Daily Archives: February 17, 2010

NPR–Christmas Day Bomber Suspect's Alienation Stoked Radical Beliefs

Abdulmutallab studied the Quran at the Rabiatu Mutallab Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Kaduna, a religious school named after his grandparents and funded by his father. By all accounts, he was a pious fellow. His neighbors say he was the first to arrive at the mosque for prayers and the last to leave. He kept to himself, says Shehu Sani, who lives down the road from the Mutallabs.

Sani, the author of books about religious violence and terrorism in Nigeria, says it is important to remember the backdrop to Abdulmutallab’s privileged childhood in Kaduna: Between 1979 and 2009, he says, there were more than 200 incidents of religious violence and killings in the area ”” including deadly clashes between Christians and Muslims. And there have also been violent protests in northern Nigeria against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sani says Muslim youngsters like Abdulmutallab were absorbing this reality as they grew up, and some of them were most likely radicalized without even realizing it.

“People who are indoctrinated are those who already have the seed of violence in them, who have the seed of hate, the seed of their perception that things are wrong and must be addressed drastically,” Sani says. “Farouk Mutallab came from a society that has not embraced tolerance. He came from a society that has a history of violence, of extremism, and that is a fact.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Islam, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Terrorism

In Iowa Religious leaders prepare messages for Lent

A time to reflect, to make personal sacrifices, to add discipline to life and to help others in need ”¦ all are goals of the Lenten season, which gets under way today.

Lent is a 40-day period in the Christian religion that leads from Ash Wednesday to Easter, which this year is on April 4. Local religious leaders will encourage followers in the next few weeks to practice self-discipline and engage in prayerful thought.

“We’re in a time of an economic crisis, two wars and much stress,” said Bishop Christopher Epting of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Davenport. “I’ll remind the congregation of their own spiritual basics, alms-giving responsibilities, and the need to fast to remind themselves of people in need.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lent, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, TEC Bishops, TEC Parishes

The Bishop of Swindon speaks out on assisted suicides controversy

The Bishop of Swindon has warned that the controversial debate on assisted suicide is in danger of being hijacked by celebrities.

The Right Reverend Dr Lee Rayfield, who opposes calls to relax the ban on euthanasia, spoke out after a TV presenter made an on-air confession that he killed his lover, who was dying from Aids.

The claim, made by Ray Gosling on the BBC’s Inside Out programme on Monday, is being investigated by Nottinghamshire Police.

It follows a separate call by author Sir Terry Pratchett, who lives in Wiltshire and is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, for the setting up of euthanasia tribunals to give sufferers from incurable diseases the right to medical help to end their lives.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Anglo-Catholic bishop in talks with CDF to stop English bishops 'smothering' Pope's Anglican plan

Somebody has leaked to the Guardian a sensitive email from the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, “flying” Bishop of Ebbsfleet, to Bishop Peter Elliott of Melbourne, the Catholic auxiliary bishop in charge of implementing Anglicanorum coetibus in Australia.

In it, Bishop Burnham ”“ an outstanding and inspiring Anglo-Catholic leader ”“ confirms what we’ve all long suspected: that there are forces in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales who hate the Pope’s plan and want Anglicans to stay Anglican. Or, as he puts it, “who think that Anglicans are best off doing what they are presently doing”.

Bishop Burnham will be embarrassed by this leak, which reveals that in order to make sure that the Ordinariate project is not “smothered” he has been talking privately to Mgr Patrick Burke at the CDF (another great priest, by the way). He’s also a bit disobliging about Archbishop Hepworth of the Traditional Anglican Communion.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Church of England ready to 'say one for you' – Bishops hit the streets for 'pray day'

A new web-based service from the Church of England, launched today to mark the beginning of Lent, lets people across the country confidentially share their hopes and concerns anonymously in the form of a prayer ”“ and also have those thoughts offered to God by a bishop.

Prayers received via www.SayOneForMe.org over the next 40 days will be displayed on the site and shared with a number of Church of England bishops, who have agreed to remember the submissions in their own prayers over the season. The website invites visitors to type in their prayers ”“ and then click ”˜Amen’ to post them.

The Rt Revd David Walker, Bishop of Dudley, says: “Priests are well used to having people shout at us ”˜say one for me’. Whatever the initial intention of that yell in the street, underlying it is the fact that people feel a need to pray ”“ especially during difficult times. Our visits today and the new website are both simple ways for us to harness that desire and engage with people where they are. Of course, nobody needs a dog collar to be heard by God, but for many people, knowing that someone else is praying for us gives us the confidence to make our own prayers, and prayer is often the gateway to hope. The website allows people to share their prayers anonymously via their own home computer or even on the move through a mobile device.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, CoE Bishops, England / UK, Lent, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

David Brooks: The Lean Years

Recessions test social capital. If social bonds are strong, nations can be surprisingly resilient. If they are weak, things are terrible. The U.S. endured the Great Depression reasonably well because family bonds and social trust were high. Russia, on the other hand, was decimated by the post-Soviet economic turmoil because social trust was nonexistent.

This recession has exposed America’s social weak spots. For decades, men have adapted poorly to the shifting demands of the service economy. Now they are paying the price. For decades, the working-class social fabric has been fraying. Now the working class is in danger of descending into underclass-style dysfunction. For decades, young people have been living in a loose, under-institutionalized world. Now they are moving back home in droves.

The economic response to the crisis is everywhere debated, but the social response is unformed. First, we need to redefine masculinity, creating an image that encourages teenage boys to stay in school and older men to pursue service jobs. Evangelical churches have done a lot to show how manly men can still be nurturing. Obviously, more needs to be done, and schools need to be more boy-friendly.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Men, Psychology, Religion & Culture, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Jeff Walton–TEC Officials Lobby against Anglican Rivals, Plot against Conservatives within Church

While the CoE debate was in some ways a proxy fight between TEC and AC-NA, conservatives still within the denomination received a jarring message when Lawrence announced an emergency postponement of the diocese’s annual convention, stating that “the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, if not the Presiding Bishop herself, is seeking to build a case against the Ecclesiastical Authorities of the Diocese (Bishop and Standing Committee) and some of our parishes.”

According to Lawrence, the Chancellor of the diocese was informed in December of 2009 that a local attorney had been retained by the Chancellor of the Presiding Bishop to represent The Episcopal Church in some “local matters.”

The following month, a series of letters requesting documents from diocesan records were sent to the South Carolina chancellor. Requested records included lists of all persons ordained since October 24, 2009, all parish bylaws and amendments since 2006; all Standing Committee Minutes since the episcopacy of former South Carolina Bishop Salmon; parish charters, parish founding documents, parish deeds, parish mortgages, documents evidencing parish participation in diocesan programs and others.

Lawrence indicated the collection of information by the Presiding Bishop’s office was unprecedented, and vigorously asserted that he was the only bishop with canonical jurisdiction. In the Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop acts as a “first among equals,” not unlike the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Outside of actions by the General Convention, she does not hold authority over diocesan bishops as an Archbishop would.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

Gerald Bray on the Importance of Calvin for Anglicans Today

Calvin’s importance for us today lies in the fact that he realised more clearly than most have done that there are three pillars of Christian teaching that must be distinguished, developed and kept in the right balance. The first of these pillars is biblical exegesis, the theme of his many commentaries. The Bible is the source of Christian doctrine and must therefore be studied carefully and consistently. It is no good reading only parts of it or interpreting some things in it in a way that makes them contradict other statements. Nor is it true that everything is of equal value in every circumstance, regardless of the context. Without good exegesis, it is possible to have a developed systematic theology and even a comprehensive pastoral practice (as Roman Catholics do) but the foundation of these is insecure. Today, the study of the Bible has progressed in ways that Calvin could not have imagined, but the task of the exegete remains as significant now as it ever was. The sad fact is that much of what passes for exegesis today is little more than special pleading for one cause or another….

The next thing that Calvin is noted for is his dedication to a coherent theology, based on the principle of the absolute sovereignty of God. That principle is important because it protects both God’s transcendent majesty and also his involvement with his creation, a balance which is easily lost by the widespread tendency to err in one direction or the other. It would seem obvious that if there is one God with one mind, there ought to be only one divine message, and that message should make sense….

Finally, Calvin’s theology was a preached theology. It is a great misfortune that his sermons are less well-known than either his commentaries or his Institutes. Sermons do not travel well, it is true, but without them we cannot appreciate the dimension of pastoral application which was essential to Calvin’s theological enterprise. A theology that cannot be applied is no theology at all, and a theologian who cannot preach convincingly is betraying his calling. Conversely, all preachers are theologians of a kind””the only question is whether their theology is good or bad, coherent or incoherent, well constructed or cobbled together out of disparate elements. What we want are effective preachers, and only those who can handle the Word of God responsibly have any hope of achieving that. Most Anglican preaching today is poor because it is based on feelings and personal opinions, not on a reflective and relevant exposition of the Bible.

From a recent Churchman Editorial

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Standing ovation for Bishop Tom Butler at Southwark Cathedral

The Rt Revd Dr Tom Butler, Anglican Bishop of Southwark since 1998, will retire at the beginning of March when he reaches his 70th birthday.

This week he presided and preached at the Sunday morning Choral Eucharist at Southwark Cathedral for the last time.

The Eucharist was attended by the Mayor of Southwark Cllr Jeff Hook and North Southwark and Bermondsey MP Simon Hughes as well as representatives from Southwark’s twin cathedrals in Bergen, Norway and Rouen, France.

“As well as being the mother church of the diocese, this holy place is home ”“ week in, week out ”“ to its own congregation of faithful people and it is with you that I wanted to spend my last Sunday here,” said the Bishop as he began his sermon. “And it is very appropriate that today is St Valentine’s Day ”“ for I love this place.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

NHS 'is lacking humanity', says the Archbishop of Westminster

Society is being debased by an institutionalised “hidden violence” towards those most in need of care and protection, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales said yesterday. He also criticised the NHS for treating some patients with a lack of humanity.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols used a special service at Westminster Cathedral to make a highly personal speech, striking out against what he described as a widespread lack of compassion towards the sick and the dying. “There is a hidden violence in so many of our systems, even those of care,” he told the congregation at the annual mass for the sick, at which the ill are anointed with oil and prayers are said for their recovery.

Too often, he said, the NHS reduces those most in need of comfort and compassion to nothing more than “a bundle of genes and actions”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Newsweek–Harvard’s Crisis of Faith

It doesn’t take a degree from Harvard to see that in today’s world, a person needs to know something about religion. The conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians; between Christians, Muslims, and animists in Africa; between religious conservatives and progressives at home over abortion and gay marriage””all these relate, if indirectly, to what rival groups believe about God and scripture. Any resolution of these conflicts will have to come from people who understand how religious belief and practice influence our world: why, in particular, believers see some things as worth fighting and dying for. On the Harvard campus””where the next generation of aspiring leaders is currently beginning the spring term””the importance of religion goes without saying. “Kids need to know the difference between a Sunni and a Shia,” is something you hear a lot.

But in practice, the Harvard faculty cannot cope with religion. It cannot agree on who should teach it, how it should be taught, and how much value to give it compared with economics, biology, literature, and all the other subjects considered vital to an undergraduate education. This question of how much religion to teach led to a bitter fight when the faculty last discussed curriculum reform, in 2006. Louis Menand, the Pulitzer Prize”“winning literary critic and English professor, together with a small group of colleagues tasked with revising Harvard’s core curriculum, made the case that undergraduate students should be required to take at least one course in a category called Reason and Faith. These would explore big issues in religion: intelligent design, debates within and around Islam, and a history of American faith, for example. Steven Pinker, the evolutionary psychologist, led the case against a religion requirement. He argued that the primary goal of a Harvard education is the pursuit of truth through rational inquiry, and that religion has no place in that.

In the end, Menand & Co. backed down, and the matter never made it to a vote. A more brutal fight was put off for another day. But that’s a pity””for Harvard, its students, and the rest of us who need leaders better informed about faith and the motivations of the faithful. Harvard may or may not be the pinnacle of higher learning in the world, but because it is Harvard, it reflects””for better or worse””the priorities of the nation’s intellectual set. To decline to grapple head-on with the role of religion in a liberal-arts education, even as debates over faith and reason rage on blogs, and as publishers churn out books defending and attacking religious belief, is at best timid and at worst self-defeating.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Education, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

O Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son hast taught us that whosoever will be his disciple must take up his cross and follow him: Help us with willing heart to mortify our sinful affections, and depart from every selfish indulgence by which we sin against thee. Strengthen us to resist temptation, and to walk in the narrow way that leadeth unto life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice!

–Psalm 95:6-7

Posted in Uncategorized

U. of Alabama shooting: A case of 'workplace violence'?

Tod W. Burke likes to use examples from current events to illustrate points in his courses. On Thursday, the criminal justice professor at Radford University discussed with students the arrest of a Tennessee teacher who has been charged with the attempted murder, in school, of his principal and assistant principal.

It was “only a matter of time,” he told his students, until a shooting at a college would involve a professor as shooter, not victim.

Burke, who was a police officer before becoming an academic and who writes about workplace violence, said his sadly prescient point wasn’t that professors are more likely than others to be killers ”” he doesn’t believe that to be the case. But he said the issues associated with workplace violence can’t be ruled out in an academic environment. “We tend to forget as college professors that we are in a workplace, even if our institutions are very different from an assembly line or another kind of business,” he said.

That take on the shooting of three biology professors at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, apparently by Amy Bishop, another faculty member, is similar to those of a number of experts on campus security and workplace violence.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Violence

Obama names Indian-American Muslim as Special Envoy to Islamic world

An Indian-American Muslim who is a product of the liberal, syncretic cultures of India and the United States has been appointed Washington’s special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), much to the delight of Indian-Muslims who see this as vindication of their plural and moderate ethos by the Obama administration.

The White House on Friday named Rashad Hussain, an Obama acolyte who is son of Indian immigrants from Bihar, as the US envoy to the 57”“member OIC, following up appointments of several Indian-Americans, including at least two other Indian-American Muslims, to high level posts.

One of the appointees, Srinagar-born Farah Pandit, who is the State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim communities, arrived in New Delhi on Monday on a visit aimed at furthering Washington’s engagement with Muslims around the world. Obama has also named Dr Islam Siddiqui, an immigrant from Uttar Pradesh, as the Washington’s chief agricultural negotiator, although the nomination is currently held up in the Senate.

White House officials said that as Special Envoy to the OIC, Hussain will “deepen and expand the partnerships that the US has pursued with Muslims around the world” since Obama’s speech in Cairo last June in which he reached out to the Islamic world.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Globalization, Islam, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture