Daily Archives: August 12, 2013

(RNS) Assemblies of God defies denominational decline

The Assemblies of God, a denomination rooted in rural and small town America, appears to have leaped into the 21st century with dramatic results.

At its General Council meeting this week (Aug. 5-9), the denomination touted its formula for defying the seemingly irreversible decline of other religious groups: contemporary music, arts and high-tech quality communication, outreach to young people, immigrants and ethnic minorities.

The denomination reported a 1.8 percent increase in U.S. membership to 3 million adherents. Globally, the gain was 1.5 percent, to 66 million, making it the largest Pentecostal group in the world.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Pentecostal, Religion & Culture

A Profile of Laverne Cox: Trans people should not put their dreams on hold because of who they are

Why do some people have a problem with trans stuff?

I think people have a problem with it because they’re uncomfortable with themselves, about what it means for them to be a man or woman. So it’s “If I was assigned male at birth, does that mean I can’t play with toys that are pink and things that are not seen to be traditionally male?”

The very binary idea of man and woman, it blows it out of the water really. People want to believe gender is something that’s essential, and people repeat these essentialist ideas all the time. “Oh, women do that” and “Oh, men do that” and the reality is that all women don’t anything. We as individuals do what we do, you know, and sometimes that’s informed by gender and sometimes it’s just who we are. And I think all that just makes people really, really uncomfortable because they don’t want to think about who they are.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Movies & Television, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology

Western Mass. Episcopal bishop says gambling is a tax on the needy

As the new spiritual head of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, Bishop Douglas J. Fisher pledged to immerse himself in the fight for social justice causes that affect the needy.

Bishop Fisher, who was ordained a prelate in December, said he eagerly wanted to rally his flock to advocate for issues such as real immigration reform, gun control, and food, health and other programs geared to help the less fortunate.

However, he didn’t think that he’d be spending a chunk of his time, during his fledgling episcopate, battling developers interested in building gambling complexes around his diocese.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Poverty, TEC Bishops, Theology

Mark Binelli–Letter from Detroit: "All there is now is crackhouses and churches"

Down the block, we spotted my friend Pastor Steve, the proprietor of a storefront church on an otherwise entirely abandoned block. Driving by, I’d noticed the motley assortment of characters hanging out front and an unruly garden taking up much of the vacant corner lot next door, and eventually I stopped by and introduced myself. It turned out that most of the folks out front were struggling addicts and prostitutes and criminals from the neighbourhood.

Pastor Steve had gone through his own period of felonious hard living ”“ heroin, pills, booze, glue-sniffing, bank-robbing, you name it ”“ before being saved and then called to the ministry. A rangy white guy in his early sixties, Pastor Steve had an obvious love for a certain era of countercultural accoutrement which had somehow managed to survive this spiritual journey intact. He had a bushy handlebar moustache and flowing grey hair, the curly ends of which spilled to his chest, and favoured cowboy boots, earrings with topaz beads, and the sorts of silver rings you might buy at a Native American souvenir stand. On his motorcycle, a parishioner had painted a picture of Chief Joseph, “who was one of the main, awesome Indians”, in Pastor Steve’s words. He continued, “After we’d been here a while, I got stories coming back to me that people in the neighbourhood thought we were a motorcycle gang. They saw me, saw the Harley, and they thought the building was filled with weapons and we were here to take over.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., City Government, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Do Not Take Yourself too Seriously Dept.–Stephen Colbert's speech at the 2013 UVa. Commencement

If you young folks will take advice from anyone, after all, I don’t know if you’ve seen it ”” this week’s Time Magazine called you “lazy, entitled narcissists,” who are part of the “Me, Me, Me” generation. So self-obsessed – tweeting your Vines, hashtagging your Spotifys and Snapchatting your YOLOs – your generation needs everything to be about you. And that’s very upsetting to us baby boomers because self-absorption is kind of our thing. We’re the original “Me Generation,” we made the last 50 years all about us. We took all the money. We soaked up all the government services. And we’ve deep-fried nearly everything in the ocean. It may seem that all that’s left for you is unpaid internships, Monday to Tuesday mail delivery, and thanks to global warming, soon Semester at Sea will mean sailing the coast of Ohio.

Now, in our defense, in my generation’s defense ”“ how were we supposed to know that you were coming? We thought it went like this: every successive generation of mankind ”“ and then us! Ta-dah ”“ roll credits.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Education, Humor / Trivia, Young Adults

(Telegraph) Allan Massie –We can’t cast away Our Bible

For this surely is the point: the Bible is at the heart of our national culture, just as Shakespeare is, perhaps even more so. For centuries it was found in any home where someone could read. The family Bible might be the only book there; often it might sit next to John Bunyan’s allegorical Christian novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress. This makes one thing clear: our historical culture, which has formed the country we have inherited, is a Christian one. Many today may no longer think of themselves as believers. Perhaps a majority of us have abandoned the faith, and yet we have been formed by it. Our ideas of what is right and what is wrong remain essentially Christian, and have been inculcated by the reading of the Bible over generations. We may have come to disregard many of its prohibitions, but whatever is admirable and generous in our morality derives from it, and especially from what Jesus taught, notably in the Sermon on the Mount.

Desert Island Discs is not itself important. It is agreeable easy listening, no more than that. And yet in one way it is significant. It has always been a favourite programme of Middle Britain. If it were to decide that its castaways should no longer be provided with the Bible, this would say something about the BBC’s understanding of the country it exists to serve. It would be tantamount to a rejection of our inherited culture, a rejection of our history, and an acceptance that the National Secular Society is more representative of Britain today than the Churches. Lord Reith, the BBC’s first Director-General who established the ethos of the corporation, would surely be whirling in his grave.

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

U.S. embassies in Muslim world reopen amid still-murky threats

Eighteen of the 19 U.S. embassies and consulates reopened Sunday after being shut down for a week across the Islamic world because of a terrorist threat.

Even as the diplomatic posts inched toward normal operations, and as Muslims celebrated the end of the holy month of Ramadan, questions lingered about how pressing the danger had been and whether the threat had yet passed.

The U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, the same nation from which a threat from an al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula earlier this month spurred the State Department to close its facilities, remained closed.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Terrorism

A.S. Haley–More Episcopal Church related Court Proceedings in South Carolina

As his counterpart in Texas saw the matter, so might Judge Houck: why bother to get into the messy details of a federal trademark action if the earlier case filed in State court will dispose of the matter? He indicated by a question that he was considering staying the federal action pending the outcome of the proceedings in State court. He said he would have a ruling out in “a week or so.”

Meanwhile, the State court case begun by the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence and his Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is moving forward, now that it has been remanded from Judge Houck’s court. The attorneys for all parties were in court on July 11 to discuss a schedule for the case with First Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein, who issued her order eight days later. The order ensures that the case will not dawdle, but will be ready for trial by the summer of next year.

ECUSA is seeking to add additional defendants to its counterclaim, namely, the individual trustees and members of the diocesan standing committee (as a prelude to naming the rectors and vestry members of 37 individual parishes — some 500 people in all — following the same punitive strategy it has tried in other cases). The court ordered that any additional response Bishop Lawrence’s attorneys wanted to make to that motion be filed by July 22, with ECUSA’s reply due 10 days later. Those papers have now been filed, and the parties await Judge Goodstein’s ruling on the propriety of trying to add any individual defendants to the case.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Analysis, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Letters to the Editor on the WSJ $4 Million per Year South Korea Teacher Story

Read it all (For those not following this, the original blog post may be found there).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Children, Education, South Korea

(Economist) How two global monotheisms view the same prophet

Mona Siddiqui, a professor at Edinburgh University’s school of divinity, makes no secret of the various strains of thought that inform her study of Christians, Muslims and Jesus. Parts of her book are rigorously academic and arcane, other parts are very personal. Unlike Mr Aslan, she does not confine her meditations on her own faith to an introduction. Rather, she ambitiously weaves her personal and scholarly views throughout.

She presents certain basic facts: Muslims revere Jesus as a uniquely inspired prophet who was born of the Virgin Mary, ascended to heaven and will come again. Yet Muslims cannot accept that Jesus was the son of God. This, they believe, reflects a flawed view of both Jesus and God. As Ms Siddiqui shows, Christians and Muslims sparred with one another intensely during the early centuries after Islam’s rise, with each side vying to be the ultimate revelation of God. But the two faiths did at least grudgingly acknowledge one another as monotheistic, despite Islam’s firm rejection of the Christian view of God as a trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Christology, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Florence Nightingale

Life-giving God, who alone hast power over life and death, over health and sickness: Give power, wisdom, and gentleness to those who follow the example of thy servant Florence Nightingale, that they, bearing with them thy Presence, may not only heal but bless, and shine as lanterns of hope in the darkest hours of pain and fear; through Jesus Christ, the healer of body and soul, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Heavenly Father, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named; Be present in this house, that all who live here, being kindly affectioned one to another, may find it a haven of blessing and of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Pastor’s Prayerbook

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I will sing of thy steadfast love, O LORD, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim thy faithfulness to all generations. For thy steadfast love was established for ever, thy faithfulness is firm as the heavens.

–Psalm 89:1-2

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Jason Dufner Wins the PGA Championship

Congratulations to him.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Men, Sports

Choral Evensong from Chichester Cathedral

With the choirs of Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester Cathedrals
recorded during the Southern Cathedrals Festival

Listen here if you wish. More Sunday Worship here.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Liturgy, Music, Worship

New New Zealand Cathedral's acoustics receives positive reviews

The acoustics of the new Anglican cardboard cathedral have so far pleased experts and audiences.

“I’m absolutely thrilled and amazed at how good it is,” said Brian Law, cathedral director of music.

“I’m literally surprised.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Provinces, Music

(Charsma News) Transgender B. Scott Claims Gender Discrimination, Sues BET for $2.5M

Transgender celebrity B. Scott has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks and its parent company, Viacom, for discrimination.

Identified as Brandon Sessoms in the lawsuit, Scott alleges the television network discriminated against him while he was working as a style stage correspondent for the BET Awards pre-show on June 30 by forcing him to dress more masculine.

According to the suit, Scott is an “openly gay TV and Internet personality, advice columnist and entrepreneur [who] indentifies his gender identity as transgender. B. Scott’s gender identity is separate and distinct from his sexual orientation.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Movies & Television, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology

(SMH) Julia Baird–The spirit of unity brings peace to a fractured flock in Sydney

Davies dislikes factions, closed-door dealings and secrecy. He wants, he told me, “a diocese that is motivated by love and not by fear. Transparency is my word. And loving communication. I won’t be drawn by nitpicking and infighting and savaging each other. We have seen a wonderfully unified synod in this election process that is the work of God’s grace”. As Andrew Katay told me, Davies is “his own man with fresh ideas”.

Much like Pope Francis has found, I suspect Davies will be noticed first of all for a difference in tone. He speaks about needing to recognise the dignity of asylum seekers, and allow them to work instead of sticking them behind barbed wire with “looks of desperation”.

Davies is a true conservative, but is kindly, more tolerant of female preaching than his predecessor and, crucially, of dissent. People will not be blacklisted for airing different views. This could be the greatest sign of what promises to be a fascinating sea change in the Sydney Diocese.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

New Sydney Archbishop in the Media on a mission

Dr Davies faced a range of newspaper and television reporters only 24 hours after he was elected, fielding questions ranging from refugees and asylum seekers to the role of the Anglican Church in contemporary Australia.

While some reports concentrated on his views on current debates, the Archbishop-elect was forthright in his comments on the challenge of mission in Sydney.

He told reporters he sought to “lead and galvanise the diocese in a unified concern to bring the love of God to the people of Sydney, the Illawarra, the Northern Beaches and the Blue mountains, so that God’s word might be preeminent and people understand the challenge that God’s word brings.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

(Guardian) Church of England lines up ex-water company boss to front RBS bid

A consortium backed by the Church of England to bid for 315 Royal Bank of Scotland branches has lined up the ex-United Utilities boss Philip Green to front its bid.

Green is to replace John Tiner, the former Financial Services Authority chief executive who stepped down as chairman in the wake of the controversy caused by the parliamentary commission on banking standards investigation into HBOS.

Green is to chair the bid vehicle ”“ one of three that have submitted bids for the RBS branches this week ”“ working alongside former Lloyds Banking Group banker John Maltby who has been lined up as chief executive.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, England / UK, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, The Banking System/Sector

Michael Brown’s "African-Atlantic Cultures and the South Carolina Lowcountry" Wins Raboteau Prize

This award is given each year to an academic book that exemplifies the ethos and mission of the Journal of Africana Religions, an interdisciplinary journal that publishes scholarship on African and African diasporic religious traditions. Albert J. Raboteau, for whom the prize is named, is author of the classic Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South, a book that has made a lasting impact in the field of Africana religions. To become eligible for the award, books must be nominated by an academic publisher, and a prestigious five-member committee is responsible for assessing these nominations and determining a winner. The selection, thus, is international in scope and highly competitive.

Brown’s book examines perceptions of the natural world revealed by the religious ideas and practices of Africa’s Kongo region and among African-descended communities in South Carolina from the colonial period into the twentieth century. Brown is an Associate Professor in the History department and the Africana Studies department at the University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale. African-Atlantic Cultures is his first book.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * South Carolina, Africa, Church History, Religion & Culture