Daily Archives: September 5, 2007

From the No Comment Department

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A man has been charged with a cheesy snack attack on his dad, police said. The weapon? A bag of Cheetos. Patrick Hamman, 22, of Des Moines, was arrested on a charge of domestic assault after he threw a bag of Cheetos at his father, Michael Hamman, hitting him in the face Sunday night.

Posted in Uncategorized

State can't restrict seminaries, Texas high court rules

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that state higher education officials have no authority over seminaries in Texas, ending several years of litigation over state efforts to restrict the operations of three seminaries in Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio.

The high court said the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board violated the constitutional rights of the institutions by preventing them from issuing degrees in theology and calling themselves seminaries.

Writing for the court, Justice Nathan Hecht said state education requirements affecting the institutions “impermissibly intrude” upon religious freedom protected by the U.S. and Texas constitutions.

“Since the government cannot determine what a church should be, it cannot determine the qualifications a cleric should have or whether a particular person has them. Likewise the government cannot set standards for religious education or training,” the court said, citing the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government from establishing an official religion.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church-State Issues, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Front Page Wall Street Journal: Housing Slump Strains Budgets of States, Cities

Tremors from the housing market’s slump are straining the budgets of state and local governments from coast to coast, sending officials scrambling to plug gaps.

Rising defaults on subprime home loans are boosting the inventory of unsold homes and driving sale prices lower. That’s cutting into housing-related revenues from building-permit fees, taxes on contracting and recording property transfers, and even sales taxes.

As a result, legislators in Florida, which was at the forefront of the housing boom, plan a special session this month to consider deep budget cuts to offset a projected $1.5 billion funding gap. California forecasts a shortfall of at least $5 billion in next year’s budget. And Chicago faces a $217 million gap in its $5.6 billion budget for 2008.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Lucy Beckett reviews Three New Books in the TLS: Preaching to the unconverted

Rowan Williams’s Tokens of Trust is the most straightforward as well as the most persuasive of the three, although, or perhaps because, it is also the most evidently addressed in the first place to a Christian audience. Talks the Archbishop of Canterbury gave in his cathedral in Holy Week 2005 have become a short, attractive book on the basics ”“ impossible now to use the word “fundamentals” ”“ of Christian belief as expressed in the statements of the Apostles’ and the Nicene Creeds, printed at the beginning of the book. This is no easier a project now, though no more difficult either, than it was for Ratzinger in 1968. Dr Williams, careful neither to put off the beginner with a forbidding demandingness nor to blunt the definitiveness of Christianity’s description of the plight of the human race and the salvation it is offered, achieves a remarkable degree of success. He begins, in our world pervaded by mistrust because pervaded by the competitiveness of different versions of the will to power, with the possibility of trust. “I trust in God” is both easier and harder to say than “I believe in God”: easier because it requires less of an intellectual effort, harder because trusting in God cannot make sense unless there is God to trust. Paul’s resounding, complex statement of the core of Trinitarian faith at the opening of Ephesians is given at the outset as the affirmation without which there can be nothing truly recognizable as Christian belief. In its light, false notions of God should begin to fade into the shadows ”“ and here, for the first but not the last time, Williams suggests that we may see in human lives lived in this light (“the communion of saints”, in the phrase from the Apostles’ Creed) some “faint reflection” of what God is “like”.

What follows, lucid, warm, never intimidating ”“ a sea, as was long ago said of Christianity itself, shallow enough for children to paddle in, deep enough for the wise to swim in ”“ could not have been written without, behind it, decades of theological and philosophical study. Great thinkers of the past are about in the depths; none is mentioned by name but their enriching presence is often detectable. Williams’s account of creation, that is of God as creator and sustainer of being, is, for example, Thomist and profoundly orthodox, but free of Aristotelian terminology, easy to understand on a number of levels, and a sound basis for his dismissal of “the pointless stand-off between religion and science”. That “our present ecological crisis” has “a great deal to do with our failure to think of the world in relation to the mystery of God” is in this properly established context incontrovertible.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Apologetics, Archbishop of Canterbury, Religion & Culture, Theology

Some Canadian Anglican Clergy test rulings on same-sex blessings

Varying interpretations of the decisions made in June by General Synod about human sexuality have already led one Canadian parish to publicly offer blessings to same-gender unions, and another to say that it would not deny a parishioner’s request for a same-sex marriage.

During its seven-day national meeting in Winnipeg last June 19 to 25, the church’s highest governing body approved a resolution saying that same-sex blessings are “not in conflict” with the church’s core doctrine but defeated another that would have given dioceses the power to offer them in churches.

Rev. Jim Ferry, who was fired in 1991 for defying his bishop’s order to end a homosexual relationship, believes there is enough ambiguity in those decisions that it is left open to dioceses and churches to offer same-sex blessings. (Although he lost his licence in the ’90s, he has since been given some duties at Holy Trinity church in downtown Toronto.)

“I think at first there was some confusion (regarding the decisions on sexuality). But after having reflected on them, it seemed that the most important of the two resolutions (the one stating same-sex blessings are “not in conflict” with Anglican core doctrine) had passed,” said Mr. Ferry. “It’s very positive. It moves us out of the realm of canon law into pastoral decision making.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Boston Globe: African Anglicans try to transform US church

The subject of Sunday’s sermon at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church was repentance, and the preacher found an obvious example of the sinfulness of contemporary culture within the branch of his own denomination an ocean away in the United States.

Criticizing the Episcopal Church’s embrace of gays and lesbians, the Rev. Samuel Muchiri told the 1,000 worshipers “we in Kenya feel this is not what God wants.” An usher advised a visiting reporter to “remember that Sodom and Gomorrah was demolished because there were homosexuals.” Another warned that the reporter could be assaulted if he asked worshipers about the issue, and said that America’s permissiveness toward homosexuality had led Osama bin Laden to attack.

Those sentiments have been building for years, and now a group of Anglican archbishops is attempting to plant the seeds for a new, conservative Anglicanism in North America that will either transform or replace the Episcopal Church.

“All these people brought Christianity to us, but now the church is growing here [in Africa] like wildfire, it’s spreading everywhere, while the church in England is withering, the church in the States is going completely, and there has been a cry, ‘Why don’t you come? You should have come here a long time ago to evangelize,’ ” said Archbishop Bernard A. Malango, the Anglican primate of Central Africa. “We need to send missionaries, even to Britain; we need to send missionaries to the United States, and we need to send missionaries to Canada, because those who brought the church here have lost what their intention was, and the same Bible they brought to us is being misinterpreted. We find it very odd.”

Malango was one of seven Anglican primates, as the archbishops of regional provinces of the Anglican Communion are called, who gathered in Nairobi last Thursday to consecrate as bishops of the Anglican Church of Kenya two former Episcopal priests, including William L. Murdoch of Massachusetts. Then, many of those same primates, from the developing nations of the Southern Hemisphere, went to Kampala on Sunday to consecrate a third American as a bishop of Uganda.

The significance of the consecrations is hotly debated…

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Church of Uganda, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts

From the IHT–The state of Iraq: An update

While the recent Government Accountability Office report on the 18 benchmarks set out by Congress in May gave a very pessimistic view, our data below, culled from official Iraqi and American sources and press reports, support a more mixed picture.

Unfortunately, at the moment the political paralysis seems to be a more powerful force than the military momentum, and progress in security is unsustainable without sectarian compromise among Iraq’s Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiites. The country remains very violent, and the economy rather stagnant.

Nonetheless, the military momentum appears real, despite the tragic multiple truck bombings in Ninevah Province on Aug. 14 that made that month the deadliest since winter.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

Report: Air Force lost track of five nuclear missiles

Mistakes by U.S. Air Force personnel left five nuclear warheads unaccounted for during a three-hour period on Aug. 30, according to Army Times.

Ugh. Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces

Two top US economists present scary scenarios for US economy

US homes may lose as much as half their value in some US cities as the housing bust deepens, according to Yale University professor Robert Shiller. Meanwhile, Martin Feldstein of Harvard University says that experience suggests that the dramatic decline in residential construction provides an early warning of a coming recession. The likelihood of a recession is increased by what is happening in credit markets and in mortgage borrowing. Feldstein says that most of these forces are inadequately captured by the formal macroeconomic models used by the Federal Reserve and other macro forecasters.

“The examples we have of past cycles indicate that major declines in real home prices ”” even 50 percent declines in some places ”” are entirely possible going forward from today or from the not too distant future,” Shiller said in a paper presented last Friday at the Federal Reserve Economic Symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Falling real-estate values may undermine consumer spending by spurring households to save more and by preventing them from tapping home equity.

Because price gains were larger and more widespread this time compared with past speculative booms, the risk of “substantial” price declines is greater, wrote Shiller, who is also the chief economist and co-founder of MacroMarkets LLC. Shiller is also the author of Irrational Exuberance, in which he forecast the end of the tech boom in 2000.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

In Kentucky, Holy Apostles Moves to a new Location

“A church meeting in rented space is real awkward,” said the Rev. Kent Litchfield, the church’s rector. “You haven’t got control of your space.”

Now the church has its own building, a former department store and pool hall on Public Square. Even though renovations still are under way, the congregation had its first service there Sunday.

“People have been waiting for us to do this,” Litchfield said about the move. His church started in 2005 when he and about 100 others split from Christ Episcopal Church after national Episcopal leaders ordained a gay bishop and recognized same-sex unions.

That the congregation ”” still about 100 members ”” could buy the downtown building is a sign “things have gone very well” since the split, Litchfield said.

Now they have space in the two-story building not only for services, but also Sunday school classes and other meetings. A Holy Apostles women’s group had been meeting in a nearby deli.

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

BBC Radio 4 PM Coverage of the Consecration of John Guernsey in Uganda

Go here and go forward 31 minutes and 45 seconds for the segment to begin. It includes interviews with both John Guernsey and Archbishop Henry Orombi (hat tip: SS).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Uganda, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts

Walter H. Beaman: What is the Purpose of an Anglican Covenant?

If the purpose of an Anglican Covenant is to maintain unity, it should forthrightly commit the entire Communion to it by forswearing schism. Our unity rests on a common belief in a creedal communion of churches, catholic and reformed, in which reason, scholarship, inquiring minds and discerning hearts are welcomed. The covenant should describe this charismatic nature of the Communion, and commit its members to maintain it. The covenant should dedicate the churches to the mission handed down by the apostles ”” to bring to all the world the saving benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. It should provide for the widest expression of koinonia among Anglicans and other sacramental Christians. Its new feature should be a commitment to debate disagreements until a solution appears that gains the acceptance of the Communion.

If the Anglican Communion remains true to its past, whatever mechanism is adopted for resolution of interchurch disputes will be administrative only, not adjudicatory. It will convene parties and facilitate discussion that continues until an accommodation is worked out. One acceptable outcome would be agreement that the issue partakes of permissible Anglican diversity and not essential catholicity. Above all, a covenant would exclude schism as a means of terminating debate. Serious engagement must continue until a matter is resolved. One side cannot say “We have no need of you” and leave, or expel the other.

In the long view, the covenant should declare that the Anglican Communion, along with the Eastern and Roman communions, is an integral part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It should point out the value of the Anglican Communion’s special and reformed understanding of the church, the scriptures, the historic ministry, and the sacraments; an understanding that in God’s time could form the basis for the reunion of catholic and protestant Christendom. And, as said above, it should forswear schism and anathema, opening a forum for the peaceful resolution of disputes without resort to an adjudicative curia, where debate would continue until it arrives at a “mind of the Communion,” compatible with the mind of Christ.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Identity

Leslie Gordon: Got baby? With the Bay Area Peninsula's smart set, four's the magic number.

They spend their time packing junk food-free lunch boxes instead of Vuitton briefcases. They’ve traded courtroom skirmishes for PTA dustups. And only once in a while do they think about whether their Ivy League degrees prepared them for their current job as minivan chauffeur.

Welcome to the lush, lavish suburbs of the Peninsula, where a baby boom among well-to-do women is giving rise to the moniker Woodside Four””named after women who love motherhood so much they have not two, not three, but four kids. Having escaped cramped, child-unfriendly San Francisco, where schools are shuttering and backyards are as teeny as a $500,000 condo, these women traded up with bigger homes, husbands with bigger paychecks, and, of course, bigger families. And before you hurl a barrage of Stepford comments their way, consider this: while many wealthy city women prefer to indulge in the three Cs””clothing, careers, and cosmetic surgery””Woodside, Los Altos, and Atherton moms are only OD’ing on children.

“My standing joke is that if it was the 1950s, I’d have eight kids,” says Woodside PTA president Liz Dressel, a mother of four girls ages three to ten….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family

Michael Gerson: A tin ear on religion

On the receiving end of those expectations, [Bobby] Jindal has given these issues considerable thought. “This would be a poorer society,” he told me, “if pluralism meant the least common denominator, if we couldn’t hold a passionate, well-articulated belief system. If you enforce a liberalism devoid of content, you end up with the very violations of freedom you were trying to prevent in the first place.”

On the evidence of the Louisiana ad, Democrats have learned little about the religious and political trends of the last few decades. For all its faults, the religious right built strong ties between conservative Catholics and conservative Protestants on issues such as abortion and family values, after centuries of mutual suspicion. Evangelicals gained a deep affection for Pope John Paul II and respect for Catholic conservatives such as Justice Antonin Scalia. And conservative Protestants recognize that secularist attacks on Catholic convictions are really attacks on all religious convictions and could easily be turned their way.

“The most passionate defenders of my beliefs,” says Jindal, “have come from people who don’t share my beliefs.” In one account in The Times-Picayune, the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, David E. Crosby, gave this reaction to Jindal’s writings: “Anybody who reads this whole article and ends up angry just needs to grow up.” That is a good definition of genuine pluralism – an adult respect for the strong convictions of others.

“Bigotry,” said Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton, “may be roughly defined as the anger of men who have no opinions . . . the appalling frenzy of the indifferent.” And religious bigotry is offensive everywhere, including on the bayou.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture

153 Pittsburgh Leaders Sign Compact

For several months, orthodox clergy and lay leaders in the Diocese of Pittsburgh have been meeting in various formats to take counsel together, and to place matters of our Church before God in prayer. We find ourselves in a season where fundamental differences of faith and practice have torn our Church and our Communion, perhaps beyond mending. Decisions of great consequence are now upon us.

As we finish this season of discernment, God has made us aware that ”˜how we now walk’ is linked to ”˜where we shall walk.’ Indeed, we believe that God is reshaping and repositioning us for a new season of ministry ahead. Discernment of our future is still unfolding, and perhaps there is a fork in the road ahead that may divide our fellowship. How we act in the next months is important to our ability to navigate even more difficult moments further down the road.

In this light, we affirm the following principles to guide our actions….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Identity, Episcopal Church (TEC), Pastoral Theology, TEC Conflicts, Theology

Dean Alan Webster RIP

Alan Brunskill Webster was born in 1918, the son of a clergyman. He was educated at Shrewsbury School and Queen’s College, Oxford, and he prepared for ordination at Westcott House, Cambridge.

Though he was attracted to history ”“ in 1954 he published a biography of Joshua Watson, the layman who galvanised and organised much of the revival of Anglican church life after the Napoleonic wars ”“ Webster was too much the restless activist to be content with the academic life. His vocation was to be a clerical and more boldly innovative kind of Watson.

He fulfilled this vocation partly by training other priests. He returned to Cambridge as vice-principal of Westcott House and was an enthusiastic teacher of ordinands at a time when there was considerable confidence that the reconstruction of Church and State would lead to a good future, together with an assurance that graduate priests would be accepted in the vanguard of progress. While he was at Westcott he met and married Margaret Falconer, who was then working for the Student Christian Movement. They formed a very strong partnership, especially in later years when Margaret became one of the leaders of the Movement for the Ordination of Women.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

Christian Sitcom Slated for Fall in Middle East, North Africa

A broadcasting company with programs produced by and for Christians in the Middle East and North Africa is rolling out this fall a situation comedy touching on moral and ethical issues in a lighthearted way.

The Arabic name of the show, “Mayli Min Kil Aileh”–the English title is “Faces of a Family”–is a Lebanese expression that says every situation can be looked at in different ways. The sitcom is written and produced in Lebanon for SAT-7, a broadcasting company established 12 years ago by Christian ministries in the Middle East and around the world to establish a Christian voice in the region through satellite TV.

Mette Schmidt, assistant communications manager of SAT-7 International, told EthicsDaily.com in an e-mail the series is in production. The fifth episode currently is being shot. The program is scheduled to start airing in January.

The first episode introduces the family: father Youssef, mother Nihad and children Tony, 17, Rogee, 14, and Samar, 10. Ethical dilemmas begin in Episode 2, when the parents are forced to leave the children in the custody of their grandparents and a family friend due to a family illness. Other episodes deal with real-life issues like cheating at school, stealing, lying, smoking, selfishness, sibling rivalry and the precious relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Middle East, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

The Modern ChurchPeople's Union Conference for 2008: Saving the Soul of Anglicanism

You may be interested in who is speaking.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Identity, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Theology

Central New York Diocese, St. Andrew's Church split up legally

A Syracuse church and the local Episcopal diocese are legally splitting up – and, as with court-approved divorces, much of the settlement involves the division of property.

The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York retains ownership of St. Andrew’s Church, but members of the breakaway parish will get to use the building rent-free for up to a year, according to the settlement.

The settlement – accepted [last] Tuesday by state Supreme Court Justice James Murphy – will result in the court-ordered dissolution of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 5013 S. Salina St., at the end of the year.

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

Study: Doctors' religious beliefs guide depression treatment

If you go to your family doctor complaining you’re depressed, your treatment could be influenced by the religious beliefs of your doctor.

That’s the thrust of a paper published today in the journal Psychiatric Services. The paper reports the results of a national survey of physicians taken in 2003.

The doctors were given this question:

“A patient presents to you with continued deep grieving two months after the death of his wife. If you were to refer the patient, to which of the following would you prefer to refer first? A psychiatrist or psychologist, a clergy member or religious counselor, a health care chaplain, or other.”

A bit more than half the doctors chose the first option and about a third chose one of the two faith-linked counseling options. But the choices varied significantly depending on the faith and degree of religiosity of the doctor.

Protestants were more likely to choose one of the religious options than any other religious group. The more religiously observant the doctor said he or she was, the more likely that doctor’s first inclination would be to choose one of the religious options. And the less religious the doctor, the more likely the choice would be a psychiatrist or psychologist.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture