Monthly Archives: March 2011

(RNS) Report: Small Churches Feeling Financial Squeeze

Almost all U.S. churches witnessed a change in the financial giving they received in 2010 compared to 2009, with smaller churches feeling the squeeze but larger churches faring relatively better, according to a new report.
Only 12 percent of churches reported unchanged giving from 2009, according to the State of the Plate survey released Wednesday (March 30), while 43 percent of churches experienced a giving increase and 39 percent reported a decrease.

Smaller congregations were more likely to see a decrease in giving, said Matt Branaugh, an editor at Christianity Today International, which helped gather the data for the State of the Plate for the past two years.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Bill Gross–Without big cuts in entitlements, a dreary Future for America

The above four multi-trillion-dollar liability balls are staggering in their implications. Remember first of all that the nearly $65 trillion of entitlement liabilities shown above are not some estimate of future spending. They are the discounted net present value of current spending should it continue at the projected demographic rate (importantly ­”“ it is much higher than the annual CPI + 1% used as a discounter because demand for healthcare rises much faster than inflation.) And while some Honorable Congressional Le Pews would counter that Medicaid is appropriated annually and therefore requires no discounted reserve, those words would surely count as “sweet nothings,” believable only to those whom they romance every several years at the polls. The incredible reality is that the $9.1 trillion federal debt that constitutes the next-to-tiniest ball in our chart is nothing compared to unfunded Medicaid and Medicare. It is like comparing Pluto to Saturn and Jupiter. The former (the $9.1 trillion current Treasury debt) does not even merit planetary status in our solar system of discounted future liabilities. It’s really just a large asteroid.

Look at it another way and our dire situation becomes equally revealing. Suppose that the $65 trillion of entitlement liabilities were fully funded in a “lockbox,” much like Social Security is falsely imagined to be. Just suppose. And say the cost of that funding (Treasury debt) was the same CPI + 1% that was used to produce the above discounted present value in the first place. Actually, that’s not a bad guesstimate for the average yield of all Treasury debt. If so, then the interest expense on the $75 trillion total debt would equal $2.6 trillion, quite close to the current level of entitlement spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. What do we pay now in interest? About $250 billion. Our annual “lockbox” tab would rise by $2.35 trillion and our deficit would be close to 15% of GDP! The simple conclusion would be this: Unless you want to drastically reduce entitlement spending or heaven forbid raise taxes, then Pepé, you’ve got a stinker of a problem.

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

(AP) Lutheran college a hit with Jewish students

One of the hottest college campuses in the U.S. for Jewish students is also one of the unlikeliest: a small Lutheran school erected around a soaring stone chapel with a cross on top.

In what is being called a testament to word of mouth in the Jewish community, approximately 34 percent of Muhlenberg College’s 2,200 students are Jewish. And the biggest gains have come in the past five years or so.

Perhaps equally noteworthy is how Muhlenberg has responded, by offering a kosher menu at the student union, creating a partnership with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and expanding its Hillel House, a social hub for Jews.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Judaism, Lutheran, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

Thomas Friedman–Looking for Luck in Libya

There is an old saying in the Middle East that a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee. That thought came to my mind as I listened to President Obama trying to explain the intervention of America and its allies in Libya ”” and I don’t say that as criticism. I say it with empathy. This is really hard stuff, and it’s just the beginning.

When an entire region that has been living outside the biggest global trends of free politics and free markets for half a century suddenly, from the bottom up, decides to join history ”” and each one of these states has a different ethnic, tribal, sectarian and political orientation and a loose coalition of Western and Arab states with mixed motives trying to figure out how to help them ”” well, folks, you’re going to end up with some very strange-looking policy animals. And Libya is just the first of many hard choices we’re going to face in the “new” Middle East.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, House of Representatives, Libya, Middle East, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

(USA Today) The new face of sex and relationships among young adults

The relationship game among college-age adults today is a muddle of seemingly contradictory trends. Recent studies indicate that traditional dating on campuses has taken a back seat to no-strings relationships in which bonds between young men and women are increasingly brief and sexual. (A new website to arrange these encounters that began at the University of Chicago last month now is expanding to other campuses.)

But even as casual sex ”” often called “hookups” or “friends with benefits” ”” is a dominant part of campus life, a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics indicates the percentages of men and women 18-24 who say they are virgins also are increasing.

It all reflects an emerging paradigm that is altering the nature of sex and relationships among young adults: fewer men than women on campuses, a more openly sexual society that often takes cues from media, and a declining desire to make relationship commitments early in life.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Education, Sexuality, Young Adults

(ACNS) 2011 Standing Committee Bulletin – Day 4

In brief:

Bible in the Life of the Church: “Hermeneutical gap between academy and pew.”
Lent course on fifth Mark of Mission for the Communion in 2012
Theological college principals from across the Communion to meet in Canterbury
ACC-15 set for October/November 2012

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal

Foreclosure Aid Fell Short, and Is Fading

Last summer, as President Obama’s premier plan to save millions of Americans from foreclosure foundered, the administration tossed a new life preserver to homeowners.

Officials unveiled a $1 billion program to offer loans to help the jobless pay their mortgages until they could find work again. It was supposed to take effect before the end of the year, but as of today, the program has yet to accept any applications.

“We wait and wait, and they keep saying it’s coming,” said James Tyson, 50, a Philadelphia homeowner who lost his job a year ago.

That could be an epitaph for the administration’s broader foreclosure prevention effort…

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

Nevada Workshop on faith looks doubts in the eye

Faith is a journey and facing doubts is part of the journey, according to Frank Schaeffer, a best-selling New York Times author and popular blogger for the Huffington Post.

Schaeffer will present a workshop “Articulating an Authentic Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism)” on Saturday, sharing his journey from conservative evangelical beliefs to joining the Eastern Orthodox Church.

“I tell people my own doubts, my own story. People aren’t used to hearing people share doubts,” Schaeffer said Monday in a phone interview.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Adult Education, Evangelicals, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Brian Whiteside (Irish Times) Think carefully before answering census question on religion

The census looms and included in it we have Question 12, which deals with religion. “What is your religion?” it asks boldly, assuming everyone has one. It lists the options: Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Islam, Presbyterian, Orthodox; it then gives a space, two rows of boxes, for “Other, write in your religion.” Then, under these two rows of boxes, comes option 7: “No religion.”

One would have thought a more sensible way of framing the question might have been to start by asking: “Do you have a religion?” This could have been followed by a number of options for those marking the Yes box whereas those opting for No would go straight to the next question. But this suggestion, made by the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) following an invitation by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) for suggestions regarding possible improvements in the census, was rejected on the basis it would make historical comparisons difficult. This must certainly mean not many suggestions would be adopted.

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

(ENS) House of Bishops meeting ends with an eye toward the church in the 21st century

The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops concluded its six-day retreat meeting at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina, continuing the theme “selection, recruitment and formation of young leaders,” preparing the church for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.

“We talked about recruiting, forming and educating young leaders, and that has a great deal to do with inviting members of the church and leaders to get outside church buildings and structures to meet seekers,” said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori during a closing news conference on March 30. “That was a significant part of our conversation.”

During their March 25-30 meeting, the bishops addressed several themes, including the relationship between Christianity and Islam, how to reach young adults with the gospel, and the Anglican Covenant, a set of principles intended to bind the Anglican Communion in spite of cultural and theological differences.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

A Message from the Provincial Synod of the Church of the Province of West Africa

The Synod of the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA), meeting in Conakry, Guinea from Monday, March 21 to Friday, March 25, 2011 under the overarching theme “TURN BACK, RECOVER YOUR DEAR LOVE (Revelation 2:5), among other things engaged the socio-economic-political context in which the Province fulfills her God-given Mission, without which the Church has no definition and clear identity.

While giving thanks to God for the abundant grace of natural and mineral resources such as gold, manganese, bauxite, diamonds, oil and vast expanses of rich soil, we also had reason to be pained by and to be penitent for the numerous and seemingly incessant hardships and misfortunes made manifest in political instability, wanton destruction of human life and property, displaced and in-between peoples. We are struck by the irony that the region so well endured by God has become almost synonymous with disease, especially HIV/AIDS and other preventable diseases and poverty, a code for exclusion and marginalization of people from the bounty of God.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Province of West Africa, Anglican Provinces

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John Donne

Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with thy servant John Donne, that whatsoever hath any being is a mirror in which we may behold thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature, Preaching / Homiletics, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, who through thy Son has taught us that a house divided against itself must fall: Save us, we beseech thee, from the danger of a divided allegiance; unite our hearts to fear thy name; and grant that in all our course of life our eye may be single and our purpose one; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Henry Alford

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Romans 5:19-21

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

House of Bishops daily account, evening of March 29

Bishop Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida introduced the topic for the evening: Selection Recruitment and Formation of Young Leadership. HOB discussed questions in table groups….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops