Archive for October, 2006

Sports: It’s the Cards in 5! Woohoo!

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

I’ve been a Cardinal fan since I first started listening to Harry Caray broadcast their games on radio. Yes, Harry Caray – before he went to the Cubs, before he went to the White Sox, before he went to the Oakland A’s. Harry broadcast games for the Cardinals.

Actually I started out as a Yankee fan – not surprising for a kid growing up in the 50s with Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Casey Stengel at the helm. But my older brother told me I was just a front-runner, a hopper-on of bandwagons, that I should follow the team in St Louis 90 miles away that labored in the old Sportsman’s Park.

Well, why not? They had Stan Musial, after all. So I switched loyalties and never looked back. As much I as enjoyed the Cards’ successes in the 60s, the uncharacteristic fall by Curt Flood that allowed the Detroit Tigers to win game 7 in ’68 hurt – especially on the heels of the St. Louis victory over the Yankees in ’67.

[As Bob Ryan pointed out on ESPN, this was the third meeting between the Cards and Tigers. The Cards had won the first meeting (long before my time), so this was the rubber match. That makes it a little sweeter.]

After the ’82 Series win, the collapse from a 3-1 lead against the Royals was a bitter loss. The loss in ’87 to the woeful Twins – who seemed unable to win a road game all year – was even worse. With each team winning its home games, why couldn’t this have been a year when the NL got four home games?

I missed Whitey Herzog and “Whitey Ball”. I missed Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee and Tommy Herr and Bob Forsch and Bruce Sutter and all the rest of the great Cardinals of the 80s.

But the strike in ’94 turned me away from baseball completely. The home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa briefly re-kindled my interest, but then came the performance-enhancing drugs. When the Cards got swept by the Red Sox in the ’04 Series, I pretty much lost interest again.

But this year’s win may bring me back. Like the teams of the 80s, these Cardinals found a way to win. It wasn’t Whitey Ball, but it was fun to watch.

One thing I missed last night was having a conversation with my grandmother. She was a die-hard fan, listening to every game – at least until she fell asleep. I was starting my teaching career in Missouri when the Cards won in ’82 and I had a long conversation on the phone with her, celebrating the win. She died a couple of years later at age 94. She would have enjoyed talking about this one too.

One other thing was missing, Jack Buck’s sparkling play-by-play. “That’s a winner!” “Go crazy, folks!” I wish he could have been in the booth for this one too.

I spent many afternoons and evenings in the old Busch Stadium. Maybe next year I’ll make the trek to the new version – home of the 2006 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.

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PCUSA Realty Inc. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Broker

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Is the Stated Clerk secretly studying for his real estate brokerage license?

In a story on the ACSWP meeting, James Berkley of the IRD mentioned seeing an advance copy of the Stated Clerk’s annual questionnaire to clerks of session:

The questionnaire probes extensively into financial matters, such as detailed questions about loans, investments, plans to expand or renovate facilities, bequests, and value of planned giving receipts and gifts from estates. Thirteen of the fifteen questions deal with such matters.

Berkley observed dryly that “it just seems a little worrisome to have the Stated Clerk so very interested in the specifics of congregational assets”. Worrisome, yes. Surprising, hardly. This Stated Clerk seems to have focused on little but property lately. Consider:

It’s hard not to come to an unwelcome and disturbing conclusion: Given the train wreck the PCUSA has been on his watch, this greedy approach to “connectionalism” might be easily understood. Kirkpatrick has a cushy job with a six-figure salary to protect. He journeys to far-flung destinations to schmooze with his left-wing political allies in the WCC and WARC.

Yet he is faced with falling membership and income and the concomitant shrinking budget. Per capita income this year is showing the effect. The total from the presbyteries’ per capita is short $430,000. The per capita amount is already scheduled to go up next year. But will that produce an increase in the amount of cash flowing into Louisville’s depleted coffers?

Some churches are simply leaving; more churches will withhold or redirect their per capita payments; defiant presbyteries may remit even less of what they have available. An increase in the per capita amount demanded may yield a higher budget total, but the actual income will probably shrink even more. What to do?

Is this aggressive pursuit of property Kirkpatrick’s way of salvaging some of the tribute the presbyteries are compelled to pay to Louisville? Does he figure that income from seizing and liquidating the assets of departing congregations would make it easier for him to squeeze the presbyteries? Is he planning to go into the real estate business?

It seems like it would be an attractive solution. He could save his PCUSA salary and perks and draw a commission on every sale of church property. And all the while, the number of annoying members calling for orthodoxy, fidelity to Scripture, commitment to the BOO, and relief from political correctness and cultural accommodation would diminish.

Such a deal.

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PCUSA: The great divide

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

I (and many others) believe that recent General Assemblies have been out of touch with a sizeable segment of PCUSA members (not to mention the Bible and orthodoxy). This story convinced me the gulf is wider – and the depth of smug self-satisfaction greater – than I in my most cynical moments ever conceived it could be:

Despite continuing roiling controversies in its wake, the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was rated highly by the commissioners and advisory delegates that comprised it.

I’m accustomed to the Alice-in-Wonderland quality that often envelops pronouncements from Louisville, but commissioners and ADs? These folks come from the hinterlands like the rest of us. They aren’t supposed to be pickled in the worldly brine that has soaked 100 Witherspoon Street in recent years (or decades).

Slack-jawed with what little capacity for disbelief I retained, I was compelled to read on: Seventy-eight percent of them said that their sense of Presbyterian “family” was deepened by the Assembly. After patting themselves on the back for disenfranchising the presbyteries – and worse – they had a sense of “family”?

The positive evaluation by commissioners and advisory delegates stands in stark contrast to the ongoing debates within the church about several actions taken by the assembly, particularly the report of the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church (PUP).

Thanks, Mr. Marter; I couldn’t have said it better. Was self-destruction the purpose of the “family” these people discovered? Is that why these people are so proud of what they accomplished? Did any of these seventy-eight percent give a damn about the anguish they caused?

Well, no; of course not. It wasn’t a big deal to them at all:

Commissioners and advisory delegates, however, rated the assembly’s consideration of the PUP report and ordination standards as only the fifth most important aspect of the assembly.

Only a pathetic twelve percent thought that deciding whether to divide the denomination and drive off more thousands of members was the most important thing they did. What did the greatest number think was most important? Worship and preaching, according to thirty-eight percent of them. And why not? They got to sit around and sing Kumbaya and be blissfully untouched by the suffering they were about to inflict.

And what did the OGA learn from all these happy campers? Not much of any substance, apparently. According to a spokesperson, the post-GA assessment of assembly planners “is that whatever we do has to be pastoral and listening in nature.” Oh, yes; the Stated Clerk’s cold-hearted vendetta against wounded congregations and compassionate presbyteries is quite “pastoral”.

Listening? To whom? To themselves? Some listening to members and presbyteries – not to mention the greater church in the Global South – would have been nice. There were certainly plenty of early warnings of the quagmire they were about to drag the PCUSA into. But they weren’t listening. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Or both. Probably both.

The spokesperson was further quoted, “if the feedback we got is that the assembly was a positive experience for so many, we should invite those key partners into the process of spreading a positive word.” Oh, now I get it. All those “key partners” will join the bureaucrats and talk down to us poor, benighted hicks out here in the sticks. We’ll do the listening, see the error of our ways and give thanks for this highly rated GA.

When pigs fly, as Flo would say.

Perhaps, in the alternate reality the bureaucrats and the GA seem to inhabit, pigs actually do fly. That would go a long way toward explaining this great divide.

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PCUSA: Do we need a spin doctor?

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

In a story on the just-concluded GAC meeting in Louisville, the Layman Online reported this little nugget:

After the issue of communications was raised, one council member suggested the denomination needed to hire a press secretary to make sure the news is positive. Council members have frequently complained that news stories – even some from the denomination’s Presbyterian News Service – have given the council and the denomination a negative image.

This was a joke, right? Surely this unidentified council member didn’t mean to suggest that a PR flack could alter reality and “make sure the news [of the PCUSA] is positive.” Surely he or she didn’t believe that squandering the denomination’s shrinking funds on a spin doctor would be responsible stewardship – or be likely to succeed. Surely this council member wasn’t serious.

Alas, the unidentified member probably was serious and simply reflecting a common knee-jerk reaction to published reports that the denomination has once again done something dumb. This blame-the-press/control-the-press mindset is well-established in the PCUSA.

Oscar McCloud of the New York City Presbytery tried the same tactic at the 217th GA with regard to the divestment debacle. Rather than just admit that trying to punish Israel for the actions of Palestinian terrorists was a bad idea, he offered this language instead: “We regret any reporting that has caused any misunderstanding of the PCUSA’s commitment to peace and justice in Palestine and Israel.” [emphasis added] McCloud seemed to be saying “We’re fine with beating up on Israel; we just regret that it was accurately reported.” A few others climbed on the same tired, old bandwagon but, in the end, the GA wasn’t interested.

[In the same story, McCloud was credited with a brutally frank and accurate assessment of how the PCUSA responds when the GA’s actions cause members to suffer: “I don’t believe we have a tradition of apologizing when what we do pains Presbyterians.” Indeed.]

Those of us who have been around for a while remember 1993 when the Louisville bureaucrats thought they could manage the news of the original Re-Imaging God conference. But the news was too awful and too widespread. It eventually cost one staffer her job and was very likely the reason long-time Stated Clerk James Andrews lost his bid for re-election in 1996. [At the time, given his efforts to paint a happy face on the hideous paganism that permeated the conference, I thought Andrews got what he deserved. Looking back over the reign of the man who defeated him, I’m not so sure.]

These folks remind me of Amity mayor Larry Vaughn in the movie Jaws. He had to deal with the arrival – just before the lucrative Fourth of July weekend – of a man-eating shark off the town’s beach. His solution to the problem was spin control. Ignoring the obvious danger to both swimmers and the long-term welfare of his town and its merchants, he tried to manage the news and minimize the threat.

He was living in a dream world, of course; no positive word, however skillfully spun, could deter the great white shark patrolling the waters crowded with bathers. But Larry tried, fully prepared to sacrifice both people and Amity’s future for a profitable holiday.

We shake our heads at Larry’s lack of integrity. We wonder at the blind self-interest that leads people like him to think they can change the harsh realities they face by trying to “make sure the news is positive”. But the truth has a nasty habit of leaking out despite the best (or worst) intentions of those who would like to mask or hide it.

The PNS isn’t going away; we hope it won’t be compromised any more than it already is.* The Layman isn’t going away; neither are the readers who find it – with all its flaws – more trustworthy than the denomination. The secular press that reported the GA’s stealthy implementation of local option and the PPC’s publication of David Griffin’s trashy book isn’t going away. The truth isn’t going away.

If the PCUSA wants to “make sure the news is positive”, it should make positive news.


* For example, the PNS story on the “Hope of the Church” conference in July simply gushed with enthusiasm and good vibes over the optimistic assessment by “this unprecedented body of PC(USA) heavyweights, including 16 general assembly (GA) moderators and nearly all of the 11 PC(USA) seminary presidents.” Curiously absent was any mention of former moderator David Dobler’s sober assessment that the PCUSA was already in schism.

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