENS: Seven Episcopal bishops urge covenant endorsement at all church levels

See what you make of it.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

Crux of Afghan Debate: Will More Troops Curb Terror?

Does the United States need a large and growing ground force in Afghanistan to prevent another major terrorist attack on American soil?

In deploying 68,000 American troops there by year’s end, President Obama has called Afghanistan “a war of necessity” to prevent the Taliban from recreating for Al Qaeda the sanctuary that it had in the 1990s.

But nearly eight years after the American invasion drove Qaeda leaders from Afghanistan, the political support for military action that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has faded. A war that started as a swift counterattack against those responsible for the murder of 3,000 Americans, a growing number of critics say, is in danger of becoming a quagmire with a muddled mission.

In interviews, most counterterrorism experts said they believed that the troops were needed to drive Taliban fighters from territory they had steadily reclaimed. But critics on the right and the left say that if the real goal is to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States, there may be alternatives to a large ground force in Afghanistan. They say Al Qaeda can be held at bay using intensive intelligence, Predator drones, cruise missiles, raids by Special Operations commandos and even payments to warlords to deny haven to Al Qaeda.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, War in Afghanistan