Daily Archives: September 28, 2009

Roanoke County church votes to break with ELCA

One of the largest evangelical Lutheran churches in Western Virginia on Sunday afternoon took the first step to split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

By a majority of 70 percent, members of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Southwest Roanoke County, voted to separate from the largest Lutheran church in North America.

The move comes on the heels of the ELCA’s decision last month in Minneapolis to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy. Previously the ELCA had required gay clergy to remain celibate.

Senior pastor Mark Graham said his church does not “want to be seen as anti-gay or against homosexuals,” but the ELCA’s statement goes against the church’s interpretation of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The fact the church even had to consider the issue is troublesome to Elijah Mwitanti, associate pastor at St. John and a native of Zambia in southern Africa.

“This just shows how far off the deep end we in America have gone,” Mwitanti said.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Lutheran, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Episcopal Bishop of Iowa: What our faith demands of us, even as we disagree

Iowa finds itself along with the dioceses of the five New England states where equal marriage is upheld in the forefront of the church’s conversation on marriage equality. Faith communities are deciding what this means to their traditions or what it does not. Many faith communities have long awaited the chance to celebrate civil marriage for same-gender couples. The Episcopal Church has been engaged with this for more than 30 years – almost alone among churches of the Catholic tradition. That Episcopal couples were among those cited in the Iowa State Supreme Court Ruling is significant.

Of course, we are not of one mind in this. Not all my own clergy or congregations agree with my position in celebrating this opportunity for same-gender couples. But is there not a beauty in this situation? Faith communities that cannot and will not welcome or embrace these marriages have that freedom in this state and nation, even while others that do coexist beside them peacefully and lawfully. When a bishop in Southern Africa learned of the Iowa ruling, he sent me a note asking me its implications. He was concerned that we might be seen as going against the constitution now if we disallowed such marriages. He found it rather admirable that there was no such pressure upon religious institutions, and that there was a specific exemption for religious institutions to pursue their consciences.

Marriage and its significance for all people is an essential value in our social life. For every faith community, marriage exists not only to protect but to reveal the deeper connection of God’s love for us. It is precisely as such that it is as important an institution to same-gender couples as it is to heterosexual couples in those same faith communities.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

At Czech Mass, Pope Says Societies Must Have God

Pope Benedict XVI warned some 120,000 worshipers at a Mass here on Sunday of the dangers of a society without God, forging ahead with his fight against secularism on the second day of a three-day trip to the Czech Republic.

Later, in an address to Czech academics in Prague, the pope inveighed against the perils of relativism. He also underlined the need to mend “the breach between science and religion.”

Celebrating Mass in this southern city in the country’s Catholic heartland, the 82-year-old, German-born pope said that “history had demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions.” He added: “Your country, like other nations, is experiencing cultural conditions that often present a radical challenge to faith and therefore also to hope.”

While the pope received a warm and enthusiastic reception from the crowd ”” a large number of whom appeared to come from neighboring Poland, Germany and Slovakia ”” religious observers lamented that the Czech nation as a whole seemed unmoved.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Eastern Europe, Europe, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

The Homily of Pope Benedict XVI at Mass at Stara Boleslaw

This morning, we are gathered around the altar for the glorious commemoration of the martyr Saint Wenceslaus, whose relics I was able to venerate before Mass in the Basilica dedicated to him. He shed his blood in your land, and his eagle, which ”“ as the Cardinal Archbishop has just mentioned ”“ you chose as a symbol for this visit, constitutes the historical emblem of the noble Czech nation. This great saint, whom you are pleased to call the “eternal” Prince of the Czechs, invites us always to follow Christ faithfully, he invites us to be holy. He himself is a model of holiness for all people, especially the leaders of communities and peoples. Yet we ask ourselves: in our day, is holiness still relevant? Or is it now considered unattractive and unimportant? Do we not place more value today on worldly success and glory? Yet how long does earthly success last, and what value does it have?

The last century ”“ as this land of yours can bear witness ”“ saw the fall of a number of powerful figures who had apparently risen to almost unattainable heights. Suddenly they found themselves stripped of their power. Those who denied and continue to deny God, and in consequence have no respect for man, appear to have a comfortable life and to be materially successful. Yet one need only scratch the surface to realize how sad and unfulfilled these people are. Only those who maintain in their hearts a holy “fear of God” can also put their trust in man and spend their lives building a more just and fraternal world. Today there is a need for believers with credibility, who are ready to spread in every area of society the Christian principles and ideals by which their action is inspired. This is holiness, the universal vocation of all the baptized, which motivates people to carry out their duty with fidelity and courage, looking not to their own selfish interests but to the common good, seeking God’s will at every moment.

In the Gospel we heard Jesus speaking clearly on this subject: “What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Mt 16:26). In this way we are led to consider that the true value of human life is measured not merely in terms of material goods and transient interests, because it is not material goods that quench the profound thirst for meaning and happiness in the heart of every person. This is why Jesus does not hesitate to propose to his disciples the “narrow” path of holiness: “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (16:25). And he resolutely repeats to us this morning: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (16:24). Without doubt, this is hard language, difficult to accept and put into practice, but the testimony of the saints assures us that it is possible for all who trust and entrust themselves to Christ. Their example encourages those who call themselves Christian to be credible, that is, consistent with the principles and the faith that they profess. It is not enough to appear good and honest: one must truly be so. And the good and honest person is one who does not obscure God’s light with his own ego, does not put himself forward, but allows God to shine through.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Eastern Europe, Europe, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

Benedict XVI's Address at the ecumenical meeting in Prague

My dear friends, Europe continues to undergo many changes. It is hard to believe that only two decades have passed since the collapse of former regimes gave way to a difficult but productive transition towards more participatory political structures. During this period, Christians joined together with others of good will in helping to rebuild a just political order, and they continue to engage in dialogue today in order to pave new ways towards mutual understanding, cooperation for peace and the advancement of the common good.

Nevertheless, attempts to marginalize the influence of Christianity upon public life – sometimes under the pretext that its teachings are detrimental to the well-being of society – are emerging in new forms. This phenomenon gives us pause to reflect. As I suggested in my Encyclical on Christian hope, the artificial separation of the Gospel from intellectual and public life should prompt us to engage in a mutual “self-critique of modernity” and “self-critique of modern Christianity,” specifically with regard to the hope each of them can offer mankind (cf. Spe Salvi, 22). We may ask ourselves, what does the Gospel have to say to the Czech Republic and indeed all of Europe today in a period marked by proliferating world views?

Christianity has much to offer on the practical and ethical level, for the Gospel never ceases to inspire men and women to place themselves at the service of their brothers and sisters. Few would dispute this. Yet those who fix their gaze upon Jesus of Nazareth with eyes of faith know that God offers a deeper reality which is nonetheless inseparable from the “economy” of charity at work in this world (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 2): He offers salvation.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Europe, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

New Brunswick Anglican bishop named archbishop

A New Brunswick Anglican bishop has been elected the senior bishop for the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada.

Archbishop Claude W. Miller will now preside over the dioceses of Montreal, Quebec, Fredericton, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Miller, 65, will continue to serve as the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton, a post he has held since 2003.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces

Jobless are relying on faith to help them cope

The Rev. John Graham at Grace Church, an Episcopal parish in Georgetown, has held an adult forum every Sunday morning since the weekend after Labor Day to help people hurt by the recession.

“When people are dealing with unemployment, they don’t feel like they’re productive members in the society,” Graham said. “They doubt the sense of their meaning, and some even hide from their neighbors because they feel so much shame. They tend to think they’re not useful.”

He said the class has about 25 to 30 people, a significant number considering the size of the church, which has about 100 people at Sunday service.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Adult Education, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Parishes

Chaplains needed in National Guard

Finding enough chaplains to minister to troops has become a difficult task.

The Kansas Air National Guard has two of its six chaplain positions unfilled, while the Kansas Army National Guard is faring worse, with nine of 15 slots vacant.

Officials with the Kansas Army National Guard describe the high vacancy rate as typical of other units across the country.

They said efforts to address the shortage, including a $10,000 sign-on bonus, $4,500 in tuition assistance and extending the age limit for new enlistees, had done little to help so far.

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

Bartholomew I to open the WCC Faith and Order Plenary Commission meeting

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will open the meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission on Faith and Order, which will take place in Kolympari, Crete, Greece, from 7 to 14 October 2009.

At this plenary meeting, the 120 members of the commission, which is seen as Christianity’s most representative theological forum, will address the question of Christian unity from new perspectives.

Participants at the Crete gathering will not only address issues that have traditionally divided Christian denominations, but also matters that have become divisive in more recent times even within churches, such as questions of moral discernment.

Read it all and note the Anglican Communion participants.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations

Confidence, optimism grow in pockets of U.S. as firms rehire

Inside the Simonton Windows factory here, some workers who are back on the job after being laid off for months believe they are proof that the darkest days of the recession are over.

“They’re saying things are getting better, and people don’t seem as worried,” says Cammie Hixson, 49, who was laid off for almost four months. “I think the economy has turned around.”

Elaine Armstrong, 65, was laid off by Simonton for four months. Now that she’s back at work, she says, “I’m very hopeful. I think we’re all going to be OK now.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

'Flocking' behavior lands on social networking sites

The interconnected web of our friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances may dominate our lives more than we know.

They’ve always been there, making up our social support systems. But now, largely thanks to the burgeoning popularity of online social networks like Facebook, researchers are discovering what a powerful influence our connections ”” both online and off ”” really have over our lives.

“Those of us who study social networks believe they matter ”” that things do spread along social networks,” says Claude Fischer, a sociology professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Psychology

Iran Reported to Have Tested Long-Range Missiles

Locked in a deepening dispute with the United States and its allies over its nuclear program, Iran was reported Monday to have test-fired long-range missiles capable of striking Israel and American bases in the Persian Gulf in what seemed a show of force.

The reported tests of the Shahab-3 and Sejil missiles by the Revolutionary Guards were not the first conducted by Iran, but they came at a time of high tension, days after President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain used the disclosure of a previously secret nuclear plant in Iran to threaten Tehran with a stronger response, including harsher economic sanctions.

Iran says it wants to develop a nuclear capacity for peaceful purposes but many in the west say it is seeking to create a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran says its missile tests have been planned for some time and are not linked to the nuclear dispute.

The test-firing also came days before the first direct contact in decades between the United States and Iran at international talks in Geneva, set for Thursday.

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

US threatens airstrikes in Pakistan

The United States is threatening to launch airstrikes on Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership in the Pakistani city of Quetta as frustration mounts about the ease with which they find sanctuary across the border from Afghanistan.

The threat comes amid growing divisions in Washington about whether to deal with the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan by sending more troops or by reducing them and targeting the terrorists.

This weekend the US military was expected to send a request to Robert Gates, the defence secretary, for more troops, as urged by General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander there.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Pakistan, War in Afghanistan

Bloomberg: Merkel Wins Majority for Tax-Cut Coalition in Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she’ll press ahead with tax cuts and labor-market deregulation after winning re-election with enough support to govern with the pro-business Free Democrats.

With Germany struggling to recover from the deepest economic slump since World War II, voters spurned plans by Merkel’s Social Democratic challenger to raise taxes on top earners. Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s SPD had its worst postwar result in what he called a “bitter day” after sharing power with Merkel for four years and governing for the previous seven.

“There’s a clear sentiment in favor of economic changes, especially on income taxes,” Tilman Mayer, head of the Bonn- based Institute for Political Science, said in an interview. “Voters have turned their back on grand coalition-style compromise politics.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Germany, Politics in General

LA Times–In Canada, a move toward a private healthcare option

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada – When the pain in Christina Woodkey’s legs became so severe that she could no long hike or cross-country ski, she went to her local health clinic. The Calgary, Canada, resident was told she’d need to see a hip specialist. Because the problem was not life-threatening, however, she’d have to wait about a year.

So wait she did.

In January, the hip doctor told her that a narrowing of the spine was compressing her nerves and causing the pain. She needed a back specialist. The appointment was set for Sept. 30. “When I was given that date, I asked when could I expect to have surgery,” said Woodkey, 72. “They said it would be a year and a half after I had seen this doctor.”

So this month, she drove across the border into Montana and got the $50,000 surgery done in two days.

“I don’t have insurance. We’re not allowed to have private health insurance in Canada,” Woodkey said. “It’s not going to be easy to come up with the money. But I’m happy to say the pain is almost all gone.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, America/U.S.A., Canada, Health & Medicine