Friday, September 30, 2011
September 30, 2011
If one had any doubts about the downward trend of The Episcopal Church, this week's story on the financial condition of the church should finally dispel that notion.
With fleeing parishioners, the promotion of pansexuality, declining dioceses and increasingly less income coming into churches, and hence, less for the diocese and national church, the Episcopal Church is scrambling to find ways to stop the hemorrhaging, rein in costs and find ways to do business that are more cost efficient...while promoting what they call mission.
We are now at a point, writes attorney Alan Haley, where the Episcopal Church finds itself in significant structural trouble, which is having equally significant ramifications for its budget. Even as there has been a steady drop in membership, the Church is expanding its national superstructure and its budget. This makes no sense, but apparently no one in charge will care, until the steady decline in voluntary contributions, from an ever-shrinking base of parishioners, literally forces the leadership to make painful cuts. Still, the Church continues to lose members -- on average, about forty parishes a year, the equivalent, one of its officers says, of a "very small, admittedly, diocese". Even such a small number, however, adds up significantly over time. The cumulative effects are extremely unhealthy for future prospects.
The Episcopal Church is like a huge mansion constructed some time ago, whose foundation is slowly eroding while its superstructure remains just as huge and heavy as ever. It makes no sense for the House of Bishops to keep growing while the number of parishes steadily diminishes. Likewise, it makes no sense for TEC to be downsizing its budget, to match the fall in voluntary contributions, while sending its bishops to meet in Quito, Ecuador, so that the Church can demonstrate its claim to an "international" polity.
At the center of this new reality is Bishop Stacy Sauls who recently took over as the Episcopal Church's chief operating officer. In Quito, he urged "structural reform" that he said could shift the church's focus toward mission.
He offered the bishops a "model" resolution for each diocese to submit to the 77th General Convention in 2012 for consideration. As one sign of how far out of sync TEC is with the rest of most not-for-profit corporations, TEC has spent 47% on administrative costs verses Red Cross at 20%.
The model resolution would call for a special commission to be charged with "presenting a plan to the church for reforming its structures, governance, administration, and staff to facilitate this church's faithful engagement in Christ's mission...."
He said General Convention costs the church $8.3 million plus another $353,000 for church center departments and $3.5 million for dioceses to send its deputation and bishops -- a total of $12.2 million every three years, not including the costs to individuals.
"Reducing the frequency of General Convention to every four years would save 25 percent and every five years would save 40 percent, Sauls continued, adding that the length and size of the meeting, how business is presented and ongoing work also could be restructured to reduce costs."
The HOB/HOD listserv is going viral with all the recommendations and possible changes the church will have to make if the supply of money becomes shorter and shorter. For the record TEC spent 47% on administrative costs verses 9% by the Red Cross.
Now comes an utterly supercilious pronouncement by an official on behalf of ECUSA's Executive Council (citing the "decision" of one of its joint standing committees) with regard to the Diocese of South Carolina, and which purports to "declare" certain acts taken by a member diocese to be "null and void". [A tip o' the Rumpolean bowler to the Rev. Steve Wood's blog, which in this instance was authored in his temporary absence by Greg Shore.]
Oh, really? And just who, pray tell, is this supra-diocesan "Executive Council", or its "Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration"?
Read it all.
As you might have heard, the national pastime’s regular season ended Wednesday night in a ho-hum sort of way.
Ho-hum, as in the most unbelievable and remarkable few hours imaginable (and I’m not even talking about my beloved Texas Rangers’ dramatic ninth-inning home run to gain home-field advantage in the American League Division Series).
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci captured the scene:
They will go down as the most thrilling 129 minutes in baseball history. Never before and likely never again — if we even dare to assume anything else can be likely ever again — will baseball captivate and exhilarate on so many fronts in so small a window the way it did September 28, 2011.
Starting at 9:56 PM Eastern, the grand old game, said to suffer by comparison from football’s siren sisters of gambling and violence, and said to suffer from America’s shrinking attention span and capacity to contemplate, rose up and fairly screamed, “Watch this!”
At that minute, the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves clung to twin 3-2 leads and the belief that they would avoid the completion of the greatest September collapses in the history of the sport, even if, in Atlanta’s case — the Braves appeared headed for a tiebreaker game with St. Louis — it meant a 24-hour stay of execution. Boston seemed home free to October, seeing that Tampa Bay, its competitor for the wild card spot, was getting blown out by the Yankees, 7-0.
But what happened at that moment was the beginning of the end: With the Braves two outs from victory, Chase Utley of Philadelphia tied the game in Atlanta with a sacrifice fly against Craig Kimbrel, the baby-faced rookie closer for the Braves who was pitching with the earnestness of youth, but more obviously with the toll of overuse and stress from a grueling stretch run. Red-cheeked and flustered, he invited pity more than scorn.
Nothing would be the same in the next 129 minutes. Fortunes were reversed. Reputations were made and destroyed. Careers were altered.
It was 129 minutes played on the edge of a sharp knife. It wasn’t just win or go home. It was fame or infamy. Anonymity or celebrity. Cursed or blessed. Collapse or comeback. The Last Night of the Year did not bother with the in between. The scale and speed of it was mind-boggling.
Of course, the baseball gods — and even God — figured prominently in the media coverage of baseball’s night of miracles.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch focused on the “miracle” of the St. Louis Cardinals (enthusiastically endorsed by megafan M.Z. Hemingway of GetReligion.org fame) overcoming a double-digit deficit to win the National League wildcard over the Atlanta Braves:
So now the miracle continues. On to another city, another series, and perhaps another long and crazy Red October that could outdo the remarkable September magic they’ve already produced.
And at this point, would you dare to think anything else?
“This is a great situation for us,” said Carpenter. “How can you not be excited about what’s going on? This ball club has been unbelievable.”
In Baltimore, perhaps Orioles aficionado Terry Mattingly had something to do with the “Curse of the Andino”inflicted on the Boston Red Sox.
Or maybe the defeat was God’s will, as Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez seemingly suggested after the game?From The Atlantic:
And, speaking of God, the aforementioned Gonzales (sic) said in the locker room after Wednesday’s game that “God has a plan. And it wasn’t God’s plan for us to be in the playoffs.” That happened. He actually said that. I guess it’s better than saying, “God didn’t want me to hit that curve ball.” But it helps explain why so few members of the Red Sox Nation, spread out all over the world, can’t stand this team of underachieving apologists.
Gonzalez’s explanation also caught the attention of Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy:
Adrian Gonzalez chose to take the easy route of predestination.
“God has a plan,’’ he said. “And it wasn’t God’s plan for us to be in the playoffs.’’
Wow. That’ll play well in the Nation. And the owner’s box.
Wow indeed. I realize it’s a sports column, but really? “God has a plan” equals predestination? According to the Religion Newswriters Association stylebook, this is the meaning of predestination:
The belief that God predetermines whether people’s afterlife is to be spent in heaven or hell. It is most often associated with Swiss theologian John Calvin.
Does that mean the Rays are going to heaven and the Red Sox are going to … well, you get the idea?
Speaking of the Rays, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon provided a little Godbeat fodder of his own. FromMLB.com baseball columnist Hal Bodley:
It was motivational speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer who once wrote, “You’ll see it when you believe it.”
Seeing firsthand what the Rays have done is hard to believe.
They followed a script that ended early Thursday morning with a stunning 12-inning, 8-7 victory over the Yankees that had to be written by a force far greater than mere humans.
There is no other way to explain how the Rays’ unbelievable march to the postseason evolved — and ended.
“It goes beyond earthly measures,” said Rays skipper Joe Maddon, who has to be 2011 American League manager of the year. “I mean this sincerely. You can’t write this script. No one would believe how this happened tonight. We were in such a bad place, and [the Red Sox] were in such a good place.”
Does that make God a Rays fan? This devoted Rangers fan sure hopes not, since the Tampa Bay Miracles play Texas next.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
“Can one man build effective bridges between evangelical Christians and Chicago’s gay community?”
This question kicks off a fascinating article written by Christopher Landau for the BBC World Service’s Heart and Soul Programme entitled “Why conservative Christians flock to a Chicago gay bar”. I honor the BBC for tackling this difficult story; one with landmines for the unwary journalist.
But I ask, who would criticize a story about Andrew Marin: a man who “believes that polite, honest conversation between people of all perspectives is essential if Christians are to address questions about sexuality more effectively”? Who would be so heartless as to be against peace, love and happiness? It would be like drowning kittens.
I answer, me. This profile misses the mark. In its attempt to allow Andrew Marin to tell his story, it neglects to put that story into context. It makes assumptions and value judgments about the Evangelical Christianity and the GLBT movement that Marin seeks to reconcile without allowing the protagonists to define their terms or explain their cause.
This BBC story is quite similar to an Aug 2010 CBN broadcast entitled “Christian’s Outreach to Gays: I’m Sorry”. It too tees one up for Marin, not pressing him to define or defend his views, nor presenting opposing or critical comments. Marin even offers the same “Bible-banging homophobic” ‘money’ quote in each piece. He has his patter down pat.
Am I saying Marin’s work is misguided? No.
I am not offering opinions about his ministry or Christian moral teaching or the gay critique of institutional Christianity. It is the way the story has been crafted that I find unsatisfactory. No dead cats here.
Follow me then inside and see if you come out where I do.
The article begins by stating Marin is a “straight” evangelical Christian who:
.. works to try to bring Christians and gay people together in open conversation about sexuality and spirituality - and that includes running a large-scale meeting four times a year at Roscoe’s, one of America’s most famous gay bars.
That is no small achievement in a culture where openly gay people and evangelical Christians have long viewed each other with suspicion.
The scene has now been set and the BBC’s editorial voice speaks, saying “[Marin] believes that too many Christians don’t understand the complexity of the small number of Bible verses that mention homosexuality - he also thinks that gay people are often too quick to dismiss Christianity.”
On the heals of these strong sentiments, the story moves to a chronicle of Marin’s evolving beliefs and how he came to this work.
He had grown up in a conservative Christian household, and says he was “the biggest Bible-banging homophobic kid you ever met”. .. “I didn’t know what to do. I thought there was no way my theological belief system could ever line up with my [gay] friends’ way of life, so I ended up cutting ties with them.”
But Andrew Marin says that over the following months, he believed God was asking him to get back in touch with his friends and apologise to them.
A few weeks later, along with two of the three friends, he moved into Boystown [a gay neighborhood in Chicago].
The article then offers a colorful anecdote from his ministry and an explanation of his worldview.
One of the most unusual aspects of the Foundation’s work are its Living in the Tension gatherings, where people from all perspectives gather together to explore questions about Christian faith and sexuality. .. Most intriguing were two gay Christian men who had reached dramatically different conclusions about faith and sexuality.
Will is an openly gay man, and a pastor in the United Methodist Church.
He says he has resolved a “creative tension” he initially felt between his calling to ministry and his sexuality.
Sitting opposite him was Brian, who also says he’s always known he was gay - but whose traditional theology meant he chose to marry a woman and has since fathered a child.
He says that falling in love with his wife was “an experience that I can only say was through God himself bringing my wife and me together”.
A gay clergyman and an ex-gay: a nice counterpoint. This leads to the story’s cri de coeur:
But the Marin Foundation believes that polite, honest conversation between people of all perspectives is essential if Christians are to address questions about sexuality more effectively.
Not everyone is convinced that Christians are ready - or able - to have many such discussions. .. He says that the Marin Foundation simply wants to get gay people thinking about Christian spirituality in its broadest sense, without a disproportionate emphasis on sexual morality.
“What we try and do is help the person live the most faithful, God-honouring life that they can through their understanding of where God is leading them.”
This open-ended approach will frustrate both traditionalist and progressive Christians.
But few can argue with the fact that Andrew Marin’s foundation has enabled many conservative churches to begin open discussions about sexuality for the first time.
Now what is wrong with that? Well there is the small matter of hyperbole: Marin’s work has led “many” conservative churches to discuss human sexuality “for the first time”. Which churches? Or does he mean congregations? It seems conservative churches have been talking about sex for quite some time. Controversies over contraception, divorce and remarriage, the swinging 60’s, and now gay rights have been topics of seemingly unending discussion for the past seventy-five years, while the Bible seems to have had a bit to say about this (c.f. the Apostle Paul).
An expert’s voice is heard towards the close, a Harvard professor who says “my hope is that I would be willing to kneel at a communion table with my bitterest enemy in these debates.” Yet this quote shows the Harvard man holds a particular theological view of the Eucharist as a sacrament of unity that would not be shared by conservative evangelicals. For conservative evangelicals, one must have a shared doctrine to share communion, while for Roman Catholics, the Orthodox and like groups Eucharistic discipline forbids allowing those outside the fold from receiving the sacraments.
But more than this, the voices of evangelical Christians and the gay non-Christian community are missing from this article and last year’s CBN story. Robert Gagnon, the leading scholar on the traditional side of the debate, has sharply critiqued Marin’s work finding it to lack theological and Scriptural vigor. The blogosphere is alsoreplete with critics of Marin from the opposite corner. Where are they?
Why spoil the sweetness and light with clouds of criticism? Because such reporting is unfaithful to the story.
American journalism is founded upon a methodology best articulated by the German historian Leopold von Ranke. It is a scientific objective worldview that sees the task of the journalist (like the historian) to report what actually happened (wie es eigentlich gewesen). In this school of writing, the journalist must set aside his own views and present a story on its own terms, to establish what the facts are and let the facts dictate the story.
Omitting dissent, in this view of reporting, gives a false impression of the past and injects the present into the past.
These high minded words beg the question whether such a project is even possible in this post-modernist age. Is it still possible for a reporter to show what actually happened?
The judges, according to the American Center for Law & Justice, demanded that Nadarkhani, 34, recant his Christian faith before submission of evidence. Though the judgment runs against current Iranian and international laws and is not codified in Iranian penal code, the judge stated that the court must uphold the decision of the 27th Branch of the Supreme Court in Qom.
When asked to repent, Nadarkhani stated: "Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?"
"To the religion of your ancestors, Islam," the judge replied, according to the American Center for Law & Justice.
"I cannot," Nadarkhani said...more
September 20, 2011,
Peeved by the growing malaise of sexual immorality in the country, Primate, Church of Nigeria, the Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh, has described the practice of homosexuality, lesbianism and gay marriage as great evils that must neither be condoned nor allowed to further exist in our society.
Primate Okoh, who spoke Sunday in Owa, the headquarters of Ika North-east Local Government Area of Delta State during the marriage ceremony between Princess Ewere Efeizomor and Dr. Jimoh Onaivi, stated that homosexuality, lesbianism and same-sex marriage was not the original plan of God.
The war against "improper marriage" had been strongly waged by Rt Rev Peter Akinola who led other Anglican Bishops in East and West Africa to oppose the practice which had taken root in parts of Britain and the United States of America, so much that even the church was ordaining gay priests.
Read the full story at www.VirtueOnline.org
By Chris Woodward and Jody Brown
Sept. 27, 2011
A prominent American university has decided five on-campus Christian groups are in violation of the school's non-discrimination policy and has placed the groups on "provisional status" -- a move described by one conservative group as nothing short of religious bigotry.
Officials at Vanderbilt University told the groups they were in violation of non-discrimination policy for requiring their leaders to share the beliefs, goals, and values of their respective group. Should the groups not adhere to university policy, they risk being shut down.
Read the full story at www.VirtueOnline.org
By David W. Virtue
September 28, 2011
Anglicans have always been holistic thinkers. One need only think of men like John Wesley, John Stott, William Wilberforce and someone called John Jay (1745 –1829), an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States (1789–95).
Jay was also an Anglican, a denomination renamed the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America after the American Revolution. In 1785 Jay was a warden of Trinity Church, New York. Following the Revolutionary War, and as Congress's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he supported the proposal that the Archbishop of Canterbury approve the ordination of bishops for the Episcopal Church in the United States.
John Jay was one of the top ten American founders, but today he is largely forgotten. Often I meet attorneys who ask: "Who was John Jay?" It's always a little embarrassing for me to mention that he was the first Chief Justice of the United States and a co-author (along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison) of the Federalist Papers, arguably the primary original source document for Constitutional interpretation.
John Jay may well have been forgotten if it wasn't for a single thoughtful and winsome scholar in the person of Alan R. Crippen II, age 49, himself an Anglican.
Read the full story at www.VirtueOnline.org
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Money In, Money (Running) Out
September 28, 2011
The National Council of Churches continues to pontificate for liberal policies thanks to the ever-decreasing funding of private donors. Recently, IRD looked into some of these donations while also taking note of the NCC’s latest activities.
Ever since IRD’s full-blown expose of the organization’s secular funding, the receiving end of the NCC remains stalwartly for progressive causes. Some bordered on absurd, such as the Warsh Mott Legacy giving $13,200 for the Human Genetics Project in 2007. Other funds were funneled from feminist organizations, such as generous grants from the interfaith Sister Fund. Yet more funds supported the environmentalist agenda. The most donations came from this group: the Marisla Foundation gave $100,000 to chemical regulatory activism and $75,000 for an “environmental health initiative”; the John Merck Foundation gave $350,000 for “comprehensive chemical reforms”; the Blue Moon Fund, Inc. provided $15,000 “to support the African American Church climate and energy justice initiative”; the Energy Foundation took a similar move by offering $159,000 for “to support the engagement of African American faith leaders in climate change issues.” Unfortunately, the processed information only reached up to 2009. As IRD discovered earlier this year, George Soros was funding the NCC’s budget. It will be interesting to see what the next 990 will show for the ecumenical group.
Just yesterday, the NCC was back in action to affect government policy by hosting a webinar to uphold a “faithful budget.” This electronic meeting combined 30 heads of religious denominations and religious organizations. One of the organization’s officials, Douglas Grace, opened with the webinar’s intention—“that the US Super Committee not balance the budget at the expense of society’s poor.” Aura Kanegis, Director of Public Policy at the Washington Office for the American Friends Service Committee, expressed disappointment regarding the lack of raised taxes and cessation of cuts against defense expenditures. Sharing several statistics, she said, “Any line in the sand to not cut one thing is a stance to cut another.” Borrowing from the already tired language of the Circle of Protection, she asked, “Who will protect the weakest?...[Those who] have suffered a magnitude of cuts forced on them the past few years” “We must put our energies behind this conversation,” Kanegis insisted, “this is a struggle for the soul of our nation.”
What is more, Kanegis spouted Keynesian theories as resources for these liberal leaders. “Every $1 of SNAP benefits generates $1.73-1.79 in economic growth,” she asserted. The Quaker activist even went so far to say that “government spending can provide a basis for stability in an economic downturn.” She offered her reasons for the relevance all these narrow policies have with religious heads: “The progressive religious groups have a key part to play in establishing the most robust shared future.” The religious left is adamant that lower taxes have hurt the American economy, proclaiming “No damage to the common good is acceptable, even the tax cuts over the past decade.” She complained, “Our military budget has nearly doubled in less than the last decade.”
The PCUSA’s Office of Public Witness also chimed in through J. Herbert Nelson, who declaimed, “A government for the CEO and the rest of the wealthy and not of the people, by the people, for the people is what we face today.” He further condemned the American Congress since “We in the US give less than 1% of our budget to countries in the direst circumstances.” Nelson assured his audience that the upcoming budget is “not just what this means for individuals, but what this means for whole.” Nelson then commenced to paint a picture of bleak neighborhood-wide starvation, where “communities die.” Liberal Christians need to be about “turning around communities that are on the brink of despair.” It seems rather over-the-top to assume that whole communities are so fragile and on the brink of actual starvation; perhaps more so that government handouts will significantly help the situation. He left off by encouraging, “Just stand in solidarity with those across the country.”
The NCC and its affiliates will be phone-banking their respective Congressmen to protect the welfare agenda, affirming the coalition’s commitment to focusing on poverty issues. The typical liberal policy will be baptized “by tapping to the spiritual base in which each of us clings.” Starting next week, religious progressives will once again partake of big government litanies and liturgies, offering up a sacrifice of public prayers for welfare and may once again commence in that most holy of sacraments: arrest for civil disobedience.
Let's see -- in this interview with the Anniston Star, you've got the now-standard TEC-bishop-dissembling regarding growth:
Q: The Episcopal Church in Alabama has quietly experienced growth over the past decade. What makes the Episcopal Church attractive to new members?
A: I think part of the Episcopal Church’s growth is that we openly and honestly address the issues of the day and that also creates part of our challenges. . . .
Just to do a fact check from Statmann:
For 2002 through 2009, the Dio of Alabama did NOT grow as Members declined by about 10 percent, ASA declined by about 15 percent and Plate & Pledge adjusted for inflation declined about 3 percent. And yet this experience was better than most TEC dioceses. (I ranked them at 22 of 95 dioceses considered.) As for Size and Money, the diocese was in good shape in 2009 with 48 of its 90 churches with ASA above 66 and with 40 having Plate & Pledge of more than $150K. But for the longer tem, Infant Baptisms declined by 31 percent and Marriages by 41 percent. I continue to find it hard to believe that TEC churches in the South will continue to abide with the TEC homosexual agenda.
Do reporters ever do even the most basic research when they interview TEC bishops?
And then you've got the obvious incoherence regarding what constitutes the meaning of the words "defend" and "define" [hint: those words are always restrictive and narrowing.]
I’m so thankful to be part of a church that encourages people to ask the question, “Does this make sense to you … not because the church has had it written down for centuries, but does it make sense to you? Is it true for you?” Not that we make up our own dogma or doctrine. We are a denomination with checks and balances. Bishops are here to defend the faith and define the teaching, but not in a restrictive, narrowing way.
And then you've got the desperate waffling, wringing of hands, rhetorical squirming, and complete lack of honesty and clarity, replete with attempts to blur and distract, about The Issue:
Q: What are your thoughts on gay clergy and same-sex marriages, as the issue continues to rage within other denominations?
A: That’s one of the real challenges of our time. The church is not … we don’t know. We have not made a decision about that. It’s something we’re still praying about, and that’s frustrating for some people. There are people who are frustrated that we are talking about this at all; they wish it would go away. There are others who wish we would get moving, that it’s something we shouldn’t be dragging our feet about. It’s a difficult, thorny issue.
We do have a diversity of theological positions in the church, which is the nature of our faith – that people have different ideas that are not lightly held. When they disagree … what do you do?
What a magnificent start for another new TEC bishop!
The cleric argued that if God considered that yet another man was what Adam needed as companion and help mate in the Garden of Eden, He would have created another man, not a woman for Adam, stressing that, “He did not do that but rather created a unique person in the form of a woman different from the man.”
He lamented that there is moral decadence pervading the labyrinth of society in so much a way that hitherto despicable acts like lesbianism and homosexuality are gradually being decorated with public appeal and now receiving tolerance and even applause in today’s society.
Read it all (another from the long queue of should-have-already-been-posted material.
About a month and a half ago, a little-known company called the Charity Give Back Group, or CGBG, started making headlines — and not the kind likely to win the company’s public-relations staff any bonuses.
I highlighted the controversy (as one example) in a related Christianity Today story on Christian organizations finding it difficult to partner with businesses.
This week, the CGBG story reached The New York Times, which reported:
The culture war over gay rights has entered the impersonal world of e-commerce.
A handful of advocates, armed with nothing more than their keyboards, have put many of the country’s largest retailers, including Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and Wal-Mart, on the spot over their indirect and, until recently, unnoticed roles in funneling money to Christian groups that are vocal in opposing homosexuality.
The advocates are demanding that the retailers end their association with an Internet marketer that gets a commission from the retailers for each online customer it gives them. It is a routine arrangement on hundreds of e-commerce sites, but with a twist here: a share of the commission that retailers pay is donated to a Christian charity of the buyer’s choice, from a list that includes prominent conservative evangelical groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.
The marketer and the Christian groups are fighting back, saying that the hundred or so companies that have dropped the marketer were misled and that the charities are being slandered for their religious beliefs.
The 1,200-word Times story is a fairly straightforward report that attempts to explain the controversy and the positions of each side in a balanced way. We get strong language from Stuart Wilber, a 73-year-old gay man and petition organizer who refers to conservative Christian organizations as “hate groups.” But fairly high up, we also get Mike Huckabee calling the petition efforts “economic terrorism” — fairly strong language in its own right.
The reporter boils down the controversy this way:
On one side are angry gay-rights advocates and bloggers, wielding the club of the gay community’s purchasing power.
On the other side are conservative Christian groups that say they are being attacked for their legitimate biblical views of sex and marriage, as well as a Web marketing firm that feels trampled for providing consumers with free choice.
Caught in the middle are companies, including such giants as Macy’s, Expedia and Delta Air Lines, which have the dual aims of avoiding politics but not offending any consumers. In this case, they have been pressured to make a choice that may involve little money either way but that could offend large blocs of consumers.
The phrase “legitimate biblical views of sex and marriage” slowed me down. I wonder if a different word than “legitimate” (such as “traditional” or “orthodox”) might have worked better. But in general, I’m fine with the above section.
However, the following section disappointed me:
Beyond condemning the advocates’ efforts as an infringement on consumer freedom, Mr. Huckabee said it was offensive to apply the “hate group” label to organizations that are legal, peaceful and promote biblical values.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Family Research Council a hate group for “regularly pumping out known falsehoods that demonize the gay community,” said Mark Potok, a project director at the law center — and not, he said, because the council calls homosexuality a sin or opposes gay marriage. The falsehoods, he said, include the discredited claim that gay men are especially prone to pedophilia.
The Family Research Council has accused the law center of “slanderous attacks.”
Advocates insist that their push is not anti-Christian. “It has nothing to do with biblical positions,” said Mr. Steele, the blogger. “It has to do with the fact that these groups spread lies and misinformation about millions of Americans.”
Details that I think would have helped that section:
— What is the Southern Poverty Law Center? What is its political leaning? What credentials does it have for labeling a group a “hate group?”
— What exactly did the Family Research Council say concerning gay men and pedophilia? Is there a direct quote or report that the Times could cite of this claim? Does the council stand by its claim? Why or why not? The council is allowed to accuse the center of “slanderous attacks” but not to respond to the specific accusation in the paragraph before.
— What specific lies and misinformation have been spread about millions of Americans? Any direct quotes or references that the Times could cite? And how do those accused of spreading the lies and misinformation respond to the specific claims?
The Times story is not terrible.
It just seems to me — and maybe it’s just me — that it suffers from a lot of the same vagueness and broad generalizations that characterize too many Times stories on gay rights and the culture war.
Convention is more than legislation. One of the most interesting parts of convention is the Exhibit Hall. The Exhibit Hall reminds me of an oriental souk: it is a marketplace of goods and ideas in which the organizations and interest groups within the church present their wares, recruit members and do their best to influence legislation. It is a colorful part of convention, and it would not be General Convention without it.
Many church-related organizations hold meetings in conjunction with convention, and there are lunches and dinners hosted by seminaries, provinces, societies, boards and staff offices of the church. . . .
General Convention is a combination of legislative assembly, bazaar of goods and services and family reunion. It is one of the most exciting and, truth be told, one of the most awe-inspiring gatherings in the world.
Deputies are not delegates; that is, they are not elected to represent the electing dioceses.
Deputies vote their conscience for the good of the church. They cannot be instructed to vote one way or another, for to do so would preclude godly debate and preempt the work of the Holy Spirit. . . .