Monday, September 18, 2006

Monday Sept 18th, Afternoon posts

Fortune’s Fools: Why the Rich Go Broke

September 18th, 2006 posted by kendall at 2:51 pm

GEORGE FOREMAN — bald, smiling and gigantic — is propped atop a stool in Gleason’s Gym, the venerable boxing haunt in Brooklyn, watching a videotape of his heavyweight championship bout in 1994 with Michael Moorer.

Mr. Foreman once devastated opponents with brutal, staccato punches short on artistry and long on force. He disposed of formidable pile drivers like Joe Frazier, traded blows with dangerous magicians like Muhammad Ali, and dropped the undefeated 26-year-old Mr. Moorer in the 10th round with a right to the jaw.

Mr. Foreman was 45 at the time of the Moorer fight, a roly-poly 250-pounder who had just reclaimed the heavyweight mantle that Mr. Ali had snatched from him 20 years earlier. By knocking out Mr. Moorer, Mr. Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champion in history and he hailed his victory at the time as one “for all my buddies in the nursing home and all the guys in the jail.”

As Mr. Foreman watches the tape of Mr. Moorer crumpling to the mat, part of a boxing retrospective that ESPN is shooting at Gleason’s, he beams. “Play that again,” he says to no one in particular, softly chuckling to himself. The knockout was the culmination of an unlikely return to the ring that Mr. Foreman staged in his later years, well after he had retired. He has often said that he ended his retirement to prove that nobody is too old for a comeback.

But Mr. Foreman confides in an interview that something else actually drove him back into boxing in the late 1980’s, and it had nothing to do with proving the meaninglessness of an AARP card. Having blown about $5 million, made mostly, he says, during his salad days as a young champion, he desperately needed the money he could earn by fighting again. A former street thug from Houston, accustomed to dispassionately cutting down the most ferocious of men, Mr. Foreman was on the verge of bankruptcy in the 1980’s — and it terrified him.

“It was frightening, the most horrible thing that can happen to a man, as far as I am concerned,” he says. “Scary. Frightening. Nervous. I had a family, people to take care of — my wife, my children, my mother. I haven’t gotten over that yet.”

Read it all.

Pasadena Church May Fight IRS Summons

September 18th, 2006 posted by kendall at 1:32 pm

A liberal Pasadena church facing an IRS investigation over alleged politicking sounded a defiant note Sunday, with its leaders and many congregants saying the probe amounted to an assault on their constitutional rights and that they were inclined to defy the agency’s request for documents.

“These people are offended,” said the Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, after delivering an impassioned sermon about the investigation to a standing-room-only crowd of about 900. “Freedom of speech and freedom of religion have been assaulted by this act of the IRS, and I think my people want to be heard in court.”

Bacon said he would consult with attorneys and church officials before deciding a course of action but that the vast majority of parishioners with whom he spoke Sunday thought the church should resist a summons demanding copies of newsletters, e-mails and other records.

“I believe we should respectfully decline to produce the documents,” said Cathy Shearon, an All Saints parishioner “off and on” for more than 20 years. “Being passive plays into the culture of oppression.”

Federal law prohibits nonprofits, including churches, from campaigning for candidates. At issue is whether an antiwar guest sermon, delivered two days before the 2004 presidential election by the Rev. George F. Regas, constituted campaigning.

Some All Saints defenders have called the IRS probe a case of selective prosecution. But conservative congregations, as well as liberal ones, have been investigated across the country by the agency over the years.

One church in upstate New York lost its tax-exempt status in 1995 after running a full-page ad in USA Today in 1992 saying that it would be “a sin to vote for [Bill] Clinton.”

But at least one group familiar with the past probes called the All Saints case unusual in the breadth of the summons’ request, which also seeks financial records and overhead costs related to Regas’ sermon.

Read the whole article.

I.R.S. Eyes Religious Groups as More Enter Election Fray

September 18th, 2006 posted by kendall at 1:30 pm

With midterm elections less than two months away, Christian conservatives are enlisting churches in eight battleground states to register voters, gather crowds for rallies and distribute voters’ guides comparing the candidates’ stands on issues that conservatives consider “family values.”

This election year, however, the religious conservatives are facing resistance from newly invigorated religious liberals and moderates who are creating their own voters’ guides and are organizing events designed to challenge the conservatives’ definition of “values.”

Both religious flanks are looking nervously over their shoulders at the Internal Revenue Service, which this year announced a renewed effort to enforce laws that limit churches and charities from involvement in partisan political campaigns.

“We became concerned in the 2004 election cycle that we were seeing more political activity among charities, including churches,” said Lois G. Lerner, the director for exempt organizations at the I.R.S. “In fact, of the organizations we looked at, we saw a very high percentage of some improper political activity, and that is really why we have ramped up the program in 2006.”

The I.R.S. issued a report in February that said nearly half of the 110 tax-exempt organizations it investigated after the 2004 elections for improper political activity were churches. Of the 40 churches that the I.R.S. had finished investigating, 37 were found to have violated the law. These churches were given warnings or penalized with excise taxes and, although none lost their tax exemptions, the I.R.S. is still investigating seven more cases against churches.

Read it all.

Some Episcopal Bishops gather at Camp Allen to Discuss Future of U.S. Church

September 18th, 2006 posted by kendall at 11:48 am

A large group of diocesan bishops are gathering in Texas this week to discuss the relationship between the U.S. Episcopal Church and other church leaders within the worldwide Anglican Communion, according to the Living Church Foundation.

The consultation at Camp Allen, Texas, will see nearly two dozen diocesan bishops contemplate the future of the Episcopal Church, USA. It has been reported that the number of bishops who support the objectives of the meeting is expected to grow rapidly after details become public, according to several people involved in planning.

The meeting, which will take place Sept. 19-22, is being organized by the Bishop of Texas, the Rt. Rev. Don Wimberly, for diocesan bishops, according to the Living Church Foundation.

In a statement posted on the diocesan website, Wimberly said the purpose of the consultation is to provide individual bishops and their dioceses with a way to maintain an “unimpaired relationship” with the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and the other primates within the worldwide denomination.

Read it all.

Rick Belser: The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina is Making the Wrong Theological Choice

September 18th, 2006 posted by kendall at 11:33 am

A paid, full-page statement from The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina appeared in the Sept. 5 Post and Courier. I was troubled not only by what was asserted or implied in the statement but also by what was denied or omitted altogether.

The supporters of the statement are concerned that a new bishop in the Diocese of South Carolina be committed to the ordination oath to conform to the “doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.” What the statement fails to mention is that those who take the oath are responding to this question. “Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this church has received them?” That is the first promise made by every ordained Episcopalian. Apparently, members of the Forum want our new bishop to be committed not to historically received principles of the Christian faith, but to whatever the modern Episcopal Church has decided to stand for.

The statement mentions that “the Diocese of South Carolina has joined fewer than 10 percent of all Episcopal dioceses in an alliance, “The Anglican Communion Network.” Forum members apparently want to ignore that the Episcopal Church, which claims 2.3 million members, is barely three percent of the 78-million member Anglican Communion, the overwhelming majority of whose members are theologically orthodox.

The Forum fails to mention that the Network was organized by several American bishops, including our own Bishop Edward Salmon, in response to the suggestion of the Archbishop of Canterbury that theological conservatives in the Episcopal Church find a way to support each other.

The Forum claims several sinister proposals for the “alliance,” including the diminishing of ” our democratic tradition of governance.” This is an odd statement to describe the Network, an organization that clearly states its real purposes in its “Memorandum of Agreement.”

It states: “The purpose of the Network is to bring together those dioceses and congregations, which hold to the centrality and authority of Holy Scripture and, in keeping with the Preamble to the Constitution of ECUSA, to be faithful in upholding and propagating the historic faith and order; pursuing the apostolic mission to a troubled and fallen church, nation, and world.”

The statement expresses the Forum’s concern that the Network will “narrow the permissible understanding of Scripture.” This can’t mean that the Forum recognizes no limits to the interpretation of scripture, because, in a later paragraph, the statement mentions that “faith, as understood in the Episcopal Church, is based on the centuries-old Anglican understanding of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.” Members of the Forum, as good Anglicans, clearly recognize that tradition and reason have always posed some limits to biblical interpretation. Could it be that the Forum’s fear of limiting “permissible understanding of scripture” stems from members’ devotion to an authority higher than tradition or reason? For some Forum sympathizers, personal faith experience is more important than biblical revelation.

But it is the unlimited, self-serving interpretations of the Bible that will further fragment our denomination. What will enrich our common life is faithful adherence to the teaching of Holy Scripture, as the Church has traditionally understood it, over the ages.

The Forum statement hints ominously that participation in the Network will lead our diocese to place its members “under the authority of appointed leaders, some from other countries and cultures.” The statement doesn’t mention African archbishops, but the thinly veiled racism in its warning hardly seems to fit the inclusive worldview claimed by Forum sympathizers. Further, while warning about the threat of appointed leaders, the statement fails to mention that alternate primatial oversight has been requested by the Diocese of South Carolina and six other dioceses. We are asking for orthodox spiritual leadership. No one is forcing us to submit to any unwanted authority.

The Forum statement asserts that “we are a vibrant national church.” How can that possibly describe an organization that has lost more than a third of its members in the past 40 years? While there are undoubtedly many local examples of exciting Gospel ministries taking place in Episcopal congregations across the country, the statistics released by our denominational headquarters tell a different story. We are a dying church, and smiling denial can’t change the diminishing number of baptisms and confirmations and the crisis of many parish and diocesan budgets relying on dwindling endowments. The Forum apparently believes that “a Constitution and Canons (the body of Ecclesiastical law) … bind us together in our common mission and ministry.” It is our tragic lack of a “common mission and ministry” that leaves us unhappily shackled together by “a body of Ecclesiastical law.”

The members of the Forum demonstrate an astonishing ignorance of current events when they say, “We can always trust the leadership of the Episcopal Church to make a place for those who are not in agreement with its direction.” This has certainly been true in the Diocese of South Carolina, but have the Forum supporters not read the articles that document case after case of Episcopal bishops filing charges against biblically orthodox clergy who disagree with the theological direction of their diocese? If the priest and lay leaders of an orthodox Episcopal congregation refuse to give financial support to a revisionist diocese or to arrange for a biblically skeptical bishop to come for a confirmation service, the priest might soon find himself charged with abandoning the communion of the church. That canonical charge allows the bishop to remove a disagreeing priest without a formal trial.

When the Forum statement “affirms Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord,” it’s not telling the whole story. Left out are the words, “for us.” Many Episcopalians believe that Jesus is Savior and Lord for us, because we grew up in a Christian environment, but it’s not necessary for people who faithfully practice other religions to believe in him. The statement claims that the convention did not reject Jesus’ lordship as an “essential article of our faith.”

Here are the facts. The convention discharged from consideration a resolution that read, in part, “Resolved … that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved … and be it further resolved that we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear his words, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” By not considering this resolution, the convention chose not to reaffirm “this essential article of our Faith.” To say Jesus is our Lord but not necessarily Lord for the whole world is to deny the unique nature of the Son of God.

The Forum statement concludes: “The Episcopal Church welcomes all with love, leaving judgment and rebuke to our Lord’s great mercy.” What’s missing here is the mature recognition that “welcoming with love” means more than sentimental acceptance of each other. God welcomes us just as we are, but because he loves us, he is not content to leave us captive to ideas and attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that are unhealthy for us. He calls us to become holy, as he is holy, and this means helping each other face the need for repentance and renewal. God’s Word judges between right and wrong. Tolerance of behavior the Bible calls wrong is not love. It is shortsighted moral isolationism and long-range cruelty.

In their effort to promote a kinder, gentler brand of Christianity, the members of the Forum have turned their backs on what the Bible calls “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Some members of the Forum might be ready to follow the current national leadership of the Episcopal Church, but most members of the Diocese of South Carolina want to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the heritage of faith in which we stand.

–The Rev. Richard I.H. Belser is rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Charleston; this article appeared on the op-ed page of the September 15, 2006, Charleston Post and Courier, page 11a.


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