Daily Archives: April 29, 2009

RNS: Tight economy puts the squeeze on death rites

When Leonard Horowitz died at Putnam Hospital recently (April 20), the 92-year-old developmentally disabled man left behind no family, no friends, no savings and no final requests.

Nevertheless, Horowitz was buried with full Jewish rites at Staten Island’s Mount Richmond Cemetery, where Rabbi Shmuel Plafker recited blessings as two workers lowered Horowitz’s plain pine casket into the muddy ground.

The brief ceremony, which concluded within 20 minutes and with Plafker the only mourner present, was the second of the morning for the Hebrew Free Burial Association, a nonprofit organization founded in 1888 to provide funerals for underprivileged Jews.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Economy, Parish Ministry, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

David Brooks: Globalism Goes Viral

A single global response would produce a uniform approach. A decentralized response fosters experimentation.

The bottom line is that the swine flu crisis is two emergent problems piled on top of one another. At bottom, there is the dynamic network of the outbreak. It is fueled by complex feedback loops consisting of the virus itself, human mobility to spread it and environmental factors to make it potent. On top, there is the psychology of fear caused by the disease. It emerges from rumors, news reports, Tweets and expert warnings.

The correct response to these dynamic, decentralized, emergent problems is to create dynamic, decentralized, emergent authorities: chains of local officials, state agencies, national governments and international bodies that are as flexible as the problem itself.

Swine flu isn’t only a health emergency. It’s a test for how we’re going to organize the 21st century. Subsidiarity works best.

Read the whole column.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

The Bishop of Tennessee Explains his No Vote on Northern Michigan

I voted against consent to his election. Hesitations have been expressed in many quarters on a number of grounds. Decisive for me has been the fact that the Rev’d Thew Forrester has used liturgies not authorized for use in the Episcopal Church, on a regular and ongoing basis. The permission of one’s bishop is beside the point. No bishop of the Episcopal Church is able to authorize liturgies for use in our Church, as alternatives to the regularly appointed services, that have not been approved by the General Convention as supplements to our Prayer Book liturgies. Certainly no individual priest or vestry is able to do so. The clergy of the Episcopal Church are not free to use in church other Anglican liturgical formularies, including those authorized in other provinces of the Communion, or liturgical resources from other traditions, except within the limits set forth in our own Prayer Book. These limits have not been observed by Thew Forrester.

This discipline of the Church may be thought too narrow or unsuitable to our own age. Yet it is the order we have. The theologically inadequate baptismal rite used at St Paul’s Church, Marquette, under the aegis of Thew Forrester, is a reminder of why individuals are not allowed to write their own liturgies.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Liturgy, Music, Worship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan

Thomas Friedman: A Torturous Compromise

Weighing everything, President Obama got it about as right as one could when he decided to ban the use of torture, to release the Bush torture memos for public scrutiny and to not prosecute the lawyers and interrogators who implemented the policy. But there is nothing for us to be happy about in any of this.

After all, we’re not just talking about “enhanced interrogations.” Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, has testified to Congress that more than 100 detainees died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, with up to 27 of those declared homicides by the military. They were allegedly kicked to death, shot, suffocated or drowned. Look, our people killed detainees, and only a handful of those deaths have resulted in any punishment of U.S. officials.

The president’s decision to expose but not prosecute those responsible for this policy is surely unsatisfying; some of this abuse involved sheer brutality that had nothing to do with clear and present dangers. Then why justify the Obama compromise? Two reasons: the first is that because justice taken to its logical end here would likely require bringing George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other senior officials to trial, which would rip our country apart; and the other is that Al Qaeda truly was a unique enemy, and the post-9/11 era a deeply confounding war in a variety of ways.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, President George Bush, Terrorism

Muslim calligrapher writes Gospel of Luke for pope

Muslim calligrapher Yasser Abu Saymeh has dedicated the past two months to Christian art, writing the Gospel of Luke in ornate Arabic script to be presented to Pope Benedict XVI when the Roman Catholic leader visits the Holy Land next month.

Abu Saymeh never read a New Testament text before he was picked for the prestigious assignment by Bethlehem’s Christian mayor. He said he has since come to appreciate the shared strands of the two faiths.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Roman Catholic

Mary Ann Glendon to Receive Pro-Life Award for Notre Dame Decision

Bradley Mattes, Executive Director of Life Issues Institute, announced today that they will present the group’s prestigious “Hero at Heart” award to Mary Ann Glendon, former Ambassador to the Vatican. The honor is given annually to individuals who demonstrate outstanding courage or compassion on behalf of innocent human life. Recipients have included Congressman Henry Hyde and former Kansas Attorney General, Phill Kline.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Life Ethics

EPA Administrator Optimistic About New Laws

Lisa Jackson, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is re-energizing the agency with a sweeping agenda.

Jackson made waves recently with a ruling that greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health. That opens the way for new ”” and some say costly ”” regulations.

Listen to it all from NPR.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources, Law & Legal Issues

Past as Prologue: The Detroit Edition

A fascinating look back.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry

Mark D. W. Edington: Seekers care about connecting with God, not church 'brand'

Survey research, most recently the Pew Forum’s United States Religious Landscape Survey, shows plainly that we and most other mainline traditions are losing ground. In our case, for every seven people entering an Episcopal church, 10 are leaving. That’s not a sustainable trend.

The survey points up an interesting countertrend worth pondering. The one bright light of significant growth in the mainline group of churches is ”“ are you sitting down? ”“”nondenominational.”

We might summarize the trends the report identifies in a simple statement: The denominational structures that we inherited, those traditions once central to shaping our identity and sense of community, are answers to a question fewer and fewer people are asking.

In this era of spiritual air travel, the giant ocean liners of our traditional denominational polities are seen as inefficient, slow and generally unpleasant means of getting to where seekers ”“ and even a good number of people born into our traditions ”“ want to go.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, TEC Data

“Living the Resurrection” marks new term for Episcopal School for Ministry

A group of students and friends of the Episcopal School for Ministry gathered at Eden Seminary on April 18 for a lecture entitled “Living the Resurrection” and given by the Rev. Dr. Ralph N. McMichael, Jr., Canon for Ministry Formation in the Diocese and Dean of the School. I’m including an account of the lecture below, but first a few words about the the Episcopal School for Ministry are in order. ESM meets monthly on the campus of Eden Seminary in Webster Groves and is still accepting registrations for the summer term, which gets underway properly on May 15 & 16.

This is a school for anyone who understands ministry to be an integral part of life, rather than being exclusively aimed at those whose ministries play themselves out in a professional or institutional capacity. My experience of the place is that it’s about ministry as discipleship, not ministry as a job.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry

Martin Wolf: Fixing bankrupt systems is just the beginning

Can we afford to fix our financial systems? The answer is yes. We cannot afford not to fix them. The big question is rather how best to do so. But fixing the financial system, while essential, is not enough.

The International Monetary Fund’s latest Global Financial Stability Report provides a cogent and sobering analysis of the state of the financial system. The staff have raised their estimates of the writedowns to close to $4,400bn (€3,368bn, £3,015bn). This is partly because the report includes estimates of writedowns on European and Japanese assets, at $1,193bn and $149bn, respectively, and on emerging markets assets held by banks in mature economies, at $340bn. It is also because writedowns on assets originating in the US have jumped to $2,712bn, from $1,405bn last October and a mere $945bn last April.

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

First U.S. Death From Swine Flu Reported in Texas

A 23-month-old child from Texas has become the first American to die from the swine flu outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta confirmed today.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

Philip Turner: Unanswered Questions on the ACI Email Leak Kerfuffle

Read it carefully and read it all.

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

Michiko Kakutani reviews Joshua Ramo's new Book: The Era of Adapting Quickly

According to Joshua Cooper Ramo’s provocative new book, “The Age of the Unthinkable,” one study ”” in which hundreds of experts in subjects like economics, foreign policy and politics were asked to make predictions about the short-term future and whose predictions were evaluated five years later ”” showed that foxes, with their wide-ranging curiosity and willingness to embrace change, tended to be far more accurate in their forecasts than hedgehogs, eager for closure and keen on applying a few big ideas to an array of situations.

It’s a finding enthusiastically embraced by Mr. Ramo, who argues in these pages that today’s complex, interconnected, globalized world requires policy makers willing to toss out old assumptions (about cause and effect, deterrence and defense, nation states and balances of power) and embrace creative new approaches. Today’s world, he suggests, requires resilient pragmatists who, like the most talented Silicon Valley venture capitalists on the one hand or the survival-minded leadership of Hezbollah on the other, possess both an intuitive ability to see problems in a larger context and a willingness to rejigger their organizations continually to grapple with ever-shifting challenges and circumstances.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Books, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

Episcopal Priest Helps Former Prostitutes Pen First Book

Becca Stevens may well be the fastest-talking woman in Tennessee. Although the Episcopal priest speaks with a gentle Southern accent, the velocity is rapid-fire New York, so it’s no surprise to learn her parents hail from there. Tragically, her father””also a pastor””was killed by a drunk driver when Stevens was just five years old. That experience, she says, changed her life and made her more aware of the pain that women can feel. “We went from being this hopeful young family to looking for the Social Security check,” she says. To add to her suffering, the senior warden of the church began sexually abusing her.

Today, however, Stevens has channeled that pain into a compassionate and unique ministry to women from the streets. In 1997, she founded Magdalene, a Nashville-based program for women with a history of prostitution and substance abuse. Most of those women, Stevens says, were physically and sexually abused as children. “Because women don’t get to the streets by themselves””it takes all kinds of failed systems to get them there””they’re not going to get off the streets by themselves. It takes a community to bring them back.” Magdalene is that community, a two-year residential program that gives women job training, drug rehabilitation and a house of their own to live in. It has been so successful that there are now five houses in Nashville, two in Charleston, one in Chattanooga, and even one in Rwanda. Another is planned for Ecuador.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry