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statsAmid the election uproar, an important economic study issued quietly concerning the “value” of faith expressed in cash terms.  Those leading the jihad against Christianity would do well to read it and then figure out how they will replace the more than USD 1 trillion plus in economic benefits currently provided by the faithful.

Of course, the statist solution would be to continue the economic plunder of the nation and simply adding to the staggering deficit.  After all, what’s another trillion dollars, right?

I have reproduced the press release below and, I hope, the links to the study.  It is free for the viewing over at the website of the authors’ foundation-Faith Counts.

New study values faith in America at over one trillion dollars

–First-ever national research highlighting the impact of religion on U.S. economy– National Press Club, Washington, D.C. — In a panel today, Dr. Brian Grim and Melissa Grim, J.D., unveiled their groundbreaking new study: “The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis.” The first-of-its-kind study analyzed the economic impact of 344,000 religious congregations around the country, in addition to quantifying the economic impact of religious institutions and religion-related businesses. Through this study, Dr. Grim found the total economic contribution of religion in America to be nearly $1.2 trillion, equal to the world’s 15th largest economy.

 

Dr. Grim presented his research at a panel event at the National Press Club. The panel included Dr. William Galston, Senior Fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, and Dr. Ram Cnaan, Professor and Program Director of the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania. “For the first time, we have been able to quantify what religious institutions, faith-based charities, and even businesses inspired by faith contribute to our country,” said Dr. Grim. He continued: “In an age where there’s a growing belief that religion is not a positive for American society, adding up the numbers is a tangible reminder of the impact of religion. Every single day individuals and organizations of faith quietly serve their communities as part of religious congregations, faith-based charities, and businesses inspired by religion.”   Despite prolonged economic hardship in many communities, the amount of money spent annually by religious congregations on social programs has tripled in the past 15 years. Some examples of the social issues addressed by these congregations and religiously-oriented charity groups include:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse recovery—130,000 programs
  • Veteran and veterans’ families support—94,000 programs
  • Prevention or support for people with HIV/AIDS—26,000 programs
  • Support or skills training for unemployed adults—121,000 programs

Operating alongside these charity groups and religious institutions sit faith-based and inspired businesses, which employ people in every field and industry. This fills the marketplace with goods and services used by people of all faiths, plus those with no faith at all.  At the same time, religious schools educate millions of students from pre-K to the post-graduate level. The study is sponsored in part by Faith Counts, a multi-faith campaign aimed at promoting the value of faith.  Kerry Troup, spokeswoman for Faith Counts, states, “From our work with diverse faith communities across the U.S., we know that despite differences among individual religions, there are many more things that bring us together. This study shows that faith is still a cornerstone of our economy and society, and we’re actively working together to celebrate and promote its value.”

For more information, including the full study and a video summary of the research, please visit www.FaithCounts.com/Report.

About Faith Counts   Faith Counts is a nonprofit, nondenominational organization comprised of many religious communities who represent nearly 80 million Americans.  The mission of Faith Counts is simple:  to promote the value of faith.  The centerpiece of Faith Counts is a social media campaign that tells powerful stories about how faith counts—how it inspires, empowers, motivates, and comforts billions of people.

Data from: “The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis”, a 2016 study by Brian J. Grim (Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project) and Melissa E. Grim (Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center), published in the peer-reviewed journal, Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Volume 12, Article 3.

 

 

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BenedictFrom a Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 2015, (Given at St. Alban’s, Richmond, Virginia)

“I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  -Romans 8:18

Friday, June 26th, in the year of our Lord 2015, creation groaned.  A man-made court issued a pronouncement on that which is not main-made but is ordained of God.  That Friday, God’s creation groaned as a man-made institution made a proclamation on marriage that is directly contrary to the law of God.  Against the law of the Constitution, too, perhaps, but more importantly for us as orthodox, traditional Christians it defied the law of God.  Creation groaned under its weight.

The ground under our feet has shifted fundamentally. “Discerning the meaning of the present moment requires sobriety, precisely because its radicalism requires of us as Christians a realistic sense of how weak our position is in post-Christian America.”

“It is now clear that extremism in the pursuit of the Sexual Revolution’s goals is no vice.” True, the Court gave a nod and a wink at the First Amendment in an attempt to calm those who might find themselves just a wee bit worried about religious liberty. But when a court is willing to invent rights out of nothing, it is impossible to have faith that the First Amendment will offer any but the most minimal protection to religious dissenters from homosexualist orthodoxy.  As Mr. Justice Alito warned, the decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” and will be used to oppress the faithful “by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

Of course, the next goal of homosexualist activists will be a long-term campaign to remove tax-exempt status from religious institutions and faith-communities who will not submit. However, the more immediate goal will be the shunning, then the vilification and, finally, the persecution of dissenters within civil society. This already is happening in a number of venues ranging from wedding-cake bakers, to photographers who refuse to be party to homosexual “marriages”. As orthodox Christians, beloved in Christ, we must understand that this situation is going to get much more difficult for us.

As commentator Rod Dreher put it aptly, “We are going to have to learn how to live as exiles in our own country. We are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution.” And, so we are going to be called to suffer for our faith. We are going to have to change the way we practice our faith and teach it to our children.  To do this we are going to have to build resilient communities in the face of suffering.

We may look for easy answers, but there aren’t any.  Suffering is complex, but you know it is a part of love, real love—particularly of loving others as Christ loves us.  “The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.” (Thomas Merton)

And so we come to the question of suffering which is treated straight on in the Epistle for the Fourth Sunday in Trinity.  Romans 8 is in a sense a unique passage in that it brings before us one of the most interesting and mysterious questions of human life: our fellowship in suffering with the world in which we live-a world that seemingly has taken leave of its senses-and the common redemption which awaits all creation.  This is the direction in which we must live, and work and teach.

Saint Paul’s main thought in this passage is that suffering is the pathway to glory.  Let’s say that again.  Suffering is the pathway to glory. And, since in that suffering it is not man alone, but all creation is involved, so all creation awaits and expects a redemption which shall be revealed through man when he reaches the goal of his life and enters upon the glories of eternity.  That’s a big theme.  That’s real comfort for us in times of suffering.

Saint Paul begins by comparing the sufferings of earth with the glories of heaven. Beloved in Christ, our sufferings are not light.  We know this in many ways. From the viewpoint of our broader Christian experience, the dreariest thing we can do is read or listen to the news, particularly in the last several days. In truth it has become a season of groaning, and the present one seems to be full of turbulence and distress.

St. Paul speaks of all creation groaning and travailing in pain. But here is the hope: so overwhelming is the glory to which they lead, that St. Paul deliberately reaches the conclusion that no real comparison is possible. We find the same thought expressed elsewhere in the words, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”(2 Cor.)

How can he say this?  Well, my beloved, anyone who has only superficially studied Saint Paul’s life could fall into the error of believing that he had an easy go, a free ride, that he was unacquainted with sorrow and trial.  However, few people ever suffered more than he; but so clear is his conception of the glory to which these sufferings lead, that he speaks of them as “light,” as “but for a moment,” as “not to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.”

So, then what are we to do, you and I?   As a third-order Benedictine, I have often said that a monastic type of life will be our future. This was echoed by Mr.  Dreher and others in the wake of Friday’s events.  We are called to what Mr. Dreher has identified as “the Benedict Option”.

In his 1982 book After Virtue, the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new and doubtless very different St. Benedict,” while we await a new and different creation.

Throughout the early Middle Ages, St. Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped re-found civilization.

I believe that we orthodox Christians are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. So, how do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions and suffering?

We can begin with fervent, regular prayer in community, of the sort that goes on in St. Alban’s every weekday morning at eight o’clock.  We must study as the Benedictines, and genuinely work at learning our faith in a deep and profound way.  We must teach as have the Benedictines in their renowned abbey schools. We must work tirelessly as do the Benedictines and be hospitable to the stranger and sojourner so that we can bring them inside the community to teach. I am not certain if there are other ways, but we had better figure this out together, and soon, as the hour have grown very late.

“The actions of our Supreme Court on Friday last are signs of the times for those with eyes to see. This isn’t the view of wild-eyed prophets wearing animal skins and shouting in the desert” or preaching repentance while chained to the top of a column in the village square. No. “This is the view of four Supreme Court justices, in effect declaring from the bench the decline and fall of the traditional American social, political, and legal order” and the concomitant impending suffering of the traditional Christian order.

St. Paul would remind us though that these pains and sufferings, which wring a groan not just from the faithful, but from all of nature, are but the travail pains which lead to birth into a better world. If we allow it, these sufferings will carry us up, up into a higher state than we now know. This is the hope which St. Paul sets before us.  This is the hope of all creation-to be delivered from the bondage of our present state, and to be born into a new world wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Now? Now we have sorrow in the experience of the birth pains which precede that deliverance. But, beloved in Christ, morning is coming.  Morning is coming and all nature will share with us in the glories of this deliverance.  Amen.

-With profound thanks to Mr. Rod Dreher, Orthodox Christian, whose Time article I have “borrowed” liberally throughout this sermon.

 

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I am away from the parish this week and am just in from the opening of the first In Defense of Christians Summit www.idcsummit.org in Washington, D.C., where I am attending as the Canon Law Institute’s representative and occasional executive director.  As the incredibly brave Canon Andrew White (aka the Vicar of Baghdad) was taken ill, I might have been the only Anglican about.  I was honored to have been one of the six priests selected to bear the torches to lead the procession into the joint prayer service.

The service, which used ancient forms, was the first joint Catholic-Orthodox-Coptic (and an Anglo-Catholic) since 1987.  Dedicated to Our Lady, it was a remarkable moment pf penitance and prayer as the incense ascended before her holy icon. It was very powerful to have all of these groups and evangelical Protestant Christians in worship together.  It was a little bit of heaven

I had a chance to speak with some remarkable men of the Church Universal, albeit too briefly, as we prepared for the procession.  Cardinal Wuerl was very gracious and even remembered a wandering priest who was way out of his depth.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft was in good form, referring to the conflict between Islam and Christianity as one of liberty against forced religion.  A good, middle weight speech that didn’t fire things up.  Yet, it caused me to miss having an honest, Christian A-G who was not an Alinsky-Marxist.

The keynote by Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Oriental Churches, was disappointingly bureaucratic and rife with “social justice” metaphor.  With apologies to his Eminence, ISIS is not a problem rooted in “economic disparity” and “disproportionate wealth” as his speech seemed to suggest. As well, quotes from the documents of Vatican II and appeals to the U.N. weren’t seeming to resonate with the Orthodox side of the house or some of the uniates who have folks on the ground.

I think it might be difficult to appeal to the international ecclesiastical or legal bureaucracy when the “junior varsity” is sawing the heads off the faithful.  It appears that the church’s bureaucrats in Rome and those of  secular Washington are similarly detached from the reality of Islam.  Of course, he just might have been being cautious to keep more heads from rolling, although the Neville Chamberlain method doesn’t seem to work with ISIS any more than with Herr Hitler.  The post-opening reception was extraordinary-an embarassment of food and drink in the face of the sufferings of those say, on a mountainside in Iraq waiting for airdropped food.  But, gang, this is Washington, and you have to make a splash to get attention.  I just pray that I am not witnessing the birth of yet another faith-based lobbying group to employ out of work political science majors.  Too darned many of them already.

More to come after the first big session tomorrow.  Meantime, pray for Christians persecuted throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East.

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For those of supporting the restoration of a culture of life in America, we can be depressed about this woeful turn of events and turn turtle, or we can undrestand what it means. No more sloth in teaching traditional American values, history, and the original intent of the Constitution. No longer can parents and grandparents hand our youth over to television, internet and secularist teachers while pursuing their childish interests. Above all, no more can we sit in our churches and wait for someone else to raise up a new generation. We must embrace a new evangelism to restore Christian faith and morality amongst the people. After all, Christ never promised us this would be easy.

Today, let us begin to teach. The task has become too important to leave to those hostile to the faith and Christian values, too vital to allow us to abandon children and grandchildren to the poisonous babysitter of the media. The hour is late, and the situation difficult.

Difficult?  We sew on hard ground.  Why, though, should we have it easier than our early Christian fathers and mothers? Why should we get a pass when the Apostles, martyrs and saints do not? Ora et labora! Pray and work.

And, please, no fear anymore.  No fear that we will be ridiculed or might lose some “pledge units” offended by the true teachings of the Church!  No fear from secularists and purported “conservatives” who cannot or will not see that the moral imperative must come first and that all else proceeds from it, particularly material well-being.  We have cause for nothing but joy, and it is time to share it with others.  Tor worst that can happen is that some will turn away.

Today we lay down anger, fear and sadness and begin to practice persevance. Today is the day to commit to developing the parallel economy of ideas, of the truly good things, and teach them at the local level. Today is the day we are called to reclaim a nation.

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Anglicans for Life

A chapter of Anglicans for Life to include folks from St. Athanasius and St. Luke’s parishes is forming here at St. Alban’s. Anglicans for Life believes that, as Christians, we need to uphold the sanctity of every human life as a form of worship to God, our Creator. As believers, we need to understand all of the issues (abortion, stem cell research, end of life concerns, abstinence, and adoption) that threaten life in our culture—Anglicans for Life can be a vast resource for information on life!

God, and not man, is the creator of human life. Therefore, from conception to natural death we will protect and respect the sanctity of every human life.

Furthermore, we recognize that the unjustified taking of life is sinful, but God gives absolution to those who ask for His forgiveness.

Furthermore, we recognize that the unjustified taking of life is sinful, but God gives absolution to those who ask for His forgiveness.

A brief organizing meeting will be held after the 11 am Mass on Sunday, November 25th.

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I appreciate the fact that many of you have asked me to distribute various Chrisian voter guides before this all-important presidential election. I have declined to do so for the simple reason that we should know who we are as tradtional Anglicans.  As a parish that arose as a result of the Affirmation of St. Louis, St. Alban’s and this priest adhere, in particular, to certain “non-negotiables”, in particular, two key principles of the Christian faith:
Sanctity of Human Life

Every human being, from the time of his conception, is a creature and child of God, made in His image and likeness, an infinitely precious soul; and that the unjustifiable or inexcusable taking of life is always sinful.

Family Life

The God-given sacramental bond in marriage between one man and one woman is God’s loving provision for procreation and family life, and sexual activity is to be practised only within the bonds of Holy Matrimony.

In all that we do, not just exercise of the franchise, we are bound to maintain these standards of traditional Christianity. To be sure, “[w]e recognize that man, as inheritor of original sin, is ‘very far gone from original righteousness,’and as a rebel against God’s authority is liable to His righteous judgement.”  Thus, we are reminded of our place in dealing with other siners in charity given the beam in our own eyes.  Never theless, we believe, in charity, “it is the duty of the Church and her members to bear witness to Christian Morality, to follow it in their lives, and to reject the false standards of the world.”

So, as we prepare to vote, there is a yardstick-a rule-wherewith we can make truly informed choices–choices informed by the faith once-delivered to the saints.  That’s all that need be said.

Now let us pray fervently:

For Our Country.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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On Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 4:00 p.m., St. Alban’s will host a presentation by Mark Dellinger, VA and WV area coordinator for Voice of the Martyrs.  Mark will be speaking about, and asking prayers for, our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world.  Please invite as many as you can to this important and powerful program.

The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organizationdedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide. VOM was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ. His wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years. In the 1960s, Richard, Sabina, and their son, Mihai, were ransomed out of Romania and came to the United States.

Through their travels, the Wurmbrands spread the message of the atrocities that Christians face in restricted nations, while establishing a network of offices dedicated to assisting the persecuted church. The Voice of the Martyrs continues in this mission around the world today through the following main purposes:

VOM’s ministry is based on Hebrews 13:3:

   Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

Help

VOM helps Christians who are or have been, persecuted for their involvement in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. They provide medical assistance, food, clothing, and other forms of aid.

Love

VOM supports Christians who are willing to invite their fellow men, even their persecutors, to Jesus Christ through faithful deeds of love in a hostile environment. They supply Bibles, literature, radios, and other evangelistic tools.

Encourage

They encourage persecuted Christians by giving their testimony a voice, informing Christians in the USA to know how to help. VOM believes that the lives and the testimony of persecuted Christians is a vital part of the fellowship of all believers and will challenge and strengthen the faith of Christians everywhere.

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