Daily Archives: August 24, 2012

(Her.meneutics blog) Michelle Van Loon–Why Friends Disappear When You Reach Midlife

In middle age, many women discover they’re downsizing and moving into a brand-new neighborhood, so to speak. Midlife strips us of the things that formed our network of relationships back in the old neighborhood of our 20s and 30s: children’s activities or the drive to find meaning in a career. This new life location can be lonely. No one I know is riding in a red convertible with her empty-nester Gal Pals, singing along to oldies while heading together to a beach house weekend. Most of us aren’t looking for Gal Pals, anyway. We’re simply looking for a few friends in our new neighborhood. Studies confirm what we intuitively know: loneliness is a serious issue with far-reaching consequences as we get older.

The standard friend-making advice offers motivational action steps: take a class, join a group, serve those in need in your community. In addition, Christians are encouraged to find fellowship at church, though they may discover that there aren’t always as many age peers attending as they might hope.

The suggestions are useful, but without first doing what Jesus asks of us, our efforts will not be grounded in kingdom reality. We can not befriend others if we are not willing to first befriend our midlife selves. Relying on the identity that seemed to fit like a glove at age 25 to build new relationships when we are 47 won’t net us the kind of authentic relationships we’re longing for in our second adulthood, nor does it honor the process of God’s transforming, maturing work in our lives.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Middle Age, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Women

Russell Moore: Student-Loan Debt and the Future of Seminaries

[A]…bleak view of the future is misdirected. First of all, solid theological education, steeped in the classical disciplines, has a long history; so does low-quality religious education by unaccountable schools offering credentials to the lazy and unqualified. Churches and future ministers know the difference. The technological revolution may empower dumbed-down schools, but no more so than the dubious correspondence programs of the past.

And not all online ministerial education will be suspect””just as first-rate universities like Stanford and Harvard are exploring ways to offer classes online to a wider audience, so too will solid seminaries. Churches and future ministers will know the difference there as well. I suspect that the next generation will find what the seminary I serve has seen: online programs supplementing rather than supplanting the life-on-life classical theological education.

More important, the sorts of questions raised by student debt and ministerial career instability may help reattach ministerial education to its real-world moorings: education with churches in mind, not just theology. In order to train ministers, Protestant communities must abandon the current system in which future pastors discern, almost in isolation, a call from God and then seek out training ad hoc.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Globalization, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Science & Technology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Young Adults

(Inc.) Listening to Complainers Is Bad for Your Brain

Do you hate it when people complain? It turns out there’s a good reason: Listening to too much complaining is bad for your brain in multiple ways, according to Trevor Blake, a serial entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life. In the book, he describes how neuroscientists have learned to measure brain activity when faced with various stimuli, including a long gripe session.

“The brain works more like a muscle than we thought,” Blake says. “So if you’re pinned in a corner for too long listening to someone being negative, you’re more likely to behave that way as well.”

Even worse, being exposed to too much complaining can actually make you dumb. Research shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity–including viewing such material on TV–actually peels away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus. “That’s the part of your brain you need for problem solving,” he says. “Basically, it turns your brain to mush.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Media, Movies & Television, Psychology, Science & Technology

([London] Times) Bronwen Maddox–Mitt Romney’s Weird faith should be an election issue

Mitt Romney is getting too easy a ride over his Mormonism….[but there are hard questions to be asked].

The first is about the sheer weirdness of the founding beliefs and the sense in which he really embraces them. The second is the Church’s long history of racism and sexism, as well as its censorious ideas about the terms on which poor people qualify for community help. The third, with the most immediate implications, is whether the Church’s conviction that its members are direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and are now “members of the House of Israel” ”” as well as its belief that when a Mormon saviour one day arrives it may be in Washington ”” would make him more likely to attack Iran over its nuclear programme.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CSM) Why optimism is low before Iran nuclear meeting: a tent and centrifuges

A brightly colored tent suspected of shielding the site of nuclear activities from the prying eyes of satellites and an apparently growing number of underground centrifuges to create enriched uranium are among the items the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog will want to discuss with Iran when the two meet Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is playing down the prospects of getting what it wants from the meeting. The IAEA is seeking a go-ahead from Iran to inspect a military research-and-development site south of Tehran known as Parchin. The international body suspects Iran has used the secrecy-cloaked site to develop military applications for its nuclear know-how, a claim Iran denies.

The lead-up to Friday’s meeting has provided a window into Iran’s activities that suggest, as IAEA director general Yukiya Amano indicates, that Iran has something to hide.

Read it all and there is more there as well.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Europe, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Politics in General, Science & Technology

Biography of Indigenous Anglican priest wins top Australian Literature award

A biography of Northern Territory indigenous leader and Anglican priest, Gumbuli of Ngukurr, has been chosen as Australian Christian Book of the Year from more than 40 entrants ”“ and given Melbourne publishing house Acorn Press, co-founded by the late Bishop John Wilson, its second consecutive win in the awards.

The author, Melbourne Anglican Dr Murray Seiffert, received the award at the annual awards evening organised by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Australia and the Australian Christian Literature Society at St Alfred’s Anglican Church, Blackburn North, on 16 August.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Australia / NZ, Books, Religion & Culture

Joel Kotkin–America's Baby Bust: How the Great Recession Has Jeopardized our Demographic Health

It may well be that American birthrates have been more impacted than Europe’s by the recent recession due to the relative weakness of the country’s social safety net. Finnish demographer Anna Rotkirch has pointed out that Europeans have tried to mitigate the impact of recession through generous transfer payments to young families. This may account as well for the fact that France’s birthrate last year surpassed that of the United States.

But without strong economic growth, it seems likely that family formation and birthrates will continue downward everywhere, particularly as economic realities force reductions in state aid. A mindlessly ever-expanding welfare state, trying to enlist more clients, even tiny ones, will diminish private sector growth and usher in even more quickly the onset of “demographic winter.” A lethal demographic cocktail of high taxes, low growth and fewer babies could set the stage for an even greater financial crisis in the decades ahead.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Marriage & Family, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(NY Times Magazine) From Bible-Belt Pastor to Atheist Leader

Late one night in early May 2011, a preacher named Jerry DeWitt was lying in bed in DeRidder, La., when his phone rang. He picked it up and heard an anguished, familiar voice. It was Natosha Davis, a friend and parishioner in a church where DeWitt had preached for more than five years. Her brother had been in a bad motorcycle accident, she said, and he might not survive.

DeWitt knew what she wanted: for him to pray for her brother. It was the kind of call he had taken many times during his 25 years in the ministry. But now he found that the words would not come. He comforted her as best he could, but he couldn’t bring himself to invoke God’s help. Sensing her disappointment, he put the phone down and found himself sobbing. He was 41 and had spent almost his entire life in or near DeRidder, a small town in the heart of the Bible Belt. All he had ever wanted was to be a comfort and a support to the people he grew up with, but now a divide stood between him and them. He could no longer hide his disbelief. He walked into the bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. “I remember thinking, Who on this planet has any idea what I’m going through?” DeWitt told me.

As his wife slept, he fumbled through the darkness for his laptop. After a few quick searches with the terms “pastor” and “atheist,” he discovered that a cottage industry of atheist outreach groups had grown up in the past few years. Within days, he joined an online network called the Clergy Project, created for clerics who no longer believe in God and want to communicate anonymously through a secure Web site.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Atheism, Blogging & the Internet, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture

King-size costs: European crisis puts new spotlight on monarchies’ spending

Shortly after confiding to his countrymen that he had been unable to sleep at night because of all the young unemployed people in his country, Spanish King Juan Carlos secretly hopped aboard a plane and went on a lavish safari to Botswana, where he shot elephants.

When word leaked out this spring, Spaniards were outraged. Newspapers calculated that such hunting trips cost twice the country’s average annual salary. Tomas Gomez, a Socialist party leader, called on the king to choose between his “public responsibilities or an abdication.” Now, critics are calling on him to slash his budget and reveal how he is spending the money.

The backlash against the 74-year-old king is part of a broader soul-searching in Europe about the role and relevance of monarchies as the economic crisis deepens.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General, Spain, Taxes, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(Church Times) Chancel-repair liability: Parochial Church Council given dispensation

A church in Worcestershire has been told by the Charity Commissioners that it would be “reasonable” for it to decide not to register chancel-repair liability (CRL) against 30 households in its parish….

The PCC of St Eadburgha’s, Broadway, began the process of registering liability during an interregnum, after advice from the legal advisory commission of the General Synod, which encouraged PCCs to “register their interest at HM Land Registry”. Parishioners were unhappy about the process.

When the Revd Michelle Massey was appointed Priest-in-Charge, she looked for a way forward. Working with the diocese and the MP for Mid Worcestershire, Peter Luff, she contacted the Charity Commission for “Formal Advice” under Section 110 of the Charities Act 2011, arguing that enforcing their CRL “asset” would impair the mission of the church in their community….

Read it all.

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

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reflects on Barbara Kellerman's new book "the End of Leadership"

Consider the facts. In the past forty years there has been an explosion of leadership programmes, courses, institutes and studies….At the same time, respect for leaders has fallen to an unprecedented low. In 2011 only 15 per cent of Americans expressed trust in the government to do what is right most of the time, down from almost 70 per cent in the 1960s. 77 per cent said they believed that the United States has a leadership crisis. Sharp declines in confidence can be traced, sector by sector, in leadership in politics, business, finance, the media, sports, education and faith-based organisations. A mere 7 per cent of American corporate employees trust their employers to be both honest and competent.

Something large is happening, not just in America but throughout much of the world. Kellerman traces it to three factors. First is the long, historic march to toward ever-greater democracy. Second is the collapse of traditional authority structures within the family that took place in the West in the 1960s, sending ripples throughout society in the form of “the death of deference.” Third is the impact of instantaneous global communication and social networking that has led to the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, Wikileaks and other assaults on the citadels of power. In the hyper-democracy of cyberspace, everyone has a voice, all the time.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Books, England / UK, Globalization, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

James Guill Shares some Thoughts on the St. Andrew’s–Diocese of Tennessee Fracas

In the 1960s, St. Andrew’s purchased the property where our church stands from the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee with its own money. St. Andrew’s also chose to have a relationship with the diocese. Because it is an Anglo-Catholic church, though, the relationship was never intended to be the same as other Episcopal churches. The diocese and its bishop at the time, John Vander Horst, not only knew this, they encouraged St. Andrew’s and its rector, Edwin Conly, to grow their unique church.

In exchange for the purchase price, Bishop Vander Horst gave us a warranty deed. The deed conveyed the property to St. Andrew’s free and clear, with no trust in favor of the diocese. The diocese also asked St. Andrew’s to formalize the parties’ special relationship through modified language in its corporate charter.

But the story does not end there. When St. Andrew’s arrived at the property, it found a dilapidated mansion and other poorly maintained buildings. St. Andrew’s parishioners built a new church building, later razed the mansion and built a new parish hall. Over the years, St. Andrew’s alone has paid to maintain its buildings and operate its church.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Tennessee, TEC Parishes

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Bartholomew

Almighty and everlasting God, who didst give to thine apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach thy Word: Grant that thy Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God for ever and ever.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

I offer to thee, O Lord our God, the work which thou hast appointed for me. Help me to do it heartily and faithfully, as in thy sight and for thy glory, that so I may be drawn nearer to thee and confirmed in thy service, which alone is true freedom; in the name of our Master and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

–Acts 9:1-6

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture