Monthly Archives: February 2009
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary””we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
–Romans 5:3-5 from The Message
“Our view is the economy will continue to deteriorate sharply this quarter and next quarter and be pretty weak second quarter and maybe sort of see stability fourth quarter, and then I think you will have a pretty, and a weak 2010 although I don’t think it will keep declining”¦I think 2011 will show some growth but still be well below the levels of 2006 and 2007. My own view is you may not get back to 2006 and 2007 a long time because we have sort of an emotional and psychic shift going on in America which is back to basics don’t live on leverage, live within your means, more humble life styles, less extravagant consumption, savings and all of that sort of stuff.
I believe that a lot of people in America are legitimately scared and have seen their life savings or what they perceived as their net worth largely either wiped out or cut in half. That’s going to forge fundamental behavioral differences and that will retard the growth.”
O God and Heavenly Father,
Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; the courage to change that which can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
–The so-called Serenity Prayer, often attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr and many others (when I first learned it before being a Christian in high school I was told it was by Saint Augustine), but which clearly predates him and whose original authorship is still in some dispute/doubt
From front to back and on nearly every page, President Obama’s new budget plan delivers a stark message: It’s time for the rich to lighten the load on the middle class.
In education, healthcare and an array of other proposals, the budget focuses more benefits on middle-class and lower-income Americans and looks to the affluent to help pay for them.
The change is meant to reverse a long-running trend in the opposite direction.
The Church of England’s investment fund, which pays the pensions of retired clergy, lost about 1.2 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) last year as stock markets tumbled and property values slumped amid the global financial crisis.
The 305-year-old fund, one of the best performing funds of its type over the past decade, lost an estimated 22 percent last year, the Church Commissioners said in an e-mailed statement today. The benchmark FTSE 100 Index lost almost 30 percent, the statement said.
“The impact of the overall financial situation would be much greater had we not taken a range of steps before the full extent of the financial crisis was felt by the markets,” Andrew Brown, secretary of the Church Commissioners, said in the statement.
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
–Psalm 30:10-12 (KJV)
Gordon Brown will seek to make common cause with President Obama next week over the best way to take the world out of recession.
The Prime Minister aims to use a two-day trip to Washington to bond with the US President over the issue on which Mr Brown has staked his damaged political reputation: the massive state-funded stimulus packages to the world’s stricken economies.
One Downing Street aide described their White House meeting as an attempt to present a united front against the “forces of global conservatism”.
The most interesting answer they gave to a question, though, was this:
12. How was it decided to present one name for Bishop/Ministry Developer?
In the traditional search process anyone can throw his or her hat into the ring. Someone decides that they want to be a bishop. It is self-selection. We chose to use the discernment process that has served us well in the local congregations for the past twenty plus years. At the congregational level there is often more than one person discerned for the same ministry. The team after much discussion and struggle came to the conclusion that we would try to focus or stay true to what the congregational conversations had revealed. Because there is only one bishop/ministry developer we would try and discern one person that best fit the criteria outlined by the people of this diocese, the person who would most fully encompass these gifts. This person would be able to function as part of a team and truly be able to share the Episcopal leadership in this diocese.
In a traditional election model three or four names are presented for the vote. Usually one person will stand out as a better fit and the others would be “ok.” People don’t know the candidates well when they come to convention. Our intention is to present one name based on prayerful consideration that is the very best fit for the ministry in this unique diocese. It is our hope that because of the careful, prayerful discernment of the team, one person will become the obvious choice. This one person will be presented to the diocese as the team’s best recommendation.
It is in this one answer that we see all of the “new age” elements of the process beginning to coalesce. It begins with a small circle of those “in the know”, who bring in trusted colleagues from the “outside” to lend a sheen of objectivity, and to help bring others into the middle of the circle. By meeting together in confidence twice a month for six months, the circle gains both unanimity and a conviction that it is on the right path. What the circle loses, however, is any sense of accountability to those outside of it….
Anyone who has troubled to read this far should appreciate the magnitude of the uphill battle that lies ahead. It should be obvious from all the connections spelled out earlier that a number of bishops, beginning with the Presiding Bishop, will want to see this election confirmed—not for the benefit, necessarily, of the parishioners in Northern Michigan, but for its precedential value as a method to control the selection of bishops in other dioceses.
Take a look around the Church. The movement for “Mutual Ministry” is already flourishing in many other dioceses (albeit the more sparsely populated ones)—Eastern Tennessee, for example, parts of New England, and even the Church of England. As finances become critical with declining membership, the model of the “Bishop/Ministry Developer” pioneered in Northern Michigan will become attractive to more dioceses. Because Mutual Ministry is virtually content-free (it has to be in order to be all-inclusive), it combines well with any other set of spiritual beliefs, not the least of which is Buddhism.
This is where the changes of 1979 have brought us. The future of our Church lies before us as we watch what is happening in the Diocese of Northern Michigan.
After the Realignment Resolution passed at the 2007 Diocesan Convention, Calvary took the position that if Realignment occurred after a second reading of the resolution at the 2008 Convention, then the Stipulation would act to bar the Diocese from continuing to use and administer Diocesan property. We opposed this argument, advising the court of our position that the Stipulation did not address realignment. We advised the court that the process for Diocesan realignment was in place and that we intended after realignment to continue to hold and administer Diocesan property for the beneficial use of all the parishes.
This process was transparent. We have tried to follow the good example of St. Paul in the 26th chapter of Acts by speaking and acting openly, and “not in a corner.”
The leaders of the new diocese challenge the validity of the Diocesan realignment. Although we strongly disagree with this position, we recognize that some of these leaders publicly took this position at our 2007 and 2008 Conventions. In this respect, it is right to acknowledge that their position on this issue is consistent, and to recognize that they believe it their duty to challenge the legitimacy of the Diocesan action.
The same cannot be said, however, for the new diocese leaders’ recent adoption of Calvary’s arguments regarding the 2005 Stipulation and Order. On behalf of the new diocese’s Standing Committee and Board of Trustees, Dr. Simons and Mr. Ayres (the presidents of each body) have written: “We call attention to the stipulation signed in good faith by Bishop Duncan’s attorneys on October 15, 2005, which clearly defines how assets are to be disposed of, if any attempt to leave the Episcopal Church occurred – they are to stay in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church.”
The statements made, and the inferences apparent for readers to draw, are both incorrect and unfair. The reference to “good faith” and “Bishop Duncan’s attorneys” appears to be an attempt to personalize the present dispute as being about my actions alone, and they question my good faith. Our counsel represented me as Bishop of the Diocese, but also represented all of the other defendants in the litigation, including the then-members of the Standing Committee, and the Diocese itself as an entity. Personal attacks on me during the litigation are not new, but I reject the improper personalization of my role as Bishop. On issues of property and fiscal stewardship, the Bishop operates within a well-defined role outlined by the Diocesan Constitution, Canons, and Financial Regulations. This structure delineates the proper role of not only the Bishop, but also the role of the Standing Committee, the Board of Trustees, the Diocesan Council, and the Diocesan Convention. I have faithfully exercised my duties on all of these issues.
Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the 18th-century founder of modern Hasidism, was once asked why his followers worshipped in an ecstatic style full of singing and dancing. He responded by telling a parable about a street-corner fiddler who played with such skill that everyone who heard him began to jig. A deaf man, unable to hear the beautiful sounds, walked by and wondered if the world had gone mad. “Why are they jumping up and down, waving their arms and turning in circles in the middle of the street?” he asked.
“My disciples are moved by the melody that issues forth from each and every thing that God, blessed be He, has created,” said the Baal Shem Tov, as the rabbi was known. “If so, how can they keep from dancing?”
Just such an exultant spirit infuses the performances of Lipa Schmeltzer, a wildly popular Hasidic performer who will be headlining a concert at the WaMu Theater of Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday. Mr. Schmeltzer, who is 30, grew up in New Square, a village in Rockland County, N.Y., founded in the 1950s by the strict Skverer Hasidic movement. He was born into a culture that required its young to devote long hours to intensive study. Young Lipa wasn’t cut out for it. Even the deaf man could have sensed that.
In an interview on BBC television this morning, [Ryanair CEO] Mr [Michael] O’Leary said that the low-cost airline was looking at the possibility of installing a coin slot on the lavatory door so that “people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny.”
Ironically, in a light-hearted survey conducted by Telegraph Travel last November, we asked readers which service they thought no-frills airlines might start charging for in the future.
56 per cent of readers said that a charge for “using the loo” would be the most likely, while 31 per cent chose “reclining seats” and 11 per cent opted for “sick bags”.
A single piece of paper may just be one of the most surprising and illuminating documents of the whole banking crisis.
It’s a one-page research note from an economist at Deutsche Bank, and it outlines in the clearest terms the kind of solution many bankers are looking for. The basic message: We should forget trying to get a good deal for taxpayers because even trying will hurt.
“Ultimately, the taxpayer will be on the hook one way or another, either through greatly diminished job prospects and/or significantly higher taxes down the line,” the document says.
In other words, the paper says, if the government tries to save taxpayers money, many people will lose their jobs and the whole economy will suffer.
…Speaking at London’s Westminster Cathedral, he went on to warn against a false pessimism within the Church and said it “has a perspective and a wisdom which society cannot afford to exclude or silence.”
He said: “The greatest danger for us at the moment is to let ourselves believe what secular culture wants us to believe about ourselves, namely, that we are becoming less and less influential and in decline.
President Obama heads to one of the nation’s most storied military bases Friday morning to unveil plans to pull most troops out of Iraq by August 2010 and he has support from an unlikely quarter ”” Senator John McCain, the Republican he beat in last year’s election.
Mr. McCain and other Republicans emerged from a meeting with Mr. Obama at the White House on Thursday evening reassured that the president’s withdrawal plan is responsible and reasonable. After securing assurances from Mr. Obama that he would reconsider his plans if violence increases, Mr. McCain and the Republicans expressed cautious support.
The convergence of Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain on Iraq would have seemed highly improbable just a few months ago, when they clashed sharply on the future of the American mission there. Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama of being naÃ¯ve and opposed his withdrawal plans. At one point, Mr. McCain said Mr. Obama “would rather lose a war than lose a campaign.”
Aides to the president said Mr. Obama approved his withdrawal plan at a meeting with his national security team Wednesday and would tell an audience of several thousand Marines and their families at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Friday that he is bringing the current phase of the war to a close in August 2010.
The Rev. Luis Barrios, an Episcopal priest canonically resident in the Diocese of New York, was sentenced to serve two months in a federal prison after he and five others were found guilty in January of entering the Fort Benning military base in Georgia as part of a protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. He is scheduled to begin serving his sentence on March 9.
Fr. Barrios and others opponents claim that graduates of the institute, formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas, “have been implicated in some of the worst human rights violations in the Western Hemisphere.” They want the government to order the school closed permanently.
The U.S. government waded deeper into the bailout of one of the nation’s largest banks Friday when it announced a deal that will give it control over as much as 36% of Citigroup’s common stock.
Citigroup shares tumbled 46% in premarket trading.
The deal will convert preferred shares that Treasury already holds in Citigroup for common shares, a shift that is designed to improve the embattled bank’s capital base, which in turn will hopefully allow it to increase its lending.
The syncopated rhythm of recession plays on repeat in a downtown Miami office building, on high-tech headsets in a room with only one window, among the voices of those seeking help.
Marie Cothias, 27, has been a state operator here since April 2007, helping Floridians with public assistance. Her calming voice and patience have made her an office favorite and, like many of her colleagues, she said she started hearing from more callers ”” with new fears ”” sometime last year.
“A lot of people were losing their jobs,” Ms. Cothias said. “A lot of people were saying, ”˜We don’t have any food for our children.’ ”
Now this call center and two others like it in Florida are overwhelmed, as are similar centers around the country. Every day, 250 operators in Florida receive up to 150,000 calls, roughly a 40 percent increase over last year.
Everyday parlance is littered with lists: laundry, grocery, honey-do. When Dick Cheney was asked by then-presidential candidate George W. Bush to find him a suitable running mate, Cheney did what all pols would do: He drew up a short list. (And then he wound up as the VP pick.)
“Enough organization, enough lists and we think we can control the uncontrollable,” observed a character on the TV show House. By now you would think there are enough lists. But still we keep jotting things down in an orderly fashion.
Why do we love lists? Let us count the ways…
In the economy, a series of financial booms and busts, dating back 20 years, has brought on the worst crisis since the Great Depression. Even defenders of free markets have come to acknowledge that markets can be manipulated or overwhelmed by investors, lenders, consumers and borrowers who act on the basis of emotion or incomplete information or act as part of an irrational herd.
And politics, a process that has come to be dominated by competition among narrow special interests has, for most of the past 15 years, produced stalemates on the country’s most pressing domestic issues. Political markets, we now know, can be easily manipulated by money and legislative redistricting and parliamentary rules that thwart the will of the majority. And these markets have trouble resolving issues in which the benefits of doing something are widely shared but the costs are highly concentrated.
The essential insight of Barack Obama has been to see that these problems are inextricably linked. While his budget incorporates bold proposals to rescue the financial system, stabilize the auto industry, jump-start the economy, reform the health-care system and eventually bring down the federal deficit, he knows he’s unlikely to win any of it if he cannot change the way business is done in Washington.
President Obama’s first budget — with its eye-popping $1.75 trillion deficit, a health-care fund of more than $600 billion, a $150 billion energy package and proposals to tax wealthy Americans even beyond what he talked about during his campaign — underscores the breadth of his aspiration to reverse three decades of conservative governance and use his presidency to rapidly transform the country.
But in adopting a program of such size, cost and complexity, Obama has far exceeded what other politicians might have done. As a result, he is now gambling with his own future and the success of his presidency.
William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution cited three parallels to Obama’s far-reaching program: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1932 New Deal blueprint, Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 Great Society agenda, and Ronald Reagan’s 1981 call to dramatically limit the size and power of government, which set the framework for public policy debate ever since.
“A consequence of the economic events of the last two years has been to blow up that framework,” Galston said. “It has lost substantial public credibility. President Obama now has his chance to make his case for a fundamentally different approach.”
Even with this information, I hesitated about speak up further. I still believed that any change would need the local people to voice what was happening. Finally, realizing that I was now something of a voice for the voiceless, I shared what I had learned with the [Episcopal Church House of Bishop and Deputies] Listserv. I was quickly accused of “Triangling.” I pointed out that I was merely being an advocate for those who because of pressure might not have a voice. Having had my say, having found no interest, having not heard from the Presiding Bishop in response to my letter, I said the serenity prayer and let it go.
So, a flawed process, run by a small group of people, has resulted in a questionable candidate elected to the Episcopate. This will result in some conservatives focusing on the person and his non-orthodox views which will result in an immediate endorsement by the progressive members of our church who will close rank to defend one of their own. The whole affair will be reduced to a conservative/liberal argument. The result will be one more Unitarian in our House of Bishops This is not what will trouble me the most.What will trouble me is three-fold. First, the dissenters in Northern Michigan have informed me that their only real alternative is to just leave the Church. Second, the Church will be pushed further by its most extreme members in silencing any true moderate voices. Lastly, it is one more sign to me that the Church, made up of a thoughtful middle of caring and gracious centrist folks who honor our rules and procedures as a way of honoring a truly embracive and inclusive community, has sadly become something else. What we have most seen in the Episcopal Church in the past 10 years is the end of reasoned faith.
The fly in the ointment is the “Buy American” clause, which has already drawn protests from other heads of state. It states: “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for a project for the construction, alteration, maintenance, or repair of a public building or public work unless all of the iron, steel, and manufactured goods used in the project are produced in the United States.” It is hard to draw any meaningful distinction between this sentiment and that expressed by various groups of British workers in recent weeks. In his wise overview of the economic crisis prepared for the General Synod, Dr Malcolm Brown warned that “recessions can provoke a growth of nationalist sentiments. . . We can expect the far-right, politically, to exacerbate community tensions and probably make electoral gains on the back of the downturn.” Dr Williams returned to this theme on Tuesday, warning of the “very high risk” that financial stringency will lead to political extremism.
Bill Clinton declared more than a decade ago “the era of big government is over.” With his new budget, President Barack Obama has brought it back.
Obama’s $3.55 trillion budget proposal represents a gamble that Americans are ready for the sort of change they embraced by electing him in November, including a tax increase on Americans making more than $250,000 a year.
He proposes expansion of spending on the U.S. healthcare system, on greater energy independence and on education, hoping Americans weary of paying for a raft of expensive bailouts for banks and the car industry will go along.
Fewer and fewer teenagers are attending church, the most recent statistics from the Church of England reveal. Although overall attendance numbers have remained largely steady since the millennium, provisional figures for 2007 show that the overall drop in attendance by under-16s has increased by four per cent over the previous year.
The statistics found that among children and young people around 9,000 less were attending Church of England churches on a weekly basis. Records show that in 2006, approximately 228,000 children and young people attended whereas in 2007 the figure was down to 219,000. The numbers are more alarming if compared to 2005 which recorded 232,000 children and young people as attending church. Meanwhile the same figures for monthly attendance fell even more with just 424,000 attending in 2007 compared to 442,000 and 444,000 in 2006 and 2005 respectively.
The Right Reverend Bishop Laish Boyd, newly enthroned Bishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands, said yesterday that although the Anglican Church in the United States has appointed an “openly gay” bishop, the churches’ position on the matter has not changed.
“The position of the Anglican community is that homosexual practice is contrary to the scripture,” Bishop Boyd said at a press confence held at the Pro-Cathedral of Christ The King.
Noting that all of the Bishops of the Anglican communion met in England last summer and that view remained the same, he added, “There are all sorts of views out there but this is the Church’s position and we have maintained that.”
Imams are out of touch with the needs of Western Muslims, and divorced from the struggles their congregants face in secular society, according to a new report from a leading Canadian scholar.
Many religious leaders don’t offer constructive advice about how to reconcile traditional beliefs with the challenges of integration in Western societies, concludes the study, which is based on focus groups with 60 lay Muslims in Ottawa, Washington and Britain.
“My ultimate fantasy would be to find an imam who gives a sermon in a Friday mosque, who happens to be someone who goes out to work from 9 to 5, takes the bus, is dealing with his kid who is picking up a marijuana joint at the age of 13,” one interviewee said, “and not speaking to me about the battles that we won 1,200 years ago.”
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced today he is lifting a 1991 ban on news coverage of the return of the remains of fallen service members to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and will let families decide whether to allow coverage.
The controversial ban on photography and other media coverage of the solemn return of flag-draped coffins — upheld by both Republican and Democratic administrations — has generated lawsuits as well as conflicting emotions on the part of military families.
“After receiving input from a number of sources, including all of the military services and the organizations representing military families, I have decided that the decision regarding media coverage of the dignified transfer process at Dover should be made by those most directly affected: on an individual basis by the families of the fallen,” Gates told reporters at a briefing at the Pentagon this afternoon. “We ought not presume to make that decision in their place.”