Daily Archives: October 25, 2010

(Washington Post) When the church itself needs saving

Wrestling with dramatic changes in how Americans practice their faith, many clergy members are willing to wait months to get guidance from Gallagher or someone like him. These consultants have become a small industry, roaming the country to challenge the definition of “church.”

When they work with congregations, they put everything on the table ¿ including whether the pastor and the church building are even necessary. Perhaps worshippers could meet in a movie theater instead. Or consider sharing a pastor with some other church. Or ditch their Sunday morning services for a time more people would find convenient.

Consultants routinely press their clients to stop being so fixated on their real estate, routines and rules. They argue that there are plenty of people who don’t have any interest in sitting in pews and listening to sermons. The challenge is to come up with a way to engage them.

“The role of the church and the clergy is dying, but I think it needs to,” says Tom Brackett, another minister-consultant who works on church development for the Episcopal Church. “The church doesn’t have a mission. We are part of God’s mission.”

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

CBS' 60 Minutes–99 Weeks: When Unemployment Benefits Run Out

Like the Francones, four and a half million Americans have taken hardship withdrawals from their 401(k)s. With savings gone, unemployment checks exhausted, many are coming to charities including the CALL Primrose Center, a pantry of free food.

Mary Watts has run CALL Primrose for 11 years.

“Before the Great Recession began, you were sending out how many bags of groceries in a year? Pelley asked.

“When I started in ’99 it was 4,000 bags a year,” she replied. “It’s going to be 32, to 35,000 bags this year.”

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, History, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Men, Middle Age, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Women

A Reinhold Niebuhr Quote as a Follow up to Chris Wright's Capetown 2010 address

“There is no deeper pathos in the spiritual life of man than the cruelty of righteous people. If any one idea dominates the teachings of Jesus, it is his opposition to the self-righteousness of the righteous. The parable spoken unto “certain which trusted in themselves that they are righteous, and despised others” made the most morally disciplined group of the day, his Pharisees, the object of his criticism. In fact, Jesus seems to have been in perpetual conflict with the good people of his day and ironically justified his consorting with the bad people by the remark that not those who are whole, but those who are sick, are in need of a physician…

The criticism which Jesus levelled at good people had both a religious and moral connotation. They were proud in the sight of God and they were merciless and unforgiving to their fellow-men. Their pride is the basis of their lack of mercy. The unmerciful servant, in Jesus’ parable is unforgiving to his fellow-servant in spite of the mercy which he had received from his master.

Forgiving love is a possibility only for those who know that they are not good, who feel themselves in need of a divine mercy, who live in a dimension deeper and higher than that of moral idealism, feel themselves as well as their fellow men convicted of sin by a holy God and know that the difference between the good man and the bad man are insignificant in his sight. St. Paul expresses the logic of this religious feeling in the words:

“With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not thereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.” [1 Corinthians 4:3-4; KJV]

When life is lived in this dimension the chasms which divide men are bridged not directly, not by resolving the conflicts on the historical levels, but by the sense of an ultimate unity in, and common dependence upon, the realm of transcendence.

For this reason the religious ideal of forgiveness is more profound and more difficult than the rational virtue of tolerance.

–Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics (New York: Seabury, 1935), pp. 138-139

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Afghan Leader Admits His Office Gets Cash From Iran

President Hamid Karzai admitted on Monday that his chief of staff had taken money from the Iranian government, confirming a report in The New York Times. He said the cash was used to pay for presidential expenses

His government will continue to receive the payments, which amount to no more than about a million dollars twice a year, he said at a news conference with President Emomali Rahmonov of Tajikistan, adding that the money is part of a relationship between neighbors.

“They have asked for good relations in return, and for lots of other things in return,” said President Karzai.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Pakistan, War in Afghanistan

Pat Archbold on Rowan Williams–The Archbishop of 'Chutzpah'

The Anglican Church careens down a path ever more divergent from traditional Christianity. The traditional-minded among the Anglicans begged their Church and their leaders for a safe-haven. They begged for a place within the Anglican communion in which they could pretend some Catholic sensibilities and retain at least some traditional Christian doctrine. In a word, the Anglican Communion told them “Nuts!”

The clear message to Anglo-Catholics from their Church, “We don’t care about you. We don’t want you. Get lost.”

So then these Anglo-Catholics…asked for and received permission to immigrate to the Catholic Church.

So now the Archbishop of Canterbury, who heretofore had used his backbone so sparingly that some understandably thought him an invertebrate, wants a say in the conversion process….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Tom Krattenmaker (USA Today)–In God-fearing USA, where is the decency?

If there’s anything about politics on which Americans might agree, it’s probably that our pitched battles over elections, policy and power are not summoning our better angels. Truth-telling? Be serious. Humility? Hah! Civility? Don’t be a fool.

If only the extreme unpleasantness were the extent of the fallout. Sadly, the vitriol and meanness are making it virtually impossible for those we elect to do their job and govern. When the two sides of the aisle seem mainly interested in scoring political points and landing rhetorical punches, it’s no wonder we have what pundit Thomas Friedman calls our national power failure ”” “the failure of our political system to unite, even in a crisis, to produce the policy responses America needs to thrive in the 21st century.”

A curious element of this is the religiosity that permeates American public life, to a degree unmatched in other Western countries. Shouldn’t a public square teeming with so many religious people and religiously derived principles display a little more decency?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

ENS–Executive Council begins fall meeting faced with 2011 budget constraints

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council began its three-day fall meeting here Oct. 23 with an agenda that includes consideration of a Church Center 2011 budget that is five percent lower than the version adopted by General Convention in 2009.

Revenue in the proposed reduced budget is $2.1 million less than originally projected, with income from dioceses projected at $682,946 less than expected. The revenue reductions come “as a result of an unpredictable delayed payment by one diocese,” as well as major cuts in Church Center spending that also will result in less revenue, according to a memo to council members from the church’s Finance Office. The specific diocese has not yet been disclosed.

Total revenue is projected to be $37,147,458, while total expenses are budgeted at $36,966,829.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Executive Council, House of Deputies President, Parish Ministry, Presiding Bishop, Stewardship, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

(NY Times Letters) Richard L. Ottinger–The Power of Money

Having served in Congress for 16 years, I can attest from personal experience to the perverse influence that money has in our democratic process.

It isn’t just a question, as Mr. [David] Brooks advocates, as to whether money is the deciding factor in election outcomes. The effect of the money flow on influencing the way members of Congress vote on issues that motivate campaign donors to give is tremendously pernicious. Few members will bite the hand that feeds them.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Theology

Ross Douthat–The Great Bailout Backlash

The bailout became law because the legislative branch was stampeded with the threats of certain doom. It vested unprecedented economic authority in a single unelected official, the secretary of the Treasury. And it used public funds to insulate well-connected private actors from the consequences of their recklessness. Its creation short-circuited republican self-government, and its execution created moral hazard on an epic scale. It may have been an economic necessity, but it felt like a travesty nonetheless.

This is why it should be possible to both sympathize with the politicians who voted for the bailout and welcome their rebuke at the ballot box. Faced with extraordinary circumstances ”” wars, natural disasters, economic crises ”” political leaders will always incline toward a blunt utilitarianism, in which the need for stability trumps more high-minded ideals. But after a crisis has passed, it’s immensely important that the ideals reassert themselves, so that the moral compromises made amid extraordinary times aren’t repeated in ordinary ones as well.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, History, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, Psychology, Senate, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Generation Y has a faint cultural memory of Christianity , but is not hostile towards religion

(ACNS) Young people have not inherited the rebellious hostility to the Church of their parents’ generation, although for many of them religion is irrelevant for day-to-day living. These are two of the findings of an informative new book The Faith of Generation Y, authored by Sylvia Collins-Mayo (sociologist of religion), Bob Mayo (parish priest in West London), Sally Nash (Director of the Midlands Centre for Youth Ministry) with the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth (who has five Generation Y children).

Reporting a study of over 300 young people in England aged between 8 and 23 who attended Christian youth and community work projects in England, The Faith of Generation Y (those born from around 1982 onwards) provides an empirically grounded account of the nature of young people’s faith ”“ looking into where they put their hope and trust in order to make life meaningful. The book goes on to consider whether Christianity has any relevance to young people, and asks whether the youth and community projects in which they participate foster an interest in the Christian faith.

The findings from the study ”“ which make essential reading for church leaders, youth workers, missioners and teachers ”“ suggest that for most young people faith is located primarily in family, friends and their selves as individuals ”“ defined as ”˜immanent faith’.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

ENS–Presiding Bishop warns Executive Council of 'suicide by governance'

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori challenged the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Oct. 24 to avoid “committing suicide by governance.”

Jefferts Schori said that the council and the church face a “life-or-death decision,” describing life as “a renewed and continually renewing focus on mission” and death as “an appeal to old ways and to internal focus” which devotes ever-greater resources to the institution and its internal conflicts.

“We need some structural change across the Episcopal Church,” she said. “Almost everywhere I go I hear dioceses wrestling with this; dioceses addressing what they often think of as their own governance handcuffs, the structures that are preventing them from moving more flexibly into a more open future.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God our Father, who hast sent thy Son to be our Saviour: Renew in us day by day the power of thy Holy Spirit, that with knowledge and zeal, with courage and hope, we may strive mightily in thy service, and ever live as faithful soldiers and servants of thy Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

And I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands which stand before the Lord of the earth. And if any one would harm them, fire pours out from their mouth and consumes their foes; if any one would harm them, thus he is doomed to be killed. They have power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.

–Revelation 11:3-6

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Archbishop of York expresses concerns over the Big Society and Public Spending Cuts

I know many people today will be afraid of what the Government cuts outlined in the CSR [Comprehensive Spending Review] will mean for them and their families.

I think we would all accept that this is a difficult time for our country economically. There are difficult choices to be made, and real debates to be had about what is the best way forward. Debate, discussion and compromise can all be positive when those involved are conducting themselves in the right spirit. However we need to ensure that no-one is left behind.

The promotion of social justice should be a primary moral imperative for any government, and for every publicly funded institution. For when the government puts the promotion of social justice at its heart, we can stand together as one nation, as one people in solidarity with each other, recognizing the dignity of all, and affording all fair and equal opportunities for access and services. Freedom, fraternity and informed choice must characterise our social fabric.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Economy, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The Economist–Will Germany now take centre stage?

No big developed country has come out of the global recession looking stronger than Germany has. The economy minister, Rainer Brüderle, boasts of an “XL upswing”. Exports are booming and unemployment is expected to fall to levels last seen in the early 1990s. The government is a stable, though sometimes fractious, coalition of three mainstream parties. The shrillest protest is aimed at a huge new railway project in Stuttgart. Amid the truculence and turmoil around it, Germany appears an oasis of tranquillity.

To many of its friends and neighbours, though, the paragon is a disappointment. Its sharp-elbowed behaviour during the near-collapse of the euro earlier this year heightened concerns about Germany’s role in the world that have been stirring ever since unification 20 years ago. Speeches, seminars and scholarly articles by nervous Germans and Germany-watchers are a booming cottage industry. A recent essay published by Bruegel, a Brussels think-tank, explains “why Germany fell out of love with Europe”. Another, from the European Council on Foreign Relations, alleges that Germany is “going global alone”. Jürgen Habermas, Germany’s most distinguished living philosopher, accuses his country of pursuing an “inward-looking national policy”. “How can you not ask Germany questions about its vision of the future of Europe?” wonders Jacques Delors, who was president of the European Commission when the Berlin Wall fell. Even a pacific and prosperous Germany causes international angst.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, Germany, Globalization, History, Politics in General

The Economist–The least of God's creatures has value

Since the birth of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, there has been a welcome transformation in the language of global conservation. Policymakers and even some businesses have started to express a view of nature as a store of wealth””or “natural capital”. Talk of “ecosystem services” now draws attention to the helpful things that nature does unbidden, such as providing fresh soil and clean water.

This approach not only has the advantage of moving conservation from the domain of lofty morality down to earth, reflecting a pragmatism more likely to support and sustain action.

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

PBS' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly: Legalizing Marijuana

On November 2, voters in Arizona and South Dakota decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical use, as 14 states and the District of Columbia already have. Meanwhile, in California, where medical marijuana is legal, voters are deciding whether to decriminalize recreational marijuana use. Is marijuana a gateway to harder drugs? Lucky Severson reports from Los Angeles.

BISHOP RON ALLEN (President, International Faith-Based Coalition, speaking in a church): It is because Satan has tried to make us think and have tried to make us believe that it’s nothing. Isn’t that just like the enemy? That it is less harmful than alcohol. Isn’t that how Satan comes in the back door to make you think that one sin is greater than another? You all have to say “amen.”

LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: It’s Sunday, so Bishop Ron Allen is guest preaching in church. Any other day of the week and he’ll be preaching the same message to anyone who will listen. Bishop Allen is president of the International Faith-Based Coalition, comprising what he says are over 4000 churches nationwide. His one mission is to teach drug prevention to church leaders, and more urgently to defeat Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in California.

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, State Government

Fareed Zakaria in Time Magazine–How to Restore the American Dream

…when I travel from America to India these days, as I did recently, it’s as if the world has been turned upside down. Indians are brimming with hope and faith in the future. After centuries of stagnation, their economy is on the move, fueling animal spirits and ambition. The whole country feels as if it has been unlocked. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the mood is sour. Americans are glum, dispirited and angry. The middle class, in particular, feels under assault. In a Newsweek poll in September, 63% of Americans said they did not think they would be able to maintain their current standard of living. Perhaps most troubling, Americans are strikingly fatalistic about their prospects. The can-do country is convinced that it can’t.

Americans have good reasons to worry. We have just gone through the worst recession since the Great Depression. The light at the end of the tunnel is dim at best. Sixteen months into the recovery, the unemployment rate is higher than it was in the depths of all but one of the postwar recessions. And as government spending is being pared back, the economy is showing new signs of weakness.

Some experts say that in every recession Americans get gloomy and then recover with the economy. This slump is worse than most; so is the mood. Once demand returns, they say, jobs will come back and, with them, optimism. But Americans are far more apprehensive than usual, and their worries seem to go beyond the short-term debate over stimulus vs. deficit reduction. They fear that we are in the midst of not a cyclical downturn but a structural shift, one that poses huge new challenges to the average American job, pressures the average American wage and endangers the average American Dream. The middle class, many Americans have come to believe, is being hollowed out. I think they are right.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Globalization, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily at the Closing Mass of the Mideast Synod

The words of the Lord Jesus may be applied to Christians in the Middle East: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Indeed, even if they are few, they are bearers of the Good News of the love of God for man, love which revealed itself in the Holy Land in the person of Jesus Christ. This Word of salvation, strengthened with the grace of the Sacraments, resounds with particular potency in the places in which, by Divine Providence, it was written, and it is the only Word which is able to break that vicious circle of vengeance, hate, and violence. From a purified heart, in peace with God and neighbor, may intentions and initiatives for peace at local, national, and international levels be born. In these actions, to whose accomplishment the whole international community is called, Christians as full-fledged citizens can and must do their part with the spirit of the Beatitudes, becoming builders of peace and apostles of reconciliation to the benefit of all society.

Conflicts, wars, violence and terrorism have gone on for too long in the Middle East. Peace, which is a gift of God, is also the result of the efforts of men of goodwill, of the national and international institutions, in particular of the states most involved in the search for a solution to conflicts. We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent. Peace is the indispensable condition for a life of dignity for human beings and society. Peace is also the best remedy to avoid emigration from the Middle East. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” we are told in the Psalm (122:6). We pray for peace in the Holy Land. We pray for peace in the Middle East, undertaking to try to ensure that this gift of God to men of goodwill should spread through the whole world.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Middle East, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic