Daily Archives: December 14, 2010

Stanley Hauerwas on Martin Luther King and Nonviolence

Of all the stupid claims that Christopher Hitchens makes in his God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, surely the stupidest is his claim that on account of the commitment of Martin Luther King Jr to nonviolence, in “no real as opposed to nominal sense … was he a Christian.” Wherever King got his understanding of nonviolence from, argues Hitchens, it simply couldn’t have been from Christianity because Christianity is inherently violent.

The best response that I can give to such a claim is turn to that wonderfully candid account of the diverse influences that shaped King’s understanding of nonviolence in his Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, and then demonstrate how his Christianity gave these influences in peculiarly Christ-like form.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Violence

RNS–Market Bumps Raise Concerns About Church Pensions

Religious denominations have long provided retired clergy and staff with secure pension payments””more secure, in some cases, than corporate retirement plans.
But some recent bumps have drawn attention to the vulnerabilities of so-called “church plans,” which are exempt from federal regulations aimed at safeguarding retirement funds for private-sector retirees.

As cash-strapped states and private companies revamp, freeze or end their pension programs altogether, participants in church plans are now realizing how church plans can be riskier than they appear, observers say.

“As a group, employees in so-called church plans are far more at risk than other private sector employees,” said Karen Ferguson, director of the Pension Rights Center, a Washington-based watchdog group.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pensions, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

Faith and Nature – A new Creation-based faith formation resource from the Episcopal Church

Check it out and see what you think.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources, Episcopal Church (TEC), Theology

(Globe and Mail) As churches crumble, communities fear loss of heritage

The crumbling state of the churches is a physical embodiment of the state of religious observance ”“ and the phenomenon is hardly limited to Quebec. From British Columbia to Newfoundland, places of worship of all mainstream denominations are falling victim to dwindling attendance, rising land values and maintenance costs too onerous for congregations to bear.

The United Church, the largest Protestant denomination in Canada, closes one church a week, and has shuttered more than 400 in the past decade. The Anglican Church, which said in a report this year it was hemorrhaging members, has seen eight churches close on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, and placed another six on a one-year watch list.

Yet as churches are shuttered, there are despairing questions about their fate. The twin steeples of Saint-Nom-de-Jésus dominate the brick and stone row-housing in Montreal’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, and a grass-roots campaign has sprung up to save the building and its pipe organ.

Read it all.

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

Lutheran church latest to split over ordination of ministers in same sex unions

The ordination of [non-celibate] gay clergy continues to create tension within Christian denominations in America.

The Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church and the American Baptist Church USA have experienced tremendous internal discord over the issue.

But perhaps the most dynamic schism today involving [non-celibate] gay ordination is within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Last month, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs publicly announced it had left the ELCA. Bethel Lutheran and Faith Lutheran have also quit the denomination.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Lutheran, Other Churches, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Atheist Bus Ads Rattle Fort Worth

Stand on a corner in this city and you might get a case of theological whiplash.

A public bus rolls by with an atheist message on its side: “Millions of people are good without God.” Seconds later, a van follows bearing a riposte: “I still love you. ”” God,” with another line that says, “2.1 billion Christians are good with God.”

A clash of beliefs has rattled this city ever since atheists bought ad space on four city buses to reach out to nonbelievers who might feel isolated during the Christmas season. After all, Fort Worth is a place where residents commonly ask people they have just met where they worship and many encounters end with, “Have a blessed day.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Media, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(NY Times) Jewish Groups Reviving a Ritual of Tending to the Dead

….for many decades, most Jews in the United States have lost touch with those protocols ”” if they have ever heard of them ”” in favor of conventional funeral home services that replace volunteers with professionals who, by their nature, skip the more metaphysical and personal elements of the process.

Now, a movement to restore lost tradition has motivated a new generation of Jewish volunteers to learn a set of skills that was common knowledge for many of their great-grandparents: the rituals of bathing, dressing and watching over the bodies of neighbors and friends who have died.

It is a nationwide revival propelled in almost equal parts, experts say, by an emerging sense of mortality among baby boomers, a reaction against the corporate character of the funeral home industry and a growing cultural receptivity to past spiritual practices, even some that make many people squeamish.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(USA Today) Mallory McDuff– Advent: Let's start to heal our planet

As a child during Advent, I fought with my three siblings over Jesus. We didn’t argue about conversion, but rather the right to put a one-dimensional infant the size of a thumbnail onto the Advent calendar made from red felt and glitter glue. My mother devised a rotational system, which meant that every four years, each child would place baby Jesus into his glittered manger on Christmas Day.

For my children, that same Advent calendar represents one step in our preparations for Christmas. (In a more secular waiting game, my cousins use the Elf on a Shelf, that magical spy for St. Nick.)

The start of Advent, this season of waiting and watching, coincided with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico. We are not waiting for climate change. It is here. And religious communities are taking the lead with incremental solutions to a warming planet.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Energy, Natural Resources, Religion & Culture

What Works in the Classroom? Ask the Students

How useful are the views of public school students about their teachers?

Quite useful, according to preliminary results released on Friday from a $45 million research project that is intended to find new ways of distinguishing good teachers from bad.

Teachers whose students described them as skillful at maintaining classroom order, at focusing their instruction and at helping their charges learn from their mistakes are often the same teachers whose students learn the most in the course of a year, as measured by gains on standardized test scores, according to a progress report on the research.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

A Prayer for the Provisional Feast Day of John of the Cross

Judge eternal, throned in splendor, who gavest Juan de la Cruz strength of purpose and mystical faith that sustained him even through the dark night of the soul: Shed thy light on all who love thee, in unity with Jesus Christ our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O great and glorious God, holy and immortal, who searches out the policies of nations and tries the hearts of men: Come, we pray thee, in judgment, upon the nations of the world; come and bring to destruction all that is contrary to thy holy will for mankind, and cause the counsels of the wicked to perish. Come, O Lord, into our hearts, and root out from them that thou seest, and we cannot see, to be unlike the Spirit of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Harold Anson

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Zero Hedge–Charting America's Transformation To A Part-Time Worker Society

It is surprising that over the past several years very little has been said in the popular media about the fact that America is slowly (but surely) transforming from a full-time to part-time employed society. And while much has been said about the temporary and now past impact of census hiring, and government jobs on the workforce, there are still few mentions in mainstream media that since the depression started in December 2007, America has lost 10.5 million full time jobs, offset by a 2.8 million increase in part time jobs.

Read it all and take note of the two charts.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

Richard Holbrooke RIP

I was very sorry to hear this.

Update: A WSJ article on him is here–read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Economy, Foreign Relations, Parish Ministry, The U.S. Government

Philip Turner–Unity, Order And Dissent: On How To Dissent Within a Communion of Churches

In short when communion is not sustained by a central juridical authority but by mutual recognition and submission within the body of Christ, there must be a means of dissent that coheres with these formative commitments. There must also be a means of addressing dissent that retains communion between a dissenting province and the Communion as a whole. Ecclesial disobedience as set forth above provides both an instrument of dissent and a response that prevents communion from lapsing into constantly dividing segments.

How are mutually recognized forms of belief, practice and worship to be sustained within a communion that does not have and does not want a centralized juridical structure? Given Anglicanism’s commitment to locally adapted expression of Christian belief and practice, in a world of competing nationalisms a covenant based upon mutual recognition and mutual subjection within the body of Christ is the only way I see to achieve this goal. Nevertheless, a shared understanding of dissent within a covenant relation must be part of the way in which the Communion sustains its common life. Apart from such an understanding, those who dissent will have no wisdom about the proper way to express their dissent, the Instruments and provinces of the Communion will have no wisdom about how to respond, and the Communion as a whole will inevitably devolve into a federation or (worse) a host of fragments that once formed a remarkable example of catholic Christianity.

To return to the beginning of this essay, the Archbishop of Canterbury, TEC’s Presiding Bishop, the ACO and the Primates will all be involved in the upcoming meeting in Ireland. Whether they admit to it or not, the question of dissent within a communion of churches will rest just under the surface of all their conversations. One can only hope and pray that the issue raised in this essay, the nature of ecclesiastical dissent, will rise to the surface of their conversations and receive the sort of attention that will allow the Anglican Communion to retain its identity, its unity and its integrity.

More concretely, the issue is this. What steps can the Primates take when they meet to bring the question of dissent out in the open where it belongs? There is an answer to this question, and it involves all the players that will come to Dublin. First, because it is the Archbishop of Canterbury who “gathers” the Primates and because his office is the primary locus of moral authority within the communion, the answer begins with him. He has authority to set the agenda for the Primates Meeting, and he should announce publically that the issue of TEC’s dissent from the moral authority of the Instruments is on the agenda. Further, if as is rumored, the Presiding Bishop has refused a request voluntarily to withdraw, the Archbishop should employ his authority to gather and withdraw her invitation….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Primates, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Instruments of Unity, Theology, Windsor Report / Process