Daily Archives: March 10, 2010

USA Today–Slowly, limits on Marijuana are fading at the State level

James Gray once saw himself as a drug warrior, a former federal prosecutor and county judge who sent people to prison for dealing pot and other drug offenses. Gradually, though, he became convinced that the ban on marijuana was making it more accessible to young people, not less.

“I ask kids all the time, and they’ll tell you it is easier to get marijuana than a six-pack of beer because that is controlled by the government,” he said, noting that drug dealers don’t ask for IDs or honor minimum age requirements.

So Gray ”” who spent two decades as a superior court judge in Orange County, Calif., and once ran for Congress as a Republican ”” switched sides in the war on drugs, becoming an advocate for legalizing marijuana.

“Let’s face reality,” he says. “Taxing and regulating marijuana will make it less available to children than it is today.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, State Government

David Brooks–The Emotion of Reform

The Democrats have not been completely irresponsible. It’s just that as the health fight has gone on, their passion for coverage has swamped their less visceral commitment to reducing debt. The result is a bill that is fundamentally imbalanced.

This past year, we’ve seen how hard it is to even pass legislation that expands benefits. To actually reduce benefits and raise taxes, we’re going to need legislators who wake up in the morning passionate about fiscal sanity. The ones we have now are just making things worse.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Budget, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Psychology, Senate, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Globe and Mail–Anglican Church a Twitter over empty pews

Faced with declining enrolment and revenue that will force it to shutter churches on Vancouver Island, the Anglican Church is turning to the social medium where millions of followers already flock: Twitter.

The Anglican Diocese of British Columbia last weekend voted to close seven churches outright and move those congregations to “hub churches.” The meeting, during which several members tweeted updates to followers, came on the heels of an ominous recent report that predicted that the once powerful church was headed for extinction unless dramatic changes occur.

In addition to recommending that churches close, the report described Canada as a post-Christian society and urged a change in attitude to attract new members, including embracing modern forms of evangelism.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Blogging & the Internet, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry

Diocesan Statistics for the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s figures, New Jersey has grown in population from 8,414,350 in 2000 to 8,707,739 in 2009. This represents a population growth of approximately 3.48%.

According to Episcopal Church statistics, the Diocese of New Jersey went from Average Sunday Attendance (or ASA) of 19,221 in 1998 to 15,412 in 2008. This represents an ASA decline of about 20% over this ten year period.

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

The Diocese of New Jersey’s website may be found here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Mars Hill Audio: What We're Reading

Fascinating food for thought here–follow the entires and the links.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Religion & Culture

Der Spiegel–The Fundamental Flaw of Europe's Common Currency

The euro is under attack like never before, as the promises on which it was based turn out to be lies. Hedge funds are speculating against Greek debt, while euro-zone politicians work behind the scenes to cobble together rescue packages. But fundamental flaws in the monetary union need to be fixed if Europe’s common currency is to survive.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Economy, Europe, France, Germany, Greece, Politics in General, Spain, The Banking System/Sector

Martin B. Copenhaver reviews Barbara Ehrenreich's new Book on Positive Thinking in America

Ehrenreich is most effective when she writes journalistically with an eye for the telling detail, such as in this description of Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria: “In one way, the two of them seem perfectly matched, or at least symmetrical: his mouth is locked into the inverted triangle of his trademark smile, while her heavy dark brows stamp her face with angry tension, even when the mouth is smiling.”

Pastors who serve in quite different settings from the Osteens’ and who interpret the gospel differently than they do may take some delight in seeing them skewered so skillfully. But pastors might not want Ehrenreich to train her eye on their own churches. Increasingly, I encounter churches that have done away with corporate prayers of confession in worship because they are “too negative.” Funerals are now often approached as “celebrations of life,” where death is spoken of only in euphemisms. I have heard far too many sermons recently that substitute a glib positive message for the gospel.

Ehrenreich insists that the alternative to positive thinking is not despair; it is realism. Although she does not make this a theological argument, I think she would appreciate the distinction between positive thinking and the gospel. Positive thinking can be a lulling mixture of illusion and denial. By contrast, the gospel is based on hard realities, like sin and death, but can remain ultimately hopeful because it is also based on the reality of a God who triumphs over both. It seems to me, then, that any attempt to dismantle the shallow optimism that Ehrenreich critiques relentlessly””and, at times, effectively””is in service to the gospel.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture

Salt and Light–Cardinal Levada on the Pope’s Anglican initiatives

The decisions of the recent Synod of the Church of England to permit the ordination of women bishops and the refusal to authorize continued episcopal oversight have made the problem for this minority of Anglicans even more acute. For its part, the Catholic Church has clearly articulated its position on the ordination of women. In 1975, Pope Paul VI issued a formal appeal to the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Fredrick Donald Coggan, to avoid taking a step which would have a serious negative impact on ecumenical relations. Just to say, parenthetically, that an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury, though, is probably frustrating for him, because unlike the Catholic Church, there is no central authority in the Anglican Communion and, thus, the various provinces””some 39, I believe””have made their own decisions about such questions of practice and even doctrine.

In 1976, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued its declaration Inter insigniores, stating that the Church does not consider herself authorized to ordain women, not on account of socio-cultural reasons, but rather because of the “unbroken tradition throughout the history of the Church, universal in the East and in the West”, which must be “considered to conform to God’s plan for his Church.” (I’m quoting there from the document.) This position was reiterated in 1992 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and again in 1994 with the Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio sacerdotalis. In October of 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a response affirming that the doctrine stating that the Church has no power to confer sacred orders on women is definitive tenenda””it must be held definitively and is to be considered part of the infallible, ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church. For Catholics, the issue of the reservation of priestly ordination to men is not merely a matter of praxis, or discipline, but is, rather, doctrinal in nature and touches the heart of the doctrine of the Eucharist itself and the sacramental nature, or constitution, of the Church. It is therefore a question which cannot be relegated to the periphery of ecumenical conversations, but needs to be engaged directly in honesty and charity by dialogue partners who desire Christian unity, which, by its very nature, is Eucharistic.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, current President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, addressed this point in an intervention given in June 2006 to the House of Bishops of the Church of England during its discussions on the ordination of women to the episcopate. In his talk he said this: “Because the Episcopal office is a ministry of unity, the decision you face would immediately impact on the question of the unity of the Church and with it the goal of ecumenical dialogue. It would be a decision against the common goal we have until now pursued in our dialogue: full ecclesial communion, which cannot exist without full communion in the episcopal office.”

Read it all and read it carefully.

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

Public Pension Funds Are Adding Risk to Raise Returns

States and companies have started investing very differently when it comes to the billions of dollars they are safeguarding for workers’ retirement.

Companies are quietly and gradually moving their pension funds out of stocks. They want to reduce their investment risk and are buying more long-term bonds.

But states and other bodies of government are seeking higher returns for their pension funds, to make up for ground lost in the last couple of years and to pay all the benefits promised to present and future retirees. Higher returns come with more risk.

“In effect, they’re going to Las Vegas,” said Frederick E. Rowe, a Dallas investor and the former chairman of the Texas Pension Review Board, which oversees public plans in that state. “Double up to catch up.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, State Government, Stock Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Anglican Mainstream–Bishop James Jones muddies the waters again

Anglican Mainstream, whilst acknowledging that Bishop Jones reflects a way of thinking which is gaining ground amongst some English evangelicals, considers it deeply flawed in terms of both teaching and practice. In terms of practice, such teaching fails to recognise that the deep logic of the gay/lesbian movement is the abolition of the Judaeo-Christian understanding of human identity, towards which acceptance of gay ”˜marriage’ is a key step. Faced with the uncomfortable prospect of having constantly to challenge quietly established ”˜facts on the ground’ which gay activists have been openly following for years, the temptation to re-frame the question as a pastoral problem ”“ one of ”˜go along and get along’ -becomes almost overwhelming. That is a fundamental error, the second deep flaw in this way of thinking. As the GAFCON Jerusalem Statement has said, and the comments attached to this Statement indicate, the issue here is one of false teaching. False teaching is not to be colluded with, but to be challenged – and overcome by patient and thorough exposition of biblical truth. The unity to which the Church is called is oneness in Christ, faithful to the Scriptures which authoritatively reveal Him. That is the unity which must underpin our calling to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a needy and broken world.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

WSJ–Supreme Court wades into funeral protests

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the father of a fallen Marine can collect damages from a religious sect that picketed his son’s funeral with vulgar placards celebrating the death of American soldiers.

The court also accepted two other cases on Monday, one testing whether vaccine makers are immune from lawsuits under state law and another that challenges government background checks on federal contractors as an invasion of privacy. The cases are likely to be heard in the fall.

The funeral case, Snyder v. Phelps, tests the limits of First Amendment protection for demonstrators who aim obnoxious and hurtful speech at the most sympathetic of victims. It centers on the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., founded in 1955. Most of the church’s 70-odd members are children, grandchildren or in-laws of its founder and sole pastor, Fred W. Phelps Sr., according to a lower court opinion.

The Westboro Church searches the Internet for notices of military funerals it can picket to get attention for its message of hostility to homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church, and its claim that battlefield casualties represent divine retribution for what it views as America’s sins.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Death / Burial / Funerals, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori–The Keynote Address to New Jersey's Diocesan Convention

One of the more effective evangelical tools right now does just that ”” it goes into the places where people spend time, at work and at leisure, and it gathers people who want to ask significant spiritual questions. Asking questions is actually something that sets Episcopalians apart from a lot of other traditions, particularly the ones who say there’s only one right answer and doubt is a sin. Remember that bumper sticker, “Question Authority”? I’ve never been sure whether it’s a description of somebody who’s good at asking questions or a challenge to keep asking difficult questions of the powers that be. But asking questions is a central part of our tradition. We don’t insist that doubt is a sin; we see doubt as necessary to growth.

Young people are hard-wired to ask questions ”” why? is the most characteristic word out of the mouth of a healthy developing child. ”˜Why should I do that, why is the stove hot, why aren’t girls and boys always treated the same, why are some people poor, why has your generation left the world in such a mess, how can we bring peace to the world?’ When we stop asking questions like that we begin to die ”” spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and probably physically.

Building communities where young people can ask the really big questions is one of the most important kinds of evangelism we can do ”” and the other important kinds of evangelism are about building communities where others can do the same thing. Theology on tap is a prime example ”” it offers welcome and hospitality, including a brew (caffeinated or spirited), conversation, and community. It is happening in bars. It is happening in coffeehouses. It is happening where people gather. There are ways to gather questioners, a number of them focused on faith in the workplace. We have always gathered to ask questions. The women’s guilds and men’s guilds in the church did similar work, but they expected people to show up in the church building to gather. We need to leave home and go out there to provide hospitable places for questioners!

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Oh, how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day….Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

–Psalm 119:97,105

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Anglicans closing seven Vancouver Island churches

The Anglican Church announced it would close seven churches on Vancouver Island due to declining attendance and revenues, but one reverend says there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel.

Over the next 18 months, the churches will be sold or leased and their parishioners relocated to four newly created “hub” churches designed to serve a wider community. The dramatic decision was made using a set of recommendations put forward by the Diocese of British Columbia earlier this year.

Rev. Christopher Parsons is the rector for two of the parishes being closed, St. Columba and St. Martin, but the 34-year-old said he is nothing but pleased with the church’s decision.

Read it all.

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

Scholar Diane Ravitch: 'We've lost sight' of schools' goal

In her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Ravitch blasts No Child Left Behind, which she says promotes “a cramped, mechanistic, profoundly anti-intellectual definition of education” ”” as well as virtually every other recent reform effort that has sought to inject more free-market competition and accountability into education. She finds much to dislike: charter schools, high-stakes tests, corporate-style school management teams and the rising influence of foundation-funded reforms.

Over several decades, Ravitch says, American schools have essentially lost their way, forgetting to focus on giving students a solid curriculum and strong teachers. Instead, she says, we’ve bumbled through a series of crises that have left us with “vague and meaningless standards,” an odd, antagonistic public-private competition and an “obsession” with test scores.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized