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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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It is a fact well known to certain Episcopalians—both those who have left the Episcopal Church (USA) and those who have remained—that ECUSA and its dioceses have followed a pattern of suing any church that chooses to leave for another Anglican jurisdiction. But the full extent of the litigation that has ensued is not well known at all, either in the wider Church, or among the provinces of the Anglican Communion.
(Otherwise -- one would think -- it would never have been deemed to be conduct to be rewarded by this honorary degree, rather than this one.)
Your Curmudgeon proposes to do what he can to rectify this situation, by publishing an annual update on this site of the current status of all past and present cases in which ECUSA or any of its dioceses has been or is involved, from 2000 to date. Feel free to link to this post, to email links to it to other Episcopalians, and to send it to your Bishop -- and feel free to post any updates or corrections in the comments. In another update to be posted as General Convention approaches, I will publish a revised total for all of the money spent by ECUSA and its Dioceses to date on prosecuting all of these lawsuits (and, in the case of the second group below, defending them).
The lawsuits initiated by ECUSA and its dioceses to date are first listed below. They far outnumber, as you can see, the second list of the eight cases begun by a diocese or parish against the Episcopal Church (or a diocese). The listing endeavors to be as complete as I can make it. The first 83 cases, generally grouped by the State in which they each originated, are the legal actions filed since 2000....
Take the time to read it all (my emphasis).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
If the opponents of that law were arguing that the Indiana statute tightens the federal standards a notch too far, that would be compelling. But that’s not the argument the opponents are making.
Instead, the argument seems to be that the federal act’s concrete case-by-case approach is wrong. The opponents seem to be saying there is no valid tension between religious pluralism and equality. Claims of religious liberty are covers for anti-gay bigotry.
This deviation seems unwise both as a matter of pragmatics and as a matter of principle. In the first place, if there is no attempt to balance religious liberty and civil rights, the cause of gay rights will be associated with coercion, not liberation. Some people have lost their jobs for expressing opposition to gay marriage. There are too many stories like the Oregon bakery that may have to pay a $150,000 fine because it preferred not to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. A movement that stands for tolerance does not want to be on the side of a government that compels a photographer who is an evangelical Christian to shoot a same-sex wedding that he would rather avoid.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Economy The U.S. Government Politics in General State Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The evening concluded with the story of how Wendy Stovall, an assistant pastor in Utah’s Unification Church, started by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, found her way from Zimbabwe to a London park, where she met a friend from that faith.
Raised as an Anglican, Stovall found little comfort in that tradition after her divorce as a young woman. The Unification Church, she said, held many answers to the theological questions that troubled her. “God,” she said, “was taking a role in my life.”
That view was a common thread in the evening’s tapestry.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Women * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian Other Faiths Buddhism
Users should note that the extent of the data is too large to provide online as a page–turnable pdf, but once they have identified an item of interest within a particular issue, it is possible to browse through the contents of that issue as each individual page appears as a thumbnail along the top of the search box.
The Gallipoli Campaign by the Allied forces began on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915, (and would continue for over 8 months until 9 January 1916). Five days after it began, the Gazette edition for Friday 30 April 1915 was published. Its by now weekly column “The War Week by Week” (narrating the latest news on the war) carried an interesting analysis of the operation to attack German and Ottoman naval vessels at sea, and land British and French troops on both sides of the Dardanelles Straits (of vital strategic importance as the main sea route into the Russian Empire).
Wow-just wow. Read it all and follow the links.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Ireland * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Media Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland
The election of the erstwhile strongman Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s new president has set in motion what has been rare for the continent and even rarer for his country: a peaceful transition of power from a ruling party to the opposition.
The 72-year-old former general campaigned against the political establishment, courted the youth vote, and won an election broadly considered free and fair.
Mr. Buhari’s upset of an incumbent Nigerian president, said Philippe de Pontet, the Washington-based Africa head for Eurasia Group, a research and risk-consulting firm, is “arguably the most consequential political event in Africa in the last decade.”
Read it all.
Nigerians are so used to the idea that an incumbent should win presidential elections that President Goodluck Jonathan's failure to beat Gen Muhammadu Buhari needs some explaining. Here are five reasons why the opposition won
Read it all and see what you make of the list.
On Palm Sunday, Bishop James Njegovan of the diocese of Brandon announced in a pastoral letter that effective July 31, 2015, he will be retiring after 13-and-a-half-years of episcopal service.
“For some this announcement may come as a surprise,” he said in the letter. But, he added, without elaborating, that for others “as much as I may regret it—it will not be entirely unwelcome news.”
In an interview with the Anglican Journal, Njegovan said there was no connection between his decision to retire and the diocesan lawsuit currently underway involving his son, Noah Njegovan. Bishop Njegovan’s episcopacy has faced challenges in the last two years since his son was charged with fraud for his alleged use of a diocesan business credit card for personal expenses during his time as diocesan archdeacon from 2009 to 2012. Although the Crown withdrew its charges against Noah Njegovan in 2014, the diocese subsequently launched a $350,000 civil lawsuit against him, claiming damages of $250,000 for fraud, breach of trust, breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation, and $100,000 for punitive and exemplary damages. The bishop has refrained from involvement or comment on the case, citing his personal relationship with his son.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Canada
In his fourth democratic bid for Nigeria’s presidency, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari finally claimed victory Tuesday, beating incumbent Goodluck Jonathan by more than 3 million votes, according to early counts of the polling.
Results are not yet official, but Buhari has claimed victory, and according to media reports, Jonathan has called his rival and conceded defeat.
The election marks the first time since Nigeria’s 1999 transition from military rule that the People’s Democratic Party has lost the country’s presidency and the first time an incumbent has been ousted from the office.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Every religious tradition has its skeletons and its saints, and sometimes they are the same people. Paul is warning his hearers not to count themselves better than their ancestors, for they all depend on the same rootstock – a root that nourishes the olive tree or the grape vine we cling to as intimate connection to God as Creator of all. That root is why we are here, and it is also why the LDS church is here.
When General Convention shows up here just over 3 months from now, many of the volunteers and dispensers of hospitality will be our sisters and brothers from that tradition. Will we recognize their welcome as a product of the same root, or will we assume that they come from a different and unrecognizable species?
Complexity defines human beings and their relationships, which just might convince us of the otherness of God. Difference is part of God’s creativity, from the riotous diversity of the species of creation to the inner chaos of most human beings. Paul names it when he says he wants to do the right thing, but he does something else instead. Nevertheless, when people stay connected to that one rootstock, God can usually be found to bring something new and holy out of the mess.
Branches that seem radically different grow on the same tree and the same vine, even though we love to hate the ones who are not like us. We often in the church focus our attention on differences in reproductive customs and norms – yet both the grape vine and the olive tree has multiple ways to be generative. Flowers can be fertilized by pollen from the same plant or another one. The fruit and seeds that result are eaten by birds and animals and left to grow far from the original plant, yet they are still related. The vine also generates new branches from its rootstock or from distant parts of its branches. But all those kinds of vines and branches are related, however they come about.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Mormons * Theology
After the Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the RFRA applied only to the federal government, states responded with mini-RFRAs requiring this "compelling government interest" test in their religious liberty cases. Of these, Indiana's RFRA is the 20th.
There is no excuse for refusing to serve a lesbian couple at a restaurant and to my knowledge no state RFRA has ever been used to justify such discrimination. But if we favor liberty for all Americans (and not just for those who agree with us), we should be wary of using the coercive powers of government to compel our fellow citizens to participate in rites that violate their religious beliefs. We would not force a Jewish baker to make sacramental bread for a Catholic Mass. Why would we force a fundamentalist baker to make a cake for a gay wedding?
For as long as I can remember, the culture wars have been poisoning our politics, turning Democrats and Republicans into mortal enemies and transforming arenas that used to be blithely bipartisan into battlegrounds between good and evil. Now our battles over "family values" are threatening to kill religious liberty. And liberals do not much seem to care.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General State Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
A study guide designed to promote discussion about the House of Bishops' Pastoral Letter for the General Election has been issued by the Church of England.
The online document, aimed at individual and group study, includes a short summary of each section of the Pastoral Letter and offers questions for consideration and conversation.
Read it all and follow the link to the guide.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Freedom and duty often go hand in hand, as Indiana legislators quickly learned last week. After the state approved a law reinforcing religious liberty, a national protest claimed the measure could be used by religious owners of small firms to refuse business to gays and lesbians. In fast retreat, top lawmakers said the new act would soon be amended to prevent such discrimination.
This national upheaval, coming after clashes over similar measures in other states, seems to pit civil rights against religious freedom. In recent years, nearly half the states have followed a federal law in setting strong protections for religious practices. The measures insist that courts find a compelling government interest before imposing a burdensome rule on a person in the exercise of his or her faith.
Whether religious-liberty laws end up violating other rights and interests largely remains to be seen. In at least two cases so far, state courts have ruled they cannot trump anti-discrimination regulations. Yet the rhetoric on both sides about potential harm can often be overhyped and overgeneralized. Each case must be judged on its merits with a calm eye for accommodation and context.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Media Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Harmful alcohol use has been identified as one of the leading preventable causes of death and a key risk factor for chronic diseases (such as cancer) and injuries worldwide. Specifically, alcohol use is responsible for 5.9% – about 3.3m – of deaths across the globe every year. While there is an existing body of research on the economic impacts of sustained heavy drinking, however, less is known about the economic cost of binge drinking and the size of its impact on road traffic accidents and arrests.
Binge drinking is characterised by periods of heavy drinking followed by abstinence. It generally results in short-term acute impairment and is believed to contribute to a substantial proportion of alcohol-related deaths and injuries. Overall, ONS statistics would suggest a falling trend in the number of people who binge drink but it is still a sizeable problem – with four in ten young adults consuming up to eight units on at least one day in the week before being interviewed by the ONS.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Alcohol/Drinking Health & Medicine * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
In a sermon at the Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, Very Reverend Emmanuel Entsi- Williams, the Dean of the Cathedral, urged Ghanaians to eschew pride, to pardon each other’s wrong doing, and learn to speak and accept the truth at all times.
These, he said, would help resolve the current challenges the country was facing and clear the path for its development.
At the Ebenezer Methodist Church, Siwdo, the celebration coincided with the launch of the Church's annual Harvest.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Province of West Africa * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week Liturgy, Music, Worship * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Africa Ghana
Once again, it is crucial to note that we are talking about legislation, then and now, built on the same template as that used by a bipartisan coalition that including a stunningly wide range of secular and religious groups.
Thus, the Times of 1993 noted:
President Clinton hailed the new law at the signing ceremony, saying that it held government "to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone's free exercise of religion."Read it all.
J. Brent Walker, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs called the new law "the most significant piece of legislation dealing with our religious liberty in a generation."
His sentiments were echoed by many other members of an unusual coalition of liberal, conservative and religious groups that had pressed for the new law. The coalition included the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Council of Churches, the American Jewish Congress, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Mormon Church, the Traditional Values Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Bishop of Sheffield Dr Steven Croft says preparations are under way for the Queen's visit to the city's cathedral for her Maundy Thursday service.
The Queen will hand out Maundy money to 89 men and 89 women, the first time the service has been held in Sheffield.
Maundy Thursday recognises the service of elderly people to their community and their church.
Dr Croft said it had been a "huge amount of work for several months - in secret".
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK
An influential group of bishops have called on Anglican churches to remove their investments from the fossil fuel companies that are driving climate change.
In a declaration and set of requests aimed at focusing the church’s attention on the “unprecedented climate crisis”, the 17 bishops and archbishops said investments in fossil fuel companies were incompatible with a just and sustainable future.
“We call for a review of our churches’ investment practices with a view to supporting environmental sustainability and justice by divesting from industries involved primarily in the extraction or distribution of fossil fuels,” they said.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Bishop Nicholas has is one of 17 Anglican bishops from all continents who have produced a Declaration calling for urgent prayer and action to tackle what they call an “unprecedented climate crisis”. Their declaration The World Is Our Host: A Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice, released on Monday in Holy Week, sets a new agenda on climate change.
Bishop Nicholas was the Church of England’s representative on the group that produced the Declaration. Speaking after its launch, he said, “We accept the scientific evidence that human activity is more than 95% likely to be the main cause of global warming. This century began with fourteen of the fifteen hottest years ever.
“That our Declaration is issued in Holy Week and addressed to the Church on Good Friday is a mark of the seriousness with which we view the crisis of climate change.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Scientology’s power over its followers is coming under new scrutiny because of the HBO documentary “Going Clear,” which premieres March 29 and is based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book of the same name. As Wright reported, Scientology has long relied on an arcane lingo that helps induct adherents into founder L. Ron Hubbard’s complex mythology while also isolating them from the outside world. “I’ve had a lot of former Scientologists tell me,” Wright said to me, “that it took quite a while for them to sort out what was a real word and what was a Scientology term.”
Hubbard began his superlatively prolific writing career in the 1930s as a sci-fi author for pulp magazines like Astounding Science-Fiction. At the time he started work on “Dianetics,” the ur-text of Scientology, he was corresponding with a group of prominent sci-fi writers who were all influenced by the ideas of Polish-American philosopher Alfred Korzybski. Korzybski believed that semantic training — correcting the flaws in abstract language that block one’s understanding of concrete things — could help cure various emotional and physical disorders. In part inspired by Korzybski, “Dianetics,” published in 1950, introduced a wide array of neologisms, jargon, and acronyms designed specifically for Hubbard’s new program.
Hubbard liked putting quirky twists on existing words: “Enturbulate,” using the Latin root from “disturb,” means “to upset”; to “hat,” as a verb, is to train for something; “havingness,” “beingness,” and “as-ising” (making something vanish) also pop up frequently. Many of his terms describe the central practice of Scientology: the “audit,” a space-age twist on Freudian psychoanalytic therapy. An “auditor” questions the subject, called the “preclear” — who is held back from spiritual progress by the “engrams,” or recordings of traumatic memories, in his “reactive mind,” a negative unconscious contrasted with the “analytic mind.” The goal is to discover the “basic-basic,” the subject’s original harmful memory, which sometimes dates back to before birth.
Read it all.
We have confirmation that Fort St. John is losing another landmark main street building.
The Reverend Enid Pow is the Rector of St. Martin’s Anglican Church, located on 100th Street, and she’s confirming the building has already been sold, and is also scheduled for demolition.
“We’ve come to a position where we’ve needed to sell the building because it required far too many repairs for us to be able to afford,” says Rector Pow. “So we’re looking for somewhere else in Fort St. John.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market * International News & Commentary Canada
Thousands of supporters of Nigeria's main opposition party on Sunday demonstrated in the oil-rich state of Rivers, calling for the cancellation of elections locally because of alleged irregularities.
The demonstrators from the All Progressives Congress (APC) converged on the local offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state capital, Port Harcourt.
"We are here to register our protest that there was no election in Rivers state yesterday (Saturday)," Rivers state governorship candidate Dakuku Peterside told the crowd.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Expanding its efforts to create a culture of lifelong learning, the Diocese of Montreal has embarked upon a new three-year continuing education program.
The program, which began Jan. 1, 2015 and runs until Dec. 31, 2017, asks clergy to complete 60 hours of continuing education over a three-year period, as required by Bishop Barry Clarke for each licensed clergyperson in the diocese.
Using a list of competencies for ordination prepared in 2013 by the Primate’s Commission on Theological Education and Formation for Presbyteral Ministry, clergy members identify which competencies they want to work on, prepare supporting documentation and keep track of their self-registered courses in a log.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Canada * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
Raghuram Rajan got it started. On Jan. 15, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India jolted traders on Mumbai’s Dalal Street by cutting interest rates. The surprise was the timing of the announcement: Rajan wasn’t supposed to deliver a policy statement for another 19 days.
The weirdness continued that same day—in Switzerland, of all places. For three years, the Swiss National Bank had steadily bought euros on currency markets to keep the country’s franc from surging in value relative to the euro, and thereby choking off growth. Unorthodox, yes; but global financial markets had grown accustomed to the regular renewal of the bank’s stance. Without warning, however, the Swiss cut the franc’s tether. Swiss National Bank chairman Thomas Jordan also set the benchmark Swiss lending rate at negative 0.75%. In theory, a lower rate should put downward pressure on the franc; not enough in this case, as the franc’s value shot up by 18% in the days that followed. Many hedge funds bled red.
And on it went. The Danes cut interest rates four times in the span of a few weeks. As this issue of the magazine neared deadline, China’s central bank cut rates by a quarter of a percentage point and Poland slashed them by a half point. In the first 60 days of 2015, some 20 central banks had executed stimulus measures.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Credit Markets Currency Markets European Central Bank Stock Market The Banking System/Sector The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- * International News & Commentary Asia Europe * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Who (or what) is God?
Does prayer work?
Is there an afterlife?
Can you be spiritual and not religious?
These are just some of the questions TODAY is asking this week in the series "Do You Believe?" An in-depth look at faith and spirituality, this series will examine the many ways spirituality can be communicated and displayed, and feature real-life stories of survival and how faith played a role.
Read it all.
The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African-Americans, has broken its fellowship with Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) following its recent vote to approve same-sex marriage.
The Presbyterian General Assembly, the top legislative body of the PCUSA, voted last June to revise the constitutional language defining marriage. This arbitrary change of Holy Scripture is a flagrantly pretentious and illegitimate maneuver by a body that has no authority whatsoever to alter holy text.
Rev. Anthony Evans, NBCI President noted:
"NBCI and its membership base are simply standing on the Word of God within the mind of Christ. We urge our brother and sisters of the PCUSA to repent and be restored to fellowship."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
First, the Episcopal Church needs a strong voice within its deliberations that will continue to champion a classical understanding of doctrine and a disciplined approach to the alteration of the church’s discipline. That is, we need advocates who are willing and able to teach the doctrines of the creeds and to champion authentic Christian discipleship rooted in the sacraments and spirituality that have been handed over to us. The church’s discipline—those things that are not doctrine but around which the church orders its common life—needs to be carefully thought through and alterations to it should be backed by solid theology and connections into our core doctrine. A catholic movement within the Episcopal Church ought to be able to make this case with credibility and conviction. It shoud have a clear sense of why we do what we do and be able to speak sensible with those who disagree and those who are undecided.
Second, there are many in the councils of the church who are quick to dismiss anything coming from an “Anglo-Catholic” source as inherently problematic because of an assumption of bias and irrelevance. Almost every time I opened my mouth in meetings or offered a proposal, there were those on my committee who would immediately suggest that my recommendation was somehow anti-women and anti-lay. As a layman married to a female priest, I found this bizarre! Or, alternatively, that what I proposed was of no interest to the broader church because it only addressed the needs of a shrinking “boutique” spirituality that had no connection or application to modern church life. They had slotted me into a mental pigeonhole and, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, were ready to dismiss me beause of biases they assumed I held (but didn’t).
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Episcopal Church (TEC) Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
In an act of extraordinary heroism, a parish warden stopped an Islamist terrorist from detonating a bomb during Sunday worship at Christ Church Youhanabad near Lahore, Pakistan. Fifteen people were murdered during twin attacks on Christ Church and the neighboring St John’s Catholic Church on 15 March 2015, but the heroism of Zahid Yousaf Goga (pictured with his wife, Akash and three children) prevented further bloodshed.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Asia Pakistan * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
In all of these tragedies, the religious and ethnic minorities continue to be the most vulnerable communities. Among them are the Christians, our sisters and brothers in the Lord. They face the present danger of extermination or exile from their own region, a catastrophic assault on Christian life and witness in those lands. Many churches and Christians around the world have offered signs of solidarity and sympathy through prayer vigils, humanitarian assistance and advocacy for just peace. Despite these efforts, so many still feel powerless and incapable of making any impact and change. Yet we know that we worship a God of hope, in whom there is always cross, always resurrection. As Christians we are called to live in the hope Christ gives us and make this our witness in times of deep pain and strife.
During this Lenten season, the World Council of Churches invites its member churches and Christians worldwide to offer special prayers on Sunday, March 29 for all people affected by these wars. We ask these prayers especially for the countries of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt, where the indigenous Christian presence and witness have been continuous since the incarnation of our Lord, and from where the Good News has spread all over the world.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) the prospects for a free and fair Presidential election in Nigeria in 2015, and (2) progress made by the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission towards minimising the possibility of electoral fraud. [HL5761]
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The British Government is closely following developments ahead of Nigeria’s presidential and gubernatorial elections on 28 March and 11 April respectively. This vote will set Nigeria’s course for the next five years and beyond and as Africa’s largest democracy its impact will be felt well beyond its borders. It is vital the elections go ahead without any further delay on 28 March.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria England / UK
Under the shadow of Boko Haram violence, Nigerians head to the polls Saturday (March 28) to elect a president and a deputy in a vote observers say is critical for the country’s stability and economic progress.
In a twist that might have been difficult to predict, many Christians in Nigeria’s north are backing a Muslim candidate to lead their country away from the brink of violence and chaos.
Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north and the leader of the All Progressives Congress party, is challenging the leadership of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south who heads the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
Some Nigerians fear that another term for Jonathan would mean institutionalization of corruption and emergence of more Muslim extremist groups in addition to Boko Haram. And they are willing to pin their hopes on a Muslim candidate.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Laws that disparately impact Christians can protect others from Christian attempts to take over society. If these laws are couched in terms of religious neutrality—like the “all comers” policies for student organizations—then those with Christianophobia can endorse them without worry about being stigmatized as bigoted. (There is a similar phenomenon noted in race/ethnicity scholarship. Public policy measures that seem racially neutral can work to the disadvantage of people of color. Restrictive immigration policies are theoretically racially neutral, but disproportionally affect Hispanic Americans.)
This helps to crystallize the current conflict in our society between conservative Christians and those with hatred towards them. Christians face economically, educationally, and socially powerful individuals who seek to drive them from the public square. Many with Christianophobia are convinced that conservative Christians will drag our society back into the Dark Ages and must be stopped with any measure that cannot be defined as overt religious bigotry.
An important challenge Christians have is to convince such individuals that they have the same rights to influence the public square as anyone else. Learning how to communicate, and hopefully find ways to co-exist, with them will help determine whether there will be a persistent cultural conflict or if a truce is possible.
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Just because the Middle East’s descent into chaos is hardly the fault of the Obama administration, that doesn’t mean its policies in the region are not an egregious failure.
The situation in the region is unprecedented. For the first time since the World Wars, virtually every country from Libya to Afghanistan is involved in a military conflict. (Oman seems to be the exception.) The degree of chaos, uncertainty, and complexity among the twisted and often contradictory alliances and enmities is mind-boggling. America and its allies are fighting alongside Iran to combat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria but in Yemen, the United States and many of those same regional partners are collaborating to push back Iranian-backed Houthi forces. Israel and Saudi Arabia are closely aligned in their concerns about Iran while historical divisions between the two remain great. Iran supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria; the United States and Western allies deplore his policies but tolerate his presence while some of the rebel forces we are supporting in the fight against the Islamic State in that country seek his (long overdue) removal. The United States wants the states of the region to stand up for their own interests — just not in Libya or when they don’t get America’s permission first.
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Millions of Nigerians voting in closely fought poll
President Goodluck Jonathan faces Gen Muhammadu Buhari
Jonathan is Christian southerner, Buhari a Muslim northerner
Delays due to problems with biometric voter cards
Follow it and pray for the election today.
The most sharply contested election in Nigeria’s post-independence history wound down to a tense conclusion on Saturday amid fears that a polarized electorate would clash regardless of the outcome in a country split on religious, ethnic and sectional lines.
There appeared to be little middle ground between partisans of the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south hated in the north for mismanaging a bloody Islamist insurgency at steep cost, and his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, a northerner and a belated democratic convert whose Muslim faith and authoritarian past are feared in the south.
Voters on Saturday morning crowded around registration stations here in the north’s largest city, a packed metropolis of more than five million, as hitches in the process added to the tension. Election officials were more than two hours late in some places, and malfunctioning electronic registration machines — a new system designed to limit endemic fraud — stymied voters in others.
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This is just a wonderful picture.
...the challenge to be a Church with a mission to the nation grows more complex as society and communities change, and the size, strength and make-up of our churches also change.
50 years ago churches largely reflected the demographics of their context; today they are markedly different. Put simply, churches have not successfully retained young people as they move into adulthood.
Numbers attending Church of England services have declined at an average rate of 1% a year in recent decades. In any given week, less than 2% of the overall population attend our churches. In some areas, particularly outer estates and the inner city, this is less than 1%. The age profile of our membership is now significantly older than that of the population.
As I said in my Synod address in December, the harsh truth is that there is a massive cultural gap between what we do in our churches and the subcultures amongst whom we dwell.
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In the past six years, Boko Haram has terrorized the northeast region and burned down entire communities, killing thousands of people and abducting many more, including more than 200 missing schoolgirls.
The people driven from their homes are posing a challenge for Nigeria's electoral commission. The U.N. Secretary General's special representative for West Africa and high representative for Nigeria, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, says displaced people must be allowed to vote.
"These elections must be inclusive," Chambas says. "I got the assurance of the electoral commissioner that all efforts would be made to ensure that Nigerians internally displaced, as a result of Boko Haram terrorist activity, are not denied their franchise."
Nigeria is also grappling with a new biometric, voter ID card-reading system, which had hiccups during dry runs ahead of Saturday's vote.
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Stunningly, Mr Putnam finds that family background is a better predictor of whether or not a child will graduate from university than 8th-grade test scores. Kids in the richest quarter with low test scores are as likely to make it through college as kids in the poorest quarter with high scores....
There are no obvious villains in this story. Mr Murray suggested that the educated classes preach the values they practise by urging the poor to get married before they have children. But the record of those who tell other people how to arrange their love lives is hardly encouraging. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama preached the virtues of responsible fatherhood, to no obvious effect.
Mr Putnam sees “no clear path to reviving marriage” among the poor. Instead, he suggests a grab-bag of policies to help poor kids reach their potential, such as raising subsidies for poor families, teaching them better parenting skills, improving nursery care and making after-school baseball clubs free. He urges all 50 states to experiment to find out what works. A problem this complex has no simple solution.
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Last month I visited the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan known as Za’atari. With 80,000 occupants, the camp would be the fourth-largest city in Jordan. It occupies a vast desert plain, filled with endless rows of tents that are gradually being replaced with rows of metal-sided caravans. Za’atari is a dreary place, but it is teeming with resilient people.
Residents of camps like Za’atari make up only 20% of the nearly four million refugees who have fled Syria. The rest live in cities, where they are often unregistered and therefore ineligible for services. These refugees tend to live in squalor and are vulnerable to exploitation. Nearly 80% of the refugees are women and children. These figures don’t include the 12.2 million within Syria who are either internally displaced or in urgent need of help.
About 200,000 people have been killed in Syria, many after torture. A photographer, who documented these horrors for the regime but defected, smuggled his photos out of Syria; they were passed on to me by a Syrian non-governmental organization. These emaciated, disfigured corpses could be skeletal Jewish inmates photographed during the liberation of Dachau, but they aren’t. They are Syrian Muslims and Christians—and this is happening now.
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The NZ Bible Society has published a commemorative Defence Force New Testament to mark the centennial of WWI.
1500 of the newly minted New Testaments (with Proverbs and Psalms) will be gifted to the NZ Defence Force in an official ceremony next month.
Defence Force Chief, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, says in his foreword to the edition,
"This commemorative edition of the New Testament reminds us of this sacrifice made by New Zealanders 100 years ago, and of the book that brought so many of them peace and comfort as they fought."
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'...Bishop Matthews wrote she had informed the chairman of the commission Bruce Gray QC and Archbishop Philip Richardson “I am aware that this matter in the Diocese of Christchurch is causing a high level of angst on all sides. I decided I would be unable to minister effectively in this Diocese and also have membership on the Way Forward Working Group as time progressed. My resignation was a matter of maintaining my integrity and is in no way a judgment on the work that the Way Forward Working Group is attempting to achieve for the next General Synod.”
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The National Peace Committee for the 2015 General Elections, headed by former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar, yesterday met behind closed-doors with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja.
Members of the committee in attendance included the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Primate Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, among others.
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Most of the music for compline was by English composers, all immaculately sung as plainsong by the senior trebles and adults of the cathedral choir. The centrepiece of the service was Herbert Howells's motet, "Take him, earth, for cherishing", based on a poem by the Roman Christian poet Prudentius, and composed for John F. Kennedy's memorial service.
The RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, preached a sermon that emphasised the brutality of medieval wars and the tumultuous life and times of Richard III, a "child of war", a "refugee in Europe", whose reign was marked by unrest and who remained a controversial figure in the continual re-assessment of the Tudor period, "when saints can become bones and bones can become saints".
Baptism did not give holiness of life but gave it enduring shape, he reflected, describing the king as "a man of prayer, of anxious devotions". The Franciscans, Cardinal Nichols believed, would have buried Richard with prayer, even though that burial - which followed the ignominious parading of his naked and violently wounded body through the streets after the battle - had been hasty. He ended with the prayer that Richard "be embraced in God's merciful love".
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Much has been written about extremist groups such as IS and al-Qaeda, which directly threaten Westerners at home or abroad. But little is understood about Boko Haram, its leaders and its beliefs. This is partly because it has made little effort to explain itself to the wider world, unlike jihadists such as IS who reach out to potential recruits using social media, and partly because journalists are unable to enter territory it controls safely. Moreover, its limited regional focus means that most Western intelligence agencies have viewed it as posing little international threat.
This book by Mike Smith, a journalist, sheds light both on its crackpot ideas—Yusuf insisted that the world was flat and that rain was made by God—and on the deep contradictions faced by people who propose to return to a sixth-century lifestyle. When asked why he had computer equipment and hospital facilities at his home, Yusuf replied, “These are technological products. Western education is different. Western education is westernisation.”
Yusuf’s successor, Abubakar Shekau, is a particularly enigmatic figure who is known largely through the brief videos his group has released. In one he justifies selling into slavery the schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok: “Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell.” Each time Nigerian forces claim to have killed him, new videos emerge, though security officials question whether the same person appears in all the grainy images.
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Confronted by the devastating moral and physical effects of opium addiction, Brent became an uncompromising advocate of drug control. He urged international co-operation in eradicating drug abuse and served as president of the Opium Commission at Shanghai (1909) and the Opium Conference at The Hague (1911-12).
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An exodus from the mainly Christian quarter of Kano, the commercial centre of northern Nigeria, is taking place ahead of elections this weekend, because of fears of violence.
The main bus station in the Sabon Gari suburb is chaotic as thousands of people cram onto coaches heading to the east or west of the country.
"Kano is now closing for business because of the fear of the unknown," says the chairman of the bus station.
They are anxious to avoid a repeat of the communal violence that followed the vote in 2011 when those from different ethnic or religious groups were singled out for attack.
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Anti-IS Sunnis think they should be armed again, as they were when the Americans fought al-Qaeda in Iraq, IS’s predecessor. But nobody is willing to give them weapons. “We wanted a national army,” says Ghazi Faisal al-Kuaud, a tribesman fighting alongside the government in Ramadi. “Instead they formed the Shia equivalent of IS.”
And Shia distrust of the Sunnis grows at a pace that matches that of the losses from its militias. Overlooking Najaf’s sprawling tombs, gravediggers talk of the brisk business they are doing burying militiamen. “I’ve never had it so busy,” says one. “Not even after 2003 or 2006 [the height of Iraq’s civil war].” The Sunnis “never accepted losing power from the time of Imam Ali, so why would they now?” asks Haider, a Shia shop owner. “Wherever you find Sunnis and you give them weapons, you will find IS,” says Bashar, a militiaman. Many Shias feel that the fight against IS justifies them in excluding Sunnis from government and the security apparatus.
The state that IS wanted to build looks more unlikely than ever to become a lasting reality, and that is good. The ruined territory on which it hoped to build, though, may end up even more damaged than it was at the outset.
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“Each week that passes we learn of more brutal Boko Haram abuses against civilians,” Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “The Nigerian government needs to make protecting civilians a priority in military operations against Boko Haram.”
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In Pope Francis's latest gesture towards Rome's homeless, the Vatican said on Tuesday homeless people will get a special private tour of its museums and the Sistine Chapel.
About 150 homeless people who frequent the Vatican area - where Pope Francis has already set up facilities for them to have showers - will make the visit on Thursday afternoon, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said.
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We have no respect for a surgeon who goes in but does not cut deeply enough to cure nor a patient who backs out of an operation because it may hurt; yet people can go through their whole lives attending church, listening to searching exposures of human sin, without ever taking it to themselves, or meeting anyone with skill and concern enough to lay the challenge right in their own laps.--Experiment of Faith (New York: Harper&Row, 1957), p.22 (emphasis mine)
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It is doubtless crucial for the Church of England to reconsider its form and presentation, but it cannot do this until it has established what its essential core actually is, and made every effort to communicate and inspire the next generation to its identity. Unfortunately, many of the panellists remained so unified on their desire for radical change, that the real debate about what this core might actually be rarely reared its head. So is there something about the church’s liturgy and worship, its structure and communion, its history and heritage that remains important? If so, is the radical task not to discard these in the name of modernisation, but to excite those to whom they appear foreign? Several times during the proceedings, the discrepancy between the beliefs and opinions of the clergy and those of the laity were noted—evidence again of a church that is lost to its academics and fatally disjointed from its people. But is the radical task, therefore, to give the church up to the people, or to inspire those same people about the riches, dynamism, and truthfulness of the doctrines and Scriptures that lie behind it?
As the church considers its future, one thing is certain: it must not fight for its own survival. Perhaps it will have the strength to realise that there is, actually, nothing distinctive about it that truly needs preserving amongst the denominations, and will show the greatest sacrifice for others by facilitating its own demise. Or, perhaps, it will understand that there is something about the Church of England as the Church of England that is important—something that is not worth fighting for in itself, but which is so crucial to its illuminating truth, so essential to its gospel message, and so intuitive to its mission, that it becomes the foundation of its fighting “for others.” But have we given up on this task? Doubtless reform is needed. But what is the core on which it must be founded? Are we so clear on our own ideas of what needs changing that we can no longer see what doesn’t? Perhaps we still need to ask: What does the Church of England offer the next generation?
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A senior military official involved in the investigation described “very smooth, very cool” conversation between the pilots during the early part of the flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf. Then the audio indicated that one of the pilots left the cockpit and could not re-enter.
“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” the investigator said. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.”
He said, “You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”
While the audio seemed to give some insight into the circumstances leading up to the Germanwings crash, it also left many questions unanswered.
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AW: So much has been written about World War II and the Holocaust, yet you’ve come up with something entirely fresh and different. Take us through how and why you decided to focus on two adolescents, Marie-Laure and Werner, each saddled with their own hardships, coming of age in France and Germany during that time.
AD: Someone told me once that if you took all the pages of all the books written about WWII and dropped them on Germany, it’d cover the whole country! Who knows if that’s actually true, but I was acutely aware that there was a lot of writing about WWII already out there — much of it breathtakingly good, and written by people for whom the war was memory, not history. So for most of the 10 years I worked on All the Light, I was terrified that I’d settle into a pattern of narrative that had lost some of its power because it had been already done.
One strategy I tried was to mimic the language of fairy tale and allegory: the boy, the girl, the ogre, the cursed gemstone, the imaginary citadel. And another was to try balance that sense of otherworldliness against a hyper-realism; to detail everything as carefully as I could. I thought maybe the juxtaposition of those two techniques might help the novel feel different, in the way a Borges or a Calvino story always feels different, even when they’re describing our world.
Eventually I had to keep telling myself the old humanist dictum: the path to the universal runs through the individual.
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Councillors are to discuss how best to manage large-scale funerals after one for a traveller from Cheshire attracted hundreds of mourners.
Holy Trinity Church in Blacon and Chester Crematorium were packed for the service marking 54-year-old Elton man "Pudgie" Evans's life on 30 January.
Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire Constabulary worked together to manage the funeral.
Local residents were advised beforehand and roads shut for the funeral cortege....
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So what does our fascination with tales of the afterlife tell us? A few things, but the most important recurring theme in Entertaining Judgment is that we partake in narratives that ease anxiety about our lives. In other words, stories about the hereafter make us feel better about the here.
Tales of ghosts, for instance, “beckon us forward toward our future . . . to become the people we are called to become.” Stories from people who returned from the dead might “shine a light into the unknown and tell us something that might assuage our anxieties”; they tell us that human beings can change and grow. Vampire stories satisfy “our desire for an eternal life in which we will be perfected” and “tap into our spiritual and emotional desires to have that which is good now . . . and could only be better when we are perfected spiritual beings.”
Demons and devils may be symptoms of our failure to “take ourselves and our own evil seriously.” Angels teach us that “we are endowed with choice . . . that it is really up to us.” Tales of a heavenly realm have “helped to dry the tears of the suffering and offered the possibility of some greater meaning in our earthly lives.” Hell, too, can assuage doubts about the world’s goodness: For “every real-life spectacle that appalls or irritates—racial cleansing, chemical warfare, children kidnapped and held as sexual slaves, stop-and-go traffic—hell offers itself as a partial explanation, and as a powerful [image] that helps to explain, at least to some extent, the existence of such cruelty and suffering.”
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For reporting purposes at Barna, we often combine atheists and agnostics into one group, which we call skeptics....
[There]..are five demographic shifts among skeptics in the past two decades.
They are younger. Skeptics today are, on average, younger than in the past. Twenty years ago, 18 percent of skeptics were under 30 years old. Today that proportion has nearly doubled to 34 percent—nearly one-quarter of the total U.S. population (23%, compared to 17% in 1991). By the same token, the proportion of skeptics who are 65 or older has been cut in half, down to just 7 percent of the segment.
They are more educated. Today’s skeptics tend to be better educated than in the past. Two decades ago, one-third of skeptics were college graduates, but today half of the group has a college degree.
More of them are women....
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The Ministry Division of the Church of England has expressed confidence in St Stephen's House, Oxford, in an inspection report which praised the college for its "clear and distinctive identity which informs all aspects of its life".
The report published today spoke of "a community at ease and comfortable with embracing a variety of perspectives and traditions on numerous issues whilst situated clearly within a distinct theological and spiritual tradition."
St Stephen's House received 12 out of a possible 16 'confidence' outcomes, covering a range of criteria including practical and pastoral theology, teaching, and ministerial, personal and spiritual formation. The report also made 20 recommendations, noting that "the majority of these are for making good practice better rather than highlighting substantive problems."
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U.S. auto production is nearing all-time highs on the back of strong domestic demand and steady export increases. But American-made cars and trucks are increasingly loaded with parts imported from Mexico, China and other nations.
The U.S. imported a record $138 billion in car parts last year, equivalent to $12,135 of content in every American light vehicle built. That is up from $89 billion, or $10,536 per vehicle, in 2008—the first of two disastrous years for the car business. In 1990, only $31.7 billion in parts were imported.
The trend casts a cloud over the celebrated comeback of one of the nation’s bedrock industries. As the inflow of low-cost foreign parts accelerates, wages at the entry level are drifting away from the generous compensation packages that made car-factory jobs the prize of American manufacturing.
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U.S. veterans gather on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the one the most iconic battles of World War II.
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Michael Geoffrey Hare Duke was born in Calcutta; his father was a Scots/Irish civil engineer who helped build the Indian railway system. He would become well-known in Lancashire for the welcome he afforded members of the Indian and Pakistani communities in the cotton towns when he was Vicar of St Mark's, Bury, from 1956-62. He would also recall the kindnesses of the Indian women who had administered to his every need as a child.
Sent home to Bradfield at the age of 12, he was much influenced by the robust Christian views of his headmaster, TD Hills, who had been a House Master at Eton. Duke recalled to me with embarrassed pleasure how he had thrilled both Hills and himself by beating his Etonian opponent in the Quadrangular boxing competition, and going on to a points victory against an even tougher opponent from Haileybury and Imperial Services College.
From Bradfield Hare Duke became a sub-lieutenant in the Navy towards the end of the Second World War. "When as a 19-year-old you have gone to your bunk every night wondering whether a U-Boat would strike your ship, you become a bit cautious of sending a huge armada to the South Atlantic."
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[James] Eversull's parents were determined to help him. The family drove almost 400 miles from their home in Louisiana to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
St. Jude was named after the patron saint of lost causes for a reason.
"These children were often turned away," said Dr. Donald Pinkel about his years as a young doctor in the 1950s. He went on to become the first medical director at St. Jude. "A lot of physicians just didn't want to handle this situation — it was so sad."
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The film,Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, is based on Lawrence Wright’s similarly titled book-length exposé and will premiere on March 29.
Since news emerged of the documentary, Scientologists have been trying to counter the film’s arguments which isn’t at all surprising considering Scientology’s notorious methods for dealing with its critics in the past.
The film, itself, covers one such stoush the Church had with the US Internal Revenue Service who was ready to rule that Scientology should pay tax because it isn’t a religion.
David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology, retaliated by persuading thousands of Scientologists to sue individual officials of the agency.
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For middle-class Americans, it’s never been easier to feel consumed by consumption. Despite the recession, despite a brief interlude when savings rates shot up and credit-card debt went down, Americans arguably have more stuff now than any society in history. Children in the U.S. make up 3.1% of the world’s kid population, but U.S. families buy more than 40% of the toys purchased globally. The rise of wholesalers and warehouse supermarkets has packed our pantries and refrigerators with bulk items that often overflow into a second fridge. One-click shopping and same-day delivery have driven purchasing to another level altogether, making conspicuous consumption almost too easy.
Our stuff has taken over. Most household moves outside the U.S. weigh from 2,500 lb. to 7,500 lb. (1,110 kg to 3,400 kg). The average weight of a move in the U.S. is 8,000 lb. (3,600 kg), the weight of a fully grown hippo. An entire industry has emerged to house our extra belongings–self-storage, a $24 billion business so large that every American could fit inside its units simultaneously.
It would be one thing if all our possessions were making us happier, but the opposite seems to be occurring. At least one study shows that a home with too much stuff can actually lead to higher levels of anxiety. “These objects that we bring in the house are not inert,” says UCLA anthropologist Elinor Ochs, who led a decade-long study on hyperacquisition. “They have consequences.”
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The road from St. Matthew's brings you to the front line, just six miles from the outskirts of Mosul. Every town and village between here and the occupied city is in the hands of the Islamic State. And now, we're told, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, there are no Christians left inside Mosul.
Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: They take everything from us, but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.
Nicodemus Sharaf is the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, one of about 10,000 Christians who fled the city. We found him living as a refugee in the Kurdish capital, Erbil. He said ISIS fighters were already inside Mosul when he escaped.
Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: I didn't have any time to take anything. I was told I had five minutes to go. Just I took five books that are very old.
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nd so his question to all those who have the freedom to speak in the Church and for the Church is 'who do you really speak for?' But if we take seriously the underlying theme of his words and witness, that question is also, 'who do you really feel with?' Are you immersed in the real life of the Body, or is your life in Christ seen only as having the same sentiments as the powerful? Sentir con la Iglesia in the sense in which the mature Romero learned those words is what will teach you how to speak on behalf of the Body. And we must make no mistake about what this can entail: Romero knew that this kind of 'feeling with the Church' could only mean taking risks with and for the Body of Christ – so that, as he later put it, in words that are still shocking and sobering, it would be 'sad' if priests in such a context were not being killed alongside their flock. As of course they were in El Salvador, again and again in those nightmare years.
But he never suggests that speaking on behalf of the Body is the responsibility of a spiritual elite. He never dramatised the role of the priest so as to play down the responsibility of the people. If every priest and bishop were silenced, he said, 'each of you will have to be God's microphone. Each of you will have to be a messenger, a prophet. The Church will always exist as long as even one baptized person is alive.' Each part of the Body, because it shares the sufferings of the whole – and the hope and radiance of the whole – has authority to speak out of that common life in the crucified and risen Jesus.
So Romero's question and challenge is addressed to all of us, not only those who have the privilege of some sort of public megaphone for their voices. The Church is maintained in truth; and the whole Church has to be a community where truth is told about the abuses of power and the cries of the vulnerable. Once again, if we are serious about sentir con la Iglesia, we ask not only who we are speaking for but whose voice still needs to be heard, in the Church and in society at large. The questions here are as grave as they were thirty years ago. In Salvador itself, the methods of repression familiar in Romero's day were still common until very recently. We can at least celebrate the fact that the present head of state there has not only apologized for government collusion in Romero's murder but has also spoken boldly on behalf of those whose environment and livelihood are threatened by the rapacity of the mining companies, who are set on a new round of exploitation in Salvador and whose critics have been abducted and butchered just as so many were three decades back. The skies are not clear: our own Anglican bishop in Salvador was attacked ten days ago [in 2010] by unknown enemies; but the signs of hope are there, and the will to defend the poor and heal the wounds.
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Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to thy Word who abideth, thy Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.
It was midnight when Babagana crept out of the Boko Haram hideout that had been his home for three days. Once he made his escape, he walked through the forest for hours before he found help. Like the other boys conscripted by the militants, he had been told that he would be hunted down and killed if he deserted.
“I didn’t leave with anything,” Babagana told me. “When the chance came to escape, I only had my pants on. I ran almost naked.”
Babagana was just 16 when militants invaded his town in northeastern Nigeria last May, butchering his parents as he watched, burning down his home, and forcing him to become one of thousands of Boko Haram soldiers.
Babagana still vividly recalls his involuntary induction into a world of misery. Boko Haram militants invaded the rural town of Gamboru in Borno State, burnt down houses and demanded that the local children be handed over to them. Parents who objected were killed, and a couple of children were forcefully taken.
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The Shaughnessys celebrate Christmas, Harry says, for some of the same reasons other people do: "Because it's a great time to get together, care for each other and have a party."
"And who doesn't want a tree with pretty lights in their house?" Charlotte chimes in.
Since they aren't Christian anymore, the Shaughnessys shape their own holiday traditions. One year, they stretched Christmas across a week, with celebrations leading up to December 25. "That sounds so Jewish now," Harry jokes. It was anticlimactic, Grace says. When Christmas came, they had nothing left to give, nowhere to go. The ritual was not repeated.
But the Flying Spaghetti Monster stuck.
The Church of the FSM, as "Pastafarians" call it, is a faux religion founded in 2005 to satirize creationism. It has since become a symbol for everything atheists find silly and superstitious about faith.
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Finding the International Museum of the Reformation is almost as complicated as explaining the historical movement it chronicles.
You must first navigate the labyrinth of Geneva’s Old Town, down narrow, cobblestone streets and then up a long flight of stone stairs, skirting the shadows cast by a towering 13th-century cathedral. Finally you arrive at the tranquil courtyard of the Maison Mallet, the 14-room 18th-century mansion housing the museum, which opened in 2005.
From the outset, its director, Isabelle Graesslé, knew she faced a challenge. “It’s not easy to do a museum around a concept,” she said with a chuckle.
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Both Stephen Cottrell and Michael Kitchen were born in Essex, both are the sons of non-religious parents and both went on to study religion. But that is where the similarities end.
Michael Kitchen laughs and shakes his head when asked the inevitable question: do you have a light sabre?
He does not. In fact he is not particularly keen on the Star Wars films. Though he does have a robe.
Born and raised in Saffron Walden, Mr Kitchen has been a member of the Temple of the Jedi Order for seven years. His Jedi name is Akkarin and he is a member of the order's inner sanctum, the council.
Stephen Cottrell was born in Leigh-on-Sea and has been the Bishop of Chelmsford since 2010. A founding member of the College of Evangelists, he has also served on the Church of England's Mission, Renewal and Evangelism committee.
But how do their spiritual journeys compare, what do they make of each other's beliefs and does Jediism shed any light on the world of "new religions"?
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Radical Islamic groups are using high-quality videos to recruit young Muslims in the US and Europe to join their fight. Now, a Somali Muslim immigrant in Minnesota is fighting back with his own videos—an animated series called “Average Mohamed” that counters extremist ideas about Islam.
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At the beginning of December  I went on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for a few days to the north of Iraq, to Kurdistan, first to Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and then a three-hour journey to Dohuk. I went to see and know at firsthand the situation of the many thousands displaced by the forces of the Islamic State, which in August last year over-ran Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and then swept across the Nineveh plain, with its many Christian villages.
In one camp, in the grounds of Mar Elias Church, they were putting up their Christmas crib. It was in a tent, a tent like those which had been the shelter for families who had had to flee from their homes, their culture, their churches. As they put up the tent, and placed the nativity figures in it, of Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child, with the shepherds and the angels, it was a indeed a reminder of the reality of the Incarnation: God chose to come down into our midst – he pitched his tent among us.
The advance of ISIS forces, with their distorted fanatical interpretation of Islam, and appalling associated brutality, echoes the invasion of the Mongols centuries earlier, which likewise had devastating consequences for the Christian population of what is now Iraq. Christians and Christianity in the Middle East are under threat as never before. They find themselves ground so often between upper and nether millstones – between the conflict between Sunni and Shia, or between Israel and Palestine.
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Teachers in Cranston, Rhode Island, have filed a lawsuit against the city's school department after their requests to observe Good Friday were denied in a move they say violated their civil rights.
About 200 teachers contacted the union to report that they were being prevented from taking the day off, although they had provided more than the contractually required 24 hours' notice, said Liz Larkin, president of the Cranston Teachers' Alliance.
However, teachers' requests to observe the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah in the fall were approved, Larkin said.
"That's my big concern here, is equity," Larkin said.
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It is an off-season like no other in the National Football League. Young players, with many games and millions of dollars potentially ahead of them, are walking away from the country’s most popular sport.
Linebacker Chris Borland of the San Francisco 49ers, one of the top rookies in the N.F.L. last season, is the latest case, and perhaps the most noteworthy. He said Monday that he was retiring because of concerns about his safety, and his decision may have ripple effects well beyond the professional ranks.
“Somebody said we’re at the beginning of the beginning, and that might be true,” Jeff Borland, Chris’s father, said Tuesday in a telephone interview regarding whether his son’s decision would influence parents of young football players.
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Steven Gerrard's final appearance as a Liverpool player against bitter rival Manchester United lasted just 38 seconds as his side slipped to a 2-1 defeat in a crucial English Premier League game Sunday.
Gerrard, introduced as a second half substitute to revive the flagging home side, was given his marching orders for a stamp on Ander Herrera.]
Down to 10 men, Liverpool quickly fell 2-0 behind to a second from Juan Mata before a 69th minute goal from Daniel Sturridge ensured a rousing finale at Anfield.
Manchester United nerves were hardly helped by Wayne Rooney's failure to convert a penalty in injury time, but Louis van Gaal's men held on for a crucial three points in the battle for Champions League spots.
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The way to eliminate potholes, or at least diminish their number, is to keep the roads in good shape, with regular resurfacing. But far less is being done than required. And the same goes for the rest of the infrastructure in the US: not just roads, but ports and airports, bridges, railways and power grids, those boring basics that keep a country running. America, to believe the title of a recent television documentary on the subject, is falling apart – literally.
Not so long ago the opposite was true. The US was the shining future that had already arrived. It had the best technology, the most modern cities, the fanciest cars, the most up-to-date airports. The jewel in the crown was the interstate highway system, built in the 1950s and 1960s to knit a continent together.
Alas, sooner or later, youthful beauty fades. And so it is with America’s infrastructure. Many of those projects date back to the immediate post-war years, even to FDR’s New Deal to counter the Great Depression. More than half a century later, they’re in desperate need of overhaul or replacement.
Surveys merely confirm America’s relative slide.
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...the trickle of volunteers has come from across the country. On Tuesday, a 47-year-old Air Force veteran with a checkered work history was charged in Brooklyn with trying to join the Islamic State. Two weeks earlier, a computer-savvy 17-year-old boy in Virginia was charged with helping a man a few years older make contact with the terrorist group and get to Syria.
The cases raise a pressing question: Is the slick online propaganda that ISIS has mastered enough to lure recruits, or is face-to-face persuasion needed? A federal grand jury in Minneapolis is investigating whether an Islamic State recruiter gave Mr. Nur and Mr. Yusuf cash to buy plane tickets.
“No young person gets up one day and says, ‘I’m going to join ISIS,’ ” said Abdirizak Bihi, 50, a Somali activist who has worked against radicalization since his nephew left Minnesota in 2008 and was killed fighting for the Shabab.
“There has to be someone on the ground to listen to your problems and channel your anger,” Mr. Bihi said. “Online is like graduate studies.”
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Boko Haram forcibly married scores of women in Bama after seizing it in September. Nigeria's military announced the recapture of the town on Monday.
Witnesses who were taken under military protection this week to Borno's capital, Maiduguri, 73 kilometres (45 miles) away, said the killing of women began 10 days before Bama was liberated.
The Islamists said if they kill their wives, "they would remain pious until both of them meet again in heaven, where they would re-unite," said Salma Mahmud, another witness.
"He informed them of the situation and the consequence of the takeover of the town by the advancing troops. He warned them that when soldiers killed them, they would take their wives back to the society where they would be forced to marry and live with infidels. The commander said it would be better for them to kill their wives and send them to heaven," the mother-of-seven said.
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When she repeated this belief at school, the teacher ridiculed her in front of the class and said only "religious nutters" held such beliefs.
This is just one of the stories of discrimination against Christians in the workplace uncovered in a new consultation, which also found evidence that atheists were being discriminated against by some Christians.
Employees feel under increasing pressure to keep their religion hidden at work and they also feel discriminated against when it comes to wearing religious symbols or expressing their beliefs, the consultation found.
Christians in particular feel discriminated against.
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A £100m recruitment plan for the Church of England has been criticised as a raid on church assets that has not been properly thought out and amounts to “spending the family silver”.
The proposals, submitted last month, are intended to address what Andreas Whittam Smith, head of the Church Commissioners, calls a “relentless decline in membership”. Mr Whittam Smith has previously said this has resulted in the average age of Anglican congregations approaching 70.
The commissioners manage the Church’s historic and investment assets, worth slightly more than £6bn at the end of 2013. Mr Whittam Smith wants to use about £100m of that to boost the number of ordained priests by 50 per cent.
This is in addition to the £2m already approved to train senior clergy and potential leaders in a “talent management” programme, a controversial proposal made in a report chaired by Stephen Green, the former chairman of HSBC and an ordained minister in the Church.
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A new project bringing together science and religion is unlikely to end the long and sometimes bitter debate over the relationship between the two.
However, it will offer trainee priests and Christians who are scientists the chance to engage with contemporary science.
The project - backed by the Church of England - is to receive more than £700,000 to promote greater engagement between science and Christians, as part of a three-year Durham University programme.
Trainee priests and others will be offered access to resources on contemporary science, and the scheme will research attitudes towards science among Church leaders.
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"Matthew was crazy about theology, a total idealist about studying theology. … But he wanted to learn history and philosophy and art and everything else," said Pentiuc. "I don't know anyone else who read so much and absorbed so much, so soon. It was going to take him 10 or 15 years to fully synthesize what he knew and to find his mature voice."
Friends joked that they could say "Go!" and challenge Baker to connect random subjects – such as "Duran Duran," a rock band, "GMOs," a genetics term, and "Apollinarianism," a 4th Century heresy – and "he would come up with authentically deep links between them," said Damick.
It's easy to imagine three or more books emerging from existing lectures, papers and research by Baker, noted Damick. But all the books and academic tributes in the world cannot answer the ultimate questions being asked by loved ones and friends mourning this loss.
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As the nation awaits legalized doctor-assisted death, the transplant community is grappling with a potential new source of life-saving organs — offered by patients who have chosen to die.
Some surgeons say every effort should be made to respect the dying wishes of people seeking assisted death, once the Supreme Court of Canada ruling comes into effect next year, including the desire to donate their organs.
But the prospect of combining two separate requests — doctor-assisted suicide and organ donation — is creating profound unease for others. Some worry those contemplating assisted suicide might feel a societal pressure to carry through with the act so that others might live, or that it could undermine struggling efforts to increase Canada’s mediocre donor rate.
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The proximate cause of Iraq’s unraveling was the increasing authoritarian, sectarian and corrupt conduct of the Iraqi government and its leader after the departure of the last U.S. combat forces in 2011. The actions of the Iraqi prime minister undid the major accomplishment of the Surge. [They] alienated the Iraqi Sunnis and once again created in the Sunni areas fertile fields for the planting of the seeds of extremism, essentially opening the door to the takeover of the Islamic State. Some may contend that all of this was inevitable. Iraq was bound to fail, they will argue, because of the inherently sectarian character of the Iraqi people. I don’t agree with that assessment.
The tragedy is that political leaders failed so badly at delivering what Iraqis clearly wanted — and for that, a great deal of responsibility lies with Prime Minister Maliki.
As for the U.S. role, could all of this have been averted if we had kept 10,000 troops here? I honestly don't know. I certainly wish we could have tested the proposition and kept a substantial force on the ground.
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On her first morning in America, last summer, my daughter went out to explore her new neighborhood — alone, without even telling my wife or me.
Of course we were worried; we had just moved from Berlin, and she was just 8. But when she came home, we realized we had no reason to panic. Beaming with pride, she told us and her older sister how she had discovered the little park around the corner, and had made friends with a few local dog owners. She had taken possession of her new environment, and was keen to teach us things we didn’t know.
When this story comes up in conversations with American friends, we are usually met with polite disbelief. Most are horrified by the idea that their children might roam around without adult supervision. In Berlin, where we lived in the center of town, our girls would ride the Metro on their own — a no-no in Washington. Or they’d go alone to the playground, or walk a mile to a piano lesson. Here in quiet and traffic-safe suburban Washington, they don’t even find other kids on the street to play with. On Halloween, when everybody was out to trick or treat, we were surprised by how many children actually lived here whom we had never seen.
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According to Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, “there is not and cannot be a gospel which is not culturally embodied”. He maintained that the missionary task of the Church is to challenge the “reigning plausibility structure” by examining it in light of the revealed purposes of God contained in the biblical narrative. He advocated a scepticism which enables one to take part in the life of society without being deluded by its own beliefs about itself.
Easier said [than done]....
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The images are meant to create an impression, and in this war of images, they don't miss their mark. Heads are cut off: both the heads of human beings and those of statues. Museums are looted, ancient sites are bulldozed. These images are then dispatched around the world.
It is a calculated escalation that Islamic State is pursuing. It may even be that the images of destroyed artifacts are more effective than those depicting executions, because they are televised everywhere and not relegated to the depths of the Internet. And because we can understand the images of destruction -- unlike the photos and videos of executions, which we see as acts of insanity beyond the scope of rational thought.
We aren't just able to kill in the present, that is the message of these images, we are also able to destroy the past: We are the masters of both time and space. The caliphate's goal is to expand its path of destruction into the fourth dimension.
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Few of those he influenced identified him with the institutions that claimed his leadership. Many knew him as the consultant who came to their towns and churches to listen and recommend—averaging about 150 on-site church consultations per year. I don’t know if the Guinness Book of World Records includes an award for the most parishes consulted, but Lyle Schaller would no doubt hold the record with thousands and thousands of visits to local congregations. At these churches, he took a repeated approach of gathering statistics and interviewing church leaders, youth, ministers’ spouses, non-leader congregants, and pastors from nearby churches. At the end of each consultation, he reported his 360-degree view, analysis and list of practical suggestions for congregational health and growth. Along the way, he pretty much avoided conflicted churches, at least he declined those obviously in a fight; he identified himself as a consultant and not as a conflict mediator.
Tens of thousands of interviews in churches ranging from mainline to independent and liberal to conservative gave him a mental data base to write, co-author, or edit almost 100 books selling over two million copies. Add his monthly monographs of “The Parish Paper” reaching 200,000 subscribers and we’re talking about penning millions of words about and to the churches of America. His writing style was distinctively his own with long, long sentences including long, long lists.
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Jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) group may have committed genocide and war crimes against the minority Yazidi community in Iraq, the UN says.
In a new report, it says IS had "the intent... to destroy the Yazidi as a group."
Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled villages in northern Iraq amid IS advances last summer. Many were killed, captured and enslaved.
Yazidis follow an ancient faith that jihadists regard as devil worship.
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The Anglican Church is quietly preparing for a hearing that could see the defrocking of one of its former bishops, five months after the royal commission recommended he face disciplinary action for ignoring complaints from sexual abuse victims.
Keith Slater, whose title remains the Right Reverend, was forced to resign as the Grafton Bishop in 2013 for the way he handled abuse claims from a group of 40 people.
They were men and women who had been sexually, physically and or psychologically abused at the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore between the 1940s and the 1980s.
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The resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe is not—or should not be—a surprise. One of the least surprising phenomena in the history of civilization, in fact, is the persistence of anti-Semitism in Europe, which has been the wellspring of Judeophobia for 1,000 years. The Church itself functioned as the centrifuge of anti-Semitism from the time it rebelled against its mother religion until the middle of the 20th century. As Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, has observed, Europe has added to the global lexicon of bigotry such terms as Inquisition, blood libel, auto‑da‑fé, ghetto, pogrom, and Holocaust. Europe has blamed the Jews for an encyclopedia of sins. The Church blamed the Jews for killing Jesus; Voltaire blamed the Jews for inventing Christianity. In the febrile minds of anti-Semites, Jews were usurers and well-poisoners and spreaders of disease. Jews were the creators of both communism and capitalism; they were clannish but also cosmopolitan; cowardly and warmongering; self-righteous moralists and defilers of culture. Ideologues and demagogues of many permutations have understood the Jews to be a singularly malevolent force standing between the world and its perfection....
The Anne Frank House has never had a Jewish director (though Hinterleitner pointed out that at least two members of the board must have a “Jewish background”), and I would learn later that it is widely understood in Amsterdam’s Jewish community that Jews should not bother applying for the job. Hinterleitner said that the museum addresses anti-Semitism in the context of larger societal ills, but also that it recently issued a strong press statement condemning anti-Semitic acts in the Netherlands and elsewhere. He said the museum has made an intensive study of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, and has learned that most verbal expressions of anti-Semitism in secondary schools come from boys and are related to soccer.
The Anne Frank House is merely a simulacrum of a Jewish institution in part because, as its head of communications told me, Anne’s father said that her diary “wasn’t about being Jewish,” but also, Hinterleitner suggested, because a museum devoted too obsessively to the details of a particular genocide might not draw visitors in sufficient numbers. “We want people to be interested in this issue, people from all walks of life. So we talk about the universal components of Anne Frank’s story as well. Our work is about tolerance and understanding.”
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Ukraine urged the European Union on Thursday to stay united in keeping up sanctions pressure on Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as EU leaders gathered for a two-day summit.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to divide Europe over Ukraine and that this would be a "disaster for the free world."
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Members of synod for the Episcopal Church of Cuba narrowly voted in favour of returning to the church’s former affiliation with The Episcopal Church at their recent meeting last month in Cardenas, Cuba.
The move came two months after the historic decision by the United States and Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations after a 54-year hiatus. The Cuban church had been part of a province in The Episcopal Church until the 1959 revolution, which made travel and communication between the two churches difficult. The Metropolitan Council of Cuba (MCC)—which includes primates of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Province of West Indies and The Episcopal Church—was subsequently created to provide support and oversight.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary, attended the synod—which ran from Feb. 19 to 22—as representatives of the MCC.
Hiltz said the vote on that resolution, which was 39 in favour and 33 against, showed that the synod was divided on the issue. “When the results of the vote were announced, there was just absolute silence,” he said. “There were some people that were feeling a sense of victory and others who were feeling a real sense of loss.”
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The Bishop of Rochester has addressed more than 2,000 people at a rally pressing for all political parties to commit themselves to a long term plan for ending the housing crisis.
The Rt Rev James Langstaff, who is chair of Housing Justice, the national voice of the churches on housing and homelessness, told the Homes for Britain event in central London that ensuring decent and secure housing in the right place and at an affordable cost is one of the most important issues for our society.
Read the whole address there.
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Churches are being encouraged to talk about the relationship between science and faith through a project backed by the Church of England.
The Templeton World Charity Foundation has awarded £700,000 to a three-year Durham University programme which aims to promote greater engagement between science and Christians.
Churches will be able to apply for grants of up to £10,000 for "scientists in congregations", and more than 1,000 people training for Anglican ministry will be offered access to training and resources on contemporary science and the Christian faith as part of the project.
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Over a quarter of college freshmen say that they have no religion. This makes them the least religious cohort in four decades of the surveys conducted by UCLA.
Researchers at the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA survey college freshmen each year on a range of topics, including religion. The 2014 survey results were released last month (read more here). They show that college freshmen in 2014 had the highest percentage of students identifying with no religion and the lowest percentage who saw themselves as spiritual.
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Syrian activists and the Western-backed opposition have accused the government of carrying out a chlorine gas attack against a rebel-held town that killed at least six people and left dozens, including children, choking and gasping for breath.
The purported use of poison gas on the town of Sarmin in northwestern Idlib province is the first alleged chemical attack since the UN Security Council approved a US-drafted resolution this month that condemns the use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine in Syria.
That measure also threatens military action in case of further violations.
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The Nigerian army said on Tuesday it had repelled Boko Haram from all but three local government districts in the northeast, claiming victory for its offensive against the Islamist insurgents less than two weeks before a presidential election.
At the start of this year, Boko Haram controlled around 20 local government areas, a territory the size of Belgium, in its bloody six-year-old campaign to carve out an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria.
But a concerted push by Nigeria's military and neighbors Chad, Cameroon and Niger has regained considerable ground. At the weekend, Nigerian government forces recaptured the city of Bama, the second biggest in northeasterly Borno state.
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Isis militants have attacked a Christian church and cemetery in Iraq, vandalising crosses and defacing religious artefacts in yet another assault on the country’s rich cultural history.
In pictures released by the groups’s media arm, fighters are seen removing a cross and destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in Mosul, in Iraq. Another image shows a fighter erecting a black Isis flag in place of a cross.
Other photographs being circulated on social media show paintings depicting biblical events, such as the Last Supper, piled up on the floor. The extremist group attempts to justify this destruction by condemning the statues and religious symbols as idolatrous and therefore forbidden.
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Patrick was 16 years old in about the year 405, when he was captured in a raid and became a slave in what was still radically pagan Ireland. Far from home, he clung to the religion he had ignored as a teenager. Even though his grandfather had been a priest, and his father a town councilor, Patrick "knew not the true God." But forced to tend his master's sheep in Ireland, he spent his six years of bondage mainly in prayer. He escaped at the suggestion of a dream and returned home.
Patrick was in his mid-40s when he returned to Ireland.
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