Daily Archives: March 10, 2011

Loren Wilkinson: Ground-Truthing

Map-makers use a lovely word to describe the essential discipline of checking the map they are making, however perfect and satisfying it seems, against the uneven ground of the earth it pictures: ground-truthing.They get away from the table, outside the car, and walk across the earth, which is always bigger, richer than the map. Maps are useful guides. But we need to keep checking them against the bumpy ground we walk on. The intertwined pleasures and dangers of maps are especially good to be aware of in a school of Christian theology…[or any parish]: for theologies too are maps””human worlds imposed on the mysteries of God’s action. It is all too easy to become overly comfortable with our world of necessary maps. Perhaps, then, theological students””and pr ofes s or s ””must , more than anyone, cultivate the discipline of ground-truthing.

Read it all (page 1).

Posted in Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Americans in Poll Lack Economic Confidence as Plurality See Decline

Only 1 American in 7 has faith a lasting economic recovery has taken hold and a plurality say they are personally worse off than they were two years ago.

Almost half of the respondents in a Bloomberg National Poll conducted March 4-7 believe the U.S. is in a “fragile” rebound and could fall back into recession. More than a third of the country believes the U.S. never emerged from recession.

Sixty-three percent of Americans say the nation is on the wrong track, compared with 66 percent who said so in December, which was the lowest in the national mood in the one and a half years the Bloomberg poll has been conducted.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Episcopal Church SCLM: Outline of Theological Principles for Same Sex Blessing Liturgy Development

Covenantal relationships are one way for Christians to live out their baptismal calling in the world. As the Church discerns the fruits of the Spirit in faithful commitments ”“ such as households marked by compassion, generosity, and hospitality ”“ these commitments become a blessing to the wider community. Blessing covenantal relationships, including same-gender unions, thus belongs to the mission of the Church in its ongoing witness to the good news of God-in-Christ and the Christian hope of union with God.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Global South Churches & Primates, Instruments of Unity, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture, Windsor Report / Process

(AllAfrica) Nigeria: Robbers Snatch N.8 Million From Anglican Bishop

A four-man gang of armed robbers Monday burgled the Bishop’s Court, the Anglican Diocese of Asaba in Delta State, taking away N800,000 and other valuables.

The bishop, [the] Rt. Rev… [Justus Mogekwu], and his wife were held at gun point inside their bedroom by the hoodlums at about 1 am who operated for about three hours.

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Reminder: Justus Emeka Mogekwu was elected the new bishop of Asaba in 2009 to replace Nicholas Okoh, now Nigerian primate

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Law & Legal Issues

(AP) Moody's downgrades Spain's debt rating

Moody’s downgraded its credit rating on Spain Thursday, citing worries over the cost of the banking sector’s restructuring and the government’s ability to achieve its borrowing reduction targets.

The agency said it was reducing its rating by one notch to Aa2 and warned that a further downgrade could be in the offing if there are indications that Spain’s fiscal targets will be missed and if the public debt ratio increases more rapidly than currently expected, or if the funding requirements for the so-called savings banks””the cajas””are greater than anticipated.

Though noting the government’s resolve in dealing with its problems and that Spain’s debt sustainability is not under threat, Moody’s said that “Spain’s substantial funding requirements””not only those of the sovereign, but also those of the regional governments and the banks””make the country susceptible to further episodes of funding stress.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Housing/Real Estate Market, Spain, The Banking System/Sector

Putting Afghan Plan Into Action Proves Difficult

If the American-led fight against the Taliban was once a contest for influence in well-known and conventionally defined areas ”” the capital and large cities, main roads, the border with Pakistan, and a handful of prominent valleys and towns ”” today it has become something else.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the United States military has settled into a campaign for scattered villages and bits of terrain that few people beyond their immediate environs have heard of.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Pakistan, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

In South Carolina, Mentally ill paying the price for budget cuts

The plight of the mentally ill in South Carolina is more severe than most other states, according to a report released Wednesday by National Alliance on Mental Illness. The report, called “State Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis,” shows that South Carolina ranks third in the nation for the level of budget cuts made to mental health services between 2009 and 2011. South Carolina’s state mental health budget was cut 23 percent, behind only Kentucky with a 47 percent cut and Alaska with a 35 percent cut.

Nationwide, state mental health spending was slashed by more than $1.8 billion in the last two years, not including changes in services provided by Medicaid. Tens of thousands of children and adults living with serious mental illness have been denied community- and hospital-based psychiatric care, housing and access to medications, according to the findings.

But by 2009, things already were bad in South Carolina. Lawmakers began handing down steep budget cuts to the mental health community a year earlier, and even more cuts are on the way now. A draft budget before the House next week would cut the Department of Mental Health by another 6 percent in the upcoming fiscal year.

Read it all from the front page of the local paper.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Budget, Economy, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Psychology, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

The Archbishop of York launches 'Springwatch' at Bishopthorpe

As part of his Year of the Environment celebrations, the Archbishop of York today has invited people to view online how his Palace Gardens look all year round.

The section entitled ‘Springwatch at Bishopthorpe Gardens’, can be viewed here.

Springwatch is the first of four seasonal updates about the flora and fauna habitats within Bishopthorpe Palace. It is hoped that this resource will not only appeal to gardening enthusiasts and ‘twitchers’ but all those with a general interest in the environment.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Energy, Natural Resources, Parish Ministry, Theology

Giles Fraser on Ash Wednesday–The Truth of Our Mortality Has Much to teach us

One of the great privileges of being a priest is that I often get the opportunity to be with people when they die. It frequently astonishes me that, despite the ubiquity of death, this is something a great many people have never actually seen. Little wonder we’re so frightened of death. It used to be something public, but now it’s pushed out of life. Whereas we used to die at home surrounded by friends and family, we now die in hospitals, often alone and hidden behind expensive technology….

Today is Ash Wednesday. Like millions of Christians around the world, I will be marked with ash and told that I am dust and to dust I shall return. There is nothing depressing or morbid about any of this – in fact, quite the reverse. Personally speaking, it leaves me with a more intense sense of the preciousness of human life, something that’s intimately bound up with its intrinsic limit and fragility.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Death / Burial / Funerals, Lent, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

NATO mulls action to end Libyan bloodshed

NATO foreign ministers are preparing to discuss imposing a no-fly zone over battle-torn Libya amid some of the fiercest fighting of the uprising against Moamar Gaddafi.

Counter-attacks by Gaddafi loyalists suggest the embattled leader, in power for four decades, will not go as quietly or quickly as fellow leaders in Egypt and Tunisia did in a tide of popular unrest rolling across the Arab world.

The rebellion against the Libyan leader is now in its fourth week.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Europe, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Libya, Politics in General, Violence

Hoard of Cash Lets Qaddafi Extend Fight Against Rebels

The Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has “tens of billions” in cash secretly hidden away in Tripoli, allowing him to prolong his fight against rebel forces despite an international freeze on many of the Libyan government’s assets, according to American and other intelligence officials.

Colonel Qaddafi has control over the huge cash deposits, which have been stored at the Libyan Central Bank and other banks around the Libyan capital in recent years, the officials said.

Since the protests and fighting erupted, some of the money may have been moved into Colonel Qaddafi’s Tripoli compound, Bab Al Azizia, according to one person with ties to the Libyan government. While United States intelligence officials said they could not confirm such a move, one official said that Colonel Qaddafi “likely has tens of billions in cash that he can access inside Libya.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Libya, Personal Finance, Politics in General

Notable and Quotable

Those who try to be as God finally stand before God like children who have been found out and are full of evasions.

–Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., [tr. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p.46

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord our God, who art of purer eyes than to behold iniquity: Have mercy upon us, we beseech thee, for our sins accuse us, and we are troubled by them and put to shame. We have done wrong to ourselves in ignorance, and to our brethren in willfulness, and by our selfish and faithless ways have grieved thy Holy Spirit. Forgive us, we humbly pray thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love upon you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples; but it is because the LORD loves you, and is keeping the oath which he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

–Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Lenten Message from Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we enter the porch of Lent when life’s pace for many of us quickens, I’m reminded of a story. The Roman Emperor Hadrian was accosted once by an old woman whom he brushed aside by saying he was too busy to give her a hearing. She replied, “Then you’re too busy to be emperor” whereupon he stopped and listened to her complaint. So before you add to an already pressured life what you think it will mean for you to have a well observed Lent, consider these few thoughts.

The outward forms of the Lenten disciplines are not spelled out in our prayer book with any specificity, nor should they be. For I suspect that if each of us went to a doctor of the spiritual life, as one goes to a physician for a checkup, the diagnosis, and subsequent prescription for our spiritual maladies would be different for each of us. Perhaps in many cases we would not find the “soul doctor’s” prescription some dreadful duty of denial, but a welcome relief that we would gladly embrace if given “permission” to do so. I can easily imagine a devout, overly busy Christian being told by a doctor of the spiritual life that what he or she needs for Lent is physical exercise (I Timothy 4:8a), to read a good novel (note: good not cheap), sleep more, learn to laugh again, and fall in love with the Author of Life (I Timothy 4:8b).
One memorable spiritual master of Twentieth century England was Father Hugh Maycock. Connected with Cambridge between 1944-1952, and Oxford during 1952-1970, he was a formative influence on many young scholars. One of his former students, Kenneth Leech in recounting what he had learned from Fr. Maycock, noted two unusual disciplines: the value of sleep and laughter.

Sleep and payer are closely related, as any student of the Bible can observe. In fact on more than one occasion the disciples slept when they should have been vigilant in prayer, and at least once Jesus slept when the disciples thought he should have been praying (or at least bailing water). Both sleep and prayer call for slowing down, a relaxed condition, and “abandonment in trust.” Since many committed Christians today live their lives in a permanent state of semi-exhaustion to embrace a discipline of proper sleep can be spiritually helpful-a true preparation for the Sabbath rest of the people of God.

Then there’s the importance of laughter. Kenneth Leech writes, “Laughter is necessary to our sanity: a person with no humor is like an iron bridge with no give in it. It is vital, too, that we learn to laugh at ourselves.” Laughter has been shown to have therapeutic qualities for the mind and the body. It also has value for our life with the Lord. As the psalmist recalled in the day of God’s restorative presence:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
Then were we like those who dream.
Then was our mouth filed with laughter,
And our tongue with shouts of joy. (Psalm 126:1-2)

So, how does one go about choosing a discipline for Lent? Oddly enough, one of the more spiritually refreshing Lenten seasons that I can remember as a busy parish priest was a year I decided I would take better care of myself physically. Regular exercise, eating well, and fully taking my day off was spiritually restoring in ways I did not anticipate-though do not misunderstand me here; I remained steadfast in prayer, in study of Scripture, the rhythm of Eucharist, and fully engaged in ministry. So don’t just decide you will do without chocolate, coffee, or some equally knee-jerk, and, possibly, fruitless undertaking. Rather, consider seeking the advice of a wise, discerning Christian friend or spiritual mentor. Ask the counsel of a priest or pastor; prayerfully listen to God while in prayer or in church. Just don’t be too surprised at what you hear. It may be a delightful prescription you hear uttered in stillness: “slow down,” “sleep more,” “laugh a lot” or “spend more quality time with your family.” Of course there will be those who hear, “get the lead out,” (Hebrews 12:12-13) “quit nursing your wounds and get on with the rhythms of grace,” (see Hebrews 12:15) and for most of us: “face into your sin, repent, and enter the joy of being reconciled to God and your neighbor.” It is just that the last of these, facing into our sin may include for some of us the recognition that we have been engaged in a vain attempt to shoulder a heavy yoke the Lord has not called us to carry alone and certainly not without the joy of a Sabbath rest or the Hope of the Easter Resurrection.

Gratefully and gracefully yours,

–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark J. Lawrence is Bishop of South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lent, TEC Bishops

(BBC) Dissident Anglicans leave Church of England

A first wave of about 600 Anglicans are officially leaving the Church of England in protest at the decision to ordain women as bishops.

They will be enrolled as candidates to join a new branch of the Catholic Church – the Ordinariate – which has been specially created for them.

They attended Catholic Mass marking Ash Wednesday before spending Lent preparing to convert.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Jeff Walton: Reorganized Pittsburgh Diocese Debuts at Episcopal Urban Caucus Assembly

Declaring that it was time to be a “normal diocese,” leaders of the reorganized Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church welcomed a liberal church caucus group to the city for its annual assembly. Meeting February 23-26 in Pittsburgh, the Episcopal Urban Caucus (EUC) adopted the assembly theme “Building Bridges ”“ Healing Connections in a Broken World: May the Beauty We Love Be What We Do.” The need for building bridges amidst brokenness was evident to leaders in a diocese that had lost its former bishop and most of its parishes to the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Disputes arising from that split remain unresolved. The two dioceses are locked in litigation following the reorganized Episcopal Diocese’s efforts to assume control of parish properties.

“In the diocese of yesteryear, we were big players in the issues that concern the Episcopal Urban Caucus,” said the Very Rev. George Werner, past president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies and Dean Emeritus of Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh.

Werner was joined by Pittsburgh Provisional Bishop Kenneth Price and several members of the diocese’s standing committee in welcoming the EUC on the opening night of its annual assembly.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

OC Register–Episcopal split over gay clergy goes back to high court

St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach went back before the state Supreme Court Tuesday in the latest chapter in its long-running battle with the Episcopal Church.

St. James was one of three Episcopal churches in Southern California to split from the denomination in 2004, after the national church ordained a gay man as bishop in New Hampshire. The Los Angeles Diocese, later joined by the national Episcopal Church, sued St. James after the split, asserting ownership of the church property at 3209 Via Lido.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

Americans see U.S. on wrong track: Reuters/Ipsos poll

Americans’ confidence in the way the country is going has slumped to a two-year low in the last month, and one pollster blamed soaring gas prices.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Wednesday the proportion of people who believe the United States is on the wrong track rose seven points to 64 percent from February, in a fresh challenge to President Barack Obama.

It was the highest number of people in an Ipsos poll who think the country on the wrong track since Obama took office in January 2009. The survey comes as many indicators show an improving U.S. economy.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Politics in General, Psychology

(LA Times) Spending plans fail in Senate; 9 days till government shutdown

As expected, the U.S. Senate failed Wednesday to advance either the House Republicans’ spending bill or an alternative proposal offered by Democrats, leaving lawmakers just nine days to work on a compromise plan or face a government shutdown.

Neither plan achieved even a simple majority of support in the chamber. The vote in the Senate was 56-44 against the plan approved by the Republican-led House last month, which would cut current spending levels by $61 billion. A subsequent vote on the alternate proposal from Senate Democrats, which offers cuts of $6.5 billion, failed 58-42. Sixty votes were needed to advance the measures.

The vote comes as President Obama faces new pressure to exert greater influence over the congressional debate. As the Senate readied for votes on the competing measures Tuesday, freshman Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) accused both parties of engaging in “political theater.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

David Broder dies; Pulitzer-winning Washington Post political columnist

David S. Broder, 81, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post and one of the most respected writers on national politics for four decades, died Wednesday at Capital Hospice in Arlington of complications from diabetes.

Mr. Broder was often called the dean of the Washington press corps – a nickname he earned in his late 30s in part for the clarity of his political analysis and the influence he wielded as a perceptive thinker on political trends in his books, articles and television appearances.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Death / Burial / Funerals, Media, Parish Ministry

(RNS) Court Rejects Challenge to `In God We Trust’

Atheist Michael Newdow plans to continue his fight to get “In God We Trust” off U.S. currency after the Supreme Court denied a hearing in his case on Monday (March 7).

“I plan on bringing the lawsuit again on behalf of other Americans who believe they are injured when the government lends its power to one side of the controversy over whether or not God exists,” he said Tuesday.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture