Sunday, October 28, 2018

From dying suddenly and unprepared, Good Lord, deliver us


Image result for tree of life synagogue pittsburgh


We are overly accustomed these days to news of violent death, not merely in Kabul and Damascus but in Chicago and London, yet when it strikes a community with which one has great familiarity it takes on a peculiar resonance. Yesterday, in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighbourhood, eleven people died in a shooting at Tree of Life synagogue, past which I often walked between 2004 and 2011.

It is sobering how even places of worship can no longer be assured that their sanctuaries are inviolate (something with which Christians - and those of other faiths - in Africa and Asia have long been familiar). "Am I my brother's keeper," demands Cain of his heavenly Father when confronted with the murder of his brother Abel, already knowing the answer. Today we weep with those weep, but we are also called in the weeks and months ahead to strive to redeem that which has fallen so short in our common life. This tragedy further serves to remind us of the fallen and sinful nature of our humanity.

I append the English text of the Mourner's Kaddish, the acknowledgment of the gathering in of souls by the One who first provided them. 

Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Tragedy of "Repeal the Eighth"

My political views are such a curious blend (by contemporary standards) of moderate liberalism on matters economic and solid conservatism on matters cultural (and had I had a vote to cast in the 2016 US presidential election, it would not have been for the current incumbent) that I rather doubt they are comprehensible outside the Rust Belt (and by no means all of those in it).

Ireland's recent abortion referendum, however, disturbs me, though not so much the result (which was generally expected) as the manner in which it has been treated by the winning side. While a consistently pro-life stance (on capital punishment, euthanasia and abortion) is certainly a minority position in much of the developed world, it is still saddening to see so many treating this result as something akin to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. What the vote signals is that a majority of the population believe that the unborn child has an inferior status relative to the mother and treat this as a "progressive" development. I could better understand someone who declared this to be the least worst option (and doubtless some supporters of repeal fall into that category) but this is far from the story that the news media promote.

It is noteworthy, too, how many British politicians are now speaking in terms of bringing Northern Ireland 'into line' with the Irish Republic. Few seem interested in a referendum (which they might lose) but rather in taking advantage of the power vacuum to impose "choice." I note the presence of Sir Vince Cable in their ranks, clearly demonstrating that Tim Farron was wise to give up the leadership. Gone are the days when the Liberal Party could encompass David Steel (the author of the 1967 Abortion Act) and David Alton (the battling pro-life Liberal from Liverpool). Today to be a Liberal Democrat seems to involve going with the cultural status quo.

The irony of the contemporary world is that we are willing to spend untold sums on premature baby units to save the 'wanted', but also willing to condemn the 'unwanted' healthy unborn to death. Even as absurd (to me at least) sums are spent on IVF and surrogacy for gay couples, so many children remain in council care desperately awaiting fostering or adoption. There is much wrong with contemporary culture, some of it is the product of actions by so-called conservative politicians, but those who consider themselves part of the liberal mainstream should take a hard look at what that mainstream has wrought.

Repeal the Eighth is no part of the solution; it's part of the problem!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul!

And so Billy Graham passes from this earthy plane of existence to a heavenly one. Doubtless, he would echo Dwight L. Moody:

"Some day you will read in the papers, 'Billy Graham of Montreat is dead.' Don't you believe a word of it!

At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now;
I shall have gone up higher, that is all,
out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal --
a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint;
a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.
I was born of the flesh in 1918.
I was born of the Spirit in 1934.
That which is born of the flesh may die.
That which is born of the Spirit will live forever."
Few 20th century evangelists have had such a profound impact on the global stage.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Anglican-Orthodox dialogue in happier days

From the 1950s onwards, my father was a member of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, founded during the 1920s to promote greater dialogue between the East and the West (at a time when Rome, the abortive history of the Malines conversations notwithstanding, largely eschewed ecumenical contact). Dominated in its early days by the larger-than-life Nicholas Zernov and his formidable wife Melitza, it hosted annual conferences that drew such speakers as Donald Allchin, Anthony Bloom, Lev Gillet, Kallistos Ware and Rowan Williams. The following is an undated fragment chronicling aspects of a conference clearly held in Durham, whose unknown author (almost certainly an Anglican) captures some of the spirit of the Fellowship in its heyday.

1. PRAISE MY SOUL THE KING OF HEAVEN
TO HIS FEET THE TRIBUTE BRING
Oh my gosh, it's half past seven -
How can I expect to sing?
Yawning, moaning,
Stretching, groaning,
Here the damned alarm clock ring.

2. LOAFERS IN YOUR SEATS ADORE HIM,
YE who SIT THERE FAST ASLEEP
Yes we know this talk would bore Him
And that question make him weep.
MAKING Speeches
FRAMED AS QUESTIONS
Voicing contemplations deep.

3. VOICES SO DISTINGUISHED MEET US,
KALLISTOS INTONING prayers,
Rowan's velvet Welsh tones greet us -
When he speaks we know he cares -
Canon Allchin's
Reading poems
And Elizabeth BRIERE'S

4. LITURGIES which run forever
Vespers drag on hour by hour
Standing always SITTING NEVER
Held up by the Spirit's power.
Evensong and
EARLY matins
In the shade of Durham tower.

5. DRINKING beer with Greeks and Romans
Every evening in the bar.
ALCOHOL IN OUR ABDOMENS
Helps to make our thinking shar-p
Thinking deeply
Drinking deeper
Theologians that we are.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

A Missionary Bishop for Europe
























Yesterday saw the consecration at Wheaton College in the United States of the Reverend Canon Andy Lines as Missionary Bishop for Europe, following the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church to amend canon law on marriage to permit same-sex unions. A graduate of Durham (University College, 1982), Lines served in the British Army from 1983 to 1988. He was ordained for the South American Missionary Society in 1997 (at the age of 37), having worked as a missionary to Paraguay since 1991. He has been General Secretary of Crosslinks and chairman of the Anglican Mission in England.

Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America had this to say:

After the American revolution, the new Anglican Church here - then called the Protestant Episcopal Church - could not get the establishment in England to provide a bishop.  It was the Scots who came to the rescue and consecrated Samuel Seabury in 1784 as the first American Bishop.  It is a privilege to now return the favor to those in Scotland who are crying out for oversight.
 
It will be interesting to see whether such a move will dramatically alter the prevailing dynamic within the Church of England. The statement of support from Bishop Rod Thomas of Maidstone, whose appointment was supposedly intended to reassure conservative Anglicans that the Church of England remained a broad tent, suggests that "border crossing" may be here to stay (and not in Scotland alone).

Monday, May 22, 2017

Under the Mercy

This evening Jennifer and I said Compline by my father's grave on the fourth anniversary of his death.



After life's fitful fever he sleeps well.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Revolt of the Rustbelt

Like many in Britain I retired for the night confident that I would be greeted the next morning by news of a narrow victory in the US presidential election and so I was . . . but not the candidate whom I was expecting. Donald Trump's victory is, by any definition, one for the record books. He is the first president since Eisenhower to enter upon his duties without having held political office at either the state or national level. A better analogy might be with Wendell Wilkie, whose selection as a Republican presidential nominee upended the Republican political establishment and placed at its head a businessman and former Democrat. One should refrain from pressing that analogy, however, for whatever his conservatism on domestic issues, Wilkie was far removed from the prevailing isolationism that dominated the Republican Party until the early 1950s, while Trump's foreign policy agenda would seem to have more in common with that of "Mr. Republican", Senator Robert Taft.

A comparison of state-by-state victories in 2000 (another close election) and 2016 demonstrates that while Hillary Clinton captured three states lost by Al Gore (Nevada, Colorado and Virginia), and may also have taken New Hampshire, she lost the Rustbelt by a clear margin and with it the states of Iowa and Wisconsin (Dukakis states in 1988), Pennsylvania, and, possibly, Michigan. It has been many years since Midwestern voters have had the opportunity to determine the nation's political destiny but they have now done so with a vengeance. Like 2000, albeit by a somewhat narrower margin, the winner of the popular vote has suffered defeat in the electoral college. Such is the nature of American politics.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Promise and the Limits of Anglican Growth

Growth and Decline in the Anglican Communion, 1980 to the Present
A Day Conference

Friday 24 February 2017: 10.30 to 5 pm
Whitelands College, part of the University of Roehampton, London
(train: Barnes; tube: Putney Bridge – District Line)

A major new study of growth and decline across the global Anglican Communion is coming out, published by Routledge. It provides in depth academic research by an international team from leading universities, giving both overall coverage and detailed case studies from five continents.

The conference is an opportunity to hear about and discuss the book’s findings. Speakers include:

Professor David Voas, University College, London
Dr Emma Wildwood, University of Cambridge
Dr Barbara Bompani, University of Edinburgh
Rev Dr David Goodhew, Cranmer Hall, St Johns College, Durham University
The Rt. Revd. Dr. Graham Kings, Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion

To find out more and book on the conference, go to:

A discounted fee is available to full time post- or under-graduate students. 

The day conference is part of the 175th anniversary celebrations of Whitelands College.

Monday, October 03, 2016

George Friedman on Nationalism and the New Economic Orthodoxy

The wealthy lost a great deal after 2008. But what they lost was investment capital, not rent money. The blow for most was not existential. It did not change their lives. For those who used their money for consumption, the impact was substantial. As the trade crisis spread, people lost their jobs, and those who found new jobs were being paid a fraction of their previous salary. 2008 had a different impact on average citizens. But political control remained in the hands of the investor class, which had organized its thinking around the ideology of interdependence. It remained focused on the stability of the financial system rather than the surge in unemployment, underemployment, and the public’s loss of buying power. This played out differently in different countries, but it played out almost everywhere.

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The issue that 2008 has raised is the importance of nations and the primacy of a national leadership to protect the interests of the nation as a whole, and not the global system or the interests of the financial community. The re-emergence of nationalism is the logical outcome of the failure of interdependence. Part of the assumption of the pre-2008 ideology was that aggregate economic growth benefits everyone. Post-2008 ideology believes that stagnation is paid for by the middle and lower classes. This leads to a political showdown.

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A new ideology has emerged. It is not yet in power, but it is growing. It argues that the nation-state controlling and limiting its dependence is superior to interdependence. It also argues that the nation-state provides benefits that globalism cannot: a sense of community, the preservation of culture, a sense of self. This argument says that humans without a nation are humans without a community. They are alone, lonely, and helpless. And at the root is the argument that there are more important things than money.

Read it all.