In off-season, Yankees organist plays for different crowd

MORRISTOWN, N.J. (RNS) For six seasons, Ed Alstrom has performed regularly as organist for 50,000-plus fans at weekend games in one of the nation’s highest-profile baseball venues — Yankee Stadium. Now, he’s got a second gig where crowds usually top out at about 200: Morristown’s Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. The New Jersey native began his job at Redeemer on Nov. 1, a week after his organ music accompanied the Yankees’ clinching victory over the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Championship Series, and four days after he played for Game 1 of the World Series, which the Yankees went on to win. It’s a rare mix of the ethereal and the hardball worlds but, Alstrom said, there aren’t that many jobs for organists: You have to be flexible and you have to hustle, he says.

Christian students set up dry tailgate party

AUBURN, Ala. (RNS) Setting up on the grassy area outside their dorm, grilling burgers and passing out drinks, the young men known as “College Kids Tailgate” are like scores of other Auburn students on game day — full of good cheer, camaraderie, and cries of “War Eagle!” Their unofficial uniforms — orange jumpsuits — makes them visible, but so does the “wine” they serve, a non-alcoholic cherry-flavored soda called Cheerwine that’s popular across the South. “Two or three of us are under 21, so (serving alcohol is) illegal,” said Auburn junior Michael Nunnelly, one of the 15 organizers of the student-run group. But age is hardly the only factor, he explained.

Canterbury comes to Rome

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams concluded his visit to Rome over the weekend with what a Vatican statement called “cordial discussions” in the papal library with Pope Benedict XVI. The spritual leader of the world-wide Anglican Communion confessed to Vatican Radio after the meeting that the two had discussed some of the “awkward” side effects of the Vatican’s recent overture to disaffected Anglicans who wish to convert to Catholicism. But Williams said the Vatican’s action was not a “dawn raid” on the Anglican Communion, that those of his flock who choose to become Catholics have his “every blessing,” and that the pope had reassured him of the Vatican’s commitment to ongoing ecumenical discussions. For his part, Benedict gave the archbishop a pectoral cross, a gesture that reaffirms the pope’s recognition of Williams’s espicopal status.

Yiddish Policemen for Palin?

For a few days I’ve been meditating on Sarah Palin’s remark to Barbara Walters, explaining why she opposes the Obama administration’s opposition to expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. It’s because, according to Palin,  “more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.” This has struck various people as emerging from Palin’s pre-millennialist religious roots, and I’m inclined to agree. The idea of us Jewish people flocking to Israel in the immediate future is so completely unsupported by empirical evidence that it can only have descended from the cloud-land of eschatological expectation that Palin (once?) inhabited.In light of this, it made sense for the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg to seek enlightenment from the executive director of Liberty University’s Pre-Trib Research Center, Dr. Thomas Ice. Said Ice:I’ve read that Palin has been part of an apparently unique movement
I’ve heard of — that her pastor, when she was in the Assembly of God,
believed based on some personal revelation he claims to have gotten
from God, that the Jews would move to Alaska during the Tribulation.

Tobin v. Kennedy, round 2

Apart from that little health care vote in the House of Representatives, the biggest political news over the weekend was the latest back-and-forth between Bishop Thomas Joseph Tobin of Providence and Rep. Patrick Joseph Kennedy (D-RI) over the congressman’s standing in the Catholic Church. On Friday, Kennedy told the Providence Journal-Bulletin that Tobin had “instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion.” On Saturday, the bishop took to his diocesan website to say he was “disappointed and really surprised” that Kennedy had reopened the issue. In a letter he sent to the congressman back in 2007, he had written:”In light of the Church’s clear teaching, and your consistent actions,
therefore, I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy
Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.”On Sunday, Tobin told the AP that while he doesn’t “go out picking these fights,” Kennedy had been attacking the church and behaving “erratically.” Today, the Journal-Bulletin quotes Tobin as characterizing his original missive as a request rather than an instruction, and vigorously denying Kennedy’s claim that he had issued instructions to his priests to withhold Communion.

The Relics of Santo Galileo

Who knew? In 1737, when the remains of Galileo were being translated to the monumental tomb across from Michelangelo’s in Santa Croce Basilica in Florence, some admirers made off with three fingers, a tooth, and the fifth lumbar vertebra, of which the tooth and two fingers were lost, and now they are found.The recovered body parts will be put on display in Florence’s Museum of the History of Science next year, presumably alongside the vertebra and the two Galileo telescopes the museum has in its possession.I would propose that the devout atheists at the Center for Inquiry now have their pilgrimage site.

Orthodox priest who worked with Muslims gunned down

MOSCOW (RNS/ENI) A Russian Orthodox priest who was known for seeking to convert Muslims was killed Thursday (Nov. 19) by a masked gunman at his church in Moscow. The official Web site of the Moscow Patriarchate said that the Rev. Daniil Sysoyev, 35, a father of three, died shortly after being shot in the head and chest by an unidentified assailant who entered his parish church of St. Thomas in southern Moscow. The church’s choir director was injured during the attack.

UAE to allow female muftis

(RNS) The United Arab Emirates, a tiny, tradition-laced state in the Persian Gulf, will become the third Islamic country to appoint female muftis, religious scholars who have the power to issue fatwas and other religious decisions. Still, the decision hardly bucks tradition, according to some Islamic experts, who say women religious authorities appear throughout Islamic history. “The significance of this is that it’s an active effort by a state to give women a voice in religious authority,” said Ebrahim Moosa, an Islamic studies professor at Duke University. Six females will begin a mufti-training program early next year, according to The National newspaper in Dubai. The program will be headed by the country’s official grand mufti, Ahmed al Haddad, who issued a fatwa last February sanctioning female muftis, and called for applicants in May.

New archbishop meets with disaffected Catholics

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) Newly installed Archbishop Gregory Aymond has been in quiet talks with a city pastor and representatives of two closed parishes in hopes of healing a bitter rift that erupted last year over a downsizing plan. Parishioners, meanwhile, hope the dialogue may also produce a compromise on the occasional reopening of their churches. After two sessions, no decision is near. Aymond and the parishioners appear to be trying to first begin repairing the breach between them before embarking on substantive discussions about whether the two parishes, St. Henry and Our Lady of Good Counsel, might occasionally reopen for services.

Conservatives vow resistance on abortion, gay marriage

WASHINGTON (RNS) Facing what they consider “threats” from American culture, prominent Catholic, evangelical and Orthodox Christian leaders are vowing unspecified civil disobedience against abortion, same-sex marriage and limits on religious liberty. “We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right — and more importantly, to embrace our obligation — to speak and act in defense of these truths,” reads the seven-page “Manhattan Declaration.” “We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.” More than a dozen Christian leaders — including Catholic bishops, an Orthodox priest, and officials of evangelical organizations — endorsed the document at the National Press Club. Organizers on Friday (Nov.

Christian colleges get into the swing

(RNS) Classes are done for the day. Meetings and work are winding down, and Facebook can provide a study break for only so long. So what’s a restless Christian college student to do? For undergrads at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., a walk down to the campus theater provides one solution: dancing to the tunes of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Inside, young men offer their hand to available girls and take them to the middle of the hopping dance floor.

Friday’s religion round-up

Ann Rodgers reads the tea leaves from the Catholic bishops’ meeting this week and finds that “the majority of bishops favor tact and diplomacy over confrontation and condemnation when they address difficult issues.” Speaking of confrontation, some 145 conservative religious types will release their “Manhattan Declaration” today pledging civil disobedience at laws aimed at abortion or same-sex marriage. AP says the bishops are on a “collision course” with the White House over health care reform. Both sides in the DC/Catholic fight over gay marriage say they’re looking for common ground, while Orthodox Jewish leaders have come rushing to the Catholics’ defense. Still on the gay marriage front, New York’s top court said the state is authorized to recognize gay marriages from other states, and pushed the lawmakers to make up their minds, one way or the other.

What do you mean “we,” Manhattan Declaration signers?

The Manhattan Declaration, the conservative Christian manifesto nailed (metaphorically) with great fanfare to the door of the National Press Club today, ends with this orotund pronunciamento:Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with
any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in
abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and
euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule
purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them
as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth,
as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the
family.  We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is
Caesar’s.  But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is
Declaration’s list of signatories includes not only a bunch of
Catholic, (non-Greek) Orthodox, and Protestant prelates and
denominational bureaucrats but also “Christian leaders” who are
uneluctably lay–professors like Robby George of Princeton (who helped
write the thing), editors like David Neff of Christianity Today, activists like Gary Bauer of American Values, etc. I’m
curious to know what rules purporting to force them as individuals to
treat, say, same-sex married couples as “marriages or their equivalent”
they intend not to bend to. What acts of disobedience to Caesar, if
any, are they contemplating? What martyrdom do they seek?

The Mouse Roars

Speaking at an ecumenical meeting in Rome yesterday prior to meeting with the pope today, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams threw down a theological gauntlet to Roman Catholics who regard things like papal primacy and the ordination of women as fundamental obstacles to ecumenical progress. Rather cleverly, Williams used the divided Anglican Communion as a model to show how those who disagree vigorously on issues of practice can nonetheless be in communion with each other (kind of).For many of us who are not Roman Catholics, the question we want to
put, in a grateful and fraternal spirit, is whether this unfinished
business is as fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic
friends generally assume and maintain. And if it isn’t, can we all
allow ourselves to be challenged to address the outstanding issues with
the same methodological assumptions and the same overall spiritual and
sacramental vision that has brought us thus far?In the course of his talk, Williams waved away the pope’s recent opening to disaffected Anglicans as so much pastoral piffle:[I]t is an imaginative pastoral response to the needs of some; but it does not break any fresh ecclesiological
ground.  It remains to be seen whether the flexibility suggested in the
Constitution might ever lead to something less like a ‘chaplaincy’ and
more like a church gathered around a bishop.Bottom line, the ABC accused his Catholic interlocutors of being prepared to sacrifice Christian unity for the sake of matters on which spiritual grown-ups ought to be able to agree to disagree:And the challenge to recent Roman Catholic thinking on this would have
to be:  in what way does the prohibition against ordaining women so
‘enhance the life of communion’, reinforcing the essential character of
filial and communal holiness as set out in Scripture and tradition and
ecumenical agreement, that its breach would compromise the purposes of
the Church as so defined? And do the arguments advanced about the
“essence” of male and female vocations and capacities stand on the same
level as a theology derived more directly from scripture and the common
theological heritage such as we find in these ecumenical texts? This strikes me as a message not only for Catholics but also for his own fractious flock.

Anglican leader, in Rome, optimistic on ecumenical strains

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Speaking in Rome a month after the Vatican unveiled plans tofacilitate the conversion of conservative Anglicans to Catholicism, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion offered a moderately hopeful assessment of ecumenical relations between the two churches. The “ecumenical glass is genuinely half-full,” Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said Thursday (Nov. 19), at the conclusion of a 30-minute lecture at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Williams spoke during a conference on ecumenism sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. In his talk, Williams stressed the “theological convergence” on major doctrinal questions accomplished by Anglican-Catholic dialogue during the last four decades.