Daily Archives: December 29, 2010

Brooklyn Immigrant Congregations Clash

The United Methodist church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, is anything but united.

Two pastors preach from the same pulpit and live in the same parsonage next door, but they are barely on speaking terms and openly criticize each other’s approach to the faith.

In the church’s social hall, two camps eye each other suspiciously as one finishes its meal of rice and beans while the other prepares steaming pans of chicken lo mein.

Two very different congregations share the soaring brick building on Fourth Avenue: a small cadre of about 30 Spanish-speaking people who have worshiped there for decades and a fledgling throng of more than 1,000 Chinese immigrants that expands week by week ”” the fastest-growing Methodist congregation in New York City.

The Latinos say they feel steamrolled and under threat, while their tenants, the Chinese, say they feel stifled and unappreciated. Mediators have been sent in, to little effect. This holiday season, there are even two competing Christmas trees.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care

(Der Spiegel) What the Future Might Hold for Southern Sudan

Renk is a town in the southern part of the country, and it couldn’t be any sadder. Not a single street is paved, and there are no hotels or cinemas. Instead, there is a lot of dust, sand and stray dogs. On the edge of town live refugees who have made it all the way here from Ethiopia.

In recent weeks, Renk has managed to become even a bit more miserable. Hundreds of inhabitants have abandoned the town, and thousands of them are all packed up and ready to go. At a nearby military base, tanks stand ready for action. It is possible that Renk will soon find its way into international headlines.

These are tense times in Sudan, Africa’s largest country. On January 9, the Southern Sudanese will decide in a referendum whether or not to secede from the northern part of the country. Should secession come to pass — and it currently looks as though it will — the world will witness the first founding of a new African state since Eritrea split off from Ethiopia in 1993. And Renk would become a place of high strategic value owing to its location near what will presumably become the new border.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Politics in General, Sudan, Violence

(RNS) Scandals Prompt Exodus from Catholic Church in Germany

Beset by a series of sex abuse and financial scandals, the Catholic Church in Germany is seeing membership plunge as 2010 comes to a close, according to a series of surveys conducted by German media outlets.
The results released did not include an overall nationwide tally, but based on figures for individual dioceses, tens of thousands of Catholics have opted to officially leave the church over the course of the year.

The departures are not just a matter of filling church pews, but also coffers, since people who officially separate from the church are no longer required to pay a church tax automatically withdrawn from their salary.

Read it all.

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

”˜Doubling Up’ in Recession-Strained Quarters

Of the myriad ways the Great Recession has altered the country’s social fabric, the surge in households like the Maggis’, where relatives and friends have moved in together as a last resort, is one of the most concrete, yet underexplored, demographic shifts.

Census Bureau data released in September showed that the number of multifamily households jumped 11.7 percent from 2008 to 2010, reaching 15.5 million, or 13.2 percent of all households. It is the highest proportion since at least 1968, accounting for 54 million people.

Even that figure, however, is undoubtedly an undercount of the phenomenon social service providers call “doubling up,” which has ballooned in the recession and anemic recovery. The census’ multifamily household figures, for example, do not include such situations as when a single brother and a single sister move in together, or when a childless adult goes to live with his or her parents.

For many, the arrangements represent their last best option, the only way to stave off entering a homeless shelter or sleeping in their cars. In fact, nearly half of the people in shelters in 2009 who had not previously been homeless had been staying with family members or friends, according to a recent report, making clear that the arrangements are frequently a final way station on the way to homelessness.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Bill McBride: The Housing market is Still Struggling

Ӣ This is worth repeating: the real price indexes are at post-bubble lows. Those who argued prices bottomed some time ago are already wrong in real terms, and will probably be wrong in nominal terms soon.
”¢ Don’t expect real prices to fall to ’98 levels. In many areas – if the population is increasing – house prices increase slightly faster than inflation over time, so there is an upward slope in real prices.
”¢ Real prices are still too high, but they are much closer to the eventual bottom than the top in 2005. This isn’t like in 2005 when prices were way out of the normal range.
Ӣ With high levels of inventory, prices will probably fall some more.

Read it all and check out the charts.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Drew Dyck –The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church

Among young adults in the U.S., sociologists are seeing a major shift taking place away from Christianity. A faithful response requires that we examine the exodus and ask ourselves some honest questions about why.

Recent studies have brought the trend to light. Among the findings released in 2009 from the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), one stood out. The percentage of Americans claiming “no religion” almost doubled in about two decades, climbing from 8.1 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008. The trend wasn’t confined to one region. Those marking “no religion,” called the “Nones,” made up the only group to have grown in every state, from the secular Northeast to the conservative Bible Belt. The Nones were most numerous among the young: a whopping 22 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds claimed no religion, up from 11 percent in 1990. The study also found that 73 percent of Nones came from religious homes; 66 percent were described by the study as “de-converts.”

Other survey results have been grimmer. At the May 2009 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, top political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell presented research from their book American Grace, released last month. They reported that “young Americans are dropping out of religion at an alarming rate of five to six times the historic rate (30 to 40 percent have no religion today, versus 5 to 10 percent a generation ago).”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, History, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Albert Mohler: Must We Believe the Virgin Birth?

Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of evangelical theologians, argues that the Virgin Birth is the “essential, historical indication of the Incarnation, bearing not only an analogy to the divine and human natures of the Incarnate, but also bringing out the nature, purpose, and bearing of this work of God to salvation.” Well said, and well believed.

Nicholas Kristof and his secularist friends may find belief in the Virgin Birth to be evidence of intellectual backwardness among American Christians. But this is the faith of the Church, established in God’s perfect Word, and cherished by the true Church throughout the ages. Kristof’s grandfather, we are told, believed that the Virgin Birth is a “pious legend.” The fact that he could hold such beliefs and serve as an elder in his church is evidence of that church’s doctrinal and spiritual laxity ”” or worse. Those who deny the Virgin Birth affirm other doctrines only by force of whim, for they have already surrendered the authority of Scripture. They have undermined Christ’s nature and nullified the incarnation.

This much we know: All those who find salvation will be saved by the atoning work of Jesus the Christ ”” the virgin-born Savior. Anything less than this is just not Christianity, whatever it may call itself. A true Christian will not deny the Virgin Birth.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Media, Religion & Culture, Theology

Church walks away from Episcopal Diocese of San Diego

The rift has tested personal and professional relationships, spurred protracted court disputes over church property and prompted efforts to create a rival North American province.

“What you are seeing is a division between churches committed to the historical Christian witness and churches committed to the categories of contemporary cultural relevance,” said John Wright, professor of theology and Christian scriptures at Point Loma Nazarene University.

The fissure has played out painstakingly in San Diego County as one congregation after another has decided to break away and commit itself to bishops in Africa and Latin America.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Diego, TEC Departing Parishes

BBC Guest Editor Diana Athill speaks with Archbishop Rowan Williams about her lack of Faith

Listen to it all (about 11 1/2 minutes).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Atheism, England / UK, Other Faiths

Robert Samuelson: On Medicare and Social Security, be unfair to the boomers

As a society, we’ve recoiled from a candid discussion of public and private responsibilities for retirement. The long-ducked question is how much government should subsidize Americans for the last 20 to 30 years of their lives. Social Security and Medicare have evolved from an old-age safety net into a “middle-age retirement system,” as Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute puts it. In 1940, couples reaching 65 lived an average of almost 19 years, Steuerle notes. Now, the comparable figure for couples is 25 years. For Americans born today, the estimate approaches 30 years.

Overhauling Social Security and Medicare has many purposes: to extend people’s working lives; to make them pay more of the costs of their own retirement, as opposed to relying on subsidies from younger Americans; to prevent spending on old-age welfare from crippling other government programs or the economy; to create a bigger constituency for cost control in health care. America’s leaders have tiptoed around these issues, talking blandly about limiting “entitlements” or making proposals of such complexity that only a few “experts” understand.

Just because this is an awful time to discuss these questions does not mean they shouldn’t be discussed. The longer we wait, the more acute our fairness dilemma grows. We can’t deal with it unless public opinion is engaged and changed, but public opinion won’t be engaged and changed unless political leaders discard their self-serving hypocrisies. The old deserve dignity, but the young deserve hope. The passive acceptance of the status quo is the path of least resistance – and a formula for national decline.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Census/Census Data, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Young Adults

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents

We remember this day, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by the order of King Herod. Receive, we beseech thee, into the arms of thy mercy all innocent victims; and by thy great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish thy rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Grant us, O God, such love and wonder that, with humble shepherds, wise men and pilgrims unknown, we may come and adore the holy Babe, the heavenly King, and with our gifts worship and serve him, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

–James Ferguson

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted.

–Isaiah 49:13

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Simon Schama: An America lost in fantasy must recover its dream

Sadder, wiser, those of us gathered on the Washington Mall in the freezing morn of Mr Obama’s inauguration can see now that of all the brave, unsustainable hopes uttered by the new young president, the most unsustainable of all turned out to be his Biblical plea to “put away childish things”. He might as well have tried to legislate the word “dream” out of American public discourse. Dreams? Reality? It’s not even close, is it?

Whether fantasy will prevail over factuality, adolescent wishful thinking over maturity, will be the great political motif of the next few years. The omens are not auspicious….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Psychology, Senate, Social Security, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(NPR) Parenting Style Plays Key Role In Teen Drinking

For teenagers, friends play a big role in the decision to take that first drink. And by the 12th grade, more than 65 percent of teens have at least experimented with alcohol. But what parents do during the high school years can also influence whether teens go on to binge drink or abuse alcohol. Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that teenagers who grow up with parents who are either too strict or too indulgent tend to binge drink more than their peers.

“While parents didn’t have much of an effect on whether their teens tried alcohol, they can have a significant impact on the more dangerous type of drinking,” says Stephen Bahr, a professor of sociology at BYU, and the author of the study that was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Alcohol/Drinking, Marriage & Family, Teens / Youth