Tuesday, May 31, 2005

An interview with Gene Robinson:: Anglican Journal

" He spends the majority of his time in his office in Concord, N.H., on day-to-day diocesan affairs, he said. “I spend almost none of my time on this issue,” he said. "

To my ears, that does not ring true.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Church worships together for last time :: My Texas

Members of St. Nicholas' Episcopal Church and supporters from churches around
the city, state and nation began to fill the pews nearly an hour before Sunday's

By 7 p.m., chairs spilled out into the sanctuary's foyer until
there was standing room only. It was the final Sunday many of St. Nicholas'
parishioners would gather together in the building they built only four years

Nearly 90 percent of the congregation is leaving St. Nicholas' to
begin Christ Church Midland (Anglican Communion) after Bishop Wallis Ohl of the
Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas told those who were dissatisfied with the
direction of the national Episcopal Church to leave the St. Nicholas church
building by June 1.

The headline is true; those members of the church gathered together were worshipping together as a church for the last time. The third sentence quoted above isn't literally true, although you know what the intended meaning is. Ten percent will continue to worship together at St. Nicholas'; most of the rest will worship together at Christ Church.

I admire the spirit reflected in the quotations of the persons interviewed for the article. When you believe something is taken from you and that you are in the right, it is hard not to let bitterness consume you.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Catholic Church uses beer mats to recruit priests :: BBC NEWS

And in another sign of desperation,

The cardinal will tell people that the sharp decline in the number of priests means that church-goers must play a bigger part in running their parishes....Catholic priest Father Ray Lyons told the BBC News website: "Involvement of the laity is a right and responsibility because of their baptism, regardless of the decline of priests."
If you can't tell, I believe that those in the priesthood tend to be too controlling, undercutting the accountability of the laity to be responsible for the work of the church.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Bishop pulls the plug over Eurovision :: The Local

Clowns abound at Episcopal church service :: New York Daily News

Trinity Wall Street

No, it's not an op-ed piece written by someone alienated from the Episcopal Church.

Read the whole thing. Don't stop when you get to the chain saws at the sermon.

Pictures here. Clown Eucharist resources here.

'Star Wars' helps churches connect with young congregations :: Lexington Herald-Leader

At All Saints Episcopal Church in Lexington this week, churchgoers celebrated Star Wars Sunday, complete with interplanetary prayer and song. A few miles away, at CenterPointe Christian Church, the minister is giving a series of seven sermons on "The Force."

The two churches are new: CenterPointe opened in November, and All Saints was launched in January. Both have youthful preachers and an unusually high percentage of young people in their pews.

Neither minister endorses all of the movie's spiritual tenets, but they say the film can help them teach spiritual truths to churchgoers -- young and old.

At All Saints, some members of the church board weren't even born in 1977, when the first movie came out. "We all grew up with Star Wars," said the church's 33-year-old pastor, the Rev. Emily Richards. "Star Wars is about the struggle of good and evil, it's about redemption, it's about discipline, it's about a spiritual quest. All of those are important facets of Christianity."

On Sunday, All Saints parishioners sang Jedis for Jesus and prayed for the leaders of "the universe, galaxy, star system, world, country, state and city." They also asked God to make Lexington Bishop Stacy Sauls and other Episcopal leaders "as wise as Master Yoda ... as brave as Luke Skywalker and as fair as Obi-Wan Kenobi."


Christians took a pagan winter solstice celebration and turned it into Christmas, and now they're transforming Star Wars and other Hollywood hits, notes Good News Magazine editor Steve Beard.

When the first movie made its debut in 1977, some conservative preachers denounced it.

"The fact that The Force was never (clearly) defined made some conservative evangelical Christians obviously very wary. Magic and power that is not definitely from a divine origin is a spooky subject," said Beard.


Friday, May 27, 2005

Revenge of the Sith :: Movieguide

Strong, contradictory New Age pagan worldview with mixed elements, such as a monistic explanation for the afterlife and the supernatural world, and strong moral elements that include a strong warning about resting too much political power in one man as well as a warning about trying to gain god-like powers and that also include redemptive attempts to save and redeem someone from evil, as well as light occult reference to a human being returning from the “netherworld of the force” (this occult element is even stronger in the novelization of the movie), and some politically correct implications such as a possible (but subtle) allusion of criticism aimed at President Bush’s War on Terror, the Iraq War and Republican control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches, plus a PC line of dialogue contradicts the movie’s moral elements (“Only a Sith deals in absolutes”) and indicates that only evil people believe in absolutes and that truth is never black and white (this is more clearly stated in the novelization and seems to be an attack on conservatives and religious people who believe that there are at least some absolute truths and absolute moral laws).

One conservative religious man's attempt to summarize the religious content of the movie in one heck-of-a-long sentence.

He's right. Someone out there right now is thinking "not necessarily." Because it is inherently contradictory for a non-Sith to utter a simple declarative sentence like "only a Sith deals in absolutes." But of course, "generally speaking, only Siths tend to deal in absolutes" doesn't make for good movie dialog.

I guess Lucas's point is that they're only absolutes if they're something you believe is wrong.

I wonder what readers of holy books think of the movie, and whether they even notice the sentence might apply to them.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Natural Alliance - New York Times

David Brooks:

... when I look at the evangelical community, I see a community in the midst of a transformation - branching out beyond the traditional issues of abortion and gay marriage, and getting more involved in programs to help the needy. I see Rick Warren, who through his new Peace initiative is sending thousands of people to Rwanda and other African nations to fight poverty and disease. I see Chuck Colson deeply involved in Sudan. I see Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals drawing up a service agenda that goes way beyond the normal turf of Christian conservatives.

I see evangelicals who are more and more influenced by Catholic social teaching, with its emphasis on good works. I see the historical rift healing between those who emphasized personal and social morality. Most of all, I see a new sort of evangelical leader emerging.

Millions of evangelicals are embarrassed by the people held up by the news media as their spokesmen. Millions of evangelicals feel less represented by the culture war-centered parachurch organizations, and better represented by congregational pastors, who have a broader range of interests and more passion for mobilizing volunteers to perform service. Millions of evangelicals want leaders who live the faith by serving the poor.

Affordable Family Formation :: VDARE

It's the marriage gap, not the gender gap

As I first reported in VDARE.COM last December, the single best correlation with Bush’s share of the vote by state that anybody has yet found is: the average years married by white women between age 18 and 44: an astonishing r-squared = 83 percent.
Bush carried the top 25 states ranked on "years married."
According to Greenberg, the exit poll showed Bush carried merely 44% of the single white females but 61% of the married white women—a 17 point difference. Among white men, Bush won 53% of the singles and 66% of the married—a 13 point difference.

Bringing back the chestnut and the elm :: Instapundit.com

That would be so cool.

Three crosses burned in Durham on one day :: News 14 Carolina

"Police found the first cross burning around 9:20 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Authentic Faith Community :: ECN

Authentic Faith Community (AFC)

A missional community of six to eight households (single or family) that studies scripture and worships together, serves and disciples one another, all while striving to reveal the gospel of Jesus Christ within a specific, unreached culture or cultures.
Thanks to CMC of Orkney for the tip.

What's their denomination? Or is that the whole point?

Blogs generating buzz

o SarahLaughed. Dylan's lectionary blog.

o aGenerousOrthodoxy. A conversation about Generous Orthodoxy, a book by Brian D. McLaren. Subtitled: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN

Thanks to CMC of Orkney for the tips.

Whither Christianity in Scotland? :: Scotsman

For a while in the 1980s, it looked like circling the wagons might keep the injuns at bay: the two extreme wings of Scottish Christianity - the conservative Catholic Church and the conservative Protestant sects - seemed to be holding up. But their support is now collapsing. With hindsight, we can see that their success was an accidental consequence of having larger-than-average families and being marginal to affluent, industrial, liberal society. Catholics were socially marginal; the Free Churches were geographically remote. The upward movement of Scots Catholics and the outward movement of Highlanders and Islanders has made both populations better integrated. When the social barriers came down, so did the distinctive piety.
The Kirk's loss of 60 per cent of attenders since 1960 is dramatic enough, but the full extent of secularization becomes clear if we take a longer time span. In 1851, about half of Scots regularly attended church, most had some formal Christian instruction, and basic Christian ideas were taken for granted. Now, only 10 per cent attend church and the proportion familiar with Christianity is barely larger. In 1900, being Christian was expected; in 2005, it is exceptional.
many surveys tell us that adult conversion is rare; if people are not socialised into a faith in childhood, they are very unlikely to acquire one later. We know a lot about family dynamics. When parents belong to the same church, their children have a one-in-two chance of acquiring the faith. When parents are not the same faith (even if both are churchly), the odds on successful transmission are halved again. And the Christian population in many parts of Scotland is getting close to being too small to reproduce itself. Young Christians can either not marry (and, hence, not produce the next generation) or marry out (and, hence, not produce the next generation).
People do not accidentally become religious. Being a Christian is not "natural"; it is an acquired characteristic. Like a language, it must be learned and, if it is not used in the home, in everyday conversation and in public life, it dies out. As the population that speaks a minority tongue shrinks, decline does not slow; it becomes faster. There is no natural obstacle to the death of a language. I do not see why the fate of a religion should be different.

• Steve Bruce is professor of sociology at the University of Aberdeen and author of God is Dead: Secularization in the West. [Follow the link to read the first few pages.]
Shouldn't the subtitle be Secularization in Western Europe? Click here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ensemble of the North

What's life about? The Ensemble of the North shows us that beauty is an essential ingredient. The beauty of God via human voices and inspired composing.

Follow the link in the headline above to give the Ensemble a listen. Also, listen here to O Magnum Mysterium sent by Mark of Saluda. Your patience in allowing it to load for a minute will be rewarded.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Evangelicals go Ivy League - NYT

Most pollsters agree that people who identify themselves as white evangelical Christians make up about a quarter of the population, just as they have for decades.

What has changed is the class status of evangelicals. In 1929, the theologian H. Richard Niebuhr described born-again Christianity as the "religion of the disinherited." But over the last 40 years, evangelicals have pulled steadily closer in income and education to mainline Protestants in the historically affluent establishment denominations. In the process they have overturned the old social pecking order in which "Episcopalian," for example, was a code word for upper class, and "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" shorthand for lower. Evangelical Christians are now increasingly likely to be college graduates and in the top income brackets.
While working for Campus Crusade, Mr. Bennett had discovered that it was hard to recruit evangelicals to minister to the elite colleges of the Northeast because the environment was alien to them and the campuses often far from their homes. He also found that the evangelical ministries were hobbled without adequate salaries to attract professional staff members and without centers of their own where students could gather, socialize and study the Bible. Jews had Hillel Houses, and Roman Catholics had Newman Centers.

He thought evangelicals should have their own houses, too, and began a furious round of fund-raising to buy or build some. An early benefactor was his twin brother, Monty, who had taken over the Dallas hotel empire their father built from a single Holiday Inn and who had donated a three-story Victorian in a neighborhood near Brown.

To raise more money, Matt Bennett has followed a grapevine of affluent evangelicals around the country, winding up even in places where evangelicals would have been a rarity just a few decades ago. In Manhattan, for example, he visited Wall Street boardrooms and met with the founder of Socrates in the City, a roundtable for religious intellectuals that gathers monthly at places like the Algonquin Hotel and the Metropolitan Club.

Those meetings introduced him to an even more promising pool of like-minded Christians, the New Canaan Group, a Friday morning prayer breakfast typically attended by more than a hundred investment bankers and other professionals. The breakfasts started in the Connecticut home of a partner in Goldman, Sachs but grew so large that they had to move to a local church.

Like many other evangelicals, some members attend churches that adhere to evangelical doctrine but that remain affiliated with mainline denominations.
Via Kendall at titusonenine.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Basilique de Notre-Dame-du-Cap - Church of the day

Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Ontario, Canada
Basilique de Notre-Dame-du-Cap

Thanks to Virginia of C-ville for the link.

The Rt. Rev. Robert Hargrove - he found the Episcopal Church :: Shreveport Times

The second bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, the Rt. Rev. Robert Hargrove, died Thursday at his home in Pineville. He was 67.

Hargrove was raised in Kentucky and began his ministry career as Baptist pastor. But in the mid-1960s he found the Episcopal Church and he and his wife, Linda, converted. He entered Seabury Western Seminary in Evanston, Ill., and was ordained in 1967.
I know many former Baptists who have made terrific Episcopalians. Some are even bishops. Their stories are often similar: it is a story of finding the Episcopal Church and feeling like they've found a home. Converts like these have the clearest understanding of the strengths of the Episcopal Church.

We're not for everyone. But we do welcome you.

Blogger quits Episcopal Church to join Catholics

In a statement, Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr. of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, wished Kimel well. "From my discussions with [Rev.] Kimel about this matter, I know that he has agonized over this decision, especially as our Episcopal Church has continued its slide into disorder," the statement read.

Kimel, married with four grown children, faces at least a two-year process to be ordained as a Catholic priest.
Economists (and political scientists) talk about the mechanisms of voice and exit as means used by members of an organization to communicate dissatisfaction with the organization. Will the Episcopal Church respond and change when clergy and parishes exit? And, could it be that the dissenters that have stayed behind are pleased to see exit because they believe that voice isn't working?

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Left, the Right and the Bible (3 Letters) - New York Times

Kristof's Bible-thumping liberal op-ed has generated three letters to the editor. I tend to agree with all three; if that's possible.

Link via titusonenine.

Meanwhile, on the other coast, the LA Times is printing letters to the editor on it's piece "Evangelicals are carving niche in the workplace."

These links also come to us via titusonenine.

There's a connection here, isn't there? Kristof argues that liberal Christians should not compartmentalize their faith from the rest of their life, including their political selves and their engagement with conservatives. Meanwhile Evangelicals take their faith to the workplace, and that makes people uncomfortable. Are liberal Christians self censoring because they do not wish to be alienated from colleagues and friends who believe religion should only be done in private?
Mercury in the public interest:: National Review

To justify these infinitesimal reductions, activists and regulators have built a house of cards — for which taxpayers will pay billions of dollars. The resulting higher utility rates and attendant human costs will fall disproportionately on the elderly, poor, minorities and children.

EPA has a history of failing to make decisions based on science and on weighing costs and benefits. As Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer describes in Breaking the Vicious Circle, similarly expensive, non-cost-effective regulations were imposed when the EPA banned asbestos pipe, shingles, coating, and paper, which the most optimistic estimates suggested would prevent seven or eight premature deaths over 13 years — at a cost of approximately a quarter of a billion dollars. Breyer observes that the EPA's action is damaging in two ways: by diverting valuable resources from other, more effective public healthcare measures; and by removing asbestos from existing structures in ways that make fibers airborne and pose even greater risks to human health.

It has been said that we get the government we deserve. Therefore, we must demand that regulatory decisions are based on sound science and common sense, not on politics and unfounded fears. Only then will public policy serve the public interest.


Link via Newmark's Door.

Secular Europe and Religious America: Implications for Transatlantic Relations :: Pew Forum

Americans are generally more comfortable with religion playing a major role in public life. In contrast, Europeans generally place much less importance on religion in their lives, and general indicators show that major churches in Europe are declining in terms of membership, recruitment of clergy, financial contributions and overall public influence. The Pew Forum convened distinguished experts Peter Berger, John Judis and Walter Russell Mead to analyze these differences between the U.S and Europe and to assess their impact on transatlantic relations.
Peter Berger, Professor of Sociology and Theology and Director, Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, Boston University

I think if one is to get a grip on this phenomenon, which obviously has rather timely interests, one has to get rid of two very common but, I think, mistaken ideas. One is the idea of American exceptionalism – an especially beloved idea in Europe. America is, indeed, a very exceptional country. However, this exceptionalism does not extend to the realm of religion. Most of the world is fiercely religious, and the United States is a strongly religious society. Thus, the exception is not the United States, but rather the exception is Europe. And when I say Europe, I mean specifically Western and Central Europe. You come across a different situation in the orthodox sections of Europe, especially Russia, the implications of which I can't pursue here. Europe is the exception, and the exception is always more interesting than the rule. When thinking in terms of the comparative cross-national sociology of religion, Western and Central Europe are the most interesting areas in the world, much more interesting than places like Iran. There have always been fanatical mullahs in Iran; it's the Swedish taxi drivers who are interesting, not to mention French intellectuals.

Okay. The other idea one has to put aside is the idea that modernity necessarily leads to a decline in religion. This notion of modernity, for obvious reasons, is an idea very much favored in Europe – modernity leads to secularization, in other words, presumably necessarily. This idea was very widely held by historians and social scientists in my youth, which now seems about 200 years ago. I had the same idea and then had to change my mind, not because of some philosophical or theological change, but because the evidence to the contrary was overwhelming. Modernity does not necessarily lead to a decline in religion. What it does lead to – and the evidence is around us on this – what is does lead to, I think necessarily, is pluralism, by which I simply mean the coexistence within the same society of very different religious groups (you can also apply it to racial or ethnic groups).
John Judis, Visiting Scholar, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Senior Editor, The New Republic

I was in Germany after the election, this last election, and people were just freaking out about the Republicans and Jesus and George Bush and all this stuff. And so I was having this one conversation with a German and said, "well, you know, you have in your country a party called the Christian Democrats. Now, do you realize that if we had a party in the United States that was called that or was called the Christian Republicans, it would be a major scandal?" That's the kind of paradox on which you can build a whole understanding of the difference between Western and Central Europe and the United States.
Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

In the United States, the multiplicity of religion meant that no single religious organization could aspire to rival the power of the state. Adam Smith, in "The Wealth of Nations," – likely using information about Philadelphia, Pennsylvania provided to him by Benjamin Franklin – asserted that an invisible hand stemming from sectarian competition would produce religious peace and toleration. This historical experience that the religious feeling of the populace could be tamed to a certain extent and made a part of civil society without challenging the state is one reason why Americans have not faced some of the choices that Europeans have. The closest we came to a Kulturkampf occurred in the 19th century. The arrival of large numbers of Catholic immigrants caused many Protestants to fear a religious interest would emerge that would try to rival or in some way affect the state. This was largely laid to rest in the 1950s – but up until then, the fear that we might be in one of those situations where some form of aggressive secularization might be necessary was in the background of the American intelligentsia's thinking.

Second, the association between modernity and secularization has broken down in the U.S. and in many other countries and parts of the world. The promise of the secular enlightenment – its ability to tame history and create a smooth peaceful future for the world – has been unfulfilled in the experience of many people.
Read the whole thing. The link comes via Titusonenine.

Anglicans, Catholics find common ground on Virgin Mary :: Beliefnet.com

Here's something about Mary: "The churches said she 'has a special place in the economy of salvation.' "

The 81-page booklet, released in Seattle by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), said the churches now see eye-to-eye on divisions that helped spark the 16th-century Protestant Reformation.

However, the statement said the only two Catholic dogmas that carry the weight of papal infallibility - that Jesus' mother was born without "the stain of original sin," and was "assumed body and soul" into heaven at the end of her life - remain an obstacle for some Anglicans.

Traditionally, Anglicans have rejected the pope's power to proclaim any doctrine as infallible, and have been skittish about the Marian dogmas.
"Catholics were believed to have, as it were, invented a whole series of beliefs about Mary that didn't have a proper place in Christian faith," said the Rev. Gregory Cameron, deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion, in an interview.

For their part, Catholics often accused Anglicans and other Protestants of overlooking Mary and grew defensive of their devotion to her. "What this document does is lay to rest both of those caricatures," Cameron said.

On the Immaculate Conception, the two sides said, "We can affirm together that Christ's redeeming work reached `back' in Mary to the depths of her being, and to her earliest beginnings."

And though "there is no direct testimony" in the Bible about how Mary died, the two sides affirmed the scriptural roots for the Assumption, that "God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory."
Read the small print:
Both sides have asked how sensitive issues like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption would be applied to Anglicans if the two churches were ever able to totally reconcile.... In a footnote, it suggested that Anglicans might not have to follow the "explicit acceptance of the precise wording" of the two dogmas since they were not in communion with Rome when the dogmas were proclaimed.
Thanks to Mark of Saluda for the link, and, on the same subject, this and this.

I remain skeptical of the virtue and economy of re-establishing one Christian church. Indeed, the differences between the gospels provide sufficient evidence that back to the time of the crucifixion there were several competing churches. How can it be otherwise given that we are human? The best we can do is challenge each other to interpret our faith honestly. There's something purifying about the competition of ideas. The church is better for it in members and in depth of faith.

Titusonenine is covering the Seattle accord in several posts like this and this.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Liberal Bible-Thumping - New York Times

Nicolas Kristof:

John Shelby Spong, the former bishop, tosses a hand grenade into the cultural wars with "The Sins of Scripture," which examines why the Bible - for all its message of love and charity - has often been used through history to oppose democracy and women's rights, to justify slavery and even mass murder.

It's a provocative question, and Bishop Spong approaches it with gusto. His mission, he says, is "to force the Christian Church to face its own terrifying history that so often has been justified by quotations from 'the Scriptures.' "

This book is long overdue, because one of the biggest mistakes liberals have made has been to forfeit battles in which faith plays a crucial role. Religion has always been a central current of American life, and it is becoming more important in politics because of the new Great Awakening unfolding across the United States.

Yet liberals have tended to stay apart from the fray rather than engaging in it. In fact, when conservatives quote from the Bible to make moral points, they tend to quote very selectively. After all, while Leviticus bans gay sex, it also forbids touching anything made of pigskin (is playing football banned?) - and some biblical passages seem not so much morally uplifting as genocidal.

"Can we really worship the God found in the Bible who sent the angel of death across the land of Egypt to murder the firstborn males in every Egyptian household?" Bishop Spong asks. Or what about 1 Samuel 15, in which God is quoted as issuing orders to wipe out all the Amalekites: "Kill both man and woman, child and infant." Hmmm. Tough love, or war crimes? As for the New Testament, Revelation 19:17 has an angel handing out invitations to a divine dinner of "the flesh of all people."

Bishop Spong, who has also taught at Harvard Divinity School, argues that while Christianity historically tried to block advances by women, Jesus himself treated women with unusual dignity and was probably married to Mary Magdalene.
Spong is right on target when he gives examples of Jesus as treating women with unusual dignity. The Bible has been highjacked by conservatives who read it selectively.

Unfortunately, Spong proves once again that he is more interested in inflamming rather than informing; more interested in drawing attention to himself, than using his intellect to teach us how to read the Bible to change our lives and our society. It is simply not helpful to mix that message with speculation about whether Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married, or whether Paul was a homosexual.

Too bad Spong has chosen to be a grenade tosser rather than a bridge builder.

Kristof again:

Some of the bishop's ideas strike me as more provocative than persuasive, but at least he's engaged in the debate. When liberals take on conservative Christians, it tends to be with insults - by deriding them as jihadists and fleeing the field. That's a mistake. It's entirely possible to honor Christian conservatives for their first-rate humanitarian work treating the sick in Africa or fighting sex trafficking in Asia, and still do battle with them over issues like gay rights.

Liberals can and should confront Bible-thumping preachers on their own terms, for the scriptural emphasis on justice and compassion gives the left plenty of ammunition. After all, the Bible depicts Jesus as healing lepers, not slashing Medicaid.
I agree, up to the last sentence. Reasonable Christians can agree that the commandment to love is an individual and collective commandment to care for the poor. Reasonable Christians can disagree about whether as a majority we should impose that commandment on everyone through the powers of the state. And if we do, whether Medicaid is the best way to address poverty.

Thank you to UU Charlie for emailing the link.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Episcopal bishop: controller acknowledges embezzling funds - Times Picayune

A common story of human frailty:

Selwa Perry told Jenkins about the embezzlement last week as the diocese was in the middle of an audit, Jenkins said.

Perry is married to the Rev. Canon Rex Perry, who is Jenkins' right hand in administering the diocese. She told Jenkins that her husband had no idea what she was doing and the bishop said he believes her.
The principal in this case bears the ultimate responsibility. The principal in this case is the bishop. Under no circumstances should your controller be married to your chief administrator even if one of them is ordained. The bishop has let down the diocese. Just because we're God's people doesn't mean we should ignore prudent business practices.

Trust in God, but tie up your camel first. You can look it up.

The Rev. Chan Chandler's teacher speaks out - Asheville Citizen-Times

What is strange is that the media would not be sympathetic to Chan. After all, they are constantly reporting the lack of integrity among God’s people who claim to believe one way and then live another. Aren’t we all tired of the Christians, especially pastors and church leaders, who are caught in adultery and embezzlement and tax fraud each year? Wouldn’t we all like men who claim to preach the Word also call us to live the Word?

If Chan had taken my class before his October pronouncement about Kerry and the two Republicans, he would have heard my discouragement of naming names or political parties. And while I am not certain that Chan violated any rules, I do teach my students to steer as wide a berth as possible in such matters, giving great respect to the law, even to IRS regulations. However, since I believe that America should protect freedom of conscience and the right to speak freely in a religious pulpit, I am saddened that a young minister should be subject to such an inquisition for standing for biblical morality and the teachings of his church.
Waylan Owens is vice president of planning and communications at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. He also teaches a class in pastoral ministry.

Thanks to Mark of Saluda for emailing the link.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Protestant identity crisis: the case of Hollywood Presbyterian - SignOnSanDiego

The service, called Contemporary Urban Experience, has bolstered membership at one of the most storied Presbyterian congregations in the country. But it has also created a deep rift between old and new members that threatens to tear the conservative church apart.

Responding to several complaints about Meenan, regional church officials, in a rare step, took control of operations at Hollywood First last week and put Meenan and his executive pastor on paid administrative leave to restore the peace.

The turmoil within the 2,700-member congregation reflects what experts call the "worship war," an identity crisis that has beset many mainline Protestant denominations as they struggle to survive in a culture that puts less importance on the traditions of organized religion.
Interesting, although there's a hint later in the article that there may be more to the story than just a conflict over the direction Meenan has been taking the church.

Thanks to The Eclectic Econoclast for emailing the link.

Just How Do Gay Couples Threaten Civilization? - TheDay.com

"Letters To The Editor: I was raised in the Episcopal Church of Michigan. When I moved to Connecticut 15 years ago, I attended a service at the Episcopal Church in Groton. When I discovered the clergy's hateful feelings toward gay people, I didn't return....Incidentally, I found a church that is filled with wonderful, open-minded people who are a lot of fun and contribute much to the community. If you are looking for such a church, it is the Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Waterford."

Why strict churches are strong - Slate

Judith Shulevitz provides a reader friendly description of economist Laurence Iannacone 1994 paper "Why Strict Churches Are Strong." It's interesting that she would devote an entire Slate article to a piece written over 10 years ago by an economist publishing in a sociology journal.

I liked this quote:

You wouldn't expect an economist to do a better job than the religious at explaining religion. But one has, using the amoral language of rational choice theory, which reduces people to "rational agents" who "maximize utility," that is, act out of self-interest.
It reminded me of what The Economist said about the Barro and McCleary 2003 paper "Religion and Economic Growth across Countries":

IF YOU want to avoid an argument over religion at your next dinner party, you might suppose it safe to invite an economist or two. They, of all people, could be expected to stick to Mammon. Or maybe not, if a new paper by Robert Barro, one of America's best-known economists, and Rachel McCleary, a colleague at Harvard University, is any guide. It explores the influence of religious belief and observance on economic growth.
This is how The Economist summarized Barro-McCleary:

The most striking conclusion, though, is that belief in the afterlife, heaven and hell are good for economic growth. Of these, fear of hell is by far the most powerful, but all three indicators have a bigger impact on economic performance than merely turning up for church. The authors surmise, therefore, that religion works via belief, not practice. A parish priest might tell you that simply going through the motions will bring you little benefit in the next world. If Mr Barro and Ms McCleary are right, it does you little good in this one either.

Indeed, Mr Barro and Ms McCleary go further. They find that church-going, after a certain point, is (in an economic sense, anyway) a waste of time. They argue that higher church attendance uses up time and resources, and eventually runs into diminishing returns. The “religion sector”, as they call it, can consume more than it yields.
Shulevitz summarizes Iannacone this way:
According to Iannacone, the devout person pays the high social price because it buys a better religious product. The rules discourage free riders, the people who undermine group efforts by taking more than they give back. The strict church is one in which members with weak commitments have been weeded out. Raising fees for membership doesn't work nearly as well as raising the opportunity cost of joining, because fees drive away the poor, who have the least to lose when they volunteer their time, and who also have the most incentive to pray. Fees also encourage the rich to substitute money for piety.

What does the pious person get in return for all of his or her time and effort? A church full of passionate members; a community of people deeply involved in one another's lives and more willing than most to come to one another's aid; a peer group of knowledgeable souls who speak the same language (or languages), are moved by the same texts, and cherish the same dreams. Religion is a " 'commodity' that people produce collectively," says Iannacone.
Thank you to NW for alerting me to the Slate article.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Presumably to worship according to strict Republican principles - NewDonkey

I find this article (click on headline) amusing. A quote:

The "conservative" (i.e., biblical literalist and quasi-theocratic) takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention that occurred during the 1980s involved a constant guerilla war against the independence of state Baptist Conventions, Baptist seminaries and colleges, and individual congregations. Its centralizing focus was alien to the historic ecclesiology of Baptists, much as its political agenda was alien to the historic devotion of Baptists to the principle of strict separation of church and state.
Thanks to Scott of Hybla for the link.

Memorable typos - Tri-Town Transcript

Stripping of, not stripping at.

United Episcopal convention set - Huntsville Times

The Episcopal Church has been splitting up for some time. I suspect UECNA uses the 1928 BCP and the 1942 Hymnal.

The UECNA is a traditional Orthodox Church established in the late 1970s and dedicated to continue the original tradition of the church. The liturgy continues the Doctrine of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA.

Some 75 clergy and laypersons from throughout the eastern part of the United States are expected to attend the eighth triennial synod meeting. Wednesday, Presiding Bishop Stephen C. Reber will ordain five postulants into the Holy Orders as Deacons of the Church.
From The Huntsville Times I also learn in an ad that SPAM now comes in a single-serving pouch. (Mmmm, fried spam on toast with mustard.) These have not reached my neighborhood yet (which is: Sharjah, United Arab Emirates).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Md. Episcopal Diocese rejects gay marriage discrimination - Out In Atlanta

Equality Maryland, Maryland's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization, praised the Diocese for recognizing that all families share the same basic concerns and deserve the same basic protections for peace of mind.

"The Episcopal Diocese is joining a host of religious denominations that outright reject discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity," said executive director Dan Furmansky. "As more clergy come out in support of full and equal protection under the law for families headed by same-sex couples, it becomes more and more clear that while everyone is entitled to hold dear to their religious beliefs, using those beliefs to justify writing discrimination into a constitution is nothing short of un-American."

Over at The Emirates Economist I'm blogging on Arab Americans who aren't Muslims and Muslim Americans who aren't Arabs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

When Columnists Cry 'Jihad' - WaPo

Yet most of what became the great East Coast universities (Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, Columbia and Yale among them) were, in cold fact, founded by men of faith and prayer for purposes that were informed and motivated by explicitly biblical principles. If Prof. Krugman were to read some of their faith-based pronouncements -- many of them as much stronger than typical modern evangelical utterance as rum is from root beer -- it would surely curl his hair. Timothy Dwight, the president under whose mind and hand Yale made the turn from a college to a university, wrote a hymn quite unabashedly titled "I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord." Dwight was a prodigious scholar and a monumental figure in the history of Yale, altogether unbelamed by his evangelical fervor.

In the long journey from the matchless moment when I became "born again" and encountered the risen and living Christ, I have met hundreds of evangelicals and a good many practicing Catholics and have found them to be of reasonable temperament, often enough of impressive accomplishment, certainly not a menace to the republic, unless, of course, the very fact of faith seriously held is thought to make them just that. It is said, again and again and again, that the evangelical/Catholic right is out of accord with the history of our republic, dangerously so. What we are out of accord with is not that history but a revisionist version of it vigorously promulgated by those who want it to be seen as other than it was.

Evangelicals are concerned about the frequently advanced and historically untenable secularists' view of the intent of our non-establishment/free exercise of religion clause: that everything that has its origin in religion must be swept out of federal, and even civil, domains. That view, if militantly enforced, constitutes what seems dangerous to most evangelicals: the strict and entire separation of God from state. This construct, so desired by some, is radically out of sync with much in American history that shows a true regard for the non-establishment of religion while giving space in nearly all contexts to wide and free expressions of faith.
-- John McCandlish Phillips is an author and former reporter for the New York Times.

The tax question - The Smoky Mountain News

“There is an understanding in the church in America that because you are granted a tax-exempt status by the government, then you therefore don’t display a partisan perspective,” said George Freeman, general secretary of the World Methodist Council at Lake Junaluska. “That is something I assume would be understood by all persons of religious authority. If you take a partisan standpoint you are jeopardizing that non-profit status.”

The IRS guidelines make that point all-too-clear. The IRS guidelines state: “religious organizations, must abide by certain rules ... they must not devote a substantial part of their activities to attempting to influence legislation.... they must not participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office ...”

If Chandler made statements supporting President George Bush from the pulpit in October, before the general election — and he did not make it clear he was speaking for himself — it could cause financial problems for the church.


Why won't the NYT tell us the name of the group?

Followup on an earlier post.

WAYNESVILLE, N.C., May 10 (AP) - A Baptist preacher who was accused of forcing nine members to leave his church because they refused to support President Bush said on Tuesday that he was stepping down.
Mr. Chandler's resignation, at a meeting open only to members of the congregation, came a day after a national group that lobbies for church-state separation urged the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the tax-exempt status of the church.
What national group? And why isn't it labeled left-wing. NYT is liberal in using the label right-wing.

I.R.S. rules bar clear-cut politicking by tax-exempt groups. In October, days before Mr. Bush won a second term, the agency said it was investigating roughly 60 charities and other tax-exempt groups - about a third of them churches - for potentially breaking rules that bar them from political activity.
Is this what the founders had in mind for the separation of church and state? We may find Mr. Chandler to be unsavory, but why can't free associations of people of faith mix politics and religion? If true faith is about your whole, then the IRS is persecuting religion.

The behavior of liberal churches crossing the IRS test for politicing my conjecture is that is because liberal churches do compartmentalise faith - and lose elections as a result.

There is a real problem, which is that non-religious groups may masquerade as religion to claim tax-exempt status. That is a legitimate concern of abuse that the IRS must pursue. But it seems clear that in the case of Mr. Chandler's church that's not what we have.

If you say Mr. Chandler's church ought to be investigated by the IRS, then it should have investigate St. Aidan's Episcopal Church in the 1960s. See my earlier post on that church.

Here's a story that reveals that it is Americans United for Separation of Church and State that wants the IRS to investigate. I wonder if they are a 501(c)3.

Statement on gay rights resolutions - Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

At our Convention four Resolutions were presented, debated, and passed by a substantial majority.

o One Resolution calls for the establishment of a Task Force of laity and clergy to study appropriate pastoral responses to couples living in relationships other than marriage. This Task Force is charged with collecting resources, creating a study guide, and reporting to next year’s Convention.
o Another Resolution supports legislation on the state and federal levels which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
o Another Resolution supports legislation to provide benefits to same-sex couples.
o Finally, another Resolution opposes a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage.

The Right Reverend Robert W. Ihloff, D.Min., D.D.
Bishop of Maryland

Religious Congregations & Membership: Part II, Blacks - Glenmary Research Center

Because this study invites religious bodies to participate, not every group chooses to participate, or is able to do so. This becomes evident when one compares the participants in the 1990 and 2000 studies; there are 95 groups that participated in both studies, 54 groups that participated in 2000 but not 1990, and 37 that participated in 1990 but not 2000.

It is worth noting that most of the largest groups do participate, so that the authors are confident in saying that the vast majority of people associated with a congregation are represented within the study. This claim is supported by the fact that the 141,371,963 adherents reported at the county level in RCMS 2000 represents 94% of the national inclusive membership total reported by the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 2001.

There are, however, 14 groups that reported more than 100,000 inclusive members to the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches that did not participate in the RCMS 2000 study. These groups include:

Denomination / Membership
African Methodist Episcopal Church / 2,500,000
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church / 1,276,662
Baptist Bible Fellowship / 1,200,000
Christian Brethren / 100,000
Christian Congregation, Inc. / 118,209
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church / 784,114
Church of God In Christ / 5,499,875
Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministers International / 325,000
Jehovah's Witnesses / 990,340
National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. / 3,500,000
National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc./ 8,200,000
National Missionary Baptist Convention of America / 2,500,000
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. / 1,500,000
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc./ 2,500,000

Many of the groups listed above are historically African American religious bodies. The absence of these bodies must be considered when studying religious adherence within areas of the country with a significant African American population.

[Emphasis added.]
For comparison, note that the Episcopal Church USA had 2.5 million adherents in 2000, making it the 10th largest denomination reporting figures to RMCS.

The absence of African-American church members must be considered when studying religious adherence across counties. For instance, counties with large black populations may have a large number of adherents uncounted and a low rate of economic growth. The importance of adherence in economic growth could be biased upwards.

Question: Why did a disproportionate number of African American religious bodies not participate? Was it lack of resources, culture, distrust?

Religious congregations & membership: 2000: Part I, Members and Adherents - Glenmary Research Center

Religious Congregations & Membership presents data reported by 149 religious bodies that participated in a study sponsored by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB). ASARB originally invited 285 religious bodies that could be identified as having congregations in the United States to participate. The final list of participants included 139 Christian denominations, associations, or communions (including Latter-day Saints and Unitarian/Universalist groups); two specially defined groups of independent Christian churches; Jewish and Islamic figures; and counts of temples for six Eastern religions.

Groups were asked to furnish data for their statistical year ending in 2000. They were also asked to furnish data--by county--on the number of their congregations, members, adherents, and average weekly attendance. However, groups were not required to report every data item in order to participate. The minimum necessary to participate was the number of congregations by county. In addition, many groups had not determined the county locations of their congregations. In these cases, groups were asked to include address information (at least city, state, and Zip Code) so that the RCMS office could determine county locations.

Guidelines were provided as to the definitions of congregations, members, adherents, and attendees, but the actual definitions employed may vary from group to group. For those groups that provided the definitions they used, the published study does include an appendix listing their definitions.

The RCMS definition guidelines were:

Congregations: Any churches, mosques, synagogues, temples or other local meeting places (as defined by each religious body).

Members: Individuals with full membership status (as defined by each religious body).

Adherents: All members, including full members, their children and the estimated number of other participants who are not considered members. If unavailable, the study will estimate the number of adherents from the known number of members. (The RCMS estimation procedure computes what percentage of the county’s population a group’s membership comprises. This percentage is applied to the counties population for those under age 14. The membership total and percentage of children under 14 are added together for the estimated adherent figure. This procedure was done for 67 groups.)

Attendees: Average weekly worship attendance.

RCMS 2000 locates membership, adherent, and attendance figures by the county in which the congregation itself is located, rather than by the county in which individuals actually reside.

Adult or infant baptism. When you examine the data on membership and adherents you see a definite pattern between the denominations. For instance, the Catholic and the Episcopalians do not report membership, they report adherents. The Southern Baptists report membership and not adherents. The reason is clear: the test of membership in Christian denominations tends to be baptism. Catholics and Episcopalians believe in infant baptism. For Baptists baptism is a decision made by the individual, typically teenagers. Thus, members, for Baptists, do not include children.

As described in the quoted material above, where a denomination did not report adherents, but did report the members, the RMCS imputed the number of adherents from the number of members. But it did not do the reverse. The result is that the data by county is more complete (has fewer missing values). The RMCS might better be called Religious Congregations & Adherents -- it is understood that in the title the everyday membership is given a more universal meaning of adults and children.

Using the membership data can be misleading because of the missing values. Take Passaic, New Jersey as an example. The total number of members in the county 2000 is 21,961 which is about 5 percent of the total population. Atheism run rampant? No, adherents are 49.3 percent of population. Catholics are treated as a zero in summing members. There are 160,279 Catholics. Likewise, none of the following are included in the member total for Passaic, but they have substantial numbers of adherents: Muslim estimate (22,410 adherents), Jewish estimate (17,000), Episcopalians (2,769).

Bush, a Methodist by choice not birth - Telegraph

Why Bush is America's natural leader, stupid
The Telegraph (U.K.) Sept 4, 2004 Charles Moore

What single fact tells you more about George W Bush and American politics than any other? That he converted from his family's Anglicanism and became a Methodist.

It is inconceivable that such a thing would happen in Britain. In the first place, Methodism has almost collapsed in this country. There are hardly any Methodists left here, let alone converts.

More to the point, the habit in Britain is the other way round. If you start life as a Methodist and then rise in the world socially, you tend to graduate ("convert" is much too strenuous a word) to Anglicanism.
Methodism was a purifying movement within Anglicanism. Eventually, it broke with its mother Church and claimed an independent existence as a cleaner, simpler, more personal faith, one that rejected worldly status. Bush junior's conversion follows that path - a turning away from personal failure (in his case drinking and getting nowhere) through a direct experience of God, a journey away from social grandeur to something that seemed more rugged, a journey from Connecticut to Texas.

No doubt this journey was and remains profound and sincere, but it was also brilliant politics. Mr Bush has the good fortune to be considered stupid by his opponents, so they don't study him properly. What he has done is not stupid at all: he has found a way of embodying and uniting the different strands of conservatism in America.
Geography, biography and theology have all combined in Mr Bush's favour. If he hadn't put down roots in somewhere like Texas (silly phrase, sorry: there's nowhere like Texas), he would for ever have been vulnerable to the jibes about being an effete East Coaster. Now he can make a good joke about his "swagger" being what, in Texas, they call "walking".

If he hadn't made a bit of a mess of the first 40 years of his life, he would not have been able to appeal to the American love of a story of sin, struggle and redemption. If he hadn't experienced this story as one of divine love, he would not have been able to speak the language that touches the hearts of a people 40 per cent of whom go to church "at least once a week".

If, on the other hand, Mr Bush had never been near Harvard Business School and Yale and if his father had not been so powerful and so rich, he would have been poorly placed to reach the other important conservative constituencies - big business, dealmakers, networkers, problem solvers, soldiers. In other words, he genuinely combines fervent personal faith, a popular touch, superb connections and a huge pile of loot. Such a combination shouldn't surprise us - we had it here in the 19th century with Gladstone. It is formidable.

Once one understands how this works, the suggestion that Mr Bush is stupid looks, well, stupid. Intelligence in politics doesn't mean deep reading or having original ideas: you can be a very clever fool. It means knowing how to do what you want and believe with the constantly varying weapons at your disposal. It means being in tune with the culture.
Mr Bush has that uniquely American gift for reinventing yourself with perfect sincerity, whereas Mr Kerry's self-reinvention looks insincere. Since three years ago next Saturday [see date of article], George W Bush has looked the natural leader of America. He still does.

Whether you take Moore's conclusions as good news or bad, it's hard to argue that they're not true.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Uganda blocks funds in gay row | Headlines | News | Gay.com UK

[Following the link may lead to content some readers will find offensive.]

"The Church of Uganda's West Buganda Diocese has rejected $27,000 (£14,000) from the American diocese over its decision to appoint Gene Robinson, the country's press is reporting."

Exile of a few results in outreach within and across denominational lines - MyWestTexas

"We are saying exactly the same thing St. Nicholas [Episcopal] said," the Rev. Mark Cannady of Holy Trinity [Episcopal] said Monday. "We cannot continue to go forward in this teaching."

The Northwest Texas Diocese last week rejected a request by St. Nicholas to help keep their 523 active members together after nearly 90 percent of voting parishioners disagreed with the Episcopal stance on same-sex unions and 2003 appointment of a homosexual bishop. The diocese ordered dissenters to vacate church premises by June 1.
Bob Bledsoe, a St. Nicholas member for 45 years, is among those leaving. "I have two emotions, one is sadness for leaving the 30 good friends who are going to stay," Bledsoe said. "But overpowering that is the joy that we will be in a new church, no longer bound by the mistakes of the old church."

Meanwhile, the new church, Christ Church Midland (Anglican Communion), has been chartered for those exiled from St. Nicholas. The new church expects to gather June 5 at Midland Classical Academy. "That has been our most immediate need, a place of worship," Bledsoe said. "Next, we need office space, and we're going to need all new office equipment, pencils, pens É we're starting from ground zero."

Christ Church Midland last week opened an account, and contributions for start-up costs already are coming in, Bledsoe said. Pastors of various denominations all across town have offered space to help accommodate the new church.

Stasney is a former president of the Midland Ministerial Alliance. "What all this support shows is the breaking down of barriers because we see ourselves as one church of Midland, and we don't see ourselves as competition," Stasney said of other churches rallying to help.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Not all Baptists see church and state the same - Courier-Journal

"Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith" is being organized by the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council to rally support for dropping a Senate rule that has let Democrats block Bush's nominees.

Ezell said tomorrow's telecast was not meant to be a political event, and he blamed "the national media" for turning it into one. At the same time, Ezell said, "It's America. We shouldn't be expected to check our citizenship in at the church door. And we are doing nothing illegal here."

The leaders of such Baptist churches as Lyndon, Deer Park, Crescent Hill, Buechel Park and Broadway who attended yesterday's news conference at Highland had a different view. "What's happening alienates people … and keeps us from our purpose and mission," said Derik Hamby, pastor at Ridgewood Baptist Church.

Phelps, describing Highview Baptist as a "sister church," read a statement that said the ministers "stand together with Highview Baptist Church and Christian churches in holding up Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life. … But as people who take Scripture seriously, we believe truth must be spoken, and spoken in love. We do not believe Sunday's rally meets either test." He went on to say, "Churches are for the worship of God and the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Convention halls are for political rallies and party wrangling. To confuse the two is to violate the First Amendment that 18th-century Baptists fought to include in our nation's Constitution." Phelps said there's no support for the premise that judicial nominees are being "persecuted" for their Christian faith, and that the ministers want the public to know the event does not represent "all Baptists in this city, or people of faith everywhere."

The Rev. Reba Cobb, a board member of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and former executive director of the Kentuckiana Interfaith Community, said: "No one faith or political party holds a monopoly on morality in this country. … Characterizations of public policy issues as the faithful versus the faithless are divisive, misleading and, perhaps worst of all, exploit religion for political purposes."

Ezell said the goal of the event is to "educate our people about the issues, and what we believe; our faith affects every area of our lives. Does that affect political issues? Of course it affects political issues." All people have a right to express their views, he said, adding that the church will accommodate protesters tomorrow by offering them beverages and a place to meet. He also denied that Highview is a "sister church," saying they were more like "very, very distant cousins," with different beliefs, different congregations, and in different branches of the Baptist faith. "Nobody who goes to his (Phelps') church would ever go to mine," he said.

Between Ezell and Phelps I suspect I'd find Phelps more likeable. But on the issue of church and state, Ezell's position is closer to mine. God isn't after part of you; God is after all of you. And God expects to see the fruits of faith in all aspects of our lives; faith is not something you compartmentalize. Where I part from Ezell is in his implied conclusion that every person of faith will necessarily agree on public policy questions -- calling into question the faith of those who disagree with him.

The Constitutional separation of church and state says the state should not favor one faith or one denomination. It does not say that people of faith cannot be active in politics, or that government officials should not be guided by their faith. Thus, it can mean that when people of faith encounter each other in the political arena they may disagree. And that's OK.

In the political debate over social issues liberals model what they think conservatives should do: that is, liberals think conservatives should not speak of how faith informs their politics. That's a losing argument. My recommendation is that mainstream liberal Christians need to speak to how their faith informs their politics.

That would be a good thing, because the level of theological thought in the public arena is pretty impoverished. And that means there's plenty of people who are going hungry spiritually. And that's not bringing about God's kingdom.

Preachers, if your sermon does not connect the dots between belief and my life, my whole life, then you're not doing your job. The folks in the pews need theory, but they also need concrete examples to turn abstraction into practice in their daily lives.

In bad standing for voting for Kerry - Biblical Recorder

Does this story deserve the attention it has received in the national media - including the evening news of the major networks? Probably not. It's one pastor and one congregation. Still, it gives some insights into polity in the Southern Baptist convention.

Frank Lowe said he had been a member of the church for 43 years. He said the pastor, Chan Chandler, said he wanted the church to be a politically active church, and that anyone who disagrees with his views should leave.
The controversy at the church reached a high point the night of May 2, when the pastor invited all church members to a deacons' meeting. Lowe said at the beginning of the meeting, the pastor said anyone who didn't agree with his political views should leave.

Lowe said he, his wife, Thelma and seven others left. The pastor then called the church into conference and congregation voted to terminate the membership of those who left, Lowe said. Among those dismissed were three deacons, he said.
Church member Bill Rash, who has been attending the church for about 29 years, said he stayed through the meeting, but has since resigned from his positions and decided to leave the church. He said another church member initially asked if all church members could come to the altar, pray together, forgive each other and get on with the Lord's business.

Chandler responded by saying if those who disagreed with him would repent, then they could get on with the Lord's work, Rash said. The pastor said if they weren't going to repent they should leave, Rash said. That's when Lowe and the others left.

After they left, the remaining members voted to take their names off the roll, Rash said everyone voted for the measure except he and his wife, who didn't vote.

The remaining members agreed that if another church wrote for the letters of those who left, East Waynesville would reply saying they had left in bad standing.

During the last presidential election, the pastor said that anyone who was supporting John Kerry should repent or resign from the church, Rash and Lowe said. The pastor offered to hold the door for them to leave, Lowe said. Lowe said he usually votes Democratic while his wife votes Republican.
If indeed Chandler's pulpit statement was made before the November election and did not indicate he was speaking only for himself, it would be a "pretty clear" violation of Internal Revenue Service rules against political endorsements by churches, said Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC). That could lead the IRS to revoke East Waynesville Baptist Church's tax-exempt status.

Some members of Congress have been trying to do away with that restriction, led by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.). He has introduced a version of the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act in every session of Congress since 2001. Although the bill has not passed, it continues to receive strong support from many conservative Christian groups. Many groups that support the separation of church and state have strongly opposed the bill, including the BJC.

Baptist State Convention (BSC) Executive Director-treasurer Jim Royston issued a statement saying that Chandler's requirement that church members agree with his personal political viewpoint would be "highly irregular" if it is true.

East Waynesville is a cooperating member of the BSC by contributing financially to the BSC's state, national and international missions efforts, the statement said. As with any member of the BSC, churches are autonomous and decisions they make are neither directed by, nor directive to the Baptist State Convention.

Royston said he has not spoken with Chandler about the issue and hesitated to make any statements with implications wider than the issue in the local church. He did say that such a position as the one Chandler is reported to have taken could threaten a church's tax exempt status because it could be interpreted as stepping into political advocacy, an action prohibited by IRS rules.

Nine prayers for voters - Canadian Econoview

The Daily Telegraph (registration required) reported, just before the recent British election, that the Church of England had produced a series of nine prayers for the use of voters looking for divine guidance in the voting booth. As the Telegraph puts it, these prayers "help explain why the Church of England is no longer referred to as "the Tory Party at prayer"."
Read the read of Canadian Econoview's post (click the headline of this post) where he quotes some of the prayers. You'll see why he headlined his post "But were their prayers answered?"

By the way, the above -- ?" -- is a good example of how the American system of putting the close-quote outside the terminal punction of a sentence makes sense in some case. But in generally I say, "the British system is better".

Religion & public life: a faith-based partisan divide - Pew Forum

The 18 page report (pdf) is available for free download. Follow the link that leads to the pdf link.

The money quote 1:

The important political fault lines in the American religious landscape do not run along denominational lines, but cut across them. That is, they are defined by religious outlook rather than denominational labels.

For instance, traditionalist Catholics are closer to traditionalist Evangelicals than to modernist Catholics in their views on issues such as abortion or embryonic stem cell research.

The survey also found that traditionalists in all three major faith groups overwhelmingly identify with the Republican Party — and that traditionalist Evangelicals do so by a 70% to 20% margin. The margins among Mainline Protestant and Catholic traditionalists are less lopsided but nonetheless solidly Republican. On the other side of the divide, modernists in all these religious traditions as well as secularists strongly favor the Democrats. Modernist Mainline Protestants, for example, now favor the Democrats by a more than two-to-one margin.

Money quote 2:

Historically, religious fissures in the political arena have tended to break along
denominational lines rather than by level of religious commitment.

Throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries, tensions between Protestants and Catholics often took on a partisan cast. During the 1930s, for example, New Deal Democrats overwhelmingly won the support of Catholics, as well as white and black Protestants in the South. Republicans, on the other hand, drew the bulk of their support from white Protestants inthe Northeast, Midwest and West.

These patterns held until the 1960s, when a major realignment began to take place, prompted by a mix of racial and social issues that would come to define the "culture wars" of the ensuing decades.

Via email from The Eclectic Econoclast pointing to this post by Hispanicpundit.

Unfortunate for politics and religion that on average the less dogmatic are also the less religiously committed.

UK Methodists take a long look at sex - The Times

It decided 12 years ago to conduct a study into its members’ views on sexuality. After years of research, a report, Pilgrimage of Faith, will be debated at the conference in Torquay. The Times has seen an early draft, which shows that, although some Methodists take the traditionalist line, most agree that the Church should be “ welcoming and inclusive” and should not turn people away because of their sexual orientation.

The strongest disagreements were on how the Church, which holds marriage and chastity outside marriage as its ideals, should respond to sexually active homosexuals.

This link received via JP from BF. Thank you.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Protestant work ethic mythology

Recently I read LaurenceIannaccone's [LI] "Introduction to the Economics of Religion." Here's my posting on that 1998 article where I quote his dismantling of the secularization thesis.

Iannaccone also takes a critical look at Max Weber's thesis presented in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism:

1. "Samuelson and Tawney demonstrate that nearly all capitalist institutions emphasized by Weber preceded the Protestant reformation that he viewed as their cause."

2. "As Delacroix (1995) observes, 'Amsterdam's wealth was centered on Catholic families; the economically advanced German Rhineland is more Catholic than Protestant; all-Catholic Belgium was the second country to industrialize, ahead of a good half-dozen Protestant entities.'"

3. "Comparing levels of economic development across the Protestant and Catholic countries of Europe, Delacroix (1992) finds no evidence that one group outperforms the other."

4. "One may reject Weber's thesis about Protestants and Catholics without concluding that all religious traditions are equally conducive to economic growth or capitalist institutions....Kuran (1997) notes that the economic and intellectual development in Islamic countries has lagged that of the West for most of a millennium, an outcome that many scholars trace to Islam's 'static world-view.'"

Friday, May 06, 2005

News for Denton, Texas - AP (reg. req.)

Diocese officials tell unhappy parishioners to leave
05/06/2005 / Associated Press

Almost 90 percent of the congregation at St. Nicholas' Episcopal Church want to disassociate with the national Episcopal Church. Instead, diocese officials have given the unhappy parishioners until June 1 to leave church property.

They are upset by the 2003 decision naming the first openly gay bishop, Gene V. Robinson of New Hampshire, and by the approval of same-sex marriage blessings.

A parish vote was taken in March in which the overwhelming majority said they want to remain part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The order to leave church property came after negotiations between the two sides in the parish and Bishop Wallis Ohl of the Diocese of Northwest Texas, the Midland Reporter-Telegram reported in Friday editions.

The title to the church property is vested in St. Nicholas' church, but, according to the denomination, is held in trust for the diocese and the national Episcopal Church, said the Rev. Jonathan Hartzer.

Ohl informed the congregation of his decision in a letter Tuesday.

"I believe that in the long run, delaying the decision would have been much more difficult for all involved. The animosity between the factions of what currently constitutes St. Nicholas' Episcopal Church was not ameliorating; in fact it was becoming more exacerbated with each passing week," he wrote. "I do not believe that is good for the souls of those wishing to remain or those who wish to depart the Episcopal Church to remain in the close proximity relationship that currently exists."

Among those asked to leave are Hartzer and the Rev. Jon Stasney, the church's rector.


Bishop Ohl: "As the old preacher said, 'brothers and sisters it's Friday; but Sunday's coming.'" Source: Reflections on the House of Bishops - March 2005 (pdf)


On balance, it seems clear that the opportunity cost of time does affect religious behavior, leading to variation in both the level and the time intensity of religious activity. Regression analyses of survey data consistently find that as wages increase, religious participation becomes more money-intensive, with rates of church contributions rising relative to rates of church attendance.

This pattern holds over the life cycle (with participation becoming most money-intensive in the prime earning years), across households..., and across denominations. Denominations whose members average relatively high levels of income and education rely more heavily on the services of professional ministers, teachers, choir directors, and janitors. They also tend to hold fewer and shorter meetings and require less time-consuming rituals.

...[Yet the] large gap between male and female rates of self-reported religiousity and religious participation has not narrowed over the part few decades, despite the tremendous increase in women's labor force participation rates....

-Lawrence R. Iannoccone, 1998.

In some Episcopal churches it is understood that the IHS on the face of the altar stands for 1 Hour Service.

Addendum: At my former church, prior to moving to our new buidling we held services in the cafeteria of a high school with the initials IHS. Those initials were prominently displayed as was the mascot, a yellow jacket, emblazoned on the wall behind the makeshift altar.

What's the Matter with Liberals? - The New York Review of Books

o Thesis: The democrats are losing because (1) they are the party of cultural liberalism and (2) the working class is blind to the party's economic populism.
o Proposed solution: Bash the home of low low prices.

Huh? The solution reinforces #1 and gives the lie to #2.

Thanks to Newmark's Door for the pointer.

Rethinking the UCC welcoming ad - connexions

"59% of evangelical Protestant pastors would not knowingly admit homosexuals to membership in their church, while only 16% of mainline Protestant pastors said they held to that excluding view. Further, only 14% of evangelical Protestant pastors said there are openly homosexual persons attending their church, whereas 37% of mainline Protestant pastors answered in the affirmative to the same question."

Quote of the day - Charles A. Chilton

Not necessarily.
Charles A. Chilton, American meteorologist and skeptic

The Lincoln Navigator - David Brooks, NYT

David Brooks has a "read the whole thing" essay on the secular-sectarian culture war (click title link above). There are several money quotes. Here's one (or several depending on your tastes):

Today, a lot of us are stuck in Lincoln's land. We reject the bland relativism of the militant secularists. We reject the smug ignorance of, say, a Robert Kuttner, who recently argued that the culture war is a contest between enlightened reason and dogmatic absolutism. But neither can we share the conviction of the orthodox believers, like the new pope, who find maximum freedom in obedience to eternal truth. We're a little nervous about the perfectionism that often infects evangelical politics, the rush to crash through procedural checks and balances in order to reach the point of maximum moral correctness.

Those of us stuck here in this wrestling-with-faith world find Lincoln to be our guide and navigator. Lincoln had enough firm conviction to lead a great moral crusade, but his zeal was tempered by doubt, and his governing style was dispassionate.

The key to Lincoln's approach is that he was mesmerized by religion, but could never shake his skepticism. Politically, he knew that the country needed the evangelicals' moral rigor to counteract the forces of selfishness and subjectivism, but he could never actually be an evangelical himself.
For the link to Brooks' op-ed, thank you to one of my informant human browsers, MA of Saluda. He believes one of Church Man's certitudes is the value of doubt.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Secularization thesis is bogus - Iannaccone

Laurence R. Iannaccone, "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. XXXVI (September 1998), pp. 1465-1496. (JSTOR)

"Never mind that the secularization thesis is wrong ...; it has spawned a body of stylized facts that few dare question. For example: that religion would inevitably decline as science and technology advance; that inidividuals become less religious and more skeptical of faith-based claims as they acquire education, particularly more familiarity with science; and that membership in deviant religious groups (so-called 'sects, cults, and fundamentalisms') is usually the consequence of indoctrination..."

1. "American church membership has risen through most of the past two centuries - from 17% of the population at the time of the Revolution .... to more than 60% today."
2. "The fraction of the U.S. population employed as clergy has remained at 1.2 per thousand for the past 150 years."
3. "Since the advent of the national opinion polls in the late-1930s, the percentage of Americans claiming to attend church in a typical week has remained remarkably stable, around 40%."
4. "Surveyed religious beliefs have proved nearly as stable as church attendance."
5. "Total church contributions appear to have remained around 1% of GNP since 1955."
6. "In numerous analyses of cross-sectional survey data, rates of belief and religious activity tend not to decline with income, and most rates increase with education."
7. "Charges of forced indoctrination ... have been so thoroughly debunked that few courts and even fewer scholars now take them seriously."
8. "Irreligion is most pronounced in the humanities and social sciences; faculty in the physical sciences and professional fields are much more likely to attend church, profess faith, and approve of religion....It is, in fact, only within the social sciences most committed to the secularization thesis (psychology, anthropology, and, to a lesser extent, sociology) that one finds high levels of antireligious sentiment."
9. "Throughout the world, fast growing religions tend to be strict, sectarian, and theologically conservative."

Corrections - NPR

Ouch. "In our report on a Kansas church that is breaking away from the Episcopal Church USA our reporter said openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, is Presiding Bishop. He is not."

Spirit of Embry Rucker - St. Aidan's Episcopal Church

In the beginning there was me, my family, a few other families, and the Vicar Embry Rucker and his family. And this idea that we could found this church called St. Aidan's. Whoever he was.

Embry had been a successful businessman and came to the priesthood at the peak of his career. His sermons were not spiritual or feel good, they were social gospel and anti-war. Which was kind of interesting because three out of four husbands in the neighborhood held the rank of Lt. Col., although there was one Major Minor as I recall.

Anyway, St. Aidan's fit my family to a T. It was out of this environment that this Radical Son was born.

My brother, Scott of Hybla and his family have continued as members. St. Aidan's has continued to be unique but moved more towards the spiritual side and less on overtly liberal. But suffice it to say, it's not in competition with nearby Episcopal churches for the same kind of members. There is assortative matching after all.

Scott of Hybla tells me The Rev. John Baker last week took as his text They've hijacked my religion. In a departure from decorum the congregation applauded at the conclusion. Sometimes collective affirmation (applause) in church is appropriate.

The Ruckers later moved on to Reston.

Christians: playing the victim - George Will, WaPo

No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust
--The Constitution

The state of America's political discourse is such that the president has felt it necessary to declare that unbelievers can be good Americans. In last week's prime-time news conference, he said: "If you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship."

So Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes and a long, luminous list of other skeptics can be spared the posthumous ignominy of being stricken from the rolls of exemplary Americans. And almost 30 million living Americans welcomed that presidential benediction.
Some Christians should practice the magnanimity of the strong rather than cultivate the grievances of the weak. But many Christians are joining today's scramble for the status of victims. There is much lamentation about various "assaults" on "people of faith." Christians are indeed experiencing some petty insults and indignities concerning things such as restrictions on school Christmas observances. But their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic.

In just 15 months, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has become one of the 10 highest-grossing movies in history, and it almost certainly will become the most-seen movie in history. The television networks, which can read election returns and the sales figures of "The Da Vinci Code," are getting religion, of sorts. The Associated Press reports that NBC is developing a show called "The Book of Daniel" about a minister who abuses prescription drugs and is visited by a "cool, contemporary Jesus." Fox is working on a pilot about "a priest teaming with a neurologist to examine unexplained events."

Christian book sales are booming.
Religion is today banished from the public square? John Kennedy finished his first report to the nation on the Soviet missiles in Cuba with these words: "Thank you and good night." It would be a rash president who today did not conclude a major address by saying, as President Ronald Reagan began the custom of doing, something very like "God bless America."

Unbelievers should not cavil about this acknowledgment of majority sensibilities. But Republicans should not seem to require, de facto, what the Constitution forbids, de jure: "No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust."

Thank you, George, for the reality check. You marshall facts well, as always. Thank to Scott of Hybla for point out the op-ed.

The Rev. W. William Melnyk - Episcopal News - IRD

09/05/02 - The new Archbishop of Canterbury has been inducted as a druid in a centuries-old Celtic ceremony. Dr Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Wales, said that he had been "saddened" by the misrepresentations about the ceremony, which sparked concern about pagan links.

11/04/04 - I am resigning my membership in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, as a sign of my repentence.

03/31/05 - You folks might like to know that I have renounced by ordination vows, and formed the Llynhydd Grove of the Druid Order of the Yew. You might want to take my forced letter of 'recantation' off your website.

02/28/05 - After a three-month "discernment process," however, Melnyk renounced his ordination in a Feb. 28 letter, and Bennison said diocesan officials approved the decision on March 22.

04/15/05 - In a rapid change of heart, a local Episcopal priest is abandoning Druid spirituality.

Profile: Local Clergy: Oakwyse - Witch/Pagan Clergy Listings

Wvox StatsVox ID: 235125
Clergy Id: 5300
Posted: Mar.26.2005
Views 96
Pagan Clergy

Located in: Gradyville, Pennsylvania
Clergy Profile: 25 Years as a clergyman in the Episcopal Church - but no longer. Six years as a Druid Priest. Druid Companion of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Member, Druid Order of the Yew. Leader, Llynhydd Druid Grove, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. I also play the great Highland Bagpipes.
Rates: Usually $100.00 for a ritual, $50.00 per session for counseling. Piping fees - $100.00 for weddings, $75.00 for funerals.
Mailing Address: PO Box 65, Gradyville, PA 19039
Website: http://www.OakWyse.org

UPDATE: Reader Scott of Hybla writes "Hmmmm. Piping fees."

Church of the day: Trinity Episcopal at Little Washington - Rappahannock News

Garden Guild

Bonus treat: Martha Randolph Carr's childhood memories of growing up a rector's daughter at Trinity Church, Bromfield Parish, Little Washington.

V-day meets P-day at Roger Williams - National Review

Warning: Following the link will take you to adult (collegiate) language.

Two monologues for the price of one. Guess which one gets put on probation.

Evidently, Roger Williams University is not named for this rebellious Roger Williams.

Link via King at SCSU Scholars, including a pictures link.

Reinhold Niebuhr on doubt repressed - Instapundit

Instapundit yesterday had a topical analysis of the Religious Right (follow link above) which includes a reference to a quote of Niebuhr.

The exact quote is:

Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure.
Reinhold Niebuhr
US Protestant theologian (1892 - 1971)
(Source: The Quotations Page)
Adding further lumination is this:
Most Americans today view the Christian Coalition as a burden rather than as a positive influence on the political process. Comments such as religious right leader Randall Terry’s statement in 1992 that "to vote for Bill Clinton is to sin against God," have turned voters away from the Coalition’s social agenda. What bothers many people about the religious right is that it is a threat to their privacy. They would agree with essayist Mary McCarthy’s dictum that "Religion is only good for good people." The Coalition also challenges the traditions of religious diversity and its fringe elements have anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic backgrounds.

Equally damaging, the Coalition has given religion a bad name, precisely the effect that James Madison sought to avoid when he crafted the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution securing religious freedom and separating church and state. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in Moral Man and Immoral Society that
"Christianity at its best has leavened the natural egotism of groups and nations. . . . Christianity does not provide a political agenda but rather an underlying social conscience with which to approach politics. Religion plays its most constructive role precisely when church and state are separate. When the two are fused, however, . . . then religion becomes subordinate to politics. It becomes infected with the darker egoism of group and nation; it no longer softens and counters our ungenerous impulses but clothes them in holy righteousness."

The certainty of the religious right belies their fear that the world they knew and understood is a world that exists no longer. As Niebuhr noted, "Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure. Fundamentalism is, therefore, inevitable in an age which has destroyed so many certainties by which faith once expressed itself and upon which it relied." The religious right is a reflection more of religion’s weakness than its strength. A faith that requires the support of a government is an infirm faith. There is no law in the U.S. that inhibits conservative Christians from finding their God in their houses of worship or in their homes. They will flourish or not flourish according to the spiritual quality of their exertions. And politics is too small to intrude into the most exalted meanings of religious faith. [emphasis added]

David Goldfield is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.

Googling further I found Richard John Neuhaus of First Things suggesting TNR did not read Moral Man and Immoral Society and then goes on to write:

Under the auspices of the religious right, Judis mourns, religion "becomes infected with the darker egoism of group and nation; it no longer softens and counters our ungenerous impulses but clothes them in holy righteousness." Leaving aside whether there is some other kind of righteousness, I expect Niebuhr today would advise Mr. Judis to spare a generous impulse or two for millions of Americans who, knowing full well that they too are sinners, are justly fed up with being treated with contempt by political elites and have decided they aren't going to take it any more.

You will not that the quote Neuhaus attributes to Judis is in fact from Moral Man and Immoral Society. That seems to be rather more direct evidence that someone has not read MMIS. Perhaps Neuhaus doubt challenged - we owe him the benefit of the doubt, no doubt.

A further google search did not turn up the source of the Niebuhr quotation. The quotation is used with frequency however with application to Dan Rather (with prescience, prior to memogate) and to the defenders of Bill Clinton.

Doubt bottled up can be explosive.