Civil Discourse in the US: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs notes an event on the topic of Civil Discourse in the US:

On October 22, The Episcopal Church will host and produce a groundbreaking forum on an important topic in our society: Civil Discourse in America: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good.

The 90-minute live webcast will originate from historic Christ Church, Philadelphia (Diocese of Pennsylvania), the birthplace of the Episcopal Church and the home of our country’s beginnings. In partnership with the Diocese of Pennsylvania, Civil Discourse in America will begin at 2 pm Eastern (1 pm Central, noon Mountain, 11 am Pacific, 10 am Alaska, 9 am Hawaii).

Forum Participants

The forum will be moderated by well-known journalist and commentator Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Executive Religion Editor for the Huffington Post.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will present the keynote address.

Two panel discussions will focus on main themes: Civil discourse and faith; and Civil discourse in politics and policy. Panelists include:

David Boardman, Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University in Philadelphia. He serves as president of the American Society of News Editors and chairs the National Advisory Board of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in Florida. He is an accomplished investigative journalist, past Executive Editor of the Seattle Times, and a four-time Pulitzer Prize jurist.

Dr. John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University, Washington DC. Dr. DeGioia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Forum for the Future of Higher Education and among other board endeavors, serves on the Boards of the Carnegie Corporation, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the Executive Committee of the Council on Competitiveness. He has received national recognition as an advocate for civil discourse and a commitment to the common good.

Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, Washington DC. A trustee of Faith in Public Life, which helps shape public debates and advance faith as a positive and unifying force for justice, compassion and the common good, he has been recognized as one of the country’s most influential Jewish leaders.

Hugh Forrest, Director of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, which each year brings together more than 30,000 creative professionals from around the world to foster a global community of ideas and creativity. TIME Magazine refers to him as an “interactive agent,” ushering new, groundbreaking technology into the popular culture that changes the way we share, learn and think.

NICD_logo3.jpgDr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute on Civil Discourse and a leader in the field of deliberative democracy. She founded AmericaSpeaks, which promotes nonpartisan initiatives to engage citizens and leaders through innovative public policy tools and strategies. Dr. Lukensmeyer also has served as a consultant to the White House Chief of Staff and as a chief of staff for Ohio’s governor, the first woman in this capacity.

Dr. Elizabeth McCloskey, President and CEO of The Faith & Politics Institute, a national organization devoted to advancing reflective leadership among members of Congress and congressional staff to bridge the divides that arise in a thriving democracy. She has taught and published numerous articles and book chapters on faith, ethics and politics, and is a former columnist for Commonweal magazine.

Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY. Bishop Singh is a frequent contributor to regional and national publications on topics related to accepting and embracing people with views and beliefs other than his own.

More information on how to participate in person or online is here.

Bishop's sainthood held up by bodily confusion

Bishop Fulton Sheen was the host of a very popular syndicated television show through the 1950s. His explanations of the faith made religion comprehensible and compelling for millions, as RNS explains.

After his death, the petition to make him a saint began almost immediately. He was declared 'venerable' in 2002, with the diocese of Peoria, where Sheen grew up and was ordained, fostering his cause. However, it has now hit an odd roadblock.

A third New York cardinal-archbishop, Timothy Dolan, refused to allow Sheen’s body to be moved from Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Peoria’s St. Mary’s. Citing the wishes of the family and asserting his own devotion to Sheen, Dolan said he would only permit some bone fragments and other relics from the coffin to go to Peoria. Whereupon Jenky, unsatisfied with this medieval division of the remains, called an indefinite halt to the canonization proceedings.

Other saints, like St. Catherine of Siena, are bodily split between two different places, but for now, the episcopal wrangling over corporal remains is posing a conundrum for the drive to sainthood.

How then should we pray?

Andrew WK writes a spirituality advice column in the Village Voice, and he responded to a question on how to pray thusly:

Prayer is a type of thought. It’s a lot like meditation — a type of very concentrated mental focus with passionate emotion directed towards a concept or situation, or the lack thereof. But there’s a special X-factor ingredient that makes “prayer” different than meditation or other types of thought. That X-factor is humility. This is the most seemingly contradictory aspect of prayer and what many people dislike about the feeling of praying. “Getting down on your knees” is not about lowering your power or being a weakling, it’s about showing respect for the size and grandeur of what we call existence — it’s about being humble in the presence of the vastness of life, space, and sensation, and acknowledging our extremely limited understanding of what it all really means.

Andrew Sullivan commented that his response, while not being overtly Christian, is one of the better descriptions of prayer out there. Further, it raises questions about organized religion's ongoing relationship to the amorphous group known as 'spiritual-but-not-religious'.

Read the whole column here.

What do you think? How does Andrew's explanation of prayer (especially as a treatment of intercessory prayer) strike you?

Churches in Ferguson, MO receive grant money

The Episcopal Church announced today that an additional $40,000 in grant money would go to the feeding programs in Ferguson, Missouri run by Episcopal parishes.

St. Stephen's (Ferguson), Ascension (Northwoods), and All Saints (Saint Louis City) have all been in the forefront of working with the community during the wave of protests and police crackdowns that followed the shooting of Michael Brown by police over a month ago.

The local feeding programs in Ferguson were hard hit during the worst of the unrest. The closure of the business district of Ferguson and the imposition of curfews put pressure on an already strained local economy.

Objectives of the proposal include:

• To implement nutrition education, counseling and food preparation programs at All Saints’ and Ascension Episcopal Churches, as well as replenish and expand the food and personal care products provided through the pantries operated by St. Stephen’s, All Saints’ and Ascension.

• To develop and implement a community collaborative to assist in funding the economic recovery and revitalization of Ferguson-area businesses.

• To develop and implement a public/private sector partnership to extend the reach of the St. Stephen’s, All Saints’ and Ascension food pantries to the homebound in North St. Louis County and City through a mobile service staffed by trained, mentored and compensated young residents of the community.

Read the whole report here.

St. Mark's in Maryland acknowledges its historical links to slavery

St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Lappans, Maryland, dedicated two markers this past week.
According to the rector, the church was founded in 1849 by slaveholding families.

One commemorates the African-American slaves who were baptized, married and buried at the church.

The second marker recognizes the church’s use as a field hospital for soldiers wounded in the Civil War battles of Antietam and Gettysburg.

The church also made a video for the occasion, which details the history of the enslaved people who came through St. Mark's. You can see it here, and it is moving beyond words.

Grace Callwood heals the sick

Grace Callwood, a nine year old cancer survivor from Bel Air, Maryland, is inspiring many other children and adults through We Cancerve:

When she first began receiving chemo in 2011, Grace put on a lot of weight and was unable to wear her brand new back-to-school clothes. When the little girl discovered that a homeless family in her neighborhood had two young girls of her own age, she decided to give them her clothes.

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Proper Christian womanhood and the Ray Rice story

As the Ray Rice story continues to unfold, Eric C. Miller reminds us that one in four women are victims of domestic violence and one in five are victims of rape. In American history, and in Church history, Miller makes the linkage between "Christian womanhood" and domestic violence:

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Pope Francis speaks out against "Third World War"

On Saturday in Italy, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Italian military memorial of Redipuglia. Remembering those who died in World War I, Pope Francis spoke out against the "madness of war" and both terrorists and arms merchants as responsible for perpetuating destruction:

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Can we learn to love our enemies, even ISIS?

Can we learn to love our enemies, even the evildoers who are part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?The Rev. Philip DeVaull, rector of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church in Costa Mesa Calif., argues that with God's help, we can. He writes in the Orange County Register:

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Clergy and police team up in Rochester

From the Huffington Post:

The city of Rochester, New York will kick off a program on Saturday aimed at improving relations between community members and law enforcement -- and the timing could not be better.

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Elements of a sermon that works

What makes for a successful sermon? Keep it to eight minutes or less, and leave politics out, says the Rev. J. Perry Smith, a retired Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Florida. He writes in the Wall Street Journal:

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Hating Muslims is not Christian

The Rev. Jan Fuller is an Episcopal priest and the University Chaplain at Elon University.

Recently, I was forwarded a hateful email which characterized Muslims — all of them — as un-American, un-Godly and violent, among other unfounded negatives I refuse to repeat. Fortunately, the forwarder wanted my opinion on the claims in the unsigned, unattributed, and frequently re-forwarded email.

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How some churches support spousal abuse

Boz Tchividjian looks at how some churches support spousal abuse in both direct and indirect ways.


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Where it is still illegal to be homosexual

Dozens of countries still outlaw homosexuality and some punish gays and lesbians with death. This map from Equaldex shows the lay of the law around the world:

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The faithful who stop coming to church

When the conversation turns to "the decline of the church," especially among young adults, we tend to focus on program, technique and demography. But we seldom talk about the need for, and the difficulty of, church being a place of authentic relationship in community. While we tinker, we do not face the truth that many people--not just young adults-- are just "one Sunday brunch away from never returning.”

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LGBTQ folks scare me

Louie Clay (né Louie Crew), of the Diocese of Newark and a founder of Integrity, says that sometimes "LGBTQ folks scare me."

He writes:

LGBTQ folks scare me when we take our sexual orientation too seriously. A priest recently told me, "Homosexuality is the litmus test of spirituality in the church today."

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The death of adulthood, or just the exhaustion of the patriarchy?

A. O. Scott, the chief movie critic of The New York Times has written an intriguing essay for the paper's magazine, in which he suggests that the fates of various high profile television characters including Don Draper, Walter White and Tony Soprano reflect not only the exhaustion of the patriarchy, but also, perhaps, "the death of adulthood in American culture." You will want to read the whole thing to get a sense of what he is saying and what he isn't. But here is a taste:

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In churches: more diversity, more drums

Cathy Lynn Grossman of Religion News Service writes:

U. S. religious congregations are marching to their own drums now more than ever. The National Congregations Study’s latest look at the country’s churches, synagogues, and mosques — the third wave of studies that began in 1998 — finds more congregations:

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Further responses to the letter from TREC: one pro-ish, one con

The Rev. Keith Voets, who blogs at The Young Curmudgeon Priest has read the recent open letter from the Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church and is hopeful about TREC's direction

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How do you observe the 9/11 anniversary?

Today is the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that we now refer to simply as 9/11.
It is the sort of day that people want to commemorate, even if widely-practiced commemorative customs and rituals haven't quite fallen into place yet.

How do you mark 9/11?

I listen to this song, and, if the day permits, the entire album.

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Is the war against ISIL a "just war"?

Here is the full text of the speech in which President Obama outlines his plan "to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL."

"First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. ….

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. ….

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World Suicide Prevention Day

Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, writes in The Huffington Post on how we can work end suicide. From his article:

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"American prosperity was built on slavery and torture"

Matthew Yglesias of Vox reviews Edward Baptist' new book: The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. The article references the "...bizarre (and since retracted) Economist review that accused the book of being "advocacy" rather than "history" on the grounds of the author's anti-slaveholder bias" that has ironically brought the book welcomed attention.

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Vatican "secret" archives revealed

CRUX has a online picture album from inside the Vatican archives. It's not the stuff of Dan Brown, but still rather fascinating:

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Calling for genocide

Two publications published items this weekend calling for genocide against Muslims. One was a blog post in The Times of Israel and the other an item in Charisma Magazine. Patheos reports:
From The Times of Israel:

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Evangelicals for Marriage Equality

Time Magazine reports on a new organization of Evangelicals For Marriage Equality and why they are starting an initiative for evangelicals to support civil marriage equality:

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Detroit: Trouble over the water

The Detroit Water Brigade has released a new video about the situation in Detroit.

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Pastafarian wins right to wear colander for driver's license photo TV News reports on a woman who had her driver's license photo taken with a spaghetti strainer on her head:

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More TREC reaction

The reaction to the latest open letter from the Taskforce to Reimagine the Episcopal Church continues to roll in, as folks have a chance to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.

To get you caught up, no one seems to like using Lazarus as a starting scripture.

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Canon Kenneth Kearon selected as bishop in Ireland

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has been elected bishop in Ireland. The Rev. Canon Dr. Kenneth Kearon, who has served in his present role since 2004, was elected bishop of Limerick and Killaloe.

He succeeds the Rt. Rev. Trevor Williams, who retired in July.

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Ottawa church responds to graffiti with mission

Trinity Anglican Church, in downtown Ottawa, has a large brick wall, facing the street, that had long been a target of vandals and impromtu street artists. Tired of the high price of constant graffiti removal, the priest decided to reach out to the community, and design a new mural that everyone would work on together.

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Taiwan HoB meeting: to go or not to go?

The Rt. Rev. Dan Martins, bishop in the diocese of Springfield, has posted on his blog his intent to skip the upcoming House of Bishops meeting in Taiwan.

He explains his decision, citing several factors: the undue expense, the regrettable impression it would send, and, what he describes as "a polemical narrative about the character of the Episcopal Church."

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Joan Rivers: humor with a Jewish touch

As people remember the life of Joan Rivers, Cathy Lynn Grossman of the Religion News Service reflects upon the Jewish cultural aspect of some of her humor. Grossman reports:

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Food truck faith

In St. Paul, Minnesota, a food truck ministry named "Shobi's Table" is emerging as a mobile ministry serving hungry and homeless individuals:

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The sacred in silence

In a column from Lancaster Online, Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans offers a reflection about the diminishing amount of silence in our world and the implications for our spiritual lives. She begins with three questions:

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Episcopal Chaplain at Yale resigns

The Rev. Bruce Shipman has resigned as Priest-in-charge of the Episcopal Church at Yale. This comes in the wake of the controversy that arose because of a letter he wrote to the New York Times on August 24 saying that the rise of anti-Semetic demonstrations in Europe is linked to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

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Responses emerging to TREC's letter to the church

Reaction to the Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church’s open letter to the church has begun to emerge.

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Does your diocesan annual meeting need a rethink?

The same day the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) issued its Letter to the Church, the Diocese of Virginia issued A Letter from the Bishop: Important Updates on Annual Council.

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Assessing Welby as a leader

Ian Paul reviews a biography of Archbishop Justin Welby and assesses his leadership style.

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The rising number of homeless gay teens many from "religious families"

While life gets better for millions of gays, the number of homeless LGBT teens - many cast out by their religious families - quietly keeps growing.

Rolling Stone:

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The liberation of a Theology

Gradually a theology of God's liberating preference for the poor has itself been liberated. First, Pope Francis removed the roadblocks to sainthood for Archbishop Óscar Romero of San Salvador, who was shot dead while saying Mass in 1980 and he has also lifted the ban on a priest who served Nicaragua's Sandinista government in the same era.

Paul Valleley writes in The New York Times:

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Churches and others partner for clean water

The World Health Organization says that more than 2 billion people have gained access to an improved source of drinking water since 1990.

Christian Century:

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A hospice ministry for dying churches

Ed Stetzer who blog for Christianity Today says it is time to create hospice ministries for dying churches. He writes:

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A bishop's plea for peace in South Sudan

An Anglican bishop in South Sudan is imploring warring factions to make peace and not risk the young country's future. Bella Zulu of Anglican Communion News Service writes /a>:

Bishop of Wau Diocese in South Sudan, the Rt Revd Moses Deng Bol stressed that for the young African nation to have a viable future there needed to be “love and unity” among its people.

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TREC recommends a powerful Presiding Bishop, weakened Council and Convention, replacing much staff with contractors

The Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) today released a report in which sets out a vision of an Episcopal Church led by a Presiding Bishop with few checks on his or her executive powers.

The report recommends diminishing the size of the Executive Council and limiting its role in the management and governance of the church; reducing the size of General Convention, shortening its duration and limiting its agenda; and replacing much of the full time staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society with contractors appointed by the Presiding Bishop.

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Who's an Episcopalian? Who's an Anglican? Pew has data. Does it help?

On the Church and State blog at Religion News Service, Tobin Grant takes a crack at explaining the difference between Episcopalians and Anglicans in the United States. I am not sure the data he relies on is useful because plenty of Episcopalians identify as Anglicans because they don't want members of schismatic groups to appropriate the word.

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What a VTS student heard in Ferguson

Broderick Greer, a student at Virginia Theological Seminary, visited Ferguson, Missouri, recently during the protests that followed the killing of Mike Brown, an unarmed black teenager by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Here is an excerpt from an essay Greer wrote for Huffington Post:

On August 22, 2014, 42 people loaded a bus at Washington, DC's Union Station to embark on a 14-hour journey to Ferguson, Missouri.

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1 in 5 U.S. kids live in households that lack adequate food

Turning off football

While we are on the subject of morality and personal choices to participate or not in cultural practices:

Patton Dodd discusses Steve Almond's book on choosing to stop watching football and asks if we can have a conversation about football and the morality of supporting a sport that does so much damage to its players. Can football be saved from itself?

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Abetting evil: ISIS videos and Jennifer Lawrence photos

Michael Daly writing at the Daily Beast asks: "The Steven Sotloff execution video, like the James Foley video before it, was made for you to see. The stolen celebrity nude photos were never meant for you to see. So should you?"

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