Daily Archives: December 23, 2010

(RNS) Abortion debate opens rift between Catholic bishops and Hospitals

“Health care seems to be the fault line developing between the bishops and within wider society,” said the Rev. Steven Avella, a Catholic priest and professor of religious history at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Earlier this year, an Oregon bishop terminated the church affiliation of a large medical center, saying it had abandoned Catholic ethical guidelines. In April, the bishop of Providence, R.I., demanded that the state’s only Catholic hospital quit the CHA over the group’s support of the health care bill.

Rusty Reno, a senior editor at the conservative Catholic journal First Things, said such conflicts are likely to continue as Catholic health care follows the lead of its secular counterparts.

“The bishops recognize they have a problem, which is that you have a health care system that calls itself Catholic, but refuses to conform to Catholic principles,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

In 2010, Donors Want Connection with Charity

The last few years have proven financially tumultuous for millions of Americans, who have passed on their troubles on to nonprofit organizations and places of worship. So what does that mean for charitable giving as 2010 draws to a close? Just like the reasons for giving, the answers are diverse. One theme, however, stands out: churches and Christian organizations must make significant changes to stay relevant in an era characterized by diminishing middle class incomes, growing need, and changing donor demands.

In a recent conversation on charitable giving, I spoke with “Jeff,” a friend from California. In his thirties, Jeff admitted to having extra money to give to charity, but not enough time to really investigate who or what he could start supporting. When I asked him what causes he currently supports, Jeff said he still gave monthly to an orphanage where he had volunteered in India several years ago. The orphanage doesn’t many updates, but the experience of volunteering – although it was years ago – makes his monthly gift an unquestioned and essential part of his life today.

Jeff’s experience isn’t an isolated one. A recent report on “High Net Worth Philanthropy,” released by The Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University, indicates that firsthand experience with an organization’s work is frequently linked to a long-term giving commitment.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

Unemployed and Stuck

From here:

Any words of encouragement for those of us who graduated in the last few waves and still haven’t found a job? I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes and applications (local, retail, national, government), and rarely get contacted and have never been offered an interview. My impression is that the smaller places don’t want me because they feel pressured to pay me more than an undergrad, and the bigger places don’t want me because they are not up for taking a gamble on a new grad. Two days a week I do volunteer interning work related to my field, but there is no chance of hire at that location.

The lack of income has put me back into my parents’ rather toxic presence, which I would love to leave, but without a job, I lose the health insurance (parents would remove me from theirs).

Posted in Uncategorized

Vancouver Sun: Dissident Anglicans raised nearly $6 million in donations

A growing group of dissident Anglicans who broke away from the Anglican Church of Canada over opposition to same-sex blessings amassed nearly $6 million in donations in the last fiscal year.

And 22 per cent of those donations were made specifically to the Anglican Network in Canada’s (ANiC) legal defence fund, to bankroll the dissidents’ continuing battle with the Diocese of New Westminster over who owns the church buildings.

According to financial statements filed with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) by the ANiC, the registered charity received $5.9 million in donations in the 2008-09 fiscal year, the most recent data available.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship

Alabama Town’s Failed Pension Is a Warning

…the declining, little-known city of Prichard is now attracting the attention of bankruptcy lawyers, labor leaders, municipal credit analysts and local officials from across the country. They want to see if the situation in Prichard, like the continuing bankruptcy of Vallejo, Calif., ultimately creates a legal precedent on whether distressed cities can legally cut or reduce their pensions, and if so, how.

“Prichard is the future,” said Michael Aguirre, the former San Diego city attorney, who has called for San Diego to declare bankruptcy and restructure its own outsize pension obligations. “We’re all on the same conveyor belt. Prichard is just a little further down the road.”

Many cities and states are struggling to keep their pension plans adequately funded, with varying success. New York City plans to put $8.3 billion into its pension fund next year, twice what it paid five years ago. Maryland is considering a proposal to raise the retirement age to 62 for all public workers with fewer than five years of service.

Illinois keeps borrowing money to invest in its pension funds, gambling that the funds’ investments will earn enough to pay back the debt with interest. New Jersey simply decided not to pay the $3.1 billion that was due its pension plan this year.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, City Government, Economy, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

In Minnesota, "Blue" service focuses on grief during the Holidays

Grief, anxiety and depression don’t take a holiday at this time of year.

In fact, they can weigh even more heavily, according to the Rev. Bill Van Oss, rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Duluth, which hosted its third annual “Blue Christmas” service on Sunday.

“We want to acknowledge that, for some people, Christmas and the holidays are a difficult time,” Van Oss said. “Not everyone has positive memories of the season.”

He pointed out that many people still are haunted by childhood experiences related to alcoholism, abuse or poverty in their lives.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, TEC Parishes, Theology

(Prospect) Janine De Giovanni: When love and culture clash

With more freedom of movement across Europe, there has been a steady rise in cross-border marriages…””and consequently, divorces. There are around 350,000 cross-border marriages and 170,000 cross-border divorces in the EU each year””in 2007, 19,500 divorces involved Britons, the highest number after Germany (34,000) and France (20,500). This is leading more lawyers to advise couples who do not share the same passport to consider what they are getting into and to do their legal research before the ceremony.

“I advise everyone to think carefully, that this is not about getting on a plane and drinking good wine,” says Charlotte Butruille-Cardew, a Paris-based family law specialist with an international clientele (she is married to an Englishman herself). “I often tell them to write out before what they expect if things break down””financial, in terms of childcare, in terms of residence.” It is not the most romantic arrangement in the world, but “it will save a lot of heartbreak in the long run.”

It does not help that EU laws lack harmony. For example, barely half of member states honour prenuptial agreements: France, Sweden and Spain do and so may England in future in some cases, following a landmark judgment in October. There is no maintenance for divorced women in Denmark and Sweden. In France, even if a woman has been out of employment for years, she is expected to get back to work after her divorce and support herself.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(Yorkshire Post) Stephen Tyndale-Biscoe: Nativity story is a cornerstone of our culture

Perhaps rather few people, watching this Nativity Play in this school gym with its high blank walls and slightly-leaking roof, sense the tradition of which they are a part. A tradition, it has to be said, which is becoming decidedly fragile, and for the reason that the very culture of which it is at the heart is fragile too.

It is, in fact, something of a wonder that secular-run schools should still do the “Nativity” thing at all, although many in the State system have long since retreated from this overt display of the nation’s religious heritage.

Sensitive souls, of which parts of the school system have an abundance, look askance at anything that smacks of a culture that is embedded in our shameful Imperial past. Their urge is to purge every trace of it from our modern, multi-cultural society….

The angels, the shepherds, the Three Kings, the inn keeper and Mary and Joseph ”“ and assorted snow flakes and animals ”“ may not grasp the significance of what they are involved in, but a reference point is being established for the rest of their lives.

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Posted in Uncategorized

(Spectator) Bruce Anderson–Confession of an atheist

As soon as I moved beyond childhood pieties, I became a bigoted atheist. Like Richard Dawkins, I found it personally offensive that anyone could be so naive and stupid as to worship God. Over the years, that has softened. Although I cannot believe, I no longer think it absurd to do so. One has to respect Christopher Hitchens: no one has been so atheistically defiant in the face of death since Don Giovanni on his way to hell. Even so, the stridency of Messrs Dawkins and Hitchens reminds me of my own jeering adolescence.

It is worth remembering that a substantial majority of the cleverest people who ever lived have believed in a God. Anyone who thinks that there is progress in ideas is invited to justify that position, with reference to the 20th century.

Moreover, Christianity has almost irresistible attractions….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

John Allen (NCR)–Trying to make a Papal Gamble on Evangelization pay off

Popes, like musical composers, tend to weave certain major and minor themes throughout their body of work. If you want to know which compositions they regard as turning points, therefore, look for the ones where they step outside their own skin — breaking with the instincts of a lifetime in order to accomplish something new.

For instance, when Benedict XVI stood next to a Muslim mufti for a moment of silent prayer in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque in 2006 ”“ despite his longstanding theological reservations about interreligious prayer ”“ it offered a clear signal of his commitment to Islamic/Catholic reconciliation, which was especially crucial in the wake of his Regensburg address just two months before.

By the same logic, Benedict XVI’s decision earlier this year to create a “Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization” also would have to rank as a carefully considered roll of the dice, because this is hardly a pope enchanted by bureaucracy.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelism and Church Growth, Globalization, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Fleming Rutledge–Preparing for Christmas is for Children, But it is also for Adults

Many Christians, especially those from a tradition like mine that observes Advent scrupulously, not decorating the church or singing carols until Christmas Eve, find themselves playing two games at once during this season. On the one hand there is the usual frantic shopping, wreath hanging, tree trimming, partygoing and overeating. On the other hand there is the deepening mood of Advent, which calls us to a mature, clear-sighted and steadfast faith. A similar split in our sensibility is apparent in Christian bookstores and church gift shops where an austere Byzantine icon will be displayed next to an angel that looks like a Barbie doll. Christmas cards with medieval illustrations sit cheek-by-jowl with designs of Santas playing golf:

It seems to me that this aesthetic confusion contributes to theological immaturity. Grown-up people seem to become addled at this season as they try to recapture their lost childhoods. One of our leading mail-order companies put this verse on its Christmas shipping boxes a couple of years ago:

“May you find among the gifts / Spread beneath your tree / The most welcome gift of all / The child you used to be.” A typical greeting card says, “Backward, turn backward, 0 Time, in your flight / Make me a child again, just for tonight!”

Harmless, you say. But in a culture like ours, where parents have very little time to spend with their children, and where an obsessive pursuit of youth has caused an 800 percent increase in cosmetic surgical procedures in ten years, a focus on becoming childlike at Christmas seems guaranteed to skew the message of the incarnation.

One of the most dramatic changes in my own denomination is the shift away from the adult midnight service on Christmas Eve to a wildly popular “family” service at an earlier hour, which by its very nature cannot offer much in the way of a sermon or more challenging music. I do not want to be misunderstood here; Christmas ritual can indeed be beneficial for the developing faith of children. However, if the children get the idea that Christmas is entirely for them, that there are no privileges reserved for their maturity it does not seem likely that their faith will unfold in the direction of Good Friday.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Almighty God, who in many and various ways didst speak to thy chosen people by the prophets, and hast given us, in thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the hope of Israel: Hasten, we beseech thee, the coming of the day when all things shall be subject to him, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

–Church of South India

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

–Luke 1:39-41

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

WSJ: Law Prompts Some Health Plans To Cut Mental-Health Benefits

Members of the Screen Actors Guild recently read in their health plan’s newsletter that, beginning in January, almost 12,000 of its participants will lose access to treatment for mental-health and substance-abuse issues.

The guild’s health plan represents one of a small number of unions, employers and insurers that are scrapping such benefits for their enrollees because of a 2008 law that requires that mental-health and substance-abuse benefits, if offered, be as robust as medical or surgical benefits. By dropping such coverage, providers can circumvent the requirements.

Others that have made the same move include the Plumbers Welfare Fund, representing about 3,500 members in the Chicago area, and Woodman’s Food Market, a chain in Wisconsin with 13 stores and about 2,200 employees. United Security Life and Health Insurance Co., of Bedford Park, Ill., dropped mental-health coverage in individual policies it sells in Indiana and Nebraska this year because it saw costs rising and some competitors dropping coverage, said chief compliance officer Robert Dial.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Psychology

West African Archbishop urges the public to be disciplined during Christmas

The Archbishop and Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa and Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Accra, on Wednesday urged the public to be disciplined during the Christmas festivities.

In a Christmas message released in Accra, The Most Reverend Dr Justice O. Akrofi said indiscipline in whatever form was inconsistent with the message of Christmas.

“This Christmas let us focus on how the values of the Kingdom of God can be realised in our Christian context,” he said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Province of West Africa, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons