February 23, 2012

As Oil Prices Rise …

Watching the evening news on ABC, I was particularly struck by the story on rising oil prices. Democrats are concerned that high gas prices will not be good for the candidacy of Barack Obama. I was interested in learning that speculators seem to be driving up the price of oil. Alas, there is little the president can do about gas prices, and speculation is one of the many things over which he has virtually no control.

The Republican candidates are already blaming Obama for gas prices because, of course, they can. Gingrich supposedly has a plan to deliver $2.50/gal. gasoline. It amounts to, as the president pointed out, drill, drill, and keep drilling. Even if you think this is a good idea, it must be pointed out that it won’t deliver $2.50 gas any time soon.

In fact, Republicans are criticizing Obama both for high gas prices and for being soft on Iran. This is frustrating for the president, since putting pressure on Iran is going to increase gas prices. Europe is already putting the squeeze on Iran, and the inevitable result will be higher gas prices for everyone.


February 21, 2012

A New Player in Town

There is a new site on the World Wide Web. The domain yestothecovenant.org was registered February 16, 2012, and there is now a Web site at the address http://yestothecovenant.org titled “Yes to the Covenant.” It carries the tag line “Serious about uniting Anglicans worldwide.” Clearly, Yes to the Covenant is intended counter (and, to a large extent, mirror) the No Anglican Covenant site.

Let me begin by welcoming the new site and its backers to the discussion of whether the proposed Anglican Covenant is a good or a bad thing for worldwide Anglicanism. I believe that a promising future for the Anglican Communion is only possible through real engagement in open and frank discussion. It is my hope that Yes to the Covenant will contribute to that conversation. There has, after all, been all too much talk of the Covenant’s being “the only way forward;” that, having seen the Covenant this far to implementation, it is somehow disingenuous to back out; and that we cannot discomfort or embarrass the Archbishop of Canterbury by subverting the program he has so arduously championed.

No Anglican Covenant logo
For now, at least, Yes to the Covenant seems to be strictly an English affair. That said, the effort to advance the Covenant has, for some time in the past and for some time in the future, been fought primarily within the Church of England. In contrast, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, which was organized near the end of 2010, has been an international effort from the beginning.

According to the new site’s Who are we? page, the people behind the site are Prudence Dailey, a lay member of the General Synod from Oxford, and the Rev. David Harris, who is Vicar of St. Giles, Reading, a parish in the Diocese of Oxford. Taking a page from the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, Yes to the Covenant, already has its first Patron, the Rt. Rev. John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford.

The new site is attractive, but, perhaps not surprisingly, a bit thin on content. What content there is is disappointing. For example, on the page titled “Why we need a Covenant,” we find this:
Unlike some other Churches, the global Anglican Communion does not have any central authority structure. It is, nevertheless, considered to be a worldwide Church with, for example, interchangeability of Orders between the various Provinces.
No! The Anglican Communion is not considered a church, no matter how many times Rowan Williams uses the phrase “Anglican Church.” In fact, many of us who value the Communion do so in part because it is not a church, but a communion (or fellowship) of autonomous churches. Yes to the Covenant, however, laments that Anglicanism is not “a single global entity.”

Another page on the site, titled “Why support the Covenant?” repeats all the lame arguments the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has been fighting against since its inception:
  • [B]ecause its [sic] the only game in town. We are again told that there is no alternative. This is complete nonsense
  • We can’t turn our backs now. Apparently, if one runs toward the edge of a cliff, it is unfair to the cliff to think better of one’s path of destruction. The Covenant never was a good idea, and more and more people are beginning to realize that. The message of Yes to the Covenant, however, is don’t worry your pretty little head about the Covenant.
  • Finally, there is this: not quite don’t hurt the Archbishop of Canterbury’s feelings, but certainly—U.K. readers may not get this reference—Father Knows Best:
We don’t have to do what the Archbishop of Canterbury tells us, but we do have to accept that his priority is trying to hold the Communion together, and that he has a global view that most of us lack. We should therefore at least listen to him.
Since Rowan Williams know better than any of us, why don’t we simply declare him the Anglican Pope! The Why Support the Covenant? page, alas, seems a parody of what a pro-Covenant site should look like. The Onion would be proud to be its author.

The most sustained argument on the new site is on the FAQ page. I’ll spare my readers a full rebuttal to this little essay, but I cannot let this sentence go unremarked upon: “It would be a mistake not to give the Covenant a chance, just because it can’t solve all our problems.” I would argue not only that the Covenant will not solve all our problems, but also that it will create new ones. It will virtually guarantee the split of the Communion into two tiers, which, I predict, will effectively become two communions. Perhaps it would be best just to split up now and be done with it.

Finally, Yes to the Covenant offers More online resources. There aren’t many resources here. There are links to the Covenant text and to the January 10, 2012, letter from Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba. There are also three links to the Fulcrum Web site, suggesting perhaps that Fulcrum is behind Yes to the Covenant.

The Yes to the Covenant folks claim to be “[s]erious about uniting Anglicans worldwide.” I will take them at their word but point out that serious is not enough.

February 20, 2012

Additional Thoughts on an Internal Episcopal Candidate for Pittsburgh

In an earlier post, I indicated that a priest from within the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has been nominated for bishop by petition, and I argued that, without getting into personalities, I did not think that electing a priest from within the diocese would be a good thing.

Although bishops of The Episcopal Church are most usually elected from outside the diocese, this is not always the case. I’m sure that there are people who would readily point out that Gene Robinson was Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of New Hampshire when he was elected bishop of that diocese. That Robinson was elected is a strong indication that he was well liked and appreciated in his own diocese.

The point I want to make is that, although there may be some drawbacks to electing a priest from within a diocese, there can be overriding reasons for doing so. I also want to argue that, for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh electing a bishop in 2012, the case against an internal candidate is simply too compelling to be dismissed. To support this assertion, I want to make one additional argument that crystallized in my mind only after I wrote “Pittsburghers Nominate Episcopal Candidate by Petition.”

Under former bishop Bob Duncan, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh was slowly but systematically isolated from the wider Episcopal Church, and The Episcopal Church came to be represented as an evil influence to avoid. I won’t attempt to provide a definitive accounting of everything our now-deposed bishop did in this regard, but a short list should act as a reminder to people who have been following diocesan affairs for the past decade. My list includes actions taken directly by Duncan, as well as those passed by the diocesan convention with his vigorous support:
  • Resolution One, passed in 2002, warned members of the 2003 General Convention of actions the diocese could not accept if passed.
  •  Parishes were allowed to designate the part of their assessments that had previously gone to The Episcopal Church to be diverted to other charities. Eventually, the diocese refused to forward any money to The Episcopal Church.
  • The accession clause of the diocesan constitution was changed to give the diocese final say about what it would and would not do.
  • Clergy conferences were held on days when the Province III Synod met, so that representatives from the diocese could not attend.
  • Eventually, the diocese claimed to have withdrawn from Province III.
  • Trinity School for Ministry became virtually the only seminary from which diocesan priests were drawn.
  • Speakers at diocesan events such as clergy conferences and convention dinners were mostly drawn from outside The Episcopal Church and were critics of The Episcopal Church.
  • When attending House of Bishops meetings, Duncan did not lodge in the same facilities as most other bishops and usually left early after business of special interest to him had been discussed.
  • Duncan accepted David Moyer into the diocese after Moyer had been deposed by the Bishop of Pennsylvania.
  • Duncan was an important figure in the development of the Anglican Communion Network, a precursor of the Anglican Church in North America.
  • Duncan helped create the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, which directly competed with Episcopal Relief and Development.
Ultimately, of course, Duncan tried to remove the entire diocese from The Episcopal Church, and his supporters still hold property that should be under the control of Episcopalians.

Sad to say, even though The Episcopal Church came eventually to the aid of Pittsburgh Episcopalians who reached out to it, that aid, at least before the actual schism of October 2008, was less substantial than one might have hoped. Had it not been for the work of Calvary Church and Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh within the diocese, Pittsburgh would not be preparing to elect its next bishop two months from now.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has too long been isolated from the wider church. Electing a bishop from within the diocese, however well intentioned, can only feed the insularity that so often seems to characterize Southwestern Pennsylvania generally. Instead, we need to reach out to the wider church for a bishop, bringing in new blood and new ideas from outside the Pittsburgh cocoon. We need to re-connect to the general church in as many ways as possible.

Who knows? With the right leadership, Pittsburgh, taking lessons from its long night of isolation and episcopal manipulation, might even become a leading diocese of The Episcopal Church.

February 19, 2012

Trinity Cathedral Shows Its Colors

I have lately been singing in the Trinity Cathedral choir, taking a sabbatical from my own parish choir to help out at the diocesan cathedral, from which many people (including choir singers) left after the Chapter declared the cathedral to be that of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and no longer that of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

My post “Trinity Cathedral Casts Its Lot with TEC” included a photograph of the sign on the fence in front of the church that declared Trinity to be the cathedral of both dioceses. That picture was from December, and I have been wondering how long it would take to remove the words “The Anglican Church in North America.” I was sorely tempted to take my roll of duct tape to church one Sunday, but, in the end, I decided that discretion was called for.

I was delighted this morning, however, when, walking along Sixth Avenue, I was greeted by a new sign. Its duplicate, I later discovered, is visible at the back of the building along Oliver Avenue as well. The signs are, one might say, proudly Episcopalian.

New sign at rear of Trinity Cathedral
New Sign at Rear of Trinity Cathedral
(Click for larger view)

February 18, 2012

Thought for 2/18/2012—Take 2

Raping thousands of children is not enough for the Catholic Church; now bishops want to screw women employees as well.

Thought for 2/18/2012—Take 1

Paying for birth control pills seems a small price to pay for raping thousands of children.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

As I’m sure many readers know, dioceses of the Church of England—there are 44 of them—are voting on the Anglican Covenant. Only if a majority of the dioceses vote in favor of the pact will the question of its adoption by the Church of England return to the General Synod for final approval. If a majority of dioceses vote against the Covenant, one would expect that the Covenant will have effectively been rejected by the Mother Church of worldwide Anglicanism. One always has to worry, however, whether Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams might devise some ad hoc contrivance to rescue his beloved Covenant from ignominious rejection by his own church.

Going into this weekend, the diocesan vote was 5 dioceses for Covenant adoption (Lichfield, Durham, Europe, Bristol, and Canterbury) and 6 dioceses against (Truro, Birmingham, Wakefield, St. Edmundsbury & Ipswich, Derby, and Gloucester). The vote is no longer so close.

This weekend, the dioceses of Leicester, Portsmouth, Rochester, and Salisbury and  all voted against the Covenant. This makes the current vote of dioceses 5 for the Covenant and 10 against!

More information , including actual vote totals, will eventually appear on the No Anglican Covenant Coalition’s blog and Web site.


No Anglican Covenant

Get your No Anglican Covenant merchandise at the Farrago Gift Shop.
 

February 17, 2012

Unhelpful

I was recently browsing the redesigned Episcopal Church Web site and decided to check if the information about my own parish was up-to-date. The church’s home page contains a link at the top right labeled FIND A CHURCH. Clicking on the link takes the visitor to a page where a ZIP Code can be entered. I put in the ZIP Code of St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon (15228), clicked the GO button, and was taken to a page that includes what you can see in the image below:

Partial search results for ZIP Code 15228

Pittsburgh Episcopalians should immediate recognize a problem here. All parishes listed were Episcopal parishes four years ago, and, arguably they still are. Unfortunately, many of the buildings are currently occupied by Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) congregations. They are, as we usually say in Pittsburgh, “Duncan churches.” In particular, Church of the Advent and Church of the Atonement (among many others) listed above are Duncan churches in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. The Episcopal Church Web site is directing visitors to churches of a rival denomination!

The church finder function on the ACNA Web site is considerably more up-to-date. It is reached from a link at the right of the home page, which takes the visitor here. As on the Episcopal Church site, one can enter a ZIP Code and a search radius. The results corresponding to the search I did on the Episcopal Church site are shown, in part, below:


St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, was not listed. In fact, the only parish listed erroneously was Trinity Cathedral, which, until December, had been acting both as an Episcopal Church and ACNA cathedral. Now, of course, it is strictly an Episcopal Church operation. (See “Trinity Cathedral Casts Its Lot with TEC.”) ACNA has not yet gotten around to making the change on its parish finder.

When I discovered the problem with the Episcopal Church Web site, I thought of contacting the Episcopal Church Center myself. Considering the matter further, however, I decided that the request for a change to the list of Pittsburgh parishes ought to come from the Episcopal diocese itself. I therefore contacted my friend Joan Gundersen, who has been responsible, since the departure of the Duncan faction in 2008, for keeping The Episcopal Church straight on who is or is not an Episcopal priest or deacon in the diocese, as well as which churches are occupied by Episcopal congregations and which are occupied by ACNA congregations. At least as far as parishes are concerned, Joan expressed despair of ever getting the Church Center to get things right.

I don’t know if the church finder function on the Episcopal Church Web site handled the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh properly before the latest redesign was implemented or not. Either the transition was done poorly, or it was executed using erroneous data from the start. I can only hope that this post will help shame the Episcopal Church powers that be into getting the Web site right and ceasing to send Episcopalians to ACNA churches.

By the way, the information for St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, is correct on the Episcopal Church Web site.

Update, 2/23/2012: Gary Gaertner read the above post and decided to encourage the communications folks at the Episcopal Church Center to eliminate ACNA churches from the parish finder. This required several e-mail exchanges, but, I am happy to report, he seems to have been successful in getting ACNA churches removed. Of course, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh believes that parishes that are controlled by ACNA are properly Episcopal Church parishes, but they are, one might say, under ACNA occupation. It is silly to send someone looking for an Episcopal Church parish to such a church.

February 14, 2012

Pittsburghers Nominate Episcopal Candidate by Petition

In addition to the four candidates to become the next Bishop of Pittsburgh announced a few weeks ago by the Standing Committee—see “Pittsburgh Episcopal Candidates Announced”—a petition has been received nominating a local priest. Assuming this person passes the standard background check, the subject of the petition will become the fifth nominee in the April election. The name of the petition nominee has not been announced.

This is, I suggest, an unfortunate development, and I will try to explain why.

To begin with, the petition candidate was certainly suggested to the Nomination Committee, which did not see fit to advance the candidate. Although I personally believe that no one from within the Diocese of Pittsburgh should be a candidate to become the next bishop—see below—I have reason to believe that the Nomination Committee did not have such a blanket prejudice against internal candidates. One has to wonder why this person was removed from the candidate pool.

Divisions predating the 2008 split in the diocese persist. To be sure, there is a liberal-conservative divide, but there is also a slightly different divide between those who recognized Bob Duncan’s schismatic designs early on and actively opposed them (mostly moderate to liberal priests), on one hand, and the late-comers to the stay-in-The-Episcopal-Church party (mostly moderate to conservative priests), on the other. I suspect that a priest in neither group would be warmly welcomed as bishop by the other group.

Surely, some will argue that a candidate from the diocese knows the diocese well and can, therefore, hit the ground running, as it were. The reality, however, is that any internal candidate comes with a good deal of baggage—the priest will not be seen as an objective observer and will, in fact, come with prejudices that are not readily put aside. A candidate with no previous connection to the diocese can view the diocese without emotions born of  recent conflicts.

It is clear that the Nomination Committee sought candidates with a strong background as reconcilers. The recent history of the Diocese of Pittsburgh is largely one of partisan conflict, however, not of reconciliation, so it is difficult to imagine an internal candidate being able effectively to build a strong community, perhaps the biggest challenge for the next bishop. Even Across the Aisle—see my September 20, 2008, post here—was more a marriage of convenience than a true unification of longtime and recent opponents of Robert Duncan.

Then there is the matter of the overall résumés of the four current candidates. I suspect that the résumé of the priest being nominated by petition does not compare favorably with those of the current candidates in terms of education, variety of experience (particularly in different dioceses), and relevant accomplishments.

Because the petition candidate was, in some sense, rejected by the Nomination Committee, the petition itself is a kind of rebuke to the committee. I believe that the committee was balanced and conscientious, however, and the petition itself is a blow to diocesan unity and collegial trust. The nomination process was carefully designed to avoid the kind of ambush represented by Duncan’s nomination from the floor in the last Pittsburgh episcopal election, but the addition of a petition candidate nonetheless cannot but bring to mind that unhappy event. This is not helpful.

Any internal candidate is likely to garner a number of votes in the early rounds of balloting simply by virtue of being a favorite son (or daughter). This could distort the election and, potentially, eliminate one of the other four candidates who might well be the best choice for our next bishop.

Aside from any strengths or weaknesses of the person being nominated by petition, I believe the foregoing considerations militate against this priest’s candidacy. I therefore urge the candidate, for the sake of the diocese, to withdraw from the field.

Update, 2/20/2012: Today, I wrote another post on the matter of an internal candidate for bishop. I invite you to read “Additional Thoughts on an Internal Episcopal Candidate for Pittsburgh.”
 

February 13, 2012

Pearl of Wisdom for 2/13/2012

Paul Krugman’s column in today’s New York Times includes this distressing observation:
How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? …

My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control.

February 11, 2012

Obama and the Contraceptive Mandate

It was with some trepidation that I awaited yesterday’s announcement from President Obama concerning the modification of his plan to require religious institutions to provide free contraception to employees covered by medical plans. I had been pleased by the decision to require religious institutions other than actual churches to provide such a benefit. It seemed to be a sign that Obama might finally be staking out a position he actually believed in, rather than announcing a compromise policy and compromising with his opponents from there. Even so, the exception for churches had not been a welcome exception.

The revised policy, which relieves church-related institutions from providing contraception but makes it mandatory for their insurance companies to provide the benefit free to those desiring it, is a clever fig leaf that provides cover for all parties. Whether it will quell charges that the president is eroding religious freedom remains to be seen. Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan said, “Today’s decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction.” I suspect that the archbishop will be seeking a second, third, and fourth step as well, however.

It remains to be seen how the president’s plan works out in particular cases. What if the religious employer is self-insured? What if the insurer is itself a church-run organization? There are other issues that may prove problematic as well.

In other words, the controversy is far from over, but this seems a good time to offer a few observations on the controversy so far.

Telling Churches What To Do

Conservatives claim to see a systematic attack on religion by the federal government; every regulation that affects religious institutions is seen as an assault on religious freedom. This, of course, is part of a cynical political strategy, not the product of any objective reality. Churches and church-related institutions must obey innumerable regulations, and they largely do so without complaint. (Many Catholic institutions are even now offering contraception in employee health plans.) In the cases in question, however, Roman Catholic bishops have made the argument that their church was being required to pay for something it considers sinful, and this was said to be an innovation.

I have a hard time keeping up with everything the Pope thinks is sinful, but, for argument’s sake, let’s assume this the innovation assertion is true as far as the federal government is concerned. (Apparently, eight states require even churches to cover contraceptives for employees, so the innovation, if it is that, is only at the federal level.) Whereas the government does make certain accommodations for religious beliefs—Quakers are allowed to be conscientious objectors, for example—it is not clear that this is required by the Constitution, the free exercise clause notwithstanding. In any case, the need to accommodate religion is certainly not absolute. If a Jewish group wished to retain the right to stone miscreants for Old Testament infractions, does anyone really think the Constitution would demand that this be allowed?

An editorial in today’s New York Times put it this way:
Nonetheless, it was dismaying to see the president lend any credence to the misbegotten notion that providing access to contraceptives violated the freedom of any religious institution. Churches are given complete freedom by the Constitution to preach that birth control is immoral, but they have not been given the right to laws that would deprive their followers or employees of the right to disagree with that teaching.
The whole notion that the government cannot compel a church to support that which it considers sinful is bogus. Even if churches themselves do not pay taxes, they collect income tax for their employees—they could pay less if employees did not have their salaries taxed—and the government surely spends that money on projects the churches consider (or should consider) sinful. (Think war and capital punishment, not to mention Planned Parenthood.)

In reality, what the Catholic bishops and their allies are demanding is not so much relief from a morally compromised situation, as a license for the church to impose its will on others. Not only should this not be allowed in the case of Catholic universities, hospitals, and the like, but it also should be disallowed for churches themselves. The exemption of churches from the obligation to provide contraception is, in reality, an unconstitutional meddling of the state in religion. The government is assisting Catholic churches in forcing its female employees to abide by Catholic doctrine on penalty of economic hardship. This is not religious freedom; it is government collusion in oppression of individual rights.

Politics

Of course, this whole controversy is about politics in one way or another. The Catholic bishops are continuing their campaign against abortion and contraception, and the Republican candidates simply have a program of disparaging everything President Obama does. Claiming that the president is an enemy of religion plays well to the Tea Party crowd. Of course, Rick Santorum is a special case. He is an über Roman Catholic who would gleefully outlaw all abortions and all contraception. Newt Gingrich is also Catholic, but, although he is anti-choice, he has not declared himself to be against family planning. Who knows what Mitt Romney really thinks, and who cares what Ron Paul thinks?

There is much that is odd about the position of the Catholic bishops, a group that has moved strongly to the right on recent years. Whereas the bishops’ position no doubt makes the Pope’s day, it is widely reported that 98% of Catholic women use birth control at some point in their lives. Catholic doctrine and Catholic practice are about as polar opposites as anyone could possibly imagine here. Catholic opinion is split on the president’s contraception mandate. If Catholic women can get over the phony war-on-religion argument, however, they are likely to be more sympathetic to the president and less sympathetic to the church’s all-male episcopate.

There is indication that President Obama has, with his latest compromise, won over Planned Parenthood and some Catholic groups, even if Catholic bishops are still trying to decide what should be their final position. The bishops should consider whether they want to damage Obama on this issue, since, sexual issues aside, Democrats are more sympathetic to traditional Catholic issues than the current crop of Republicans.

Some Democrats have criticized Obama for not anticipating the firestorm his original policy announcement created. It has been argued either that he should have been better prepared to defend his policy or that he should not have—as they see it—gratuitously offended the Catholic Church to begin with. I agree that the administration should have been better prepared to make its case for whatever its policy was going to be. I would have preferred to see the mandate applied to all employees, however, including those of individual churches.

Despite some significant accomplishments, the Obama administration has suffered from a lack of will and a misguided hopefulness that bargains can be struck with the current Congress held hostage by Tea Party ideologues. Republican presidential candidates have portrayed the president as weak and ineffective, a charge not without some basis in fact. The president has shown some rare determination in the matter of the contraception mandate, and he will do well to show, between now and November, that he is firm but reasonable.

February 6, 2012

What About Iran?

There is more and more talk in the news suggesting that Israel or the U.S. might—or even should—take military action against Iran in order to keep that country from developing a nuclear weapons capability. Not surprisingly, such talk has come from Republican presidential candidates. Disappointingly, President Obama is also issuing thinly veiled threats against Iran and declaring solidarity with Israel.

Although I am not unalterably opposed to military action against Iran, it is difficult for me to imagine a situation in which such action would be both justified and unlikely to ignite a conflagration that would quickly burn out of control.

I doubt—though not as much as I would like to doubt—that President Obama would initiate a military strike or give tacit approval to Israel for one. I am less sanguine about the self-control of a President Romney or President Gingrich. What I most fear, however, is Israeli military action taken without U.S. consent, explicit or otherwise.

Unfortunately, the U.S. policy of unconditional support for the State of Israel means that, in certain areas, U.S. policy is determined in Tel Aviv and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has the ability to draw the U.S. into a Middle East war whose outcome is uncertain and likely to be catastrophic.

What should the U.S. do if we suspect that Israel is about to launch an air strike against the Islamic Republic of Iran? (Even if Israel does not ask permission—I doubt it will—I suspect that the U.S. will know that something is in the works.) The answer is simple: We should put our own planes in the air prepared to shoot down Israeli warplanes. We should, of course, first inform the government of Iran of our—and Israel’s—intentions.

Update, 2/10/2012: The New York Times carried a front-page story yesterday headlined “U.S. and Israel Split on Speed of Iran Threat.” It included this distressing paragraph:
Officials said that for all the friction between the United States and Israel over issues like Jewish settlements in the West Bank, it had not spilled over into the dialogue over Iran, in part because Mr. Obama has ordered it “walled off” from politics.

Cat Owners Unite!

Doritos® logo
Doritos® Logo
Did you watch the Doritos commercial in which a smart aleck dog has apparently killed a cat and bribes a husband with Doritos not to tell his wife what happened? I just sent the following message to Frito-Lay:
I was not amused, but appalled by your Super Bowl commercial suggesting that a dog had killed a cat. IT WAS NOT FUNNY. Before you run another such commercial, you had better check how many cat owners there are in this country. Apparently, it is more than you think.

I own two cats, and I used to buy Doritos. I'm not sure now that I will ever buy another Frito-Lay product.

I hope you were amused.

Very truly yours,
Lionel Deimel
http://blog.deimel.org
You, too, can send e-mail to Frito-Lay here.


Update, 2/7/2012: Today, I received the message below from Frito-Lay:
Hi Lionel,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Consumer opinions are very important to us and we appreciate knowing how you feel.

The ad was consumer created through our 'Crash the Super Bowl' campaign. Consumers submitted ads that were then selected by a public vote. Please know your comments will be shared with the appropriate teams here at Frito-Lay. We apologize, as we would never intentionally offend our consumers.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and the constructive spirit in which they were offered. We hope our future actions will restore your confidence in our name and will earn back your trust and support.

Best regards,

Tina
Frito-Lay Consumer Relations
011842844A

February 2, 2012

More on AMiA

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA). Since then, I was made aware of an interesting narrative from three AMiA priests in the D.C. area. “Why Did AMiA Break Away from the Anglican Province of Rwanda?” was written by Dan Claire, Chuck Colson, and Tommy Hinson of RenewDC. Unlike the official AMiA Web site, this document takes the side of Rwanda in the current dispute. “Why Did AMiA Break Away” is dated January 14, 2012, however, and may not reflect the latest developments. The authors state their purpose this way:
This article and the appended timeline are an effort to summarize what happened from the perspective of the Rwandan House of Bishops, based on extensive interviews with the bishops as well as public documents.
Not surprisingly, the cause of the AMiA/Rwanda split comes across as a matter of money and power. The priests begin their story this way:
During the past year, the relationship of Bishop Chuck Murphy, Chairman of the AMiA, and the Rwandan House of Bishops broke down. Under new leadership last January, the House of Bishops sought to understand their working relationship with the AMiA for the sake of providing better accountability and oversight. Murphy, however, preferred to maintain the autonomy he had enjoyed under Emmanuel Kolini, the former Rwandan Archbishop. Kolini retired at the end of 2010 but has sought to remain the primary Rwandan liaison with Murphy and the AMiA. Onesphore Rwaje, the new Archbishop of Rwanda, values collaborative and collegial leadership, and has endeavored to include the entire House of Bishops in overseeing the AMiA.
The House of Bishops of the Rwandan church wrote to Murphy on November 30, 2011, charging that he had
  • “constantly disregarded the decisions and counsels of the House of Bishops”;
  • “misused the authority given to him” in advancing a plan to break away from the Province of Rwanda, and had ignored their repeated requests to halt;
  • dodged their questions regarding financial gifts designated for Rwanda[; and]
  • used “abusive language” in speaking of the Rwandan bishops (e.g. “knucklehead, reversed colonialism, lawlessness”).
The narrative of “Why Did AMiA Break Away” necessarily ends without a satisfying conclusion, as the relationships of AMiA, the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, and the Anglican Church in North America are in flux. The authors offer these observations and questions:
Archbishop Rwaje and the House of Bishops are grieved by the resignations and the fractures within the AMiA. Particularly in light of their spiritual heritage in the East African Revival, they mourn the divisions that have occurred in the body of Christ. Likewise, they are saddened by the ways that they have been mischaracterized. At a time when they are enjoying unprecedented unity as a House of Bishops, why do they continue to be described as a divided house? Further, their motives have been misunderstood. Why have their efforts to work together as a team with the full AMiA Council of Bishops and to achieve transparent communication and finances been construed perversely as a lust for power? These unforeseen and undesired outcomes are heartbreaking to the Rwandan bishops.
“Why Did AMiA Break Away” makes interesting reading. Especially enlightening is the timeline, which carefully documents the AMiA conflicts, quotes extensively from relevant documents, and takes up most of the 13 pages of the document from the three D.C. priests.

February 1, 2012

Thinking about Sex outside the Box

I came upon the graphic below on Facebook today and was instantly struck by its brilliance. The point of it is that people are not simply either male or female. Moreover, there are a number of aspects of a person that we refer to as gender, sex, etc., that are not binary, but occur on more or less continuous scales. Perhaps this is seen most easily on what is represented below as the Biological Sex scale. A person born with an extra X chromosome or a person born with both male and female sex organs has a problem when presented with M and F check boxes on a form. Such a person certainly has a sex; it just isn’t either male or female!

The Genderbread Person graphic is intended to get people thinking outside the box and to realize that dividing people into the classes Men and Women is a simplification of reality.

The Genderbread Person is the work of Samuel Killermann, whose Web site is It’s Pronounced Metrosexual. Killermann provides an explanation of his creation (so I don’t have to) here. His diagram—and his explanation, for that matter—may not be perfect, but it has a certain elegance and is surely thought provoking.

Click on the graphic below, by the way, for a larger view.

The Genderbread Person