Daily Archives: April 28, 2011
Buried in the ocean of news regarding our three wars has been what I think is the biggest U.S. economic story of the year: the federal government’s lawsuit against Boeing, seeking to prevent the opening of its $2 billion factory in South Carolina, for which 1000 workers have reportedly already been hired (in case you missed the news altogether: story, story, story).
Whatever the ultimate decision in the lawsuit, the very existence of the dispute will change the business landscape here in the U.S. for the next decade or two.
This Easter it seems that atheists have a lot to rejoice about. According to the latest data in the American Religious Identification Survey, the number of self-proclaimed atheists in America has nearly doubled since 2001 ”” from 900,000 to 1.6 million.
In a nation that once prided itself on its Judeo-Christian heritage, one out of every five Americans now claims no religious identity whatsoever; and the number of self-proclaimed Christians has declined by a whopping 15%.
Yes, those who believe in nothing seem to be winning more and more converts every year.
R.S. Thomas, the Welsh poet and Anglican priest who died a little more than a decade ago, left a body of work that is slowly becoming recognized as among the best and most important religious poetry of the twentieth century.
Like the century itself, however, it is not easily orthodox or pretty. Its bleak moods and near despair reflect the pull of doubt that defined those decades for many, including believers. As such, it stands outside the mainstream of the dominant, God-affirming, sacramental poetry that looks back to Gerard Manley Hopkins’s affirmation that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
Yet Hopkins was also the poet of the “terrible sonnets”””bitter spiritual laments that Thomas described as “but a human repetition of the cry from the cross”: My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me? Thomas’s own prolific poetic outpouring explored this very question, and his work continues to resonate with compelling freshness and urgency as a new century of uncertainty unfolds.
Statement from the Most Rev’d Eliud Wabukala, Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya and newly elected Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council:
Praise the Lord! It is a great joy to greet all of you as we celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Christ was an event that changed the course of history for good and as a result, my life and the lives of millions of others have been changed for eternity.
Yesterday I was elected Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council and I am honored to accept this call to serve the Anglican Communion in this special way. Together with 1200 bishops and leaders from around the Anglican Communion, I was privileged to spend a life-changing week in Jerusalem in 2008 as part of the Global Anglican Future Conference.
Jesse was just 10 days old in November 2009 when he was diagnosed with Herpes simplex, a virus often lethal to a newborn child. Doctors at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. told his parents that he had no better than a 50 percent chance of surviving, and at most a 25 percent chance of living without severe brain damage.
As the Virginia boy waited for a possible liver transplant, his grandfather started praying to the late Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005 and will be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday (May 1).
Practically at once, Jesse’s vital signs began to improve. He went off dialysis a few days later, and was released the following month with a clean bill of health, after what the specialist in charge called a recovery ofunprecedented swiftness.
Facing financial distress, the diocese of Moosonee will ask its synod in June to decide whether the diocese can continue its operations or whether it should be dissolved so that other forms of ministry can be pursued.
Three choices will be presented when the 45th diocesan synod meets June 3 to 5 in Timmins, Ont.: “Stay-as-is” but launch a major fundraising campaign; dissolve the diocese completely and transfer parishes to surrounding dioceses with their consent; or adopt the “historic Moosonee option,” where the diocese will be composed mainly of indigenous congregations.
You may also recall, that at September’s Governing Body, the bishops and the Standing Committee were asked by you to respond to the situation described in the Membership and Finance Report of 2008/09 which drew our attention in particular to the fact that:
Average attendance had continued to fall by 2% in line with the longer term trend.
Average attendance among young people had fallen particularly sharply.
The level of total direct giving fell for the first time since the statistics began to be collected in this format in 1990.
For the first time since 1993, total parish income was less than expenditure.
The proportion of parish expenditure spent on buildings had increased from 28% to 31%.
These figures present challenges to us as a Church but also an opportunity to tackle them.
The Archbishop of Wales is urging officials to be open to “significant change” ahead of a large-scale review.
Dr Barry Morgan said the Church in Wales must adapt to cope with the decline in clergy, waning investments and falling congregations.
Three independent experts are to assess its use of buildings and financial resources.
The church’s organisational structure could also change, he warned.
When Jase and Jennie Stefanski needed to pay a midwife her $5,000 fee for delivering their sixth child 10 months ago, the money came from an unlikely source: people who are members, like them, of a Christian nonprofit group called Samaritan Ministries. In dribs and drabs, the checks arrived, most between $135 and $320, many with personal notes attached congratulating the family.
The Stefanskis don’t have health insurance. Instead, they belong to a “health-care sharing ministry” whose members follow biblical teachings that they share each other’s burdens ”” in this case, their medical costs. Each member pays a monthly fee that varies with family size: Single members generally pay $135, couples $270, single-parent families $200 and two-parent families $320. Members pay the first $300 for any medical expense they incur; when they have bills ”” or “needs,” as they call them ”” above that amount, they send them to the ministry’s Peoria, Ill., offices. The ministry keeps track of the needs, informing other members where to send their monthly check, and letting those who have made requests know what checks to expect.
About half of recent attacks by Afghan security forces against their U.S. comrades were the result of combat stress or personal disagreements and the rest were Taliban infiltration plots, a military review shows.
On April 16, a member of the Afghan army killed five American and four Afghan soldiers at a training base in eastern Afghanistan. In January, an Afghan soldier killed one U.S. servicemember and wounded another. In 2010, eight U.S. troops were killed by Afghan security forces.
Of 16 recent attacks by Afghan forces on U.S. and allied troops, about half were committed by Afghan soldiers or police officers motivated by a grudge against a particular person or because of combat stress, said Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who leads the training of Afghan forces. Caldwell said five other attackers may have become disgruntled and been convinced by insurgents to mount attacks. The motives of the others were not clear.
A leading Anglican church body wants the baby bonus scrapped to rein in population growth.
The church’s key advisory group wants the Gillard Government to scrap public incentives that increase the birth rate and to cut immigration.
It has described population growth as a taboo subject and the “elephant in the room”.
In a submission to a federal population inquiry, the general synod’s public affairs commission has proposed a halt to “any policy that provides an incentive specifically and primarily to increase Australia’s population, notably the baby bonus”.
The Anglican church has taken a bold leap into the present, joining the widespread and heated debate over Australian population levels. According to one of the church’s key advisory groups, Australia’s population is growing at such an uncontrollable and unsustainable rate that the baby bonus should be scrapped.
Along with the baby bonus, the group wants all public incentives that encourage childbirth to be revoked.
We wonder if the Church will include marriage in its list of undesirable breeding incentives.
The Church is completely on the wrong foot here….
In March 2009 the Public Affairs Commission released a discussion paper on key issues for Australia’s future, which recommended some responses to global and national environmental stresses. A summary of this paper is attached, with a reference to the General Synod web site where the whole paper may be accessed.
Now the Commission seeks to assist consideration of population growth in a way that is consistent with our Christian faith and it is hoped will encourage integrated responses. Population growth is a controversial and sensitive topic, and one about which many fear to speak publicly, but it is fundamental to the challenges we face, globally and in Australia. Globally there is concern about the projected increase in population from 6.8 billion now to 9.2 billion by 2050 (1). In Australia there is concern about the recent official projection that Australia’s population will increase from 22 million now to 35 million by 2050. Consumption and environmental impact increase with population. These population increases will be taking place in a finite world that has not yet been able to agree on reducing greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid potentially catastrophic temperature increase and climate change. There is hope: a serious debate about population growth has very recently begun in Australia. This paper provides a brief overview and encouragement for Christians to become informed on the issue and to contribute to the debate.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In these first days of Easter the Church rejoices in Christ’s resurrection from the dead, which has brought new life to us and to our world. Saint Paul exhorts us to make this new life evident by putting to death the things of this earth and setting our hearts on the things that are on high, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (cf. Col 3:1-2). Having put on Christ in Baptism, we are called to be renewed daily in the virtues which he taught us, especially charity which binds all the rest together in perfect harmony. By living this new life we are not only interiorly transformed, but we also change the world around us. Charity in fact brings that spiritual freedom which can break down any wall, and build a new world of solidarity, goodness and respect for the dignity of all. Easter, then, is a gift to be received ever anew in faith, so that we may become a constant leaven of life, justice and reconciliation in our world. As believers in the risen Lord, this is our mission: to awaken hope in place of despair, joy in place of sadness, and life in place of death. With Christ, through him and in him, let us strive to make all things new!
O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of the enemy: Grant us to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, thou knowest.” Again he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host. Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done it, says the LORD.”
Often the coming of Jesus into this world is spoken of as his leaving his Godhead to enter into our mortal world. His rising from the dead is seen as his return to the glory of God. And this is true. But sometimes, hidden in this thought, is the idea that Jesus took on our messy humanity as an unfortunate condition of his mission in our world and on his return he leaves all its messiness behind. But this is not so. Jesus comes to our world as the act of God’s love. He enters our flesh not as a burden to his Godhead but as an expression of the deepest nature of all that God has made, for God saw it and it was good. And in returning to his Father, Jesus does not strip away his humanity as if it were a source of impurity. No, he rises in and with his body. He carries it home. And with his risen body he carries home all of the created order, which has its being through him, the Eternal Word. Jesus, we are told, loves ”˜his own’ even to the end, even though ”˜his own’ would not accept him. But in his rising from the dead, in his own homecoming, each one of us also finds our way home opened and clearly marked out.
We may often be tempted to think of our flesh, our humanity, as the part of us that we must go beyond, which we must somehow reject. But Jesus does not do that. Rather, he raises it up to new life.
Only in this light do we see our physical world correctly….
But while Egyptians can agree that Mr Mubarak was bad for the country, and that all those who helped topple him deserve public approval, there is far less certainty in people’s minds over the future political order which should emerge.
Religion is at the centre of this lack of clarity. A clear majority ”“ 62 per cent ”“ told the pollsters that laws should strictly follow the teachings of the Koran. However, only 31 per cent said “they tend to sympathise with the Islamic fundamentalists in their country”, while another 30 per cent said they sympathised more with “those who disagree with Islamic fundamentalists”.
Every first and third Monday of the month for as long as anyone can remember, this city’s elected commissioners have gathered in their musty second-floor chambers to contend with issues large and small ”” reports of gaping potholes, proposals to sell city land, an annual budget plan.
But as of this month, they are literally powerless, and hold no authority to make any decisions. Not even on potholes.
The city is now run by Joseph L. Harris, an accountant and auditor from miles away, one of a small cadre of “emergency managers” dispatched like firefighters by the state to put out financial blazes in Michigan’s most troubled cities.
…while President Obama has presided over an unprecedented federal spending spree, he’s far from the first White House occupant to run up big debt numbers while insisting that he’s moving toward lowering them — eventually.
He’s also not the first politician caught between contradictory public demands of lower spending and higher benefits. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week reports that 78 percent of Americans oppose cutting Medicare spending, and 69 percent oppose cutting Medicaid.
Yet even most liberal Democrats, including the president, concede this indisputable point: America’s long-term debt crisis will never be solved without containing the soaring costs of Medicare and Medicaid.
I think this letter reveals a lot about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sort of theology ”“ more, indeed, than many of his lectures or agonised Synod addresses. I’d be interested to know whether readers of this blog think he did a good job of answering Lulu’s question.
But what the letter also tells us is that the Archbishop took the trouble to write a really thoughtful message ”“ unmistakably his work and not that of a secretary ”“ to a little girl. “Well done, Rowan!” was the reaction of Alex Renton’s mother, and I agree