Daily Archives: June 8, 2007

After the storm — All Saints Episcopal replaces priest who left church last year

The Rev. Michael Carr knows his predecessor left abruptly because of a theological dispute. He knows his new church’s congregation is small because some church members also left. And he knows he is moving into an area where his denomination has been affected by a nationwide schism.

But all that is in the past. Carr said his focus is on the future.

“We’ll be worshipping together, praising God together, and making a joyful noise in the future,” said Carr, 50, about his plans at All Saints Episcopal Church in Vista, where he led his first service Sunday.

All Saints has had an interim priest since the Rev. Joe Rees left last July to form an Anglican church. Rees’ departure was just one of several incidents in North County that reflected a nationwide crisis within the Episcopal Church.

Churches in Fallbrook, Oceanside, Rancho Penasquitos, San Marcos and Vista were among those affected by a schism that divided the Episcopal denomination between what many describe as liberal versus conservative theologies. Conservative Episcopalians were particularly dismayed at church leadership in recent years when an openly gay minister was ordained as a bishop and a female bishop was chosen as leader of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

Some congregations and clergy, such as Rees, broke away from the Episcopal Church of the United States but remained under the umbrella of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide network of 38 autonomous arms called provisions, that include the Episcopal Church. Break-away churches aligned with Anglican dioceses in other nations to remain within the communion.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts

Dimitri Cavalli: A Liberal Mix of Religion and Politics

In a recent issue of the Rhode Island Catholic, a diocesan newspaper, Bishop Thomas Tobin condemned Rudy Giuliani’s position on abortion: “As Catholics, we are called, indeed required, to be pro-life, to cherish and protect human life as a precious gift of God from the moment of conception until the time of natural death. As a leader, as a public official, Rudy Giuliani has a special obligation in that regard.”

The issue of how the Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. should deal with the problem of pro-choice Catholic politicians came up last during the 2004 presidential election. Some bishops warned Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, that he should not take Communion in their dioceses because of his support for legalized abortion.

But this problem has been discussed for decades. Most bishops have resisted calls to excommunicate such politicians or even to impose lesser sanctions, including denying them Communion. The very idea of these actions appalls most liberals, both inside and outside the Church. They consider ecclesiastical punishment undemocratic, an attack on personal conscience and a violation of the separation of church and state. “I believe the church has a role in guiding parishioners and people in public life, but I don’t believe the Church should be using the sacrament of Communion as a political weapon,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.), a pro-choice Catholic, recently told the Connecticut Post. There was a time, however, when most liberals applauded the bishops for disciplining Catholics, including politicians, who opposed the Church’s teachings.

Read the whole piece.

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

Reluctance of egg donors stymies Harvard efforts

A year after Harvard University scientists began trying to create cloned human embryonic stem cells, they have been stymied by their failure to persuade a single woman to donate her eggs for the groundbreaking but controversial research.

The goal of the work is to create embryonic stem cells — all-purpose formative cells that can develop into virtually any cell in the body — that are genetically matched to a patient with a particular disease, such as diabetes. Studying such cells could give scientists new insights into the diseases and possibly lead to treatments.

“It’s an important experiment and we can’t do it,” Kevin Eggan, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard.

Without unfertilized eggs, scientists cannot create cloned embryonic stem cells through the conventional method. Called somatic-cell nuclear transfer, the procedure involves replacing the DNA in a donated egg with DNA extracted from a patient’s cells. Scientists coax this new egg to grow for several days in a laboratory dish until it is an early embryo and stem cells can be obtained.

Over the last year, Harvard has spent tens of thousands of dollars on local newspaper ads in an attempt to recruit egg donors. Hundreds of women have responded to the ads, but none has followed through with donations, for a variety of reasons, Eggan said in an interview.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

Epraim Radner Takes New Position in Toronto


Wycliffe College, the evangelical and Anglican theological college in Toronto, is delighted to announce the appointment of the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner to be professor of historical theology, to commence Sept. 1, 2007. Dr. Radner, presently the rector of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Pueblo, Colorado, has a doctorate in systematic theology from Yale University. He was called by Archbishop Rowan Williams one of the most creative Anglican minds today. Dr. Radner has a distinguished record of publication which includes The End of the Church, a major work on the doctrines of the Spirit and the Church, Hope Among the Fragments, dealing with Scriptural hermeneutics, and The Fate of Communion (co-authored), a theological reflection on contemporary Anglicanism. His commentary on Leviticus for Brazos will appear later this year. On the occasion of his appointment, George Sumner, Wycliffe’s principal, said “Ephraim Radner brings an impressive scholarly corpus to this new work. Equally impressive are his years of faithful and effective parish ministry. His range of ministerial experience includes Burundi, Haiti, and inner-city Cleveland. He embodies the Anglican ideal of the pastor-scholar. Ephraim also continues to make a key contribution to conversations about the future shape of the Anglican Communion through his membership on the Covenant Design Group. On that stage he has been a patient and wise voice on behalf of the unity and catholicity of Church. The addition of Ephraim to an already strong and cohesive faculty means that there is no stronger place than Wycliffe for an Episcopal/Anglican ordinand to learn about his/her tradition.”

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Bishop Bill Love to Lead First Diocese of Albany Convention

“This will be the first opportunity he’s had to speak to the diocese as a whole since he was consecrated,” said Forest Rittgers, who as diocesan deployment officer helps the bishop with recruiting and assigning priests.

The convention made news in 2004 when clergy and lay people voted by a solid majority to join a conservative theological network that opposes the ordination of gay priests. Diocesan communications officer Maggie Hasslacher expected this year’s gathering to be “very calm and just general business.”

Besides the bishop’s address, that business will include approval of the budget, prayer services, workshops and a youth rally.

“Much of what is planned for this year’s convention is intended to help us get back to ‘the basics’ as we move forward in faith,”‘ Love wrote in a letter to the diocese.

Read the whole thing.

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

Bishop Steve Jecko RIP

His cancer apparently progressed rapidly, and the Lord took him home peacefully. More details will be forthcoming later from appropriate sources. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Update: Bishop Jecko’s Requiem will be at Christ, Church, Plano, TX on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 2:00 PM.

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

Joe Klein: Beware the Bloggers' Bile

First, let me say that I really enjoy blogging. It’s a brilliant format for keeping readers up to date on the things I care about””and for exchanging information with them. I recently asked Swampland readers with military experience to comment on whether it was General David Petraeus’ “duty” to tell the unvarnished truth about Iraq when he testifies on Capitol Hill in September. About a dozen readers responded with links to treatises about “duty” in various military journals. Furthermore, I’ve found that some great reporting takes place in the blogosphere: Juan Cole’s Iraq updates are invaluable, Joshua Micah Marshall’s Talking Points Memo did serious muckraking about the U.S. attorneys scandal, and Ezra Klein (no relation) is excellent on health care. I love linking to smart work by others, something you just can’t do in a print column.

But the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn’t move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed””especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable. Some of this is understandable: the left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful””and politically successful””tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered. They are also justifiably furious at a Bush White House that has specialized in big lies and smear tactics.

And that is precisely the danger here. Fury begets fury. Poison from the right-wing talk shows seeped into the Republican Party’s bloodstream and sent that party off the deep end. Limbaugh’s show””where Dick Cheney frequently expatiates””has become the voice of the Republican establishment. The same could happen to the Democrats. The spitballs aimed at me don’t matter much. The spitballs aimed at Harman, Clinton and Obama are another story.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet

Immigration Bill Suffers a Big Setback

A broad immigration bill to legalize millions of people in the U.S. unlawfully suffered a stunning setback in the Senate Thursday, costing President Bush perhaps his best opportunity to win a top domestic priority.

The bipartisan compromise championed by the president failed a crucial test when it could not attract even a simple majority for an effort to speed its passage.

Intense public concern over immigration across the country conspired with high political stakes to produce a roiling debate on the issue. Ultimately, those forces overwhelmed a painstakingly forged liberal-to-conservative alliance that sought to insulate their compromise from partisanship.

Supporters could muster only 45 votes to limit debate and speed the bill to final passage, 15 short of what was needed on the procedural maneuver. Fifty senators voted against cutting off debate.

Most Republicans voted to block Democrats’ efforts to advance the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who had made no secret of his distaste for parts of the bill, quickly pulled it from the floor and moved on to other business, leaving its future uncertain.

He insisted that the bill was not dead, but a crowded Senate calendar complicates its prospects.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues

Something to confess? Now you can do it online

He hasn’t paid taxes in 20 years, he tells IveScrewedUp.com.

“I keep moving and switching jobs to make it hard for the IRS to catch up with me,” the writer, who claims to be 38 and from Florida, taps into the keyboard. “I want to fix this but every time I think about it the anxiety grips me so that it causes convulsions.”

Similar hand-wringing from this guy at Notproud.com, another online confession site.

“All of my in-laws are so nice, they make the Brady Bunch look like the Manson family and it drives me nuts! There’s no grit or tension between any of them,” he gripes. “The family get-togethers make me wanna puke.”

Such anonymous soul-sharing, once reserved for the other side of a dark confessional booth, now unfolds daily in cyberspace. Visitors are encouraged to browse the Web sites ”” even to comment on the misdeeds of complete strangers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Religion & Culture

World leaders Strike Huge Deal on Climate

World leaders last night hailed a groundbreaking deal paving the way for a “substantial” reduction in greenhouse gas emissions with a view to halving them by 2050. The compromise agreement fell short of the original aims of Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, but was more ambitious than many expected.

It was clinched after President Bush was persuaded that his own plan for a climate change conference in the autumn would be part of efforts to reach a global agreement through the UN. Against expectations, he also allowed the 50 per cent target shared by most leading industrial countries to appear in the final G8 communiqué. Some saw Mr Bush’s shift as a parting gift to Tony Blair after their last one-to-one meeting.

Mrs Merkel and Mr Blair called the agreement a “huge success”, emphasising that America was now at the heart of the attempts to reach a worldwide deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. Some campaigners welcomed the compromise as an important advance; others said it was weak and did not go far enough because they omitted the target of limiting temperature increases to 2C (3.6F).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Climate Change, Weather

A bioethics twist: artificial stem cells

Scientists in the United States and Japan announced yesterday that they have developed artificial stem cells from adult mouse cells. If the approach can be retooled for humans, they say, it would avoid the ethical quicksand that surrounds the use of stem cells drawn from nascent human embryos.

Current stem-cell extraction methods destroy these embryos, which during the procedure are microscopic, hollow balls of cells only a few days old. For people who hold that human life begins at the moment of conception, destroying an embryo at any stage of development is tantamount to killing humans.

In addition, another group of US scientists says it has derived embryonic stem cells in mice using an approach that, if scaled to humans, would avoid the need for women to donate unfertilized eggs to produce large numbers of embryonic stem-cells for research. Instead, researchers could use non-viable embryos that fertility clinics and their patients would have disposed of anyway.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

Church split hangs over retreat in Delaware

Several years ago, Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson is openly gay and in a committed relationship.

This development has created a rift in the Anglican Communion, with some groups within are admonishing the Episcopal Church for its acceptance of Robinson as bishop.

Last year, several Episcopal parishes in Virginia broke away from their diocese, and joined a conservative Anglican group based in Nigeria.

“We’re not at the beginning or the end of this, we’re somewhere in the middle,” Smiraglia said. “But I don’t see the Episcopal Church backing down.”

All Saints’ parish rector, Rev. Max J. Wolf said he has seen a shift in the conversations among Episcopal leaders regarding gays and lesbians.

He said he had gone to conventions years ago where the anti-gay rhetoric from a few attendees was so strong, he questioned being part of the Episcopal Church.

Now, Wolf said, he does not hear such talk at the conventions.

Smiraglia said the Episcopal bishops have basically said they will stand by Robinson and wait for the rest of the communion to get their act together. He said the act is nothing like the Civil War, with states seceding from the Union.

“There is too much power given to the Anglican Communion in this conversation,” Smiraglia said on the issue.

Read it all.

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

Corinne Colbert: A Commentary on Marriage That's Not Good Enough

Actually, that is my title, not hers. But read the article and see if you agree with me.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family

A Cover Story in Time International on Archbishop on Rowan Williams

Back in 2002, Rowan Williams was something of a prodigy. At 52, he became the youngest Archbishop of Canterbury in 200 years. “And,” wrote one observer, “perhaps the cleverest,” a man who had quickly established himself as one of Anglicanism’s most gifted preachers and probably its pre-eminent theologian. He was a self-professed “hairy lefty,” a Christian socialist arrested in a 1985 protest at a U.S. air base in England, who now criticizes the Iraq war. And he once also had a controversial stance on the theology of sexuality. In 1989 he delivered a lecture to Britain’s Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in which he stated: “If we are looking for a sexual ethic that can be seriously informed by our Bible, there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm.” He continued: “The absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and nonscriptural theory.” As Archbishop of Wales he admitted knowingly ordaining at least one noncelibate gay man. When he moved with his wife and two children to Lambeth Palace in 2002, the Herald newspaper of Glasgow enthused, “What will endear him to the people … is that he has the courage of his convictions, however unpopular they may be.”

But his convictions turned out to be complex, and not everybody was endeared. Until July 2003, Williams seemed prepared to make Canon Jeffrey John, an openly gay man in a committed, celibate relationship, a bishop. But after a tremendous outcry on the right, Williams held a six-hour meeting with John, who withdrew his candidacy. Williams had already called an emergency meeting of the Anglican leadership over the U.S. Episcopal Church’s election of Gene Robinson, also gay and in a committed relationship, as bishop of New Hampshire. The months that followed set a pattern. The Americans consecrated Robinson. Williams, facing conservative demands that they leave the Communion, endorsed milder requests such as a promise, for now, to make no more gay bishops and bless no more gay marriages. The Episcopalians made ambiguous gestures of compliance, but in 2006 elected as their presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who had supported Robinson’s elevation. Today Williams calls Robinson’s election ”” absent any prior general decision allowing the ordination of people in same-sex relationships ”” “bizarre and puzzling.” “His heart is where it’s always been,” says Welsh Archbishop Barry Morgan, a good friend. “His natural sympathies and theological understanding are on the side of those who are gay.” And yet Williams insists that churches should not outpace the Communion’s consensus.

Read an interview here and the cover story there. You can also listen on MP# here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth 2008, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

One Alabama Leader Punches Another on the floor of the Senate this afternoon

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Posted in * Economics, Politics

Pornography Threatens a Marriage

Sheryl and Paul Giesbrect are preparing to celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary. The sweethearts cherish their life together, which began when they met while attending a Christian university.

It’s where they found religion and each other. Today, Paul is a minister in California and Sheryl broadcasts spiritual messages. Both counsel troubled couples, but now they find themselves in need of counseling. Their marriage holds a secret, one the 50-year-old parents of two say rattled their union.

For 10 years, Paul kept the fact that he was addicted to Internet pornography a secret from Sheryl.

“The temptation will be with me until the day I die,” Paul said.

Sheryl was shocked by the revelation. “I said something like, ‘Well, that’s just disgusting.'”

To help themselves and their marriage, the Giesbrects met with psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall. They allowed ABC’s “Good Morning America” to watch them for their first time on the opposite side of the couch.

The sessions yielded surprises from the start, like how often Sheryl dwells on her husband’s obsession.

She said she spent two hours a day thinking about it.

“I thought you were going to say five minutes a week,” her husband said.

When Marshall questioned Sheryl on what she thought about specifically, she admitted wondering about how often her husband was tempted.

“She questions whether their lovemaking will be enough,” said Marshall.

“I feel angry about it. I can’t say, ‘Well, this is your problem. Do something about it,'” Sheryl said.

Marshall said Sheryl couldn’t hold other people responsible to fix her marriage problems, “because you’re not healing him. You’re feeding into the addiction.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pornography

They Really Saw Him: A look at Richard Bauckham's Most Recent New Testament Work

You stress the importance of memory. But don’t some scholars question the reliability of communities to transmit accurate information from generation to generation?

First, studies show that predominantly oral societies have ways of preserving accurately those traditions they wish to preserve, even across many generations. In this respect, they treat different sorts of traditions differently, and the question is: Did the early Christians want to preserve testimonies about Jesus faithfully?

Second, in the case of the Gospels, we are not really talking about traditions passed from generation to generation like folklore. The Gospels were written within living memory of the events. They are what historians in the ancient world regarded as the only sort of history that should really be written, that done while eyewitnesses were still accessible. They are what modern historians call oral history. The central thread through my book is my attempt to put the eyewitnesses of Gospel events back into our picture of how Gospel traditions reached the evangelists. The eyewitnesses (many of them, certainly not just the Twelve), I suggest, remained the authoritative sources and guarantors of the traditions they themselves had formulated. This is one way the transmission of the traditions was controlled, and it’s a key factor in the origins of the Gospels themselves.

Is there any possibility that the “eyewitness accounts” of the Gospels are merely a literary technique of the evangelists?

It’s not impossible. If you have conventional techniques for indicating sources, they can be used fictionally as well as authentically. But in this case, we can, as I’ve mentioned, test the authenticity of names and the way they occur in the Gospels. Random invention wouldn’t account for the specific names we have. Also, the naming of witnesses is more occasional and unobtrusive than we would expect if the device were used fictionally. Some of the later apocryphal Gospels (Gospel of Peter, Protevangelium of James) appeal to eyewitness testimony fictionally, and the ways they do so are blatant and obvious.

I was especially concerned to counter the common scholarly view that the Synoptic Gospels don’t indicate their eyewitness sources and thus are not concerned about eyewitness testimony. I wanted to show that they do have ways of indicating the eyewitness origins of their traditions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A NY Times Editorial: The Inadequacy of Civil Unions

State lawyers answer that the basis for the exclusion is not gender but sexual orientation, a category not covered by existing antidiscrimination provisions. That is true, but forbidding marriages when one partner is the wrong gender still adds up to sex discrimination. The state also asserts that the civil union law grants all the rights of marriage to same-sex couples, and any difference amounts to “a difference in name alone.” A trial court judge bought that argument and dismissed the case last year, saying the plaintiffs suffered no legal harm.

Saying a civil union is the same as marriage does not make it so. Civil unions are a newly invented category, neither universally recognized nor understood. Connecticut’s claim that the two terms are alike merely underscores the bottom-line question: Why relegate a minority group to a separate category?

The court case has helped stall this issue in Connecticut’s Legislature. But if the ruling goes against the couples involved, the Legislature will have a duty to revisit the matter. A law that allows civil unions but not marriage is preferable to denying benefits and recognition to same-sex couples. But no one should confuse it with equality.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality