Daily Archives: November 6, 2011

(Moment Magazine) Mark Pinsky –Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Evangelical?

For Jewish progressives who remember the dark days of George W. Bush and Republican control of both houses of Congress, evangelicals are the election cycle boogeyman. We’ve already seen a growing stream of books and articles about evangelical conspiracies supposedly aimed at using Republican presidential candidates, such as Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann, to turn the United States into a “Christian nation.” These include Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and Rabbi James Rudin’s The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us. In a series for public radio, Rachel Tabachnick reported on the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), which aims to wage “spiritual warfare,” leveraging stealth political influence to take dominion over government, business and culture and hasten the second coming of Jesus.

Arcane, sensational theological doctrines like this are catnip to conspiracy theorists and their media enablers. Yet many of those most fearful of evangelicals know the least about them. Back in September, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart implicitly acknowledged that ignorance when he surveyed a clip of spectators at a Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. With his customary acuity, Stewart deconstructed the upscale audience in dresses, jackets and ties: “Look at this crowd. They’re not yahoos. This is not your torch and pitchfork angry villagers. These are people with firm opinions on which is the best brand of rider mower.” Kidding or not, Stewart at least recognized the evangelical Christians of the GOP base for what they are: moderate, middle-class Sun Belt suburbanites.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Judaism, Media, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Jeremy Bonner on the recent Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Convention

The teachings by Bishop Lebhar and his wife Marcia represented one of the high points of the convention. Conflict in churches, he told the assembly, is “a major problem for American Christians. We go shopping for non-conflict churches ”“ good luck!” We are generally viewed as failures if we’re involved in conflict, and yet sometimes conflict is a necessary part of our spiritual growth. Often the problem is not so much with the information that we gather on a problem but how we interpret it, and it is in the white heat of interpretation that conflict flourishes. In a conflict situation, the default position for those who are afraid is to cling to the familiar rather than to trust in God’s power to preserve us from even the worst of situations. God’s purpose in difficult times is both to humble and to test. Often our preference is to relieve pressures rather than have the inner workings of our hearts revealed. Members of his Diocese were all obliged to go through a process of coming to terms with their lack of control and of learning to forgive their detractors.

Marcia Lebhar later took up the theme of trust with a reflection on the reality of the paucity of water in Canaan as compared with the Israelites’ experience in Egypt. The heart of idolatry is the insistence on a “Plan B” and God has prepared a new Anglican for ACNA that its members must expect on God’s terms. Finally, and at the close of proceedings Bishop Lebhar, introduced the imagery of the challenge posed to Judaism posed by the Romanized culture of Herod the Great’s Caesarea and the warning to the infant Christian Church given by the Epistle of Jude, namely of cultural surrender. “Many Americans,” said, “have become co-dependent on the culture.” His greatest fear for ACNA is that today’s vitality will weaken and acculturation make its way in, for if we acquiesce to the prevailing culture we cannot save those now imprisoned by it.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CEN) Episcopal church reports sharp decline in attendance

The US Episcopal Church reports that attendance has fallen 16 per cent over the past five years with the number of Episcopalians dropping below two million.

According to statistics released last week, the number of Episcopalians fell from 2,006,343 in 2009 to 1,951,907 in 2010. Over the last 10 years the Church lost 16 per cent of its members, while the rate of decline for the past five years was 11 per cent.

After holding steady in the 1990s membership and attendance began to drop in the wake of the controversies surrounding the consecration of the Church’s first [non-celibate] gay bishop. Over the last 10 years attendance has fallen by 23 per cent to 657,831.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Data, TEC Parishes

The Latest Edition of the Diocese of South Carolina Enewsletter

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Media, Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops

Tom Wright–Imagining the Kingdom: Mission and Theology in Early Christianity

The four gospels stand magisterially at the head of the canon and the centre of early Christianity. They are remarkable documents. If they had been lost for centuries, and then dug up last year in the sands of Egypt, they would be hailed as among the most extraordinary writings from antiquity. Despite the occasional efforts to push them out of their central position and substitute other documents, whether actually existing (such as the wrongly named Gospel of Thomas) or reconstructed (such as the hypothetical document ”˜Q’), the majority of scholars still believe, rightly in my view, that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John deserve their place. The fact that they are well known should not blind us to their remarkable blend of page-turning narrative, vivid portraiture (especially of their central figure), historical verisimilitude and sophisticated theology.
And yet. Reversing what St Paul says about himself, the gospels, though well known at one level, are unknown at another. An oversimplification, of course; but I refer to the overall drift of gospel studies, and to the perception of the gospels in the church community to which biblical studies remains tangentially, and sometimes uncomfortably, related. Huge strides have been made, not least by my predecessor but one, Professor Richard Bauckham, both in his work on the wide intended readership of the gospels and in his award-winning book on the gospels and the eyewitnesses. If he is even half right ­”“ and I think he is at least that ”“ then all kinds of assumptions, including some of those blessed things they used to call ”˜the assured results of criticism’, will need to be torn up. But we need to go further still. Despite generations now of redaction criticism and narrative criticism, I am not convinced that the main message of the gospels has been grasped, let alone reflected in the methods employed for further study. And since I shall contend in this lecture that the four gospels stand at the centre of the missionary and hence theological life of the early church, a failure to understand their central thrust is most likely an index of a failure to grasp several other things as well about the life and work of the first Christians.

I am not being alarmist. Fine work in many directions has been done on the gospels, a generation ago by another predecessor, Matthew Black of blessed memory. And of course Robin Wilson, of more recent memory, contributed much to our understanding of the early Christian hinterland within which the gospels and their early reception must be understood. But there comes a time in every discipline to take a deep breath, stand back, and say, ”˜Well and good; but perhaps we’re still missing something.’ That’s when we need, not simply more attention to detail, vital and central though that remains, but precisely imagination: a willingness to think beyond the fence, to ask questions hitherto screened out. And, to complete the list of recent predecessors, Markus Bockmuehl in his short stay here published a remarkable book, Seeing the Word, offering an eloquent and wide-ranging plea for just such an imaginative leap, a reassessment of the tasks and methods of the whole discipline. That is the kind of exercise which I want to share with you this afternoon, with due gratitude both for the invitation to occupy this chair and for the warm welcome I have received in St Mary’s College and in the wider University community.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Education, England / UK, Missions, Scotland, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Leaving Iraq, U.S. Fears New Surge of Qaeda Terror

As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from Iraq by year’s end, senior American and Iraqi officials are expressing growing concern that Al Qaeda’s offshoot here, which just a few years ago waged a debilitating insurgency that plunged the country into a civil war, is poised for a deadly resurgence.

Qaeda allies in North Africa, Somalia and Yemen are seeking to assert more influence after the death of Osama bin Laden and the diminished role of Al Qaeda’s remaining top leadership in Pakistan. For its part, Al Qaeda in Iraq is striving to rebound from major defeats inflicted by Iraqi tribal groups and American troops in 2007, as well as the deaths of its two leaders in 2010.

Although the organization is certainly weaker than it was at its peak five years ago and is unlikely to regain its prior strength, American and Iraqi analysts said the Qaeda franchise is shifting its tactics and strategies ”” like attacking Iraqi security forces in small squads ”” to exploit gaps left by the departing American troops and to try to reignite sectarian violence in the country.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Iraq War, Middle East, Politics in General, Terrorism

(Modesto Bee) Fresno Episcopal Church to build labyrinth

Holy Family Episcopal Church ”“ Fresno’s only remaining Episcopal congregation ”“ has cleared the way to build a community labyrinth….

“It’s a very meditative and contemplative tool ”“ and can be used by people of all faiths and walks of life,” says the church’s pastor, the Rev. Michele Racusin, adding that the church hopes to complete the labyrinth by Easter, which is April 8. “That’s what the Episcopal Church is all about.”

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Posted in Uncategorized

(Modesto Bee) Lord, not lawsuits, matters to new San Joaquin Anglican Bishop

The Rev. Eric Menees, new bishop of the San Joaquin Anglican Diocese, might feel a little like David facing the giant Goliath.

First there’s the lawsuit seeking ownership of 31 of the diocesan parishes and the diocesan headquarters in Fresno. Then there are nine more lawsuits filed against the independently incorporated parishes that also are part of the diocese. Finally, there are the multimillion-dollar assets of the diocese, which remain frozen pending the outcome of the lawsuits.

The giant in this case is the Episcopal Church, which was not happy when Menees’ predecessor, the Rev. John-David Schofield, was the first bishop in the country to lead his diocese away from the national church and its increasingly liberal theology. Schofield and the 40 parishes loyal to him are under the oversight of the theologically conservative Anglican Church in North America, which allowed them to stay with the worldwide Anglican Communion, to which the… [Episcopal] church belongs.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

LSU Defeats Alabama in Overtime

What? You thought the Game of the Century would feature 100 points?

Admittedly, most of us assumed there would at least be a few touchdowns. Just one would have been nice. But for anyone who found No. 1 LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory over No. 2 Alabama on Saturday to be ugly, unsatisfying or somehow unimpressive, Tigers defensive end Sam Montgomery has a message for you.

“This is the way football is supposed to be played,” said the man whose third-down sack of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron in the first overtime possession typified a night of defensive dominance. “It’s not about running up the score. This is how two great teams in a great atmosphere are supposed to play.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Education, Men, Sports, Young Adults

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord God of time and eternity, who makest us creatures of time that, when time is over, we may attain thy blessed eternity: With time, thy gift, give us also wisdom to redeem the time, lest our day of grace be lost; for our Lord Jesus’ sake.

–Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

And when the governor had motioned to him to speak, Paul replied: “Realizing that for many years you have been judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. As you may ascertain, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem; and they did not find me disputing with any one or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues, or in the city. Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets, having a hope in God which these themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men.

–Acts 24:10-16

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Welcome to the Church of ”˜Godspell’

… “Godspell,” which opens Monday in its first Broadway revival, was serious business in 1971. At the time American religion was in a profound state of flux. The pews were emptying out, and children especially were disappearing from mainline Christianity. Vocations to the Catholic priesthood were cratering, and from 1963 to 1972 the number of American Catholics going to Mass declined from about three quarters to half (and kept falling). To take one startling statistic, Episcopal church school enrollment fell by a quarter from 1965 to 1971, the year “Godspell” made its debut Off Broadway. John-Michael Tebelak, who conceived and first directed the show, was himself an Episcopalian who later flirted with the priesthood before dying, at 36, in 1985. His church’s pews, even more than most, were vacant.

Young people wanted to leave the church, but not all of them wanted to abandon Christianity. Many wanted to return to a more primitive expression of their faith, and they reimagined Jesus as an accessible hippie, a cool friend rather than an object of veneration. In 1970, when Carnegie-Mellon theater majors threw together “Godspell” ”” which dervish-danced from La MaMa to the Cherry Lane Theater to the movie screen and finally, in 1976, to Broadway ”” it was quite subversive, or so they hoped, to make up Jesus like a clown. They dressed him in a Superman costume, and he danced joyously with a multiracial cast, quite obviously having fun (and, easy to imagine, having sex).

The musical’s challenge to polite Christian society was not lost on the establishment….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(Eric Barker) Does reading fiction make us nicer?

Guess first, then read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Psychology

Teen 'sexting' common and linked to psychological woes

Some Boston parents might be in for a rude awakening: 13 percent of area high school students say they’ve received “sext” messages and one in 10 has either forwarded, sent or posted sexually suggestive, explicit or nude photos or videos of people they know by cellphone or online.

So found a study of more than 23,000 students, with the results scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Sexting can include overtones of bullying and coercion, and teens who are involved were more likely to report being psychologically distressed, depressed or even suicidal, according to the 2010 survey of 24 (of 26) high schools in Boston’s metro-west region.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth

(BBC) Nigeria Boko Haram attack 'kills 63' in Damaturu

A series of bomb and gun attacks in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Damaturu has killed at least 63 people, the Red Cross says.

Witnesses said the bombs hit several targets, including churches and the headquarters of the Yobe state police.

Many people are reported to have fled the town after a night of violence.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism, Violence