Daily Archives: October 13, 2007

At Army Base, Officers Are Split Over War

Here in this Western outpost that serves as the intellectual center of the United States Army, two elite officers were deep in debate at lunch on a recent day over who bore more responsibility for mistakes in Iraq ”” the former defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, or the generals who acquiesced to him.

“The secretary of defense is an easy target,” argued one of the officers, Maj. Kareem P. Montague, 34, a Harvard graduate and a commander in the Third Infantry Division that was the first to reach Baghdad in the 2003 invasion. “It’s easy to pick on the political appointee.”

“But he’s the one that’s responsible,” retorted Maj. Michael J. Zinno, 40, a military planner who worked at the headquarters of the Coalitional Provisional Authority, the former American civilian administration in Iraq.

No, Major Montague shot back, it was more complicated: the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the top commanders were part of the decision to send in a small invasion force and not enough troops for the occupation. Only Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff who was sidelined after he told Congress that it would take several hundred thousand troops in Iraq, spoke up in public.

“You didn’t hear any of them at the time, other than General Shinseki, screaming, saying that this was untenable,” Major Montague said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

Ex-General Speaks on the Iraq War, but did the Press report it Accurately?

From AP:

The U.S. mission in Iraq is a “nightmare with no end in sight” because of political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today, a former chief of U.S.-led forces said Friday.

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded coalition troops for a year beginning June 2003, cast a wide net of blame for both political and military shortcomings in Iraq that helped open the way for the insurgency – such as disbanding the Saddam-era military and failing to cement ties with tribal leaders and quickly establish civilian government after Saddam was toppled.

He called current strategies – including the deployment of 30,000 additional forces earlier this year – a “desperate attempt” to make up for years of misguided policies in Iraq.

“There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight,” Sanchez told a group of journalists covering military affairs.

Sanchez avoided singling out at any specific official. But he did criticize the State Department, the National Security Council, Congress and the senior military leadership during what appeared to be a broad indictment of White House policies and a lack of leadership to oppose them.

Read it all.

Update: Powerline says “it would be hard to tell from press accounts of Sanchez’s speech that he was mostly critical of…the press.” They have the first half of the speech here.

Another update: The whole speech is here.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

In Historic District, Synagogue Plans Are Criticized

In the center of this quaint New England town, where the green is surrounded by antique shops, boutiques and restaurants, not much changes without the blessing of the Historic District Commission.

In the past, the commission has gone so far as to order the removal of flower boxes from the front of homes. And it is entangled in a lawsuit initiated by a homeowner who replaced a 19th-century door with a window.

But little has rattled this community like plans by Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County, an Orthodox Jewish organization, to turn a Victorian house into the town’s first synagogue.

Rabbi Joseph Eisenbach, the spiritual leader of the Chabad, presented his plans ”” which include replacing the slate foundation with stone and building a steeple to display the Star of David ”” to the commission last month, and was met with stiff opposition.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Other Faiths

A Dave Walker Cartoon about the Anglican Communion

Check it out.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal

Seeking to be Anglicans and Redoing church in Mississippi

A framed document hangs in a dining room-turned sanctuary on the outskirts of this tiny central Mississippi city that reads, “Diocese of Thika, the Anglican Church of Kenya.”

The certificate shows who has authority over the two-month-old congregation, called St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church.

“We gave them what I call ‘the kiss of peace goodbye,’ ” said St. Michael’s priest the Rev. Linda Berry about her break from the Episcopal Church U.S.A. “Our main focus is on what we’re doing now, which is redoing church.”

Berry is part of a national movement of former Episcopalians and other believers aligning their congregations with conservative Anglican churches in Africa. Those seeking African oversight say they’ve become disillusioned with what they consider to be an increasingly secular drift in the Episcopal Church U.S.A.

Read the whole article.

Posted in Uncategorized

Stephen Freeman: Being Saved This Day in the Church

Everyday would look something like this for me. The conversations could be good or bad, heartbreaking or producing anxiety, depending. But all of it is made up of small minutes, small decisions, and each is a decision to remember God or to forget the one who died for my salvation. Each phone call is a call from Christ (God have mercy on me).

Wonderously I am remembering that everything is filled with God – that He is everywhere present. And stopping and going slowly through the day the brightness of this unmitigated joy overwhelms anything that would seek to replace. Not just the natural things that grow – but everything. Glory to God!

And each day, is a struggle to say yes to the Grace that pours out upon us more than we can bear. Glory to God.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life

Ten Commandments fragment already on display at museum

Visitors to the San Diego Natural History Museum’s Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition got a surprise treat this week: the oldest known copy of the Ten Commandments.
“I am just in awe,” said Mildred Hill, 81, of Carlsbad, as she stood beside the exhibit yesterday morning. Under glass was a 2,000-year-old fragment written in Hebrew from the biblical book of Deuteronomy.

“I knew they were coming, but I didn’t know if we were going to get lucky ”“ and we were,” Hill said.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

Presbyterians join groups with widening rifts

Opinions on the denomination’s long-term prospects vary widely.

The Rev. John Buchanan, pastor at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, said that while staunch conservatives and liberals are unhappy with church policy, the vast middle is satisfied.

“The people of this congregation are not at all distressed with where we are right now,” said Buchanan, a former moderator of the denomination. “And I think there are many, many more churches like that, than there are churches that are unhappy.”

Cutter takes a long view, noting the denomination’s history of splits and mergers.

“The process of union and reunion in the Presbyterian Church … has been going on for centuries,” he said. “I don’t anticipate it stopping. I anticipate there may be people that want to come back.”

But the Rev. Parker Williamson, editor emeritus of The Layman newspaper, said entire congregations are leaving, an escalation from the usual pattern of disgruntled individuals leaving on their own.

“It’s happening as bits and pieces of the church that are flying off,” Williamson said. He contends that the pace of departures is “ramping up significantly.”

The Rev. Gerrit Dawson, senior pastor of the Baton Rouge church, said his congregation hungers for theological clarity instead of the “institutionalized nebulousness” in the larger denomination.

“PCUSA is not getting better,” Dawson said. “It’s going to keep fragmenting. And we don’t want to spend the rest of our ministries doing that. There’s a world to be reached.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Presbyterian

Jim Ketchum: Struggle with gay clergy tears Episcopalians up

The U.S. Episcopal Church, described more than a century ago as the “Republican Party at prayer,” is anything but that today.

The church seems determined to rip itself asunder over the role of gays and lesbians in its clergy. A tipping point came a couple of years ago when Episcopalians ordained their first openly gay bishop, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson.

Conservatives who said they had had more than enough began filing out the door, taking their congregations with them. But since they wanted to remain part of the worldwide Anglican communion, many decided to put themselves under the sponsorship of Anglican prelates in Africa.

It seemed to be the perfect solution. Last week, I visited the town in Maryland where my son-in-law is pastor of the Lutheran church. He showed me a conservative Episcopal church that created its own diocese – a diocese of one church – under alternate sponsorship.
This not only demonstrates just how deeply the passions are running among some Episcopalians. It also shows the law of unintended consequences has yet to be repealed.

Read it all.

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

Pope told 'survival of world' at stake if Muslims and Christians do not make peace

The “survival of the world” is at stake if Muslims and Christians do not make peace with each other, leaders of the Muslim world will warn the Pope and other Christian leaders today.

In an unprecedented open letter signed by 138 leading scholars from every sect of Islam, the Muslims plead with Christian leaders “to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions” and spell out the similarities between passages of the Bible and the Koran.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

Bethlehem: Another Healthy & Vital diocese?

From a proposed resolution in the Diocese of Bethlehem:

Resolution on Raising Weekly Attendance

Be it Resolved, That weekly attendance and active parishioners in the Diocese of Bethlehem have been
flat for over a decade. This is evident in the pews and in Parish and Diocesan financial health. One needs
to look no further than the Diocesan staff reductions necessary in recent years. At a parish level, giving
has not risen at the same level as expenses resulting in program or staff cutbacks, or greater use of
endowment resources. The financial health of the Diocese is in direct correlation to the financial health of
its parishes. And the financial health of a parish is in direct correlation to the growth or lack thereof in
active membership. At the same time that our income is stagnant, we are faced with necessary significant
expense increases such as health insurance and utilities. And, we have important new expenses that we
wish to fund such as the Presiding Bishop’s call to us to meet the United Nations Millennium
Development Goals and Bishop Paul’s New Hope initiative.

You can read the resolutions here. (pp. 46 – 50)

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

Dan Edwards Elected Bishop of Nevada on the Second Ballot

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

Nigerians meld Christianity, Islam with ancient practices

Wasiu Olasunkani drops to his knees in the sacred grove, lowers his chin to his chest and turns his palms skyward: a gesture of thanks to a traditional water goddess embodied by the massive stone idol with outstretched arms that sweep over an ancient shrine.

Olasunkani, a Muslim whose 1998 pilgrimage to Mecca fulfilled one of the five pillars of Islam, joins tens of thousands of ethnic Yoruba people each year to pray before the idol and offer libations to her mermaid-like spirit, Osun. Last year, Olasunkani beseeched the goddess for a baby. This year he’s thanking her for twin boys, Farook and Cordroy.

“If you want to get a baby, you come here and pray, and you’ll certainly have one,” said the 46-year old doctor after finishing his riverside reverie. Speaking of his fellow Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria ”” 20 million strong and roughly evenly split between Christians and Muslims ”” he says: “We’ve been doing this for centuries.”

Across West Africa, churches or mosques can be found in virtually every settlement: evidence of deep Christian and Muslim roots sown by the merchants, missionaries and slave traders who brought the religions hundreds of years ago. But also firmly settled in the red soil are indigenous practices that West Africans integrate with the foreign beliefs.

The results may sometimes seem to flout the monotheistic holy books, the Bible and Quran. But many West African faithful say their interpretations are equally valid ”” although they don’t always tell their pastors or imams.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Islam, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Church of England Evangelical Council responds to the TEC Bishops New Orleans Statement

“The Church of England Evangelical Council has met and considered the responses of The Episcopal Church (TEC) to the questions asked of it from the Primates”² Meeting in Tanzania. We wish to report back to the Anglican Evangelical churches we represent the results of our consultation.

We are committed to the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

We believe TEC”²s response does not meet the requests of the Primates from Dar es Salaam, not merely for clarification but for repentance and turning back from their clear intention to affirm same-sex blessings and the consecration of practising homosexuals to the episcopate. They have continued to widen a gap of their own making. As a result the fabric of the Communion is torn almost beyond repair.

We support attempts to draw the Communion back together around a covenant, but in the light of TEC”²s response this covenant may not hold. TEC has shown by its pronouncements and its practice to have placed itself outside the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds.

We support the intentions of the Common Cause Council and those bishops invited to give pastoral care for congregations in the United States.

We support those Bishops who have said that under the present arrangements they cannot attend the Lambeth Conference. We invite those English dioceses who are twinned with dioceses and provinces overseas to consult with their companion dioceses about whether to attend the Lambeth Conference. We prayerfully counsel Church of England bishops to consider whether in the light of TEC”²s response they may wish to absent themselves.

Jesus Christ unites people from different races, cultures, economic groups, genders and sexual inclinations into a true inclusivity based on repentance, faith and the gift of the Spirit. This is the true diversity of the transforming gospel. In effect TEC”²s approach to inclusiveness excludes the majority of Anglicans from other provinces who are faithful to Biblical teaching. We affirm as the will of God the biblical teaching that we are called either to heterosexual marriage or celibacy.

We wish to uphold the Primates in our prayers as they receive TEC”²s response and as they work for the health of the Anglican Communion.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Embrace differences, regardless of outcome of vote, says Ottawa bishop

Bishop John Chapman of Ottawa said Friday that regardless of the outcome of a motion asking him to allow same-sex blessings in the diocese he expects clergy and laity to “continue their work and ministry embracing our differences rather than fretting over them.”

In the bishop’s charge during an opening eucharist of the 125th session of the diocesan synod of Ottawa, Bishop Chapman explained that the motion on same-sex blessings is asking the bishop, not the diocese, to decide on whether same-gender unions should be allowed.

The synod is expected to debate and act on the motion before the end of its two-day synod Saturday, Oct. 13. It is the first diocese to consider the matter since the triennial General Synod, the Anglican Church of Canada’s national governing body, agreed in June that same-sex blessings are “not in conflict” with core church doctrine, but declined by a slim margin to affirm the authority of dioceses to offer them.

“The motion is asking the synod of the diocese of Ottawa to make a recommendation to the bishop regarding the blessing of those civilly married according to the laws of the government of Ontario,” said Bishop Chapman. “Please be aware that this motion is calling for a recommendation in the positive or in the negative. The diocese is not being asked to make the decision.”

Read it all.

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

Julia Virtullo-Martin: Must civil unions be performed on religious property?

The bitter dispute ripping apart the social fabric of Ocean Grove, N.J., a lovely Victorian enclave 40 miles south of Manhattan, began simply enough. Long-time residents Harriet Bernstein, 65, a retired schoolteacher, and Luisa Paster, 60, a Princeton University staff developer, wanted to celebrate their civil union on the town’s boardwalk pavilion. The ceremony would have been legal, since New Jersey in 2004 had become the fifth state in the nation to recognize homosexual civil unions.

But Ocean Grove isn’t just any pretty town. Founded as a Methodist camp in 1869, it was the first permanent camp meeting dedicated to the pursuit of both holiness and recreation, according to historian Troy Messenger, author of “Holy Leisure: Recreation & Religion in God’s Square Mile.”

Ocean Grove has remained a religious retreat for its entire existence. Its leaders adhere to the Methodist Book of Discipline, which warns that “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” Thus, says executive director Scott Hoffman, they cannot permit the civil union ceremony. “We own 100% of the land, including parks, beach, boardwalk, and a thousand feet of riparian rights, granted by the state. We worship on the boardwalk, and cannot allow activity in opposition to our deeply held religious beliefs.”

This conflict is interesting both for what it says about the country’s current debate over civil unions and for what it might indicate about the direction the law will take in the future. The collision here is between an assertion of civil rights by the couple and an assertion of freedom of religion by the Methodists.

Read it all.

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