Radner: "Duncan starting a new church"

The Rev. Dr. Epraim Radner has resigned from the Anglican Communion Network. He issued his statement of resignation on the Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. website. He writes, in part:

Bishop Duncan has now declared the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference -- two of the four Instruments of Communion within our tradition - to be "lost". ... the declaration in effect cancels out the other two Instruments of Communion that also uphold our common Anglican life - the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. It is the entire Anglican Communion, therefore, that Bp. Duncan is declaring to be "lost". The judgment is far too sweeping.

Read it all here.

Bp. Duncan has, in the end, decided to start a new church.

Radner was responding to remarks made by Bishop Duncan. As reported in the Living Church,
Bishop Duncan expressed his disappointment that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not supported Network members in ways that he and other Network leaders had hoped.

“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.

“To lose that historic office is a cost of such magnitude that God must be doing a new thing,” he said.

A reporter for The Living Church asked Bishop Duncan to expand on his remarks about the cost of the archbishop’s office. “I was actually expanding on a remark that the Archbishop of Sydney made during a breakfast I had with him two weeks ago,” Bishop Duncan said, explaining that both the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference have been lost as instruments of communion.

“The fact is that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not led in a way that might have saved his office and might have saved Lambeth,” Bishop Duncan said.
Asked if he thought that being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury was essential to being Anglican, Bishop Duncan said that being obedient to scripture is of greater importance than being recognized by Canterbury.

As the ACN's annual conference came to an end delegates "declined removing the organization from under the authority of the constitution of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church."

An Anglican Communion without Canterbury has recently been discussed by Archbishops Akinola and Orombi.

UPDATE. Radner has more to say here (scroll to comment #188). Some extracts:

It simply made no sense – logically, theologically, and morally— for a member of the Covenant Design Group like myself to remain a member of an organization that has, through its chief leader and spokesperson, repudiated the very basis for the work I accepted and accepted willingly and under the Lord.
I have come to the conclusion that unity among conservatives has not in fact been a goal for many, and that to pretend otherwise is confusing matters gravely; it should be, of course, but until there is greater honesty, it will not be. The unity of the Communion is under such serious threat, and is of such a value, that allowing words, actions, and strategies that are undermining our future go unquestioned, immediately and forcefully, is a dereliction of Christian responsibility.
Radner remains on Board of Directors of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

What the bookkeeper saw

Monday he was praised as a "great leader" by The Right Rev. Bob Duncan, Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network. Tuesday an Ecclesiastical Court in the Diocese of Colorado met for an evidentiary hearing regarding allegations of financial misconduct against him. The Rev. Don Armstrong chose not to attend the hearing. He left the Episcopal Church with a portion of his congregation and joined with CANA in March. The Grace and St. Stephens property remains occupied by Armstrong and his followers.

As reported by The Denver Post,

The Episcopal diocese's five-member court, led by the Rev. Peter Munson, ruled that it still has authority over Armstrong because he has made no formal renunciation of his Episcopal priesthood. Church attorneys have asked that the court remove Armstrong from his office and order him to pay restitution of more than $610,000.
The court will probably issue a written decision late this week, diocese spokeswoman Beckett Stokes said.

The diocese is seeking to resolve the matter internally before considering civil or criminal action, Stokes said.

Armstrong faces five counts related to financial wrongdoings, including fraud and tax evasion, over a 10-year period beginning in 1997.

Read it all here.

The five members of the court (3 clergy, 2 lay) are elected at Diocesan Convention and operate independently of the Bishop of Colorado.

According to the Rocky Mountain News,

The whistle-blower who entangled the Rev. Don Armstrong in allegations of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in church money was the parish bookkeeper, an attorney said Tuesday.
Hopkins, bookkeeper from 1997 to 2001, said in a written statement that Armstrong instructed that his two children's educational expenses be paid with money from the funds and trust. Armstrong has said those expenses were OK'd by church authorities.

According to the diocese's Motion for Summary Judgment, Armstrong gave detailed instructions on how payments and money transfers were to be posted in the church's books, and no one but Armstrong was allowed to open incoming mail. Armstrong would prepare the financial reports for the vestry and these did not correspond to the bookkeeper's data. He did not explain to the bookkeeper how arrived at his numbers.

More from the Colorado Springs Gazette:

What the pastor missed was the testimony of two witnesses, one of whom spelled out how Armstrong diverted money from parish accounts to pay for the college education of his son and daughter, as well as for things such as cell phones and car repairs. The other witness testified that a trust fund from which Armstrong took the college money could not legally have been used for such a purpose.

Hal Haddon and Ty Gee, serving as attorneys for the standing committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, asked the court to recommend the maximum sentence and revoke Armstrong’s standing as an ordained Episcopal minister.
Haddon said he believes the IRS has opened a criminal investigation into the matter. An IRS spokeswoman said that she could not comment, and Armstrong spokesman Alan Crippen said that no one from the federal agency had contacted Armstrong.

Haddon then played the video deposition of Karl Ross, a Colorado Springs attorney who set up the Bowton Trust and has served since its inception on the board that distributes the scholarship money. Trust bylaws strictly forbid the money from going to anyone, such as Armstrong’s kids, who are studying subjects outside the ministry, and they also forbid the church from using the money at its whim without approval of the trust board, as it appears to have done, Ross said.

Bishop Smith reports from Spain

The Right Rev. Kirk Stevan Smith of Arizona reports on his experiences this past week at the conference of American and African bishops sponsored by Trinity Church, Wall Street:

Unlike most conferences, there was no communique or statemant issued at the end of this gathering. That is because we did not come together to solve the problems of the Anglican Communion, but simply to get to know one another better.
One thing became especially clear to me. Our African brothers and sisters want us to come and see them! When I suggested in one meeting that the money spent on plane tickets might be better spent on funding various projects, I was quickly reminded that 'God created people before God created money!"

Read it here.

And here is video of Bishop Smith from Spain.

Update: In the latest e-Communique from the Diocese of Virginia, Bishop Lee writes of the Spain conference,

[It] enabled mission partners to talk about what we can learn from the dynamism of the African Church and what we can give to strengthen the Church in its mission. Our partner, the Rt. Rev. Daniel Deng Bul, the Bishop of the Diocese of Renk in the Sudan, was there and we talked about our longstanding partnership and how to strengthen it.
Bishop Lee also writes of "developing partnerships" with Diocese of Kumasi in Ghana and Diocese of Central Tanganyika in Tanzania.

Is it racist to use of credit scores to price auto insurance?

The Federal Trade Commission has recently completed a study of the practice of using credit ratings to price auto insurance, a practice several states forbid because blacks and Hispanics as a group tend to have poorer credit records.

Marginal Revolution points out

(1) the FTC finds credit records are very good at predicting accident risk implying that good black and Hispanic drivers pay higher rates in states that prohibit the use of credit risk;

(2) when the price of insurance increases for good drivers in these states, good drivers may quit buying insurance, pushing up the price of insurance for bad drivers to the price they would have paid without the prohibition.

Good intentions do not necessarily make for good public policy.

A post-congregational future?

Tobias Haller offers his usual erudite and cogent analysis of where the Anglican right seems to be heading. About the immediate future of the Anglican Communion he concludes:

Some who have been part of this Anglican Communion until now have already made it clear they see a different future for themselves. As they are not forsaking Christ, but only this fellowship, I can wish them Godspeed. They are not lost; merely detached. Time will tell if these branches will be grafted onto other stocks, gathered into a bundle, or planted separately, where they may thrive — or not. They may eventually be grafted back to the stock that gave them life.

But notice too an earlier point that he makes:

It also strikes me that we are seeing, in the development of the Network, the final collapse of a geographical rootedness to the church. We are entering the world of the virtual church, the Church of the Five Faves, the church not of geographical and terrestrial space, but of affinity: Ecclesiastical MySpace.

Sometimes in the midst of a controversy, a social trend emerges, that, in itself, has nothing to do with the controversy. This is a case in point. While words like globalization and decentralization are tossed around in self-justifying fashion by Peter Akinola, Martyn Minns and their claque, who believed they are authorized to claim the property of other churches, the deeper story is that some scholars believe the West is heading toward a post-denominational and perhaps post-congregational Christian future in which people are able to find the ingredients for a spiritual life on the internet, and then mix them into recipes of their own devising in their own homes, or with small groups of friends.

This is a more threatening development to the way most Western churches conceive of themselves than anything the Akinolists can muster.

Hindu prayer in the Senate

The opening prayer at the U.S. Senate usually doesn't generate a lot of controversy. But on July 12, 2007, when chaplain Rajan Zed of Reno, Nev., became the first Hindu to deliver an opening prayer in the U.S. Senate, he was interrupted by Christian protesters. There's a video clip here that, when it surfaced on the blogosphere, generated an outpouring of commentary.

Zed has responded in the Newsweek/WashingtonPost blogzine On Faith. He writes:

Many of us won’t accept it, but religion is a complex component of our lives and it encompasses much more than our own particular tradition or personal experience. We all must take religion very seriously as it is the most powerful force. The challenge today is to seek unity that celebrates diversity.

Bhagavad-Gita, one of the ancient Hindu scriptures, says: “In whatever way and path, humans worship Me, in that same path do I (meet) and fulfill their aspirations and grace them. It is always My Path that humans follow in all their different paths and journeys, on all sides.” It further says, “Whatever form (of the Divine) any devotee with faith wishes to worship, I make that faith of his steady.”

All of us are looking for the truth. Dialogue brings us mutual enrichment. We may learn from each other as we are headed in the same direction. We should at least cooperate in the common causes of peace, human development, love, and respect for others.

There is a hymn in Guru Granth Sahib, sacred Sikh scripture:

"The world is burning in the fire of passion
Save it, O Lord, by Thy grace;
Save it the way Thou consider best."

Read the whole thing here.

Bishop of Virginia removes inhibited priests

Bishop Peter James Lee of the Diocese of Virginia has removed 21 clergy from the Episcopal priesthood. These clergy members had been inhibited in January after the diocesan Standing
Committee determined that they had abandoned the Communion of The Episcopal Church, according to a release from the diocese:

The possibility of such a determination was explained by the Bishop in a December 1, 2006 letter to the clergy and leadership of the now-former Episcopal congregations. By this action, the former Episcopal clergy are "released from the obligations of Priest or Deacon and ... deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority conferred in Ordination."

Of the clergy members originally inhibited, one chose to retract his association with anything but the Episcopal Church:

The Rev. Nicholas Lubelfeld "has declared his loyalty to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church" wrote Bishop Lee in the notice lifting Mr. Lubelfeld's inhibition. Mr. Lubelfeld has accepted a call to serve as priest associate of Church of Our Redeemer in Aldie, Va., serving under the supervision of the Rev. John Sheehan, rector of that church.

In making his retraction, Mr. Lubelfeld sent a letter to Bishop Lee dated June 30 in which he states his "intention to remain a member of The Episcopal Church and of the clergy of The Diocese of Virginia." In that letter he also states, "I did not and do not intend to renounce or be disloyal to the doctrine, discipline or worship of Christ as The Episcopal Church has received them." He further states "I have not sought or received admission into any religious body not in communion with The Episcopal Church, or in any way severed my ties with The Episcopal Church."

Read it all, including the complete list of those removed from ordained ministry, here.

Bp. Robinson endorses Obama, but is it appropriate?

Bishop Gene Robinson has publicly endorsed Barack Obama, according to published accounts of a telephone press conference today. On the one hand, Robinson is in the spotlight as a "civil rights leader," but two cautions spring to mind, both issued by the Interfaith Alliance soon after the report of Robinson's endorsement emerged.

While not listed on the barackobama.com website, the release is at Campaigns and Elections here.

Robinson said he believes that Obama’s faith and background as a community organizer and civil rights lawyer make him uniquely qualified to advance our government’s commitment to equality and compassion for those “for whom America is not working so well.”

“As my work shows me every day, leadership means bringing people together and inspiring them to live out their values,” Bishop Robinson said. “Barack Obama sees beyond the partisanship and hopelessness that have dominated in recent years, and the movement he’s building is bringing vital new energy and optimism into our democratic process. I’m excited to work with Barack to bridge the old divides and make this country one again.”

The release notes that Robinson has never publicly endorsed a candidate for office before, which leads to a question of how appropriate it is for him to do so. In a statement released by the Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy notes that the waters are muddy, not only because mixing faith and politics so directly can jeopardize a religious organization's protected tax status:

Today’s endorsement of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for president by Bishop Gene Robinson is just the latest example of candidates misusing religious leaders for political gain. Over the last year we have seen many, if not all, of the presidential candidates set up websites promoting endorsements by religious leaders. While endorsements like today’s raise the possibility of legal action against religious leaders, our concerns are rooted more in the impact on the sanctity of religion and the integrity of government.

I encourage candidates to talk about the proper role of religion in public life, and I strongly defend the right of religious leaders to speak out about the important issues we are facing in the world today. However, when candidates turn religious leaders into political tools, they have crossed a line.

This is a dangerous road religious leaders are being led down. I caution them to be careful how far they go.

A short entry on the announcement at the New Hampshire Union Leader notes that a fuller story will run tomorrow.

Godparenting today

It's not really news that godparenting has evolved into "a revered but blurry mix of religious and secular duty," but The Tennessean has devoted an extended feature to describing the history and current context of the tradition, which aligns closely with infant or child baptism and traces back to around the 8th century, when Catholic doctrine decreed that one's spiritual birth is distinct from one's physical birth.

What does a godparent do? In most cases, whatever they, and their godchild's parents, think best. The role may be centuries-old, but it's far from anachronistic. People customize everything from their rides to their ringtones to suit their tastes these days, and how they treat godparenting is no different, keeping the lifelong position going strong and its prospects healthy.

"It's this resilient, tenacious tradition that has lost its past," said Lisa Kimball, a lecturer with the University of Minnesota who studies godparenting. "It's lost its connection back to its history. What is its role today? People are inventing it."


People are fashioning it as a quilt of institutional knowledge, tradition and social expectation, Kimball said. The role has largely developed into one of companionship and mentoring, not always with a spiritual component.

The article features comments from several sets of godparents as well as a Catholic priest, and is available here.

"815" reorganizes

The Episcopal Church Center, where the most of the national offices of the Episcopal Church reside is also the location of the Presiding Bishop's offices and the staff that reports to her. The Presiding Bishop has announced a reorganization of the program areas and working groups at the Church Center:

"Strategic groupings of advocacy, evangelism, leadership development, and partnerships -- together with a configuration of regional satellite offices to support strategic mission -- are central to a new organizational effectiveness plan to reshape ministries based at the Episcopal Church Center. A new 'diocesan services' unit, offering a comprehensive approach to local mission needs, is a highlight of the new plan initiated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and drafted after five months of consultative work by two task forces.

'The new configuration will raise our level of service to the church,' Jefferts Schori said July 26 while commending the plan's outline to the Church Center management team. 'There is remarkable synchronicity in the development of this plan, and great potential for creativity and capacity building.'

Four newly identified 'work centers' -- Advocacy Center, Evangelism and Congregational Life Center, Mission Leadership Center, and Partnerships Center -- form the core of the new structure drafted by one of the task forces, the Working Group on Organizational Effectiveness."

This is one of those things that seems rather mundane at first glance, but could, if it proves to be as effective as is hoped, become a critical development in the way the Church Center serves the Episcopal Church's people during the new Presiding Bishop's administration.

Read the rest here.

Bishop Victoria Matthews will resign

Bishop Victoria Matthews, one of the leading Anglican Church of Canada bishops, has announced that she intends to resign from her position as Bishop of Edmonton this coming November.

She says of her plans:

Just as the Holy Spirit called me to Edmonton in 1997, so I believe God is now calling me in a different direction.  For over two years this has been present in my prayers and the time has come to say 'yes' to the prompting of the Spirit.  Most recently I have become convinced that I am meant to resign as your Bishop before knowing what comes next.  While this is a bit disconcerting, I am proceeding in obedience to what I believe is God's will.

Some will wonder if I have new health concerns, and others will ask if I am angry at the Anglican Church.  The answer to both questions is no.  I am well and I love our Church.  I am an Anglican and hope to always minister in accordance with the grace and mercy of Christ our Saviour.

Bishop Matthews was the runner-up in the recent election for the next Primate of Canada and was deeply involved in the committee that issued a report prior to the most recent national meeting of that Church which asked the Canadian Church to wait before moving forward on officially sanctioning same-sex blessing liturgies.

Read the rest here.

Reggae Anglicana

St. Gregory the Great told his missionary to the English people, St. Augustine of Canterbury, to "purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be taken over into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible." [1]

The Anglican Church in Jamaica is following in this tradition according to an article in the Jamaica Observer:

The Anglican church in Jamaica will include the lyrics of songs rendered by two of the country's most famed reggae artistes - Bob Marley and Peter Tosh - in the next publication of its church hymnal due by the end of the year.

Rector of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Rev Canon Ernle Gordon, made the announcement yesterday at the 2007 Michael Manley awards function for community self-reliance at the Little Theatre in Kingston.

Gordon, speaking with the Observer after the awards, said the songs will be Tosh's version of Psalm 27 and Marley's internationally acclaimed One Love, but he said the use of reggae rhythms in the Anglican Church was nothing new.'We've been having reggae and mento masses for 25 years,' he said, noting that One Love was used in an ordination service at the St Andrew Parish Church two years ago.

The reason behind incorporating what is generally referred to in Christendom as secular music into the church book of hymns, said Rev Gordon, was the need to establish a Caribbean interpretation of theology.

'I don't live in England; I live here, so my theology and how I think must reflect my cultural morals. The theology has to be Caribbean-oriented. You have to interpret the Bible according to where you are,' he said. 'The church in Jamaica is out of date,' he added.

At the same time, Gordon said the use of the reggae rhythms was not secular, since Anglican theology does not separate the sacred and the secular.

Read the rest here.

Read more »

Canons or conscience?

Bishop Peter Lee of the Diocese of Virginia, acting in accordance with national and local diocesan canons deposed 21 priests of his diocese earlier this week. The 21 clergy are no longer recognized as being priests of the Diocese of Virginia, and thus by the Canons of the national Episcopal Church, as priests of the Episcopal Church.

In response, five bishops who are associated with the Anglican Communion Network in the United States have announced that they will not honor Bishop Lee's pronouncement of a "godly judgement". They claim that the deposed priests are still in good standing within the Anglican Communion and are free to function as priests in their respective dioceses.

Mark Harris, has an excellent analysis of the situation and notes, along with others, that this may well put the Anglican Communion into violation of the canons of the Episcopal Church:

"[The] five bishops are the core of the Network on its way to being a new church. They have already abandoned attentive engagement with the Canons of The Episcopal Church.

There are other signs of this abandonment: The Moderator stated in his address to the ACN Annual Meeting,

'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 ...' 'Some at least,' and I would suggest it is the core five, do not recognize the American Primate. This, of course, also makes it clear that such distinctly canonical matters as the election of the Presiding Bishop are able to be dismissed as well.

Looking at the statement of the core five, One half of the Network Bishops have made it clear that they consider the Canons of the Church to be without merit, at least in this instance.

It is of some interest to note those absent from the list of bishops receiving the 21 priests: Bishops Stanton of Dallas, Bishop Howe of Central Florida, Bishop Steeson of Rio Grande, Bishop Love of Albany, and a bishop for South Carolina.

By the way, NO ONE is a 'priest in good standing of the Anglican Communion.' We are priests in good standing in our own churches (Provinces) and at the sufferance of other provinces may exercise ministry there, but we have no rights to do so."

The bishops of ACN are arguing that the priests in question's allegiance to "mainstream Anglicanism" means that there is no cause for this deposition. Bishop Lee is stating that their refusal to follow the "godly admonition of their bishop" is proper cause.

(Your "editor o' the day" makes the following observation: What is particularly interesting in all of this is the way people are making use of the argument that they are willing to abide to the rules of the Church in as much as those rules do not require them to do something they do not wish to do. You can see this happening in different instances on both sides of the debate. What hardly ever happens is that both sides are willing to acknowledge that they are behaving in ultimately the same way as their opposition. Or that their decision to make a decision based on their personal reading of a situation has major implications for our theological understanding of Church.)

Read the rest here.

Nigeria to appoint a bishop for England?

Thinking Anglicans has a report of an article published in the Church of England Newspaper that claims there is evidence that Anglican Province of Nigeria is preparing to appoint a missionary bishop for Great Britain in a manner similar to the bishop appointed for CANA congregations here in North America. Quoting Religious Intelligence:

A new bishop to be appointed by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola could be consecrated before next year’s Lambeth Conference if plans succeed. A source describing himself as a ‘worker in the Nigerian diocese’ said he was aware of such plans and that such a person would be employed as a ‘mission co-ordinator’.

Rumours regarding the possibility of such a role have been circulating over the last few months but this is the first time it has been confirmed by a clergy member from Nigeria.

There was a previous report of this possibility on Scott Gunn's blog, InclusiveChurch.

An additional rumor that is floating around, but which we here at The Lead have yet to find sourced so it may not be credible, is that the Rev. Canon Dr. Christopher Sugden is the likely candidate.

Read the rest here.

Vatican plays politics with Romero's canonization

The Associated Press reports:

VATICAN CITY -- Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, the outspoken church leader who was killed in 1980 as he celebrated Mass, has become as polarizing in death as he was in life.

The campaign to make him a Roman Catholic saint appears to be languishing, as Vatican officials privately debate whether Romero was a martyr for the faith or for the political left.

The sensitivity of the issue was clear in remarks last May by Pope Benedict XVI, as he was flying to Brazil -- his first visit to Latin America as pontiff.

Benedict told reporters that "Romero as a person merits beatification," but Vatican officials removed that quote in an official transcript, keeping only the pope's general praise of the slain prelate as a "great witness to the faith."

Read it all.

Cruelty to animals linked to violence against humans?

Absent the influence of certain longtime friends of this blog (and they know who they are), it is unlikely we would have contemplated the theological significance of animals, largely because we are insufficiently fond of vegetables. But several regular readers have persuaded us to contemplate anew the relationship of humans to other creatures, and what our attitude toward helpless animals tells us about our attitude toward peole over whom we exercise power. In that spirit, we offer the press release hidden under the Read more tag. Click to see it all.

Read more »

How, and how not, to stop AIDS in Africa

"We have ... emerged from the Age of Inaction to the Age of Ineffective Action," writes William Easterly in his review of The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS, Helen Epstein's new book on AIDS in Africa.

In Africa, AIDS is now a multibillion-dollar industry, with the US President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM), the United Nations' AIDS consortium, UNAIDS, and major efforts by the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the Gates Foundation, and national aid agencies. Unfortunately, these well-meaning efforts are badly weakened by political agendas, misdirected priorities, ignorance, and plain incompetence.

To illustrate the role of political agendas, Epstein discusses the famous success story by which AIDS infection rates in Uganda decreased as a result of the ABC campaign—'Abstain, Be Faithful, and Use Condoms.' Epstein damns both the Western right and left for their misuse of the lessons of Uganda. The religious right played up the "Abstain" part because it happened to fit their particular moral preferences. People on the left, who had different sexual morals, said just use condoms. The 'Be Faithful' message, precisely the one in Epstein's story that was critical in Uganda (led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who called for "Zero Grazing"), was a political orphan, disdained by both left and right.

The book is receiving such good reviews that it sounds increasingly like a must-read for those who hope to participate in future debates on the issue.

South Carolina re-elects Lawrence

The Very Rev. Mark Lawrence was re-elected as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina August 4 at a special electing convention held at St. James Church on St. James Island, South Carolina. Lawrence was the only candidate in the election since no petitions to add other names to the slate were received by the July 11 deadline.

A majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must now consent to Lawrence's ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

Lawrence, 56, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Bakersfield, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin, was first elected September 16, 2006 to be South Carolina's 14th bishop.

On March 15, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori declared that election "null and void," saying that a number of the consent responses did not adhere to canonical requirements since Lawrence's election did not receive the consent of the majority of diocesan standing committees.

Episcopal Church canons, which govern the procedures for the election of bishops, call for consents to episcopal ordinations from standing committees to be "signed by a majority of all the members of the Committee. (III.11.4 (b))"

Further, the canon states (on pages 101-102) that standing committee members must sign in their own handwriting: "In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hands this (blank) day of (blank) in the year of our Lord (blank)."

Where the signature requirement had not been met by standing committees, the consent forms for Lawrence's election were rejected for not complying with that part of the canon.

Canonically adequate ballots were received by South Carolina from 50 diocesan standing committees of the 56 required. Several other standing committees were reported to have consented, but no signatures were attached to their ballots, or the ballot itself was missing from South Carolina's records, Jefferts Schori reported in March. Any committee that did not respond to the diocese's consent request is considered to have voted no.

Read it all.

Evangelicals unimpressed

Shirley Ragsdale, religion editor of the Des Moines Register, writes:

When it comes to the Republican presidential campaign, some conservative Christian voters say they ain't seen nothing yet.

That is, none of the top-tier GOP candidates is addressing the issues that these Iowans care passionately about, and few exhibit the moral values they want to see in the leader of the free world.

"Morality is the No. 1 issue with me," said Ken Rogers, 62, of Altoona, a member of Central Assembly of God Church in Des Moines. "If a person can't live by the Ten Commandments, how can he lead the nation?"

Evangelical Christians have traditionally been a strong factor in Iowa Republican politics. They were credited with helping to push President Bush to victory in Iowa in 2004.

Read it all.

Airport chaplains

Howie Aiden, an Anglican priest and airport chaplain at Schiphol airport, Amsterdam describes his airport ministry in the Times:

The work of an airport chaplain is a never-ending stream of intense personal encounters followed by silence, the void being filled with hopeful prayer that each individual will continue to find the help and support they need once they have moved on from here. Only twice in my time at Schiphol have those whom I have helped written or returned to let me know how they are doing.

Initially it surprised me how much death and bereavement are part of the chaplaincy’s work. Airports are not keen to advertise it, but there are a good number of passengers who die on inbound flights or at the terminal. Travel is stressful; heart problems are commonplace. Accidents and suicides, though not frequent, do occur. And on average two Dutch citizens a day die while abroad, their remains often being repatriated in the company of family or friends. At Schiphol the chaplains are authorised to take up to five meeters and greeters through the security checks to the arriving airplane, so that the bereaved can be met away from the busy arrivals hall.

There is a brighter side, too. Sunday services are an enjoyable mix of nations and denominations, the Church drawn together from the four corners of the Earth, only to be scattered again within hours. People who would otherwise never enter each other’s churches share the Peace, and mean it. They also learn that they can share space with people of other faiths, praying or worshipping as they do in the one interfaith meditation centre.

Read it all here.

I have noticed chapels at various airports across thw world, but have never met an airport chaplain. Have you?

Management consultants for the church?

Churches can be sizable institutions with serious administrative responsibilities. To what extent should the Church look to the secular business community for assistance? These are questions that are explored in a commentary by Tom Horwood in the Guardian.

Noting that the Catholic Church in England turned to an outside commission (the Cumberlege Commission) to advise it about how to prevent future child abuse by clergy in the future, Horwood notes that churches have much to learn about leadership and management:

At the same time, like the rest of the voluntary sector, churches are having to become more professional - from child protection to health and safety, financial accountability to data protection. This draws faith leaders out of their comfort zone because they have tended to rely on traditional models of hierarchy to govern their flocks. They were normally recruited on the basis on orthodoxy and conservatism, and received little training when they were promoted.

There is a resistance to this change, as the Cumberlege report notes. Some religious leaders would prefer to devote all their energies to spiritual and pastoral matters, despite being responsible for multimillion-pound charities and large workforces. There is a temptation to leave practical problems to others. Yet Cumberlege criticises this attitude because it fails to make vital issues such as child protection part of the mainstream life of the organisation. Faith leaders need to be, and be seen to be, in the driving seat if the necessary culture change is to happen.

To effect this change, other organisations can teach churches a thing or two. Secular management theory has been grappling with change management for the last decade, as companies and the public sector have increasingly valued the importance of persuading people to modify how they behave to improve the organisation, whether the motivation is profit or public service. This way of thinking is now commonplace and mainstream, but it has yet to make a significant impact in most faith communities.

Elements of what works in the secular working world can be consistent with the ethos of religion. Strategic management does not conflict with theology or doctrine. I and other writers, managers and pastors across the denominations have been suggesting ways of integrating good management practice with faith.

Those who argue that the two are irreconcilable could consider these words of the management author Charles Handy, written for a secular audience in language that could be as at home in the presbytery as the boardroom: "The leader's first job is to be missionary, to remind people what is special about them and their institutions; second it is to set up the infrastructure" to make things happen.

If faith leaders took to heart the lessons of other sectors, they would be better able to set strategies for what their communities would look like in the future. They would inspire people to bring about a shared vision, rather than responding defensively to crises. They could bring about the attitude changes the Cumberlege Commission believes are so necessary. They could find new ways of turning their faith communities into the beacons of hope and inspiration they aspire to be.

Read it all here.

When is it appropriate for the church to learn from the business community? Is there a danger that this can lead us to buy into the more materialistic aspects of our culture?

Lutherans meet next week

The Episcopal Church and the Canadian Anglican Church are not the only denominations that will confront the issue of same sex realtionships this year. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ("ELCA"), the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States will next week at their biannual assembly in Chicago.

Front and center will be the issue of ordaining ministers in relationships with same sex partners. The current policy requires celibacy of its GLBT clergy, and the proposal would be to allow clergy to remain in good standing as long as they were in committed relationships:

Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.

The full policy can be found here.

According to Eillen Flynn of the Austin American Statesman, over 80 Lutheran ministers will come "out" on Tuesday in an effort to affect this debate:

Are you serious, I thought when I heard the voice mail. More than 80 Lutheran ministers will go public with their homosexual identity next week? Mind you, these clergy members serve a comparatively liberal branch of Lutheranism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

But still, many of those coming out on Tuesday are in homosexual relationships, and the ELCA restricts ordination to heterosexuals who are faithful in marriage or celibate homosexuals. As it happens, the ELCA will be debating the issue of dropping the celibacy requirement for gay ministers at its biennial assembly next week in Chicago.

I got the phone message about next week’s press conference from a fellow with Lutherans Concerned/North America, a group that supports people of “all sexual orientations and gender identities.”

Now again, this is the liberal Lutheran denomination — not the Missouri Synod, which takes a much harsher stance on homosexuality. But still, the ELCA, like most mainline Protestant churches, does have a celibacy rule. And if church leaders don’t change that policy at this convention, aren’t these folks putting their collars on the line?

Read it all here.

The Archbishop of York is a Christian

"The orthodox voice of the multitude is drowned out and ignored in Anderson’s analysis in favour of selective quotation from the fringe." So says the Rev. Arun Arora, director of communications for the Archbishop of York, in a cogent dissection of an essay by the Rev. David Anderson of the Church of Nigeria, recently published in the Church of England Newspaper. Arora notices in Anderson and others a "rush to say something (anything?) that will place TEC upon the top of a heretical bonfire."

Read it all.

Greetings from Asbury Park

The altar is a tray for serving breakfast in bed. The pews are large towels or striped beach chairs. And instead of doodling on the program, distracted children can play with a bucket or bury a parent’s feet in the sand.

On Saturdays in the summer, Trinity Church, an Episcopal congregation here, celebrates a beach Mass at 6 p.m., attracting up to 75 people — some passers-by from the Boardwalk, some regular parish members, and some visitors from Asbury Towers, a retirement housing complex that casts a welcome late-afternoon shadow on the sand.

Read it all in The New York Times. (Hat tip, Dan Webster.)

New bishop for Iran

Mark Harris at Preludium reports:

Announcement has come that Bishop Azad Marshall was installed as sixth Bishop at St Paul's Church, Tehran on Sunday August 5. At least the following bishops and representatives of bishops from elsewhere in the communion were present for the service: Bishop Michael Nazir Ali of Rochester, representing the Archbishop of Canterbury , Archbishop John Chew (South East Asia), Bishop Suheil Dawani, Bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Paul Butler of Southampton, Bishop Riah, former Bishop of Jerusalem,and a representative of the Bishop of Oxford.

Support and prayers are needed for this church as it ministers in Iran. The presence of bishops from around the world reveals that they are not alone even when feeling isolated. Harris reminds us that this is the heart of being in the Anglican Communion.

Read it all here

Click here for a photo from the installation.


Communique from the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East here

Bonds, Barry Bonds

Beliefnet is exploring Barry Bonds' assault on Hank Aaron's home run record from a theological point of view. Today, Michael Kress, who says he finds himself "overcome by a deep sense of sadness and more than a little outrage when contemplating Bonds's achievement," weighs the issue of justice v. forgiveness and comes down on the side of justice.

Starting to inject oneself with performance-enhancing steroids so late in an already-amazing career strikes me as just craven, a self-loathing act of desperation, a statement that being great isn't good enough, that nothing less than the history books--nothing less than god-like perfection--will suffice. Bonds wasn't--isn't--some striving rookie, he was already an established star, a role model, a leader. He could have become one of baseball's elder statesman, retiring gracefully with one of the best careers ever. Instead he chose to artificially prolong it, making a mockery of the natural aging process and his God-given body, as well as his opponents and teammates, and the game itself.

David Kuo and Patton Dodd offer differing points of view.

Girls gone mild?

Wendy Shalit has made a career as the sort of journalist whose trend stories fall apart on closer examination. But no matter, because by the time closer examination occurs, the stories have frequently started quite useful conversations. Her latest book, Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good, is a case in point. Unless one believes that the plural of anecdote is data, there is simply no evidence for a resurgence in modesty. But by the time a reader figures that out, he or she has skipped past the need for data, and leapt to the discussion of whether such a resurgence would be desireable. It is possible to regard Ms. Shalit simultaneously as a mediocre journalist and a useful contributor to contemporary conversation about morals.

The Washington Post's review of her book, and, to a lesser extent, her career, is here.

Pope returns to Rome - again

Today Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth, sent this notice out to the clergy of the Diocese of Fort Worth:

BISHOP CLARENCE POPE telephoned me this morning to let me know that Martha and he have returned to membership in the Roman Catholic Church, in full communion with the See of Peter. We certainly wish them well and want to uphold them with our love and prayers at this important time in their pilgrimage. They both gave ten years of faithful service and witness here in the Diocese of Fort Worth, and we give thanks to God for their continuing friendship and ministry. Bishop Pope wanted to assure me that he remains very attached to us and that his affection for the people of this diocese remains unchanged. Do join me in thanking God for both of these faithful Christians and praying His continued blessing upon them in the years ahead.

Thanks to Katie Sherrod. Read all about the history of Clarence Pope and the Roman Catholic Church on her blog. One bit:

[In 1994] Pope was [first] received into the Roman church at St. Mary the Virgin Catholic Church, a parish whose priest and congregation had been part of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth until 1991, when they all became Catholics and their priest was re-ordained as a Roman priest. Pope –that is Bishop Pope -- allowed them to keep the church buildings.

Reflections of a missionary to Tanzania

Kirk and Leslie Steffensen just returned to the US after a two year mission in Tanzania. Kirk reflects on their return and the gifts to their family from being a missionary. From their homepage

While we were working in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT), we were lucky to work for the one Bishop in Tanzania that was willing to stand up against signing the Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT) letter cutting off ties with the Episcopal Church USA. Bishop Mhogolo gathered all of the DCT missionaries together to explain his position and told us that with all of the help that Africa needs, it is foolish to single out one organization for one sin. He said that no one in Africa asks the Red Cross, UNESCO, or the many governments that donate money if they have any homosexuals working on their staff. He also said that singling out homosexuality over adultery, greed ( i.e., corruption), and dependence on alcohol (all issues in Tanzania) was missing the point that we are all sinners and we are all forgiven.

Bishop Mhogolo emphasized that the important thing is developing partnerships. Our family helped DCT in many ways, through both of us teaching many students and my setting up two computer networks for two schools. But our family received many blessings in return. Our children learned life lessons that we could not have paid for at home. They are much more aware of the world around them, how lucky they were to be born into the situation they’re in, and how much other cultures have to offer to their understanding of life. (The kids couldn’t articulate that if you asked them, but you can see it in the ways that they’ve changed over the past year.)

Kirk concludes this entry:

And now that we’re back in the States, we will always have a piece of Africa and Tanzania in our hearts. We’re still unpacking our possessions, but after we finish with them, we’ll need to unpack our experiences and share them with our parish, our Diocese, and the other people that helped enable our mission journey. This lifelong partnership is one of the key points that Bishop Mhogolo makes when he talks about the ways missionaries help DCT. He says that we help in the ways that we can while we’re there, but that we help even more when we come home by spreading the message of partnership with Africa and by helping to recruit more missionaries and assistance, whether it is through active recruitment or by passive recruitment through witness of life in Africa.

Read all their family reflections here

Speaking the truth in love

The Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno, bishop of Los Angeles reports on his visit to the conference Way to Emmaus sponsored by Trinity Church, NYC. The focus on mission that unites us gave him new insight into the state of the Anglican Communion. In the Diocesan clergy newsletter, The Angelus, he offers his reflection on the event.

The current climate in the Anglican Episcopal family of churches is described by the internet blogs and some organizations' websites as anxious, tense and desperate. A 'reality check' opportunity in the last days of July found a considerably different encounter taking place, one drenched in the graceful spirit of mutual responsibility, happening in a monastery guest house in El Escorial Spain. Those present were from, of all places, the U.S.A. and Africa. Could it be happening? Yes, it happened, and thanks be to God, mission to a weary world was its focus.

Bishop Bruno hopes that this will be a new model of doing business as a Communion,
"a trademark minus pronouncements and press conferences; not worrying about the perfectly crafted communiqué but liberating us all, big time. People spoke the truth in love. That's not just a phrase, but an attitude that was displayed in session after session."

He continues, "I felt so aware of those around me each day. Our small groups became more like prayer cells, not stranger, but pilgrims. They also became a safe place for honesty and clarity. This is so refreshing in this time in our history, when people who are being open are demonized. As Anglicans we claim John 8:32 as our motto, emblazoned on the Compass Rose, albeit in Greek; "The Truth Shall Make You Free!" Maybe we should have multi-language versions to help us own the message."

Read it all here, at Susan Russell's blog.

Other coverage on the conference at The Lead from Episcopal Cafe here and here

Silent racism

Recommended reading for anti-racism work is Silent Racism: How Well-Meaning White People Perpetuate the Racial Divide by Barbara Trepagnier. It is discussed by Marc Speir in the Texas State News Service.

Barbara Trepagnier says that people should replace the question of whether or not they are racist with asking themselves how they are racist.

"It’s a much more fruitful question," Trepagnier, a sociology professor at Texas State University, said. "We’re this way because of the stereotypes we all grew up with and the ideas in our head have everything to do with our actions. My point is that those stereotypes matter."

Trepagnier argues that every person harbors some racist thoughts and feelings, and that the acknowledgements of these attitudes are important to changing racial inequality.

The 66 year-old recently celebrated Paradigm Publishers’ March 30 paperback release of her book entitled, Silent Racism: How Well-Meaning White People Perpetuate the Racial Divide, as it continues to find further shelf space in bookstores nationwide.

Trepagnier says while blacks can act with prejudice, there is a difference between being prejudiced and being racist.

"I’m referring to systemic racism," Trepagnier said. "Blacks can certainly act with prejudice. But with whites as the majority in our society, racism becomes an institutional structure practiced by the dominant group."

Her book contends that “silent racism” fosters routine actions not recognized by an individual as racist, but upholds the status quo.

Trepagnier says that this form of superiority remains prevalent in American society, and is a major reason African-Americans continue to struggle. Blacks are outperformed by their white counterparts in most social demographics, including factors such as education, employment and income. She says that whites that deny the existence of racism or dismiss it as unimportant are often protecting white privilege.

Trepagnier says that some whites become detached from the race issue while others are so concerned with it that they become apprehensive about it, avoiding even the mention of the topic. In both cases, this passive stance silently provides the racist actions of others an endorsement, or worse, encouragement.

Read it all here

General Convention resolutions encourage church leaders to take anti-racism training and all candidates for ordination are required to study this issue in their formation.

Have you participated in anti-racism training yet?

Information on The Episcopal Church's anti-racism program is here

82 Lutheran gay and lesbian clergy come out

Dozens of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered Lutheran clergy and seminarians on Tuesday openly proclaimed their sexuality to church members meeting at Navy Pier for a national assembly according to Chicago Sun Times reporter Susan Hogan/Albach.

A devotional booklet titled, “A Place Within My Walls, is being handed out to the more than 1,000 voting members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a 4.8 million-member denomination headquartered in Chicago.

Presently, the ELCA requires that gay clergy be celibate. But nearly one-third of the ELCA’s 65 synods – regional districts – have requested that the celibacy requirement be dropped, a measure that will be debated this week.

Goodsoil, a coalition of groups hoping to lift the celibacy rule, is distributing the booklets. The booklet includes devotional stories from the Acts of the Apostles that “speak to the experiences and decisions of the early church when confronted by diversity and conflict.”

It also features stories and photos of 11 gay and lesbian clergy and two-would-be pastors. And a list of pastors, seminarians and others serving in ministry, awaiting call or removed from the clergy roster for their sexual orientation over the past two years who were willing to go public.

Read it all here

UPDATE: According to a press release by Good Soil: a coalition of Lutheran groups working for full inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Lutherans in the life of the church, eighty-two lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Lutheran ministers have chosen to introduce themselves to their denomination and speak out against the policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) that prohibits them from entering into lifelong, loving family relationships.

Read about Good Soil here

Ethical conversion and freedom of religion

Evangelical and Pentecostal representatives will join an August 8-12 consultation on conversion with the World Council of Churches and the Vatican in Toulouse, France. The joint Vatican-WCC study process on religious conversion is moving closer to its goal of a common code of conduct in seeking converts to Christianity, according to Ekklesia.

Kicked off in May last year at a meeting that affirmed freedom of religion as a "non-negotiable" human right valid for everyone everywhere and at the same time stressed that the "obsession of converting others" needs to be cured, the three-year joint study process moves now into its second phase.

Intended as an intra-Christian discussion - whereas the first encounter featured participants from different faiths - the project's second phase will consist of a high-level theological consultation entitled "Towards an ethical approach to conversion: Christian witness in a multi-religious world".

At the consultation, some 30 Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal and Evangelical theologians and church representatives will aim to articulate what a common code of conduct on religious conversion should look like from a Christian viewpoint.

"Conversion is a controversial issue not only in interreligious relations, but in intra-Christian relations as well", says Rev. Dr Hans Ucko, WCC's programme executive for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. "In Latin America it is a source of tension between the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal movement, while in other regions Orthodox churches often feel 'targeted' by some Protestant missionary groups.

Read it all here

Crumbly bread and open communion

Writing in the August 5 edition of The Living Church, The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean and president of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary writes of the role of seminaries and responds to a Guest Column, "Careless Communion" [The Living Church, July 8], by the Rev. Ian Montgomery who described a commencement he attended at "one of our seminaries” where, from his point of view, everything seemed to go wrong. The eucharistic bread crumbled and fell to the floor, the presider made an open invitation to communion, and the preacher seemed to endorse what the article called the “new Episcopal religion." In his response, Hall writes:

Nobody who knows Seabury and its liturgical traditions well could seriously think that we are intentionally lax in our treatment of the sacrament. What Fr. Montgomery experienced was the unfortunate consequence of our new policy of using gluten-free bread at all celebrations of the Eucharist. The Seabury community now has several members with Celiac disease (gluten intolerance), and so we have started using only gluten-free bread as an expression of our inclusive hospitality. If you have ever tried to bake gluten-free bread, you know how tricky it can be. I regret that the recipe used at commencement produced friable bread, and we will work to make sure that the experience is not repeated.

While crumbly bread might seem an apt metaphor for Anglicanism, in reality it’s an expression of a community trying to react pastorally to a new situation — which, in a sense, is what so much of the current conflicts over sexuality, open communion, and inclusive language is about in the first place.

On the second point of the open invitation to receive communion, the dean writes:
As ordinary of the chapel, I have articulated this policy in full awareness that it does not comply with the canonical provision about communion and baptism. One reason seminary chapels are traditionally “ecclesiastical peculiars” is so that they will have the freedom to push the edges of liturgical practice in the direction of the church’s emerging theology. There is a serious theological argument abroad these days about the relationship of baptism and Eucharist. To characterize the open invitation as “liturgical universalism” misconstrues the state of the argument. Those of us who favor open communion do so knowing that the church has historically seen one sacrament as a precondition for the other. We simply question, in the present pastoral situation, the propriety of following that practice.

Dean Hall discusses the Presiding Bishop's sermon against Montgomery's interpretation and expresses his thoughts on "new Episcopal religion."

Read it all at The Living Church

Episcopal Cafe has essays on the issue of Communion Without Baptism here and here.

The new face of evangelicals

Mark I. Pinsky writing in USA Today

This is more than what Freud called "the narcissism of small differences." The emerging face and voice of American evangelicalism is that of a pragmatic, politically sophisticated, pastor of a middle class megachurch.

The emerging face and voice of American evangelicalism is that of a pragmatic, politically sophisticated, pastor of a middle class megachurch. A younger generation of ministers such as Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life; Bill Hybels, of the pioneering Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago; T.D. Jakes, the African-American pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, as well as a music and movie producer; and Frank Page, the re-elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
They want to change the tone of the national political debate, making it less confrontational, and to open the movement to tactical coalitions with mainline Christian denominations, other faiths and even liberal secularists on a broad spectrum of issues.
True, on cultural touchstone issues such as abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research, there is no difference between the Old Guard and the New Guard: All are equally opposed. But the younger pastors want to broaden the evangelical agenda beyond what Hunter calls "below the belt" issues linked to sexuality.

Emphasis added. Read it all here.

Evangelicals warm to environmentalists

The Washington Post this morning has this page A01 story on the growing interest evangelicals are taking in the environment. An excerpt:

Denise Kirsop donned a white plastic moon suit and began sorting through the trash produced by Northland Church.

She and several fellow parishioners picked apart the garbage to analyze exactly how much and what kind of waste their megachurch produces, looking for ways to reduce the congregation's contribution to global warming.

"I prayed about it, and God really revealed to me that I had a passion about creation," said Kirsop, who has since traded in her family's sport-utility vehicle for a hybrid Toyota Prius to help cut her greenhouse gas emissions. "Anything that draws me closer to God -- and this does -- increases my faith and helps my work for God."

Her conversion to environmentalism is the result of a years-long international campaign by British bishops and leaders of major U.S. environmental groups to bridge a long-standing divide between global-warming activists and American evangelicals.

Those British bishops are Anglican bishops.

Virginia property cases in court on Friday

Via email:

To the Clergy and Lay Leaders of The Diocese of Virginia
August 8, 2007

Dear Friends:

Many of you have written, called and sent e-mails of support in recent months. I am grateful for all that you do in support of the mission of the Church to be the hands and feet of Christ at work in the world.

Our aim is to help preserve the integrity of the Church so that you can continue to do that as Episcopalians in The Diocese of Virginia and to make sure that future generations will be able to say "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You."

Clearly The Episcopal Church faces challenges as our church is beset by groups and individuals determined to hijack the legacy of our ancestors and make off with the inheritance we are honor bound to protect, preserve and pass on to future generations. We face opposition from groups that are not only leaving The Episcopal Church but are now also steering a new course away from the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is very telling that Dr. Ephraim Radner, one of the founders of the Anglican Communion Network, one of the realignment groups, has resigned and distanced himself from the mission of that group.

Closer to home, this is an important week in The Diocese of Virginia's defense of its heritage and stewardship of its future. On Friday, August 10, The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church will appear in Fairfax Circuit Court to defend our claim to Episcopal Church property against non-Episcopal groups that are trying to appropriate our churches for their own uses. This Friday, those groups will press technical and procedural claims that the Diocese and the Church have failed to state a case. In other words, they will try to have our case dismissed. Naturally, we oppose their actions. Later, in November, the court will hear arguments on the lawsuits, styled as petitions, filed by the Nigerian congregations that started this dispute. The Diocese and The Episcopal Church are named as defendants in that action.

Someone recently remarked to me how sad it is that we find ourselves in court at this time. The situation we find ourselves in is regrettable and unfortunate. Nevertheless, we must protect and preserve our heritage for future generations. The truth of this came home poignantly to me in a call I received from an older woman whose congregation and property have been hijacked by forces outside The Episcopal Church. She called because she is concerned she may not be able to be buried in an Episcopal service by an Episcopal priest in the cemetery of her Episcopal Church, sacred ground where her family and ancestors are buried. It is in stories such as hers that our requirement to preserve, protect and pass on the legacy of our church ancestors has real meaning. Those of us in this generation with the responsibility of stewardship are working tirelessly to that end.

We cannot know how these matters will play out in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. We know it will take time and, even when the courts decide, the work of repairing relationships and rebuilding congregations will be in front of us for some time to come. But that is the work we are called to at this time, and it is an honor to serve you, our bishops and this diocese in these challenging days.


Patrick N. Getlein

Mr. Getlein is Secretary of the Diocese of Virginia.

Church dropouts

Will they ever return? Or is their fate still unknown? USA Today reports,

Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 — both evangelical and mainline — who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, according to the survey by LifeWay Research. And 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church.

"This is sobering news that the church needs to change the way it does ministry," says Ed Stetzer, director of Nashville-based LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"It seems the teen years are like a free trial on a product. By 18, when it's their choice whether to buy in to church life, many don't feel engaged and welcome," says associate director Scott McConnell.

Emphasis added. Read it all here.

Evangelicals see abstraction in Bible

Continuing today’s theme of the evolving nature of Evangelical Christianity in America:

Fujimura's abstract works speak to his evangelical Christian faith. But to find it takes some digging.
"The Bible is full of abstraction," said Fujimura, an elder at a Greenwich Village church he helped start. "Think about this God who created the universe, the heavens and the earth from nothing. In order to have faith you have to reach out to something, to a mystery."
Evangelical unease with the visual arts dates to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Andy Crouch, editorial director for Christianity Today's Christian Vision Project, which examines how evangelicals intersect with the broader culture, notes that Protestantism traces its origins to an era when noses were snapped off sculptures in a rejection of Catholic visual tradition while the word of God was elevated.

"The very parched nature of evangelical visual culture is making people who have grown up in this culture thirsty for beauty," he said.
Emphasis added. Read it all here in the Washington Post.

Here at the Episcopal Café we too recognize art as a path to God as regular visitors know by the regular rotation of art. But did you realize that our Art Blog tells more about the art used on these pages? One of our partners at EC is ECVA, the Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts.

Lavabo anyone?

From Anglicans Online:

....at this point in the service, an acolyte approached each of the dozen robed people assembled around the altar in turn. He bowed, but didn't offer a towel or a bowl. Instead, he proffered what appeared to be a two generous squirts from a pump-action hand-sanitizer bottle. The vested personages rubbed their hands together solemnly with disinfecting earnestness, and bowed as the acolyte moved on his way. It was a little astonishing when it happened, and in addition to taking a very long time (the service halted as the process continued, and we didn't make our way to the Sursum corda until all had scrubbed and bowed) it smelled bad. Instead of the usual church odors of incense, musty paper or mothballs, we smelled Purell. The whole thing was jarring to our sensibilities in its novelty and curious solemnity. We have never since seen the Solemn Choral Application of the Hand Sanitizer, but it has given us much occasion for thought and mirth since then.
Read it all here.

Do no harm?

Last week, USA Today reported on the growing trend of doctors' refusing to treat patients for religious reasons. The phenomenon goes beyond abortion and fetal tissue research and includes such matters as prescribing Viagra or performing in-vitro fertilization. At issue in many of these cases is gay discrimination:

The collision between religious freedom and rules against discrimination occurs when physicians perform procedures selectively, offering them to some patients but withholding them from others, says Jill Morrison, legal counsel to the National Women's Law Center.

This year in a case generating wide interest, the California Supreme Court will hear a first-of-its-kind lawsuit: fertility treatment denied to a lesbian.

In Washington state, a gay man recently settled out of court with a doctor who refused to prescribe him Viagra.

"He told me he had prescribed certain drugs for married people, but he wasn't going to do that for me," Jonathan Shuffield says. "It was very painful having the trust broken between my doctor and me."

Patrick Gillen, legal counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based public interest law firm that defends religious freedom, says the political clout of gays and lesbians has led to a situation that "is ripe for conflict." Gillen says no doctors should be required to perform procedures that violate their religious faith, especially "if the patients can get the treatment elsewhere."

The whole story is here, and seems to be a sidebar for a related story on the California court case, reported here.

Edited to add: This is the topic in the Washington Post's "On Faith" feature this week. Check it out here.

Armstrong guilty

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

DENVER - An ecclesiastical court on Wednesday convicted the Rev. Donald Armstrong of stealing nearly $400,000 from his Colorado Springs parish, though it cannot legally punish the breakaway pastor.

The court of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado will decide in about a month, however, whether to recommend that Bishop Robert O’Neill defrock Armstrong, a largely symbolic action that would end all ties between the church and him.

Armstrong left the diocese with a majority of the Grace Church & St. Stephen’s vestry board in March and now oversees the congregation of the Grace CANA Church that is affiliated with the more conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America. His spokesman, Alan Crippen, said the Episcopal Diocese does not have authority over Armstrong.

Read it here.

The press release from the Diocese is here (pdf). Extract:

The five members of the Ecclesiastical Court found unanimously that the Rev. Don Armstrong is guilty on all Counts included in the Motion for Summary Judgment in his case. Those counts are: Count 1 – commission of crimes, including theft of $392,409.93 from Grace Church, and causing Grace Church to issue false W-2s and underreport Armstrong’s income andbenefits by $548,097.27; Count 2 – that Armstrong received illegal loans totaling $122,479.16 in violation of Diocesan Canons; Count 3 – unauthorized encumbrance and alienation of Grace Church’s real property; Count 4 – violation of the temporary inhibition placed on Armstrong; Count 5 – the improper use of clergy discretionary funds; and Count 6 – failure to maintain proper books of account.

Lambeth and Sydney

So, in the Living Church, we have...

The bishops of the Diocese of Sydney have told Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that they will not respond to his invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion’s bishops until they learn how The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops responds to the primates’ communiqué.

If the bishops who participated in the consecration of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson as Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire attend Lambeth, the bishops of Sydney might not, Archbishop Peter Jensen and his five suffragans said.

Writing to Archbishop Williams on July 30 [posted here; see the line "A reply had been requested by the end of July." under the post dated August 10], Sydney’s bishops thanked him for their invitation to the 2008 gathering, saying “it would give us a great deal of joy to be able to join you” in Canterbury. However, “the timing of the invitation has proved difficult,” they explained, because they were first “looking for the response” of the American House of Bishops before giving their final answer.

“In view of the real hesitations that we experience in joining with those who have consecrated Bishop Gene Robinson, and with others who have allowed for the blessing of same-sex unions, and given the significance of these events, we feel that we cannot give an answer to your kind invitation until later in the year,” they stated.

That's here.

And in response, writes Ruth Gledhill in the Times in this brief:

The deadline for bishops to respond to their invite to the Lambeth Conference has been extended, according to a report in the Church of England Newspaper tomorrow. The extension comes after Sydney's six bishops told the Archbishop of Canterbury that they could not reply to the invite until they knew the response of American bishops to demands made by Primates in February at Dar es Salaam.

But the Living Church report says the deadline extension is not related to the Sydney announcement, but rather that "because some bishops 'have stated they had not received their invitations yet,'" per the Rev. Canon James Rosenthal.

Atheists vs. Detroit

The City of Detroit Development Agency offered to pay half the cost of renovating St. John's Episcopal Church. American Atheists took the city to court, saying that the grant violated the establishment clause of the Constitution--and as such, the city has withheld the payment to the church.

The Christian Post is reporting that the federal court has ruled against the atheists.

“Churches cannot be treated as second class simply because they are religious institutions. They have the same right to reimbursement for physical improvements as all other entities have,” said Dale Schowengerdt, a counsel for the Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund, in a statement.

“No reasonable person would consider a church’s receipt of contractually-promised reimbursement to be a government endorsement of religion. The court agreed that the church was rightfully allowed to be part of the city’s program,” he argued.

The City of Detroit Development Agency made a contract with St. John’s Episcopal Church to improve its outer appearance to help boost the city’s image before the 2006 Super Bowl and to spur economic development in the area, according to ADF, which represented the church’s interests in the suit.

Read the rest.

Here's more background from the Detroit Free-Press, last month.

The Associated Press has the fuller picture:

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn ruled Wednesday that the Detroit Downtown Development Authority should not have awarded the churches matching grants. He said it violated separation between church and state because some of the money was spent on improving large signs and stained glass windows containing religious imagery.

But Cohn ruled that most of the roughly $736,000 was OK because any downtown property owner was eligible to apply and the Central United Methodist Church, Second Baptist Church and St. John's Episcopal Church used the grants on improvements such as lighting, parking lots, sanctuaries and landscaping.

Found here.

Washington Cathedral, a nighttime tour

Your erstwhile Thursday editor has been besieged by lightning all afternoon and evening. With apologies for the technical difficulties, we give you this link to pass the night: The Washington Post's interactive panorama of the National Cathedral by night. QuickTime required.

CoE and Facebook

The Church Times has the story:

"Members of the General Synod are signing up to the social-networking website Facebook, after a new informal group was set up for them last week. Anthony Archer, a lay member for St Albans diocese, set up his own account in May, before embarking on the General Synod project. ‘This caused some anxiety among my student children and their friends that the parents’ set were now going to eavesdrop on their kids’ lifestyles,’ he said. To test the water, Mr Archer’s posting on his own page of the site was headed: ‘Can old farts do Facebook?’

Speaking this week, he said the response on the site to his initiative was ‘a resounding yes’. He believes that it is important for the Church to use this type of media tool. ‘Networking is a natural desire, and ought to be at the heart of what the Church is doing in a ministry and mission sense.’ For the first years of its existence, Facebook was restricted to students and their friends, but last year it was opened to anyone with an email address.

...Elsewhere on the site, fans of the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, have created a profile entitled ‘N T Wright Bishop Extraordinaire’. This contains regularly updated postings and discussions on theological questions."

The article points out that only one member of the clergy has actually created an account as of this writing.

Read the rest here.

Bishops meet with Iranian president

The Episcopal News Service has a report on an important meeting between Anglican bishops and the leadership of Iran:

The former president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, met August 9 with the newly installed Bishop in Iran, Azad Marshall, along with Church of England Bishop Michael Nazir Ali of Rochester and Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Marshall was installed as Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Iran during an August 5 service at St. Paul's Church in Tehran.

...Bishop Michael Nazir Ali expressed appreciation for Dr. Khatami's focus in inter-faith dialogue on Stewardship of the Creation, the Dialogue of Civilisations and the Theology of Dialogue and hoped this could be developed. They also exchanged reflections on Persian poetry.

...The former president noted that Nietzche had proclaimed that God is dead, by which he meant that the thought of God is dead in the modern world. The new civilization has brought many achievements for humanity, but in it the thought of God has been forgotten. In its place has been put the super-man, the will to power. This has been expressed in the face of Hitler. Hitler is dead, but his spirit exists in war, terrorism and violation of people.

He continued that we dare to say that God is alive. It is our duty to vitalize the thought of God among humanity. We are sure that Christianity and Islam are trying to address the absence of the thought of God among us. The great task for all of us is to fill the gap, a task in which we can all be together though we have differences in detail.

The most important dialogue in the dialogue of civilizations is the dialogue among religions.

Dr. Khatami closed by saying "Emphatically I wish success to Bishop Azad. Bishop Azad, this is your home."

On behalf of the province of Jerusalem and the Middle East and the diocese of Iran we express our profound gratitude to Dr. Khatami for his words and his welcome.

Bishop Chane of the Diocese of Washington DC has also visited in the past with Khatami when he was in the United States. That meeting though was the occasion for a great deal of criticism.

Lutherans defer debate

The Sun Times has posted a report on the action of the Lutheran Assembly taking place in Chicago this week.

The Assembly has voted to defer any decision on same-sex union until the next bi-annual meeting of the Assembly in 2009.

"But attendees thwarted an effort to quash any discussion whatsoever on present policy mandating celibacy for gay and lesbian clergy within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

For an allotted hour, they calmly debated whether to remove the celibacy standard or to also defer the matter to the task force. Further debate and a vote by the more than 1,000 voting members are expected before the weeklong assembly ends Saturday.

An amendment proposed Thursday calls for all clergy, regardless of the gender of their mate, to live by the same standards of 'fidelity to their partners.'"

Read the rest here.

Court issues initial ruling in VA church cases

Babyblue, the blog of one of the people named in the suit as a member of the vestry of a congregation that has associated itself with the CANA congregations, has news of the results of initial hearing on a petition for a summary judgement this afternoon:

"After extensive argument over the plea of statutory immunity, the court was prepared to rule but suggested that the parties work out an agreement. After recess, the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church agreed to dismiss all of the vestry members and rectors as defendants without prejudice and the individuals agreed to honor any determination of the court regarding the plaintiffs’ property claims, subject to their rights of appeal of any adverse ruling.

"Babyblue's" post goes on to describe in more detail about what the ruling today might mean for both parties. As far as this particular news-editor can understand, the ruling basically states that there's a strong enough argument that can be made for both sides that ruling before they have a chance to fully present their cases would be inappropriate.

Read the rest here: A Very Good Day

(Via BabyBlueOnline.)

Religious investments

Faith-based investment products that speak to people's moral and spiritual conscience are following in the footsteps of "socially responsible" investing, which was making headlines some months back as a place that the progressive/liberal affluent could put their money. Now, this morning's Washington Post examines mutual funds with a mission, which have a lot of appeal for the socially conservative evangelical investor:

Religious conservatives are mobilizing to attach a voice to the cash they have on Wall Street. For example, the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association is for the first time urging its 2.8 million online members to purge their investment portfolios of companies that support a "gay agenda" or "anti-family" practices.

Yet, as social conservatives increasingly tether their agendas to their investments, they're hardly walking in lockstep. On the contrary, they're choosing among a range of religious financial products -- including 16 families of faith-based mutual funds -- that vary in how they define corporate responsibility.

Evangelicals, for instance, are getting behind more than one vision. Some have contributed to the $600 million Timothy Plan, a family of mutual funds with evangelical roots and a pledge to avoid "securities of any company that is actively contributing to the moral decline of our society." Translation: screening out companies -- including many in the benchmark S&P 500 Index -- affiliated with pornography, abortion, gambling, tobacco, alcohol and non-married lifestyles.

However, evangelicals are also behind much of the $900 million invested with the politically enigmatic Mennonite Mutual Aid Praxis Mutual Funds. This group avoids companies such as Pfizer, which fund managers regard as manufacturers of abortion products. But it also lobbies on behalf of shareholders for eco-friendly corporate policies, and its pacifist orientation screens out stocks in defense contractors and bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury.

It's not just the Christian evangelicals hopping on the God-money bus. Catholics, on the one hand, have their funds, and so do Muslims. But it's important to note their buzzword is "morally responsible" investing, according to the article--as if they did in fact take their cue from the progressive movement, and they say as much.

Until now, the American Family Association, for instance, has focused on consumer action, such as a successful 2006 boycott that led to the demise of NBC's racy "The Book of Daniel." Consumer pressure is easier than investor pressure to explain and to use in rallying a broad base of supporters, according to AFA President Tim Wildmon.

But he says his organization has been remiss in letting agenda-driven investing be the near-exclusive province of left-leaning mutual funds with a "socially responsible" label.

"We just dropped the ball on that," he said. "We haven't been very smart in that regard. But now that's about to start changing."

The entire article is here.

More on Va. ruling

Episcopal News Service is reporting on yesterday's ruling in Virginia:

Virginia's Fairfax Circuit Court ruled August 10 in favor of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia in denying the claims of 11 separated congregations that the court should not consider the Church's Constitution and Canons in deciding property disputes.

The congregations, in which a majority of members have voted to leave the Episcopal Church but continue to occupy its property, asked the court to dismiss the complaints of the Church and the diocese.

After hearing arguments by all parties, the judge overruled all but one part of the motions. The court dismissed the claims of the diocese for a judgment that the congregations had committed a trespass by holding onto the property. Such claims, the court ruled, should be pleaded separately.


Also on August 10, after hearing arguments on a motion to dismiss all the individual defendant vestry members, clergy, and trustees from the litigation, all of the parties agreed that they -- together with the separated congregations -- will be bound by whatever ruling the trial court makes regarding ownership of the real and personal property. Their agreement extends to any ruling on appeal.

According to the agreement, if the court rules in favor of the Episcopal Church and the diocese, an orderly transition with respect to all property would ensue. The Church and the diocese reserve the right, however, to seek an accounting of all monies spent by the departed congregations and bring the individual vestry members and clergy back into the litigation for that purpose.

Hat tip to Simon Sarmiento for this. The whole thing is here. The Diocese of Virginia press release is here.

Helping the Holy Land

George Ghanem, a Fulbright Scholar at George Washington University, is an Arab Christian. He speaks plaintively and honestly about life as a Christian in the Holy Land, and about how all the violence there has affected Palestinian Christians. The Centreville, Va., resident volunteers with the Holy Land Christian Solidarity Cooperative, appearing at churches in D.C., Maryland and Virginia with nativity scenes, crosses, and other items, all handcarved from olivewood.

Robin Farmer writes about Ghanem in this morning's Richmond Times Dispatch, available on the website inRich.com:

"Part of our ministry is also to publicize our story to the Christian churches in the USA to tell them what's happening to the Christians of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. They need your help," he said.

"There are no sources of income for them. This is not for them to get rich, just to provide daily bread.

"The Holy Land used to have 3 million tourists every year. These days there may be a thousand every year and they are individuals," said Ghanem, who plans to sell the carvings tomorrow at Richmond's St. Thomas' Episcopal Church (3602 Hawthorne Ave.) from 9 a.m. to noon.

Most of the Arab Christians in the Holy Land are either planning to leave or thinking of leaving, said Al Janssen, author of "Secret Believers: What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ."

"With what's happening there, in another 10 years there could be zero-Christian population in that area," said Janssen.

"Bethlehem is enclosed by a huge wall. Nowadays if tourists want to go to the manger square where Jesus supposedly was born, they have to go through a checkpoint surrounded by a 25-foot wall. It's not exactly the most inviting place to go."

Janssen recalled an Arab Christian businessman who added 30 rooms to his hotel before 2000 in anticipation of strong tourism.

"When I visited him a couple years ago, only one person was staying there. He was desperate to get out. No way he can make a living."

Ghanem said about 100 families leave the Bethlehem area annually. He estimates the Christian population in the Holy Land is less than 2 percent compared with 30 percent last century.

Ghanem is asking churches that are interested in his ministry to contact him at (703) 994-0578.

He's surprised to learn so few people know about the plight of Palestinian Christians.

The whole thing is here.

Church and customer service

The Rev. Tom Ehrich, writer for On a Journey, suggests that churches declare August customer service month in his most recent syndicated column. The reason? Churches are competing for "business" in much the same way that banks and hardware stores. It's not that salvation is a commodity, he notes, but he was inspired by customer service agents poised to meet his needs from the moment he walked in to his new bank.

Imagine a similar cadre of customer service reps positioned inside the church door. Imagine them trained to do more than hand out a bulletin or point toward a coffee urn. Instead, they would engage both visitor and member and respond appropriately to their different needs.

Imagine another cadre trained to respond to people after worship.

Instead of a long line hoping for 10 seconds of the pastor's time, imagine people trained in the delicate craft of identifying need, helping people talk to one another and gathering information for pastoral follow-up.


These are trainable skills. Sunday greeters, for example, can be more than nice people wearing "Greeter" badges. They can be trained in the psychodynamics of being a church visitor and of coming to church mid- or post-crisis. They can prepare for questions and unusual circumstances.

The whole thing is here.

Striking a balance

The influence of the blogosphere on how some people live out their faith becomes more and more palpable. Today, the New York Times has a feature on Pastor Dan, the UCC minister who writes on faith and politics for Daily Kos at a community blog called Street Prophets. The article notes Pastor Dan's primary challenge: living out a "strikingly unlikely double-life, one part as the small-town preacher in a socially conservative spot of the Midwest, the other as an abrasive and confrontational voice of the religious left in the blogosphere."

True to the take-no-prisoners style of blogosphere discourse, Street Prophets traffics more in calumny and condemnation, though with an extremely learned theological intelligence behind it.

"If Conservative Christians are looking for salvation," Mr. Schultz wrote in one characteristic post, "they ought to start looking to save themselves from themselves. They have much to repent for, like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, they have a unique level of judgmentalism and separation to get out of their system."

Besides decrying the religious right on issues like gay rights, abortion and intelligent design, Mr. Schultz has also disparaged even seeming allies like Jim Wallis, probably the most prominent liberal among the evangelical Christian clergy. Mr. Schultz has reviled Mr. Wallis's "patronizing lectures."

Somehow this balancing act seems to work, meeting the needs of two wildly disparate flocks and reconciling Mr. Schultz to himself. As someone who suffers from, and is medicated for, bipolar disorder, Mr. Schultz has, of necessity, become an expert on reckoning with extremes. "There's a part of me that's been angry since I was a kid," Mr. Schultz, 39, said in an interview. "Part of that is my illness, and part of it is a deep sense that the world isn't the place it was meant to be. I had to find a productive place to put that anger or it would swallow me whole. And part of my spiritual journey has been to claim that anger as spiritual."

In choosing the blogosphere as his pulpit, Mr. Schultz forms part of a trend in which liberal members of the clergy are using the Internet the way Christian conservatives used cable television and talk radio in earlier decades. Diane Winston, a professor of religion and media at the University of Southern California, points to such similar figures online as Mr. Wallis, Rabbi Michael Lerner at Tikkun, the Rev. Tim Simpson at PublicTheologian and Rachel Barenblat at Velveteen Rabbi.

More here...

"Faith Night" at baseball games

The headline "The Church of Baseball," evoking a line from the Bull Durham movie, will be familiar to Daily Episcopalian readers who saw Heidi Shott's reflection on the parallels between devotion to one's baseball team and the Episcopal Church earlier this year (here, if you missed it). But Religion and Ethics Weekly, in a piece with the same title, this week is examining a new marketing campaign designed to attract church groups to baseball games:

Fans and families cheered in the parking lot of Prince George's Stadium in Bowie, Maryland, as Jason Dunn, lead singer of the Christian Canadian punk band Hawk Nelson, with his mohawk haircut and cut-off-shirt sleeves revealing the tattoos on his arms, took a break from jumping around stage to explain how the song "Everything You Ever Wanted" was about trying to live up to the expectations of his father.

"But I am here to tell you that Jesus Christ is better than any father any of us could have," said Dunn.

Pre-game Christian concerts like this one, held on a humid summer evening at the home of the Bowie Baysox, a Class AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, are part of a rapidly growing promotional -- some would say controversial -- event called Faith Night being offered at major and minor league baseball stadiums around the country.


But baseball, still widely regarded as America's national pastime, seems to have embarked on something of a new era with Faith Night, searching for higher ticket sales and different fan markets. As baseball groupie and spiritual seeker Annie Savoy, played by Susan Sarandon, said in the 1988 movie Bull Durham, "I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball."

Faith Night "has gone from one team in Nashville in 2002 to 46 this year," according to Brent High, president and partner of Third Coast Sports Inc., the self-described "foremost authority in church marketing and event planning for sports teams."

"This rolling tour is now literally coast-to-coast," said High, who produces the Faith Night tour.

It's all here.

Lutherans vote on question of discipline for gay and lesbian clergy

There are a number of news stories out this evening about what the decisions made by the Evangelical Lutheran Church meeting in the final day of their assembly. Having decided to postpone any decisions on officially sanctioning same-sex blessing until 2009 earlier this week, a resolution passed today encourages Lutheran bishops to refrain from disciplining clergy "who are in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship" in the interim.

This action is being taken to mean that the Lutheran Church now officially allows non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy, according to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times:

"For the first time, clergy in same-sex committed relationships can serve the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America without threat of discipline to them, their congregations or their bishops.

The historic decision, made today at a national assembly at Navy Pier, was spearheaded by Bishop Paul Landahl of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod.

A day earlier, attendees voted down a measure that would have ended a ban on non-celibate gay clergy. But Saturday’s vote calls on church leaders to ‘refrain from or demonstrate restraint’ in disciplining those who violate the policy."

But as Eric Bjorlin, who presents the situation in detail points out:

The assembly seemed to say that we (the entire 4.8 million members of the ELCA, as represented by the assembly) aren’t ready to make formalized changes of policies and procedures, but if certain areas (via their bishops) don’t want to abide by the rules established, then we’ll accept that. As Phil Souchy of Lutherans Concerned said, it’s basically a call by the assembly saying, “Do not do punishments.” Now while this doesn’t technically change anything, but it’s an obvious step in a new direction and a likely indicator of where the ELCA is headed. There is technically no “official” change, but the Yahoo! News article’s title would have you think there had been.

It will probably be a while until the full implications and ramifications of the decisions are understood.

Jesus in the Talmud

Scholars for years have focused on what Christians have thought and said about Jews throughout history. It is not a pleasant story. Very few scholars have asked an equally interesting question: what do classical Jewish texts say about Chritianity? Peter Schäfer has published a new book, Jesus in the Talmud, that examines this question.

David Novak, professor of Jewish studies at the University of Toronto, offers a favorable and illuminating book revew in the New Republic:

This process of rereading the texts of one's own tradition that talk about a close neighbor, an other, demands the very best scholarship. Peter Schäfer is certainly one of the most prominent and most formidable Christian scholars engaged in the new enterprise of looking at Judaism in relation to Christianity. He may well be the most distinguished non-Jewish scholar of classical Jewish sources in the world today. Which is to say, he may be the individual most qualified to deal with a very delicate question that inevitably arises out of the inquiry into what Christians say about Jews and Judaism in their classical sources: what do Jews say about Christians and Christianity in their classical sources? The question becomes more focused when it is directed to what the Jewish sources say about Jesus.

. . .

Schäfer's book tells a fascinating story. We need to appreciate how subtle that story is before we can properly ponder its larger implications for the new Jewish-Christian discussion, implications that are more than academic. What Schäfer calls "the Talmud" is the whole corpus of rabbinic literature that was written between the first and the seventh centuries of the Christian Era. Some of that vast literature was written in the land of Israel (then called "Palestine")--first under pagan Roman rule, then under Christian rule after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century--and is known as the Palestinian Talmud. Even more of that vast literature was written in Babylonia, then part of the Persian Empire. When most Jews say "the Talmud," they mean the Babylonian Talmud, called the Bavli.

There were far fewer Christians in Babylonia than there were in Palestine, and those Christians did not pose the political threat to the Jews that the Christians in Palestine did, and so all scholars interested in Jewish views of Christians and Christianity have regarded the Babylonian treatments of the subject to be historically worthless. They have preferred to concentrate their efforts on discussions and allusions in the Palestinian sources. Those sources alone seem to be talking about a real historical phenomenon, which, when we decode it, tells us much about how the Jews saw the Christian community in Palestine, with whom they had real conflicts.

. . .

Schäfer builds his argument about Jesus in the Babylonian Talmud on a largely overlooked fact: that "whereas the Palestinian rabbis' (few) statements reveal a relative closeness to the emerging Christian sect ... the Bavli's attention is focused on the person of Jesus." But how can what the Talmud says about Jesus be of any significance if the Babylonian rabbis were even further removed from the historical Jesus than the Palestinian rabbis before them? Schäfer's answer is that the Babylonian rabbinical texts are dealing not with the historical Jesus, but with the character of Jesus as it was presented in the New Testament, especially in the Gospel of John, which seems to present the most anti-Jewish Jesus of the four Gospels. These treatments are what Schäfer calls "a literary answer to a literary text."

Whereas the Palestinian anti-Christian texts are responding to a threatening social reality, the Babylonian texts are talking about the basic document (the New Testament) of a Christian community that is no longer a threat to the Jews of Baby- lonia, the Babylonian Christians being as much (if not more) of a marginalized minority as the Jews. Thus, in Schäfer's view, Babylonian Jewish statements about Jesus could be more direct than the Palestinian statements, and they could be nastier. Schäfer shows all this with dazzling erudition and critical insight. He also shows how these Babylonian sources condemned and ridiculed the New Testament accounts of Jesus's birth, powers, and supposed innocence at his trial. Since the local Christians in Baby- lonia were as far removed from the historical Jesus as the local Jews, having only the Jesus of the New Testament, the Jewish criticism of Jesus in Babylonia could attack Christians at their most vulnerable point. In the end, the political power of Christians over Jews made a huge difference in the ways Jews could conduct their anti-Christian polemic.

. . .

But why did the Babylonian Jews go to the trouble of denying the veracity of a text that mattered only to a small Christian community that had no power over Jews (no power of the sort that Palestinian Christians came to enjoy once Christians became members of the official religion of the Roman Empire)? Schäfer gives two answers to this question. Unlike his analysis of the literary evidence, where he has some important data at his disposal, the causal explanation involves much more speculation on his part. Yet Schäfer is not a hasty or arrogant historian; he says only what he believes the evidence entitles him to say. Would that more historians were as modest.

Schäfer's first answer to the question is psychological and political; more precisely, it concerns the influence of the political environment upon psychological motivation. In his view, the Jews of Babylonia could say about Christianity, in the person of Jesus, what their Palestinian brethren could not say because of the dangers involved. Schäfer calls the Babylonian declaration "a proud and self- confident message," one quite different from the "defense mechanisms" that the Palestinian rabbis had to employ in their political prudence. It was a "proud proclamation" of "a new and self-confident Diaspora community."

Schäfer's second answer to this question is more concretely political. Here he notes that in the Persian Empire, both Judaism and Christianity were minority religions--islands of monotheism in a sea of Zoroastrian dualism (which affirmed a good god in conflict with a bad god, as opposed to the one good God affirmed by Judaism and Christianity). The two monotheistic religions were highly suspect in the eyes of the polytheistic Zoroastrian Persian or Sasanian rulers. Indeed, older polemics of Roman pagans against Jews and Christians castigated them both for their monotheism. From these political facts, Schäfer speculates that the anti-Christian polemics of the Jews might be part of "a very vivid and fierce conflict between two competing religions' under the suspicious eye of the Sasanian authorities."

Read the entire review here.

What can such a close review of what the classical Jewish texts said about Jesus tell us about our own faith today? And what can it tell us about the history of the relationship of Jews and Christians?

Is the New Atheism New?

As readers of The Lead are well aware, there has been a rush of best selling books challenging religion by several noted atheists. Are these books saying anythng different from atheist tracks of the past? Harvard Professor Harvey Mansfield thinks that the New Atheism really is new. While atheists in the past attacked the church, these new atheists are attacking religion itself:

As if we were back in eighteenth-century France, atheist tracts are abroad in our land, their flamboyant titles defiant. The God Delusion, God Is Not Great, Letter to a Christian Nation, Atheist Manifesto, Atheist Universe: These are not subtle insinuations against God, requiring inferences from readers, but open opposition inviting readers to join in thumbing their noses. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, newly published, offers comfort and scholarly reassurance, if not consolation, to atheists who might otherwise feel lonely--as, believing what they do, they surely must.

Atheism isn't what it was in the eighteenth century. Now, the focus of the attack is not the Church, which is no longer dominant, but religion itself. The disdain one used to hear for "organized religion" extends now to the individual believer's faith. Despite the change, politics is still the thrust of the attack. It's just that the delusion of religion is now allowed to be the responsibility of the believer, not of some group that is deluding him. A more direct approach is required.

In our time, religion, having lost its power to censor and dominate, still retains its ability, in America especially, to compete for adherents in our democracy of ideas. So to reduce the influence of religion, it is politically necessary to attack it in the private sphere as well as in the public square. This suggests that the distinction between public and private, dear to our common liberalism, is sometimes a challenge to maintain.

Read it all here.

Is Mansfield correct? Is the focus of the New Atheism different than in the past?

Why Prosperity?

The New York Times published an article about the rather innovative and provocative theories of economic historian Gregory Clark about how humans made the transition from poverty to relative prosperity during the Industrial Revolution. Clark's theory is that the surge in economic growth occured due to a change in human beings. Beginning in the late seventeenth century, we began to adopt behaviors that lead to more productivity:

Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution — the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.

Because they grew more common in the centuries before 1800, whether by cultural transmission or evolutionary adaptation, the English population at last became productive enough to escape from poverty, followed quickly by other countries with the same long agrarian past.

. . .

Generation after generation, the rich had more surviving children than the poor, his research showed. That meant there must have been constant downward social mobility as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the progeny of the rich took over their occupations. “The modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages,” he concluded.

As the progeny of the rich pervaded all levels of society, Dr. Clark considered, the behaviors that made for wealth could have spread with them. He has documented that several aspects of what might now be called middle-class values changed significantly from the days of hunter gatherer societies to 1800. Work hours increased, literacy and numeracy rose, and the level of interpersonal violence dropped.

Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people’s preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

“Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,” Dr. Clark writes.

Around 1790, a steady upward trend in production efficiency first emerges in the English economy. It was this significant acceleration in the rate of productivity growth that at last made possible England’s escape from the Malthusian trap and the emergence of the Industrial Revolution.

In the rest of Europe and East Asia, populations had also long been shaped by the Malthusian trap of their stable agrarian economies. Their workforces easily absorbed the new production technologies that appeared first in England.

It is puzzling that the Industrial Revolution did not occur first in the much larger populations of China or Japan. Dr. Clark has found data showing that their richer classes, the Samurai in Japan and the Qing dynasty in China, were surprisingly unfertile and so would have failed to generate the downward social mobility that spread production-oriented values in England.

. . .

Dr. Clark says the middle-class values needed for productivity could have been transmitted either culturally or genetically. But in some passages, he seems to lean toward evolution as the explanation. “Through the long agrarian passage leading up to the Industrial Revolution, man was becoming biologically more adapted to the modern economic world,” he writes. And, “The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.”

What was being inherited, in his view, was not greater intelligence — being a hunter in a foraging society requires considerably greater skill than the repetitive actions of an agricultural laborer. Rather, it was “a repertoire of skills and dispositions that were very different from those of the pre-agrarian world.”

Given what we know about the operation of natural selection, it seems highly unlikley that genetic change explains the change that Clark asserts. (And such a genetic explanatio is fraught with unfortunate implications). But cultural change can occur this rapidly (simply think of the cultural change inour own lifetimes). Historians are therefore impressed, but most reject the genetic emphasis of Dr. Clark:

Reaction to Dr. Clark’s thesis from other economic historians seems largely favorable, although few agree with all of it, and many are skeptical of the most novel part, his suggestion that evolutionary change is a factor to be considered in history.

. . .

Most historians have assumed that evolutionary change is too gradual to have affected human populations in the historical period. But geneticists, with information from the human genome now at their disposal, have begun to detect ever more recent instances of human evolutionary change like the spread of lactose tolerance in cattle-raising people of northern Europe just 5,000 years ago. A study in the current American Journal of Human Genetics finds evidence of natural selection at work in the population of Puerto Rico since 1513. So historians are likely to be more enthusiastic about the medieval economic data and elaborate time series that Dr. Clark has reconstructed than about his suggestion that people adapted to the Malthusian constraints of an agrarian society.

“He deserves kudos for assembling all this data,” said Dr. Hoffman, the Caltech historian, “but I don’t agree with his underlying argument.”

The decline in English interest rates, for example, could have been caused by the state’s providing better domestic security and enforcing property rights, Dr. Hoffman said, not by a change in people’s willingness to save, as Dr. Clark asserts.

The natural-selection part of Dr. Clark’s argument “is significantly weaker, and maybe just not necessary, if you can trace the changes in the institutions,” said Kenneth L. Pomeranz, a historian at the University of California, Irvine. In a recent book, “The Great Divergence,” Dr. Pomeranz argues that tapping new sources of energy like coal and bringing new land into cultivation, as in the North American colonies, were the productivity advances that pushed the old agrarian economies out of their Malthusian constraints.

Read it all here.

What do you think?

Archbishop of York Speaks Again

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has become quite vocal on the current crisis facing the Anglican Communion. Most recently, he was interviewed by Stephen Crittendon of the Australian Broadcasting Company. Here are some highlights from the transcript of the interview:

Stephen Crittenden: On another issue, Archbishop Sentamu, where do you stand in this seemingly endless debate about gay clergy and gay bishops that's breaking the Anglican communion apart?

John Sentamu: I think, for myself, that the 1998 resolution was very clear on where the church stood, and it actually invited everybody to engage in the listening process to gay and lesbian people. I still think it was not a good thing for the Episcopal church, while we are still in conversation, to proceed the consecration of Jim (sic) Robinson. I happen to think they actually pre-empted the conversation and the discussion. Now what I don't think should happen now [is] that the whole question of gay and lesbian people -- when we said we should listen to their experiences -- should now become the kind of dominant theological factor for the whole of the communion. Because really the communion, at the heart of it, has got to do a number of things. While on one hand upholding Christian teaching, [it] must also be very loving and kind towards gay and lesbian people because that's part of the resolution. And it must also continue to listen. And I'm not so sure, when some people speak as if the debate has been concluded, or we cannot engage with this, you're being very faithful to the resolution.

Secondly, the Windsor Report has made it very clear that the four instruments of unity -- that is, Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Primates Meeting -- should be the kind of instrument that actually allows all of us to talk. So those who now say, for example, that they don't want to come to the Lambeth Conference in 2008 because there may be people from ECUSA , well all I want to say is that church history has always taught us that churches have always disagreed. I mean, over the nature of Christ, the salvation of Christ, there were bitter, bitter, bitter disagreements in the early church, but everybody turned up at those ecumenical councils to resolve their differences. So my view would be, if you're finding this quite difficult, please do not stop the dialogue and the conversation.

Stephen Crittenden: Well indeed, you've warned -- just in the last few days --warned the conservative bishops of the global south that if they don't come to Lambeth, they'd effectively be severing themselves from the rest of the communion. That's a bit tough, isn't it?

John Sentamu: Well, the Lambeth Conference is an invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury to all bishops of the Anglican Communion to come to Lambeth and talk of matters of common concern. Now if there is already a fracture within the communion, I would have thought everybody would want to turn up in order to work out how we as a communion are going to go forward. Secondly, the Primates Meeting in Tanzania set out a fairly clear way ahead in its communiqué, as well as the whole question of the covenant. Now if we're going to continue to talk about the covenant at Lambeth Conference, and some people absent themselves from this, what is it that actually they think they're going to be achieving? You see, again I want to challenge them in terms of the debate about the nature of Christ and the salvation of Christ -- no church in the seven Ecumenical Councils absented themselves from it, because they were trying to represent the faith as they saw it. And only by people meeting around the table and having a conversation are you likely to find some kind of thing. I think the thing I was reacting to was a question that some people were planning an alternative Lambeth Conference, and my view was there can be no alternative Lambeth Conference, because the Lambeth Conference is always at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in line with the four instruments of unity. And I cannot see an alternative, actually, for another Lambeth Conference. I mean that's the logic for it.

Stephen Crittenden: Or if you're going to have an alternative Lambeth Conference, you can't pretend at the same time that you're not pushing the whole communion towards schism, can you?

John Sentamu: You can't. You just can't. That to me is the logic, and the Windsor process was very clear of the need first of all for the Episcopal Church as well as the church in Canada, to actually express regret. But you know it went on also and said that those Primates in other provinces should also desist from going into the other people's provinces, and that hasn't actually been observed yet, and it was re-emphasised again at the Primates' meeting in Tanzania. So my view is to say to both sides, 'Come on, hold your fire. Let's get together the communion and gather at Canterbury and go through our conversation properly with Bible study, prayer, and reflection. And don't cut yourself off at this particular point, when what is needed is listening, is discernment, is holding on to the very basic beliefs which we've all got.' And I want to say the only way that I may not turn up to a meeting is if suddenly everybody was saying that the Lambeth Conference is going to redefine the doctrine of salvation or the doctrine of the nature of Christ, or the doctrine of creation. Those are not on the agenda. Everybody believes those truths.

Read the entire trasncript, and listen to the interview here.

With the Archbishop of Canterbury on sabbatical, one wonders if the Archbishop of York is carrying Rowan Williams water on these issues.

Remembering Jonathan Daniels

The violent death of Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Daniels' was remembered Saturday by 200 people who braved in 103-degree heat to honor the white seminary student who gave up his life to save a black teenage girl 42 years ago, according to a report in the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. A student of the Episcopal Divinity School, Daniels answered the call of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders for the church to become more involved in the struggle for civil rights. Daniels was killed on August 20, 1965 by a shotgun blast fired by an Lowndes County special sheriffs deputy at a small convenience store where Daniels and several other civil rights activists had gone following their release from the Lowndes County Jail, where they spent a week behind bars on charges related to a protest in Fort Deposit.

Episcopalians were joined Saturday by adherents of other faiths from throughout Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi, who paid their respect to Daniels and the civil rights cause under a blistering sun.

Jerry McGee of Destin, Fla., recited a Biblical passage about "giving your life for another," something Daniels did without question when he stepped in front of 16-year-old Ruby Sales to protect her and take the fatal shotgun blast.

"That's why I wanted to come here and honor him," said McGee. "He gave the greatest gift he could possible give -- his life."

The Rev. Polk Van Zandt of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Selma said Daniels has been given a "Black Letter Day," which sets aside a day each year to honor his memory.

Van Zandt said others given "Black Letter Days" include nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale and author C.S. Lewis, but added that Saturday's commemoration was "more than just about him."

"This is also about all the martyrs of Alabama," said Van Zandt, who alluded to honors bestowed Saturday on several others who were killed during the civil rights era.

Also included in the commemoration were four girls killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and Viola Liuzzo, who was shot to death by Ku Klux Klansmen in Lowndes County a few months before Daniels was killed


Daniels was a native of Keene, New Hampshire, and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. The VMI archives writes about Daniels in this way:

In August 1965 Daniels and 22 others were arrested for participating in a voter rights demonstration in Fort Deposit, Alabama, and transferred to the county jail in nearby Hayneville. Shortly after being released on August 20, Richard Morrisroe, a Catholic priest, and Daniels accompanied two black teenagers, Joyce Bailey and Ruby Sales, to a Hayneville store to buy a soda. They were met on the steps by Tom Coleman, a construction worker and part-time deputy sheriff, who was carrying a shotgun. Coleman aimed his gun at sixteen year old Ruby Sales; Daniels pushed her to the ground in order to protect her, saving her life. The shotgun blast killed Daniels instantly; Morrisroe was seriously wounded. When he heard of the tragedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "One of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry was performed by Jonathan Daniels."

In the years since his death, Daniels' selfless act has been recognized in many ways. Two books have been written about his life, and a documentary was produced in 1999. The Episcopal Church added the date of his death to its Calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, and in England's Canterbury Cathedral, Daniels name is among the fifteen honored in the Chapel of Martyrs.

At VMI, the Board of Visitors voted in 1997 to establish the Jonathan M. Daniels '61 Humanitarian Award. The award emphasizes the virtue of humanitarian public service and recognizes individuals who have made significant personal sacrifices to protect or improve the lives of others. The inaugural presentation was made to President James Earl Carter in 2001; the second award was presented to Ambassador Andrew Young in 2006.

In addition, one of only four named archways in the VMI Barracks is dedicated to Daniels, as is a memorial courtyard.

The feast commemorating Jonathan Daniels is August 14

Here are two other remembrances: here and here.

Two Brothers, Two Journeys, Same Christ

Two brothers, both Episcopal priests, symbolize the difficult choices and strong feelings that grow out of the current struggles in the Episcopal Church. They ministers just miles away from one another. They are deeply committed Christians and Anglicans. Yet Fr. Bill Murdoch of West Newbury, MA, is leaving the Episcopal Church, starting a congregation affiliated with the Anglican Church in Kenya and will be consecrated a missionary bishop of that communion. At the same time, his brother, Brian, serves a church in West Roxbury, also of the Diocese of Massachusetts, and is gay. They both hope that the struggle in the church does not become a division for their family.

According to a feature in the Boston Globe by MIchael Paulson, Bill sees the issue as a matter of Biblical interpretation, saying that he and no one in his breakaway parish is opposed to gay people. "Intolerance and abusive behavior toward gay people is abhorrent to Christ, the Gospel, and his church," he said. "Hostility toward gay people is a sin. It's prohibited by any Christian pastor, period."

But Brian, wonders "what he (Bill) would do if my partner and I went to Kenya for the consecration and were jailed," he said, referring to the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Kenya.

Two brother-priests, unable to resolve a deep disagreement in the way they interpret the Bible, find themselves ministering just a few miles apart and yet divided by an ocean. Despite their shared commitment to follow Jesus and uphold the rituals and traditions of Anglican Christianity, they are now members of rival camps in an unusual intradenominational battle and are trying to make sure it doesn't become an intrafamily fight too.

"I am less bugged now than I have been at times," Brian Murdoch said in an interview at his parish, Emmanuel Episcopal, a tiny 19th-century church in a West Roxbury neighborhood. "He's my brother. I have a lot of memories that have been good growing up, and those stand. And I know we'll be helping one another get heavenly aid the rest of our days. And it's not going to change how we cut the pie at the table."

Bill Murdoch, who since 1993 has been the rector of All Saints Episcopal in West Newbury, but is planning soon to launch All Saints Anglican at a former Catholic parish in Amesbury, offered a similar assessment.

"My brother and I love each other and always will," he said by e-mail. "My family and I love Brian and have always been proud of his service to others for the sake of the Gospel and the many, many people Brian has loved in the name of Christ. The pain of our disagreement over this issue will not change my love for him."

This story in the Globe highlights what many in the Diocese already knew:

Although many Episcopal priests in the Diocese of Massachusetts know the Murdoch brothers and although Brian is out as a gay man in his parish, this is the first time either has talked about the other publicly. Both brothers were reluctant to talk, and Bill declined to do so in any detail, but Brian consented to an interview, saying he had decided he was willing to go public after reading a story in the Globe last month in which Bill referred to homosexuality as a sin and decried the influence of the "gay agenda" on the Episcopal Church.

Read the rest.

Virginia schism leads to answered prayers

From a letter to the editor in Sunday's Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

As the representatives and allies of four Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Virginia met in Fredericksburg last month, I was reminded of something Lincoln said: "We must settle this question now: Whether in a free government, the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose."

The Episcopal Church has weathered many storms, and emerged intact. Despite the Civil War, issues like slavery and segregation, the impact of cultural change including divorce, birth control, and the emerging role of women in society, the church existed as space where people could lay aside differences and worship together as one.

In 2003, after the general church voted to consecrate an openly gay man as the bishop of New Hampshire, the capability of the church to accommodate various views was strained. In 2006, a small minority of parishes in the diocese voted to leave the Episcopal Church, yet moved to retain Episcopal Church buildings.

While the court decides property issues, those who voted to remain Episcopalian in those parishes found themselves briefly without places to worship. Some are celebrating services in shared space with other denominations, while one is worshipping in a church abandoned by a former Episcopal congregation.

The delegates to the Fredericksburg meeting came from as far away as Arlington and Ashland, from Colonial Beach to Richmond, east from the Northern Neck, south from Falls Church and Herndon. There were priests, deans, region presidents, senior wardens and our bishop coadjutor--all present to reaffirm our commitment to the Episcopal Church, tell stories, and share the support we'd received through the generosity of friendly congregations.

Read it all here. The author is Bill Mehr, a member of a continuing parish.

A conference for continuing parishes is being held this fall. More details here (pdf).

Evangelizing Ethically

A world wide gathering of representatives of several Christian traditions in Toulouse, France, representing Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions met to develop a common code of conduct for those seeking converts to Christianity. The group is an initiative of both the Vatican and the World Council of Churches

An Ecumenical News International release describes the gathering in Toulouse was is an intra-Christian event on the theme, "Towards an ethical approach to conversion: Christian witness in a multi-religious world".

Present are about 30 Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal and Evangelical theologians and church representatives. They hope to formulate something that will show what a common code of conduct on religious conversion should look like from a Christian perspective.

"Conversion is a controversial issue not only in interreligious relations but in intra-Christian relations as well," said the Rev. Hans Ucko, the WCC's programme executive for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. "In Latin America it is a source of tension between the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal movement, while in other regions Orthodox churches often feel 'targeted' by some Protestant missionary groups."

Ucko said, "Since there are many accusations of 'sheep stealing' among Christians, we will most likely also focus on this issue. The consultation in Toulouse will be the opportunity for doing so."

The three-year study project, jointly being undertaken by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the WCC's programme on inter-religious dialogue and cooperation, bears the name, "An interreligious reflection on conversion: From controversy to a shared code of conduct". The study began in May 2006 in Lariano/Velletri, near Rome, and aims to produce a code of conduct on religious conversion commonly agreed among Christians by 2010.

Question to ponder: What is the line between proclamation and coercion? Is it ever appropriate to target other Christian traditions in our evangelism? What would you consider ethical evangelism?

What do we make of a slow response?

Responses to invitations to the Lambeth Conference are coming in slowly enough that the Anglican Communion office has waived the original deadline. A sign of impending schism, excessive caution or is the mail simply slow?

Jonathan Petre of the Telegraph writes that this is a sign of impending schism. Citing the words of the Archbishop of Sydney, who will follow the lead of certain African primates, and an evangelical Church of England Bishop, he says this says there may be a grand snubbing of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Last week the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Peter Jensen, wrote to Dr Williams. The conservative evangelical said he and his five assistant bishops could not yet say whether they would come.

He said their decision would depend on the attitude of the liberal leadership of the American branch of the worldwide Church, which has been given until Sept 30 to reverse its pro-gay agenda.

And whose fault will in be if these Bishops decline to go to Lambeth? Why, the Americans, of course!

Archbishop Jensen indicated he would take the lead from the African conservatives. He will not attend the conference with the Americans unless they agree to toe the predominantly conservative line on homosexuality.

But a careful read of the article indicates that the number of Bishops who have either publicly declined or have expressed reservations is rather small. Also, the Bishops quoted as making dire predictions have overstated their numbers in the past.

What is not clear is what a typical level of participation at Lambeth might be. Readers must be alert to the reasons a bishop might decline to take part. For example, one can easily envision Bishops of smaller or poorer dioceses declining to take part because it is just too expensive. A simple percentage of attendees versus total number of bishops invited tells us very little. People interested in a particular cause should only count those who say out loud that they won't take part because of a pang of conscience or out of principle, before declaring either a schism or the failure of the conference.

Reading some of the advance reactions to the alleged slow response gives one the impression that there are some who are hoping that Lambeth will be a failure. These stories may be an example of the game of shaping expectations in advance of an actual outcome.

Do nothing to change your life

Ekklesia reports that Dr John Sentamu, the Anglican Archbishop of York, has announced that he is to send every MP in the country some summer reflection material: The 100-Minute Bible and a guide to slowing down, Do Nothing to Change Your Life

The guide, written by the Bishop of Reading, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, and released earlier this year (2007), is entitled Do Nothing To Change Your Life. The book urges its readers to create pauses in daily life to benefit their own, and society’s, health and well being. The book argues this fresh perspective of relishing every moment with a greater attentiveness will improve our relationship with God.

Do Nothing to Change Your Life is a passionate plea for the nation to ditch endless ‘to do’ lists, constant streams of emails, and an increasingly ‘24/7’ culture. The book was published following news that an international study had shown that the pace of life in our cities has increased by 10 per cent in the last decade. The bishop’s warning about the danger of not taking rest and play seriously is a timely one.

The 100 Minute Bible gives a synopsis of every book in the Bible and takes less than two hours to read

Read it all here

US churches speak out against torture of prisoners

Ekklesia reports that, "the church-backed US National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is speaking out against a new executive order from President George W. Bush that broadly outlines the limits of how suspects may be questioned in the CIA's terror interrogation programme."

The order, which Bush signed in July 2007, bans torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, sexual abuse, acts intended to denigrate a religion or other degradation "beyond the bounds of human decency." It pledges that detainees will receive adequate food, water and medical care and be protected from extreme heat and cold.

It does not, however, say what techniques are permitted during harsh questioning of suspects.

That has become a matter of debate in the United States and elsewhere, including with NRCAT, a coalition of more than 125 religious organizations, which has called on the US government to forswear the use of torture without exception.

"At the same time the executive order says it prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, it allows the CIA to continue to use undefined and undisclosed 'alternative interrogation techniques,' thereby calling into question whether the prohibition is real," said Linda Gustitus, president of NRCAT's board of directors, in a recent statement issued by the anti-torture group.

The statement said that as people of faith, "who value our common humanity and our religious responsibility to treat all people with decency and the due process protections of civilized law, that we urge" President Bush to:

* Immediately stop the use of interrogation techniques that are "cruel and inhuman."
* Disclose what alternative interrogation techniques are used. * Close all secret prisons.
* End the rendition of suspects to countries thought to use torture; and
* Provide the International Red Cross access to detainees held in US custody.

The statement also called on Congress to prohibit the use of any CIA funds for programmes or activities that fail to treat all persons detained with "decency and the protections of due process."

Read it all here

For membership and information on NRCAT click here

For more on Ekklesia click here.

Brooke Astor: a life of giving

Brooke Astor, Episcopalian and NYC's most gracious philanthropist, died Monday at the age of 105. According to The Rev. Paul Woodrum of Challwood Studios, when she gave money to a project, however, small, she would always go visit the people receiving it and see how it was being used.

According to the New York Times,

she had a great deal of fun giving money away as it grew over time into the hundreds of millions. With a wink and a sly smile, she liked to quote Dolly Levi in Thornton Wilder’s play “The Matchmaker,” saying, “Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around.”

It was Mrs. Astor who decided that because most of the Astor fortune had been made in New York real estate, it should be spent in New York, for New Yorkers. Grants supported the city’s museums and libraries, its boys’ and girls’ clubs, homes for the elderly and other institutions and programs.

She made it her duty to evaluate for herself every organization or group that sought help from the Vincent Astor Foundation. In her chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz, she traveled all over New York to visit the tenements and churches and neighborhood programs she was considering for foundation grants. Many times a welcoming lunch awaited her on paper plates and plastic folding tables set up for the occasion. She would exclaim over what she called the “delicious sauces”: deli mustard and pickle relish.

For her forays around the city, she dressed as she did when she joined the ladies who lunch at East Side bistros: a finely tailored suit or a designer dress, a hat in any weather, a cashmere coat when it was cool and, in her last years, an elegant cane, her one apparent concession to age. “If I go up to Harlem or down to Sixth Street, and I’m not dressed up or I’m not wearing my jewelry, then the people feel I’m talking down to them,” she said. “People expect to see Mrs. Astor, not some dowdy old lady, and I don’t intend to disappoint them.”

She could talk to anyone as she made her rounds, offering encouragement to a child working at a library computer, counseling a mother about the importance of reading. To a janitor at a branch library — and she tried to visit every branch — she might give a word of thanks “for keeping this place so clean.” She was thrilled when the Bronx Zoo named a baby elephant in her honor.

Read more here and here.

Services for Mrs. Astor are to be held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 5th Ave., NYC

Methodists target online seekers

A Pew Internet & American Life Project report revealed that 64 percent of Internet users in 2003 used the Web for spiritual and religious activities, a jump from 25 percent in 2001. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they used the Internet to seek or exchange information about their own religious faith or tradition and 17 percent used the Internet to find information about where to attend religious services.

The United Methodist Church is using this data for its "Igniting Ministry" campaign to increase memebership and to assist seekers. According to The Christian Post:

More than 21 million people are expected to drop in on a new wave of online interactive ads being launched by one of the nation’s largest Protestant denominations.

As part of a multi-million dollar "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors." advertising campaign, The United Methodist Church will target the younger generation (22- to 44-year-olds) over the next two months with ad messages on the Internet.

"We're seeking to reach people who feel like something is missing from their life and are looking for meaning or purpose," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of the United Methodist Communications, in a released statement. "Many of those people are searching online. We've chosen sites where they may be looking for something to fill a void in their lives - whether it's travel, relationships, or something more spiritual."

More on the campaign can be found here

I wonder what the latest data would show on internet usage and spiritual seekers. Episcopal Cafe is our way of reaching out.

Episcopal seminaries join hands

The seminaries of The Episcopal Church are reflecting on how to meet the challenges of education and finances in the 21st century. In their current discussion, Convenor of the Deans meeting, The Very Rev. and Dean Ward Ewing of General Theological Seminary, said, "All the deans' conversations come down to two questions: "How do we work better among ourselves?" and "How do we really serve the Episcopal Church and build a structure that provides mutual insight into how we do theological education in the church that's emerging today."

According to a story by Mary Frances Schjonberg in Episcopal Life Online:

Financial difficulties and drastic changes in the role of the Christian church in society are prompting the leaders of the 11 seminaries connected with the Episcopal Church to reconsider theological education.
The seminaries' Council of Deans has met three times this year already, twice more than its normal annual meeting, to discuss issues facing the seminaries.
While the seminary deans have not always fully cooperated, Ewing said "the idea that we are going to start working together in a more significant way is simply building on a history of very mutual support over the last few years."

Jefferts Schori told ENS that she is "delighted at the work the deans are doing together."

"There has been a remarkable shift from a culture of competition to one of cooperation, a shift which represents the best of our tradition," she said. "Each part of the body, with its different gifts, and working together, can build up the whole. I believe that a new vision for the work of the Episcopal seminaries will include a variety of modes of providing theological education for a variety of ministries within and beyond the church.

"All of it is about an expanded sense of mission, and I expect that this church and the larger community will be abundantly blessed by the work of these seminaries and their leaders."

During their June meeting at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, the deans used the process of appreciative inquiry to consider each seminary's strengths. They then discussed how those strengths might be used "in a cooperative way that supports all of us," Ewing said.

He said distance learning and online education, Spanish-language ministry training, work with congregations and dioceses engaged in total ministry and shared-leadership models of ministry were high on the list. Church Divinity School of the Pacific president and dean Donn Morgan, who was the council's convener when these conversations began, said another fruitful place for collaboration was seen in the international networks some seminaries have established.

Read it all here

This certainly a change from previous eras and an exciting development. What other ideas can be offered to the seminaries for their future?

Presiding Bishop after one year in office

The Corvallis Gazette-Times in Oregon interviews Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori one year after her election as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Jefferts Schori is still hopeful tensions within the denomination and the worldwide Anglican Communion can be resolved.

“I think as a Christian you have to live in hope of reconciliation always,” Jefferts Schori said during a brief stop in Corvallis at the beginning of a weeklong vacation.

“If we can get people to get out of a face-saving mode and refocus on the mission of the church, I think we can learn to live together and stay one body.”

During her many travels over the past nine months since her installation at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., however, Jefferts Schori said she’s seen a “softening around the edges.”

By the end of the year, the 53-year-old former oceanographer will have been in nearly a third of the 110 Episcopal dioceses in which she has oversight and more than half a dozen foreign countries including Tanzania, Cuba, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras and Colombia.

She said she has been pleasantly surprised by how many primates from other countries have invited her to visit. Many of the invitations have come because of the work American missionaries did to help start Episcopal churches in other nations. But other invitations have sprung from common interests, she said.

Read it all here

General Theological Seminary going green

General Theological Seminary in New York City, will begin construction this month on of one of the largest geothermal projects in the Northeast, converting the school's present heating-cooling system, powered by fossil fuel, to a new energy-efficient geothermal system. Drilling is expected to begin August 7 on a series of wells along the Tenth Avenue side of the campus in front of the soon-to-be-completed Desmond Tutu Center. In just the first ten years of the new system's operation, which was approved by Community Board 4 last summer, the Seminary will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 14,000 tons. The need for roof-level cooling towers and window air conditioners will be permanently eliminated, helping to preserve the architectural integrity of the campus, an entire city block of historic buildings with a serene and open interior space of lawns and towering trees.

According the seminary web site the project embodies The Episcopal Church's environmental concerns:

The Seminary's geothermal project is a model for the Episcopal Church's long-standing concern for environmental stewardship. By eliminating tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, the initiative makes an exemplary contribution to the effort to stem the tide of global warming, a problem cited by the church's 2003 General Convention as a threat "to God's good creation," one that has a disproportionate impact on "the poorest and most vulnerable in the United States and around the world." By eliminating dependence on fossil fuel to heat and cool 260,000 square feet of buildings, the project is a powerful endorsement of Convention legislation aimed at reducing dependence on fossil fuel, which, the Convention said, "harms air quality and public health and is contributing to changes in the global climate that threaten the lives and livelihoods of our neighbors around the world." The General Convention, which meets every three years, attracts approximately 15,000 visitors to its host city. In 2006, in order to offset increased power usage by hotels accommodating Convention participants, the Church purchased green tags 25 percent in excess of the power usage of the convention itself.

Read more here and here

Sacrament of cookies and apple juice

In Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal poet Naomi Shihab Nye tells of an encounter that revealed to her, "This is the world I want to live in. The shared world."

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement: "If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately."

Well -- one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. "Help," said the flight service person. "Talk to her. What is her problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she did this."

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. "Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, Sho bit se-wee?"

The minute she heard any words she knew -- however poorly used -- she stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the following day. I said "No, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late. Who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him."

We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and would ride next to her -- SouthWest.


Soon after, she pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California, the lovely woman from Laredo -- we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free (non-alcoholic) beverages from huge coolers and the two little girls for our flight -- one African American, one Mexican American -- ran around serving us all Apple Juice and Lemonade. And they were covered with powdered sugar too.

Read it all here

Report on the low-key conference in Spain

The Anglican Church of Canada News reports on the conference in Spain in late July where African, American and Canadian bishops had the opportunity to meet with their companion bishops. An excerpt:

At one of the first plenary sessions, the organizers announced (to much applause) that no official statements would come from the meeting. Instead, lots of time was scheduled for conversation, including meals, siestas, and "marketplace" encounters. "It was a great opportunity to have time to talk to African bishops who it would take me many months to go to," said Dr. Johnson. "To have them all at the same consultation, with enough time to sit and have conversations, was an absolute gift."

The conference was funded by Trinity Wall Street.

Read it all here.

Christian college fires professor for teaching contrary to free enterprise system

From the Rocky Mountain News

The dispute at the usually tranquil Lakewood campus pits Andrew Paquin, head of a religious charity that aids poor people in Africa, against former U.S. Sen. William Armstrong, R-Colo., president of Colorado Christian and a pillar of the religious right.

Armstrong fired Paquin from a position teaching global studies at the end of the spring semester amid concerns that his lessons were too radical and undermined the school's commitment to the free enterprise system. Paquin assigned works by Jim Wallis, who writes from the Christian left, and Peter Singer, an atheist and animal rights activist.

Armstrong won't discuss Paquin's case specifically, but he says free enterprise is fundamental to the school's philosophy. "I don't think there is another system that is more consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ," Armstrong said.

That doesn't mean socialists can't be good Christians, and a belief in free enterprise is not linked to salvation, Armstrong added. But free enterprise is the message of Colorado Christian, he said. "What the university stands for, among other things, is free markets."

Paquin, 36, says he supports capitalism, too. The Lafayette-based charity he founded gives "micro-loans" to poor Africans, allowing them to start simple businesses.

Read it here.

Let's put the shoe on the other foot. What if a professor at an Episcopal college or seminary deified the free enterprise system? Would she be fired? Would a economist who believed in markets be hired at some of our colleges in the first place?

Rwandan bishop: satanic behavior of "whites as whites"

Via allAfrica.com comes a Rwandan News Agency (RNA) reports on what Bishop John Rucahana - Anglican head of the Shyira Diocese said in what is described as a "lengthy interview on state radio." From the RNA report:

Williams [Archbishop of Canterbury] wrote in the letter seen by RNA: "This is not a question of asking anyone to disassociate themselves at this stage from what have been described as the missionary initiatives of your Provinces [r.e., AMiA, etc.]. I appreciate that you may not be happy with these decisions, but I feel that as we approach a critical juncture of the life of the Communion, I must act in accordance to the clear guidance of the instruments of the Communion."

"It is them that abandoned the faith, the law and doctrine of the church. They also do not believe in the teachings of the bible", Bishop Rucahana said Tuesday in a lengthy interview on state radio.

"Their behaviours do not conform to the religious conduct of the Anglican church because it is them that ordained homosexuals as bishops not Africans".

Bishop Rucahana said the Anglican Church in Rwanda will not be pushed into adopting the satanic behaviour of the "whites because they are whites."

Read it here.http://allafrica.com/stories/200708150362.html

Evangelicals who see capital punishment as commanded by God

Ed Stoddard of Reuters examines the enthusiasm of Evangelicals for the death penalty. His take:

"In Texas you have all the elements lined up. Public support, a governor that supports it and supportive courts," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
Like his predecessor, Governor Perry is a devout Christian, highlighting one key factor in Texas' enthusiasm for the death penalty that many outsiders find puzzling -- the support it gets from conservative evangelical churches.

This is in line with their emphasis on individuals taking responsibility for their own salvation, and they also find justification in scripture.

"A lot of evangelical Protestants not only believe that capital punishment is permissible but that it is demanded by God. And they see sanction for that in the Old Testament especially," said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Texas also stands at an unusual geographical and cultural crossroads: part Old South, with its legacy of racism, and part Old West, with a cowboy sense of rough justice.

Some critics say the South can be seen in the racial bias of death sentences with blacks more likely than whites to be condemned -- though Texas is not alone on this score.

Over 41 percent of the inmates currently on death row in Texas are black, but they account for only about 12 percent of the state's population.

Meanwhile, for some in Texas the death penalty is about the victim.
"Demographics could change things as minority groups like Latinos are generally less enthusiastic about the death penalty," said Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Read it here.

Chubu Diocese of Japan asks for help

The International Cooperation Committee of the Chubu Diocese of the Anglican/Episcopal Church in Japan is opposing proposed changes to the Japanese constitution and is asking for help from others to put pressure on the Japanese government. In an Open Letter they write:

It is widely believed that changing Article 9 ... will have a major impact in Asia and globally, and there is deep concern in the region with regard to the effect the change would have on stability in the region ; the integration of the Japanese Defence Forces into US military strategy, and the distancing of Japan from its Asian neighbours.

One of the reasons given for changing Article 9 is that Japan would be able to take part in UN ‘peacekeeping’ operations. In Iraq, the Japanese forces were welcomed because of Article 9; the Iraqis knew the Japanese Defence Forces were not coming to fight. Japan can have a special role in these situations because of Article 9. Changing the clause would be discarding the present clause before we know its full potential, depriving Japan of the opportunity to make a contribution to countries in situations of conflict, which no other country can.

If we don’t dissuade Japan’s Abe government from changing Japan’s Peace Constitution, not only will the world be losing a powerful instrument for peace, but the change may also precipitate a war in Asia, in which China would almost certainly be involved, and to which the US would almost certainly respond.

Are you prepared to sit by and watch a Third World War begin? If not, we ask you to put pressure on your government to discourage the Japanese Government from amending Article 9 of Japan’s Peace Constitution.

Read it all here

Archbishop of Ireland: the Anglican Covenant and Scripture

In a recent sermon, the Most Reverend Alan Harper, the Archbishop of Armagh, Church of Ireland, spoke of the proposed Anglican Covenant and current controversies about interpretation of scripture. Preaching on the Feast of Mary Magdalene he compared the boulder blocking the tomb of Jesus to literalist interpretation of scripture. He said, "Bibliolatry is a boulder threatening to obscure the dynamic and contemporary truth of the resurrection. It is also the mother of dogmatic fundamentalism. Love for the scriptures is tainted when scripture and not God becomes the object of worship."

He concludes:

I have yet to meet any "leader" who does not treat with the utmost respect and indeed reverence the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. I have heard no one in this crisis deny the fundamental tenets of the faith as Anglicans have received them. Yet I have heard believing Christians attack other Christians for not believing precisely as they themselves believe. Equally, I have heard believing Christians attack other Christians for not attaching the weight they themselves attach to this biblical text compared with that.

This is not the way of Christ; it is the way of fallen humanity. It is a boulder of our own creation and I do not know who will help us to roll it away.

Some fear, and I am among them, that an Anglican Covenant, unless it is open and generous and broad, may simply become a further means of obstruction: a boulder, rather than a lever to remove what obscures and impedes our access to the truth that sets us free.

The truth is that the tomb is empty and we are called to live a new life in which resurrection and not death is the new reality; a life freed from the narrow constraints of human expectation, predictability and conformity; a life that confidently expects the disclosure of new vistas offered by the God whose very nature and purpose is to make all things new and make us part of His new creation.

Throughout history the way of the Church has been strewn with boulders of her own making. Those boulders conceal from us what God has already done and is continuing to do. They are boulders compounded of pride, hypocrisy and conceit, envy, hatred and malice and all uncharitableness.

From such things, good Lord, deliver us! And deliver especially this tortured Anglican Communion of Churches.

Read it all here

Thanks to Admiral of Morality.

The church of football, Buckeye edition

A news brief in Episcopal Life's Diocesan Digest points to the next chapter in Episcopal Cafe's sports coverage:

This fall, hundreds of thousands of Ohio State University (OSU) football fans will receive a little something extra in their game programs -- an invitation to any of the more than 80 congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.

Some diehard fans are nearly religious in their dedication to the Buckeyes, as the OSU sports teams and their friends are called; others consider football their fall religion. The diocese thought it would take advantage of that commitment and invite people to follow game day with worship on Sunday.

The diocese will have a quarter-page, full-color ad in each of the home-game programs at Ohio State. About 150,000 programs are printed for the sold-out crowds at each of the seven games.

To see the ad, read the brief here.

Bonnie Anderson to visit Fort Worth and Dallas

The DallasNews Religion blog reports that Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies will be visiting Fort Worth and Dallas, September 8th and 9th. The press release about her visit reports:

Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, will be in Fort Worth on Saturday, September 8, 2007, for “Episcopalians for the Future,” an event sponsored by Fort Worth Via Media in conjunction with Brite Divinity School.

“Episcopalians for the Future” will meet from 8:30 to 2:30 at the Dee J. Kelly Alumni and Visitors Center, 2820 Stadium Drive, on the TCU campus. Ms. Anderson will speak in the morning, followed by three sessions:

• Who's In and Who's Out? -- A Primer on the Anglican Communion.

• Autonomous, Bicameral, and Canonical -- The ABCs of The Episcopal Church.

• How Many Episcopalians does it take to… No joke, an action plan for the future.

The day will end with a question-and-answer session with Ms. Anderson. This forum is open to all individuals interested in the future of the Episcopal Church. People can register online at www.fwviamedia.org.

There will be opportunities for reporters to interview Ms. Anderson. Lunch will be available for the media.

In accepting the invitation to speak in Fort Worth, Anderson stated, “I welcome this opportunity to be in the diocese to meet with those in the diocese who love the Episcopal Church and support God's ministry of reconciliation and healing in a troubled world. The leadership of the Episcopal Church has been paying close attention to the events in the Diocese of Fort Worth and will continue to work with and support faithful Episcopalians. I look forward to renewing acquaintances and meeting others who want to live out their baptismal vows of proclaiming the Good News, seeking Jesus Christ in all persons and striving for justice and peace.”

Church of the Transfiguration will host her in Dallas.

Read it all here.

Quotable quote about the Diocese of Virginia

The Falls Church News-Press has given a fair amount of coverage to the split in the Diocese of Virginia, considering the Northern Virginia church for which the city is named is a prominent CANA parish. In a piece published today, FCNP editor Nicholas Benton observes that last week's ruling is a victory for the Episcopal Church even as the Rev. John Yates of the Falls Church takes a "never surrender" posture toward it:

It was a victory for the Episcopal Church against the defectors that include a majority of voting members at the historic Falls Church that have continued to occupy that church property.

Still, one important defector, the Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, told his congregation recently that no matter how the court finally rules, it will be years before they will actually have to depart the premises. That’s because of planned lengthy court appeals, he said, even though he conceded that contingency plans are underway.

Benton proceeds to relate several quotes from the conservative faction, which leads to an interesting response from Patrick Getlein, secretary of the diocese:

A statement from the Rev. Frederick Wright of The Falls Church on behalf of the defrocked priests said that the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia had no authority to defrock them, since they’d all already left and aligned with the Nigerian Anglicans. As “they remain Anglican clergy no longer in service of the Episcopal Church,” he said, “the church cannot dispose or remove them from their pulpits.”

James Oakes, also speaking for the defectors, said it was “like trying to fire someone after they quit their job.”

Replying to that, Getlein said yesterday, in the context of the legal fight over control of the church property, “That’s an interesting comment and it occurs to me that trying to take Episcopal Church property after you’ve left the Episcopal Church is like trying to take your office after you quit your job.”

The whole thing is here.

(Coverage from the Lead on this decision ran over the weekend, here and here.)

Bishops' meeting seeks clarity

There was a meeting of seventeen bishops of the Episcopal Church last week in advance of the meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans next month. The bishops present consisted of a group from the ACN (Anglican Communion Network) dioceses and a group of additional bishops who have been described as "Windsor bishops" due to their public support for the process laid out in the Windsor Report.

The Living Church has details from their meeting:

"Bishops who have made a public commitment to support the Windsor Report have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to be clear and articulate in explaining what the consequences will be if the House of Bishops fails to give the assurances sought by the primates.

...During the Texas meeting the bishops decided not to issue a public statement and agreed not to discuss meeting details. This is the fifth time that ‘Windsor bishops’ have met at Camp Allen to consider the Windsor Report and The Episcopal Church’s response to it. At previous meetings the bishops have issued statements and The Living Church was assured by several participants at the Aug. 9-10 gathering that the overall goals and objectives remain consistent with what has been previously published"

Read the full article here.

Tony Clavier has written a column with some additional background on the meeting and his own hopes that they not issue a statement as a result.

African archbishop travels to Bay area

The Contra Costa Times has a news story today about a visit by the Archbishop of South Africa planned for this fall:

"The archbishop of South Africa will teach, pray and talk with parishioners in Walnut Creek -- and, it is hoped, return home with a renewed appreciation of diverse views.

He will visit St. Paul's Episcopal Church Oct. 15 for a meditative Taizé service, a meal, a teaching, 'and I hope, some dialogue,' said the Rev. Sylvia Vasquez, spiritual leader of St. Paul's.

The archbishop, the Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane, will be in the Bay Area to participate in the Oct. 14 to 20 annual convention of the California diocese. Bishop Marc Andrus, head of the diocese, invited Ndungane while in Africa as part of a peace mission last March.

The invitation is in character for Andrus, who has matched California churches with sister churches in Africa in an effort to strengthen the relationship between worshippers torn over such issues as women's ordination and same-sex unions.

'The African archbishops usually don't respond well to our presence anywhere,' Vasquez said. 'The only way we'll be able to move forward is through dialogue.'

Disagreements over the ordination of women and gays have strained relations between some dioceses, primarily in Uganda, and the west.
The solution is dialogue, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in a February address. The divide has been worsened 'by one group forging ahead with change in discipline and practice, and the other insistently treating the question as the sole definitive marker of orthodoxy,' he said at that time."

Read the full story here.

ECVA exhibit featured on TEC webpage

The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts organization (ECVA), the group that provides the art here on the Cafe in our "Art Blog" section and that we use interstitially around the site, has a new exhibit featured on the primary denominational site of the Episcopal Church (TEC):

" A new gallery of works by Episcopal artists, titled 'Saints & Family' was launched this week on the homepage of Episcopal Church's web site.

The images and icons span the history of the Christian church, beginning with the announcement of the birth of Jesus through to the present decade. As with the preceding gallery, 'The Faces of Christ,' which debuted with the unveiling of the church's redesigned web site two years ago, members of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts collaborated in the development of this new gallery.

'These images and icons of saints and Jesus' family invite us into an intimate space where we see the sacred and human come together in art,' says the curator's statement that accompanies the gallery. 'A mother holds her tender, holy child. A father fishes with his Savior son. Cousins comfort each other and point to a new way. An apostle pauses, inspired, imprisoned. An abbess and abbot lead their flocks wisely. A Cheyenne chief and Chinese priest embrace the Word. A freed slave leads us to deeper truths.'

All who are depicted in the art are celebrated in the church's calendar each year, either on major feast days or in the propers in the Book of Common Prayer that commemorates the lives of martyrs, missionaries, pastors, theologians, teachers and monastics.

Five of the selections of art were featured in the Visual Prelude, a series of works from many Episcopal artists shown on a giant screen preceding daily worship at the 2006 General Convention last summer. All of the art has been created by members of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts or for Episcopal worship spaces."

Read the rest: Episcopal Life Online - ARTS

ERD ready to help with Peruvian earthquake disaster

Episcopal Relief and Development, the primary disaster relief agency within the Episcopal Church has the following announcement on it's website:

"Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) offers support for the people affected by a destructive earthquake that struck the Ica region of Peru yesterday.

On Wednesday evening at 6:40pm (7:40 p.m. EDT), a fierce 7.9 magnitude earthquake shook the coastal province of Ica, located 165 miles south of Lima, Peru’s capital city. The quake has killed at least 336 people in the province and one in Lima and more than 700 people were injured. Among those killed were 17 worshipers at the Senor de Luren church in Ica who were attending evening mass when the quake struck.

Rescuers are having difficulty reaching Ica due to fallen power lines and damage to the Pan-American Highway. In Lima, tremors caused office buildings to rattle briefly and a few homes collapsed in the city center. Telephone and mobile phone service were also disconnected due to downed power lines.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia has declared a state of emergency in the Ica province and is sending three cabinet ministers to inspect the worst affected areas of the province.

Our staff is in communication with ERD’s partners in Latin America to identify needs. ERD stands ready to provide emergency aid as needs are identified.

Please pray for those affected by this terrible disaster"

Read the rest here.

Episcopal Bishop of Utah calls congregations to prayer this weekend.

The Rt. Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, bishop of the Diocese of Utah, has issued a statement calling the Episcopal congregations of her diocese to prayer this weekend in support of families dealing with tragedy of the Crandall Canyon Mine accidents:

"Our Episcopal communities across the state feel deeply connected with those families mourning this latest great loss. The courageous men who attempted the rescue of the six trapped miners did so on behalf of all who have followed this painful story over the past two weeks, and we honor them. Our Diocesan staff and congregations continue to pray for healing and hope for those who survive and those who comfort them. We pray as well for those making decisions in the coming days and for all who work to promote greater safety measures in mines and all other work places.

I am asking all of our congregations to use this prayer during worship in the coming days:


O God our times are in your hands. Look mercifully on those who mourn the loss of their loved ones in Crandall Canyon, those miners who remain trapped there, and those who care for the injured. Let your Holy Spirit abide within and among them, reminding us all of our call to care for all God's people. We give thanks for all who risk their own comfort and safety for the sake of others and all whose work puts them in harm's way. Keep us mindful of our responsibilities to press for increased safety measures in their work places. We pray in the name of the one whose very name is Mercy.


Read the rest.

Lambeth RSVP's

Church Times Leader about the Lambeth invitations and possible boycott by some bishops:

"THE ROOMS are booked, but are the guests coming? The uncertainty surrounding attendance at next year’s Lambeth Conference continues, as various conservative groupings realise the political capital that can be made from hesitation. The bishops in Sydney, advised by their standing committee to come but to whinge (News, 29 June), look as if they will hold out until after the US House of Bishops meets next month to debate formally the demands of the Primates, made in Dar es Salaam, that they turn aside from the path that led to the election of Bishop Gene Robinson, a non-celibate gay man. Several African bishops have indicated already that they do not intend to come; yet more are still to be heard from.

There is talk this week of a deadline ignored and an Archbishop undermined. Yet when Dr Williams wrote to the Primates in July, he said no more than: ‘It would be a great help if these replies were received by 31 July 2007.’ As we have said (Leader comment, 25 May), the US bishops have been invited in the full knowledge that their decision in September might well be to defy the Primates’ strictures. Nobody seriously believes that Dr Williams will withdraw their invitation, though that will not stop some from pressing him to do so."

From here: Lambeth bookings

Ministry from on high

The LA Times has a feature this week on a Denver pilot who takes "faith leaders from all walks of life" on helicopter rides to help them see their communities in a wider light.

This is not just any helicopter. Christened Prayer One, it lifts monks and rabbis, imams and pastors, and ordinary people of faith up over Denver each Monday morning, up into a new perspective on life and love and God. Or so Hastings' friends tell him. Several have taken a ride on Prayer One; they've called it an amazing spiritual stretch. That seems worth a few clammy moments. Hastings, 47, squeezes into the front seat. Gently, steadily, Prayer One lifts into a sky of the most serene blue.

Prayer One was born two years ago, after amateur stunt pilot Jeff Puckett took the Rev. Tom Melton, a friend, for an aerial spin around Denver. Looking down, Melton felt his vision expand. He'd been so focused on his wealthy suburban congregation, so proud of how his flock had grown. Now he saw, all at once, how insular he'd been.

The multimillion-dollar custom homes in his community of Greenwood Village made barely a ripple on the topography that unfurled below. The grand estates with their vast gardens merged right into blocks of blank apartment buildings and regiments of look-alike suburban homes, each planted on a narrow strip of green.

"Looking at the city from 500 feet, you don't see walls or neighborhoods. It's all knit together," Melton says. "I started wondering, how can we minister to the whole city?"

Days later, he hit upon an answer:

You minister to the city, he decided, by taking the city's ministers to the air.

Melton, 58, started by inviting a few friends on Puckett's aerial tour. Word spread quickly, and soon faith leaders from all walks of life began asking for a ride. Some claimed to have visions as they flew. Some wept at the beauty below. Others used the time to pray, bathing the city in blessings from above.

Read the whole thing here.

Faith programs change prisoners' outlook

In an effort to help ease prison overcrowding by providing opportunities for inmates to improve their behavior and reduce recidivism, faith-based criminal justice programs are springing up in correctional institutions around the country. An Associated Press series on prison overcrowding shines a spotlight on this phenomenon, highlighting several programs in the Oklahoma region that encourage inmates to turn to God.

The one-year motivational course is among a growing list of alternative and diversionary criminal justice programs designed to either direct offenders away from costly prison stays through specialized drug and mental health courts or change the behavior of inmates — changes that can lead to less misconduct in prison, fewer repeat offenders and lower prison costs.

“That’s what we’re all about — changing criminal thinking,” said Millicent Newton-Embry, warden at Mabel Bassett.

Since a robbery conviction four years ago, Mabel Bassett inmate Jimmie Jones said she has struggled to cope with her anger. “Personal issues that I didn’t want to accept,” said Jones, 34, of McAlester, who is enrolled in the faith-based program.

Jones said her anger used to boil over into fights with other inmates at the women’s prison. Participation in the prison’s faith program has helped her become calmer.

“Before this program I wanted to change but I had no direction,” Jones said. “I’ve learned that it’s all right to be angry. You’ve just got to control it. You’ve got to find a way to channel.

The programs are not without their detractors, with some groups saying it's a breach of the establishment clause in the First Amendment:

Critics of the legislation have said it may violate the constitutional separation between church and state and give faith-based groups some of lawmakers’ oversight authority over the state Department of Corrections.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that a Bible-based prison program at a prison in Iowa violated the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause by using state funds to promote Christianity to inmates.

Read more about the programs here.

'Lost Boy' priest talks about God's presence during ordeal

Shortly after the Rev. Zachariah Jok Char--one of Sudan's "lost boys" who walked hundreds of miles to escape strife in that country--was ordained to the priesthood in western Michagan, we covered a write-up on him here. Today, he's profiled in the New York Times, and the article shows what he's been doing since his ordainment.

Mr. Char has taken on a burden, as he ministers to his people while attending college and working at a meat-processing plant, both full time. His work as a priest makes it possible for the Sudanese church members to receive communion and have their baptisms, weddings and funerals in Dinka, their language.

Occupying a block in the city’s most affluent neighborhood, Grace Episcopal was former President Gerald Ford’s place of worship. As coffee hour for an English-language service ended one Sunday, the drums, shakers and a cappella singing of the 11:30 Dinka service filtered into the churchyard.

There is no program for the service, no organ music. Hymnals and prayer books in Dinka are in the first several rows of the large sanctuary. Songs rise from one or two people and are taken up by everyone else. Yet those familiar with the Anglican liturgy could follow the service and might recognize, even in Dinka, the solemnity of the Lord’s Prayer.

“It’s very powerful, very meaningful to come together and worship in your mother tongue,” said Mayen Wol, 42, a leader in the congregation who came to the United States years before the Lost Boys. “We have common problems: your brother was killed yesterday, your sister raped, your father killed. Through gathering, we encourage each other, through prayer.”

The arrival of the Sudanese immigrants at Grace Episcopal four years ago has changed the way some other congregants understand faith.

“I don’t know how a 5-year-old could have walked across a burning desert: there is something biblical to it,” Nancy Tweddale, a junior warden at the church, said of Mr. Char. “He remembered what he heard in Sunday school, that God was with him. If I saw my friends falling and dying around me, or being killed by animals, I would wonder if I weren’t very alone.

Char talks about his experience in a video from the Times, also at the link. It's all here.

Is the Matrix real?

Did you see the Matrix trilogy, which posited that the word we live in was a virtual reality--a clever simulation of the real thing? As strange as it may seem, an Oxford University professor, Nick Bostrom, argues that there is some significant chance that we live in the simulated virtual reality of some future human. John Tierney of the New York Times explains:

Until I talked to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, it never occurred to me that our universe might be somebody else’s hobby. I hadn’t imagined that the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the heavens and earth could be an advanced version of a guy who spends his weekends building model railroads or overseeing video-game worlds like the Sims.

But now it seems quite possible. In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.

This simulation would be similar to the one in “The Matrix,” in which most humans don’t realize that their lives and their world are just illusions created in their brains while their bodies are suspended in vats of liquid. But in Dr. Bostrom’s notion of reality, you wouldn’t even have a body made of flesh. Your brain would exist only as a network of computer circuits.

You couldn’t, as in “The Matrix,” unplug your brain and escape from your vat to see the physical world. You couldn’t see through the illusion except by using the sort of logic employed by Dr. Bostrom, the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford.

Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems.

Some computer experts have projected, based on trends in processing power, that we will have such a computer by the middle of this century, but it doesn’t matter for Dr. Bostrom’s argument whether it takes 50 years or 5 million years. If civilization survived long enough to reach that stage, and if the posthumans were to run lots of simulations for research purposes or entertainment, then the number of virtual ancestors they created would be vastly greater than the number of real ancestors.

There would be no way for any of these ancestors to know for sure whether they were virtual or real, because the sights and feelings they’d experience would be indistinguishable. But since there would be so many more virtual ancestors, any individual could figure that the odds made it nearly certain that he or she was living in a virtual world.

While this hypothesis seems to be the frivolous workings of an academic with too much time on his hands, Tierney notes that the exercise of thinking through the implications of a virtual world can help illuminate the issues of living in a concrete and material world, and how we relate to God:

It’s unsettling to think of the world being run by a futuristic computer geek, although we might at last dispose of that of classic theological question: How could God allow so much evil in the world? For the same reason there are plagues and earthquakes and battles in games like World of Warcraft. Peace is boring, Dude.

A more practical question is how to behave in a computer simulation. Your first impulse might be to say nothing matters anymore because nothing’s real. But just because your neural circuits are made of silicon (or whatever posthumans would use in their computers) instead of carbon doesn’t mean your feelings are any less real.

David J. Chalmers, a philosopher at the Australian National University, says Dr. Bostrom’s simulation hypothesis isn’t a cause for skepticism, but simply a different metaphysical explanation of our world. Whatever you’re touching now — a sheet of paper, a keyboard, a coffee mug — is real to you even if it’s created on a computer circuit rather than fashioned out of wood, plastic or clay.

You still have the desire to live as long as you can in this virtual world — and in any simulated afterlife that the designer of this world might bestow on you. Maybe that means following traditional moral principles, if you think the posthuman designer shares those morals and would reward you for being a good person.

Or maybe, as suggested by Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University, you should try to be as interesting as possible, on the theory that the designer is more likely to keep you around for the next simulation. (For more on survival strategies in a computer simulation, go to www.nytimes.com/tierneylab.)

Of course, it’s tough to guess what the designer would be like. He or she might have a body made of flesh or plastic, but the designer might also be a virtual being living inside the computer of a still more advanced form of intelligence. There could be layer upon layer of simulations until you finally reached the architect of the first simulation — the Prime Designer, let’s call him or her (or it).

Read John Tierney's article here.

Read more from Nick Bostrom here and here. A discussion of how to live a life in a simulation is found here.

Games with a conscience

As you read in the last post, there are some serious philisophers who think that we are part of a virtual reality simulation. Following that theme, we thought that it would be interesting to look at some of the simulations and games that we could play. More importantly, are there games that can help our children and us to better understand the needs of the world?

Fortunately, Chris Marlin-Warefield of Faithfully Liberal has compiled a list of "games with a conscience":

A game with a conscience, in my book, is a game that teaches a lesson about social responsibility, one that lets us know what the world is really like. While such games aren’t always happy-fun-time sorts of diversions, they teach valuable lessons and give one insight into how the world works, which can give one better ideas (or at least an interest in finding better ideas) about how to solve those problems that we often spend time just carping about.

So, here are some games with a conscience. Some are hard, some are easy, and all of them teach a lesson:

Ayati: The Cost of Life

In Ayati, you manage a poor Haitian family. You send them to work, manage their finances, try to get them an education, try to keep them healthy, etc. The game is hard, and the the tide can turn (to the worse) quickly, but it’s well worth playing. Hint: this game is about education, which is the road to a better life… that’s kind of the message.


Build a city, keeping its energy production within the limits set by electricity needs, environmental protection, economic needs, and so forth. At the end (you get 150 turns) you receive “grades” in several areas, as well as an overall grade. The only real goal, though, is building the city you want to build, though getting high grades ain’t so bad.

Climate Challenge

Manage… Europe. Play the president of Europe, trying to reduce carbon emissions while remaining popular enough to stay in office. It’s really not terribly difficult to reduce emissions and stay popular, but it’s so very hard to do those two things and keep the economy in shape.

Now, go play!

Read it all here.

If you know of other games with a conscience, please let us know! And if you play one of these games, let us know what you think.

A downside to diversity?

There is both good news and bad news to report if you care about the value of diversity. First, the bad news: a study conducted by Harvard Professor Robert Putnum finds that diverse commjunities can lead to an increase in social distrust. As Daniel Henniger of the Wall Street Journal explains:

Robert Putnam, the Harvard don who in the controversial bestseller "Bowling Alone" announced the decline of communal-mindedness amid the rise of home-alone couch potatoes, has completed a mammoth study of the effects of ethnic diversity on communities. His researchers did 30,000 interviews in 41 U.S. communities. Short version: People in ethnically diverse settings don't want to have much of anything to do with each other. "Social capital" erodes. Diversity has a downside.

Prof. Putnam isn't exactly hiding these volatile conclusions, though he did introduce them in a journal called Scandinavian Political Studies. A great believer in the efficacy of what social scientists call "reciprocity," he wasn't happy with what he found but didn't mince words describing the results:

"Inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television." The diversity nightmare gets worse: They have little confidence in the "local news media." This after all we've done for them.

Colleagues and diversity advocates, disturbed at what was emerging from the study, suggested alternative explanations. Prof. Putnam and his team re-ran the data every which way from Sunday and the result was always the same: Diverse communities may be yeasty and even creative, but trust, altruism and community cooperation fall. He calls it "hunkering down."

Read it all here.

So what is the good news? There is a study that has strong evidence that diversity leads to better decision making. As the Scientifc American reports:

In the study, Sommers asked 30 different mock juries, each composed of six adults, to watch a video summary, edited from Court TV coverage, of the trial proceedings of an actual sexual assault case in which a black male defendant allegedly assaulted, separately, two white females. Sommers went to extraordinary lengths to make these mock trials as much like a real trial as possible. The study was conducted in a courthouse. Participants were jury-eligible adults who were at the court for real jury duty. Their age ranged from 18 to 78. Only racial composition was varied systematically: half of the juries were white, and the other half were made up of four white and two black jurors.

. . .

In the end, the majority (55 percent) of the mock juries voted unanimously to acquit, just as the real jury had. But both verdicts and deliberation quality and content varied significantly depending on the juries' racial make-up.

Mixed and all-white juries were equally likely to raise the subject of race when discussing the case -- but differed sharply in how they reacted to the subject once it was raised. Every time racism was mentioned in an all-white jury, at least one juror objected that racism was not relevant (J5: "What about the fact that he was a Black man?" J6: "What does that have to do with it?"). That's a 100 percent rate of objection to the idea that race was relevant. In the diverse juries, by contrast, only 22 percent of mentions of possible racism met with objections. Meanwhile, the diverse juries deliberated longer, cited more case-relevant facts during deliberation, made fewer factual mistakes, and were more likely to correct inaccurate statements than the all-white juries were.

So who among the jurors is creating the difference in dynamics between the homogenous and heterogeneous juries? One possibility is that the black jurors alone improved jury performance. Black jurors may have different life experiences that lead them to contribute unique information and perspectives to the deliberations. By this hypothesis, it is the sole burden of the black jurors to provide the benefits of diversity.

But Sommers' data tell a very different story: He found that white jurors were actually responsible for a large proportion of the group differences, as they behaved differently in a racially mixed jury than in one all-white. White jurors in diverse groups mentioned more facts, made fewer factual errors, corrected more mistakes and raised the possibility of racism more often than did white jurors in homogeneous groups. Even before the deliberations began, white participants who expected to deliberate with black jurors privately espoused less harsh views of the (black) defendant than did white participants who expected to deliberate in an all-white group. Both the anticipation and the experience of serving on a diverse jury seemed to sharpen the white jurors' sensitivity not just to race but to accuracy and due process.

. . .

In all, Sommers' data show that diverse juries reason better, not just as groups but as individuals; everyone on the jury benefits, and justice, it appears, is better served. As Sommers concludes, these results make the benefits of diverse juries not just more concrete but readily attained. Minority jurors need feel no burden or need to "educate" white jurors or convey a unique minority perspective; diversity seems to do its own work. The results suggest that representative juries do not merely honor a civil right or a constitutional ideal but provide an effective tool for achieving more thorough and competent jury deliberations.

Read it all here. Read Sommers paper here.

So what conclusions can we draw from these two studies? First, the obvious fact that living and working in a diverse community can be a real challenge, and that we should not sugar-coat the difficulties. But, second, we must remember as well, that the struggle is worthwhile--if nothing else, we seem to make better decisions if we embrace diversity.

What do you think?

Archbishop of Nigeria - agonizing

Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria has issued a treatise of his understanding of the history of the Anglican Communion: A Most Agonzing Journey Towards Lambeth 2008. He seeks the following for participation in Lambeth and the Anglican Communion:

“We Anglicans stand at a crossroads. One road, the road of compromise of biblical truth, leads to destruction and disunity. The other road has its own obstacles [faithfulness is never an easy way] because it requires changes in the way the Communion has been governed and it challenges [all] our churches to live up to and into their full maturity in Christ.”

The first road, the one that follows the current path of The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, is one that we simply cannot take because the cost is too high. We dare not sacrifice eternal truth for mere appeasement; we cannot turn away from the source of life and love for a temporary truce.

The other road is the only one that we can embrace. It is not an easy road because it demands obedience and faithfulness from each one of us. It requires a renewed commitment to the Historic Biblical Faith. For those who have walked away from this commitment, especially The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, it requires repentance, a reversal of current unscriptural policies and credible assurances concerning such basic matters as:

The Authority and Supremacy of Scripture.
The Doctrine of the Trinity
The person, work and resurrection of Jesus the Christ
The acknowledgement of Jesus as Divine and the One and only means of salvation
The doctrines of sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, and transformation by the Holy Spirit through Christ.
The sanctity of marriage and teaching about morality that is rooted in the Bible.
These are not onerous burdens or tiresome restrictions but rather they are God’s gift, designed to set us free from the bondage of sin and give us the assurance of life eternal.

John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, describes the Christian life as a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. On his journey, Pilgrim is confronted by numerous decisions and many crossroads. The easy road was never the right road. This is our moment of truth.

+ Peter Abuja

Fr. Jake discusses the article point by point and comes to some different conclusions. Although both Fr. Jake and Archbishop Akinola see us on on journey, Jake concludes:

The easy road would be to exclude a minority group for the sake of unity. But if we did that, we would reveal ourselves as unworthy of the claim to be the sacrament, the outward and visible sign, of Jesus Christ, who has set the prisoners free. Will we be Christians, or will be just another exclusive club? This is indeed our moment of truth.

Stephen Noll, Vice Chancellor for Uganda Christian University calls Archbishop Akinola the "Jeremiah" of our day.

Thinking Anglicans also has a discussion of the article.

All eyes seem turned towards the next date on the Anglican Communion calendar, the September meeting of the Episcopal Church House of Bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the House of Bishops will meet in New Orleans. Many of the bishops and their spouses are also taking time to work in recovery efforts for the Gulf Coast. The bishops and spouses choir is making a CD to raise funds for the recovery. Many bishops are bringing gifts to assist the effort. They are encouraging each bishop to bring $10,000.00 from his or her diocese to provide the much needed funds to help the churches and residents of the Gulf Coast.

Maybe the mission work will help sort out our priorities.

Episcopal Life Onlinehas a new update on New Orleans recovery

Immigrant arrested as she leaves church

Churches have been providing sanctuary for illegal immigrants who want to stay in the United States to be with their US born children. Immigration sweeps have mounted since congressional measures to legalize the country's undocumented immigrants were defeated this summer. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who became a symbol in the nation's immigration wars after she took sanctuary in a Chicago church last year, was arrested Sunday by federal immigration agents outside Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Los Angeles.

Arellano, 32, a single mother, moved into a Chicago church a year ago to prevent being separated from her 8-year-old U.S.-born son.

She was arrested Sunday afternoon as she was leaving the downtown Los Angeles church also known as La Placita with her son and a supporter.

Supporters said the car in which Arellano was riding was surrounded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who took her into custody.

The agency did not say where she was being held but did confirm that Arellano would be deported to Mexico.

For immigrant-rights groups she had become the human face of stepped-up enforcement efforts that frequently separate immigrant mothers and fathers from their American-born children.

Arellano came to Los Angeles on Friday to speak at four area churches over the weekend. She was pressing for immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million people in the U.S. illegally.

In Jackon Hole, Wyoming, near me, even legal immigrants fear visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks because of the hassle of being detained or arrested if they do not have enough i.d. with them. Latinos are especially targeted although there are many from Eastern Europe also working in the area. The resorts could not exist without labor from Mexico and other countries.

Click here for the Presiding Bishop's letter on immigration reform.

Read the rest of the article here

The Politics of God

Mark Lilla, professor of the humanities at Columbia University explores political theology in an essay in The New York Times adapted from his upcoming book The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West. He believes there is huge gap between those who believe that there is a one-way track toward modern secular democracy and that other societies, once placed on that track, will inevitably follow; and those who see political institutions conceived in terms of divine authority and spiritual redemption.

The twilight of the idols has been postponed. For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong.

Understanding this difference is the most urgent intellectual and political task of the present time. But where to begin? The case of contemporary Islam is on everyone’s mind, yet is so suffused with anger and ignorance as to be paralyzing. All we hear are alien sounds, motivating unspeakable acts. If we ever hope to crack the grammar and syntax of political theology, it seems we will have to begin with ourselves. The history of political theology in the West is an instructive story, and it did not end with the birth of modern science, or the Enlightenment, or the American and French Revolutions, or any other definitive historical moment. Political theology was a presence in Western intellectual life well into the 20th century, by which time it had shed the mind-set of the Middle Ages and found modern reasons for seeking political inspiration in the Bible. At first, this modern political theology expressed a seemingly enlightened outlook and was welcomed by those who wished liberal democracy well. But in the aftermath of the First World War it took an apocalyptic turn, and “new men” eager to embrace the future began generating theological justifications for the most repugnant — and godless — ideologies of the age, Nazism and Communism.

It is an unnerving tale, one that raises profound questions about the fragility of our modern outlook. Even the most stable and successful democracies, with the most high-minded and civilized believers, have proved vulnerable to political messianism and its theological justification. If we can understand how that was possible in the advanced West, if we can hear political theology speaking in a more recognizable tongue, represented by people in familiar dress with familiar names, perhaps then we can remind ourselves how the world looks from its perspective. This would be a small step toward measuring the challenge we face and deciding how to respond.

Read it all here

God's book sales increase

According to the Church Times, the online bookseller Amazon reports sales of religious books whether for or against God have increased dramatically:

Religious books are a salvation to the book trade, even when they set out to disprove the existence of God, says the online bookseller, Amazon.

Statistics published by the company suggest that the number of people buying books from it about religion or spirituality has soared in three years by 50 per cent. The increase has outshone all other categories, including history, which has grown by 38 per cent, and politics, which has grown by 30 per cent.

As well as the other religious titles, sales of the Bible through Amazon increased by 120 per cent last year.

Read it all here

Thanks to Anglicans Online.

Archbishop debates religion in bar

Lisa Jones, writes in the South Wales Echo, that

the Archbishop of Wales met drinkers in a city centre bar for a debate on the pros and cons of religion.

Dr Barry Morgan led the debate, Is Religion Bad? at Dempsey’s Bar, Castle Street, Cardiff, last night at Solace, the church in a bar.

Foregoing high church dress, Dr Morgan conducted the Kilroy-style debate in front of around 50 people, wearing his dog collar and a sports jacket. A mixture of believers, atheists and drinkers from the bar downstairs combined to create a lively debate.

Dr Morgan said: “The questions were quite hard-hitting. There was no clunkiness there.

Read it all here

This is becoming a popular idea around the world. Cafe churches and pub churches as well as discussion groups held in public spaces reach out to those who might want to know more about Christianity. Have you tried it?

Episcopal priest kidnapped - updated

Episcopal Life Online reports:

The Diocese of Colombia has made an urgent plea for the release of one of its priests, the Rev. Ricardo Morales Gaviria, who was abducted August 20 by outlaw militias.

Writing on behalf of the diocese, Bishop Francisco Duque-Gomez condemned the abduction and reminded the culprits of their responsibility, under the Human Rights Declaration, to respect and guard Gaviria's life and safety.

Gaviria, 65, has registered as a candidate for Mayor, but it is unclear whether or not this was a motive for the abduction.

Duque called upon all local, regional, and national authorities to do everything in their power to ensure Gaviria's safe return and appealed to any Colombians who may have information to come forward.

"Gaviria has been a Priest in this Church for more than 20 years caring for the people of the Municipality of Líbano (Tolima), and in devotion to Christ ministering to the elderly and vulnerable," said Duque, a trial attorney and specialist in social sciences.

Read it all here.

We offer prayers for his safety and return to his family.

UPDATE: Episcopal Life Online reports: The Colombian priest, the Rev. Ricardo Morales Gaviria, who was abducted August 20 by outlaw militias has been found disoriented and heavily drugged, Colombia Bishop Francisco Duque-Gomez confirmed August 21. Read it here.

Feeling the vibe

Laguna Hills, California priest, the Rev. Norm Freeman listened to his spiritual director in 1994 at General Theological Seminary when he said, "God calls the whole person and all of their experiences – so that one can have a life of meaning and service at same time." Leaving the life of an "A-list" professional musician for the life of a priest Freeman thought he would have to sacrifice music for the priesthood. Now with a growing church, he plays on Sundays, for its jazz mass and he tours at times with people like Barbara Streisand.

Tom Berg, writing in the Orange County Register says:

He stands in an empty church, practicing. Always practicing. Ninety minutes every day, two mallets in each hand. They fall gently on an old vibraphone he once rolled through the streets of Manhattan in another life. Another time. Back then a long-haired Norm Freeman played Broadway, Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden.

Now? He plays for a hundred people here. A hundred there. He leans over the instrument: Soft strains of "Stardust" lift to the vaulted church ceiling.
It's hard to believe he once played with the thrash-metal band Metallica. Or at the MTV Music Awards. Or on Saturday Night Live.

"Trying to prove myself in the music business ultimately left me feeling empty," says Freeman, 55, a husband and father of two. "It was from that place that I started a spiritual quest."

Now, each Sunday, this man who once played with Pavarotti, Paul McCartney and Leonard Bernstein plays the 9:30 a.m. service at St. George's Episcopal Church.

Read the article and hear Freeman's music here

Status of Canadian same sex blessings confusing

The 2007 General Synod meeting in Canada has left mixed messages to the dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada on the status of performing same sex blessings. Does the legislation prohibit or allow blessings? Since it is not in conflict with core doctrine can diocese or clergy be disciplined if they go ahead before the next triennial Synod clarifies things.

The Anglican Journal reports, "Conflicting interpretations of the ramifications of General Synod’s recent decisions around same-sex blessings have led the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada to consult with their chancellors."

Among the questions that have arisen: What does the approved motion stating that “the blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with the doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada” mean? Can clergy and dioceses now conduct same-sex blessings? Some bishops have issued pastoral letters asking clergy not to conduct same-sex blessings – can priests be disciplined if they ignore this directive? How can clergy be disciplined if General Synod already declared that same-sex blessings are “not in conflict” with the core doctrine of the church? What does the defeat of the motion affirming the authority of dioceses to offer same-sex blessings mean?

Read the article here.

Diocese of Maine uses online interview videos

The Diocese of Maine is using online video interviews as a part of their discernment process in electing a new bishop co-adjutor. This innovation will allow many in that geographically large diocese to observe, see and hear candidates answer questions about their desire to become the next bishop of Maine.

Watch them here

What other videos or information would help you discern what you need to know in an election? What about a video of each one preaching or presiding at a meeting?

Hard Gospel on TV in Ireland

According to the Church of Ireland news, "A service by the Church of Ireland Hard Gospel Project is to be shown on RTE television on the last Sunday of this month, 26 August 2007.

It will be the first time the Hard Gospel Project has featured on RTE One's Sunday morning worship programme. It will document the role of the Hard Gospel, an anti-sectarian project born out of the long-running Drumcree stand-off between the Orange Order in Portadown and the mainly nationalist residents of the town's Garvaghy Road.

The Hard Gospel Project represents a commitment by the Church of Ireland to examine not only the challenges of faith which arise for Christians in the “vertical” relationship in loving God but also the practical implications for the outworking of faith in “horizontal” relationships as expressed in Christ’s command to “love your neighbour”.

The Hard Gospel Project is the Church of Ireland’s response to the challenge to speak truth to ourselves, as well as to the world we live in. Its core aim is clear - to strengthen the church for effective witness in a divided and changing society.

It asks the questions:

How should we as a Christian church regard ourselves and our role in a rapidly changing, multi-faith and multicultural 21st century Ireland (north and south)?

How should we as individuals in the context of 21st century Ireland (north and south) regard ourselves and our responsibilities as:

a) Individual Christians

b) Members of the Church of Ireland c) Citizens of a wider community and society - living with our diverse “neighbours”?

Read more here and here.

Lambeth library goes online

Episcopal Life Online reports that the Lambeth library will join COPAC, which gives free access to the merged online catalogues of major University and National Libraries in the UK and Ireland, including the British Library.

The printed book collection of Lambeth Palace Library -- the historic library and record office of the Archbishops of Canterbury, and one of the oldest public libraries in the country -- has made its debut on an online catalogue to improve access to its holdings for researchers across the globe. The move means that readers can now access a list of Lambeth Palace Library's books alongside those of many British Universities -- including Oxford and Cambridge -- plus other major collections such as the British Library, Science Museum Library and the V&A National Art Library.

Lambeth Palace Library's holdings make it one of the key collections of Church history for researchers exploring the early Church to the present day, and it forms a major part of the national collection in the field of ecclesiastical history.

Read the story here.

Wales bill to allow ordination of women bishops criticized

Wales’ “flying bishop” has criticized that Church’s Bill to Enable Women to Be Ordained as Bishops, saying the proposed legislation is driven by a “post-1960s feminism” rather than sound doctrine according to George Conger in the Church of England newspaper.

The Provincial Assistant Bishop of Wales, the Rt. Rev. David Thomas said the legislation “rules out any possibility of a special episcopal jurisdiction being created for the sake of those who in conscience cannot agree to the ordination of women as bishops,” and was “completely unsatisfactory.”

The safeguards for those opposed to women priests were unclear. “While we could no doubt expect sincere expressions of goodwill, sympathy, etc. at the time of the Bill being passed, nothing would be spelt out about provision for us until a woman was actually on the point of being consecrated,” he said.

“There is no necessary progression from baptism to priestly/episcopal ordination,” Bishop Thomas said. “If such a progression did of necessity exist, the Christian life would presumably be a sort of religious ‘career path’. Such a concept can hardly be said to sit comfortably besides the Lord’s warning that those who follow him must deny themselves and take up their cross daily,” the bishop argued.

Read it all here.

Note: A "flying bishop" is one appointed to visit those who disagree with their own bishop over some issue and want someone who agrees with them to do confirmations and other episcopal acts.

A more personal and interactive giving experience

Social networking tools on the internet are providing new ways of giving and getting involved.

From the Wall Street Journal's "Young Money" series:

Some of the newer Web-based nonprofits, such as DonorsChoose and Kiva, are attractive because contributors say they allow them to connect directly with their recipients. Donors or lenders can hand over money directly to, respectively, teachers and students in urban public schools or individual entrepreneurs in developing countries, rather than sending a check that ends up with an abstract recipient.

"You can donate money to a charity, but it seems like it just goes into a pile and you never know what really goes on there," says Mr. Alamo, the Kiva lender. "With Kiva, you just pick someone out and lend to them directly and watch what they do and how they succeed. That was the main appeal."

Kiva, which started in the fall of 2005, has already drawn more than 89,600 lenders who have lent $10 million. Mr. Alamo's Kivafriends.org Web site has attracted about 600 members since it was launched in March.

Some older charities are grappling with how to best take advantage of social-networking sites. The Salvation Army, for instance, has had a MySpace profile for "Red Kettle," its online persona, since last year. But the site has only roughly 80 online "friends," or people who have linked to it. (By contrast, Kiva has some 7,000 online friends on MySpace.)

Read it all here.

Other networks mentioned in the article:
- change.org
- dosomething.org
- sixdegrees.org
- red kettle

Nigeria and HIV testing

The Anglican Church of Nigeria now requires couples seeking marriage to have blood tests for HIV. Christianity Today reports:

The Anglican Church in Nigeria has made it manditory for couples wishing to be married by the Church to first take a HIV test.

HIV tests are required to help couples make more “informed choices” when choosing marriage partners, said the Rev Akintunde Popoola, spokesman for the Anglican Church in Nigeria.

“The aim is to help intending couples to make informed decisions because we don’t want anyone to be kept in the dark about their partner,” he said, according to the BBC News website Friday.

“The whole point is for the couples to know their HIV status before getting married.”

Yet the church is careful to point out that it is up to the couple whether to marry in cases where one of the partners has the HIV virus. Popoola said the church will offer the couple care and support if they decide to tie the knot despite the discovery of infection in either or both partners.

Nigeria has one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates – trailing behind India and South Africa only.
Other non-Anglican churches in Nigeria have imposed similar tests on parishioners who want to marry, reported the BBC. [Update: But see this comment by Akintunde.]

Western Christian leaders have also urged people to take HIV tests and for the Church as a whole to become more involved in the battle against HIV and Aids.
At the annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church hosted by Saddleback Church, Warren along with presidential candidates Republican Senator Sam Brownback and Democratic Senator Barack Obama all took the Aids test to encourage the practice.

In Nigeria, not everyone supports the Anglican Church’s new mandatory HIV testing for marrying couples, however.

“We cannot accept what the church is proposing. Every Nigerian must be allowed to decide on their own whether they want to be tested or not,” said Professor Tunde Oshotimehin, who heads Nigeria’s state HIV control agency, according to BBC.

“HIV testing and counselling must be voluntary. What the church is trying to do will encourage denial.”

The Catholic Church in Nigeria is one Church that has decided against imposing such a policy, explaining that it wants HIV testing to be voluntary and personal.

The BBC reports the Nigerian government is investigating whether Covenant University, owned by the Pentecostal Living Faith Church of Nigeria, requires graduates to take an HIV test:
Nigeria's AIDS control agency says the new policy is illegal.

But the Covenant University says its policy had been misunderstood by the media.

"We are not testing our students for HIV," Covenant University spokesman Emmanuel Igban told the BBC News website.

"What we do is a general medical test at the point of entry or admission and at graduation."

The university says it wants to produce "total graduates" which means in addition to passing all examinations, Covenant University graduates must be "morally upright" too.

The National Agency for the Control of Aids (Naca) calls the university's action "a breach of the fundamental human rights of the students".
Nigeria is a deeply religious country with her 140 million people almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

It is a deeply religious country, at least in some sense.

The BBC yesterday carried the story of public reaction to the release of men on bail who were accused of crossdressing in the Muslim province of Bauchi:

Although they were initially accused of sodomy, the charges have now been changed to "indecent dressing" or cross-dressing and "vagrancy".

"Any (male) person who dresses .. in the fashion of a woman in a public place... will be liable to a term of one year or 30 lashes" a spokesman for the local sharia police, Muhamad Muhamad Bununu, told AFP news agency.

The Sharia punishment for sodomy is death by stoning, but he said that was much harder to prove as four witnesses were needed. More than a dozen Nigerian Muslims have been sentenced to death by stoning for sexual offences ranging such as adultery and homosexuality.

But none of these death sentences have actually been carried out - either being thrown out on appeal or commuted to prison terms as a result of pressure from human rights groups. Many others have been sentenced to flogging by horsewhip for drinking. There have been two amputations in north-western Zamfara State - which pioneered the introduction of the Islamic legal system in the country.

Nigeria, like many African countries, is a conservative society where homosexuality is considered a taboo.

No news on whether Nigerian Muslims are required to submit to HIV tests before marriage, or what the consequences of a positive test would be.

i don't pay, i get paid

The Church by the Glades has been in the news lately. First, a few days ago it was running near the top of the Squidoo's list of most innovative churches. (At this moment it's not even in the top 60.) Not that we know what Squidoo is, mind you. But you might want to pop over and nominate your church if you feel it's deserving.

Anyhoo, second, we read in Gizmodo (via ) that the Church by the Glades pays you to attend its iServices. "What would convince your good selves to stop reading Gizmodo on a Sunday morning in favour of attending Holy Communion? A $15 iTunes voucher, you say? Church by the Glades, in Florida, hears you. In an effort to bribe new members, Church by the Glades will be handing out $15 iTunes vouchers to attendees of their iThemed services."

We figure that the bribe is just the front-end of a mutually beneficial relationship between the church and future tithers.

What we don't understand is why there are no Episcopal churches that have websites near as slick any you'll find on the Squidoo list. Surely it's not because of a cash flow problem. Isn't just because the investment wouldn't pay because the product behind the marketing is so poor?

Where's the conversation?

Elvis asked for a "little less conversation, a little more action please."

The moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Rev. Joan S. Gray, asks "Where is the conversation?" Quoting:

The Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church presented seven recommendations to the 217th General Assembly last summer. Recommendation number two commends to the church-at-large the process the task force used to conduct its work. This process involves bringing together a group of people with different theological views and engaging in a committed program of worship, study, honest conversation, and prayer.

In essence, this is a process of exploring how to be the church with those who disagree with us.

My disappointment is that I have not found many presbyteries or churches where groups are meeting to do this kind of work. In fact, the attitude generally seems to be, "What good does it do? It won't solve our issues."

The way we live together as Christians is part of our witness to the watching world. It is a powerful witness to God's power when the Holy Spirit enables human beings to come together in love in spite of their differences.

One of the most spiritually enriching experiences of my life was participating in a common-ground group for four years with fellow members of my presbytery who had greatly differing opinions on denominational issues. When this group came to an end, I am sure that no one had fundamentally changed his or her position on controversial issues. What had changed, though, was our relationship. Respect and Christian affection had replaced suspicion and wariness.

Emphasis added.

Bishop Sisk on the real question before us

Bishop Mark Sisk, of the Diocese of New York has written a letter to his diocese about some of the issues facing the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church's relationship to the Communion. The blog "Admiral of Morality" has the full statement, which reads in part:

"The presenting question is: Will the Communion survive in its present form or won't it? To state the obvious: no one can answer that question with certainty. My personal guess is that the Communion will emerge from these struggles, changed but recognizable. I say this not because I think that the issues before us will simply drift away like smoke after a fire. I say this because the long history of the Church suggests a strong tendency to adapt to challenging circumstances rather than break apart over them. Following the American Revolution we in The Episcopal Church were left with no bishops and an unwillingness on the part of the Church of England to help us resolve that crisis. Yet, ultimately, a way was found to restore our claim to apostolic orders, and, in due course, we realized that by that act the Anglican Communion had been born.

The deeper question is this: Just what exactly is the problem anyway? Surprising to many people, serious-minded folks give very different answers. For some, perhaps for most, the answer as conceived by them is a simple matter of sexual morality: right or wrong. Others couch this dispute in terms of the authority of Scripture. Still others argue that not only does Scripture not speak with one voice to the actual question that is before us, but also the insights of science and experience of our faithful gay and lesbian brothers and sisters—integral members of our community—cannot simply be ignored. Yet others see this dispute through the lens of authority: Who has the right to decide? This, in turn, pushes others to state the problems in terms of polity—that is, the way we organize ourselves to make decisions and, at least by inference, obligate others by those decisions. And all this debate takes place within the context of a world of different contexts, a world which seems busily occupied in dividing and re-dividing itself along the countless fissures that are found in the bedrock of the human community.

In my view, it is a mistake to despair at all about this conflict. I am convinced that God works through our struggles to bring us, if we are faithful and charitable in those struggles, ever closer to the Divine Life that unifies all creation. We have no reason to despair. We have nothing to fear. We live in the arms of God's abiding love. God is working in us the Divine will. Through it all, I am convinced that our Episcopal Church has been strengthened, and I have confidence that the larger Anglican Communion, in whatever form it takes, will be strengthened as well."

Read the rest here: Admiral of Morality: The Bishop of New York: "The Presenting Question"

Eating our way to holiness

There's a growing movement in the farming and grocery industry to consider the religious teachings about food when consumers are deciding what to purchase. This isn't simply a matter of more farmers growing food according to kosher principles or more butchers becoming more sensitive to scriptural injunctions about how animals should be slaughtered. There's also a focus on questions about the treatment of migrant workers by the producers, organic techniques and sustainable agriculture. The New York Times reports:

"Christians, Jews and Muslims who see food through a moral lens are increasingly organized and focused on showing their strength. The Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill, a national coalition of more than a dozen religious organizations, is lobbying Congress for legislation to help small farms. The National Catholic Rural Life Conference is helping congregations and universities in the Midwest buy local produce from family farmers.

Environment-minded Jews are asking the leaders of Conservative Judaism to rewrite their kosher certification rules to incorporate ethical concerns about workers, animals and the land. Hazon, the Jewish environmental organization, has set up community-supported agriculture programs, or C.S.A.’s, in which customers purchase shares of a farm’s harvest.

‘This is the first time I have seen such a deep and growing involvement of the faith community,’ said Brother David Andrews, who is on sabbatical from his job as executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and has followed these kinds of issues for 30 years.

If this nascent cause was taken up by large numbers of churches and synagogues, the economic effect alone could be profound. ‘The religious movement is a huge force,’ said Arlin S. Wasserman, the founder of Changing Tastes, a consulting firm in St. Paul that advises food companies and philanthropic organizations on trends in food and agriculture. ‘Already, religious institutions oversee the production of $250 billion per year in food if you bundle together halal, kosher, and institutional buying.

‘Religious leaders have been giving dietary advice for decades and centuries, telling us to eat fish on Friday or to keep kosher in your home. What we are seeing now are contemporary concerns like the fair treatment of farm workers, humane treatment of animals and respect for the environment being integrated into the dietary advice given by the churches.’"

Read the rest here: Of Church and Steak: Farming for the Soul

How about the readership of the Cafe? Are you seeing something like this movement in your local congregations or communities?

St. Arbucks - a "third place"

A "third place" is a safe place between home and work, or home and school. Think soda fountain, barbershop, the pub, even church. Today Starbucks and its worthy competitors are playing that role:

Regulars at St. Arbucks are greeted by name and the baristas may have their favorite drink --Asimakoupoulos is a grande-drip purist -- ready when they reach the counter. Many modern churches have grown so large that people cannot know the names of many people with whom they are praying.

It's also crucial that these coffee sanctuaries are open to all kinds of people. At the Starbucks a short walk from his church, the pastor, people watching over the top of his laptop screen, has even seen believers reading their Bibles.

Writing in Leadership Journal, Asimakoupoulos noted: "At St. Arbucks, I've seen a rabbi mentoring a Torah student. A youth pastor disciplining a new convert. High school girls working on a group assignment. A book club sipping mochas while discussing a fiction author's plot." Could churches try to be more open to outsiders?

Why not?

Read it here in Scripps News.

See also Getting religion at the pub.

Bishop of El Salvador calls Anglicans to mutual aid

The Anglican Bishop of El Salvador (who is also the Primate of the Anglican Church of the region of Central America) has released a letter to the people of his province in light of the recent natural disasters of earthquake and hurricane in South and Central America. He calls on the people of his country and all the Anglican Provinces of the Americas to do what they can to help out in these difficult days:

"From our Anglican Church in El Salvador, we have been following the reports of so many recent disasters, such as the earthquake in Peru and the effects of Hurricane Dean. In Christian love we are praying for the people who are suffering from the effects of these disasters. We also pray for the force and witness of our relief and development institution that has already given so much help to these affected people, especially those in Peru hit by the earthquake.

Here in El Salvador, we know the suffering wrought by such disasters, the same as for other countries in the Province of the Anglican Church of the Region of Central America. It is for this reason, that through love for our Savior Jesus Christ, I make a call for solidarity to the people of our province, to our friends in the United States and Canada, and other parts of the world that, within each of our capacities, we can help our suffering brothers and sisters. The quantity of our donations is less important than our being truly united in our love for Christ.

Please send any donations to Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). Even better, if you wish to designate specifically the donation, it can be earmarked for the Emergency Relief Fund. We can agree that God will give us in recompense 101%."

Read the rest: From the Archbishop of IARCA/Bishop of El Salvador

Who speaks for Africa?

The voice of the Global South apparently emanates not from Abuja, Nigeria, but from Fairfax, Virginia. The Church Times reports that Bishop Martyn Minns, not Archbishop Peter Akinola is the principal author of the recent letter from the Church of Nigeria that bears Akinola's name.

Pat Ashworth writes:

A BISHOP in the United States has been revealed as the principal author of a seminal letter to the Church of Nigeria from its Archbishop, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, which was published on Sunday.

The letter includes a suggestion that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s status as a focus of unity is “highly questionable”. It also refers to a “moment of decision” for the Anglican Communion, which is on the “brink of destruction”.

The document, “A Most Agonising Journey towards Lambeth 2008”, appears to express to Nigerian synods the personal anguish of Archbishop Akinola over his attendance at the Lambeth Conference.

But computer tracking software suggests that the letter was extensively edited and revised over a four-day period by the Rt Revd Martyn Minns, who was consecrated last year by Archbishop Akinola to lead the secessionist Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). Bishop Minns, along with the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, has not been invited to Lambeth.

Close examination of the document, tracing the authorship, editing history, and timing of changes, reveals about 600 insertions made by Bishop Minns, including whole new sections amounting to two-thirds of the final text. There is also a sprinkling of minor amendments made by Canon Chris Sugden of the conservative group Anglican Mainstream.

The significance of this development lies less in the fact that Akinola has a ghostwriter--the leaders of many organizations, ecclesial and secular have staff members who handle writing assignments for them.--than that what has long been portrayed as the authentic voice of African Anglicanism is, manifestly, not African, and perhaps never has been.

This revelation is likely to damage Akinola's already sagging prestige in Nigeria, where he may now be perceived as a mouthpiece for wealthy Westerners. And it is likely to damage his credibility with his fellow Primates, who were already weary of his practice of interupting their meetings to take counsel from Minns and Sugden.

Reactions to the Akinola/Minns letter

Mark Harris, writing at Preludium, has an analysis of what implications might be drawn as a result of the Church Times story that Archbishop Akinola's latest essay was re-written in large part by his CANA bishop, Martin Minns. The first of Mark's essays has to do with the larger implications of the issue of authorship. The second has to do with looking for a lens to put into perspective the most recent sets of writings coming out of the CANA/AMiA/ACN community:

"If the Archbishop's words are a mirror to the the realignment folk and dissenters in the US the circle is closed: The script noted in my previous posting is then augmented by a script with much longer preparation behind it: the script that says the whole of the Global South, all of Africa, and most of the Communion is full of life because they hold to the faith once delivered of the saints, biblical morality and sound doctrine, that the Northern churches are corrupted by rotten theology and worse morals, etc. If there is an outside script (touted as the 'voice' of the Communion,) and an inside script (touted as the voice of pain and suffering in TEC) the noise gets louder, but the source gets smaller.

(iv) If Minns and Duncan (or is it Anderson?) are the operators out and inside scripting away and planning the brave new reformation of the whole communion, nay the whole church universal, we might wish to see just what is behind the new face of Anglicanism sometimes touted as the Archbishop of Nigeria sometimes as the Moderator. Perhaps it is time to let Toto loose in the throne room. Perhaps it is time to pay attention to the man (or men) behind the curtain."

Read the rest of Mark's essays here.

Colin Coward, of Changing Attitudes (England) has posted his reactions and analysis which says, in part:

Colin Coward and Davis Mac-Iyalla (Changing Attitude England and Nigeria), Caro Hall (Integrity USA) and Scott Gunn (Inclusive Church) were present at the Primates’ Meeting at the White Sands Hotel in Tanzania, February 2007. Today’s report confirms the deep suspicions we developed as we observed the visits by Archbishop Peter Akinola to the first floor room where Martyn Minns, Chris Sugden, David Anderson and others met every day, all day. We speculated on what they were they doing which could possibly occupy so much time. One possibility was that they were waiting patiently for Archbishop Akinola to come and report to them (quite improperly) what had been taking place in the Primates Meeting next door. We suspect that this is indeed what the Archbishop did.

Today’s report reveals that they were clearly doing more than this. They were drafting material for Archbishop Akinola to take back to the Primates’ Meeting. They prepared an alternative text for the final Communique which Archbishop Akinola was given to present to the Primates. The final press conference on the Monday evening was delayed until nearly midnight, almost certainly because Akinola was arguing at length with the other Primates, desperately trying to force the Minns/Sugden/Anderson agenda on the other, mostly unwilling, Primates.

You can read Colin's full essay here. There is also a short piece by Davis Mac-Iyalla (Changing Attitudes Nigeria) on the site which asks questions of the sources of funding for some of the most recent activities of the Archbishop of Nigeria's office.

Update: Kendall Harmon has comments on the controversy, and some cautions about what the document in question might imply:

The important point about the article is that the author has raced to a conclusion without evidence. If I have a word document on my computer written by Bishop Salmon with changes in it (if the Word software indicates so), the changes were made on my computer but by whom they were made is still not known. Indeed, on a number of occasions Bishop Salmon has called me and made changes to the document with me on the phone. He was speaking, and I was typing. Yes, you guessed it, this has happened on a number of occasions. I can think of several where both Bishop Salmon and Bishop Skilton made multiple changes to the final text, which of course they both then signed. Every change came through my computer, but was made by them because they were concerned about every word. This is called care and collaboration, and it happens all over the church all the time

Further Update, a response by The Venerable AkinTunde Popoola, Director of Communications for the Church of Nigeria to the story in the Church Times has appeared on the Church of Nigeria's website:

It is very insulting and racist to infer that the Primate of All Nigeria is being dictated to. Is this in continuation of the ‘jamming’ of people opposing the agenda? I would have believed the ‘computer software’ story were it not for the allegation of ‘minor amendments’ by the Canon Chris Sugden who had nothing to do with the document. Abp. Akinola informed his senior staff and the Episcopal Secretary the need to highlight efforts at maintaining unity and the intransigence of the revisionists so that the Nigerian community is left in no doubt about who is ‘walking apart’ Along with his PA in Abuja, work started on the gathering of materials and relevant documents on 6th August, 2007. We used in addition to existing statements and my internet searches, Nigerian Episcopal meeting documents and TECUSA resolutions supplied respectively by our Episcopal Secretary, the Rt. Rev. Friday Imaekhia and a CANA priest, the Rev. Canon David Anderson. The draft of the statement was ready for correction by the primate on 9th August, 2007 who was however unable to correct it as he was about to travel. Abp. Akinola was in the US and Bahamas between 10th and 22nd August 2007. I sent the draft to him through the Rt. Rev Minns with a request for assistance in getting some online references which I could not easily locate.

Finally there is a piece summarizing reactions so far today on Ekklesia's site this morning. And a late afternoon update from the Rev. Susan Russell. And another by Tobias.

The colonization of silence

In NewMusicBox magazine, Andrew Waggoner outlines what might be called a Cistercian musical aesthetic:

The colonization of silence is complete. Its progress was so gradual that even those who watched it with alarm have only now begun to take stock of the losses. Reflection, discernment, a sustainable sense of tranquility, of knowing where and how to find oneself—these are only the most obvious casualties of marauding noise's march to the sea. Much more insidious has been the loss of music itself.

But wait, this can't be: Music is everywhere; we have more of it, available in more forms, more often, than at any time in human history. I can go to the web and find O King of Berio, Baksimba dances from Uganda, something really obscure like Why Are we Born (not to have a good time) of the young Buck Owens, even Pat Boone's version of Tutti Frutti; I can find all of the same at the mall. Surely this is a good thing. I can find renewal of spirit in Sur Incises of Boulez or stand aghast at the toxic grandiloquence of Franz Schmidt's Book of the Seven Seals. Music is everywhere. Long live it.

Just give me five minutes without it; that's all I ask, perhaps all I'll need to bring it back into being for myself. Imprisoned by it as I am now, assaulted in every store, elevator, voice-mail system, passing car, neighbor's home, by it and its consequent immolation in the noise of the quotidian, it is lost to me as anything other than a kind of psychic rape, a forced intimacy with sonic partners not of my choosing. When music is everywhere, it is nowhere; when everything is music, nothing is.

Read it all.

The Lucifer effect

In American Scientist, Robert V. Levine tells the story of the Stanford prison experiments:

In the summer of 1971, a young social psychologist named Philip Zimbardo set up a mock prison in the basement of Stanford University's psychology building. The 24 subjects he had selected for the two-week experiment he was planning were mostly middle-class, educated, college-age men who happened to be in Palo Alto for the summer. At the outset all were deemed to be "normal" on the basis of personality tests and their conduct in clinical interviews. They were to be paid $15 a day for their participation.

Zimbardo assigned each subject to be a prisoner or guard by flipping a coin. There were no measurable personality differences between the two groups when the experiment began. Zimbardo played the role of warden himself. The researchers were initially concerned that subjects wouldn't take the experiment seriously enough.

They needn't have been. To everyone's astonishment, the two groups quickly came to act like their real-life counterparts. The prisoners became despondent; some broke down. In less than 36 hours, one had to be released because of extreme depression, disorganized thinking, uncontrollable crying and fits of rage. Over the next three days, three more prisoners were let go because they exhibited similar symptoms of anxiety. A fifth prisoner was discharged when he developed a psychosomatic rash over his entire body, an apparent reaction to the rejection of his parole appeal by the mock parole board.

The guards' behavior was even more disturbing. All flexed their power to one degree or another. They made the prisoners obey trivial, often inconsistent rules and forced them to perform tedious, pointless work, such as moving cartons from one closet to another or continuously picking thorns out of blankets (an unpleasant task the guards created by dragging the blankets through thorny bushes). The inmates were made to sing songs or laugh or stop smiling on command; to curse and malign one another publicly; to clean out toilets with their bare hands. They were required to sound off their numbers repeatedly and to do endless push-ups, occasionally with a guard's foot or that of another prisoner on their backs.

He continues:

Zimbardo's remarkable experiment is at the center of his equally remarkable book, The Lucifer Effect. Why a new book about a 35-year-old study? Zimbardo presents the research in greater detail and texture than ever before. He provides a wealth of new interpretations and new material—anecdotes, entries from the diaries of prisoners and guards, updates on the lives of the participants, and documentation of the consequences his findings have had for real-world prison policy.

Perhaps more important, the passage of time offers him a larger canvas—disturbingly large—on which to apply the lessons of the experiment. In the second half of the book, he delves into a profusion of contemporary small- and large-scale evils. He investigates, for example, the fraudulence of executives at Enron and WorldCom, the sexual abuse of parishioners by Catholic priests, the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, systematic programs of police and military torture in a number of countries, the mass suicides at Jonestown, and the genocides in Rwanda and elsewhere. Zimbardo convincingly explains how each of these evils mirrors the lessons of the Stanford Prison Experiment and might to some extent have been avoided had those lessons been learned more successfully.


Most notably, Zimbardo analyzes the infamous sadistic acts carried out by U.S. military personnel in Abu Ghraib prison. This section alone is worth the price of the book. Not only is it extraordinarily detailed, both psychologically and otherwise, it also offers the chilling perspective of an insider, Staff Sergeant Chip Frederick, a supervisor on the night shift at Abu Ghraib and one of the primary villains in the abuse scandal. Zimbardo was an expert witness at Frederick's court-martial and came to know the defendant and his family well. By the time Zimbardo has finished describing Frederick's transformation from idealistic soldier to abuser, Abu Ghraib feels eerily indistinguishable from the Stanford Prison Experiment. It is as if the Iraqi prison had been designed by twisted social psychologists who wanted to replicate Zimbardo's experiment using real guards and prisoners.

The book, however, is not simply a catalog of horrors:

What, Zimbardo asks, leads ordinary people to do bad things, things they never would have imagined doing? Most evildoing, it becomes depressingly clear, is driven by rather ordinary social-psychological reactions. Zimbardo offers an extensive list and discussion of the toxic situational forces and normal psychological reactions to them that tend to activate the Lucifer effect. He provides a detailed, intelligent and workable program for resisting unwanted social influence, highlighting dangers and offering tangible prescriptions for neutralizing negative effects. There are, for example, mini-tutorials on how to distinguish between just and unjust authorities, on being careful not to sacrifice one's freedom for the illusion of security, and on learning to recognize when, where and how to stand up to unjust systems.

The final chapter is a gem. Here Zimbardo seamlessly demonstrates how the same social psychology that may exploit our worst instincts can be reconstrued to cultivate the best in ourselves. Altruism, like evil, is readily responsive to situational forces, and Zimbardo suggests strategies for tapping into these potentialities. He also presents a provocative, multidimensional taxonomy of heroism that I hope will stimulate long-overdue research and education in this area.

Read it all. And have a look at this excerpt as well.

Something to offend everyone

The Episcopal Call to Love, by the Rev. Rob Gieselmann has something to offend Anglicans of every sensibility. That's what makes it worth reading. In six relatively brief chapters, Rob gives us his take on the current conflict in the Communion and suggests a way forward.

Here is a sample of this thinking:

You might defend your actions by noting how harshly Jesus spoke to the religious leaders who imagined they owned the truth. But, let’s be clear: you aren’t Jesus. What gives you the right to claim truth? And worse, if you listen closely, you might hear in your own voice echoes of the same religious leaders Jesus excoriated.

It is time for each of us to stop sounding like we own the truth. And just so you will know, as I so arrogantly write these sentences, I fall to my knees (at this moment, I bow my knee, even as I write), and ask for forgiveness, and God’s grace, and for the truth of Christ to emerge despite my cold heart.

Some of you will say, when a human right is at stake, stake a claim. I’ve heard that argument, and I’ve heard the comparison to slavery and civil rights. First of all, not all homosexual behavior is about human right. Indeed, I’m still waiting for apologists to stop lumping all homosexuality into the same pail, as though all homosexual behavior activity is acceptable. At the least, we can and should agree that some homosexual activity is patently unacceptable, just like some heterosexual activity is patently unacceptable.

To be sure, a human right may be at stake, and if so, a claim is worth staking. However, I’m looking for those who will promote the cause like Abraham Lincoln promoted freedom to slaves. He agonized over the division of the Union. He prayed passionately before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, and he genuinely lamented the fracture of the Union and absolved the South at the end of it all.

To the homosexuals among us I would say, Isn’t patience in order? After all, how long did it take you to come to terms with your own sexuality? Can you reasonably expect heterosexuals to make the transition faster than you did?

Others of you will say sin is sin, and God says homosexual behavior is sin. I’ve heard that argument, and I’ve heard that God won’t bless the Church that condones egregious sin. Okay. Why is it, then, that we don’t talk about more popular forms of sin: cheating on taxes, adultery, fornication, or – watch out, here – keeping holy the Sabbath? Even if you are right, and all homosexual behavior is sin (a discussion worth continuing for many reasons, but not here), the issue shouldn’t split the church, unless you’re ready for the Church to split over these other issues, as well. I’m looking for honesty among the more conservative among us, an admission that, for the most part, Scripture is being manipulated to hide prejudice—plain, good, old-fashioned prejudice (a/k/a homophobia). It is time to own it.

Have a look.

Rob, a former lawyer, has served at St. Luke's in Cleveland, Tennessee; St. Paul's near Chestertown, Maryland; and is now rector at Christ Church in Sausalito, California.

Teens against popular culture

From CNN:

At one point in Jared Hutchins' young life, the Beatles were a big problem.

"I had to stop listening to them for a while," said Hutchins, who lives in Cumming, Georgia, and plays the piano, guitar and harmonica. He said the group's world view "had a negative effect on me," and made him irritable and angry.

"God owns my life, not the Beatles," he said simply. Although Hutchins said he enjoys a wide range of music -- from Pink Floyd and Arcade Fire to Christian bands such as Hillsong United -- he said he has to be careful of what music he listens to, for the same reason he temporarily turned off the Beatles.

Hutchins, a 16-year-old graced with poise and thoughtfulness, is one of many teenagers who say that some part of popular culture, with its ubiquitous references to sex, drugs and violence, has harmed him.

Last year, Hutchins and his Christian youth group attended an Acquire the Fire rally in Atlanta, Georgia, he said. Acquire the Fire -- regional rallies held across the country -- and BattleCry -- the larger rallies held this year in only three cities -- are the products of the evangelical Christian organization Teen Mania.

Read it all.

Religion and college students

The Social Science Research Council has a new website that offers a series of essays about the religious engagement of college students. Here is the SSRC explanation for the website:

Recent studies of college students' attitudes toward religion suggest that the academy is no longer the bastion of secularism it was once assumed to be. And these studies further reveal that the spiritual landscape on today's college campuses is virtually unrecognizable from what we've seen in the past. Evangelicalism--often in the form of extra-denominational or parachurch campus groups--has eclipsed mainstream Protestantism. Catholicism and Judaism, too, are thriving, as are other faiths.

To help make sense of these changes, the SSRC offers this online guide, which was derived from a series of essays it commissioned from leading authorities in the field of religion and higher education.

SSRC President Craign Calhoun offers further thoughts in his preface to the website:

By now, most college professors have noticed that there is renewed religious engagement among American undergraduates. Or at least they have heard this in the media. Fewer are in active conversations with students about matters of religion. Fewer still have a nuanced understanding of the patterns of their students’ religious participation and exploration.

One reason for this is that much of the religious engagement on American campuses takes place outside the classroom. At the same time, the extent to which professors are engaged with students’ extracurricular lives has declined with the increasing scale of universities, the emphasis on research productivity, and the growth in numbers of non-faculty advisors and other student services professionals. This means that many professors have little first-hand knowledge of the context of their students’ religious or spiritual lives. If they stop to consider these at all, moreover, they are likely to do so on the basis of the memory of their own student days or projection based on what they’ve seen in the media.

Memory can be specifically misleading. As the essays in our forum inform us, the proportionate role of mainline Protestant denominations in campus religious life has declined in recent years. While there are still campus Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists, growth has been mostly among Baptists and Catholics and members of other faith communities – from Buddhists to Muslims to observant Jews. What’s more, campus religious life is less denominationally organized. “Parachurch” organizations like the Campus Christian Fellowship play very large roles. These may or may not be formally recognized affiliates of specific campuses; they usually are not organized under chaplaincies. But they are centers of religious engagement – and importantly, this is often intellectual engagement. Students in these organizations discuss how to interpret the content of their courses – often without the knowledge of their instructors – as well as how to understand the big issues of the day. And – contrary to stereotypes – this is an active part of life at schools like Princeton, not just at less elite and more explicitly religious institutions.

The SSRC website can be found here. Among the more interesting essays are "Do Religious Students Do Better?" and "How Does College Affect Students’ Religious Beliefs?"

For those who have worked in college ministry, what has been your experience? Is there a renewed interest in religion on campus? What should the Episcopal Church do in response?

United Methodists target seekers online

As part of a larger marketing campaign, the United Methodist Church will soon use interactive internet advertisements to attract younger seekers to the church. Church Executive has the report:

More than 21 million people are expected to drop in on a new wave of online interactive ads being launched by one of the nation’s largest Protestant denominations.

As part of a multi-million dollar "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors." advertising campaign, The United Methodist Church will target the younger generation (22- to 44-year-olds) over the next two months with ad messages on the Internet.

"We're seeking to reach people who feel like something is missing from their life and are looking for meaning or purpose," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of the United Methodist Communications, in a released statement. "Many of those people are searching online. We've chosen sites where they may be looking for something to fill a void in their lives - whether it's travel, relationships, or something more spiritual."

. . .

The Methodist ads will appear on such popular websites as Beliefnet, eHarmony, CitySearch, and About.com from Aug. 20 to mid-October, asking questions about desires and beliefs and offering poll results from users' responses. Television spots from the campaign will also be streamed and links will lead users to information about The United Methodist Church.

The outreach campaign comes as membership in The United Methodist Church is at its lowest level since 1930 with just over 8 million.

In 2005, The United Methodist Church announced a $25 million advertising effort over the next four years to reach out to their communities and raise their identity. The boosted ad effort came on the heels of airing United Methodist television commercials between 2001 and 2004. Research indicated that first-time attendance increased by 9 percent among congregations residing where the ad was broadcasted during that campaign period.

Testing out other outreach strategies to complement the TV ad campaign, United Methodists launched a large-scale outdoor advertising last year, placing 450 billboards in 15 media markets to reach commuters and travelers.

This year, the new medium is the Internet. With the growth of Internet advertising, United Methodists have picked up on the fast-growing medium to reach wider audiences, particularly seekers.

Read it all here. The interactive ads will ask users questions about their desires and beliefs and offer a choice of answers. After submitting a response, they will see the poll results, along with information and links to explore more about The United Methodist Church. The ads also will feature streaming video of television spots from the campaign and offer a free MP3 download of the theme music.

This is a significant investment. Will it bring new members to the Methodist Church? Should the Epiecopal Church do something similar?

Doubting Mother Teresa?

Time Magazine has a fascinating report about the spiritual life of Mother Teresa. Based on a series of letters from Mother Teresa to her confessor and superiors that is about to be published by a supporter of her sainthood, Time reports that Mother Teresa had a long crisis of faith that began almost as soon as she began her ministry to the poor of Calcutta:

On Dec. 11, 1979, Mother Teresa, the "Saint of the Gutters," went to Oslo. Dressed in her signature blue-bordered sari and shod in sandals despite below-zero temperatures, the former Agnes Bojaxhiu received that ultimate worldly accolade, the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance lecture, Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity had grown from a one-woman folly in Calcutta in 1948 into a global beacon of self-abnegating care, delivered the kind of message the world had come to expect from her. "It is not enough for us to say, 'I love God, but I do not love my neighbor,'" she said, since in dying on the Cross, God had "[made] himself the hungry one — the naked one — the homeless one." Jesus' hunger, she said, is what "you and I must find" and alleviate. She condemned abortion and bemoaned youthful drug addiction in the West. Finally, she suggested that the upcoming Christmas holiday should remind the world "that radiating joy is real" because Christ is everywhere — "Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive."

Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. "Jesus has a very special love for you," she assured Van der Peet. "[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand."

The two statements, 11 weeks apart, are extravagantly dissonant. The first is typical of the woman the world thought it knew. The second sounds as though it had wandered in from some 1950s existentialist drama. Together they suggest a startling portrait in self-contradiction — that one of the great human icons of the past 100 years, whose remarkable deeds seemed inextricably connected to her closeness to God and who was routinely observed in silent and seemingly peaceful prayer by her associates as well as the television camera, was living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which the deity had disappeared.

And in fact, that appears to be the case. A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist."

That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'" Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America and the author of My Life with the Saints, a book that dealt with far briefer reports in 2003 of Teresa's doubts: "I've never read a saint's life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented." Recalls Kolodiejchuk, Come Be My Light's editor: "I read one letter to the Sisters [of Teresa's Missionaries of Charity], and their mouths just dropped open. It will give a whole new dimension to the way people understand her."

Read the article--as well as excerpts from the new book here.

What are we to make of all this? Does Mother Teresa's perserverance in good work during this time of spiritual crisis actually show a rather deep and abiding faith, rather than the lack of faith?

New poll on God and young Americans

The Associated Press and MTV released a new survey of Americans aged 13 to 24, and found a strong link between happiness and religious belief, and it also found that young believers are tolerant of other faiths:

An extensive survey by The Associated Press and MTV found that people aged 13 to 24 who describe themselves as very spiritual or religious tend to be happier than those who don't.

When it comes to spirituality, American young people also are remarkably tolerant -- nearly 7 in 10 say that while they follow their own religious or spiritual beliefs, others might be true as well.

. . .

The poll's mission was to figure out what makes young people happy. And it appears religion helps.

Eighty percent of those who call religion or spirituality the most important thing in their lives say they're happy, while 60 percent of those who say faith isn't important to them consider themselves happy.

''If you believe God is helping you, then everything else isn't as important and you can trust that there's somebody there for you no matter what,'' said Molly Luksik, a 21-year-old ballet dancer in Chicago and a Roman Catholic who attends Mass weekly. ''Just going to church and everything ... it's very calming, and everyone is nice.''

Sociologists have long drawn a connection between happiness and the sense of community inherent to most religious practice. Lisa Pearce, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, said religion can indeed contribute to happiness, but she cautioned that the converse also can hold true.

''It's easier for kids who are happy and have things going well in their life to find the time and energy to participate in religion,'' said Pearce, co-principal investigator for the National Study of Youth and Religion. ''It could be kids who have bad experiences in church end up leaving and being unhappy with religion.''

The poll also asked young people to choose between two statements about their views of other faiths.

Sixty-eight percent agree with the statement, ''I follow my own religious and spiritual beliefs, but I think that other religious beliefs could be true as well.'' Thirty-one percent choose, ''I strongly believe that my religious beliefs are true and universal, and that other religious beliefs are not right.''

The latter statement is more likely to be the position of young teens -- 13 to 17 -- and those who attend religious services weekly.

However, tolerance is the rule overall. That doesn't surprise the Rev. Paul Raushenbush, associate dean for religious life at Princeton University and author of ''Teen Spirit: One World, Many Faiths.''

Young people eat lunch and play soccer with peers from other belief backgrounds, while adults tend to self-segregate with others of like mind, he said. Sweeping immigration reform in 1965 transformed America into the world's most religiously diverse nation, and young people grew up with the second generation of the immigrant wave, he noted.

The poll also found that religion is important to the lives of most young Americans:

On the whole, the poll found religion is a vital part of the lives of many American young people, although with significant pockets that attach little or no importance to faith.

Forty-four percent say religion and spirituality is at least very important to them, 21 percent responded it is somewhat important, 20 percent say it plays a small part in their lives and 14 percent say it doesn't play any role.

Among races, African-Americans are most likely to describe religion as being the single most important thing in their lives. Females are slightly more religious than males, and the South is the most religious region, the survey said.

Read it all here.

The poll was conducted by Knowledge Networks Inc. from April 16 to 23, and involved online interviews with 1,280 people aged 13 to 24.

Other studies show that young people stop attending church services in their twenties. What happens? What implications are there for the toleration of other beliefs found in the survey?

Archbishop Mwamba on the future of the Anglican Communion

As we move closer to September 30, 2007 deadline imposed by the Primates, it may be important to reflect on the thoughts of all of the African Primates, and not just the thoughts of those now making headlines. The Church Times reported this February on the keynote address made by Archbishop Musonda Mwamba of Botswana to the Ecclesiastical Law Society conference “The Anglican Communion: Crisis and Opportunity.” This address offered a different perspective than that expressed by other African primates, and is worth repeating:

LOUD voices from Africa, aided by the “almighty dollar” and internet lobbyists, are distorting the true picture of what Africa’s 37 million Anglicans really think about sexuality and the future of the Anglican Communion, says the Bishop of Botswana, the Rt Revd Musonda Mwamba.

. . . The minds of most African Anglicans were concentrated on life-and-death issues, and they were “frankly not bothered about the whole debate on sexuality”, he said.

In an incisive address, the Bishop concluded that the minority of Africans who had “the luxury to think about the issue” did not want to see the Communion disintegrate. They valued the bonds of affection, and would prefer to follow the process recommended by the Windsor report. He rebutted as “simplistic and a distortion of the truth” the belief that the African provinces were a monochrome body.

The voice many people heard was the Church of Nigeria’s, a conservative voice, which embodied various streams of influence, and echoed the cultural abhorrence of homosexuality. It was “a voice of protest, which advocates separation rather than reconciliation”. Perhaps unconsciously, it was also influenced by interfaith strife in the country.

Charting the history leading to Nigeria’s rejection of the primacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop said that the influence of the Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, went beyond Africa to the United States, where, through the creation of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), he had encouraged like-minded Episcopalians to cut ties with the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Bishop Mwamba described this as “a voice prepared to exclude those whose voices or views are deemed incompatible with the Bible, a voice relatively quiet in speaking out on life-and-death issues of poverty, AIDS, and responsible governance. But, having said all that, we must keep in mind that there are many bishops, clergy, and laity who do not accept all that this voice represents, and who nevertheless find themselves silenced.”

The Church of the Province of Southern Africa best exemplified the liberal voice, the Bishop suggested. Its bishops had recommended that questions of doctrine and morals should be handled through the structures of the Communion, and had concluded of “the mystery of human sexuality” that there was a need for deeper theological reflection and informing insights.

“The liberal voice in Africa sees the crisis in the Anglican Communion as diverting the attention of the Church from the major life-and-death issues in the world — hunger across the globe, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, HIV/AIDS, and other issues,” the Bishop said.

“The context in which the liberal voice speaks was born in the evils of the apartheid era. . . So the constitution of the rainbow people of South Africa is based on values of dignity, freedom, and equality, and does not permit ordinary citizens to discriminate against gays and lesbians.”

The moderate voice of Africa, “nicely snuggled between the liberal and the conservative”, was exemplified by the Church of the Province of Burundi. It had stated that it remained committed to the Anglican Communion on issues of sexuality.

Read it all here. Does the Archbishop's analysis still hold?

Two years after Katrina

Two years after Katrina, several churches in the Diocese of Mississippi still struggle to rebuild:

Driving along what is left of the beachfront boulevard in Bay St. Louis, one sees a lot of green. Nature has reinvented itself; flora and fauna are prolific along the Mississippi coastline. A few people dot the beaches in between ruined piers. Houses, however, are missing. Miles of vacant lots dotted with concrete pipe sections and new septic tanks bear silent witness to the ever-present loss.

Heading east from New Orleans, across the water's edge to Mobile, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi has coped with its own losses and has struggled to mitigate the spiritual, emotional and physical deficits of the coast area clergy and residents pummeled by Katrina.

"Residents are still numb from the catastrophic forces which turned their world upside down on August 29, 2005," said the Rev. Canon David Johnson, Canon to the Ordinary in Mississippi. "The work to recover will be at least a decade in being accomplished. For many, the magnitude and long-term impact is just now setting in."

Many coast area clergy sustained major or total damage to their homes. Six of 11 coast churches on their beachfront properties were destroyed by the storm. Trinity Church, Pass Christian; St. Mark's and St. Peter's, Gulfport, have made long term plans and are building or rebuilding. Church of the Redeemer, Biloxi; Christ Church, Bay St. Louis; and St. Patrick's, Long Beach -- among the hardest hit congregations -- are continuing with their planning processes.

St. Thomas', Diamondhead; St. John's, Ocean Springs; St. John's, Pascagoula; St. Pierre's, Gautier; and St. Paul's, Picayune, have all participated in recovery and rebuilding projects of their own, having sustained comparably minor damage to their own structures.

While these congregations have been assisted by several aid programs, these programs are coming to a close and the conngregations face real difficulty in continuing rebuilding efforts:

However, with many aid programs' funding expiring at year's end, several affected congregations are faced with significant shortfalls in operating and rebuilding funds for 2008. The coming year will undoubtedly write the most challenging chapter of recovery yet.

"Through the generous support from Episcopalians from every diocese, we were able to continue to provide compensation and medical insurance for the clergy in the coast convocation in 2007," said Kathryn McCormick, Canon for Administration and Finance in Mississippi. "Through action of the Board of Trustees of the Church Pension Group, the pensions of the coast clergy were waived through 2007. A financial assessment is being conducted to see what 2008 and beyond will look like; yet, we already know that the financial demands are tremendous."

Funds are needed to support the clergy, which have not been covered by any other granting institution, and to fill in gaps left by rebuilding for the coast area churches.

Read it all here.

Baptism by fire hose?

Now this sounds like an interesting tradition:

Accompanied by brass bands and thundering preachers, several hundred people squeezed onto a narrow street in the District's Shaw neighborhood yesterday to be baptized in the drenching shower of a fire hose.

Weeping and singing, they raised their hands as the water shot up and then poured down on them in a glistening cascade. Ministers from the United House of Prayer for All People, which held the service, exhorted them to repent their sins and embrace the Holy Spirit.

"Oh my God, it feels good, it feels good, it feels good," said Geraldine Howard, a 76-year-old bus driver, her white skirt and blouse drenched, a visor and shower cap protecting her head. "I feel truly blessed. God is good."

The service, in its 81st year, is an annual tradition for the church, which has its national headquarters in the District. Yesterday's mass baptism took place in front of the House of Prayer's flagship church, the gold-domed "God's White House" at Sixth and M streets NW. The baptism service symbolizes healing from sins and physical ailments and the believer's union with Jesus Christ.

With 1.5 million members and 140 branches across the country, the House of Prayer is a church in the Pentecostal tradition, with its emotive style of worship. Each House of Prayer church has a brass-and-drum band, which performs an exuberant beat during its services.

. . .

The tradition of the baptism by fire hose started in the late 1920s, said Apostle H. Whitner, pastor of God's White House. "We used to use the Potomac River," he said, but the church's founder, Charles "Sweet Daddy" Grace, decided to use a fire hose instead, "because a baptism involves sprinkling," Whitner noted.

Read it all here.

Blogging Lambeth

Everyone has a blog these days - even Lambeth 2008.

A sample entry:

We're having lots of fun with all the Lambeth Conference registrations - keep them coming in! (Via the online system if possible!)

Otherwise, Sue is away on her holidays at the moment, as are many others in the Anglican Communion Office, where the Lambeth Conference office is based. But things are still fairly busy for an August in England.

Keep checking here

It is part of The Official Lambeth site

Sri Lankan church becoming peace center

Ekklesia reports on an Anglican Church in Sri Lanka that is becoming a center for peace. It has been a venue for seminars and workshops on peace and inter-religious concerns since it opened as a conflict analysis centre in April 2006.

The buildings of Christ Church along Jaffna's main road stand pock-marked by shell holes, as a grim reminder of the many pitched battles fought between Tamil rebels and Sri Lankan forces in this Tamil heartland on the northern fringe of Sri Lanka - writes Anto Akkara.

Built in 1871, the Anglican church is, however, now getting a facelift. New roof tiles have been put in place, and major holes in the walls are being patched up.

"We're converting this church into a war memorial, and it will be used as a centre for conflict analysis," the Rev S. P. Nesakumar, the archdeacon of Jaffna, told Ecumenical News International as he pointed to the severe damage inflicted by bombing and shelling during the 1990 and 1995 conflicts.

Read it all here.

Churches failed in Rwanda's genocide

Ethics Daily.com features commentary by Paul Rusesabagina, whose actions during the genocide inspired the film, Hotel Rwanda. His comments on that period of Rwandan history came at a convocation at Middle Tennessee State University. The silence of the churches during that time contriibuted not only to the killing but left Rwandans feelng abandoned by God.

Rwanda's genocide was in part a failure of the Christian church, a former hotel manager whose efforts to save the lives of more than 1,200 of his countrymen inspired the Academy Award-nominated movie "Hotel Rwanda," said in a Sunday interview.

Prior to 1994, Rwanda was described as the most Christianized country in Africa. Ninety percent of its citizens professed to be Christians. But that didn't stop tribal violence from breaking out that resulted in the wanton murder of 800,000 people in 100 days.

Like other foreigners, American missionaries were evacuated when the killing started, Paul Rusesabagina told EthicsDaily.com.

"The Rwandan genocide took place in a hidden way, without any eyewitnesses from the international community," Rusesabagina said. "When it comes to churches, all the churches kept quiet."

"Silence, as we all know, is complicity," he said.

Instead of opposing the violence, Rusesabagina said, churches were often complicit. People fled to churches for sanctuary, as they had in earlier conflicts. This time those same churches turned into death traps, as ministers either stood by or assisted in ethnic cleansing.

A Belgian court convicted two Benedictine nuns in 2001 of participating in the massacre of more than 7,600 people at the Sovu convent in Butare.

An Anglican bishop was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for the crime of genocide, specifically "for killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the Tutsi population with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a racial or ethnic group."

Accusations were also documented against clergy of the Free Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Seventh-Day Adventist churches.

Read the whole article

Nominees for bishop of Chicago

Five nominees for the 12th Bishop of Chicago were received from the Bishop Search Committee and announced Aug. 28, 2007 by the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago’s governing body, the Standing Committee, subject to completion of background checks:

The Rev. Jane S. Gould, Priest-in-Charge / Rector
St. Stephen’s Memorial Episcopal Church, Lynn, Mass.

The Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Rector
St. Thomas Church, Medina, Wash.

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean
Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio

The Rev. Margaret R. Rose, Director of Women's Ministries
The Episcopal Church

The Rev. Timothy B. Safford, Rector
Christ Church, Philadelphia

Additional candidates can be nominated through a petition process overseen by the Standing Committee.

Press Release by Integrity


Integrity Responds to List of Candidates for Bishop of Chicago

"The big news today is that discernment has trumped discrimination in the Diocese of Chicago," said Integrity President Susan Russell. "The inclusion of the Very Rev. Tracey Lind on the list of five extraordinarily qualified candidates for Bishop of Chicago is a bold step forward and a sign of hope and encouragement not only to LGBT Episcopalians but to the whole church. Her experience and leadership make her an excellent candidate and Integrity applauds the Diocese of Chicago for not allowing the forces advocating bigotry over ability to dominate their nomination process.

Read the rest of the release here

Episcopal Diocese of Chicago website is here

Using economics to improve your faith life

Economist Tyler Cowen offers strategies for overcoming the boredom that often accompanies events that one thinks one should enjoy. In his new book, Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist, considers the following scenario:

You are about to walk into an art museum. You aspire to appreciate the many works of art you will see, in part because valuing high art is part of your self-image: You consider yourself a person who would enjoy spending an afternoon at an art museum.

But here’s the problem: In spite of your plans and aspirations, you get tired after an hour or so of walking around, and all the paintings, no matter how wonderful, begin to blur together.

To resolve the tension between the fact that you want to enjoy the art museum and yet it eventually bores you, Cowen, a professor at George Mason University and co-founder of the popular blog MarginalRevolution.com, poses an economic question: “What is the relevant scarcity hindering a better outcome?”

The answer: Your attention span is the scarcity. And the solution? Make it fun for yourself. In his words, give yourself incentives to reach your goal of enjoying the museum. Cowen offers several ways to trick yourself into paying more attention.

Religion Writer asks: So how can Cowen’s approach be applied to questions of faith?

We want to enjoy the experience, and it’s part our self-image to believe we find going to the church or synagogue or mosque meaningful and fulfilling. Yet who has not yawned their way through a sermon or prayer at one time or another? How do you keep your mind from wandering from the divine service to thoughts about grocery shopping later in the day or your next work assignment?

Applying Cowen’s logic, the first and probably most difficult step is admitting that we don’t always enjoy religious services and observances as much as we would like to think we do. There should be no shame in this admission. Cowen himself, a voracious consumer of culture and appreciator of art, reports that after a few hours in an art museum he gets “museum legs” and begins to whine.

So church/mosque/synagogue/temple/fill-in-the-religious-blank is sometimes boring — accept that as a given. How can we apply Cowen’s concept of incentives to make the experience more enjoyable?

Read it all here

Tyler Cowen's blog, Marginal Revolution is here. In this post Cowen promises to "I'll write more soon about the implicit theology in Discover Your Inner Economist."

What are your strategies for having a meaningful church experience?

Methodists denounce the Institute for Religion and Democracy

The Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church is proposing a resolution, to be considered by their General Conference in 2008, condemning the tactics of the Institute for Religion and Democracy and calling for all Methodists to cease working with this organization.

The Desert Southwest Conference denounces the IRD and proposes the following for consideration by the national conference.

The Resolution contains numerous Wheras clauses concluding with these resolutions:

Therefore, be it resolved, that we condemn the hardball, deceptive and divisive tactics of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and its UMAction Committee.

Therefore, be it further resolved, that we call for the following actions:

* Good News/RENEW and The Confessing Movement to cease their partnership with the IRD
* all caucus groups not to use the same kinds of hardball tactics exhibited by the IRD
* all United Methodists not to support the IRD and to reject the agenda it works to impose on the UMC and the tactics it uses to advance them.
* the IRD to disband its UMAction committee and cease its efforts to impose its agenda on the UMC.
* all parts of the UMC to engage religion of the heart, in accordance with Wesley’s teachings and the example of Christ, and join hands together so that we may move forward together in love and in good works.

Therefore, be it further resolved, that, in order to facilitate this joining of hands, we call on all parts of the Church to engage in study and dialogue on Wesleyan theology, specifically in regards to Wesley’s understanding of what is true religion (and what is not)— religion of the heart with the Royal Law at its center—and how it applies to the needs of the world, as expressed in his concept of "practical Christianity." In such dialogue, it is hoped that the Church will return to what is essential and most important about our faith and about living as disciples of Christ. It is further hoped
that through this, organizations such as the IRD that seek to divide us will fail in their efforts, and we will better learn to love each other and to see Christ in each other, enabling us to then join our hands so that we may indeed move forward together in love and good works.

Therefore, be it further resolved, that at the close of the 2007 New York Annual Conference session, the above resolution be prepared and submitted by the Annual Conference secretary to comply with deadlines and submission requirements for consideration by the 2008 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Read the whole resolution here

San Joaquin pushes back convention; in 'wait-and-see' mode

The Living Church reports Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin has pushed back the date of the diocese's convention from October to December:

The Rev. Van McCalister, public relations officer for the diocese, said the change in date was primarily made to give the voting members of convention time for prayer and careful consideration of the unusually large number of important events scheduled this fall. These include the fall meeting of the House of Bishops, at which the bishops are expected to consider requests made of The Episcopal Church by the primates of the Anglican Communion.

“We are very aware of the fact that this is a very important transitional moment, no matter how the vote goes,” Fr. McCalister said. “We’re just in a ‘wait-and-see’ mode right now, however.”

Last year diocesan clergy and lay delegates approved the first reading of controversial changes to remove language acknowledging the diocese as a constituent part of The Episcopal Church from its constitution and canons. In order to be approved, the changes must pass at two consecutive conventions. If approved it is possible that the diocese would face a legal challenge.
In June, the national Executive Council approved a resolution declaring “null and void” changes by several dioceses, including San Joaquin, to qualify their accession to national church bylaws. David Booth Beers, the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor, and the House of Bishop’s Task Force on Property Disputes are also on record in opposition to such changes.

Fr. Snell said he was not certain that clergy and lay delegates would spend much time considering how national church leaders would react after the final vote on the proposed canonical changes. Civil litigation could have far-reaching implications.

Read it all here.

The Right Rev. John-David Schofield is a member of the Anglican Communion Network.

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind and the morning papers

A sampling of the headlines average Episcopalians across the country are reading this morning:

The Washington Post and the LA Times relied on the AP report. Between the coasts this AP report is what most casual followers of events will read in their local paper.

I found no evidence this morning that the story was picked up by the British press.

Canterbury Cross

Click here (The Archbishop of Canterbury Official site Welcome page) and hover your mouse pointer over the TIME cover of the Archbishop. What do you see?

Is there a message here?

What can and should we all do about the national disconnect between citizen and soldier?

Bob Okun of ThanksUSA writes in the Wall Street Journal

Stop what you're doing and simply listen for a moment so you may hear a conversation that is going on across America. It is not about who will be the next president, but about why average citizens aren't more fully engaged in the war on terror.

Why haven't we all been asked by our leaders to give more of ourselves as in previous wars? And most importantly, what can and should we all do about the national disconnect between citizen and soldier?

In part, most of us have gone on with our lives with minimal interruption because we are fighting an intensive, protracted two-front war with an all-volunteer force. Only a relatively small slice of American society, myself included, has any real connection to the brave men and women in uniform protecting our freedoms every day. Fewer still have any idea what their families are going through as they wait for their service members to come home.
What started as a kitchen-table idea evolved into ThanksUSA, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing post-secondary school scholarships to the children and spouses of those serving on active duty, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 1,000 military family members in all 50 states and D.C. have already received vocational and college scholarships, and another round will be awarded this year. Hundreds of thousands of other military families need and deserve a variety of support from community members, civic leaders, corporate leaders and all Americans as they set out to reclaim and reassemble their lives in the coming years.

Since the war began, there have been some shining examples, "best practices" in corporate-speak, of businesses supporting the troops and their families.

Home Depot, CVS and Dell have reached out to hire military spouses. Freddie Mac, purchaser of residential mortgages, has helped injured soldiers and their families to manage their finances upon re-entry to civilian life. Entrepreneurs such as Dan Caulfield (a veteran) recently created Hire a Hero, using the Internet to help returning service members connect with eager businesses seeking skilled workers.

Other service organizations are involved, including Fisher House, which provides housing near hospitals for families of wounded veterans, and information clearinghouses for military families such as America Supports You, as well as the modern USO, all doing their part daily to help military personnel.

Read it here (subscribers).

From the way he writes it appears Mr. Okun supports the war on terror. Many of us did not support the war in Iraq, but does that alienate us from his mission to mend the disconnection between citizen and soldier? Many rail that it would not continue if there was a draft, because the pain would be felt by politicians. There is recognition of pain and it is used for argumentation. But few of us ask what can we as citizens do for those soldiers who have felt the pain.

David Aikman on the attack dogs of Christendom

David Aikman writing in Christianity Today

What disturbs me ... is the extent to which some Christians have turned themselves into the self-appointed attack dogs of Christendom. They seem determined to savage not only opponents of Christianity, but also fellow believers of whose doctrinal positions they disapprove.

A troll through the Internet reveals websites so drenched in sarcasm and animosity that an agnostic, or a follower of another faith tradition interested in what it means to become a Christian, might be permanently disillusioned.

None of the major figures of American Protestantism in the past quarter-century have been spared from attack, from Billy Graham to Rick Warren, from Tim LaHaye to Robert Schuller. The attacks, moreover, are not reasoned or modestly couched criticism, but blasts of ire determined to discredit beyond redemption the targets of the criticism.
Then there is Pat Robertson, "one of the greatest deceivers in the church world today," and that hand-clasper with "Romanists" and "modernists," Elizabeth Elliot, widow of the martyred missionary in Ecuador, Jim Elliot. Elliot's great offense? Refusing "to separate from heretics." Oh, I forgot to mention: Elizabeth Elliot has compounded her sin by being a life-long Episcopalian.
By all means criticize fellow Christians if necessary, but do so with grace.

Read it all here.

Thanks to Kendall Harmon for drawing this to our attention.

Do we need some laughs?

Scott Gunn at Inclusive Church blog wonders about all the rumors, plots and secrets and how perhaps we need to laugh at ourselves when we get caught up in them. He writes:

Our church has become a place where we need to learn to hide our work? We need to master the skill of techno-obfuscation? This veil of secrecy should reveal something to all of us. God's love is open and transparent. In the Gospels, just as in life, the good guys don't plot in secret. In life, as in James Bond movies, all the plotting happens secretly, sometimes even in fake volcanoes. Shouldn't it tell us something that these dissenters gather in secrecy, to engage in secret business? Contrast that, if you will, with the progressive side. Our plans for Lambeth 2008 are right out in the open. Anyone can come to a meeting of the St. Anne's network, and the minutes are posted for all to see. We meet in a church, not in a fake volcano.

Here's my idea. Let's talk about rumors, but only for humor and jest. We could use a few laughs in the Communion. And let's stop the schoolyard whispering. It's not polite, and it's probably not God's love at work.

Seems like there is something in the Bible about things done in secret ---

Read Scott's blog here

End times?

Anglicans Online has noticed a trend on church notice boards of not only listing when services begin but a new phenomenum of listing the time when services end. They wonder why this is happening:

It is understandable that people should like to know when they'll be able to breakfast after communion or join friends for brunch. Others are keen to use what remains of Sunday to get on with some form of recreation: walking in the park or on the beach, finishing or starting a livre du jour, helping children with an essay due soon, or taking part in one of that most hallowed Sunday custom, the early afternoon post-church-and-paper nap. A clue about when a service will finish, as well as when it will start, can be undeniably helpful.

And yet we prefer to see just the starting times of services on signboards and websites. The time we give to Divine Worship is too important to be circumscribed by calculations after the manner of railway departures and arrivals. In this all-too-human world, a sermon inevitably goes longer or shorter than planned; a hymn takes longer to sing than one thought; a baby wails to the point of delaying a baptism for several minutes.

Read it all here.

Add your thoughts on time and worship.

Muslim-Christian declaration on freedom to convert

The signing of a declaration between a group representing Muslims and a leading Christian body in Norway, which supports the mutual right to convert between faiths without harassment, is the first pact of its type in the world, the two bodies have announced. Ekklesia reports:

The Islamic Council of Norway and the (Lutheran) Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations jointly declared that everyone is free to adopt the religious faith of their choice, at a gathering on 22 August 2007.

"As far as we know, this is the first time that a church and representative national Muslim organization have jointly acknowledged the right to convert," said Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary general of the church council.

He continued: "By issuing this declaration we hope to contribute to the international process on this important matter."

After signing their agreement, the two groups said in a statement: "We denounce and are committed to counteracting all violence, discrimination and harassment inflicted in reaction to a person’s conversion, or desire to convert, from one religion to another, be it in Norway or abroad."

Read it all here.

Provincial secretaries meet in Hong Kong

Twenty-nine Provincial Secretaries, including Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, met in Hong Kong for their sixth in a series of informal meetings started in the 1980s. Provincial Secretaries are key administrators for each province and the conference programme was designed to further their professional development, encourage them in their faith and ministry, increase knowledge and understanding of the challenges facing other Provinces and to strengthen bonds within the Communion. The Anglican Communion News Service published a statement from the meeting.

Each representative had time to brief colleagues on their own provinces. Provincial Secretaries from different parts of the world gave presentations on the distinctive roles they play in supporting Primates and Provinces in their decision making, financial management and support and development of ministries and staff. There were presentations and discussions on the particular difficulties facing Churches in places afflicted by civil war, conflict, unrest and disease. A number also spoke of situations where Christians face unjust treatment for their faith.

The Provincial Secretaries reflected on their role at the interface between Church and secular authorities and considered the variety of ways in which the Provinces of the Communion are seeking to manifest the love and mercy of Jesus Christ throughout their societies. They welcomed the strong commitment across the Communion to meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Time was devoted, both in plenaries and workshops, to considering specific issues affecting the mission of the Church, including evangelism, spirituality and changing patterns of ministry.

Bangladesh; Brazil; Burundi; Canada; Central Africa; Central American Region; England; Episcopal Church (USA); Hong Kong; Indian Ocean; Ireland; Japan; Jerusalem and the Middle East; Kenya; Melanesia; Mexico; Myanmar; Pakistan; Philippines; Rwanda; Scotland; South India; Tanzania; Uganda; Wales; West Africa; West Indies. The Anglican Churches in Cuba and Sri Lanka were also represented. Congo, Korea and Sudan had to send last minute apologies.

It seems that the secretaries are able to talk and carry on day to day life in the Communion in the midst of all the episco-drama.

Read it all here

Religious right sets up shop in Colorado Springs church

Grace Church, Colorado Springs, member of the Anglican Church of Nigeria (CANA) is back in the news offering space to a religious right training institute.

Fr. Jake cites the Colorado Springs Independent

...All of the attention over Grace has been lavished on the Rev. Don Armstrong, found guilty this month by an ecclesiastical court of financial misconduct and tax fraud totaling nearly $1 million, and receiving more than $122,000 in illegal loans. Armstrong is now a "person of interest" in a Colorado Springs police investigation.

Meanwhile, the John Jay Institute, its organizing machine hard at work in the bowels of Grace's building, has somehow escaped scrutiny.

What is this John Jay Institute, you wonder? Let's start with its president, Alan R. Crippen II. You might recognize Crippen — he's the guy who's been pitching Armstrong's talking points in the press. Turns out he's much, much more than a mouthpiece. But more on that in a minute...

...So just what is Crippen's institute? For starters, it's named after founding father John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States and co-author of the Federalist Papers. According to its literature, the official mission is to "prepare Christians for principled leadership in public life."

Let's cut to the nuts-and-bolts translation: Essentially, the institute appears to be a sort of high-class, all-expenses-paid Christian boot camp for recent promising college grads (preferably white, if the academy's online testimonials are a clue).

Every semester, a dozen or so idealistic students will trek to Colorado Springs to learn how to be secularity-busting soldiers for Jesus. They will then, as hopes go, attain leadership roles in the highest levels of government, where they will presumably work to obliterate the separation of church and state.

Talk 2 Action covers the story in Breakaway Episcopal Church installs big budget religious right training academy in the basement.

Analyzing the Christian Right vs. progressive leadership David Korten says "...the only voices most people hear speaking about values and spirit in the public discourse are those of the Far Right. Virtually every progressive leader I know is working from a deeply spiritual place, but we rarely speak openly in our environmental, peace, and justice work of values or the sacred. The time has come for the nation's mainstream churches to come out of the closet and speak publicly of values and the spiritual foundations of the progressive agenda and to articulate spiritually grounded stories of human possibility and the world that the living Jesus called us to create."

Other stories on this subject here and here.

Thanks to epiScope for the lead.

Importance of doubt

Anti-religion books and books on atheism have been bestsellers this year. John Cornwell writes of his struggles with his faith and why he thinks Richard Dawkins and others fail to understand what it means to believe.

Cornwell writes in The Guardian:

It is a year since Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion prompted a torrent of adulation and anguished riposte. The crucial issue he raised is not so much that religious believers can morph into violent extremists (which they patently can), but what is to be done about it. Dawkins thinks that religion is irrational, because it means accepting truths without logic and evidence; and dangerous, because such systematic irrationality can lead to extreme acts of violence. So hideously irrational and dangerous is the disease of faith, he claims, that faith instruction to the young is worse than paedophile abuse. Dawkins wants to rid the world of religion.

Cornwell's response to Dawkins et al is:

As someone who had wavered between agnosticism and atheism for two decades, before having returned queasily to Christianity, I empathised with Greene's faith as "doubt of doubt" as opposed to faith as certitude. Faith is a journey without arrival, complicated by false turns, breakdowns, dead ends and wheel-changes. Faith, like love, is seldom entirely constant; nor is it irrevocable. While frequently assailed by doubt, faith is open to provisional, symbolic interpretations (most Christians outside the American bible belt do not take the book of Genesis literally). Those who pursue a religious vocation are not spared vicissitudes of faith and doubt, any more than card-carrying atheists. Mother Teresa, the Albanian nun who worked for the poor in Calcutta, left letters in which she spoke of her doubts right up to her death: "Where is my faith?" she once wrote to a confidant. "Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. If there be a God - please forgive me." By the same token, Professor AJ Ayer, the most ardent atheist of his day, proclaimed that he believed in an afterlife following a near-death experience in 1988 when he was clinically dead for four minutes. After a few days, and an outcry from the atheists' society, of which he was the president, he partially recanted: "What I should have said is that my experiences have weakened, not my belief that there is no life after death, but my attitude towards that belief." Doubt of doubt.

Dawkins' recourse to the analogies of disease and medicine is, of course, entirely well meant, and I know him to be a man of the most liberal sympathies, but has he considered the far-reaching consequences of similar metaphors employed by far less well-meaning figures? It was only to be expected that a bold thesis that condemned religion en masse would have profound socio-political implications. Dawkins is a brilliant natural historian, whose science books I have celebrated in a string of reviews. The God Delusion has been criticised for trespassing clumsily in the realms of theology; but my own objections are more in the ambit of socio-politics. Put bluntly, The God Delusion is liable to persuade religious fundamentalists that a pluralist secular society is every bit as hostile to the practice of faith as they ever thought it to be. By urging the elimination of religion in the name of all that civil society holds dear, Dawkins is inviting fundamentalists to be even more fundamentalist. His book, then, is a counsel of despair as well as an incitement to the very thing he deplores and seeks to remedy.

More thoughts by John Cornwell here.

Christianity Today's John Wilson lists his top 5 books on atheism. On the Nature of the Universe by Lucretius So you are a little weary of reading Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and such? Take a break with Lucretius—not an atheist, strictly speaking, but a first-century B.C. materialist forerunner of Dawkins & Co.

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
For bright young Christians who are engaging the atheist boomlet of 2007 and for whom existentialism is merely one of many isms in the last century's garbage dump, it would be instructive to read this novel, first published in French in 1938.

Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America
by James C. Turner
There's a Catholic argument that blames the Reformation for the rise of atheism. Aha! That's where the trouble started. Turner offers a subtler version, showing how developments within Christendom prepared the ground.

Crisis of Doubt: Honest Faith in Nineteenth-Century England
by Timothy Larsen
Larsen tells the fascinating story of Victorians who renounced their faith, campaigned vigorously for atheism—in print and on the speaker's platform—and then reconverted to Christianity.

Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life
Louise M. Antony, ed.
This Atheists R Us compilation differs markedly in tone from Hitchens and Dawkins. Excellent fare for Christian small groups whose members are genuinely interested in the arguments raised by atheists.

I find that Dawkins and others set up a God is not recognizable to this follower of Jesus Christ. He attacks and trivializes this "non-God" and in the process sells books.

What books would you recommend for seekers with doubts?

Kenya adds bishops for US, UPDATE

The AP is reporting that two American priests were consecrated Thursday as Anglican bishops in Kenya.

Bill Atwood of Texas and William Murdoch of Massachusetts left the Episcopal Church -- the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion -- because it allows the ordination of gay priests.

"The gospel ... must take precedence over culture," said Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, one of 10 Anglican leaders or representatives who attended the ceremony in Nairobi's All Saints Cathedral. "Homosexual practice violates the order of life given by God in Holy Scripture."

The spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has asked African archbishops not to consecrate U.S. priests to help avoid a schism. Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi said there had been no direct communication with Williams over the Thursday's ceremony.

Williams has no direct authority to force a compromise because each Anglican province is self-governing.

Archbishop Gomez is head of the Covenant Design Group named by Williams.

Read it all here

Andrew Carey - a leading evangelical and son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury has strong reservations about these extra-territorial consecrations:

To add to the Anglican chaos this week we have a further three consecrations of Americans to African provinces.

Bill Atwood, one of the new breed of independent shadowy Anglican fixers is to be consecrated by the Archbishop of Kenya on 30 August, together with the Rev Bill Murdoch, while the Rev John Guernsey receives the laying on of hands by the Archbishop of Uganda this weekend. According to my calculations when you add these three to the six Bishops of the Anglican Mission in America, and Bishop Martyn Minns who was consecrated by the Archbishop of Nigeria earlier this year, that makes 10 new bishops to serve disaffected conservative congregations in the Episcopal Church of the USA. In the meantime there continues to be talk about incursions by Nigeria onto English soil.

I’m not convinced about either the need for more mitres, or about the timing of all these consecrations.

Read his comments here

Sugden on Revolution in Anglicanism

Chris Sugden, writing in a British evangelical publication uses a new metaphor as a way to view the struggles and possible breakup in the Anglican Communion thusly:

"Revolution in common parlance is an overthrow of the existing order. But when a wheel has completed one revolution, a point on its circumference has returned to its point of origin. And a revolution is a return to the beginning, a restoration.

What we are in the middle of now in the Anglican Communion is not schism or separation, but a revolution. In the last decades, the Communion has been increasingly under the dominance of leadership which is over-influenced by the assumptions of western intellectual culture through the dominant role of the Church of England and ECUSA. People are now saying publicly that this unrepresentative dominance must end.

Archbishop Orombi of Uganda has said ‘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 reason there is a global Anglicanism today is that Anglicans were compelled by the Word of God to share the gospel throughout the expanding British Empire and beyond. In the absence today of such a convenient infrastructure, the future of the Anglican Communion is found in embracing the key Reformation and evangelical principles that have had such an impact in Uganda. Without a commitment to the authority of the Word of God, a confidence in a God who acts in the world, and a conviction of the necessity of repentance and of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we will be hard-pressed as a communion to revive and advance our apostolic and missionary calling as a church.’

In other words, the future is to be found in returning to the key Reformation and evangelical principles that are the strength and core of the Anglican expression of Christian faith."

Read the rest here.

BBC asks are we "Heading for Anarchy?"

An article by Alex Kirby posted on the BBC news pages reflects on the future of the Anglican Communion given what happened in Kenya yesterday, and by extension, what is scheduled to happen in Uganda this weekend:

"So when one bishop (in this case Dr Nzimbi [the Primate of Kenya]) acts in a way that undercuts the authority of another bishop, it is the clearest possible way of emphasising the Church's disunity.

What Dr Nzimbi is saying, in effect, is that he knows better than the US bishops about the pastoral needs of their people.

The two new bishops promised to 'serve the international interests of the Anglican Church of Kenya, to serve clergy and congregations in North America under the Kenyan jurisdiction'.

It is a formula which ignores the fact that none of the Anglican Communion's member churches has any international interests of its own.

All are - in theory - united in working for the interests of the Communion itself.

And the claim that there are North American Anglicans 'under the Kenyan jurisdiction' is breathtaking in the way it opens the door to ecclesiastical anarchy.

No doubt Dr Nzimbi believes the consecrations are in the best interests of Kenyan Anglicans, and of their fellow believers elsewhere in Africa.

In fact they look very unlikely to be anything of the sort.

Read the rest: BBC NEWS: Kenya consecration deepens Anglican rift

British bishop and others write in support of Kenyan consecrations

An article in the Times Online reports that a group of deputies to the Church of England's General Synod and one of her bishops has written in public support of the episcopal ordinations of American clergy taking place this week in Kenya and this weekend in Uganda:

"The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, headed a list of more than 30 members of the Church of England's General Synod who sent a message to the two new bishops backing their episcopal ministry, even though acknowledging it is 'out of the ordinary'.

They said: 'You will represent vibrant and growing Churches in Africa in their love and care for those in the United States who are suffering for their commitment to the faith once delivered to the saints, in the face of a determined capitulation by The Episcopal Church to the forces of contemporary North American culture.

'We see in your ministry a wonderful expression of the Gospel promise that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus. For African Christians who live in economically poorer countries are taking considerable risks in their relations with powerful institutions in order to care for American Christians in economically privileged countries.

'We see here the universal church responding to the needs of local churches, and the local church responding to the need of the universal church, to find a way to preserve global orthodox Anglican witness and fellowship, that is not impaired by man-made intermediate structures."

Read the rest: US priests become Kenyan bishops in gay protest

A living wage

For Labor Day weekend, a meditation on the spiritual importance of living wage legislation from Archdeacon Michael S. Kendall of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. See it here. And read this brochure from the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice.

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