Daily Archives: February 25, 2011

(WSJ) Mitch Horowitz: When Does a Religion Become a Cult?

America has probably supplied the world with more new religions than any other nation. Since the first half of the 19th century, the country’s atmosphere of religious experimentation has produced dozens of movements, from Mormonism to a wide range of nature-based practices grouped under the name Wicca.

By 1970 the religious scholar Jacob Needleman popularized the term “New Religious Movements” (NRM) to classify the new faiths, or variants of old ones, that were being embraced by the Woodstock generation. But how do we tell when a religious movement ceases to be novel or unusual and becomes a cult?

It’s a question with a long history in this country. The controversy involving Hollywood writer-director Paul Haggis is only its most recent occurrence. Mr. Haggis left the Church of Scientology and has accused it of abusive practices, including demands that members disconnect from their families, which the church vigorously denies….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

USA Today Letters: USA needs real leaders to tackle budget deficit, debt

John Boyd writes:

The leaders of both political parties have come to embrace the philosophy of the common box turtle. They believe the key to success is to refuse to “go first” and never “lead with your chin.” They are convinced the loser will be the one who is forced to propose solutions to the problems they were elected to solve. This behavior is not acceptable.

We expect our leaders to analyze the pressing issues of the day based on the best information available and then to reach a consensus concerning the best course of action.

Read the rest of his letter and the others also.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(CEN) Toronto gay blessings do not breach the moratoria on gay blessings, ACC rule

It was “quite clear” the Toronto College of Bishops “made a decision not to abide by the moratorium on same sex blessings. Further, the College has decided that a diocese is at liberty to move ahead unilaterally in this matter,” Dr. Murray Henderson of the Diocese of Toronto, vice-chairman of the Anglican Communion Alliance in Canada, told The Church of England Newspaper.

“I regard this as a grave action endangering the catholic faith and order of the church,” he said, noting the Toronto bishops were “acting on the disputed assumption that the Provinces are now merely a loose federation of independent churches.”

“I very much doubt that Canon Kearon, speaking as he does for the Archbishop of Canterbury, has reversed his policy of not allowing members of churches which move beyond the common faith and order of the Communion to serve on international commissions such as ARCIC. It is therefore puzzling and disheartening that a member of the Diocese of Toronto has been so appointed,” Dr. Henderson said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Instruments of Unity, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Windsor Report / Process

(Newsday) Andrew Cuomo: My religious practices 'private'

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared his Catholic religious practices a “private” matter yesterday and parried questions about whether he will continue to take Holy Communion after a Vatican consultant called it “sacrilegious” for him to be living with his girlfriend.

“It’s not something that I discuss in the political arena,” Cuomo said at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.

Read it all and there is more there.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, State Government, Theology

(RNS) Forgiveness scholar opens up on role of faith

For more than a quarter of a century, psychologist Robert D. Enright has been a pioneer in the scientific study of forgiveness — the kind of guy Time magazine once dubbed “the forgiveness trailblazer.”

He’s probed the mental and physical benefits that incest survivors, adult children of alcoholics, cardiac patients and others can enjoy if they choose to show mercy to those who have done them wrong.

His work has taken him to global hotspots, with a schools program of “forgiveness education” for Catholic and Protestant children in Northern Ireland, and a new project to promote e-mail dialogue among Jewish, Muslim and Christian children in Israel and Palestine.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(NY Times) Arab Unrest Propels Iran as Saudi Influence Declines

The popular revolts shaking the Arab world have begun to shift the balance of power in the region, bolstering Iran’s position while weakening and unnerving its rival, Saudi Arabia, regional experts said.

While it is far too soon to write the final chapter on the uprisings’ impact, Iran has already benefited from the ouster or undermining of Arab leaders who were its strong adversaries and has begun to project its growing influence, the analysts said. This week Iran sent two warships through the Suez Canal for the first time since its revolution in 1979, and Egypt’s new military leaders allowed them to pass.

Saudi Arabia, an American ally and a Sunni nation that jousts with Shiite Iran for regional influence, has been shaken. King Abdullah on Wednesday signaled his concern by announcing a $10 billion increase in welfare spending to help young people marry, buy homes and open businesses, a gesture seen as trying to head off the kind of unrest that fueled protests around the region.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Africa, Blogging & the Internet, Egypt, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Iran, Islam, Libya, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Saudi Arabia, Science & Technology, Violence

(CDN) Threat of Prosecution Remains for Some Christians Freed in Iran

Iranian authorities have released about half of the Christians arrested for their faith across the country in December and January, as well as one held in Shiraz since June, sources said.

In December and January authorities arrested up to 120 believers after Iranian religious and political figures acknowledged the existence of home fellowships and condemned them as a threat to the state. Sources estimate at least 62 of those arrested during late December and January have been released, some on bail. A typical bail amount in Iran can range between a few thousand dollars and the deed on a house.

Read it all.

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

(Church Times) ”˜Sense of despair’ as buildings collapse in New Zealand Earthquake

Church leaders in Christchurch, New Zealand, are ministering to the population of the city after the fatal earthquake on Tuesday, which left hundreds of people trapped under rubble, and caused the spire of the Anglican Cathedral to collapse.

This morning, the number of deaths stood at 113, with more than 200 people reported missing. It was the second earthquake to hit Christchurch in six months (News, 10 September). It measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, less than the 7.1-magnitude tremor in September last year, which happened at night, without loss of life. This week’s earthquake was more devastating, as it occurred at 1 p.m., when many people were out and about.
The Bishop of Christchurch, the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, has called on Christchurch residents to “be calm, be sensible, be compassionate, be a good neighbour” in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Provinces, Australia / NZ

Terry Mattingly–Nearer, my 'Confession' app, to thee

In London, The Times opened its story by claiming: “Roman Catholic bishops have approved a new iPhone and iPad app that allows users to make confession with a virtual ‘priest’ over the Internet.”

The Economic Times report was even more blunt. The headline noted, “No time to visit church? Confess via iPhone.” Then the opening lines went further still, stating: “Users of iPhone can now perform contrition and other religious rituals without visiting church, thanks to a new online application.”

The problem is that these statements were just plain wrong. There is no such thing as a “virtual” priest or a “virtual” sacrament. How could electronic devices allow believers to “perform … other religious rituals”?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Media, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology, Theology

Notable and Quotable

Not so much by words but by example, I internalized a respect for the material at hand. The material could be a pork loin, or a mahogany plank, or a lump of clay, or the will of God, or a soul, but when the work is done well, there is a kind of submission of will to the conditions at hand, a cultivation of what I would later learn to call humility. It is a noticeable feature in all skilled workers””woodworkers, potters, poets, pray-ers and pastors. I learned it in the butcher shop [of my Father].

Years later I came upon the phrase negative capability and recognized that it was something very much like submission to the material, the humility, that I had had so much practice in on the butcher block. The poet John Keats coined the term to refer to this quality in the worker. He was impressed by William Shakespeare’s work in creating such a variety of characters in his plays, none of which seemed to be a projection of Shakespeare’s ego. Each had an independent life of his or her own. Keats wrote, “A poet has no identity . . . he is continually . . . filling some other Body.” He believed that the only way that real creative will matured was in a person who was not hell-bent on imposing his or her will on another person or thing but “was capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable searching after fact and reason.” Interesting: Shakespeare, the poet from whom we know the most about other people, is the poet about whom we know next to nothing.

–Eugene Peterson, “My Father’s Butcher Shop” (Christian Century, February 22, 1001), p. 29

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Books, Children, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(ACNS) Church and Health Trust group in Ireland produce resource for talking sex with teens

It is one of the most difficult, yet important conversations that needs to take place in family life ”“and potentially one of the most embarrassing. It’s the sex and relationships discussion between parents and teenagers. But now a novel approach to ease the awkwardness of these conversations has just been developed by a joint Church and Health Trust group looking at young people and sexual health.

The Faith sub-group of the Belfast Area Sexual Health Project Board has recently produced a relationships resource, entitled ”˜Unique’, for both young people and their parents that is user-friendly and easy to work through. However it is how this resource is used that will give a new approach to conversations on difficult issues.

Read it all and see what you think of the accompanying website.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of Ireland, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology

South Carolina's Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Episcopal Church: Priest who guided growth moves on

“Bittersweet is not a strong enough word for what I’m feeling,” the Rev. Tommy Tipton told parishioners who packed Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Episcopal Church for his sermon on Sunday.

It was his last at the church after 12 years as rector, and it drew tears from church members who said they will dearly miss him.

Tipton, who was assistant rector at Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church in Georgetown before coming to Holy Cross, is moving to Columbia to be the bishop’s assistant in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

(RNS) Muslims and ACLU Sue FBI over Mosque Surveillance

Is sending a secret informant into a mosque in search of terrorists proactive policing, or a violation of worshippers’ civil rights?

That’s the question a federal judge will have to answer after the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council of American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit Tuesday (Feb. 22) in Los Angeles against the FBI.

The suit charges the nation’s top law enforcement agency targeted Muslims for surveillance based solely on their religious affiliation, violating their constitutional rights.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

An Editorial from The Tablet–Marriage à la mode

Public opinion cannot be relied on as a source of moral authority. The consensus at any time may favour the restoration of capital punishment; not so long ago it wanted homosexuals locked up; nineteenth-century public opinion did not think women should have the vote; eighteenth-century public opinion supported slavery. There were Christian voices involved in the reform of all those positions, but they were voices of protest grounded in Scripture, tradition and natural law, not of conformity to prevailing social norms.

The time may have come to accept that there will have to be at least two understandings of marriage side by side, and that each should go its own way. As in Europe, it is perfectly viable to have church marriage validated by religious authorities and secular marriage validated by state authorities, and for a couple that wishes to, to undergo both forms. Then there would no longer be any suggestion that the secular form of marriage is part of the Christian legacy. There are grounds, indeed, for doubting whether it has been so for some time.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Europe, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, who in days of old didst cause thy Word to grow mightily and to prevail: We praise and magnify thy holy name for the manifestation of thy Spirit’s power in this our day and for all who are labouring to spread the gospel of thy salvation throughout the world; and we pray thee so to prosper and bless their endeavours that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

2 Corinthians 4:1-2; Bishop Nazir-Ali preached in part on this at the Friday night service of the South Carolina Diocesan Convention a week ago–KSH

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(BP) Western Christians Must 'Run toward Egypt,' Worker Says

The monumental changes taking place in Egypt should be a clarion call for Western Christians to “run toward Egypt” and take advantage of an opportunity decades in the making, said a Christian worker deeply familiar with the country.

“How long have we been asking the church around the world to pray for the [unreached parts of the world]?” Ron Robinson* asked. “I know for 29 years I’ve been asking American churches, churches in the United Kingdom, Korean Christians to pray for Egypt — that doors would open” to share the Gospel.

“Our prayers are being answered right now…. This is God’s hand at work.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Egypt, Middle East, Missions, Religion & Culture

Libya: Gaddafi's billions to be seized by Britain

Ministers have identified billions of pounds that Col Muammar Gaddafi and the Libyan regime have deposited in London, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The funds are expected to be seized within days. The Treasury is understood to have set up a unit to trace Col Gaddafi’s assets in Britain, which are thought to include billions of dollars in bank accounts, commercial property and a £10 million mansion in London.

In total, the Libyan regime is said to have around £20 billion in liquid assets, mostly in London. These are expected to be frozen as part of an international effort to force the dictator from power. A Whitehall source said: “The first priority is to get British nationals out of Libya. But then we are ready to move in on Gaddafi’s assets, the work is under way. This is definitely on the radar at the highest levels.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Libya, Middle East, The Banking System/Sector

(Telegraph) Canon Donald Allchin RIP

He was ordained in 1956, and during a four-year curacy at St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington completed an Oxford BLitt on the revival of Anglican religious orders in the 19th century. This was subsequently published as The Silent Rebellion (1958) and remains the standard work on its subject.

From 1960 to 1969 Allchin was at Pusey House, Oxford, as a member of a chapter of priests, known as Librarians, who provide a centre of Anglo-Catholic worship and spirituality for the university. During this time he co-wrote The Rediscovery of Newman (1967), heralding a revived interest in one of the great figures of the 19th-century Church.

On one of his many visits to the United States he met Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk whose writings on spirituality, combined with a radical political outlook, had made him internationally famous. A strong friendship ensued, and after Merton’s death in 1968 their exchanges of letters were published. Allchin became the first president of a Thomas Merton Society formed in Britain.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(CSM) Europe rethinks dependence on Libyan oil

While analysts agree that global oil and gas supplies are hardly at risk, as Libya accounts for only 2 percent of world oil output, countries like Italy, France, and Spain relied on Libya in 2010 for as much as 22 percent, 16 percent, and 13 percent of total crude consumption, respectively ”“ a supply not easily replaced on short notice. Europe receives over 85 percent of Libya’s crude exports.

And that’s causing energy planners to reassess the wisdom of counting on North Africa, where southern European governments have invested significantly to decrease dependence on supplies from Russia and Iran, even if Libya’s civil unrest ends with a peaceful resignation of Qadaffi.

“Europe has to choose between becoming more dependent on Russia or the Middle East, or both,” says Herman Franssen, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former chief economist of the International Energy Agency.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Europe, Foreign Relations, Libya, Violence

(UMNS) Global Methodist church membership tops 12 million

While The United Methodist Church’s U.S. membership has continued to shrink, its growth elsewhere in the world has put it over the 12 million-member mark for the first time, newly released statistics show.

The church’s membership in Africa, Europe and Asia grew from 3.5 million to 4.4 million in the five years ending in 2009, according to the United Methodist Council on Finance and Administration.

In that time, worldwide membership increased from almost 11.6 million to nearly 12.1 million.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Methodist, Other Churches