Navy chaplains & gay marriages

Chaplains in the navy have been told that they may perform gay marriages in navy chapels, if they are legal in the particular state and if the chaplain is willing to do so:

Anticipating the elimination of the military ban on homosexuality, the Office of the Chief of Navy Chaplains has decided that same-sex couples in the Navy will be able to get married in Navy chapels, and that Navy chaplains will be allowed to perform the ceremonies — if homosexual marriage is legal in the state where the unions are to be performed.

The advisory came in the form of an April 13 memo issued to all chaplains, in which the Chief of Navy Chaplains, Admiral Michael Tidd, said the Chaplain Corps was revising its Tier I training manuals, which had previously indicated that same-sex marriages are not authorized on federal property.

Instead, Tidd called for chaplains to comply with service-wide efforts underway to be more accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as the end of the military policy on homosexuality nears.

Citing “additional legal review” by Navy attorneys, the admiral said the Navy “has concluded that, generally speaking, base facility use is sexual orientation neutral.”

“If the base is located in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, then the base facilities may be used to celebrate the marriage,” the admiral’s directive states.

The admiral’s memo also gives chaplains permission to “marry” homosexual couples – but would not force them to perform ceremonies.

via Navy Authorizes Chaplains to Perform Same-Sex ‘Marriages’ in Naval Chapels | CNSnews.com.

I know some of you readers are military chaplains.  Do you feel you will be pressured to perform these marriages under the new military guidelines?

The mighty Mississippi

The street in Memphis where the blues were born is underwater, as are many of the towns and cities and farms along the Mississippi river:

Waging war against flooding of historic proportions that has already affected thousands of people in eight Midwestern and Southern states, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened a spillway Monday north of New Orleans in an effort to calm the rising Mississippi River.

A crowd gathered near the entrance to the Bonnet Carre spillway to watch workers using cranes slide open the gates to the flood control system, which was built beginning in 1929 after a devastating flood two years before. The spillway, like another that could be opened next week, is designed to divert floodwater away from New Orleans and slow the raging river to protect the low-lying city.

While the river’s highest levels may still be days away, a decision to open the second flood control structure — the Morganza Spillway — may not be, Gov. Bobby Jindal said. People with property that would flood if the spillway is opened should not dally, Jindal warned.

“My advice to our people is not to wait, to get prepared now,” Jindal said.

Upstream in Memphis, Tennessee, residents and authorities had prepared all they could Monday as they anxiously waited for the Mississippi to crest Tuesday morning at a near-record 14 feet above flood stage.

“It’s sort of torturous, we’ve been waiting so long. It’s hard keeping peoples’ attention. It’s warning fatigue, if you will,” Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. said. “But we’re ready for it.”

The river is the highest it’s been at Memphis since 1937, when it crested at 48.7 feet — 14.7 feet above flood stage. That flood killed 500 people and inundated 20 million acres of land, said Col. Vernie Reichling, the Corps’ Memphis District commander.

The river Monday covered the lowest parts of the city’s historic Beale Street and had forced about 400 people from their homes, Wharton said. Another 1,300 remained in low-lying areas, he said.

While Corps’ officials said it appeared levees protecting the area were holding up well, with only minor amounts of water seeping in from beneath or lapping over from above, local officials were taking no chances.

“It’s a very powerful river. It looks like it’s running very slowly, but it has a very strong current,” said Bob Nations, director of preparedness in Shelby County, Tennessee, which includes Memphis. “We still don’t know (exactly what) the river might do.”

via Army Corps battles rising Mississippi from Memphis to New Orleans – CNN.com.

This blog’s new title heading

In the midst of all of the talk about Redeemed Rambling’s critique of the appearance of this blog, the consensus that this blog has a good design really, the addition of Cranach’s seal with its many variations, the minor suggestions that people put forward, and the tweaks that Stewart implemented, commenter Tom Hering–who knows a thing or two about design–was kind enough to design some other possible headings for the title of this blog.  I really liked the one with quasi-medieval lettering and the colorful version of Cranach’s seal.   I also like how it adds a touch of color–antiquated parchment color–without taking away from the clear black on white posts.  So Stewart put it up.

So what does Cranach’s seal mean?  It’s very simple, if we go by the original intention:  It means Lucas Cranach!  The device of the winged serpent bearing a ring is part of his coat of arms, as awarded by Frederick the Wise.   Knights had their coats of arms on their shields, and Kings used them on their royal seals.   The Kings of England had three lions.  The Holy Roman Emperors had a two-headed eagle.  Shakespeare’s was a shield with a diagonal spear, which presumably could be shaken.  Middle class types, such as Shakespeare and Cranach, could be granted a heraldic seal in recognition of their services or contributions, and they were typically very proud of that sign of semi-nobility and used it everywhere they could.  So Cranach signed his paintings with his device, which existed in many different forms, from the realistic to the abstract.  This one has the most artistic elements, in my opinion.

So the seal simply means Lucas Cranach and was the equivalent of his signature.  What is its derivation?  That is another question, which was discussed in last Friday’s post.  Was it a multi-language pun on his name, as one expert suggests?  Was it based on a symbol for artists, combined with one for speed, as another expert suggests, building on Cranach’s reputation as a really fast worker?  Was it an alchemical symbol?  A symbol for redemption?  I don’t know.  I’m waiting to hear from John Warwick Montgomery, who has agreed to weigh in on the matter and who has  published scholarship on how during the Reformation alchemical symbols for chemical transformations were used to symbolize spiritual transformations.

Anyway, thanks to Tom for the design.   How do you like it?

Closing a campus ministry because it works?

University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis is the LCMS campus ministry to the University of Minnesota.  It has ministered effectively to generations of college students, quite a few of whom have gone on to seminary and the pastoral ministry due to its influence.  My oldest daughter went to the University of Minnesota, and though exposed to some of the worst excesses of left wing postmodernist academia, she graduated battle tested and more firmly grounded in her Christian faith than ever, thanks to her involvement with University Lutheran Chapel.  It is theologically conservative, confessional, liturgical, and connects to young people.  But maybe that’s the problem.

The Minnesota South District wants to sell the property–which is a church that looks like a church in a prime location just off campus–so that it can take the money and start a different kind of campus ministry, one that follows church growth principles.  But do those ever really work with sophisticated college students?  It sounds like the approach that actually does work is being thrown out in favor of an approach that may or may not, but which accords more with the theoretical convictions of the mission executives in the district.

This sounds like what happened with the then-synodical radio program Issues, Etc., which was shut down by advocates of reaching out in evangelism even though the program reached out in evangelism to more people and did so more effectively than virtually any other synodical venture (save the daily Divine Service in ordinary congregations across the country).

The real reason for shutting down Issues, Etc. (now going strong on the web, as you can click in from our sidebar here) and now ULC seems to be the hostility of church-growth advocates who insist that contemporary worship and pop music and feel-good sermons are the ONLY way to do “mission” and that confessional, liturgical efforts must not be permitted no matter how effective they are.

Steadfast Lutherans » The U of M LCMS Chapel is a Church Growth Dream Come True, by Pr. Rossow.

 

New horizons in taxation

How do you think this would go over?

The Obama administration has floated a transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive.

The plan is a part of the administration’s Transportation Opportunities Act, an undated draft of which was obtained this week by Transportation Weekly.

The White House, however, said the bill is only an early draft that was not formally circulated within the administration.

“This is not an administration proposal,” White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said. “This is not a bill supported by the administration. This was an early working draft proposal that was never formally circulated within the administration, does not taken into account the advice of the president’s senior advisers, economic team or Cabinet officials, and does not represent the views of the president.”

News of the draft follows a March Congressional Budget Office report that supported the idea of taxing drivers based on miles driven.

Among other things, CBO suggested that a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax could be tracked by installing electronic equipment on each car to determine how many miles were driven; payment could take place electronically at filling stations.

The CBO report was requested by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who has proposed taxing cars by the mile as a way to increase federal highway revenues.

Obama’s proposal seems to follow up on that idea in section 2218 of the draft bill. That section would create, within the Federal Highway Administration, a Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office. It would be tasked with creating a “study framework that defines the functionality of a mileage-based user fee system and other systems.”

via Obama administration floats draft plan to tax cars by the mile – The Hill’s Floor Action.

New technology makes it easier to monitor all kinds of things that might be taxed.  What are some other possibilities for the taxman?  (Your suggestions may be serious, alarmed, or humorous.)

This is the church, where is the steeple?

Steeples and bell towers have gone out of fashion for church buildings, reports USA Today. What hurts is the reason:

Nationwide, church steeples are taking a beating and the bell tolls for bell towers, too, as these landmarks of faith on the landscape are hard hit by economic, social and religious change. . . .

Architects and church planners see today’s new congregations meet in retooled sports arenas or shopping malls or modern buildings designed to appeal to contemporary believers turned off by the look of old-time religion.

Steeples may have outlived their times as signposts. People hunting for a church don’t scan the horizon, they search the Internet. Google reports searches for “churches” soar before Easter each year. . . .

After three decades of repairing steeples, [steeplejack Michael] Hardin still considers it “a bit of joy to restore something so old and so beautiful and help it retain its integrity.”

The average age of the churches he works on is a half-century. The older steeples, “built with top-notch lumber and a lot of heart,” are holding up structurally, and more often need only cosmetic fixes.

In more recent decades, Hardin says, “church builders went a little haywire. People used shortcuts and cheaper lumber or they moved to the fiberglass steeples that claim to be maintenance-free. And if there’s a problem they stand back and try to get band-aid repairs or they just remove it and cap it off.” . . .

Providence Baptist Church in McLean, Va., a congregation of 450 in the Washington suburbs, managed to get a whole new aluminum steeple and $25,000 annually for its maintenance budget by hopping on the leased-tower trend last year.

Senior Pastor Tim Floyd says the original steeple, moved from the congregation’s first location, was “in good shape, but it was too small for the larger, newer church. And we needed to bring in more money for our maintenance budget. So what could we do? We saw that cellphone companies are using innovative methods, like artificial trees with antennas, to disguise their equipment and bring in cell coverage without unsightly towers.”

Church leaders located a company ready to deal, negotiated the design and “now we have a steeple, hiding two cell antennas, that gives us a really big profile on the horizon. It’s elegant and majestic and a win-win for us,” Floyd says.

It’s also a visual contrast to a massive, modern megachurch across the street that boasts no steeple.

No surprise, says architect Gary Landhauser, a partner with Novak Design Group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who worked on nearly 30 churches in past 15 years.

“We have done a lot of church designs, but we haven’t done a steeple design in 15 years,” Landhauser says.

Today, he says, people want their church to look comfortable and inviting, “more like a mall.”

via Church steeples, aging out of fashion, meet their maker – USATODAY.com.

Architecture, like other art forms, expresses meaning.  Do you know why older churches built steeples?  Why they had bells?  What does it mean that today’s churches tend to use cheap materials?  Why are they being made to look “more like a mall”?  What does it mean when the sanctuary has a stage with studio lights, big speakers, and a drum set?  What do these design features  tell us about contemporary Christianity?

HT: Mollie Hemingway


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