Friday, February 24, 2012

CTS Faculty Response to Healthcare Mandate

FORT WAYNE, IN (CTS)—On Thursday, February 16, 2012, several clergy members were invited to respond to the Health and Human Services (HHS) recent mandate requiring employers to provide access to health insurance that covers most forms of birth control, as well as drugs that induce abortion. Click here to read a response to the mandate from the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.

The Rev. John T. Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, accompanied Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, to Washington D.C. as he testified in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee concerning the mandate.

“The HHS health care plan over reaches the divide of separation of church and state and President Harrison did a wonderful job of articulating our Synod's opposition to the HHS policy on the basis of the Lutheran understanding of the Two Kingdoms,” commented Prof. Pless. “Lutherans have no choice but to resist this intrusion of the government into the internal life of religious communities. Rehearsing LCMS contributions to the welfare of our nation, Harrison noted that the HHS would impair this involvement to the detriment of our nation's citizens.”

In a previous statement President Harrison said, “This action by HHS will have the effect of forcing many religious organizations to choose between following the letter of the law and operating within the framework of their religious tenets. We add our voice to the long list of those championing for the continued ability to act according to the dictates of their faith, and provide compassionate care and clear Christian witness to society's most vulnerable, without being discriminated against by government."

CTS President, Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr., acknowledges this issue will certainly affect the seminary’s students as they prepare to minister to those in need across the world. Further, he stated, “We Americans have been blessed from our beginnings with freedom from government intrusion into our religious expression. We deeply appreciate the firm stand and bold witness of President Harrison and look forward to a continuing partnership with the President’s Office as we address matters crucial to the church and its mission.”

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

High-Speed Rail a Reality in the Midwest

Does this suggest a possible future?  Kazoo to Porter is a great little run.  I'd love to see them work the old Pere Marquette (the line that runs up to Grand Rapids in the map above) into a high-speed line--something like the old days when the PM streamliners were the running this route.

Here's the full story from the Chicago Tribune (,0,3868789.story):

Amtrak at 110 mph in western Mich., northern Ind.

But rail crossings lack safety mechanisms planned for Illinois route

Amtrak passenger trains sped up to 110 mph for the first time Tuesday in western Michigan and northern Indiana on two routes serving Chicago, officials announced.
But the railroad crossings lack safety mechanisms that will be installed on Illinois' high-speed corridor to prevent vehicle-train collisions.

The faster service, which is the first expansion of regional high-speed trains outside the northeastern U.S., is occurring on about 80 miles of a 97-mile stretch of Amtrak-owned track between Kalamazoo, Mich., and Porter, Ind.

Trains operating on the corridor are the Amtrak Wolverine Service between Pontiac, Mich., and Chicago via Detroit and Ann Arbor, and the Amtrak Blue Water between Port Huron, Mich., and Chicago via East Lansing.

The increase in speed from 95 mph to 110 mph followed the Federal Railroad Administration's approval of a positive train control system. The technology provides safeguards to override human error and prevent train-to-train collisions, speed-related derailments and accidents caused by track-switching errors or malfunctions, according to the agency.

But the positive train control system installed by the Michigan Department of Transportation does not include vehicle-detection technology to alert train crews about a vehicle stopped on the tracks at a crossing or additional protections, including four-quadrant gates, to prevent vehicles from snaking around lowered crossing gates. It does, however, monitor whether the crossing gates, flashing lights and bells are working, officials said.

Crossings on the system being installed in Illinois on the Chicago-to-St. Louis 110 mph corridor will be outfitted with full four-quadrant gates and an obstacle-intrusion detection system to tell locomotive engineers about vehicles on the tracks with enough advance warning so that the train can stop before the crossing, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Amtrak service at up to 110 mph is scheduled to begin in 2014 on part of the route, IDOT said. The current top speed is 79 mph.
Using a less-robust crossing system not only increases the risk to vehicle drivers and their passengers, but also to the riders aboard high-speed trains involved in a collision at a crossing, experts said.
On Feb. 1 at a crossing near Jackson, Mich., on the eastern end of Michigan's 110 mph rail corridor, an Amtrak train derailed when it struck a semitrailer truck that was stuck on the tracks. More than 10 people on board the Chicago-bound train were injured.

Federal railroad officials said the Michigan plan meets all regulations and that it is up to each state to decide on "an acceptable level of grade crossing risk.''

The Federal Railroad Administration "has every confidence in the Michigan Department of Transportation's and Amtrak's ability to determine the appropriate safety mechanisms at their grade crossings,'' said Mike England, a spokesman for the agency.

Michigan rail officials said the safety system they selected on the 110 mph corridor is the most cost-effective while also being safe.

"This was not a decision we made lightly,'' said Tim Hoeffner, director of the Office of Rail at the Michigan Department of Transportation. "What you put at the crossing is only one component of grade-crossing safety. You also must have police enforcement and the education piece to go along with the engineering.

"One of the most important factors is that we are dealing with the railroad in a part of the state where people understand the issues better and have a better grasp that when the flashing lights, bells and gates go on, the train is going to be there quickly and leave quickly,'' said Hoeffner, who rode aboard the 110 mph service on Tuesday.

Sustained operations at 110 mph on the 80-mile section in Michigan and Indiana will cut 10 minutes off the 95 mph schedules and about 20 minutes off the 79 mph speed that Amtrak trains operated at as recently as 2001, officials said.

Future steps include expanding 110 mph service from Kalamazoo to central and eastern Michigan, officials said.

Twitter @jhilkevitch

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A Sermon in the Midst of Tragedy

Paul McCain posted this sermon on his blog.  However, since Edward is my brother-in-law, and since this is such a wonderful sermon, I thought I would repost it (without Ed's permission) here.  From it you'll see why Rev. Engelbrecht is truly a gift to our Synod.


From Salina Journal, Monday, January 30th: “ ‘I saw a red car coming at us, and it was over,’ [a witness] said. According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Steven Moore, 62, was driving a Dodge Challenger east on I-70, just west of Topeka, when he crossed the median into oncoming traffic [perhaps because of a medical condition], striking the Geske’s Ford Windstar van head-on.”
“The Rev. Jeffrey Geske and his 3-year-old son Jacob [were] hospitalized, and killed [were] Geske’s wife Laura, their daughter Joy, 3, and son Joshua, 8.”
This news story came to me with special prayer requests for our chapel service. I had planned to preach on the Gospel reading from Sunday but thought it would be better to talk a bit about this tragedy. This is the sort of story that shakes us hard, causes us to question the ways of God. We naturally wonder why these things happen and find ourselves picking through the wreckage looking for an answer. [Read Job 1:13–21; emphasis on v. 21.]
How often we hear miracle stories when there is an accident, where death is averted at the last moment. We hear these stories and say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21). But in this case, there is less for us to celebrate and we find ourselves wondering why God allowed this to happen.
Poets say that we were born to die; philosophers agree that death is a natural part of life. But the Bible fights against these thoughts. It tells us that God created us for life, that death is unnatural, an intruder, the enemy of the children of God. When an older person dies, we don’t think too hard about it. It seems normal to us. The tragic events, like this one, cause us to question when death takes the young and the good, even those blessed and hallowed for God’s service. God calls us to grow less comfortable with death. If we mourn less when grandma dies than when a child dies, we should check our thoughts and consider whether we have grown too comfortable with death.
Our reason does a poor job at grasping tragedy. It is too heavy for our weak minds to hold. In such events, faith teaches us to expect a miracle; we naturally look for the miraculous in tragic events and hope to make sense of them. As I looked through the news reports about this accident, I did not find a miracle story. This is one of those times when the miracle comes after the event, perhaps long after. The miracle comes in seeing that God works in, with, and under tragedy, that He somehow accomplishes His good and gracious will not by averting tragedy but by working through it. Job responded in faith when everything was taken away from him, beginning with mourning and ending with praise for the One whose ways are beyond us. [Read 1:20–21.]
Today, we are like Mary and John at the foot of the cross, looking up with tear filled eyes and wondering, “Why?” And to us the Lord says as He did on the day of His crucifixion, “Behold, your son. . . . Behold, your mother” (John 19:26–27). In other words, “I am not coming down from this cross. It makes no sense and only causes you grief now. Take care of one another. Love one another until I turn this cross and this suffering into resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost for you.” Sisters, behold this morning your brothers in Christ. Brothers, this morning behold your sisters in Christ and care for them. This, too, is the way and the work of God who took away our sins by His Son’s cross and sustains us week by week in the Sacrament of His cross where in, with, and under the tragedy of death He brings to us the miracle of life and hope and peace. And so we say in faith, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” our only Savior. Amen.
We pray today for the Geske family as they mourn the loss of Laura, Joy, and Joshua. We ask that you would grant healing to Pastor Geske and to his son, Jacob. May they behold one another with your love and care as Christ taught us from the cross. We pray likewise for Pastor Geske that you would strengthen and sustain him as he cares for his Salina congregation, to which You recently called him. Help pastor and congregation to support one another through this tragedy. Look with mercy also upon Steven Moore, whose health condition led to this accident. Comfort him, O Lord, under the burden of this event and grant him your peace, which only Christ can give. O Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.