Daily Archives: February 18, 2010

Onion–Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct….

“It’s just an illusion,” a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. “Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless.”

According to witnesses, Finance Committee members sat in thunderstruck silence for several moments until Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) finally shouted out, “Oh my God, he’s right. It’s all a mirage. All of it””the money, our whole economy””it’s all a lie!”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, Economy, Humor / Trivia

Mark Robertson Responds to the Multiple Factual Errors in the Aforementioned TEC Memo

From here:

For the sake of the faithful who read widely in the Anglican blogosphere]… I thought it best to address a number of inaccuracies found within the TEC report circulated at the C of E Synod. As a bit of preamble, I am thankful to God that He sees fit to make me a target of such libel, and that my Lent begins with His blessing: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). I am flattered to receive this much ink from TEC! The document seems to imply that I secretly changed the parish charter immediately after my arrival in 1992. Actually, the change in our charter came in 2006, upon a unanimous vote from our Vestry, according to the established by-laws of the parish an in accordance with the existing canons of the Diocese of Georgia, which did not require episcopal notification. The change in charter did not alter our ecclesiastical status, but rather defined our parish theologically, not institutionally, which is the way it had existed from its founding (in 1733) until 1918. The change in charter also brought us up to date with various aspects of Georgia corporate law. The Vestry of Christ Church had for several months requested conversation with the Bishop of Georgia in order to discuss several of our theological concerns with him. After not responding to multiple requests over several months, the Bishop did indeed meet with us, and these(unproductive) discussions present the historical context of our change in our charter, though not necessarily its cause. If I was such a seditious priest, why was I appointed to assist in bringing speakers and programs to diocesan clergy conferences, or appointed dean of the Savannah Convocation (clericus), or even asked to preach at one of the Diocesan Conventions, upon the last-minute cancelation of the invited preacher? Of course, the kicker is, why would the vestry call me and the Bishop of Georgia (then the Rt. Rev. Harry Shipps) interview and approve me if I were such a destructive priest? Keep in mind that TEC was in a different place in 1992, and I am certainly willing to admit so was I. The continued theological fragmentation of TEC continued, and I believe, by God’s grace, my ability to recognize and speak to that fragmentation grew clearer.

The decision to appropriate funds from our Endowment was duly inacted through the Endowment Agreement, which is the legal instrument governing the Fund itself. It required prior public written notice to the congregation, and could have hardly been secretive.
The vote to disaffiliate from TEC was not required by our polity, but was exercised to discern a sense of confirmation from the congregation. Public notice for several weeks was put forth, describing from the by-laws what constituted a “voting member in good standing.” Anyone who wished to vote was allowed to vote, but those votes which were cast by individuals not found on our member-in-good-standing roster were received as provisional votes. The votes was 87% in favor of coming under the ecclesiastical protection of the Province of Uganda, and 13% opposed. There were 28 provisional votes cast. If every provisional vote had been in the negative, the vote would have still been well beyond a “super majority” in favor of disaffiliation. Recently, those provisional votes were opened and counted: 22 in favor of disaffiliation, 6 against. There were over 280 votes cast on that particular Sunday in October, 2007. As far as we can recognize, 22 individuals who may be recognized as somewhat active in Christ Church at the time of the vote are currently worshipping at Christ Church Episcopal.
The figures cast about regarding parish membership are most misleading. Membership roles of old congregations are hard to manage well. An on-roll membership of about 900 would be a good estimate for Christ Church today, though it means little. Our mailing list would be larger; our “members in good standing” list would be smaller. Average Sunday Attendnce (ASA) is probably the best indicator of parish involvement and common life. I checked our worship records, and our ASA for the two years prior to my arrival in 1992 are around 320-350 on a given Sunday, though the numbers were higher from September to May and quite lower in the summer. Today’s ASA at Christ Church is approximatley 375-80 per Sunday, and the variance between summer and the rest of the year is less. In our 2010 stewardship campaign, we received 28 new pledging units, the largest single-year increase in my tenure. This last Sunday, we welcomed five new families into Christ Church. We are very grateful to God for what He is doing in our midst””it is all by His grace and to His glory.
I’m not sure about intimidation. We have had a number of families leave Christ Church over the years, for all sorts of reasons. I can say this: I have never personally sued anyone; but I, along with fourteen other vestry members are being personally sued by the Diocese of Georgia and TEC, as well as Christ Church Episcopal. Would that count as intimidation?
The matter with The Rev. Susan Harrison is the most egregious mis-statement of all. Though we had substantial theoloical disagreements, it was Susan who came to me (in 2005) personlly and informed me that she would be leaving Christ Church and re-assigned to another ministry by Bishop Louttit. We prayed together, hugged one another, and she left. I kept up with her and we prayed for her regularly in Sunday worship during her battle with cancer. Upon hearing of her death, with clear support from Vestry leadership, I offered Christ Church as the venue for her funeral. When I made the phone call, the priest in charge of Christ Church Episcopal and other lay leadership from that congregation were present and discussing funeral plans. Susan’s husband graciously took my call. I went by later to visit the family and was personally informed by him that, while they were most thankful for the offer of Christ Church, they had decided upon a different venue. They repeated their thanks for our offer. I and a significant number of Christ Church parishioners attended Susan’s funeral, though I was unable to receive communion, given our sad divisions.
It is a bit awkward to launch into such personal matters on behalf of my defense. I truly believe in my heart that the Lord Himself is my defense, and though a “miserable offender,” I stand under His most gracious Lordship. Nevertheless, I believe in these conflicted and chaotic times that God is best honored with the truth, and I have done my best to offer it to the readership of Stand Firm for your edification and God’s glory.
May this lenten season bring you God’s peace and grace.
””Marc Robertson
(still) Rector of Christ Church, Savannah

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

A Copy of the TEC Memo Circulated at CoE Synod

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Georgia

The TEC affiliated Diocese of Fort Worth "Deposes" Many Priests and Deacons

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anglican Provinces, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence–Self-Examination: Spiritual Stocktaking

Dear Friends in Christ,

If you have never lived in snow country where the roads are salted because of snow and ice, you may not know how salt can corrode the fenders and undergirding of your car. I remember seeing, one morning as I drove to work, an oncoming car lose its rear wheels and chassis. The trunk of the car hit the asphalt with sparks and scraping, while the rear axle and wheels went rolling off the road and into a vacant field. Since no one was hurt, I couldn’t help snickering to myself at the jocular scene, when I was suddenly arrested by the sobering thought: “Mark, when was the last time you examined the frame of your car?” Most of us, before we go on a cross-country trip, will check the oil, tires, brakes, and fill the gas tank. Yet surprisingly enough, many of us on the great journey of the Christian life, traveling over rough roads, in bad weather, icy passes and lonely barren deserts, demonstrate an all too lackadaisical attitude to the equipment of our spiritual lives.

Lent is a good season to do what Evelyn Underhill calls spiritual stocktaking. In the disciplines of the Christian life this is called “Self-Examination.” It is the first discipline mentioned in the Ash Wednesday invitation to a Holy Lent. The Prayer Book reads: “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.” (BCP, p. 265)

Although Self-Examination, or “the examination of conscience” as it used to be called, is a long honored discipline of the Christian life, too often the average Christian not only doesn’t know how to do it, he doesn’t even know what it is. This of course is not his fault; it is the fault of us who are pastors and teachers in the Church. Ironically, 12 Step groups like A.A. and N.A. make important use of this discipline. The Fourth Step of A.A. reads: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” The Fifth Step follows up: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Sixth Step: ” Were entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character.”
These steps are part of the process of self-examination and repentance. As St. Paul counsels in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves….” There are two fundamental sources of help for practicing self-examination. The first and most important help, which seems almost superfluous to mention, is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit indwells us as believers. The Holy Spirit knows us thoroughly and searches the deep things of our lives. (Read for instance such passages as Psalm 139, John 7:37-39, John 14:16-26, Romans 8:26-27). To invite Him to search your heart is an invitation not merely to compile a list of sins to be gotten through; it is an opportunity for growth, learning, discovery, making new connections, receiving insight and to seek His help in putting things in order. The second help for self-examination is a written list to be worked through with self-honesty. Some people use the Seven Deadly Sins–(Pride, Envy/Jealousy, Anger, Sloth/Melancholy, Greed, Gluttony and Lust), others, the Ten Commandments, or the Litany of Penitence in the Ash Wednesday Liturgy (BCP, p. 267). One possibility that is often forgotten is to use not those lists that accentuate the negative dimensions of our lives but to ask the question about the place and pursuit of virtue. After all we have spent, as a culture and Church, far too much time with the clarification of values and given too little attention to the cultivation of virtue. So to take the Beatitudes, or the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:19-26, or even Seven Saving Virtues (Justice, Courage/Fortitude, Prudence/Wisdom, Temperance, Faith, Hope and Love) as the focus, after scrutinizing our sins of omission, can be a profitable exercise indeed. Such written forms might nudge us into areas we might be unconsciously avoiding and yet towards that which God would have us go.

Self-Examination of course is not a one-time thing; something done merely before the Ash Wednesday Liturgy. You might want to do it periodically during Lent. Find a quiet place where you’ll be alone and uninterrupted. Put aside the cell phone and computer. Allow twenty to thirty minutes. Bring along a pencil and paper. Once there ask God’s Spirit to help you in your search. It may lead you to repentance, which is of course not only the result of grace but the key which unlocks the wondrous treasures of grace.

With joyful embrace of the Lenten disciplines,

I remain faithfully yours,

–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence Is Bishop of South Carolina

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Vatican Radio–Political Strife Threatens Coalition Government in Kenya

Ongoing political wrangling in Kenya’s coalition government is having a detrimental effect on its fight against corruption. Society of Missionaries for Africa Father Patrick Devine told us that unless the roots of conflict are addressed, Kenyans will never know peace.

Listen to it all (about two minutes).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Kenya, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Pope Benedict XVI On the Lenten Season

The first call is to conversion, a word that must be taken in its extraordinary seriousness, discovering the amazing novelty it contains. The call to conversion, in fact, uncovers and denounces the easy superficiality that very often characterizes our way of living. To be converted means to change direction along the way of life — not for a slight adjustment, but a true and total change of direction. Conversion is to go against the current, where the “current” is a superficial lifestyle, inconsistent and illusory, which often draws us, controls us and makes us slaves of evil, or in any case prisoners of moral mediocrity. With conversion, instead, one aims to the lofty measure of Christian life; we are entrusted to the living and personal Gospel, which is Christ Jesus. His person is the final goal and the profound meaning of conversion; he is the way which we are called to follow in life, allowing ourselves to be illumined by his light and sustained by his strength that moves our steps. In this way conversion manifests its most splendid and fascinating face: It is not a simple moral decision to rectify our conduct of life, but it is a decision of faith, which involves us wholly in profound communion with the living and concrete person of Jesus.

To be converted and to believe in the Gospel are not two different things or in some way closely related, but rather, they express the same reality. Conversion is the total “yes” of the one who gives his own existence to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ, who first offered himself to man as Way, Truth and Life, as the one who frees and saves him. This is precisely the meaning of the first words with which, according to the Evangelist Mark, Jesus began the preaching of the “Gospel of God.” “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

“Repent and believe in the Gospel” is not only at the beginning of the Christian life, but accompanies all its steps, [this call] remains, renewing itself, and spreads, branching out in all its expressions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

CNA–Australian Anglo-Catholic group votes to explore conversion to Catholicism

By a unanimous vote, the Anglo-Catholic group Forward in Faith Australia has established a working party guided by a Catholic bishop to explore how its followers can convert to Roman Catholicism.

The group, which also has members in Britain and the United States, is believed to be the first within the Anglican Church to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s offer to create an Anglican Ordinariate, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The Ordinariate, a form of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, will enable Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining parts of their spiritual heritage.

Bishop David Robarts, chairman of Forward in Faith Australia (FIFA), said members felt excluded by the Anglican Church in Australia, which had not provided them with a bishop to represent their views on homosexuality and women bishops.

Read it all.

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

NY Times Letters: An Episcopal Divide Over Gay Unions

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, Theology, Theology: Scripture

An NBC profile of Olympian Trevor Marsicano

Watch it all.

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

RNS: Oregon Poised to End Ban on Teachers' Religious Garb

Oregon is poised to become the 48th state to permit teachers to wear headscarves and other religious dress in school, ending an 87-year ban that was originally intended to keep Catholic nuns out of public schools.

The 51-8 vote by the state’s House of Representatives is the first decision toward repealing Oregon’s ban on religious garb. If passed, Nebraska and Pennsylvania would be the only remaining states to prohibit religious clothing.

If approved, the Oregon law would take effect in 2011. Before that, the state’s education and labor agencies would hammer out rules designed to protect students from religious coercion while allowing observant Muslim women, Sikhs and Orthodox Jewish men to teach in Oregon classrooms.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Haiti Emerges From Its Shock, and Tears Roll

The Jan. 12 earthquake was an equal opportunity leveler with such mass deadliness that it erased the individuality of its victims. According to the Haitian government, more than 230,000 people died in the disaster, but initially few had ceremonies to mark their deaths. Even the collective loss of life was not memorialized until this past weekend, when the government imposed a national period of mourning.

Bit by bit, though, the individual losses are coming into focus for Haitians finally ready to grieve. Many victims were not accepted as dead until the search missions were over, and many bodies were never recovered or were dumped in mass graves. But belatedly, funerals and memorial services are taking place daily, and the traditional word-of-mouth network known as telediol has reawakened, delivering death notices.

If Haiti, always stoic, first seemed too stunned to cry, the tears are rolling now for those who seem irreplaceable: the tax man who wrote software to detect fraud in a corrupt society; the gallery owner whose eminent Haitian art collection perished with her; the writer who translated the culture’s oral storytelling into prose; the feminist leaders; the nursing students; the factory workers; the teachers; and the children, especially the children.

“My little girls died at the very moment I was making plans for their future,” said Frantz Thermilus, the chief of Haiti’s National Judicial Police, caressing their pictures on his cellphone. “And the future of the children is the future of Haiti.”

Read the whole article.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Caribbean, Haiti

In Indiana A Battered city Fears the end of Housing Aid

….Elkhart also symbolizes the failure of federal efforts to turn around the housing slump at the heart of the economic crisis. Housing in this community has become almost entirely dependent on a string of federal support programs, which are nonetheless failing to prevent a fall in prices and a rise in mortgage delinquencies.

More than one in 10 mortgage holders in Elkhart is seriously behind on payments. The median sales price has plunged to the level of a decade ago. Many homeowners owe more than their home is worth, freezing them in place for years. Foreclosures recently hit a record.

To the extent that the real estate market is functioning at all, people here say, it is doing so only because of the emergency programs, which have pushed down interest rates on mortgages and offered buyers a substantial tax credit.

Equally important is an expanded mortgage insurance program run by the Federal Housing Administration, which encourages private lenders to accept borrowers with small down payments. The government takes the risk of default.

A few years ago, only one in 10 buyers in Elkhart used the housing agency program. Now about half do. Across the country, the agency has greatly expanded its reach so that it now insures six million mortgages.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Young adults 'less religious,' not necessarily 'more secular'

Young adults today are less church-connected than prior generations were when they were in their 20s. But a new study finds they’re just about as spiritual as their parents and grandparents were at those ages.

Members of today’s Millennial generation, ages 18 to 29, are as likely to pray and believe in God as their elders were when they were young, says the report from Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

“They may be less religious, but they’re not necessarily more secular” than the Generation Xers or Baby Boomers who preceded them, says Alan Cooperman, associate director of research.

The study, “Religion in the Millennial Generation,” draws primarily on data from the 2008 Pew Religious Landscape Survey of 35,000 people and on the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, which has measured aspects of religious affiliation and religiosity for decades.

Read it all.

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Martin Luther

O God, our refuge and our strength, who didst raise up thy servant Martin Luther to reform and renew thy Church in the light of thy word: Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of thy grace, which thou hast made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer