Daily Archives: October 20, 2014

Philip Jenkins on Episcopal Church stats–The Church Vanishes, Part Deux

At some point, young people contemplating a clerical career will have to consider just how long there will indeed be a church for them to serve.

This isn’t meant to be panic-mongering, and infinite extrapolations rarely follow exact lines. But if any church is losing 2.6 percent of its attenders every year ”“ not every decade ”“ it should be deeply alarmed. Why isn’t it?

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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 Conflicts, TEC Data, TEC Departing Parishes, TEC Parishes, Theology

(RNS) Musician Jeremy Messersmith wears his atheist heart on his sleeve

CS: You attended an Assemblies of God college; now you identify as an atheist. How did you get where you are today?

JM: I was homeschooled on a farm by my parents. They were really involved in our local Assemblies of God church. That was my entire upbringing: There was homeschooling and there was church. So church was my social outlet. As a kid, virtually everybody I knew was religious.

I ended up going to an Assemblies of God school””their most notable alumni include Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. It wasn’t until the very tail end of my college career that I started actually questioning my faith.

It was actually based on an assignment that I had to do for a Bible class that I was taking. I had to write a paper on 1 Corinthians 11 and I just thought, “Okay, this will be easy.” So I started researching it and found out that nobody really has any idea what that passage means. Whatever the reason, that really bothered me. I thought that the Bible was 100 percent the inerrant word of God.

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

(Bloomberg) Underemployment Worse Than U.S. Data Suggest

Federal Reserve policy makers are missing a key element as they assess the health of the labor market: data that includes whether those who are employed are overqualified for their job or would like to work more hours.

As a result, the “significant underutilization of labor resources” that Fed officials highlighted last month as they renewed a pledge to keep interest rates low for a “considerable period” is probably even more severe than currently estimated. And the information gap means policy makers may have more difficulty gauging the right moment to raise rates off zero.

“We have more slack than the official statistics suggest,” said Michelle Meyer, a senior U.S. economist at Bank of America Corp. in New York. “Because it’s difficult to measure underutilization, there’s still a lot of uncertainty as to how much slack remains, which means there’s uncertainty as to the appropriate stance of monetary policy.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(CT) Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge

Bible illiteracy isn’t an isolated problem, though; it’s part of a larger pattern of low spiritual engagement that must be addressed. They are all related.

Simply put, we have a biblical literacy deficit in part because we have a spiritual maturity deficit. Plenty of research shows the correlation between spiritual maturity and reading the Bible. If you want spiritually mature Christians, get them reading the Bible. That’s a statistical fact, but more importantly, it’s a biblical truth.

Most Christians desire maturity. Our research shows 90 percent of churchgoers agree with the statement, “I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do.” Almost 60 percent agree with, “Throughout the day I find myself thinking about biblical truths.” Most of us desire to please Jesus, but few of us bother to check with the Bible to find out what actually pleases Jesus.

Reading and studying the Bible are still the activities that have the most impact on growth in this area of spiritual maturity. As basic as that is, there are still numerous churchgoers who aren’t reading the Bible regularly. You simply won’t grow if you don’t know God and spend time in His Word.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Adult Education, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Economist) China's Debt risks zombifying the country’s financi

Of the many things that are worrying investors around the world, from tumbling oil prices to the spectre of recession and deflation in Europe, one of the most important, and least understood, is China’s debt. For the past few years China has been on a borrowing binge. Its total debt””the sum of government, corporate and household borrowings””has soared by 100% of GDP since 2008, and is now 250% of GDP; a little less than wealthy nations, but far higher than any other emerging market….

Since most financial crashes are preceded by a frantic rise in borrowing””think of Japan in the early 1990s, South Korea and other emerging economies in the late 1990s, and America and Britain in 2008””it seems reasonable to worry that China could be heading for a crash. All the more so because the nominal growth rate, the sum of real output and inflation, has tumbled, from an average of 15% a year in the 2000s to 8.5% now, and looks likely to fall further as inflation hit a five-year low of 1.6% in September. Slower nominal growth constrains the ability of debtors to pay their bills, making a debt crisis more likely.

Reasonable, but wrong. China has a big debt problem. But it is unlikely to cause a sudden crisis or blow up the world economy. That is because China, unlike most other countries, controls its banks and has the means to bail them out. Instead, the biggest risk is complacency: that China’s officials do too little to clean up the financial system, weighing down its economy for years with zombie firms and unpayable loans.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

PBS ' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly–Transgenders and Theology

VALENTE: Transgender isn’t the same as being homosexual or merely cross-dressing. It’s a far more complex phenomenon known clinically as “gender dysphoria,” a severe discontent with one’s assigned sex. Transgender people often take hormones and have surgery to become more like the opposite sex. A little over a year ago, Becker began injecting testosterone. He had his breasts surgically removed.

transgenders-and-theology-post01BECKER: My only regret is throughout this entire process is not starting it sooner.

VALENTE: Emboldened by the new Amazon Online series “Transparent” and “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix, which features a transgender actress, transgender individuals are increasingly speaking out about their needs and their lives. An Episcopal priest recently came out as transgender, and a community of Carmelite nuns in Canada just accepted a novice with both male and female physical characteristics. The novice, Tia Michelle Pesando, has written a book called Why God Doesn’t Hate You.

OWEN DANIEL-MCCARTER (Transgender Activist, Chicago House): Even in the past 14 years, it is an incredible change in the visibility of transgender people in the media, the number of transgender activist organizations, people who are trying to change the law, and the medical system for trans people. It’s remarkable.

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

Statement from TEC Bishop of New York Andrew Dietsche on General Theological Seminary

I write to you following the resolutions of the Board of Trustees of General Seminary on Friday regarding the continuing conflict involving the seminary dean and the majority of the faculty. I believe that you have a right to know my thoughts and convictions on this matter.

Throughout this process, I have been single-minded in my conviction that there was no imaginable way to reconcile or resolve this matter without first giving unconditional reinstatement to the eight striking faculty members. It also became clear to me that by the decision to terminate the faculty, the board had so inflamed the situation that the board itself had become a participant in the conflict, and in ways that were impeding the hope of a just and fair resolution of the crisis. Early on, I advocated for just such an across-the-board reinstatement in appeals directly to the executive committee of the board, and then to the full board itself. By no means was I alone in making that case. I was one of a number of voices across the board which have continually called for a path toward reconciliation and for the reinstatement of the faculty, and by the time we came to this last week, the momentum for reinstatement appeared to me to be so strong that at the beginning of the day on Friday, I was confident to the point of certainty that that was exactly what the board would approve.

But in the end, it was a significantly more qualified resolution, one to create a path toward provisional reinstatement, that carried the day. Some members of the board rose to speak against it, and to advocate instead for a simple, unconditional reinstatement, and I was one of them. In the end, however, the more qualified resolution carried by a wide majority, so much so that when it was asked that the vote be declared unanimous, those who opposed the resolution allowed that to carry. I regret that now, for by doing so we obscured the dynamic of debate and persuasion within the board itself, and hid from view the genuinely wide diversity of thought and conviction across the board.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Seminary / Theological Education, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, Theology

(Time) Nigeria Is Ebola-Free: Here’s What They Did Right

The World Health Organization declared Nigeria free of Ebola on Monday, a containment victory in an outbreak that has stymied other countries’ response efforts.

The milestone came around 11 a.m. local time, or 6 a.m., E.T. The outbreak has killed more than 4,500 in West Africa is remains unchecked in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, so Nigeria is by no means immune to another outbreak.

“It’s possible to control Ebola. It’s possible to defeat Ebola. We’ve seen it here in Nigeria,” Nigerian Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu told TIME. “If any cases emerge in the future, it will be considered””by international standards””a separate outbreak. If that happens, Nigeria will be ready and able to confront it exactly as we have done with this outbreak.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Health & Medicine, Nigeria

Statement from TEC Bishop of Southern Ohio Thomas Breidenthal on General Theological Seminary

From here:

The board of The General Theological Seminary has decided not to reinstate the eight faculty members who lodged complaints against the dean, but to invite them “to request provisional reinstatement as professors of the seminary.” The board’s official statement goes on to say: “The Executive Committee stands ready to meet next week to hear requests of any of the eight former faculty members for reinstatement and to negotiate the terms of their provisional employment for the remainder of the academic year.” I feel compelled, not only as a former member of the GTS faculty, but also as a bishop, to register my dismay and indignation regarding this decision.

First of all, as is plain for all to see, the board has been dishonest in its claim that the eight faculty members resigned their positions when they went on strike. In fact, they were summarily fired. Second, the board has placed the eight in the humiliating position of begging for their jobs back ”“ and at that, only provisionally, for “the remainder of the academic year.” This is nothing less than shaming behavior, unworthy of a seminary board. Worst of all, the board has failed to model the humility and fellowship to which we are called in Jesus Christ.

It should be obvious why I am outraged as a former faculty member; any faculty member at any institution of higher learning should be outraged by this board’s action. Why am I outraged as a bishop? Because this action will go a long way toward confirming the unchurched in their assumption that institutional religion cannot be trusted. I continue to pray that the board will reverse its decision and reinstate the eight. Then real conversation can begin.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Seminary / Theological Education, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, Theology

On this Day in 1914–the first Church of England Bishops' meeting since WWI and its agenda

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Western Advocate) Bathurst Anglican Diocese owes $39.3 million

It has been revealed that the Anglican Development Fund (Bathurst Diocese) owes approximately $39.3 million to its creditors.

Joint and several receivers and managers of the Anglican Development Fund (Bathurst Diocese), McGrathNicol partners Joseph Hayes and Barry Kogan, have taken some of the assets of the Anglican Development Fund and made initial payments to creditors.

A spokesperson for McGrathNicol said that as a result of further recoveries, notice of intention to declare a second distribution was advertised on October 8.

He said the Anglican Development Fund acted primarily as a financial intermediary.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(Barna) Five Trends Among the Unchurched

Since 1990, the percentage of unchurched adults in America has risen from 30% to 43% of the population. Even as this segment has grown, has their profile changed?

With the aid of more than two decades of tracking research””a sort of cultural time-lapse photography””Barna Group has discovered real and significant shifts in unchurched attitudes, assumptions, allegiances and behaviors. We’ve identified five trends in our research that are contributing to this increase in the churchless of America.

This new study of the unchurched population comes in conjunction with the release of Churchless, a new book from veteran researchers George Barna and David Kinnaman. Churchless draws on more than two decades of tracking research and more than 20 nationwide studies of the unchurched.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Almighty God, who art the author of all spiritual gifts: Bestow upon thy Church in this our day the grace of knowledge, to apprehend the fullness of divine truth, and of utterance to declare that truth to others; that the testimony of Christ may be confirmed among us, and in everything we may be enriched in him, even thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Frank Colquhoun

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

To thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in thee I trust,
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
Yea, let none that wait for thee be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know thy ways, O Lord;
teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me,
for thou art the God of my salvation;
for thee I wait all the day long.

–Psalm 25:1-4

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Anglican Dean of Perth finds joy in willing service

A dual Olympian with a strong focus on practical social justice and working with youth will be the new Anglican Dean of Perth.

The appointment of Very Rev. Richard Pengelley, 54, as Dean of St George’s Cathedral was announced yesterday.

Mr Pengelley will replace Dr John Shepherd, who recently retired after 24 years as dean.

Archbishop Roger Herft said Mr Pengelley’s qualities included focus on disciplined prayer, inspiring worship and willing service for others.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

Christopher Howse–Why is the Catholic Church cannibalising the Book of Common Prayer?

I’ve always felt sympathetic to foreigners on holiday in England who come across a church advertising Mass and displaying crucifixes and statues inside. When they discover later that they have been at a service of the Church of England, not of the Roman Catholic Church, they are puzzled and confused.

So what would you think if you went into a church and heard the clergyman begin: “God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit”¦”?

If you said it was an early part of the Anglican service of Holy Communion, you’d be right. But I’ve just been looking at a new service booklet with the Order of Mass according to the Use of the Ordinariate. It begins with that prayer, yet it is a Roman Catholic liturgy. Instead of bells-and-smells Anglicans stealing the Catholics’ clothes, as it were, we have Catholics (Roman Catholics) cannibalising the Book of Common Prayer

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, --Book of Common Prayer, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Theology

(LA Times) Pentagon announces Ebola rapid-response team for U.S. cases of virus

the Pentagon announced Sunday it is putting together a 30-person rapid-response team that could provide quick medical support to civilian healthcare workers if additional cases of the Ebola virus are diagnosed in the United States.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered U.S. Northern Command Commander Gen. Chuck Jacoby to assemble the team, which was requested by the Department of Health and Human Services, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.

The team will consist of 20 critical-care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease, and five trainers in infectious-disease protocols.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(DC Register) George Weigel–Samuel Huntington Not Being Used Properly at the Vatican

Huntington’s sensitivity to religion-and-world-politics ought to have commended his analysis to the Vatican for thoughtful consideration and serious discussion. Instead, Huntington-the-straw-man-who-prophesied-endless-civilizational-war is dragged out whenever it’s deemed necessary for officials of the Holy See to say that “a war between Islam and ”˜the rest’ is not inevitable” (true, if the civil war within Islam is resolved in favor of those Muslims who support religious tolerance and pluralism); or that Christian persecution and dislocation in the Middle East must be handled through the United Nations (ridiculous); or that the path to peace lies through dialogue, not confrontation (true, if there is a dialogue partner who is not given to beheading “the other”).

The Huntington proposal is not beyond criticism. But Huntington accurately described the Great Change that would take place in world politics after the wars of late modernity (the two 20th-century world wars and the Cold War); he accurately predicted what was likely to unfold along what he called Islam’s “bloody borders” if Islamists and jihadists went unchecked by their own fellow-Muslims; and he accurately identified the fact that religious conviction (or the lack thereof, as in Europe) would play an important role in shaping the 21st-century world. Thirteen years after 9/11, and in light of today’s headlines, is Huntington’s proposal really so implausible?

There is something very odd about a Holy See whose default positions include a ritualized deprecation of the Huntington thesis married to a will-to-believe about the U.N.’s capacity to be something more than an echo chamber.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, America/U.S.A., Asia, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Globalization, History, Islam, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Ekklesia) General Theological Seminary board refuses to rescind faculty sackings

The future of General Theological Seminary (GTS), the flagship Episcopal Church seminary in New York, is still in doubt tonight after its Board of Trustees ignored pleas from across the world to reinstate sacked faculty members.

Supporters of the eight professors ”“ who were told they had resigned after a work stoppage and letter to press long-term complaints about alleged abusive behaviour by the seminary’s new Dean and President ”“ have expressed distress, dismay and anger at the actions of the GTS Board, its managing body.

They complain that the Board and its chair, Bishop Mark Sisk, have not followed due process or key elements of the seminary’s own guidelines. They say they have effectively ignored requests for a just settlement from 1,200 scholars who have indicated that they are boycotting GTS, and from 1,600 people who have signed a reinstatement petition in the course of the last few days, as well as many others.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology