Daily Archives: February 9, 2008

Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat

Almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the full emissions costs of producing these “green” fuels are taken into account, two studies being published Thursday have concluded.

The benefits of biofuels have come under increasing attack in recent months, as scientists took a closer look at the global environmental cost of their production. These latest studies, published in the prestigious journal Science, are likely to add to the controversy.

These studies for the first time take a detailed, comprehensive look at the emissions effects of the huge amount of natural land that is being converted to cropland globally to support biofuels development.

The destruction of natural ecosystems ”” whether rain forest in the tropics or grasslands in South America ”” not only releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when they are burned and plowed, but also deprives the planet of natural sponges to absorb carbon emissions. Cropland also absorbs far less carbon than the rain forests or even scrubland that it replaces.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources

Church Collection Basket Goes Online

For generations of Roman Catholics in the United States, the ritual of attending Mass on Sundays has been intertwined with slipping a numbered envelope into the collection basket.

But in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, churchgoers are letting the basket pass them by in favor of donating online, part of an effort to meld time-tested fund-raising with 21st-century technology.

In October, the archdiocese, which includes 221 parishes in 19 southwestern Ohio counties, became the first in the nation to put in place a comprehensive Internet donation system for its weekly collections. The goal was to generate consistent revenue and to cater to parishioners who have grown accustomed to paying their bills online.

The practice is catching on throughout the country, with the Archdiocese of Chicago allowing parishes to opt into a similar plan, and individual churches experimenting with similar technology.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Stewardship

Frances Gibb: Was Archbishop’s obscure phrasing and bad timing to blame for uproar?

What did the Archbishop say?

Dr Williams said that it “seems unavoidable” that some aspects of Sharia would be adopted in Britain. He urged that the law do more to accommodate the religious convictions and practices of other faith groups .

Why have his comments prompted such a furore?

Sharia is controversial in the West because ”“ as the Archbishop put it ”“ it calls up “all the darkest images of Islam”. He added: “What most people think they know of Sharia is that it is repressive towards women and wedded to archaic and brutal physical punishments,” such as stoning, flogging and amputation.

Timing is another factor: his comments come during heightened tensions over fundamentalist Islam’s link with terrorism, along with growing concern that English law, influenced by political correctness, is bending over to favour or accommodate minority ethnic beliefs, practices and sensitivities in a way that it would not for mainstream Christian ones.

Another reason is that Dr Williams, a highly erudite man, expresses his thoughts in nuanced and complex language that is not easily accessible and open to widespread misunderstanding. Many commentators are unclear exactly what he said, and even those who attended his lecture agreed that they would have to go away to digest its contents.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Islam, Other Faiths

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Young Nuns

BETTY ROLLIN: They are the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee, a traditional order that began in 1860. Their day begins at 5 a.m. with meditation followed by a Mass. Meals are held in silence. Their vocation is to teach. The sisters here have come from different states and different backgrounds, most of them raised Catholic, some not. In 1965, there were about 180,000 nuns in America. By 2007, that number dropped to 63,000 with an average age of 70. The average age of the Dominican sisters is 36. Their numbers have increased so steadily in the past 15 years that they have had to build a 100,000 square-foot addition to the property. The sisters here — the first year postulants, the second year novices, and those who, after seven years, have taken their final vows all say they have been called by God and that they are in love.

Sister KATHERINE WILEY: When you’re a little girl, you’re planning your wedding, you’re playing bride. But just to allow the Lord to transform my heart to see that I would still be a bride, but I would be his bride.

Sister CHRISTIANA MICKWEE, O.P.: When you have fallen in love with God, everything doesn’t seem quite so important anymore because God, the creator of the world, has asked you to be his bride. No, I will not be having sex. No, I will not be having children. No, I will not be marrying a spouse. But my very body and blood is united to God in a way that isn’t offered to everyone in the world.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi on Archbishop Rowan Williams' Sharia Law Suggestion

BBC: And in your situation you see the reality of what Sharia law can be.

BK: We have experienced it. We know it and in the last nine years full blown Sharia law has been introduced in at least 11 states in Northern Nigeria, and what the church are experiencing in these states is, to say the least, unbearable.

BBC: How surprised are you that a Christian Archbishop should have suggested, in some circumstances, that Sharia might be an appropriate part of the legal system in a country like Britain?

BK. I am shocked. I am disappointed. I am in total disbelief. Because my hope is that when he, Archbishop of Canterbury, comes to Nigeria for example, and he comes to visit us, we will take him to our leaders, some of whom are Muslims and some of whom are Christians, and he can then speak on our behalf where we are not having a fair share. Can we now look up to him as a man who can speak on our behalf? You all know about the cutting of hands in Zamfara State. You remember the case of the woman in Kaduna State who was going to be stoned to death. All of those kinds of things are what we now are saying that we must examine carefully the implementation of Sharia and we are putting our discussions across with our own Muslim friends around here.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of Nigeria, Islam, Other Faiths

Georgians want access to Tennessee Water

In 1993, Joel J. Kyle and his wife, Juanita, moved just over the Georgia border to Tennessee ”” and Joel Kyle vowed never to cross it again.

Now, some Georgia lawmakers want the border to cross him, in a manner of speaking.

A resolution in Georgia’s legislature proposes to move the Tennessee-Georgia boundary about a mile to the north of where it now lies, which could put Kyle right back into the state he left 15 years ago.

The proposal elicited instant ridicule from residents of the area on Thursday, as well as tongue-in-cheek saber rattling from Tennessee lawmakers.

One state senator offered to settle the issue with a football game. Another suggested floating an armada of University of Tennessee fans down the Tennessee River to defend the state’s territory.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources

Latest Victim of the Housing Market: McMansions

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

Anthony B. Robinson reviews two recent Books on MegaChurches

As scholars should, the authors challenge some stereotypes and conventional wisdom associated with megachurches. Both studies are also concerned with the bottom-line questions: Are megachurches good for Christianity? Are they good for American society?

Thumma and Travis’s book is the product of the 2005 Megachurches Today study conducted jointly by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Hartford Seminary and the Dallas-based Leadership Network. A data-laden chapter opens the book, and one that extrapolates trends into the futures closes it. In between, nine myths about megachurches are considered in light of the Megachurches Today study and a wider congregational study done the same year, the National Congregations Study. The latter provides a basis for locating megachurches in a wider context. The myths are framed by quotations from various critics of megachurches.

What is a megachurch? According to Thumma and Travis, it is any Protestant congregation that averages 2,000 or more in worship attendance at its weekly services. In one way, that definition is too limiting, because it excludes Roman Catholic parishes that fit the numerical criterion. It is too wide in another respect, for it would include congregations of that size in the early 20th century, well before the term megachurch was coined.

Thumma and Travis break down megachurches into four types: the “old-line, program-based” church; the “seeker” church; the “charismatic pastor-focused” church; and the “new wave/reenvisioned” church. This elaboration helpfully complexifies the topic and provides a ready response to Myth Number One, “All megachurches are alike.” (It is interesting to learn that 60 percent of all megachurches are in the Far West or South, and that most of them are in just three states, California, Texas and Florida.)

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

A Revival for Rural Churches?

Yet, even as they face great challenges, North Carolina’s rural areas are home to some of the state’s most vibrant ministries, says Jeremy Troxler, director of Thriving Rural Communities, a Divinity School-based program that works to support and strengthen rural congregations.

“Sometimes there is a view that we don’t have much in rural North Carolina””that it is a place of barrenness, loneliness and loss of economic opportunity,” says Troxler D’02.
“But it also is a place of beauty and abundance.”

Consider Solid Rock United Methodist Church, which opened in 2001 in Spout Springs, just a few miles north of Fort Bragg, the U.S. Army base near Fayetteville. Worship attendance at the church, housed in a blue metal building, has grown from a single family to more than 300 on most Sundays.

Rev. Gil Wise D’88, who has led Solid Rock United Methodist Church since its founding in 2001.Solid Rock’s ministries include two daycare programs; Angel Food, a pantry that feeds nearly 500 people each week; and a prison ministry that reaches 240 inmates. At a time when churches worry about aging parishioners, Solid Rock’s congregation, which includes many military families, has a growing membership of those 20 or younger.

“Part of my job is to inspire people to believe that they can do big things right where they are,” says Gil Wise D’88, lead pastor at Solid Rock. “They’re making a difference in the Kingdom, and they don’t have to go to a bigger place for that.”

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

Newsweek–Happiness: Enough Already

The plural of anecdote is not data, as scientists will tell you, but consider these snapshots of the emerging happiness debate anyway: Lately, Jerome Wakefield’s students have been coming up to him after they break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and not because they want him to recommend a therapist. Wakefield, a professor at New York University, coauthored the 2007 book “The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow Into Depressive Disorder,” which argues that feeling down after your heart is broken””even so down that you meet the criteria for clinical depression”” is normal and even salutary. But students tell him that their parents are pressuring them to seek counseling and other medical intervention”””some Zoloft, dear?”””for their sadness, and the kids want no part of it. “Can you talk to them for me?” they ask Wakefield. Rather than “listening to Prozac,” they want to listen to their hearts, not have them chemically silenced.

University of Illinois psychologist Ed Diener, who has studied happiness for a quarter century, was in Scotland recently, explaining to members of Parliament and business leaders the value of augmenting traditional measures of a country’s wealth with a national index of happiness. Such an index would measure policies known to increase people’s sense of well-being, such as democratic freedoms, access to health care and the rule of law. The Scots were all in favor of such things, but not because they make people happier. “They said too much happiness might not be such a good thing,” says Diener. “They like being dour, and didn’t appreciate being told they should be happier.” (For one man’s struggle with the pressure to pursue happiness, click here.)

Eric Wilson tried to get with the program. Urged on by friends, he bought books on how to become happier. He made every effort to smooth out his habitual scowl and wear a sunny smile, since a happy expression can lead to genuinely happy feelings. Wilson, a professor of English at Wake Forest University, took up jogging, reputed to boost the brain’s supply of joyful neurochemicals, watched uplifting Frank Capra and Doris Day flicks and began sprinkling his conversations with “great!” and “wonderful!”, the better to exercise his capacity for enthusiasm. When none of these made him happy, Wilson not only jumped off the happiness bandwagon””he also embraced his melancholy side and decided to blast a happiness movement that “leads to half-lives, to bland existences,” as he argues in “Against Happiness,” a book now reaching stores. Americans’ fixation on happiness, he writes, fosters “a craven disregard for the value of sadness” and “its integral place in the great rhythm of the cosmos.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology