Daily Archives: March 17, 2009

Barry Orford: Is this the end for Anglican religious orders?

The restoration of the religious life to the Anglican Church was an enduring achievement of the Oxford Movement. Three hundred years after monasteries were swept away from this country, members of the Church of England felt again the call to serve God in communities.

The early Sisters faced hostility from clergy and laity, who regarded them as agents of popery. Today, mem­bers of the religious orders are found in many dioceses and are represented in General Synod. Countless people are deeply grateful to these Anglicans who have followed a vocation to live under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Religious have provided havens for those living their Christian vocation outside community walls; they have worked in the grimmest parishes; and they have guided individuals through spiritual direction. They have sup­ported the Church by their prayers, and borne witness to the priority of the things of the spirit. They have been both visible and invisible: seen when engaged in pastoral work, and hidden when in community.

Something is now clearly amiss with our religious communities, how­ever. Membership is rapidly declin­ing, average age is high, recruitment is desperately low, and some commun­ities have ceased to exist. Many who come to test a vocation leave before taking vows, and some of those actually in vows have also left.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, - Anglican: Commentary, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

Notable and Quotable (II)

“There’s some pretty solid evidence that shows church growth is countercyclical to economic growth, [Ed] Stelzer [President of Lifeway Research in Nashville, Tennessee] told Christianity Today, citing a 2007 study by Texas State University professor David Beckworth.

The “Praying for Recession” study found that the rate of growth in evangelical churches jumped by 50 percent during each recession between 1968 and 2004. By comparison, mainline Protestant churches continued their decline in numbers, though a bit more slowly.

Christianity Today, March 2009, page 18

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, History, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

House of Bishops gathers in North Carolina to worship, work and blog

(ENS) Some bishops remarked about the cold and wet weather at Kanuga. Bishop Stephen Lane of Maine said this in his blog about the gathering: “The spring meeting is always a longer meeting of the House of Bishops because at this meeting we have time for continuing education for all the bishops.

“The past two days we’ve been reflecting on our roles as bishops in this time of recession, when we are very divided politically about what to do. Friday we heard from Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann and from author Bill Bishop about “The Great Sort,” the self-imposed segregation of communities into like-minded cultural ghettos that are coming to dominate our political landscape,” Lane wrote.

“Saturday we heard from Harvard Business School professor Warren McFarlan about the state of the economy, and North Carolina Congressman David Price about the political process of addressing the recession and President Obama’s proposals for our future. Very good stuff and very hard work.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

Springfield Bishop Calls for Coadjutor

Following approval from the diocesan standing committee, the Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield since 1992, has called for the election of his successor.

Bishop Beckwith, who will be 70 in September, is required by church law to step down as diocesan bishop after turning 72. Current plans in Springfield call for the election of a bishop coadjutor, which is an assistant bishop with right of succession upon the retirement or death of the incumbent.

Read it all.

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

R.A. Livingston: The Episcopal Church in 2009 – A Primer for Those in the Pews

The problem, in a nutshell, is this: beginning in late 2004, the Episcopal Church began to intervene and participate in lawsuits brought by dioceses against departing churches. The object of each of these lawsuits has been to enforce through the courts a trust which the Church maintains exists on the property of every single one of its 7,000+ parishes. Under the terms of the trust, first expressed in an amendment (known as the “Dennis Canon”) to the Church canons (bylaws) in 1979, every Episcopal parish and mission holds its real and personal property””everything from the land, buildings and endowments down to the hymnbooks and altar furnishings””in trust for the diocese of which it is a member, and for the Episcopal Church as a whole.

The parish itself is allowed to be the trustee of the trust, and to use the property for its purposes, for as long as it remains in the Episcopal Church. Should it ever vote to leave its diocese, however, the Church and the diocese then become the co-beneficiaries of the trust, which would give them the right to enforce it, and assert that the property must go to them. These are the terms of the so-called “Dennis Canon”, enacted by General Convention in 1979, which lay dormant for more than twenty years before it first came into play against a parish that tried to leave.

With billions of dollars’ worth of tax-exempt religious property in the name of its parishes, the Episcopal Church committed itself to enforcing the Dennis Canon in the courts when parishes tried to retain their property after voting to leave. Most trusts are created by the person who has title to the property that is placed in trust. The Dennis Canon, however, is different. It is a trust created by the national Church, without needing the signatures of each parish vestry or rector to be effective””or so the Church claims. The lawsuits brought by the Church have each been filed with the purpose of obtaining rulings from the various State courts which uphold and enforce individual Dennis Canon trusts on parish property.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship

Interest in Wicca Going up

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,

things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought.

He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children;

that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,

so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments….

–Psalm 78:2-7

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for Saint Patrick's Day

Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: Grant us so to walk in that light, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

Notable and Quotable (I)

A few years ago, bone fide good guy Richard Smucker (the current co-CEO of Smucker’s and a fourth generation Smucker) found a letter written by his father which sums up in practical terms what it means to appreciate and express gratitude:

–Say “thank you.”

–Listen with full attention.

–Look for the good in others.

–Have a sense of humor.

–William F. Baker and Michael O’Malley, Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results (New York: Amacom, 2008), page 54

Posted in * General Interest, Notable & Quotable

Sharing the Wealth–Even When There isn't Much

A thoroughly inspiring story, this man deserves a medal. Watch it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, Economy, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

60 Minutes: Ben Bernanke's Greatest Challenge

Aside from the president he’s the most powerful man working to save the economy, but you have never seen an interview with Ben Bernanke.

Bernanke is the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, better known as the Fed. The words of any Fed chairman cause fortunes to rise and fall and so, by tradition, chairmen of the Fed do not do interviews – that is until now.

The Federal Reserve controls the economy by setting interest rates. But after the crash of 2008, Bernanke invoked emergency powers, and with unprecedented aggressiveness has thrown a trillion dollars at the crisis.

Ben Bernanke may be the most important Fed chairman in history. The question is, can he help lead America out of this deep recession and when?

Read it all. If you have the time, I highly recommend watching the video version. I thought the chairman did well–KSH.

Update: Barry Ritholtz has comments on the interview here.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Economy, Federal Reserve, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Stock Market, The U.S. Government

James Fallows: China's Way Forward

I have a lot more reports from a lot more sectors, but all lead toward the same conclusion: China’s economy may suffer more than most others, but it also has more tools and resources in reserve than most others.

Beyond straight economics, the “China is over” hypothesis seems to miss important cultural and political realities. Its unspoken premise is that average Chinese people just barely tolerate the social bargain the government now offers””limited freedom, potentially unlimited wealth. So if the regime ever falls short on its material promises, the deal will be off and people will rebel.

This does not square with what I have seen. I have often wondered why so many people in different roles and regions in China seem vivid. The answer has to be more than contrast with my own blandness. I think it is because being in China today is like being in Western Europe in the 1950s. No one’s family story is dull or uneventful. People doing routine jobs have been through great hardships and dramatic swings of fate. Last year I interviewed a party official in Shanxi province who was laying out his regional-development plans. Every 10 or 15 minutes, he would stop and say (through an interpreter), “Do you understand? If it had not been for Deng Xiaoping, I would be behind an ox in a field right now. I would not be sitting here wearing a necktie and talking to a foreigner.” Or, “Do you understand how different this is? My mother has bound feet!” A scholar I know in Beijing once offhandedly remarked that he had developed self-confidence when learning that he could survive for four years as a teenager on a labor gang during the Cultural Revolution. People in their teens and 20s were not on the labor gangs””kids today!””but they have heard the stories.

Layoffs and stagnant wages? People have seen worse. Last summer my wife and I went through villages in Sichuan province where refugees from earthquakes prepared for the next few years of residence in temporary shelters and tents. Laid-off migrant workers are returning to many of these same villages now. This is terribly hard, but in the same villages, grandparents remember when half the local population starved to death during the famines of Mao’s disastrous “Great Leap Forward” in the 1950s.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Economy

AP: Boom-years borrowing hits churches

Metropolitan Baptist Church was bursting out of its home.

From a group of freed slaves in Civil War-era Washington, Metropolitan Baptist had grown into a modern-day megachurch and community service powerhouse. In 2006, construction began on the congregation’s dream complex in Largo, Md. ”” a $30 million campus with a 3,000-seat church, an education center and an 1,100-car parking lot.

Last year, the congregation sold its church in Washington. Preparations began for the move to what leaders had taken to calling “God’s land in Largo.”

But on Oct. 20, their plans were abruptly put on hold.

The Rev. H. Beecher Hicks learned that financing for the project had dried up. Construction stopped. And the congregation found that it was homeless ”” reduced to renting space and struggling to find new financing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptists, Credit Markets, Economy, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Stephen Gratwick: Freedom to end life

Sir, It is regrettable that the Right Rev Christopher Herbert (letter, Mar 13) should suppose that the debate about assisted dying involves the question whether faith and reason are incompatible. It does not. What it involves is the issue whether, by law, one who has no faith should be restrained by those who have faith from exercising the freedom to have assistance to end his or her life.

Read the whole letter here.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

Pakistan turns onto a new and uncertain path

It was a signal moment in Pakistan’s political development: A huge demonstration forced the restoration of a dismissed chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, a symbol of democracy and the rule of law. The army did not stage a coup, but insisted that the government accept a compromise.

The deal between President Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the main opposition party, does not herald a solution to the instability of this nuclear-armed nation. Nor does it ensure the Obama administration’s primary objective of tamping down the powerful Islamic insurgency that threatens both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

How the two Pakistani politicians will resolve their rivalry is but one of many uncertainties. Another is whether the domestic political struggle will allow them or the military to focus on their country’s deteriorating security situation.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Asia, Pakistan

David Leonardt: The Looting of America’s Coffers

Sixteen years ago, two economists published a research paper with a delightfully simple title: “Looting.”

The economists were George Akerlof, who would later win a Nobel Prize, and Paul Romer, the renowned expert on economic growth. In the paper, they argued that several financial crises in the 1980s, like the Texas real estate bust, had been the result of private investors taking advantage of the government. The investors had borrowed huge amounts of money, made big profits when times were good and then left the government holding the bag for their eventual (and predictable) losses.

In a word, the investors looted. Someone trying to make an honest profit, Professors Akerlof and Romer said, would have operated in a completely different manner. The investors displayed a “total disregard for even the most basic principles of lending,” failing to verify standard information about their borrowers or, in some cases, even to ask for that information.

The investors “acted as if future losses were somebody else’s problem,” the economists wrote. “They were right.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

David P. Gushee: Mr. President, we need more than lip service

But this kind of calculation is precisely what has gotten Christian political activists in trouble in the past, not just for 40 years but for 1,600 years. We gain access to Caesar in order to affect policy; we hold onto access even if it involves compromising some of what we want in policy; in the end, we can easily forget what policies we were after in the first place. I think this definitely happened to the Christian right. It doesn’t need to be repeated by the Christian center or left.

My understanding of the majestic God-given sacredness of human life tells me that a society that legally permits abortion on demand is deeply corrupt. It pays for adult sexual liberties with the lives of defenseless developing children. That practice, in turn, desensitizes society to the implications of paying for prospective medical cures with defenseless frozen embryos, which themselves are available because our society pays for medically assisted reproductive technology by producing hundreds of thousands of these embryos as spares. And yes, that same commitment to life’s sacredness has grounded my opposition to paying for national security with torture, or paying for today’s affluence with tomorrow’s environmental destruction.

Christian conscience requires me to make this case even if it has no chance of prevailing in American society. And if we lose on abortion, as it appears we will lose for a long time to come, Christian conscience requires me to ask the government not to require citizens to pay for procuring services that violate their sacred beliefs.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Life Ethics, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture

LA Times–Hybrid car sales hit a roadblock: public's disinterest

The Ford and Honda hybrids due out this month are among dozens planned for the coming years as automakers try to meet new fuel-efficiency standards and please politicians overseeing the industry’s multibillion-dollar bailout.

Unfortunately for the automakers, hybrids are a tough sell these days.

Americans have cut back on buying vehicles of all types as the economy continues its slide. But the slowdown has been particularly brutal for hybrids, which use electricity and gasoline as power sources. They were the industry’s darling just last summer, but sales have collapsed as consumers refuse to pay a premium for a fuel-efficient vehicle now that the average gallon of gasoline nationally has slipped below $2.

“When gas prices came down, the priority of buying a hybrid fell off quite quickly,” said Wes Brown, a partner at Los Angeles-based market research firm Iceology. “Yet even as consumer interest declined, the manufacturers have continued to pump them out.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Science & Technology

Religious Intelligence: EU planned law could outlaw evangelising

Evangelising could be legally regarded as harassment, should new European Union (EU) equality legislation be approved, warns the Church.

The anti-discrimination proposals, to be considered by the 27 EU member states this year, have also been criticised by The Law Society, who feels the law could cut both ways.

In an official submission to the EU, the Society illustrated the potential problems: “In a shop or shared lodging house, there may be a notice board on which is posted material that some of those who see it will find offensive on religious grounds (for instance, a poster for a film, such as The Life Of Brian).”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Evangelism and Church Growth, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture