Daily Archives: December 19, 2010

(UM Portal) A Q&A with Gregory Jones: Deeper lessons in forgiveness, reconciliation

L. Gregory Jones studied forgiveness as a theologian, but felt humbled when he met Célestin Musekura, a Rwandan man who’d forgiven the people who killed members of his family. Dr. Jones, the former dean of Duke Divinity School, and Dr. Musekura, founder of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, have co-authored a new book, Forgiving as We’ve Been Forgiven (IVP Books).

Now a professor of theology and vice president and vice provost for global strategy and programs at Duke Divinity, Dr. Jones spoke recently to staff writer Mary Jacobs….

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Posted in Pastoral Theology, Theology

Richard Thaler–It’s Time to Rethink the Charity Deduction

It would be reasonable to ask why the government should subsidize charitable contributions at all. But for now, let’s discuss this simpler and more politically relevant question: If we are going to continue subsidizing these donations, what is the best way to do it?

First, I should clarify a simplification I’ve made. In the current system, strictly speaking, your eligibility to deduct a charitable contribution doesn’t depend on whether you have a big mortgage. But it might as well. You can deduct charitable contributions only if you itemize rather than take the standard deduction, and the most common way a household collects enough deductions to make itemizing worthwhile is to have a big mortgage. (Living in a high-tax city like New York can also help a taxpayer cross that threshold, because state and local taxes are deductible, at least for now.)

But I challenge anyone to justify a system in which we essentially subsidize contributions made by people with big mortgages. For one thing, this set-up magnifies the already large distortion created by the mortgage interest subsidy, since having a mortgage qualifies taxpayers for other subsidies as well.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Taxes, The U.S. Government

NPR–Czech Doctors Prepare To Abandon The Republic

Fed up with shockingly low pay and long hours, doctors in the Czech Republic are threatening to leave the country en masse.

More than a quarter of all Czech doctors have already signed a declaration stating their intention to emigrate to better-paying European countries if the Czech government does not substantively address their concerns by the end of this year.

But the cash-starved Czech government is ignoring the warnings so far, dismissing the threat as a gimmick and moving ahead with cost-cutting plans.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Czech Republic, Europe, Health & Medicine

Adults hoping for help: Heartbreaking requests among Santa letters

– Employment figures, economic indicators, stock prices. Bah, humbug! Read some letters to Santa if you want to understand the Recession That Will Not Die….

“Letters to Santa? From grown-ups?” I asked.

Nearly 300 letters, written in neat print or loopy cursive script, described jobs lost and hungry children, addressed by adults to a man in a red suit who is apparently their last hope.

“I’m a single mom living in the D.C. General shelter with my kids,” one letter began. It ended with a request for not toys or bikes but clothes. Instead of model numbers and prices, she included her children’s shoe, underwear and clothing sizes.

“I want them to know there is hope,” she wrote.

Read it all.

Also, I caught an NPR story during the week on this same theme. Read or listen to it all also.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

(Sunday Telegraph) Churches halt decline, new research shows

The number of Anglican churches in Britain has risen for the first time in more than a decade, according to new research.

New congregations are being formed to take over old redundant church buildings or to provide more youth-friendly services, helping church membership numbers to rise.

The figures, to be published this week by Christian Research, also reveal that the Roman Catholic Church is continuing to enjoy a rise in attendance at Mass, that the number of Pentecostal worshippers is increasing rapidly and that Baptist churches are also enjoying a resurgence.

Read it all.

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

Newly Built Ghost Towns Haunt Banks in Spain

A better known real estate debacle is a sprawling development in Seseña, south of Madrid, one of Spain’s “ghost towns.” It sits in a desert surrounded by empty lots. Twelve whole blocks of brick apartment buildings, about 2,000 apartments, are empty; the rest, only partly occupied. Most of the ground floor commercial space is bricked up.

The boom and bust of Spain’s property sector is astonishing. Over a decade, land prices rose about 500 percent and developers built hundreds of thousands of units ”” about 800,000 in 2007 alone. Developments sprang up on the outskirts of cities ready to welcome many of the four million immigrants who had settled in Spain, many employed in construction.

At the same time, coastal villages were transformed into major residential areas for vacationing Spaniards and retired, sun-seeking northern Europeans. At its peak, the construction sector accounted for 12 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product, double the level in Britain or France.

But almost overnight, the market disappeared….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Housing/Real Estate Market, Spain, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Walter Russell Mead–The Crisis of the American Intellectual

…the biggest roadblock today is that so many of America’s best-educated, best-placed people are too invested in old social models and old visions of history to do their real job and help society transition to the next level. Instead of opportunities they see threats; instead of hope they see danger; instead of the possibility of progress they see the unraveling of everything beautiful and true.

Too many of the very people who should be leading the country into a process of renewal that would allow us to harness the full power of the technological revolution and make the average person incomparably better off and more in control of his or her own destiny than ever before are devoting their considerable talent and energy to fighting the future….

In most of our learned professions and knowledge guilds today, promotion is linked to the needs and aspirations of the guild rather than to society at large. Promotion in the academy is almost universally linked to the production of ever more specialized, theory-rich (and, outside the natural sciences, too often application-poor) texts, pulling the discourse in one discipline after another into increasingly self-referential black holes. We suffer from ”˜runaway guilds’: costs skyrocket in medicine, the civil service, education and the law in part because the imperatives of the guilds and the interests of their members too often triumph over the needs and interests of the wider society….

We can see the same unhappy pattern in knowledge-based American institutions beyond the groves of academe. The mainline Protestant churches have a hyperdeveloped theology, an over-professionalized clergy ”“ and shrinking congregations. The typical American foundation is similarly hyperdeveloped in terms of social and political theory, over professionalized in its staff ”“ and perhaps thankfully has a declining impact on American society because its approaches are increasingly out of touch….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Education, History, Media, Politics in General, Science & Technology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Almighty Father, whose blessed Son at his coming amongst us brought redemption unto his people, and peace to men of goodwill: Grant that, when he shall come again in glory to judge the world and to make all things new, we may be found ready to receive him, and enter into his joy; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ.

–Frederick Macnutt

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Telegraph–Religion review of the year 2010

During one of his more unusual interviews, given to a comedian at a football ground on Bonfire Night, the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked what his favourite firework was. Scarcely pausing for breath, he replied: “I think the wrong answer to that would be ‘a Roman Candle.'”

Benedict XVI’s full state visit to Britain in September was the first by any pope for 400 years.

He was given the warmest of welcomes from the Queen, the Prime Minister, hundreds of thousands who lined the streets, and leaders of all the major faiths, including Dr Williams.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Media, Religion & Culture

In Pennsylvania a Former Episcopal priest starts new ministry

The Rev. William Melnyk, former rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Downingtown, resigned from the church in late 2004 amid investigations that he and his wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, wrote two druidic ceremonies as suggestions for women’s liturgies. The druids were a Celtic sect that predates Christianity.

At the conclusion of the investigation, Bishop Charles E. Bennison declined to suspend the two priests from the church.

Ruppe-Melnyk still serves as the rector of St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Willistown.

Melnyk said recently that Bishop Bennision agreed to reinstate him if Melnyk could agree to not write or speak about Celtic spirituality. Melnyk said he could not agree to those terms and that it became evident earlier this year that his reinstatement was not going to happen.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops, TEC Parishes, Wicca / paganism

For a tiny Florida Keys Episcopal Church, a big religious moment

Tucked away in the hardwood hammocks of the Middle Keys, tiny St. Columba Episcopal Church carries a hefty history.

President Harry S Truman worshiped there. Its 19 cut glass windows are on a national registry of historic arts. Parishioners have gone on missions to Honduras, Sudan and Madagascar. And though its summer congregation numbers only about 25, the church has helped thousands in the community.

So for its 50th anniversary, the small congregation thought big. They invited Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the elected leader of the Episcopal Church’s 2.4 million members in 16 countries and 110 dioceses.

Who knows if it was divine intervention, but she said yes.

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

Graham Smith writes an Open Letter to Bishop Mark Sisk of New York

I trust that this letter finds you well. You may remember me from Chicago where I am the rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Glenview. We had the privilege of hearing you preach at one point in your time as Dean of Seabury Western Theological Seminary.

I am writing in response to your diocese’s recent resolution to investigate the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Apparently you think that IRD is taking members out of the Episcopal Church. I’m still in TEC, so I must have missed the message. I have been a board member of the IRD since the mid 80s and was ordained a deacon by Bishop Paul Moore in June of 1974. So it is with a heavy heart that I write to defend my association with the IRD, especially given the fact that I started out in your diocese, though I never worked there as an ordained priest. I spent three years in the Diocese of Ohio doing youth ministry at St. Peter’s, Lakewood. Then I became rector of Church of the Good Shepherd for the next fifteen years, prior to becoming rector of St. David’s.

The IRD began in the early 1980s before I became associated with it. It was founded in part to stand up for the persecuted church. We were one of the few organizations which prayed for and stood up for the persecuted church in the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the underground Christian church thanked us for our prayers.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Episcopal Church (TEC), Politics in General, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops

(Independent) Einstein was right, you can be in two places at once

A device that exists in two different states at the same time, and coincidentally proves that Albert Einstein was right when he thought he was wrong, has been named as the scientific breakthrough of the year.

The machine, consisting of a sliver of wafer-thin metal, is the first man-made device to be governed by the mysterious quantum forces that operate at the level of atoms and sub-atomic particles.

Normal, everyday objects obey the laws of conventional Newtonian physics, named after Sir Isaac Newton, but these rules break down on the sub-atomic scale and a whole new branch of theoretical physics had to be invented to explain what happens on this sub-microscopic level.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology