Daily Archives: March 2, 2010

David Wilkinson: Theological questions may never be fully solved, but needy's cry must be heeded

People of faith have responded to such disasters in two ways. First they, like Darwin, have attempted to try and understand how such a world can be created by a loving God. While some at the fringes of the church have proclaimed the horror caused by earthquakes and hurricanes as the judgement of God, most Christians see something in the view that the creativity inherent in the world also brings with it risk. So the fault lines which cause devastating earthquakes have also been of immense benefit by providing minerals, oil, and good soil for agriculture. In fact, the 19th century evangelical and friend of Darwin, Asa Gray, argued that evolution’s waste and suffering were necessary for more complex forms of life to emerge in creation.

However, such insights can sound very trite to the person who has lost a loved one or been made homeless. In addition, they don’t provide a full explanation to the extent of suffering, a point which struck Darwin strongly.

It’s here that there has been a second response. Seeing in Jesus, both a God who gives genuine freedom to the Universe and a God of compassion in the face of need, churches have been motivated to be at the forefront of help to those affected by earthquakes despite the unanswered questions of suffering.

Read the whole reflection.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Caribbean, Chile, Haiti, Pastoral Theology, South America, Theodicy, Theology

Diocesan Statistics for the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s figures, Oklahoma has grown in population from 3,450,654 in 2000 to 3,687,050 in 2009. This represents a population growth of approximately 6.85%.

According to Episcopal Church statistics, the Diocese of Oklahoma went from Average Sunday Attendance (or ASA) of 7,382 in 1998 to 5,697 in 2008. This represents an ASA decline of about 23% over this ten year period.

In order to generate a pictorial chart of some Oklahoma diocesan statistics, please go [url=http://www.episcopalchurch.org/growth_60791_ENG_HTM.htm?menupage=50929]here[/url] and enter “Oklahoma” in the second line down under “Diocese” and then click on “View Diocese Chart” under the third line to the left.

Posted in Uncategorized

Catholic Charities searches for new answers to fight poverty

The statistics are numbing: About 40 million people in the United States live in poverty.

According to a report issued in January by the Brookings Institution, about 17.5 percent of the people in Nashville lived in poverty in 2008. That’s less than the 24.5 percent in Knoxville and the 23.1 percent in Memphis. Reports put the statewide number at 15.5 percent.

But such statistics are not going unnoticed.

Monday, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and a task force released a report with 30 recommendations for reducing poverty here, with a goal of cutting the rate in half by 2020.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Taylor Trammel–High School Without The Teachers

My high school, Mumford, has more than 2,000 students. This year, the administrative staff was replaced, we gained some new teachers, and we are losing others. Eight teachers are retiring this year amid the chaos within the school and the system.

As of Jan. 29, two teachers had already retired. And on that day, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, 19 teachers out of 91 were absent. A school counselor told me that the Board of Education would not send that many substitutes to Mumford, and that counselors had to cover for them. Students who did not have teachers that day were sent to the auditorium.

There, students were divided up by classes. Some students listened to music. Others talked to each other or tried to talk on cell phones. Counselors watched to make sure students remained seated. The air roared with conversation. Some students decided not to go to the auditorium and either played around in the hallways or left school.

I was one of the students in the auditorium. I tried to do work for my other classes, but with the noise swirling around me, I couldn’t get anything done. It was a waste of my time. And it is worse for students who have teachers for longer periods of time. Without teachers, school becomes simply a social gathering and a waste of educational time.

Ughhhhhhhhhhhh. Read it all.

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

Carl Anderson–Abortion and Race: A Complicated Problem

What is notable about both Plessy and Roe, is that the majority in each found it necessary to ignore the obvious to rule the way they did. At best, they bought into a lie. And sadly, whatever the motivations of individual judges, the black community targeted by Plessy, has also been affected disproportionately by Roe.

The majority’s decision in Roe could not have had a good outcome under any circumstances, but the current controversy is yet another example of how poorly adjudicated decisions tend to have unintended — and often terrible — consequences beyond those readily realized.

Of course, in the 1950s, many legal experts, law professors and politicians insisted that the segregation allowed by Plessy was “settled law.” Today, “experts” and politicians say the same about the abortion legacy of Roe.

But Plessy was unhinged from reality, and the courage of brave men and women such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks unsettled this “settled law” and earned the respect of the judgment of history.

Roe too is unhinged from the truth that everyone knows. Needed are more brave men and women willing to stand up and demand that a nation’s law on abortion will never be settled until it is brought into conformity with the truth.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Race/Race Relations, Roman Catholic

NPR–Chopin With A Polish Touch

Almost every classical pianist loves Chopin. But Polish pianists have a special bond with the music of their compatriot, whether they’re tossing off a jaunty Mazurka or navigating a serious Sonata. To mark the bicentennial of the composer’s birth, NPR Music’s Tom Huizenga and Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz discuss the appeal of Chopin’s music and spin a few great Chopin recordings by Polish pianists from 1917 up to the present.

Caught this on the morning run–simply fantastic. Listen to it all ( a little under 12 minutes).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, History, Music, Poland

Time Magazine Cover Story–Takeing on the Taliban: Will it Work?

A town of 60,000 souls, Marjah is ringed by poppy fields that are watered by irrigation canals built in the 1950s and ’60s by U.S. engineers. McChrystal chose this location to launch the reconquest of Afghanistan because it is the western end of a population belt that extends from central Helmand province through Kandahar province ”” both infested with the Taliban. McChrystal has set out to secure that belt, starting in Marjah, then moving to Lashkar Gah, Kandahar city and finally Spin Boldak. “It’s where we hadn’t been, it’s where the enemy still was, and it’s where the population is,” says a senior Administration official.

Since it’s an opening salvo in what promises to be a long, hard-fought year, McChrystal knew Operation Moshtarak would influence perceptions, among allies and enemies alike, about how the war would be fought ”” and how the peace would be waged. Managing those perceptions would be key to victory. “This is not a physical war, in terms of how many people we kill or how much ground you capture, how many bridges you blow up,” he told reporters in Istanbul on Feb. 4. “This is all in the minds of the participants. The Afghan people are the most important, but the insurgents are [too]. And of course, part of what we’ve had to do is convince ourselves and our Afghan partners that we can do this.”

The offensive was months in the planning, and little effort was made to keep it secret. If the Taliban chose to melt away rather than resist, McChrystal reasoned, it would give him more time to set up a robust administration ”” a good advertisement for those in other towns where NATO troops would soon have to fight. U.S. commanders even ordered an opinion poll of Marjah residents: they wanted to know how they felt about the U.S. and the Taliban and to gauge what they might want from his government in a box.

Read the whole thing.

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

Consumer group sues Anthem Blue Cross over policy changes

A consumer group sued Anthem Blue Cross on Monday, accusing California’s largest for-profit health insurer of violating state law by closing certain policies to new members while illegally offering remaining customers alternative plans with fewer benefits at higher rates.

Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog says in its class-action lawsuit that Anthem began closing “blocks of health insurance business” last fall, a few months before it informed policyholders who stayed put that their rates would rise as much as 39%.

Anthem’s proposed rate hikes, set to take effect May 1, have caused a national uproar, prompting criticism by consumers, regulators and lawmakers, and triggering state and federal investigations.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues

China elevates its chosen Tibetan spiritual leader

China’s handpicked Panchen Lama, the teenage religious figure whose legitimacy is a matter of dispute among many Tibetan Buddhists, has been appointed to the country’s top advisory body, the state media have announced.

Although membership in the advisory group, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, is of nominal interest to ordinary Chinese, the Panchen Lama’s appointment, made//announced? on Sunday, ratchets up the government’s efforts to elevate his stature among Tibetans. Because he was appointed by Communist Party authorities rather than by Buddhist leaders, many Tibetans reject his religious authority as the ranking leader after the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile since 1959.

Born as Gyaltsen Norbu, he was anointed the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995, shortly after the Dalai Lama identified a different child as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama. A few weeks later, that boy and his family vanished. The government has said that they are in “protective custody,” but their whereabouts have been an enduring mystery for 15 years.

According to Xinhua, the official news agency, the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama, just shy of his 20th birthday, is the youngest person ever appointed to the consultative conference, which convenes later this week as part of the annual pageant that includes meetings of the National People’s Congress, the country’s main legislative forum.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Religion & Culture, Tibet

Andrew Carey–C of E Bishops facing real issues on Civil Partnerships

Since the debacle of Civil Partnerships I must confess to some doubts about the place of Bishops in the House of Lords.

You will recall that eight bishops (Chelmsford, Manchester, Norwich, Oxford, Peterborough, St Albans, St Eds & Ips and Truro) voted in favour of the Bill while only two bishops voted against (Chester and Southwell). In recent times they have slightly redeemed themselves with a spirited defence of religious freedom by defeating the government on the Equality Bill, but such was the seriousness of the Civil Partnerships legislation that it is not easy to forget.

Three of those bishops who voted in favour came back again like bad pennies with a letter to The Times protesting this time that the Civil Partnership Act had not gone far enough in creating a new category of civil marriage. They now want civil partnerships to have the character of religious marriage, according to the various letter writers. They complain that the original Act had prohibited civil partnerships from being registered in religious premises. Now they want this overturned for uber-liber- al Jewish and Christian bodies, effectively making civil partnerships undistinguishable from marriage.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, CoE Bishops, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

Independent– Islamic scholar says suicide bombers will be held accountable

A respected Islamic scholar will publish a seminal fatwa tomorrow that unequivocally condemns terrorism and warns suicide bombers that they will “go to hell” for their attacks.

Pakistani-born Shaikh Dr Tahir ul-Qadri is launching his fatwa in London as part of a drive to combat the power of jihadist rhetoric on the web and provide English-speaking Muslims with an authoritative theological explanation detailing why terrorism is not permitted.

Although numerous fatwas condemning terrorism have been released by scholars around the world since 9/11, Shaikh Dr Qadri’s 600-page ruling is both significant and unusual because it is one of the few available in English and online.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–Don't go wobbly on us now, Ben Bernanke

Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois is near the point of fiscal disintegration. “The state is in utter crisis,” said Representative Suzie Bassi. “We are next to bankruptcy. We have a $13bn hole in a $28bn budget.”

The state has been paying bills with unfunded vouchers since October. A fifth of buses have stopped. Libraries, owed $400m (£263m), are closing one day a week. Schools are owed $725m. Unable to pay teachers, they are preparing mass lay-offs. “It’s a catastrophe”, said the Schools Superintedent.

In Alexander County, the sheriff’s patrol cars have been repossessed; three-quarters of his officers are laid off; the local prison has refused to take county inmates until debts are paid.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve, Politics in General, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Chad of Lichfield

Almighty God, whose servant Chad, for the peace of the Church, relinquished cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him, only to be rewarded with equal responsibility: Keep us, we pray thee, from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, and ready at all times to give place to others, (in honor preferring one another,) that the cause of Christ may be advanced; in the name of him who washed his disciples’ feet, even the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.

–Mark 3:13-15

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

CEN–Episcopalians told they must ignore conservatives

Asked at a press conference held on Feb 22, what prayers should be offered for South Carolina, Bishop Jefferts Schori said she “would hope that Episcopalians in South Carolina have a clear understanding” of the church’s polity and “not rely upon erroneous information.”

The focus on South Carolina arose from pleas to her office from distressed members of the diocese. “My understanding is that Episcopalians in South Carolina are concerned about those who have departed and are attempting to keep the Episcopal Church’s property,” she said.

Asked by CEN whether she was referring to the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) as the source of this “erroneous information” the presiding bishop said that “Episcopalians, like many others, often seek information from the internet. They are looking at sources that are not peer reviewed, or rely on opinions. The representations on the theology of the church as a whole are inaccurate.”

The President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, Mrs. Bonnie Anderson added that there was an “influx of information coming from sources outside the official bodies” of the Episcopal Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Blogging & the Internet, Episcopal Church (TEC), Media, Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts