Daily Archives: June 12, 2010

Grief Links Members of a Persecuted Muslim Sect

Mr. Malik and Mrs. Jariullah went straight to their cellphones, calling every relative in Lahore; not one answered. From the television, they heard gunfire crackling, grenades exploding, sirens, screams. The screen showed bodies streaked with blood.

At some point, Mrs. Jariullah realized she was quaking, and yet unable to take her eyes off the screen. Eight hours later, the couple’s worst fears were confirmed. An uncle, a nephew and a cousin were dead, another cousin wounded.

And when they drove from their home in Plainfield, Ill., to their mosque in Glen Ellyn, Bait-ul-Jamaay, they discovered their anguish had company. Of the 120 families who belong to the mosque, a dozen or more had lost relatives in the Lahore attacks. All told, 94 people were killed in the assaults by the Punjabi Taliban on Dar-ul-Zakir and another mosque, Bait-ul-Noor, during Friday Prayer.

The thread of grief connecting Lahore to Glen Ellyn was not some ghastly anomaly. At both ends, the afflicted Muslims were members of the Ahmadi (or Ahmadiyya) sect, which claims 10 million worshipers worldwide. Moderate and peaceful in their precepts, the Ahmadis are reviled by fundamentalist Muslims, especially in Pakistan, for their belief that their 19th-century founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the messiah predicted by the Prophet Muhammad.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Death / Burial / Funerals, Islam, Other Faiths, Pakistan, Parish Ministry, Violence

NY Times Letters: When Couples Divorce Late in Life

(The original article to which they are responding is here).

Here is one:

Without commenting on the separation of Al and Tipper Gore, I think there are at least four reasons to be appalled at the attitude and assumptions reflected by Deirdre Bair in her article.

First, there is no consideration of the religious or at least personal commitment undertaken by couples. The unilateral abrogation of that commitment may result in few regrets by those who do so, according to Ms. Bair, but presumably that is not the view of their abandoned partners.

Second, there is no mention of the effect on the children, albeit adult. One wonders if the children are in fact happy to see their parents pursuing their “third age.”

And oddly for a woman, Ms. Bair breezily assumes that women involved in such situations will do just fine financially. The general understanding is that women most usually suffer financially from divorce.

Finally, there is the clear implication that those who remain married for life are benighted, craven losers without the guts to pursue their zen, rather than those whose love and devotion deserve our respect.

John W. Curtis
Greenwich, Conn.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Hartford Courant: Praying for a Sale for Houses of Worship

A typical house is tough enough to sell in a recession-hampered housing market. But when a house is a house of worship, the job often becomes one that smacks of the Biblical trials of Job. The challenges just seem to multiply.

Take the case of Trinity Episcopal Church, an imposing, steepled stone structure boasting elaborate stained glass windows that was a longtime center of worship in Bristol. It fell victim to the split in the church and was put up for sale for $850,000.

“It needs some work,” says Jack Spaeth, the canon for stewardship and administration for the Episcopal diocese of Connecticut. “But the right buyer is out there, whether that is a faith community or a transformed use.”

Spaeth knows of which he speaks; a former real estate agent who manages property and finances for the diocese, he has handled several church sales in the past few years. “Many of these are Gothic structures that are expensive to maintain,” he says. “It’s not just your standard cinderblock.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Housing/Real Estate Market, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Connecticut, TEC Departing Parishes

Independent: England flies the flag as it all kicks off

Britain will grind to a collective halt this evening as 15 million television viewers retire to their sofas for the opening game of England’s World Cup campaign against the United States, amid signs of a football-driven spending spree ”“ and surprisingly heartfelt Anglo-American sporting rancour.

Kick-off at the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenberg between the two sides will presage predicted additional retail sales of nearly £1bn if Fabio Capello’s team manage to progress into the knock-out stage of the tournament, providing the economy with a badly-needed boost which could rise to £2.01bn of extra spending if England reach the final.

It is accompanied by an outbreak of unabashed patriotism, both for and against England, as an estimated three million St George Cross flags, most of them manufactured in China, are draped from windows and clipped to cars.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Sports

George Vecsey–England vs. United States: The Beauty of Anticipation

The most anticipated American sports event in many years, perhaps decades, is about to take place. Since last December, many Americans have been looking forward to Saturday’s World Cup match with England in South Africa. Finally, it is happening.

Not only that, but the United States has the potential to toss a banana peel under the churning feet of the nation that invented the sport ”” and don’t you forget it.

The Yanks have at least a chance to gain what soccer fans call a result ”” a draw or a victory, a point or maybe even 3, in the traditionally slippery first match of group play.

The nicest part of Yanks-English has been the anticipation, ever since the two nations, linked by history and language and mutual needs, were paired for the first match, when strange things happen.

By my highly unscientific formula of time multiplied by electronic stimulation, this dream World Cup match, this delicious coincidence, has been looming over soccer buffs like some tantalizing full moon that somehow stayed in place for six months.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., England / UK, Sports

Relying on Heart, U.S. Takes Aim at England

When Bob Bradley was the Princeton soccer coach, he took a team of college players to Italy, where he met Fabio Capello, the manager of the Italian and European champion A.C. Milan.

“When you make wine,” Capello advised Bradley, “the grapes are not always the same.”

For Bradley, the meaning was not instantly clear.

“The first few times he said that to me, I thought he was actually talking about making wine,” Bradley recalled. “I have thought about it, and I realized he was trying to tell me something about football.”

More than 15 years later, Bradley and Capello will try to blend different quality grapes into a winning 2010 vintage.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., England / UK, Sports

Peggy Noonan: 'We Are Totally Unprepared' for the Aftermath of a Major Terrorist Attack

The most important overlooked story of the past few weeks was overlooked because it was not surprising. Also because no one really wants to notice it. The weight of 9/11 and all its implications is so much on our minds that it’s never on our mind.

I speak of the report from the inspector general of the Justice Department, issued in late May, saying the department is not prepared to ensure public safety in the days or weeks after a terrorist attack in which nuclear, biological or chemical weapons are used. The Department of Homeland Security is designated as first federal responder, in a way, in the event of a WMD attack, but every agency in government has a formal, assigned role, and the crucial job of Justice is to manage and coordinate law enforcement and step in if state and local authorities are overwhelmed.

So how would Justice do, almost nine years after the attacks of 9/11? Poorly. “The Department is not prepared to fulfill its role . . . to ensure public safety and security in the event of a WMD incident,” says the 61-page report. Justice has yet to assign an entity or individual with clear responsibility for oversight or management of WMD response; it has not catalogued its resources in terms of either personnel or equipment; it does not have written plans or checklists in case of a WMD attack. A deputy assistant attorney general for policy and planning is quoted as saying “it is not clear” who in the department is responsible for handling WMD response. Workers interviewed said the department’s operational response program “lacks leadership and oversight.” An unidentified Justice Department official was quoted: “We are totally unprepared.” He added. “Right now, being totally effective would never happen. Everybody would be winging it.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Terrorism

David Jenkins on the Canadian Anglican Synod: A Church on the Wane?

One of the notable things about this synod was who wasn’t there. There was little interest from the secular press, visitors were sparse and blog comments were at nothing like the levels seen for the Synod of 2007. Even big name Anglicans like Katherine Jefferts-Schori (from the US Episcopal Church) attracted only a motley bunch of specialty Anglican journalists. For the most part, the secular press was absent.

The church is trying to use social networking to spread its message, so it had a twitter account where a dedicated tweeter typed in endless 140 character messages to edify the curious. There were 114 followers, a half of which were probably already attending synod. To put this in perspective, Stephen Fry has 1,550,779 followers ”“ and he doesn’t even talk about sex all the time.

Why is this? It’s because most people no longer care what the Anglican Church does ”“ whether it is blessing same sex marriages or demanding an end to global warming. The Anglican Church spends much of its time questioning the faith that has shaped not only it, but the last 2000 years of Western civilisation. To fill the void, it has idolatrised “inclusion”, thereby alienating to the point of exclusion many who are determined to hold fast to orthodox Christianity. The church’s quest for relevance has become an accommodation to secular culture and it now finds itself in a market where it cannot and never will be able to effectively compete.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Canada, Religion & Culture

Children's Ethics Classes Down Under: More than a question of right and wrong

While discussing the subject of ”vice and virtue”, the students in the Leichhardt Primary ethics class compiled a list of things 10-year-olds consider wicked – stealing pencil cases, telling secrets and lying to secure the last piece of birthday cake.

The litany of sins, carefully devoid of any reference to religious morality, was unintentionally sweet because while children furrow their brows over these issues, adults are clashing over their right to do so.

The trial in 10 NSW schools of secular ethics classes, held as an alternative to special religious education (SRE), has sparked a culture war. It has pitted the faithful against the secular, church against state, and parent against parent. The debate has sparked allegations of lying and scare-mongering from both sides, and feeds into wider anxiety about the forces of militant atheism and the power of church lobby groups.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Australia / NZ, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Christianity Today: Life in the Old Bones of the Traditional Denominations

Denominations appear to have fallen on difficult times. Theological controversies over core Christian beliefs have weakened some denominations. Others have succumbed to classic liberalism. A handful of denominations have reaffirmed their commitment to theological orthodoxy, but even many once-growing conservative denominations have experienced difficult days. All in all, membership in 23 of the 25 largest Christian denominations is declining (the exceptions being the Assemblies of God and the Church of God).

The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) found that the percentage of Americans who self-identify as Christians decreased from 86 percent in a 1990 study to 76 percent in 2008. Much of the loss does seem located in large mainline denominations. At the same time, the ARIS indicated that nondenominational churches have steadily grown since 2001””and that self-identified evangelicals have increased in number. But it seems that denominations have not shared in the growth.

According to many church leaders, denominations are not fading away””they are actually inhibiting growth. I have heard many pastors denounce denominations as hindering more than helping their churches’ mission. Others carp at wasteful spending, bureaucratic ineffectiveness, or structural redundancies; these objections seem to have gained adherents in an economic climate of pinching every penny. Loyalty to a denomination has declined and in some cases disappeared.

Meanwhile, many of the better-known churches in America today have no denominational affiliation….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptists, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelicals, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian

Pope asks God for forgiveness but offers no apology on priest abuse

When Pope Benedict XVI announced the “Year of the Priest” that concluded Friday, he probably didn’t have in mind the sort of year he got.

He acknowledged as much in a closing Mass, telling more than 10,000 assembled priests in St. Peter’s Square that “in the very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light.”

Benedict had been widely expected to use the occasion to issue his most sweeping and detailed mea culpa to date for the clergy sexual abuse scandal, and perhaps to announce new measures to cope with it. The scandal has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in Europe this year, nearly a decade after it shook the American church to its roots.

But the pope did neither, blaming the problem on “the enemy,” Satan, even as he begged forgiveness from God and from the victims of priest abuse, as he has several times recently. The latest comments failed to satisfy at least some in his audience, who called for greater accountability and more concrete measures to combat abuse.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Virginia Anglican property dispute continues

The Supreme Court of Virginia just ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Virginia, but the ongoing debate over which religious group owns church property could last for years to come.

The property tug-of-war is far different from the common real estate fights that Henry Burt, secretary of the diocese, dealt with during his days as a lawyer at a big firm.

“This dispute would be a lot simpler if we were arguing over ownership of an office building in Rosslyn or on K Street,” said Burt. Those types of property battles between two parties, he explains, typically involve money and can get resolved fairly quickly.

“What we have here are not simply property issues,” he said. “This is not about property or money — it’s about sacred space. Places where generations of Episcopalians have gotten married, baptized and buried loved ones. We have an obligation and duty to protect that legacy.”

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Posted in Uncategorized

In San Antoniio, Discord is straining Christ Episcopal Church

Most of the lay leaders of the largest and most influential Episcopal church in South Texas said Friday they will resign next week as they contemplate whether to leave the denomination ”” a move that could lead to a split in the church as well.

Ten of the 16 people on Christ Episcopal Church’s vestry informed the congregation they no longer in good conscience can be leaders in a denomination they believe has strayed from Scripture. One example is the national church’s approval of gay and lesbian clergy.

The vestry members’ decision comes about a month after the church’s rector, the Rev. Chuck Collins, announced his retirement for the same reason.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Parishes, Theology

Mark F.M. Clavier: Mythic history in the Presiding Bishop’s pastoral letter

It requires no leap of the imagination to see that what the Presiding Bishop has in mind here is the Episcopal Church itself. If one were, like medieval dramatists, to present the Synod of Whitby in contemporary garb, the Episcopal Church would play the part of Celtic Christianity and the “centralized authority” of the Anglican Communion would appear as Rome. Perhaps Bishop Jefferts Schori would play the part of Colman of Lindisfarne and Archbishop Williams the perennially despised Wilfrid. Such a setting for the Synod of Whitby would then carry the message that the current struggles in the Anglican Communion are simply another manifestation of the perpetual struggle between a powerful, hierarchical, and autocratic church against a vulnerable and egalitarian form of Christianity. Obviously, this is a heady message, calling to arms all who wish to resist the tyrant doing “spiritual violence” once again to those who wish freely to express their “Spirit”-led beliefs. Thus, the Synod of Whitby draws greater power by implicitly invoking the even older image of Babylon persecuting the faithful remnant. Strange how people can morph into a reflection of how they perceive their opponents.

That this is the myth by which the Presiding Bishop is operating is shown by her allusion to colonialism. This is the other governing metaphor of the letter, and in this sense the Synod of Whitby becomes an expression of ecclesiastical colonialism over a native, “Celtic” people. We have here a sort of theological variation on Avatar. The irony, of course, is that this claim is being made by the Presiding Bishop of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church: the world’s most powerful nation and one of the world’s most well-heeled churches. Likening the Episcopal Church to a weak and oppressed Celtic Christianity or to forcefully clothed Hawaiian women requires a degree of mental acrobatics that beggars belief. It is equally ironic that she thereby presents Archbishop Williams, a Welshman, in the role of an agent of the domineering Roman church seeking to suppress the wonderfully tolerant Celtic church!

As thrilling as all this may be to some, the problem is that it does violence (to use a recurring metaphor in the letter) to the actual history.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Instruments of Unity, Presiding Bishop, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

Anglican Church of Canada General Synod: Consideration of the Covenant

Canadian Anglicans took a step forward in considering the Anglican Covenant with the passing of resolution A137: Anglican Communion Covenant at General Synod 2010 on Thursday, June 10.

Bishop George Bruce, chair of the Anglican Committee Working Group provided an introduction to the work of the committee, which has participated in the process of reviewing and providing feedback to the draft. A General Synod 2007 decision affirms the Anglican Church’s involvement in the process of drafting “A Covenant for the Anglican Communion”.

“There have been lots of changes since the Nassau document,” said Bishop Bruce, referring to a previous version of the covenant that was met with concern. “The text is a significant approval over that drafts. Virtually all Canadian concerns have been addressed.”

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