Daily Archives: September 26, 2009

In Darfur, Absence Of Fighting Doesn't Equal Peace

U.S. and international officials say the situation in Sudan’s war-torn region of Darfur is improving, but that is little comfort to Darfuris, who have a very different perspective. The situation in Darfur now may not qualify as war, but many say it doesn’t look like peace, either.

The outgoing commander of the international peacekeeping force in Darfur, Nigerian Gen. Martin Agwai, said in late August that the war there is essentially over. The new U.S. envoy to the region, Scott Gration, says he has noticed encouraging changes as well.

Gration says the fighting has lessened significantly between militias loyal to the Sudanese government and rebel groups. The war that has reportedly killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions is now dormant.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Sudan, Violence

Bishop Ed Little: General Convention 2009 took definitive action, a New conscience clause is Needed

We have made our decision. The restraint called for in B033 of the 75th General Convention has been set aside. Bishops may authorize blessings (that’s the clear implication of the “generous pastoral response”), and liturgies are on their way. Our course has been inexorably determined. The conversation about human sexuality is effectively over….

Lord Carey of Clifton, the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury, asked a difficult question in April at a conference sponsored by the Anglican Communion Institute: “Can conservative believers be assured that they have a future place in TEC without censure or opposition?” This question is both apt and pressing. We need a conscience clause with canonical and constitutional authority, a conscience clause that contains no sunset provision, that cannot be revoked. If the Episcopal Church is to be truly diverse ”” if conservative Christians are to find a place in our life in the next decade or the one following””then the 77th General Convention must turn its attention to the inclusion of theological minorities. Without that assurance, the unraveling of our church, already a tragic reality, will continue apace. The inevitable pattern will re-emerge, as conservatives move from honored minority to tolerated dissidents to canonical outlaws. I (and others like me) will not be among those who leave; but we may well be among the last conservatives left. And so we must, I believe, bend heart, mind, and will to the protection and permanent place of traditional voices in our church.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

Templegoers With a Unique View

And at no other time of year in the Jewish calendar does the role of a Jewish prison chaplain seem more essential. The period from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur is known as the Ten Days of Repentance.

Tradition and theology call on all Jews, of course, to engage in the soul-searching called heshbon ha-nefesh in Hebrew, and to make amends with repentance (or teshuva), prayer and charity. Yet this particular season of reflection and penitence comes after a banner year of proven or alleged misdeeds by Jews, from Bernard Madoff’s pyramid scheme to the violations of labor laws at the Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa to the arrest of several New Jersey rabbis in a scandal involving political bribery and trafficking in human organs.

If Rabbi Gerard’s experience at Graterford sheds any light on how the convicted and incarcerated encounter the High Holy Days, it is light that strikes in some unexpected ways. (Officials at Graterford would not permit interviews with individual prisoners or the release of their names.)

Most of the Jewish inmates have come to feel remorse about their crimes, Rabbi Gerard said. One or two continue to profess their innocence. All wrestle with a mixture of remorse and defensiveness.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Other Faiths, Prison/Prison Ministry

Ann McKenna Fromm: Politics and religion converge in end-of-life care

Jarvis,” I asked my husband, “should we have a discussion about end-of-life care?”

“Yes,” he said. “We need that discussion — almost in religious terms.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant. The reason the whole subject comes up so much nowadays is political: Who would pay for end of life care? I reminded Jarvis that, according to a July Wall Street Journal article, most health care spending in general occurs in the last six months of life. And a recent UC Berkeley report noted that health care accounts for 16 percent of our gross domestic product; it will increase if nothing is done, providing a huge drag on our country’s economy.

“All the more reason we need that conversation,” Jarvis said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Post-Gazette–Christian and Buddhist faithful focus prayers on value of resolving conflict

Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican) and Pentecostal Bishop Joseph Garlington of Covenant Church of Pittsburgh in Wilkinsburg, led the congregation in noon prayer, swaying together to the songs as they prayed aloud above the music.

Karen Phillips, an administrative assistant from Greensburg, told the congregation that she felt the history of conflict between many G-20 nations.

“Each one has built a wall. They know how to walk into a room and greet one another, but in their hearts, the walls are up,” she said. “I pray that true feelings and emotions will be exchanged, and that in that exchange there will be healing.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Buddhism, Economy, G20, Other Faiths, Pittsburgh Summit September 2009, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

ENS–Ecclesiastical trial court denies bishop's request for dismissal of charges or new trial

An ecclesiastical trial court has refused to dismiss charges against Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison or grant him a new trial on those charges.

In a September 24 decision released to the public the next day, the church’s Court for the Trial of a Bishop said that “the newly discovered evidence is not material to the evidence on which the court concluded that [Bennison] failed to respond appropriately once he knew that his brother had sexually abused a minor.”

Pennsylvania’s diocesan standing committee issued a short statement September 25 outlining the decision and saying “we continue to keep in our prayers all who have been affected by this trial.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Inquirer: Church court denies Pennsylvania Episcopal bishop new trial

A court of the Episcopal Church USA has rejected a request from deposed Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. for a new church trial.

Bennison, head of the five-county Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania since 1998, was suspended from his duties nearly two years ago on charges that he had concealed his brother John Bennison’s sexual abuse of an underage girl about 35 years ago in California. At the time of the abuse, Charles Bennison was pastor of a parish outside Los Angeles, and John Bennison was his youth minister.

Last year, after a four-day trial here, the church court unanimously found the bishop guilty on two counts and ordered him deposed, or removed, from all ministry.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

Weekend Laugh Therapy–A Comedian from Wales Struggles with his Lost Luggage

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, England / UK, Humor / Trivia, Travel

Gearing up for Ken Burns' Major Series on America's National Parks

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

I caught the PBS preview show also–it looks like it will be fantastic. Watch the whole segment.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources

Morals Class Is Starting; Please Pass the Popcorn

Would you switch a runaway trolley from one track to another if it meant killing one person instead of five? Would it be just as moral to push a person in front of the speeding trolley to stop it and save the five? What about a surgeon killing one healthy person and using his organs so that five people who needed organ transplants could live? Is that moral? Why not?

“In a way, the book and the course try to model what public discourse would be like if it were more morally ambitious than it is,” Mr. [Michael J.] Sandel said. “The title is ”˜Justice,’ but in a way its subject is citizenship.”

Mr. Sandel emphasizes that “the aim is not to try to persuade students, but to equip them to become politically minded citizens.”

He has apparently succeeded, at least with some. “The course changed how I think about politics,” Vivek Viswanathan, who graduated in June, wrote in an e-mail message. “Questions of politics, Professor Sandel suggested, are not simply a matter of governing the system of distribution but are connected to what it means to live a ”˜good life.’ ”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

Cryptic Iranian Note Ignited an Urgent Nuclear Strategy Debate

On Tuesday evening in New York, top officials of the world nuclear watchdog agency approached two of President Obama’s senior advisers to deliver the news: Iran had just sent a cryptic letter describing a small “pilot” nuclear facility that the country had never before declared.

The Americans were surprised by the letter, but they were angry about what it did not say. American intelligence had come across the hidden tunnel complex years earlier, and the advisers believed the situation was far more ominous than the Iranians were letting on.

That night, huddled in a hotel room in the Waldorf-Astoria until well into the early hours, five of Mr. Obama’s closest national security advisers, in New York for the administration’s first United Nations General Assembly, went back and forth on what they would advise their boss when they took him the news in the morning. A few hours later, in a different hotel room, they met with Mr. Obama and his senior national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, to talk strategy.

The White House essentially decided to outflank the Iranians, to present to their allies and the public what they believed was powerful evidence that there was more to the Iranian site than just some pilot program. They saw it as a chance to use this evidence to persuade other countries to support the case for stronger sanctions by showing that the Iranians were still working on a secret nuclear plan.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Europe, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East

NPR: Exchange Students Tackle Football, English In Oregon

Scroll down the [Unity, Oregon, Burnt River] Bulls’ lineup, and all seems typical ”” at the beginning, at least. There’s Caleb Andrews, a senior fullback, from Hereford, Ore. There’s Justus Wise, senior halfback, also from Hereford.

But after that, the Burnt River lineup turns into a trip around the globe ”” Kan Bakai Uchkun Uulu, left guard from Kyrgyzstan; Szu-Yao Su, quarterback from Taiwan; Jovan Radakovic, left end from Serbia. Not to mention Ju Hyoung Park, right end from South Korea; Cem Erdogdo, right guard from Germany; and Ban Du, center from China.

Six foreign exchange students have turned the Burnt River Bulls into a virtual United Nations in helmets and pads.

These 15- to 17-year-olds plopped down in the Eastern Oregon town of Unity, population of about 120, for a crash course in rural America. Like a lot of remote areas, Unity brings in exchange students to increase funding for schools ”” and for the cultural give-and-take with the locals.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Globalization, Sports, Teens / Youth

A (London) Times Editorial on Iran: A serial deceiver

Foreign policy is full of dilemmas and nuances. It is important to have the subtlety to understand them. And this is certainly true of policy towards Iran. But there are some foreign policy judgments where clarity matters more than subtlety. Here is one. Iran is led by a man who denies the Holocaust and rants about the “global Jewish conspiracy”. He is sustained in office by an oppressive regime that treats its population with contempt. It would be very dangerous if such a government possessed nuclear weapons.

It is hard, therefore, to imagine a more significant or worrying admission than that of Tehran yesterday. One of the most threatening governments in the world is building a secret uranium-enrichment facility hidden inside a mountain near Qom. Until now it had concealed this second facility, declaring (after its discovery by intelligence sources) only its plant at Natanz.

Iran has admitted to what Gordon Brown has correctly described as “serial deception”. Iran has repeatedly claimed, indeed it still does, that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful. This was always an unpersuasive assertion. President Obama now says that the existence of the new plant is “not consistent” with that peacable aim. Iran will doubtless suggest that its admission of the new plant’s existence demonstrates Tehran’s transparency. But the regime only owned up to the facility because it knew that Mr Obama had been informed about it and was about to tell the world.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Europe, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East

BBC: World reaction to Iran's nuclear sites

It is still far from certain whether Russia will support tough new UN sanctions against Iran.

In his talks with President Barack Obama in New York Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev’s language was equivocal.

He said sanctions “may be inevitable”. He certainly did not promise Russia would support them….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Europe, Foreign Relations, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Russia

Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper: Where Tutu (and Gandhi) went wrong

[Martin Luther] King…had this to say in 1968 about anti-Zionism at Harvard University: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews; you are talking anti-Semitism.”

Today, Gandhi’s influence is still keenly felt globally. Yet it is interesting to note that India today rejects its spiritual founder’s worldview. A nuclear power, it has adopted Israel’s approach to threats from suicide bombers and other terrorists.

So with all due respect to Tutu, Israel and the Jewish people are clear about the lesson of the Holocaust: that never again will the destiny of our people be placed in the hands of others. For 2,000 years, Jews depended on pity; they had no land and no army, and what they got in return were inquisitions, pogroms and the Nazi genocide. The Holocaust also taught us that freedom and justice come to those who are prepared to fight for them.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Anglican Provinces, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, South Africa, Theology