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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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“A breath of fresh air,” was how the Rev. Louise Weld, Associate Rector at St. James, Charleston, described the 224th annual Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina, which was held in Charleston, March 13-14, 2015. “I felt like there was a big emphasis on evangelism and sharing your story,” said Weld, “in the Bishop’s address, in presentations, in video clips. There was a new thrust - a breath of fresh air. We’ve moved on and are about the Lord’s work!...”
The convention welcomed two new mission congregations, which have joined the Diocese since our last convention: Resurrection, North Charleston, led by the Rev. Matthew McCormick and St. James, Blackville led by the Rev. Russell Reed, assisted by Deacon Tom Cuny.
Eight new clergy have joined the Diocese since the last convention: the Rev. Gary Beson, the Rev. Rags Coxe the Rev. Tom Cuny , the Rev. Stephen Davis, the Rev. Donnie McDaniel, the Rev. Luke Rasmussen, the Rev. Russell Read and the Rev. Jamie Sosnowski.
Read it all.
I still remember a letter I received as a young rector. The letter concluded with, “Always remember, Fr. Mark, the Church primarily exists to serve the needs of its long-time members.” Even in the relatively more churched-culture of the late 1980s it struck me as shocking statement. Former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, wrote in the 1930s that the Church is the only institution in the world that exists to serve the needs of those who are not yet its members. But there is something more foundational than the recent debates about Missional vs Attractional. The Church by its very nature is missional. It is not that the Church one day decided to have a resolution, brought it forward and voted to be missional. It was the Risen Jesus Christ, whose mission we continue, who commands us—“As the Father has sent me so I am sending you.” The only thing left to ask is to whom, and where, and how He would have us go!
Missionalisation on a diocesan level also means to intentionally create a culture within the diocese that cultivates a missional approach to ministry and life. Cultures, as it has been observed, cultivate. To initiate outward thrust in congregational life and witness; to celebrate that which goes out in creative ways to where people gather rather than hunker down in Christian circles; to interact with the unchurch, unreached, uninterested is the challenge we face in today. It is to recognize that Jesus often crossed boundaries in his ministry and once he crossed boundaries he made contact, cultivated curiosity and then touched the place of need in the other person’s life which they hardly knew they had or could even whisper to others. It is, among other things, to take pre-evangelism, as well as evangelism, seriously. What is pre-evangelism? It is conveyed well by what an agnostic said upon the death of Pope John XXIII: “Pope John has made my unbelief uncomfortable.” Missionalization is to have such an aroma of Christ that when we go into the world meeting others we graciously make the agnostic and religiously unaffiliated uncomfortable in their unbelief.
Missionalisation also means for us to practice Big Picture thinking. As your bishop I have been mindful of the need to look at the big picture within the emerging Anglican world. Through the 2008 Lambeth Conference; the Global South gatherings in Singapore or elsewhere; the various GAFCON conferences; and from bishops or primates who have come to us from abroad to sojourn a few days or weeks in the Diocese of South Carolina the challenges and opportunities have been kept before me. Certainly the Anglican Communion Development Committee (ACD) has been a diocesan committee which has strategically looked at the larger world seeking to address what we could do to help shape the Anglican scene in the 21st Century. I am heartened that some of our larger parishes, such as St. Helena’s, Beaufort and St. Michael’s Charleston (which has a vital missional thrust through its Global Impact Celebration) are now seeking input from the ACD Committee as they rethink their missional relationships around the world.
Nevertheless I am often troubled by a recurring personal concern regarding the Big Picture....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: South Carolina * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Stewardship * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues * South Carolina * Theology
It is a fact well known to certain Episcopalians—both those who have left the Episcopal Church (USA) and those who have remained—that ECUSA and its dioceses have followed a pattern of suing any church that chooses to leave for another Anglican jurisdiction. But the full extent of the litigation that has ensued is not well known at all, either in the wider Church, or among the provinces of the Anglican Communion.
(Otherwise -- one would think -- it would never have been deemed to be conduct to be rewarded by this honorary degree, rather than this one.)
Your Curmudgeon proposes to do what he can to rectify this situation, by publishing an annual update on this site of the current status of all past and present cases in which ECUSA or any of its dioceses has been or is involved, from 2000 to date. Feel free to link to this post, to email links to it to other Episcopalians, and to send it to your Bishop -- and feel free to post any updates or corrections in the comments. In another update to be posted as General Convention approaches, I will publish a revised total for all of the money spent by ECUSA and its Dioceses to date on prosecuting all of these lawsuits (and, in the case of the second group below, defending them).
The lawsuits initiated by ECUSA and its dioceses to date are first listed below. They far outnumber, as you can see, the second list of the eight cases begun by a diocese or parish against the Episcopal Church (or a diocese). The listing endeavors to be as complete as I can make it. The first 83 cases, generally grouped by the State in which they each originated, are the legal actions filed since 2000....
Take the time to read it all (my emphasis).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
But now add in the EMM figures (bottom of the third page):
(D) 2014 EMM reimbursements received were $ 13,322,419; while
(E) 2014 EMM expenditures amounted to $ 16,811,183; for a net
(F) Annual EMM operating deficit of $ 3,488,763, which more than wipes out (C) above, and leaves
(G) A net operating loss for 2014 of $ 1,092,161 !!
In other words, the Episcopal Church is in the hole to the tune of over a million dollars for calendar 2014.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Episcopal Church (TEC) General Convention Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
‘Hosanna’ was also a cry of release from the heavy yoke, burdens and hardships long-endured by the Jewish people because of the Roman occupation. They were longing for the Messiah to set them free. ‘Save us now’ had long been their prayer of hope. The same prayer that echoes round the world today. But this is a prayer with a health warning. It is costly.
Religious people have often assumed that God could be enlisted to the service of their particular cause, project, nation, or culture. But as Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.’
The followers of the one who rode into Jerusalem that day are called to a grander allegiance than that of tribe or nation – we must seek the ‘Kingdom of God and his righteousness.’ Transcending loyalties of blood and statehood, we are enlisted for God’s agenda of justice, peace, and the common life of friendship. This is the way of love. In the face of this we must, as another book title once put it, ‘Give up our small ambitions.’
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Archbishop of York John Sentamu * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
An influential group of bishops have called on Anglican churches to remove their investments from the fossil fuel companies that are driving climate change.
In a declaration and set of requests aimed at focusing the church’s attention on the “unprecedented climate crisis”, the 17 bishops and archbishops said investments in fossil fuel companies were incompatible with a just and sustainable future.
“We call for a review of our churches’ investment practices with a view to supporting environmental sustainability and justice by divesting from industries involved primarily in the extraction or distribution of fossil fuels,” they said.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Bishop Nicholas has is one of 17 Anglican bishops from all continents who have produced a Declaration calling for urgent prayer and action to tackle what they call an “unprecedented climate crisis”. Their declaration The World Is Our Host: A Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice, released on Monday in Holy Week, sets a new agenda on climate change.
Bishop Nicholas was the Church of England’s representative on the group that produced the Declaration. Speaking after its launch, he said, “We accept the scientific evidence that human activity is more than 95% likely to be the main cause of global warming. This century began with fourteen of the fifteen hottest years ever.
“That our Declaration is issued in Holy Week and addressed to the Church on Good Friday is a mark of the seriousness with which we view the crisis of climate change.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8). Jesus’ humiliation.
These words show us God’s way and the way of Christians: it is humility. A way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!
Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity. This is clear when we read the Book of Exodus. How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom.
This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation. Only in this way will this week be “holy” for us too!
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Christology
A recent survey by private health insurance exchange EHealth highlights the pressure Americans are feeling. It found that more than 6 in 10 people say they're more worried about the financial effect of expensive medical emergencies and paying for healthcare than about funding retirement or covering their kids' education.
People who get health insurance through work and on their own have seen their costs rise dramatically over the last decade.
According to the Commonwealth Fund, a New York think tank, annual increases in work-based health plan premiums rose three times faster than wages from 2003 to 2013. Out-of-pocket costs have also been climbing.
"More people have deductibles than ever before," says Sara Collins, a Commonwealth Fund vice president. From 2003 to 2013, the size of deductibles has grown nearly 150%.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Google is no stranger to robotics or healthcare technology. The tech giant owns several robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics and its arsenal of robo-dogs and nimble-but-drunk bipedal bots. And the Google X Life Sciences division has created everything from contact lenses that measure blood-sugar levels to tremor-proof spoons for Parkinson’s patients.
Now, the search giant is teaming up with Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary to build what the two hope are the ultimate platform for robotic surgery.
Robot-assisted surgeries aren’t a new thing; in fact, they’ve been around in one form or another since 1985.
Read it all.
What are the reasons you have chosen to be open about a homosexual orientation?
Gay and lesbian people don't just exist "out there," far removed from our churches. Rather, many of us are Christians--we are already "insiders," members of various churches and Christian communities. I felt that it was really important for more Christians, especially conservative evangelicals, to start acknowledging that fact. Staying in the closet can be a bad thing for one's spiritual life. It can intensify shame and guilt. On the other hand, coming out can be a way of experiencing God's love.
Why have you chosen to be celibate?
Because of what I described above. I believe that the Bible and the Christian tradition don't endorse same-sex sexual activity. So, I am seeking a life of hospitable community, deep friendship, and genuine love in and through my celibacy.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch Psychology Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Seminary / Theological Education Theology: Scripture
A few years later, Thomas Jefferson resolved these difficulties quite simply in his “harmonized” account of the life of Jesus. The Jefferson Bible ends with the crucifixion and burial: “There laid they Jesus: and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” The End. No Resurrection.
So, yes, Jefferson stood exactly in that century-old Deist tradition.
And you will see why I am very skeptical when I read that nineteenth or early twentieth century critics were so daring in their criticism of Biblical orthodoxy – for example, in the US during the years of the Briggs controversy of the 1890s and the rise of Fundamentalism. Those ideas were already very familiar indeed before Jefferson was born in 1743.
Here’s a thought. Maybe the most important theme to highlight in any history of Biblical criticism is that of serial amnesia.
Read it all.
Thousands of supporters of Nigeria's main opposition party on Sunday demonstrated in the oil-rich state of Rivers, calling for the cancellation of elections locally because of alleged irregularities.
The demonstrators from the All Progressives Congress (APC) converged on the local offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state capital, Port Harcourt.
"We are here to register our protest that there was no election in Rivers state yesterday (Saturday)," Rivers state governorship candidate Dakuku Peterside told the crowd.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Righteous art thou, O Lord,
when I complain to thee;
yet I would plead my case before thee.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
Thou plantest them, and they take root;
they grow and bring forth fruit;
thou art near in their mouth
and far from their heart.
But thou, O Lord, knowest me;
thou seest me, and triest my mind toward thee.
Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter,
and set them apart for the day of slaughter.
How long will the land mourn,
and the grass of every field wither?
For the wickedness of those who dwell in it
the beasts and the birds are swept away,
because men said, “He will not see our latter end.”
“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you,
how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you fall down,
how will you do in the jungle of the Jordan?
For even your brothers and the house of your father,
even they have dealt treacherously with you;
they are in full cry after you;
believe them not,
though they speak fair words to you.”
“I have forsaken my house,
I have abandoned my heritage;
I have given the beloved of my soul
into the hands of her enemies.
My heritage has become to me
like a lion in the forest,
she has lifted up her voice against me;
therefore I hate her.
Is my heritage to me like a speckled bird of prey?
Are the birds of prey against her round about?
Go, assemble all the wild beasts;
bring them to devour.
Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard,
they have trampled down my portion,
they have made my pleasant portion
a desolate wilderness.
They have made it a desolation;
desolate, it mourns to me.
The whole land is made desolate,
but no man lays it to heart.
Upon all the bare heights in the desert
destroyers have come;
for the sword of the Lord devours
from one end of the land to the other;
no flesh has peace.
They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns,
they have tired themselves out but profit nothing.
They shall be ashamed of their[a] harvests
because of the fierce anger of the Lord.”
Thus says the Lord concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage which I have given my people Israel to inherit: “Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land. And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, ‘As the Lord lives,’ even as they taught my people to swear by Ba′al, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people.
The acclaimed filmmaker discusses his new PBS documentary ‘Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,’ and his personal connection to the disease.
Cancer is the fastest growing disease on Earth. It plagues nearly 1.7 million Americans each year, and over the next two years it’s expected that more people will die from the disease than were killed in combat in all the wars the U.S. has fought — combined.
These facts set the stage for the six-hour documentary “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,” which was executive produced by acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns and directed by Barak Goodman, and premieres on PBS Monday evening. The three-part series chronicles the comprehensive story of cancer, from its earliest description in an Egyptian scroll to the latest advancements in immunotherapy.
Read it all.
Expanding its efforts to create a culture of lifelong learning, the Diocese of Montreal has embarked upon a new three-year continuing education program.
The program, which began Jan. 1, 2015 and runs until Dec. 31, 2017, asks clergy to complete 60 hours of continuing education over a three-year period, as required by Bishop Barry Clarke for each licensed clergyperson in the diocese.
Using a list of competencies for ordination prepared in 2013 by the Primate’s Commission on Theological Education and Formation for Presbyteral Ministry, clergy members identify which competencies they want to work on, prepare supporting documentation and keep track of their self-registered courses in a log.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Canada * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
Raghuram Rajan got it started. On Jan. 15, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India jolted traders on Mumbai’s Dalal Street by cutting interest rates. The surprise was the timing of the announcement: Rajan wasn’t supposed to deliver a policy statement for another 19 days.
The weirdness continued that same day—in Switzerland, of all places. For three years, the Swiss National Bank had steadily bought euros on currency markets to keep the country’s franc from surging in value relative to the euro, and thereby choking off growth. Unorthodox, yes; but global financial markets had grown accustomed to the regular renewal of the bank’s stance. Without warning, however, the Swiss cut the franc’s tether. Swiss National Bank chairman Thomas Jordan also set the benchmark Swiss lending rate at negative 0.75%. In theory, a lower rate should put downward pressure on the franc; not enough in this case, as the franc’s value shot up by 18% in the days that followed. Many hedge funds bled red.
And on it went. The Danes cut interest rates four times in the span of a few weeks. As this issue of the magazine neared deadline, China’s central bank cut rates by a quarter of a percentage point and Poland slashed them by a half point. In the first 60 days of 2015, some 20 central banks had executed stimulus measures.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Credit Markets Currency Markets European Central Bank Stock Market The Banking System/Sector The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- * International News & Commentary Asia Europe * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
So very many of the 'assured results of modern scholarship' have rested ultimately upon comfortable and rarely interrogated Enlightenment prejudices. To the mentality of the last two-and-a-half centuries, it has seemed obvious that 'primitive' simplicity must have been transformed, in a simple linear process, into greater complexity. Rousseau's Noble Savage, dated into mythical human pre-history, must necessarily predate the Bourbon Court! That such a methodological presupposition still survives among 'liberal' Christian academics is, it seems to me, another example of the failure of many such writers to keep up with advances in the secular study of the ancient world. Here is a passage, written in 1998 by Peter Parsons, Regius Professor (now emeritus) of Greek in this University and a very great papyrologist. He is surveying the large number of 'new' Classical texts which the sands of Egypt had yielded in the couple of decades before he wrote. (It is worth adding that discoveries since 1998 have done nothing to weaken his argument.)
Read it all.
The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African-Americans, has broken its fellowship with Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) following its recent vote to approve same-sex marriage.
The Presbyterian General Assembly, the top legislative body of the PCUSA, voted last June to revise the constitutional language defining marriage. This arbitrary change of Holy Scripture is a flagrantly pretentious and illegitimate maneuver by a body that has no authority whatsoever to alter holy text.
Rev. Anthony Evans, NBCI President noted:
"NBCI and its membership base are simply standing on the Word of God within the mind of Christ. We urge our brother and sisters of the PCUSA to repent and be restored to fellowship."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
...That's where the second question comes in, a personal question. If the Palm Sunday street theatre means what Jesus meant, it challenges all his followers, then and now. The crowds may have been fickle, but they were not mistaken. The two on the road to Emmaus had hoped he would redeem Israel, and they were hoping for the right thing - God's kingdom on earth as in heaven, a this-worldly reign of justice and peace - but they had not glimpsed the means by which Jesus would bring it about. Right story, wrong king.
Sooner or later, this happens to all of us. We start out following Jesus because we think we know the story, we know what sort of king we want him to be - and then things go badly wrong, he doesn't give us what we wanted, and we are tempted to wonder if we've been standing on the wrong side of town, watching the wrong procession.
Jesus warned us this would happen: we all have to live through a Holy Week, a Gethsemane, a Good Friday of one sort or another. That happens in personal life, in vocational life, as well as in public life.
But we were not mistaken. The world today, never mind the church today, urgently needs people, young and old, who will follow Jesus through Holy Week and on into the new Mystery Play which our mediaeval ancestors never imagined, the story of his kingdom of love and peace and justice coming on earth as in heaven. That is the Story; he is the King; and he's looking for recruits, young and old, for a new bit of theatre, coming to a street near you.
Read it all.
Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!
It’s 40 great minutes. I loved this conversation, I hope you will too as you learn along with me from our friend about the heart of Anglican theology.
Read it all.
Under the shadow of Boko Haram violence, Nigerians head to the polls Saturday (March 28) to elect a president and a deputy in a vote observers say is critical for the country’s stability and economic progress.
In a twist that might have been difficult to predict, many Christians in Nigeria’s north are backing a Muslim candidate to lead their country away from the brink of violence and chaos.
Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north and the leader of the All Progressives Congress party, is challenging the leadership of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south who heads the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
Some Nigerians fear that another term for Jonathan would mean institutionalization of corruption and emergence of more Muslim extremist groups in addition to Boko Haram. And they are willing to pin their hopes on a Muslim candidate.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Laws that disparately impact Christians can protect others from Christian attempts to take over society. If these laws are couched in terms of religious neutrality—like the “all comers” policies for student organizations—then those with Christianophobia can endorse them without worry about being stigmatized as bigoted. (There is a similar phenomenon noted in race/ethnicity scholarship. Public policy measures that seem racially neutral can work to the disadvantage of people of color. Restrictive immigration policies are theoretically racially neutral, but disproportionally affect Hispanic Americans.)
This helps to crystallize the current conflict in our society between conservative Christians and those with hatred towards them. Christians face economically, educationally, and socially powerful individuals who seek to drive them from the public square. Many with Christianophobia are convinced that conservative Christians will drag our society back into the Dark Ages and must be stopped with any measure that cannot be defined as overt religious bigotry.
An important challenge Christians have is to convince such individuals that they have the same rights to influence the public square as anyone else. Learning how to communicate, and hopefully find ways to co-exist, with them will help determine whether there will be a persistent cultural conflict or if a truce is possible.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Just because the Middle East’s descent into chaos is hardly the fault of the Obama administration, that doesn’t mean its policies in the region are not an egregious failure.
The situation in the region is unprecedented. For the first time since the World Wars, virtually every country from Libya to Afghanistan is involved in a military conflict. (Oman seems to be the exception.) The degree of chaos, uncertainty, and complexity among the twisted and often contradictory alliances and enmities is mind-boggling. America and its allies are fighting alongside Iran to combat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria but in Yemen, the United States and many of those same regional partners are collaborating to push back Iranian-backed Houthi forces. Israel and Saudi Arabia are closely aligned in their concerns about Iran while historical divisions between the two remain great. Iran supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria; the United States and Western allies deplore his policies but tolerate his presence while some of the rebel forces we are supporting in the fight against the Islamic State in that country seek his (long overdue) removal. The United States wants the states of the region to stand up for their own interests — just not in Libya or when they don’t get America’s permission first.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The most sharply contested election in Nigeria’s post-independence history wound down to a tense conclusion on Saturday amid fears that a polarized electorate would clash regardless of the outcome in a country split on religious, ethnic and sectional lines.
There appeared to be little middle ground between partisans of the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south hated in the north for mismanaging a bloody Islamist insurgency at steep cost, and his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, a northerner and a belated democratic convert whose Muslim faith and authoritarian past are feared in the south.
Voters on Saturday morning crowded around registration stations here in the north’s largest city, a packed metropolis of more than five million, as hitches in the process added to the tension. Election officials were more than two hours late in some places, and malfunctioning electronic registration machines — a new system designed to limit endemic fraud — stymied voters in others.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
...the challenge to be a Church with a mission to the nation grows more complex as society and communities change, and the size, strength and make-up of our churches also change.
50 years ago churches largely reflected the demographics of their context; today they are markedly different. Put simply, churches have not successfully retained young people as they move into adulthood.
Numbers attending Church of England services have declined at an average rate of 1% a year in recent decades. In any given week, less than 2% of the overall population attend our churches. In some areas, particularly outer estates and the inner city, this is less than 1%. The age profile of our membership is now significantly older than that of the population.
As I said in my Synod address in December, the harsh truth is that there is a massive cultural gap between what we do in our churches and the subcultures amongst whom we dwell.
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In the past six years, Boko Haram has terrorized the northeast region and burned down entire communities, killing thousands of people and abducting many more, including more than 200 missing schoolgirls.
The people driven from their homes are posing a challenge for Nigeria's electoral commission. The U.N. Secretary General's special representative for West Africa and high representative for Nigeria, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, says displaced people must be allowed to vote.
"These elections must be inclusive," Chambas says. "I got the assurance of the electoral commissioner that all efforts would be made to ensure that Nigerians internally displaced, as a result of Boko Haram terrorist activity, are not denied their franchise."
Nigeria is also grappling with a new biometric, voter ID card-reading system, which had hiccups during dry runs ahead of Saturday's vote.
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Philip Jenkins's contribution to The Globalization of Christianity (edited by Gordon Heath and Steven Studebaker) offers sobering and exciting news by turns.
On the sobering side, he describes the statistical stagnation of Christianity, and compares it to the spread of Islam. For the past century, Christianity has held steady at 1/3 of the human population. It's grown, of course, but it has not grown as a proportion of the world's population.
Islam has. “In 1900, the 200 to 220 million Muslims then living comprised some 12 or 13 percent of humanity, compared to 22.5 percent today, and a projected figure of 27.3 percent by 2050. Put another way, Christians in 1900 outnumbered Muslims by 2.8 to 1. Today that figure is 1.3 to 1, and by 2050 it should be 1.3 to 1. Put another way, there are four times as many Christians alive as there were in 1900; but over the same period, Muslims have grown at least seven-fold” (21).
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In her letter, Dr [Sarah] Coakley writes that she agrees "wholeheartedly with all the goals and aspirations" of the report, which envisions a 50 per cent increase in ordinations by 2020.
But she goes on to warn that devolution to the dioceses will be "profoundly undermining of all these good goals. . . Indeed, since there is no theology of ministry articulated in the report itself, one can hardly expect one to emerge in the course of individual bishops making decisions about 'flexible pathways', or taking on over-50s candidates without a BAP.
"Further, as the report itself acknowledges (but does not resolve), a huge set of problems can be envisaged about how to deploy clergy around the country in places of greatest need or effective pastoral abandonment, given the new plan for the financial support of clergy training."
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Stunningly, Mr Putnam finds that family background is a better predictor of whether or not a child will graduate from university than 8th-grade test scores. Kids in the richest quarter with low test scores are as likely to make it through college as kids in the poorest quarter with high scores....
There are no obvious villains in this story. Mr Murray suggested that the educated classes preach the values they practise by urging the poor to get married before they have children. But the record of those who tell other people how to arrange their love lives is hardly encouraging. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama preached the virtues of responsible fatherhood, to no obvious effect.
Mr Putnam sees “no clear path to reviving marriage” among the poor. Instead, he suggests a grab-bag of policies to help poor kids reach their potential, such as raising subsidies for poor families, teaching them better parenting skills, improving nursery care and making after-school baseball clubs free. He urges all 50 states to experiment to find out what works. A problem this complex has no simple solution.
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Last month I visited the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan known as Za’atari. With 80,000 occupants, the camp would be the fourth-largest city in Jordan. It occupies a vast desert plain, filled with endless rows of tents that are gradually being replaced with rows of metal-sided caravans. Za’atari is a dreary place, but it is teeming with resilient people.
Residents of camps like Za’atari make up only 20% of the nearly four million refugees who have fled Syria. The rest live in cities, where they are often unregistered and therefore ineligible for services. These refugees tend to live in squalor and are vulnerable to exploitation. Nearly 80% of the refugees are women and children. These figures don’t include the 12.2 million within Syria who are either internally displaced or in urgent need of help.
About 200,000 people have been killed in Syria, many after torture. A photographer, who documented these horrors for the regime but defected, smuggled his photos out of Syria; they were passed on to me by a Syrian non-governmental organization. These emaciated, disfigured corpses could be skeletal Jewish inmates photographed during the liberation of Dachau, but they aren’t. They are Syrian Muslims and Christians—and this is happening now.
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'...Bishop Matthews wrote she had informed the chairman of the commission Bruce Gray QC and Archbishop Philip Richardson “I am aware that this matter in the Diocese of Christchurch is causing a high level of angst on all sides. I decided I would be unable to minister effectively in this Diocese and also have membership on the Way Forward Working Group as time progressed. My resignation was a matter of maintaining my integrity and is in no way a judgment on the work that the Way Forward Working Group is attempting to achieve for the next General Synod.”
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The National Peace Committee for the 2015 General Elections, headed by former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar, yesterday met behind closed-doors with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja.
Members of the committee in attendance included the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Primate Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, among others.
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Much has been written about extremist groups such as IS and al-Qaeda, which directly threaten Westerners at home or abroad. But little is understood about Boko Haram, its leaders and its beliefs. This is partly because it has made little effort to explain itself to the wider world, unlike jihadists such as IS who reach out to potential recruits using social media, and partly because journalists are unable to enter territory it controls safely. Moreover, its limited regional focus means that most Western intelligence agencies have viewed it as posing little international threat.
This book by Mike Smith, a journalist, sheds light both on its crackpot ideas—Yusuf insisted that the world was flat and that rain was made by God—and on the deep contradictions faced by people who propose to return to a sixth-century lifestyle. When asked why he had computer equipment and hospital facilities at his home, Yusuf replied, “These are technological products. Western education is different. Western education is westernisation.”
Yusuf’s successor, Abubakar Shekau, is a particularly enigmatic figure who is known largely through the brief videos his group has released. In one he justifies selling into slavery the schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok: “Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell.” Each time Nigerian forces claim to have killed him, new videos emerge, though security officials question whether the same person appears in all the grainy images.
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“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream, for it is a lie which they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord.
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart....
America’s churches are in trouble, and they are in trouble in communities that arguably need them the most.
One of the tragic tales told by Harvard scholar Robert Putnam in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” is that America’s churches have grown weakest in some of the communities that need them most: poor and working-class communities across the country. The way he puts it, our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques give children a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose — in a word, hope — that allows them to steer clear of trouble, from drugs to delinquency, and toward a bright and better future, warmer family relationships and significantly higher odds of attending college.
The tragedy is that even though religious involvement “makes a bigger difference in the lives of poor kids than rich kids,” Putnam writes, involvement is dropping off fastest among children from the least privileged background, as the figure below indicates.
Read it all from Brad Wilcox in the Washington Post.
What difference does a religious tradition make? If it is Christianity, Prof. Jim Papandrea of the Garrett-Evangelical Seminary at Northwestern University says it matters a great deal. Jim returns to our show for the third time (hat trick) and discusses his new book Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again, coauthored with Mike Aquilina. The general thrust of the book is that Christian theology introduced to the world (at least) seven new ways to envision human society, starting with the individual person and proceeding up through the state....
Our conversation ends with some reflection on Christianity in the “post-Christian era.” Jim qualifies that term by noting that there have been moments in history that have looked dire for the demise of the Christian faith, but he raises concern about a secular ethos that may be returning our culture towards the mindset of the pre-Christian era. We ruminate about the role that violent sport and reality TV (a form of entertainment that relishes in humiliation) and what role Christianity can play in addressing the contemporary culture. Jim ends on an optimistic note by asserting that Christianity is always primed for a revival and that by joining together across denominational lines, Christianity can remain highly relevant in the world.
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Anti-IS Sunnis think they should be armed again, as they were when the Americans fought al-Qaeda in Iraq, IS’s predecessor. But nobody is willing to give them weapons. “We wanted a national army,” says Ghazi Faisal al-Kuaud, a tribesman fighting alongside the government in Ramadi. “Instead they formed the Shia equivalent of IS.”
And Shia distrust of the Sunnis grows at a pace that matches that of the losses from its militias. Overlooking Najaf’s sprawling tombs, gravediggers talk of the brisk business they are doing burying militiamen. “I’ve never had it so busy,” says one. “Not even after 2003 or 2006 [the height of Iraq’s civil war].” The Sunnis “never accepted losing power from the time of Imam Ali, so why would they now?” asks Haider, a Shia shop owner. “Wherever you find Sunnis and you give them weapons, you will find IS,” says Bashar, a militiaman. Many Shias feel that the fight against IS justifies them in excluding Sunnis from government and the security apparatus.
The state that IS wanted to build looks more unlikely than ever to become a lasting reality, and that is good. The ruined territory on which it hoped to build, though, may end up even more damaged than it was at the outset.
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“Each week that passes we learn of more brutal Boko Haram abuses against civilians,” Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “The Nigerian government needs to make protecting civilians a priority in military operations against Boko Haram.”
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The notion that Facebook and other social networks will suffer most deeply when the bubble bursts sounds plausible because it rehashes the last tech boom and bust, when advertising revenue run-ups at huge web portals (remember those?) turned out to be funded mainly by venture capital investments. In 2001, revenue at Yahoo — the largest portal, and something like the Facebook of its time — plummeted by almost $400 million when start-ups stopped spending during the bust. Yahoo has never recovered its former glory. Could Facebook face the same fate?
Probably not — or not yet, at least. On closer inspection, the theory that Facebook’s growth depends on unsustainable venture capital is mostly overblown, another strain of Facebook Second Guessing Syndrome. It’s a story that misses important facts about Facebook’s advertising business. For one thing, as Facebook’s executives have repeatedly pointed out, ads from app companies make up a small percentage of the company’s overall business. Most of the social network’s revenue comes from video ads and ads for large brands.
Continue reading the main story
The theory also misses two other points. Not all these ads are coming from unproved start-ups. And the ads are set to be adopted more widely because they actually work.
According to several app makers and observers of the industry, the ads are tremendously effective at leading paying customers to new apps. It’s the effort to reach these paying customers — and not venture funding — that is often the reason for all the money pouring into ads for apps.
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The Episcopal Church and its allies in South Carolina have filed an appeal with the state's highest court in its legal battle over a breakaway diocese's $500 million property.
After being denied a motion to rehear by a lower court, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina announced Tuesday that they are filing an appeal against the Diocese of South Carolina....
"Their policy of using legal action to drain the finances of dissident congregations is not working," stated [Canon] Lewis.
"It only deflects denomination resources from projects to promote the faith and speeds the downward spiral of The Episcopal Church."
Read it all from the Christian Post.
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In Pope Francis's latest gesture towards Rome's homeless, the Vatican said on Tuesday homeless people will get a special private tour of its museums and the Sistine Chapel.
About 150 homeless people who frequent the Vatican area - where Pope Francis has already set up facilities for them to have showers - will make the visit on Thursday afternoon, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said.
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We have no respect for a surgeon who goes in but does not cut deeply enough to cure nor a patient who backs out of an operation because it may hurt; yet people can go through their whole lives attending church, listening to searching exposures of human sin, without ever taking it to themselves, or meeting anyone with skill and concern enough to lay the challenge right in their own laps.--Experiment of Faith (New York: Harper&Row, 1957), p.22 (emphasis mine)
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What happens as the world becomes even more interconnected…and even more leaderless?
Some argue that globalization is grinding to a screeching halt. In a world of increased conflict and turmoil, where major powers jockey for influence, financial sanctions have become a go-to weapon and even the Internet threatens to splinter, then surely the cross-border flow of money, ideas, information, goods and services will begin to slow—or even reverse.
Others argue that globalization is really just Americanization by other means. After all, the United States still dominates the international financial system. Information hurtling through cyberspace promotes the democratization of information, because it creates demand for still more information and forces autocrats to care more about public opinion. As developing countries develop, aren’t they becoming more like America?
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The FBI improved its ability to fight terrorism in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but a new report says the bureau still faces significant challenges as it strengthens its intelligence capabilities to deal with nimble enemies.
The finding was part of an exhaustive review requested by Congress to evaluate the FBI’s response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations in 2004 and determine if the domestic law enforcement agency was moving quickly enough to deal with fast-moving threats.
The lengthy report, “The FBI: Protecting the Homeland in the 21st Century,” is perhaps the most detailed, public examination of the FBI’s post-9/11 capabilities, highlighting the successes and limitations of the traditional crime-fighting bureau.
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A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother's breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.
AW: So much has been written about World War II and the Holocaust, yet you’ve come up with something entirely fresh and different. Take us through how and why you decided to focus on two adolescents, Marie-Laure and Werner, each saddled with their own hardships, coming of age in France and Germany during that time.
AD: Someone told me once that if you took all the pages of all the books written about WWII and dropped them on Germany, it’d cover the whole country! Who knows if that’s actually true, but I was acutely aware that there was a lot of writing about WWII already out there — much of it breathtakingly good, and written by people for whom the war was memory, not history. So for most of the 10 years I worked on All the Light, I was terrified that I’d settle into a pattern of narrative that had lost some of its power because it had been already done.
One strategy I tried was to mimic the language of fairy tale and allegory: the boy, the girl, the ogre, the cursed gemstone, the imaginary citadel. And another was to try balance that sense of otherworldliness against a hyper-realism; to detail everything as carefully as I could. I thought maybe the juxtaposition of those two techniques might help the novel feel different, in the way a Borges or a Calvino story always feels different, even when they’re describing our world.
Eventually I had to keep telling myself the old humanist dictum: the path to the universal runs through the individual.
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On Saturday 21st March 2015, the Anglican Church League held the “Is there a Future for Confessional Anglicanism?” conference in the Chapter House of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney.
Those present considered our Anglican inheritance, our current challenges and our potential future under God.
Glenn Davies, Archbishop of Sydney; Ashley Null, authority on Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation; and Mark Thompson, Principal of Moore Theological College, were the speakers.
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One of the U.K.’s most visible ethical investors – the Church of England – outperformed its investing benchmarks last year thanks in part to its significant underweight position in energy stocks, a trade that benefited from the precipitous fall in oil prices.
Its fund, the CCLA, with around £5.6 billion ($8.34 billion) under management as of Feb. 2015, runs assets on behalf of the Church of England, as well as charities and local government authorities. The firm has long taken an ethical and activist stance, recently encouraging Royal Dutch Shell PLC, for example, to put forward a shareholder resolution on Climate Change at its 2015 Annual General Meeting.
Thanks to its ethical bearings, the CCLA allocated 50% less to oil and gas stocks than its benchmarks across its equity funds over 2014, and has avoided exposure to pure play coal and tar sands stocks, according to Michael Quicke, chief executive of the CCLA.
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Councillors are to discuss how best to manage large-scale funerals after one for a traveller from Cheshire attracted hundreds of mourners.
Holy Trinity Church in Blacon and Chester Crematorium were packed for the service marking 54-year-old Elton man "Pudgie" Evans's life on 30 January.
Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire Constabulary worked together to manage the funeral.
Local residents were advised beforehand and roads shut for the funeral cortege....
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So what does our fascination with tales of the afterlife tell us? A few things, but the most important recurring theme in Entertaining Judgment is that we partake in narratives that ease anxiety about our lives. In other words, stories about the hereafter make us feel better about the here.
Tales of ghosts, for instance, “beckon us forward toward our future . . . to become the people we are called to become.” Stories from people who returned from the dead might “shine a light into the unknown and tell us something that might assuage our anxieties”; they tell us that human beings can change and grow. Vampire stories satisfy “our desire for an eternal life in which we will be perfected” and “tap into our spiritual and emotional desires to have that which is good now . . . and could only be better when we are perfected spiritual beings.”
Demons and devils may be symptoms of our failure to “take ourselves and our own evil seriously.” Angels teach us that “we are endowed with choice . . . that it is really up to us.” Tales of a heavenly realm have “helped to dry the tears of the suffering and offered the possibility of some greater meaning in our earthly lives.” Hell, too, can assuage doubts about the world’s goodness: For “every real-life spectacle that appalls or irritates—racial cleansing, chemical warfare, children kidnapped and held as sexual slaves, stop-and-go traffic—hell offers itself as a partial explanation, and as a powerful [image] that helps to explain, at least to some extent, the existence of such cruelty and suffering.”
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look at the "amici" who actually filed the briefs. The ones that argue against redefining marriage can be counted on the fingers of one hand. More than ninety percent of the "friendly" briefs are from people and groups who want the laws against same-sex marriages struck down.
The latter include this particular amicus brief, filed by the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of ECUSA's House of Deputies, and joined by Bishops White and Hahn of Kentucky; Bishops Gibbs, Houghland, Ray and Ousley from Michigan; Bishops Hollingsworth, Bowman, Persell, Williams, Breidenthal, Price and Rivera from Ohio; and Bishops Johnson and Young of Tennessee, along with other denominations, groups and committees. Moreover, there is a list in Appendix A to the brief of nearly 2,000 priests, many of them Episcopal, who have joined in filing the brief as well. All say that they "support equal treatment for same-sex couples with respect to civil marriage" (Brief, p. 1; emphasis added.)
Now these I have mentioned are all bishops and clergy in the Episcopal Church. What business do they have touting their religious affiliation in endorsing the redefinition of civil marriage? Moreover, look at how -- from they very first page -- they disavow and undermine the very authority of any church to define what marriage is (emphasis again added):
While Amici come from faiths that have approached issues affecting lesbian and gay people and their families in different ways over the years, they are united in the belief that, in our vastly diverse and pluralistic society, particular religious views or definitions of marriage should not be permitted to influence which couples’ marriages the state recognizes or permits.
It is not enough for ECUSA's bishops and clergy to say that the Church's traditional definition of marriage is inadequate for "our vastly diverse and pluralistic society." Not only is that definition no longer serviceable to society at large, but also it should not even be "permitted to influence" what society thinks marriage is!
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With a few short-lived and unsustainable exceptions, the story of the last 30 years appears to be one of constantly falling interest rates and disappointing growth. Central banks try to keep stimulating the economy, but investment demand never really seems to gather pace in response to their efforts. Instead, investment seems stagnant and unresponsive to policy during normal periods, but shoots up during events like the dotcom and real estate bubbles, which then burst and leave everyone worse off.
People have been puzzling over this pattern for decades, but it took a speech by Larry Summers to the IMF in 2013 to really crystallise the whole picture, and bring it into the public eye. Ever since, it’s been known by the term he gave the phenomenon: ‘secular stagnation’. But he didn’t invent it. It was first coined by Alvin Hansen in the post-Depression 30s, when technological progress seemed to have ground to a halt.
The revival of the term could be misleading on a number of levels.
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The Ministry Division of the Church of England has expressed confidence in St Stephen's House, Oxford, in an inspection report which praised the college for its "clear and distinctive identity which informs all aspects of its life".
The report published today spoke of "a community at ease and comfortable with embracing a variety of perspectives and traditions on numerous issues whilst situated clearly within a distinct theological and spiritual tradition."
St Stephen's House received 12 out of a possible 16 'confidence' outcomes, covering a range of criteria including practical and pastoral theology, teaching, and ministerial, personal and spiritual formation. The report also made 20 recommendations, noting that "the majority of these are for making good practice better rather than highlighting substantive problems."
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Robots and computer programs could almost wipe out human workers in jobs from cooks to truck drivers, a visiting researcher has warned.
Driverless cars and even burger-flipping robots are among the technological advancements gunning for low-skilled jobs across dozens of industries.
University of Oxford Associate Professor in machine learning Michael Osborne has examined the characteristics of 702 occupations in the US, predicting 47 per cent will be overtaken by computers in the next decade or two.
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U.S. auto production is nearing all-time highs on the back of strong domestic demand and steady export increases. But American-made cars and trucks are increasingly loaded with parts imported from Mexico, China and other nations.
The U.S. imported a record $138 billion in car parts last year, equivalent to $12,135 of content in every American light vehicle built. That is up from $89 billion, or $10,536 per vehicle, in 2008—the first of two disastrous years for the car business. In 1990, only $31.7 billion in parts were imported.
The trend casts a cloud over the celebrated comeback of one of the nation’s bedrock industries. As the inflow of low-cost foreign parts accelerates, wages at the entry level are drifting away from the generous compensation packages that made car-factory jobs the prize of American manufacturing.
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Michael Geoffrey Hare Duke was born in Calcutta; his father was a Scots/Irish civil engineer who helped build the Indian railway system. He would become well-known in Lancashire for the welcome he afforded members of the Indian and Pakistani communities in the cotton towns when he was Vicar of St Mark's, Bury, from 1956-62. He would also recall the kindnesses of the Indian women who had administered to his every need as a child.
Sent home to Bradfield at the age of 12, he was much influenced by the robust Christian views of his headmaster, TD Hills, who had been a House Master at Eton. Duke recalled to me with embarrassed pleasure how he had thrilled both Hills and himself by beating his Etonian opponent in the Quadrangular boxing competition, and going on to a points victory against an even tougher opponent from Haileybury and Imperial Services College.
From Bradfield Hare Duke became a sub-lieutenant in the Navy towards the end of the Second World War. "When as a 19-year-old you have gone to your bunk every night wondering whether a U-Boat would strike your ship, you become a bit cautious of sending a huge armada to the South Atlantic."
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[James] Eversull's parents were determined to help him. The family drove almost 400 miles from their home in Louisiana to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
St. Jude was named after the patron saint of lost causes for a reason.
"These children were often turned away," said Dr. Donald Pinkel about his years as a young doctor in the 1950s. He went on to become the first medical director at St. Jude. "A lot of physicians just didn't want to handle this situation — it was so sad."
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To visualize the antireligion argument, we might think of a video showing the World Trade Center in flames to the accompaniment of John Lennon’s song “Imagine”: “Imagine no religion. . . . Nothing to kill or die for.” Movements like the one behind the so-called Islamic State demonstrate to many people that a world without God would be more peaceful, as it would be a world with fewer reasons to hate. If you are fighting for God against the devil, the argument goes, then there can be no peace short of annihilating the enemy.
Armstrong flatly rejects such easy equations. She admits that wars have often been framed in terms of faith and that none of the world’s religions can boast of clean hands in this regard. But she places the primary blame for violence on changing social and economic circumstances, which create larger and more aggressive political entities, commonly headed by warrior elites and dynasties. Armstrong sees a Darwinian pattern: lands with less determined and less confident elites are rapidly swallowed up by their harder-edged neighbors. For multiple reasons, ancient and medieval states sponsored and supported official faiths, which channeled and consecrated warrior ideals. All religions do this to varying degrees.
To oversimplify Armstrong’s argument: states happen, wars happen, and religion blesses them. Religion thus provides a rhetorical framework for warfare—but not, she argues, the motivation.
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For middle-class Americans, it’s never been easier to feel consumed by consumption. Despite the recession, despite a brief interlude when savings rates shot up and credit-card debt went down, Americans arguably have more stuff now than any society in history. Children in the U.S. make up 3.1% of the world’s kid population, but U.S. families buy more than 40% of the toys purchased globally. The rise of wholesalers and warehouse supermarkets has packed our pantries and refrigerators with bulk items that often overflow into a second fridge. One-click shopping and same-day delivery have driven purchasing to another level altogether, making conspicuous consumption almost too easy.
Our stuff has taken over. Most household moves outside the U.S. weigh from 2,500 lb. to 7,500 lb. (1,110 kg to 3,400 kg). The average weight of a move in the U.S. is 8,000 lb. (3,600 kg), the weight of a fully grown hippo. An entire industry has emerged to house our extra belongings–self-storage, a $24 billion business so large that every American could fit inside its units simultaneously.
It would be one thing if all our possessions were making us happier, but the opposite seems to be occurring. At least one study shows that a home with too much stuff can actually lead to higher levels of anxiety. “These objects that we bring in the house are not inert,” says UCLA anthropologist Elinor Ochs, who led a decade-long study on hyperacquisition. “They have consequences.”
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The church started Jan. 25, 1980, as a small Bible study in Rick and Kay Warren’s Laguna Hills condo. Today, it includes 10 campuses in Southern California and four in other countries, averaging 27,000 weekly worshippers.
As part of Saturday’s celebration, Rick Warren shared a portion of the first sermon he preached at Saddleback 35 years ago, outlining his vision for the church. The pastor – who delivered the invocation for President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 – choked up as he said he’s realized that vision and more, encouraging the crowd not to be afraid to aim high.
“I dare you to dream great dreams for God,” Warren said from the pitcher’s mound. “Whatever God asks you to do, do it, even if it’s at great risk.”
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The road from St. Matthew's brings you to the front line, just six miles from the outskirts of Mosul. Every town and village between here and the occupied city is in the hands of the Islamic State. And now, we're told, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, there are no Christians left inside Mosul.
Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: They take everything from us, but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.
Nicodemus Sharaf is the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, one of about 10,000 Christians who fled the city. We found him living as a refugee in the Kurdish capital, Erbil. He said ISIS fighters were already inside Mosul when he escaped.
Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: I didn't have any time to take anything. I was told I had five minutes to go. Just I took five books that are very old.
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I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber.
Kara Tippetts, 38, has died. Metastatic breast cancer took her from her pastor husband, Jason, and their four children on Sunday (March 22).
But in her last years of life, her saga of accepting suffering became, in a quietly powerful way, a cultural force for another way of choosing death with dignity, one that refused to hasten death.
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Watch it all--14,000 students--just wonderful.
I am not neutral. I agree with Dolce and Gabbana. Elton John is wrong. This is not to insult his children or take away from their humanity; nor is it to demean the character of men who love men everywhere. I am just as queer as both of these men. I have been out as bisexual since 1989 and have withstood a great deal of hostility from both the LGBT community and conservative Christians for refusing to use the label “ex-gay” to describe myself.
I also grew up with a lesbian couple without much connection to my father. In the process of writing my most recent book, Jephthah’s Daughters, I dealt with countless testimonials from children of same-sex couples all over the world. Stefano Gabbana gets us. Part of this is because his craft leads him outside of language to the ineffable world of instinct.
You can tell a child in such a home every day, “we are your fathers,” but our bodies and the rest of the visual environment around us will always reveal such words as false. The day-to-day rhythm of life, that quotidian routine that Gabbana must understand for his art but which Elton John does not have to, acts upon the language of same-sex parenting like a trickle of water wearing down a rock. With each day, in all the small gestures and emotional moments, the child puts together a picture of herself in the world and eventually realizes that the same-sex parents have created a world that is . . . what can we call it? Let’s use the language of theater critics: Contrived. Forced. Implausible.
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Radical Islamic groups are using high-quality videos to recruit young Muslims in the US and Europe to join their fight. Now, a Somali Muslim immigrant in Minnesota is fighting back with his own videos—an animated series called “Average Mohamed” that counters extremist ideas about Islam.
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At the beginning of December  I went on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for a few days to the north of Iraq, to Kurdistan, first to Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and then a three-hour journey to Dohuk. I went to see and know at firsthand the situation of the many thousands displaced by the forces of the Islamic State, which in August last year over-ran Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and then swept across the Nineveh plain, with its many Christian villages.
In one camp, in the grounds of Mar Elias Church, they were putting up their Christmas crib. It was in a tent, a tent like those which had been the shelter for families who had had to flee from their homes, their culture, their churches. As they put up the tent, and placed the nativity figures in it, of Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child, with the shepherds and the angels, it was a indeed a reminder of the reality of the Incarnation: God chose to come down into our midst – he pitched his tent among us.
The advance of ISIS forces, with their distorted fanatical interpretation of Islam, and appalling associated brutality, echoes the invasion of the Mongols centuries earlier, which likewise had devastating consequences for the Christian population of what is now Iraq. Christians and Christianity in the Middle East are under threat as never before. They find themselves ground so often between upper and nether millstones – between the conflict between Sunni and Shia, or between Israel and Palestine.
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But I trust in thee, O LORD, I say, "Thou art my God." My times are in thy hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors! Let thy face shine on thy servant; save me in thy steadfast love!
For all its brutality, ISIS is often praised for its social media savvy and a passion among its members akin to that of a very famous Silicon Valley start-up, says one Muslim social media entrepreneur. The way to defeat the group’s extremism is by harnessing the creativity of entrepreneurs, he says.
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To understand where this cyber-libertarian ideology came from, you have to understand the influence of “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” one of the strangest artifacts of the ’90s, and its singular author, John Perry Barlow. Perhaps more than any other, it’s his philosophy — which melded countercultural utopianism, a rancher’s skepticism toward government and a futurist’s faith in the virtual world — that shaped the industry.
The problem is, we’ve reaped what he sowed.
Generally the province of fascists, artists or fascist artists, manifestos are a dying form. It takes gall to have published one anytime after, say, 1938. But “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” was an utterly serious document for a deliriously optimistic era that Wired, on one of its many valedictory covers, promised was a “long boom”: “25 years of prosperity, freedom, and a better environment for the whole world.” Techno-skeptics need not apply.
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In recent years, John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, has been both lauded and criticized for his interpretation of Genesis 1–2. In his 2009 landmark book, The Lost World of Genesis One (InterVarsity Press), he argued that to rightly understand Genesis 1—an ancient document—we need to read it within the context of the ancient world. Read alongside other ancient texts, he says, Genesis 1 is not about how God made the world, but about God assigning functions to every aspect of it. In 2013, Walton contributed a chapter in Four Views on the Historical Adam (Zondervan). There he argued that Adam was a historical person, but also that Adam’s primary function in Scripture is to represent all of humanity. For Walton, Genesis 1–2 is not concerned about human material origins, but rather about our God-given function and purpose: to be in relationship with God and work alongside him, as his image bearers, in bringing continued order to our world.
Walton spoke recently with CT assistant editor Kevin P. Emmert about his newest book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (IVP Academic).
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It is an off-season like no other in the National Football League. Young players, with many games and millions of dollars potentially ahead of them, are walking away from the country’s most popular sport.
Linebacker Chris Borland of the San Francisco 49ers, one of the top rookies in the N.F.L. last season, is the latest case, and perhaps the most noteworthy. He said Monday that he was retiring because of concerns about his safety, and his decision may have ripple effects well beyond the professional ranks.
“Somebody said we’re at the beginning of the beginning, and that might be true,” Jeff Borland, Chris’s father, said Tuesday in a telephone interview regarding whether his son’s decision would influence parents of young football players.
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Calvinist-inclined Baptists and Presbyterians attending this year’s upcoming national conference of the Gospel Coalition are adding a place at the table for a new constituency: conservative Anglicans who have broken with the Episcopal Church.
Joining mainstays like Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Albert Mohler and Russell Moore scheduled to speak at the April 13-15 gathering in Orlando, Fla., is John Yates II, rector of The Falls Church Anglican in suburban Washington.
Other Anglican leaders are offering seminars and workshops at the Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, and there will be an informal gathering one evening for Anglicans to come together for fellowship and encouragement, Yates said in a Gospel Coalition blog titled “Who Are These Anglicans in TGC?”
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The way to eliminate potholes, or at least diminish their number, is to keep the roads in good shape, with regular resurfacing. But far less is being done than required. And the same goes for the rest of the infrastructure in the US: not just roads, but ports and airports, bridges, railways and power grids, those boring basics that keep a country running. America, to believe the title of a recent television documentary on the subject, is falling apart – literally.
Not so long ago the opposite was true. The US was the shining future that had already arrived. It had the best technology, the most modern cities, the fanciest cars, the most up-to-date airports. The jewel in the crown was the interstate highway system, built in the 1950s and 1960s to knit a continent together.
Alas, sooner or later, youthful beauty fades. And so it is with America’s infrastructure. Many of those projects date back to the immediate post-war years, even to FDR’s New Deal to counter the Great Depression. More than half a century later, they’re in desperate need of overhaul or replacement.
Surveys merely confirm America’s relative slide.
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...the trickle of volunteers has come from across the country. On Tuesday, a 47-year-old Air Force veteran with a checkered work history was charged in Brooklyn with trying to join the Islamic State. Two weeks earlier, a computer-savvy 17-year-old boy in Virginia was charged with helping a man a few years older make contact with the terrorist group and get to Syria.
The cases raise a pressing question: Is the slick online propaganda that ISIS has mastered enough to lure recruits, or is face-to-face persuasion needed? A federal grand jury in Minneapolis is investigating whether an Islamic State recruiter gave Mr. Nur and Mr. Yusuf cash to buy plane tickets.
“No young person gets up one day and says, ‘I’m going to join ISIS,’ ” said Abdirizak Bihi, 50, a Somali activist who has worked against radicalization since his nephew left Minnesota in 2008 and was killed fighting for the Shabab.
“There has to be someone on the ground to listen to your problems and channel your anger,” Mr. Bihi said. “Online is like graduate studies.”
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Boko Haram forcibly married scores of women in Bama after seizing it in September. Nigeria's military announced the recapture of the town on Monday.
Witnesses who were taken under military protection this week to Borno's capital, Maiduguri, 73 kilometres (45 miles) away, said the killing of women began 10 days before Bama was liberated.
The Islamists said if they kill their wives, "they would remain pious until both of them meet again in heaven, where they would re-unite," said Salma Mahmud, another witness.
"He informed them of the situation and the consequence of the takeover of the town by the advancing troops. He warned them that when soldiers killed them, they would take their wives back to the society where they would be forced to marry and live with infidels. The commander said it would be better for them to kill their wives and send them to heaven," the mother-of-seven said.
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Tolkien’s political vision doesn’t fit neatly into the simple American two-party system, or into schools of thought developed by others. We wrote a book, The Hobbit Party, to do it justice. In Tolkien’s fiction, that vision involves diverse communities, what we might call “civil society,” and even trade between different species of sentient creatures. If allowed to speak on his own, Tolkien might help bridge the divide between conservative free-market thinkers and distributists.
But there’s a line running through all that nuance that isn’t the least complex, one we tried to capture in the title of the first chapter of our book: “In a Hole in the Ground There Lived an Enemy of Big Government.” Unlike the many self-appointed “radicals” in lockstep with the spirit of his age, Tolkien was the true radical—the square peg in the round hole of modernity. In an age of secularism and the growing leviathan state, he was a conservative Catholic calling for the old virtues, a more vibrant civil society, and smaller, less meddlesome government.
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O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!
In an era of revisionist fairytales such as Frozen and Maleficent, it might be a surprise to find that Branagh’s take on the story of Cinders and her glass slipper is determinedly traditionalist. “I don’t find myself so exercised by a desperation to be new,” he says, pointing out that when you mix a fresh cast with costumes and production design by, respectively, triple Oscar-winners Sandy Powell and Dante Ferretti, “all of these things create a new energy”.
And while the Charles Perrault fairytale has already been immortalised on screen by Disney’s own 1950 animated feature, taking it on held no fear for Branagh, given his experience in re-interpreting Shakespeare. “I choose to be inspired by things that have been done well in the past,” he says. “So, I don’t worry about being compared, because I think that does paralyse you.”
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Right now, in Syria and Iraq, militant Islamists are taking over churches by force and turning them in to mosques. In the Church of England, apparently, all that’s needed is an ask. On March 6, in the heart of London, St. John’s Waterloo hosted a Muslim prayer service or “Jummah” in the sanctuary, on consecrated ground. Apparently the “Inclusive Jummah” was exclusive of anything Christian—hence what appears to be the covering up of all Christian imagery so as not to offend the worshippers.
Can you think of anything more bewildering, more offensive to Anglican followers of Jesus Christ and others who are suffering persecution at the hands of radical Muslims—watching their children beheaded by ISIS in places like Mosul, Iraq because they would not deny Jesus Christ? Watching their loved ones burned alive in hundreds of Anglican churches in Northern Nigeria by members of Boko Haram? Watching their relatives and friends be blown up during Sunday worship services by Islamic extremists in Pakistan?
Would it seem to them simply “a strange and erroneous opinion”?
And what sense could they possibly make of the relative silence and inaction of the bishops in the Church of England who are overseers of this church—the Bishop of Southwark, the area bishop who directly oversees this congregation, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury who is, apparently, the patron of St. John’s?
Well, there has been an “apology” by the Vicar of St. John’s, in a joint statement from the Bishop of Southwark. But in fact it isn’t an apology at all. The apology is only for the “offence” that it caused, for the “infringement” of the “guidelines and framework” of the Church of England. There is no acknowledgement that this service denied a core doctrine of the Christian faith. No acknowledgement that it was simply wrong to cover up Christian symbols and to permit a prayer service that begins with the assertion that only Allah is God and Muhammed his prophet.
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On the one hand, scientists are excited about these techniques because they may let them do good things, such as discovering important principles about biology. It might even lead to cures for diseases.
The big worry is that CRISPR and other techniques will be used to perform germline genetic modification.
Basically, that means making genetic changes in a human egg, sperm or embryo.
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You and President George H.W. Bush oversaw the fall of the Soviet Union. Is there anything to stop Vladimir Putin from going back to some version of that system?
Our response has been severely tepid. I don’t think you can stand up and say that if they keep doing this, there are going to be grave consequences, and then they keep doing it and we don’t do anything....
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On New Year’s Day, President al-Sisi of Egypt made a remarkable speech. How, he asked, could belief in Islam make Muslim nations a “source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction”?
“Is it possible”, he added, “that 1.6 billion people should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants — that is seven billion — so that they themselves may live?” He was asking where the mechanism of restraining Islamic violence lay.
But this heroic intervention has not sparked a worldwide theological debate among Muslims. The only perceivable response was the slaughter of 21 Egyptian Copts by Isis in Libya.
To understand the lack of protest by moderate Muslims, we need to look at Islam on its own terms and not try to see it through “Christianised” spectacles....
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I think luo has something important to teach us in the face of dementia. In the face of deficit, decline, and death we try hard to cling on. But the lesson of the little word luo is that maybe the path of resurrection lies in letting go. If death is starting now, maybe resurrection can start now too.
Perhaps it’s only when we let go of who and what our loved one was that we can receive who they are now. Perhaps only when we find ways to enjoy who they are now can we reverse the deficit and the decline, because we stop assuming they’re moving away from something good and start appreciating that they’re moving into something new.
Dementia is not a living death. It’s an invitation to see how we can remain the same person yet take on new and rather different characteristics. In that sense it’s a training in resurrection, in which we shall be changed but still recognizably ourselves. Like resurrection, we can’t experience it unless we find ways to let go, to let loose, to be released and forgiven. God welcomes us into eternal life not by keeping a tight hold on us but by letting us go. The challenge for us in dementia is to find ways that we can do the same.
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A £100m recruitment plan for the Church of England has been criticised as a raid on church assets that has not been properly thought out and amounts to “spending the family silver”.
The proposals, submitted last month, are intended to address what Andreas Whittam Smith, head of the Church Commissioners, calls a “relentless decline in membership”. Mr Whittam Smith has previously said this has resulted in the average age of Anglican congregations approaching 70.
The commissioners manage the Church’s historic and investment assets, worth slightly more than £6bn at the end of 2013. Mr Whittam Smith wants to use about £100m of that to boost the number of ordained priests by 50 per cent.
This is in addition to the £2m already approved to train senior clergy and potential leaders in a “talent management” programme, a controversial proposal made in a report chaired by Stephen Green, the former chairman of HSBC and an ordained minister in the Church.
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The most important prelude to the appearance in 1549 of the first Book of Common Prayer, in addition to the repudiation of papal jurisdiction and the establishment of royal supremacy, was the appearance of the Bible in the English vernacular tongue which had clearly matured by the early decades of the sixteenth century....
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In the end, repentance, not love, has come to symbolise Cranmer himself, his life's work being interpreted by his last days. In the eyes of his critics, Cranmer's recantations prove that at best he was weak and vacillating. In the hearts of his admirers, however, Cranmer's last-minute renunciation of his recantations proved his true commitment to the Protestant faith. But what of Cranmer himself, how did he interpret his last days and the meaning they gave to his life? According to a contemporary account, having previously been distraught, Cranmer came to the stake with a cheerful countenance and willing mind.
Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right Hand, and thrust it into the Flame, and held it there a good space, before the Fire came to any other Part of his Body; where his Hand was seen of every Man sensibly burning, crying with a loud Voice, This Hand hath offended. As soon as the Fire got up, he was very soon Dead, never stirring or crying all the while.His Catholic executioners surely thought Cranmer was making satisfaction to his Protestant God. Yet his doctrine of repentance would have taught him otherwise, for the God he served saved the unworthy.
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Merciful God, who through the work of Thomas Cranmer didst renew the worship of thy Church by restoring the language of the people, and through whose death didst reveal thy power in human weakness: Grant that by thy grace we may always worship thee in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
As the nation awaits legalized doctor-assisted death, the transplant community is grappling with a potential new source of life-saving organs — offered by patients who have chosen to die.
Some surgeons say every effort should be made to respect the dying wishes of people seeking assisted death, once the Supreme Court of Canada ruling comes into effect next year, including the desire to donate their organs.
But the prospect of combining two separate requests — doctor-assisted suicide and organ donation — is creating profound unease for others. Some worry those contemplating assisted suicide might feel a societal pressure to carry through with the act so that others might live, or that it could undermine struggling efforts to increase Canada’s mediocre donor rate.
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The proximate cause of Iraq’s unraveling was the increasing authoritarian, sectarian and corrupt conduct of the Iraqi government and its leader after the departure of the last U.S. combat forces in 2011. The actions of the Iraqi prime minister undid the major accomplishment of the Surge. [They] alienated the Iraqi Sunnis and once again created in the Sunni areas fertile fields for the planting of the seeds of extremism, essentially opening the door to the takeover of the Islamic State. Some may contend that all of this was inevitable. Iraq was bound to fail, they will argue, because of the inherently sectarian character of the Iraqi people. I don’t agree with that assessment.
The tragedy is that political leaders failed so badly at delivering what Iraqis clearly wanted — and for that, a great deal of responsibility lies with Prime Minister Maliki.
As for the U.S. role, could all of this have been averted if we had kept 10,000 troops here? I honestly don't know. I certainly wish we could have tested the proposition and kept a substantial force on the ground.
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For example, I believe that:
Religion is a human construct
The symbols of faith are products of human cultural evolution
Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife
In short, I regard the symbols of Christianity from a non-supernatural point of view.
And yet, even though I hold those beliefs, I am still a proud minister. But I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not truly a Christian.
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President Obama last week directed federal agencies to change the way graduates pay back student loans, the latest in a string of measures that aim to make college more accessible and affordable. Governors across the country have echoed the president’s claims that it is time to get college costs under control. Here’s one idea that wouldn’t cost taxpayers a nickel: Stop overregulating Bible colleges.
As it stands, some state education boards are keeping Bible colleges from issuing bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. Instead, such colleges can only give out diplomas or certificates of completion. Bible colleges have an illustrious history in the U.S.—Congregationalist ministers founded Yale to equip young men for the ministry, after all—but many of today’s more than 1,000 Bible colleges are being relegated to second-class status.
In Illinois, our law firm recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Bible colleges, with the backing of the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, against the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The IBHE claims that the Bible colleges do not meet the state’s curriculum requirements, and therefore cannot issue degrees.
That claim is absurd.
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On her first morning in America, last summer, my daughter went out to explore her new neighborhood — alone, without even telling my wife or me.
Of course we were worried; we had just moved from Berlin, and she was just 8. But when she came home, we realized we had no reason to panic. Beaming with pride, she told us and her older sister how she had discovered the little park around the corner, and had made friends with a few local dog owners. She had taken possession of her new environment, and was keen to teach us things we didn’t know.
When this story comes up in conversations with American friends, we are usually met with polite disbelief. Most are horrified by the idea that their children might roam around without adult supervision. In Berlin, where we lived in the center of town, our girls would ride the Metro on their own — a no-no in Washington. Or they’d go alone to the playground, or walk a mile to a piano lesson. Here in quiet and traffic-safe suburban Washington, they don’t even find other kids on the street to play with. On Halloween, when everybody was out to trick or treat, we were surprised by how many children actually lived here whom we had never seen.
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Jonathan Haber majored in philosophy at Harvard University. And Yale. And Stanford. He explored Kant’s “The Critique of Pure Reason” with an Oxford don and Kierkegaard’s insights into “Subjectivity, Irony and the Crisis of Modernity” with a leading light from the University of Copenhagen.
In his quest to meet all the standard requirements for a bachelor of arts degree in a single year, the 52-year-old from Lexington, Mass., also took courses in English common law, Shakespeare’s late plays and the science of cooking, which overlapped with the degree in chemistry he earned from Wesleyan in 1985.
Here’s the brilliant part: Mr. Haber didn’t spend a dime on tuition or fees. Instead, he gorged from the smorgasbord of free courses offered by top universities. He documented the project on his website, degreeoffreedom.org, and in a new book exploring the wider phenomenon of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. He didn’t earn a degree — the knowledge may be free but the sheepskin costs dearly — but he was satisfied.
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One popular excuse for sinning I call the “Margaret Mead Method.” I was reminded of it when flipping through my files and finding an article titled “The Virtues of Promiscuity,” the kind of title that gets your attention.
According to a journalist named Sally Lehrman, writing in The San Francisco Chronicle, anthropologists have found that “‘Slutty’ behavior is good for the species. Women everywhere have been selflessly engaging in trysts outside of matrimony for a good long time and for excellent reasons. Anthropologists say female promiscuity binds communities closer together and improves the gene pool.”
Some primitive tribes, these anthropologists claim, assume that women having sex with more than one man will help them survive, and even thrive. At least twenty “accept the principle that a child could, and ideally ought to, have more than one father.”
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