Archive for June, 2012

Somehow This Does Not Add Up …

Monday, June 25th, 2012

  A resigned (retired) Episcopal Bishop was arrested and tried on charges of trespass in New York City. His offense? He joined (actually led) a group of protesters in their attempt to take over and occupy a vacant plot of ground that was owned by Trinity Church on Wall Street—ECUSA’s wealthiest parish.

How does he react to his conviction and sentence to five days of community service?

Trinity did not have to pursue the charges, but it opted to “protect fiduciary interests,” Packard told ENS. “It’s pretty sad. I mean, this is what our church has come to. You don’t have enough pledging units to sustain many places. So we depend on the cash flow of corporate investment. It’s a caricature of what the gospel is… It’s bewildering to me that Trinity has gone ahead with prosecuting these arrests. I fully thought they would just drop the charges,” Packard said. “I don’t put ‘trespass’ and ‘church property’ in the same sentence, somehow. Maybe I’m just naïve. I have a long history with Trinity Church.”

Now, just imagine that the shoe was on the other foot, and that Trinity Wall Street had voted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church (USA), but remain in and continue to occupy their building, which they have paid for and maintained for over 200 years.

Whom do you think that Bishop Packard would be calling “trespassers” then?

Study: Belief in Hell is associated with reduced crime

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Azim Shariff, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, studies the impacts of specific beliefs within religion on people’s behaviors.

EUGENE, OR June 21, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Religions are thought to serve as bulwarks against unethical behaviors. However, when it comes to predicting criminal behavior, the specific religious beliefs one holds is the determining factor, says a University of Oregon psychologist.

The study, appearing in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, found that criminal activity is higher in societies where people’s religious beliefs contain a strong punitive component than in places where religious beliefs are more benevolent. A country where many more people believe in heaven than in hell, for example, is likely to have a much higher crime rate than one where these beliefs are about equal. The finding surfaced from a comprehensive analysis of 26 years of data involving 143,197 people in 67 countries.

“The key finding is that, controlling for each other, a nation’s rate of belief in hell predicts lower crime rates, but the nation’s rate of belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates, and these are strong effects,” said Azim F. Shariff, professor of psychology and director of the Culture and Morality Lab at the UO. “I think it’s an important clue about the differential effects of supernatural punishment and supernatural benevolence. The finding is consistent with controlled research we’ve done in the lab, but here shows a powerful ‘real world’ effect on something that really affects people—crime.”

Last year, in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, Shariff reported that undergraduate students were more likely to cheat when they believe in a forgiving God than a punishing God.

Religious belief generally has been viewed as “a monolithic construct,” Shariff said. “Once you split religion into different constructs, you begin to see different relationships. In this study, we found two differences that go in opposite directions. If you look at overall religious belief, these separate directions are washed out and you don’t see anything. There’s no hint of a relationship.”

The new findings, he added, fit into a growing body of evidence that supernatural punishment had emerged as a very effective cultural innovation to get people to act more ethically with each other. In 2003, he said, Harvard University researchers Robert J. Barro and Rachel M. McCleary had found that gross domestic product was higher in developed countries when people believed in hell more than they did in heaven.

“Supernatural punishment across nations seems to predict lower crime rates,” Shariff said. “At this stage, we can only speculate about mechanisms, but it’s possible that people who don’t believe in the possibility of punishment in the afterlife feel like they can get away with unethical behavior. There is less of a divine deterrent.”
He added, however, that these are correlational data, and so caution should be taken with the conclusions. Though Shariff and study co-author Mijke Rhemtulla of the Center for Research Methods and Data Analysis at the University of Kansas tried to account for obvious alternative explanations, more research is needed to explore other interpretations for the findings.

The data for belief in hell and heaven, belief in God and religious attendance were culled from World Values and European Values surveys done across various time periods between 1981 and 2007. Crime data were pulled from United Nations records on homicide, robbery, rape, kidnapping, assault, theft, drug-related crimes, auto theft, burglary and human trafficking. Other factors accounted for included such things as nations’ dominant religion (Roman Catholic, other Christian and Muslim), income inequality, life expectancy and incarceration rate.

“This research provides new insights into the potential influences of cultural and religious beliefs on key outcomes at a societal level,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation. “Although these findings may be controversial, dissecting the associations between specific belief systems and epidemiologic behaviors is an important first step for social scientists to disentangle the complex web of factors that motivate human behavior.”

SC Standing Committee Denounces Proposed Rite for Same Sex Blessings

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

This declaration just came from the Standing Committee of the sovereign Diocese of South Carolina:

1. As the Standing Committee of the sovereign Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, we view with dismay and great sadness what appears to be the inevitable outcome of the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, that is, the official approval of a rite for the blessing of same-gender unions. This is a defining moment in the life of the Episcopal Church, being the first formal adoption of doctrine, discipline and worship which are contrary to the unequivocal mandate of Holy Scripture, the historic Christian faith, Anglican doctrine, and the pronouncements of the four instruments of Anglican unity. Furthermore, the adoption of such a rite at General Convention contravenes the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the Book of Common Prayer, and in so doing reveals the bankruptcy of our own polity and institutional integrity.

2. Of greatest concern is not that a blessing of same-gender unions contravenes specific verses of Scripture, though that is unacceptable – of greatest concern is the theology which underlies this rite, set forth in the 82 page I Will Bless You document, which patently redefines the Christian faith, subverting the doctrines of creation and baptism, the nature of sin and salvation, and the grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. We have compassion for those who struggle with and act upon same-gender attraction, and we urge equal treatment for all men and women in the church. Our Lord calls us all, equally, to repent of sin that we might receive forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, restoration to the Body of Christ, and transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. We hereby repudiate, denounce and reject any action of the Episcopal Church which purports to bless what our Lord clearly does not bless. Specifically, we declare any rite which purports to bless same-gender unions to be beyond the authority and jurisdiction of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and without force or effect.

5. In view of the persistent movement of the General Convention of this church away from orthodox Christianity, including its expected embrace of such a rite of same-sex blessings, we further affirm and assert our calling in this diocese to seek to “make Biblical Anglicans for a global age,” and we declare that we will not walk with General Convention down the road they are choosing. We will instead continue to partner with Anglican dioceses, provinces and other Anglican entities here and abroad to further the spread of the Good News of salvation for sinners through faith in Jesus Christ.

You may view a signed copy of the statement at this link.

Not only does the proposed rite for SSB’s contravene Holy Scripture, but General Convention will have to violate its own Constitution in order to adopt it on a trial basis for the entire Church. Unfolding before us is just the latest example of the lawless and degenerate spirit that pervades ECUSA at all its top levels.

The Rt. Rev. Stanley Ntagali Elected 8th Archbishop of the Church of Uganda

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

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Archbishop Elect Stanley NtagaliOn 22nd June 2012, at a press conference held at the Archbishop’s Palace, Namirembe, the Rt. Rev. Nicodemus Okille, Dean of the Church of the Province of Uganda, announced that the Rt. Rev. Stanley Ntagali was elected the 8th Archbishop of the Church of Uganda. The election was held during a meeting of the House of Bishops on Friday, 22nd June, 2012, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Namirembe.

The election was by secret ballot and was presided over by the Provincial Chancellor. Bishop Ntagali was elected with more than a two-thirds majority, per the Constitution of the Church of Uganda.

Bishop Ntagali was consecrated Bishop on 19th December 2004 and has served as the Bishop of Masindi-Kitara Diocese for eight years.

Born in Ndorwa County in Kabale District in 1955, he shifted with his family to Wambabya Parish in Kizirifumbi Sub-county in Hoima District when he was 16 years old. On Christmas Eve 1974, at the age of 19, he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour and was born again.

He began working as a teacher in Wambabya Primary School, and later spent two years as a missionary in Karamoja Diocese. He did his theological training at Bishop Tucker Theological College, St. Paul’s Theological College, Limuru, Kenya, and the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in the UK.

After serving as a missionary in Karamoja Diocese, he served the remainder of his priestly ministry in various capacities in Bunyoro-Kitara Diocese until 2002, when he was appointed Provincial Secretary.

As a Bishop, Bishop Ntagali has represented the Archbishop in international meetings, served as the Chair of the Church House Board, and led the committee that designed guidelines for retiring Bishops.

Bishop Ntagali is married to Beatrice and they have five children.

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Pro-life victory at Rio ‘sustainable development’ conference: ‘reproductive rights’ excised

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

June 21st, 2012 

By Hilary White, LifeSite News

International pro-life advocates are claiming victory at a UN-sponsored meeting on the environment in Rio de Janeiro this week. The Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development has angered abortion lobbyists by excluding any mention of abortion, either explicitly or in coded language, in the conference’s outcome document.

Among the parties attending the meeting was the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a UN-recognized NGO that trail-blazed the international pro-life effort at these kinds of gatherings when it participated in the 1994 meeting on population and development in Cairo. SPUC director John Smeaton told LifeSiteNews.com the defeat of the abortion-pushers at Rio will give strength to governments, churches and the pro-life movement when it comes time to fight at the local level.

“Each brick in the dam or resistance to this tidal wave is crucial,” he said.

Smeaton cited the situation in Ireland as a case in point, saying the country “is under colossal pressure” to legalize abortion from the UN and EU. “Holding the line is exceptionally difficult for pro-life politicians and pro-life groups – resisting the tidal wave of abortions in entire countries such as we continue to do in Ireland and in Northern Ireland is a battle which is constant struggle,” Smeaton said.

Read here

‘Get in line’ or ‘resign’ Admiral tells military chaplain

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

June 21st, 2012

By Jean McCarthy, LifeSite News

Although the U.S. Military fight and die to uphold freedom, high-level military chaplains report they are increasingly being denied freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. There is also alarm about the negative effects on troop morale over the undoing of the 237-years’ practice of providing traditional religious support for U.S. soldiers.

“We were promised that we would see no change – very little change,” says Col. Ron Crews, alluding to a two-star officer’s assurance that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal would not impede the ministry of military chaplains. That promise, he says, has not been kept.

Col. Crews, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, was speaking at a panel along with military chaplains and religious freedom activists during the 2012 National Religious Freedom Conference in Washington D.C on May 24.

The panelists agreed that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and other policies have made it difficult, if not a punishable offense, for military chaplains to read passages of Leviticus, pray aloud in the name of God at a soldier’s funeral, or preside over traditional services.

Col. Crews recounted an interchange in 2010 between Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a military chaplain. While Adm. Mullen was briefing the troops on what the repeal might look like, the chaplain asked if those with “biblical views that homosexuality is a sin [would] still be protected to express those views?”

Adm. Mullen reportedly responded, “Chaplain, if you can’t get in line with this policy, resign your commission.”

Read here

Gene Robinson Dismisses Religious Liberty Concerns as a “red herring”

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

 

Jun 2012

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Thursday the Center for American Progress hosted a panel event entitled “Religious Liberty: What It Is and Isn’t.” The event featured Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute, Sammie Moshenberg of the National Council of Jewish Women, Melissa Rogers of Wake Forest Divinity School, and openly partnered homosexual Episcopal Church Bishop Gene Robinson. The panel ran the gamut of religious liberty issues, but mainly focused on same-sex marriage and contraception. Robinson set the tone for the event with his opening words: The “evidence that religious liberty is being attacked is a […] red herring and it is interesting that it is coming from one side.”

The panel discussion showed the deep philosophical divide that runs between liberal and conservative religious people on the definition of religious liberty and the future of religion’s role in the public square. While the United States has maintained a robust religious public life in its civil activities, the definition of religious liberty offered by Robinson and the others betrayed an alignment with a European sphere-based model. This bias was very clear in the questions about same-sex marriage. Repeatedly, the New Hampshire bishop said that “marriage is a civil issue.” He explained his own same-sex ceremony in his church. First, he and his partner were “married by our female Jewish lawyer” at the back of the church where, as he put it, the secular meets the sacred. Then, after they were married, they walked down the aisle to be blessed by the Episcopal Church. This decision was lauded by the other panelists. Rogers agreed that civil marriage and religious marriage should be separated and Robinson went so far to say that the word “marriage” should be “given to the civil culture.”

Others have explained why getting the church “out of the marriage business” is a bad idea for the state, but what was interesting to me is that Robinson and the others on the panel placed the power to confer marriage solely in the hands of the state. Repeatedly, Robinson emphasized that he and his partner were already married as they walked down the aisle from their lawyer to be blessed by the church. Rogers commented on the customary words at the end of a marriage ceremony – “by the power invested in me by the authority of the state” – were always strange to her. Isn’t “authority invested in you by a higher power?” she asked rhetorically.

The answer is yes. For Christians, marriage is not and cannot be fundamentally a civil ceremony. It was divinely instituted in the Garden and it is for divine purpose – to image Christ and the Church. For Robinson, an Episcopal bishop, to assert that a religious marriage ceremony means nothing more than a blessing of a state-invested power is a denial of scriptural authority and millennia of Church tradition that maintains marriage as a covenant before God. This attitude implicitly moves sacred authority from the church to the state, which has drastic implications for religious liberty. Robinson gave France as an example the United States could follow. He claimed that, in France, “everyone gets married in the mayor’s office” and then gets blessed in their respective faith tradition. But France is hardly the paragon of religious liberty. Laïcité – the principle that separates religion both from public power and from the public sphere – has largely been regarded as hostile to religion and effective in the radical secularization of French public life. It has not been good for almost any religion and played a large role in the French ban on the Islamic hijab in public in 2004.

The general denial that faith encompasses all aspects of life for many Americans and, simply, that it is a broad worldview that cannot be compartmentalized into explicitly religious activities pervaded both the discussion of marriage and the contraception debate. After boiling down the upcoming Fortnight for Freedom organized by the “anti-family planning, anti-women’s equality” U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to a “marketing campaign to their flock,” Moshenberg claimed that the conscientious objection argument for faith-based institutions opting out of the HHS mandate is a slippery slope to those institutions disapproving of out-of-wedlock pregnancies denying their employees pre-natal care or anti-retroviral medicine to employees suffering from AIDS. Only the government can save us from such daunting specters in the form of the Catholic bishops and conservative evangelicals! Rogers reasonably pointed out that the First Amendment primarily places restrictions on the government from meddling in the church. When the state does interfere with religious practices (like the decision out of Oregon that prevented religious ceremonies using the drug peyote), the burden of proof is on the government to explain its decision.

Alexis de Tocqueville lauded the United States for its enthusiasm for civic associations, of which the church one of the primary examples. He wrote in Democracy in America that Americans did not find religion and liberty to be at odds with each other, as Tocqueville’s post-Enlightenment France asserted. Rather, he writes, “Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot.” It would do well for clergy like Robinson to remember these words.