Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Break

I'll be in Mexico until the beginning of January. So until then, Merry Christmas!

P.S. This would be a great opportunity for the other authors to write...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Episcopal Diocese Votes to Secede

"An Episcopal diocese in central California voted Saturday to split with the national denomination over disagreements about the role of gay men and lesbians in the church.

Clergy and lay members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin voted 173 to 22 at their annual convention to remove all references to the U.S. church from the diocese's constitution, said the Rev. Van McCalister, a diocesan spokesman. The diocese, in a later vote, accepted an invitation to join the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, a conservative South American congregation of the worldwide Anglican Communion."

Gracious God, have mercy your Church. Forgive us when, in our weakness, we reject our brothers and sisters in Christ. May you give us the strength to love as Jesus loved, so that all may be united in you.


Included in the list of "12 of the world's most influential spiritual leaders" is Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and President of the Lutheran World Federation.

The other 11 spiritual leaders being interviewed are (in alphabetical order):

o Alexei II, Patriarch of Moscow and head of the Russian Orthodox Church
o Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), a Hindu spiritual leader
o Pope Benedict XVI, head of the Roman Catholic Church
o The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists
o Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a prominent Shi'ite Muslim leader
o Michihisa Kitashirakawa, Jingu Daiguji (High Priest) of the Shinto Grand Shrine of Ise
o Yona Metzger, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel
o Dr. Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention
o Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, Sheikh of Al-Azhar and a prominent Sunni Muslim leader
o Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar of the Akal Takht, the Sikhs' highest authority
o Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England

The show sounds interesting in and of itself, but I can't help but be pleased that a Lutheran voice is being given equal time in such a prominent mainstream discussion of religion.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Christmas Bowl

Oregon Synod Christmas Bowl - sign up now!!
Let's have some fun!

Join Bishop David Brauer-Rieke online Thursday, December 13, for the first (and perhaps last) annual “Oregon Synod Christmas Bowl.” Here’s how it works:
  • Pull together your team - a few friends, your family, just you, the Outreach Committee, whoever you want.
  • Get the Christmas bowl out, fill it with eggnog, punch, Christmas cookies, Fiddle Faddle, or anything that sounds good.
  • Have a computer handy with sound and a broadband connection, like cable or DSL. (If you have such a hookup at your church you can have the party there, but you may prefer to meet at somebody’s house. Just invite a few friends over. Be sure you can turn the sound up so everybody can hear.) and be ready to log on for the fun Thursday the 13th.
  • Easy to follow directions will be emailed to you after you sign up.
    That’s absolutely all. Easy - fun!! Space is limited.

    Reserve your “Christmas Bowl” seat now at:

    Please forward this email on to your congregation, family or friends as you see fit. The more the merrier.

    Dave Brauer-Rieke, bishop

    Oregon Synod - ELCA 2800 N. Vancouver Ave.
    Suite 101 Portland, OR 97227 503.413.4191

Monday, December 3, 2007

Not "What Shall We Do," but "How Shall We Do It?"

The ELCA has just released its 2008 Election Guide. The Election Guide tries to present non-partisan advice for Lutheran congregations to approach political decisions as people who value Christ's teaching. The specific issues that it addresses are:

Domestic Hunger

Domestic Housing

Domestic Healthcare

Global Poverty and Hunger

Global Warming


Peace and Conflict

Most of these issues are fairly straightforward on a superficial level. For instance, Jesus says to fed the hungry, according the U.S. Department of Agricultural, in 2005, 35.1 million people lived in American households considered to be food insecure, therefore it is important to vote for candidates who say they will use their position in office to help eliminate hunger in America.

Great! The problem for me, however, is that I have never heard of a candidate who claimed that he or she was not interested in helping eliminate hunger and poverty. Where politicians tend to disagree is not on the goal, but how to achieve it. The classic example of this is should government directly give aid to the needy, or should it foster a favorable economic climate so that there are jobs for people who are out of work and extra income for individuals who can then donate to charity. The ELCA's Election Guide does implicitly and explicitly favor a few economic and scientific models, but not many, and not in depth.

As someone who has been raised to respect academic institutions and intellectual specialization, I naturally turn to economists and people with abbreviations after their names to tell me which out a myriad of theoretical models will best achieve the goals that I value. Unfortunately, the experts disagree on most theories. And, as a recent New York Times article reports, the most influential experts can be disastrously wrong.

The New York Times reports that for the past few decades the economists at the World Bank had been advising the hunger stricken country of Malawi to encourage farmers to pull themselves out of poverty by growing cash crops for export in exchange for money to buy food. This system had been failing miserably, and after a horrible harvest in 2005, Malawi's president, Bingu wa Mutharika, ignored western economic advice and started subsidizing fertilizer for farmers to grow their own food. Mr. Mutharika's gamble paid off, and now Malawi is no longer accepting foreign food aid and even exporting food to other hungry nations.

I guess the point of all this is to ask how we as Christians decide which means are the best to achieve Christ's goals? How do we trust that the experts from whom we get our information are not overly biased (for surely they all are to a certain extent--and yes, I know the Word Bank is perhaps more biased than most)?