Monthly Archives: May 2008

It takes a (volunteer) village

Watch the whole very encouraging story.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Hurricane Katrina

As Oil Prices Soar, Restaurant Grease Thefts Rise

The bandit pulled his truck to the back of a Burger King in Northern California one afternoon last month armed with a hose and a tank. After rummaging around assorted restaurant rubbish, he dunked a tube into a smelly storage bin and, the police said, vacuumed out about 300 gallons of grease.

The man was caught before he could slip away. In his truck, the police found 2,500 gallons of used fryer grease, indicating that the Burger King had not been his first fast-food craving of the day.

Outside Seattle, cooking oil rustling has become such a problem that the owners of the Olympia Pizza and Pasta Restaurant in Arlington, Wash., are considering using a surveillance camera to keep watch on its 50-gallon grease barrel. Nick Damianidis, an owner, said the barrel had been hit seven or eight times since last summer by siphoners who strike in the night.

“Fryer grease has become gold,” Mr. Damianidis said. “And just over a year ago, I had to pay someone to take it away.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources

An interesting look Back to 2007: Thomas Woodward Respoonds to Yours Truly

Canon Harmon’s allegations echo old and tired charges against the Episcopal Church. However, contrary to his allegations, this is the hard reality: The Bible is being taken more, not less seriously by the mainstream of the Episcopal Church. This is a truth that Canon Harmon and others in the Network/CANA/AMiA/WhatHaveYa group are unwilling to acknowledge or address.

Biblical scholarship did not end in the nineteenth century, though that is the impression left by those who claim to be the Biblically orthodox. Modern Biblical scholarship seems to contradict nearly every assertion made by those who are charging that the leadership of the Episcopal Church has abandoned the Bible. For instance, nearly every New Testament scholar notes that what once were considered gentle parables of growth (Leaven, Mustard Seed, etc.) have a quite different message ”“ including biting attacks by Jesus on the purity code. It was upon that purity code that Paul based his rejection of homosexual behavior.

When you have Jesus undermining the Biblical basis for Paul’s condemnations, what you have left are Paul’s personal prejudices and beliefs. Was Paul right to condemn promiscuous sex, temple prostitution, and sexual exploitation? Of course he was! However, the evil inherent in those activities has nothing to do with human relationships built on love, mutual caring, and sacramental fidelity. Jesus, apparently, was well aware of the damage done when you impose a purity code onto human relationships filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul, however, must have been out with a cold during that lesson! [Pardon the anachronism.]

Paul corrects his misunderstanding of the continuing authority of the purity code in his long discussions of law and grace in his letters to the Romans and Galatians. However, for a few verses in Romans he seems to forget his own theology ”“ and that lapse has led to the continuing use of ancient rules rejected by Jesus. Worse, Paul’s blunder has been used as a weapon to batter and to exclude those we do not understand, as well as to crucify any church that recognizes their full humanity.

Read it all.

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

Mark McCall: A Reply to Bishop Sauls

After all arguments are made that can be made, it remains clear that a “majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote” does indeed mean what it says: a majority of bishops with voting rights in the House of Bishops. The legislative history to which Bishop Sauls points demonstrates that the canon has always had this meaning, and it has never changed.

First, it must be noted that Bishop Sauls does not address at all the numerous other canonical violations of the Presiding Bishop in her handling of the matters involving Bishops Cox, Schofield and Duncan and the Diocese of San Joaquin. He assures us that Canon IV.9 contains procedural safeguards, but does not mention that Bishop Cox was denied those very safeguards. He points out that the Presiding Bishop must present the matter of certification of abandonment to the House of Bishops at its next meeting, but does not acknowledge that this was not done in the Cox case. He emphasizes the procedural protections afforded by the role of the three senior bishops, but does not acknowledge that they were never consulted about Bishop Cox. There is scant protection in procedural safeguards that are ignored.

Second, notwithstanding his scrutiny of the nineteenth century forerunners of Canon IV.9, Bishop Sauls does not address the fact that the language in the current canon is found elsewhere in TEC’s current Constitution, in Article XII concerning constitutional amendments: such amendments are adopted by “a majority of all Bishops, excluding retired Bishops not present, of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops.” It is absolutely clear in this provision that active bishops not present are counted for purposes of determining the required majority when the phrase “whole number of bishops entitled to vote” is used. Bishop Sauls never mentions this provision.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Polity & Canons

The Economist on Oil: Painful though it is, this oil shock will eventually spur huge change

If the speculators are not to blame, what about the oil companies, which have failed to increase output in spite of record profits? Profiteering, say some. However, that accusation doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny either. The oil price is set in a market. For Shell, Exxon et al to hoard oil underground would be to leave billions of dollars of investment languishing unused. Others fear that oil is pricey because it is running out. But there is little evidence to support the doctrine of “peak oil” in its extreme form. The Middle East still seems to contain a sea of the stuff. Even if new finds elsewhere have been rarer and less accessible than in the past, vast quantities of oil could now be profitably stripped from tar sands and shale.

The truth is more prosaic. Finding and developing new oil fields is an expensive and time-consuming business. The giant new fields in the deep water off Brazil are unlikely to produce oil for a decade or more. Furthermore, oil is perverse. When prices are low, oil-rich countries welcome the low-cost, high-tech and well-capitalised oil firms. When prices are high, countries like Russia and Venezuela kick them out again. Likewise the engineers, survey ships and seismic rigs that oil firms need to find and produce new deposits are expensive right now. The costs of finding oil have, temporarily, doubled precisely because everybody wants to give them work.

So the oil shock will take time to abate. Some greens may welcome that, seeing three-figure oil as a way of limiting greenhouse emissions. Conservation will indeed increase. But everything high prices achieve could be done better by sensible carbon taxes. As well as curbing oil use, high prices have put tar sands in business which create far more carbon dioxide than conventional oil. Profits are going to ugly oil-fed regimes, not Western exchequers. And the wild unpredictability of prices will blunt the effect of dear oil on people’s behaviour.

From this perspective, governments should speed up the adjustment””or at least stop delaying it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

In China, an Evolving Effort to Establish a Place on World Stage

MARGARET WARNER: But this is a change for China. China used to regard, used to resist any kind of foreign engagement, certainly on the ground in China’s borders. What explains the change?

HE YAFEI: The relationship between China and the world has changed fundamentally or historically. There is a historical change to that, meaning that China cannot develop itself without it getting involved with the world or without the support of international community.

And the international community, its peace, stability of the world cannot be achieved without the participation and contribution of China. So, naturally, there is an openness. You cannot close your doors anymore.

MARGARET WARNER: Do you think part of the reason the world has reacted and seen China in a new way as a result of this is because you’ve allowed open foreign media coverage in the region and people could see for themselves?

HE YAFEI: You can see, you know, China is open to media. Of course, any journalist, foreign or domestic, has to abide by Chinese laws and regulations from what you can see, reporting on the natural disaster now, it happened in Sichuan. There were virtually no limitations. People are free to report what they like to report.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Asia, China

And the Best Record in Baseball Belongs to….

Go Cubs go! It is a long season but one is entitled to hope…..

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

Victor Davis Hanson: The baby boomers’ perpetual adolescence is still hurting America

There is a pattern in all these dilemmas. And it is not conservative-versus-liberal politics, but generational chaos. Those who came of age in the 1960s now hold the reins of power and influence ”” and we are starting to see why their values have worried almost everyone for nearly a half-century.

History has seen something like them before in the “blame them” years of Demosthenes’ Athens, the self-indulgence of Julio-Claudian Rome, the “after me, the deluge” generation of late 18th-century France, the Gilded Age, and the Roaring Twenties.

What are the baby boomers’ collective traits? Like all perpetual adolescents who suffer arrested development, we always want things both ways: Don’t drill or explore for more energy, but nevertheless demand ever more fuel from other suppliers.

There are never bad and worse choices, but only a Never Never Land of good and even-better alternatives. Housing not only has to stay affordable for buyers, but also must appreciate in value to give instant equity to those who have just become owners.

When things don’t go well, we always blame someone else. Why drill off Santa Barbara or Alaska when we can sue those terrible Saudis for not putting more oil platforms in their Persian Gulf?

And why accept that the conduct of all wars is flawed and victory goes usually to those who persevere in making the needed adjustments when we can just keep pointing fingers at the official who disbanded the Iraqi army or sent too few troops after the invasion?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A.

Archbishop unveils plans for London event to challenge global governments to Tackle Poverty

The Archbishop will be joined by approximately 600 other archbishops and bishops, and their spouses, alongside other UK faith leaders for the high-profile symbol of commitment to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ”“ eight promises made by world leaders to halve world poverty by 2015. Taking place on Thursday 24th July, the event will culminate in a rally in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, the London home and office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The event is being organised in partnership with Micah Challenge UK, part of the international Micah Challenge movement dedicated to uniting Christians to work together for an end to world poverty.

The bishops will walk through the heart of the capital, including Parliament Square, in a vivid demonstration of the diversity of the Anglican Communion and a witness to the work already being conducted by Churches and other faith groups to work towards the MDGs ”“ and a public pledge to work even harder to make sure they are delivered. The faith leaders will also commit to putting more pressure on their respective governments to ensure that funding promises are met, and the right policies put in place, to make a real difference to local communities across the world.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Archbishop of Canterbury, Poverty

ACN Chancellor Responds to Property Task Force Memo on Deposing Bishops

The Memo is a regrettable effort to justify the unjustifiable. No right thinking person will be taken in by it. Perhaps the Task Force could redeem its work, however, by turning the Memo into a polemic for the amendment at General Convention 2009 of Canon IV.9.2 to require only a mere majority of those present and voting to consent to the deposition of a Bishop of TEC. On the other hand, simplifying the process of deposition for Bishops who disagree with the agenda of those in power may not be in the best interest of the members of the Task Force. After all, tomorrow”¦.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Communion Network, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Polity & Canons

In Illinois 'Moment' in schools banned for now

The morning routine at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire will be 10 seconds shorter Friday after a federal judge banned the moment of silence mandated in public schools in Illinois.

Like many of their counterparts, Stevenson students have been asked to reflect or pray at the same time each day since last October, when Illinois passed the law. On Thursday a judge halted that requirement while he figures out if the law passes constitutional muster.

Not all Illinois schools heeded the law. Administrators for districts that did comply said they didn’t foresee much impact from dropping the moment in the school year’s waning days.

Stevenson junior Aliya de Grazia welcomed the change, saying she looked forward to a moment-free start of the day.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Colorado Bishop Seeks to Remove Previously Transferred Priests

The Rt. Rev. Robert O’Neill, Bishop of Colorado, is seeking to remove from the ministry more than a dozen priests that his predecessor lawfully transferred to another Anglican province after they joined the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) more than seven years ago.

The initial list included at least one priest, the Rev. Robert John Bryan, who claims not to have received any communication on the matter. He expressed surprise at the news of his inhibition when contacted by The Living Church, and said he had not received any communication from anyone in the Diocese of Colorado since receiving a copy of his letter of transfer nearly eight years ago.

The Rev. Canon Colin Kelly, president of the Diocese of the Rio Grande’s standing committee, confirmed that Fr. Bryan has been a canonically resident priest in good standing of that diocese since 2002. According to several priests in the Rio Grande who spoke with The Living Church, he served with distinction and loyalty as priest-in-charge at St. Matthew’s, Las Lunas, M.M., for about five years. He decided to retire from the active ministry and moved back to Colorado to be nearer to family last year.

In 2000, 17 priests from the Diocese of Colorado, including Fr. Bryan, sought to leave The Episcopal Church after the formation of the AMiA that year. The Rt. Rev. Jerry Winterrowd, who was Bishop of Colorado from 1991-2004, signed and sent letters dimissory for all the priests to the “Ecclesiastical Authority of the Church of the Province of Southeast Asia.”

Read the whole article.

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

Computer trained to "read" mind images of words

A computer has been trained to “read” people’s minds by looking at scans of their brains as they thought about specific words, researchers said on Thursday.

They hope their study, published in the journal Science, might lead to better understanding of how and where the brain stores information.

This might lead to better treatments for language disorders and learning disabilities, said Tom Mitchell of the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who helped lead the study.

“The question we are trying to get at is one people have been thinking about for centuries, which is: How does the brain organize knowledge?” Mitchell said in a telephone interview.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

Thomas Barnett: The Pentagon's new map for war and peace

Very interesting stuff.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces

On a Personal Note: Made it Through the Colonoscopy

Even though I am under 50, my mom had polyps in her colon and so I had this done as a precaution. The preparation was ghastly, and I had to go through it twice over two days. I am dizzy and wan but the doctor gave a good report. How do you spell relief–KSH.

Update: Read what Dave Barry wrote about having a colonoscopy as provided by one of our commenters.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

Philip Stephens: Uncomfortable truths for a new world of them and us

Globalisation belonged to us; financial crises happened to them.

The world has been turned on its head. Consumers in the wealthiest nations are struggling with the consequences of the credit crunch and with the soaring cost of energy and food. In China, retail sales have been rising at an annual 15 per cent. I cannot think of a better description of the emerging global order.

The trouble is that the politics of globalisation lags ever further behind the economics. For all its tacit recognition that power has been flowing eastwards, the west still wants to imagine things as they used to be. In this world of them and us, “they” are accused by Democratic contenders in the US presidential contest of stealing “our” jobs. Now, you hear Europeans say, “they” are driving up international commodity prices by burning “our” fuel and eating “our” food.

The other day I listened to an eminent central banker offer a lucid explanation of the collapse of confidence that last summer paralysed international credit markets. I say lucid because he kept it simple, skipping the indecipherable stuff about algorithms, bundled securities and mark-to-market accounting rules.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Globalization

Jordana Horn: Discussing the Legacy Of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

The main task of prophetic thinking,” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-72) wrote in his seminal book, “The Prophets,” “is to bring the world into divine focus.” For two hours at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage last week, Dartmouth Prof. Susannah Heschel (the rabbi’s daughter) and Princeton Prof. Cornel West used Rabbi Heschel’s words to discuss whether there is a “prophetic spirit” in modern America.

The answer, more than a century after the rabbi’s birth, was a resounding “yes.” But the question of how that spirit can manifest itself — and in whom — turned out to be more complex.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, born in Warsaw, was the descendant of two Hasidic rabbinic dynasties. He grew up in Poland and received his doctorate from the University of Berlin. His dissertation was later published as “The Prophets.” In 1940, he left Europe for the U.S., and in 1945 he became a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Heschel’s writings — studied extensively in Jewish and Christian communities alike — give great consideration to the relationship between man and God and the potential for individuals to imbue their own lives with a sense of sanctification and purpose. “We are called upon to be an image of God,” he said in an ABC interview in 1971. “You see, God is absent, invisible, and the task of a human being is to represent the divine, to be a reminder of the presence of God.”

Read it all.

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

Few Churchgoers Tithe, Study Says

Linda Pateo of Gardendale, Ala., says she and her husband, Robert, try to give 5 percent of their income to their church and 5 percent to Christian charities, but it’s difficult with three children in college.

“I have strong feelings that God expects first fruits,” Pateo said. “Sometimes we fall short. It’s something we are all called to do.”

A recent poll by pollster George Barna shows that only 5 percent of Americans say they tithe, or give at least 10 percent of their income to religious congregations and charitable groups.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry, Stewardship

Church Times: 'Chaos’ warning as rumours fly after Bishops’ meeting

CAMPAIGNERS who are opposed to women bishops warned of financial chaos and a mass walk-out, if rumours prove to be true that the Church of England House of Bishops voted last week to consecrate women bishops without making acceptable provision for those who object.

Margaret Brown, the chairman of the Third Province Movement, said on Wednesday that the Bishops appeared to be ready to break the promise made by the General Synod that objectors would have “an honoured place” in the Church. It would be unchristian to leave them out in the cold, she said.

“There are 900 parishes, of various shades of churchmanship, who are opposed to women in the episcopate, and they are a force to be reckoned with. There could be very serious consequences if the reports turn out to be true,” Mrs Brown said. There would be “vast legal costs”, as parishes struggled with questions about property while seeking to leave the Church of England.

Read it all.

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

Workers shifting to 4-day week to save gasoline

When Ohio’s Kent State University offered custodial staff the option of working four days a week instead of five to cut commuting costs, most jumped at the chance, part of a U.S. trend aimed at combating soaring gasoline prices.

“We offered it to 94 employees and 78 have taken us up on it,” said university spokesman Scott Rainone.

The reason is simple: rising gas prices and a desire to retain good workers. And while so far only the university’s custodians are eligible, Rainone hopes the option will be offered to all departments — including his own.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

Simon Barrow on Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: Blinkered Bishop

To those who live outside the bubble of Daily Mail “why oh why” anxiety about a nation going to the dogs, the latest remarks from the Anglican Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, will probably seem little more than the fulminations of an irate cleric who didn’t succeed in his candidature for Canterbury. But there’s rather more to it than that.

Nazir-Ali is not, as some of his critics will want to claim, a stupid or bigoted man. He is, rather, a representative of a whole swath of opinion (some of it militantly Christian and some of it agnostic but conservative) that finds itself up a cultural cul-de-sac and cannot think of anywhere to go but backwards – towards an imagined society of stability and order based on allegedly Judeo-Christian values.

Much like the idea that churches used to be full to the brim in the Victorian era, a popular misconception punctured by the research of Professor Robin Gill and others, this notion holds little water. The era of Christendom in Europe, one where institutional religion found a secure and privileged place in the social order in exchange for pronouncing its blessing on governing authority, is coming to an end. For many of us, Christians included, that is a sign of hope not despair.

Read it all.

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

Alistair Harper: Britain's Moral Collapse

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture

Court sides with Anglican Church against breakaway B.C. parish in Western Canada

The Anglican Church of Canada has won, at least temporarily, a legal tug-of-war over a breakaway parish in Metchosin, just west of Victoria.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has decided it would be unjust to grant exclusive use of St. Mary’s of the Incarnation to those parishioners who had elected to split from the national church. That, Madam Justice Marion Allan ruled, would be unfair to the 14 remaining parishioners now relegated to a smaller, heritage church.

The dispute, largely centred on the issue of same-sex marriage, is part of a larger schism rocking the Anglican Church across Canada. Last June, the general synod of the Anglican Church of Canada voted narrowly not to bless same-sex unions. Still, the dioceses of Ottawa, Montreal and Niagara later decided to do so, following the lead of the Lower Mainland.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

Johann Hari: The world must end its addiction to oil

This week, a battalion of angry addicts brought London to a standstill. They snarled up the traffic, then marched on 10 Downing Street to demand their fix at prices they can afford. Across the world, in countries as different as the US and Iran, fellow junkies are rising up in rage. Their addiction is to a gloopy black drug called petrol ”“ and we are all about to go cold turkey.

In the past seven years, the price of oil has soared from $30 (£15) a barrel to $140. By the end of next year it could be at $200. No matter how much we plead or howl at our governments, it will never go back: the final act of the Age of Oil has begun.

The era that is ending began at 10.30am on 10 January 1901, on a high hill called Spindletop in south-eastern Texas. A pair of pioneer brothers managed to drill down into the biggest oilfield ever found. Until then, the dribbles of oil that had been discovered were used only for kerosene lamps ”“ but within a decade, this vast gushing supply was driving the entire global economy. It made the 20th century ”“ its glories, and its gutters ”“ possible. Humans were suddenly able to use in one frenetic burst an energy supply that had taken 150 million years to build up. A species that died before the age of 40 after a life of boring, back-breaking labour spurted forward so far and so fast that today billions live into their eighties after a life of leisure and plenty.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization

Stonehenge Used as Cemetery From the Beginning

At least part of the mystery of Stonehenge may have now been solved: It was from the beginning a monument to the dead.

New radiocarbon dates from human cremation burials among and around the brooding stones on Salisbury Plain in England indicate that the site was used as a cemetery from 3000 B.C. until after the monuments were erected around 2500 B.C., British archaeologists reported Thursday.

What appeared to be the head of a stone mace, a symbol of authority, was found in one grave, the archaeologists said, indicating that this was probably a cemetery for the ruling dynasty responsible for erecting Stonehenge.

“It’s now clear that burials were a major component of Stonehenge in all its main stages,” said Mike Parker Pearson, an archaeologist at the University of Sheffield in England.

Some scholars have contended that the enigmatic stones, surrounded by a ditch and earthen banks in concentric circles, more than likely marked a sacred place of healing. The idea is at least as old as medieval literature, which also includes stories of Stonehenge as a memorial to the dead. So there could be an element of truth to both hypotheses, experts say.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Mark Barrowcliffe: The end of the world is nigh. Its name is Gordon

Gordon is a self-effacing, modest prophet who seems like a very nice man. That said, he has managed to convince himself of the truth of an approach to Bible study that, at best, has a history of utter failure, and at worst – my interpretation – is a complete load of rubbish. I’m not the only one to take this view. Gordon’s girlfriend of 16 years finds his faith exasperating. “She just wishes I’d forget all about it and we could get on with living a normal life,” he says.

But does he even hope his predictions come true? Gordon says he’s looking forward to the Second Coming but I can’t believe he’s welcoming the extermination of 50 per cent of mankind. “They won’t actually die,” he says. “Their spirits will inhabit angels until they decide to join the Kingdom of Heaven. If Mike here were to get hit by a bus his body would just enter another vehicle.”

Yes, I suppose it would. But what about his friends who don’t believe? He does have those, including his brothers.

“I do worry about my brothers sometimes but there are a lot of things supposed to happen before the end, albeit in rather a small time, so they should have plenty of opportunity to wake up,” he says. And even if their bodies are killed, their souls will live on and have a chance to repent.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Diocese, Congregations Argue Virginia Property Case

Lawyers for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia challenged the constitutionality of a 141-year-old Virginia statute that grants congregations control over local church property in the event of a denominational split in Fairfax County Circuit Court on May 28. They also claimed the law discriminates against hierarchical denominations in favor of congregational ones.

The statute was in turn defended by a representative of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and lawyers representing 11 departed congregations, who pointed out that the issue could have been avoided if the diocese had broken with its custom of placing title to parish property with the elected leadership of the local congregation.

Last month, Judge Randy Bellows ruled that a division within The Episcopal Church had occurred and that the statute was applicable in the case of the 11 congregations which have subsequently affiliated with the Anglican Church of Nigeria as the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). The hearing was to determine whether Virginia Statute 59-7 was a constitutionally prohibited government intrusion into the internal working of a religious denomination.

At one point Judge Bellows noted that the diocese already has specific title to 29 plots of land and questioned the lead lawyer for the Diocese of Virginia why it had not required title of all church property to be held directly in the name of the diocese.

Read it all.

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

'Shack' opens doors, but critics call book 'scripturally incorrect'

By rights, William Young, 53, should be a mess.

Emotionally distant from his missionary parents. Sexually abused by the New Guinea tribe they lived among. Grief-stricken for loved ones who died too young, too suddenly. Frantic to earn God’s love, yet cheating on his wife, Kim.

Young functioned by stuffing all the evil done to him and by him into a “shack” ”” his metaphor for an ugly, dark place hidden so deeply within him that it seemed beyond God’s healing reach.

His adultery, 15 years ago, finally blew the doors off that shack, forcing him to confront his past. “Kim made it clear,” he says. “I had to face every awful thing.”

Now, his first novel, The Shack”” centered on dialogues between a miserable main character, Mack, and three unorthodox characterizations of the Holy Trinity ”” telescopes Young’s transformation to a man spiritually reborn and aware every moment of God’s love. It slams “legalistic” religions, denominations and doctrines. It barely even mentions the Bible.

Read it all.

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

Time Magazine: Tony Blair's Leap of Faith

In 1910, when Bethlehem was a town in a sleepy province of the Ottoman Empire, a local man built a magnificent house on the main road from Jerusalem to Hebron. Made from the region’s limestone””whose shades, from pale honey to dazzling white, give the Holy Land its distinctive palette””the house was built around courtyards and fountains in the Ottoman style; frescoes and mosaics graced its walls and ceilings. In the 1930s, the man’s family went bankrupt. The house was later used as a prison by the British, when they governed Palestine under a League of Nations mandate; it then did service as a police academy and a school. But in 2000 the old house was converted into a hotel. Closed during the second intifadeh, the Jacir Palace InterContinental reopened its doors in 2005.

On the evening of May 21, hundreds of business leaders from the region and beyond flowed through the halls of the hotel, past banks of honeysuckle and jasmine, into the garden, where cooks grilled chicken on giant charcoal burners and served baba ghanoush, tabbouleh and baklava. Participants at a conference on investment opportunities in Palestine, they talked up the prospects of the local information-technology industry (whose products, which can be whizzed to markets electronically, are not subject to the whims of Israeli border guards) and bragged about the performance of the Palestine stock exchange. At the center of the crowd””trim, smiling and looking a lot more relaxed than he did a year ago, when he resigned as Britain’s Prime Minister after 10 years at the post””was Tony Blair, the special envoy to the Middle East of the U.S.-Russia-European Union-U.N. “Quartet” of powers.

On May 30 in New York, Blair, 55, formally unveils The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which, among other things, is dedicated to proving that collaboration among those of different religious faiths can help address some of the world’s most pressing social problems. A quick look around the crowd at the Jacir Palace, and you might think that Blair’s work was already done””here were Jews, Christians and Muslims working together to make life better for ordinary Palestinians. A more measured assessment would lead to a different, more depressing conclusion. The Jacir Palace is a few minutes’ walk from a checkpoint at the looming security wall that Israel built after the second intifadeh, to physically separate the Jewish state from the West Bank. In Bethlehem, a long-established Arab Christian community is shrinking in the face of growing Islamic militancy. Even the Church of the Nativity (carved up by the Orthodox, Catholic, Assyrian, Coptic and Armenian denominations, a symbol of the divisions within Christianity) has not been immune to the clash of faiths. In 2002 Palestinian militants took refuge there, and together with civilians inside the church, were besieged by Israeli soldiers for 39 days. Blair understands very well that the Palestine-Israel conflict is about land, about culture, about competing narratives of history””but that it is also about faith. “Muslims often say of extremists,” he says, “It’s really got nothing to do with religion. And I say to them, These people say that they’re doing it in the name of God, so we can’t say that it doesn’t matter. It does matter.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Middle East, Religion & Culture

A BBC Audio Segment on Self-Deception

Why our brains convince us our decisions were right, even when the facts may suggest we were wrong.

Listen to it all.

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