Daily Archives: September 3, 2007

USA Today: In Iraq, the news improves, but 'victory' remains distant

Things have been looking a bit brighter in Iraq this summer. Commanders and some independent observers report that the “surge” of 30,000 more U.S. troops has tamped down the violence, particularly in Baghdad. Some tribal Sunni sheiks have turned against al-Qaeda, particularly in volatile Anbar province. Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has said that his Mahdi Army militia is suspending fighting for six months. No wonder U.S. opinion polls show greater optimism, or at least less pessimism, about the Iraq war.

President Bush has been out making speeches capitalizing on the sunnier mood and playing down the Iraqi failure to meet most political benchmarks (even though he earlier vowed to hold Iraqi leaders to them). In mid-September, the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, are expected to report to Congress that the military effort has been succeeding, despite lagging political progress. Then the White House is expected to seek extra time and money to extend the surge through next spring.

Any reduction in violence in Iraq, and any setbacks for al-Qaeda, are to be celebrated and encouraged. But, like a discordant strain intruding on a piece of music, two new reports provide an important reality check on any perceptions that victory might finally be just around the corner.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

Rob Who?

Rob Bell is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church. He has some very stimulating video resources available through his Nooma series. You may want to consider checking them out (especially those of you involved in Adult education). We did the one on discipleship at the parish in which I serve on Sunday and had a ball–KSH.

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

N.Y. Church Goes Into the Bar and Finds a Flock

A rock ‘n’ roll bar with a neon “Pabst Blue Ribbon” sign in its window and truck-driver kitsch seems an unlikely setting for a room full of devout Christians gathered for prayer.

But on a recent Sunday evening, a small crowd gathered in the back room of Trash Bar in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood as a band warmed up onstage. Friends greeted each other with handshakes and hugs by the bar; some sat in the ripped-out car seats that line the bordello-red walls to chat.

By the time the band began to play “Glory to God,” about 40 people had assembled. Some were clean-cut, casually dressed young professionals; others sported tattoos, T-shirts, and sneakers. Many closed their eyes and lifted their hands while they sang along with the band. Some knelt to the floor or sat with their heads in their hands as they prayed.

A small crop of evangelical groups like the Church at Trash Bar have begun gathering in informal locations throughout Williamsburg over the past year, holding services in bars and cafes and promising an open environment for those who have given up on traditional churches but remain interested in worshipping in casual settings.

The Church at Trash Bar is one of a handful of New York congregations affiliated with the Vineyard Church, a looseknit Pentecostal denomination of about 1,500 churches worldwide.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pentecostal

North Carolina Church leader goes to Ghana

The Orthodox Anglican Communion has churches in 12 nations and nearly one million members. By October, because of requests from 2,000 parishes in India to join the denomination, the church will boast 2 to 3 million members, said David Bessinger, the archdiocese director of communications.

Christ Anglican Church is the denomination’s only congregation in Davidson County. The denomination’s headquarters has been here since 2004 and is on East Second Avenue.

On his trip to Africa, McLaughlin arrived in Accru, Ghana, after a 10-hour flight and then headed to Secondi via motorcade. When he arrived, more than 2,000 people were there to greet him, many wearing bright, yellow T-shirts with his photo on the front.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Continuum, Other Churches

Southern Virginia & its “Preliminary Report” on the Diocesan “Funding Mechanism”

Take the time to read it all. Make sure to check this out as well (especially page 7 and following).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils, TEC Parishes

From NPR: Three Traditionalist Leaders Return to U.S. after African Anglican Consecrations

Three American priests who left the Episcopal Church after it appointed an openly gay bishop in 2003 have been consecrated as bishops in Africa. They’re returning to minister to American congregations, but will report to conservative churches in Africa.

Listen to it all. In the piece, Bill Atwood is wrongly identified as being from Massachusetts; he is from Texas and it is Bill Murdoch who is in Massachusetts. Jan Nunley tries her tired this-is-no-big-deal-the numbers-of-parishes-involved-are-so-small line, which continues to fail mightily not only with the secular media as well as a number of our sister denominations which see us as an example of how not to proceed, but also with the reality in the church on the ground. When you consider the number of people who have departed as individuals, as well as the number of parishes springing up of people who wish to be Anglicans but do not wish to be associated with TEC, along with the number of parishes and dioceses still in TEC who wish no part of the national leadership’s new theology (think Windsor Bishops, Network Dioceses, numerous groups of organized reasserting clergy and lay people, and many others), you have a quite significant problem.

Indeed, even one national church study (not to mention the statistics) makes this clear:

Only 20% [fully] endorse the actions of General Convention [2003].

Now, ask any priest out there, Jan, how they would feel if only 20% of their vestry was fully behind their capital campaign in terms of whether the capital campaign would work? As they say denial is not a river in Egypt. You cannot judge the degree of opposition to the terrible and mistaken choices made in 2003 with the number of parishes which, as nearly entire parishes, left, because in our polity it is quite difficult to achieve the degree of support and unity necessary for a whole parish (or diocese) to make such a choice, AND, those opposed have differing discernments about how best to proceed at the present time.

Oh and I have a question which I bet has occurred to some of you. Now that it is September 2007, where in the world are the statistics for calendar year 2006?–KSH

Update: The thoughts of Alan Guelzo are worth recalling as well.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Data, TEC Departing Parishes

Clergy in New Orleans Need Counseling

Clergymen struggling to comfort the afflicted in New Orleans are finding they, too, need someone to listen to their troubles.

The sight of misery all around them — and the combined burden of helping others put their lives back together while repairing their own homes and places of worship — are taking a spiritual and psychological toll on the city’s ministers, priests and rabbis, many of whom are in counseling two years after Hurricane Katrina.

Almost every local Episcopal minister is in counseling, including Bishop Charles Jenkins himself, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jenkins, whose home in suburban Slidell was so badly damaged by Katrina that it was 10 months before he and his wife could move back in, said he has suffered from depression, faulty short-term memory, and difficulty concentrating or sleeping.

Low-flying helicopters sometimes cause flashbacks to the near-despair — the “dark night of the soul” — into which he was once plunged, he said. He said the experience felt “like the absence of God” — a lonely and frightening sensation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Hurricane Katrina, Parish Ministry

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Make me to know thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation; for thee I wait all the day long.

–Psalm 25:4,5

Posted in Uncategorized

A Website for Father Jim Billington

Inquiring minds will want to read further on this.

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

From the local paper: What does Google know?

College of Charleston business professor Bing Pan thinks people might trust the Internet search engine Google a little too much.

Pan and his colleagues conducted research, published in the April issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, on how college students make their selections using the popular search engine. The researchers looked at where students’ eyes traveled on a Google results page and which links they clicked on.

Pan conducted the research while he was in a post- doctoral program at Cornell University. The research was partially funded by Google.

Pan said he found that when making a selection, users consider both the content of the site, which they get from reading the abstract on the results page, and the position it holds on the page.

“But position influences people more,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

Tony Snow on Cancer's Unexpected Blessings

Blessings arrive in unexpected packages””in my case, cancer.

Those of us with potentially fatal diseases””and there are millions in America today””find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God’s will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn’t spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can’t someone else get sick? We can’t answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.

I don’t know why I have cancer, and I don’t much care. It is what it is””a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

But despite this””because of it””God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don’t know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Uganda: Church Consecrates American Bishop

[John] Guernsey, who has been the Vicar of All Saint’s Church in the parish of Woodbridge, Virginia, will return to the US and lead the 33 parishes that have recognised the Church of Uganda’s authority.

“As I assume this responsibility of providing episcopal oversight and care for the church of Uganda congregations in the US, I am excited about helping these churches catch the fire of mission which the Church of Ugada so passionately demonstrates”, Guernsey said.

“In America, we must recapture the priority of evangelism, the urgency of outreach into our communities and the need to reach young people and raise leaders of the next generations. I pray that the spirit of revival comes to us where so many are lost.”

Guernsey’s consecration came just three days after Kenya’s Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi consecrated two American priests as bishops.

The 77 million-strong Anglican Communion has been split since its 2.4 million-member US branch consecrated Gene Robinson as the first gay bishop four years ago.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Uganda

Laura MacDonald: America’s Toe-Tapping Menace

As for those who feel that a family man and a conservative senator would be unlikely to engage in such acts, Mr. Humphreys’s research says otherwise. As a former Episcopal priest and closeted gay man himself, he was surprised when he interviewed his subjects to learn that most of them were married; their houses were just a little bit nicer than most, their yards better kept. They were well educated, worked longer hours, tended to be active in the church and the community but, unexpectedly, were usually politically and socially conservative, and quite vocal about it.

In other words, not only did these men have nice families, they had nice families who seemed to believe what the fathers loudly preached about the sanctity of marriage. Mr. Humphreys called this paradox “the breastplate of righteousness.” The more a man had to lose by having a secret life, the more he acquired the trappings of respectability: “His armor has a particularly shiny quality, a refulgence, which tends to blind the audience to certain of his practices. To others in his everyday world, he is not only normal but righteous ”” an exemplar of good behavior and right thinking.”

Mr. Humphreys even anticipated the vehement denials of men who are outed: “The secret offender may well believe he is more righteous than the next man, hence his shock and outrage, his disbelieving indignation, when he is discovered and discredited.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sexuality

Steve Lonegan: Why the GOP should welcome gays into the party

Obstacles to achieving our real goal of reducing the size of government and limiting its ability to interfere in our lives must be torn down. Gays shouldn’t expect government to foist acceptance of their lifestyle on others; religious conservatives shouldn’t expect gays to abandon an integral part of their being.

Barry Goldwater once remarked that government cannot pass laws to “make people like each other.” His words still ring true today. Labeling people “homophobes” or “bigots” if they refuse to accept the entire gay agenda creates political fractures that work against individual liberties and serve to keep gay voters in the Democratic Party’s political ghetto.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

A BBC Radio Four Sunday Programme Audio Segment on the African Consecrations this week

The segment starts about 32 1/2 minutes in.

Posted in Uncategorized

Bishop Azad Marshall speaks of his journey to faith

“My family background in Pakistan is Christian. I was a member of St Andrew’s Church in Lahore which had an evangelical ministry under Sidney Iggulden. He focused on young people. He led us to the Lord and discipled us. Members of our youth fellowship from that time are now giving leadership as General Secretary of the Pakistan Bible Society and former heads of Scripture Union and of the Pakistan Fellowship of Evangelical Students. Everyone in that group the Lord has called into ministry.

“The fellowship started a sending ministry but we were determined not to be dependent on outside help. We raised money and were the first sending organization from a Moslem country recorded in Operation World. I was the first to be sent by the group and came with a student minisrtryto Iran in 1976. Iran was the first country I ever visited outside Pakistan. I used to sell Christian books here in Tehran.

“I then went to do theological training at Romsey House Theological Training College in Cambridge and returned to St Andrew’s Lahore since they had been supporting me and I had covenanted to come back. With their blessing I started teaching and training sessions for the clergy. This led to ordination in the Church of Pakistan and appointment as the Priest of St Andrews for 6 years. It is still our family church as our daughter was married there at the beginning of this year.

In 1994, Bishop John Brown of Cyprus and the Gulf and the Moderator of the Church of Pakistan agreed that I be consecrated as Bishop in the Gulf for the Pakistan Urdu-speaking parishes.. I worked as associate bishop of the Province who then appointed me in 2004 as Episcopal Vicar-General of the Church of Iran.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Iran, Middle East