Showing posts from April, 2008

The Latest on Bishop Gene Robinson

As The Lead is reporting, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, informed Bishop Gene Robinson (by email!) that he was not permitted to preach or celebrate mass while in England:

Citing fears of creating a controversy, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to grant Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the right to preach or preside at the eucharist in England. Robinson received the news in an email yesterday morning.

Sources familiar with the email say Williams cites the Windsor Report and recent statements from the Primates Meeting in refusing to grant Robinson permission to exercise his priestly functions during his current trip to England, or during the trip he plans during the Lambeth Conference in July and August.

The Windsor Report does not discuss the ordination of a candidate in a gay relationship to the priesthood, and it is priestly, rather than episcopal functions that Robinson had sought permission to perform. The primates' statements, simila…

Defender of God and Evolution

I loved this New York Times profile of Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary biologist and geneticist at the University of California, Irvine, and former Dominican priest:

An evolutionary biologist and geneticist at the University of California, Irvine, he speaks often at universities, in churches, for social groups and elsewhere, usually in defense of the theory of evolution and against the arguments of creationism and its ideological cousin, intelligent design.

Usually he preaches to the converted. But not always.

As challenges to the teaching of evolution continue to emerge, legislators debate measures equating the teaching of creationism with academic freedom and a new movie links Darwin to evils ranging from the suppression of free speech to the Holocaust, “I get a lot of people who don’t know what to think,” Dr. Ayala said. “Or they believe in intelligent design but they want to hear.”

Dr. Ayala, a former Dominican priest, said he told his audiences not just that evolution is a well…


With apologies to my current law partners and all of my previous employers as well, the highlight of my career so far has been my service as General Counsel of the Army. While the work was interesting and challenging, the best part of the job was getting to know the Army as an institution, and even more importantly, meeting hundreds of soldiers. And as part of the unofficial "share our toys" program of my fellow service general counsels, I was able to meet members of other services, including a two day visit to the U.S.S. George Washington, an aircraft carrier.

I have therefore been watching with great interest the PBS series Carrier. And I highly recommend that you start watching the program. The show is a person-focused exploration of life on an aircraft carrier. Unlike the military shows on other channels, this show does not focus on the gee-whiz technology of the carrier, but instead on the daily life of the sailors on board the carrier. And, perhaps most importantly, the…

Is Mathematics Discovered or Invented?

Nicholas Knisely has an interesting post up today that plays off two recent articles that discuss the nature of mathematics. The real issue here is whether there is an underlying order in the world that we discover or do we invent that order ourselves? In other words was Plato right:

A post on Slashdot (h/t) points to an article in Science News about an ongoing debate about the connection between mathematics and the nature of reality. (We were just discussing that question here earlier this week.)

The article in Science News begins:

"[A]re new mathematical truths discovered or invented? Seems like a simple enough question, but for millennia, it has provided fodder for arguments among mathematicians and philosophers.

Those who espouse discovery note that mathematical statements are true or false regardless of personal beliefs, suggesting that they have some external reality. But this leads to some odd notions. Where, exactly, do these mathematical truths exist? Can a mathematical trut…

Andrew Sullivan on Torture

Be sure to read Andrew Sullivan's full post today on the morality of torture. It deserves a full read, but here are some highlights:

The manner in which free societies lose their moral compass is always incremental. Step by step by step, certain core values are whittled away. There is rarely a moment at which a government stands up, and asks its people if they wish to abandon such "quaint" notions as the Geneva Conventions, the rule of law, humane interrogation or habeas corpus. These things are abandoned incrementally or secretly, slice by slice, euphemism by euphemism, the chronology always clearer in retrospect than at the time. And each incremental step is always portrayed as a small but essential temporary sacrifice for the sake of security in a time of great and imminent peril.

And so defenders of torture have long argued that is is essential to make torture legal - but only in the ticking time bomb scenario. And yet, such a scenario has not yet happened and the Unit…

The Border

The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona has taken a decidedly unpopular position on the immigration issue--that it is a human problem, resulting from human beings trying to find a better life for themselves and their families, and that our faith demands that we treat immigrants as our neighbors. The result has been quite a bit of activity--including support of fair trade operations in Mexico that allow families to make living at home, health care visits to border communities, and displays of solidarity with immigrants.

My church, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Phoenix, has a new video initiative, and the first short video (about 6 minutes) is devoted to this issue. If you look closely you will see Bishop Smith in Naco at the most recent border procession. This is the first of a series of videos. You can find all of the videos at You Tube here. More context on what the video shows can be found here.

And, here, without further ado is the video:

Our African Roots

Scientists have devoted a great deal of study to the populations of humans that first emerged out of Africa, but little has been done to study the genetic diversity of humans within Africa itself. Perhaps this is is because most of the scientists are descendants of those who left Africa?

In any event, we now have a very extensive and interesting study of genetic diversity within Africa, which sheds light on what humans were doing in Africa before the great migrations out of Africa began. It appears that humans were separated into isolated small populations all over South and East Africa until about 40,000 years ago thanks to a severe drought. Here is a summary of the study:

A team of Genographic researchers and their collaborators have published the most extensive survey to date of African mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Over 600 complete mtDNA genomes from indigenous populations across the continent were analyzed by the scientists, led by Doron Behar, Genographic Associate Researcher, based…

Christianity and Darwinism

As readers of this blog have long known, I think that evolution and Christianity are reconcilable. You can be a Christian and still accept the latest strong scientific evidence for evolution by natural selection.

Noah Millman, however, offers a challenge to this view. He argues that while evolution is not really a challenging to a belief in a creating God, it is a challenge to Christianity, which makes claims about the nature of humans,and the nature of God. Here is what he has to say:

I continue to believe that both sides of the Darwin vs. Christianity battle are missing the most telling point. We should all agree that religious dogma has no bearing on the truth or falsity of a scientific theory. Heliocentrism is true; geocentrism is false. There is an enormous weight of evidence behind the theory of evolution by natural selection. There is going to be more and more evidence behind new theories about the workings of the human mind, and the interactions of the human genome and human pe…

Relativism, Post-Positivism and the Pope

Nicholas Knisely, the Dean at my church, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Phoenix, was a theoretical physicist before he became a priest. He has a post today at the Daily Episcopalian that explains Pope Benedict XVI's views on relativism versus absolutism, and notes that it is far more sophisticated than most observers understand. Noting that President Bush expressed his gratitude for the Pope’s teaching that "there's right and wrong in life, that moral relativism has a danger of un-dermining the capacity to have more hopeful and free societies," Dean Knisely then explains that President Bush got it all wrong:

But a deeper question remains. Given that relativity is experimentally verified in the physical world, how should it be used in the realm of ideas? Do we want to argue that because relativity is a characteristic of physical reality, that it must also be a characteristic of morality? Should it be a fundamental characteristic of theology as well? (If that’s true, th…

The Pope and Immigration

I think that immigration may be the sleeper issue of the year for the Christian community in the United States. I have been amazed at teh harsh and uncompassionate views on the issue that are taken by many professing Christians. Don't get me wrong, I agree that the United States needs to protect our borders, but we also need to take into account compassion in dealing with the tweleve million or so undocumented immigrants living among us--many of them for years.

The Pope spoke out on this issue this past week and was immediately denounced by the likes of Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs for doing so. I thought that the response of the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board was just about perfect:

It's not everyday that a backbencher in Congress draws international attention by insulting the spiritual leader of one in four Americans. But Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo, the anti-immigrant obsessive, wasn't about to miss his moment.

Pope Benedict XVI called on U.S. bisho…

Dorothy Day

May 1 will be the 7th anniversary of the Catholic Worker's movement, and Marquette University Press has published "The Duty of Delight," a collection of Day's diaries, as well as a 2006 documentary, "Don't Call Me a Saint," is out on DVD. The Dallas Morning NewsReligion blog has further details:

Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, was a pacifist, a champion of the poor, a Communist (for a time), a writer, and a hell-raiser who took part in countless demonstrations in support of workers, women, the poor and the disenfranchised.
She spoke her mind. Before embracing Catholicism, she led what was once colorfully called a "bohemian" lifestyle. She had affairs, a common-law marriage, and a back-alley abortion, about which she wrote in a novel, "The Eleventh Virgin."
She died in 1980 at age 83.
On May 1, the Catholic Worker Movement celebrates its 75th anniversary. Today, there are more than 185 Catholic Worker houses a…

The Episcopal Church and the MDGs

Conservative critics of the Episcopal Church seem to take great joy in challenging the recent efforts of the Episcopal Church to focus on world poverty, and in particular, on the Church's support of the Millennium Development Goals. Now, I do realize that at times the focus on MDGs becomes self-parody (most notably with the well-meaning MDG Stations of the Cross). Nonetheless, I think that these conservative critics are missing a larger bibical point.

As a starting point, I think that it is important to emphasize the affluence of Americans by world standards. All but the poorest Americans are rich--quite rich--by world standards. So, assuming that the conservatives are right about same sex relationships, what do you think that Jesus will be most upset about on Judgment Day: that we have a few hundred gay and lesbian priests in the Episcopal Church or that American Christians have done so little to deal with world poverty?

Can you read the gospels and really come to any other con…

Hard Lesson

Eric Von Salzen has a wonderful post on hard Scriptual lessons on the Agnlican Centrist blog (which is now a group blog). It is well worth a full read, but here are some highlights:

There are a lot of these hard lessons, particularly in the Old Testament, such as God banning Moses from entering the Promised Land because he didn’t do the water-from-the-rock trick the right way; King Saul losing God’s favor because he failed to kill all the Amalekites after defeating them in battle; and Psalm 137, which begins with that poignant lament, “By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps”, and ends in a hateful fantasy of revenge against the Babylonians: “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!”

But the quintessential hard lesson for me is Abraham’s (almost) sacrifice of Isaac. Every year in Education for Ministry, I look forward, with interest and a little trepidation, to…

The Pope's Visit

Given that the current Pope and I are decidely on different sides of several theological issues, you might be surprised to konw that I am an admirer of this Pope--a critical admirer, but an admirer nonetheless. I hhighly recommended on this blog his Jesus of Navareth. I have therefore been following his visit to the United States with great interest. Be sure to check out my posts on the Lead today and tomorrow for some of my posts on that vist.

Yesterday, David Gibson had some very intersting observations about the Pope:

Call Pope Benedict XVI a "cultural Catholic" and you're likely to get puzzled looks if not angry rejoinders. Cultural Catholics rank right down there with "cafeteria Catholics" in the opinion of those who argue that only a deep experience of Christian faith and a tight embrace of church teachings can make one authentically Catholic.

To a great extent that would also be the perspective of Benedict, whose Augustinian view of man's fallen stat…

The Science of Gratitude

Dave Munger of the blog, Cognitive Daily, has an interesting post today about a recent study that seems to show that taking time to "count your blessings" has positive effects on our mental health:

Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough figured it would be worthwhile to explore this notion. Their method of study was both ingenious and simple: they would ask 201 students in a health psychology class to respond to a weekly questionnaire. Everyone rated their well-being, was tested on a measure of gratefulness, and reported on their physical health and level of exercise. The key to the study was a division into three groups. The first group listed five things they were grateful for each week. The second group listed five hassles or irritants from the past week. The final group simply wrote down five "events or circumstances" from the past week. This continued for ten weeks.

. . .

As you might expect, the students in the gratefulness group scored significantly higher than…

Bishop Kirk Smith on Sheriff Arpaio's Round-ups

The Diocese of Arizona has a Spanish language congregation, San Pablo, that has been hit especially hard by Sheriff Arpaio's anti-immigrant round-ups. For those outside of Arizona, our local Sheriff will put huge resources in predominately Hispanic areas of the county. They will look for small infractions--such as broken headlights and the like, with the hope of catching undocumented immigrants. (Meanwhile, thousands of felony warrants go unserved for alleged lack of resources).

Bishop Kirk Smith used his weekly column to point out how a Good Friday round-up hurt San Pablo worshippers:

Thursday night I spoke to a group of about 1,500 members of the East Valley Interfaith, an ecumenical group that works with political leaders to further such causes as public safely, education, health care, and immigration reform. It was apparent from that meeting that Arizona has a major church/state crisis on its hands as it reacts to the tactics used by the County Sheriff in his crusade to catch un…

Rev. Churchill Gibson

The Reverend Churchill Gibson, the priest who married my wife and me, died earlier this week. I know that he touched many lives over the course of his life, but he certainly touch ours. He will be missed. Peter Carey has a wonderful collection of memorials at his blog.

Here is an excerpt from the VTS memorial:

Rev. Churchill J. Gibson, Jr. (1931-2008)
Virginia Theological Seminary mourns the death of the Rev. Churchill J. Gibson, Jr. (VTS ‘56), former chaplain at VTS and St. Stephen’s School. Churchill is the grandson of two bishops: Robert Atkinson Gibson (Bishop of Virginia, 1902-1919) and Arthur S. Lloyd (Bishop Coadjutor of Virginia, 1909-1910). His father was a much beloved rector of St. James's Church in Richmond for many years, his son Webster is the rector of Christ Church, Winchester, and Joe Pinder, VTS Development Officer for Communication Services, is Churchill's nephew.

Looking back, Churchill has joked that he spent most of his life on Seminary Road. He attended …

Give It For Good!

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation have a new campaign, urging americans to take at least part of the stimulus check and use it to help alleviate global poverty:

The Basic IdeaTake the "economic stimulus check" you'll get from the government in May (or a similar amount if you don't qualify for a check) and pledge to give all or part of it to organizations working to alleviate global poverty.
Our MissionTo start a conversation about what it means to be a Christian in a society that encourages overconsumption. To hold up a vision of choosing compassion over consumption.
Why A "Stimulus Check" Campaign?How we spend money has spiritual underpinnings. Our society encourages overconsumption far beyond our actual needs. It's both morally and economically unsustainable.Now, the federal government has rewarded the overconsumption that led to economic slowdown by providing many tax filers with an "economic stimulus check" of between $600 and $2,100,…

From Creationism to Evolution

Chris Tilling, a blogging thologian, has a very interesting post about his own change in views from creationism to acceptance of evolution:

As we've been discussing evolution again in the comments on an earlier post, here is my own little story of how I moved from poor, unhappy and lonely creationist to revived happy, popular, wealthy, victorious and blessed evolutionist.
I actually became a Christian listening to a tape by Ken Ham (who, in retrospect, looks suspiciously like the missing link to me), and consequently 'creationism' was a very important topic for me, for years. Evolutionists were for me either atheistic naturalists or, if claiming faith, compromised to the core. However, a number of factors came together that have since caused a change in my view.
First, my doctrine of scripture changed such that I did not need to affirm a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2 to still believe it was text inspired by God, a step precipitated by reading Goldingay's Models for …

Abortion and Sex Selection

William Saletan has an article on Slate that discusss new evidence that the use of abortion for sex selection is happening in th eUnited States--at least anmong some populations:

Two days ago, economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund published an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examining the ratio of male to female births in "U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean, and Asian Indian parents." Among whites, the boy-girl ratio was essentially constant, regardless of the number of kids in a family or how many of them were girls. In the Asian-American sample, the boy-girl ratio started out at the same norm: 1.05 to 1. But among families whose first child was a girl, the boy-girl ratio among second kids went up to 1.17 to 1. And if the first two kids were girls, the boy-girl ratio among third kids went up to 1.5 to 1. This 50 percent increase in male probability is directly contrary to the trend among whites, who tend to produce a child of the same sex as…

Form Critical Bible World

Mad Priest is always--and I mean always--quite funny (while also making a serious point). And he has attracted a large community of Anglicans with the same irreverent humor. I laughed out loud when I saw this post and the initial comments. So what is our response to the Creation Museum?

I found it here.

On Teaching Children About Science

As a father of a very curious and active three year old who loves animals, I thought this was very good advice from E.O. Wilson:

The worst thing you can do to a child, in my opinion, is take them on a hike through a botanical garden where there are the names of the trees on the side. Rachel Carson once said, so true, take the child to the seashore, turn her loose with a pail, and tell her to go explore the tidepools. Don't tell her the names of any of these things. Let her find them, let her touch them, let her bring them to you, talk about them, and then you give her the name.

These squeezed-in lives of children who are taken occasionally to a park like that or a zoo to see the labels is all part of what I like to call -- I hope I'm not offending anyone -- the "soccer mom syndrome." I believe that soccer moms are the greatest enemy in modern life of natural history and proper biological education.

Read the report here.

In defense of soccer moms, I must add that my son&…

Exciting Episcopal News

Today, April 1, the Lead announces some exciting news about a new partnership between Major League Baseball and the Episcopal Church:

As a part of opening week festivities, Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced today that the Episcopal Church has been designated the Official Denomination of Major League Baseball. The move was announced today in a teleconference with reporters.
"Faith oriented promotions have increasingly become a part of many minor league team," Selig said. "We felt that it was time to tap into this important demographic."

"We also want to reinforce our family friendly image while at the same time reaching out to a wide cross section of life-styles, incomes and tastes," Selig said. "We are pleased that the Episcopal Church will join us in this first partnership between a major sport and a church."

Many denominations were considered for the endorsement. Some traditions did not ma…