Tucked away within a wider press release just before Christmas it has been announced that at their December meeting the Church of England’s House of Bishops decided that “the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships” and that “the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate”. The announcement is already beginning to gain attention and speculation as to its significance including at Changing Attitude and Thinking Anglicans but its full import remains largely unconsidered. What follows seeks to set this decision in context and highlight important questions that remain unanswered and issues that need addressing.
Daily Archives: January 2, 2013
Spoiler alert: This story contains words and phrases that some people want to ban from the English language. “Spoiler alert” is among them. So are “kick the can down the road,” “trending” and “bucket list.”
A dirty dozen have landed on the 38th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.
The nonbinding, tongue-in-cheek decree released Monday by northern Michigan’s Lake Superior State University is based on nominations submitted from the United States, Canada and beyond.
I always enjoy this list–read it all; KSH.
Imagine if Martin Luther and John Calvin had YouTube.
Armed with Gutenberg’s printing press, the two reformers wrested Europe from the grip of the Roman Catholic Church and changed Christianity forever.
What would they have done with a medium that can zip text, music, and, perhaps most importantly, videos across the globe in a matter of seconds?
“The importance of YouTube, the importance of the Internet is huge for the next coming generation of the church,” Jefferson Bethke told NPR earlier this year.
One reason utilitarian ethical thinking proves so persistently attractive even to those who are reluctant to accept the conclusions it implies is that many of us have difficulty imagining what else ethical thinking could be. This is in part because ours is a culture that places more confidence in the application of theory than in the exercise of judgment, which is one reason utilitarianism has proved so curiously impervious to the reductio ad absurdum arguments that are most frequently used in attempts to refute it.
When Singer claims that we need a Copernican revolution in ethics, he is not casting himself in the role of Copernicus or Galileo. Camosy refers to those who share Singer’s views as “Singerites,” but this reinforces the misleading impression that Singer is the originator of those views. Singer is often described as the world’s most influential philosopher, and it is natural to assume that his prominence is a sign of fundamental originality.
Yet the opposite is closer to the truth. Singer’s writings on our duties to animals and the world’s poor, and his attack on the sanctity of life, could not have been as influential as they are if the reasoning with which he arrives at his conclusions were not already widely accepted, even if many of his conclusions are not.
The goal of your local church’s marketing effort is to increase the number of inbound leads and to drive conversions…. This is no different than the goal of commercial marketing, except we’re dealing in spiritual rather than tangible goods. Understanding how to increase inbound leads (people who express an interest in your church) and drive conversions (people who actually join your church) is not hard, but it does take leadership, planning, creativity and sustained effort. In other words, it takes a little work.
Most churches are already engaged in some forms of marketing. Any of the basic functions of parish life are marketing processes, including outreach, hospitality, ushering, preaching, maintaining the parish’s website and Facebook page, tweeting, and promoting the Sunday worship schedule. The challenge is to move from efforts focused on maintenance to efforts focused on growth.
The budget deal passed by the U.S. Senate [and House]… would raise taxes on 77.1 percent of U.S. households, mostly because of the expiration of a payroll tax cut, according to preliminary estimates from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington.
More than 80 percent of households with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would pay higher taxes. Among the households facing higher taxes, the average increase would be $1,635, the policy center said. A 2 percent payroll tax cut, enacted during the economic slowdown, is being allowed to expire as of [December 31]
Congress approved a plan to end Washington’s long drama over the “fiscal cliff” late Tuesday after House Republicans surrendered to President Obama’s demand to let taxes rise on the nation’s richest households.
The House voted 257 to 167 to send the measure to Obama for his signature; the vote came less than 24 hours after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation.
Update: Here are the new numbers for 2013 in Congress–Democrats control of the Senate by 55 to 45 (change of 2) and Republicans control of the House of Representatives by 234-201 (change of 8)
As with the holiday, so with the culture at large. The increasingly post-Christian culture of America and Europe are nevertheless more deeply rooted in Christianity than is usually recognized by its opponents (and some of its adherents). It’s at least theoretically possible that this culture will eventually get Christianity out of its system, out of the roots of its consciousness, and negligible as a cultural force, reduced to the private practices of an eccentric few. This would take several generations, and I don’t think it will happen, but it certainly could. And if it did, the resulting culture would, like Christmas, lose the hope and the humanism which had been its legacy from Christianity. As with Christmas, if the heart were to stop beating, the body would die.
We have seen the prospects for that new culture already, in the totalitarian nightmares of communism and fascism, in the wasteland of pleasure-and-power-seeking which is offered as the good life by much of the entertainment and advertising produced by capitalism, in the drab materialist collectivism of “Imagine” and the absurd materialist egoism of Atlas Shrugged.
Perhaps it’s not even too much to say that if Christmas were to die, the remains of Christian culture would die, too, and with it that softness toward the individual human person””imperfect, of course, and slow to develop””that has characterized it. As long as the mad mixture of the very earthly and the very heavenly which is Christmas””the poor and vulnerable newborn baby among the animals on the one hand, choirs of angels on the other””remains at the heart of the holiday, and the holiday remains very much alive in the culture, the natural coldness and brutality of the human race is always challenged from within the culture itself. Should that challenge be removed, no one would be more surprised by the result than those who worked to remove it. They might not live to see that result, but if their souls were not lost altogether, part of their purgatory might be the knowledge of what they had done to their descendants.
It was a cruel, cruel year ”” a year that kept raising our hopes, only to squash them flatter than a dead possum on the interstate.
Example: This year the “reality” show Jersey Shore, which for six hideous seasons has been a compelling argument in favor of a major earth-asteroid collision, finally got canceled, and we dared to wonder if maybe, just maybe, we, as a society, were becoming slightly less stupid.
But then, WHAP, we were slapped in our national face by the cold hard frozen mackerel of reality in the form of the hugely popular new “reality” show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which, in terms of intellectual content, makes Jersey Shore look like Hamlet.
Is the primary problem TEC faces today a “structural problem?” While we clearly have structural issues, I do not think we have yet come up with the right diagnosis. I would point to two issues that are symptomatic of our situation.
First, we have been involved in serious conflict for the past decade that has held the attention of our leadership, led to an acceleration of our decline and costs us millions of dollars in litigation. Like it or not, this conflict is related directly to our theological and missional identity, namely who are we and what we are called to do. I would caution that just because one side in the conflict seems to have won, this does not mean that we have determined an identity and way forward, especially a way that is significant to our wider cultural context. If the Episcopal Church is to have a future other than shrinking numbers, budgets, and congregations, we must be able to reach people in our society and draw them into this part of the body of Christ.
Second, there continues to be a major disconnect between our corporate structures and the local congregation. We continue to hear from denominational leaders that recent decisions have made us more viable to new generations and new ethnic groups which is making us a more inclusive and multi-cultural church. However, the numbers of declining congregations and the reality in the field is that local congregations are not, nor are most becoming, the kind of church that General Convention and the Executive Council say we are. Of course, we have some congregations that reflect this, but they are far from the norm of our local congregational life. I have spent much time over the last ten years visiting Episcopal Churches and making presentations on congregational development. I observe that many of our congregations are struggling with basic survival issues.
Cecil F. Alexander wrote a number of hymn texts on articles of the Apostles’ Creed. This text, whose biblical source is Genesis 1:31 (“and God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”), is Alexander’s explanation of the Creed’s phrase “Maker of heaven and earth.” The text was first published in her Hymns for Little Children (1848) in seven stanzas, one of which was:
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly
And ordered their estate
“Continue in prayer.”
It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as we are about to close the volume, the “Amen” of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob””there a Daniel who prayed three times a day””and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer?
We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord’s mercy show thee thy misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father’s face, and live in thy Father’s love. Pray that this year thou mayst be holy, humble, zealous, and patient; have closer communion with Christ, and enter oftener into the banqueting-house of his love. Pray that thou mayst be an example and a blessing unto others, and that thou mayst live more to the glory of thy Master. The motto for this year must be, “Continue in prayer.”
Listen to it all if you so desire.
Almighty God, as we keep the festival of the divine humility of thy Son Jesus Christ, we beseech thee to bestow upon us such love and charity as were his, to whom it was more blessed to give than to receive, and who came not to be ministered unto but to minister; that in his name we may consecrate ourselves to the service of all who are in need; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sar’ai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. Thence he removed to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night…
New Year’s Day is a time to think of beginnings. Yet, before we resolve to make our own beginnings, let’s remember the good news. An ultimate beginning has been made ”“ one that shapes everything. The controlling reality of our lives is not Fate or a Force but a Fellowship. And His unshakeable resolution is to draw us in.
Earlier this year, The Guardian reported about Bonnie Ware, a palliative nurse, who had spent 12 years documenting the last words and dying regrets of those under her care (which eventually resulted in a book). Ware said that people at the end of their lives have “phenomenal clarity of vision,” and therefore we should consider what we might learn from their wisdom.
Ware listed the top 5 regrets (most commonly mentioned) of those on their deathbed. At the end of each regret listed by Bonnie Ware, I share a prayerful reflection about this upcoming New Year.
I come to this New Year’s celebration having read a daily reflection through Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the Church’s most beloved theologians. He was imprisoned for his criticism of the Nazi regime in Germany and hung by order of one of Hitler’s final execution decrees in April, 1945. He was just 39 years old. Though his life was short, his legacy as a devoted Christian lives on in the papers he delivered, the entries he made in his diary and in his letters from prison.
Writing to his fiancÃ©e, Maria von Wedemeyer, on December 13, 1943, he said, “Be brave for my sake, dearest Maria, even if this letter is your only token of my love this Christmas-tide. … God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment.”
Bonhoeffer described the birth of the Christ Child as “the greatest turning point in history.” “Everything past and everything future is accomplished here … the infinite mercy of the almighty God comes to us in the form of a child.”
The backup quarterback throws a touchdown pass with 11 seconds left on the clock. My goodness what a win for the Gamecocks–and it was a super game.
Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled,
And naked branches point to frozen skies.””
When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold,
The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn
A sea of beauty and abundance lies,
Then the new year is born.
Look where the mother of the months uplifts
In the green clearness of the unsunned West,
Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts,
Cool, harvest-feeding dews, fine-winnowed light;
Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest
Profusely to requite.
Blow, Israel, the sacred cornet! Call
Back to thy courts whatever faint heart throb
With thine ancestral blood, thy need craves all.
The red, dark year is dead, the year just born
Leads on from anguish wrought by priest and mob,
To what undreamed-of morn?
A US Senate-backed deal [by a vote of 89-8] to stave off a “fiscal cliff” of drastic taxation and spending measures has passed to the House of Representatives.
President Barack Obama has urged the House to pass the bill “without delay”.
However, several representatives have spoken out against it, with one calling it “bad for America”.