Sunday, August 28, 2005

Charges filed against bishop :: Gay Religion

From Gay Religion we read an article originally appearing in the Waterbury Republican American. The opening paragraph:

Nineteen Episcopal priests and church leaders in Connecticut have filed religious charges against Connecticut Episcopalian Bishop Andrew Smith over issues stemming from his support of gay marriage and the ordination of gay priests.

Trail-blazing woman Episcopal priest dies :: Boston Globe


SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine --The Rev. Katrina Swanson, one of the first women to be ordained as an Episcopal priest, died Saturday at her home in Manset village. She was 70. The fourth generation of her family to enter the ministry, Swanson was one of the "Philadelphia 11," a group of women ordained in an irregular and controversial ceremony in that city on July 29, 1974. The Radcliffe graduate was ordained by her father, the late Rt. Rev. Edward Welles II, who had advocated ordination of women in a book published in England in 1928.
. . .
Swanson's status as a priest became official after the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women in 1976. Two years later, she became a rector of St. John's Parish in Union City, N.J., where she instituted bilingual Spanish and English services and established an after-school program for children.

Until then, Swanson's path was not simple. When she returned home to Kansas City, Mo., after the Philadelphia ordination, her husband, who was rector of an inner city parish there, had to fire her as his unpaid assistant priest to keep his job. Subsequently, Katrina Swanson was hired for a dollar a year as assistant priest at the Church of the Liberation in St. Louis. In 1975 Swanson signed a three months suspension from her deacon's ministry under the threat of an ecclesiastical trial. She was the only one of the Philadelphia 11 and the ordaining bishops to receive ecclesiastical punishment.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Future Catholic priest is married :: Courier-Journal


"I appreciate the church allowing me to do this," said Hopper, who has two grown children and is helping to raise a grandchild. "But if (the church) said no, I'd still say, 'Thank God I'm Catholic.' "

In fact, while the idea of a married priest is surprising to some, Hopper said the very idea of becoming a Catholic would have shocked him as a boy, growing up in Russell County in Southern Kentucky. "In a thoroughly Protestant part of the country, (Catholicism) was just not part of your radar," he said. He grew up in a small church in the Separate Baptists in Christ denomination and was baptized in the frigid December waters of Lake Cumberland.

Hopper, who married his high school sweetheart, Betsy, believed he was called to the Baptist ministry. But as he served a career in the Navy, he grew attracted to the Episcopal Church with its sacraments such as communion. Both Episcopalians and Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is spiritually present in the bread and wine, although they differ on the theological explanations, and the Episcopal Church was "safely Protestant" to him at the time. "Before, communion had been very special to me … a very profound way of remembering (Christ's death), but there wasn't a sense of spiritual presence," he said.

After leaving the Navy, he returned to Kentucky, attended two seminaries in Lexington, was ordained an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Lexington and served as pastor of a church in Covington for three years. He then served as a military chaplain for 12 more years and grew increasingly attracted to Catholicism. His wife and then he converted, as did his grown children and other relatives.
. . .
The divide between the churches has grown since the Episcopal Church's ordination of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003.

"When that broke, I was already halfway mentally there (to the Catholic Church) anyway," Hopper said. "But the Catholic Church's strong support of the traditional family, I have to admit was a strong part of what attracted me to the church." He said he was also a great admirer of Pope John Paul II's opposition to abortion, the death penalty and euthanasia as part of a "seamless" ethic on the dignity of life.

But he said he's grateful for his time in the Episcopal Church. "The journey became not something away from, but something toward," he said. "This was just the finishing of a journey that had started a long time ago."

Falls Church fells trees angering community :: Falls Church News-Press


The Falls Church Episcopal Church removed three ash trees from its property without a permit Monday, creating another rift with City of Falls Church officials and especially its neighbors in townhouses along E. Fairfax Street.

Howls of protest came from the neighboring Olde Church Mews Condominium Association, already upset with the aesthetic and safety consequences of the church’s plans to locate temporary trailers on its property to use in its church school programs this fall. A call by one of the neighbors to the City arborist, Jill-Ann Spence, brought Ms. Spence to the scene Monday, but only after the three trees had been felled.

She ordered that no further cutting be done by the church. While the church had filed a site plan permit for the temporary trailers at City Hall, it had not posted the bond for it and thus the plan had not been approved. The approval was required as permission for the trees to be removed.

City and church officials met yesterday morning to iron out the problem.

The Rev. Rick Wright, a pastor at the Falls Church Episcopal, told the News-Press Tuesday that, while the church understood its options to be either a relocation of the trees or their replacement, it went ahead with plans to remove them and replace them at a later date.

“When we contacted a tree specialist, we were told that relocating these trees was not an option, that they would die if it were attempted at this time of the year,” Wright said. “Therefore, we decided to go with the option of removing them and replacing them.”

“Our mistake was that we did not communicate our intentions with the City and the community,” he said.

In fact, on Aug. 8, Wright appeared before the Falls Church Planning Commission to explain the church’s plans and at that time indicated the trees would be relocated.

Monday, August 22, 2005 Michael Barone: Of minds and metrics (8/29/05)

Two generations ago Americans, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of deaths, changed minds in Germany and Japan. The Pew Global Project Attitude's metrics give us reason to believe that today's Americans, at far lower cost, are once again changing minds in the Muslim world.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A la 'Matrix,' vocations recruitment poster shows priest as hero :: CathCom

Comment on the State and Religion :: Becker


I will follow Posner and try to discuss the general principles concerning the State and religion rather than the details of these Ten Commandment cases. To me, the overriding reason why the State should not make any law respecting the establishment of religion is the case for competition and against monopoly. Competition allows for entry of producers, including new religious ideologies, such as scientology and bahaism, or new forms of atheism, that cater better to the preferences and needs of people, be they spiritual needs or materialistic ones. Monopolies restrict entry, and hence preclude the entrance of producers with new ideas, including religious ones.

Throughout history, religions have tried to use the State to give them a privileged and protected position, and in this regard have been no different than telephone companies and airlines that have used government power to keep out competition. This use of the State to foster particular religions is found in many Islamic societies that subsidize teachings and practices of Islam, the Israeli State that subsidizes Judaism, or some Christian nations that use taxes to pay the ministers' salaries. As Posner recognizes, many other groups also succeed in getting the State to support their activities, but two wrongs do not make a right. Governments should not support particular religions, or other groups that feed off the State.

Competition usually increases the demand for a product compared to monopoly. As Posner indicates, this is one of the arguments Hume made against State-supported religion. Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations made a similar argument, and a quantitative study by Lawrence Iannoccone tested Smith's claim. He found some support for the conclusion that religions flourished more when competition among religions is greater. The US stands out in this regard, for it has several thousand "different" religions competing for members, and it is more religious than other wealthy countries. However, fundamentalist Islamic countries and Christian countries like Ireland and Poland do actively support a particular religion, and they also have relatively high participation in religious activities. So they are counterexamples to the Hume-Smith-Iannoccone thesis.

Moreover, as Posner indicates, large state subsidies to one particular religion could lead to greater demand for religion than in an unsubsidized competitive environment. That is why I believe the case for free competition among religions comes mainly from competition providing opportunities for new religious belief systems, including atheistic beliefs, to cater better to people's desires.

The Establishment Clause fosters religion :: Posner


Although atheists are in the forefront of litigation against alleged establishments of religion, there is a powerful argument first made by David Hume and seemingly illustrated by the state of religion in Western Europe that an established church weakens rather than strengthens religious belief, and, a closely related point, that rather than fomenting religious strife (a concern of the framers of the Constitution) it induces religious apathy. Hume thought that religious officials paid by government would act like other civil servants, a group not known for zealotry, because they would have no pecuniary incentive to make coverts or maximize church attendance. That is a good economic argument: if you are paid a salary that is independent of your output, you will not be motivated to work beyond the minimum requirements of the job. A less obvious point is that a public subsidy of a particular church will make it harder for other churches to compete. The result will be less religious variety than if the competitive playing field were equal. A reduction in product variety (with no reduction in cost) will reduce demand for the product.

This point is less compelling than Hume's, because of offsetting considerations. The subsidy may stimulate demand for the established church by reducing the quality-adjusted cost of attending it--suppose the subsidy is used to build magnificent cathedrals or hire outstanding organists and choirs. The increased demand for the services of the established church may offset the lack of religious variety. Moreover, if the subsidy causes the officials of the established church to become indolent, this may offset its cost advantage and facilitate the competition of other sects.

Empirically, however, it does seem that established churches do not increase, and, judging from the experience of most though not all European countries (Poland is a major exception), probably diminish religiosity, consistent with Hume's analysis. However, his analysis is probably inapplicable to the attenuated forms of establishment that are all that are feasible in a religiously pluralistic society such as that of the United States (of course it may be pluralistic in part for Hume's reason).

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Political Power of the Pew :: Business Week

Extract (via Pew, my emphasis):

The Glaeser et al. study analyzes which groups end up with sizable political influence. The membership cannot be too small because then any perceived catering to the group loses too many votes from the bulk of the population relative to the small number gained. But the membership cannot be too large, because then targeted messages are impossible. The research shows that the most effective groups comprise a little less than half the population. The membership also has to be cohesive enough to facilitate private communication. U.S. churches fit with both characteristics. U.S. labor unions fit once upon a time, as well, but have since become too small.
The study referred to is: Strategic extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats divide on religious values. (Edward Glaeser, Giacomo Ponzetto and Jesse M. Shapiro) Forthcoming, Quarterly Journal of Economics. HIER Working Paper #2044 (pdf)

Point to ponder: How can these insights be applied to politics within the Episcopal Church? For instance, is it possible for one camp to send targeted messages without the opposing camp learning of the message. Concrete example: election of deputies to convention -- this is often a sleepy process, but the stakes have risen and not everyone is awake. Shall I wake up those who I think will side with me if it's likely that I will wake up others as well?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Immigration taboos :: Thomas Sowell

Let's use the information available to us. It saves lives.


If 85 percent of group A are fine people and 95 percent of group B are fine people, that means you are going to be importing three times as many undesirables when you let in people from Group A.

Citizen-of-the-world types are resistant to the idea of tightening our borders, and especially resistant to the idea of making a distinction between people from different countries. But the real problem is not their self-righteous fetishes but the fact that they have intimidated so many other people into silence.

In the current climate of political correctness it is taboo even to mention facts that go against the rosy picture of immigrants -- for example, the fact that Russia and Nigeria are always listed among the most corrupt countries on earth, and that Russian and Nigerian immigrants in the United States have already established patterns of crime well known to law enforcement but kept from the public by the mainstream media.

Self-preservation used to be called the first law of nature. But today self-preservation has been superseded by a need to preserve the prevailing rhetoric and visions. Immigration is just one of the things we can no longer discuss rationally as a result.

Religious belief 'falling faster than church attendance' :: Telegraph


The report identified institutional religion as having a "half-life" of one generation, as children are only half as likely as their parents to say that it is important in their lives.

The generational decline is too advanced to reverse, the report suggested, as the proportion of people who believe in God is declining faster than church attendance.

Dr David Voas, who oversaw the study at the University of Manchester, said religion would reach "fairly low levels" before very long.

"The dip in religious belief is not temporary or accidental, it is a generational phenomenon - the decline has continued year on year," he said. "The fact that children are only half as likely to believe as their parents indicates that, as a society, we are at an advanced stage of secularisation."

The findings appear to contradict the commonly accepted theory that people "believe without belonging" - the idea that religious belief is robust even though churchgoing is in longer-term decline.

According to the survey, which was based on 14 years of data from 10,500 households, the importance of belief in God fell by 5.3 per cent to 32.5 per cent between 1991 and 1999.

This compared with a fall of 3.5 per cent in the proportion of people who attended church services over the same period and a 2.9 per cent decrease in the proportion who said they were affiliated to a particular religion.

The Church of England reacted with disbelief at the suggestion that faith was declining, and said that parental influence was not the only factor in preserving inter-generational belief.
. . .
The study, which used figures from the British Household Panel and British Social Attitudes surveys, found that parents had the greatest influence on children's beliefs, and that although a child with only one religious parent was half as likely to inherit their faith as a child with two religious parents, the decline could be slowed by the fact that religious parents tended to have more children.

The study also found generational decline evident throughout the Islamic and Jewish faiths, but from a much higher starting point.

Newark Episcopal Diocese settles harrassment suit :: Abuse Tracker

Abuse Tracker is "a digest of links to media coverage of clergy abuse." Until the church reforms itself and becomes more interested in facing up to abuse rather than hiding it, digests of this kind are vital to holding the church responsible and accountable.

Brother Roger, 90, Dies; Ecumenical Leader :: NYT

A great man who stooped down to lift the world up has died. May those he inspired not lose faith in his message of hope. May the Taize community he founded live on.

Quoting the NYT article:

Brother Roger, the Swiss Protestant theologian who in 1940 founded a community of monks in Taizé, in eastern France, that became a worldwide ecumenical movement, died there on Tuesday. He was 90.

Brother Roger was stabbed in the throat during an evening service in his church by a woman who was attending the ceremony. He died almost immediately.

With his group of monks - including Lutheran, Anglican, Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox members - he sought to create greater unity among Christian churches, but his focus above all was to awaken spirituality among the young people in Europe who were growing up in a secular world.

Before the fall of Communism, he and his group had quietly created prayer circles among Catholics in Poland and Hungary and Protestants in East Germany that proved influential during protests in those countries. The Taizé prayer groups with their message of peace and conciliation eventually also reached into the United States - he has followers in New York - as well as Canada, Brazil, South Korea and elsewhere.

He became well known as both a mystic and a realist, a man with a humble personal style who was able to attract tens of thousands of followers. He also became a driving force behind the annual World Youth Day, being held this week in Cologne, Germany.

The Taizé center and Brother Roger drew tens of thousands of pilgrims a year. Although he was seen by many as a guru, he preferred to use the phrase, "My brothers and I want to be seen as people who listen, never as spiritual masters."

The French police said yesterday that they had taken into custody a 36-year-old woman from Romania who admitted to stabbing the monk with a knife she bought a day earlier. The woman, whose name was withheld, is to undergo psychiatric examination, the police said.

Religious and political leaders across Europe, many of whom had met Brother Roger, reacted with shock to his violent death.

Pope Benedict XVI, who knew Brother Roger personally, said at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo yesterday that the "sad and terrifying" news "strikes me even more because just yesterday I received a very moving and very friendly letter from him."

The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the head of the Church of England, said, "Brother Roger was one of the best-loved Christian leaders of our time."

Brother Roger was born Roger Schutz on May 12, 1915, in Provence, a small town in Switzerland, the son of a Swiss Calvinist pastor and a French Protestant mother. After studying theology at the University of Lausanne, he and a group of friends concluded that it might be possible to avert war in Europe if Christians could unite. He left in 1940 for the Burgundy region, where he bought a house in the village of Taizé, not far from the Roman Catholic Abbey of Cluny. He and a small group of theologians and friends gathered there and, among themselves, took monastic vows.

During World War II, even before the group became known as a community, the monks hid refugees, including Jews and resistance fighters. Although they were forced to leave by the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, the community moved to Geneva and quietly grew. There Brother Roger and other theologians first set out their principles: "to pursue joy, simplicity and compassion."

They were able to return to Taizé in 1944.

Although Brother Roger once said they only wanted to be a community of 15, the Taizé group now includes close to 100 monks from more than 20 countries. Its following grew rapidly during the 1980's and 90's, above all because of his special appeal to young people.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The NVCM and Mrs. NVCM are on holiday. Blogging will be light to nonexistent.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Pick and Choose version of the Bible :: Letter to Ed, Diocese of Southwest Florida

Via titusonenine:

Those upset by homosexuality typically cite the four brief Biblical admonitions against male same-sex behavior, emphasizing Leviticus. But they want their Bible both ways: quote it to condemn behaviors they find distasteful while ignoring the scores of other proscriptions — particularly in Leviticus — ignored by every Christian I know, myself included.

And what Christian would want to practice behaviors that are sanctioned by Leviticus, such as sexual relations with another man’s slavegirl? Or comply with Deuteronomy 22 and stone to death brides who are found not to be virgins? And if I buy St. Paul’s proscription against male/male sex, don’t I also have to buy his support of slavery, along with his versions of correct wifely behavior? While we’re at it, shouldn’t we also condemn women who defy the writer of Timothy and wear braids, curls, pearls, gold and expensive fabrics? Of course not — and that’s the point.

Jesus said nothing about same-sex activity. But he was absolutely clear about one issue pertaining to heterosexuals: that both parties in a marriage where the wife has been previously divorced are committing adultery (found in all three synoptic Gospels).
. . .
My faith centers on the Sermon on the Mount (and Plain) and the Beatitudes, on following the Way of the Cross and in trying my best to live the example of Christ. It does not use the Bible as a cudgel to attack other children of God whose “sin” is different from my sin. Being slaves to Christ, as St. Paul so wonderfully put it, is what it’s about. May we all come together under Christ’s banner to do His work.

— Bob Griffiths
St. Boniface, Sarasota


Titus 3.9 - But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable.

Titus 3.10 - After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions.

Titus 3.1 - Remind them to be obedient to rules and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sweatshop goodness :: Cafe Hayek

Go read it all. An extract:
Powell’s and Skarbek’s lesson is straightforward and important. But it's a lesson too often ignored by "activists" who would rather pose and prance as moral crusaders than analyze situations in ways that might actually help people. The lesson is summarized by what I call "The Economist’s Question: "As compared to what?" In and of itself, situation A is neither good nor bad; it is good or bad only in comparison with it's real alternatives. This lesson is a hard one, perhaps -- it's certainly an unromantic one -- but it's indispensable for sound analysis.

Yes. And it's the economist's job to help true activists understand alternatives.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Priest defrocked in Saginaw :: ABC12


An international rift in the Episcopal Church takes center stage in Saginaw. A priest has been defrocked for being out of communion with his bishop.
. . .
The Reverend Gene Geromel led his congregation at Saint Bartholomew's in Swartz Creek out of the Episcopal Church back in 2000.

Wal-Mart goodness :: New York Times

Wal-Mart hasn't just sliced up the economic pie in a way that favors one group over another. Rather, it has made the total pie bigger. Consider, for example, the conclusions of the McKinsey Global Institute's study of United States labor productivity growth from 1995 to 2000. Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics and an adviser on the study, noted that the most important factor in the growth of productivity was Wal-Mart. And because the study measured productivity per man hour rather than per payroll dollar, low hourly wages cannot explain the increase.

Second, most of the value created by the company is actually pocketed by its customers in the form of lower prices.
. . .
the debate around Wal-Mart isn't really about a Marxist conflict between capital and labor. Instead, it is a conflict pitting consumers and efficiency-oriented intermediaries like Wal-Mart against a combination of labor unions, traditional retailers and community groups.
. . .
Our research shows that Wal-Mart operates two-and-a-half times as much selling space per inhabitant in the poorest third of states as in the richest third. And within that poorest third of states, 80 percent of Wal-Mart's square footage is in the 25 percent of ZIP codes with the greatest number of poor households. Without the much-maligned Wal-Mart, the rural poor, in particular, would pay several percentage points more for the food and other merchandise that after housing is their largest household expense.
The authors are Pankaj Ghemawat, a professor of business administration at Harvard and Ken A. Mark, a business consultant.

I'm glad to enjoy the benefits of Wal-Mart without having to shop there.

United Methodist pastor refuses membership to gay man :: Simeon in the Suburbs

I don't ever recall being on the same side of a church issue with the Rev. Harmon, but he makes a very pastoral remark on this article. His regular commentors, however, show a good deal less Christian love and charity.
No surprise there.

The UMC placed the pastor on involuntary leave of absence.