Daily Archives: March 4, 2015

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Being an atheist in the Middle East

These are bad times for outspoken sceptics in countries where religion is brutally enforced, either by governments or fanatics with a self-appointed mission. Last week the atheist blogger Avijit Roy, who was of Bangladeshi origin but lived in the United States, was hacked to death at a book fair in Dhaka. It has been reported in Saudi Arabia that a young man in his twenties has been sentenced to death after he posted a video of himself ripping up a copy of the Koran.

In the far more comfortable environment of the United States, meanwhile, religious believers and sceptics denounce one another as though they were the greatest banes of one another’s lives. Atheists claim, perhaps correctly, that they face huge societal pressure not to declare their position, especially if they have any hopes of running for public office. Some religious believers say they face a liberal-humanist conspiracy to deny them the freedom to act out their beliefs, whether as employers, employees or in places of education.

But a physically courageous atheist from a Muslim-majority land says that a few months in America have reinforced his belief that believers and sceptics can and should deal courteously with one another and work together for freedom in places where it is dreadfully violated. Maikel Nabil Sanad, a young Egyptian blogger and protest leader, spent nearly a year in prison, enduring physical abuse and a hunger strike, before his release in January 2012.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Inter-Faith Relations, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Gallup) Physician Engagement–What Too Many Hospitals Are Overlooking

With all the changes in healthcare over the past few years, many system and hospital leaders now acknowledge the importance of employee engagement. Employees are the one constant in the healthcare equation, and their ability to persevere during times of change can determine whether a healthcare system maintains its quality of care and patient service.

Yet, for some reason, the concept of physician engagement isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Perhaps healthcare leaders assume that physicians are self-motivated and their interest in their patients or research trumps the need to engage them.

But physician engagement is vital to a hospital’s or system’s success. I

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology, Theology

(The Tabket) [Rowan] Williams: don’t just vote for the candidate defending ”˜Christian values’

Without becoming naïve, people needed to have greater faith in the “other”, Lord Williams said, and reject political and media rhetoric that fosters panic and mistrust of politicians, people in public life, organisations or charities.

“Our politics and our media really thrive on mistrust,” he said. “It seems the basic emotion we’re encouraged to feel by quite a lot of political and media rhetoric is a sort of mild, subdued panic.

“There comes to be a corrosive, circular, enclosed world in which what you are always longing for is a good reason to not trust someone. I don’t think that can be good for us.”

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

(Liv. Church) Lucinda Mosher reviews two books on Bediuzzaman Said Nursi–Islam’s Anglican Thinker

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877/78-1960) wended his way into my doctoral research in 1999. Ian Markham commenced his study of Nursi in 2002. Of the relatively short list of English-language scholarly books about Nursi, several contain an essay by one or both of us. Markham, however, has gone steps farther than I. He included a chapter on Nursi in his Theology of Engagement (Blackwell, 2003); and significantly, of the English-language scholarly books on Nursi, Markham’s name is on the front cover of three, including the two texts under review here.

Who is Nursi? A Kurdish-Turkish scholar and spiritual leader, his public career overlapped two world wars, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, and Turkey’s subsequent efforts to establish a different kind of government and national identity. His disciples ”” an extensive global community ”” see him as an Islamic restorationist, a God-sent reviver of the religion for the 20th century and beyond. Hence, they often refer to him by the honorific Bediuzzaman, that is, Wonder of the Age. His disciples are ardent students of his legacy, having produced more than 5,000 pages of thematically organized Qur’an commentary, practical spiritual guidance, and correspondence, most of which is published as the multi-volume Risale-i Nur (Epistles of Light). Nursi’s biography is compelling; but wading into his Risale can be daunting. He has his modern-day detractors, the government of Russia among them. Ian Markham’s Nursi projects offer guidance toward understanding and appreciation of Bediuzzaman.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Church History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

Guardian Work and Careers Series–How do I become ”¦ an Anglican priest?

Faith and desire is, however, no guarantee of ordination. Would-be candidates have first to convince a parish priest that they have the makings of a priest, then pass the scrutiny of a director of ordinands during months of interviews, before enduring a two-day selection conference where a committee endeavours to distinguish between pious enthusiasm and genuine vocation. Undischarged bankrupts are not considered, nor are hopefuls under 18 or over 57, in order to ensure adequate maturity and to justify the enormous training costs with the prospect of a reasonably long ministry.

Many who wish for ordination are deemed unsuitable whether in character, faith or ability; many more are advised to go away and prove themselves before being recommended for holy orders. Those that pass muster embark on a theological degree or diploma course ”“ a non-residential course for married candidates over the age of the 35, residential study in one of the diminishing number of seminaries for those under 30, or the option of either for older single ordinands.

Pike was told to spend six months working in a parish before he could be recommended for training. “I had never done any pastoral work before,” he says. “I went to a deprived parish in Leicester on an estate surrounded by dual carriageways. Quite a few professionals visited it as social workers, speech therapists etc, but the clergy and pastoral assistants were the only professionals who lived there, and I realised that one of the privileges of being a priest is that you are accepted as part of the community ”“ whatever kind of community it is ”“ and there is an instinctively generous welcome into people’s lives.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(Crisis) Tyler Blanski–Anglican Decline and Its Biblical Remedy

For years, I thought I was called to be an Anglican priest. My wife and I wanted to plant an Anglican church in Minneapolis. To that end, I attended a beautiful Anglican seminary couched in the forests of Wisconsin. There, surrounded by men and women much holier than myself, I was challenged to grow up in Christ. During the course of my studies and discernment, I came to believe that Christ intended his Church to be apostolic””and also that Rome had greatly exaggerated Peter’s role in the apostolic college. I had many opinions about the papacy, most of them clouded by exaggeration and fabrication, and considered myself to be more Catholic than the Catholics.
“Are you Episcopalian?” people asked.

“No, I am Anglican,” I said.

“But aren’t Episcopalians Anglican?” they asked.

And I would try my best to explain how the Anglican communion is full of national churches and independent provinces that are out of communion with one another. By my senior year, I was tongue-tied.

Schism””however sincerely felt, conventional, or culturally imperative””remains schism. Anglicanism has not essentially changed since the moment King Henry VIII had, in the most frightening sense of the phrase, an original idea. Time and habit””together with popular acceptance and the enduring appeal of fresh breaks (I was in the ACNA, a break-off from TEC)””do not transform the Church of England into a “branch” of the Catholic Church. Time’s passage does not a Catholic Church make. In fact, just the opposite happens: the longer Anglicans remain out of communion with Peter’s successor, the pope, the longer the principle of decay can take effect. As in the moment of the original break, the result of schism is something schismatic every single second.

We should not mistake the gradual numbing of our awareness of schism with its disappearance or release from our ongoing responsibility for it; much less should we excuse such visible disunity by appealing to an invisible “unity in Christ”””at least not while we’re praying “on earth as it is in heaven.” The Church is more than a surface-level illusion.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Washington Post) Obamacare back before Supreme Court today

The Supreme Court on Wednesday considers the most serious challenge to the Affordable Care Act since the justices upheld it as constitutional almost three years ago.

At issue is whether millions of Americans who receive tax subsidies to buy health insurance are doing so illegally. If the justices rule that the payments are not allowed, the entire health-care law could be in jeopardy.

The latest showdown between the Obama administration and the conservative legal strategists who have targeted the law since its passage in 2010 focuses on a once obscure phrase in the legislation: “established by the State.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Theology

Some Very Interesting Documentation from the US Supreme Court in the Fort Worth Episcopal Ch. Case

The case was called The Episcopal Church v. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Supreme Court denied Petition for certiorari. Note carefully the numerous links provided, including, for example, Brief the amici curiae of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the new Episcopal Church Diocese in South Carolina.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology

Heartwarming Wed. Morning Story–Preschooler Emmett Rychner, age 4, Reunites with 90 yr old WWII Vet

World War II veteran Erling Kindem found a best bud in his 4-year-old next-door neighbor, Emmett Rychner. But after the unlikely pair enjoyed countless hours of lawn mower races, croquet matches and gardening, Emmett’s parents made the difficult decision last year to move from their suburban home south of Minneapolis to a new house in the country.

The distance became even harder to bear as Kindem planned to move with his ailing wife to a retirement community about 30 miles away. “It was good while it lasted,” Kindem told NBC affiliate KARE last September. His voice cracked as he reasoned that he would someday see his friend again: “It isn’t over.”

On Sunday, they were reunited.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

([London] Times) Call for national debate on Muslim sex grooming

An urgent national debate is needed to address the disproportionate number of Muslim men among groups convicted of using and selling young teenagers for sex, according to a landmark report.

Failings by police and care professionals led to more than 370 young girls in Oxfordshire falling victim to “conveyor-belt” sex crimes over the past 15 years, a serious case review published yesterday concluded.

It came after six young Oxford girls suffered years of abuse from multiple offenders, some of whom travelled the length of the country for sex in bedsits and guest houses. A review of agencies dealing with the victims identified an “undeniable” link between men of Pakistani heritage and “indescribably awful” crimes across England.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence, Young Adults

Nigerian R. Catholic bishops denounce Boko Haram’s use of children as suicide bombers

Nigeria’s bishops have condemned Boko Haram’s use of children to commit suicide bombings.

“We deplore the fact that young children are used to commit such crimes, and the fact that young Nigerians are used by politicians to intimidate and inflict violence on their political opponents is a disturbing symptom of breakdown of family values in our society,” the bishops said at the end of a five-day meeting on the theme, ”˜Good Families Make Good Nations’.

“We wonder: Who are the parents of these young Nigerians? Do these young ones not belong to families?” it said.

It said that many families were currently facing challenges caused by the Boko Haram insurgency and the heightened tension occasioned by the coming general elections, now scheduled for March 28 and April 11.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Nigeria, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Henry Alford

O Blessed Saviour, who art full of mercy and compassion, and wilt not cast out any that come to thee: Help us, we beseech thee, who are grievously vexed with the burden of our sins; and so increase in us the power of thy Holy Spirit that we may prevail against the enemy of our souls; for thy name’s sake.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name for ever; may his glory fill the whole earth! Amen and Amen!

–Psalm 72: 18,19

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Sky News) Amazing Picture of the Day–A Weasel Takes A Ride On A Woodpecker

Posted in * General Interest, Animals, Photos/Photography

(BBC) Boko Haram: Can a regional force really beat Nigeria's militant Islamists?

The area that the MNJTF will be covering draws the force’s first limit.

Military and diplomatic sources have confirmed that MNJTF soldiers will only operate between the outskirts of Niger’s Diffa border town, and the towns of Baga and Ngala in Nigeria.

In other words, the regional force’s main task will be to secure the Nigerian side of Lake Chad, which represents “only 10 to 15% of the entire area where Boko Haram operates”, according to a diplomat based in the region, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

A S Haley–The Episcopal Church and the Freedom of Association: a Showdown Is Coming

By my count, 40 of the 91 cases listed resulted in legal victories at the trial or appellate level for ECUSA; just two parish cases (All Saints and the Good Shepherd San Angelo case in Texas) went the other way, but three of the five cases involving Dioceses resulted in rulings against ECUSA. A fourth diocese case (San Joaquin) is on appeal; the fifth one (Pittsburgh) gave a victory to ECUSA on the basis of a very strained reading of the effect of a stipulation between the parties.

It is a legitimate query to ask why the results of the parish cases are so lopsided in favor of ECUSA, while the results of the diocese cases go just the other way.
For the parishes, most of the decisions turned upon explicit language in their own bylaws that made them “perpetually” subject to their Diocese and ECUSA. No such language exists in any of the Dioceses’ governing documents, however. For the cases involving them, the explanation lies in the well-established freedom of association, which is a fundamental right enshrined in the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. It holds that just as no one can be prevented by the government from joining a group, so also the group may not go to court to prevent a member from leaving it. “Freedom of association therefore plainly presupposes a freedom not to associate,” as the Supreme Court put it in Roberts v. U.S. Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 623, 104 S. Ct. 3244, 3252, 82 L. Ed. 2d 462 (1984).

The liberals in ECUSA have a very difficult time trying to understand why their Church should be subject to such a doctrine. For them, the union between a Diocese and General Convention is an ecclesiastical one, and as such, they claim, civil courts should be precluded (by that same First Amendment!) from examining or questioning it in any way.

A moment’s reflection will expose the flaws in that argument (not that ecclesiastical liberals ever pay any attention to logic or reason). ECUSA is, ecclesiastically speaking, a denomination — but that says nothing about what it is in the eyes of the law. In order to sue or be sued in a civil court, for instance, ECUSA has to be a juridical person, not just an ecclesiastical one.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Analysis, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: Quincy, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, Theology

Spectator letters: Why rural churches are so important, and the best use for them

There is no ”˜one size fits all’ solution and, as Ysenda Maxtone Graham made clear, there needs to be a range of solutions, including greater involvement of the laity, the possibility of giving responsibility for more churches to local charities or trusts, and the setting up of ”˜festival churches’, which have services only for the major festivals of the Church. We also need to see how we can make church buildings more serviceable to the wider community, so that they can be used as much as possible and not simply for Sunday worship.

For many people the presence of a church in rural England is symbolic of the nation and the rural way of life, and a source of support and comfort even for those who are not regular churchgoers. We should start with the very clear premise that the Church of England is a national church and should therefore ensure a Christian presence in every community.
–(The) Rt Hon. Canon Sir Tony Baldry, MP

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Rural/Town Life

(NPR) A German Muslim Asks His Compatriots: 'What Do You Want To Know?

Sadiqu al-Mousllie sees humor as a good way to fight growing anti-Islam sentiment in Germany.

He lives in Braunschweig, in western Germany. Earlier this month, he decided to go downtown and hold up a sign that read, “I am a Moslem. What would you like to know?”

“This is a bridge of communication,” the Syrian-born German says. “Some people dared to ask, some others not, so we went to them and give them some chocolate and a say of our prophet to know what Muslims are thinking about.”

Mousllie, 44, says he hopes to do it every other week.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Germany, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture