Good bye, part two: pay attention, tell the truth, say thank you

Dear friends,

I started blogging just under nine years ago when NBC announced that it was airing The Book of Daniel, a television show about an Episcopal priest. The show crashed quickly, but the blog had received national news coverage and we had a large and feisty audience, so I decided to keep it going. The Blog of Daniel was succeeded by Daily Episcopalian, a blog devoted primarily to the struggles over the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion. At some point, while keeping that blog, it occurred to me that it was going to be difficult to persuade people that the Episcopal Church was more than an argument over human sexuality if all I covered were arguments over human sexuality. And so, Episcopal Café was born.

Since the Café opened its metaphorical doors in mid-April 2007, it has been visited not quite 6.9 million times by almost 374,000 of what Google Analytics calls “users.” We’ve developed a Facebook following of more than 13,400 and a Twitter following of almost 11,350. We’ve posted more than 20,000 items and our visitors have posted more than 45,000 comments. Along the way I think we have established that there is a hunger for an independent news source in the Episcopal Church, and that a band of volunteers could produce a website that performed that ministry fairly well.

Today marks the end of the Café in its current iteration. The blog will go dark at some point tomorrow and come back online with a new look and under new leadership on Monday, December 1. Our Facebook and Twitter streams will remain live during this period, although as we head into Thanksgiving weekend, I don’t know how active they will be.

Before signing off, I want to thank

• Jon White, the Café’s new editor, for being willing to take the baton and run with it. I am going to do him the great favor of staying the hell out of his way.

• Bill Joseph of Words if Necessary, who has kept the Café alive when it was on technological life support and nursed it back to health. We wouldn’t still be here without him. (And if you are looking for someone who knows and loves the Episcopal Church to build you a website, he’s your guy.)

• Bishop John Chane and Canon Paul Cooney who allowed me to spend $20,000 of diocesan money to develop the Café back in 2007 and who gave me the independence to pursue it by my own journalistic lights.

• Mel Ahlborn, then president of Episcopal Church in the Visual Arts, who told me at the 2006 General Convention, that she had the solution to my desire to have a fresh, eye-catching image on the homepage every week.—and did! Thanks, too to C. Robin Janning who succeeded Mel at ECVA and kept the Art Blog alive.

• Helen Mosher for launching us into the world of Facebook and Twitter.

• Rebecca Wilson, my partner in Canticle Communications, who was gracious in tolerating the amount of time the Café required from me during the five years we have worked together.

Over the years the newsteam, which kept three to six items on The Lead (by far the most visited of the five blogs that compose the current iteration of the Café) every day has included Chuck Blanchard, Peter Carey, Megan Castellan, John Chilton, Ann Fontaine, Andrew Gerns, Theresa Johnson, Nick Knisely, Torey Lightcap, Weston Mathews and Kurt Wiesner. Working on the news blog requires not only posting three to six items on one day each week, but also participating in the sometimes-intense conversations in which we decide what to post. I am grateful to everyone who was so generous with their time and their talent.

I especially want to thank Ann Fontaine who took up a lot of the slack that was created when I left the Diocese of Washington to form Canticle Communications. She took over the editorial leadership of the Daily Episcopalian and Speaking to the Soul blogs and kept them fresh and functional. I own no one greater thanks than Ann.

The Speaking to the Soul blog was (and will continue to be) a daily feature of the Café. We’ve had some gifted contributors, but I owe a special thanks to Vicki Black, Lowell Grisham and Lora Walsh for three-to-five submissions per week for months at a time. A tip of the hat, too, to more recent stalwarts Maria Evans, Linda Ryan, Laurie Gudim and David Sellery.

I’d guess that as many as 100 writers have contributed essays to the Daily Episcopalian blog. I appreciated the steadfastness and creativity of Deirdre Good, Donald Schell, Marshall Scott and Kathleen Staudt and the keen conversation-defining gifts of Derek Olsen and George Clifford. I’ll read anything by Sam Candler and Heidi Shott.

During my years at the Café and its predecessors I have had the opportunity to work with brave and faithful people like Susan Russell and Gay Jennings. I also had the chance to share information and conversation with some sharp fellow scribblers like Terry Martin (Father Jake) and Simon Sarmiento. I am grateful to all of the journalists who followed the Café in the years when the Anglican sexuality struggles were at their height.

Finally:

I worked as a newspaper reporter from most of the years between 1979-1993 and sometimes, standing on the edge of a newsroom in which dozens of reporters, editors, photographers and designers were busily working on the next day’s paper, I’d be struck by the fact that all of these people were committed in that moment to the proposition that what was happening in that city at that moment was important, that the activities of the day were important enough to be recorded, illustrated, analyzed and shared. Those of us who worked on the Café over these last seven years and seven months have felt the same way about the Episcopal Church.

We have been motivated by the conviction that what our church is up to matters. And so we have paid attention, and we’ve tried to tell the truth. And maybe in a small way we’ve helped our readers understand a little more about the Episcopal Church and helped the church reflect more deeply on the work that God is calling us to do. I hope so. Editing and writing for the Café has been among the handful of experiences that have defined my life in the last decade and I know the experience will continue to shape me long after I sign off tonight.

Thanks to everyone who visits the Café, to everyone who has sustained it, and to everyone who will carry on its work.

In faith,
Jim Naughton

No indictment of Ferguson police officer in fatal shooting of Michael Brown

Updated at bottom with statements

A grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri, has returned no indictment against Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen on August 9, igniting weeks of protests and touching off a national debate on police violence in African American communities.

Churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and other communities of faith in the Ferguson area are offering themselves as "safe spaces" in the wake of the announcement.

Earlier today, the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis wrote a prayer for the grand jury on his blog. It begins:

This morning, let us pray for the members of the grand jury that reconvenes today.

Let us not pray for any specific outcome. Let us not pray for any specific timetable. Let us pray for the men and women who make up that body.

Later in the day, Kinman wrote:

The announcement will be at 8 tonight. You are welcome and encouraged to join us at Christ Church Cathedral at that time. When the announcement is made, we will first observe 4 1/2 minutes of silence (in accordance with the request of the Brown family ... we must never forget that at the center of this is the death of a child) and then begin our 24 hour vigil of prayer.

The vigil will be a combination of corporate prayer and song as well as much time for silent prayer. There will be art supplies available and pastoral counselors here. Come be with us in prayer or pray where you are.

If you feel called to go to the streets and join the demonstrations, ... let me know so I can hold you in prayer (anyone can also text or call me if you want me to pray with you or talk). Please remember that although the demonstrations have been almost completely nonviolent on behalf of the demonstrators so far, that whenever you have a crowd full of emotion and police who are on edge the situation can change quickly. I recommend you NOT go to a demonstration alone, carry a spare cell phone battery and have a plan of what you are going to do if things turn chaotic or violent. Make that choice beforehand so you have a plan. That is not me being alarmist -- I have great hope that tonight will be powerfully nonviolent -- but it is being realistic to prepare in case it is not.

Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Missouri have been deeply involved in working with communities in and around Ferguson in anticipation of the verdict. A diocesan news release begins: Last week Bishop Wayne Smith wrote to the people of the diocese that as people of God, we do well to prepare spiritually, "Corporate and personal prayer become crucial in times like these, and I know that some congregations expect to open their doors to be places of prayer for their neighborhoods. Their doing so encourages me, and I hope that you will publicize these invitations broadly." (Follow the link for the release to see a list of churches.)

The Rev. Teresa Danieley of St. John's Episcopal Church in Tower Grove, Missouri is featured in the story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Churches to serve as safe spaces after Ferguson grand jury announcement."

The Praying with Our Feet website is often a good source of information on how faith groups are preparing for and responding to events in Ferguson.

The Episcopal Church has published "A Way Forward: Reflections, Resources and Stories Concerning Ferguson, Racial Justice and Reconciliation" on its web site.

Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times' article "Praying and Waiting" gives a good sense of the mood among people of faith inthe St. Louis area before the grand jury's decision was released.

Amy Julia Becker has written a column for Christianity Today saying "White Christians: It's Time to Stand in Solidarity With Your Black Brothers and Sisters."

All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena released the following statement:

Standing with Ferguson “As we watch the news breaking from Ferguson, Missouri we recognize once again the harsh reality that structural racism is a given in our nation,” said Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena. Our prayers are with the people of Ferguson as they seek to express in nonviolent ways their insistence on justice. This challenge, issued by St. Louis Cathedral Dean Mike Kinman, is one we take as our own today: “It is up to us whether Ferguson and St. Louis will just be the identified patient for American racism or whether this will spark a national movement for transformation, a movement that will not end until all people are treated as beloved images of God.” Today we stand with those who are distraught over the vulnerability of unarmed young men of color in our country. We stand with those holding our law enforcement officials accountable to the safety and well being of ALL community members and to ensure that they work towards methods the produce mutual trust and respect. And we stand with members of the law enforcement community committed to overcoming structural racism and making liberty and justice a reality in our cities, our streets and our communities. May we be the change we yearn to see as agents of love, justice and compassion in our nation and in our world as we stand with Ferguson as people of hope and reconciliation.

Good bye, part one: What I think I've learned

Dear friends,

I am signing off today after 7 1/2 years as editor of the Episcopal Café. I think I have learned a few things in that time, or maybe I have just developed a few opinions. Whatever the case, I wanted to share a few parting thoughts with you.

So here is what I think I know:

• That the people of the church must seek out their neighbors in ways that may be uncomfortable to them, and that they must find ways to draw these neighbors into conversation, preferably by listening before we speak. We cannot be Christ to people whom we do not know, or with whom we have only superficial relationships.

• That the church lacks the human and financial resources to do much of the work it wants to do. We lack capacity at every level from parishes through dioceses up to the church center staff. We need to acknowledge this reality, acknowledge that it is no one’s fault, and set to work doing something about it. Combing dioceses and merging parishes would cut overhead. Making lay training at the grassroots level the top priority of diocesan staff members would increase our skill levels. We are able to ignore this widespread reality in part because some of our parishes and dioceses are immune from it. We can’t succeed as the Consortium of Affluent Episcopal Parishes—but that is the direction in which we are heading.

• That diocesan bishops in their local role are, at the moment, the people most strategically placed individuals in the church. Bishops and the rectors of large parishes are among the few people in our system who have the resources to make significant changes in the way that the church does business. But the rectors of large parishes often preside over communities that are flourishing and have little impetus to change. Not so for bishops. They know that in most dioceses a handful of parishes are thriving, another handful or two are holding their own, and the remainder are struggling. Bishops have both the resources, relatively speaking, and the sense of urgency to make changes. (Now, if we would only reward more candidates with the courage to articulate a strategic vision when they stand for election as bishops.)

• That the leaders of the church must trust the people of the church to do the work of the church. The amount of commentary on social media about the things that lay people do wrong—from taking too long with church announcement, to liking the wrong kind of music, to allowing their children to play youth sports on Sundays, to putting their Christmas decorations up too early and taking them down too late—suggests but an unwillingness to trust lay people in small largely personal matters, let alone in the leadership of the church.

• That lay people must a) get past the notion that the church exists primarily as an oasis in their hectic lives; b) understand that excellence in a particular ministry (liturgy, music, buildings and grounds, even outreach) is as likely to be a product of a congregation’s budget as of its fidelity; c) stop treating clergy with either absolute deference or profound suspicion; d) similarly, accept that a gifted bishop or rector is not personally the answer to all that ails your church, and that much of this burden is yours to bear.

• That church communities have an understandable desire to avoid conflict, especially if this involves challenging established authority, but that this creates a climate (from the 815 Second Avenue, to the smallest parish, to social media) in which bullying is tolerated. In this, I think we are all—at times—complicit.

• That sorting wheat from chaff on the issue of young people and their relationship to the church is among the toughest jobs in Christendom.

• That tens of thousands of great many gifted, loving, God-hungry people have dedicated their lives, or slivers of their lives, to this church because they believe that it is the truest expression of the faith to which God calls us.

• That I’d be lost without it.

I will be back to say some thanks before signing off later this evening.

Cheers,
Jim Naughton

White mainline Protestants aren't sweating climate change

Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post writes:

A new poll released Friday shows major differences between faith groups on topics including concern over climate change, whether natural disasters are a sign of biblical end times and how deeply connected they feel to nature.

White evangelicals are the most skeptical of climate change and the most likely to say recent natural disasters are a sign of “biblical end times.” Hispanic Catholics are, by faith affiliation, the most concerned about climate change, along with religiously unaffiliated Americans and black Protestants.

The poll by Public Religion Research Institute also indicate that white mainline Protestants are among those least concerned about issues of climate change, as the graphic below makes clear.

climate.jpg

In addition PRRI found:

Close to half (46%) of Americans say that the earth is getting warmer and that these changes are primarily the result of human activity. We characterize this group as climate change “Believers.”

One-quarter (25%) of Americans believe the global temperature is rising, but say the change is due to natural fluctuations in the earth’s environment or are uncertain about its cause. We describe this group as climate change “Sympathizers.”

Finally, more than one-quarter (26%) of Americans say there is no solid evidence that the earth’s temperature has been rising over the past few decades. We call this group climate change “Skeptics.”

Is this another issue on which people refuse to acknowledge the validity of overwhelming scientific evidence because they are under the misguided impression that it necessary undermines their faith? Or are other factors at work?

Church gives parishioners money, tells them to give it away

Today is my last day as editor of Episcopal Cafe, and I hope to have a few thoughts about the church and my experience as editor later on. But let's start with this story about LaSalle Street Church in Chicago that distributed 10% of the money it received for a real estate deal to parishioners ($500 a piece) and asked them to give it away.

Sharon Cohen of the Associated Press writes:

Not surprisingly, many donations from the congregation will reach far-flung places, including a school in the Himalayas, a health clinic in Uganda and an irrigation project in Tanzania. Closer to home, some checks are going to families and friends in financial trouble.

Church members, [Pastor Laura] Truax says, are doing just what she'd envisioned when she distributed the checks that first Sunday in September.

"I hoped that they would recognize the power they had to bless others and change somebody's life," she says. "I hoped that they would see their connection between their little piece and the bigger thing the church was called to do, that they would feel like they actually had some skin in the game, some prayers in the game. And that has largely happened."

If you were given $500 by your parish, what would you do with it?

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 onelicense.net
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
restrictive.”

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”

ens_071414_EYE-pray.jpg

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.

Really?

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

s.

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.


Reuters:
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...

...is 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.”

Thoughts?

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.

journalsentinelonline:

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 gofundme.com 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.”

ACNS:

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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 TalkPoverty.org, 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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