Monthly Archives: October 2017

(Scientific American) Dissolve the Dead? Controversy Swirls around Liquid Cremation

Proponents note that traditional cremation is trending upward in the U.S. In 2015 more people in this country were burned than put in the ground for the first time, according to a report by the National Funeral Directors Association. This fad is driven in part by price: A fire cremation usually costs less than a third of a burial, according to an industry report by market research firm IBISWorld. It also saves on some natural resources; a burial requires land as well as the stone, steel, cloth and wood used to make the casket and gravestone.

Some see alkaline hydrolysis—versions of which go by the names biocremation, aquamation and resomation—as the next big thing for those who want to make an environmentally friendly exit.

The technique has its origins in an 1888 patent for making fertilizer and gelatin, which describes dissolving animal parts in an alkaline solution such as potassium hydroxide. In the 1990s two researchers began disposing of lab animals this way at Albany Medical College in New York State. Their work informed the construction of the first machine that could handle a single human body, built by a company called WR2 and first used in the Mayo Clinic’s anatomical bequest program in Rochester, Minn., in 2006.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Energy, Natural Resources, Eschatology, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Secularism

David Brooks–The American Narrative informed by Scripture is being turned into an anti-biblical zero-sum struggle of class and ethnic conflict

The American social structure, as [Jonathan] Sacks notes, was based on biblical categories. There was a political realm, but the heart of society was in the covenantal realm: “marriages, families, congregations, communities, charities and voluntary associations.”

America’s Judeo-Christian ethic celebrated neighborliness over pagan combativeness; humility as the basis of good character, not narcissism. It believed in taking in the stranger because we were all strangers once. It dreamed of universal democracy as the global fulfillment of the providential plan.

That biblical ethic, embraced by atheists as much as the faithful, is not in great shape these days. As Sacks notes: “Today, one half of America is losing all those covenantal institutions. It’s losing strong marriages and families and communities. It is losing a strong sense of the American narrative. It’s even losing e pluribus unum because today everyone prefers pluribus to unum.…”

Trump and Bannon have filled the void with their own creed, which is anti-biblical. The American story they tell is not diverse people journeying toward a united future. It’s a zero-sum struggle of class and ethnic conflict. The traits Trump embodies are narcissism, not humility; combativeness, not love; the sanctification of the rich and blindness toward the poor.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Today in History–in 1938 Orson Wells’ War of the World airs on the Radio, read a news report about the panic in response

Churches in both New York and New Jersey were filled suddenly with persons seeking protection, and who found them, providentially as they thought ,open.

At St. Michael’s Hospital, in Newark, fifteen persons were treated for shock.

In New York, police and fire departments and the newspapers were swamped with telephone calls from people, apparently frightened half out of their wits.

The telephone company also was deluged. The thing finally assumed such serious proportions that the Colombia Broadcasting System put bulletins on the air explaining that the “meteor” broadcast was part of a play and that nothing untoward had happened.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Poetry & Literature

(Christian Today) It is as if prayer is a crime: Egypt’s Christians appeal for help after church closures

Following the closure of a number of churches in recent weeks, Coptic Christians in the south of Egypt have renewed calls on local authorities for an end to discrimination.

Two churches in two separate villages in the southern province of Minya have been shut down by the authorities, a statement by the Minya diocese said.

It said worshippers were harassed at both churches and pelted with rocks at one of them.

‘We have kept quiet for two weeks after the closure of one of the churches, but due to our silence the situation has worsened … it is as if prayer is a crime the Copts must be punished for,’ said the statement, which was released on Saturday.

A third church was closed following rumors of a pending attack, but the diocese said no attack has taken place since and the church remains closed.

Read it all.

Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Violence

The indefatigable former Bishop Chimes in (Again) on the Anglican/Episcopal mess in South Carolina

From there:

It has been publicly announced that the Diocese of South Carolina will enter into mediation with The Episcopal Church (TEC) at the Federal Courthouse in Columbia November 6-8. All parties to the ongoing litigation in both the State and Federal courts have agreed to participate. Many understandably hope this will bring an end to years of litigation. What is an appropriate expectation of the outcome?

A word often used by the TEC bishop and legal counsel is “reconciliation”. While an attractive word to readers and pleasing to the ear, it creates false expectations. To be reconciled implies, by definition, coming back together. It requires one or both parties to repent of their past actions and positions. That is unreasonable in this case.

Neither the Diocese of S.C. nor TEC has shown any evidence of changing course on any of the issues that created the initial divisions years ago. The Diocese has moved on, becoming formally affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and TEC has continued with its own theological agenda. The two are not compatible and are, if anything, further apart than ever.

And nothing in the behavior of TEC suggests their goals with departing parishes and Dioceses have changed over time. They continue to litigate in the Diocese of Quincy, Illinois despite having lost at the highest level in the state courts there. In the Diocese of San Joaquin, California, after spending $15 million to recover the parish properties, only 21 have been declared “viable” with the other 25 reported as going up for sale. In Bishop Adams former diocese, the people of Good Shepherd, Binghamton, NY were denied the purchase of their former church, seeing it sold for 1/3 their offer to become a mosque instead. The pattern of behavior is clear. For TEC, “reconciliation” has meant, “surrender, return the property and we’ll forgive you so you can rejoin us”. That is not a viable way forward.

So what is a reasonable expectation? What might be sought, and could work, is a “settlement” that ends all the litigation and enables both dioceses to go their separate ways in peace. The Diocese of S.C. granted that grace from the beginning in 2012 to parishes wishing to remain with TEC. The 80% who chose to disassociate from TEC should be allowed to do the same. The two opposing dioceses share a common history in S.C. and a heritage each has some claim to. Perhaps there is a way to honor that reality outside the “winner takes all” setting of the courtroom.

The resources of both groups would be preferably spent on the work of ministry to which each feels called. A workable settlement would allow each to go its way in peace to pursue their separate callings. If that is the goal of the mediation, by both parties, then much good could come of it. Failing that, expect the litigation to continue.

[The] Rt. Rev. Dr. C. Fitzsimons Allison is 12th Bishop (ret.) of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Pastoral Theology, Presiding Bishop, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John Wyclif

O God, whose justice continually challenges thy Church to live according to its calling: Grant us who now remember the work of John Wyclif contrition for the wounds which our sins inflict on thy Church, and such love for Christ that we may seek to heal the divisions which afflict his Body; through the same Jesus Christ, who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from BF Westcott

Blessed Lord, who wast tempted in all things like as we are, have mercy upon our frailty. Out of weakness give us strength; grant to us thy fear, that we may fear thee only; support us in time of temptation; embolden us in time of danger; help us to do thy work with good courage, and to continue thy faithful soldiers and servants unto our life’s end.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Blessed is he who considers the poor!
The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble;
the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
thou dost not give him up to the will of his enemies.
The Lord sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness thou healest all his infirmities.

–Psalm 41:1-3

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Radio NZ) New Zealand Cathedral to be consecrated after a 175-year journey

Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell sits on land bought by Bishop George Selwyn in 1843. Its first foundation stone was laid more than a century later in 1957.

Consecrating a building dedicates it as a place for religious purpose and it can only be done once the building is finished and debt-free.

The Anglican Bishop of Auckland, the Right Reverend Ross Bay, said consecrating the church held significant meaning.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Church History

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The Misery Filter

In America we have education for success, but no education for suffering. There is instead the filter, the well-meaning deception, that teaches neither religious hope nor stoicism, and when suffering arrives encourages group hysteria, private shame and a growing contagion of despair.

How to educate for suffering is a question for a different column. Here I’ll just stress its necessity: Because what cannot be cured must be endured, and how to endure is, even now, the hardest challenge every one of us will face.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Patheos) Gerard McDermott–What did Anglicans mean by ‘sola scriptura’?

John Yates III tells the story of how the English reformers, especially Thomas Cranmer, thought through this problem of authority in the third chapter of Reformation Anglicanism: A Vision for Today’s Global Communion (Crossway, 2017).   They concluded that Scripture is sufficient for understanding how to be saved and that it teaches clearly that God alone can wake us up out of our sin.  We are helpless until God comes to us.

On the question of authority, Anglicans have sometimes used what they claimed to be Richard Hooker’s image of a three-legged stool whose legs are Scripture, reason, and tradition (see Hooker’s portrait above). While liberal Anglicans have suggested that Hooker’s three legs were of equal length, Yates points out that Ashley Null’s image of a garden shows otherwise:

“[I]t is far more accurate to speak of Scripture as a garden bed in which reason and tradition are tools used to tend the soil, unlock its nutrients and bring forth the beauty within it.”

This, say Yates and Null, shows the role which Anglican reformers Cranmer and Hooker gave to Scripture.  In Yates’ words, Scripture for them was sufficient, powerful, satisfying, and authoritative. It “has the power, in the hands of the Spirit, to reconfigure our hardware, not just our software. . . . Regular exposure to scripture works to change our most basic desires.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Church History, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)

(CTV) An Anglican priest in Russell, Ontario, launches quirky videos to pull in parishioners

An actor turned priest has come up with a unique way to attract attention to his tiny church in Russell, Ontario.

[The] Reverend Lee Lambert has taken to social media to put the fear of God into people this Halloween period, in a fun way. This motorcycle ridin’, leather wearin’ priest isn’t your typical man of the cloth. In fact, his first calling was to the stage, not the altar.

Lambert played a soldier in the 1990 movie Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. It was largely shot in Ottawa’s Rockcliffe Park. After dabbling in acting, Lee Lambert became Reverend Lambert in 2001 and took over the services at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Russell 7 years ago.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

A S Haley on a recent Roman Catholic Dean’s sermon on Marriage–Is It Man over God, or God over Man?

This is an outstanding homily on last Sunday’s Gospel reading recounting Jesus’ skill in handling the Pharisees and the Herodians who tried to entrap him on the payment of taxes to the government (Mt 22:15-22). The Very Rev. John Lankeit, dean of the Cathedral of Ss. Simon and Jude in Phoenix, Arizona, shows Christians how to use Jesus’ logic to refute the trick assumption behind the question: “Do you believe in…[same-sex] marriage?”

Read it all and listen to the whole homily.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Lancelot Andrewes

O thou who sendest forth the light, createst the morning, and makest the sun to rise on the good and the evil: Enlighten the blindness of our minds with the knowledge of the truth; lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, that in thy light we may see light, and, at the last, in the light of grace the light of glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?”And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

–Luke 10:25-37

Posted in Theology: Scripture