Virginia Bishops "step up" in amici brief

The Friends of Jake blog rejoice over the Virginia Episcopal Bishops (Diocese of Virginia and Southern Virginia) joining a multi-faith group in an amici brief in the marriage case in Virginia:

This is what they pulled from the brief:

Amici curiae represent a broad range of religious stakeholders who support equal treatment for same-sex couples with respect to civil marriage. While Amici come from faiths that have approached issues affecting lesbian and gay people and their families in different ways over the years, they are united in the belief that, in our diverse and pluralistic society, particular religious views or definitions of marriage should not be permitted to influence whom the state allows to marry. Such rights must be determined by religiously neutral principles of equal protection under the law....

Any attempt to have the Court embrace specifically religious views or definitions of marriage must be rejected –among other reasons because that result would disfavor and disadvantage other religious believers, like Amici here, who do not embrace the arguments or conclusions of amici seeking reversal. By affirming the judgment below without reference to religiously based arguments, and affirming the constitutional promise of equal treatment for different-and same-sex couples, this Court will ensure that civil law neither favors nor disfavors any particular religious viewpoint, and it will leave individual faith communities free to determine for themselves whether to provide religious sanction to particular unions.


For the foregoing reasons, Amici respectfully submit that the Court should affirm the judgment of the court below that Virginia’s ban on marriages of same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

Christian ecofeminist theology today

Erica Lea offers a thoughtful reflection in Christian Feminism Today: "Gaia, Sallie McFague, and You Walk into a Bar...Christian Ecofeminist Theology Today".

Lea begins:

Gender equality and environmental stewardship come from a shared root that affirms the dignity of all creation.

A basic tenet of feminism is that women are equal with men. This concept is applied in a number of spheres— politics, law, psychology, religion. A basic tenet of Christian feminism is that God creates all people, including gender identity, to have equality in the Kingdom of God through God’s love as expressed in Jesus Christ’s redemptive work. Christian ecofeminist theology narrows even more specifically by focusing on a relationship between gender and ecology with a particularly Christian lens.

It is not enough to talk about creation care and preservation—or even enough to make meaningful changes, big and small, for positive creation stewardship. Margaret Thatcher famously said, “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits.” How we conceptualize creation and how we speak of creation impacts our actions and habits.

She then explores gender and conceptualizing God and Creation (primarily using Sallie McFague's work), along with identifying possible next steps.

Evangelical pastor for full inclusion

Ken Wilson's new book, "A Letter to My Congregation: An Evangelical Pastor's Path to Embracing People who are Gay, Lesbian and Transgender into the Company of Jesus" is discussed in an interview with Religion Dispatches' Candace Chellew-Hodge.

From the interview:

Q: So, how are you living out your new idea of accepting LGBT people into your own congregation, based on your study of Romans 14 and 15 that calls for acceptance of everyone even when there are deep disagreements?

Right when I was ready to "cross the Rubicon," so to speak, on this issue with my congregation, I received an email from a lesbian woman who told us she and her partner were having their first child and they had not found a church they wanted to attend. They wanted to know if they would be accepted. They didn't ask if they'd be welcomed, they asked if they would be accepted. In Romans 14, the word is "acceptance," so this was our test case.

Our answer has to be yes or no—you can't partially accept a person.

The gay and lesbian people who come to our church require courage, especially if they go to churches in the evangelical orbit. What they find here are people with differing views on this but those who come have found a home and a sense of belonging. However, I have to be extra alert as the pastor to make sure it is a safe place for them.

I try to be honest with the gay and lesbian people who come that it's not a resolved issue within our church, but gay and lesbian people are used to that. But the gay and lesbian people who come are the most amazing people. The amount of love they have for Jesus to go through that process of reconciling their spirituality and sexuality is incredible. As a pastor, you're not used to that.

The straight people who come believe the church has won the sweepstakes when they join because they can go down to any other church, so they're looking for a church to deliver their niche needs. For gay and lesbian people, all they want is to belong and if you're willing to accept them it's like the original Gentiles coming to faith.

There's so much God-activity in all of this and pastors who aren't welcoming these people are missing out.

Deep Peace of the Running Wave: Earth Day 2014

An Earth Day meditation: Deep Peace of the Running Wave

h/t to Diana Butler Bass

What if your church never gets another member?

What might happen if your church never gets another member. Thoughts from Derek Penwell at D-mergent. When your dreams cannot be fulfilled as a church or personally what can you do?

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UTO contributions increase $80,477.51

Good news from the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs:

Donations to the United Thank Offering jumped over $80,000 while grant applications increased.

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Heaven is Real: movie review

A very popular movie (earned $21.5 million in its first weekend) this past weekend was Heaven Is Real. Did you see it? What are your thoughts. Here are a few from Mary Valle at Religion Dispatches:

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Debriefing Easter

Now that the annual liturgical endurance trial known as Holy Week and Easter is behind us, those of us who work in the church professionally have turned our attention to nice, long naps.

But a blogger over at A Church for Starving Artists asks how we, who spend so much time and energy planning these services, should evaluate them? Should we critique the placement of the flowers? How smoothly the processions went? Or should we dig deeper?

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The problematic rise of voluntourism

Rafia Zakaria takes on the rise of "voluntourism" vacations, or vacations which combine foreign travel with a helping of charity work, in a column on Al-Jazeera English.

She points out that these vacations fuel the white-savior complex that already runs rampant in much of the West, while doing little permanent good for those who actually need help.

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With Easter egg hunts, come iffy parents

Chaos broke out in New Zealand during what was supposed to be a charming Easter egg hunt. Organizers expected around 5,000 children, but over 30,000 showed up. This, however, was not the main issue.

Problems arose when over eager parents, intent on harvesting the most chocolate eggs for their precious little ones, disregarded restrictions and entered the "children's only" egg-hunting area.

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In depth interview with Archbishop of Canterbury

Over the Easter weekend, the UK paper The Telegraph ran a multipart interview with ++Justin Welby which covers a lot of ground.

He further clarifies, though doesn't really walk back, his earlier statements linking attacks on Christians in Africa with increased support for LGBTQ rights in the West.

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Orthodox Christians Celebrate Holy Fire on Easter

At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, Orthodox Christians marked Easter with a 1,200 year old tradition of a new fire marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

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Pope Francis' Easter Vigil Message

At St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday, Pope Francis baptized ten new Christians at the Easter Virgil and, in his homily, urged those gathered to remember where they first found their faith. Pope Francis concluded by saying,

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Shannon Johnston and Tory Baucum build a bridge across an Anglican divide

For Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Diocese of Virginia and the Rev. Tory Baucum, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, building a relationship was not easy in the wake of lawsuits over ownership of the Truro parish property. But in the spring of 2011, Johnston and Baucum began a friendship across a deep fracture in Anglicanism:

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Meditations for the Great 50 Days of Easter

The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead, dean of St.John's Cathedral in Jacksonville (where I happen to work) has recorded a series of less-than-one-minute video messages for the 50 days of Easter, corresponding to meditations in her new book, "Resurrecting Easter."

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'Roses to Go' takes Resurrection to the streets of Shaker Heights

Tuck this terrific idea into your evangelism team's futures file. The Rev. Peter Faass, rector of Christ Church in Shaker Heights, Ohio, wrote this in response to our post about Compline being brought to the public square:

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Through the darkness of Holy Saturday, we wait

Cafe contributor Fr. Andrew Gerns offers this wisdom on Holy Saturday:

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Transferring the observance

Today is Episcopal Cafe's seventh anniversary, but as it is also Holy Saturday, we are transferring the observance, as church folks say, to Thursday April 24. More then.

Understanding Good Friday

Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, recounts how his spiritual journey began one Good Friday long ago.

Thinking Anglicans:

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Pelosi assists Bishop Andrus at foot-washing

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) assisted Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus wash the feet of two children at a San Francisco church.

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God of the dark places

In her new book "Learning to Walk in the Dark," Barbara Brown Taylor nudges Christians to remember that God did not only create the light, but the dark. And she reminds us that often the most serious encounters with the divine happen in the dark. Take Good Friday, for example.

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The geography of evil

The Rev. Dr. Roger A. Ferlo, president of the Bexley Seabury Federation and professor of biblical interpretation and the practice of ministry, preached this sermon at Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer, Chicago.

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Give ourselves in love

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies offers this Good Friday meditation for Episcopal Relief and Development:

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Taking compline to the streets

Two seminarians took compline to the streets on Monday night during Lent in Berkeley. Maggie Foster and Spencer Hatcher, both first-year students at Church Divinity School of the Pacific were discussing ways to attract people to local churches when they decided instead to bring one of the church's ancient liturgies out to the people.

From the CDSP website:

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Washing people's feet, washing people's clothes

"Washing people's feet is fine," I wrote last year on Twitter, "but more people would come to church if we offered to wash their clothes." That joke came back to me last night through the miracle of hashtags and retweeting, and it got me thinking.

I love the church's rituals, but it is important to trace them back to the source. When Jesus washed his disciples feet, their feet were dirty; they needed washing. His actions were symbolically powerful, but Jesus was doing a job that needed doing.

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"Holy Thursday" by William Blake

"Holy Thursday" (Songs of Experience) by William Blake

Read by Toby Jones

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Must a Christian believe Jesus rose bodily from the dead?

"On the third day, he rose again."

Must one believe that Jesus literally rose from the tomb to be a good Christian, or can one believe there was an "Easter event" that his disciples interpreted as a resurrection? Kimberly Winston explores this question in an article for Religion News Weekly.

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Charles Wesley wins Lent Madness' Golden Halo

Charles Wesley has defeated Harriet Bedell to win Lent Madness' Golden Halo. Here's the official release.

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Another religious film: "Heaven is for real"

Claudia Puig reviews "Heaven is for real" in Huffington Post, the movie based on the best selling book about a 4-year-old's near death experiences:

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Ethics and religion talk on legalizing prostitution

Rabbi David Krishef, in his "Ethics and Religion Talk" in Michigan Live, had three clergy panelists make arguments either for or against legalizing prostitution.

Here was the argument (against) made by The Rev. Nurya Love Parish, an associate priest, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church:

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Risks of popular anxiety drugs

NPR's All Things Considered, in an article by Susan Sharon, looks at the risks from the popular benzodiazepines:

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Noah the movie: eco-whacko?

Brook Wilensky-Lanford interviews Ari Handel, screen writer for the movie, Noah, on the environmental issues that some are calling eco-whacko, at Religion Dispatches. On Noah being an "environmental film":

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Public protest in Holy Week

Marcus Borg writes at Day 1 about Jesus' public protest following the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday:

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A church responds to hate in Overland Park

An Overland Park Episcopal Church responds to hate as reported in Time. The Rev'ds Benedict Varnum and Gar Demo write:

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Court returns church building to Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin

Episcopal News Service reports that the courts have ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church in property matters in the Diocese of San Joaquin:

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New play spotlights SC Episcopal bishop story

A new play, premiering in Charleston, South Carolina, tells the story of an Episcopal bishop murdered by one of his own priests in 1928. The play, written by Thomas Tisdale, is entitled "Truth in Cold Blood", and will debut in July, in conjunction with the Enthusiastically Episcopalian Conference.

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Bishop of Kansas releases a statement on OP shootings

The Rt. Rev. Dean Wolfe has released a statement on the shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom in Overland Park, KS yesterday.

He says that the violence of Sunday is a reflection of the larger tide of violence that has overtaken the country.

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Bishop asked to pray at Prayer Breakfast

In another example of why you should always know how to pray off book, even as Episcopalians, President Obama closed the annual Prayer Breakfast today by inviting retired bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, to pray for the group.

+Gene chronicled the unplanned moment on Twitter, calling it as privilege.

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Episcopal Church hosts interfaith vigil

St Thomas Episcopal Church in Overland Park, KS hosted an interfaith vigil of peace and remembrance last night, in honor of the shooting victims at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom.

Their rector, the Rev. Gar Demo, was joined by Rabbi Jacques Cukiekorn of Temple Israel, and their cantor, Adirah Leibshutz.

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UPDATED: Suspect in Kansas Shootings had supremacy ties

More information is now emerging on the situation in Kansas, and it points towards a hate crime.

The shooter has been identified as Frazier Glenn Miller, from Aurora, Missouri. Travelling under the alias of Frazier Glenn Cross, Miller has long been active in the white supremacist community. At one point, he had been jailed for three years for illegal weapons, and for plotting the murder of the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Shooting on the Eve of Passover

Three people were shot and killed after a gunman opened-fire at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom. Two others were unharmed.

The vigil will be held Sunday at 8 p.m. at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church, located at 12251 Antioch Road, in Overland Park.

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Harvard Divinity School Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship Tackles Capitalism and Christianity

For the past four years, the Harvard Divinity School Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship has brought together leading Christian scholars and practitioners for an ecumenical and academic summit. This year, the Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship put together a symposium called, "Christianity and Capitalism" based on student interest.

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Gene Robinson on the Archbishop of Canterbury and Amendment of Life

Former Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson, in his new column at the Daily Beast, weighs in on recent comments by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on the connection between violence in Africa and LGBT marriage equality:

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Rev. Matthew Wright on Second Axial Age Emergence

The Rev. Matthew Wright, a priest serving St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Brewster, NY, and a member of the Community of the Holy Spirit's Bluestone Farm, believes that in our interspiritual world, the Christian Wisdom tradition must be revived and reexamined. In the Contemplative Journal, Matthew writes that becoming aware of Wisdom in our own traditions in this second axial age is the key to union, consciousness, and belonging:

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Flashback: Stephen Colbert on Jesus with a wife

In the news this week, a scrap of papyrus suggesting that Jesus had a wife turns out to be not a forgery. And Stephen Colbert, "America's most famous Catholic," lands a new job as David Letterman's replacement. The Huffington Post offers a roundup of religious highlights from "The Colbert Report," including this clip from a couple of years ago, when the scrap of papyrus in question first came to light:

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The trouble with 'Christian Seders'

Episcopal Cafe blogger Ann Fontaine is not alone in questioning whether it is appropriate for Christian congregations to hold Seders during Holy Week. J. Mary Luti, a retired seminary professor and pastor in the United Church of Christ, is troubled by the idea also. She writes:

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How to make a proper Palm cross

Gathering today to make Palm Sunday crosses? In this video, origami artist Leyla Torres has her mother-in-law, Yvonne Sutton, show us how it's done:

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Why evangelicals ought to love the Book of Common Prayer

An American evangelical scholar looks at the Book of Common Prayer and likes what he reads.

Alan Jacobs, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Baylor University and former professor of English at Wheaton College, has written a history of the Book of Common Prayer as part of Princeton University Press's Lives of Great Religious Books series.

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The relationship between Christian charity and government welfare

Lately, it has become fashionable that churches and charities should replace government in funding and managing social services. Mike Konczal calls this "the voluntarism fantasy," saying that a "complex interaction between public and private social insurance… has always existed in the United States."

The Week:

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"Homeless Jesus" finds a home

The sculpture "Homeless Jesus" has been installed at St. John's Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan.

Grand Haven Tribune:

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