Monthly Archives: November 2011

Central Banks Take Coordinated Action to Help Global Financial System and Eurozone Crisis

The world’s major central banks launched a joint action to provide cheap, emergency U.S. dollar loans to banks in Europe and elsewhere, a sign of growing alarm among policy makers about stresses in Europe and in the global financial system.

The coordinated action doesn’t directly address Europe’s government-debt and budget woes. Instead, it is aimed at alleviating the impact of those troubles on global markets. Moreover, it raises the prospect of other steps by central bankers to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

“The purpose of these actions is to ease strains in financial markets and thereby mitigate the effects of such strains on the supply of credit to households and businesses and so help foster economic activity,” said a statement issued by the six central banks””the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Economy, Europe, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Globalization, The U.S. Government

(USA Today) Rise in PTSD cases from two wars strains resources

Ten thousand combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder flooded into VA hospitals every three months this year, pushing the number of patients ill with the disorder above 200,000 and straining resources, Department of Veterans Affairs data to be released today show.

he increase is more than 5% per quarter, according to data obtained by USA TODAY, and it occurs as the VA struggles to move veterans quickly into therapy. New mental health patients at about a third of VA hospitals wait longer than the department’s goal of 14 days or less, according to a USA TODAY analysis published this month.

“Demand for mental health care is only going to continue to grow as thousands more troops return home,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “The VA still has work to do to decrease wait times, ”¦ reduce the stigma around seeking care and to provide access to care in rural areas.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Health & Medicine, Psychology, The U.S. Government

North Palm Beach church may split from Presbyterian group that approved same sex partnered Clergy

First Presbyterian Church of North Palm Beach tonight will begin discussing whether it should split from the Presbyterian USA group, which recently approved openly gay clergy and lay leaders, and join another Presbyterian group, which does not.

First Presbyterian has about 1,100 members, among them golf legend Jack Nicklaus and former GE head Jack Welch.

Ken Kirby, one of the members that organized the meeting at the church, said that it would be oversimplifying to reduce the decision to the issue of gay clergy. He is part of a growing group of Presbyterians who feel that the Presbyterian Church USA has taken a radical step away from traditional beliefs.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), TEC Conflicts, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Elizabeth Marquardt–Get Ready for Group Marriage

Is the prospect of group marriage far-fetched? Probably not. There are several avenues that could soon lead to legal recognition of unions involving three or more people. The efforts come from the fringes of the left, from the darkest corners of the fundamentalist right, and from the laboratories of fertility clinics and hard scientists around the world….

All of which begs questions: How do children feel when they are raised by three or more persons called their parents, especially when those people disagree? If their three-plus parents break up, how many homes do we expect these children to travel between? And why would anyone watching news coverage of arrests at polygamist compounds in Texas or British Columbia — seeing hundreds of pale women wearing identical ankle-length dresses and braided hair amid reports of widespread abuse of and pregnancy among girls — think that polygamy is compatible with a society that values women’s rights and children’s safety?

Get ready for the debate. And in the meantime, wedding planners: start figuring out how many brides and grooms you can fit down that aisle.

Read it all (another from the long queue of should-have-already-been-posted material).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Canada, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts under fire over funds for Diocesan Camp

As the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts prepares to close on the sale of the Bement Camp and Conference Center near Worcester this week, a group of camp alumni has called on the state attorney general to investigate the handling of funds held in trust by the diocese.

In a statement Tuesday, the diocese said it was both “surprised and disappointed” by the development and said the funds entrusted in its care have been handled properly.

“All diocesan funds, including those to support the Bement Camp and Conference Center, are invested, managed and expended in compliance with the directions of the donor, if any, church canons and applicable Mass. and federal laws,” Steven Abdow, administration and finance officer, wrote to the [Daily Hampshire] Gazette on behalf of the diocese.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Bishops

An Unholy muddle in Indonesia

The world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia, has long had a problem in some parts of the archipelago with religious extremism, intolerance and the sort of terrorism that can flow from both. The country has had a good deal of success in combating Islamist terrorism since the bombings on the island of Bali in 2002, which killed 202 people. But continuing suicide-bomb attacks and the discovery of terrorist training-camps suggest that Indonesia remains in danger. Judging by recent events, however, the country has yet to develop a clear strategy to deal with the threat. Too often, different bits of the state give out different, even contradictory, signals. The result is a dangerous muddle.

Thus on October 12th lawmakers at last passed a new security bill, the Law on State Intelligence. This was the culmination of years of debate, in many ways a tribute to Indonesia’s vibrant new democracy. Legislators wanted to produce a bill that sharpened the effectiveness of the country’s multitude of intelligence and anti-terrorist agencies without encroaching too much on hard-won civil rights. In the end, the law redefined the roles of those agencies, strengthening their powers to intervene against “opponents” working against the “national interest”. A tough new stance from the state, it might seem. Indeed, just the sort of law that might have made it easier to gather evidence against people such as Abu Bakar Basyir, a notorious radical cleric. At the conclusion of the latest case against him in June, Mr Basyir was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a district court for inciting terrorism and funding terrorist cells.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Indonesia, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Christopher West–Our Bodies Are Theological

One of the major dilemmas in secular society is that we’re taught that we should “embrace our sexuality,” and should therefore express this sexuality with multiple partners. How would you use the theology of the body to speak to a secular culture that is struggling to understand the idea of chastity and the celibate life?

West: You’ll see how I attempt to do that tonight at the Fill These Hearts event. But, first, I think what needs to be affirmed is this ache we all have for love — this yearning, this hunger, this desire. We all experience it. It is universal. The question is: Where do we take that desire, and what really satisfies it?
The imagery I’ve developed, and the imagery I use at this Fill These Hearts event, to speak of this hunger: I say there are three gospels out there — and by gospel I mean some promise of happiness, what to do with the hunger. Most of us were raised on what I call the “starvation diet gospel.” We’re raised in Christian homes, but we often get the impression that our desire is bad, and it’s only going to get us in trouble, so we need to repress it. Then we need to follow all these rules and we’ll be good, upstanding Christian citizens. Well, that doesn’t last very long, because you can only starve yourself for so long before the culture’s gospel — which I call the “fast-food” gospel — starts to look very attractive. And the fast-food gospel is the promise of immediate gratification. You’re hungry? Eat this. Well, fast-food might not be very good for you, but if the only two choices are starvation or fast-food, I’m going for the fast-food, which is what most of us do.

Part one is here and pat two is there; please do read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Other Churches, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology

Samuel Wells–Be Not Afraid

For some people the big fear beyond death is judgment. For most of Christian history this has been what Christianity was really all about””preparing you to face the finality of judgment, and its bifurcation between heaven and hell ”¦. While we may not imagine perpetual fire or gnashing of teeth, it’s not hard to imagine being alone forever, a very gloomy prospect. And if one adds to that the possibility of everlasting pain, it’s too oppressive to think about….

In the face of this, St. Paul writes these stirring words, which conclude the eighth chapter of his Letter to the Romans: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(RNS) Tunisia a Test for Moderate Islam

Nearly a year after Tunisia set off the Arab Spring of popular revolt, the face of political Islam in this fledgling Muslim democracy is a 47-year-old mother of two who favors tailored suits and stiletto heels.

Souad Abderrahim’s main political experience was as a student union leader more than two decades ago, but the political neophyte is now cheered at rallies and trailed by the media as a leader of Ennahda, the Islamist party that is now the main political force in this North African country.

Abderrahim holds a seat in the country’s new Constituent Assembly, charged with creating a democratic political structure following the downfall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for nearly a quarter century.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Islam, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Tunisia

(Irish Times) Bishop Donal McKeown–Pope knows hope and truth can flow from crisis of faith

…Pope Benedict is clear that the Church should not seek to regain its power in European societies. Indeed, loss of church goods or privilege can actually be a great liberation for church. After all, it is not there to compete for status with other power blocs in society.

However, religion can continue to play an essential role in the creation of a modern society. Referring to the fact that large parts of Germany had known Nazi and Marxist dictatorships in the 20th century, the Pope underlined how ideology without God and political agendas without a sense of human dignity are inhuman.

If religion needs freedom, freedom also needs religion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Europe, Ireland, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Andrew

Almighty God, who didst give such grace to thine apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of thy Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give unto us, who are called by thy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord God, who dost by thy Holy Spirit endow thy servants with manifold gifts of knowledge and skill: Grant us grace to use the same always to thy glory and for the service of men; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

I offer to thee, O Lord my God, the work which thou hast appointed for me this day. Help me to do it heartily and faithfully, as in thy sight and for thy glory, that so I may be drawn nearer to thee and confirmed in thy service, which alone is true freedom; in the name of our Master and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

–William Bright

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.

–2 Peter 3:8-10

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Der Spiegel) 'Germany As Isolated on Euro as US Was On Iraq'

So far, though, Germany is resisting calls to allow the European Central Bank to conduct unrestricted purchases of government bonds issued by ailing euro-zone countries in order to push their borrowing costs down to sustainable levels.

It also remains opposed to jointly issued euro bonds. Its arguments are that the measures would remove the incentive on high-debt nations to get their budgets in order, would stoke inflation and would end up costing Germany too much.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Germany, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

(Globe and Mail) Can you guess the top 10 digital tools in today’s classroom?

Ah uh–guess first–then take a look.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Canada, Children, Education, Science & Technology

(Belfast Telegraph) Alf McCreary–How the churches practise what they preach in Africa

In the mountainous and beautiful south-west of Uganda, the Anglican Diocese of Kigezi is running a highly-successful water and sanitation programme. This is providing safe facilities for village communities, many of which are located in remote areas, where many people have died from water-borne diseases.

Trained staff teach the locals about the importance of good hygiene and safe water and the conservation of supplies. Rain water tanks are built, pipes are laid over rugged terrain, taps are installed and springs are protected and fenced off from animals and other predators.

The women and children are thus saved hours of carrying heavy containers of water daily up steep hillsides. Accordingly, the children have more time for school, and the parents have more energy and opportunities take greater care of their families, their land and their livestock.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Church of Uganda, Religion & Culture

Bishop Lawrence Writes to the Diocese About Disciplinary Board Decision

While the statement leaves many questions unanswered””frankly, to my mind it appears to read like a complex statement of a complex decision in a complex time within a complex church. Nevertheless, I believe it is best to take it at face value (even while noting that this diocese has not recognized the constitutionality of the new disciplinary canon). For now given no more allegations from anonymous sources within the diocese it is my hope we can all get back to focusing our full attention on proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and to Glory of God the Father that the Church here in the Diocese of South Carolina may add daily to its number those who are being saved.

Please know our vocation has not changed. While making disciples and witnessing to the unassailable Truth of the Gospel to a hurting and troubled world, and speaking truth to power within the unfolding struggles of The Episcopal Church, as well as taking our place in the larger Anglican Communion, we are, as you have heard me say on many occasions, called by God to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

(BBC) British Library scans 18th and 19th-Century newspapers

Four million pages of newspapers from the 18th and 19th Centuries have been made available online by the British Library.

The public will now be able to scan the content of 200 titles from around Britain and Ireland.

These will include historic events such as the wedding of Victoria and Albert and the rise of the railways.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, History, Media

The Evolution of Google Search in Six Minutes

Read it all and watch the whole video.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

Kendall Harmon's Sermon from this past Sunday, Advent I

Listen to it all if you so desire.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sermons & Teachings

A Living Church Editorial on the Mark Lawrence News from the Bishops Disciplinary Board

We are grateful that Bishop Lawrence’s Kafkaesque ordeal is now over. We are troubled that General Convention’s sweeping revisions to church canon made this sideshow possible. We pray that this test of the church’s comprehensiveness will inspire further discussion at General Convention next summer about the wisdom of reckless canonical revision.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, TEC Polity & Canons

Crisis in Europe Tightens Credit Across the Globe

Europe’s worsening sovereign debt crisis has spread beyond its banks and the spillover now threatens businesses on the Continent and around the world.

From global airlines and shipping giants to small manufacturers, all kinds of companies are feeling the strain as European banks pull back on lending in an effort to hoard capital and shore up their balance sheets.

The result is a credit squeeze for companies from Berlin to Beijing, edging the world economy toward another slump.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Nelson Jones–It is time to end the historic right of Anglican bishops to sit in the House of Lords

One thing above all stood out from Rowan Williams’s evidence yesterday evening to the Parliamentary committee looking at proposals to reform the House of Lords, and that is that the Church of England is very keen to maintain its peculiar historic privilege of having bishops in the legislature. Indeed, he and the church he leads see it as a vital part of their wider role in British society.

The present situation might be seen as anomalous, he conceded (albeit “a constructive anomaly”). There were no ecclesiastical representatives deputed from Scotland (where the Presbyterian church also has official status) or from Wales or Northern Ireland, where there are no established churches. In a multi-faith society the absence of automatic representation for other religions might also be seen as problematic. Williams wouldn’t object were some mechanism found for incorporating Jewish, Muslim or Hindu leaders, though he foresaw problems in identifying such leaders. But he didn’t seem to think of this as much as a priority, in any case, since the religious voice was so well represented already by himself and by his fellow Anglican prelates.

It’s at times like these that you realise the centrality of its legal establishment to the Church of England’s sense of itself.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Time Magazine) Bill Saporito Play the Lottery? You Bet

Social critics revile lotteries as state-sponsored regressive taxation because people buy lottery tickets disproportionately to their incomes–it’s a tax on the poor, in other words. The NASPL disputes that characterization, but research by economist Melissa Kearney at the University of Maryland shows that when state lotteries are introduced, they suck up 2.5% of household expenditures that would otherwise go to food, rent and things like children; the spending level reaches 3.1% when instant games enter the picture. But Kearney is not a lotto scold; she now sees lotteries as perfectly rational outlays, subject to the controls that would be imposed on vices like alcohol. “For the majority of lottery players, they are getting a bit of entertainment or consumption value,” she says. “Simply the fact that it isn’t a positive return doesn’t mean it’s an irrational choice….”

For the cash-constrained, says Kearney, “there is not another asset available to them to be life-changing. They have some chance that they are going to win a million bucks. So it becomes not a terrible proposition.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Poverty, Psychology, State Government, Theology

(AP) Harvard researchers build flexible robot that can crawl, slither under a pane of glass

Harvard scientists have built a new type of flexible robot that is limber enough to wiggle and worm through tight spaces.

It’s the latest prototype in the growing field of soft-bodied robots. Researchers are increasingly drawing inspiration from nature to create machines that are more bendable and versatile than those made of metal.

The Harvard team, led by chemist George M. Whitesides, borrowed from squids, starfish and other animals without hard skeletons to fashion a small, four-legged rubber robot that calls to mind the clay animation character Gumby.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

(Reuters) Amanda Marcotte–The Religion of an increasingly godless America

That Americans are becoming more fond of the separation of church and state is a good thing. After all, our Founding Fathers set out to create a society that had such a separation, and they believed, rightly, that religion and politics shouldn’t mix. (“In God We Trust” was only added to our currency during the Civil War era.) That desire has never fully played out in American politics, and there’s every reason to believe it won’t truly play out in our lifetimes. But at current rates of growing interest in the separation of church and state, the religious right will have an increasingly hard time being viewed as more than a vocal minority by the rest of the country.

We should welcome such a change. The more that religion can be pushed off into the realm of private practice and out of the public square, the better for public discourse, as we can dispense with the God talk and move on to reality-based discussions about what we want and how we can get it. The Millennials have the right idea when it comes to dismissing the belief that religion somehow improves politics. Now we just have to wait for the religious right to finish with their temper tantrum over this, and then we can move on to the future.

Read it all.

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

A.S. Haley on TEC, Marriage, Canons and History–Rot from Without, Decay from Within

To sum up the current anomalies, as presented in this post:

1. The Episcopal Church (USA) currently defines marriage, both canonically and in its rubrics, as the “physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman.”

2. There is no current measure proposed in the governing bodies of the Episcopal Church (USA) which would alter or amend its definition of “marriage” so as to incorporate therein the joining in “marriage” of two persons of the same sex.

3. Notwithstanding the Episcopal Church (USA)’s Book of Common Prayer and its associated Canons, certain clergy (including diocesan bishops) have performed, or have allowed to take place within their Diocese, rites of “holy matrimony” for same-sex marriages within the Episcopal Church’s liturgy.

4. The resulting spectacle of lawlessness is undermining the Church from within.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Analysis, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, TEC Bishops, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology

The ENS story on the Disciplinary Board dismissing abandonment complaint against Mark Lawrence

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, TEC Polity & Canons

(Washington Post) States face bleak economic forecast, report says

“State budgets are certainly improving; however, growth is weak, and there is not enough money for all the bills coming in,” said NASBO Executive Director Scott Pattison. “State officials will still be cutting some programs, and increases in funding for any program except for health care will be rare.”

The report says that Medicaid, the combined federal-state health program for the poor and the disabled, will place the biggest budgetary burden on states. Because of increasing caseloads, declining federal help and spiraling health-care costs, state Medicaid spending is growing much faster than state revenue, crowding out funding for other priorities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Politics in General, State Government, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--