Daily Archives: February 19, 2008

London Times: Why do we believe in God? Researchers are to spend £1.9 million to find out

It used to be the ultimate million-dollar question: why do people believe in God? But inflation has swollen the price to £1.9 million. This is the sum being handed to Oxford University researchers to explore a topic that has puzzled philosophers and scientists for centuries. The researchers will not be troubling themselves with the matter of whether or not God exists, merely whether belief in God maybe gave Man a Darwinian evolutionary advantage; or whether it is a result of Man’s sociable nature.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

NY Times Letters to the Editor: As the Wheels of the Economy Turn

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Church of Uganda Still a Part of Anglican Communion

(Church of Uganda News)

A CORRECTION on the Church of Uganda position regarding the Anglican Communion and the Lambeth Conference

“The Church of Uganda is not seceding from the Anglican Communion,” said Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, church spokesperson. “Some press stories have misrepresented our position.”

“The plain fact is that we are simply not attending the Lambeth Conference in July 2008, but we are still very much a part of the Anglican Communion.”

The Church of Uganda broke communion with the Episcopal Church in the United States of America in 2003 after they elected and consecrated as Bishop Gene Robinson, a divorced man living in a same-sex relationship. But, the Church of Uganda has remained a consistently active member of the Anglican Communion.

“It is the Americans who have seceded from the Anglican Communion because of their decisions and their teaching,” Mwesigye said. “They have departed dramatically from the historic faith, teaching, and practice of the Bible and the Anglican Church.”

“How can they still be Anglican when they don’t believe what Anglicans believe?”

The Church of Uganda, along with many other Provinces in the Anglican Communion, urged the Archbishop of Canterbury to see that this crisis was resolved before convening Bishops of the Anglican Communion at the Lambeth Conference.

Since, however, the crisis has not been resolved, and since those who precipitated the crisis ”“ the Americans ”“ have been invited to the Lambeth Conference, the Church of Uganda has upheld its decision not to attend.

“The crisis in the Anglican Communion is very serious,” Mwesigye concluded. “It is not good stewardship of our limited resources to spend more than US$5,000 (8,500,000/=) per person for our Bishops and their wives to attend a three-week meeting which seems, in practice, to have no authority and is blatantly and persistently ignored by some of its wealthier member churches.”

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

Police beat up Anglican parishioners in Harare

Riot police have arrested the Harare deputy sheriff trying to open the Anglican cathedral for a Sunday service, the cathedral church warden Sekai Chibaya said Monday.

The cathedral had been illegally occupied by a renegade pro-ruling party ex-priest and baton-charged parishioners waiting for the church to be opened and to begin a service, witnesses said.

Watched by a group of about 20 parishioners on Sunday, a locksmith accompanying the deputy-sheriff – whose name was not immediately available – had just used a bolt cutter to open the padlock on the gate to the cathedral when a squad of riot police drove up, Chibaya said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, - Anglican: Latest News, Africa

In Western Canada Church order alleged to be at stake in Anglican dispute

Rev. Andrew Hewlett, the parish’s assistant priest, said the people there don’t agree with the theological course chosen by the Anglican Church of Canada.

The people of the congregation “who built the church, paid for it, banged in nails and painted the walls” should have an opportunity to decide on their future, said Hewlett. The same-sex marriage issue “is the presenting issue that gets a lot of press but I think there are deeper issues to do with theology, how we understand Christ, how we understand the Gospel and how we view scripture,” Hewlett said.

Bryant-Scott said the breakaway group “has done something illegal and inappropriate.” A parish leaving the church “simply is not possible,” he said.

“Individuals join churches; individuals can leave churches. An entity, a parish, cannot leave the diocese.”

People can form another church on their own, said Bryant-Scott, but can’t take the organization with them.

Discipline proceedings have begun against the two clergy involved, Hewlett and the Rector Sharon Hayton. Both have been “inhibited,” meaning they cannot participate in ordained ministry.

“I’m hoping to meet with them as soon as I can,” Bryant-Scott said.

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

Fidel Castro Resigns as Cuba’s President

Fidel Castro stepped down Tuesday morning as the president of Cuba after a long illness, ending one of the longest tenures as one of the most all-powerful communist heads of state in the world, according to Granma, the official publication of the Cuban Communist Party.

In late July 2006, Mr. Castro, who is 81, handed over power temporarily to his brother, Raúl Castro, 76, and a few younger cabinet ministers, after an acute infection in his colon forced him to undergo emergency surgery. Despite numerous surgeries, he has never fully recovered but has remained active in running government affairs from behind the scenes.

Now, just days before the national assembly is to meet to select a new head of state, Mr. Castro resigned permanently in a letter to the nation and signaled his willingness to let a younger generation assume power. He said his failing health made it impossible to return as president.

“I will not aspire to neither will I accept ”” I repeat I will not aspire to neither will I accept ”” the position of President of the Council of State and Commander in chief,” he wrote.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Latin America & Caribbean

From NPR: Devout Flock to 'Holy Highway'

[Cindy] Jacobs then developed what she calls a “prayer strategy” for people from Laredo, Texas, to Duluth, Minn., to pray for 35 days along Interstate 35.

“We prayed to eliminate systemic poverty, we prayed for safety, we prayed for people caught in drug addictions, and trapped in their lives and hopeless,” she says.

The prayers continued well beyond those first 35 days.

And now the movement is called Light the Highway.

Light the Highway’s Web site lists 22 churches and prayer groups along the interstate ”” in places such as Laredo and Duluth as well as San Antonio, Dallas and Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo.; Des Moines, Iowa, and Minneapolis. According to the site, participants do not believe that Isaiah actually refers to Interstate 35. Rather, it says, the Bible is used symbolically “as a catalyst to begin praying, just like those who live in Interstate 40 can use Isaiah 40:3.”

Do travelers think it’s strange when they see a cluster of people ”” heads bowed and hands uplifted ”” on a grassy strip next to the highway?

“What would you rather have? A group of young people praying on I-35 or a group of young people dealing drugs on I-35? Take your pick,” says Steve Hill, the 54-year-old senior pastor at Heartland World Ministries, in the Dallas suburb of Irving.

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

Wall Street Banks Confront a String of Write-Downs

The losses keep piling up. Leading brokerage firms are likely to write down the value of $200 billion of loans they have made to corporate clients by $10 billion to $14 billion during the first quarter of this year, Meredith Whitney, an analyst at Oppenheimer, wrote in a research report last week.

Those institutions and global banks could suffer an additional $20 billion in losses this year on commercial mortgage-backed securities and other debt instruments tied to commercial mortgages, according to Goldman Sachs, which predicts commercial property prices will decline by as much as 26 percent.

Analysts at UBS go further, predicting the world’s largest banks could ultimately take $123 billion to $203 billion of additional write-downs on subprime-related securities, structured investment vehicles, leveraged loans and commercial mortgage lending. The higher estimate assumes that the troubled bond insurance companies fail, a possibility that, for now, is relatively remote.

Such dire predictions underscore how the turmoil in the credit markets is hurting Wall Street even as the Federal Reserve reduces interest rates. Already, once-proud institutions like Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and UBS have gone hat in hand to Middle Eastern and Asian investors to raise capital. “You don’t have a recovery until you have the financial system stabilized,” Ms. Whitney said. “As the banks are trying to recover they will not lend. They are all about self-preservation at this time.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Theo Hobson on Rowan Williams: Quiet voice of modernity’s enemy

His advocacy of the rights of gay Christians during the 1990s was misleading: it made him seem the liberal he never really was. He was always an Anglo-Catholic above all. He sought to develop and update the open, liberal side of this tradition, but not in a way that might jeopardise its integrity.

Above all, he refused to combine Anglo-Catholicism with a general liberal agenda. Indeed he revived the Anglo-Catholic suspicion of secular liberalism that dates back to Newman. The liberal state, in this view, offers itself as an alternative community of salvation; it tempts us into supposing that we can dispense with the Church, or at least water it down, and develop a more progressive form of Christianity. This leads to weak forms of Christianity that are unable to resist dangerous ideologies: most obviously, the liberal Protestants of Germany embraced Nazism. It is Williams’ anti-liberal ecclesiology that is the root cause of the present controversy. In a sense it’s not really about sharia law, or Islam: it’s about the relationship between a Catholic conception of the Church and liberalism.

For Williams, authentic Christianity occurs within a clearly defined social body, an “ethical community” as he has sometimes put it. Without this, Christian culture will be dispersed by the cold winds of secularism. There is a need for strong resistance to the various negative spirits of the age: consumerism, celebrity, hedonism and so on, and this resistance can only occur within an alternative social world, walled off from mainstream culture.

Only from within a religious subculture can secular modernity be seen for what it is: dehumanising. He has referred to secularism’s “unspoken violence”, and to modernity as “an atmosphere in which people become increasingly formless, cut off from what could give their lives … some kind of lasting intelligibility”. He sees secular liberalism as a quietly nihilistic force that robs human life of full significance, as a demonically subtle tyranny that looks and feels like freedom.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury

Secretary Rice Demands Resolution in Kenya

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Kenya for a day of talks with political protagonists and leaders. She’s delivering a message from President Bush: Stop the violence and return to democracy. Bush is in Tanzania on the second leg of a five-nation African tour that is focusing on U.S. humanitarian efforts on the continent. Rice’s trip to Kenya girds former U.N. chief Kofi Annan’s mediation efforts there.

Listen to it all from NPR.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Africa, Kenya

Toronto Globe and Mail: In Canada More Anglican parishes to leave the fold

More conservative Anglican congregations will join those that have already cut ties with the Anglican Church of Canada, the head of a breakaway group predicts.

In the past week, seven parishes voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada to seek the authority of a South American archbishop in a long-running dispute over theological issues, including the blessing of same-sex marriages, which they oppose.

So far, six Anglican parishes in Ontario, eight in British Columbia and three in Alberta have decided to operate outside the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of Canada and joined the recently formed Anglican Network in Canada. Ten of the 17 breakaway parishes have voted to align themselves with the more orthodox, traditional Province of the Southern Cone, which covers most of South America. More are expected to consider the issue in the following week.

“I’m quite confident that this is just a beginning,” said Bishop Donald Harvey, moderator of the recently formed Anglican Network in Canada, a “haven” for breakaway congregations that is under the jurisdiction of the South American archbishop, Gregory Venables.

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

Julia Duin: Which churches are the country's largest?

It’s always intriguing to see which churches have grown and which denominations have faded in the past year. According to the 2008 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches (a Bible of sorts for us religion writers), the fastest-growing religious body in 2007 was the Jehovah’s Witnesses at 2.25 percent.

Following them were the Mormons at 1.56 percent and the Roman Catholics at .87 percent. Compare this to last year’s states that had the Catholics out front at 1.94 percent, followed by the Assemblies of God at 1.86 and the Mormons at 1.63.

The denomination with the biggest decrease is the Episcopalians at 4.15 percent.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, TEC Data

LA Times: Where religion, ideology and the Web cross

The College of William & Mary, the nation’s second oldest, lost its president last week after a culture-war clash that began when he ordered the removal of an 18-inch brass cross from the altar of the historic Wren Chapel.

His decision, an act of legal principle to some and a blunder of liberal activism to others, touched off a revolt among conservative bloggers and alumni of the state-supported school in Williamsburg, Va., and led to his resignation Tuesday.

The dispute underscores the deep divide over the role of religion in public institutions, and shows how an ideological firestorm can be sparked on a college campus.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Religion & Culture

What is Going on in the Diocese of Oregon?

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

From NPR: Gordon Gekko, Preaching the Gospel of Greed

But if there’s a flaw in the movie, it’s in how dashing Douglas’ character is.

“The idea that Gekko was this shiny, beautifully dressed, magnetic, charismatic superstar suited a lot of people in the business world very nicely,” says screenwriter Stephen Schiff, who’s writing a sequel to the movie.

Although Bud Fox ultimately turns against him and Gekko heads to jail, the character’s charisma undercuts the film’s moralizing.

“What do you want to be coming out of the movie? Do you want to be Bud Fox, broken and downtrodden and never having quite made it?” asks Schiff. “Or do you want to be Gordon Gekko, who, yeah he’s going to jail, but what a swashbuckler he was until the very last moment?”

Both Douglas and Stone have said that a lot of young people they meet see Gekko as a role model. But George David Smith, a business historian who teaches at NYU’s Stern School, says that Gekko is definitely not a capitalist hero. Gekko, says Smith, would have more trouble operating today because regulators pursue that kind of manipulation more aggressively.

Audiences may get a chance to see how Gekko would fare in today’s economy. A sequel to Wall Street, called Money Never Sleeps, is in the works.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Movies & Television, Stock Market, Theology

A BBC Radio Four Audio Report: Disestablishment

Controversy has surrounded the comments Rowan Williams recently made about Sharia. The religious think tank Ekklesia has now weighed into the debate with the suggestion that the Archbishop’s speech demonstrates the need for the disestablishment of the Church of England. Jonathan Bartley, the co-director of Ekklesia, and the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, gave their views.

Listen to it all (just under 7 minutes).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Metchosin Anglicans vote to split from church

Eighty-six per cent of participating parishioners at Metchosin’s St. Mary the Incarnation Anglican Church voted yesterday to separate from their national body over the issue of same-sex marriage, part of a pattern that has developed across the country.

Meanwhile, St. Matthew’s Anglican parish in Abbotsford became the second Lower Mainland congregation in a week to split from the Vancouver-area diocese overseen by Bishop Michael Ingham.

The Abbotsford parish followed in the footsteps of Vancouver’s St. John’s Shaughnessy — the largest Anglican congregation in Canada — which voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to break with Ingham, primarily over the issue of same-sex blessings.

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

Howard Kurtz: Coverage Adds to Clinton's Steep Climb

It was 15 degrees outside on a wind-whipped Pennsylvania Avenue as Hillary Clinton, smile firmly fixed in place, made an early-morning stop for a primary she didn’t have a prayer of winning.

Inside the high-ceilinged office of the National Council of Negro Women, as 20 journalists looked on, Sen. Clinton sounded almost wistful last Monday as she noted the racial and gender aspect of her contest against Barack Obama. “One of us will go on to make history,” she said, before adding that she believed she would be the one to make it.

Left unspoken — but very much on the minds of the modest press contingent — was that she had just lost four states to Obama, had been forced to lend her operation $5 million and had dumped her campaign manager. And no upbeat talk by the candidate was going to change that story line.

The media floodgates opened after Obama swept last week’s primaries in the District, Maryland and Virginia. Never mind that the two Democratic candidates remain close in the delegate count, or that Clinton has been described as doomed once before, in New Hampshire. She is drowning in a sea of negative coverage.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Media, US Presidential Election 2008

Sydney Standing Committee supports Archbishop on Lambeth Decision

The Standing Committee of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney has given its full support to Archbishop of Sydney Dr Peter Jensen’s decision not to attend the Lambeth Conference. The decision was announced earlier this month and this was Standing Committee’s first meeting since then.

The committee stated it “wholeheartedly supports the Archbishop and his Bishops in their decisions relating to Lambeth and GAFCON, recognising the cost to them of such decisions.”

The motion was passed overwhelmingly after a statement given by the Archbishop to the committee in which he said “we have come to the firm view that for us the best action is not to attend (Lambeth), as a matter of conscience and pastoral care to those who have needed to dissociate themselves from Bishops and Churches.”

The Archbishop referred to a letter from five primates who had declared that they cannot, for reasons of conscience, attend Lambeth.

Dr Jensen told the Standing Committee that “given the fellowship we enjoy which these leaders and their people it is inconceivable that we should not join them in standing aside. We must support those who have been so courageous.”

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

William Rees-Mogg: Barack Obama – a John Kennedy for our times

It is hard to see who can stop Senator Barack Obama becoming the next President of the United States. He has built up an excitement such as no candidate has created since President Kennedy in 1960. He is, in my view, a better speaker than Kennedy. Like Kennedy, he combines personal magnetism with a strong appeal to American idealism.

Like Kennedy, he is young and speaks for the new generation of American politics. By ordinary political reckoning, 2008 ought to be the Democrats’ year. In 2006 they captured both houses of Congress in mid-term elections.

There are, of course, hypothetical events that could change everything. There could be an attack on Mr Obama himself, but he is protected by the Secret Service. There could be an action by al-Qaeda, which would refocus American anxiety on the threat of terror.

But al-Qaeda is itself highly political. It would probably not be in its interest to secure the election of Senator John McCain. Al-Qaeda may be unpredictable, but it would be a mistake for it to interfere in American politics, even if it had the capacity to do so.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Western Massachusetts Episcopal bishop lauds church

Brenda G. Tirado of Leyfred Terrace received her confirmation at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church yesterday at the hands of a special guest.

The Rev. Gordon P. Scruton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, performed the ceremony for Tirado, 31, who works as a victim and witness advocate at the Hampden County district attorney’s office.

“It was very inspiring. I had a chance to meet with the bishop (beforehand),” she said after her confirmation.

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

Texas Episcopal Church members locked out of church

People went to their church for Sunday services and they were locked out. Now, they’re left wondering if they’ll have to find a new place to pray. It all stems from an ongoing dispute with their church pastor. The St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church is about 400 members strong. They’re praying this will all get resolved and they’ll be able to stay at the church and keep the congregation together.

They gathered to sing and pray on the outside drive, locked out by steel gates, where inside they have celebrated god every Sunday for years.

“We haven’t seen anything like this before,” said church member Paul Chukwujekwu.

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

Robert Russ Supports the Mayor of Toledo's Decision

“United we stand, Divided we fall” is a phrase that has been used in mottos, from nations and states to songs. The basic concept is that unless the people are united and one people, it is easy to destroy them.

Politics of division are eating us alive. One need look no further than Washington DC to understand this. No matter what one’s politics might be, how far left or right one leans, no reasonable person can deny that split down the middle and polarized to the max, our Senate and Congress are paralyzed, unable to accomplish anything. Millions of Americans are facing foreclosure. Worldwide the dollar continues it’s downward slide. A war continues that no one seems to know how to win or end. I could go on and on. So whom did Congress have before them this last Tuesday? Well, baseball pitcher Roger Clemens of course. With all these life and death issues, they saw the obvious and urgent issue that needed immediate attention. It’s the steroids stupid.

We Toledoans don’t have to look all the way to Washington DC to see the destructive force that is politics divided. We have it going on right here in our own city. Here it’s not the blue D’s vs. the red R’s. Here it is the A’s vs. the B’s. In a time when our city struggles with all the woahs the nation faces magnified, our leaders take on the obvious and urgent issues that face Toledo. It’s a shower in the mayor installed last year, Scout last month and the Marine miscommunication issue this week…..

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces