Monday, August 24, 2009

Pardon me while I hurl

OK let me set the scene for you. I am home in New York visiting my family for a couple weeks. It's Sunday and I am watching the ballgame in the family room with my sister and dad. The Phillies are up 8-6 in the bottom of the 9th inning. But things are starting to look up. The Mets are rallying. We have two men on base and the potentially winning run at bat with nobody out.

My sister and I are on the edge of our seats. She exclaims that the Phillies closer is looking rattled to which my dad responds "this is where they get a triple play." Not more than 4 seconds later this is what we watched...

(Video deleted by YouTube)

I turned the TV off before before the hysterical announcer could rattle off their barrage of statistics, but I will guess that game ending unassisted triple plays are less common than perfect games. And oh yea... I am never watching a baseball game with dad again. He is still laughing.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Warren Buffet on the danger of the printing press.

The The United States economy is now out of the emergency room and appears to be on a slow path to recovery. But enormous dosages of monetary medicine continue to be administered and, before long, we will need to deal with their side effects. For now, most of those effects are invisible and could indeed remain latent for a long time. Still, their threat may be as ominous as that posed by the financial crisis itself.

To understand this threat, we need to look at where we stand historically. If we leave aside the war-impacted years of 1942 to 1946, the largest annual deficit the United States has incurred since 1920 was 6 percent of gross domestic product. This fiscal year, though, the deficit will rise to about 13 percent of G.D.P., more than twice the non-wartime record. In dollars, that equates to a staggering $1.8 trillion. Fiscally, we are in uncharted territory.

Because of this gigantic deficit, our country’s “net debt” (that is, the amount held publicly) is mushrooming. During this fiscal year, it will increase more than one percentage point per month, climbing to about 56 percent of G.D.P. from 41 percent. Admittedly, other countries, like Japan and Italy, have far higher ratios and no one can know the precise level of net debt to G.D.P. at which the United States will lose its reputation for financial integrity. But a few more years like this one and we will find out.

An increase in federal debt can be financed in three ways: borrowing from foreigners, borrowing from our own citizens or, through a roundabout process, printing money. Let’s look at the prospects for each individually — and in combination.

Read the rest here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

On the road again

I am traveling for a couple weeks. Updates will be posted as time permits.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Endangered Church: Turkey and the Ecumenical Patriarchate

AFP reported on Thursday that the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, Bartholomew I, was hopeful Turkey would re-open a historic seminary it shut down nearly four decades ago. The Halki Orthodox

Theological Seminary, located on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul, was the key Patriarchical institution for educating the Greek Orthodox Community and training its future clergy for more than a century before it was closed down by the Turkish government in 1971.

The Patriarch was responding to signals last week by Turkey’s Culture Minister that Ankara is planning to re-open the Greek seminary, considered vital to the survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.

The Turkish Government forcibly closed down the Seminary under a law bringing Turkish universities under the state’s control. Another law, however, made it illegal for anyone to enter the Orthodox priesthood unless they have graduated from Halki.

Since the closure of the Halki Seminary, the Patriarchate has faced insurmountable barriers in staffing the Ecumenical Patriarchate to carry out the Church’s many administrative and spiritual responsibilities. The only option left for the Patriarchate has been to bring clergymen and individuals from abroad to work at the ecumenical patriarchate, often illegally, since the Turkish government does not give them work permits.

Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no property rights in Turkey and is taxed beyond excess. Under Turkish law, the General Directorate of Welfare Foundations has the power to unilaterally confiscate minority properties.

Along with the Halki Seminary, the Turkish Government has confiscated (usually secretly) 75 % of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s properties, including homes, apartment buildings, schools, land, churches, monasteries, and even cemeteries.

On March 20, 2006 the government erased the name of the Patriarchate from the ownership deed of the Orphanage of Buyukada, replacing it with the name of a minority foundation it had seized in 1997. This move resulted in the effective confiscation of the orphanage.

The Turkish government proceeded with the confiscation despite an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights by the Patriarchate in 2005. The Orphanage, which is the largest wooden building in Europe, had been a Patriarchal institution, celebrating 550 years of continuous service under the care and guidance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, preserving the Orthodox Faith, Hellenic Ideals and Greek Education.

In the eyes of the Turkish government, the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not exist as a legal entity, and as a result, has virtually no rights. Although it was established in 451 AD, Turkish authorities refuse to recognize the Patriarchate as “Ecumenical” or International. Turkish law has relegated this 2,000 year-old church, which serves as the focal point of Orthodox Christendom, to a Turkish institution.

As a result, the Turkish government also controls the process by which the Ecumenical Patriarch is selected. Through illegal decrees, the government has imposed heavy restrictions on the election of the Ecumenical Patriarchs, requiring the Patriarch and the Hierarchs that elect him to be Turkish citizens. The very existence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been put in jeopardy as a consequence of these decrees.

Turkish law requires that even priests must be Turkish citizens. This excludes eligible clergy from around the world from attending to Turkey’s Greek community, which now numbers less than 3,000—most of which are elderly and not eligible candidates.

There are currently roughly 200 Greek Orthodox Clergymen who live in Turkey and are Turkish citizens. Without the Halki Seminary, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been forced to send its future clerics outside the country for training. Unfortunately, most do not return home. These restrictions severely limit not only who can become a priest, but also who can become the Ecumenical Patriarch.

These policies are wearing away at the Christian presence in Turkey and threaten to eventually wipe out the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which stands as a 2,000 year-old spiritual beacon for more than 300,000 million orthodox Christians around the world.

Since 1923, successive Turkish Governments have subjected the Ecumenical Patriarchate to a protracted and systemic campaign of institutional and cultural repression, squeezing the country’s Greek minority and its religious institutions to the point of complete exhaustion and despair.

Despite direct stipulations in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that Turkey must legally recognize and protect its religious minorities, Christian communities in Turkey currently face unfair official restrictions regarding the ownership and operation of churches and seminaries. The Turkish Government interferes in the selection of their religious leaders. Christian education has all but vanished, while freedom of expression and association, although provided for on paper, tend to get people killed.

This political climate of religious repression has, for decades, encouraged extremists to attack the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul defacing its walls and desecrating its cemeteries.

In 1955, riots broke out in Istanbul and quickly turned into pogroms against Greeks as 73 Orthodox churches and 23 schools were vandalized, burned, or destroyed; 1,004 houses of Orthodox citizens were looted; and 4,348 stores, 110 hotels, 27 pharmacies, and 21 factories were destroyed. The Greek Orthodox population in 1955 was 100,000. In 1998, a Greek Orthodox official was murdered at his church, Saint Therapon, in Istanbul. The church was then robbed and set on fire.

Growing focus on Turkey in recent years and the country’s bid to join the European Union, has raised awareness and concern about the fate of the Patriarchate among governments, organizations and people around the world.

The European Union has long asked Turkey to re-open the seminary in order to prove its commitment to human rights as it strives to become a member of the bloc.

The Turkish Government, keen to boost its European credentials as it seeks EU membership, says it may finally take steps to prevent the destruction of one of the world’s oldest Christian churches and its Congregation.

The bitter reality is that the very existence of the Patriarchate has been threatened by the very government that is now vaguely promising to save it.

Turkish authorities have been issued such promises for decades.

By Allen Yekikan

2009 Baseball: Anno Horribilis

David Wright a split second after getting cracked upside the head by a 94 mph fastball.

If like me you are a Mets fan, there is just no way to sugar coat this season. It has been nothing less than awful. There have been examples of sloppy fielding and play. But by far the most devastating blow has been the endless string of injuries, many of them serious. Most of the position players who started in April, including some of our best, have been injured and put out of action for prolonged periods, in some cases most of the season. Some are still out. Also almost our entire starting pitching rotation is down along with our closer.

The only player that has stood tall through it all has been David Wright who has been the backbone of a battered team. But Saturday his luck ran out. He got drilled in the head by a 94 mph fastball. Watching the video of that made me cringe. David was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he is spending at least the night with a very nasty concussion. No one is even hazarding a guess how long he will be out.

They might as well just start flying a Red Cross flag over Citi Field. I can not recall any team that has had such an incredible run of bad luck in recent years. We are not far from just calling up an entire AAA minor league squad and saying go play ball and try not to hurt yourselves. I understand that baseball, like any sport, has some occupational hazards. And one expects the occasional injury. But to see practically your entire team and several high caliber replacements from the minor leagues go down in one year is crazy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

California's Prison Crisis: Be Very Afraid

The exact cause of the 11-hour riot that broke out Aug. 8 at the California Institution for Men in Chino, Calif., won't be known until an official investigation by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is completed. However, to some criminal-justice experts the violence that erupted at the facility, located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, was an inevitable consequence of a state prison system long hobbled by massive overcrowding, program cuts and understaffed facilities. And given the state's ongoing budget woes — with $1.2 billion in cuts mandated to the prison budget — the situation is likely to only get worse.

"The overcrowding is the first issue," says Barry Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in Oakland, Calif. "You're talking about hundreds of men moved into triple bunks in what used to be gyms and cafeterias. They're not even cells. They're just empty places where we're shoving people." According to the most recent statistics from the CDCR, California's 33 state prisons house 154,649 prisoners in facilities designed to hold just 84,271 prisoners. The Chino prison is among the worst, with 5,877 prisoners in a facility designed to hold 2,976. (Read about the problem with cell phones in prisons.)

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state political officials have been well aware of the issue of overcrowding, and the deplorable conditions that go along with it, for some time. In 2006 Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency because of "severe overcrowding" in California's prisons, saying it had caused "substantial risk to the health and safety of the men and women who work inside these prisons and the inmates housed in them." In response, legislators passed AB 900, which earmarked $1.2 billion in jail-construction funding through state lease-revenue bonds. However, more than two years later, construction is still on hold as lawmakers quibble about the details. But it's not just a lack of buildings that is the problem. Says Krisberg: "Without programs and without services, the tensions that exist to begin with are going to be greatly exacerbated. The elected officials of California have been playing Russian roulette with the lives of the guards and the inmates in these prisons." (Read about California's growing prison crisis.)

"You can't build yourself out of this mess," says Jeanne Woodford, former warden at San Quentin and former head of the CDCR. "The state can't afford it." Apparently, California only accounted for the construction costs and never included the operating expenses. "So even if those places are built," says Woodford, "where will California get the money to staff them? We're broke. How the heck are we going to operate these prisons? Most prisons cost from $150 to $200 million a year to operate. There's just no money for it."

In addition to overcrowding, the state's corrections efforts are the nation's most expensive — and one of the least effective. The state spends $10 billion annually, or $49,000 per inmate for a year in custody, according to statistics from the nonpartisan policy-advising group Legislative Analyst's Office. Yet, California's recidivism rate is 70%, one of the worst in the country.

Given the state's lack of traction on prison reform, a federal three-judge panel recently ordered California to come up with a plan in the next 45 days that reduces the inmate population by nearly 43,000 prisoners. Seth Unger, press secretary for the CDCR, says they will appeal any final ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Congress passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act to limit the power of the federal courts to take control of state prison systems and to order population caps or early release of inmates and we certainly believe the court has overstepped its bounds in this case," says Unger.

He says his department recently introduced a proposal, yet to be deliberated on by legislators, that would reduce the average daily prison population by 27,300. Of course, politicians, particularly state Republicans, are loath to endorse any measure that smacks of releasing prisoners early or that could be viewed as being soft on crime — which has been a roadblock to reforming the system in the past. Prison-reform advocates are hoping the ruling by the federal court will inspire political will for their cause.

Even if California avoids federal intervention and the CDCR's current proposal is adopted, mandated state budget cuts will force the department to cut half of the already depleted programs for rehabilitation, substance abuse and vocational training. That would spell disaster, according to Woodford. "We release 10,000 [prisoners] a month now and in that 10,000 very few have been involved in anything to improve who they are as human beings. That should scare us. And in that 10,000 are some very violent people that left a lockup unit like Pelican Bay [to go] right back to the streets — that should scare us. What should scare us is our broken policy and not the fact that 40,000 more are going to come out because we should be scared already."


Britain's "evil" health care system

As anyone who has not been on vacation for the last few months somewhere in the outer reaches of the solar system knows, the debate over health care reform in the United States has heated up. Lately it has gotten smoking hot with organized protests and even disruptive behavior at town hall meetings across the country. People on both sides of this debate are getting very charged and making highly exaggerated claims. Sometimes these border on hysteria.

Case in point; recently former Alaska governor and GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin referred to Britain's system of national health insurance as evil. This charge including that word have since been picked up by numerous other critics of proposed health reform. Now one might expect a demagogue and professional wind bag like Rush Limbaugh to make those kinds of remarks. But Palin is widely seen as having very high political ambitions. Those kinds of remarks are depressing because they demonstrate a lack of restraint and gravitas on the part of people who are leading the debate on one of the most important legislative reforms our country has considered since the civil rights laws of the 1960's.

Oddly no one seems to care that someone many Republicans hope to one day see run for President has seriously ticked off our country's closest ally. Although it has gotten little play in our media and press, in Britain public opinion was deeply shocked buy Palin's harsh remarks. Many Britons have responded in language that can't be printed on a Christian blog. But in summary there seems to be a consensus that Palin is a bloody idiot who is not ready for this country's top job. This does not bode well should she seek the presidency. But I digress.

My own views on health care reform are somewhat mixed. Excepting radical libertarians I think there is a general agreement that our system is gravely flawed and in need of some sort of intervention. The U.S. health care system has been consistently ranked for decades near the bottom of developed nations by the World Health Organization and International Red Cross. Costa Rica is ranked higher than us! But beyond acknowledging that we have a mess there is almost no agreement on what to do about it.

For my part I will not be able to support any legislation that provides for state funded abortion or mandates abortion coverage by private insurers. Beyond which, I am reserving judgment until I see what Congress produces in actual bills. I don't mind a debate. But let's all tone down the rhetoric a bit.

In closing I thought I would post a comment from T-19 by someone who is no raving liberal about Britain's "evil" National Health Service...
This debate arouses such strong feelings in the US that I am a little scared to contribute here, let alone kick off. But I feel I have to. Along with a lot of people in the UK I have been surprised to see our health care system held up by US critics and trashed. Often the information is inaccurate. And lots of people over here have been dismayed, and indeed angered, to see Daniel Hannan MEP joining in the mauling. Traitor is among the words some have apparently been applying to him. By contrast here are some of my most recent experiences. I may have to wait two or even three days to see my physician (if I say it is urgent, he will see me that day). I have had blood tests and a CT scan. For both I just walked into the hospital and waited: 10 minutes for the blood test, one hour for the scan. I am on medication for hypertension and (typical of men my age) benign prostate hyperplasia. All of this costs me nothing, except what I pay through my taxes. All of it has been readily and easily available. A friend’s son lost a leg in a road accident: he had nothing but praise for the acute care his son received, including a high-tech artificial leg. All free. The really big things seem to be done well: organ transplants, intensive care, heart surgery, orthopaedics and paediatrics.

Often it is, paradoxically, the simpler things that seem to be problems in the NHS. It has too many administrators. Cleanliness and hygiene have sometimes been substandard. And yes, unless there is manifest urgency, sometimes you have to wait. Care of the terminally ill has not been brilliant, but we have developed and nurtured a growing hospice movement for this which is run independently usually by local charities. I think that oncology provision is spotty, good in some regions, not in others. Geriatrics is regarded us unromantic and a low priority, and therefore is chronically underfunded. People would prefer a private or shared room in place of the wards they are stuck in, with their lack of privacy and mixing at times of the sexes. Food is often ghastly. And yes, sadly, the state funds abortion.

So: the British NHS presents a mixed picture. But not, please note, the hideous caricature that is sometimes portrayed right now in the US as part of the fierce debate about health care reform.
-Terry Tee from T-19

My nomination for the worst news headline this month

Elderly vigilante ‘didn’t want to shoot’ robbers


1. One who takes or advocates the taking of law enforcement into one's own hands.
2. A member of a vigilance committee.

How does being the victim of a violent crime and halting a robbery and quite possibly cold blooded murder make one a vigilante? There is a difference between minding your own business when you are attacked by armed robbers and going out looking for trouble. The author of this headline is a moron.

For a more balanced report on this tragic event go here.

Update: They changed the title of the story removing "vigilante" and replacing it with "shopkeeper." It appears that MSNBC got buried with complaints about the headline.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Met. +Philip takes a shot at the OCA and other disturbing developments

Metropolitan +Philip has begun pulling Antiochian seminarians from St. Vladimir's and St. Tikhon's seminaries. This is apparently in retaliation for the OCA failing to "silence" the owner and editor of, Mark Stokoe. Mr. Stokoe was one of the leading voices in exposing the recent scandals within the OCA's central administration. In recent months he has been directing his attention to the situation in the Antiochian Archdiocese which has been much commented on in the Orthodox blogosphere.

Although Mr. Stokoe is a member of the Metropolitan Council his website has no official connection to the OCA. Still multiple sources confirm that intense pressure was placed on the OCA by +Philip to shut down one of his most staunch critics. This pressure included unambiguous threats if the OCA failed to kowtow to +Philip.

That would be bad enough, but there is some significant, although as yet circumstantial, evidence that other even less savory methods of intimidation may be afoot. I strongly recommend that the reader peruse the Ochlophobist's most recent blog post which may be found here.

For the record I would advise anyone contemplating an attempt to strong arm Owen White into silence to first ponder his most recent work of literary criticism...


Some interesting statistics

The gas chamber at San Quentin Prison

Population of California's death row... 678 (as of Jan 1 2009)

Annual cost of capital punishment to California taxpayers.... approximately $137 million

Ratio of death sentences reversed on appeal... approximately 7 of every 8

Number of executions since reintroduction of the death penalty in 1977... 13

Number of death row inmates who died of natural causes... 48

Number of death row inmates who died from suicide... 17

Number of death row inmates proven to have been not guilty... 3
(Jerry Bigelow was released in 1988 after serving 8 years, Patrick Croy was released in 1990 after serving 11 years, and Troy Lee Jones was released in 1996 after serving 14 years on death row. Both Mr. Croy and Mr. Jones had the experience of being within 24 hrs of being put to death when stays of execution were granted.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Whatever happened after...

A few updates on some old posts.

Last Saturday I posted about the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. I noted that it was widely expected they were going to take some sort of dramatic step to insulate themselves from the lunacy in TEC. I also opined that they would not fully secede. It appears I was largely correct. Their bishop today delivered a speech to his clergy that outlined plans to withdraw from most of the governing bodies in TEC. I was wrong however in my prediction that he would limit communion with some of the other dioceses in TEC.

You can read his speech here. It is actually pretty good.

Was it time to grow up? Apparently not. The "cease fire" between Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly I posted on here lasted about as long as the ones between Israel and Hammas. The Washington Post has the story. Since this story ran the long knives have come out on both sides. It's ugly.

Finally back in June of 2007 I wrote a piece on the period (1960's) dramatic series "Mad Men" that was getting ready to debut on AMC. In that post I made particular note of the efforts of the producers to be as period correct as possible including everything from clothing styles to the heavy drinking and smoking that was so common back then. The New York Times recently ran a story about just how serious they are in their obsession for historical accuracy. Neurotic might be slightly overstating it, but only slightly. This occassional viewer who tends to be harshly critical of the lack of accuracy in period films and TV shows is pretty impressed. If they could just tone down the sleazy side plots (not everyone in the 60's was sleeping around) I would be able to be a bit more enthusiastic about it. Still I give the show an A-.

You can read my original post from 2007 here.

I am shocked...

Yale University bans images of Muhammad.

Why is Islam the only religious group that is off limits to satire? Never mind. I already know the answer to that question. When people display a crucifix in a jar of urine or cover an image of the Holy Theotokos with fecal matter in a museum and label it art, Christians don't riot and set off bombs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cautionary note

My browser's security screen has blocked access to The Byzantine Catholic Forum which I have linked in the sidebar. Apparently some sort of malicious software has attached itself to the site and is attacking visitors. This is a good site for discussion and is Orthodox friendly. I hope the webmaster clears this problem up quickly. In the meantime be careful if you visit the web site.

Update: The problem appears to have been resolved.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A very good post on the Orthodox Church by a Roman Catholic.

Roman Catholic blogger Teófilo de Jesús writes...
Orthodox Christians consider the differences between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches as both substantial and substantive, and resent when Catholics trivialize them. Though they recognize that both communions share a common “Tradition” or Deposit of Faith, they will point out that the Roman Catholic Church has been more inconsistently faithful – or more consistently unfaithful – to Tradition than the Orthodox Church has been in 2000 years of Christian history. Generally, all Orthodox Christians would agree, with various nuances, with the following 12 differences between their Church and the Catholic Church. I want to limit them to 12 because of its symbolic character and also because it is convenient and brief:
Read his list here.

As far as the list goes there is not much that is a source for heartburn. I could add to it and I would have given different emphasis to various topics. And yes, I think there are a few points where some amplification would not be out of order. But in the end I think this is a reasonably accurate and remarkably irenic post.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Is South Carolina about to secede?

No I am not talking about the state.

There are a couple of interesting posts up over at Canon Kendall Harmon's blog TitusOneNine (here and here). While Kendall is leaving his bishop's cards face down for now, he is clearly implying what observers have suspected for some time. The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is about to do something fairly dramatic in response to the institutional apostasy in the Episcopal Church (TEC). As anyone who has followed their recent doings knows TEC crossed (and then burned) all sorts of bridges at its recent convention.

Some seem to believe that the DofSC is about to bolt and join the newly formed ACNA. Maybe. But my gut says they are not quite ready to go that far. This is only my guess so take it for what it is worth. That said I think we will see South Carolina adopt in reverse what the Archbishop of Canterbury has proposed, namely a sort of two track membership in the Anglican Communion. In substance I suspect that the DofSC will say that they are remaining in administrative union with TEC (if only barely) but they will isolate themselves in every meaningful respect. This likely would extend to limiting sacramental communion with much of the rest of their church. Finally I expect that this action will be backed by a crystal clear warning to TEC and Ms. Schori that any attempt at coercion or interference in the DofSC by the broader church will provoke immediate secession.

In any event the suspense should not last for too long. Their bishop is expected to outline his plans later this week. Let us keep these people in our prayers as they grapple with the disaster that has overtaken their church.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Roman Catholic monk writes about the Episcopalians

Via T-19
Brother Stephen (a Cistercian monastic) has written what I believe is one of the better essays on the the current situation in the Episcopal Church. I encourage the reader to visit his blog, which unfortunately does not allow comments.

I suppose I should say a word about the recent General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Anaheim. And that word would have to be “Bully for you!”

Why, you might ask would, a Roman Catholic monk and former Anglo-Catholic say that? I say it because strains of Anglicanism as old as Cranmer and the Enlightenment are moving the American Province of the Anglican Communion toward a clarity of identity and mission previously unknown in the Episcopal Church. Since her election at the last General Convention, the Presiding Bishop has consistently articulated her vision for the Episcopal Church in the 21st Century and, as of this month, she and others have moved TEC a step closer to consensus around that vision. It is not the outcome I spent many years praying for, but, at long last, the stalemate has been broken and a decisive victory won.

Anglican traditionalists and sympathetic outside observers cast these developments as a story of departure and betrayal, but to understand what is happening, I think it is important to look through the eyes of many of the deputies at Anaheim, who see the events there as progress toward long cherished goals. Before I was a Roman Catholic or even an Anglo-Catholic, I was once just such an Episcopalian. Maybe I can still explain to those who have never lived in this world what a progressive Episcopalian sees, because it is very important to understand that these folks aren’t cardboard cutouts. They’re mostly bright, thoughtful, conscientious, and likable people who happen to hold a worldview that is drastically different than that held by most Roman Catholics who read this blog.

From the time of the Elizabethan Settlement, there have been a large number of formidable broad church thinkers who have believed that Anglicanism is a Reformed tradition, confident that in the Anglican via media, unfortunate doctrinal and disciplinary accretions have been stripped away and that God-given reason gives men and women the competence to confront and engage with changing circumstances in every generation. These reappraisers, to use the term coined by Kendal Harmon, grounded in the classic Protestant heritage and the confidence of the Enlightenment, at last have a church that speaks largely with their voice and is able to move proactively.

Glancing at the news stories yesterday and today, it is clear that sex dominated the headlines—after all, it’ sex—but I think the resolutions dealing with ecumenical and interfaith relations are much more significant for seeing where Episcopalians are moving.

Resolutions were reaffirmed or approved that allow sharing of the Eucharist with Methodists and Presbyterians. When full communion was reached with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 12 years ago, it was with the understanding that, over time, the Lutherans would adopt apostolic succession through the presence of Episcopal bishops at its consecrations and irregularities in orders would be overlooked in the meantime. This is never likely to be the case with these two bodies. In effect, the Episcopal Church, its load lightened by the departure of the last large blocks of Anglo-Catholics, is free to adopt a sacramental theology consummate with the theology of its own Articles of Religion and the theological orientation of a majority of its current members. The bonds of charity—and I mean this genuinely—prevented rapid moves in these directions when there were larger, vocal numbers of traditionalists. Today this is no longer the case. A Catholic (and I here mean capital “C” as in Roman Catholic) understanding of the sacramental priesthood has been set aside in favor of a contemporary ecumenist’s understanding of the nature of church order built on a familiarly Anglican interpretation of a patristic frame. Seemingly archaic and divisive theological nuances—fights of centuries long past—need no longer trump what is seen to be the larger good of Christian unity.

A second statement on interfaith relations significantly presents the idea of salvation through Christ in terms that are intended to be more palatable to dialogue partners of other faiths. Here again, the idea of unity in the service of love overrides dogmas that divide.

For as long as traditional Anglicans—a broad term encompassing many agendas—have mourned what they see as apostasy, broad church progressives have chafed at what they see as the alien incursions of the Evangelical movement and the Catholic revival inhibiting and retarding the theological developments of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. The current positions of the Episcopal Church on a variety of issues and its evolving self-understanding have clear antecedents in the ground laid by Hooker, the 18th Century deists, F.D. Maurice, Percy Dearmer, and William Temple to name a few. These names may not be familiar to non Anglicans, but they represent some of the most distinctive and respected Anglican theological thinking of the last century in particular.

Roman Catholics believe that at the heart of the church there is the Deposit of Faith—a collection of divinely revealed and unchanging truths that stand beyond the tides of culture. We believe in the limits of human reasoning and in original sin that muddles our desires and impulses. Anglicanism has never had an agreed upon locus for core dogma perhaps beyond the statement in the Articles of Religion that, “the Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary for salvation.” It is a tradition profoundly influenced by the Enlightenment’s optimism about man’s power to discover truth. And, as for original sin, Pelagianism, which is the repudiation of the idea of original sin, was always also known as the English heresy.

Anglicans have increasingly emphasized that “God saw the world and it was good” and have, following Temple, adopted and incarnational theology stressing that creation was hallowed a second time when the word was made flesh. In short, the recent General Convention did little more than take a few more steps forward in embracing an essentially Anglican and essentially optimistic view of the human condition. To see Anaheim as a tipping point or a radical break is to ignore the good-faith efforts of many people over more than two centuries. Instead, the promise in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer’s Baptismal Covenant to “respect the dignity of every human person” has, at last, completed its slow march to become the de facto core doctrine of the Episcopal Church.

Read the rest at the source. (It gets better.)

Taking some down time

Posting this week may be a little slow.

Prayer Request...

Via the Ochlophobist word that Orthodox blogger Neil Watson is seriously ill. Please keep him in your prayers.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

95 years ago... August 2nd 1914

Belgian soldiers prepare to fight the German Army in August 1914.

On August 2 1914 the Imperial German Government delivered an ultimatum demanding free passage for its army through Belgium to attack France. Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned the Belgians nonetheless chose to resist, as best as they could, the invasion of their country. There weren't a lot of truly "innocent" victims in the insanity of the First World War. Belgium was the exception. The country had strictly observed a policy of diplomatic neutrality and isolationism. Relying on the honor of its neighbors to respect their neutrality (guaranteed by treaty) the Belgians refused to enter into any alliances and largely ignored their national defenses. At the outbreak of hostilities their army had almost no heavy artillery and only a handful of machine guns. Their rifles were antiquated with many soldiers limited to one round of live ammunition per year for target practice. They paid a heavy price.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Time to grow up?

Could one of cable TV's most famous feuds be winding down?

As I mentioned in a post a couple of years ago, anyone who watches either or both MSNBC and FOX News could not help but notice the near state of war between the two networks. The red hot core of the feud has been between FOX's Bill O' Reilly and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. In another more polite era it might have been said that the two men cordially detest each other. Remove the "cordially" part and you probably have a pretty accurate picture of things. They have been taking shots at each other on the air for years. In fairness Olbermann has gone out of his way to make the feud highly personal by attacking Mr. O"Reilly ad hominem with sharply worded invective. However both sides have launched very caustic attacks on the journalistic integrity of their rival.

In any event it is being reported in various venues (including the NY Times) that the parent companies of the two networks have had enough. The top dogs at both networks have received orders from their corporate suzerains to throw a bucket of cold water on Olbermann and O'Reilly with the admonision to grow up and knock it off. It sounds like some people may have realized that this nightly blood bath was benefiting no one except CNN.

Holy Trinity in Antarctica