Views on torture not influenced by religion

Virtually every major religious group in the United States has renounced the use of torture. Surprisingly, however, the American public still shows strong support for the use of torture as a tactic in fighting terror. Perhaps even more surprisingly, once other factors are taken into account, one's religious beliefs and frequency of worship appear to have quite modest effects on views about torture.

John G. Green, a professor of political science at the University of Akron and Senior Fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, has an article (PDF) in the Review of Faith & International Affairs that discusses a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey on torture and faith. Pew surveyed public opinion on torture and terrorism in 2004, 2005, and 2006, for the entire public and for six large religious groups: white Evangelical Protestants, white Roman Catholics, white Mainline Protestants, Black Protestants, all other religious communities, and the religiously unaffiliated.

The study found evidence of only a modest effect of religious denomination, particulary when political affiliation--a much more important factor--was taken into account:

Overall this survey found that 17.7 percent of the American public said that torture was “often justified” against suspected terrorists and another 27.8 percent said it was “sometimes justified.” Hence, 45.5 percent had what might be called “permissive” views on torture under these circumstances. Meanwhile, 18.8 percent said that torture was “rarely justified” and 32.8 percent said it was “never justified.” Thus, 51.6 percent of Americans held what might be called “restrictive” views on torture as a tactic in security policy. The results from the fall of 2006 survey were very similar to 2004 and 2005.

Moreover, there was only modest variation in opinion among the religious communities. White Evangelical Protestants were the most permissive of the use of torture, at just over one-half (51.6 percent), and White Catholics were almost evenly divided—47.5 percent accepting and 46.3 percent opposed. Black Protestants (52.8 percent) and white Mainline Protestants (53.2 percent) had a slim majority in opposition, while solid majorities of the composite All Others category (56.4 percent) and the unaffiliated (55.9 percent) held restrictive views.

Frequency of worship attendance was modestly associated with restrictive views on torture as well. Note that for the entire public weekly worship attenders were more likely to oppose torture by a few percentage points than the country as a whole.

The largest influence on views of torture was not religion, but political views:

Not surprisingly, party identification was strongly associated with views on torture. For example, 66.8 percent of Republicans held permissive views on torture, while 66.4 percent of Democrats had restrictive views. The independents were arranged in-between, but with a solid majority of the “pure” independents holding restrictive views. A similar pattern held for ideology: 59.0 percent of respondents who said they were “very conservative” reported permissive views, and 66.4 percent of those who said they were “very liberal” had the opposite position on torture. Here, too, a majority of moderates had restrictive views
The most interesting aspect of the study, however, was that once political views were taken into account by statistical regression analysis, those who worshiped at least once a week had more restrictive views on torture regardless of denomination:

Once the effects of political attitudes were taken into account, being a weekly attending Evangelical was associated with more restrictive views on torture, while being a less observant Evangelical had no impact on torture attitudes (due to a lack of statistical significance). A similar pattern held for Mainline Protestants, Catholics, and the composite group of all other religious groups. These findings are a bit counter-intuitive because weekly worship attenders tend to be more Republican, conservative, and supportive of the Bush administration than their co-religionists. However, it is precisely the impact of such political attitudes on torture attitudes that the statistical model has take into account.

What explains these patterns for weekly attenders? One possibility is that other demographic
characteristics of regular worship attenders are at work behind these figures. And there is some evidence for this possibility: women and older people tend to have more restrictive views of torture, overall and in each religious category. Of course, women and older people are also more likely to be religiously observant compared to men and younger people, so the order of causality is not entirely clear. However, including gender and age in the statistical analysis does not change the basic patterns . . . . very much.

Another possibility is that the flow of information within denominations and congregations encourages a restrictive view of torture. After all, people who attend worship regularly are much more likely to hear messages from denominational leaders and the parish clergy, and it could be that the leader’s statements against torture have reached receptive ears in many religious communities. A final possibility is that the weekly attenders are more familiar with religious teachings that may raise doubts about the morality of torture. While the specific beliefs may well differ from tradition to tradition, an emphasis in the dignity of human beings is common to many faiths.

Read the entire study here.

Is it surprising the religon plays such a small role in influencing views on a moral issue such as torture? Why is this not true of other issues such as abortion and stem cell research?

A field guide to the "New Atheism"

Much has been written about the success of recent books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. David C. Steinmetz, the Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of the History of Christianity at the Duke University Divinity School, offers a useful guide to two of the most prominent "New Atheists."

Probably the best-known of the so-called new atheists are the journalist Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins of Oxford University.

Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, England, and, like Dawkins, educated at Balliol College, Oxford. His book, God Is Not Great, makes it clear that he regards religion as an enemy of civilization, an entirely toxic enterprise that ruins anything it touches.

Religion has its origin in what Hitchens regards as the perfectly understandable human fear of death (since humans are the only animals who know in advance they are going to die) and in the hope, completely unfounded, that there is some way to avoid this grim, but inescapable, fate.

Ever the pugnacious contrarian, Hitchens is witty, combative, sarcastic, intelligent and generally outrageous. He loves to rip out the shirttails of the pious (whatever their religion) and set fire to them.

Dawkins is a somewhat different animal. He was raised as a rather conventional Anglican, but abandoned his faith at 16, when he was persuaded that evolution, and not divine providence, accounted for the rich diversity of the natural world. If purely natural processes provided satisfying explanations for the world as it is, then belief in God became for Dawkins a redundant luxury.

In his book The God Delusion, Dawkins spells out his conviction that reason embraces conclusions based on evidence alone, while faith believes assertions based on no evidence whatever. Worse yet, faith often contradicts evidence that undercuts what it wants to believe.

Professor Steinmetz also offers a summary of the rejoinder to these arguments by Oxford Professor Alister McGrath:
The Oxford theologian Alister McGrath -- himself an adult convert to Christianity from atheism -- challenged Dawkins' view of faith as irrational. McGrath was convinced that Christianity provided him with a richer, more coherent and therefore more intellectually satisfying account of reality than atheism had ever offered. He conceded that his starting point was not reason alone but felt that his position was nevertheless thoroughly rational.

McGrath echoes the argument of St. Augustine that reason needs to be oriented toward the truth so that it can function properly. Faith is not about swallowing as many groundless propositions as possible. It is about an essential alignment with the way things really are. Otherwise, reason is clueless about things that genuinely matter.

Read the entire article here.

The "New Atheism" is not limited to the literary set. A group of enterprising atheists have presented a video "Blasphemy Challenge" on You Tube, urging atheists to show their confidence by denouncing the Holy Spirit. Over one thousand videos have been posted on You Tube in response to this challenge.

One response well worth viewing is that of Father Mathew Moretzs of St. Pauls Episcopal Church in Yonkers, New York. His response can be found here.

Behe trying, once again, to defend Intelligent Design

Professor Michael Behe of the Lehigh University Biological Sciences Department is the intellect behind the Intelligent Design movement, and he has a new book defending his view that Darwinian evolution is incomplete, and that there is evidence of an intelligent designer. Since Intelligent Design is attractive to Christians that believe in a Creator God, we thought that it would be useful to hear from Jerry Coyne, a University of Chicago professor who has a thorough review of Behe's new book in the New Republic.

Professor Coyne begins by summarizing Behe's new argument--as well as Behe's concessions to evolution:

For a start, let us be clear about what Behe now accepts about evolutionary theory. He has no problem with a 4.5-billion-year-old Earth, nor with evolutionary change over time, nor apparently with its ample documentation through the fossil record--the geographical distribution of organisms, the existence of vestigial traits testifying to ancient ancestry, and the finding of fossil "missing links" that show common ancestry among major groups of organisms. Behe admits that most evolution is caused by natural selection, and that all species share common ancestors. He even accepts the one fact that most other IDers would rather die than admit: that humans shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees and other apes.

Why does Behe come clean about all this? The reason is plain. There is simply too much evidence for any scientist to deny these facts without losing all credibility. "Intelligent design" is desperate for scientific respectability, and you do not get that by fighting facts about which everybody agrees. But with most of evolutionary biology accepted, what's left for a good IDer to contest? Behe finds his bugbear in evolutionary theory's view that "random mutation" provides the raw material for evolutionary change.

Professor Coyne then provides a detailed refutation of Behe's scientific argument that quite accessible to the nonscientist, and well worth a careful read by anyone interested in understanding the debate. But perhaps the most important part of Professor Coyne's review comes at the end, when he discusses whether or not Intelligent Design is really a scientific theory:
The first problem is that Behe's "scientific" ideas are offered to the public in a trade book, and have never gone through the usual process of vetting in peer-reviewed scientific journals. This was also the case with Darwin's Black Box. In fact, Behe has never published a paper supporting intelligent design in any scientific journal, despite his assertion in Darwin's Black Box that his own discovery of biochemical design "must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science," rivaling "those of Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schrödinger, Pasteur, and Darwin." Surely such an important theory deserves a place in the scientific literature! But the reason for the lack of peer review is obvious: Behe's ideas would never pass muster among scientists, despite the fact that anybody who really could disprove Darwinism would win great renown.

So let us put some empirical questions to Behe, since his theory is supposedly scientific. Which features of life were designed, as opposed to evolved? How exactly did the mutations responsible for design come about? Who was the Designer? To what end did the Designer work? If the goal was perfection, why are some features of life (such as our appendix or prostate gland) palpably imperfect?

. . .

Is Behe's theory testable? Well, not really, since it consists not of positive assertions, but of criticisms of evolutionary theory and solemn declarations that it is powerless to explain complexity. And it is certainly true that scientists will never be able to give Darwinian explanations for the evolution of everything. The origins of many features, such as the bony plates on the back of the Stegosaurus, are lost in the irrecoverable past. But neither can archaeology unearth everything about ancient history. We do not maintain on these grounds that archaeology is not a science.

Behe waffles when confronted with the testability problem of ID and turns it back on evolutionists, saying that "coming from Darwinists, both objections [the lack of predictions and the untestability of ID] are instances of the pot calling the kettle black." He then waffles even more when implying that ID does not even need to be testable: "Both additional demands--for hard-and-fast predictions or for direct evidence of a theory's fundamental principle--are disingenuous. Philosophers have long known that no simple criterion, including prediction, automatically qualifies or disqualifies something as science, and fundamental entities invoked by a theory can remain mysterious for centuries, or indefinitely."

But who is being disingenuous here? Evolution has been tested, and confirmed, many times over. Every time we find an early human fossil dating back several million years, it confirms evolution. Every time a new transitional fossil is found, such as the recently discovered "missing links" between land animals and whales, it confirms evolution. Each time a bacterial strain becomes resistant to an antibiotic, it confirms evolution. And evolutionary biology makes predictions. Here is one that Darwin himself made: that the earliest human ancestors will be found in Africa. (That prediction was confirmed, of course.) Another was made by Neil Shubin at the University of Chicago: that transitional forms between fish and amphibians would be found in 370-million-year-old rocks. Sure enough, he discovered that there were rocks of that age in Canada, went and looked at them, and found the right fossils. Intelligent design, in contrast, makes no predictions. It is infinitely malleable in the face of counterevidence, cannot be refuted, and is therefore not science.

Read the entire review here.

Behe's book can be found here.

Gay life changing in America says The Economist

The Economist has an interesting analysis of the changing nature of the GLBT community in America. The subtitle says it all: "As tolerance spreads, gay life is becoming more suburban, contented and even dull." Here are some highlights:

Perhaps it is no surprise that gays find a hip city like New York hospitable. But two sets of data suggest that America as a whole is becoming steadily more tolerant. First, opinion polls show that homophobia has receded almost as far as Homer Simpson's hairline. As recently as 1982, only 34% of Americans thought homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle. Now, 57% do. Since young Americans are far more relaxed about homosexuality than their elders—three-quarters of 18-34-year-olds think it is OK to be gay, whereas half of those over 55 think it is not—this trend is likely to continue. This year was also the first since Gallup started asking the question that a majority of Americans have not said that homosexual relations are morally wrong. And a hefty 89% think that gays should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities. If that strikes you as no big deal, recall that a total ban on gays working for the federal government was repealed only in 1975.

Second, and more subtly, one can look at demography. Gary Gates, a Californian academic, has been mining census data to determine where gays live in America. He observes several trends. First, the number of openly gay households is growing five times faster than the population as a whole. The last full census, in 2000, counted nearly 600,000 same-sex couples. Five years later, the American Community Survey (in which the Census Bureau quizzes a statistically representative sample of 1.4m households) estimated that that number had increased by 30%, to 777,000. Mr Gates reckons the bulk of the increase is because as tolerance spreads, more gay couples are willing to be counted.

The increase was most pronounced in the Midwest, with Wisconsin showing an 81% jump in the number of same-sex couples and Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri and Indiana also among the ten fastest-growing states in this respect. What this means, perhaps, is that gay America is becoming more like Middle America. “Much of the stereotype around gays is a stereotype of urban white gay men,” says Mr Gates. “The gay community is becoming less like that, and more like the population in general.” Gay couples are still more likely than straight ones to live in cities, but the gap is smaller than popularly believed, and closing. In 1990, 92% of gay couples but only 77% of American households were in what the Census Bureau calls “urban clusters”. By 2000, the gay figure had fallen to 84% while the proportion for households in general had risen to 80%, a striking convergence.

The article then observes that the greater acceptance is leading many GLBT couples to move to the suburbs:

But if you want to settle down with a partner, the suburbs and the heartland beckon. Gays who have children—and a quarter of gay couples do—gravitate towards them for the same reasons that straight parents do: better schools, bigger gardens, peace and quiet. Mark Strasser, for example, lives with his male partner and their two children in Columbus, Ohio. He says they encounter no hostility eating out as a gay couple or picking up the children from their private school. He has to rack his memory for the last time anyone called him anything nasty for being gay. “That would have been in the late 1980s, I think,” he says. His employer, a private university, offers the same health insurance to employees' gay partners as to spouses (as did most Fortune 500 companies, for the first time, last year).

Mr Strasser has worries, of course. Ohio is one of 26 states with a recent constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. Mr Strasser wonders whether a public school would recognise that his children have two fathers, or if a hospital would allow both of them to visit if one of their children fell ill. This is a serious matter. Only Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage, although six other states have allowed civil unions that are marriages in all but name, and a law allowing full marriage rights passed through the lower house of New York's state legislature on June 19th. Most Americans are still uncomfortable about letting gays tie the knot, but support for the idea has risen from 27% in 1996 to 46% this year.

Read it all here.

Attitudes are clearly changing and there may well be a "virtuous cycle"--as attitudes change, more GLBT people come out and there is a resulting improvement in the attitudes of friends and relatives. The Pew Research Center issued a study that found that 4 our of 10 Americans say they have a friend or relative who is gay or lesbian, and not surprisingly, this group has very different attitudes about issues such as gay marriage than those who claim to have no such friend or relative:

Overall, those who say they have a family member or close friend who is gay are more than twice as likely to support gay marriage as those who don't -- 55% to 25%. A similar relationship between knowing gays and favoring gay rights is evident when people are asked whether school boards should have the right to fire teachers who are known homosexuals. That idea gains support from only 15% of those who have a close friend or family member who is gay. Almost four-in-ten (38%) of those who don't have close friends or family members who are gay support the idea. In other words, those without close friends or family members who are gay are more than twice as likely to say schools should be able to fire gay teachers as are people who are close to gays. Overall, 28% of the public thinks school boards should be able to fire gay teachers.

Read the study here.

God did it, but, honest, he didn't mean it.

The Telegraph reports that some Bishops in the Church of England have suggested that the floods that devastating parts of England are God's judgment. One bishop, the Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, has said that the floods are the result of our lack of respect for the planet, and also are a judgment on society's moral decadence.

The Telegraph reported that Bishop Dow said "This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way."

"We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused, " Dow says.

The bishop, who is a leading evangelical, said that people should heed the stories of the Bible, which described the downfall of the Roman empire as a result of its immorality.

"We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate," he said.

"In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want," he said, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws highlighted its determination to undermine marriage.

"The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance."

He expressed his sympathy for those who have been hit by the weather, but said that the problem with "environmental judgment is that it is indiscriminate".

The West is also being punished for the way that it has exploited poorer nations in its pursuit of economic gain. "It has set up dominant economic structures that are built on greed and that keep other nations in a situation of dependence. The principle of God's judgment on nations that have exploited other nations is all there in the Bible," he said.

He urged people to respond to the latest floods by turning away from a lifestyle of greed to instead live thinking of the consequences of their actions.

Other Bishops laid the blame less on God's judgment and more on humanity's strewardship of the environment.

Global warming has been caused by people's lack of care for the planet and recent environmental catastrophes are a warning over how we behave, according to the Bishop of Liverpool.

"People no longer see natural disasters as an act of God," said the Rt Rev James Jones.

"However, we are now reaping what we have sown. If we live in a profligate way then there are going to be consequences," said the bishop...

"We have a responsibility in this and God is exposing us to the truth of what we have done."

Bishop Dow's assertion that natural disaster is in fact the judgment of God on a sinful culture is an old-fashioned theological back-flip—blame God for the disaster, but absolve God of responsibility by saying God's hand was forced by humanity's bad behavior. So God did it...but it wasn't really God's fault. It is hard to imagine that kind of theology will change anyone's behavior, except that it might help some of the righteous feel better about themselves. Perhaps the most scandalous part of this kind of “teaching” is that people farthest away from the sin being condemned are the ones who are facing the alleged divine wrath. Of course, this approach does nothing to help the actual flood victims come to terms with their own trauma. But hey, in this view of God's economy, someone's got to pay.

Read the rest.

Two more dioceses act to protect Episcopal assets

Two more dioceses are acting to hold departing former Episcopalians accountable for Church property they are holding onto for use in their new congregations.

The Diocese of Massachusetts has sued former Episcopalians who departed their parish to start a new congregation under Anglican Mission in America. While they left the building, the diocese claims that the leadership systematically diverted funds from the parish to a separate account held by an organization that the leadership themselves formed.

the diocese said that over an 11-month period last year, the parish's rector at the time, the Rev. Lance Giuffrida, and the parish's vestry transferred $111,863.36 from the church's treasury to an organization called The Lesser Franciscans Inc., an organization founded in late 2004 with offices at Giuffrida's house and governed by members of the parish's former vestry. The diocese also alleged that the parish spent $85,000 on unknown expenses and gave the Giuffridas a $10,000 loan.

The diocese is asking the court to order the departed parishioners to turn over all the records of the church to the diocese and to repay the missing money.

Read the rest here.

In the Diocese of Connecticut, a Bristol congregation that has voted to depart the Episcopal Church and become part of CANA [Communion of Anglicans in North American] has until July 8th to vacate the building and account for the assets of the parish.

Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith said the Rev. Donald Lee Helmandollar "renounced his orders" and was deposed - the equivalent of being defrocked - on June 13 by the clerical members of the diocesan standing committee. Smith said he has since written to leaders at Trinity Episcopal Church informing them that the diocese intends to take over the property July 8.

Trinity Church in Bristol is the second of the so-called Connecticut Six parishes that Bishop Drew Smith and the Standing Committee has acted to recover. The Rector and Vestry claim the parishes charter, which predates the formation of the Diocese, allows them to leave unilaterally and retain all property and assets. The Diocese claims that the rector of the parish renounced his orders when he was accepted onto the ministerial roles of CANA and that the vestry gave up their fiduciary responsibility over the parish when they voted to align with CANA. The Bishop brought the case of the priest and parish to the Standing Committee after a vote in the parish to join CANA.

Read the rest here.

The politics of moral purpose

Conventional wisdom is that Democrats learned about the importance of talking about faith after the election of 2004. Madeline Bunting, writing in The Guardian, says that Gordon Brown is the third Prime Minister in a row in Great Britain to “do God.” The son of a Church of Scotland minister, he says he will bring “competence and serious moral purpose” to government.

It's a curious phenomenon that at a time when Christianity continues its steady decline in this country, religion has re-emerged as a central inspiration of political rhetoric - not as the flash-in-the-pan aberration of one individual but now well established as a convention of the centre ground, acknowledged by the Cameroons as much as by Labour. This strange afterlife of religious belief must be pretty galling to secularists and humanists.

But even as Brown talks about “moral purpose,” and is comfortable with integrating his faith into his political talk, there are differences between him and his predecessor, Tony Blair.

It's very hard to imagine Brown praying with anyone, let alone George Bush, nor is he likely to make references to God's judgment on his Iraq policy, and least likely of all is his being tempted down the path to Rome. Blair found God in emotionally charged prayer meetings in Oxford hosted by a gregarious Australian vicar. In contrast, Brown saw faith sustaining communities through hardship in his father's ministry - he describes it as "social Christianity". He was not interested in theology and personal salvation in the hereafter, the hellfire and damnation side of Presbyterianism, but in how religion inspires bonds that help individuals and communities through hard times, how it provides solidarity and ensures resilience - and that still fascinates him.

She continues:

Brown's faith bears the hallmarks of his origins. He may have done away with hellfire but he's replaced it with a dour if noble vision of endless duty, effort and obligation - his school motto of "I will try my utmost" - without even the promise of celestial reward. Self-restraint and self-discipline are principles written into the Brown DNA but to a consumer-obsessed, debt-ridden electorate, they are as foreign as Mars.

Read the rest: Madeline Bunting: The church may be struggling, but in politics its rhetoric is on the rise.

Meanwhile politicians in the U.S. continue to play the God card. Recent evidence:
-Stump Speeches Taking a Page from the Bible
-Op-Ed: The Gospel Of Obama
-Faith Has Role in Politics, Obama Tells Church

Casting the net on the net

The Church's presence on the internet is varied and growing. Church-on-the-net is a new internet church site that targets people who not in the Church in a gentle but clearly evangelistic approach. David Walker in his blog, Cartoon Church, interviews Nicola, one of the founders of Church-on-the-net. She says:

We’ve seen a lot of models of online services/worship/community/even ‘church’, but not much particularly evangelistic. Some sites which purport to be evangelistic ask you to sign a statement of faith before you enter! How many ‘bricks’ churches do this? Some ask for donations right up-front (very very common!) and on one I saw, when you click on the question ‘What if I don’t believe in this stuff?’, you get a web page with scary music and the following text in a fiery font: ‘You will most likely go to hell.’ Encouraging!

As for Christian communities online attracting existing churchgoers, both St Pixels and i-church are made up of predominantly Christian members, although I hear i-church is going to be launching a renewed and more evangelistic site soon.

In this country, many congregations are using the internet to extend their reach, most notably but not certainly not limited to Trinity Church, New York, and Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, and Mission St. Clare has become a kind of daily chapel for many Episcopalians. The news blog epiScope and this i-magazine The Episcopal Cafe have their own followings. Certainly Barbara Crafton's Geranium Farm is a varied and interesting internet community, especially anchored by her gentle wisdom and appreciation for the daily foibles of the average parish, cat and garden.

There are even churches in the virtual world Second Life.

Walker concludes in his post:

One thing that I sometimes wonder is whether there are places online that function as ‘church’ even though they do not carry that name and probably did not set out to become such a thing. Communities of blogs, bulletin boards and even the comments sections of individual blogs come to mind. I have to say that that has sometimes been my experience. That said I still remain a fan of the old fashioned style ‘bricks and mortar’ real life church. You should go along one time - you might like it.

Which raises an interesting question. For all the variety of resources and experiences that the Church offers on-line, is an internet Church really a community? Back when virtual churches happened mainly over the television airwaves, a Church Ad Project ad once asked a question that is still relevant today. “With all due respect to tele-evangelists,” the banner headline read. “Have you ever seen a Sony give Communion?”

What do you think? How much community is a virtual community? How do brick-and-mortar churches and i-churches relate to one another?

An American battle on African soil

The focus on homosexuality and the work of establishing parallel Anglican structures in the US and in the Anglican Communion has distorted the relationships of the African Church, made a few powerful at the expense of the average African Christian and distracted them from their mission.

Kerry Eleveld writes a detailed article in the Advocate describing how a few powerful leaders, including Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, have taken a cultural taboo and leveraged into political and religious power both at home in Nigeria and in the United States.

Describing the relationship between Akinola and conservative movements in the American Church as a “union,” between wealthy American religious interest groups and an increasingly self-conscious African Church.

Akinola must have felt a strong calling to make such a move. It put him in defiance of a church tradition, dating back to the fourth century, that limits the activity of a bishop to that bishop’s jurisdiction. Put simply: One bishop doesn’t tread on another bishop’s turf...

The Nigerian primate wrote Schori that due to what he called the “unbiblical agenda'' of the Episcopal Church, “'the usual protocol and permissions are no longer applicable.”
His words depict a leader who is secure in the purity of his agenda. Yet as I began to ask questions about this stern spiritual icon, I discovered an all-too-fallible man who has found that condemning gay people is a shrewd career move.

Eleveld says “No doubt [Akinola], like most Nigerians, grew up believing that homosexuality is a sin. But this pastor has let his flock at home suffer while he networks in America, accumulating power, publicity, and—according to informed observers—money.”

The article describes the context of the typical Nigerian attitude towards gays and lesbians. Davis Mac-Illya,founder of Changing Attitudes-Nigeria, says that “We have been part of the community,” but that homosexuality has come under great scrutiny in Nigeria only in the past few years. “It is only now that the government and the church have decided to use us to its political gain.” The result? “Most people get themselves married, but they still know that they are gay or they are lesbians.”

Mac-Illya and eight were jailed and beaten after a rally in the nation's capital, Abuja, and is routinely the subject of threats of harm and even death.

“It frightens me, although it will not make me stop,” says Mac-Iyalla, who now lives in exile in nearby Togo. “Those who are doing this are Christians and members of the church—they think they are working for God by getting rid of me.”

Both Akinola and the Nigerian government have exploited this issue despite the pressing issues of health, education, and the divide between the oil wealth of the nation and the poverty of much of the population.

Nigeria, with about 120 million people, is the most populous country in Africa and among the poorest in the world. Life expectancy is 47 years, roughly 3 million people are infected with HIV, and between 1996 and 2005, nearly 30% of children under age 5 were malnourished. It is a land of dichotomies, where oil flows at about 2.5 million barrels a day—making Nigeria the largest oil producer in Africa—and yet anywhere from 60% to 75% of Nigerians, according to various sources, live on less than a dollar a day.

And yet he strongly backs a proposed Nigerian law, currently under debate, that would prohibit same-sex marriage and call for a five-year imprisonment of anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or “performs, witnesses, aids, or abets” a such a marriage. The bill even specifies that anyone involved in advocacy for gay and lesbian rights would get five years behind bars. The United Nations, the Bush Administration and 125 religious leaders have condemned the proposed legislation.

Not everyone is happy and not all Anglican leaders in Africa agree with the strategy of increasing influence and prestige at the expense of a minority group and the mission of the Church.

“We debate these things whilst people are dying,” says Bishop Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba of Botswana.

“[Akinola’s] voice has been the icon of the conservative position,” says Mwamba. “[But] Africa is not a monochrome continent. His is the voice that has been given publicity, but it is not the dominant voice.

“The voice which is not heard,” Mwamba continues, “and this is what I would call the real voice of the Anglican Africans, is a silent voice, which simply seeks to live its Christian values without drawing attention to itself. It’s a voice of trying to make ends meet.”

Mwamba sees the real issues of the African people—poverty, the lack of clean drinking water, nutrition, HIV and AIDS, education, women’s rights—being neglected by the small cadre of bishops led by Akinola. “Thousands of kids are dying every day,” Mwamba says. “Now, those are the issues the church should be addressing.”

An other African priest likens the struggle to the hiring of mercenaries.

One anonymous source who is African-born but now works as an Episcopal minister in the United States sees the whole African crusade against homosexuality as someone else’s war. “For me, the primates in Africa are mercenaries who have been hired to fight a war, which in the U.S. they have lost,” he says, adding that Robinson’s consecration was the final straw. “If you are losing a battle, if you don’t have enough manpower to fight, you go and hire mercenaries from somewhere who can fight for you.”

The Rev. Emmanuel Sserwadda, Interim Africa Officer for the Episcopal Church is quoted as saying that while outreach in Nigeria and other central African churches has crippled because funds from Episcopal sources are refused, a handful of American benefactors have increased their influence with Akinola and others with the use of money.

The “influence” Sserwadda describes comes in the form of all-expenses-paid trips to the United States, envelopes that contain several hundred to several thousand dollars—gifts big enough to be meaningful for one person but too small to have serious impact on an entire ministry. The money is nearly impossible to track because it isn’t linked to any specific organization.

“If an American gives an envelope like that, it is not given for the use of the church, it is given to the individual,” says Sserwadda. “Or if not that, someone is flown into the States, and all his bills are paid…. He goes back after doing shopping, and sometimes that person comes with his wife or with his child.…” In other words, it’s a cushy family trip for free.

For U.S. executives, such perks may be common, but by African standards, they are rich. Says Sserwadda: “I am telling you that even [a bishop’s] annual salary cannot facilitate” travel on such a scale.

Sserwadda has not personally witnessed an exchange of money, he says. “But we hear of it,” he adds. “It has been happening.”

Bishop Mwamba concurs: “To a great degree Africa has always been the play field of different powers. The whole issue of sexuality is an American issue that somehow has found itself being played out across the Atlantic in an African conference.”

Read the entire story: The Advocate: Akinola's Power Play

Priest ministers to youth, poor, imprisoned in Lagos

Nigerian Priest, Venerable Geoffrey Chukwuneye, Vicar, All Saints Church, Surulere, Lagos is a rallying point for people of different age groups and gender desirous of finding true happiness and blessings of God.

According to a story in All Africa, by Bonny Amadi, writing in the Lagos Daily Champion,

Chukwunenye does not just wait for people to come to him to seek the face of God but also devotes greater part of his time in searching for lost souls who are confined inside the prison walls, those walking the street as the wretched of the earth as well as people with various diseases and illness who may have given up hope.

The prison evangelism department of his church, hospital outreach and his poverty alleviation programmes have since become a beehive of activities where various food items, clothes, money, property and other items are assembled regularly for the less privileged and needy thereby passing a message that he that oppresses the poor, oppresses his God.

The article tells of how the Vicar develops leaders:
"An apostle of democratic leadership that provides the needs of the common man, this clergy of repute has been an advocate of transparent leadership and on the vanguard to see that the youths who are leaders of tomorrow are taken out of the streets not as political tugs (sic) but as major contributors to the development of our nations economy.

To achieve this, he ensures that special empowerment and training programme are regularly organised for youths to equip them for the challenges of times."

Read is all here

Grace: for girls

The Independent reporters Jonathan Owen and Sadie Gray discuss the publication by the Church of England of a new magazine for 11 to 16 year old girls.

At first glance it looks like any other teen magazine, in a glossy colour cover and in a handbag size - aimed at "girls with spirit". But don't expect to find any tips on snogging techniques. Grace, to be launched next month, is anattempt by the church to appeal to a fresh audience as attendance figures fall.

Funded by a grant from the Archbishop of Canterbury and various church trusts,
Grace is the brainchild of Paul Handley, the editor of the Church Times, who said: "It is for girls who have got a spirit as well as a body and who think there is more to life than shopping."

One big difference, he says, is that the magazine will not contain articles about sex. "It's for 11- to 16-year-old girls, so the assumption is that they are not having sex. We say that the best place for sex is in a marriage, not in a magazine... The message of the magazine is that life at that age is about other things."

An independent focus group of 13-year-old girls from London took a look at Grace last Friday and was, broadly, in favour. Almost oblivious to the religious elements, they welcomed it as an antidote to existing fare aimed at their age group, which they felt is too sexually explicit and promotes super-thin bodies.

Tayra Fuentes, 13, said: "Other magazines make you feel like you're growing up too quickly - you've got to get a boy, got to wear lots of make-up. This one shows there are other things to worry about, like school and friends and sports."

Read the article here

Click here for more on Grace and to download a free copy in pdf.

HT to Dave Walker

Paper or plastic?

As the US and other countries move away from using cash and towards the use of automatic payment of bills, debit and credit cards, churches are joining the cashless society. The Dallas Morning News Sam Hodges, reports on Good Shepherd in Dallas that made the decision to offer parishioners the opportunity to pledge with automatic assessments on their credit cards.

"They want to get the points, and that's fine," said Bobby Brown, the church's business manager.

But is it really Christian to collect frequent flier points on the way to heaven? Are churches that take plastic contributing to the nation's credit card debt crisis? Does automatic assessment rob from the thoughtfulness and spirituality of giving?

One big benefit of automatic giving, the business manager of Good Shepherd and others said, is that it eases what's widely known in church circles as the "summer slump."

People go on vacation and often don't make their scheduled offerings. With automatic credit card or bank draft payment, the church tends to collect more and definitely collects more evenly.

Just as important at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Mr. Brown said, was the need to keep up with how church members prefer to handle their finances.

"We couldn't afford not to do it," he said of the decision to take credit cards.

Does your church use automatic withdrawals, credit or debit cards to collect offerings and tithes?

Read the article here

HT to epiScope

The Church of England shall remain the established church

From Gordon Brown's speech before Parliament today, his first as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:

The Church of England is, and should remain, the established church in England. Establishment does not, however, justify the Prime Minister influencing senior church appointments, including bishops.
The speech, entitled "Constitutional Reform" layed these recommendations (quoting):
The Prime Minister and executive should surrender or limit their powers - the exclusive exercise of which by the Government should have no place in a modern democracy.

These are:
-the power of the executive to declare war;
-the power to request the dissolution of Parliament;
-the power over recall of Parliament;
-the power of the executive to ratify international treaties without decision by Parliament;
-the power to make key public appointments without effective scrutiny;
-the power to restrict Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence services;
-power to choose bishops;
-power in the appointment of judges;
-power to direct prosecutors in individual criminal cases;
-power over the civil service itself;
-and the executive powers to determine the rules governing entitlement to passports and the granting of pardons.

Read it all here.

What the Green Paper from the Ministry of Justice says about the Church is here from Thinking Anglicans.

The Bishop of York welcomes the change to method of appointment.

“I welcome the prospect of the Church being the ‘decisive voice in the appointment of bishops’ which the General Synod called for 33 years ago (in 1974).

“I am grateful for the Prime Minister’s thoughtfulness and for his overt support for the role of the Queen and the establishment by law of the Church of England which have been strongly reiterated in the Green Paper.

“The challenge we face as the Church of England is to use the sacred trust, enshrined in law, for the common good of all the people of England...."

Read the York web site here

Pilot to Peacemaker: podcast with the Presiding Bishop

Listen to a podcast of The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori interviewed by Cathy Lewis on HearSay, a program of WHRO broadcasting over an area from Richmond, VA to the Outer Banks. The Presiding Bishop answers questions of why it is exciting and challenging to be an Anglican in this time, difficulties with change, hopes for the future, legal issues, and being a Christian and scientist in the 21st century. HearSay is a call in show with questions from callers, baptism, combatting pedophilia and abuse, Windsor Report, fallout with churches who are breaking away, the Anglican Communion remaining one body and its importance for mission, growth, and immigration The Presiding Bishop talks about how she balances work and rest in a demanding position.

From the website:
Listen to Segment B: From Pilot to Peacemaker
In the second portion of the show, join Cathy for an intimate conversation with Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, spiritual leader to more than 2.4 million Episcopalians.

Listen to this Podcast here

HearSay website is found here

Another property ruling for the Episcopal Church

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge rules that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is the rightful owner of the buildings and other property of a conservative La Crescenta congregation that broke away from the diocese last year. The decision against St. Luke's of the Mountains comes barely a week after an appeals court panel in Orange County ruled in favor of the six-county Los Angeles diocese in a similar property dispute with three other local churches.

Complete story at Episcopal Life Online

Vote for Florence Li Tim-Oi

BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme wants to name a new dahlia. Canon Christopher Hall, Hon. Secretary, Li Tim-Oi Foundation asks everyone to go to the BBC website to vote to name the Dahlia after The Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi.
He writes:

'FLORENCE LI TIM-OI' is in the short list of 10. The Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi was the first Anglican woman priest and this is the centenary year of her birth. Please vote for her by going to this website page before noon BST on Friday 6 July.

This will greatly raise the profile of her Foundation in UK.

Every Blessing,
Canon Christopher Hall
Hon Secretary, Li Tim-Oi Foundation

Follow the Dahlia link, Vote Here

California property ruling defers to higher court

As was posted here yesterday, there was another California court ruling in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning:

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is the rightful owner of the buildings and other property of a conservative La Crescenta congregation that broke away from the diocese last year, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision by Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. against St. Luke's of the Mountains came more than a week after an appeals court panel in Orange County ruled in favor of the six-county Los Angeles Diocese in a similar property dispute with three other parishes.

The judge said Tuesday that he could not ignore the higher court's extensive June 25 ruling on comparable issues, but said he expected an appeal in the St. Luke's dispute as well.

"This case is far from over, but it's over in this court," he said.
In Tuesday's hearing, Wiley said that before the appellate court's detailed, 77-page ruling, he had been leaning toward a decision for St. Luke's. But after the appellate ruling, he was obliged to defer to the higher court and its analysis of church property precedents in California and elsewhere, he said.
Eric Sohlgren, lead attorney for St. Luke's and the other dissident local parishes, said St. Luke's officials were expected to quickly decide whether to appeal. Sohlgren repeated his view that the appellate ruling was contrary to three decades of legal precedent in California and that it probably would be overturned.

But the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese, said he was happy with Tuesday's decision and eager to reconcile with St. Luke's parishioners and leaders, many of whom he has known for years.

The entire LA Times article is here.

Religious freedom in Virginia

1642 - Vestry system adopted by the legislature although opposed by overseeing bishop in London. It gave powers not given in the England including the right to choose ministers, and to terminate them.

1750s - Baptists sometimes imprisoned for being Baptists.

1776 - Episcopal ministers, as members of the government, required to swear oath of loyalty to the state (and, thereby, disavow their previous loyaly oath to the crown).

1780 - Tax support for Episcopal clergy salary ends.

1869 - African American clergy admitted to Council, but their congregations are not.

1886 - Council creates a "Colored-Missionary District" within the diocese. In 1889 the district is allowed representation at council but only on matters pertaining to race. Clergy representation shrinks.

1895 - Mary E. Jones admitted as candidate for the order of deaconess.

"Parochial reports of 1919 listed thirteen women serving as treasurers in congregations and two as vestry clerks or registrars. By 1930 women were quietly serving on the vestry-equivalents at small missions, and one was listed as a warden in 1936. Women also became paid church professionals."

1927 - Women allowed to serve as trustees of the Church Schools corporation.

1890 - Diocese of Virginia approved creation a diocesan-wide women's auxiliary.

1930 - Women allowed to vote at parish meetings.

1931 - Constitutional amendment of the diocese restores voice and vote to all resident African-American clergy.

1937 - St. Philips first black congregation admitted to full membership.

1949 - "After consulting with the Colored Convocation and having its unanimous support, the diocese erared all mention of race and the convocation from its constitution and canons.

1951 - Virginia Theological Seminary is integrated.

Late 1950s - Camps and conference centers opened to blacks.

1955 - General Convention changes constitution to allow presidents of diocesan women's auxiliaries to have have voice and vote at annual conventions.

1961 - First black enters a St. Stephen's School.

1964 - "Female deacons gained the right to marry."

1967 - "Diocese of Virginia finds itself in deep financial trouble by 1967 as angry conservatives responded to the Episcopal Church's support of civil rights and urban renewal by withholding pledges so that the money would be available for [its] national initiatives.

1967 - Council voted to allow women to serve on vestries.

1974 - VTS faculty voted unanimously in favor of women's ordination.

"Virginia's diocesan, Bishop Robert Hall, attempted to gain permission to regularize [Alison] Cheek's ordination, but the House of Bishops refused his request...."

1976 - General Convention changes canons to allow ordination of women starting in 1977. Several are ordained in the diocese after the first of the year.

2003 - Bishop "Lee revealed that his decision to confirm Gene Robinson's election as bishop of New Hampshire rested not only, or even mostly, on questions of diocesan autonomy but on his understanding of Acts 15, finding in the passage clear support from the early church leader's decision to adapt 'the requirements of Jewish law to the realities of the gentile world" for a vision of an inclusive church."

Source: Edward L. Bond and Joan R. Gunderson, "The Episcopal Church in Virginia, 1607-2007," Virginia Magazine, Vol 115, No 2.

Evangelical Presbyterian Church coping with growth

The Washington Times reports,

The [Evangelical Presbyterian Church] was founded in 1981 after a split with the mainline Presbyterian Church over the denomination's increasingly liberal direction.

The EPC started with just 12 churches. In the years since then, it has grown to include 188 congregations and 75,000 members.
Most EPC churches are either newly planted or converts from other denominations, notably the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

That church boasts 2.4 million members and 11,100 congregations but continues to struggle after three decades of declining membership. The denomination also has wrestled with disputes over same-sex "marriage" and ordination of homosexual ministers.

Sound familiar? You can read it allhere.

We, of course, don't hear about the small denominations that folded or merged. Denominations that start from a tiny base - and have survived - more than likely are experiencing high growth. No doubt PCUSA has lost some members due to controversial issues - and gained or held onto others for the same reason. But what newspapers rarely mention, when pointing out the declining membership in the mainline denominations, is that conservative denominations tend to have higher birthrates, and in mainline denominations the birthrate hovers at or below replacement.

Besides, PCUSA isn't merely following the times. It is following its moral compass - even if that means those more attracted to religion are turned off by the change in direction.

Some clerics are Antidisestablishmentarians

Liberal readers will not be surprised that The Telegraph resists changes in the relationship between the Church of England and the state. In an article titled "Biggest change since Henry VIII and the Pope" Jonathan Petre writes

The decision by Gordon Brown to allow the Church of England to choose its own bishops for the first time since Henry VIII was broadly welcomed by Church leaders yesterday.

But the reform - one of the biggest changes in the relationship between Church and state since the Tudor king fell out with the Pope - will reopen the fraught issue of disestablishment.

It will also dismay many Anglicans that such a major reform could have been announced with so little consultation or public debate.
The row will surface next week when the General Synod meets in York as a debate on senior ecclesiastical appointments is already on the agenda.
Welcoming the proposals, Dr Sentamu said in his statement that Mr Brown had consulted both him and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, about his intentions.

He said he was "grateful" for the Prime Minister's backing of the continuing role of the Queen and the "establishment by law of the Church of England."

Petre made sure to include the voice of skepticism
But some clerics said that the removal of Downing Street from the process of choosing bishops and deans could further concentrate power in the hands of a few senior prelates.

Canon David Holding, a Synod member, said: "This goes to the heart of the Church/state relationship. It has huge implications.

"It will threaten the diversity of senior appointments, and could well lead to the old boy network running riot."

The article is here. The Lead's prior post on the Prime Minister's announcement is here.

If a governance role by an democratically elected government did ensure against the concentration of power in the hands of a few in the church, then what does that say about the polity of provinces in the Anglican Communion? If the church is not established, for instance, should the polity be one where the laity and clergy have a large voice in the election of bishops and the provincial bishop as in the American model?

A lost boy's journey to priesthood in the Episcopal Church


Zachariah Jok Char was only five years old when he walked 1,000 miles for the first time. One of the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, he braved the desert heat and attacks by lions and hyenas, without shelter, food, water or adult protection.
On June 16, Char walked in a procession of a different sort: down the aisle of Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to his ordination to the priesthood.
More than 180 people attended the Saturday morning service officiated by Bishop Robert Gepert of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan. Both a drum and organ accompanied the singing, which along with the readings and prayers alternated between Dinka, Nuer, Arabic and English languages.
To prepare for his ordination in the U.S., Char received instruction through correspondence courses and residential weeks at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Pittsburgh, the only seminary that provided education in Char's native language and culture....
Read it all here.

Thanks to Standing Firm for the link.

Ruth Gledhill interviews Archbishop Akinola

"The world's most powerful Anglican leader," as Ruth Gledhill calls Peter Akinola, shares his thoughts with the Times Online religion blogger in his first interview with a British national newspaper. While the tone of the article belies the author's sympathies, it nonetheless paints a compelling portrait of the Nigeran archbishop, his upbringing, and the challenges he faces as his own country becomes more divided over religious issues. Muslims and Christians, who in many parts of the country live in harmony, are starting to have problems in other areas of Nigeria.

The bigger the Church gets, the fewer conflicts Christians will face. “That is what we believe. So we have put ourselves into the work of mission very seriously.” The era of bishops living like lords in their own little empires has long gone. “Every bishop in his area is an evangelist,” he says.

When his predecessor, Archbishop Abiodun Adetiloye, stepped down, there were 76 dioceses. He had trebled the size of the church by planting a bishop in every city. “I was the Dean then. We did not know who would be Primate. I said, Baba has finished the work, everything is now done, allelujah! He said, Peter, that is a big mistake you are making because the work is yet to begin. As God would have it, I then became the Primate and we set a vision for ourselves as to how to carry on with this great task.

From the interview it becomes clear that Akinola's objection to the Episcopal Church and other provinces that are moving toward full inclusion of gays and lesbians is that he fears we will impose our view on the Communion as a whole.

The demand from the West that his Church liberalise he sees as a gross reimposition of an old imperalism. “For God’s sake let us be. When America invades Afghanistan it is in the name of world peace. When Nigeria moves to Biafra it is an invasion. When England takes the Gospel to another country, it is mission. When Nigeria takes it to America it is an intrusion. All this imperialistic mentality, it is not fair.”

HT to Chuck Blanchard.

The entire article by Gledhill is here.

What is freedom without reconciliation?

At a "reconciliation Eucharist" held July 4 in Houston, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori talked about the relationship between freedom and reconciliation, saying that neither is fully experienced despite being "fully around us."

"We live in a world that is not yet whole, and we understand our vocation to be its healing or repair," she said in a sanctuary filled with both black and white Episcopalians. "Our Jewish brothers and sisters call it 'Tikkun Alam,' the repair of the world."

A healed world is an ancient dream, the presiding bishop said during her sermon. Telling stories of both joy and grief is part of the healing process.

"Over and over and over again, the prophets railed against those who brought greater divisions to the world, those who bring more injustice, those whose deeds sow destruction," she said.

Jefferts Schori said there are many kinds of reconciliations — "between individuals, within families, among nations, between politicians and, yes, even theological factions."

She also told the congregation gathered at at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston that when one is oppressed, all are oppressed. Also in attendance were members of the Union of Black Episcopalians, who were gathered for their 39th annual meeting.

Read the whole thing in the Houston Chronicle.

The "conflicts inherent"

Bishop Geralyn Wolf has told a priest who professes to be both a Christian and a Muslim that she is "not to exercise any of the responsibilities and privileges of an Episcopal priest or deacon" for the next year. The case of the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding had become a cause célèbre among conservative bloggers, but was largely ignored by the mainstream media.

In an email to her diocesan clergy, members of the diocesan council and the standing committee, Bishop Wolf wrote:

As many of you know, The Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding is an Episcopal priest who has recently professed her faith in Islam. Dr. Redding is canonically resident in the Diocese of Rhode Island, though she has not served here for over twenty years.

After meeting with her I issued a Pastoral Direction giving her the opportunity to reflect on the doctrines of the Christian faith, her vocation as a priest, and what I see as the conflicts inherent in professing both Christianity and Islam. During the next year she is not to exercise any of the responsibilities and privileges of an Episcopal priest or deacon. Other aspects of the Pastoral Direction will remain private.

I am sending this e-mail to you because the continued web-site coverage suggests that I be as clear as possible with those exercising leadership in our diocese.

Covenant and oversight

A release today from provides insight into how recent actions by African provinces undermine the Anglican Communion. These actions, including the increasing number of bishops providing "'pastoral oversight' in North America, the attempts to create a Covenant that defines Anglican doctrine and ethics, and the apparent intention to organise an alternative to the Lambeth Conference in London next year all point towards one thing: The strategy to destabilise the Anglican Communion is moving into another phase."

Without dialog, they note, there is no way to walk together, and actions that undermine the dialog process threaten the Covenant's "original intention, which was to affirm the bonds of fellowship which exist":

There can be little doubt that the [homosexuality] issue is being used by some, mainly conservative, Christians as a lever to try to change the Communion into something it is not; from a conciliar church into a confessional one. From a praxis-based Communion where the bonds between us are the bonds of fellowship and love to a codified Communion where exclusions are legally determined and legally enforced, and where the Communion defines itself not by who it includes but by who it excludes.


The way in which the draft was received by some at the Primates meeting in Tanzania is indication that, whatever the intention, it will be used to enforce a particular interpretation of the Scriptures to the detriment of the life of the Communion. We do not need a Curia, and the process of drafting a Covenant is already giving more power to the Primates than is justified by our history

Read the whole thing at's blog.

Church of England to have greater say in bishop appointments

From the Living Church, an interesting sidebar to the question of how bishops get appointed—this time, from Great Britain. The Church of England does not have a full say in who gets to be bishop in each diocese. The involvement of the British government, however, may be reduced significantly as a result of a proposed constitutional change in which the Prime Minister will no longer be given a choice between two bishop candidates, of which only one could be formally nominated by the Queen.

The British government is set to give up its role in appointing bishops to the Church of England in one of a number of sweeping constitutional changes being proposed by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The constitutional green paper titled “The Governance of Britain,” was presented to Parliament July 3. Among changes proposed in the paper are that the prime minister should no longer use the royal prerogative “to exercise choice in recommending appointments of senior ecclesiastical posts, including diocesan bishops, to the Queen.”

The proposal will be debated at the Church of England’s General Synod, which begins July 6.

The whole thing is here.

Caution urged for Covenant

The Church Times has a good overview of some of the various views held by parties in the Church of England toward the question of whether an Anglican Covenant, as proposed by the Windsor Report, is warranted much less what it should address.

"Two amendments have already been tabled to the General Synod motion on the Anglican Covenant, both reflecting concern that the Church of England will have no further say in the Covenant process until it is presented next year with a text for its approval (News, 22 June). The Covenant is to be debated on Sunday, as part of the sessions that begin today.

The motion as it stands asks the Synod to:
(a) affirm its willingness to engage positively with the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in February 2007 for a process designed to produce a covenant for the Anglican Communion;

(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion; and

(c) invite the Presidents, having consulted the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, to agree the terms of a considered response to the draft from the Covenant Design Group for submission to the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year."

The full article can be found here.

Thinking Anglicans has been collecting various web resources and background articles about the upcoming synod as well.

Lutheran Synod removes gay pastor

Lutheran Pastor Brad Schmeling has lost his appeal to remain a pastor in a Lutheran Church in the Atlanta area. He was removed because he is a gay man in a relationship, which is contradictory to Lutheran canons.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an article detailing the most recent developments and which includes background links plus the news that this particular case is expected to be appealed.

"The Rev. Bradley Schmeling lost another skirmish with the nation's largest Lutheran denomination over the fact that he is in a gay relationship.

But he and his flock at Atlanta's St. John's Lutheran Church intend to take the battle national.

Schmeling and members of St. John's in Druid Hills say they will travel to a national church conference in August to try to change the minds of delegates on gay issues.

They will host a forum, hoping that hearing Schmeling share his story will convince delegates to change ELCA policies.

Schmeling said he will remain St. John's minister."

Read the rest here: Gay pastor's bid for inclusion denied.

Conservatives to create coalition?

Jonathan Petre, writing in the Telegraph, has more news about the maneuvering happening in the Church of England prior to the beginning of General Synod:

"Senior Church of England conservatives are plotting a new coalition to mount their biggest offensive yet against their liberal opponents over issues such as gay priests.

According to insiders, they are planning talks at this week's General Synod aimed at uniting a broad spectrum of evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics to act together during crucial debates.

Supporters of the new movement believe that it could gain the backing of up to half of the Synod, the Church''s 'parliament', frustrating the efforts of liberals to promote their agenda. Its leaders are expected to include prominent clergy and lay people within the Synod and the Archbishops' Council, the Church's managing body.


One Synod member said that many conservatives were dismayed by the failure of the bishops to enforce their own guidelines against clergy who are openly in active gay relationships, in defiance of Church policy. 'The bishops are totally pathetic. They are abject cowards. The Archbishop of Canterbury does nothing but sit on the fence,' she said.

But liberals dismissed the latest initiative, predicting that the new coalition would fall apart because of internal squabbling."

Read the rest here.

Canon Groves on the Listening Process

Episcopal News Service has an audio interview up this morning:

"The Rev. Canon Phil Groves speaks with ENS national correspondent, the Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, during a recent visit to New York about the Anglican Communion's Listening Process, its progress so far, and the next steps.."

You can listen to the interview here: Canon Phil Groves on the Listening Process

The Cafe had previous coverage of Canon Groves' visit to meet with representatives of the Episcopal Church here.

In search of "the common good"

Who said that "democracy cannot live without that true religion which gives a nation a sense of justice and of moral purpose"? Why, it was that nominal Episcopalian FDR, as Lew Daly points out in his Boston Review essay on religion, politics and the concept of the common good.

The Church of England considers the covenant

Dean Colin Slee of Southwark says the church's General Synod is being asked to give the Archbishops of Canterbury and York a "blank check" to remake the church in negotiations with other primates. He doesn't think that is a very good idea. Father Jake provides an overview.


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Today's NYT

The New York Times examines Hillary Clinton's faith, and offers a one-sided view of a parish conflict in Connecticut where, to read Alison Leigh Cowan, you would conclude that conservatives are the only ones who read Scripture, or have an emotional attachment to their faith. Her treatment of the legal issues is similarly uninformed.

Self-silencing Christians

Why don't mainline Protestant denominations do a better job at evangelism? The Christian Century (its own drowsiness a reflection of mainline decline) touches on this question in reviews of two new books on the topic.

Lillian Daniel, senior minister of First Congregational Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, makes this excellent point in her review of Unbinding the Gospel by Martha Grace Reese:

It has long struck me that the same mainline church members who pass resolutions on gay marriage and propose solutions to conflict in the Middle East suddenly shrink in silence on the subject of their faith, and they do this—here's the irony—so they won't offend anyone. For too long, our noble impulses toward tolerance and inclusivity have turned us into spiritual illiterates who, being out of practice, have forgotten how to speak the words of our faith.

William Willimon, a Methodist bishop, praises Bryan Stone, author of Evangelism After Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness for "an incisive critique of what passes for evangelism in most of our churches."

... Stone notes notes that we've tried to evangelize via two main paths, which he calls "Christendom lite": establishment of the intellectual respectability of the gospel in essentially secular terms that are allegedly broader or more plausible than traditional theological phrasings (as in James R. Adams's So You Can't Stand Evangelism), and assertion of the practical value of Christianity for individuals, where value has been determined by a market economy (as in Walt Kallestad's Entertainment Evangelism). Against such desiccated, overly rationalized, market-driven approaches, Stone says that the most evangelistic thing we can do today is to be a vibrant corporate embodiment of the kingdom of God.

On the one hand, who can defend "desiccated, overly rationalized, market-driven approaches" to anything. On the other hand, one gets the feeling from talking to many evangelism experts that they imagine that if Christians would just "do church" the right way people will magically find out about it and start knocking the doors down.

Bishop Jefferts Schori on salvation and evangelism

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori weighs in on issues of salvation and evangelism in her most recent column for Episcopal Life, expanding on statements she has made in interviews with the media.

She writes:

Is baptism necessary for salvation? Theologians have wrestled with this in a number of ways and made some remarkably gracious and open-ended responses. Vatican II affirmed that salvation is possible outside the church, even though some statements by Roman Catholic authorities in years since have sought to retreat from that position.

Karl Rahner spoke about "anonymous Christians," whose identity is known to God alone. John MacQuarrie recognized the presence of the Logos or Word in other traditions.


When we look at some of the lives of holy people who follow other religious traditions, what do we see? Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama both exemplify Christ-like lives. Would we assume that there is no grace present in lives like these? A conclusion of that sort seems to verge on the only unforgivable sin, against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:30-32).

If I believe that God is more than I can imagine, conceptualize or understand, then I must be willing to acknowledge that God may act in ways that are beyond my ken, including in people who do not follow the Judeo-Christian tradition. Note that I include our Jewish brothers and sisters, for Scripture is very clear that God made a covenant with Israel. That covenant was not abrogated in Jesus. Scripture also speaks of a covenant with Abraham that extends to his offspring, including Ishmael. Our Muslim brothers and sisters claim him as their ancestor. In some way, God continues to act in the tradition we call Islam.

Well, if God is already at work in other religious traditions, why would we bother to teach, make disciples or baptize? The focus of our evangelical work can never be imposing our own will (despite the wretched examples of forced conversion in the history of Christianity), but there is a real urgency to sharing the good news.

Can you imagine not saying to another, "Let me introduce you to my best friend. I think you would enjoy getting to know him"? We are certainly not loath to do that when it comes to the latest movie or book or restaurant we've enjoyed, and unless we are leery of sharing, we will not stay silent long.

We've argued before that those who say the Presiding Bishop's views on salvation are outside the Christian mainstream seem to believe that the Catholic Church is outside the mainstream as well. She makes that case indirectly here herself. Note especially the reference to Matthew 12, where she gently but firmly suggests that it is her Bible-quoting critics who have misread the Scriptures and are flirting with the unpardonable sin.

Williams v. Spong

bls at The Topmost Apple blog has a timely reminder that not all, or even most, progressive Anglicans derive their theology from the writings of the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, retired Bishop of Newark.

The former Bishop of Monmouth, for example, had this to say about one of Spong's theses:

[Spong's] objections seem to be to God as a being independent of the universe who acts within the universe in a way closely analogous to the way in which ordinary agents act. The trouble is that, while this might describe the belief of some rationalist divines in the modern period, and while it might sound very like the language of a good many ordinary religious practitioners, it bears no relation at all to what any serious theologian, from Origen to Barth and beyond, actually says about God - or, arguably, to what the practice of believers actually implies, whatever the pictorial idioms employed.

Whatever their disagreements with Rowan Williams in his role as the Archbishop of Canterbury, many progressive Anglicans still revere him as a theologian.

Faith and terror

Giles Fraser asks what is to be learned from recent terrorist attacks in the UK: "Perhaps this: that the most dangerous people in the world are those who are absolutely convinced of their own moral virtue and innocence. It is not the scoundrel who is responsible for the darkest moral evil in the world, but the person who is assured of his or her own virtue."

He writes:

The man who tried to blow up the airport was reported to have emerged from the car, covered in flames. As the fire melted his flesh, he kept repeating the name of God, punching anyone who tried to put his fire out. Here was a man thoroughly convinced that he was doing the right thing. Make no mistake: it was faith that provided him with his moral alibi.


This is why the people of faith need more epistemic humility, a great deal more self-awareness, a longer pause before answering the big questions of faith, a more open reflection upon our less flattering motivations. It might be difficult to find the confidence to develop self-critical vigilance when so many others want to disparage faith. But develop it more we must.

Study explores why scientists are not religious

Several studies have noted that scientists, as a group, are much less religious than the general public. Now a survey published in the journal Social Problems finds that this is not the result of scientific training--those who choose science as a career are already less religious before their education.

LiveScience offers a good summary. Here are highlights:

Scientists are less religious than the general population, a new study shows, but the reason has little to do with their study of science or academic pressures.

The findings challenge notions that science is responsible for a lack of faith among researchers, indicating that household upbringing carries the biggest weight in determining religiousness.
"Our study data do not strongly support the idea that scientists simply drop their religious identities upon professional training, due to an inherent conflict between science and faith, or to institutional pressure to conform," said Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist at the University at Buffalo and co-author of the study.

. . .

Detailed in the latest issue of the journal Social Problems, the study is based on a survey of 1,646 scientists at 21 elite research universities and in-depth interviews with 271 of the scientists. Specifically, the survey contacted researchers specializing in physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, economics, political science, psychology and other fields.

Ecklund said nearly 75 percent of the subjects responded, which she said is extremely high for a faculty survey.

So why are scientists less religious? The data indicate that being raised in a religious home is the best predictor of how religious someone will be—scientist or member of the general population.

For general population information, Ecklund used data from the 1998 and 2004 General Social Survey (GSS), which is a national survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Ecklund then compared the data to the scientists’ set, which was modeled after the GSS.

Read the entire article here.

The difference between scientists and the general public is large. 52 percent of scientists surveyed said they had no religious affiliation, compared with only 14 percent of the general population. Interestingly, however, younger scientists were more likely to believe in God and attend religious services than older scientists.

The implication of this study seems to be that those with religious faith are less likely to choose a religious career than those without faith. Why is that? And why has there been a change in this trend with younger scientists?

Nigerian Christian group rejects Akinola

The Nigerian Tribune reports that the Christian Association of Nigeria has taken the highly unusual step of refusing to ratify defeated presidential candidate Archbishiop Peter Akinola as its vice president. The association had previously taken the equally unusual step of denying Akinola a second term as president. The vote is a setback for Akinola's allies in the United States and the United Kingdom who have attempted to position him as the chief spokesman of African Christianity.

An excerpt:

The General Assembly of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on Friday refused to endorse the return of Most Rev. Peter Akinola as its Vice-President.

Akinola, the Anglican Archbishop for Abuja Archdiocese, was the immediate past president of CAN.

A new National Executive Council was elected for the association last week with Most Rev. John Onaiyekan, as President.

Onaiyekan defeated Akinola, who automatically should have become the deputy.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the Assembly at its meeting on Friday was supposed to ratify the election and listen to the president’s acceptance speech.

But events took a dramatic turn when the assembly ratified the election of Onaiyekan but rejected that of Akinola.

More Conservative rabbis blessing same-sex unions

Last December, the leading authority on Jewish law for Conservative Jews, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, changed a previous ruling from 1992, and rules that it is consistent with Jewish law for Conservative Jews to bless same sex unions, The Jewish weekly, The Forward reports that there has been a growing acceptance of same sex blessings by Conservative Rabbis as a result:

Six months after the movement’s law committee approved same-sex unions, Conservative congregants and clergy are testing the waters of change. While some of the movement’s clergy members performed same-sex unions before the December 2006 ruling and others remain staunchly opposed to officiating, a growing number of rabbis, like Roston, have been spurred to perform their first rites for gay and lesbian partners.

“I rely on the law committee when I make my halachic decisions for my community,” said Roston, 39, in an interview with the Forward. “The decision strongly influenced the ability I had to create a Jewish ceremony for these couples.”

Roston said she had long supported the allowance of same-sex commitment ceremonies, but was uncomfortable officiating without explicit approval from the movement. Although Conservative rabbis are deemed the ultimate authorities on Jewish law within their own congregations, many rabbis defer to the movement’s top legal panel, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.

The law committee’s ruling last December capped 15 years of wrangling, which followed in the wake of an earlier decision, issued in 1992, that maintained the movement’s historical ban on homosexuality. In recent months, Conservative institutions and organizations have embraced a somewhat quicker pace of change: Both the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism) in Los Angeles are admitting their first openly gay and lesbian rabbinical students this fall, while the movement’s congregational arm, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, recently announced a policy of nondiscrimination in hiring. Meanwhile, the Rabbinical Assembly has established a special committee, led by Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., to establish guidelines for the rituals and liturgy used at commitment ceremonies.

The movement’s longtime gay activists say the changes could not come soon enough. “I look forward to the day when we’re just any other synagogue,” Rabbi Carie Carter said. Carter, 38, leads Park Slope Jewish Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., which has long been known as a spiritual home for gay and lesbian Jews. It was Carter who performed the original commitment ceremony in 2003 for the lesbian couple who recently renewed their religious vows with Roston at Congregation Beth El — and filed for a civil union recognized by the state of New Jersey.

. . .

Some rabbis are embracing change haltingly. One New York-area rabbi recently honored a soon-to-be-wed lesbian couple with a Saturday morning aliyah and blessing — his first same-sex aufruf.

“The couple was calling what they were doing a ‘wedding,’ and I told them in advance that I would not refer to it as a ‘wedding,’” said the rabbi, who did not want to be named. He demurred when asked if he would be willing to perform a commitment ceremony.

“I would really have to struggle with that,” he said.

Rabbi Dan Schweber, of Congregation Beth Israel in Andover, Mass. — the only state to allow same-sex marriage — also admitted to struggling with his decision: “My heart says one thing — I want to do one thing — but my allegiance to Jewish law makes me at least hesitate.” A 2004 graduate of JTS, Schweber said that his hesitancy is somewhat unusual among his younger rabbinical colleagues.

Faced with a difficult decision, some rabbis are opting to bring their congregations along for the decision-making ride. Kelman, who is stepping down from his pulpit this summer, involved his congregation before deciding to perform same-sex ceremonies in 1995, and others are now following his example.

Last month, members of Chicago’s Congregation B’nai Amoona voted in favor of same-sex ceremonies within their synagogue. The proposal, approved June 4, was passed by 90% of 300 ballots cast by 800 member-households, according to Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose. The vote was the culmination of a year of study that began prior to the committee’s December meeting.

Read the article here.

Why do we not see an Anglican-style soap opera in Conservative Judiasm as a result of this change in the view of same sex blessings?

Seven new wonders of the world

The poll results are in and the new seven architectural wonders of the world have been announced. Here is Associated Press report:

The Great Wall of China, Rome's Colosseum, India's Taj Mahal and three architectural marvels from Latin America were among the new seven wonders of the world chosen in a global poll released on Saturday.

Jordan's Petra was the seventh winner. Peru's Machu Picchu, Brazil's Statue of Christ Redeemer and Mexico's Chichen Itza pyramid also made the cut.

About 100 million votes were cast by the Internet and cellphone text messages, said New7Wonders, the nonprofit organization that conducted the poll.

The seven beat out 14 other nominated landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Easter Island in the Pacific, the Statue of Liberty, the Acropolis, Russia's Kremlin and Australia's Sydney Opera House.

. . .
Also among the losing candidates were Cambodia's Angkor, Spain's Alhambra, Turkey's Hagia Sophia, Japan's Kiyomizu Temple, Russia's Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral, Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle, Britain's Stonehenge and Mali's Timbuktu.

You can read the full report here.

Given the dominance of the industrialized west in recent centuries, isn't it a bit suprising that European wonders did so poorly?

Abe Lincoln on avoiding a tribal God

John Buchanan, editor and publisher of the Christian Century, has written an interesting essay reminding us of wisdom of Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address. In particular, it is a useful antidote to a religious tribalism that is beginning to infect political life:

Like the Gettysburg Address, [Lincoln's second inaguaral address] was a relatively brief speech in a day when public orators, particularly politicians, spoke for hours—only 703 words, 505 of one syllable. (What a model for preachers.)

Frederick Douglass said of the Second Inaugural: "The address sounded more like a sermon than a state paper." White cites Reinhold Niebuhr's comment: "Lincoln's religious convictions were superior in depth and purity to those held by the religious as well as the political leaders of the day."

The Second Inaugural contains Lincoln's notable words about the war: "Both sides read the same Bible," Lincoln said, "pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other. . . . The prayers of both could not be answered: that of neither has been answered fully." White says that Lincoln was "inveighing against a tribal God" who would take the side of one part against the other, "and building a case for an inclusive God."

I can't think of more relevant words in a time when religion is used for partisan political purposes. And I don't know a more noble or apt sentiment for our time than the one with which this president concluded: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Read it all here.

I am also reminded of the famous story of Lincoln being asked whether God was on the side of the North. He responded simply that the more important question was whether he and the rest of the Union were on the side of God.

General Synod approves covenant concept

The General Synod of the Church of England, approved, without amendment, a resolution that approves engaging the rest of the Anglican Communion to adopt an Anglican Covenant. The full resolution was as follows:

That this Synod:

(a) affirm its willingness to engage positively with the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in February 2007 for a process designed to produce a covenant for the Anglican Communion;

(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion; and

(c) invite the Presidents, having consulted the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, to agree the terms of a considered response to the draft from the Covenant Design Group for submission to the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year.

An audio of the debate can be found here.

Father Jake has good analysis here.

Thinking Anglicans has details on the debate here.

Worth worrying about?

The Church of England's General Synod has endorsed the concept of a covenant for the Anglican Communion. This is being treated among many of the left as a setback. But it isn't clear that much has been lost. The covenant process has not been derailed, but its contents are far from set.

The key paragraph in Stephen Bates' story in the Guardian is this one:

The move - described by one speaker as "the most important development in the church since the Reformation" - was carried after bishops headed off concerns of some lay and clergy members by giving assurances that nothing will ultimately be adopted until it has been agreed by the synod, which is the church's parliament. Even so, approximately a third of the synod voted against the plan.

Look again at the resolution, which says that the synod:

(a) affirm its willingness to engage positively with the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in February 2007 for a process designed to produce a covenant for the Anglican Communion;

(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion; and

(c) invite the Presidents, having consulted the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, to agree the terms of a considered response to the draft from the Covenant Design Group for submission to the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year.

It may be premature to assume that the Synod's vote inidcates its attitude on homosexuality (which is no where mentioned), or its willingness to concentrate authority in the hands of the Primates--several of whom are in the process of discrediting themselves, by consecrating bishops whom the Archbishop of Canterbury won't recognize.

What Canada did

The Rev Canon Eric Beresford, president of the Atlantic School of Theology, weighs in on the seemingly contradictory votes recently taken by Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada on the issue of same-sex relationships.

Here are some excerpts from his article on the Web site of the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Although much has been written and said about the implications of the Anglican Church's general synod debates on the blessing of homosexual unions, most commentators have told us more about their own hopes and fears than about the complexity of the situation created by last month's vote. Put simply, the vote leaves the church in a state of confusion.

The doctrinal grounds for allowing such blessings were passed, but the motion that would have allowed for an orderly approach to the change was defeated. While it is likely that the negative vote cast by the bishops (refusing to approve the rite) was motivated by a desire for the unity of the church, it is unclear whether this will now be the result.


to say that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter indifferent is to say that it is a matter about which Anglicans might reasonably disagree both in theory and in practice. It is to say that it is a matter which cannot be the basis of discipline, and here is the rub.

By endorsing the 2005 St. Michael Report, and by declaring that the blessing of same-sex unions is not contrary to the "core doctrine" of the Anglican Church of Canada, the general synod has, at the very least, undermined the grounds for discipline against any diocese, bishop or priest who performs such blessings.

Of course, priests are bound by oaths of obedience in "all things lawful and honest." The question is going to be whether or not it is lawful to require obedience from a priest on something the general synod of the church has declared to be a matter indifferent. Further, if it is a matter indifferent, the question is going to be whether a priest can lawfully be prevented from blessing, or entering into, a relationship that the 2004 general synod declared to have "integrity and sanctity."

And finally:

Events are now likely to unfold in a way that is piecemeal in a context that is very uncertain. All this means that it is going to be harder, not easier, to maintain peace and unity within the church.

Read it all.

Our apologies

A story on the Church of England's General Synod that originally appeared in this space was out of date.

What would Luther do?

Writing in USA TODAY, Mary Zeiss Strange asks: [W]ould the man whose break from Roman Catholicism involved a revolutionary rethinking of the role of sexuality in human relationships take ... a negative view of homosexuality today? Most probably, given the way his theological mind worked, he would not.

She writes:

In the Augsburg Confession of 1530 (a conciliatory statement of faith intended to unite Lutherans with other Protestants), Luther publicly agreed with other reformers of his day that biblical references that depart from New Testament inclusiveness — abstaining from eating pork, for example, or requiring male circumcision — not only can but should be set aside. A 21st century Luther would surely recognize that the few biblical proscriptions against "sodomy" — shaky in themselves as condemnations of same-sex love and rooted in a worldview vastly different from our own — should not bar the loving union of two gay or lesbian persons. Equally, a 21st century Luther would affirm the ordination of such persons, as in line with his theology of the "priesthood of all believers."

A new blog on The Religion-Industrial Complex

Jacques Berlinerblau of Georgetown University has launched a new blog called The God Vote with an assist from the folks at the Washington Post's blog: On Faith. He writes:

My maxim is: when dealing with faith and politics few things do violence to our (already limited) powers of impartiality like our own faith and our own politics. Whether writing about a presidential aspirant’s latest play of the religion card, or an emerging issue being championed by a special interest group, or a poll showing that this community of faith supports that candidate, my goal is to write with an acute awareness of how religious and political passion can obscure and cloud the good judgment, moral reasoning, and analytical clarity of industry commentators (including myself) and those they comment on.

Have a look.

Be not afraid

In his address to the General Synod of the Church of England, The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York challenged the church to act out of faith and not fear. Some quotes from his speech:

"There is a commanding invitation which echoes throughout the Bible. It’s a message given at various times to patriarchs and prophets, to nations and to shepherds, to Zechariah and to Mary, to disciples and to fledgling congregations in the church’s earliest days. 'Fear not, do not be afraid.'"

"As a church, we need to learn once again to become risk-takers, people who take risks for the Gospel, who take risks for Christ, who take risks in the service of God and one another. We have to take risks, in order to make the journey. We discover courage by doing courageous, God-like actions. 'God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.' An act at a particular time and place. It is the sin of the world that Christ takes away. Action!"

"So what are we afraid of? And what are the consequences of our fearfulness? The result of fear can be dangerous, fear itself can create its own risk. Because often when we’re reacting out of fear we don’t behave with courage and determination and grace, we become defensive, we behave badly."

"In the same way we Christians must beware of taking the holiness of God to imply that his wrath and judgement are out to destroy sinners instead of redeeming them, loving them and forgiving them. For those who follow the man of Galilee who was crucified, self-righteousness must die at his Cross. It’s from the Cross that the light of God shines forth upon the world in its fullest splendour. And as David Bosch has said (in Transforming Mission) 'The Church is an inseparable union of the divine and the dusty.'"

Read it all here

Brad Pitt and Desmond Tutu talk

The July issue of Vanity Fair includes this conversation between Brad Pitt and former Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu:

Brad Pitt: "So certainly discrimination has no place in Christianity. There's a big argument going on in America right now, on gay rights and equality."

Desmond Tutu: "For me, I couldn't ever keep quiet. I came from a situation where for a very long time people were discriminated against, made to suffer for something about which they could do nothing--their ethnicity. We were made to suffer because we were not white. Then, for a very long time in our church, we didn't ordain women, and we were penalizing a huge section of humanity for something about which they could do nothing--their gender. And I'm glad that now the church has changed all that. I'm glad that apartheid has ended. I could not for any part of me be able to keep quiet, because people were being penalized, ostracized, treated as if they were less than human, because of something they could do nothing to change--their sexual orientation. For me, I can't imagine the Lord that I worship, this Jesus Christ, actually concurring with the persecution of a minority that is already being persecuted. The Jesus who I worship is a Jesus who was forever on the side of those who were being clobbered, and he got into trouble precisely because of that. Our church, the Anglican Church, is experiencing a very, very serious crisis. It is all to do with human sexuality. I think God is weeping. He is weeping that we should be spending so much energy, time, resources on this subject at a time when the world is aching."

Brad Pitt: "I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you for saying that."
July 2007 p. 96ff

More from Vanity Fair and Photo by Annie Leibovitz here

H/T to John Clinton Bradley

Called to serve

Andrea Jaeger, former tennis star, called to be an Episcopal Dominican, is featured in this video from ESPN. Her journey from tennis phenom as an early teen to founding a ranch for children and youth with terminal diseases to taking vows as a member of an Episcopal Religious Community is evocatively told on this video.

Watch it here.
Or link from here.
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Strife and Contention

A gathering of Remain Episcopal in the Diocese of San Joaquin, heard professors from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) speak about the "the diverse and sometimes contentious nature of all Christianity and the Episcopal tradition." According to Episcopal News Service approximately 90 people attended the program, "Common Prayer, Uncommon People: The Episcopal Church," held June 23 at Holy Family Episcopal Church in Fresno, California, exploring the 400-year history of Anglicanism in North America from Jamestown to California. This is the second event sponsored by Remain Episcopal, a network of Episcopalians from the Diocese of San Joaquin who don't agree with the diocesan leadership, which is disaffected with the Episcopal Church. Episcopalians from the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and Dallas also attended the gathering.

Five CDSP faculty members led the event's presentations and discussions.

A celebration of Holy Eucharist used the 1604 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, the edition used at the Jamestown, Virginia settlement. The Eucharist was followed by discussions centered on church history and unity.

The Rev. Dr. Linda Clader, academic dean and professor of homiletics, preached at the Eucharist, quoting from the 16th century Book of Homilies, an authorized collection of officially sanctioned homilies read to congregations by the largely uneducated clergy of the time. Choosing an excerpt from the "Homily Against Strife and Contention" subtitled "A Sermon Against Contention and Brawling," she quoted, "If one member be pulled from another, where is the body? If the body be drawn from the head, where is the life of the body? We cannot be joined to Christ our head, except we be glued with concord and charity one to another."

Clader spoke about contention and disagreement in the early Church. "When there were still people walking the streets who had known Jesus face-to-face, the Christian community was arguing," she said. "They argued over who could share a meal. They argued over whose party represented the 'real' church. They argued over whether you were really a Christian if you didn't exhibit certain spiritual gifts."

Clader said that the "ancient theologians" talked about Jesus' oneness with the Father in terms of movement -- "a kind of dance among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

"It's just possible that this is what Christian unity looks like," she said. "A body, as St. Paul said, with many parts, a dance with many dancers, a song with many voices."

Read the whole article and what other professors shared here

In dioceses where the leadership appears to be attempting to leave the Episcopal Church, faithful Episcopalians have organized to support one another and show that they wish to remain within the Church. A list of these organizations is here

Katrina recovery work continues

Almost two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States, Episcopalians continue to arrive to help with recovery. Youth groups, seminarians, Episcopal churches and leaders spend time rebuilding homes and lives, physical and emotional. Although the media have moved on according to latest reports, churches and local groups have taken on the challenge to restore shattered towns and lives.

St. Mark's in Casper, Wyoming has partnered with St. Mark's in Gulfport, MS to offer material items as well as prayer support.

Bishop Marc Andrus' blog features Pilgrimage Journals from young Californians who have travelled to New Orleans to offer their skills and energy to the recovery efforts. Lily Moebes reports:

Coming here makes me hope that I hang onto the initial explosive emotions I felt while being there, and constructively turn them into productivity. I am really looking forward to coming home (yes, I know, even though the trip just began) as a San Franciscan 15 year old and finding ways of somehow incorporating all of these thing into daily life. Not bad for day one. I am really excited about the rest of the trip.

Read the rest of her journal entry here.

Tori Holt journals after a day of work and emotional experiences:

My qualms were soothed when I remembered the children. The school kids are simply inspiring. After struggling to comprehend really being here in New Orleans, I thought I would also have trouble connecting with them. I felt like I would have no way to relate… but this is no way to be. We’re here to help, and we are all fundamentally linked despite our vastly different lives. The kids and a few of our group’s volunteers ended up sitting around a table playing a question game. Each kid from NO was so eager to learn about our lives, and the volunteers were equally interested in the kids’ stories. We made a great connection, and it was electrifying. I left feeling reassured, loved, and embraced by another community.

Read her journal entry here

In September the House of Bishops will be meeting in New Orleans. Many church committees plan to meet in New Orleans or other Gulf locations this Triennium. They often plan to arrive before the meeting or stay following the meeting to work on recovery projects. Members of the committees, commissions, agencies and boards of The Episcopal Church stay at their own expense to do this work. According to Bishop Catherine Roskam of NY, " the Bishops' Choir and the Bishops and Spouses' Choir will cut their second CD in New Orleans. It will be called Wondrous Love and dedicated to the memory of Jim Kelsey. All proceeds will go to support the work in the Ninth Ward."

Giulianna M. Cappelletti, Postulant from the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, attending Virginia Theological Seminary, is interning in Bishop Jenkins' office. She writes at Bishop Jenkins' blog about her work this summer:

According to the most recent statistics from the Office of Disaster Response, nearly 240,000 of our brothers and sisters have been served to date through our various programs. This number in itself is impressive, but what has filled me with the most joy and hope has been the stories that I have heard from those to whom we are ministering.

Early last week, I spent time in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans at the St. Luke's Homecoming Center. While this Homecoming Center still offers computer access, recovery and rebuilding information, and a community meeting space for residents, the bulk of the programming at St. Luke's is focused on the needs of the children in the neighborhood. The St. Luke's Homecoming Center has been transformed into a 'sacred space for children'.

For information on how you and your group can be involved go to:
Diocese of Mississippi
Diocese of Louisiana

youtube has several videos by those who have travelled to the Gulf Coast. Here is one from a partnering church about Bay St. Louis, MS.

Not proper churches

The Roman Catholic Church reiterated its position that Protestant groups including Anglicans are not proper "Churches." According to a press release from Vatican City and approved by the Pope:

"Made public today was a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: "Responses to some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church." It is dated June 29, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, and bears the signatures of Cardinal William Joseph Levada and Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., respectively prefect and secretary of the congregation."

The document offers 5 questions and answers on the status of bodies and churches outside the Roman Catholic Church. The fifth question has to do with those who have separated since the Reformation and why they are not proper churches.
"Fifth Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of 'Church' with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?

"Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'Churches' in the proper sense.

Tobias Haller at In a Godward Direction offers a fine commentary.

The full press release is here.

More news from The Times and the Washington Post

This news makes Ruth Gledhill of The Times proud to be an Anglican.

Pedaling for peace

Fourteen bicyclists from Iran who are criss-crossing the United States with a message of peace will make their final U.S. stop at the Washington National Cathedral on July 11, according to a story in Episcopal Life Online.

Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop John Bryson Chane is scheduled to greet the women and men who comprise the Miles for Peace group at 3:15 p.m. on the steps of the cathedral's west end (Wisconsin Avenue side).

The Miles for Peace program is a non-profit, non-governmental peace campaign whose objective is to convey the message of peace, friendship and peaceful co-existence with all nations.

John Peterson, the cathedral's director of the Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation, called the visit another positive event in U.S.-Iran relations.

Read it all here

This day in Anglican history

From This Week in History over at Episcopalian Life Online:

On this day in 1533, Pope Clement VII excommunicates England's King Henry VIII for remarrying after his divorce.

In the same year Parliament passes the Buggery Act.

A chronology of the English Reformation is available here.

Apostolic Succession and the Catholic Church

From today's Arizona Republic

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday asserted the spiritual primacy of the Roman Catholic Church.

He did so at the expense of Christian Orthodox churches, which he said are wounded, and Protestant churches, which he said are not really churches at all.

The pope approved a document that says the only path to true salvation is Catholicism. The move was a stark reaffirmation of centuries-old Catholic belief that Protestant churches are lacking because they cannot trace their leadership back to Christ's apostles.

The document says Christian Orthodox churches are true churches but have a "wound" because they do not recognize the power of the pope.
The Episcopal bishop of Arizona, the Rt. Rev. Kirk Stevan Smith, was surprised by the pope's position.

"It's disappointing to see such a hard line," Smith said. "I don't know what would cause him to say this at this time."

Smith also pointed out that Catholics and Episcopalians in the community work together frequently. "It's not consistent with what's happening in the grass-roots."

Some Catholic Church observers think the pope is trying to revisit the historic events of Vatican II from 1962 to1965.

Apostolic Succession can be something of a stumbling block for ecumenical relations between Episcopalians and other non-Catholic denominations. But how much of a stumbling is it as long as our objective is good relations and not reunification? Is reunification desirable?

UPDATE: Tobias has a helpful catechism on the statement from Rome. Sounds to me like the RCC is rounding up Lone Rangers and not about a change and chill towards other denominations. Thanks to Ann Fontaine for the pointer.

UPDATE: Our church's chief ecumenical responds, "This doesn’t change anything for us, and is certainly nothing new for the Roman Catholic Church ... And we look forward to what should be a very interesting Anglican – Roman Catholic (ARC-USA) dialogue in Washington, DC next October!"

La Crescenta church to appeal property ruling

The vestry of St. Luke's of the Mountains voted unanimously on Monday to appeal a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruling that the La Crescenta church's property belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
So reports the Glendale News Press.

Recent posts on the California property cases here and here.

Clergy fitness declining

The Charlotte Observer reports:

Officials cite research showing that 50 years ago, clergy suffered fewer illnesses and lived healthier lives than workers in most other professions. Today, their medical claims and rising insurance costs strain denominational budgets.

The Western North Carolina Conference spent $7.5 million in 2005 on health care benefits for about 990 ministers. In 2006, that rose to $8.7 million, and is expected to soar past $10 million this year, said Bill Wyman, conference treasurer.

In recent years, Baptist, Lutheran and Episcopal leaders have also addressed the problem. The Lilly Endowment, an Indianapolis-based foundation, runs a national clergy renewal program that gives ailing ministers sabbaticals.

About six years ago, a national survey of about 2,500 religious leaders showed that 76 percent of clergy were either overweight or obese, compared with 61 percent of the general population. Forty percent said they were depressed at times, or worn out "some or most of the time."
Explanations for the problem vary. Some researchers note that the average age of Methodist clergy has gone up in recent decades. Those over age 55 jumped from 27 percent to 41 percent in the past 20 years, according to a national study.

Others trace the problems to the changing nature of the work itself. Better-educated, increasingly consumer-oriented parishioners are putting more demands on clergy, Mann said. Conflict is rising inside churches as parishioners do battle over who controls money and priorities.

"It's almost the No. 1 reason now why most clergy leave a congregation," he said. "So much of it is, `I just can't keep dealing with these people fighting with each other over where the congregation is heading.' "

Read it all here. It sounds as if our clergy don't just need a better health, or a better plan for managing their own health. They need someone to address whether conflict within congregations and with denominations, and what to do about it.

It's not your father's Vacation Bible School

Prepackaged curricula for summertime Vacation Bible School have been around for awhile. Has your church assessed the costs and benefits of VBS-in-a-box? The Clarion Ledger reports:

The Bible, which was the only book some churches used during VBS back then, since has been replaced with prepackaged materials manufactured by church supply companies, which include step-by-step curriculums, CDs, recreation and games supplies and ideas, decorations, promotional materials, souvenirs and ready-to-make crafts. Everything in the package revolves around a theme. In [one church's] case, the theme was "Game Day Central: Where Heroes Are Made," developed by LifeWay Christian Resources, which has more than 100 stores nationwide.

Isabella Evans, assimilation and outreach coordinator for New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, said churches are following other VBS trends, which include holding adult VBS, community outreach VBS and afternoon or night VBS to accommodate working mothers who wish to volunteer.
But some churches have reverted to the old-style methods of VBS after trying prepackaged materials.

Sarah Buffington, VBS chairwoman for St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson, said planners there felt the children were having fun but were missing out on Bible history....

Read it all, here.

Covenant response group named

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has appointed the group that will "draft the Church's response to the first version of an Anglican covenant." Episcopal Life Online reports:

The drafting group's proposed response for the October Executive Council session is meant to meet the January 1 comment deadline "so that the voice of our Church will be heard in this process," Ballentine [the group's chair] said.
It is expected that a revised version of the covenant will be presented to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, to be followed by a final text that would be proposed to the 2009 meeting of the ACC. If the ACC adopts the text, it would offer it to the provinces for consideration.

The members of the Covenant Response Drafting Group are:
Ballentine [Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands, the group's chair], Kim Byham (Newark), the Rev. Dr. Lee Alison Crawford (Vermont), the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas (Massachusetts), Canon Victoria L. Garvey (Chicago), the Rev. Canon Mark Harris (Delaware), the Rev. Winnie S. Varghese (New York), Ted M. Yumoto (San Joaquin) and Belton T. Zeigler (Upper South Carolina).

Read it here.

Café's video blog debuts Monday

Video is coming to the Episcopal Café.

Through a partnership with Trinity Church Wall Street, the Café will begin offering a weekly video feature produced by Trinity Television and New Media on Monday July 16. The initial video features the Rev. Thomas Keating, a Cistercian monk and popular author, talking about the practice of Centering Prayer.

Future installments include reflections from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jim Wallis, John Hockenberry, and Phyllis Tickle, as well as profiles of Sister Helen Prejean and author Kathleen Norris.

“We’ve envisioned video as an integral part of the Café right from the beginning,” said Jim Naughton, founding editor of the Café, a group blog site that went online in late April, “but we wanted to team up with people who did quality work. Trinity fits that bill in spades.”

According to Nathan Brockman, editor of Trinity Church Wall Street's website and publications, “Trinity's website is a sacred parish space that receives nearly as many visitors annually as our historic church buildings. Virtual outreach is essential to church vitality, and our partnership with Episcopal Cafe helps us extend that outreach in service of the wider Church.”

The Café, a partnership between the Diocese of Washington and Episcopal Church in the Visual Arts (ECVA), currently features news, art, spiritual readings, multi-media meditations, and a daily essay from one of 30 contributors from around the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Parish of Trinity Church was established in lower Manhattan and attracts over 1.8 million visitors annually. Parish ministries include St. Paul's Chapel, the Trinity Institute, a national theological conference and Trinity Grants, which has provided $72 million in funding in 85 countries around the world since 1972. The parish maintains, a premier website providing faith formation resources throughout the Anglican Communion.

Sinead O'Connor on "Theology"

Sinead O'Connor made headlines in the early '90s when she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on national television. So it might surprise readers to learn that she was featured in Christian Music Today, a sister publication to Christianity Today, recently. Her new album is called Theology, and from interviews it becomes clear that she hasn't left her "girl rebel" attitude behind, but her faith is real. Christianity Today writes:

It's not the kind of thing you hear on a typical Christian album, even one focusing on Scripture. Nor is it the kind of verse you hear taken seriously in liberal pulpits. O'Connor told Christianity Today sister publication Christian Music Today, "I don't think God judges anybody," but her music specifically says otherwise. The songs here are full of both the pain of sin and forgiveness from it.

O'Connor says Jeremiah is her favorite book of the Bible—not usually something said by those who believe God doesn't judge. Still, she knows the message of Jeremiah and the prophets is not "God will hunt you down," but "God is coming for you."

"I hope this record would make someone think that perhaps God is not an angry, punishing, warmaking God and is in fact a gentle and compassionate God who actually is upset at the loss of us," she said.

In the end, because it is so drenched in Scripture, Theology offers anything but a tragic God. It offers an active God who is tearing down kingdoms to bring people to him. He seems to be chasing Sinead O'Connor down, too.

Interviews with O'Connor:
Christian Music Today
Orange County Register

Democrats' "Great Awakening"

TIME's lead story right now is "Leveling the Praying Field: How the Democrats Got Religion." The article explores what is happening as devout Christians start looking elsewhere for political leadership as the Republican strongholds no longer measure up:

The Democrats are so fired up, you could call them the new Moral Majority. This time, however, the emphasis is as much on the majority as on the morality as they try to frame a message in terms of broadly shared values that don't alarm members of minority religions or secular voters. It has become an article of faith among party leaders that it was sheer strategic stupidity to cede the values debate to Republicans for so long; that most people want to reduce abortion but not criminalize it, protect the earth instead of the auto industry, raise up the least among us; and that a lot of voters care as much about the candidates' principles as about their policies. "What we're seeing," says strategist Mike McCurry, "is a Great Awakening in the Democratic Party."

The revival comes at a time when the entire religious-political landscape is changing shape. A new generation of evangelical leaders is rejecting old labels; now an alliance of religious activists that runs from the crunchy left across to the National Association of Evangelicals has called for action to address global warming, citing the biblical imperative of caring for creation. Mainline, evangelical and Roman Catholic organizations have united to push for immigration reform. The possibility that there is common ground to be colonized by those willing to look for it offers a tantalizing prospect of alliances to come, but only if Democrats can overcome concerns within their party. "One-third gets it," says a Democratic values pioneer, talking about the rank and file. "A second third understands that this can help us win. And another third is positively terrified."

Among the assertions:

  • When you wipe abortion from the values debate, a landscape of other issues opens up that Democrats are most poised to address, such as environmental stewardship, social justice and racial equality.
  • 40 percent of Evangelicals now identify as Independent voters, a number that's grown rapidly in just three years even as they stop identifying as Republicans at an even faster clip.
  • The Kerry campaign discovered how it was resonating with religious voters totally by accident and way too late.
  • Several figures are helping influence how this plays out for 2008, including Mara Vanderslice, Randy Brinson, Jim Wallis, and others—and this isn't sitting well with organizations with more, shall we say, traditionally leftist positions.

Read it all here.

Synods and governance: courting irrelevance

The Church Times has a lead article that gives a sort of meta-view of the most recent General Synod in York and its functioning. Many of their observations are true of both our American General Convention and, to be honest, any church-wide meeting these days:

"Any governing body may fall under the condemnation, at some time or another, that it is little more than a talking shop. The charge is most likely to stick to the Synod when it seeks to express the Church’s mind on moral aspects of current affairs. The complaint comes most often from those who wish the C of E to keep its nose out of politics. But there is also, of course, a grain of truth in Giles Fraser’s suggestion in his column this week that there is something ridiculous about addressing the world when it is not listening. Our staff occasionally hear speakers warn that a Synod pronouncement is likely to get such-and-such a sensational headline in the daily papers, knowing that they are the only press reporters left in the gallery to hear it.

The Synod’s precursor, the Church Assembly, was once, and probably more than once, described as full of ‘elderly bores’. The age profile of the Synod — and there is indeed difficulty in getting busy younger people to stand for election — is not necessarily relevant to the quality of the debate. Sometimes a debate can be dominated by one or two members who would be told in a less gracious forum to ‘get a life’. But routine topics can take an unexpected turn; and speakers take heroic pains to make bread-and-butter business endurable. This group of sessions offered few thrills. There was, for example, a long clause-by-clause revision of draft legislation. But it concerned marriage in church, which is an aspect of pastoral work and outreach about which there are strong feelings. Not all will like the result; and few will be impressed to know that the matter had been under consideration since 1999. But there would also be complaints if new rules were imposed without a proper legislative process."

Read the rest here: Church Times - Sins of the Synod

Giles Fraser's article offers a warning to the Church of England that should resonate with Episcopalians as well. Two paragraphs worth special attention:

Reading Alastair Campbell’s diaries on the train back from another depressing General Synod made me wake up to the similarity between old Labour and the leadership of the Church of England: both are more concerned to please their own activists than to reach out to the country as a whole.

The reality is that millions of people couldn’t care less what we say or think. They don’t care about covenants or gay vicars: they want the Church to speak about life and death, about love and grace, about justice and hope. And because we are not speaking about it, they will go elsewhere.

What is Anglicanism?

Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda, has written a long and careful article that explains his sense of Anglicanism and why Anglicanism has an important message to the people of Uganda.

The article though is really not just applicable to a Ugandan audience but can speak to the rest of the Communion in helping us understand why many in the African provinces have found Anglicanism so powerful, and how they have used it to speak to their culture:

"Few would deny that the Anglican Communion is in crisis. The nature of that crisis, however, remains a question. Is it about sexuality? Is it a crisis of authority - who has it and who doesn’t? Have Anglicans lost their commitment to the via media, epitomized by the Elizabethan Settlement, which somehow declared a truce between Puritan and Catholic sentiments in the Church of England? Is it a crisis of globalization? A crisis of identity?

I have the privilege of serving as archbishop of the Church of Uganda, providing spiritual leadership and oversight to more than nine million Anglicans. Uganda is second only to Nigeria as the largest Anglican province in the world, and most of our members are fiercely loyal to their global communion. But however we come to understand the current crisis in Anglicanism, this much is apparent: The younger churches of Anglican Christianity will shape what it means to be Anglican. The long season of British hegemony is over.

The preface to the Book of Common Prayer states, ‘It is a most invaluable part of that blessed ‘liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,’ that in his worship different forms and usages may without offense be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire; and that, in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to belong to Doctrine must be referred to Discipline.’

And yet, despite this clear distinction, contemporary Anglicans are in danger of confusing doctrine and discipline. For four hundred years Anglicanism represented both the theological convictions of the English Reformation and the culture of the Christian Church in Britain. The sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Anglican divines gave voice to both: English Reformation theology (doctrine) and British culture (discipline). The Anglican churches around the world, however, have ended the assumption that Anglican belief and practice must be clothed in historic British culture."

The article speaks of the theology and historical experience of the believers in Uganda, and explains their objections to actions taken by other parts of the Communion and how they intend to protest them.

Read the rest here: What is Anglicanism?

Bishop Mwamba on the church in Botswana

The Episcopal Church News website has a video interview of the Bishop of Botswana:

"The Rt. Rev. Trevor Mwamba, Bishop of Botswana and dean of the Province of Central Africa, speaks about the Anglican Church in his local context and his vision for his diocese, especially in terms of education and empowerment."

What is particularly interesting here is that Bishop Mwamba is one of possible successors to Archbishop Melango. Mwamba is generally seen as a more moderate voice in that province.

Watch it here: Episcopal Life Online - VIDEO

Letty Russell died yesterday

This news began to be reported this morning:

"Letty Mandeville Russell, one of the world's foremost feminist theologians and longtime member of the Yale Divinity School faculty, died Thursday, July 12 at her home in Guilford, CT. She was 77. A leader for many years in the ecumenical movement, she remained active in ecumenical circles until her death, working for the World Council of Churches and the World YWCA.

She was one of the first women ordained in the United Presbyterian Church and served the East Harlem Protestant Parish in New York City from 1952-68, including 10 years as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Ascension. She joined the faculty of Yale Divinity School in 1974 as an assistant professor of theology, rose to the rank of professor in 1985 and retired in 2001. In retirement, she continued to teach some courses at Yale Divinity School as a visiting professor."

Many of us who studied with Prof. Russell remember her ability to see quickly to the heart of any complex issue, and the depth of her faith.

May her soul rest in peace and rise on the last day to glory.

Read the rest here: Yale Divinity School-News

Good news on teen pregnancies

"Teen birthrates continued their 15-year decline in 2005 as adolescents increasingly got into the habit of using condoms during sexual intercourse," writes Marc Kaufman in The Washington Post.

The story includes another bit of good news:

About 47 percent of high school students -- 4.6 million teens -- reported having had sexual intercourse in 2005, down from 54 percent in 1991.

And a bit of bad news:

While teen sexual behavior appeared to be less risky, more young people were arrested for serious violent crime in 2005 than in each of the previous three years. The arrest rate of 17 crimes per 1,000 juveniles, however, remained significantly below the peak rate of 52 per 1,000 in 1993.

More good sex-related news

Today is shaping up as chastity on the march day. First the news on a drop in the number of teens having sex (one item below) and now news that a change in sexual practices in Zimbabwe is curtailing the spread of AIDS.

Craig Timber of The Washington Post writes:

Alone among southern African countries, Zimbabwe has shown a significant drop in its HIV rate in recent years. A major reason, researchers say, is the changing sexual habits of men forced to abandon costly multiple relationships.

The story also advances the controversial thesis that grinding poverty helps slow the spread of AIDS:

Many researchers now suspect that economic vitality -- expressed in rising truck traffic, burgeoning bar scenes and widening income disparity -- encourage the behaviors that fuel a sexually transmitted epidemic. But as men get poorer, they pare back their relationships, making them less likely to contract or spread HIV.

ERD's annual summary

Episcopal Relief and Development has issued its annual summary.

Robert W. Radke, ERD's president writes:

Together with Anglican and ecumenical partners, ERD is working worldwide in places such as Burundi and the Philippines to fight hunger and poverty while empowering communities to support themselves and their families. Through primary health initiatives such as NetsforLifeSM, a partnership for malaria prevention in 16 sub-Saharan African countries, ERD helps to protect vulnerable communities against preventable diseases and keep families healthy through community health education and awareness programs. In the United States, after Hurricane Katrina, our long-term partnerships with the Dioceses of Louisiana and Mississippi have assisted nearly 172,000 people through the distribution of goods, access to psycho-social and pastoral counseling, and the construction of affordable housing.

ERD is laudably transparent. Few organizations put their federal tax returns online, but you can find ERD's here.

To read Radke's letter to supporters click Read more.

Read more »

Psychologists review stance on gays

The American Psychological Association is doing a review of its policy on counseling GLBT persons, and the result may be to stop counseling that aims to "convert" sexuality to heterosexuality. Several conservative groups are not happy:

The American Psychological Association is embarking on the first review of its 10-year-old policy on counseling gays and lesbians, a step that gay-rights activists hope will end with a denunciation of any attempt by therapists to change sexual orientation.

Such efforts _ often called reparative therapy or conversion therapy _ are considered futile and harmful by many gay-rights activists. Conservative groups defend the right to offer such treatment, and say people with their viewpoint have been excluded from the review panel.

six-member task force set up by the APA has its first meeting beginning next Tuesday.

Already, scores of conservative religious leaders and counselors, representing such groups as the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family, have written a joint letter to the APA, expressing concern that the task force's proposals would not properly accommodate gays and lesbians whose religious beliefs condemn gay sex.

"We believe that psychologists should assist clients to develop lives that they value, even if that means they decline to identify as homosexual," said the letter, which requested a meeting between APA leaders and some of the signatories.

APA spokeswoman Rhea Farberman said a decision on when and how to reply to the letter had not yet been made.

The current APA policy, adopted in 1997, opposes any counseling that treats homosexuality as a mental illness, but does not explicitly denounce reparative therapy. The APA has decided to review the policy at a time when gay-rights groups are increasingly critical of such treatment and groups that support it.

Read it all here.

Read the Christian Right letter here.

The obvious question,of course, is whether it would be appropriate for the APA to consider religious arguments on what is essentially a medical science decision.

Working mothers want part-time

The Pew Research Center has released a new study that shows a marked increase in the desire for part-time work versus full-time work in recent years. The preference for full time work has dropped for both stay-at-home moms and working moms. Fathers, on the the other hand, still prefer full-time work:

In the span of the past decade, full-time work outside the home has lost some of its appeal to mothers. This trend holds both for mothers who have such jobs and those who don't?

Among working mothers with minor children (ages 17 and under), just one-in-five (21%) say full-time work is the ideal situation for them, down from the 32% who said this back in 1997, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Fully six-in-ten (up from 48% in 1997) of today's working mothers say part-time work would be their ideal, and another one-in-five (19%) say she would prefer not working at all outside the home.

There's been a similar shift in preferences among at-home mothers with minor children. Today just 16% of these mothers say their ideal situation would be to work full time outside the home, down from the 24% who felt that way in 1997. Nearly half (48%) of all at-home moms now say that not working at all outside the home is the ideal situation for them, up from the 39% who felt that way in 1997.

The lack of enthusiasm that mothers of all stripes have for full-time work outside the home isn't shared by fathers – more than seven-in-ten (72%) fathers say the ideal situation for them is a full-time job.

. . .

Among women with minor children, views on this question vary little by income or education level. There are minor differences by race. Black mothers are more likely than whites to say full-time work is ideal; both groups are about equally likely to say no outside employment is ideal.2

Married mothers are somewhat more likely than unmarried mothers to consider no or part-time employment ideal; this pattern occurs in both the 1997 and 2007 Pew surveys. However, unmarried mothers are much less likely to prefer full-time work today (26%) than a decade ago (49%). A plurality of today's unmarried mothers now prefer part-time work (46%), while 26% prefer not working outside the home and 26% prefer full-time work.

Mothers with younger children (ages 0 to 4 years) also are less likely to prefer full-time work today (16%) than a decade ago (31%). A narrow plurality (37%) preferred part-time work in 1997; today 48% of mothers with younger children prefer part-time work, while 36% prefer not working outside the home and 16% prefer full-time work. The preferences of mothers with older children (ages 5 to 17) are about the same today as they were a decade ago.

The decline in mothers saying full-time work is ideal for them occurred about equally among mothers with higher and lower education levels.

Among all working mothers, there's a strong disconnect between the kind of job they say would be ideal and the kind of job they actually have. Some 60% of working mothers say they'd prefer to work part-time, but -- according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – only about a quarter (24%) of all working mothers have a part-time job.

Read it all here.

As the father of a toddler, I can certainly understand the desire for part-time work. But, why the large change in attitude? What has happened to increase the desire for part-time work? And what does this say about the lack of interest in fathers in part-time work? Finally, what does this tell the Church about public policy advocacy to support families?

Katerina Ivanovna has a good discussion of these results at the group Catholic blog Vox Nova here.

She's ba-ack

God has returned to Europe. So reports The Wall Street Journal. The question is, why? The WSJ offers up the supply-side theory, and the facts appear to fit.

The supply-side theory says that church membership will be strong where the competition is strong and churches are competing for numbers. Old Europe (to coin a phrase) had monopoly churches, churches established and funded by the state without regard to their performance. In contrast, everyone knows that Americans are much more religious the Europeans. The common explanation is that Americans are different. That's the demand-side explanation; that Americans are exceptional. The supply-side explanation is institutional: separation of church and state. Ironically, in choosing not to have established churches the authors of the Constitution created an environment in which religiousity was strong.

The Wall Street Journal article paints a familiar but still striking picture of religion in the Old Europe:

"The state undermined the church from within," says Stefan Swärd, a leader of Sweden's small but growing evangelical movement.

Consider the scene on a recent Sunday at Stockholm's Hedvig Eleonara Church, a parish of the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran institution that until 2000 was an official organ of the Swedish state. Fewer than 40 people, nearly all elderly, gathered in pews beneath a magnificent 18th-century dome. Seven were church employees. The church seats over 1,000.

Hedvig Eleonara has three full-time salaried priests and gets over $2 million each year though a state levy. Annika Sandström, head of its governing board, says she doesn't believe in God and took the post "on the one condition that no one expects me to go each Sunday." The church scrapped Sunday school last fall because only five children attended.

Just a few blocks away, Passion Church, an eight-month-old evangelical outfit, fizzed with fervor. Nearly 100 young Swedes rocked to a high-decibel band: "It's like adrenaline running through my blood," they sang in English. "We're talking about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."

In the New Europe religiousity is making a comeback. And there is some evidence for a supply-side explanation:
One factor now spurring religious competition in Europe is the availability of state money that traditionally flowed almost entirely to established churches. It still does, but the process is more open.

In Italy, the state used to pay the salaries of Catholic priests, but in 1984 it began letting taxpayers choose which religious groups get financial support. The proceeds of a new "religious tax" of 0.8% are now divided, according to taxpayer preference, among the Catholic Church, four non-Catholic churches, the Jewish community and a state religious and humanitarian fund.

The result is an annual beauty contest ahead of a June income-tax deadline, as churches try to lure taxpayer money with advertising campaigns. Catholics get the lion's share -- 87% of nearly $1.2 billion in 2004, the last year for which figures are available. But according to a 2005 study by Italian lawyer Massimo Introvigne and Mr. Stark, the system "reminds Italians every year that there is a religious economy."

Sweden has also overhauled church financing. In 2000, the government gave up formal control of the Church of Sweden. With great fanfare it replaced what had been a church "tax" with an annual "fee," still collected by tax authorities, levied on Church of Sweden members.

For the first time, taxpayers were told what they owed in cash -- instead of being given just a percentage figure, which is typically under 1% of household income. Church of Sweden membership dropped abruptly, and the church launched a publicity drive pitching religion.

Read and decide for yourself why more Europeans are going to church.

The Daily Episcopalian discussed Episcopalian membership trends from the supply-side perspective here, and from the demand-side here.

New video feature

Our new video feature has made its debut. You'll find a fresh segment in that slot every Monday morning. Daily Episcopalian and the Speaking to the Soul blogs are still available. You can find them in the blue navigation bar on your left.

Sins of the Times

The Rev. Jan Nunley, the Episcopal Church's deputy for communications, has picked apart a sensationalistic story in The New York Times which would leave readers with the false impression that a man who left the adult film industry six months ago is on the fast track toward beoming a priest.

The story is similiar to the equally over-hyped story about former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey's enrollment at the General Seminary in New York. He too was "ordained" by the media without ever even entering the discernment process of an Episcopal diocese.

The Bible as Wiki

The Bible was the world's first Wikipedia article. So many hands have altered and edited the now lost originals that we will never know for sure what those originals said, writes Doug Brown in his review of Bart D. Ehrman's book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.

He writes:

Those who call the King James Version of the Bible the unerring word of God have a slight problem. The New Testament of the KJV (as the King James Version is usually referred) was translated into English from a version of the Greek New Testament that had been collected from twelfth-century copies by Erasmus. Where Erasmus couldn't find Greek manuscripts, he translated to Greek from the Latin Vulgate (which itself had been translated from Greek back in the fourth century). Here the problem splits into two problems. First, Jesus spoke Aramaic --- his actual words, never recorded, were only rendered in Greek in the original gospels. Thus, the KJV consists of Jesus' words twice refracted through the prism of translation. Second, Erasmus's Greek New Testament was based on handwritten copies of copies of copies of copies, etc., going back over a millennium, and today is considered one of the poorer Greek New Testaments.

And concludes:

I find it amusing that the Christian Right in America spends its energy attacking evolution, arguing that teaching evolution is teaching atheism. For Ehrman, learning about the Bible is what caused his belief to change. He still believes in God, but no longer believes the Bible is an inerrant source of the Word. .... Ehrman isn't an atheist assaulting belief; he is just a scholarly believer saying he feels the evidence is clear that the gospels were written by men with personal agendas, and both accidentally and intentionally altered over the centuries by other men with agendas of their own.

And the church goes on

Reflecting on a recent break from blogging, the Rev. Scott Gunn has written a post that brings to mind the first sentence of Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. (For non-English majors it's: In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more.)

It deserves to be read in full, but here is a taste:

For all the talk about a massive crisis in the church, the goings-on of the Anglican Communion are simply not as important as the every day struggles of faithful people, trying to lead faithful lives. When a grieving family contacts the church, they don't care what +Henry Orombi thinks about Anglicanism or whether CANA and the ACN will patch things up. When I met with parents to talk about baptism for their child, not one person asked me for my views on same-sex blessings. People expect me to climb into the pulpit every week and proclaim the Good News. They don't really want to hear a polity lesson or a rehearsal of the "bad news."

So the next time I hear someone say this or that is tearing apart the church, I'm going to be more irritated than usual. I'll ask, "Exactly how is it that +Gene Robinson is tearing the fabric of the Communion?" "How can it be that +Martyn Minns is ruining the church?" There is a crisis only in the minds of a few overly anxious people, in the pens of reporters eager to sell newspapers, in the keystrokes of some obsessed bloggers (yours truly among them, sometimes), and in the preaching of some clergy who might benefit from being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. But to most people, most of the time, there is just the church.

Monks and soliders join forces for healing

Monks of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) are joining forces with a member of the Massachusetts National Guard to help men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find a safe place to heal. Episcopal Life Online reports,

"There is a tremendous need to help these folks," according to Capt. Jeffery Cox of the Massachusetts National Guard.

Cox, a clinical social worker with the Guard, offered his expertise and advice to the brothers of the Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to create a time of healing at the monastery specifically for members of the armed services who have spent long stretches away from home in war zones.

Cox has been deployed twice since 2003 and served in a combat stress company in Iraq in 2005-2006. He is a postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and the Episcopal Church Province 1 Coordinator for Episcopal Relief and Development. He works full-time as a contractor for the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program, supporting seriously injured and wounded soldiers throughout New England.

The brothers reserved the first weekend in October at the monastery to offer a healing retreat for people returning from places of war.

Read it all here

More from Associated Press here

Stop trying to "save" Africa

Stop Trying to 'Save' Africa is the challenge by Uzodinma Iweala, writing in this past Sunday's Washington Post. Although thankful for all assistance from the wider world, Africans " question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one's cultural superiority."

It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption. Idealistic college students, celebrities such as Bob Geldof and politicians such as Tony Blair have all made bringing light to the dark continent their mission. They fly in for internships and fact-finding missions or to pick out children to adopt in much the same way my friends and I in New York take the subway to the pound to adopt stray dogs.

This is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. News reports constantly focus on the continent's corrupt leaders, warlords, "tribal" conflicts, child laborers, and women disfigured by abuse and genital mutilation. These descriptions run under headlines like "Can Bono Save Africa?" or "Will Brangelina Save Africa?" The relationship between the West and Africa is no longer based on openly racist beliefs, but such articles are reminiscent of reports from the heyday of European colonialism, when missionaries were sent to Africa to introduce us to education, Jesus Christ and "civilization."

The author asks questions such as why Africans are not shown for the work they do supporting one another, or why the western press usually says countries in Africa were "granted independence" when often they had to fight and shed their blood for it? This article calls into question not so much the work that churches and other organizations do in Africa but our motives and how we present our assistance.

Read it all here.

Hospital Chaplain: Being there for patients and staff

Jan Hoffman in the NYTimes details the days and nights of a hospital chaplain in Offering Comfort to the Sick and Blessings to Their Healers. Chaplain Margaret Muncie responds to the spiritual needs of patients and staff. Not a stranger to suffering herself, Muncie offers support, strength and prayers to all who ask. Some excerpts from the article:

At 1 p.m. on a weekday, the emergency department at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Upper Manhattan is in full cry, with bays crowded, patients on stretchers lining the hallways, and paramedics bringing in more sick people. Time for the Rev. Margaret A. Muncie to work the floor.
Not shy, this pastor with the clerical collar, the Ann Taylor blazer and the cheerful insistence of one whose own mother called her a steamroller. Among the first women ordained an Episcopal priest and a self-described “Caucasian minority,” she’s an odd bird among the ethnically diverse staff and especially the patients, most of them black or Latino. But she keeps pecking her head behind curtains, parting gatherings of worried family members, impervious to startled looks of suspicion.
“Hi, I’m Peggy Muncie, a hospital chaplain,” she says. “Would you like a visit?”...

The chaplain is also expected to minister to the hospital staff. As Chaplain Muncie, 59, makes her way throughout St. Luke’s with a painstaking limp, she chats easily with doctors and nurses. She has sat with an intern who sobbed uncontrollably after pronouncing her first death and prayed with a ward clerk whose mother was in intensive care.
Every year, the chaplain performs a Blessing of the Hands. She wheels a cart adorned with a tablecloth, flowers, a bowl and an MP3 player. Surgeons, nurses, aides crowd around as she dips their hands in water, blessing their healing work. ...

Her core belief about healing, says Chaplain Muncie, is animated by Psalm 121: My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth — spirit and body; faith and medicine. In 1996, doctors found a benign tumor in her brain the size of a tennis ball. The day after it was removed, she had a stroke. Her right side became paralyzed.
"I was frightened and mad," she says, over a hasty salad. "But mostly I worried about my husband and daughters: What about them?"
So many people prayed for her. She was not allowed to abandon hope, not through the years of pain and physical therapy that reduced the paralysis to a lurching limp, thanks to a device she was recently fitted for — “an electronic doohickey, my own little miracle.”
She hitches up a pants-leg to show off the gadget, a neurostimulator. “I walk faster now,” she says. “I’m the kick-butt chaplain.” The experience deeply informs her ministry. “In Scripture it says, ‘Get up from your bed and walk, your faith has made you well,’ ” she continues.
“Well doesn’t mean perfect. But wholeness and healing can happen, even when there is still brokenness on the outside,” she adds, tears spilling. “I’m more whole now than 12 years ago. But I still walk a little funny.”

Read it all here

Pod world and youtube

Catching up to the 21st century, Episcopal churches are making videos, podcasting sermons, and otherwise taking the initiative to broadcast the "good news" of life in the church using the internet.

Instead of waiting for news to be broadcast by others, often sensationalized and mostly about sex, members of The Episcopal Church are creating and posting their own stories, sermons, and educational pieces.

Trinity Wall Street has been a long time leader in web broadcasting with Trinity Institute and other productions. They provide studio space and professional assistance for their work and the work of others.

The Rev. Matthew Moretz in Yonkers, NY puts his own brand of humor and information on "youtube" with Fr. Matthew Presents.

Episcopal Life Online runs a multimedia presentation with various leaders speaking about life in the church and the work of the church. This week features The Rt. Rev. Trevor Mwamba, bishop of Botswana - who also appears in The Ladies #1 Detective Agency mysteries by Alexander McCall Smith.

Episcopal Cafe began a video section this week with assistance from Trinity Church Wall Street in New York. This week offers Thomas Keating on Consenting to the Presence of God.

All Saints Church Pasadena moved from audio only to video in recent months. This week they are broadcasting a sermon at All Saints by The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire. All Saints also added the Franciscan Fourfold Blessing by Bishop Robinson on youtube

The Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori and her staff have been pro-active in the pod cast and video broadcast world. Shortly after the Primates meeting in Tanzania she held a nationwide live conference via streaming video. She appeared on The Bill Moyers Show discussing faith and science.

This past week Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Olympia (WA) the Rev. Greg Rickel did interviews for Soul Talk in Austin, TX. The first one is found at "The Mirror Doesn't Forget" and the other at "Soul Talk Interview with The Rev. Greg Rickel." He discusses what attracted him to The Episcopal Church, the current life of the church and his hopes for the Diocese of Olympia in Western Washington, where most people profess to belong to "none" when it comes to church affliliation. A memorable quote, he hopes we will not to get mired in our "willingness to be discontented all the time."

Some programs are more engaging than others. On audio casts, voice quality, approachability, and concise interesting answers work best. "Talking heads" are the least effective in video unless one is already interested in the subject. Quality of sound and video are essential and gentle humor makes a piece memorable. Photos and video clips help convey depth behind words and help viewers stay engaged.

What are your thoughts on the use of the internet to spread the message of The Episcopal Church?

Massachusetts announces departure of rector

A letter released today by the Diocese of Massachusetts clarifies the status of the Rev. William Murdoch who has been elected a bishop of the Anglican Province of Kenya.

The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, today announced that a priest of the diocese, the Rev. William Murdoch, who has served as the rector of All Saints' Episcopal Church in West Newbury, Mass., since 1993, is leaving the Episcopal Church to serve as bishop suffragan of All Saints Cathedral, Diocese of Nairobi, in the Anglican Province of Kenya. Murdoch was elected as such on June 29 and is to be consecrated on Aug. 30 in Nairobi.

Murdoch has served since 2004 as New England dean of a network of congregations in disagreement with the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, some seeking Anglican affiliations outside of it. Murdoch will conduct his last worship service at All Saints' Episcopal Church in West Newbury on Aug. 19. He and All Saints' vestry members have been in consultation over a period of months with Bishop Shaw and the diocese's bishops suffragan, the Rt. Rev. Bud Cederholm and the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, resulting in a cordial agreement under which the congregation, should it decide to leave the Episcopal Church, will vacate the Episcopal church property at 895 Main Street and its administration will be assumed by the diocese

"My continuing heartfelt prayers are with Bill, his wife, Sally, and their entire family, as well as with the members of All Saints' who feel God calling them to this path in their faith journey," Bishop Shaw said. He noted that the discussions between the bishops and potentially departing All Saints' leadership have been characterized by an extraordinary spirit of cooperation through which all have been well served. "This process of discernment has been marked by mutual respect for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and for the different theological views that have brought us to this pass, and it is in that same spirit that we now make our way forward," Bishop Shaw said.

No decision has been made about the status of the West Newbury Episcopal church. Diocesan representatives will meet with Episcopalians from the area in early September to discuss the continuing Episcopal Church presence [in] the Merrimack Valley, which is also home to Episcopal parishes in Amesbury, Andover, Chelmsford, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Methuen, Newburyport, North Andover, North Billerica and Westford.

Maria Plati
Communications Director
Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

The Newburyport News yesterday had reported "Murdoch will remain rector of All Saints Church even as he takes on this nationwide role."

All Saints has also been in the news because of its interest in moving to a larger site. That story is here.

Our first Presiding Bishop

The 17th is William White's feast day. He was our first Presiding Bishop. Joseph Packard tells this story about Bishops White and Meade:

White was of a timid, gentle disposition. He did not always call things by their simple names, but used circumlocutions, speaking of Satan as that personage. Bishop Meade once preached in his church, and by his strong, plain language made the people tremble, and Bishop White told him in the vestry-room they were not used to that sort of preaching.

Packard, Reflection of a Long Life 1812-1902, Byron S. Adams, Publisher, Washington, D.C., 1902.

.The Rev. Timothy B. Safford's homage to William White shows us that when times required, White could be something other than timid or gentle:
In his revolutionary and incendiary pamphlet, The Case of the Episcopal Church in the United States Considered, White proposed that each new state (we would say diocese) choose its own bishop by ballot, and that the ballots be cast by both clergy and laity. Further, each state would send clergy and lay delegates to a convention where a constitution would be ratified that would bind all the separate states/dioceses into one Episcopal Church.
Born and educated in the democratic cauldron of Philadelphia, White did not object to the role of bishops elsewhere, but believed the new American church had an opportunity to return to its primitive roots when, before Constantine, the laity participated in the selection of their bishop, and before 1066, when the power of a bishop was not an extension of the power of the state. For the New England states, White’s new democratic Catholicism went too far.
In time, William White’s “patience, wisdom and reconciling temper” helped effect every compromise needed to satisfy Connecticut while keeping the other states content. Finally, in July 1789, with William White presiding at General Convention without Bishop Seabury or Connecticut present, the compromise was brokered, allowing a separate House of Bishops that could veto the actions of the House of Deputies. The convention adjourned until Bishop Seabury could join a month later, at which time Seabury became the second Presiding Bishop.

One other very significant compromise was offered: Connecticut was allowed to keep its own rules on bishops’ elections without lay votes, and that diocese was permitted to not have lay members in its delegation to General Convention.

Read it all in The Living Church.

Bishop Chane speaks out on fixing the Farm Bill a multi-denominational press conference on Capitol Hill on July 17, Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Diocese of Washington and five other faith leaders called upon the leadership of the United States Congress to stand for a farm bill consistent with "our nation's fundamental values of fairness and opportunity for all people." according to Alex Baumgarten, reporting for Episcopal News Service.

"Current U.S. foreign policy is a broken promise to American farmers -- especially small rural farmers -- and also is a threat to the world's poor," said Chane, speaking of the Episcopal Church's commitment to farm-bill reform to national reporters gathered one room away from where the House Agriculture Committee was slated to begin its final consideration of the U.S. farm bill later in the day.

Noting that the Committee thus far has rejected calls for reform of the U.S. commodity-crop payment program, Chane said that "the House leadership must now begin to address this bill from a moral perspective and center that transcends the typical as-you-go-politics that have sustained U.S. agricultural policy" in recent years.

Chane was joined at the press conference by Father Andrew Small of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; the Rev. David Beckman, president of Bread for the World; Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby; the Rev. Earl Trent, director of missions for the Progressive National Baptist Convention; and Bishop Theodore Schneider of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Metro Washington, D.C. synod.

The press conference also marked the public release of a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the heads of 13 Christian denominations and faith-based advocacy organizations, including Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Stressing that "the vision behind the first U.S. farm bill in the 1930s -- an economic safety net for farmers during difficult times -- is barely recognizable in today's farm bill," the leaders called for Congress to enact a "new covenant with rural America" and people living in poverty around the world.

Read it all, including the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi here

Interested persons can sign up here, and learn more about the farm bill here.

Ethics Daily has more from Bishop Chane and others. A comprehensive roundup can be found here.

The extraordinary act in Massachusetts

The Boston Globe reports this morning:

Murdoch's congregation, which averages about 300 worshipers each Sunday, will have to turn over its three buildings and a $1 million endowment to the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The congregation is planning to buy a closed Catholic church in Amesbury and start over as All Saints Anglican, a local parish of the Kenyan church.

The extraordinary act is part of a new national movement, in which a handful of Episcopal parishes and priests are leaving the 2-million-member Episcopal Church USA and affiliating with the more conservative Anglican churches, called provinces, of Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Let's underscore that: what makes this extraordinary is that Murdoch and the congregation are not attempting to take to the buildings with them. This is a significant departure from the Nigerian churches in Virginia and Colorado, and similar property disputes in California where the Diocese of Los Angeles had several court rulings in its favor.

The article continues, "Murdoch's congregation has become a magnet for disenchanted Episcopalians from several states." At the same time others have been attracted to other less conservative Episcopal congregations. It is no surprise, then, that the congregation is staying with Murdoch. And, as the article said we're talking about "handfuls", not a mass movement.

Read it here.

It appears likely that the congregation Murdoch leads will purchase buildings from the Roman Catholics.

UPDATE: Here's Episcopal Life Online's take,

Bishop Shaw noted that the discussions between the bishops and potentially departing All Saints' leadership have been characterized by an extraordinary spirit of cooperation through which all have been well served. ... No decision has been made about the status of the West Newbury Episcopal church. Diocesan representatives will meet with Episcopalians from the area in early September to discuss the continuing Episcopal Church presence in the Merrimack Valley which is also home to Episcopal parishes in Amesbury, Andover, Chelmsford, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Methuen, Newburyport, North Andover, North Billerica and Westford.

Bishop Dixon: Give people choice

Former Episcopal Bishop of Washington, Jane Holmes Dixon, offers her thoughts on the reintroduction of the Latin Mass by the Roman Catholic Church,

If some Roman Catholics need and prefer the Latin Mass, who am I at this stage of my life to object? It is not my choice, yet the work I am doing now at The Interfaith Alliance is to help the American public appreciate and preserve the freedom to worship as they choose. I hope the Roman Catholic Church continues to give their people the freedom to choose the vernacular as well as Latin
. Read her "On Faith" column here in the Washington Post.

Catching glimpes of what's really important in life

A group of soccer-playing girls recently returned to the US from a trip to South Africa. What did they most want to talk about upon their return?

What they wanted to talk about most was not the elephant herd that surrounded their bus or the lion cubs they held. It was handing out 1,000 hot dogs to squatters' families, joining dozens of little boys in a field to kick around a rubber ball the size of a walnut, and sharing secrets with African girls their age. They had caught glimpses of what was really important in life, and they knew it, even if they didn't know what to do with what they had learned.
The parish of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Poolesville, Maryland is mentioned:
Their favorite place was Richmond, a dusty speck of a town with high unemployment between coastal Port Elizabeth and huge Johannesburg. Under the umbrella of a program started two years ago by St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Poolesville, the girls stayed two days to deliver food and play with local kids. Joanna Meyer-Glitzenstein, 16, recalled riding into the town and thinking, "Oh, my God, there's nothing here. The streets are empty. Where are all the people?"

She didn't have to wait long to find out.

Read more about outreach at St. Peter's here.

Read the entire Washington Post article here where you will also find links to blog entries written by the team members, and interviews with them.

Anglican Nigerians reminded no one can serve two masters

Kendall Harmon brings to our attention this report appearing in the Lagos Vanguard

THE Diocese of Egbu, Anglican Communion, has warned its members to distance themselves from secret societies and cults or risk being slammed with commensurate disciplinary measures lined up by the diocese for its erring members.

The Bishop, Professor Emmanuel Iheagwam, read the riot act while presenting his presidential address during the 10th Annual Men's Conference at Saint John's Anglican Church, Naze.

While recalling the Biblical injunction that "no one can serve two masters" at the same time, the Anglican cleric lamented that there are a lot of people who profess to be Christians but at the same time belong to secret societies and cults." Are there not people who profess to be Christians and at the same time belong to secret societies or cults?

Read it here.

Questions have been raised before about the accuracy of the membership numbers of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. How many of members the church claims are members are "erring members"? How many have little tie to the church? How many are counted by as members of other Christian denominations as well.

The Anglican Church in Nigeria has far fewer bishops per member than Anglican provinces in the west. That is, except for its extra-provincial province in North America where the opposite is true.

Lady Bird leaves a gift to St. Barnabas Episcopal

For more than 50 years St. Barnabas Episcopal Church was a second home for Lady Bird Johnson. ... "We had a debt on the Parish Hall that was built eight or nine years ago that the Parish has been dealing with and paying off," Elwood said.

That was until the former first lady stepped in. In their Sunday services three weeks before her passing, the church announced they had received a $300,000 gift.

The letter, signed by Johnson, reads: "I feel the time has come for me to repay a part of the debt for the irreplaceable gifts of comfort, strength and abiding faith I have received."

Read the News 8 report here.

From the church's history:

President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson were among the attendees at the cornerstone ceremony on November 11, 1964. In addition to the cornerstone, a stone from the St. Barnabas Monastery in Cyprus was placed on the South wall of the new sanctuary. Bearing the inscription “From the St. Barnabas Church in Cyprus” the 16 x 18 limestone rock was presented to the local church by Mrs. Johnson. It was given to her for the local church by Archbishop Makarios when President and Mrs. Johnson visited the Greek island of Cyprus in 1962. It is from the site where St. Barnabas, according to tradition, met a martyr’s death by stoning in the year 61.
Some footnotes on her Episcopalian faith via USA Today:
Moyers referred to the rain when he joked that he and other Baptists such as Carter and Clinton had failed to convert Johnson from her Episcopal faith and that she had once told him, "If you Baptists have any rain left over, any water left over, put it on the flowers. They need it more than I do."
Although Lady Bird Johnson ... insisted that the service hew closely to the denomination's Book of Common Prayer, she chose to close it with her alma mater's fight song, The Eyes of Texas. The University of Texas song was played by uniformed members of the Longhorn marching band as hundreds raised their pinkie and index fingers in one last "Hook 'em Horns" farewell.
President Johnson was not an Episcopalian. He had an interesting faith journey that is detailed here.

When the time of death becomes our choice

Reuters has a substantial article reminding us of the dilemmas we face in a world where medicine can extend "life" in quotes:

"The ability of medicine to keep people alive for such long periods of time -- despite their best efforts to die -- has changed the way people perceive the end of life," said Susan desJardins, a pediatric cardiologist and member of the ethics committee at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando, Florida.
"Our hospital attempted a few years ago to write a policy on futility," Mary Ruckdeschel, a social worker from Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, said at the Georgetown course.

"We were never able to do this because people could not agree on the definition of futility."

Read it all here.

If you missed the fine report on hospital chaplains in the New York Times earlier this week, check it out here.

The politics of adultery

Senator David Vitter's (R-LA) association with the woman known as the D. C. Madam has touched off another round of journalistic rumination about whether private sins are a public matter. The Washington Post has featured three columns on this issue in the last five days, all by veteran Washington journalists.

E. J. Dionne raised the issue first on July 13, writing:

My defense of Vitter is qualified because I believe that married guys have a moral obligation not to seek the pleasures of "escort services."

Nor do I like hypocrisy. During the battle over the impeachment of Bill Clinton, Vitter wrote in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that if no "meaningful action" were taken against the president, "his leadership will only further drain any sense of values left to our political culture." Vitter, then a state representative, suggested that Clinton was "morally unfit to govern."

But a big part of me is rooting for Vitter to survive because I so want to return to a time when we -- that "we" includes the media -- chose to pay little attention to the extracurricular sexual activities of our politicians. The magnitude of our public problems does not afford us the luxury of indulging in crusades about politicians' private lives, even those involving a high degree of hypocrisy.

David Ignatius visited the subject in a sidelong sort of way two days later, pointing out that in the age of the blog, where anybody can report on anything, it is no longer clear what sorts of conversations and activities are "on" the record:

What are the ground rules of life? Can we assume any "right to privacy" in this digital age when everything we say or do can become part of a permanent record that anyone -- friends, enemies, the government -- can access? With cameras sprouting on every street corner in Washington and New York (and have you checked out your nearest interstate lately?) should motorists just assume that their zone of privacy ends when they leave their driveways?

Privacy isn't what it used to be, certainly. A woman known as the D.C. Madam disseminates her phone records to fight charges that her "escort service" is a prostitution ring. The disclosure exposes a first-term senator named David Vitter. Well, fine, you say, Vitter is a noisy "family values" conservative who should be indicted for hypocrisy if nothing else. But what about the thousands of other people whose phone numbers are on the D.C. Madam's call list? Are they fair game?

But yesterday, Ruth Marcus, announced htat she planend to "opt out of the 'whatever happened to privacy' pity party that's convened in the aftermath of the Sen. David Vitter sex scandal.

She writes:

For some people, adultery itself is disqualifying in a politician. I think marriage is too mysterious an enterprise to go that far. It's hard to know -- and therefore impossible to judge -- what happens inside someone else's marriage. People stray; spouses forgive, or not; that's their business. But paying for sex, in whatever form, is both illegal and repulsive. It reveals a view of women as commodities that is relevant to lawmakers' public responsibilities.

She is wise to point out that many politicians base their stand on issues such as this one on the expediencies of the moment:

One man who has understood the importance of dealing with the demand side is former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who went after prostitution in the city by targeting customers as well as prostitutes. Under "Operation Losing Proposition," Giuliani's police arrested johns and confiscated their cars. He didn't wring his hands over their lost privacy.

So what does Candidate Giuliani say now -- now that his own marital missteps are campaign fodder, and his southern regional chairman is David Vitter? At a town meeting in New Hampshire last week, Giuliani sounded like my fellow columnists. "I believe," he said, "it's a personal issue."

UPDATE: Newsweek takes a look at the religious and political consequences in Evangelicals and the Vitter Effect.

Responding to objectification

Fuller Seminary's Youth Ministry Resource page has an article that discusses what sort of response Youth Ministers might make to a recent study that shows how profoundly a young girl's internalized decision to see being attractive as more important than being competent can become.

"Researchers studying the influence of self-objectification, meaning the tendency to view our own bodies as ‘objects,’ have found that the way a girl feels about her body predicts how she’ll throw a softball. If she has learned that her body is an object and she needs to be concerned about her appearance at all times, she is far more likely to 'throw like a girl.'

Most of us probably don’t include softball throwing in our list of youth ministry goals. But if it’s true that the way girls feel about their bodies affects the way they toss a ball, then it’s all the more true that the way they feel about their bodies impacts the way they view the One who created them in His image. As youth workers who seek to create space for this Holy One to work, recent research and media reports can help us respond to three ‘mores’ that bring new twists to not-so-new issues for our girls."

Instead of just dismissing this as a funny little bit of news, consider this quote from the article:

Over 77,000 invasive surgical procedures were performed on teens 18 and younger in 2005, representing a 15% increase since 2000. While that in and of itself is shocking, consider this: minors cannot undergo these surgeries unless their parents consent. In most cases, since these procedures are not covered by medical insurance, the parents pay for the surgery as well.

The article goes on to list some action points that Youth leaders and clergy might consider as a way to respond to these pressures.

There's no mention of how the same sorts of societal pressures are affecting young men in this article, though there have been a number of articles and books recently that have pointed out that some young boys are struggling in an "overly-feminized" classroom paradigm.

Read the rest here: Fuller's Center for Youth and Family Ministry | Youth Ministry Resources

Care to share any strategies that have worked for you?

Reforming the Farm Bill

From the Episcopal Public Policy Network:

Already this year, you've heard a lot from us about the U.S. farm bill – the legislation that governs U.S. agricultural and food policy – and the need for reforms that will strengthen rural communities and fight hunger at home and abroad. The House Agriculture Committee is giving final consideration to the bill this week, and – despite the advocacy of an unprecedented alliance of faith groups and antipoverty advocates around the country – all signs indicate that calls for farm-bill reform have fallen on deaf ears in the committee. This means that the cause of reform is now in the hands of the full House, and that it will be critical over the next few weeks for every member of the House to hear from constituents that the status quo is not good enough. It will also be critical to ask lawmakers to press House leaders to stand with the champions of reform.

Specifically, the farm bill should:

Reform the commodity-payment program so that our nation's farm policy helps U.S. farmers of modest means and does not distort commodity prices and supply in ways that make it harder for farmers in poor countries to feed their families; AND

Increase investments in food-stamp benefits, rural development, conservation programs, and international-food aid programs that encourage local food security. (For more information, click here.)

Click here to email your representative.

A Chaplain at Sing Sing

How does a Ugandan-born priest, who lost a brother and sister to Idi Amin, become the Episcopal chaplain in one of America's most notrious prisons? Episcopal Life Online tells the story of the Rev. Canon Petero Sabunein in words and video.

Harry Potter and the Church

Since your news-team here at the Episcopal Cafe felt left out not being able to find a connection between the iPhone and the Episcopal Church a few weeks ago, we were very relieved to find this article on the Times website which allows us to have something about Harry Potter up on our site today just like everyone else...

"To coincide with the publication of J K Rowling’s final book about the boy wizard on Saturday, the Church of England is publishing a guide showing how to evangelise using the stories from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Evangelicals have been critical of the Harry Potter books and films on the ground that they glamourize the occult and attract children to the idea of witchcraft. Sensitivity to this issue led Canterbury Cathedral to reject a request to become a location for the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. But in recent years, the Harry Potter phenomenon has received backing from church figures, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey, who described the film as ‘great fun’ and a serious examination of good and evil.

Designed for use by youth groups, the guide, ‘Mixing it up with Harry Potter, 12 Sessions on Faith for 9-13s’ is written by 24-year old youth worker Owen Smith, who has also written one based on the Simpsons cartoon series. Scenes from the books are used to illustrate how Christian children may be called to stand out, like Harry, from their peers.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, today described Harry Potter author JK Rowling as a ‘great storyteller’. ‘Although the fictional world of Harry Potter is very different from our own,’ he said, ‘Harry and his friends face struggles and dilemmas that are familiar to us all. Jesus used storytelling to engage and challenge his listeners.' The Bishop said the Harry Potter books made young people think about the choices they make and their place in the world."

There have been similar programs in diocese of the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Bethlehem in particular.

There's an article that discusses the relationship and possible conflicts between the Potter-universe and the religious world view over on the Washington Post today as well.

Read the rest here: Use Harry Potter to spread Christianity says Church -Times Online

(NB: Your humble reporter has read the articles linked above and can report that there are no spoilers that need to be avoided. The Cafe wouldn't do anything like that. Unlike the New York Times... no spoilers at link.)

African/US Anglican meeting

Trinity Institute is announcing a new program designed to bring bishops from the African Anglican Provinces and the Episcopal Church together. From the press release:

Trinity Wall Street is convening a group of bishops of the Anglican Provinces in Africa and their companions in the Episcopal Church of the United States for a consultation to strengthen relationships, develop mission partnerships, and to discover new opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel. The consultation will be rooted in prayer and breaking bread together; using different liturgies from the Provinces of the Anglican Communion to enrich the experience of the participants. Hosted by Iglesia Episcopal Reformada de España, Walking to Emmaus: Discovering New Mission Perspectives in Changing Times will be held in El Escorial, Spain from July 21 through July 26, 2007.

There are no press people invited to the meeting, but there will be regular video updates made available at here. [Link updated in response to comment below.]

According to the Reverend Canon James G. Callaway, Jr., Deputy for Faith Formation and Development at Trinity Church Wall Street the idea behind the meeting is that:

“Mission flourishes best through collaboration,”... “This gathering provides an opportunity for people of shared faith and mutual responsibility to come together to further develop partnerships that address important needs in the world.”

Confidence begins to slip?

The Global South Steering Committee has issued a statement at its meeting in London which ended on July 18th. The statement consists of 12 points, many of which speak to the concerns of the Steering Committee vis-a-viz the response of the Episcopal Church to the Dar es Salaam Communiqué issued by the most recent Primate's meeting.

The statement gives evidence of some concern that the Primate's Steering Committee, apparently the body that will make the final decision regarding the Dar es Salaam's Communiqué's requests, may decide not to act to expel the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion:

"7. We are aware of the anticipated visit by the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the ACC to the September meeting of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church USA. Sadly we are convinced that this decision, made jointly by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chair of the ACC, undermines the integrity of the Dar es Salaam Communiqué. We believe that the Primates Meeting, which initiated the request to the TEC House of Bishops, must make any determination as to the adequacy of their response. We strongly urge the scheduling of a Primates’ Meeting for this purpose at the earliest possible moment."

Read the rest here: This is a critical time - A Statement from the Global South Steering Committee

The Episcopal News Service's take on the statement can be found here. Their headline is "Global South Primates vow to continue violating Episcopal Church boundaries."

UPDATE: On July 24th the steering committee admitted that some of its more moderate members were not at the meeting,

Abp Malango, Abp Venable[s] and Abp Gomez were not present at attend this meeting with apologies.

Poll: Muslims, Evangelicals have similar views

Despite having a faith tradition different to the predominant Christian traditions in the United States, Muslim Americans share much in common with other US religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants, a new study has found.

"Although Muslims constitute a small minority in the United States, and their holy book and many of their religious rituals are distinctly their own, Muslim Americans are by no means 'the other' when it comes to religious life or politics in the United States," said the study's authors, Robert Ruby and Greg Smith of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

"In many ways", say the two researchers, "[Muslim Americans] stand out not so much for their differences as for their similarities with other religious groups."

The Pew study - "How Muslims Compare With Other Religious Americans" - found that though Muslim Americans generally tend to be more politically liberal than white evangelical Christians, the two groups share similar conservative positions on a number of social issues, including that of homosexuality.

Some 61 percent of Muslims and 63 percent of white evangelicals agreed that "homosexuality is a way of life that should be discouraged by society". By contrast, only 36 percent of white "mainline" Protestants and 31 percent of Roman Catholics agreed with this statement.

Read it all.

Davis Mac-Iyalla's American tour

St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Washington, D. C. has made available a podcast of the presentation that Nigerian gay rights activist Davis Mac-Iyalla made at the church on July 3. He speaks about his efforts on behalf of gay Christians in Nigeria, and the smear campaign launched against him by Archbishop Peter Akinola.

Selective punishment

Ekklesia, the progressive Christian think tank in England will soon publish a major report on the conflict in the Anglican Communion. Rewriting History: the Episcopal Church struggle is available now on the group's Web site.

In a nine point summary of the 82-page paper, author Savitri Hensman writes:

1. Because The Episcopal Church (USA and other regions) is more accepting than most provinces of lesbians and gay people, including those in loving partnerships, it has been accused of failing to act in accord with the clear teaching of the Bible and the agreed position of the Communion, being too heavily influenced by the dominant culture and acting in an imperialist manner. Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference is often mentioned: though its position on homosexuality was not binding, TEC has been condemned for breaching 'bonds of affection' by not conforming.

2. However it is unjust to punish TEC when senior clergy in certain other provinces have to a far greater extent failed to act in line with Scripture and Anglican consensus, to examine their own cultures critically and to oppose imperialism. These include the primate and bishops of the Church of Nigeria, who have acted in ways contrary to key Biblical teachings, the 1998 Lambeth Resolution on homosexuality and over thirty resolutions agreed by Lambeth or the Anglican Consultative Council, as well as several recommendations of the Windsor Report.

3. Yet they have not been treated nearly as severely as TEC. Indeed, internationally agreed Anglican positions on a range of matters are frequently disregarded by bishops and archbishops.

4. What is more, TEC was placed in a difficult position because of apparently contradictory principles widely held in international Anglican circles, and the persistent refusal of leaders of several other provinces to promote serious study of human sexuality and listen attentively to lesbians and gays, despite repeated conference resolutions.

5. Traditionally Anglicanism's broad nature, and careful attention to Scripture, tradition and reason in responding to complex issues, had enabled the church to revise its position radically on various matters over the past couple of centuries, including ethnicity, gender and sexuality, while staying true to its heritage.

6. Recently, however, some senior clergy have demanded that their own opinions on specific matters be treated worldwide as core truths, like those in the Creeds, and refused to consider any evidence to the contrary.

7. With the hope of adequate international dialogue fading, members of TEC were faced with the pastoral realities of a diverse society and the strength of the theological case for full inclusion of lesbians and gays. It seemed to many that, by postponing justice decade after decade, they were failing to seek and serve Christ in all persons and love their neighbour as themselves, and this was damaging ministry and mission. In becoming less discriminatory, TEC was acting in a reasonable manner.

8. For associating too closely with those often facing rejection and contempt, TEC has been targeted, and has become a scapegoat for wider divisions, based partly on different responses to social issues and the determination of some bishops elsewhere to transform the nature of the Communion.

9. Respect for the dignity of all people, encouragement of thoughtful study of the Bible, appreciation of advances in science, participation of the laity at all levels of decision-making and catholicity based on acceptance of provincial autonomy and diversity have long been valued by Anglicans, but are now under threat. What is of value to the church and world in the Anglican heritage should not be lightly discarded.

About the author: Savitri Hensman was born in Sri Lanka. She works in the voluntary sector in community care and equalities, is a respected writer on Christianity and social justice, and was founder of the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre in London. She was a long-standing member of the Jubilee Group, a network of radical Anglo-Catholics and others committed to understanding the transformative impact of traditional Christian faith. Savi is an Ekklesia associate.

New study on volunteerism

The Corporation for National & Community Service has released a new study of volunteerism in the United States. It shows a large decline in volunteerism in the last year, and also shows a wide difference in levels of volunteerism among different communities.

The Christian Science Monitor reports the study's finding of a large decline in volunteerism, with changing demographics a leading cause of the decline

More than a quarter of Americans spent some of their time lending a helping hand last year.

That good news kept the rate of nationwide volunteering at historically high levels: Some 61.2 million people dedicated 8.1 billion hours of service to schools; hospitals; and religious, political, and youth groups in 2006, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS).

The bad news is that the number of volunteers recently dipped significantly – by one third – from 2005.

A key reason: Nonprofits and other groups that rely on volunteers are having trouble retaining them.

"The demographics are such that we are poised to make this 30-year high get even better because the baby-boom generation is passing the traditional age of retirement," says David Eisner, CEO of CNCS. The group aims to raise the number of adult volunteers to 75 million by 2010.

"At the same time," he says, "our work is cut out for us because, nationally, the volunteer bucket is a bit leaky. We get a lot each year, but we lose a lot each year. We have to figure out how to plug those holes." Commuting time, education, and home ownership all play roles in determining how much time people are likely to spend helping organizations that need support, according to the CNCS's national study of America's top 50 cities based on census data between 2004 and 2006.

Other reasons for the decline include poor volunteer management, including the failure to make volunteers feel that their efforts are worthwhile:

"Our surveys show that the biggest hurdle to getting a volunteer to stay involved is that they felt ineffective in their use of time," says Rob Wallace, a spokesman for Keep America Beautiful, a national nonprofit public education organization that seeks to improve community environments. "Everyone is extremely busy today, so if they begin to feel their volunteer time is sucking the life out of them without giving them satisfaction, they get jaded and want to quit."

Often this happens because volunteer programs are not being run effectively, experts say.

"Most nonprofits … if they got a million dollar grant, they would put their CEO in charge of it," says Sandy Scott, spokesman for CNCS. "But at the same time they might have $5 million worth of volunteers at work but they are being run by an intern or busy receptionist. We are trying to change that."

More groups are now teaching nonprofit organizations how to help guarantee volunteer satisfaction in part by working with their busy schedules.

"We help them plan flexible projects for times that volunteers have free, or in geographical areas where they are already commuting to or that deal with such facts [such as] they don't have much money to get around," says Ariel Zwang, executive director of New York Cares, which helps 850 nonprofit agencies, public schools, and others create projects for volunteers.

And "compassion fatique" can also be a factor:

Compassion fatigue is one reason Dr. Erickson believes volunteerism has dropped.

"Our nightly news is riddled with very few good news stories. Wars, corporate and political scandals and ethical breaches have made us not only weary but also wary of others. So a "bunker mentality" has developed, where people keep to themselves and don't worry about anything but insulating themselves from the world and the latest bad news. We simply have to turn that around," she says.

People must constantly remind others that one person can make a big difference, says Cathy Lanyard, executive director of American Friends of Alyn Hospital in New York.

the study also found a large difference in volunteerism in different communities. Experts think that the differences can be explained by economics, community stability, local leadership and an intangible sense of community:

For example, in Minneapolis, where home ownership is high and neighbors stay connected, volunteerism is nearly 41 percent.

But in Los Angeles, where people spend more time alone in their cars than talking over the back fence, volunteerism is about 22 percent.

In Portland, Ore., where almost 90 percent of residents over age 25 have completed high school, the volunteer rate is nearly 36 percent.

In Riverside, Calif., where only 75 percent of people over age 25 have a high school degree, the number of folks willing to help for free is about 21 percent.

. . .

The levels of local, state, and federal financial commitment are key to making a city work well for volunteers, experts say.

"Volunteering doesn't happen in a vacuum," says Shawn Lecker-Pomaville, executive director of the Nevada Commission for National and Community Service, which administers AmeriCorps programs. "It takes resources and oversight and management and public policies to support it. This state could do a lot more."

In the CNCS study, Las Vegas was ranked the lowest among the top 50 cities, having a volunteering rate of 14 percent.

It's crucial to develop a culture of connectedness, too. "Here in the Midwest, helping each other is just something we do," says Beth Erickson, a business consultant in suburban Minneapolis who volunteers at least twice a week at her church in St. Paul. "I have long surmised that we volunteer up here on the frozen tundra because our lives quite literally can depend on it," she says.

Read the entire Christian Science Monitor reort here.

Have you noticed a drop in volunteerism in your church and community? Any ideas for how we can turn this trend around?

Evangelicals and torture

Earlier this year, 17 prominent evangelical leaders and scholars issued “An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture: Protecting Human Rights in an Age of Terror.” As Peter Steinfels of the New York Times notes, while the document received a great deal of attention when issued, it has largely been forgotten:

Four months have passed since a group of 17 prominent evangelical leaders and scholars issued “An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture: Protecting Human Rights in an Age of Terror.”

. . .

Will everyone who has read this document, or even heard of it, please raise his hand?

Well, you’re forgiven. There are reasons, unfortunate perhaps but understandable, that the declaration hasn’t received the attention it deserves.

Not that it went entirely unnoticed, particularly back in March, when the board of the National Association of Evangelicals all but unanimously endorsed it. This endorsement, by a body claiming to represent 45,000 evangelical Protestant churches with 30 million members, was quickly reported as another sign of an important shift in evangelicalism’s political stance. For several years, leading evangelicals have been pressing the movement to widen its public agenda to embrace issues like poverty and global warming alongside standing concerns about abortion, religious symbols in public spaces and sexual norms.

But in March, the declaration also drew immediate fire from other religious conservatives. Daniel R. Heimbach, a Southern Baptist professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the evangelical declaration a “diatribe” that was “confused and dangerous,” mainly because it failed to pinpoint exactly where coercive interrogation crossed into torture.

Mark D. Tooley, a leader of the neoconservative Institute on Religion and Democracy, quickly dismissed the declaration as the work of “pseudo-pacifist academics and antiwar activists” who were contributing to “a barely disguised crusade against the U.S. war against terror.”

The initial flurry of attention has died down, although people who want to use the declaration for church or classroom discussions continue to download it from the Web site

As Steinfels observes, however, the document might have had an impact after all. Recent polling by the Pew Research Center shows that those who worship every week--including Evangelicals--are more likely to oppose torture than those who don't, which suggests that religious voters are susceptible to a purely religious argument on issues like torture:

The survey found that in every religious group, those who said they worshiped weekly appeared more restrictive toward torture than less observant believers, although the difference was modest. Dr. Green considered this finding “a bit counterintuitive” because weekly worshipers “tend to be more Republican, conservative and supportive of the Bush administration than their co-religionists” — traits otherwise associated with more permissive attitudes toward torture.

Not surprisingly, the poll data showed that white evangelicals were somewhat more permissive toward torture than other religious groups. But in Dr. Green’s fine-grained effort to sort out religious identity and weekly worship from other factors like party identification, political ideology and views on the Iraq war, white evangelicals also appeared the most likely to have their views modified on religious grounds alone.

Does this mean that “An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture” is a potentially influential document? Its original authors and the scores of significant evangelical leaders who have signed on to it along with the National Association of Evangelicals obviously hope so. But this is also an act of conscience, to which they were compelled regardless of its impact.

“What we developed was a pretty sizable teaching document,” writes David P. Gushee, a professor of moral philosophy at Union University and the principal drafter of the declaration, who has compared it to a papal encyclical. But in the end, he said, the drafters’ motivation was simply “to bear Christian witness.”

Read it all here.

So did this document make a difference? How can members of the faith community most effectively address issues like torture and war? How do we measure success? Is being a Christian witness sufficient reason to issue such a document?

Related: Bush signs new executive order on interrogation methods.

"On Faith" focuses on Islam

The Washington Post "On Faith" blog this week will focus on Islam. Editors Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn explain why:

Put bluntly and broadly, many people today wish to portray Islam as a peaceful faith with a violent few, arguing that “jihad” (literally, “struggle”) is a spiritual term encompassing the Muslim’s daily religious life and that it can only be used for armed struggles that are defensive. On the other end of the spectrum are those who believe Islam is a violent faith in which jihad is a perpetual militaristic element. The truth, it seems reasonable to say, lies somewhere in between. Believers of all kinds have killed in the name of their conception of God, or of the gods. Historically, some of the blood has been shed in what some traditions think of as “just wars,” some in unjustifiable atrocities, some in battles of conquest. And yet believers of all kinds have done great good in the name of their conception of God, or of the gods, in acts of mercy, charity and liberation.

How do we make sense of these contradictions and complexities in an age of enduring fear about terrorism? The question is essential, and is arguably the central one of our time, for if totalitarianism was the great problem of the 20th century, then, so far, religiously inspired violence is its 21st century successor.

All of which brings us to the project at hand. Over the next six days, On Faith will host “Muslims Speak Out,” a forum in which about twenty leading Muslim clerics and thinkers from around the world will engage in what we believe is an unprecedented online dialogue about the Islam and its intersection with politics and culture. We reached out to fifty such clerics and scholars; twenty agreed to participate. The list is geographically and theologically diverse.

The questions we will pose in the coming days touch on controversial and problematic issues. What would you tell suicide bombers who invoke Islam to justify their actions? What are the rights of women in Islam? Is it permissible for a Muslim to convert to another faith? Does Islam’s view of male-female equality differ from the Western view? Under what conditions does Islam sanction the use of violence? How can laws against apostasy be reconciled with the Qu’ranic injunction saying “there is no compulsion in religion”?

Read it all here.

In the same context, Karen Armstrong's op-ed, "An inability to tolerate Islam contradicts western values," is also worth a look:

In the past Islamic governments were as prone to intellectual coercion as any pre-modern rulers, but when Muslims were powerful and felt confident they were able to take criticism in their stride. But media and literary assaults have become more problematic at a time of extreme political vulnerability in the Islamic world, and to an alienated minority they seem inseparable from Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and the unfolding tragedy of Iraq.

On both sides, however, there are double standards and the kind of contradiction evident in Khomeini's violation of the essential principles of his mentor, Mulla Sadra. For Muslims to protest against the Danish cartoonists' depiction of the prophet as a terrorist, while carrying placards that threatened another 7/7 atrocity on London, represented a nihilistic failure of integrity.

But equally the cartoonists and their publishers, who seemed impervious to Muslim sensibilities, failed to live up to their own liberal values, since the principle of free speech implies respect for the opinions of others. Islamophobia should be as unacceptable as any other form of prejudice.

Archbishop Sentamu warns Anglican conservatives

Anglican conservatives have been put on notice by the Archbishop of York:

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph, Dr John Sentamu pleaded with them to attend the [Lambeth] conference despite their war with liberals over homosexuality.

Sentamu.jpgBut he told them that if they "voted with their feet" they risked severing their links with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with historic Anglicanism, a breach that could take centuries to heal.

"Anglicanism has its roots through Canterbury," he said. "If you sever that link you are severing yourself from the Communion. There is no doubt about it."

Read it all of Jonathan Petre's report here.

See also Jim Naughton's essay today on last week's statement by the Global South Steering Committee. Archbishop Orombi of Uganda, who attended the committee's meeting recently wrote

The younger churches of Anglican Christianity will shape what it means to be Anglican. The long season of British hegemony is over.

Like Orombi, Sentamu is Ugandan. A former judge there, he fled the country during the regime of Idi Amin.

UPDATE. The Church Society (UK) has picked up on another portion of Petre's article:

The Telegraph reports:

"Dr Sentamu, a close ally of Dr Williams, said that as long as Anglican bishops did not deny the basic Christian doctrines they should all be able to remain within the same Church.
While liberal north Americans disagreed with conservatives over sexual ethics, these were not core issues, he said."

We have been unable to confirm that this accurately reports John Sentamu but if it does then it is very serious. Previously he appeared to have taken the view that sexual immorality is important and that the actions of the revisionists and sodomites in North America is a problem.

Anglicanism and Globalization

Christopher Sugden writing in the Evangelicals Now August 2007 edition has some thoughts on the effect that a rising tide of globalization will have on Anglicanism. Up till now most of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion have been coterminous with their respective national boundaries. (The Episcopal Church based mostly in the United States is a signal exception.)

This close identification with the nation state has some implications according to Sugden:

"The Achilles’ heel of the Anglican Communion is that it is more likely to go with the grain of the culture and the politically powerful than against them. Its origin in the concerns of Henry VIII to have all state institutions in the nation subject to him is one factor here.

But it is no longer possible to subject all state institutions in one geographical area to one jurisdiction. International companies, the internet, international networks such as the European Union are an expression of the globalisation that has rendered boundaries that were set by how far people could conveniently travel obsolete.

Geography is no longer the sole consideration when thinking about the space that we occupy. We live in global and universal space which is occupied by networks of people with values and commitments. In the church, we are now experiencing the church as envisaged in Acts 15, where Gentile and Jew ( different races and classes) are engaged closely together."

Sugden goes on to claim that the rise of the Global South as pan-national coalition in the Anglican Communion is partly an attempt to deal with this particular problem, which he sees most clearly exemplified in what he judges to the be the apostasy of the Episcopal Church (a phrase he uses after claiming warrant from the Chair of Design Committee for the proposed Anglican Covenant, Abp. Drexel Gomez).

It is particularly interesting to read Fr. Sugden's words in light of the new remarks by the Archbishop of York today.

Read the rest here: Anglican Mainstream » An end to Nationalistic Anglicanism

‘More Cake, Vicar?’

On the lighter side of the news that's breaking today, an article about a novel way of fund-raising to support mission work in the developing world was published in Christianity Today:

"From carrot cake to Lincolnshire plum bread with marmite, bishops throughout the UK and the Anglican Communion have named their favourite cakes to help launch the ‘More Cake, Vicar?’ campaign – which is being run by the USPG: Anglicans in World Mission.

...Churches are being invited to bake and sell cakes to raise funds to help USPG support the vital work of Anglican churches in over 50 countries, from hospitals in Tanzania to house building in Chile.

...Archbishop [Rowan Williams] also said: ‘USPG continues to enrich the life of the Anglican Communion through its rootedness in the life of the Provinces. Its commitment to partnership and cooperation yields great dividends as together we share in God’s mission worldwide.’"

Read the rest here: ‘More Cake, Vicar?’ Campaign to Support Anglican Mission Abroad

James Dobson rejects all of Harry Potter

The Christian Post has news that Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family has officially renounced Harry Potter and all the associated "Harry Potter products."

"‘In a story about Christians' views on the Harry Potter books and films, reporter Jacqueline Salmon wrote that ‘Christian parenting guru James Dobson has praised the Potter books,’’ the statement read. ‘This is the exact opposite of Dr. Dobson's opinion – in fact, he said a few years ago on his daily radio broadcast that ‘We have spoken out strongly against all of the Harry Potter products.’’

The reason the ministry leader is against the material is obvious given the presence of magical characters (witches, wizards, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, poltergeists and so on) in the Harry Potter stories.

‘[A]nd given the trend toward witchcraft and New Age ideology in the larger culture,’ FOTF added, ‘it's difficult to ignore the effects such stories (albeit imaginary) might have on young, impressionable minds.’"

Your humble news editor-of-the-day, having spent all night Friday in line with his family for the last book of the series, wonders if Dr. Dobson has actually read them...

Without giving too much away, the final book makes it clear to most that JK Rowling is writing within the model set by the Oxford "Inklings" of the last century. The works as a whole seem very much in the tradition of Pilgrim's Progress. The final work has images of christian morality, teaching and theology that rival the works of C.S. Lewis in the Narnia books in terms of their explicitness.

It seems to us here at the Cafe, that Rowling is writing in a style that follows much of the traditions of great Anglican writing by both clergy and lay people with particular examples being Gulliver's Travels by The Very Rev. Jonathan Swift, Alice in Wonderland by "Lewis Carroll" aka The Rev Deacon Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and Prof. C.S. Lewis and Prof. Charles Williams of the Inklings themselves. It is in keeping with the instructions of St. Gregory the Great to St. Augustine of Canterbury (the first archbishop) who was instructed to make use of the common culture he found in England to teach the Christian faith to the nation he was sent to evangelize.

Read the rest here: Dobson Officially Renounces 'Harry Potter' |

Memories of Bishop Pike

Dr. Louie Crew has gathered memories of Bishop James Pike at his Do Justice website. Twenty writers remember their experiences of the inspirational and controversial bishop.

The Revd Robert Brueckner, a Lutheran says, "I met Bishop James Pike on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1960, at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York City. I heard his outstanding sermon delivered with deep faith and conviction. His words reverberated so that they constantly come to mind even today: “I can’t explain to you the mystery of the Holy Trinity. But, I believe it. I can’t explain to you the mystery of the virgin birth – how the Holy Spirit hovered over the Virgin Mary, and ‘she gave birth to her first born Son.’ But I believe it.”

The Revd Dr Kenneth R. Clark of Albuquerque, NM remembers,
"In the late 60's Bishop Pike was keynote speaker at the Disciples annual state conference in Wichita Falls, Texas. I was in Vernon, Texas, at the time and the Episcopal clergy in Wichita Falls invited me to a meeting they had arranged with the bishop the afternoon of the speech. I could bring one layman so I invited Bill M. We met in a motel and the bishop chained smoked as he outlined what he thought were the major issues of the day. When he ran out of cigarettes he turned to Bill and asked him for some smokes, which he provided. The bishop told us about involvement in the civil rights movement and how he and others had confronted Bull Conner and his police dogs. He made great sport of the police chief (recall that Conner had attacked the marchers in Birmingham). When he paused to light another cigarette, Bill asked, “ Bishop, did you or any of those other clergy who were with you give any attention to Bull Conner’s immortal soul?” The bishop said, “ What is your name boy!” “ Bill, sir.” “Stand up Bill and let me shake your hand. You are the only one who has ever noticed that we were totally oblivious to Bull Conner’s needs.”

Others remember his personality, his deep convictions, his passion for social justice, and his ability to remember people as well some more difficult times. I remember when he preached at our public high school baccalaureate in 1959. I was drifting away from the church in my late teens but his sermon was so memorable it carried me through my "prodigal" years and back into the church. It was about how we may not be able to see the big picture but we had a place in it and were meant to be here in this time and place to make the picture complete.

Read it all here

Walking to Emmaus Consultation

Anglican Communion bishops from 22 dioceses in the United States and 29 dioceses in Africa joined the congregation of Madrid's Iglesia Episcopal de España for a Eucharist on July 22. Joining the Rt. Rev. Carlos Lozano Lopez, bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain, at the altar were the primates of Burundi, Central Africa, Congo, and Southern Africa, as well as the primate of Brazil, according to a press release from Trinity Church, New York City published by Episcopal News Service.

Following a reception, the visitors made a stop at the Museo del Prado, before returning to El Escorial where the "Walking to Emmaus, Discovering New Mission Perspectives in Changing Times" consultation continues through Thursday, July 26. The consultation is being convened by New York's Trinity Church, Wall Street, as an opportunity for bishops of the Anglican Provinces in Africa and their companions in the Episcopal Church of the United States to strengthen relationships, develop mission partnerships, and discover new opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel.

The Rev. Canon James Callaway, deputy for faith formation and development at Trinity Church, said: "The consultation is offering partners in faith and mission a communal space to further existing partnerships and find commonalities on which to build new relationships. This week, as bishops share their hopes and vision for mission as Anglicans in today's world, we look forward to a stronger communion committed to providing important resources to those in need around the world."

The Trinity Church website has more resources on the consultation and will have video postcards from Spain later this week.

Site editor Nathan Brockman discusses theology of mission with Ian Douglas, Angus Dun Professor of Mission and World Christianity at the Episcopal Divinity School.

NB: What is the theology of Mission?

ID: In the early 19th century, mission was understood as "missions" -- outposts of the Western Church in some far-flung place. As Christian witness became more incarnated on six continents, there has been a movement from the church's missions, to the mission of the Church, and now to the mission of God or missio Dei.

NB: The success of the 19th-century missions has something to do with the current conflict over human sexuality in the Anglican Communion, correct?

ID: Oh, absolutely. But I don't see it necessarily as a conflict.

NB: Why not?

ID: Well, there are indeed conflicts with respect to the particular differences over human sexuality. But the real question has to do with the plurality cultural contexts in which Anglicanism is now located. I tend to see our present situation as the logical outgrowth of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Anglican Communion is moving from a historically mono-cultural, Christian experience of a North Atlantic Alliance, to a radically multi-cultural, diverse family of churches.

More discussion here

Archbishop of Canterbury receives ecology award

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has received an award from UK parliamentarians for his work in helping to promote ecologically friendly causes - including a Church of England carbon-cutting campaign.

As reported by Ekklesia,

"The award, presented by the Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group, recognises the work of the Archbishop and the Church of England in promoting sustainable energy issues to the public and to policy makers."

Affirming the impact of the Archbishop's leadership, "a Lambeth Palace spokesperson added that the award recognised the importance of the issue for faith communities. "The Church of England has made climate change and environmental sustainability central issues in recent years, at home and overseas. This award for the Archbishop of Canterbury from PRESAG members is a timely recognition of the central role people of faith have in providing for the responsible stewardship of our planet."

"The ethical aspect of the challenge of climate change is increasingly recognised, and in choosing to confer this award on the Archbishop, PRESAG [the Associate Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group] acknowledges just how important moral and spiritual leadership on environmental matters continues to be."

The Church of England is currently engaged in a national campaign known as Shrinking the Footprint.

Read it all here.

Losing my religion

A reporter for the LA Times looks at how the stories he covered affected him and his spiritual journey. William Lobdell relates how he went from enthusiastic believer to despair over the actions of the leaders and members of churches, especially as they covered up sex abuse by clergy.

When Times editors assigned me to the religion beat, I believed God had answered my prayers.

As a serious Christian, I had cringed at some of the coverage in the mainstream media. Faith frequently was treated like a circus, even a freak show.

I wanted to report objectively and respectfully about how belief shapes people's lives. Along the way, I believed, my own faith would grow deeper and sturdier.

But during the eight years I covered religion, something very different happened.

Sexually abusive priests, in all denominations, who are moved around and allowed to continue to work as clergy; fake healing ministries, and the prosperity gospel purveyors gradually sapped his faith.

Lobdell concludes:

My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago — probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up.

Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. It can't be willed into existence. And there's no faking it if you're honest about the state of your soul.

This "de-evangelization," as I call it, continues in all faith groups. Wherever power and secrecy are allowed, people will arise to use it for their own purposes and not the purposes of holiness.

Read the entire article here.

Bishops of 51 American and African dioceses meeting

The Living Church offers some more details on the conference of American and African bishops currently attending a six day conference in Spain organized and funded by Trinity Wall Street:

Forty bishops representing 22 dioceses of The Episcopal Church are participating with bishops from 29 Anglican dioceses in Africa at a six-day conference in Madrid meant to foster closer links between north and south in the Anglican Communion.
Ten of the 12 Anglican provinces in Africa are represented, according to Diane Reed, manager of promotion and public relations at Trinity. The event is closed to media, and Ms. Reed said she did not have permission to release the names of the participants. However, a Trinity press release noted the archbishops of Central Africa, the Congo, Southern Africa, Burundi, and Brazil were present for a Eucharist July 22 at Madrid’s Iglesia Episcopal de España.
Read it here.

A cathedral gets real

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that the cathedral for the Diocese of West Tennessee is going through some belt tightening:

"There's a myth that the cathedral is crashing and burning, but it's not going under, it's not closing, and it's not for sale," Bishop Don Johnson said recently in an exclusive interview.
At issue is an aging and shrinking congregation, resulting in diminished annual giving. And with fewer members, the

number of clergy and staffers needed to serve the congregation decreased.

From a peak membership of around 900 in the 1960s, St. Mary's now counts about 400 and averages 140 at weekly worship services. Half the congregation is age 60 and above and more than three-fourths are 50 and older.

To help cover expenses, the cathedral has dipped into its endowment fund, but that's not a sustainable solution.
"We made a conscious decision to be transparent about the financial condition of the cathedral in this parish and beyond. It must be able to address the needs of its Sunday worshipers as well as the hundreds who come here for special diocesan events," Johnson said. "Truth-telling is important, but it comes with a price. We've gone through the 'Let's get real' phase and now we're in the 'What's next' phase."

Read it here.

See, also, today's story in The Living Church about the closing of the cathedral in Diocese of Western Michigan.

Evangelicals to send petitions against hate crimes bill

Christian Today reports:

The petitions collected by Coral Ridge Ministries are a response to the hate crimes amendment that Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) attached to the defence spending bill under consideration in the Senate this week.

“This is the single most dangerous piece of legislation we have seen in the recent past, because of its threat to silence the Church on the subject of homosexual behaviour,” said Jerry Newcombe, senior producer of The Coral Ridge Hour, CRM’S TV broadcast. “I shudder to think what the impact on free speech will be if this law is enacted.”

Many Christian and pro-family groups have been protesting the hate crimes bill for months, arguing that the federal bill is repetitive of existing state laws and threatens the free speech of those who speak on the biblical view of homosexuality.

Other groups speaking out against the legislation:

- Family Research Council: Targetting Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, "the Family Research Council is placing automated calls (sometimes known as "robo-calls") to Nashville households about legislation that would include attacks motivated by the victim's sexual orientation among the offenses covered by federal hate-crime laws."

- Focus on the Family: "Democrats have attached an amendment to a Defense spending bill that would create federally protected “class status” for homosexuals, bisexuals, transvestites, “transgender” and “transsexual” people. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has pulled the bill off the floor.... Ashley Horne, federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said hate crimes legislation likely will return to the Senate floor [in September]."

The Episcopal Public Policy Network has issued an appeal to supporters of hate crimes legislation to contact their representatives. Here is an extract of a letter sent to Congress by our Presiding Bishop:

As the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, I am pleased to add our endorsement of hate crimes legislation and urge your strong support for the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 S. 1105. As Christians, in Eastertide we celebrate the new life that comes out of death. One of the important transforming steps our nation can take toward the new life that Christ personified is the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons and the valuing of their lives and gifts equally to all other persons. All are children of God. Even though it may be difficult to find God in the face of the other, God is there. And we must hope that others see the face of God in us as well.
The Presiding Bishop also recalls the words of her predecessor:
The fact that Matthew was an Episcopalian makes our grief no more sharp, but it does give us a particular responsibility to stand with gays and lesbians, to decry all forms of violence against them - from verbal to physical, and to encourage the dialogue that can, with God's help, lead to new appreciation for their presence in the life of our church, and the broader community.
An email policy alert from EPPN points out this is bi-partisan legislation with 42 co-sponsors. The email continues, hate crimes "contradict our Baptismal Covenant pledge to "respect the dignity of every human being." "

Court denies rehearing in California case

We earlier reported that the Diocese of Los Angeles had prevailed on appeal, against St. James, Newport Beach, St. David's, North Hollywood, All Saints, Long Beach and others. These churches were attempting to claim ownership of parish property although the Consitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church affirm that all property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church.

Yesterday, the California Court of Appeals denied the motion for rehearing by the losing congregations. The court docket showing this order can be found here (scroll down to 07/24/2007).

The congregations now have ten days to petition for review to the California Supreme Court. Such an appeal is discretionary. The California Supreme Court need not hear the case.

More of the interview with Sentamu

The Telegraph today has another Jonathan article on his interview with the Archbishop of York. In it Sentamu reveals he is a fan of Harry Potter. More extensive quotations are given on his view of the fissures in the Anglican Communion:

He warned the leaders of the conservative Global South group that they would be in danger of putting themselves outside the worldwide Church if they carried out their threats to boycott the Lambeth Conference next year.
"As long as someone does not deny the very basic doctrines of the Church - the creation, the death, the resurrection of Christ and human beings being made in the image of God - then the rest really helps but they are not the core message.

"And I haven’t found that in Ecusa or in Canada, where I was recently, they have any doubts in their understanding of God which is very different from anybody. What they have quarrelled about is the nature of sexual ethics."

He nevertheless emphasised that Dr Williams does expect those who attend Lambeth to abide by the decision-making processes of the Anglican Communion.

"The Archbishop of Canterbury is very clear that he still reserves the right to withdraw the invitations and that those who are invited are accepting the Windsor process and accepting the process about the covenant."

But in another sentence, he said that attending Lambeth is not also a test of orthodoxy. "Church regulations and Church legislation should not stand in the way of the gospel of love your neighbour. You are members of one body and therefore you should listen to one another and find a way out. I want to say to both sides, you would do well to come to the Lambeth Conference for us to hammer out our differences."

The Living Church reports today that
A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is on sabbatical until September, said Archbishop John Sentamu was not speaking on behalf of Archbishop Rowan Williams, but instead offering his own reflections on current events.

Going green for God

The Austin American-Statesman shines a spotlight on local churches that are working to become more eco-friendly:

For years, environmentalism has been preached from the pulpit as a form of Christian stewardship. Now, a growing number of Central Texas churches are turning those teachings into action by going green as they expand to accommodate growing congregations.

In San Marcos, St. Mark's Episcopal Church has bought land for a new church and is weighing options for green construction, including solar panels, rainwater collection systems and concrete floors that would help keep it cool.

"We're supposed to take care of the Earth, not just take what we can get from it," said Larry Hanson, chairman of the church's building committee.

The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, which includes parts of Central Texas, has set up a Web site explaining how churches can build in environmentally sensitive ways.

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Dripping Springs recently completed a church that has double-paned, tinted glass - "70 percent of the time, we don't even have to turn on a light," said the Rev. Nancy Coon - and a zoned heating and air-conditioning system so the church can heat or cool only the areas that are occupied.

The complete article is under this blog entry on the Daily Green. Episcopal Life Online also covers the article here.

And for more environmental initiatives by Episcopal churches see today's essay by The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston at our companion blog, Daily Episcopalian.

Technology aids faith-based green movement

The Living Church Foundation also looks at environmental stewardship from another angle in its current issue, examining "viral marketing" through electronic communications with respect to how it's helping the Episcopal Ecological Network get the word out about news and events.

An incoming e-mail announces an event of interest for members of the Episcopal Ecological Network (EpEN). The EpEN’s communicator reads the message and decides to send it to all network members. With a few mouse clicks, the e-mail’s contents are sent to recipients in some 25 diocesan-level and five congregation-level environmental commissions, committees, and working groups. These leaders, in turn, send the message to their members. In a matter of a few hours, more than 1,000 passionate and interested Episcopalians in the United States and overseas will have received word about the event.

Before the explosion of the internet, dissemination of such information would have taken days, if not weeks, to reach the same number of people. If the event were time-sensitive, such as a request to call a congressional representative or a notice about a special seminar, many individuals would not hear about it until it was too late.

Timely communication is one way that EpEN members are involved in caring for God’s creation, led by a working group of 14 individuals from 12 dioceses. But what is it about caring for God’s creation that keeps these individuals and groups talking and working together?

The rest, with specific examples, is here.

A bishop's forecast of number of English bishops attending Lambeth

The Church of Ireland Gazette reports:

Following the debate on the Anglican covenant process at the meeting of the Church of England General Synod earlier this month in York, the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, told the Gazette that if the bishops of The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States do not meet the demands of the Dar es Salaam Primates’ Meeting required by next September’s deadline, and if the bishops of the Global South decline to attend next year’s Lambeth Conference, as many as six in ten Church of England bishops could be considering their own positions about attending the ten-yearly episcopal gathering.

However, Bishop Scott-Joynt added that such bishops would feel "constrained" by their loyalty to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who personally invites the bishops.

Here's a much earlier forecast by the conservative bishop, equating Windsor-compliant bishops to bishops seeking alternative oversight.

Read the Gazette's story here.

Ruth Gledhill of The Times reports on the Gazette story in rather sensationalized terms under the headline "Bishops threaten to boycott Lambeth Conference". Gledhill, of course, should admonish the headline writer. There is a difference between "bishops threatening to boycott" and "one bishop making a forecast on the number that might be thinking about not attending were it not for their loyalty to the Archbishop of Canterbury". But she writes the following, which you will not find in the Gazette:

Bishop Scott-Joynt says in the Gazette that for a boycott not to take place, the bishops of The Episcopal Church must meet the demands of the recent Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam.

There of course are fissures in communion, and saber rattling all around. Among the latest to make an assessment of the strength of the opposing sides is Matt Kennedy. See his analysis here.

The Church of Ireland Gazette article also observes:

The debate [over an Anglican covenant] was preceded by a special address to the General Synod by the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, who is the Chair of the Covenant Design Group, of which the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, is a member.

Referring to the current inter-Anglican crisis, Archbishop Gomez said that "scaremongering is commonplace". He said that there was a need "to identify the fundamentals that we share in common, and to state the common basis on which our mutual trust can be rebuilt".

While Archbishop Gomez is a member of the Global South Steering Committee he was one of several primates who did not attend its recent meeting. At that meeting the committee issued a statement which "consists of 12 points, many of which speak to the concerns of the Steering Committee vis-a-viz the response of the Episcopal Church to the Dar es Salaam Communiqué issued by the most recent Primate's meeting."

The Archbishop of Ireland recently stated in a sermon:

In breaking with me you will have cut yourself off from any gift of God that I might otherwise have had the chance to share with you. It is not then the case that unity is maintained at the expense of truth, but rather that disunity guarantees that access to a fuller knowledge of the truth is consciously inhibited.

Play it again

Filed under church growth, but that may be misleading—the Rev. Michael Ruk is one of an apparently growing number of priests that are heading up more than one church, according to the Bucks County Courier Times.

Doubling up this way is a new phenomenon in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopalians — like many mainstream denominations — are finding there aren't enough clergy to go around and because most Episcopal churches have small congregations, few can support one full-time minister, Ruk said.

“It's an economic move, an example of thinking outside the box. It will be quite an adventure,” Ruk said.

Bishop Charles Bennison was also interviewed for the article, noting that this trend wasn't necessarily a sign of shrinking attendance so much as a reflection of the times. During the colonial period, it was necessary for people to be close to their churches.

... Early American settlers developed a pattern of building many small Episcopal churches very close to each other, each with its own full-time clergyman. The church was the center of a community's social life and the faithful needed to be able to walk to their houses of worship.

The invention of the automobile and the increased diversity of the population soon found many Episcopalian worshippers traveling to bigger, more centralized churches, Bennison said.

“The early setup was an economic model for church life that is no longer practical,” the bishop said.

"Yoked" parishes and parish clusters are related arrangements with one or more clergy pastoring multiple churches. In some cases, Bennison noted, a church might sell its property and disband to become part of another Episcopal church.

“But just because a church closes, doesn't mean it's dying. We'd rather have 100,000 people worshipping in 80 churches than 25,000 worshipping in 150 churches,” Bennison said.
The whole thing is here.

What a cat can see

The Egyptians revered cats; some have thought them agents of witches and Satan. So what of Oscar the Cat, a feline who seems to be aware when nursing home residents are about to fly away to God's celestial shores? Creepy, or angelic? Dr. David Dosa, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, leans toward the latter in an essay describing Oscar as he makes his daily rounds. You might think it troubling that his appearance at your bedside is a harbinger of doom, but this is the advanced dementia unit of a Rhode Island nursing home, where many lonely souls drift and drift before they can fly home.

Doctors and nurses have come to trust Oscar's prescience, and often, when he takes up the vigil, they know to alert families to join him. And when there is no family, or no one comes, Oscar stays faithfully at their sides.

This story was picked up by many major news outlets today, giving many a moment to pause and contemplate this "news of the weird" item. But Dr. Dosa's eloquent tribute is not to be missed:

Making his way back up the hallway, Oscar arrives at Room 313. The door is open, and he proceeds inside. Mrs. K. is resting peacefully in her bed, her breathing steady but shallow. She is surrounded by photographs of her grandchildren and one from her wedding day. Despite these keepsakes, she is alone. Oscar jumps onto her bed and again sniffs the air. He pauses to consider the situation, and then turns around twice before curling up beside Mrs. K.

One hour passes. Oscar waits. A nurse walks into the room to check on her patient. She pauses to note Oscar's presence. Concerned, she hurriedly leaves the room and returns to her desk. She grabs Mrs. K.'s chart off the medical-records rack and begins to make phone calls.

Within a half hour the family starts to arrive. Chairs are brought into the room, where the relatives begin their vigil. The priest is called to deliver last rites. And still, Oscar has not budged, instead purring and gently nuzzling Mrs. K. A young grandson asks his mother, "What is the cat doing here?" The mother, fighting back tears, tells him, "He is here to help Grandma get to heaven." Thirty minutes later, Mrs. K. takes her last earthly breath. With this, Oscar sits up, looks around, then departs the room so quietly that the grieving family barely notices.

Read the whole thing here.

UK faces further rain

There hasn't been much coverage here in the States of the flooding happening in Britain (apparently the latest female celeb legal issues are judged more important). The good news over the past few days was that the situation, especially in hard-hit Gloucestershire was starting to slowly right itself. So this news from the BBC is a bit concerning for the weekend:

"Heavy rainfall is predicted for Saturday night and Sunday morning as the extent of the damage in flood-hit Gloucestershire is emerging.

The BBC Weather Centre says rain in south Wales and central and southern England could cause localised flooding."

A number of british bloggers have been providing local reports, including "The Gray Monk".

For those who can, please add the folks in the flooded regions to your parish's prayer this weekend.

Read the rest here: BBC NEWS | UK | Flood-hit areas face further rain

Finally, check out this image of flood-bound Tewkesbury Abbey.

Postcards from Emmaus

Earlier this week, the Cafe reported on the meeting taking place in Spain between bishops of the Global South and bishop of the Episcopal Church in the states.

Trinity Church on Wall Street in NY underwrote much of the expense of the program and is today featuring news about the results on their website:

"The Trinity Grants Program convenes this week the 'Walking to Emmaus Consultation,' bringing together bishops and deans from the United States and countries in Africa who are actively engaged in ongoing mission partnerships. To deepen our understanding of the theology of mission and the role of current mission partnerships in the Anglican Communion, site editor Nathan Brockman recently spoke with Ian Douglas, Angus Dun Professor of Mission and World Christianity at the Episcopal Divinity School."

If you go to the site linked below, you'll find numerous video postcards from the participants.

Read the rest here: Trinity Church - The Theology of Mission: A Conversation

(Via .)

Interview with Bishop Robinson

Ruth Gledhill has published the transcript of an extensive interview given by Bishop Gene Robinson to Andrew Collier a Scottish journalist.

Gledhill writes of the interview:

"This is the bit I liked best: 'I think the thing that is the most mystifying to me and the most troubling about the Church of England is its refusal to be honest about just how many gay clergy it has – many of them partnered and many of them living in rectories. I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, knows fully about their relationship, is wonderfully supportive but has also said if this ever becomes public then I’m your worst enemy. It’s a terrible way to live your life and I think it’s a terrible way to be a church. I think integrity is so important. What does it mean for a clergy person to be in a pulpit calling the parishioners to a life of integrity when they can’t even live a life of integrity with their own bishop and their own church? So I would feel better about the Church of England’s stance, its reluctance to support the Episcopal Church in what it has done if it would at least admit that this not an American problem and just an American challenge. If all the gay people stayed away from church on a given Sunday the Church of England would be close to shut down between its organists, its clergy, its just seems less than humble not to admit that.'"
You can find the entire transcript of the article here.

Update: Ruth's version of the article for the Times is found here.

Church helping Church

Here's a bit of unusual news:
A New York Episcopal church is engaging in an unexpected act of charity, helping a neighboring Baptist church fundraise for renovations. Antioch Baptist Church, located in Bedord, N.Y., is currently trying to raise $600,000 to construct a new second-story addition to their building and has been joined in its efforts by St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church with no strings attached. Church leaders were grateful for the kindness shown by the local congregation. ‘It’s overwhelming,’ explained Velma Lewis, a chairwoman for Antioch Baptist’s development committee, to the Lower Hudson Online. 'I cannot think of any previous experience where someone has come forward to make such an offer with no expectation of getting something back.'
There's not any further explanation about why the Episcopal congregation felt this was an important ministry to support. Do any of you know more of the story? Read the rest here: N.Y. Episcopalians Come to Aid of Baptist Congregation.

Mmmmm, religion

In the tradition of Saturday morning cartoons, we go from Harry to Homer. The PBS television news magazine Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly examines the new movie with an eye toward how it portrays—and satirizes—faith in America today.

During the 18 years it's been on the air, "The Simpsons" has become a true cultural phenomenon. It's the longest running TV sitcom in history and reaches an estimated audience of 60 million people every week in more than 70 nations. But while the series' brand of humor may not appeal to all people of faith, it may be one of the most interesting examinations of religion in pop culture today, tackling a host of complex theological issues, including salvation, divine omnipotence, the end times, miracles, heaven and hell, cults, religious exclusivity, and the nature of the soul.

Mark Pinsky, author of "The Gospel According to the Simpsons," discusses religious themes in the show and the movie in an interview.

LAWTON: The Simpson family and most of their neighbors attend the First Church of Springfield.

Mr. PINSKY: It's kind of a mainline Protestant church. They don't define what it is, but they call it the "Presbylutheran" church. The theology is kind of lowest common denominator. The pastor is Reverend Lovejoy, who incidentally does not love joy. He's kind of a venal character. He suffers from preacher burnout. His wife is a shrew. He has money problems. His daughter is a typical preacher's kid, sort of a demon seed. It puts him through an awful lot. So he's an object of satire and ridicule, but underneath there's a lot of profound material about the ministry today.

LAWTON: In fact, The Simpsons has tackled a host of complex theological issues, including salvation, divine omnipotence, the end times, miracles, heaven and hell, cults, religious exclusivity, and the nature of the soul.

Mr. PINSKY: It's hard to remind yourself that a discussion at this level is happening in a cartoon comedy.

You can read a transcript, watch the video clip, or listen to the entire show here. The bottom of the page has a host of related links. Christianity Today has a review, also, here.

See also this story from The Telegraph. An excerpt:

Let the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, a long-time fan explain: "Goodness is taken very seriously in The Simpsons. Not in a solemn or moralising way, but the values of honesty and generosity and forgiveness are ones that, quite clearly, the programme endorses."

Archbishop of Kaduna installed as a Six Preacher

From the Anglican Communion News Service:

The Most Revd Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Anglican Archbishop of the Province of Kaduna and Bishop of Kaduna diocese, was installed as a Six Preacher [Thursday] during Evensong by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams, and the Very Revd Robert Willis, the Dean of Canterbury. The appointment is for five years and may be renewed. Archbishop Idowu-Fearon replaces Canon Dr John Polkinghorne, who has retired as a Six Preacher. Recent Six Preachers include Bishop John Robinson and Prof A J Mason, the translator of many hymns.

Archbishop Idowu-Fearon was born in 1949 in Nigeria. Although he trained
briefly as a soldier, he soon decided that he wished to serve God as a
priest and was ordained in 1971, becoming a bishop in 1990. He has a
doctorate degree in Islamic studies, with special interest in
Christian-Muslim relations, and is married to Comfort; they have two
sons, Ibrahim and Dquda, and a daughter Ninma.

"We have already come to know Archbishop Josiah as a friend from his
time spent teaching in our International Study Centre to the Canterbury
Scholars course" said Robert Willis earlier today. "This appointment -
one of the first from the wider Anglican Communion - enhances the
concept of the teaching ministry at Canterbury Cathedral that was so
firmly laid down by Cranmer at the time of the Reformation". "I feel
humbled by this appointment" Archbishop Idowu-Fearon said yesterday
before the service, "remembering that this ministry was founded by
Archbishop Cranmer. Being a Six Preacher will give me a sense of
belonging to the community at Canterbury Cathedral which has existed for
over 1,400 years - my own Diocese of Kaduna is only 50 years old! I hope
that this recognition will help me to be an ambassador for Christ, not
just within the Anglican Communion, but to my Muslim neighbours".

Accessibility to all

Canon Victoria Garvey of the Diocese of Chicago spoke with Episcopal Life Online earlier this week about the importance of accessibility when it comes to fulfilling the promise of "welcoming all."

When one considers the signs that point people to Episcopal Church congregations -- the ones that say "The Episcopal Church welcomes you" -- calling for the church to be accessible to all is a "no-brainer." The accessibility is possible in some parts of the church, Garvey said, but it must become the norm "all across the board."

That includes paying attention to what might be called unseen disabilities, she said. For example, someone with a heart condition may appear to be otherwise able but may not be able to climb stairs. Hearing difficulties, which are often not discernable by others, can prevent many people from truly participating in liturgies or program, she added, giving another example.

If part of the reason for the slow progress towards accessibility has to do with consciousness-raising, Garvey acknowledged that cost and the snowballing effect of making changes have been very important also. Given the way the ADA and other building codes work, if a congregation begins to improve its accessibility, it is usually expected to become completely accessible.

"You do one thing and then you have to do 16," Garvey said.

The whole thing is here.

Younger generation finds religion

At Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix the ushers have noticed a pleasant trend--more and more twentysomethings are coming to the Cathedral. Is this a sign of a more faithful generation? According to USA Today, many younger adults are turning to faith despite less religious parents:

Pamela Moss worships every Sunday at Messiah Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., where they preach the Bible straight up, sing the old hymns "and then let me get on with my day."

But her son, George, 24, is a fervent Evangelical, witnessing to strangers and praying "in a church that looks like a gym. To me, he's just out the gate," his mystified mom says.

Stephen Rochester, 32, grew up "Jewish lite" in St. Louis, says his father, Marty. "So I was stunned when Stephen went religious with a capital R," switching to his Hebrew name, Shaya, and adopting the black hat of Hasidic Jews.

Mari Beth Nolan, 22, grew up a "Christmas and Easter" Catholic. Now she plans to go to work at a missionary clinic in Ecuador, leaving her parents proud — but confused.

Small wonder parents are befuddled. Though Gallup polls dating to the '50s say young adults are less likely to attend services or say religion is very important in their lives, clergy of all stripes say they are seeing a small wave of young adults who are more pious than their parents. And they're getting an earful from boomer moms and dads who range from shocked to delighted.

The USA Today article profiles the stories of several young adults--Protestant, Catholic, Jew and Muslim--who have surprised their parents with their faith. Read the entire article here. Listen to their stories on NPR here.

The average age of the typical Episcopal congregation is well above the national average. What are we doing to attract what may be a new faithful generation? What should we be doing?

The God particle

Physics may be on the verge of proving the existence of an essential building block of the current model of the structure of matter--or it may be forced to go back to the theoretical drawing board. What is at stake is a search for the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle, which the standard model of particle physics states is the particle that acts to form the Higgs field, which gives particles their mass.

The New York Times recently reported on rumors that the Fermilab near Chicago may have discovered the Higgs boson, and the growing excitement over a new accelerator at CERN in Europe, which was specifically designed to find the Higgs boson, and that will soon begin operations:

Earlier this summer, the physics world was jolted by a rumor that a team of scientists from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, in Batavia, Ill., had found a bump in their data that might be a legendary particle that has haunted physicists for a generation. It is known colloquially as the Higgs boson and sometimes grandly as the “God particle.” According to the Standard Model that has ruled physics for 30 years, the Higgs endows elementary particles in the universe with mass.

. . .

According to the Standard Model, a suite of equations that describe all the forces but gravity, elementary particles and forces are born equal and without mass. Some then acquire mass by wading through a sort of a cosmic molasses called the Higgs field (named after the physicist Peter Higgs) the way a V.I.P. acquires an entourage pushing through a cocktail party.

Unfortunately, the model does not say how heavy the Higgs boson itself — the quantum personification of this field — should be. And so physicists have to search for it the old-fashioned train-wreck way, by smashing subatomic particles together to create primordial fireballs and then seeing what materializes out.

The Higgs, if formed, would decay into smaller jets of quarks or other particles, depending on its mass. The heavier it is, the more kinds of particles it can decay into. These would be recorded and counted by the detectors.

. . .

The history of physics is full of bumps that could have been revolutionary but have disappeared like ghosts in the night, and this rumor of a possible Higgs sighting was not even the first this year. Most physicists who have heard this rumor think that this bump is likely to be another of those disappearing anomalies, like the trimuons that frustrated Dr. Weinberg. But then these same physicists point out that you never know.

. . .

As the analyses proceed and the Tevatron hums its trillion-electron-volt tune, this is a summer of rumors, hope and hype. Whatever the outcome for this particular Higgs rumor, the buzz about it illuminates the galloping expectations, tensions and rivalries roiling physicists as they await the inauguration next summer of the Large Hadron Collider, a giant accelerator at CERN, the nuclear laboratory outside Geneva expressly designed to find the Higgs particle and explore new realms of nature.

Even if the Fermilab did indeed find a bump that proves the existence of the Higgs particle, it will require a re-examination of the Standard Model, and may even offer evidence for supersymmetry, a theory with little empirical proof to date:

If it is a Higgs, theorists say, it is probably not the one prescribed by the Standard Model, which would not be produced plentifully enough to be seen yet.

The leading alternative is that it would be one of five Higgs bosons predicted by a theory called supersymmetry, which theorists have been yearning for as the next step toward a more all-embracing, unified theory of nature. One bonus of supersymmetry is that it predicts the existence of more, yet undiscovered elementary particles, one of which might be the mysterious dark matter that binds galaxies together in the universe. All this would fall into the lap of the Large Hadron Collider scientists, if it exists, which is one reason the CERN physicists will be happy no matter what the outcome.

Read the entire article here. And Tommaso Dorigo, from the University of Padua in Italy, has a blog largely devoted to the search for the Higgs particle here.

So what does this all have to do with the Episcopal Church? Other than an important discovery of God's creation, not much. Still, the Higgs boson is called the God particle. And there is a contingent of your Lead editors (known affectionately as "the nerds" or "Chuck and Nicholas") who think this stuff is cool.

Religion in apes?

Christian Sheppard, who holds a doctorate in divinity from the University of Chicago, and is working on a book about "King Kong" and religion after Darwin, has a fascinating essay about evidence of religious activity in apes in Sightings, the online journal of the Martin Marty Center.

He describes the evidence, and suggests some larger implications for our own faith:

Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo recently hosted a conference on chimpanzee cognition and culture, "The Mind of the Chimpanzee." The most recent research confirms that chimpanzees possess a sense of self, a theory of mind, strong memory, empathy, politics, and culture. One further question to ask is whether our fellow apes also possess religion.

Jane Goodall has posed this question. She observed long ago that, during the rainy season, male chimpanzees display before the storm's thunder, lightning, wind, and rain by beating their chests, pulling down branches, and shaking the limbs and trunks of trees while hooting and screaming. Such displays usually mean to convey strength to rivals. Goodall speculates that this "rain dance" behavior might be an attempt to get the storm to stop. Chimpanzees in different communities exhibit behaviors that are unique to their time and place, for example, fishing for termites with sticks or using stones to break branches. Ethological observations of such cultural behavior have been corroborated by laboratory experiments. The rain dance behavior has since been observed in other, though not all, wild chimpanzee groups, and so is properly considered cultural. Might it also be religious?

For humans, thunderstorms are a traditional inspiration for religion. Giambattista Vico speculated that religion began with our early ancestors' terror at the lightning and thunder of Zeus. In the summer of 1505, Martin Luther, terrified by a lightning storm, cried, "Help, Saint Anna, I will become a monk" and, true to his word, entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt. James Joyce, when asked why he was afraid of thunder when his children weren't, said, "Ah, they have no religion." In this spirit, Lucretius asserted that religion begins in fear.

Goodall, however, offers an alternative beginning: "With a display of strength such as [the rain dance], primitive man himself might have challenged the elements." The chimpanzees' response, courageously facing the fearful unknown of the storm, is exemplary. As Aristotle observed, courage is the first virtue, without which all others are moot. Jane Goodall showed personal courage in facing dangerous apes in the wild as well as in working in an African political climate that was not always safe. Goodall also showed intellectual courage in resisting the biases of her contemporaries, and holding to her own observations and the resulting intuitions that apes possess intelligence and emotion akin to our own. She persevered with groundbreaking work that has found its fruition in the research results and the careers exhibited at the Lincoln Park Zoo conference.

With the kind of courage exhibited by Goodall -- physical, intellectual, and spiritual -- a better kind of religious sensibility may be cultivated. We need a piety that seeks greater understanding of our essential links to nature, a piety that fosters wonder. Wonder, as Plato said, is the beginning of philosophy, and philosophy yet may be the handmaid of religion.

Freud, the second large male in Goodall's group in Gombe, may be our guide. Freud was observed "rain dancing" furiously not in a storm but in front of a powerful waterfall. Afterwards he sat still for a long time and seemed to contemplate the torrent. Might Freud after his courageous display be in his way wondering at the fall's ceaseless and mighty torrent?

Goodall has eloquently argued that religion and science need not be separate; indeed, they must inform one another. The scientific study of chimpanzees allows us to reflect upon a kind of consciousness akin to our own. When those intelligent and passionate fellow apes look up at a random and violent force and challenge that force with their own strength, we can recognize and ought to respect a better part of ourselves that still has the courage to face the always wonderful but often terrifying unknown in nature.

Evolutionary biology has demonstrated how great a role random violence has played in creating our current nature's order, however beautiful it is. We are a part of this natural world. It is this essential connection to the natural order that makes it intelligible to us. We can come to understand it better if, to our ape brethren, we may be brave enough to say: I will praise thee, for I too am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Read it here..

Jane Goodall's article "Rain Dance" (Science and Spirit) can be read here..

Information about the Lincoln Park Zoo's "Mind of the Chimpanzee" conference can be found here.

The view from Nigeria

Archbishop Peter Akinola has given an interview to The Guardian newspaper in Nigeria, which portrays him as "a lone voice in the crusade against the attempt to re-write the scripture by some Anglicans in Europe and South America, with the admission of people who practise homosexuals as priests and even bishops in the church." Readers accustomed to seeing Akinola playing to a Western audience through the filter of Martyn Minns, will find these unfiltered remarks, playing to a Nigerian audience, enlightening. This one in particular:

We cannot say that we are in a communion and allow whatever they say to just go like that. Let me also say this: that in our human existence in this world, there was a time Africans were slaves; but we came out of it. But what again followed? Political slavery, under colonial administration. Somehow, we came out of it. Then economic slavery: World Bank, IMF would tell you what to do with your money and your own resources. Now, it is spiritual slavery and we have to resist this. They had us as human slaves, political slaves and economic slaves. They want to come for spiritual slaves. Now we won't accept it.

Episcope has pointed out that the archbishop seems not to have an especially firm grip on certain facts.

Ever helpful

The Diocese of Pittsburgh is furnishing its parishes with a toolbox full of "materials, opinions and news about the choices facing the diocese and each parish in light of the decision of The Episcopal Church not to place moratoria on same-sex blessings and the election of bishops in same-sex relationships and to unequivocally reject the request of Pittsburgh and six other dioceses for Alternative Primatial Oversight."

The resources include an essay by the Rev. Geoffrey Chapman, author of the Chapman Memo, which laid out the American Anglican Council's strategy for replacing the Episcopal Church with a conservative U. S. presence in the Anglican Communion.

Meanwhile, Bishop Robert Duncan, has this to offer from a meeting of the Anglican Communion Network Council in Bedford, Texas.

Mark Harris thinks, so we don't have to

The proprietor of the blog Preludium has assembled a comprehensive analysis on recent movements on the Anglican right. Sensing that the Archbishop of Catnerbury is not going to punish the North American Churches, several provinces, primarily in Africa, seem ready to break with Canterbury and form their own Communion. The question now is whether this is brinksmanship, or whether they will follow through on their threats.

Harris writes:

So long as the arguments were about whether or not TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada were to be part of the Anglican Communion as currently constituted, communion with Canterbury was seen as essential to being part of the Anglican Communion and being truly Anglican. Now that the arguments are about a reformed Communion (realignment writ large) all bets are off. Canterbury is a growing burden for this second sort of realignment.


So at the moment the question as to whether being in communion with the see of Canterbury is or is not somehow essential to Anglicanism or to a "reformed Anglican Communion" stands. It is increasingly clear that the GSSC [that is, the Global South Steering Committee - ed.] and fellow travelers are going to say "no."

If this happens there will be at least two different sorts of worldwide Anglican entities, more if you count some of the currently international but not-in-communion bodies. There will at least be the Anglican Communion as now constituted, but smaller, and a Reformed Anglican Communion (also known as the New Improved Anglican Communion or Revised Standard Anglican Communion or whatever). It will be a hard day for all of us, but then we can get on with the Gospel, working with one another as need and concerns permit, finding in each other the deep reservoirs of prayer and thanksgiving that have always been there, exchanging with mutual regard such elements of missionary energy as seem fruitful, and so on.

Ingmar Bergman, RIP

"It is my opinion that art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. In former days the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God... Today the individual has become the highest form and the greatest bane of artistic creation." So said Ingmar Bergmann, who died today at 89.

Kris Rasmussen of Beliefnet has a brief appreciation of the Swedish film director.

The Guardian has a special report. And you can watch the famous chess match with Death here.

Opening day of the Network's Annual Council

The Anglican Communion Network Annual Council opened today hosted by the Diocese of Fort Worth at Cathedral Church of St. Vincent in Bedford, Texas. Dioceses with representatives are Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Rio Grande, San Joaquin, and Springfield. South Carolina is not represented. Other groups that are represented include AMiA, CANA, the Reformed Episcopal Church, the Anglican Province of America and Forward in Faith.

The opening address by Bishop Bob Duncan is available here. In it he noted he was coming to the end of his term as network moderator. In a later question and answer he said he was willing to continue as moderator only if others were willing to follow his lead. It's not entirely clear what that lead is, but as was reported earlier today on The Lead his diocese just provided a "toolbox" for parishes considering leaving the Episcopal Church.

These lines from Duncan's address may give some indication of the direction he has in mind:

Where we are is not where we had hoped to be. God, in His wisdom, has not used us to reform the Episcopal Church, to bring it back to its historic role and identity as a reliable and mainstream way to be a Christian. Instead the Episcopal Church has embraced de-formation—stunning innovation in Faith and Order—rather than reformation.
During this past year, the Network Bishops have done everything we could to work with a broader Windsor Coalition within the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops. In order not to abandon the wider coalition in its one last stand, the Network Bishops have agreed to take part in the upcoming meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Primates Steering Committee and Anglican Consultative Council. We do so, some of us at least, without any implied recognition of or submission to the American primate, without any diminishment of our appeal for Alternative Primatial Oversight, and without any expectation that the Episcopal House of Bishops will turn from the course so unequivocally embraced at their March meeting.
At later discussion Duncan rebuked Rowan Williams saying that Williams has never really supported the Orthodox in the US. At the time of the formation of the Network Duncan said the Network was Williams' idea.

The council unanimously approved a Theological Statement of the Common Cause Partners (scroll down). Duncan's diocese, Pittsburgh, voted with a reservation concerning women's ordination. Duncan favors it but many other members of the partnership do not.

Discussed today, and to be voted on tomorrow, are the Common Cause Articles. It includes this statement:

The Jurisdictions and Ministries of the Common Cause Partnership at the time of its inception are the American Anglican Council (AAC); the Anglican Communion Network (ACN); the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA); the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC); the Anglican Province of America (APA); the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA); the Anglican Essentials Federation (AEF); Forward in Faith, North America (FIF/NA); and the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC).
And it identifies as two of its tasks, "Furthering mutual understanding of its Partners with a view to eventual union when deemed appropriate ... and ... Support planting congregations by Partners."

Revealing, too, is who Duncan chose to name at the start of his address:

David Anderson, John Guernsey, Andy Fairfield, Dave Roseberry, Martyn Minns, Dan Herzog, Alison Barfoot, Bill Cox, John Yates, Bill Attwood, Bill Cobb, Valarie Whitcomb, Dwight Duncan, Ron Jackson, Dave Bena, Bill Murdoch, Don Armstrong—What do these believers all have in common? Great leaders, all; yes, of course. One other thing, at least: each was a priest or bishop (four bishops in fact) of the Episcopal Church at the Network Council one year ago. None is a leader of the Episcopal Church today.
Archbishop Venables is also in attendance and led the day's Bible study.

See The Living Church's story here.

Good sportsmanship

A basketball referee is alleged to be on the take. A star quarterback is alleged to be mixed up in dog fighting. The Tour de France is awash in performance enhancing drugs. And baseball most hallowed record will soon be held by a cheater. But, there's good news from the world of sports, courtesy of Olympic speed skating medalist Joey Cheek, who challanged the Chinese government over its support to the genocidal regime in Sudan.

The Voice of America reports:

With dozens of onlookers gathered around, Olympic speed skater Joey Cheek rang the buzzer at the main door to China's embassy in Washington, D.C.

"My name is Joey Cheek. I am on the U.S. Olympic team. And I am here to deliver petitions that we have collected over the last week imploring China to continue to act strongly to protect the civilians in Darfur," said Cheek.

Cheek, a gold and silver medalist who last year donated his Olympic bonus money to aid refugees in Darfur, clutched two thick binders containing petitions urging China to pressure Sudan to honor commitments to allow a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force into Darfur.

Only Cheek was allowed inside the embassy, after a half-hour wait at the door. He reemerged moments later, saying embassy officials received the petitions and reacted positively to his idea of organizing a joint visit by U.S. and Chinese athletes to Darfur.

Speaking with reporters, Cheek said China, which has invested heavily in Sudan, has great leverage over Khartoum and should be urged to use that leverage to maximum effect when it comes to Darfur.

"We acknowledge the role that China has played up to this point in diplomacy and behind the scenes in trying to move forward on the hybrid peacekeeping force [for Darfur]," he said. "However, now, seven months later, people are still dying. The aid groups have decreased their presence on the ground from last year. And it appears that, financially, the connection [between Bejing and Khartoum] is only stronger."

There's more here.And here. And if you get the NewYork Times, there is an excellent column about Cheek's visit to the Chinese embassy by Harvey Araton, but we can't link to it.

Cheek also supports the excellent organization Right to Play (Hat tip: Ben Naughton), as do a host of other internationally recognized athletes. You can learn more about Right to Play here.

A church for all

We have all heard the joke--that Episcopalians are Presbyterians whose investments have done quite well. Behind the joke is a troubling issue--is our church really the church for all? Rob Dreher of the Dallas Morning News observes in his Beliefnet column that the class divisions within denominations is also affecting Catholic and Orthodox churches, and he asks why:

I'm generalizing, of course, but where I'm from, the religion of the working class and the poor is Pentecostalism -- and I use the term broadly to mean charismatic, non-denominational Christianity in the Protestant tradition. It's not that only the poor and working classes are drawn to Pentecostalism, but rather that if you are poor or in the working class, and you go to church, chances are the church you go to is Pentecostal, or at least Evangelical.

I was thinking about how unlikely it would be that Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Presbyterianism or other forms of the Christian faith that attract the middle-class intellectuals I know would appeal to the Ricky Sinclairs of the world. This is a complicated topic, and I don't have any conclusions to offer, so I'm just going to throw out my own thoughts, and invite yours. There is a spiritual depth and intellectual complexity to these forms of Christianity that appeals to middle-class intellectuals who have grown weary with the emotionalism and trendiness of much popular religion. On the other hand, I've thought for years as a Catholic, and still think as an Orthodox, how hard it would be for a working man who was broken and who needed Jesus to walk in off the street and find him at one of our churches. Oh, Jesus is there, make no mistake -- but he's a lot harder to find than at one of the charismatic churches.

Along those lines, Catholicism and Orthodoxy both have been the traditional religion of tens of millions of the world's poor, and still are. The question that I thought about yesterday, then, is probably primarily one concerning North American middle-class white people. And yet, the charismatic and Evangelical churches are having tremendous success in Latin America, winning converts from historic Catholicism. . . .

Why? I ask as a sociological question, not a theological question. What is it about our time that makes the heavy old forms of Christianity -- Orthodoxy and Catholicism -- so apparently ill-suited to compete with the amorphous Pentecostalism that's sweeping the poor? Is it the case that the very complexity and depth that appeals to middle-class North American intellectuals makes the faith relatively inaccessible to the masses? Is it the case that we live now in a demotic age, in which any institution that depends on hierarchies and traditional authority will struggle for the hearts of the common man? . . .

Is it the case that the more demotic forms of Protestant Christianity preach a gospel that, however twisted in some of its manifestations (e.g., the prosperity gospel), nevertheless holds out to suffering people the hope that their lives can change for the better -- whereas the older, more traditional forms of Christianity are more accepting of suffering as part of the human condition, to a degree that tips over into fatalism?

I do wonder if the poor (excluding the immigrant poor from Latin America) have any entry point into Catholicism or Orthodoxy. And why that is. And how it should change within the tradition, because it's impossible to imagine a Christian church that has no room for the poor and working classes. And: why does it seem that the Christians who sound most concerned about the welfare of the poor and working classes are those least likely to share their instinct toward traditional sexual morality? It's undoubtedly true that many of the traditional churches have ministries to help meet the material needs of the poor. But how many of the poor are becoming Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Orthodox, etc., because of them? Are these churches places where the poor could see themselves becoming a part of the congregation, or are the poor more likely to see them as vendors of charity, but only that? And if the latter, who's to blame, and why?

Read the entire essay here.

It seems to me that the hard question that Dreher asks about Catholism and Orthodoxy and the working class and the poor is equally applicable to the Episcopal church. Anglicanism, of course, is attracting the poor across the world. Are we doing enough to reach out beyond the middle class here in the Episcopal Church?

Father Jake and Doug LeBlanc survey the Network scene

Father Jake is keeping an eye on the meeting of the Anglican Communion Network's annual council meeting in Texas.

He wonders, among other things, whether the Network's leaders have been less than truthful in portraying the purpose of their organization:

Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh fielded questions. Many of the kinds of false accusations against TEC that we've grown used to hearing were tossed around. One point that Bp. Duncan made that I found most outrageous was the repetition of the line that the Network was launched to keep conservatives in TEC; it was never intended to lead them out. We've heard that line many times before. It is one of Kendall Harmon's favorite chants. The problem with it is that the facts just don't support such a statement.

A brief look at some of the things that the Network leaders have said among themselves over the last three or four years (since that organization came into being) makes it pretty clear that the intention to stay in TEC was, at best, a minority view. Instead, they committed to "guerrilla warfare."

For instance, there is this March 2004 email from Father Jim McCaslin, Dean of the Southeastern Convocation of the NACDP to all the Network leaders. Fr. McCaslin is upset that Don Armstrong, Executive Director of the Anglican Communion Institute, wants to maintain "the broadest appeal" for the Network, and is afraid that appeal "waters down our direction and commitment to the point that our ultimate purpose is compromised..." As an example of this compromise, McCaslin cites that "Don mentions 'exit' and 'parallel church' strategies negatively and a 'staying' strategy positively."

Meanwhile, Doug LeBlanc, in his coverage for the Living Church notes that Bishop Duncan, who once upon a time said the creation of the Network was all Rowan Williams' idea, now faults Williams for not coming to his rescue.

“Never, ever has he spoken publicly in defense of the orthodox in the United States,” Bishop Duncan said of the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, adding that “the cost is his office.

While Duncan seems to have made a decision to leave the Episcopal Church and break ties with the Archbishop of Canterbury, other Network bishops aren't so sure they want to follow LeBlanc reports.

After Bishop Duncan’s address, delegates to the council discussed a theological statement in support of the Common Cause Partnership, which they ratified. They also began discussing articles of incorporation for Common Cause Partnership. At the request of the Rt. Rev. James Stanton, Bishop of Dallas, the council delayed a ratification vote on the articles until voting on any proposed revisions to the Network’s charter.

Bishop Stanton stressed that Common Cause’s articles would commit the Network to actions that violate the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. On Tuesday, the council is scheduled to discuss a proposal to delete from its charter a reference to operating within the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.

(Emphasis added.)

An update: Bishop Stanton's objections won the day.

Listening to Muslims

The Washington Post/Newsweek "On Faith" blog devoted last week to hearing from twenty-two Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world to answer three questions on violence, religious freedom and women’s issues. The editors of the blog, Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham, summarize the resulting dialogue:

Several months ago “On Faith “(jointly published by the Washington Post and Newsweek) held a symposium at Georgetown University on "What it Means to be Muslim in America." During the discussion, panelists were asked why Muslim religious leaders around the world didn’t speak out against violence.

The Imam on the panel replied that they did. The problem was that nobody listened to them, that the press didn’t report about it because it wasn’t sensational.

So we decided to devote a week on our site to give Muslim leaders a chance to speak out. We posed three questions -- on violence, religious freedom and women’s issues -- and invited more than 50 Muslim leaders throughout the world to respond. Twenty-two people from 13 countries chose to reply to the questions. . . .

It was an unprecedented and ambitious undertaking, and we learned a lot. Overall we have received thousands of comments, some positive, some negative. Many of the comments affirmed that different cultures have a long way to go before reaching common ground. But many others suggested that if you reach out, others will reach back. A couple of examples: Ali Gomaa of Egypt and Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah of Lebanon, two controversial Muslim leaders often seen as radical, spoke out strongly against suicide bombings and killing women, children and non-combatants. Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, and others rejected the idea that apostasy is a punishable offense. In some Muslim countries, it is punishable by death.

. . .

The most surprising thing we learned is how many Muslim organizations already are trying to combat violence and views that Islam is a violent religion. King Abdullah and Prince Ghazi of Jordan conducted a panel on “True Islam” in 2005 on this very subject and issued a report now referred to as the “Amman Message.” It became very clear that there is power in numbers. The more who speak out, the more others will do so, too.

We are pleased with the results of our “Muslims Speak Out” venture, but we realize that it is just one small step. There is so much to be done in interfaith dialogue, not just on Islam but among all faiths and nonbelievers as well. This is just a beginning for “On Faith.” We want our audience and our contributors to know that their thoughts and their comments will always be welcome.

As it says in the Qu’ran, “God made us different nations and tribes so that we may know one another."

One question that bothered the editors was why less than half of those invited to participate chose to do so. The answers were varied:

Some felt that the questions were too negative, that they had a “When did you stop beating your wife?” tone to them. Others who were invited, we were told, were suspicious of an American owned media company and didn’t know whether they could trust us to print what they said accurately without being edited, or they feared that their remarks would be misused, opening themselves up to hostile comments. As it turned out, they were right about that second concern. There were a number of unacceptable and abusive comments.

Others of more moderate beliefs were afraid to speak out, either for political reasons or safety reasons. And interestingly, some who were known as moderates did not want to go on the record with their more controversial points of view. One of them said he writes his defenses of Islam under a false name. Two women accepted being on the panel and then dropped out with no explanation.

Some who have spoken out often against the violence said they were tired of explaining themselves.

We were told by our Muslim colleagues that even though most of the respondents were names that the average American or European may not have heard of, many of these people are hugely important in their own countries. They are constantly in demand and called upon to participate in so many things that they simply were too busy.

Read it all here.

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