Acceptance key to ending fear

Today's Portland Press Herald features a column focusing on Christian hospitality and last week's Islamic prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral:

As children of God, whether representing the Episcopal Church in Maine, all 60 congregations across the state, or the few thousand Muslims who call Maine home, we believe that the urgent task is to stand together to cast aside fear – even though we, too, may feel vulnerable – and to work together to help our neighbors find solutions to problems they face.

Ultimately, the fear that creeps around us can be defeated only by demonstrating love for your neighbor: Welcome the stranger, visit the sick, feed and shelter the hungry and the displaced.

Here in Maine, a better future can be ours when more of us, from different faith traditions and across class and political divisions, join hands and make friends. Acting as neighbors to one another creates the light necessary to battle such darkness.

For the full story, please visit the Portland Press Herald here.

Have hymnals become dinosaurs?

In an essay adapted from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music's Kavanagh Lecture on October 24 2013, entitled “Have Hymnals Become Dinosaurs?: The Costs of Extinction,” Karen B. Westerfield Tucker explores the costs and promises of printed hymnals:

Three scenarios — all of them real — can set the stage to address the question of the “extinction” of hymnals:

A congregation oversubscribes the cost of buying new denominational
songbooks that contain a mixture of old hymns and recently-composed
songs. The congregation’s minister approaches a pastoral colleague
assigned to a smaller, struggling congregation, and offers her the
surplus money for a similar purchase. “No, thank you,” she says. “We
no longer use books since the lyrics are projected on the screen along
with the other texts for worship. Although we are small, this is a
forward-looking community. We are not interested in print books that
are a relic of the past. Besides, we don’t want to be encumbered with
books to hold because we prefer to be free to lift our hands or clap
as we sing.”

In speaking about resources for worship, the pastor acknowledges that
he never uses the denomination’s hymnbook. “I like having the freedom
to choose music from any source. Of course, we have our CCLI
[Christian Copyright Licensing International] and
licenses. I find songs that best fit the theme of the day and that can
get the congregation really ‘in’ to their worship. Hymnals are far too

A student in my introductory worship course, upon learning that the
day’s session will focus on music in worship, comments in class: “I
hope you aren’t going to talk about hymns and hymnals. They really are
irrelevant to today’s worship. The music is old fashioned and the
words are often boring. I’d like for us to talk about ‘contemporary’
music and music that is produced individually or collaboratively by
people in an emerging-style congregation. That really would be more
helpful for us as future pastors.” Although the Masters of Sacred
Music students in the room cringe at that remark, they are a minority
compared to the heads nodding in affirmation of the student’s request.

The full article from the Yale Institute for Sacred Music Review is available here.

Have we forgotten how to call young people

Over at the Lutheran, the magazine of our communion partner, the ELCA; they’re asking “Has God forgotten how to call young people?”

Drawing on research by the Pew Research Center, the article states;

29 percent of millennials (ages 18-33) aren’t affiliated with any religion and the rate of atheism in this group is twice as high as any other generation in America. Why? David Kinnaman, author of You Lost Me (Baker Books, 2011), suggests millennials are leaving the church because they experience it as overprotective, shallow, anti-science, simplistic toward sex, exclusive and unwilling to provide room for doubt.

But the ELCA should be a mecca for young people. We have a complex understanding of sexuality, an open view of Christianity, we provide room for doubt and promote scientific exploration. So why are our young people leaving?

The same question applies to the Episcopal Church; the average age of our membership is 57 and the Church Pension Group’s Report on the Clergy noted that

“The age distribution of clergy has changed drastically over time, with fewer clergy being ordained at younger ages and more clergy with older ages at ordination.” The current average age at ordination is 44, and out of over 13,000 clergy, only 624 of which are under the age of 40.

The Lutheran editorial posits it’s an issue of courage

Millennials are afraid to be Christian. It’s safe to join the Peace Corps, run a race that raises money for the poor, occupy Wall Street or make the world awesome by being a “nerdfighter.” It is not safe to be a Jesus follower.

But also, they suggest it is a lack of courage on the part of the Church;

We must be a church willing to venture into such fear and speak a word to a generation equally afraid. We must lay down our insecurities and follow our Lord who laid down his life. We must “not be ashamed of the gospel”


Does that sound right? Is the prevailing cultural image of Christianity overwhelming our witness? Does the issue lie with the Church mainly or elsewhere?

Sainsbury's chocolates and treacly sentimentality?

Sainsbury’s, a British grocery chain has released a Christmas TV commercial that has gone viral, set during the First World War, showing the Christmas Day truce which occurred along some parts of the front in 1914. The ad is part of the store’s campaign to raise money for a British veteran’s organization, the British Legion and uses the tagline, ‘Christmas is for Sharing.’

Though the response has been largely positive, the ad is not without its’ critics. Many formal complaints have been lodged with the British Advertising Standards Authority, including one form a Church of England Cleric, The Rev Nicholas Clews as reported by the Church Times

The Revd Nicholas Clews, Priest-in-Charge at St Margaret of Antioch, Thornbury, and St James the Great, Woodhall, in the diocese of Bradford, lodged a formal protest with the Advertising Standards Authority "within ten minutes" of seeing the TV commercial. It is based on a truce that took place at Christmas, 1914, when British and German troops fraternised briefly in no man's land. The long advert (it lasts three minutes, 41 seconds) ends with a young Tommy slipping a chocolate bar he has only just received from home into the pocket of an equally fresh-faced German. The final shot is the caption "Christmas is for Sharing", and then "Sainsbury's". Similar chocolate bars are on sale in Sainsbury's, with half of the £1 price going to the Royal British Legion. Mr Clews said: "I think it trivialises the suffering of World War One, and in many ways misses the point about the significance of what happened on Christmas Day 1914 [which] was that a chance for peace was missed. It's a tragedy. For a day: those soldiers realised they were human beings, and they shared that humanity. That's a tremendous message for Christmas; but the significance of Christmas is that it's not about a day, it's about life."

The First World War looms large in the British cultural imagination, as evidenced by the recent display of ceramic poppies surrounding the Tower of London for Remembrance Day, where over 800,000 ceramic poppies were installed, one for every WW1 death of a British soldier. But, as moving as the ad is, does it trivialize the event it depicts as Clews and others suggest? The First World War is arguably the most significant disruption in Western culture in the past 500 hundred years.

When we sentimentalize the brief moments of grace in the midst of tragedy, does that in some way obscure the tragedy to the point where we no longer see it? Perhaps something similar is at work in the way we remember the story of Christ? Do we tend only to see the beatific child in the manger and miss the man to die on the cross that child is called to be?birth-baby-jesus-105.jpg

When the "mainline" went to Washington

Gene Zubovich charts the strange history of Protestants and American politics.

Last October, "some 1,500 preachers and ministers across the country joined in a nationwide protest they called Pulpit Freedom Sunday," hoping that this would trigger a court challenge to the Johnson Amendment. The 1954 law was passed with wide support from the mainline church of the day.

Faith & Politics:

When the Johnson Amendment passed in 1954—the amendment that was the target of the recent Pulpit Freedom Sunday—it was in the context of the political mobilization of mainline Protestants, not evangelicals. That same year, “Under God” had been inserted into the pledge of allegiance and two years later “In God We Trust” would become this country’s national motto. Yet Congress concluded that there ought to be limits to church-based political activity. Political mobilization, voter registration, lobbying, and preaching on controversial subjects was fine. Political partisanship, especially the promotion of specific candidates, was not. Mainline leaders were on board with such caution. Even though vigilant denominational lobbyists kept an eye on the legislation, there was little reaction to the amendment at the time, either from politicians or from religious organizations. At a time when denominations did not clearly align with party goals, the desire to keep these groups nonpartisan was widespread.

The prominence of mainline Protestants has dwindled since their heyday in the 1940s and 1950s. Their most important institution—the National Council of Churches—has faced funding problems for decades and has recently relocated from its historic home in Manhattan to a cheaper location in Washington, D.C. Yet their move to D.C. was not just a matter of finances: it was also an affirmation of the importance of politics for the National Council. In fact, the current National Council president, James Winkler, was previously the director of the United Methodists’ lobbying group. With a staff of nearly two dozen, Winkler was in charge of “the implementation of the Church’s Social Principles through Capitol Hill advocacy work,” according to the Methodists’ website. Now Winkler works to translate the moral vision of his ecumenical organization into a political force.

Today, segments on both the left and the right insist that they must fulfill their religiously inspired missions in the realm of politics. No simple call for church-state separation is a plausible solution to the challenges that religious political mobilization creates. To ask Protestants to stop getting involved in politics is to ask them to stop fulfilling what they see as a religious injunction. What must be carefully considered, from the perspective of the religious groups who engage in politics and from the perspective of those who are more generally concerned with the relations between religion and government, is if and how this relationship should be regulated.

Rise of the "Dones"

Mark Sandlin says that next to the "Spiritual But Not Religious" (SBNR) folks, there is another growing group of folks who are a growing part of the culture's spiritual landscape. He calls them "the Dones" and they are faithful people who are done with church.

The God Article on Patheos:

In the last month, we’ve seen a new moniker making the rounds: “The Dones.” I find this a much more helpful label because it’s not as broad as SBNR or “The Nones”

Essentially, The Dones are unaffiliated believers.

While it sounds similar to the SBNR or even the The Nones, there is an important difference – one that should perk up the ears of the body of Christ: The Dones have all been active in a church. Frequently, they were among the most active.

I say it should perk up the ears of the body of Christ, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is much more likely to perk up the Church’s defenses.

For me, this is where the whole issue gets fascinating.

The Dones are done – walking away from Church, never to come back. They were once considered essential, valuable members of the community right up until the moment they left. Now they are big dummies that just don’t get it.


I think we may have just found the problem. That’s not really community. That’s not the unconditional love I hear preached from pulpits and in the teachings of Jesus. That’s a
“what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” kind of attitude that reeks of power structures, fitting in and meeting expectations. It’s basically what you would expect to find in institutions that are centuries old.

Interestingly enough, unlike the larger group of SBNR, some of whom are intentionally and unintentionally seeking out other forms of spiritual community, all of the Dones are done with spiritual community of any form.

The Church is killing spiritual community or at least killing it in an ever-growing portion of our population. The Dones’ experience with the Church killed their desire to ever go to that place of spiritual relationship in community again.

The Presiding Bishop on the President's immigration plan

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement on President Obama’s recently announced immigration policies:

Together with families and communities across the United States, I give thanks for President Obama’s announcement that nearly five million undocumented immigrants will soon be eligible for relief from the threat of deportation. Too many families have lived for too long continually worried about parents being separated from children, wage-earners and caregivers from those who depend on them, and unable to participate fully in their communities and the nation’s economy. Permanent and comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system through congressional action is still urgently needed, but the President’s action is a constructive step toward a system that honors the dignity and intrinsic value of every human being. It will immediately strengthen our nation’s communities by allowing immigrant families much fuller participation in American civic and economic life.

The Episcopal Church will work with Congressional leaders and the White House to press for implementation of the President’s plan as quickly, fairly, and inclusively as possible. The President’s plan is not perfect. Some deserving persons and families are excluded, meaning that additional work lies ahead. All persons equally deserve the ability to pursue their dreams and contribute to their communities and families with liberty, dignity, and freedom. I pray that the President’s action will lead our nation toward a future in which those sacred possibilities are open to all.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

New anti-gay law proposed in Uganda

A year after a law requiring life in prison for homosexual acts was thrown out in court, the parliament in Uganda has before it a new law that would outlaw the "promotion" of homosexuality.

Al-Jazeera says the bill has support on both sides of the aisle and scores high in polls with voters:

"We are going to retable it, the committee has done its work," Latif Ssebaggala, MP, told AFP news agency on Thursday.

Ssebaggala is a member of the team drafting the bill, which also includes Vice President Edward Ssekandi....

...Cecilia Ogwal, the opposition chief whip, said they would support the bill.

"As long as homosexuals target and take advantage of our children and vulnerable people, the opposition will support an anti-gay law presented to us," she said, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper.

While the life sentence is gone in favor of a shorter jail term, the definition of what can land one in jail has broadened. The Monitor:

“The new proposal is following the common thread of The Anti-Homosexuality Act. The only differences are minor changes in the use of words,” he said.

In contrast to the nullified Act, the new Bill avoids any explicit references to homosexuality, but seems to co-opt sections of the Penal Code, which prescribe, among others, a life sentence for “unnatural sexual practices.”

Unnatural sexual practices are defined in the draft Bill as a sexual act between persons of the same sex, or with or between transsexual persons, a sexual act with an animal and anal sex.
The proposed legislation also expands the definition of “promotion of unnatural sexual practices” and proposes a prison sentence of up to seven years for the promotion of homosexuality.

Funding for purposes of “promoting unnatural sexual practice” and protecting, housing or transporting homosexuals can also result in imprisonment of up to 10 year


There is fear that the law will be a license for more violence against LGBTQ people in Uganda.

According to a leaked copy of the new draft bill, MPs have focused on outlawing the "promotion" of homosexuality, something that activists said made it far more repressive and wide-reaching, with a proposed sentence of up to seven years in jail.

Activists have cautioned the East African nation that the revival of such legislation will result in violence against gays.

The country's president, Yoweri Museveni, wants the churches to support the bill. The Monitor:

President Museveni has asked the Church and civil society to support government in the fight against homosexuality, saying the vice has become a danger among the young generation.

The President also requested the clergy to continue preaching against the increasing moral degeneration, saying this has led to the rise of HIV/Aids epidemic among the youth.

Mr Museveni made the calls in a speech read for him by the Minister of Security, Mr Muruli Mukasa, at the consecration of North Mbale Diocese Bishop Samuel Gidudu at the weekend. He said any clergy who presides over a wedding of a gay couple should be blacklisted and isolated from the Church because the act is not only against the Bible teachings but also the African norms and traditions.

Writing in the Monitor, the Rev. Amos Kasibante, who is Racial Justice Adviser in the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, says that Uganda has a morality crisis--and it is not about sexuality.

It is a matter for debate, the extent to which this objective has been achieved. What is not in doubt is that our national pride would be hurt if we were told that Uganda and Nigeria are among the most corrupt countries in Africa.

Many Ugandan-based moralisers rail against what they regard as the moral decadence of Western societies and seek to return the population, especially the youth, to our indigenous, African cultural and moral values.

The popular candidates for moral opprobrium are pornography, drugs, homosexuality, casual sex, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and prostitution. And yet, you are probably more likely to be defrauded of your money, land or house in Uganda and Nigeria than in supposedly morally decadent USA, Germany, Sweden or Canada.

An outside observer may be forgiven for concluding that the content of what constitutes moral discourse is sex-related or skewed on the subject of sexual morality. Moreover, what goes for moral debate in Uganda is often imbued with moral rhetoric, censure, and stigma rather than reason and open-mindedness.

In August, President Yoweri Museveni said he wanted the law amended to remove penalties for consenting adults. Ssebagala said however the new version still punished gay sex among consenting adults.

In October the president wrote in a newspaper that re-introducing the law risked triggering a trade boycott by the West.

Analysts say Museveni - expected to run for re-election in 2016 - is walking a tightrope, trying to appease his conservative domestic constituency while wary of alienating donors who finance about 20 percent of Uganda's budget.

Episcopal priest arrested at protest in Ferguson

The Rev. Rebecca Ragland was one five protesters arrested for blocking a street outside the police headquarters in Ferguson, Missouri, yesterday.

The Daily Mail:

The handful of protesters were faced down by a line of officers in full riot gear as impatience grows in the city waiting for a Grand Jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson for shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown, 18.

According to Reverend Ragland the group - only numbering around 15 - blocking the road were dispersing when the St Louis County officers moved in.

She said, 'I think everybody was completely shocked. We were dispersing at that point. Then they came down so I turned around and I thought, 'Well I'm a de-escalator so I need to stay at the front.'

Ragland is Interim Rector at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in University City, Missouri and... one of many local clergy who have taken to the streets in an attempt to defuse the volatile relationship between protesters and police that saw the Missouri town erupt in violence following the shooting on August 9.

She was wearing a bright orange vest with the word 'Clergy' clearly printed across her back. Today she believes that far from protecting her this made her a target for officers keen to make a point ahead of the violence anticipated when the Grand Jury makes its announcement.

Last night's arrest has been read as a clear message that law enforcement will come down hard on any and all protesters.

Bishop Mariann Budde on the Muslim prayer service at the National Cathedral

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Diocese of Washington has written a column for her diocese on last week's Muslim prayer service at Washington National Cathedral. It concludes as follows:

All at the Cathedral and Diocesan offices have been taken aback by the hundreds of phone calls and letters protesting the prayer service because of terrorist threats by Muslim extremists around the world. I worry that we are at risk in this country of matching extremism with extremism of our own, as we have in our past.

Some Christians have lamented the fact that we welcomed Muslim prayer in a space consecrated for Christian worship, as if to do so were not Christian. I respect their point of view, but do not share it.

MEB1.jpgJesus encountered certain rulers of the synagogues who protested his healing of the sick on the Sabbath. Such acts are not a violation of the Sabbath, he told them, but an expression of Sabbath’s intent. “The Sabbath was made for humankind; not humankind for the Sabbath.” In the same way, I believe that to welcome Muslims to pray their prayers in our sacred space is not a violation of our identity as Christians, but a clear expression of our faith and devotion to Jesus. I say that as one who loves Jesus, knows him as our Savior and Lord, believes in the doctrine of the Trinity, and strives each day to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbors as myself.

In his book, "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World", Brian McLaren writes that it is possible to have a strong, vibrant Christian identity and also be kind. By kindness he means far more than mere tolerance, political correctness, or coexistence. We can be strong Christians and also benevolent, hospitable, accepting, “so that the stronger our Christian faith, the more goodwill we will feel and show toward those of other faiths, seeking to understand and appreciate their religion from their point of view.”

I suspect my theology on this matter is underdeveloped, but I work under the impression that if we worship God in good faith, God is capable of figuring out just who is being worshipped.

"A Way Forward" is a step forward for the Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church recently published "A Way Forward: Reflections, Resources & Stories Concerning Ferguson, Racial Justice & Reconciliation" on its website.

It's exciting to see the church responding to a pressing social issue in a timely fashion, and I hope this is what we can look forward to from some of the recently-hired staff members like Heidi Kim the missioner for racial reconciliation and Charles Wynder, Jr., missioner for social justice and advocacy engagement.

Two suggestions for future efforts: 1. Enlist someone with some editorial sense, an eye for design and a feel for social media in the project. (In fact, consider collaborating with Episcopal News Service in order to make the whole presentation more visually accessible, timely and interactive.)

2. Please stop using the phrase Missionary Society, as in: "The clergy and laity of congregations in Greater St. Louis joined the people of Ferguson, Florrisant, and St. Louis County in deep solidarity. The Missionary Society and Episcopal Relief & Development provided a significant grant to assist local parishes in their local mission of justice, transformation and reconciliation."

God bless the staff--which is the entity described by the peculiar, obfuscatory phrase The Missionary Society--but it doesn't provide grants. The people of the Episcopal Church, through the General Convention budget, provide grants. The phrase Missionary Society suggests that the staff of the church is not a group of employees who are accountable in some fashion to the organization that pays their salaries, but an independent body of limited membership doing work in which the rest of us take no part, and over which the General Convention has no control.

The church is well served by efforts to make itself and its work accessible to a wider audience, as the folks behind "A Way Forward are Doing." We are much less well served by unnecessary and politically problematic efforts to brand the staff.

The clerical collar and the message it sends

While he understands that the collar is a loaded symbol, Sam Wells thinks priests should err on the side of wearing them. In the Christian Century, he explains why:

The collar says this one thing to parishioner and stranger alike: this conversation we’re about to have, this conversation we’re having, could be the most important one of your life. It doesn’t have to be—I can laugh, I can relax, I can have fun, I can just be with you in joy or in sorrow. But it can be. It may not be the right time for you, but it’s always the right time for me. I will never tell you I’m too busy. I will never make light of your struggles. I will never tell you that something more interesting happened to me. I will never say, “I know,” when you’re exploring a feeling for the first time. I will never change the subject when you bring up something that’s hard to hear.

I’ll never do any of those things because all of them in different ways are saying, “I’m out of my depth.” And what the collar is saying is, “I am someone who, however deep you wish to go, will never be out of my depth. You can trust me to listen. You can trust me to withhold my personal investment in the issues for another time and another place. You can trust me to be alert to the ways of God however strange the story you tell. You can trust me to know when some kind of specialized help may be in order. But you can also trust me to know that now could be the time for the moment of truth.”


Bishop Dietsche asks prayers, affirms recent settlement at General Seminary

Bishop Andy Dietsche of New York recently made a personal statement about the situation at the General Theological Seminary at his diocesan convention. It concludes:

And I want to be clear that in my judgment the Board of Trustees of General Seminary is made up of the finest, most committed people, and I pray daily that the course we are on will be the right course, and that General Seminary may find its way to a renewed health and strength in its formation of ordained ministers for the church. A way forward has been named, and agreements reached by all parties. Yet it is fragile, and if the seminary and all of the people within it are to get safely to the other side together it will require the greatest charity and forbearance from everyone, perhaps especially on the part of those outside the seminary community.

I have found these weeks to be surprisingly and powerfully emotional. So many of the affections and loyalties I have for everyone involved have been too much in opposition and conflict. I have from time to time found myself unexpectedly overcome. These weeks have called out from me, as from everyone involved, my most fervent prayers and deepest feelings, and still do.

What I require of myself and ask of you is that we refrain from demonizing anyone. I will ask that you hold in your prayers the faculty of the seminary, and remember that these close colleagues have become divided from one another by decisions made and actions taken. I ask your prayers for the dean and president of the seminary, and that he and the faculty find a healthy renewed ability to work together for the good of their students. I ask your prayers for the Board of Trustees, and for the Executive Committee. Pray especially for the Chairman of the Board, who is my predecessor as Bishop of New York and the long time pastor of this diocese and your churches. And above all, pray for the students of General.

What do you think the future holds for General Seminary?

It's the end of the world as we know it

Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service writes:

First Things, a conservative religious publication, has launched a movement encouraging pastors to refuse to perform marriages as representatives of the state. A signing statement called “The Marriage Pledge” has been posted to their website where ministers can affix their names electronically. It was drafted by Ephraim Radner, an ordained Anglican and professor of historical theology at Toronto School of Theology’s Wycliffe College, and Christopher Seitz, an ordained Episcopalian priest and senior research professor at Wycliffe.

He notes that this idea has been proposed more than five years ago, by Bishop Gene Robinson, the man whose 2003 consecration drove Radner and Seitz into fits of ineffective and often comical activism from which one had hoped they had retired.

Long time Cafe readers will remember that Radner and Seitz were two of the three (sometimes four) members of the Anglican Communion Institute, an organization notable primarily for a) working against same-sex marriage within the Anglican Communion; b) working to punish the Episcopal Church for moving toward the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians, and c) doing so in ways that were notable for their comical skullduggery.

Followers of the Anglican sexuality struggles will remember when Radner and Seitz fell out with a third member of the ACI, the Rev. Don Armstrong, after he got into some significant legal trouble regarding the way he handled money. The duo disassociated themselves from Armstrong, only to discover that he had the keys to their website. So the "institute" that was sometimes described as "three guys with a website" was now, for a time, without a website.

In April 2009, Radner, Seitz and several Episcopal bishops were discussing their plans to undermine Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, snatch a parish in the Diocese of Colorado and put it under a more conservative prelate and publish a statement on the polity of The Episcopal Church on a group email and one of the participants in the conversation mistyped an email address and sent it to a marriage equality activist, after which it became public, leading to significant negative reaction.

More recently, Radner served on the group that drafted the proposed Anglican Covenant while serving as a board member of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, which is dedicated to undermining churches in the United States that take polically progressive stances on issues of same-sex marriage. This conflict of interest helped undermine support for the document which has not, as many of its proponents had hoped, become a whip with which to lash churches that bless same-sex relatinships.

That Radner and Seitz have embraced an idea put forth by Robinson and many others on the Christian left (without crediting them for it of course) is a clear indication that the end times are just around the corner.

Joyful opera performed In Nazi concentration camp revived

Cheryl Corley writes for the NPR show All Things Considered about the revival of a children's opera, Brundibár, originally performed by Jewish children held in a concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia:

Eighty-four-year-old Ela Stein Weissberger says it's a simple story, a tale of good conquering evil, based on a fairy tale....

Weissberger travels around the world to make sure it stays alive. More than seven decades ago she auditioned and was chosen to play the role of the cat in Brundibár — one of three animals featured in the opera. The title character is the villain, an organ grinder and bully who thwarts the children's efforts to earn money so they can help their mother.

"The Brundibár, in our eyes, was Hitler," Weissberger says.

But Weissberger says the Nazis didn't seem to catch on: "You know, the words we were singing in Czech language. The Nazis didn't know Czech so they didn't know."

Rising Israeli-Palestinian tension

The world sadly and alarmingly reflects on the killings in the synagogue:

Jodi Rudonren of The New York Times says that "In Jerusalem’s ‘War of Neighbors,’ the Differences Are Not Negotiable":

Analysts on both sides worried that the cycle of violence and mutual dehumanization would be compounded by the growing focus on the holy site, where the ancient temples once stood and where Muslims have worshiped for centuries and now fear a Jewish takeover.

“When you bring the religious dimension, it absolutizes the conflict — you can divide land, you can divide security, but the sacred is indivisible,” said Moshe Halbertal, a philosophy scholar at Hebrew University. “And it also globalizes the conflict, because it’s every Muslim, it’s not anymore an Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Jeremy Bowen of BBC News reflects on the rising tensions:

(Violence in Jerusalem) has been fed by the fact that once more the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been left to fester. An attempt by the Americans to revive a peace process failed, despite energetic diplomacy from the US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The two sides are further apart than ever. Their conflict used to be, at root, about the possession of land. But since Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967 it has become more defined by religion.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Israeli troops responded in part by razed the home of a Palestinian man suspected in an earlier attack.

As does the Washington Post story by William Booth and Ruth Eglash:

Squads of police and demolition experts descended on the fourth-story apartment of a Palestinian man involved in the October attack on Jerusalem’s light rail system that killed a 3-month-old baby girl and a 22-year-old woman. The attacker, Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, was shot dead by police at the scene.

Israeli police hustled out members of the extended Shaludi family. They watched security forces topple walls, smash windows and doors, and even tear up the tile floors — essentially gutting the home.

Pope Francis called for peace on both sides, reported by Vatican Radio:

“I am following with concern the alarming increase in tension in Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land, with unacceptable episodes of violence that do not spare even the places of worship. I assure a special prayer for all the victims of this dramatic situation and for those who suffer most as a result. From the bottom of my heart, I make an appeal to the parties involved to put an end to the spiral of hatred and violence and to make courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace. Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a torment!”

Additionally, The New York Times profiled the ‘Wise Scholars’ who were killed.

Two Minnesota deans charged with change

Episcopal News Service has a story on the two new deans for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, installed in its two historic cathedrals within nine days of each other, in the midst of change in focus:

The calling of the two deans comes at a time when the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (no longer referred to as “the Diocese”) is well into a paradigm shift about how it thinks about mission – changes made under the leadership of Bishop Brian Prior, now in the fifth year of his episcopate.

Prior has described that shift as coming from a greater understanding of God’s mission in the world (“Missio Dei”) and a change of focus from a particular faith community’s internal life to the life of God in the world. He has challenged the faith communities in Minnesota to discover what God is up to in their neighborhoods and examine the unique context in which they are called to mission and ministry.

Minnesota’s new cathedral deans are discovering their new neighborhoods.

“We are fortunate to have a huge campus with beautiful buildings in the heart of downtown Faribault,” Chapman said. “I want us to ask three important questions: What is at the core of our belief and community? How do we best form people for mission? hat are the needs around us that God is calling us to engage? Then I want us to leverage our location and spaces to help others.”

In Minneapolis, Lebens-Englund has a vision for neighborhood connections based both on St. Mark’s role as a congregation located in a major metropolitan area and as the lead cathedral for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota.

Crowd sourcing funds a poor urban parish's new boiler

A Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with an active ministry to the neighborhood but without a lot of money raised money for a new boiler through crowd-sourcing.


In a poorer parish, where just keeping the lights on can be a challenge, a blown boiler as those crisp fall days give way to wild winds of winter can be enough to close down.

Redeemer Lutheran Church, at 631 N. 19th St., confronted that grim reality last month when its ancient boiler all but heaved its final breath. Now, workers are installing its replacement thanks to an online fundraising campaign that has drawn generous donors from around the world.

The campaign started with a $5 donation from a homeless man.

"It's been absolutely amazing," said the Rev. Lisa Bates-Froiland, who launched the campaign on the crowdfunding site at the suggestion of a friend.

It has raised more than $44,000 of the $60,000 goal — from church members, old friends and strangers, from nonprofits, and people of many faiths, or none.

"That just says to me that people's hearts tend to be compassionate," said Bates-Froiland, whose small congregation near Marquette University draws for the most part a membership that is low-income, elderly and homeless.

"And once they connect with the kind of ministry that happens here, they open their hearts and their wallets," she said.

Clergy call out Ft. Lauderdale mayor on false feeding site claims

After Fort Lauderdale made it illegal to feed the homeless on city streets, Mayor Jack Seiler told the media that the city had actually added feeding sites to take care of the homeless, but on investigation journalists found these new sites didn't exist.

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President plans to change immigration policy

According to news reports, President Obama will announce next week a broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration enforcement policy that will protect up to five million unauthorized immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide many of them with work permits.

New York Times:

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South Sudan Anglican Church trains reconciliation teams

The Anglican Church in South Sudan has joined other stakeholders in the region to address the country’s continued conflicts by using a team of community members called “Peace Mobilisers.”


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Awaiting the grand jury's decision in Ferguson

As the people of Ferguson, Missouri, await the results of a grand jury deliberation, Bishop Gene Robinson fears for the outcome and Dean Mike Kinman offers suggestions as to what they can do when the decision to indict or not is made.

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On Episcopal argumentation and Advantage-Seeking Invocations of Friedman

In just under nine years of moderating comments on an Episcopal blog and its social media outlets I’ve noticed three particular rhetorical moves frequently employed by us and our ilk.

The first two are similar:

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What's coming up next for the Café

Advent marks the beginning of the church’s year, and this Advent will also mark the beginning of a new phase in the life of the Episcopal Café. As that season and new beginning draw near, I wanted to share with you what’s happening. So, what’s next for the Café? Hopefully, lots more of the same great news and contributions that have been the Café’s hallmark. As I said to Jim Naughton, the Café’s founder, my primary goal is to maintain the integrity of the Café and ensure it remains the prominent place for news and insight about the Episcopal Church.

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Archbishop Welby explains his thoughts on Lambeth Conference, Primates Meeting

Archbishop Justin Welby's presidential address to the General Synod of the Church of England today is full of news about his thoughts regarding the governance of the Anglican Communion:

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Women to be bishops in Church of England

cofe.pngLegislation to allow women of the Church of England to be appointed as bishops passed today. The BBC reports:

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Episcopal cathedral in Rhode Island cathedral to include museum on slave trade

It seems appropriate to begin our last week of posting on the Cafe in its current form by spotlighting the good work of one of our original newsbloggers, Bishop Nick Knisely of Rhode Island. Here's the story from the Providence Journal:

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Poor Gays

In an entry for, Bishop Gene Robinson highlights the intersection of poverty, sexual orientation, and race in a recently released report:

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No casseroles for Schizophrenics

The Rev. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, who is the author of Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness and a Priest Associate at the Episcopal Church at Yale, writes in Tikkun that Christians should not let families of the mentally ill suffer alone in silence:

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Open letter to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Ahead of the grand jury verdict in St. Louis County to determine whether to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Jim Wallis of Sojourner's is asking Governor of Missouri Jay Nixon to work for peace and safeguard rights to free speech:

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In a tough market, the CofE is doing better than we think

Giles Fraser looks at church membership and attendance in the UK and concludes that the Church of England is doing better than most people assume.

Loose Canon on the Guardian's Comment is Free page:

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HHS panel considers lifting ban on gay men donating blood

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services panel has begun to consider whether to overturn a long-standing ban against accepting blood donations from gay men.

Los Angeles Times:

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National Cathedral hosts Muslim prayer service

The Jumu'ah, the Friday communal prayers of Islam, were hosted by the Washington National Cathedral yesterday with an invited group of Muslims and Christians and heavy security. The event was organized by The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the cathedral, and Ebrahim Rasool, a Muslim scholar and South Africa’s ambassador to the United States.

The Washington Post describes the event:

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Hooray for the Scottish Episcopal Church!

Because the Scots said "yes" the Episcopal Church in the USA got our first bishop, Samuel Seabury. And through the Scots, our Church is set abalze whenever we invoke the Holy Spirit.

Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St. Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow sends a love note to his American cousins:

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As goes the middle class, so goes Christianity?

Dave Albertson, writing in OnFaith, says that the from the time of St. Paul down to the present, the church is a bourgeois institution. He says the decline of the church is tied directly to the decline of the middle class.

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Priest sues city over law to stop feeding the hungry in public

The Rev. Canon Mark H. Sims, rector of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, Florida, is suing the city of Fort Lauderdale for the right to continue to feed the homeless on city streets.

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Welby praised for his leadership

In a lead article, the Spectator praises Archbishop Justin Welby for his leadership, especially in leading the charge to reform payday lending in the UK, and likening his style and temperament with "his Catholic opposite number, Pope Francis." Saying that "both are modernisers who have ended the carping about their respective institutions being out of touch with the real world and yet who have done so without compromising the values upon which their churches are founded."

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Worship God or idolize the gun?

Greater personal faith predicts lower attachment to guns and lower levels of gun ownership and that may indicate that religion may promote the kind of conversations about gun control that move beyond the slogans and partisan divides that has made practical solutions impossible.

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#Pointergate: to some people, anything a black man does with his hands is a gang sign

You can find a depressing tale about the state of race relations in the United States any day just by Googling the right terms. But even on a bleak landscape, the story of #Pointergate stands out.

If you are just catching up with this story, which involves an attempt to smear Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges by her city's police department, Alex Abad-Santos of Vox does a good joblaying it out.

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Churches to offer spaces of prayer, safety after Ferguson grand jury speaks

In the not-too-distant future, a grand jury in Missouri will announce whether it has indicted Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen in August.

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35 years later, the case of American nuns murdered in El Salvador remains fresh

There was a time when the U. S. government was at war with faithful Christians, just as Fox News would have you believe. But that time isn't now. It was in the late 1970s and 1980s in El Salvador. This New York Times story about the efforts to deport two of the Salvadoran generals who were responsible for a string of atrocities, coupled with the video below, brings that time back with mournful force.

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School district strikes religious holiday names from calendar

How would you have handled this situation?

Muslim parents asked the Montgomery County, Maryland Board of Education to close schools on their two most important religious holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, which, in some years occur during the school year.

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The "historic" climate deal

There is general agreement that the climate change deal between the U.S. and China is "historic". Consider the headlines:

From CNN's "US and China reach historic climate change deal, vow to cut emissions" article by Matt Hoye and Holly Yan:

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Sports, and the separation of church and fate

Phil Mushnick writes in his New York Post article that he wants football coaches, and other sporting types, to stop trivializing religion:

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Former Bethlehem bishop Mark Dyer dies at 84

The Rt. Rev. James Michael Mark Dyer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem from 1982 to 1995, died Nov. 11 after battling multiple myeloma for several years.

From the Episcopal News Service article:

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Veteran Friendly Congregations supports returning servicemen

Episcopal News Service story By Jim Goodson (excerpt):

The Brotherhood of St. Andrew is drawing on its rich history of supporting servicemen and women by leading the creation of Veteran Friendly Congregations.

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20 questions to see if your priest is any good

Derek Penwell on [D]mergent lists 20 questions you might ask of your priest (he uses "minister" for this article):

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How is your church remembering Veterans Day?


Today is Veterans Day in the US, Remembrance Day or Armistice Day elsewhere, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - in 1918, "the war to end all wars" came to an end. How is your church or you, personally, marking this day?

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Muslim prayer services to be held at Washington National Cathedral

193px-Narthex_vaulting_in_Washington_National_Cathedral.jpgThe Washington National Cathedral will host Muslim prayer service on Friday. The service, which will begin around 12:20 and is for invited guests only. From the Washington Post:

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General Seminary dean issues statement on first day faculty return

Today was the first day that the seven provisionally-reinstated faculty members were expected back in chapel and in the classrooms of General Theological Seminary.

Late this afternoon, the dean, the Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle, sent an email to the current student body, which reads as follows:

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