The newSpin newsletter
January 20, 2015
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• Mission to Kajo Keji … Father Dennis Blauser, a rector from the Diocese of Northwestern PA, Mr. Charlie Barebo and Archdeacon Rick Cluett began their journey home yesterday (Tuesday) from a weeklong mission trip to Kajo Keji in South Sudan. Info and pics at Rick's Facebook page.
• It's official: 2014 was the hottest year on record … [WaPo] Planet Earth set an ominous record last year as global temperatures rose to the highest level since modern measurements began, scientists said Friday in a report that heightened concerns about humanity’s growing toll on the natural systems that sustain life. The year 2014 was declared the hottest year in a joint announcement by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, based on separate analyses of weather records dating back to 1880, when Rutherford B. Hayes occupied the White House. Driven in part by steadily warming oceans, average temperatures edged past the previous records set in 2005 and 2010. The 10 hottest years in modern times have all come since 1997, NASA scientists said. Read on.
• Science or Conscience on climate change? … [dotCommonweal] The announcement that 2014 was Earth's warmest year on record prompted responses from some who accept the scientific evidence of climate change that this should finally convince those who don't. You'd think that with nine such records set and subsequently broken since 2000 alone, not much more convincing would be required, but there you have it. The complexity of climate science has become the fig leaf for those reluctant to acknowledge the role of greenhouse gases to hide behind, and thus to rationalize inaction and obstruction. So if the scientific case is too hard, then what about the moral case?That's how Pope Francis's upcoming encyclical on climate change will couch it, perhaps in terms of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Read on.
• Francis lambasts international aid, suggests Catholics should have fewer children … [Aboard the papal plane from Manila, NCR, Joshua McElwee] Pope Francis has obliquely but sharply criticized how financially stable nations lend aid to developing countries, saying they sometimes require concessions that strike echoes of 20th century dictatorships. The pontiff has also made what appears to be an unprecedented statement that Catholics may have a moral responsibility to limit the number of their children, while reaffirming Pope Paul VI’s ban on artificial means of birth control. Read on.
• Catholics need not breed 'like rabbits' … [USA Today] Pope Francis, after a visit to the largest Catholic nation in Asia, says Catholics may have a moral responsibility to limit the number of their children and need not reproduce "like rabbits. ''But the pope also reaffirmed the church's ban on artificial means of birth control and said Catholics should practice "responsible parenting." Here. [Bill] If you don't care for the simile, blame Francis.
• Fox News becomes the unwilling star of a French TV satire … [NYTimes] Mockery is a national weapon in France, so when an American cable news channel raised false alarms about rampant lawlessness in some Paris neighborhoods — proclaiming them “no-go zones” for non-Muslims, avoided even by the police — a popular French television show rebutted the claims the way it best knew how: with satire, spoofs and a campaign of exaggeration and sarcasm. The show, “Le Petit Journal,” is a French version of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” — irreverent and reliant on mock correspondents who showcase the foibles of the high and mighty. Read on.
• Twin Cities archdiocese declares bankruptcy, calling it 'fairest' recourse ... [Star Tribune] The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday, becoming the 12th in the nation to say its treasury cannot withstand the unprecedented wave of lawsuits from clergy abuse victims. The move freezes lawsuits against the church, protecting the archdiocese from creditors while allowing it to develop a reorganization plan. It also halts three abuse trials scheduled to begin Jan. 26. The archdiocese is facing more than 20 lawsuits, with another 100 pending. The bankruptcy filing didn’t provide precise financial figures, but showed estimated liabilities of $50 million to $100 million, estimated assets of $10 million to $50 million, and estimated creditors of 200 to 999. Read on.
•• Catholic writer Thomas Merton: Holy and oh-so-human … [Crux, Margery Eagan] Thomas Merton's 100th birthday would have been Jan. 31. Handsome, strapping, saintly, serious, sexy, and a little bit dangerous, “like a rugged Spencer Tracy with a tonsure and a cassock.” That’s how filmmaker Ben Eisner once described the famous monk who grew up an orphan with no religion, fathered a child out of wedlock, and lived a debauched, drunken, womanizing life before turning beatnik peace activist, anti-war and civil rights crusader, and hermit on the grounds of a Kentucky monastery. At 51, he fell in love with a nursing student half his age whose letters he burned before flying off to meet with Buddhists in Thailand, where, two years later, a faulty fan electrocuted him as he emerged from the bathtub. Somehow this same monk, so clearly suspended between the holy and the oh-so-human, turned into one of the most influential Catholic writers of the 20th century. Read on.
• How to be compassionate … The key word is do. It’s not think compassion and you will act more compassionate. It’s act more compassionate and you will feel more compassionate. I remember that Bishop Mark used to say, "Act yourself into believing." He also told the story includd in this article. Meditation expert Sharon Salzberg recounts an old Native American story that sums it up better than any research abstract. "A grandfather (occasionally it’s a grandmother) imparting a life lesson to his grandson tells him, “I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is vengeful, fearful, envious, resentful, deceitful. The other wolf is loving, compassionate, generous, truthful, and serene.” The grandson asks which wolf will win the fight. The grandfather answers, “The one I feed.” Here.
•• Reflection on daily Lectionary readings … Bruce Marold of Trinity Bethlehem, firstname.lastname@example.org, has written comments and reflections on daily Lectionary readings for over 4 years, on and off, from before he started at the seminary. He discontinued them sometime in 2013. His faithful conscience, Mithril, the theological cat – don't let the cat get you, it's worth continuing on – insists that since we are now at the beginning of a new year, that he resume this practice. He does the New Testament reading for each of the seven days, plus the Gospel for Sunday. Depending on how that works, he may replace the Sunday epistle reading with the psalm for the week, and do the Gospel on Sunday. These reflections appear daily on Mithril's Facebook page, accompanied by an image suggested by the text. These are reflections, as they are less commentary and far more personal reaction to the reading, and anything from our culture, from ancient days to today, is fair game. When he started this, in 2009, he would pore over thick commentaries to get something readers may not have encountered. Now, he's burning that bridge and relying on his impressions, hoping that they may spark reflective impressions of your own.
• A record number of Americans claim to be independent – They are kidding themselves … [WaPo] More than four in 10 Americans -- 43 percent -- say they are political independents in a new Gallup poll. That's a new record high.It's also highly misleading.What we have here isn't so much a rise in political independence as much as a rise in the desire to be labeled "independent." Indeed, almost every indicator shows that the American people are actually becoming more polarized, more electorally predictable, and less swing-y -- i.e. less independent. Read on.
• Supreme Court agrees to hear gay marriage issue … [WaPo] The Supreme Court announced Friday. January 16, that it will decide a historic question about whether the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live or whether states are free to limit wedlock to its traditional definition as a union only between a man and a woman. Read on.
• Asking young adults: Why don't you come to church? … [NCR] A large Roman Catholic parish in DC invited 500 young adults, 18-40, to a listening session. Some 50 came. Read on.
•• Report to the Episcopal Church 2015 … [Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] An innovative online magazine detailing the mission and ministry, accomplishments and achievements of the Domestic and Missionary Society during the current triennium, had been unveiled at the Executive Council meeting on January 9. It is available here and can be downloaded at no charge. Read on.
•• The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) The Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale announced her decision not to continue as dean and president of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., when her contract expires at the end of June. Ragsdale is the second-ever female chief and the first lesbian to become leader of an Episcopal seminary.… has presented its final report to the 78th General Convention and to the Church, and for inclusion in Reports to General Convention, commonly referred to as The Blue Book. Read on. TREC also released A Word to the Episcopal Church about its final report. Consider participating in the first of three free courses on reimagining church leadership produced by ChurchNext in partnership with TREC. The second and third free courses will be available during the coming weeks.
•• Reimagining the church with TREC ... Another free online course. Christlike Leadership with Dwight Zscheile. Leadership and Innovation with Dwight Zscheile. The Baptismal Covenant with Frederica Thompsett. Leadership and Truth Telling with Winnie Varghese. Learn about the essentials of church leadership in a changing landscape. In this first of three TREC courses on church leadership three seasoned leaders tell us what's needed to nurture and build healthy communities. For more info and to register.
OldSpin – Do you remember?
•• Who will be the martyrs of our 21st-century Church? … [Bishop Mark Dyer, Diocesan Life, September 1993] We need to stop playing around with a tricklr-down model of authority, with non-systemic change, and focus instead on transformation. … Who will lead the next transformation? Might be Christians gathered in a base community, not weighed down by their goods, who devote themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers, who know they cannot serve two masters and who have a passionate commitment to the presence and power of God in the scriptures, so deeply yearning to realize God's dream that they live it daily in community.
•• HIV/AIDS Healing Service … [Diocesan Life, September 1993] Bishop Leo Frade of Honduras will preach, Oct. 24, 1993, at the Cathedral.
•• Michelle Marie Moyer … will be ordained a priest on January 24, 2015, at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, 11:00 a.m. Read on.
I am grateful to the lay and clergy leaders across the diocese who have committed themselves to the work that lies ahead. In particular, the diocesan staff is working to foster continued change, and I invite you to be in touch with them when they can help support your congregation's ministry and mission. Read on.
• The 2015 IRS mileage rates … [Bruce Reiner] Employee $.57; Charity $.14; Medical $.23
•• Resources ... Here.
•• Resources ... Here.
Columns, Sermons, Reflections and other Spin
• Je suis, Je ne suis pas or Vive Charlie? … [dotCommonweal, Matthew Boudway] The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo had fun making fun. They spent their whole careers trying to be outrageous, trying to offend, and there is nothing particularly heroic about that. But in the end, after the threats of violence began to arrive, they could continue to be outrageous only by being courageous too—by refusing to let terrorists decide what they were allowed to draw and print. Like most Catholics and most Americans (few of whom had ever heard of the magazine before last week), I can't honestly say, "Je suis Charlie." And in a way, that's beside the point. Solidarity is not always a function of identity. Enough to be able to say, along with many who've never read it and many others whose ox it regularly gores, "Vive Charlie Hebdo!" Read on.
[Bakery, Addison Bross] Last week, onetime Lehigh University professor and current member of Grace Allentown Addison Bross posted an essay on Bakery about his "Je ne suis pas Charlie" stance. An excerpt: Pundits are now coming forward to rescue Charlie Hebdo from the threat of what they call a violent form of censorship (censorship by terrorism). They are lauding Charlie and its cartoons as a healthy and powerful kind of satire -- satire that is, yes, abrasive but hence all the more to be honored and protected as courageous "free expression" bound -- because of its very "courage" -- to offend some segment of the public. Pious reflections are being intoned about "the power of the pen," which violence, we are assured, "will never disarm."
However, putting Charlie's cartoons in the historical context of French satire reveals something that prompts my hesitance to join in their praise. Such stars in this long and splendid history as the 17th-century playwright-actor Jean-Batiste Poquelin (aka Moliere) and printmaker Honore Daumier come to mind. Through such plays as Tartuffe, The Miser, and The Bourgeois Gentleman, Moliere taught his society to laugh at (and thus most effectively abhor and reject) such flaws as religious hypocrisy, greed, and snobbish classism -- as these were becoming rampant at the very top of the French social order. Daumier is most famous perhaps for drawings and lithographs that treated irreverently certain corrupt politicians, blundering officials, and pretentious attorneys -- again, the powerful. His caricature of King Louis Philippe (1831) as a bloated Gargantua devouring his subjects got him six months in jail. Charlie's cartoons, I believe, fall outside this tradition of great French satire; indeed they stain it. Read on.
• Call it courage … [Commonweal Editorial] It is no good pretending this ideology will disappear or cease to afflict us if only the Charlie Hebdos of the world can be persuaded to exercise a little more tact and self-restraint. The groups behind these attacks are demanding vengeance or submission, not better manners. Read on.
• Weddings for non-members … [Episcopal Café] The Rev. Laurie Brock reflects at Dirty Sexy Ministry on allowing non-members to be married in the church. Read on.
• How expensive it is to be poor … [Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed, NYTimes] Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released a study that found that most wealthy Americans believed “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.” This is an infuriatingly obtuse view of what it means to be poor in this country — the soul-rending omnipresence of worry and fear, of weariness and fatigue. This can be the view only of those who have not known — or have long forgotten — what poverty truly means. “Easy” is a word not easily spoken among the poor. Things are hard — the times are hard, the work is hard, the way is hard. “Easy” is for uninformed explanations issued by the willfully callous and the haughtily blind. Allow me to explain, as James Baldwin put it, a few illustrations of “how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” Read on.
• The hardest part of being a parent … [Bishop Gene Robinson] One of the hardest things for a parent to adjust to, as our children get older and begin to enter adulthood, is the creeping notion that we are losing control over our children. We begin to understand and comprehend, frightening as it is, that we no longer have control (if we ever really did), and that control is an illusion we buy into in order to ease our own anxiety about our children making their own way in the world. Sooner rather than later, we begin to understand that we cannot fully protect our children from the slings and arrows of life. And even more disconcerting is the dawning realization that our children are not extensions of ourselves, but independent human beings separate from us. They’re going to make bad decisions, they are going to violate the moral guidelines we so carefully set for them, and they are going to be hurt. And there’s not a damned thing we can do about it. Read on.
•• Christ Episcopal Church Reading … [Reading Eagle, Bruce Posten] features prominently in a story, Church Pews Slowly Open Up for Diversity, that begins on the Dec. 26 front page. Rector John Francis says that when he was called to the church ten years ago, the nonwhite membership was five to ten percent at most – now 40%, mostly Latino and African American. Read on. [Note: the continuation link is at the top of the newspaper page.]
•• Resources ... Here.
•• Resources ... Here.
Rest in Peace
His London-based agent, Barrie Marshall, said Cocker died Monday of lung cancer in Colorado, where he has lived for the past two decades. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/ns/obituary.aspx?n=joe-cocker&pid=173558813#sthash.22Z9bcRa.dpuf
•• How Ebola Roared Back … [NYTimes] For a fleeting moment last spring, the epidemic sweeping West Africa might have been stopped. But the opportunity to control the virus, which has now caused more than 7,800 deaths, was lost. … "It's like if a plane crashes in the Hudson in the morning, and there's a snowstorm in the afternoon and floods in the subways in the evening. And then you have two planes hit the World Trade Center in the middle of the night." [Dr. Robert Fowler of the World Health Organization, on the organization's facing an Ebola breakout in West Africa, while also handling crises in Saudi Arabia, China and Syria.] Read on. This is an excellent, though lengthy, feature.
• Episcopal Positions (NYC/DC) ... Here.
Ecumenism and Interfaith
• Knowledge, religion and vitriol at Duke … [WaPo, Steven Petrow] I wear several Duke hats these days, as an alumnus, a director of the alumni association and the uncle of a Duke freshman. I know the school well. But none of my roles prepared me for the tsunami set off last week by evangelist Franklin Graham’s Facebook post calling on the university to reverse its plan to broadcast a Muslim call to prayer this past Friday from the top of Duke Chapel. I never would have anticipated how this issue would cleave the community at Duke — whose motto, after all, is “eruditio et religio,” or knowledge and religion — and prompt for me a crisis of identities.
At first I felt pride that Duke had taken such a powerfully symbolic step at a time of so much uncertainty, fear and violence in the world. This is the Duke I know and love. But Graham’s post brought national attention to the campus, much of it ugly. I was stunned not just by the volume of social media comments that followed but also by their vitriol. Many relied on name-calling; others included shadowy threats: “I’m sure in the future,” said one post on Duke’s Facebook page. “Muslim representatives will honor your support for them by killing some innocent Christians some place near your campus.” Things only got cloudier and rowdier when college officials reversed course Thursday. The turnabout topped home-pages and front pages, and social media again lit up with both sides of the argument. Read on.
• A change of heart? Inside the evangelical war over gay marriage … [Time Magazine] This lengthy piece in the Jan. 26 issue of Time (cover: After Paris) includes a two-part graphic based on Pew Research 2014. The first part shows what churches support/do not support same-sex marriage. Support: Evangelical Lutheran Church, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ. Do not support: Southern Baptist Convention, Roman Catholic Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, National Association of Evangelicals, United Methodist Church, National Baptist Convention.
The second part is a graph that shows the evolution (from 2001 to 2014) of % of support for same-sex marriage by members of U.S. reigious groups. (1) Unaffiliated churches: 61% to 77%, (2) White Mainline Protestants: 38% to 60%, (3) Catholics: 40% to 57%, (4) Black Protestants: 30% to 41%, and (5) White evangelical Protestants: 13% to 21%. Note the small difference between Catholics and White Mainline Protestants.
Evangelical Lutheran Church
•• Resources ... Here.
•• Resources ... Here.
United Methodist Church
•• Resources ... Here.
Presbyterian Church USA
•• Resources ... Here.
• Diocese of Allentown to close two schools … [The Morning Call] Pius X Junior/Senior High School in Bangor and Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Roseto will close at the end of the school year, victims of declining enrollment and increasing costs. Read on.
•• Resources ... Here.
• Francis struggles to answer crying girl's question about suffering … Manila, Philippines [NCR] Tearfully recounting a young life as yet spent forced to forage for food from garbage and to sleep outside on cardboard mats, 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar had a simple but profound question for Pope Francis."Why did God let this happen to us?" the young Filipino asked, covering her face with her hands as she sobbed.Speaking on a stage in front of some 30,000 young people as part of a meeting between Francis and Filipino youth Sunday, Palomar's intense query visibly affected the pontiff.
Putting aside a text he had prepared for the occasion in order to respond directly to the young woman, Francis answered her with a 40-minute reflection on the nature of suffering, love, and service."The nucleus of your question almost doesn't have a reply," the pontiff said at first, pain clearly etched on his face as he mentioned that he had seen her tears."Only when we too can cry about the things that you said are we able to come close to replying to that question," Francis continued. "Why did children suffer so much?" he asked. "Why do children suffer?" "Certain realties in life we only see through eyes that are cleansed through our tears," Francis said. Read on.
• The pope said what?!? … [CNN, Daniel Burke] Stunners from Francis. Here.
• Flu, other bugs hit Lehigh Valley hard … [The Morning Call] The flu's rampage through the Lehigh Valley has entered its fourth week with little sign of abating any time soon. "We're probably going to see a fair amount of flu for the next few weeks," warned Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, St. Luke's University Health Network's chief of infectious diseases. Both St. Luke's and Lehigh Valley Health Network, the region's two biggest health-care providers, reported sustained, heavy emergency room traffic. Circulating is a particularly nasty strain of the flu called A-H3N2 — against which the vaccine offers little protection. The government last week made clear how little protection: The vaccine is only 23 percent effective — one of the worst performances in the last decade — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. The vaccine is prepared months in advance of the flu season, based on health experts' forecast of what strains are likely to be prevalent. The forecast, however, can be off — sometimes a little, sometimes more so, as was the case this time. The CDC describes the flu as "widespread" — the agency's highest designation — throughout nearly the entire country, including Pennsylvania. Read on.
• The flu and you: Tips … [The Morning Call] Here. It's not "just" the flu, but it's not too late to get a flu shot.
•• Flu shots ... Info from the CDC Here and Here. A lot of good info also at flu.gov.
• PBS Mystery features Church of England Vicar … [Episcopal Café] SFGate reports on the new Masterpiece Mystery “Grantchester” based on “the novel Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, by James Runcie, who based the character, in part, on his late father, Lord Runcie, the archbishop of Canterbury in the 1980s.” Read on.
• The Liar's Wife: Four Novellas… [at dotCommonweal, Cassandra Nelson reviews Mary Gordon's book] Can good ever come from evil, or truth from a lie? St. Augustine answered the first question in the affirmative nearly sixteen centuries ago, when he observed that although the fall of man had brought sin and death into the world, it also paved the way for Christ’s incarnation and redemption. From him we have the idea of the felix culpa, or “fortunate fall,” for “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist.” As for the second question, poets and fiction writers have long demonstrated how certain lies, by a kind of alchemy, can teach us the truth. Mary Gordon comes to these questions rather late in her career—The Liar’s Wife is her fourth collection of short fiction; other books include six novels and three memoirs—but in doing so, she has produced some of her finest work yet. The first novella in particular, from which the collection takes its name, is a small masterpiece of the form, not least because it asks questions as difficult and enduring as the two above, and it doesn’t settle for pat or easy answers. Read on.
• The American Sniper's faith you won't see … [RNS, Sarah Pulliam Bailey] Chris Kyle, often described as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, wrote in his autobiography that he prioritized his life in the following order: God, country, family. But God doesn’t make a central appearance in the film “American Sniper,” which opened nationwide on Friday (Jan. 16). The film offers a few similarities to “Unbroken,” Angelina Jolie’s recent World War II epic about POW Louis Zamperini. Both stories focus on the dramatic stories of warriors who died before the movie versions of their lives came out. Both “American Sniper” and “Unbroken” include an early scene of their families sitting in church. Both men struggle with substance abuse after returning from war. And both films largely skirt the faith that Kyle and Zamperini said were key to their identity — and their survival. Read on.•• Resources ... Here
As soon as the newSpin newsletter is completed, usually by Tuesday, it is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on Bakery and on other diocesan lists of nearly 4,000 addresses. Many recipients often forward it to others. The newsletter comes, of course, with some spin from the editor. The views expressed, implied or inferred in items or links contained in the newsletter or the blog do not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop, the Standing Committee or the Archdeacon as an official communication. If you're wondering why you haven't seen something related to your parish or agency here, it's likely that no one has sent relevant info. If you think something about your parish or agency merits inclusion, send email to Bill. Comments are welcome on Bakery (if you are subscribed to that interactive list) anf at the newSpin blog. Click at the newSpin blog in the right hand column on the title of the current newsletter. Then, make your comment below.
Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998-)
Blog , Email (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]