Saturday, December 01, 2007

One of Life's Little Ironies...

I subscribe to the House of Bishops and Deputies mailing list. I do it under a separate account so GoogleMail doesn't get confused and overload my business email with spam. I'm not allowed to post on the list (being neither a bishop nor a deputy), but the posts do make interesting reading.

There's just one problem. GoogleMail treats every post starting a new subject (thread) by either Tom Woodward or Elizabeth Kaeton as spam.

I really can't comment any further on that. It's like being a five year old in a candy store with permission to have all the candy you can grab.

Will Hillary Step Up

and demand new restrictions on the sale of duct tape?

Millenium Development Goals

I think the main reason the orthodox in the Episcopal Church are so wary of the Millenium Development Goals has to do with the reverence granted them. No one is opposed to feeding the hungry, teaching the illiterate and such. But the MDG's are wholly secular. They were created by and sponsored by an organization that is wholly secular. That organization is also corrupt in a spectacular fashion.

Bad things happen when the Church gets involved with the State. For a church that used to be a state church such as TEC, the peril is greater. A good analogy might be the adulterous wife resuming an affair with the evil mustachioed banker while she is estranged from her husband. Not only is the affair wrong, but there is every chance she will sign over the deed to the ranch.

Similarly, TEC needs to keep her distance away from the UN. Certainly, do all the good works possible, but also not get drawn into the morasses the UN is prone to.

It would be far, far better to focus on God's law.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I don't support Ron Paul

But you have to figure videos like this will get him some votes

Strike Tips

My favourite advice columnist offers good, solid tips to the striking TV writers.

Friday Morning Palate Cleanser

Seven Deadly Sins (revised)

Proposed list of the seven deadly sins. To be offered by the movings of the Spirit at the next General Convention in 2009.

1. Narrow
2. Rigid
3. Fundamentalist
4. Conservative
5. Patriarchal
6. Breeding
7. Logical

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rowan Williams' Nightmare Outcome for the Anglican Communion

Rowan Williams Fantasy Outcome for the Anglican Communion

The Most Likely Outcome

Here's what triggered the series of videos.

The More Things Change

the more they stay the same

Credibility and Authority

The Internet has wrought great changes to how we perceive our world. There is a theory that we get and evaluate information based upon 'trusted sources'. That is we allow others to a certain extent to evaluate the credibility of the information we are presented. We give very little credibility to the drunk bum ranting about aliens in the sewers because we know that street people are often crazy, drunks are almost always wrong and we don't know the guy. So the sewer aliens are safe from our scrutiny.

On the other hand when our sainted, gray haired mother tells us that sister and her husband want to sell their condominium, we think that likely to be true. We trust our mother, it's exactly the sort of thing they would do, Mom's up on all the family news and she's a special confidant of our sister.

Television has used and abused our credibility filters for quite a long time. Commercials often dress actors up as doctors because we trust doctors. Actors who can sound especially sincere get hired for voice over work in commercials or as news anchors. Walter Cronkite in particular made his career on looking and sounding authoritative.

There is a more modern trend in credibility. Or rather in the mass destruction of it. Dan Rather assumed that he would have instant and overwhelming credibility because he was the CBS news anchor. What he ignored was the massive loss of trust for television news that had occurred throughout his tenure as anchor (and mostly not due to his actions). Talk radio and the Internet opened up new sources of information and the audience for television news shrank.

Rush Limbaugh enjoys a very large audience, but little credibility. I don't listen to talk radio, but I have friends who do enjoy listening to Rush even while they rarely agree with what he says. Likewise, I know an inordinate number of conservatives who listen to NPR.

On the internet, I visit both Kos, DU, HotAir, and Free Republic. I have Fox and CNN both bookmarked, as well as Youtube. I rarely grant instant credibility to anything I find on those sites.

There may be those who grant certain sources universal and unconditional credibility. But I suspect that the percentage of those who do is rather small and confined to the very young, the very old and the overly credulous.

Mostly what we grant is 'conditional credibility'. If there is a plane crash, I trust CNN to get the hard facts correct. That is, where the crash occurred, what make of plane, who the air carrier was and how many were injured. I do not trust them to report a U.S. Supreme Court decision accurately. I trust Eugene Volokh to construe constitutional law decisions. I do not trust him on kitchenware. Tony Bourdain is my kitchen guru, but I ignore what he says about religion. And so it goes.

Which brings me back to the doctor in the lab coat. Like it or not, we Americans are now a skeptical people. We are confronted on a daily basis with people who wear the symbols of knowledge or authority and we regularly dismiss what they tell us. The old ways of evaluating authority are dying or dead. Where this becomes important in religion is as follows.

I recently overheard a woman wearing a clerical collar bemoan that she was not given any respect as a pastor. As I understand it, she felt that she had the symbols of authority, but strangers upon meeting her accorded her no additional respect because of her station. She and her friend attributed it to the fact that she's a woman. I disagree. That may have been true twenty or so years ago, but in today's world we see a lot of people accoutered in symbols that no longer have meaning.

To an atheist or agnostic, a person in a clerical collar is a religious and to be treated as such. In other words, as a fraud or charlatan, or at best as a well-meaning fool. To a 'person of faith' the collar means that the wearer is also a person of faith, but not necessarily of the same faith. Which makes a bit of difference in a diversely religious country such as the United States.

Even assuming that we encounter an Episcopal priest, that doesn't mean that we grant the priest any additional authority or trust. Maybe in some earlier time, a new pastor was granted immediate credibility, but I doubt that is the case any more. Today, the clergy as well as everyone else must earn trust.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Consequences of Communion Without Baptism

Communion Without Baptism

Whenever we go to visit my parents we drive past The Church in the Now. I'll usually make some comment about it and Sally and I will laugh. We've never been to it, entered its doors or even spoken to anyone that belongs to it. Other than the purple colour scheme what sparks the laugh is the name.

We are commanded to live for the day. Jesus was most clear about that. But we are also commanded not to be worldly. There is a tension between living in the present and living in this world. I strongly suspect that the Church in the Now is trying to live in the present. At least, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on that.

The Episcopal Church is apparently in the grips of a prophetic moment. Just like Orwell's animals, it appears that some Canons of the Church are more equal than others. The Denis Canon (the one about all property belonging to the denomination) is rock solid, always to be enforced and firmly grounded upon Hooker's three legged stool of reason, scripture and tradition.

The other canons apparently are more flexible. Especially Canon 17, section 7, which states “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

I've never made it a secret that I am a Catholic. I'm also an Anglican. But my theology is and was Catholic. Which means that the meaning I get from church, worship and all that other churchy stuff is derived from the Sacraments. Ultimately my faith is sacramental in origin.

Some people have argued in favour of open communion. The Episcopal Church has a variant of this wherein Communion is restricted to all baptized persons. This is the original, primitive theology of the church. For the Methodists, it's a matter of doctrine that they have Open Communion, by which they mean anyone may participate, baptized or not. When I was first married I attended a Methodist Church, but I never participated in their 'communion' (Scare quotes intentional) as such participation would bruise my conscience and sear my soul.

As should be obvious, I'm not in favour of Communion without Baptism. From the very beginnings of Christianity, the Church has practised 'Closed Communion'. In the second century AD Justin Martyr laid down the requirements for participating in the Lord's Supper ("No one may share in the eucharist except those who believe in the truth of our teachings and have been washed in the bath which confers forgiveness of sins and rebirth, and who live according to Christ's commands" ). This is a recapitulation of the Didache (From the end of the first century AD). Paul said something rather similar in First Corinthians 11:27-28. Church doctrine has not changed on this subject since those early days.

Until now. The commentary aggravated me and I went snooping around. Sure enough, there are Episcopal Churches that proclaim their profane practises to the world. Including the one nearest to us.

For those interested in this sort of thing, here are some arguments in favour of the abominable, profane, irreligious and blasphemous practise of communion without baptism. Here's a lengthy one against.

Hat tip: Christopher Johnson.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Not Gonna Do It!

Upgrade to Windows Vista, that is. Windows XP, my current operating system, is still trouncing Vista in head to head competition.

An Oldy But A Goody

An Example To Us All

A brief survey of Bishop Walter Righter (ret'd) formerly bishop of Iowa.

Walter Righter was consecrated Bishop of Iowa in 1972. He retired in 2003. During his tenure he was tried, unsuccessfully, for heresy.

Since his retirement he has been a consistent voice for the reappraiser cause on the HoBD mailing list.

In 1992 the Average Sunday Attendance of the Diocese of Iowa was 4,574. In 2003, when he retired it was 3,705. This represents a growth rate of -9.7%.

His ordination ceremony and vows may be found here.

He was exempted from being found guilty because the ecclesiastical court found that the "there is no Core Doctrine prohibiting the ordination of a non-celibate, homosexual person living in a faithful and committed sexual relationship with a person of the same sex."

For what it is worth, the same rationale that the court used in the trial could be used to justify darn near anything.

What I'd like to know is, what sort of shepherd has a smaller flock when he ends than when he started?

My Candidate

I played the Candidate match game over at USAToday. Normally, I'd post which candidates I selected. But, to be blunt, what's the point? The three candidates I wound up with (2 Republicans and a Democrat) are so far behind in the polls that they stand absolutely no chance of being elected. I had never heard of one of them. The other two can't even get press interviews.

Given my voting record in primaries, it would well behoove a political party to slide me some cash to vote in the other party's primary, for the person they think is their biggest threat. I have never voted for a candidate in a Presidential primary that has gone on to win the primary, much less the national election. Somehow I think that record will be intact again in 2008.

Holy Grail

One of my favourite works of art is Rodin's "The Fallen Caryatid Carrying her Stone". An online picture of the work may be seen at the Tate Gallery website.

I've loved that little sculpture ever since I read a description of it in Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land". I have never seen it in person, but I have seen many many pictures of it since I first heard about it at the age of twelve.

In this modern age, where everything and anything is available at the click of a button, the one thing I have not been able to do is to see it in person. The London trip fell through earlier this year. But more to the point, there are no reproductions available. I'm staggered by the latter fact. If you want a copy of 'the Thinker' such items are available in a plethora of media. But, not apparently, Rodin's less well known work.

Ayn Rand is Alive and Well in Minnesota

And she is apparently working for the Episcopal Church there.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Firestorm over Canterbury

Rowan Williams put his foot in his mouth over the weekend concerning US foreign policy. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a genuinely brilliant man. He is a theologian of international repute. Unfortunately, his somewhat intemperate and misinformed comments have stirred up a fair amount of controversy.

Alas, Rowan+ has quite the history of flat out foolish remarks. Our good Archbishop is yet another man who really ought never to comment outside his own narrow area of expertise.

Because I'm a tease

If the Democrats win the Presidency, a fairly safe investment will be in home use machine tools, the companies that make home use machine tools or that sell them. Unfortunately Harbor Freight is a private company. Explanation to follow.

National Debt

Kendall Harmon over at TitusOneNine is linking to an article moaning about the national debt. It is high. It will get higher. That is probably, but not necessarily a Bad Thing. Our national debt puts us at #26 worldwide by the only realistic measure of debt (as a % of GDP). That is definitely too high. The interesting bit is who is at number 2. Lebanon is number one as their debt has remained high whilst the GDP has plummeted because of the endemic strife there.

For the record, the chances of recession in the near future are fairly slim. They increase a bit over the next year but remain low.

The odds of me explaining how I can predict that are very high indeed. I'll probably post an article later in the week on that subject.

For the record, the national debt while currently too high, is on the whole, a good thing.

More Church Snarkiness

I had an excellent Thanksgiving with my family. So I have a huge reservoir of snark that accumulated during my much needed break. Here goes.

I was looking up a priest at the episcopal clergy directory. I generally see three book advertisements every time I use the directory and this time was no exception. Here they are, in all their 'glory'. The three books are written by two priests and a theology instructor at General. "Jesus Family Values" is the most scholarly of the lot. It is also the least persuasive unless you adhere to the revisionist credo. It will persuade no one of anything, it will only reinforce existing beliefs.

I can't really comment about the 'Womb of Advent'. I just can't. It's the sort of reflective writing that really needs never to see the light of day.

Which brings us to "Gay Unions". I know Gray Temple. At the time I knew him, he was a very liberal priest in charge of a charismatic, growing parish. Membership peaked at his church back in 1997 and has declined since. Average sunday attendance has declined steadily since 2003 (Now, what happened in 2003?).

His theological tendencies have not changed and his church has, over time, adjusted itself to fit him. St Patricks, is to my mind, a good example of how important it is to have a sound rector. I haven't been there in several years (I am not a charismatic), but the reports I've heard from both past and present members is that the church is going to decline even more. It's growth was despite Gray Temple, not because of it, and now that the theology of the Episcopal Church has been revealed as little more than Unitarianism in drag, it will decline further. There is little room for true charismatic expression in the modern Episcopal church.

On to the book. He's not a bad writer. But the theology is mushy. And the Scripture is restricted to the usual array of biblical verses selected to demonstrate God's unconditional and unwavering love for us, despite anything that we might do. And that's true as far as it goes. But there is nothing about sin. What sin really is and what forms it may take. And there's even less about marriage, as in the reasons for it and the Church's take on it.

I have always been surprised by the lack of discussion by those who use the three legged stool as justification for gay unions because the stool has at best one leg. Scripture is dead against it. There is a whole, lovely discussion on marriage in the 1928 prayer book that states the Church's tradition about marriage. It's also in the 39 articles. One would think that since the tradition of the church on matrimony is encapsulated in those sources, and since the author of the book was ordained back in 1968, he might have some passing familiarity with it.

Is there so little teaching of logic in our seminaries, or has the faculty for it atrophied by inactivity?

One would think that such a sensitive and caring man would have had more regard for the environment to have had such a book published, thus resulting in unnecessary slaughter of so many trees.


Sunday, November 25, 2007


Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

If they only had more limbs...

This story by Pejman Yousefzadeh made me think of an aphorism. Any society that requires a fundamental change in human nature is doomed. It seems like any time a social experiment fails the creators of the experiment blame the participants for a failure to change or adapt.

Yet these experiments continue to be tried. If an inventor were to blame gravity for the persistent failure of his space ships, he would be written off as a crank. Why does the same not happen to utopians?

I love economists

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard proves yet again that economic news can have a variety of interpretations.

Dean Munday does it again.

I need to to read his blog regularly. You ought to as well.