Daily Archives: March 5, 2010

Melanie Kirlkpatrick: Follow the Neon Crosses to the 'Jerusalem of the East'

South Koreans exulted last week in Kim Yu-na’s matchless performance in Vancouver. So, too, on Sunday, at Yoido Full Gospel Church, where the figure skater, a Roman Catholic, wasn’t mentioned by name but everyone knew whom the pastor was talking about when he lifted up the country’s Olympic athletes in prayer.

Yoido Full Gospel is the mega-est of megachurches. With a membership of more than 850,000, it bills itself as the world’s largest Christian congregation, and that’s probably right. At the 11 o’clock service last Sunday, there were more people in the 120-singer choir than in the entire congregation of the country church I attend in New England.

The church stands on an island in the Han River in central Seoul, not far from the National Legislature. The main sanctuary holds 10,000 people. Nearby are several church-owned buildings, including a high-rise filled with offices, meeting rooms and banquet halls. There are satellite churches elsewhere in Seoul and around the country.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, South Korea

NY Times Magazine: Building a Better Teacher

On a Winter day five years ago, Doug Lemov realized he had a problem. After a successful career as a teacher, a principal and a charter-school founder, he was working as a consultant, hired by troubled schools eager ”” desperate, in some cases ”” for Lemov to tell them what to do to get better. There was no shortage of prescriptions at the time for how to cure the poor performance that plagued so many American schools. Proponents of No Child Left Behind saw standardized testing as a solution. President Bush also championed a billion-dollar program to encourage schools to adopt reading curriculums with an emphasis on phonics. Others argued for smaller classes or more parental involvement or more state financing.

Lemov himself pushed for data-driven programs that would diagnose individual students’ strengths and weaknesses. But as he went from school to school that winter, he was getting the sinking feeling that there was something deeper he wasn’t reaching. On that particular day, he made a depressing visit to a school in Syracuse, N.Y., that was like so many he’d seen before: “a dispiriting exercise in good people failing,” as he described it to me recently. Sometimes Lemov could diagnose problems as soon as he walked in the door. But not here. Student test scores had dipped so low that administrators worried the state might close down the school. But the teachers seemed to care about their students. They sat down with them on the floor to read and picked activities that should have engaged them. The classes were small. The school had rigorous academic standards and state-of-the-art curriculums and used a software program to analyze test results for each student, pinpointing which skills she still needed to work on.

But when it came to actual teaching, the daily task of getting students to learn, the school floundered. Students disobeyed teachers’ instructions, and class discussions veered away from the lesson plans. In one class Lemov observed, the teacher spent several minutes debating a student about why he didn’t have a pencil. Another divided her students into two groups to practice multiplication together, only to watch them turn to the more interesting work of chatting. A single quiet student soldiered on with the problems. As Lemov drove from Syracuse back to his home in Albany, he tried to figure out what he could do to help. He knew how to advise schools to adopt a better curriculum or raise standards or develop better communication channels between teachers and principals. But he realized that he had no clue how to advise schools about their main event: how to teach.

Around the country, education researchers were beginning to address similar questions.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

The Tablet: Is the sun setting on the Spanish Roman Catholic Church?

It was announced this week that the Pope will visit Spain in November. The news comes during a tense phase in Church-State relations after the Spanish Senate approved a new abortion law on 25 February. It is the latest round in a battle that the secularising government seems to be winning

Last year an estimated one million people demonstrated in Madrid when the proposals to liberalise the abortion law became public. Now that it looks set to become law, the Spanish bishops’ conference has approved a new campaign of protest marches by pro-lifers ”“ describing the proposals as a “licence to kill” children, and an attack on the institution of the family. “This law gives a sealed envelope to a woman to sort herself out, and frees the father of any responsibility,” declared the conference’s spokesman, Bishop Juan Antonio Martínez Camino.

In a country where a majority of the population still identifies itself more or less as Catholic, one would have thought that this is one issue Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero would be advised not to pick a fight over. In fact, Zapatero appears to have taken on the bishops over an issue that alone is unlikely to threaten his political survival.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Spain

Paul S. Julienne–What is Anglicanism?

What does it mean to be Anglican? I have not always been Anglican. I was Roman Catholic when my family visited Truro Church in 1974, but my wife and I sensed the Lord calling us to make our church home there. I find that my catholic heritage has been deepened as I have learned to understand the Scriptures through evangelical Anglican eyes and to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in making my faith real. One could give many answers to what is the essence of being Anglican, but to me the most important is that Anglicanism is situated solidly in the Great Story of the redemptive love of the Creator God Who we know as a Trinity of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To be Anglican is to be in continuity with the ancient Church’s way of understanding the story of Jesus of Nazareth as told by the Apostles. Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord, the Messiah of Israel, fulfills the promises God made to Abraham to bless the whole world through his descendants, as we learn from both the old and new testaments of the Bible.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Identity, Church History, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

Murky Candidacy Stokes Iraq’s Sectarian Fears

A politician widely accused of running death squads might not be expected to have an easy time running for public office.

But this is Iraq. In a nation sadly inured to years of sectarian bloodletting, Hakim al-Zamili not only has a place on a prominent Shiite election slate, but stands poised to win a place in the Parliament, as early voting began Thursday morning for the infirm, people with special needs and members of the military and the police.

It is an astonishing turnabout that shows the limits of political reconciliation. While some Sunni candidates have been barred from running in the election for their alleged support of the Baath Party, Mr. Zamili’s candidacy has provoked nary a protest from the nation’s leading Shiite politicians. That runs the risk that Shiite leaders will be seen as taking steps against only those who persecuted Shiites, not Sunnis.

Mr. Zamili’s new political role has heightened concerns that for all the talk of cross-sectarian alliances among some Shiite and Sunni factions, Iraq may be unable to firmly break with its troubled past.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Iraq, Iraq War, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

WSJ: Millions of U.S. Homeowners can't””or won't””Refinance

Around 37% of all borrowers with 30-year conforming fixed-rate mortgages””who collectively hold about $1.2 trillion of home loans””have mortgage rates of 6% or higher, according to investment bank Credit Suisse. Many could reduce their rates by a full percentage point if they refinanced at current rates, about 5%. More than half could lower their rates nearly three-quarters of a percentage point, according to Credit Suisse.

But new refinance applications in January stood near their lowest levels in the past year. Weekly data compiled by the Mortgage Bankers Association also show that refinance activity has been muted, considering that rates are so low…

The last time mortgage rates were at current levels, in 2003, refinancing activity hit $2.9 trillion, according to trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance. Last year, refinance volume reached $1.2 trillion, the highest amount since 2003 but not nearly as much as expected, considering how low interest rates have fallen.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

The Latest Episcopal Life Letters/Reader Responses

Here is one:

From Barbara Bloom ”¢ Bloomington, Indiana…

Excellent. Who cares about another’s sexual preference, unless you are looking for a partner? Let’s celebrate how we work, in many diverse ways, to love God and to love our neighbors.


Read them all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC)

Interfaith Group Urges Renewed Attention on Sudan

As the attention of the public and Congress has been drawn away to other global hotspots, the Interfaith Sudan Working Group hopes U.S. lawmakers will assist Sudan in grappling with an upcoming election, a recent cease-fire agreement with a Darfur rebel group and a referendum on independence for southern Sudan.

“Political milestones such as the upcoming election, cease-fire agreements and referendum carry great promise and great peril,” said Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service. “That’s why we need the U.S. government’s focused attention now. If the agreements and peace process fall apart, they can’t just be put back together, again.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Inter-Faith Relations, Politics in General, Poverty, Sudan, Violence

BBC–Chile quake reconstruction 'to take up to four years'

Chile’s reconstruction will take “three to four years” as the country recovers from the earthquake that killed some 800 people, its president has said.

“There are rural areas where everything has tumbled to the ground… infrastructure has been destroyed,” Michelle Bachelet told Chilean radio.

It would take foreign aid and most of the mandate of President-elect Sebastian Pinera to rebuild, she added.

Three days of national mourning have been declared, to begin on Sunday.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Chile, South America

(Howard County, Maryland) Times: Catholic, Episcopal conversions on the rise

Harry Wallace, of Harper’s Choice, was what he called a “cradle Episcopalian,” a person baptized and raised in the Episcopal Church. As a youth, he was an altar boy and later served as a Eucharist minister in the church.

But Wallace, 53, said he and his wife, Pam, became increasingly disturbed in recent years by the liberalization of the church. As the church hierarchy moved toward accepting gay unions and ordaining gay priests, Wallace began to feel more and more uncomfortable.

“The angst and the division was troubling,” Wallace said. “In our tradition and our belief set, we were becoming more and more marginalized.”

Last year, Wallace and his wife converted to the Roman Catholic Church.

Their decision was hardly unique. Such conversions are part of a trend encouraged and recognized by the Catholic Church — a trend that also is a two-way street, as even Catholics concede.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

Telegraph–Sterling's slippery slope

The 25 per cent fall in the value of the pound over the past couple of years has amounted to a bigger depreciation than in any single post-war sterling crisis. Most see this as a healthy correction of an over-valued currency, which has given us a more competitive exchange rate just when we needed it.

This benign devaluation now threatens, however, to turn into a rout. For this week’s fall in the pound has been prompted not by worries over Britain’s prospects, but by doubts about the economic credibility of the Government. The Tories’ diminishing poll lead has raised the spectre of a hung parliament, and of chaos and gridlock in government at the worst possible time. The markets have taken fright: as Kenneth Clarke, the shadow business secretary, observed yesterday, it has only been the prospect of a Conservative victory, and the arrival of a government prepared to tackle the fiscal crisis head on, that has held down interest rates and sustained sterling in recent months. The possibility that this may not happen has alarmed foreign investors, for it is uncertainty that spooks the markets.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, England / UK, Politics in General

Church Times–Religious bodies can host gay ceremonies, say peers

Lord Alli’s amendment to the Equality Bill, which allows civil partnerships to be registered on religious premises, if religious bodies wish to allow it, was approved during the Report Stage in the House of Lords on Tuesday by 95 votes to 21.

The proposed changes to the Civil Partnership Act had been significantly modified since the debate in January (News, 5 February). The scope is narrowed to England and Wales, and the existing rule that “no religious service is to be used while the civil partnership registrar is officiating at the signing of a civil partnership document” is retained.

An additional clause reads: “For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships if they do not wish to do so.” A further clause states: “Regulations may provide that premises approved for the registration of civil partnerships may differ from those premises approved for the registration of civil marriages.”

Lord Alli stressed that the issue was one of religious freedom. “Religious freedom means letting the Quakers, the liberal Jews, and others host civil partnerships. It means accepting that the Church of England and the Catholic Church should not host civil partnerships if they do not wish to do so.”

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, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

From the Morning Bible Readings

And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

–Mark 4:39-41

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Another Prayer for Lent

O Blessed Saviour, who art full of mercy and compassion, and wilt not cast out any that come to thee: Help us, we beseech thee, who are grievously vexed with the burden of our sins; and so increase in us the power of thy Holy Spirit that we may prevail against the enemy of our souls; for thy name’s sake.

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

US Democrats would vote down healthcare over abortion

A dozen House of Representatives Democrats opposed to abortion are willing to kill President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plan unless it satisfies their demand for language barring the procedure, Representative Bart Stupak said on Thursday.

“Yes. We’re prepared to take responsibility,” Stupak said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked if he and his 11 Democratic allies were willing to accept the consequences for bringing down healthcare reform over abortion.

“Let’s face it. I want to see healthcare. But we’re not going to bypass the principles of belief that we feel strongly about,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate