Daily Archives: March 22, 2011

(RNS) Methodists Shun the Bottle That No One Wants to Talk About

“It isn’t that alcohol in and of itself is bad; Jesus drank wine…” [the Rev. James Howell] said. “We emphasize the role it plays in our lives.”

Part of that discussion, Howell and others have found, involves acknowledging a fact that some Methodists prefer not to talk about: some Methodists drink””even if many don’t like to admit it.

From teetotaling Baptists to Episcopalians who uncork champagne in the parish hall, what to do with the bottle can be a tricky question for religious groups to answer””especially during holy periods or holidays.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Alcohol/Drinking, Alcoholism, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Libyan Fight for Democracy, or a Civil War?

The question has hovered over the Libyan uprising from the moment the first tank commander defected to join his cousins protesting in the streets of Benghazi: Is the battle for Libya the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it fundamentally a tribal civil war?

The answer could determine the course of both the Libyan uprising and the results of the Western intervention. In the West’s preferred chain of events, airstrikes enable the rebels to unite with the currently passive residents of the western region around Tripoli, under the banner of an essentially democratic revolution that topples Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

He, however, has predicted the opposite: that the revolt is a tribal war of eastern Libya against the west that ends in either his triumph or a prolonged period of chaos.

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

Birmingham: Catholic and Anglican church leaders give 2011 Cadbury Lectures

Archbishop Bernard Longley and Bishop David Urquhart, the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham held a dialogue last night to inaugurate the five 2011 Edward Cadbury Lectures on the topical theme “Parables for the City”, under the auspices of the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, at the University of Birmingham.

There was standing room only with students and others sitting on the floor in the lecture room at the Department of Theology and Religion in the European Research Institute Building, yesterday at the start of the open and free admission lecture series.

The Anglican Bishop of Lahore, Pakistan, was among those present for the hour-long lecture. Bishop Alexander John Malik is on a visit to England at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take part in special services for the Pakistan Cabinet Minister of Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, who was brutally murdered for his Catholic faith on 2 March 2011.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(ENS) Deputies leave historic meeting eager to discuss same-gender blessings with wider church

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, SCLM chair, stressed during the gathering that the participating deputies had not been asked to debate whether the church should gather resources about same-gender blessings or whether the church should bless such relationships. Meyers said that C056 asked the SCLM to gather resources and that the bishops and deputies who gather for the 2012 meeting of General Convention “will decide the status of those resources in the church.”

At its October 2011 meeting, the SCLM is due to decide on the substance of its C056 report that will be included in the so-called Blue Book collection of reports to 2012 General Convention.

Anderson told the deputies as they prepared to depart Atlanta March 19 that “we don’t agree on every single word and every single approach and on all of the theology. Some deputies didn’t agree on C056. They said so then and they say so now and that’s okay.”

“Some of us did agree and we have moved together in a common rhythm,” she said. “We have learned from each other and it reinforces the fact that we are the holy people of God brought together by God in holy and Christian community.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

(WSJ) Insolvency Looms as States Drain U.S. Disability Fund

The SSDI is set to soon become the first big federal benefit program to run out of cash””and one of the main reasons is U.S. states and territories have a large say in who qualifies for the federally funded program. Without changes, the Social Security retirement fund can survive intact through about 2040 and Medicare through 2029. The disability fund, however, will run dry in four to seven years without federal intervention, government auditors say.

In addition to the uneven selection process, SSDI has been pushed to the brink of insolvency by the sour economy. A huge wave of applicants joined the program over the past decade, boosting it from 6.6 million beneficiaries in 2000 to 10.2 million in 2010. New recipients have come from across the country, with an 85% increase in Texas over 10 years and a 69% increase in New Hampshire.

Over the years, Puerto Rico’s dependence on SSDI has grown particularly stark, exacerbated by the closure of factories and U.S. military installations, an exodus of skilled workers and a number of corruption scandals.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

Christopher Wolfe–What Marriage Has Become

It is important to situate the same-sex marriage issue in the context of dramatic changes in our society over the last forty years that bear upon the very nature of marriage. These changes have paved the way for the even more dramatic changes implicit in the adoption of homosexual marriage.

We should not hope to return to some mythical golden age of marriage in the past. Marriage has always had its problems, many of them significant. There have been some profound changes since 1970, and some of them (e.g., greater opportunities for women in education and employment) have been good. But others have been, in my opinion, catastrophic.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family

(First Things) Gerald McDermott–The battle between Meliorists and Traditionists to define evangelic

Long confused with fundamentalism by most of the academy and dismissed as intellectually inadequate, evangelical theology has in the last two decades become one of the liveliest and most creative forms of Protestant theology in America. Not long ago the Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten noted that “the initiative in the writing of dogmatics has been seized by evangelical theologians in America. . . . Most mainline Protestant and progressive Catholic theology has landed in the graveyard of dogmatics, which is that mode of thinking George Lindbeck calls ”˜experiential expressivism.’ Individuals and groups vent their own religious experience and call it theology.”

Evangelicals generally believe theology is reflection on what comes from outside their experience as the Word of God. For that reason””that they talk not primarily about themselves but about a transcendent God whose self-revelation must be wrestled with””they not only have more to say than mainline Protestantism, but more interesting things to say.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology

(ABC Aus.) Scott Stephens–And Deliver Us from Evil

It was John Paul II who, with a clarity unparalleled in the twentieth century, recognized that in our very attempt to oppose the “Evil” we dread in others – whether in the form of genocide or totalitarian violence, down to the fear that immigrants will steal away our idolatrous “way of life,” or that the unwanted elderly or unwanted pregnancies will restrict our freedom – has ended up institutionalizing “Evil” in what he memorably described as our “culture of death.”

“To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin’ (John 8.34).”

In this way, far from being a bizarre relic of primitive Christianity, the rite of exorcism could represent an authentic expression of the Christian virtues of solidarity, mutuality and love, which alone can oppose the devil and all his works.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology

(USA Today) Thomas Kidd–More freedom, less pragmatism needed on US Foreign Policy

…amid the turmoil of 2011, and this weekend’s military intervention in Libya, we need clarity about our guiding principles. Yes, the situation in the Middle East is highly complex. That complexity makes moral vision all the more necessary. The list of our non-negotiable values is not long, but they include the right of peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and of the press, and religious liberty for all faiths. Our commitment to these freedoms historically derived from the confidence, as Jefferson wrote, that those “liberties are of the gift of God.”

Belief in God-given liberty is still the most compelling reason to defend freedom around the world. We should marshal all our influence and means of diplomatic pressure, speaking with one voice, to promote liberty in the new Middle East. The region’s protesters continue to call for relief from decades of oppression. Our politicians will typically react to these pleas in one of two ways: The pragmatist will hedge and stutter, while the moral leader will cast a vision for what a good and just future might hold.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, History, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of James DeKoven

Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues, who didst inspire thy servant James de Koven to do what is right and to preach what is true: Grant that all ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may afford to thy faithful people, by word and example, the knowledge of thy grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Write deeply upon our minds, O Lord God, the lesson of thy holy Word, that only the pure in heart can see thee. Leave us not in the bondage of any sinful inclination. May we neither deceive ourselves with the thought that we have no sin, nor acquiesce idly in aught of which our conscience accuses us. Strengthen us by thy Holy Spirit to fight the good fight of faith, and grant that no day may pass without its victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”

–Romans 1:17-18

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Gallup–Americans' Worries About Economy, Budget Top Other Issues

Nearly three in four Americans (71%) say they worry about the economy “a great deal,” more than worry about 13 other issues Gallup measured in a March 3-6 poll. Nearly two in three (64%) worry a great deal about federal spending and the budget deficit. Americans show the least anxiety about race relations — the only issue about which the majority is “only a little” or “not at all” concerned.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Archbishop Williams repeats call for levy on Financial transactions

The Archbishop of Canterbury has repeated calls for a “Robin Hood” tax to be imposed on financial transactions as he spoke of the “acute” dangers of “paralysing” the voluntary sector through heavy public spending cuts.

Dr Rowan Williams said a tax of 0.05% on transactions in currency, stocks and derivatives between major financial institutions – and not High Street banks – could generate £20 billion a year for the UK.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Currency Markets, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(Living Church) SCLM’s Rite in Progress: ”˜The Outline of Marriage’?

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music briefed nearly 200 invited General Convention deputies in Atlanta March 18 and 19 on how it is preparing a proposed rite for blessing same-sex couples. The SCLM invited two deputies, one lay and one clergy, from each of the Episcopal Church’s dioceses to attend the consultation.

“We are making history on a couple of levels,” said Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, because deputies are “meeting together outside of General Convention for the first time and discussing a topic outside of General Convention.”

Anderson reminded deputies of the limitations on General Convention’s authority, in that it “cannot change the core doctrine of the church,” but said that “the topic [rites for blessing same-sex couples] itself is history-making.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)