Daily Archives: May 29, 2007
A senior Anglican conservative witheringly described the state of the worldwide Church as “a mess” and “awful” yesterday as the Archbishop of Canterbury prepared to take a three-month break.
The criticism will come as a blow to Dr Rowan Williams, who last week attempted to placate the Church’s conservative wing by snubbing the Church’s first openly gay bishop.
Dr Williams announced that Bishop Gene Robinson will not be invited to next year’s Lambeth Conference, the 10-yearly gathering of all the Church’s 850-plus bishops in Canterbury.
But conservative leaders remain unimpressed. At least a handful of them – who represent a huge swathe of the 70-million strong Church – are still proposing to boycott the conference.
The Primate of the Southern Cone in South America, Archbishop Gregory Venables, told The Daily Telegraph: “It is a mess. Unless there is a major shift there are going to be significant absences from Lambeth.”
The conservative “Global South” primates, who are mostly from Africa and Asia, are furious because they believe Dr Williams has been unduly lenient with the liberal leadership of the American branch of Anglicanism.
Many of them had expected that all the liberal American bishops would be excluded from the Lambeth Conference unless they reversed their unilateral pro-gay agenda.
The US bishops were given until September 30 by the Anglican primates to declare a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and same-sex blessings and to approve a “parallel” Church scheme for American conservatives.
So far the Americans have rejected the scheme and seem unlikely to fulfil the other requests. Dr Williams, who begins his extended leave on Friday, appeared to offer them unconditional invitations to the Lambeth Conference last week.
In his book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman explains how our world has shrunk. Thanks to instant information and rapid transportation, hierarchical structures have been flattened.
One global organization that should be ideally positioned for this transformation is the Christian Church. The genius of its founder was that it was designed to be “flat;” small groups with a common vision, a common language of faith, and international networks that crossed national boundaries. As often happens, initial flexibility was soon lost and replaced by more predictable and controllable structures and the early vision forgotten while waiting for another fresh wave of inspiration and creativity.
We are witnessing such a new wave. A prime example is the Anglican Communion – an international community of more than 75 million in 164 countries, ordered into 38 separate provinces.
In the good old days mandates, money and missionaries flowed from the traditional power base of London and, more recently, New York to their grateful recipients in the developing world. But that is all changing now and we have, as noted Penn State religion and history professor Philip Jenkins describes it, ‘A New Christendom’ where much of the energy, leadership and vision now come from the Global South. The old ways of doing church are being shaken and we are rediscovering what it means to be part of a truly global community.
One example is the birth of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, or CANA. It was first conceived as a way to provide a safe harbor for Nigerian Anglicans who no longer felt welcome in The Episcopal Church because of its deliberate distancing from traditional mainstream Christianity but now includes a growing number of other Anglican congregations from across America.
This realignment isn’t simply about issues of human sexuality but on the other much more basic questions such as the role and authority of the Scriptures and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. It is part of an emerging movement of formerly Episcopal churches and new congregations, which are breaking out of their hierarchical straightjackets and connecting directly with other parts of the Anglican Communion. What unites them is a vision for global Christianity; a commitment to a common language of faith and abiding friendships that connect across challenging cultural divides.
Once we knew who and what to honor on Memorial Day: those who had given all their tomorrows, as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, for our todays. But in a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration. We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away. And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.
Former football star Pat Tillman and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham were killed on the same day: April 22, 2004. But as details of his death fitfully emerged from Afghanistan, Tillman has become a metaphor for the current conflict–a victim of fratricide, disillusionment, coverup and possibly conspiracy. By comparison, Dunham, who saved several of his comrades in Iraq by falling on an insurgent’s grenade, is the unknown soldier. The New York Times, which featured Abu Ghraib on its front page for 32 consecutive days, put the story of Dunham’s Medal of Honor on the third page of section B.
Not long ago I was asked to write the biographical sketches for a book featuring formal photographs of all our living Medal of Honor recipients. As I talked with them, I was, of course, chilled by the primal power of their stories. But I also felt pathos: They had become strangers–honored strangers, but strangers nonetheless–in our midst….
A proposed change in the United Methodist Church’s 25-year-old stance on homosexual behavior that would condone same-sex marriage “where legally possible” was tabled by a committee at the Council of Bishops meeting this month near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The denomination’s Book of Discipline says the church “does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider[s] this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” The stance of the worldwide, 11-million-member church has withstood many challenges in past conventions, but the issue is expected to arise again next year.
A council subcommittee had recommended replacing the 1972 language with wording saying the church does not condone sexual relationships between people of heterosexual or homosexual orientation “outside the bonds of a faithful, loving and committed relationship between two persons; marriage, where legally possible.”
The proposed change also declared that the present stance “is based on highly questionable theology and biblical understanding and causes profound hurt to thousands of loyal United Methodist members and potential members.”
But the bishops’ administrative committee voted May 1 to table the recommendation, and the measure never formally went before the Council of Bishops, according to the United Methodist News Service.
Had the council approved the recommendation, it would have gone to a committee of the 2008 General Conference for action by 1,000 delegates at the quadrennial meeting in Fort Worth, Texas. Bishops do not have a vote at the General Conference, but they may propose legislation for delegates to consider.
More important than the lesson Mel Gibson taught Hollywood about drunken anti-Semitic tirades (that they’re bad for publicity) is the one gleaned from his 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ.” The movie demonstrated just how many evangelical moviegoers there are and how much money can be made from them.
Mindful of that market, Universal Pictures has teamed up with Grace Hill Media, a public relations firm that reaches out to religious groups, to publicize the mainstream film “Evan Almighty.” Scheduled for wide release on June 22, it stars Steve Carell as a politician who abandons Congress in order to build an ark, taking off on the story of Noah.
“Forty-three percent of this country is in church; that’s a big chunk of folks,” said Jonathan Bock, the president of Grace Hill Media. “You get into the once-a-month ”” that’s two-thirds of the country. That’s not a little niche audience.”
Mr. Bock was approached last year by Universal executives to help with publicity for “Evan Almighty,” the sequel to the director Tom Shadyac’s 2003 movie “Bruce Almighty,” which starred Jim Carrey.
One result of the effort isArkAlmighty.com, a Web site that promotes good deeds. It suggests acts of random kindness and helps participating congregations create online bulletin boards to post requests for help and offers of service among members.
Howe had been drinking in Denver with friends. At 2:30 a.m. she was riding in a “rickshaw” in LoDo, stood up, fell backward and tumbled to the sidewalk, hitting her head. The 34-year-old mother of two lost consciousness. A Denver Health Medical Center ambulance was sent to 20th and Wazee streets.
Howe, who had cut the back of her head, was “acutely intoxicated,” according to hospital records, with a breath alcohol level measured at 0.216. The reports show Howe was uncooperative with emergency department personnel and was tied down.
But according to Howe’s complaint, she was not seen by a doctor until 7:50 a.m., more than five hours after she arrived. She was eventually examined by Sooch, but Howe says the doctor did not order X-rays, an MRI or a CT scan of her head, nor was she admitted to the hospital. Sooch treated the cut on her head and in his discharge instructions, prescribed Tylenol, facts verified by medical records. Dr. Sooch, on the hospital discharge sheet, had these instructions for Howe:
“Do not abuse alcohol. Do not get drunk and fall causing harm to your head or body. Apologize to your family, friends and ED (emergency department) faculty for your extremely inappropriate behavior and rudeness while intoxicated. Be a great mother to your kids.”
The instructions were “intentionally cruel and hurtful,” according to Dr. Greg Kane, who was asked by Howe’s lawyer to evaluate her care. “The written discharge instructions . . . served no medical purpose, but were instead cruel and snidely vicious – intended only to humiliate and cause psychological injury.”
Listen to it all from the BBC (starts at about 12:20 in).
Therefore take good heed to yourselves. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire….
Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a graven image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you.
For the LORD your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.
–Deuteronomy 4:15, 23-24
Q. How does your approach to Christian social ethics compare to Niebuhr’s?
A. There have been three major traditions of Christian social ethics over the past century ”” Social Gospel liberalism, Niebuhrian realism and liberation theology ”” and Union Seminary has been a major center of all three. Niebuhr absorbed the social justice ethic of the Social Gospel but turned against the idealism and rationalism it shared with the Progressive movement; he believed that the Social Gospel took too little account of conflict and human sinfulness. A generation later, liberation theologians turned against Niebuhrian realism, which they judged to be too much a defense of the American political and religious establishment.
My own work has been influenced by all three of these traditions: by the Social Gospel, by Niebuhr’s powerful blending of theology and political realism, and by the black liberationist, feminist, multicultural and gay rights perspectives that have flowed out of liberation theology and postmodern criticism.
From the beginning of social ethics as a distinct field in the 1880s, social ethicists have debated whether their field needs to be defined by a specific method. Should they burnish their social scientific credentials, or head straight for the burning social issues? Niebuhr is the field’s leading exemplar of directly addressing the social issues of the day without apology. I am on his side of that argument, though I also spend a lot of time explaining that there are other approaches to social ethics.
Q. What insights of Niebuhr’s are most pertinent for the nation’s public life today?
A. His sense that elements of self-interest and pride lurk even in the best of human actions. His recognition that a special synergy of selfishness operates in collectivities like nations. His critique of Americans’ belief in their country’s innocence and exceptionalism ”” the idea that we are a redeemer nation going abroad never to conquer, only to liberate.
Here’s a list of the posts that have gotten the most comments in the past week. Check out any of the discussions you may have missed during the blog transition. Is a “hot topics” category of interest (perhaps for threads of 50+ comments)? or perhaps a regular feature like this entry highlighting the most active discussions? Let us know.
Post Title (Comments as of May 28, 16:00 EDT)
A Note on User Registration and Posting Comments (74)
Speaking in tongues: Faith’s language barrier? (72)
A Statement from Gene Robinson (70)
OPEN THREAD: “Bugs” “Turkeys” “Requests” (54)
Is Everything Fine in the Episcopal Church? (45)
A Letter from Bishop Martyn Minns (31)
Ephraim Radner–Fractured Identity and Broken Trust: TEC’s Invention of Itself (31)
Colorado Congregation Votes to Leave the Episcopal Church (30)
The Episcopal Church ”˜mishandled the debate on human sexuality’ (30)
Bishop Marc Andrus: The Most Noxious Point of the Windsor Report Becomes Reality (30)
By the way: you can search the blog for the posts with the most comments yourself, using the Advanced Search feature. Here’s how:
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and then over on the far right choose: “Sort Results By: MOST COMMENTS”
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Just outside Fredericksburg (Va.) United Methodist Church, an arc-shaped wall hugs the church’s quiet meditation garden and outdoor fountain. A closer look at the wall reveals 360 niches and the names of deceased members of the congregation.
The columbarium, which holds urns containing ashes of the dead, was installed two years ago and is part of a growing trend of churches that are reverting back to the old church graveyard tradition in a modern way.
“Rather than buying plots in a cemetery in which they have no connection, to be buried at their church where they’ve worshipped and celebrated their life is meaningful to many people,” said the church’s senior pastor, Larry Lenow.
Part of the increase can be traced to the rising popularity of cremation. The use of cremation has risen to 30% from 20% since the mid-1990s, according to the Cremation Association of North America. The association projects that by 2025, the rate will be 50%.
The phenomenon of interring those ashes at churches is especially seen in mainline Protestant churches. Russell Vacanti, design director for Armento Liturgical Arts based in Buffalo, whose company completes about 11 columbarium jobs a month, said 85% of Armento’s work is with the Episcopal Church, followed by Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran churches.