Daily Archives: April 20, 2009

Pop tunes eclipse hymns at British funerals

Abide With Me, Amazing Grace and Jerusalem have been eclipsed by the strains of Frank Sinatra, Celine Dion and Robbie Williams, according to the latest figures.

A survey of 30,000 funerals conducted last year found that hymns were the most popular requests at only 35 per cent of services, down from 41 per cent in 2005. Contemporary songs accounted for 58 per cent of requests, up from 55 per cent, with classical pieces making up the remaining seven per cent (from 4 per cent).

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

A (London) Times Editorial: A Travesty of Justice in Iran

Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American, has been jailed for eight years for espionage in Tehran. Yet she is not a spy. She is a journalist, arrested for possession of a bottle of wine and convicted after a parody of a trial that was held in secret and lasted a few minutes.

This process was not due process, despite the intervention of an apparently embarrassed President Ahmadinejad, whose chief of staff wrote to the prosecutor to insist that Ms Saberi be allowed to defend herself. Nor is her sentence anything but a ham-fisted provocation.

It is not yet clear who within the Iranian regime is responsible for hounding Ms Saberi. But it is clear who and what will suffer. Until her release has been secured it will be politically impossible for President Obama to proceed with his efforts to break the 30-year impasse in US-Iranian relations.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Iran, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Middle East

Roger Cohen: Israel, Iran and Fear

As Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist, has written, Israel was supposed not only to take the Jewish people out of exile but ensure that exile was “taken out of the Jewish people.” In this, 61 years after its creation, Israel has fallen short.

Uncertainty does not so much hang over the country as inhabit its very fiber. Existential threats ”” from Iran, from Hamas and Hezbollah, from demography ”” are forever invoked. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses ”” for now ”” to support even the notion of Palestinian statehood.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Israel, Middle East, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle

Growing faith in ghosts in the UK

Four IN 10 Britons believe in ghosts and the supernatural according to research by a theology think tank.

Theos also found that more than half of people believe in life after death and that London has the highest number of people who believe in ghosts.

Carried out by ComRes on behalf of Theos, the poll of 2,000 shows that 70 per cent of people believe in the human soul, 55 per cent believe in heaven and 53 per cent believe in life after death.

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

Gene Robinson says church should avoid civil marriages

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop told a Los Angeles gathering yesterday that the church should begin mending divisions over the issue of same-sex marriage by getting out of the civil marriage business altogether.

During a visit to St. Michael and All Angels Church, the Rev. Gene Robinson said he favored the system used in France and other parts of Europe in which civil marriage – performed by government officials – is completely separate from religious vows. In the United States, the civil and religious ceremonies often are combined by the cleric signing the government marriage license.

“In this country, it has become very confusing about where the civil action begins and ends and where the religious action begins and ends, because we have asked clergy to be agents of the state,” said Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church/State Matters, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

U.S. May Convert Banks’ Bailouts to Equity Share

President Obama’s top economic advisers have determined that they can shore up the nation’s banking system without having to ask Congress for more money any time soon, according to administration officials.

In a significant shift, White House and Treasury Department officials now say they can stretch what is left of the $700 billion financial bailout fund further than they had expected a few months ago, simply by converting the government’s existing loans to the nation’s 19 biggest banks into common stock.

Converting those loans to common shares would turn the federal aid into available capital for a bank ”” and give the government a large ownership stake in return.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

GetReligion: Faith and the Zen bishop-elect

The headline grabber is that Thew Forrester is both an Episcopal priest and an ordained ”” whatever that means ”” teacher of Zen Buddhism. However, it is also interesting that, when he was elected, Thew Forrester was the only nominee. In an attempt to derail the election, conservatives are asking, “Who anointed him in this manner and why?”

The bishop-elect has avoided mainstream coverage, in part, by declining interviews from publications such as the respected Anglican periodical The Living Church. The lack of info has allowed his supporters to simply say he is being attacked by people who have no interest in understand the complex nature of his approach to these faiths.

However, Frank “Bible Belt Blogger” Lockwood of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has marched into the gap, landing an interview that may be just as hot as his famous ”” on the record, nicely recorded ”” interview with former President Carter in which he called the George W. Bush administration the “worst in history.”

You’ll need to check it out. But here is the top of the story, which is a rare mainstream news report that asks basic doctrinal questions and then prints the answers. Note that Lockwood assumes that this controversy actually centers on religious doctrines and liturgical issues, not simply politics. What a concept.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan

LA Times–Jewish legacy inscribed on genes?

At 3:17 one morning, after a long night searching a database of scientific journals from his disheveled home office in Albuquerque, [Gregory] Cochran fired off an e-mail to his collaborator Henry Harpending, a distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I’ve figured it out, I think,” Cochran typed. “Pardon my crazed excitement.”

The “faulty” genes, Cochran concluded, make Jews smarter.

That provocative — some would say inflammatory — hypothesis has landed Cochran and Harpending in the middle of a charged debate about the link between IQ and DNA.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Jonathan Merritt: 'Love the sinner'

As a 26-year-old, I feel a lot like others within my generation. I have deep sympathy for my friends who are gay. They often suffer as societal pariahs at the hands of misinformed Christians who believe that gays have chosen their sexual orientation. Though I unashamedly believe that God desires a better path for their lives, I also understand that my obligation to love them is not dependent upon their capitulation to a particular belief system.

When I hear younger evangelicals address homosexuality, they speak with compassion, sympathy and love that have been uncommon among the Falwells and Robertsons. But this change in tone isn’t surprising because rising generations are twice as likely to be in close community with someone who is gay. It is a lot easier to fight a faceless “agenda” than it is to war against a friend.

Now is the time for those who bear the name of Jesus Christ to stop merely talking about love and start showing love to our gay and lesbian neighbors. It must be concrete and tangible. It must move beyond cheap rhetoric. We cannot pick and choose which neighbors we will love. We must love them all.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology

Study: Nearly half of high schoolers have been hazed

Authors of an ambitious survey of hazing in colleges and universities have turned their attention to high schools and discovered that many freshmen arrive on campus with experience ”” with 47% reporting getting hazed in high school.

As in college, high school hazing pervaded groups from sports teams to the yearbook staff and performing arts, according to professors Elizabeth Allan and Mary Madden of the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

Churches spread the word through Twitter

Not everything people see on Twitter is gospel — but some of it is.

In an effort to spread its message in the world of social networking, Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church married microblogging and social networking with the Gospel Friday when it told the Passion of Christ, the story of the crucifixion, in posts of 140 characters or fewer.

From noon-3 p.m., a church worker posted 18 tweets adapted from the Gospel of Mark. The story was largely told through the eyes of six characters: Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Peter, a serving girl and Pontius Pilate.

One tweet read, ”ServingGirl: is so tired. Caiaphas and the priests have been up all night questioning a man who claims to be the Messiah. And I wait on them.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

Austin American-Statesman: Jeffrey Miller puts his twist on Buddhism

In many ways, Surya Das, 58, remains Jeffrey Miller, the Jewish, three-sport high school letterman from Long Island. Miller enrolled at the University of Buffalo in the late 1960s and like many of his friends with college draft exemptions, took part in the demonstrations against the Vietnam War. He got tear-gassed in Washington. He survived the mud-slicked bliss of Woodstock.

The anger and frustration over the war culminated for Miller in the clash between students and the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University in 1970.

Allison Krause, the girlfriend of one of his best high school friends, was one of the four students shot and killed by guardsmen. Violence, he concluded, was not a path to peace. And trading a bachelor’s degree in psychology for a job was not a way to contentment.

“Those were heavy times,” he said. “I was looking for something different. I was always a questioner, following my heart and sniffing around with my nose for a way to find peace, to become peace. I headed east.”

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

Jami Smith gets asked to write an April 19 Memorial Song

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Terrorism, Violence

14 years Ago Today: Oklahoma City bombing memories adorn quilt

The quilt was sewn out of joy and pain, memories and loss.

This same quilt will forever memorialize a daughter and unborn grandchild lost in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

The patchwork of memories of Carrie Ann Lenz’s 26 years reminds her mother, Doris Jones, of happy times she shared with her daughter.

Cut from her daughter’s clothes, which until recently hung unworn but cherished in a guest bedroom, each of the quilt’s 48 squares holds a memory for Jones.

Read it all and the photos are worth the time also.

The whole memorial service is available here.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Terrorism, Violence

Houston Church Leaders Speak Out About Bible Listening

“Our people have been reading the Bible for years,” said Dave Peterson, senior pastor at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church. “When we suggested listening to the New Testament many wondered why. But hearing is turning out to be a very different experience from reading. New doors of understanding are opening all over the place.”

“Most of us have been reading the Bible for many, many years,” added Dr. Ed Young, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church. “Listening to God’s Word, however, can add even greater depth and understanding to our times in the Scripture.”

The Rev. Laurens A. Hall, rector at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, said, “Parishioners are ecstatic about the You’ve Got The Time format, experiencing the Word of God as they had never done before.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Church Fundraiser Turns Into Pie Fight

At St. Cecillia’s Catholic Church in Rochester, Pa., members were stunned when a state food safety inspector told them that they couldn’t sell homemade pies during events anymore ”” because they were breaking the law.

Guest host Linda Wertheimer speaks to Louise Humbert, a St. Cecilia’s parishioner and pie baker, about the decision and the reaction from church members.

Listen to it all from NPR.

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

The Economist: Fixing health care

Our special report this week argues that change may finally be under way. It is prompted, in part, by a host of information and communication technologies that should make health care much more portable, precise and personal. The spread of electronic medical records and the emergence of a “smart grid” for medicine (so doctors, and in some cases patients, can see what their peers are doing) should bring more transparency. “Intelligent pills” that come tailored to people’s needs should be cheaper than the one-drug-fits-all variety, especially if the doses do not have to rely on humans remembering when to take them. Personal medical monitors and other devices should make it easier to treat expensive chronic diseases that last for years, such as diabetes and heart defects, on a preventive basis. Your ticker can be monitored at home remotely rather than having to come in for check-ups, and problems can be spotted in advance, thus avoiding costly hospitalisations.

Change is also being prompted by the willingness of doctors and politicians, especially ones in poorer countries, to apply at least some economic tests to medical spending. One example is India (see article), where poor patients mostly have to pay for their own health care: its techniques and business models may yet be copied in the rich world. Another leader is Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which has championed the use of basic economic appraisals, albeit in an over-centralised way. Mr Obama wants to expand comparative effectiveness studies and health technology assessments. These sound boring but could save billions, which is one reason so many health-care firms moan about them.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

A Time Magazine Cover Story: Living the Great Recession

You’d be amazed at how you don’t even know where your money goes. It took us a couple of months to get a firm handle on our expenses. There are some things you only pay a few times a year and you forget them, and then they crop up and you don’t have $40 for the water bill or veterinarian. I distributed flyers around the neighborhood offering babysitting and elder-care services. I can take care of an infant for a few hours as well as any high school girl. I’m tired of waiting for someone else to offer me a job.

It’s hard to invite people for dinner, so we don’t accept many invitations. We went to the art show on the day tickets were discounted, and told friends we’d brown-bag our lunches. One of them said we could go to a cheap restaurant, but I can’t. I’m not sure they really understand how it is. I know I didn’t until it happened to me.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Sunday Telegraph: US economy is still facing 'substantial risks'

Larry Summers, chair of the National Economic Council, said there were signs that worst may be over but warned that “it is a long road and it is going to take time” after the damage inflicted on the financial system.

“There are downside contingencies that we’ve got to prepare for, issues in the global economy, in commercial real estate. We can’t know with certainty what’s going to happen next, and there certainly are real risks ahead,” he said at the Americas summit in Trinidad.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

News and Observer: Why do People Choose the Parish Where they Worship?

As brand loyalty to everything from detergents to cell phone carriers is dwindling, so too is loyalty to a denomination that may have nurtured and formed successive generations in a particular faith tradition.

“People tend to go churches that meet their needs before they ever look at the name on the sign,” said Bill Leonard, dean of the divinity school at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.

One reason for this switching is that people choose congregations for many reasons, not all of them spiritual. In many cases, they are practical.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Christian Science Monitor: Arguing the size of the "tea party" protest

Yet the idea of non-traditional protesters using bottom-up organizing to foment a national movement in the span of 60 days may have marked a turning point for the tea partiers ”“ especially since the high attendance estimates rivaled the estimated 500,000 or so protesters who converged on New York City and several other major cities to oppose the Iraq War on Feb. 15, 2003.

“I think it’s not dissimilar from what we had in 2003 with the anti-war protests, where a lot of people were uncomfortable with the war, but also uncomfortable with the anti-war position, recognizing there are terrorists out there,” says Jeremi Suri, a history professor who specializes in social movements at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “Here we have a similar thing: There are serious economic issues, and it’s unclear to many people whether the stimulus is going to deal with these.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Mark Steyn: Tea Party animals not boiling over

. Asked about the tea parties, President Barack Obama responded that he was not aware of them. As Marie Antoinette said, “Let them drink Lapsang Souchong.” His Imperial Majesty at Barackingham Palace having declined to acknowledge the tea parties, his courtiers at the Globe and elsewhere fell into line. Talk-show host Michael Graham spoke to one attendee at the 2009 Boston Tea Party who remarked of the press embargo: “If Obama had been the king of England, the Globe wouldn’t have covered the American Revolution.”

The American media, having run their own business into the ground, are certainly qualified to run everybody else’s into the same abyss. Which is why they’ve decided that hundreds of thousands of citizens protesting taxes and out-of-control spending and government vaporization of Americans’ wealth and their children’s future is no story. Nothing to see here. As Nancy Pelosi says, it’s AstroTurf ”“ fake grass-roots, not the real thing.

Besides, what are these whiners so uptight about? CNN’s Susan Roesgen interviewed a guy in the crowd and asked why he was here:

“Because,” said the Tea Partier, “I hear a president say that he believed in what Lincoln stood for. Lincoln’s primary thing was he believed that people had the right to liberty, and had the right ”¦”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Taxes, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The National Deficit, 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

Bishop Tom Wright–Let Beauty Awake: a sermon at the Eucharist in Durham Cathedral on Easter 2009

I come to the twentieth chapter of John’s gospel once more, in awe as always of its simple but fathomless power. Recent writers have explored the way in which John’s gospel is focussed on the Temple in Jerusalem, and though the Temple is not mentioned in this chapter, John is the kind of writer who hopes that his readers will have picked up where things are going by now, and will make the connections for themselves. So what has he said so far, and how does it play out in this chapter?

Already in the Prologue, which balances chapter 20 in so many ways as the framework for the gospel, John has declared that the Word became flesh and tabernacled in our midst; he pitched his tent, came to dwell among us as in the Temple; and, in case there were any doubt, John says ”˜and we beheld his glory’. The return of God’s glory to dwell in the midst of his people was the great, unrealized hope of the last four hundred years before the time of Jesus; the Jewish people had come back from exile, but God’s glory, the Shekinah, had not returned. The later prophets insisted that God would come back, but nobody ever claimed it had happened. And this was the more to be regretted, because the Old Testament, in a wide variety of ways, had indicated that the Temple, and the presence of the living God within it, was to be the sign and the means of God’s filling not just a building but the whole earth with his glory.

But it is a main theme of the New Testament, often unnoticed, that the return of the Glory to dwell with God’s people was precisely what was going on in the ministry, and supremely in the death and resurrection, of Jesus.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics