Monthly Archives: April 2013

(Telegraph) Syria: Al-Qaeda's battle for control of Assad's chemical weapons plant

Set amid the rolling plains outside Aleppo, the town of al-Safira looks just like another vicious battleground in Syria’s civil war. On one side are lightly-armed rebels, on the other are government troops, and in between is a hotly-contested no-man’s land of bombed-out homes and burned-out military vehicles.

The fight for al-Safira is no ordinary turf war, however, and the prize can be found behind the perimeter walls of the heavily-guarded military base on the edge of town. Inside what looks like a drab industrial estate is one of Syria’s main facilities for producing chemical weapons – and among its products is sarin, the lethal nerve gas that the regime is now feared to be deploying in its bid to cling to power.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., England / UK, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Syria, Terrorism

(NY Times) Loans Borrowed Against Pensions Squeeze Retirees

To retirees, the offers can sound like the answer to every money worry: convert tomorrow’s pension checks into today’s hard cash.

But these offers, known as pension advances, are having devastating financial consequences for a growing number of older Americans, threatening their retirement savings and plunging them further into debt. The advances, federal and state authorities say, are not advances at all, but carefully disguised loans that require borrowers to sign over all or part of their monthly pension checks. They carry interest rates that are often many times higher than those on credit cards.

In lean economic times, people with public pensions ”” military veterans, teachers, firefighters, police officers and others ”” are being courted particularly aggressively by pension-advance companies, which operate largely outside of state and federal banking regulations, but are now drawing scrutiny from Congress and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pensions, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(Christian Post) “Boston Like” Terrorist Attacks a Daily Experience for Christians in Nigeria

The Boston Marathon bombings last week shocked America and served as a reminder that the threat of terrorism in the western world is still alive. While offering condolences to the victims, one group is pointing out that Nigerian Christians face such horrors every week in the face of Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

In an open letter to the American people this week, the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) wrote, “The evil of terrorism in today’s world are now well-known and so too must be the demand of vigilance in the overall protection of the common good.”

Laolu Akande, executive director of CANAN, is urging Americans to help protect Christians who are regularly attacked in Nigeria.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

West Indian bishops urge rejection US-British pressure to endorse unbiblical morality

The Anglican bishops of the West Indies have urged their governments to hold fast and resist pressure from Britain and the United States to legalize gay rights and gay marriage.

In a statement released on 25 April 2013 following the House of Bishops meeting in Barbados, bishops of the Church the Province of the West Indies (CPWI) reiterated their belief in marriage “defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture, West Indies

Phil Ashey–an Anglican Perspective on GAFCON II

All Saint’s Cathedral in Nairobi, Kenya will host the second Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) October 21-26, 2013. Canon Phil Ashey is in Nairobi where the leaders of GAFCON recently held a planning meeting and finalized plans for the upcoming event. The first GAFCON, held in Jerusalem in 2008, was a major step in an organized, global effort to refocus the Anglican Communion around a common confession including Jesus Christ as Lord, the Bible as the Word of God and other central beliefs.

Watch it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Global South Churches & Primates

Premiere Radio Interviews Rowan Williams–Love, Liberty and Life after Canterbury

Dr Rowan Williams has stepped down from his role as Archbishop of Canterbury – but don’t go thinking this means that he has slowed down. As well as being the Master of Magdalene College Cambridge, Dr Williams is a member of the House of Lords and continues to work with churches and other faith groups all around the world.

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Rowan Williams, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

(CSM) Boston bombing reveals a new American maturity toward insecurity

In ways both big and small, both fleeting and transformational, this time simply felt different.

On the lawn of the First Baptist Church in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, Eve Nagler stood at a prayer vigil two days after terrorists attempted to shred the joy of Boston’s biggest day with nails and BB’s and bits of hurtling metal.

This, she knew, was not 9/11 ”“ the scale, the shock, the fear were nothing like people had felt 12 years ago. Yet something else had shifted, too ”“ something perhaps less easily definable but no less palpable to many of those at the vigil and across the suburbs that bound themselves together as “Boston Strong.”

There was a calm, not only in the streets but in raw and wounded hearts.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(AP) US tries new aerial tools in Caribbean drug fight

Drug smugglers who race across the Caribbean in speedboats will typically jettison their cargo when spotted by surveillance aircraft, hoping any chance of prosecuting them will vanish with the drugs sinking to the bottom of the sea.

That may be a less winning tactic in the future. The U.S. Navy on Friday began testing two new aerial tools, borrowed from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, that officials say will make it easier to detect, track and videotape drug smugglers in action.

One of the devices on display aboard the High Speed Vessel Swift is a large, white balloon-like craft known as an aerostat, which is tethered up to 2,000 feet (600 meters) above the ship’s stern. The other tool on board for tests in the Florida Straits is a type of drone that can be launched by hand from the deck.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Caribbean, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Science & Technology

(Financial Times) Head of the Anglican”‰church on a mission to clean up the City

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, laughs when it is suggested that he has a mission to raise moral standards in the City. “My key mission is to lead the Church in worshipping Jesus Christ,” he says.

He points out, however, that Christian teaching concerns the “common good”, and he is concerned about “how the City of London, which is so important and so full of very gifted people”, relates to this concept.

Dr Welby is in a unique position to do something about it. Outside the cathedral he enjoys two political pulpits from which to shape the debate: in the House of Lords and on the cross-party parliamentary banking commission.

Read it all (another link ).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(AP) Muslim-Christian relationship fuels row in Egypt

An alleged romance between an Egyptian Muslim college student and a Coptic Christian man heightened sectarian tension on Friday in a small rural Egyptian town where police fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing Muslims who surrounded a Coptic church in anger over the inter-faith relationship, a security official and priest said.

The Muslim protesters accuse Saint Girgis Church of helping 21-year-old Rana el-Shazli, who is believed to have converted to Christianity, flee to Turkey with a Coptic Christian man.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

The Sermon of Rob Martin, Anglican Bishop of Marsabit, at the Charleston, S.C., Cathedral recently

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

And Speaking of Thomas Becon, His initial thoughts on John 3:16

This gospel is one of the most notable that a man can find in the New Testament, and worthy to be commended with all kinds of commendation. But as it is not possible that a man should sufficiently express this sermon of Christ by words ; first let us call unto God, that he will expound these words more plainly in our hearts, than we can by our words and interpretation, and that he will enkindle them, and make them so plain, that our conscience may receive comfort and peace thereby. Amen.

The pith of this excellent sermon is, that God so greatly loved the world, that he delivered his only begotten Son for it, that we men should not die, but have everlasting life. And first let us see who is the giver. He is the Giver, in respect of whom all princes and kings, with all their gifts, are nothing in comparison. And our hearts might worthily be lifted up and exalted with a godly pride, since we have such a giver, so that all who should come unto us by any other liberality, might be counted of no price in comparison of this. For what can be set before us that is more magnificent and excellent than God almighty. Here God, who is infinite and unspeakable, gives after such a manner as passes also all things. For that which he gives, he gives not as wages of desert, or for a recompense, but, as the words sound, of mere love. Wherefore this gift wholly proceeds of God’s exceeding and divine benevolence and goodness, as he saith, God loved the world. There is no greater virtue than love, as it may hereby be well understood, that when we love anything, we will not hesitate to put our life in danger for it. Verily, great virtues are patience, chastity, sobriety, &c., but yet they are nothing to be compared with this virtue, which comprises and includes within itself all other virtues. A good man does no man wrong, he gives every man his own ; but by love, men give their own selves to others, and are ready with all their heart to do all that they can for them. So Christ saith here also, that God gives to us, not by right or merit, but by this great virtue, that is by love.
This ought to encourage our hearts, and to abolish all sorrow, when this exceeding love of God comes in mind, that we might trust thereto and believe steadfastly, that God is that bountiful and great Giver, and that this gift of his, proceeds of that great virtue of love. This sort of giving, which has its spring of love, makes this gift more excellent and precious. And the words of Christ are plain, that God loveth us. Wherefore for this love’s sake ought we greatly to esteem all things that he gives us.

Writings of the Rev. Thomas Becon (London, J. Nisbet), pp. 494-495

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Atonement, Christology, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord, we most humbly beseech thee to give us grace not only to be hearers of the Word, but also doers of the same; not only to love, but also to live thy gospel; not only to profess, but also to practise thy blessed commandments, unto the honour of thy holy name.

–Thomas Becon (1512–1567)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

–2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(The Press) Parallels between Christchurch and U.S. cathedrals

The Loma Prieta earthquake tore through northern California in 1989, shaking the ground for 10 to 15 seconds, killing 63 people and doing extensive damage to bridges, roads and buildings. Much of the worst damage was in built-up areas around San Francisco Bay, including Oakland.

This could be sounding like a familiar story by now. One of the casualties was a 96-year-old Gothic brick church, the Catholic diocese of Oakland’s Cathedral of St Francis De Sales. Rather than simply rebuild, the diocese opted to be even more radical: it built a new cathedral on an entirely new site. In 2008, the Cathedral of Christ the Light opened on the shores of Oakland’s Lake Merritt and it is already regarded as one of the greatest of contemporary church buildings.

It has been called the first cathedral to be built in the 21st century, and that has become a symbolic value as well as a chronological fact. It says to others that this is the future of church buildings.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Provinces, Australia / NZ, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

In Massachusetts, Former Episcopal priest Jurgen Liias is ordained a Roman Catholic priest

Melrose resident Jurgen Liias’s spiritual journey has led him down an unusual path: Last weekend he became one of the first Episcopal priests in the country to be ordained as a Catholic priest.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, ordained Liias as a Catholic priest on Saturday, April 20, at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Beverly.

Citizens have likely seen Liias around the city, gardening at his Melrose Street home or on MMTV’s “Wellsprings of Faith” ”” a religious show that focuses on various people’s journeys in faith.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

(Telegraph) Church of England diocese asks for gay-friendly bishop

A Church of England diocese has made building bridges with the gay community part of its new bishop’s job description.

The Diocese of Manchester has instructed the official panel appointing its new bishop to select someone who can establish “positive relationships” with gay Anglicans and non-worshippers.

The panel, which met on Friday, was told that the successor to the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, who retired earlier this year, should build on “significant engagement” with “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities” in Manchester.

The move comes amid growing tensions within the Church over its attitude to gay worshippers and clergy.

Read it all.

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, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Commonweal) William Galston–Claims of Conscience: Religious Freedom and State Power

Is religious conscience special? And what kinds of claims (if any) does conscience warrant? These are two of the many questions Brian Leiter raises in his provocative book Why Tolerate Religion? (Princeton University Press, $24.95, 192 pp.).

Note that in principle one could answer the first question in the negative””by denying the distinctiveness of religion””while endorsing broad claims for conscience as such. Imagine a two-by-two table: In the upper left quadrant is an expansive notion of conscience coupled with a broad conception of conscientious claims; in the bottom right is conscience restricted to religion with few or no claims to which the law must yield. The two remaining quadrants are broad/narrow and narrow/broad, respectively.

In the middle decades of the twentieth century, the prevailing view combined a narrow conception of conscience (restricted to religion) with a capacious understanding of conscientious claims as warranting, in suitable circumstances, exemption from generally valid public laws. This view then came under pressure, from two directions….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Slate) Jillian Keenan–Legalize Polygamy! No. I am not kidding.

It’s hardly a new prediction””we’ve been hearing it for years. Gay marriage is a slippery slope! A gateway drug! If we legalize it, then what’s next? Legalized polygamy?

We can only hope.

Yes, really. While the Supreme Court and the rest of us are all focused on the human right of marriage equality, let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy, too. Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice. More importantly, it would actually help protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology, Women

(Tulsa World) Episcopal Bishop Edward Konieczny speaks on the thin line between God and Guns

Oklahoma Episcopal Bishop Edward J. Konieczny, who once strongly opposed stricter gun control laws, is changing his views.

Konieczny will participate Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church in an adult forum on gun control titled “The Thin Line Between God and Guns.”

A former police officer, Konieczny discussed his changing views on gun control in a recent CNN Belief Blog that drew national attention.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops, Theology, Violence

Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy in Charleston, S.C.: Exploring grief as bridge to healing

There is no way we humans can exit this life without experiencing a considerable share of grief and loss.

But Sister Ann Billard believes there are lessons that grief can teach people as they age, whether they grieve the loss of loved ones or mourn the passage of time and diminished dreams.

“Grief holds a richness of possibilities,” she said. “Grief is not the end point, it is the bridge.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, * South Carolina, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Only a Game) “Wild In The Streets” Documents A Historic (And Unusual) Competition

magine two teams with more than a thousand competitors on each side. Imagine a playing field that stretches three miles from goal to goal. And imagine a single ball that both sides are fighting over.

That is Shrovetide Football, which is played each year over two days in Ashbourne, England between members of the town. In his documentary Wild In The Streets, Peter Baxter tells the story of the game that has been played for centuries.

Read it all and take the time to watch the official trailer video.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, History, Movies & Television, Rural/Town Life, Sports

Bishop Nathan Inyom, Makurdi on World Malaria Day (this past week)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Health & Medicine

Derek Thompson–The Millennial Stimulus Plan: How young people will supercharge the recovery

Millennials got a bad rap during the recession. They have been working less, earning less, and, as I’ve pointed out in this magazine before, buying far fewer houses and cars than their parents did””or than the economy needs them to in order to move forward. But all of this is poised to change. In the near future, these same young people may be the very ones to supercharge the recovery. How? By growing up…..

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, History, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, Young Adults

(BBC) Archbishop Welby criticises City for 'culture of entitlement'

The City of London has been affected by a “culture of entitlement” at variance with what others think reasonable, the new Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

But the Most Reverend Justin Welby told the BBC business morality was in many ways much better than in the past.

He also defended his description of the UK’s economic situation as a depression rather than a recession.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

Pope Francis Has a Few Words in Support of Leisure

On Tuesday, “Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words,” a book of conversations with the man who was then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, will be published in English (Putnam; $24.95). These interviews from 2010 with two journalists in Argentina yield cute facts about the new boss of the church ”” a favorite movie? “Babette’s Feast” ”” but not much interesting theology.

But one passage in the book, at first glance rather slight, ends up insinuating a radical note into the proceedings. On a close read, it seems that Pope Francis believes that we must ”” indeed, that God is calling us to ”” relax.

Responding to the question, “Do we need to rediscover the meaning of leisure?” Pope Francis replies: “Together with a culture of work, there must be a culture of leisure as gratification. To put it another way: people who work must take the time to relax, to be with their families, to enjoy themselves, read, listen to music, play a sport. But this is being destroyed, in large part, by the elimination of the Sabbath rest day. More and more people work on Sundays as a consequence of the competitiveness imposed by a consumer society.” In such cases, he concludes, “work ends up dehumanizing people.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Books, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(RNS) Q&A with Greg Laurie about prayer in times of grief

Pastor Greg Laurie knows a thing or two about prayer in tough times.

The honorary chairman of this year’s National Day of Prayer (May 2) says prayer was the only thing that got him through his son’s death five years ago. When fellow megachurch pastor Rick Warren lost his son Matthew to suicide, Laurie was the man he most wanted to hear from.

Laurie, 60, who leads the evangelical Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., talked about prayer, grief and what not to say when a friend’s loved one dies. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

A Painted Bunting to Brighten Your Day

One of the most beautiful birds we have in South Carolina, this picture was taken by my friend Francis Allston.

Posted in * General Interest, Animals

A Prayer to Begin the day

O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast promised in thy holy gospel that thy disciples shall know the truth, and the truth shall make them free: Give us, we pray thee, the Spirit of truth, sent by thee and leading to thee, that we may find the truth in finding thee, who art the Way, the Truth, and the Life, for ever and ever.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

–Colossians 3:12-15

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture