from our earliest moments as a distinct Christian community, liturgical worship, the act of saying our common prayers together, has held us together in the midst of remarkable theological diversity and conflict.
The tensions within our church challenge us. But in a culture that is increasingly polarized, I continue to believe the struggles we are going through have much grace to offer this extraordinarily divided nation and world.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
Dave Shiflett, author of "Exodus," describes himself as "an itinerant Presbyterian" who sometimes attends a mainline Presbyterian church. His book is not scholarly but does contain enough statistics to make his point -- that Americans are fleeing liberal churches for conservative Christianity. It consists mainly of interviews with those in mainstream Protestantism and with those who have left those churches.
Friday, July 29, 2005
Response to Open Letter of July 27, 2005, from Bishops ... : Bishop Andrew Smith :: Diocese of Connecticut (pdf)
Your public letter to us is filled with assumptions, conclusions, and emotional, highly charged language. In it you have passed judgment on a brother bishop and a diocese without even attempting to ascertain the facts.Via titusonenine where you will find comments galore.
Had you first inquired concerning Father Mark Hansen and the conditions at Saint John’s, Bristol, our communication would be far more productive. I regret that none of the bishops who signed the letter had the wisdom or courtesy to call before launching this broadside. If we are engaged in a “very public conflict,” it is the work of others, and of letters such as yours.
. . .
The Standing Committee found that the Rev. Mark Hansen had abandoned communion with his bishop by the demands of the May 2004 letter. Further, he ignored well-established disciplines required of priests by ECUSA Canon and the policies of this diocese. Also important, for a time which as yet we have been unable to determine, he has abandoned his ministry in Saint John’s to hold a secular position in another state while at the same time on sabbatical from Saint John’s.
The parish leaders of Saint John’s enabled and protected Father Hansen in these arrangements, and are uncooperative, evasive and not forthcoming when questioned by members of my staff. For more than a year the parish has ignored its payments to our revolving loan fund. Members and leaders who disagree with Father Hansen have felt intimidated, and many left the parish. There are significant outstanding bills, and the electric company had sent the parish a shut-off notice. We have not seized any funds of the parish, as you claim we have, and in the past week we have paid more that $20,000 in parish bills from diocesan resources – including $8,500 owed on Father Hansen’s pension.
UPDATE: The perspective of a member of St. John's. (Again from titusonenine.)
An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for the arrest of the former comptroller of St. James Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge for felony theft by embezzlement. Stephen Clarke Van Sickle, 57, 16959 Ticonderoga Ave., is accused of embezzling more than $700,000 in church funds over six years, the warrant says. The first theft occurred on or about May 28, 1999, and the most recent was on or about July 29, 2004. The primary method involved duplicate payments of payroll taxes, the warrant says. A misappropriation of $2,900 was first discovered in March of this year, according to the warrant. Van Sickle admitted to that theft and resigned his post as comptroller. He later repaid that money.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
On the cusp of the 21st century, a strange thing is happening. Congregations--not all, but a noticeable number--are choosing to highlight their denominational particularities.
. . .
If most churches face the reality that half or more of their members did not grow up with the programs, heroes, liturgies and lore of the denomination, surely those denominational cultures are increasingly fragile. Given all that, it is perhaps surprising that 55 percent of the Protestant congregations we studied--slightly more among conservatives, slightly less among liberals--report that they consider themselves strong standard-bearers of their denominational tradition. . . .
More than any other group, Episcopalians pointed to their worship traditions--not to beliefs--as the force binding them together. . . . Even Episcopal members we surveyed who did not grow up in the Episcopal Church said that the parish's denominational identity was important to them in choosing to join. This distinct liturgical tradition, precisely because it is distinct, is attracting new adherents.
Not too surprising, I suppose. You should expect a self-selected group of Episcopalians, new adherents, to have liturgy among their preferences.Continuing, here:
Two Protestant groups, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church, stood out in the FACT study as having significantly higher identification with their respective denominations than the other mainline churches. This created a distinctive dynamic within the congregations of these two denominations. Those ELCA and Episcopal congregations that had strong ties to their denominations were much more likely to be larger in membership and they also were more heavily populated with persons who had joined in the past five years.Emphasis added. The faster-growing Episcopal congregations are those that emphasize their Episcopal-ness. That does not necessarily mean the slower-growing congregations would do better if they adopted the same strategy - downplaying denominational ties might be the strategy that works best for them in their local environment; that they are slower growing should not be surprising given these denominations -- especially the Episcopal Church with its emphasis on the Book of Common Prayer and the tradition of Apostolic succession.
Dissing the Dalai Lama - some researchers organize boycott of Society for Neuroscience meeting.
Faith, health and the Constitution - lawsuit filed challenging U. of Minnesota program on role of religion in healing.
Pretty potent stuff. Recommended reading. Here are some extracts:
The survey by the Pew Research Center For The People & The Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life focused on views of Islam and Muslim-Americans in light of the July 7 terrorist attacks in London.
Among findings, 55 percent of Americans said they held a favorable view of Muslim-Americans. That is well below a 77 percent favorable rating for Jews or 73 percent for Catholics, but just two points behind the 57 percent who view evangelicals favorably.
. . .
People have a less positive view of Islam in general than of Muslim-Americans in particular. Just 39 percent view Islam favorably, while 36 percent regard it an unfavorable religion. But 55 percent said they hold a favorable view of Muslim-Americans, compared to 25 percent who view Muslim-Americans with disfavor.
While Muslim-Americans have grown in popularity over the last two years, from 51 percent favorable in July 2003 to 55 percent today, evangelicals lost ground. Fifty-eight percent rated evangelicals favorably and 18 percent unfavorably in 2003. In 2005 the percentages shifted to 57 percent pro and 19 percent con.
While America’s Protestant-dominated social structure in the past has been accused of being anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic, both of those groups are today viewed far more favorably than evangelicals.
Among the religious spectrum, only atheists are held in lower regard than evangelicals. Thirty-five percent view people who don’t believe in God favorably, and half view them unfavorably.
The numbers point to what some have described as the evangelical paradox. Evangelicals make up about a quarter of the population, many of their churches are thriving, they are credited with helping President Bush win re-election and some believe they control the Republican Party. Yet surveys show they feel misunderstood and excluded by secular society.
Do some math: If evangelicals are a quarter of the population, and they all regard themselves favorably, then what percentage of the rest of the population regards them favorably? (Side note: I wonder how the survey classified respondents. If respondents gave their denomination, then some of them could be classified evangelical even though they don't self identify as evangelical and have a negative view of evangelicals as defined through the media.)More, on differences between evangelicals and other Protestants on their view of Islam:
half of evangelicals said they still believe Islam is more likely than other religions to cause violence, about the same percentage as two years ago. Among non-evangelical white Protestants, meanwhile, the 50 percent who viewed Islam as more violent in July 2003 dropped to 28 percent in the current survey.The entire report is here (pdf). I note that there you see that the favorable rating of evangelicals in the early 1990s was around 43 percent, so the rating of evangelicals is higher now.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
The church of the day is Holy Innocents Episcopal, Hoffman Estates IL.
"The lady vicar came to borrow a bird cage, because she was preaching a sermon about the birds," she explained. "She was speaking to Barney really nicely when he said 'F*** off', clear as a bell, so you could tell exactly what he was saying. The vicar was a bit shocked but luckily she didn't mind. She even put it in her sermon on Sunday, saying she had never been told where to go by a parrot before."Also in The Times: "Watchdogs have issued a list of undesirable male characteristics that advertisers must abide by in order to comply with tougher rules designed to separate alcohol from sexual success."
The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams, Bishop of Western KansasQuoting from the letter:
The Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield
The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. Daniel Herzog, Bishop of Albany
The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of Central Florida
The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, Bishop of Ft. Worth
The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon. Bishop of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas
the diocesans signing this letter have determined to intervene in the case of St. John’s, Bristol—and in the cases of the other five parishes should that become necessary—with the following measures:
1) shaping of a presentment against you for conduct unbecoming [Title IV, Can.1, Sec.1 (j)] a Bishop of this Church;
2) raising legal and financial support for the six parishes in such civil suits as may be brought by or against you;
3) providing episcopal care to St. John’s and the other parishes in such ways as to give them tangible evidence that we are in full communion together, in compliance with the Windsor Report.
4) Immediate licensing of the Rev. Dr. Mark Hansen for functions within any of our dioceses to the extent he might have opportunity to function among us.
Is it just me, or is homophobe too strong a term, too loaded a term, for a person who considers homosexuality to be immoral? I may disagree with those who find a New Testament basis for calling homosexual acts immoral, but they're not necessarily homophobes.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
The U.S. contingent of the biblically orthodox has more acronyms than FDR did during the New Deal as this commenter observes.
What's the next step? Once this alliance is up and running will dioceses and parishes so inclined pull up stakes (figuratively only since geographically they're not going anywhere), leave ECUSA and join this new entity? To use of phrase of the moment, is there a tipping point where there is a mass exodus from ECUSA by the orthodox? Is there a point at which Canterbury recognizes the new entity in place of or alongside of ECUSA?
Monday, July 25, 2005
there's no quarreling with the essence of the alarm sounded here last week by a gathering of Pentecostal clergy and the Seymour Institute for Advanced Christian Studies. What is happening to the black family in America is the sociological equivalent of global warming: easier to document than to reverse, inconsistent in its near-term effect -- and disastrous in the long run.
Father absence is the bane of the black community, predisposing its children (boys especially, but increasingly girls as well) to school failure, criminal behavior and economic hardship, and to an intergenerational repetition of the grim cycle. The culprit, the ministers (led by the Rev. Eugene Rivers III of Boston, president of the Seymour Institute) agreed, is the decline of marriage.
Kenneth B. Johnson, a Seymour senior fellow who has worked in youth programs, says he often sees teenagers "who've never seen a wedding."
. . .
The absence of fathers means, as well, that girls lack both a pattern against which to measure the boys who pursue them and an example of sacrificial love between a man and a woman. As the ministers were at pains to say last week, it isn't the incompetence of mothers that is at issue but the absence of half of the adult support needed for families to be most effective.
Interestingly, they blamed the black church for abetting the decline of the black family -- by moderating virtually out of existence its once stern sanctions against extramarital sex and childbirth and by accepting the present trends as more or less inevitable.
They didn't say -- but might have -- that black America's almost reflexive search for outside explanations for our internal problems delayed the introspective examination that might have slowed the trend.
Gregory Elder, an Episcopalian turned Catholic priest, is poised to become the first married priest in the million-member Diocese of San Bernardino. Elder and the diocese were informed Friday of the decision. Elder said he was told that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, personally presented his application to the dying Pope John Paul II. Elder, who has two children ages 16 and 18, was an associate pastor at Trinity Episcopal Church from 1991 until he converted to Catholicism in 2003. Before Pope John Paul died on April 2, he allowed Elder to be ordained into the Catholic clergy through a rarely invoked exemption to Canon Law. An ordination date has not yet been set.UPDATE: This San Bernadino County Sun article has more including:
In April, San Bernardino Bishop Gerald R. Barnes said allowing priests to marry would not be a cure-all solution. His assistant, the Rev. Paul Granillo, said Monday that Elder in no way represents a political statement.
"This is an extraordinary process that exists so people who feel called can fulfill that call. This doesn't change the requirement that (nonprovisional) priests remain celibate,' Granillo said.
Elder was admitted through a rarely used exemption to Canon Law. In 1980, John Paul approved the Pastoral Provision, a process by which married Episcopal priests can join the Catholic priesthood. The provision only applies to priests in the United States.
About 85 married men have been ordained as Catholic priests since then, said the Rev. William Stetson, director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and the provision's liaison.
Many of them were pushed to the more conservative Catholic Church by the more liberal Episcopalian positions on abortion, homosexuality and ordination of women, Stetson said.
That wasn't the case for Elder. For him, it was theology, plain and simple.
"I felt I could be of more service to Christ in the Catholic Church,' Elder said. "I felt, to some degree, a bit dishonest, theologically a Catholic in an Anglican robe.'
He and his wife, Sarah O'Brien-Elder, wed in 1982 a year before he entered seminary. His wife converted to Catholicism in 1987 and is a lay employee at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Redlands.
. . .
During the past year, Elder studied Canon Law with Granillo. This month he took his final entrance exams. Friday he was told he passed.
Granillo said he will be ordained a transitional deacon in the fall and prepped for the priesthood.
"God willing,' Granillo said, Elder will be ready to pastor by early next year.
He likely will begin as a part-time hospital chaplain, Granillo said. Elder plans to keep his full-time post as an associate professor of history and humanities at Riverside Community College.
The social conservative in me has trouble with the idea of gay marriage, and the Anglican in me has not been particularly impressed either by American gay bishop Gene Robinson or by Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster BC, who has decided to approve the blessing of gay marriages in his diocese. Certainly not sufficiently impressed to be willing to risk having the Canadian church effectively cease to be a member of the worldwide Anglican communion as a result of the stances those two gentlemen have taken. Not that I'm that impressed with the intolerance of some African Anglican bishops on the same sex issue, either. . . . .
The libertarian in me could support having the government get out of the "marriage" business altogether, with the concept of "marriage" to be replaced, for legal purposes, by a concept of civil union, which would primarily be an economic relationship, covering such things as rights of inheritance and survivorship, and assignment of entitlements under pension and health plans. Marriage would then be the province of religious bodies and would have no legal meaning, referring instead to a service in which the blessing of the creator, however envisioned, would be invoked for a couple entering into a union. The nature of the couples eligible for such blessing - homosexual or heterosexual - would be a matter for the members of individual faiths to decide, and the government (including human rights tribunals) would have no say in the matter.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
The former treasurer of the Houston-based Episcopal Diocese of Texas was arrested Thursday in connection with more than a half-million dollars that disappeared from a diocese fund. Ronald D. Null, 59, was arrested after a grand jury indicted him on a charge of felony theft on Tuesday, records show. He remained in jail Saturday in lieu of a $100,000 bail.From the Diocese's June 4, 2004 press release:
The money . . . does not appear to have been taken from any individual church accounts or from the diocesan or missionary budget accounts. Rather, these amounts appear to have been taken from The Church Corporation property accounts.
. . .
Null has resigned from his position on the Executive Board, the Standing Committee and the board of El Buen Samaritano, Austin. He will not assume the treasurer’s position of St. Stephen’s School, Austin as previously intended.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
The meeting in Los Angeles was preceded by another somewhat informal meeting focused on the Windsor Report from June 19-22 in St. Louis. Fourteen diocesan bishops, including six of the 19 who participated in the Los Angeles meeting, “agreed that the Windsor Report provides the way forward for the entire Anglican Communion…[and] submit[ed] themselves to the Windsor Report’s requirements, both in what it teaches and in the discipline it enjoins,” according to the Rt. Rev. John B. Lipscomb, Bishop of Southwest Florida who signed a press release on behalf of the group. The release is published on the website of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina.
Nineteen invited bishops from across the theological spectrum reported “frank, respectful” discussion “on a variety of issues that have caused pain and dissension within the Episcopal Church” at the conclusion of a July 18-21 meeting in Los Angeles, hosted by the Bishop, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno. One of the initial invitations proposing the meeting said the purpose was “to discuss a final settlement.”
From the NYT article:
QUOTE\ there is little mystery about the views of his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, a Roman Catholic lawyer from the Bronx whose pro bono work for Feminists for Life is drawing intense interest in the ideologically charged environment of a Supreme Court confirmation debate. Some abortion opponents view her activities as a clear signal that the Robertses are committed to their cause; supporters of abortion rights fear the same thing.
. . .
Mrs. Roberts, who declined to be interviewed for this article, was not recruited by Feminists for Life, but sought the group out about a decade ago and offered her services as a lawyer, said its president, Serrin Foster. The group was reorganizing at the time and beginning to focus its work on college campuses. Its mission statement, driven home in advertising in recent years, says: "Abortion is a reflection that our society has failed to meet the needs of women. Women deserve better than abortion."
Mrs. Roberts served on the board of the organization for four years, and later provided legal services. Ms. Foster said that as an adoptive parent, Mrs. Roberts made contributions that included urging the group to focus more on the needs of biological mothers, and adding a biological mother to the board of directors.
Ms. Foster said Feminists for Life was committed not only to ending abortion, but also to making it "unthinkable" by providing every woman with the assistance she needs.
. . .
One thing is certain; Mrs. Roberts's Catholic faith has long played a central role in her life. The daughter of a Postal Service technician and a medical secretary, Jane Sullivan grew up the oldest of four children in what was an Italian and Irish neighborhood in the Morris Park section of the Bronx, where she played dodgeball in the streets and took Irish step dancing lessons. With the family's parish church, Our Lady of Solace, down the block and her paternal grandparents living next door, it was a safe, close-knit existence.
. . .
After graduating from St. Catherine's Academy, an all-girls' high school in the Bronx, Mrs. Roberts joined the first class of women to enter the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Mass., where she attended Mass several times a week, tutored football players in mathematics, her major, and carved a path as a student leader. A budding feminist even with her traditionalist streak, she was one of four students who represented the student body in a heated dispute when the feminist scholar Marilyn French, who taught at the college from 1972 to 1976, was denied tenure.
. . .
Determined to explore the world, she graduated from Holy Cross in 1976, traveled to Australia on a Rotary scholarship, trekked through Nepal and backpacked around Europe before earning a master's degree in applied mathematics from Brown in 1981 and a law degree from Georgetown in 1984.
. . .
In her professional life, Mrs. Roberts continued to look for the road less traveled, establishing a specialty in the male-dominated field of technology and communications law and earning a partnership in her firm's global technology practice. Still, friends and family members said, she asserted a quietly defiant individuality, negotiating multimillion-dollar satellite deals while still driving a bright orange Volkswagen Beetle long after she could have afforded a more expensive car.
. . .
The couple married in July 1996, when they were both 41, and friends say they immediately began discussing their desire to start a family, even talking about children at their wedding reception. . . . In 2000 the couple adopted a daughter, Josephine, and a son, John, through what Ms. Torre said was a private adoption. "It is a testament to the power of prayer," said Ms. Kearns, Mrs. Roberts's friend. "Who knew whether they would get any children. They qualified to adopt. She waited, but she never, ever, was discouraged."
After years as a hard-charging lawyer, Mrs. Roberts went part-time in 2003, designing and running an in-house professional development center for her firm (though colleagues say her part-time hours would be considered full-time to most people).
The Robertses' relationship, some say, has deepened their faith. "As it often happens, when two people get together and share a faith, it can be magnified by their joining," Mr. Lazarus said. "I think that has been the case for them, even more so once they had the kids. But it is a very personal faith. It does not serve, for them, as a way of judging others."
With the Supreme Court confirmation battle under way, when everything from her views on abortion to her children's clothes will be under scrutiny, Mrs. Roberts is showing her customary aplomb, friends say. Among her only complaints is that the air-conditioning in her PT Cruiser, which she is driving to strategy sessions at the White House, stopped working during this, the hottest week so far in a very hot summer. So far, she has said, she has managed to weather the heat. /UNQUOTE
Friday, July 22, 2005
Asked by the Windsor Report to explain “from within the sources of authority that we as Anglicans have received in scripture, the apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection, how a person living in a same-gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ,” the Episcopal Church’s seven-person delegation instead emphasized that its decision to consecrate a non-celibate homosexual person as bishop was prophetic. Rather than approaching the matter theologically, most of the Episcopalians turned it into a justice issue.But, as we read in Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good;Though OT, Micah 6:8 anticipates the NT approach to religious law -- and Christians are a New Testament people, aren't they? The Bible is not a codification of how to "do justice." But we are required to do it, including figuring it out. Figuring out justice issues is at the core of theology. By defering to the people of New Hampshire our bishops skipped over the figuring out. Ironically, the Windsor Report appears to have at least forced the Episcopal Church to construct a case that its teaching on homosexuals was not just.
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Consider verses 6 and 7 leading into Micah 6:8:
"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"No; what do these offerings have to do with justice? What does ostricizing homosexuals have to do with pleasing God?
Thursday, July 21, 2005
David Brooks writes of the culture war:
I love thee also, Roberts nomination, because now we probably won't have to endure another bitter and vulgarized chapter of the culture war.And of pinning the tail on the donkey:
Confirmation battles have come to seem of late like occasions for bitterly divided Catholics to turn political battles into holy war Armageddons. Most of the main Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are Catholics who are liberal or moderate (Kennedy, Biden, Durbin, Leahy), and many of the most controversial judges or nominees are Catholics who are conservative (Scalia, Thomas, Pryor). When they face off, you get this brutal and elemental conflict over the role morality should play in public life.
Roberts is indeed a Catholic (if he's confirmed, there will be four on the court, three Protestants and two Jews), but he's not the sort to spark the sort of debate that leads to bitter Catholic vs. Catholic meshugas. He's not a holy warrior, and his wife is active in the culturally heterodox Feminists for Life.
The Robertses are evidently the sort of people, like most Americans, who confound culture war categories.
Anybody who is brilliant during Supreme Court grillings, as Roberts is, will be impressive at confirmation hearings. He is modest and likeable, and has done pro bono work on behalf of the environment, parental rights and minorities.
But the Democratic elites no longer run the party. The outside interest groups and the donors do, and they need this fight. It's why they exist.
Hillary Clinton and the other Democratic hopefuls will have to choose between the militant wing of the party, important in the primary season, and the nation's mainstream center, which the party needs if it is to regain its majority status.
A letter to the parish in the church newsletter said, "Over the past week, we have learned that our comptroller, Clarke Van Sickle, has misappropriated funds from the church."UPDATE: Living Church reports it was $700,000 over seven years.
This is an authority issue, and I think the Connecticut six are simply in error. What these priests believe as individuals is, quite honestly, irrelevant with regards to their duty in obedience to the bishop. Moreover, the churches that they preach in do not belong to them nor do they belong to the parishioners -- the churches and the property are governed by the diocese, which is presided over by the bishop. If these six clerics want to make a principled stand, they are free to do so as people, maybe even as priests, but they aren't free to run their churches as free-agents, deciding unilaterally what the line of authority is, who they're going to listen to and who they aren't going to listen to, as though it was up to them to decide what is out-of-line, and what isn't.The Living Church:
In the fractiousness resulting from the General Convention’s approval of the consecration of the Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire, all sorts of assaults have been made on the office and authority of some of our bishops, including that of the Presiding Bishop. Clergy and laity ignore bishops and/or are disrespectful; their directives are disregarded; clergy who disagree with their bishop’s stands on the issues openly defy their authority; and other bishops, especially retired conservative bishops, openly defy canon law and cross diocesan lines to exercise the episcopal office in places where they have no jurisdiction, and they do this with impunity. Diocesan clergy who disagree withdraw completely from all diocesan activity and gatherings with other clergy and form alliances with like-minded clergy and bishops from other jurisdictions, yet remain in good standing in their own dioceses.
Episcopal bishops need to regain their rightful authority. That authority is primarily spiritual and moral, but having that character is real authority. Of course, there is disciplinary authority as well and it needs to be used wisely, fairly, and firmly. When “everything is permitted,” there is nihilistic anarchy and no one benefits.
. . .
Some cynics see bishops primarily as “confirming machines” and only necessary as those who confirm and ordain, and consecrate others like themselves. Others see them primarily as administrators and ecclesiastical bureaucrats.
What is the authority of Episcopal bishops? They cannot assign clergy; seminarians and clergy are expected to get their own jobs. In this instance, our bishops do not even have the authority of United Methodist district superintendents. Bishops consult on parish calls but have a limited window to object to a specific call, after which, if they cannot confidently show that there is some moral or legal defect in the one proposed, they must allow the call to go forward.
They are supposed to be notified and consulted when there is a vacancy in a parish, but some larger parishes go off on their own, make their own arrangements, and simply announce to the bishop a fait accompli. The bishop may object, but these objections are ignored with impunity. Thereby the health and future of large, influential parishes are put in jeopardy. We have effectively emerging congregationalism and it does not contribute to the health of our Church.
Are bishops among the most knowledgeable, best educated, and thoughtful clergy of a diocese or indeed of the Church? Often not. Some even boast about not being scholarly. It is a rarity for an Episcopal bishop to be recognized as a theologian, a biblical scholar, or as a prominent ethicist, not to mention as a historian. There are, of course, notable exceptions.
Bishops ordain persons to the ministry, but more often than not surrender the selection of these persons to commissions on ministry, who are supposed to be only advisory to the bishop. The Church had strong clergy when the bishops personally selected the candidates and left examination of competency in the required areas of study to Boards of Examining Chaplains. That critical task has been surrendered to the General Ordination Examinations, which have never been sufficiently revelatory of competence in specific and necessary disciplines. The results are disastrous.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Of course it is often the duty of courts to buck public opinion; many constitutional rights are designed for the protection of minorities. But when, as in this case, there is no strong basis in the text or accepted meaning of the Constitution for the recognition of a new right, and that recognition would cause a powerful public backlash against the courts, the counsel of prudence is to withhold recognition. Doing so would have the additional advantage of allowing a period of social experimentation from which we might learn more about the consequences of homosexual marriage. One state, Massachusetts, already recognizes homosexual marriage, as do a small but growing number of foreign nations (Spain, Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands). Perhaps without judicial intervention gay marriage will in the relatively near future sweep the world - and if not it may be for reasons that reveal unexpected wisdom in the passionate public opposition to the measure.Professor Becker:
gay couples have been allowed for a while to engage in much more significant behavior that has been associated throughout history with heterosexual couples. I am referring to the rights that gay couples already possess to adopt children, or to have one lesbian partner use sperm from a male to become pregnant, bring a fetus to term, and have a baby that the lesbian partners raise together, or the right of one gay male partner to impregnate a woman who bears a child that is raised by the two gay partners. No one knows yet what is the effect on children of being raised by a gay couple. Yet it is a far more important departure from how children have been raised throughout history, with potentially much greater consequences, than using the word marriage to describe a gay union.
. . .
gay couples might actually be in a better position than heterosexual couples if gay couples could use contracts to define their rights and obligations, while heterosexual couples were mainly subject to less flexible judicial and legislative law. In fact, courts frequently override the provisions of marital contracts among heterosexuals, which they may be less likely to do when dealing with contracts between gays.
The Web site, http://democrats.senate.gov/faith.html , or as Reid calls it, "A Word to the Faithful," says it is "dedicated to illustrating how people of faith and Senate Democrats can work together to lift our neighbors up and achieve our common goals." It features a photo gallery of Reid, a Mormon, meeting with Catholic, mainline Protestant and Jewish leaders.Is it just me or is "word to" substantively different from a "word with"?
Evangelicals were not impressed.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Another Episcopal congregation leaves ECUSA. . . . Holy Apostles, will be affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network and is under the direct supervision and support of the Right Reverend Frank Lyons, Bishop of Bolivia.My question is this: If you're orthodox wouldn't that mean you'd all elect to go under the same bishop?
Two other new Anglican churches in Kentucky, St. Andrew’s in Versailles and Apostles in Lexington, are under the supervision of Ugandan bishops. A third church, St. Patrick’s Anglican in Lexington, is part of the Anglican Mission in America which has several American bishops who serve under the authority of the Anglican archbishops of Rwanda and Southeast Asia.
A glance at a map of the southern United States [ECUSA Provinces IV and VII] reveals a growing archipelago of orthodox dioceses that appear resolved to remain in communion with Canterbury no matter what Frank Griswold & Company do: South Carolina, Central Florida, Southwest Florida, Western Louisiana, and Fort Worth, to name a few.
Were Republicans merely playing Brer Rabbit's routine (from the Uncle Remus Tales) of please-don't-throw-me-in-that-briar-patch-Brer-Fox?
Quoting in full:
So have three decades of electoral reforms had any effect on the proportion of less advantaged Americans who vote on Election Day?The true barrier to voting is yourself.
Yes -- but not in the way that the advocates of reform envisioned, says political scientist Adam J. Berinsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writing in the latest issue of American Politics Research.
Instead of luring the young, the poor and those with less interest in politics to the ballot box, new initiatives such as Oregon's vote-by-mail law have provoked greater participation from older, wealthier and white voters.
In a classic case of unintended consequences, Berinsky's review (pdf) of all major election-law changes of the past three decades found that "reforms designed to make it easier for registered voters to cast their ballots actually increase, rather than reduce, socioeconomic biases in the composition of the voting public."
When I read about last month's Supreme Court decision permitting the city of New London, Conn., to use its power of eminent domain to seize working-class homes so that developers can build a waterfront office, residential and hotel complex, my first thought (after pitying the homeowners who thought that their property rights meant something) was: Oh no, not another misbegotten urban renewal program.
That's because I live in Southwest Washington, where nearly every day I contend with the wreckage -- architectural, socioeconomic and cultural -- from the first time the Supreme Court issued such a ruling. That was the 1954 case of Berman v. Parker , allowing a public entity to seize the heart of the District of Columbia's southwest quadrant -- a huge swath of working-class homes and businesses -- so that developers could build . . . a waterfront office, residential and hotel complex.
. . . .
The sorry truth is that governments aren't very good at rejuvenating neighborhoods. Revitalization is strictly a job for the private sector, as our own experience here in Southwest Washington is proving.
In 1954, much of Southwest was a slum, or at least some people in Congress, which authorized the taxpayer-subsidized demolition derby, thought it was a slum. (It was actually a densely populated, predominantly black neighborhood, dilapidated on some blocks, tidy and middle-class on others.)
. . .
Charlotte Allen is a Washington writer and co-editor of the Independent Women's Forum online blog, InkWell.
A pair of Kentucky men intended to give new meaning to the idea of a methamphetamine high, but they never fired their rocket.
Missouri State Highway Patrol officers, who stopped the two last month, spotted a curious wire leading from the passenger compartment of the Ford Thunderbird to the trunk. Opening the trunk, they saw a system of weights and pulleys connected to a platform.
On the platform was a three-foot rocket with eight motors.
The rocket's payload? Two pounds of methamphetamine.
"They had a remote igniter device. They thought they'd open the trunk, ignite it and get the contraband away from the scene," Lt. Vernon Dougan said. "It's not every day you find a large hobby rocket in the trunk of a vehicle, let alone one with drugs tied to it."
. . .
The rocket launch was scrubbed.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
it is doubtful whether more aid will speed up economic growth, given both Africa's experience with aid during the past half century, and the evidence from other poor nations that internal reforms that produce sizeable and persistent growth are the only really effective way to reduce a nation's poverty.Posner:
The highest priority for - and it should be a condition for receiving any - foreign aid should be a nation's agreeing to the establishment under the auspices of the G8 nations an independent, professional, and competent judiciary and police, well paid and well supported with staff and with computer and other necessary equipment, to enforce contracts, property rights, and personal rights. Without such a framework for the protection of economic activity, the African nations are unlikely to progress. The cost of such a framework would be quite modest - far less than $25 billion a year for the entire region.
Another priority is, as Becker notes, girls' education, probably the surest route to reducing population growth. But, although heartless, I do not agree that African nations should receive anti-AIDS drugs on a subsidized basis. . . . the only effective way of dealing with the African AIDS epidemic is adoption of safe sex. The AIDS drugs will retard that adoption by reducing the benefits. Girls' education, quite apart from its other benefits, will combat the epidemic because the more secure women are economically, the less they will be inclined to yield to men's demands for risky sex.
July 11, 2005
ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. -- Some worshipped in the tiny, historic Episcopal church that has been their home for years.
Others worshipped in a plain theater lobby adorned with little religious decoration beyond the makeshift altar table, topped by a lace cloth and two candles.
They were worshipping barely a block apart, reading from the same Bible passages, reciting virtually identical communion liturgies -- and each pledging a renewed beginning.
Yesterday marked the first worship services since a split in the historic Christ Church of Elizabethtown, prompted largely by the international controversy that has followed the 2003 ordination of an openly gay Episcopal bishop in New Hampshire.
"We are today birthing a new church," the Rev. Kent Litchfield told approximately 90 worshippers at the new Holy Apostles Church. . . .
"Welcome to the Diocese of Bolivia!" the church bulletin of Holy Apostles proclaimed, quoting that diocese's bishop, Frank Lyons, with whom the congregation has aligned. Other foreign bishops have similarly taken breakaway American congregations under their wings.
Litchfield said the congregation is a part of the Anglican Communion and that the Episcopal Church has abandoned its historic faith and connections to that communion by its actions.
But Bishop Gulick [head of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky] said in an interview last week that under church laws, bishops cannot adopt congregations outside their territories. A landmark Anglican report last year criticized such practices while also rebuking the Episcopal Church for causing disunity.
Gulick declined to say whether Litchfield would face discipline, saying he "would hope for an amicable solution." Bishop Stacy Sauls in the neighboring Diocese of Lexington has prohibited four clergy members there from doing official Episcopal ministry after they took similar breakaway steps.
Gulick said the church would continue to have substitute priests lead communion services until it finds a new pastor.
In the table below, taken from Pew's summary of findings, are the results for the question "Please tell me if you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable opinion of (insert)?":
(The table combines the 'very' and 'somewhat'; not reported above is the percentage "don't know/refused.)
Some things to notice; readers will notice others:
- The U.S. and Canada are very similar; the slight Canadian tilts away from Christians and towards Muslims could simply be from differences in the distribution of religious heritages. Given the negative attitudes many liberals have towards the Religious Right I'm a little surprised 87% of Americans surveyed had a favorable view of Christians. Of course the U.S. has a very large percentage of persons who report in survey that they are believers, but look at the similar percentage favorable for Christians in European countries where more are secular/non-believers.
- Among Christian-majority countries Great Britain has the largest percentage favorable towards Muslims (72%).
- Germany, which projects an image of tolerance, appears to be an outlier in Europe: only 40% of Germans said they had a favorable view of Muslims. Indeed: we can see that Germans as unfavorable disposed towards Muslims as Jordanians are favorably disposed Christians.
- Given that Turkey wants to join the EU, it comes as a warning that only 21% have a favorable view of the historically majority religion of much of Europe. Among Muslim-majority countries only the Pakistan has such a low percentage favorable to Christians.
Friday, July 15, 2005
[Bishop] Smith put the Rev. Susan J. McCone in charge of St. John’s. She will lead worship services at the church Sunday, and Smith also called a special meeting to discuss the takeover with church members on Sunday evening.Emphasis added. Very Biblical. If you are in Bristol on Sunday, think about attending church. The Episcopal Church welcomes you. (Link via titusonenine.)
[Senior Warden] Gonneville said he and McCone had a brief but tense introduction when he stood by watching diocese officials search for financial records on the computer in the church office Wednesday.
“I find it hard to believe that many people will be there this Sunday,” he said, adding that McCone could have a difficult time ahead. “She’s between a rock and the hard place. As a person, I could feel sorry for her, but under the circumstances, I don’t.”
Thursday, July 14, 2005
One of the starkest findings was the divide in views on religions. Most of those surveyed in nine Western countries, including the United States, Britain, Canada, France and Russia, say they have favorable views of Muslims. But Muslims surveyed have mixed views of Christians, and anti-Jewish sentiment is "endemic," the survey reported. Views in the two Asian countries -- China and India -- were less stark, although roughly half of the Chinese surveyed view Muslims and Christians unfavorably.See: Pew Global Attitudes Project.
Ben Jones, a former Georgia congressman who played the wisecracking mechanic on the popular series from 1979-85, said profanity and sexual content in the film make a mockery of the family friendly show. "Basically, they trashed our show," said Jones, who now lives in the mountains of Washington, Va. "It's one thing to do whatever movie they want to do, but to take a classic family show and do that is like taking "I Love Lucy" and making her a crackhead or something."Maybe they should have made the Dukes movie like The Brady Bunch : The Movie. Libidinous yet stuck in the 70s or 80s.
HARTFORD, July 13 - In the first step toward defrocking, one of the six Episcopal priests who has opposed the Connecticut bishop's support for the ordination of gay bishops was temporarily removed from his duties as rector of a church in Bristol on Wednesday because he had taken an unauthorized sabbatical.Picking up the story in the Republican-American:
. . .
Late last spring, Bishop Smith received a copy of a letter that the priest had given to the members of St. John's telling them that starting April 10, he was taking a sabbatical. Bishop Smith said the sabbatical was unauthorized for several reasons, including the priest's failure to seek permission. In addition, although it has been a year since St. John's repaid the $77,000 balance on a loan it received from the diocese, Bishop Smith said, Mr. Hansen, like the five other priests, had not paid dues to the diocese.
In a joint statement released Wednesday evening by rectors of the other five churches, they said the inhibition of Hansen is "unconscionable and represents a personal attack devoid of pastoral concern for the Hansen family or the parishioners of St. John's." They said Hansen was a committed priest who is "experiencing outrageous abuse" at the hands of Smith.Hmmm. There are two different stories being told here. Where does the truth lie?
According to Karin Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Connecticut, Smith recently learned Hansen had sent a letter to the parish indicating he was leaving the church and would help the congregation find another priest.
Hansen's situation is different because he did not notify Smith of his plans to take a sabbatical, Hamilton said.
"The bishop doesn't really know where Mark is," Hamilton said.
. . .
"The parish has rallied here at the rectory," said Ceil Hansen, the rector's wife. She said the diocese already has changed the locks at the church and other parish buildings, effectively barring the parishioners.
In his own statement released Wednesday night, Mark Hansen said he was "personally devastated" by Smith's actions, and the bishop had misrepresented facts and caused stress on his family and the parish. He said Smith was "fully aware" of family circumstances regarding specialized support services for his son that necessitated a sabbatical leave.
"In inhibiting me, the bishop has knowingly and willfully endangered my family's well-being and security," Mark Hansen said. He also said contrary to Smith's claims, St. John's has not been without support clergy for weekday coverage and Sunday services.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
The older son is steeped in the justice of Deuteronomy. The younger son should be stoned, not welcomed. The elder brother's rage is his dearest possession. When rages possess us there are no brothers or sisters—just other folk's sons and daughters. He wants the stones, not a party. He wants his brother to stand naked in the truth of his sin and not clothed in the robes of undeserved status.Could it be that what God sent Jesus for is this: to save us from the ultimate sin, the sin of exclusion? To save us from being Pharisees, God's agents of punishment for the sins enumerated in Deuteronomy? Or did he come merely to save us all from Satan's sins when we had gone astray?
So where is hope? Hope is in the fact that the father will not exclude this elder son either. He went to him as he sprinted to the more prodigal of the boys. “All I have is yours. I always track you both in my heart.”
Jesus would not exclude and it got him crucified. As Rowan Williams puts it so bluntly, Jesus does not so much impart truths from his Father but he himself is what the father says.
Contrast with what Philip Turner writes:
I took up a post at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest. Full of excitement, I listened to my first Student sermon - only to be taken aback by its vacuity. The student began with the wonderful question, "What is the Christian Gospel?" But his answer, through the course of an entire sermon, was merely: "God is love. God loves us. We, therefore, ought to love one another." I waited in vain for some word about the saving power of Christ's cross or the declaration of God's victory in Christ's resurrection. I waited in vain for a promise of the Holy Spirit. I waited in vain also for an admonition to wait patiently and faithfully for the Lord's return. I waited in vain for a call to repentance and amendment of life in accord with the pattern of Christ's life.(Emphasis on merely is added.)
"Amendment of life in accord with the pattern of Christ's life." Oh, I see. That would mean breaking mores in order to reach out to those cut off by the community because the community has made the judgment that they are unclean and undeserving of a steadfast love of God. Sounds radical to me. Doesn't sound vacuous.
Christians love; cowards hateIt is clear that the fire was started by persons who consider themselves to be Christians. News coverage of the fire here.
It was a small fire, but a loud message. A 225-year-old church in rural Middlebrook was damaged when someone set hymnals ablaze. The choir loft and a pew were burned, and smoke damaged the sanctuary.
The apparent motive was left in graffiti.
The congregation of St. John's Reformed United Church of Christ was left angry and in tears.
What was their crime to receive such punishment? Their denomination last week voted to consider opening its doors to gay couples who want to marry. The UCC's general synod decision to endorse gay and lesbian marriages is not binding on local congregations. It is beyond the ability of words to convey the nightmarish irony of such hatred.
First let's look at the history of the UCC:
Its forefathers left Europe to seek a new world in the early 1600s. By the 1700s, these Pilgrims took a stand against slavery.
o In 1773, a member of the church, Phillis Wheatley, becomes the first black woman published author. In 1785, Lemuel Haynes is the first black minister ordained by a Protestant denomination.
o In 1846, the first anti-slavery society is formed.
o In 1853, the first woman pastor is ordained.
o In 1972, the first openly gay minister is ordained.
o In 2005, the denomination's synod overwhelmingly endorses gay marriage in its churches.
The United Church of Christ takes each word in its name to heart. It opens doors; it doesn't close them. It welcomes all; it doesn't shove them aside.
For this, we should thank the church's members as well as its leadership.
For this, we should gather in prayer for them, no matter our own beliefs or faith.
For this, we should condemn any actions of hatred against this or any place of worship.
This morning the congregation of St. John's Reformed United Church of Christ will gather on the lawn under tents to celebrate its 225th anniversary. The planned sermon was on the Heidelberg Catechism, focusing in part on Matthew 22:
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it:
Love your neighbor as yourself.
It is a courageous church that seeks to live by these words.
It is a cowardly fool who seeks to express words of hate with masked malice.
Monday, July 11, 2005
In a dissent, Justice O'Connor said the majority opinion implied an "absurd argument" that, among other things, "any church might be replaced by a retail store" in the name of economic uplift.Meanwhile: John Fund writes,
In 1954 the Supreme Court declared in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. But that same year it also ruled in Berman v. Parker that government's power of eminent domain could be used to seize property in order to tear down "blighted" areas. It soon became clear that too often urban renewal really meant "Negro removal," as cities increasingly razed stable neighborhoods to benefit powerful interests. That helps explain why 50 years later so many minority groups are furious at the Supreme Court's decision last month.
Deut.23  "He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the LORD.
Isa.56  ... let not the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree."  For thus says the LORD:"To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant,  I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off.
Thanks to The Econoclast, Eclectic, for the pointer to Google Maps Transparencies.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Nelisiwe Bam, of the diocese of Natal, said the Gender Desk was necessary as it would bring awareness to young parents to treat their sons and daughters equally. "Who says that if a couple are courting the man must be older than the woman? It is the man, because he wants to play the father figure to the woman. Why is it correct for a woman in mourning to wear black and to go stay in Swaziland for three years, but a man who loses his wife can get married a week after burying her," said Bam. "In some dioceses women are not ordained because it is said that women are more sinful than men," she added.
In his Archbishop's Charge to the synod, Ndungane said it was important that the church helped empower women. "We must repent of the historic patriarchy of our faith which so often colludes with discriminatory attitudes in our cultures. We must expose and oppose gender violence and all forms of inequality in our midst." /UNQUOTE
Borrowed Dust highlights a portion of a letter by The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe, IX Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas:
I am aware the Christian Church has reinterpreted an absolute scriptural prohibition regarding divorce, scriptural support for slavery, scriptural prohibition on women leaders in the Church and scriptural support for both corporal and capital punishment. The Christian community made those reinterpretations because they were attempting to be faithful to the radical love of Christ for all people and believed they were being guided by the Holy Spirit in each of those issues. They were not guided by a narrow interpretation of an individual passage of scripture but by the whole grace-filled sweep of the New Testament. Now we, as a Christian community, must continue to discern the Holy Spirit in the issues before us. Human sexuality is an important issue, but it is not, I would suggest, the only issue or even the most important issue currently confronting the Church.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
. . .
Robinson's ordination, supported in 2003 by Bishop Edwin "Ted" Gulick and other representatives of the Diocese of Kentucky, was the "catalytical event" in the formation of Holy Apostles, said the Rev. Kent Litchfield, its founding pastor. Litchfield retired as rector of Christ Church last month.
Litchfield's church will be part of the Anglican Communion Network, an American-based group that formed after Robinson's ordination, and will be under the bishop of Bolivia.
. . .
Gulick was unavailable for comment yesterday. His principal assistant, Canon James B. Magness, said diocesan officials are assisting Christ Church in finding a new rector.
"We regret and are saddened that he's (Litchfield) done this," Magness said. "On the other hand, that doesn't change any of the processes that we have in the works for Christ Church of Elizabethtown." Magness said the decision to form a new church surprised diocesan officials. Christ Church will continue to have "a sound, solid corps of Christian people," he said.
At the beginning of last year, the church reported having 261 members in good standing, Magness said. Within the past year, attendance was rarely more than 100, he said, based on a review of church records.
. . .
Breakaway groups generally hold a view that the Episcopal Church has a belief system that is "monolithic," Magness said. But "the reality is that there are, and always have been, a variety of viewpoints," he said. Although he considers himself to be conservative, Magness said he believes that the Episcopal Church must make room for discussion among members whose beliefs differ within the religion. /UNQUOTE
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Q Later this morning, many Members of the House Republican leadership, along with John Cornyn from the Senate, are holding a news conference on eminent domain, the decision of the Supreme Court the other day, and they are going to offer legislation that would restrict it, prohibiting federal funds from being used in such a manner. Two questions: What was your reaction to the Supreme Court decision on this topic, and what do you think about legislation to, in the minds of opponents at least, remedy or changing it?(via The Corner)
Ms. Pelosi. As a Member of Congress, and actually all of us and anyone who holds a public office in our country, we take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Very central to that in that Constitution is the separation of powers. I believe that whatever you think about a particular decision of the Supreme Court, and I certainly have been in disagreement with them on many occasions, it is not appropriate for the Congress to say we're going to withhold funds for the Court because we don't like a decision.
Q Not on the Court, withhold funds from the eminent domain purchases that wouldn't involve public use. I apologize if I framed the question poorly. It wouldn't be withholding federal funds from the Court, but withhold Federal funds from eminent domain type purchases that are not just involved in public good.
Ms. Pelosi. Again, without focusing on the actual decision, just to say that when you withhold funds from enforcing a decision of the Supreme Court you are, in fact, nullifying a decision of the Supreme Court. This is in violation of the respect for separation of church -- powers in our Constitution, church and state as well. Sometimes the Republicans have a problem with that as well. But forgive my digression.
So the answer to your question is, I would oppose any legislation that says we would withhold funds for the enforcement of any decision of the Supreme Court no matter how opposed I am to that decision. And I'm not saying that I'm opposed to this decision, I'm just saying in general.
Q Could you talk about this decision? What you think of it?
Ms. Pelosi. It is a decision of the Supreme Court. If Congress wants to change it, it will require legislation of a level of a constitutional amendment. So this is almost as if God has spoken. It's an elementary discussion now. They have made the decision.
Q Do you think it is appropriate for municipalities to be able to use eminent domain to take land for economic development?
Ms. Pelosi. The Supreme Court has decided, knowing the particulars of this case, that that was appropriate, and so I would support that.
So the Supreme Court is analogous to God? It is Ms. Pelosi who is bringing church into state. Ms. Pelosi is either misunderstanding the question or being coy to avoid alienating any constituency. I think she's swift enough to know what the issues are so it is not a case of misunderstanding.
My reading of her answer is that she will not support legislation which would deny federal funds to a city for a project where eminent domain is used for commercial purposes. The Supreme Court has said the use of eminent domain for commercial purposes is permissable. It has not said the legislative branch of government may not limit funding for such projects; the Supreme Court has not said it will encroach on the legislative branch's power to decide how the public's money is spent. That separation of powers - not to be confused with separation of church and state.
In her answer she attributes to the Republicans the idea of cutting off funding for the operations of the Supreme Court. That would be a violation of separation of powers, but the Republicans have no such plans. The Republicans may not like this decision of the Court, but they are not threatening the powers of the court. Let's remember it was a Democrat president (FDR) who did that.
Monday, July 04, 2005
The United Church of Christ's rule-making body voted overwhelmingly Monday to approve a resolution that endorses same-sex marriage, making it the largest Christian denomination to do so. The vote is not binding on individual churches, but could cause some churches to leave the fold. Roughly 80 percent of the members of the church's General Synod voted to approve the resolution. They debated for about an hour before voting.From J. Gordon Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions (first edition, 1978):
On Sunday, a committee of about 50 United Church of Christ representatives gave nearly unanimous approval to the resolution, recommending that the General Synod approve it. It was supported by the UCC's president, John H. Thomas.
Traditionally strong in New England, the liberal denomination of 1.3 million members has long been supportive of gays and lesbians.
The United Church of Christ was formed in 1961, at the end of twenty years of negotiating its formation. It inherits the legacies of four major nineteenth-century bodies: the Congregational Church, the Christian Church, the Reformed Church in the U.S., and the Evangelical Synod of North America.
The Congregational Church had continued the tradition of the Puritan fathers. . . .
The vision of a united Protestant Church . . . which came to the fore in the creating of the UCC and which has made it a unique body in American religion has not been without its problems. Frequently, the membership has voiced disapproval of the synod's work and liberal positions on certain issues, especially those related to social action. One result was the vote in the early 1970's to disband the Council on Social Action. . . .
In 1975 there were 6,552 churches, 1,818,762 members and 9,536 ministers.
Honey, who shrunk the church?
And, from the Finke and Starke's Churching of America 1776-2005:
In 1776 the Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians seemed to be the colonial denominations. Of Americans active in a religious body, 55% belonged to one of the three. . . . in 1761, Ezra Stiles . . . proclaimed that 100 years hence there would by 7 million Congregationalists in the colonies and fewer than 400,000 Baptists. But by 1860 there were actually fewer than 500,000 Congregationalists in America, while the Baptists numbered nearly 2 million. . . . in 1776 the Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians dominated. . . . The, in just 74 years, the combined market total of these 3 bodies shrank to only 19.1 percent of religious adherents, even though the proportion belonging to churches had about doubled, to 34 percent. . . .
we argue that . . . the decline of the old mainline denominations was caused by their inability to cope with the consequences of religious freedom and the rise of a free market religious economy.
For Congregationalism, the shift approached total collapse. . . falling from more than 20 percent of total adherents [in 1776] to but 4 percent [8 decades later]. . . . The Episcopalians also fared badly in terms of their share of the religious market, falling from . . . 15.7% to 3.5% of all church adherents. . . . The Presbyterians fared better because they were able to achieve some growth on the new American frontiers. Their share declined, however, because their growth failed to match the expansion of the proportion who were churched.
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Western Europe is filled with Christian symbols -- Christian Democrats are a leading political party in several countries -- but almost entirely devoid of Christians. Christianity does not thrive when political parties take its name and capitol lawns showcase its precepts. On the contrary, it thrives when it stays as far from those things as possible. . . . Somewhere, sometime I'd like to hear that my fellow believers, when given the opportunity to erect some watered-down monument or display, said: "Thank you, but no. I don't want to exercise my rights." That would communicate more Christian faith than all the monuments and plaques and graduation prayers put together.Yep. (Via titusonenine.)
Friday, July 01, 2005
About the AllianceFrom the WSJ editorial pages:
The success of the Religious Right in appropriating the language of Christianity has led many people to become generally wary of religion in the public sphere and of Christianity in particular. The Religious Right has used the language of Christianity to promote an extreme and divisive political agenda that has helped polarize our nation. But foundational Christian values like compassion, justice and peace are largely absent from our political discussion. And there are millions of Christian Americans who share progressive views, or, at a minimum, are increasingly turned off by the extreme rhetoric and political agenda of the Religious Right.
The Christian Alliance for Progress is a national movement that started in Jacksonville, Florida among ordinary Americans who want to reclaim Christianity and change this current political picture. Members in the movement want to restore core values of Christianity while honoring diverse views about religion and Christian life. Many Americans, especially people of faith, are ready to hear from Christians who are tolerant, and who understand the many ways that our faiths impact our views of public life. The Christian Alliance advances a renewed, progressive vision of Gospel values and seeks to help Americans express this moral vision in our lives and in our politics.
We believe we have an obligation to speak out about politics from our deep beliefs; but we do so in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr, we speak to the government as conscience. We do not seek to be the master of the government. We affirm a well-established American commitment to a clear separation of church and state.
They're the furious faithful--the growing number of religious liberals incensed by the political influence of Christian conservatives. Last week another organization joined their ranks with promises to "reclaim Christianity" and challenge the association of vital religion with conservative politics.
As far as Patrick Mrotek, founder of the Christian Alliance for Progress, is concerned, the gloves are off: "We can no longer stand by," he announced at a Washington press conference, "and watch people speak hatred, division, war and greed in the name of our faith."
With a membership of perhaps 6,000, the Christian Alliance for Progress qualifies as the organizational equivalent of a megachurch--but not much more. Nevertheless, its policy goals are ambitious, ranging from debt forgiveness to universal health care. It proffers an agenda "founded firmly on the teachings of the Gospel." Some students of the Gospel may be surprised at how neatly such an agenda fits the Democratic Party platform: The alliance supports stem-cell research, gay marriage and abortion; it opposes the Bush tax cuts, plans to privatize Social Security and the war in Iraq.