Daily Archives: January 7, 2013

Martin Marty: Pastors suffer fools

Suffering fools does not mean being soft and sentimental. Pastors can be harsh and judgmental articulators of law. But, when in 1963 I moved from parish ministry to the professorship, my Dean and Friend “Jerry” Brauer, said, “Marty, there is a difference in your new role. Good professors have to flunk some people; good pastors never do.” This does not mean that professors have to get their credentials by being non-pastoral and great flunkers. It does mean that the message which imparts credentials to pastors teaches them to see people, foolish people, from a different perspective than they naturally would. I once wanted to provide a character reference to an arrested church member, who was of good character. His lawyer said, “The judge will ignore what you say. Clergy are ”˜soft’ when character-referencing. They know evil, but they find the good, and that does not help in court.” David Brooks might have been listening.

Dismiss “the institutional church” and its ministers, if you will, but, if Brooks is right, you will not have fewer fools. You will likely find more people abandoned, often unjustly, in an impersonal world where someone, someone, should not lose patience or become impolite and dismissive. Here endeth my post-Twelve Days of Christmas column. We can now get back to the gross and grim headline items that beckon for attention in the world of “public religion” in the seasons ahead.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Health Insurers Raise Some Rates by Double Digits

Particularly vulnerable to the high rates are small businesses and people who do not have employer-provided insurance and must buy it on their own.

In California, Aetna is proposing rate increases of as much as 22 percent, Anthem Blue Cross 26 percent and Blue Shield of California 20 percent for some of those policy holders, according to the insurers’ filings with the state for 2013. These rate requests are all the more striking after a 39 percent rise sought by Anthem Blue Cross in 2010 helped give impetus to the law, known as the Affordable Care Act, which was passed the same year and will not be fully in effect until 2014.

In other states, like Florida and Ohio, insurers have been able to raise rates by at least 20 percent for some policy holders. The rate increases can amount to several hundred dollars a month.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance, The U.S. Government

An Albuquerque Journal article on the Rio Grande Same Sex Blessing Decision

The announcement comes six months after the General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved a liturgy enabling priests to bless same-sex relationships with the approval of their bishops. The blessings are allowed both in states where same-sex marriages are legal or, as in the case of New Mexico, where they are not.

“It’s not a marriage in any way,” Vono said in an interview Sunday. “It’s not a legal marriage. It’s not a marriage in the church. This is a recognition of a commitment, which is a covenant, of two people who vow to live their lives in a monogamous relationship.”

The Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande includes close to 60 congregations in New Mexico and part of western Texas.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, --Gen. Con. 2012, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Parishes, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bishop Michael Vono grants Permission for Same Sex Union Blessings in the Diocese of the Rio Grande

The trust and conviction behind these pastoral guidelines reflect the belief that the faithful, loving, and lifelong union of two persons of the same sex is capable of signifying the unconditional and never-failing love of God in Christ. I have come to both trust and believe that such unions can be sources and signs of grace and reconciliation not only for the church and the world, but also for a faithful couple seeking a covenanted spiritual life together in Christ. All baptized persons who confess the faith of Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior appropriately need to be surrounded by the prayers, witness, love, and fellowship of the Christian community. The body of Christ is one in witness to the Church’s baptismal promises. Diversity of perspectives and contrary mindedness on any particular contemporary or historic church issue does not divide us, but rather reveals the unique Christian charisma of our oneness in Christ within our diversity. As St. Paul teaches, the body can only function as wholeness within its unique differences.

For more than a century an historic shift and change, not unlike others in Church History in discerning Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, intentionally has been under way. Holy Scripture and human sciences have been in serious dialogue in addressing the mystery of human nature, human relationships, and the moral and ethical dignity of Christian intimate behaviors. The blessing of same-sex unions represents a shift from centuries of what the church and various societies in their cultural contexts have judged to be unacceptable. Yet, as we are all well aware, there have been several other highly historic controversial shifts in our church and world culture. In hindsight, these shifts have come to be seen as faithful responses to a deepening understanding and revelation of what it means to be human. These shifts revealed how God in Christ is reflected in loving human relationships and in community.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Parishes, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Wilmington StarNews) Eastern North Carolina Episcopal bishop resigns

Episcopalians in Eastern North Carolina will soon be choosing a new bishop.

The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III, bishop of the Episcopal Church’s East Carolina diocese since 1997, resigned Friday to become bishop provisional of the diocese of Pennsylvania. His resignation becomes effective Feb. 28.

“I do love and treasure our Diocese of East Carolina and count it as a privilege to serve as your bishop for these years,” Daniels said in a statement posted Friday at the diocese’s website. “I have confidence in the leadership of the standing committee going forward and in the skills and abilities of a wonderful and dedicated staff at Diocesan House.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

(Christian Today) Christians evacuated from Sudan

Barnabas Fund has transported over 2,300 Christians from Sudan since the start of its rescue mission four months ago.

The Christians are being evacuated because of increasing hostility in the majority-Muslim country.

After South Sudan gained independence in 2011, the largely Christian Southerners living in Sudan lost their citizenship rights and were ordered to leave.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --North Sudan, --South Sudan, Africa, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sudan, Violence

A Statement by Archbishop Eliud Wabukala–The C of E and Civil Partnerships

As we enter the season of Epiphany we rejoice in the splendour of the light that has dawned upon us in the appearance of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Yet it is a great sadness that before the New Year has hardly begun, the life of the Anglican Communion has yet again been clouded by compromise with the secular preoccupations of the West.

The decision by the Church of England’s House of Bishops, just announced, that clergy in Civil Partnerships can be eligible to serve as bishops will create further confusion about Anglican moral teaching and make restoring unity to the Communion an even greater challenge.

The provisions of the UK’s Civil Partnership legislation mimic marriage for same sex couples and are clearly designed on the assumption that such couples are sexually active. While it is true that the House of Bishops require bishops with Civil Partners to be celibate, this proviso is clearly unworkable. It is common knowledge that active homosexuality on the part of Church of England clergy is invariably overlooked and in such circumstances it is very difficult to imagine anyone being brought to book.

However, the heart of the matter is not enforceability, but that bishops have a particular responsibility to be examples of godly living. It cannot be right that they are able to enter into legally recognised relationships which institutionalise and condone behaviour that is completely contrary to the clear and historic teaching of Scripture, as reaffirmed for Anglicans by the 1998 Lambeth Conference in its Resolution 1.10.

The weight of this moral teaching cannot be supported by a flimsy proviso. In his teaching about marriage, Jesus reaffirms that marriage is the coming together of a man and a woman in accordance with the pattern of creation itself when he says ”˜from the beginning of creation God made them male and female’ (Mark 10:6). For the health and well being of both church and society we must promote this great God given gift of marriage without compromise and ambiguity.

The Most Rev’d Dr Eliud Wabukala

Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya and Chairman, GAFCON Primates Council.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI appeals for a ceasefire in Syria

Pope Benedict XVI has made an urgent appeal to civil and political authorities to work for peace. The Pope’s heartfelt cry came on Monday during his annual address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See.

Speaking to representatives of the 179 States that currently have full diplomatic relations with the Vatican, as well as members of numerous international organizations such as the EU, the Order of Malta and the PLO, Pope Benedict emphasized that world leaders have a grave responsibility to work for peace. They are the first ”“ he said ”“ called to resolve the numerous conflicts causing bloodshed in our human family.

And the Pope went on to list urgent areas of concern starting with Syria which he described as being “torn apart by endless slaughter and the scene of dreadful suffering among its civilian population”.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Globalization, Middle East, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Syria, Violence

(Washington Post Editorial) Repairs to Medicare

There are two major reasons for Medicare’s rising costs. The first is the program’s design, often tweaked but left fundamentally intact since its creation in 1965, which basically pays doctors and hospitals fixed fees for whatever they do. At a time of rapid (and often beneficial) medical innovation, the dominant incentive has been to provide more, and more expensive, care. Hence the House Ways and Means Committee’s 1965 estimate that Medicare hospital insurance would cost $9 billion by 1990 fell short by $58 billion. The second reason costs keep going up, of course, is the rising number of elderly eligible for Medicare, which is inevitable; the 50 million beneficiaries today will be 78”‰million in 2030.

The ultimate solution is structural: to limit growth in expenditures per beneficiary. Easier said than done. Liberals would empower the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB) to stop payment for treatments it deems not cost-effective. The idea hasn’t gotten very far, partly because Republicans denounce it as “rationing.” Conservatives favor “premium support,” which would subsidize seniors to shop among competing insurance plans, but Democrats, the president included, have tarred that idea as a skimpy “voucher.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The U.S. Government

Gary King and Samir Soneji–Social Security: It’s Worse Than You Think

For the first time in more than a quarter-century, Social Security ran a deficit in 2010: It spent $49 billion dollars more in benefits than it received in revenues, and drew from its trust funds to cover the shortfall. Those funds ”” a $2.7 trillion buffer built in anticipation of retiring baby boomers ”” will be exhausted by 2033, the government currently projects.

Those facts are widely known. What’s not is that the Social Security Administration underestimates how long Americans will live and how much the trust funds will need to pay out ”” to the tune of $800 billion by 2031, more than the current annual defense budget ”” and that the trust funds will run out, if nothing is done, two years earlier than the government has predicted.

We reached these conclusions, and presented them in an article in the journal Demography, after finding that the government’s methods for forecasting Americans’ longevity were outdated and omitted crucial health and demographic factors. Historic declines in smoking and improvements in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease are adding years of life that the government hasn’t accounted for. …

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Social Security, The U.S. Government

Terry Mattingly–That big, vague ghost in the Ray Lewis reporting

I have questions. In effect, I am asking The Sun for an update on that 2006 SI cover, which provided details that I don’t think I’ve seen in the local newspaper.

Question No. 1: Where does Lewis go to church? Past? Present? Future? Is it still Empowerment Temple? What role does his church play in his life, his philanthropy, his future?

Question No. 2: Who is his pastor, his spiritual leader? Who does he call when he is in spiritual crisis? Is is still the Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant of Empowerment?….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Men, Religion & Culture, Sports

(Church Times) ”˜Someone to get angry with’: Dr Rowan Williams bows out

In the [BBC2 Goodbye to Canterbury] programme, Dr Williams also spoke of his opposition to the Iraq war in 2003. Once war had broken out, and troops were on the ground, Dr Williams decided not to “sound off from a distance”. He had tried to focus the debate on what an exit to the war would look like, “what would justice after the war look like”, which left him “satisfying nobody. . . People who think you ought to be swinging behind the Government are disappointed; people who think you ought always to be making loud and clear noises about global ethics will be disappointed.

“But I still think it’s a path worth treading, because the important thing about Archbishops speaking in public is, I believe, they shouldn’t ever be speaking in ways that have no cost, when other people are paying a price.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Blessed Jesus, who by the shining of a star didst manifest thyself to them that sought thee: Show thy heavenly light to us, and give us grace to follow until we find thee; finding, to rejoice in thee; and rejoicing, to present to thee ourselves, our souls and bodies, for thy service for evermore: for thine honour and glory.

–Edward Hawkins

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Independent Editorial) The unholy row over gay Christians

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

Senior Anglican condemns bishops statement on Bishops in partnerships as a compromise too far

The leader of a global group of traditional Anglicans has condemned the Church of England for “compromising with the secular preoccupations of the West” in an attack that significantly ratchets up the latest fallout between liberals and conservative over the thorny issue of homosexuality.

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, the Primate of Kenya and the leader of the influential Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, made the comments in a statement reacting to the recent decision by the Church of England to lift the ban on gay but celibate men becoming bishops.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans represents conservative congregations in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia who are vehemently opposed to same sex unions and gay clerics. They formed four years ago and threatened to break away from the global Anglican Communion if openly gay men continued to be welcomed as clerics in more liberal dioceses such as the United States and Britain.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(Spectator) Melanie McDonagh–bishops in civil partnerships and women bishops are not the same issue

This being the Ephiphany, churchgoing Anglicans will be on the receiving end of any variety of sermons on the visit by the three kings to the infant Christ. There won’t, by and large, then, be much attention given to the whole issue of gay bishops. No attention at all, probably.

You’d never think it, though, judging from the broadcast and press reaction to the news. On the Radio 4 Today programme yesterday, the presenter said sternly to one conservative Anglican, Norman Russell, the Archdeacon of Oxford, that the fuss over the issue of gay bishops just goes to show why people are turned off by the church: it can only ever think about sex. The archdeacon replied mildly that this wasn’t quite the case: the church did talk about other things.

Russell could have made a stronger case. He could have said, nope, it’s not the church that’s obsessed by sex; it’s journalists. The only reason why it feels like the church spends its time arguing about sex and gender is that these are the sole issues that are taken up in broadcast discussions about religion.

Read it all (and note that she references the BBC programme segment posted already below).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Media, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(Christianity Today) The Relentless Passion of Francis Chan

What are you hoping to accomplish in your new book [Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples ]?

I try to explain the most important things a believer needs to know. It’s an attempt to teach the basics of what I feel needs to be passed on to new believers. I know there’s other stuff out there, but I needed to be faithful to what I felt needs to be out there.

Unlike many other discipleship manuals, yours does not begin by explaining about how to pray or have personal devotions and other personal disciplines. Instead, you begin by talking about the importance of church, which often comes late in other discipleship manuals.

In our culture, people have a very low view of church, and I didn’t want readers to forget the church. For a person to be truly discipled and growing in their faith, they need more than one person discipling them. They need to see the gifts of the body; that’s how God created it and intended it. I wanted early on to explain that this is very, very important, and that it is God’s agenda, that this is how he’s going to reach the world.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Theology

(NY Times Op-Ed) Susan Jacoby–The Blessings of Atheism

In a recent conversation with a fellow journalist, I voiced my exasperation at the endless talk about faith in God as the only consolation for those devastated by the unfathomable murders in Newtown, Conn. Some of those grieving parents surely believe, as I do, that this is our one and only life. Atheists cannot find solace in the idea that dead children are now angels in heaven. “That only shows the limits of atheism,” my colleague replied. “It’s all about nonbelief and has nothing to offer when people are suffering.”

This widespread misapprehension that atheists believe in nothing positive is one of the main reasons secularly inclined Americans ”” roughly 20 percent of the population ”” do not wield public influence commensurate with their numbers. One major problem is the dearth of secular community institutions. But the most powerful force holding us back is our own reluctance to speak, particularly at moments of high national drama and emotion, with the combination of reason and passion needed to erase the image of the atheist as a bloodless intellectual robot.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture