Presiding Bishop warns Bishop Duncan

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is making public a letter of warning that is being sent to a bishop who is actively seeking to withdraw his diocese from the Episcopal Church, and has stated that letters to other bishops will follow.

According to Episcopal Life Online the Presiding Bishop released the following letter:

The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA

Dear Bob,

There have been numerous public references in recent weeks regarding resolutions to be introduced at your forthcoming diocesan convention. Those resolutions, if adopted, would amend several of your diocesan canons and begin the process of amending one or more provisions of your diocesan Constitution. I have reviewed a number of these proposed resolutions, and it is evident to me that they would violate the Constitutional requirement that the Diocese conform to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. It is apparent from your pre-convention report that you endorse these proposed changes. I am also aware of other of your statements and actions in recent months that demonstrate an intention to lead your diocese into a position that would purportedly permit it to depart from The Episcopal Church. All these efforts, in my view, display a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between The Episcopal Church and its dioceses. Our Constitution explicitly provides that a diocese must accede to the Constitution and Canons of the Church.

I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes. That relationship is at the heart of our mission, as expressed in our polity. Specifically, I sincerely hope that you will change your position and urge your diocese at its forthcoming convention not to adopt the resolutions that you have until now supported.

If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church -- by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased -- and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action.

It grieves me that any bishop of this Church would seek to lead any of its members out of it. I would remind you of my open offer of an Episcopal Visitor if you wish to receive pastoral care from another bishop. I continue to pray for reconciliation of this situation, and I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Katharine Jefferts Schori

Read Jan Nunley's article for Episcopal Life here.

Comments from the blogosphere:

Father Jake is concerned with the slow process of working through the canons and asks how faithful Episcopalians can be supported in this time:

First the Title IV Review Committee will consider the matter. That could take a couple of months. The bishops would then have two months to recant. Then the entire House of Bishops would have to meet and vote. It looks like the faithful in San Joaquin will be in a kind of limbo for at least five to six months. That is not good. In a time of crisis like this, it is critical that the Church move swiftly to assure that her members receive the kind of pastoral care such a traumatic situation will demand.

Mark Harris at Preludium raises the issue of danger in the mean time of the continued CANA incursions and making of more bishops for the US.

Thinking Anglicans has comments at their site.

Manners of life and the wider church

Father Jake points us to Anglican Underground, which impressed him (and us) with a post on what it means to have a "manner of life [that] presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion," as ambiguously expressed in Resolution B033. Jeremy Lucas, the author of the post at Anglican Underground, wryly notes that there are many areas that present such a challenge, including environmental issues (driving an SUV might be such a manner of life, he says), war ("Any one who does not actively work and use any, active non-violent means to end war does not have a manner of life worthy of being a bishop," he muses), and economic justice, citing various Lambeth resolutions:

In fact I think a complete financial analysis of every candidate for Bishop is in order to make sure that they are spending their money in accordance with Biblical principals and Lambeth Resolutions. This report should be made public knowledge and there should be an opportunity for the laity to respond.

In fact I think when Jesus said in Matthew "where your treasure is there your heart will be also" he gave us the best possible way to figure out what a persons "manner of life" is. We should begin to require a complete financial report of each Bishop and candidate for Bishop. Let's not allow the Episcopacy to hide their manner of life behind their checkbooks.

Anyway this should just about exclude everyone from the possibility of being a bishop and those who make it through this process obviously have not have enough life experience to be effective shepherds to the flock so they are out too. Have a great day.

Fr. Jake notes that the House of Bishops did attempt to clarify what was meant by the passage at its meeting last month:

...The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains...

By singling out one particular "manner of life" that presents a challenge to the Communion, the bishops seem to have excluded a number of other "manners of life" that one would hope are at least as challenging, if not more so. How about bishops in multiple marriages? Schismatic bishops? Slothful bishops? It seems that if we are to be bound by this "manner of life" language, we really need to help the bishops explore a much more complete definition.

Jeremy, in return, offers this modest proposal:

I would suggest that there is another way to take subjectivity out of the decisions around who can be a Bishop. It is the development of a Manner of Life Quotient. This is how it would work. First everyone would agree on a number of criteria upon which a candidate for the episcopacy should be judged. Second each candidate would go through a thorough investigation process and be given a numerical score on each section. Then those scores would be calculated to give you a Manner of Life score. Each section would be weighted differently based on how much importance is placed on it in scripture and our tradition. So homosexuality would be weighted very lightly, while giving and generosity would be weighted very heavily. So someone could be gay and be very generous and score higher that a stingy straight person. This should clear it all up. I hope to have the criteria and scoring worked out by sometime next week.

Jake's post is here, and Jeremy's are here and (followup) here.

UMC allows transgendered pastor to retain post

The Episcopal Church is not alone in struggling to address the matter of GLBT people and ordained ministry. The United Methodist Church has been trying to figure out what to do about the Rev. Drew Phoenix. Phoenix, previously, was the Rev. Ann Brown, and underwent sexual reassignment surgery a year and a half ago. After his reappointment to continue pastoring his congregation at St. Johns United Methodist Church in Baltimore earlier this year by his bishop, John Schol, several other clergymembers in the Baltimore-Washington conference challenged the decision.

According to the Baltimore Sun:

The highest judicial body of the United Methodist Church announced yesterday that a transgender man can remain pastor of a congregation in Charles Village.

The ruling by the Judicial Council affirms last spring's decision by Bishop John R. Schol to reappoint the Rev. Drew Phoenix -- formerly the Rev. Ann Gordon -- to St. John's United Methodist Church.

Backstory from USA Today shows that there was concern whether the Judicial Council would uphold the decision. Dr. James Holsinger Jr. heads the council; Holsinger is Bush's appointee for Surgeon General and has stirred up some controversy for his comments describing gay sex as "abnormal and unhealthy."

A report on the ruling is here. The USA Today story, from two weeks ago, is here.

Faith and political stumping bad mix, say voters

A recent poll of American voters indicates a distaste for, as they perceive it, candidates' use of their faith to influence the electorate. Sixty-eight percent of respondents agreed with this statement: "Presidential candidates should not use their religion or faith to influence voters to support them." The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the Interfaith Alliance, surveyed 1,000 adults and had a margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points. And it wasn't just the atheists and agnostics who responded in the affirmative, according to a report from Religion News Service:

Even regular churchgoers think presidential hopefuls should not use their faith as a campaign tool: Almost 60 percent of survey respondents who regularly attend religious services agreed with the statement.

The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said candidates went "too far" at the Value Voters summit as they tried to "out-Christian" each other.

"We're not electing a pastor-in-chief, we're electing a commander-in-chief," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Candidates can certainly speak about their religion and beliefs as "points of identification for who they are," Gaddy said, but they push the limits when they imply that voters should support them because of their religion.

The whole article is available at the Pew Forum.

Australia: Women bishops OK; gay acceptance still a battle

Australia has cleared the way for women to become bishops (story here), but even as some still cite that as a divisive decision, they now must press on to handle questions about sexuality, according to an article last week in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Justice Peter Young, deputy chairman of the Australian church's General Synod, believes homosexuality will be the next controversy to confront the Australian church now that the debate over women bishops has been all but thrashed out.

"We can see from England and New Zealand what the problems are. We can see that the next problem is between the hierarchy and gay and lesbian Christians," he says.

The spectrum of stories was presented at a compulsory "listening process" meeting, as set out by Lambeth, between the church and GLBT Christians.

The article covers several stories of gay people in the church, all of whom spoke anonymously, an indication of how difficult it is to be openly gay (or to have been gay) for Australian Anglicans:

As Australia's Anglican leader, the Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Phillip Aspinall, lamented this week it has been hard to get cool, rational debate on the vexed issue of homosexuality.

"David," for instance, is a clergyman who came out to his archbishop shortly after his ordination:

The archbishop's initial reaction was to "gently ease" him out of the ministry but following the intervention of an assistant bishop, David was sent for psychiatric counselling.

The psychiatrist concluded David was well and simply needed patience to wait until social community mores caught up with his sexual orientation. David went on with his parish work, took on a tough inner-city parish, and remains an ordained member of the clergy in a rural parish. He is honest about who he is, but subtle as well.

But his patience has been rewarded with more derision and a global church hastily trying to paper over fissures over faith and sexuality. If anything, the church has become more fearful and very often mean-spirited against gays, he says.

Other stories shared included one of a person who had left the church because he felt like he was not being treated like a whole person, one of a gay man who had chosen celibacy, and one of a woman who had been a lesbian and even identified as transgendered before renouncing homosexuality and marrying at age 29. She is now the proud mother of three children.

You can read their stories here.

Religion: It just won't go away

The Economist surveys the impact of religion and modern culture, and finds that modernism and religion are uneasy bedfellows.

Many secular intellectuals think that the real “clash of civilisations” is not between different religions but between superstition and modernity. A succession of bestselling books have torn into religion—Sam Harris's “The End of Faith”, Richard Dawkins's “The God Delusion” and Christopher Hitchens's “God is not Great—How Religion Poisons Everything”. This counterattack already shows a religious intensity. Mr Dawkins has set up an organisation to help atheists around the world.

Part of that secular fury, especially in Europe, comes from exasperation. After all, it has been a canon of progressive thought since the Enlightenment that modernity—that heady combination of science, learning and democracy—would kill religion. Plainly, this has not happened. Numbers about religious observance are notoriously untrustworthy, but most of them seem to indicate that any drift towards secularism has been halted, and some show religion to be on the increase. The proportion of people attached to the world's four biggest religions—Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism—rose from 67% in 1900 to 73% in 2005 and may reach 80% by 2050.

Moreover, from a secularist point of view, the wrong sorts of religion are flourishing, and in the wrong places.

One effect of a globalizing economy is the culture wars have also gone global.

Pious people are shouting “Stop!” (or at least “Slow down!”) to things liberals regard as progress. The three main battlefields are culture, science and economics.

Such a sweeping generalisation requires an immediate caveat. The three battlefields are reasonably well defined, but the people fighting on them are not. On the secular side, progressive Parisians and New Yorkers may both be modern, but often have very different attitudes to economics. The religious side is even more fragmented. Conservative American churches tend to embrace modern capitalism, but are suspicious of biotechnology and modern culture; by contrast, leftish American evangelicals are much more bothered about globalisation than about stem cells. The technophobic Catholic hierarchy in Europe is mildly hostile to modern culture, science and capitalism, and technophile Muslim fundamentalists loathe all three.

Anyone who has taken a high school or freshman Western Civilization survey course may have been taught believe that religious wars are a thing of the past, but religious conflict is all too common.

Faith is once again prolonging conflict. Religion is seldom the casus belli: indeed, in many struggles, notably the Middle East in modern times, it is amazing how long it took for religion to become a big part of the argument. But once there, it makes conflicts harder to resolve. A squabble over land (which can be divided) or power (which can be shared) or rules (that can be fudged) becomes a dispute over non-negotiable absolutes. If you believe that God granted you the West Bank, or that any form of abortion is murder, compromise is not really possible.

But not all religious conflict leads to war or violence. They can have a transforming, even democratizing effect.

Yet the foremost way in which religion has expressed itself around the world has been more peaceful: the ballot box. Religious people have either formed religious parties (such as India's BJP) or converted secular ones into more faith-driven outfits (such as America's Republican Party). In places where religion was frowned upon by the state, such as Mexico or Turkey, greater freedom has allowed the pious to form parties, such as the Catholic-oriented PAN party or the Islamic AK Party.

And it has not just been a case of democracy helping religion. Timothy Shah of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that it can go the other way too. By his calculation, more than 30 of the 80 or so countries that became freer in 1972-2000 owed some of the improvement to religion. Sometimes established churches helped to push for democracy (eg, the Catholic church in Poland), but more often it was pressure from the grassroots: religious people usually look for a degree of freedom (if only to pursue their faith).

The most significant change driving religion today--and the impact of religion on culture-- is that more and more dynamic religion is chosen religion. In the past, religion was defined pretty much by where and to whom one was born. Today, the more modernized the culture, the more likely that religion is chosen, and a religion that one chooses is held more tightly than religion one inherits.

Choice is the most “modern” thing about contemporary religion. “We made a category mistake,” admits Peter Berger, the Boston sociologist, who was once one of the foremost champions of secularisation but changed his mind in the 1980s. “We thought that the relationship was between modernisation and secularisation. In fact it was between modernisation and pluralism.” Religion is no longer taken for granted or inherited; it is based around adults making a choice, going to a synagogue, temple, church or mosque.

This has a profound affect on public life. The more that people choose their religion, rather than just inherit it, the more likely they are to make a noise about it. Miroslav Volf, director of Yale's Centre for Faith and Culture, says this is showing up in the workplace too: “It used to be that workers hung their religion on a coat rack alongside their coats. At home, their religion mattered. At work, it was idle. That is no longer the case. For many people religion has something to say about all aspects of life, work included.”

This look at religion from the economists' standpoint--how religion and culture intersect and impacts peoples choices--calls us to look at the impact of faith in new ways and may challenge long-held assumptions about how the Gospel is proclaimed in an increasingly global, connected world.

Discussing the work of executive council

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson review the work and decisions of Executive Council at the conclusion of its October 26-28 meeting in Dearborn, Michigan.

A video stream of the interview, conducted by executive editor of Episcopal Life Media, the Rev. Jan Nunley, is available here.

A house dividing?

Updated. Again This is convention season in the Episcopal Church, and most will be conducting the routine business of mission, but in Pittsburgh they will be weighing the question of whether the Diocese will even remain in the Episcopal Church or attempt to strike out on their own.

Kecia Bal of the JohnstownTribune-Democrat writes:

Episcopalians nationwide are watching as leaders and delegates of the Episcopal Church’s Pittsburgh Diocese converge on Johnstown today to consider separating from their national affiliation.

“It is like my parents are getting divorced,” said Cindy Leap, parishioner at St. Mark’s Episcopalian Church in Johnstown. “I have to pick whether to go with my mommy or daddy.”

The Convention will vote on the first reading of constitutional changes that would attempt to separate the Diocese from the Episcopal Church, becoming its own free-standing entity, allow the Diocese to pick the Primate of their choice from around the Anglican Communion, and welcome into membership congregations that are not within the geographical boundaries of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Such declarations have been considered null and void and this week, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, wrote a letter to the Rt. Rev. Bob Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, stating that she is "aware of other of [his] statements and actions in recent months that demonstrate an intention to lead [his] diocese into a position that would purportedly permit it to depart from The Episcopal Church." She goes on to say

If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church -- by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased -- and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action.

It grieves me that any bishop of this Church would seek to lead any of its members out of it. I would remind you of my open offer of an Episcopal Visitor if you wish to receive pastoral care from another bishop.

People in the diocese who are in favor of the split see this as a matter of conscience.

The first reading of Resolution 1, which would change the constitution to prepare the diocese to leave the Episcopal Church and choose their own primate is reported to have passed.

Luminous Darkness has posted the results:

The Diocese of Pittsburgh voted just now to leave the Episcopal Church, not in so many words, but that is the spirit of Resolution 1 at the Diocesan Convention. The Resolution says several things, but the most important points are that the Diocese of Pittsburgh is free to choose its own Provincial alignment by canon and that it may contain parishes outside its historical geographic boundaries. The majority was not staggering, but in the lay order was approximately 66% in favor and 33% against and in the clerical order, 82% in favor and 18% against.

That blog also quotes Bishop Duncan's words to moderates and his view of what will happen next.

If Resolution One passes, our work in the year ahead would likely include determination of the Province with which the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh might re-align, development of acceptable options available to minority congregations, and negotiation, both nationally and with plaintiffs locally, about a mediated alternative to continuing or escalating litigation.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has posted Bishop Bob Duncan's written response to The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori:

Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them.

Clarity vs. ambiguity

Since the release of the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to the Bishop of Central Florida, many have wondered if it is possible for the Anglican Communion to come out of this era of crisis well.

T.W. Bartel, over at Modern Churchpeople's Union says the that letter is "scarcely innocuous."

On 14 October 2007 the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida full text here. There was considerable discussion in the blogosphere. A clarification was issued by Lambeth Palace - which caused yet more debate.

At issue were the ecclesiological assumptions contained in the letter. The Archbishop appeared to remove the national church and province from any significant role in his understanding of Anglican polity. He also seemed to suggest that a 'Windsor-compliant' diocese would be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, separate from the relationship of the diocese to its province.

In a letter to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, by contrast, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori makes very clear that the national church and its constitutional structures are a very sharp reality.

He concludes:

In the midst of these circumstances, the trustworthiness of the ‘Instruments of Unity' is scarcely enhanced when the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a personal letter to another bishop, takes it as read that the Instruments, in addition to having the power to deprive a member church of full status in the Communion, have the authority to recognise dissident dioceses of that church as retaining that status—so long as their bishop conforms to the strictures of documents and processes with no legitimate binding force on the Communion. And, pace Lambeth Palace, that is both a new policy statement—albeit a natural extension of current policy— and a road map for the future of the Communion—though in the event that TEC is expelled from the Communion, that Communion has no future worthy of the name.

Read it all here.

Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans.

The US and Iran: A difficult history

Washington National Cathedral hosted a panel discussion on the U. S.--Iranian relationship earlier this week. The Web cast is now available.

The panel, moderated by Congressman Wayne T. Gilchrist, (R-MD), featured: Bruce Laingen, former Iran hostage and State Department official; Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times bureau chief and author of All the Shah’s Men; Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and author of Treacherous Alliance: the Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States and Dr. Abbas Amanat, Iran scholar, professor of history at Yale University and author of In Search of Modern Iran: Authority, Nationhood, and Culture.

It is a two-hour presentation, and you can safely skip the first 15 minutes.

Episcopal Church is not divisible

Bishops thinking of leading their dioceses out of The Episcopal Church seem to have missed lessons on church history somewhere along the line. The Diocese of Pittsburgh's vote on Resolution 1, as reported in A House Dividing yesterday is based on the idea that Dioceses are free standing entities. This reading of history has no basis in fact according to scholars of American history.

In 1959, James Allen (Jim) Dator, Professor, and Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa, wrote a dissertation on The Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Confederal, Federal, or Unitary?. It was accepted by the Faculty of the Graduate School (School of Government) of The American University, Washington, DC, in 1959 in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

The complete dissertation is here

In October of 2004, he wrote:

As the introduction to my dissertation clearly states, I wrote this dissertation to resolve a constitutional conundrum that personally perplexed and interested me, and not because I had any a priori preference for one outcome over others. Moreover I was not involved in any actual controversy in the Church, and I don't recall that it was in fact an especially hot topic at the time, though the matter has always been in dispute. It was just that, as a political scientist (and Anglican) who had to write a doctoral dissertation about something I decided to write it on this issue since I wanted to know what the fundamental structure of the PECUSA was, having read so many conflicting statements about it. I was also interested in the emerging topic of "private governance" and saw this dissertation as a contribution to that field.

I started my dissertation out by reviewing the extensive history of differences of opinion (and strident conflicts) within PECUSA about whether the government is confederal, federal or unitary (and these terms were often specifically used over the history of the controversies).

I then did what I believed no one had done before--carefully defined what the three terms (confederal, federal, or unitary) actually meant, so that I could determine what the case truly was (important in part because historically people often used the terms very loosely, as I showed, and thus misleadingly for people reading the comments later).

Then, on page 53 and 54, after carefully reviewing the various drafts of a constitution for PECUSA, and the Church's Constitution as adopted on October 2, 1789, I conclude two things:

(1) The Church's constitution was NOT made in imitation of the US Constitution. Thus, while the US Constitution is a federal system, giving the states certain rights and the central government other rights, "there is not explicit in the Church's Constitution of 1789 any definition of a division of powers [between the dioceses and the General Convention], even though the framers of that Constitution had models of both the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution before them" (p. 53).

(2) PECUSA was created as a unitary and not a federal government: "In summary, neither Bishop White's "Case", nor the "Fundamental Principles" of 1784, nor the "General Ecclesiastical Constitution" of 1785, nor the "General Constitution of 1786," nor the Constitution of 1789 provided explicitly for a constitutional division of powers. Such a division of powers is an essential manifestation of both federal and confederal governments. Neither is there any other evidence to indicate that the Constitution is one of a confederation. Indeed, as far as the written Constitution is explicitly concerned, the Church's government is unitary" (p. 54).

This was not changed subsequently: "An examination of the constitutional amendments accepted by the General Convention [from 1789-1959] shows that no section has been added to the Constitution either for the specific or incidental purpose of affirming or denying the federal or confederal (p. 54) structure of the Church or of a division of powers between the central and diocesan governments" (p. 55). The original unitary structure still stands.

His notes continue below:

Read more »

A lovely outing

We've been waiting to enter the fray over J. K. Rowlng's outing of her character Albus Dumbledore until we could point toward an article with a positive ISR (insight-to-snark ratio.) Mark Harris of EW stepped up to the plate.

It's often said that if every gay person in the world were to turn purple overnight, homophobia would disappear: In other words, fewer people would be inclined to vilify other human beings if they woke up one day and discovered that they'd been aiming stones at their college roommate, their aunt, their grocer, or their grandson. Statistics bear this out: People who have a gay family member or friend have more enlightened attitudes about homosexuality than those who don't. What Rowling has done, brilliantly, is to turn Dumbledore purple. She didn't reveal his sexuality in order to unlock a new way of reading the books, or as a provocation. She simply told the world that a main character in the best-loved books of the last 10 years is homosexual, and asked her audience to contend with it — and with the fact that it shouldn't matter. And her choice to make a beloved professor-mentor gay in a world where gay teachers are still routinely slandered as malign influences was, I am certain, no accident.

Bring back Zeus?

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Mary Lefkowitz suggests that it is time to bring back the Greek gods. She writes: By allowing mortals to ask hard questions, Greek theology encouraged them to learn, to seek all the possible causes of events. Philosophy -- that characteristically Greek invention -- had its roots in such theological inquiry. As did science.

Read it all.

Photo ID

Bishop Barbara Harris, whom we've been in touch with this evening has not visited San Francisco in several years. Pay a visit here to find out why that is relevant. There's being wrong, and then there's being recklessly and maliciously wrong. This is the latter. An apology will no doubt ensue. The question is whether reputable conservative thinkers will continue to associate themselves with this Web site.

Update. Sunday 4 Nov 07 10:30AM Eastern. The post is currently taken down. Here is a cache version. - JBC

The power of positive thinking

A study of optimism and financial behavior and optimism by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business finds that a little optimism leads to prudent behavior, but too much optimism leads to some pretty stupid behaviors:

Manju Puri and David Robinson, professors of finance at Duke, report in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of Financial Economics that the differences between optimists and extreme optimists provide important insights into the interaction between psychology and economic and lifestyle choices.

Puri and Robinson developed a novel method to assess individuals' levels of optimism, drawing on data from the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finance (SCF), a triennial assessment of U.S. families' financial and demographic information. Although the SCF does not ask about optimism directly, it does ask respondents how long they expect to live. It also collects demographics, and health-related information--the same sort of information that actuaries use to estimate life expectancy.

The Duke researchers combined these data to determine participants' statistical life expectancies. Then they compared the statistical and self-reported life expectancies and categorized anyone who expected to live longer than the data predicted as an optimist.

. . .

Puri and Robinson also labeled as "extreme optimists" the top 5 percent of optimists, those who think they will live an average of 20 years longer than is statistically likely.

Optimism indeed relates to a large number of behaviors, they found. In small doses optimism can lead to wise decision making, but extreme optimists "display financial habits and behavior that are generally not considered prudent," the authors wrote.

Puri and Robinson find that optimists:

Work longer hours;
Invest in individual stocks;
Save more money;
Are more likely to pay their credit card balances on time;
Believe their income will grow over the next five years;
Plan to retire later (or not at all);
Are more likely to remarry (if divorced).
In comparison, extreme optimists:

Work significantly fewer hours;
Hold a higher proportion of individual stocks in their portfolios, and are more likely to be day traders;
Save less money;
Are less likely to pay off their credit card balances on a regular basis;
Are more likely to smoke.
"The differences between optimists and extreme optimists are remarkable, and suggest that over-optimism, like overconfidence, may in fact lead to behaviors that are unwise," said Puri.

The findings could lead to useful ways to consider individuals' investment and career planning decisions, and help people understand or overcome personality characteristics that can negatively affect important financial decisions, the authors say.

"Doctors tell us that one or two glasses of red wine a day can be really healthy," Robinson said. "But no one tells you to drink the whole bottle. It's the same with optimism. A little bit is really beneficial, but too much can lead to some really bad economic choices."

Read it all here.

A note from Bishop Barbara Harris

A note from Bishop Barbara Harris, who was the subject of a long stream of erroneously-directed abuse yesterday on the Web site Stand Firm in Faith:

Jim,

Was not me! Knew nothing of the demonstration nor have I been in San Francisco for several years now and I know nothing of the dull normal who runs the Stand Firm In Faith (which faith?) website. As a Black person, I am quite accustomed to the fact that to many, if not most, white folk "we all look alike." That is why so many Black folk sit in jail from "eye witness identification" accounts. I have been identified and addressed as the Rev.Dr. Katie Cannon, the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglass, the Rev. Sandye Williams and the Rev. Mary Adebonojo, as well as Diane Pollard and Nell B.Gibson. Oh well, fact of life in "America the (racist) Beautiful."

So while I do have a concern for the Palestinian people, that definetly is not me in the photo. I also have a deep concern about so called orthodox Anglicans, Episcopalians in particular, who feel they have cornered the market on revealed truth and righteousness. It's a heavy Fred Phelps, Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson-like burden to carry.

Feel free to pass this on to them if you wish. I do not know how to blog on to websites and would not do so to such a freakie one as that.

Affectionately,
+Barbara

Greg Griffith, who posted the item, has now apologized.

Updated: This seems appropos. The magic words: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" come up at 9:34.

This line from The Crucible, seems on point, as well: "I shall not rest til every inch of this province belongs again to God." Spoken by the hanging judge.


The cached version of this item is all that is now available, and it does not convey some of the nastier insults lobbed at the bishop by a brave anonymous poster named Jeffersonian and by the site's editor Greg Griffith. But have a look for a brief taste.

A new, more spiritual SimCity?

This Sunday editor must admit that he has spent (my wife would say wasted) many an hour becoming the master of the universe by building the cities of my dreams on the Sim City computer game. While the game can be addicting, it is certainly true that the Sim City designers have assumed a particular set of largely materialistic values into the game. That will now change with the introduction of Sim City Societies that will allow the game players to choose from a wider assortment of value systems:

Since its debut nearly two decades ago, Electronic Arts's (EA) SimCity has allowed its players to become the masters of their own mini-domains. But there was always a nagging feeling that the game judged their moves based on some preset moral compass. No more: in the new version of the game SimCity Societies, set to hit stores on November 15, zoning and infrastructure planning requirements designed to keep city planners on the right track have been replaced with a much broader definition of success.

SimCity Societies encourages its virtual architects to design cities that maximize any one of a number of different values, including authority, creativity, knowledge, productivity, prosperity and spirituality. Players determine whether their cities turn out to be capitalist meccas or artistic hippie societies based on criteria such as the power source, types of buildings and the proximity of those buildings to one another.

The goal is to produce a high level of "societal energy," by developing a city with one or more of the game's six values. Societal energy is a fairly intangible force, but players know they have it when their cities grow and their citizens are happy and productive. "If you put the city together right, it has the right energy," says Rachel Bernstein, producer of SimCity Societies. Players place buildings within their cities in order to maximize the values most important to them, whether they are productivity and prosperity or creativity and spirituality.

Read it all here.

Francis Collins Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

In a White House ceremony tomorrow, Dr, Francis Collins will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work as "director of the National Human Genome Research Institute is being honored for his leadership of the Human Genome Project and for greatly expanding the understanding of the human DNA."

In addition to his work as a scientists, Collins is also well known in Christian circles for his book "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief", which acts as both a defense of the compatibility of evolution to the Christian faith and as a modern day defense of the rationality of the Christian faith.

Christianity Today has coverage of the award,including links to several articles about Dr. Collins and his book here.

2000 in 90 minutes

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, spoke at the convention of the Diocese of Vermont and 90 minutes into her talk, gave a figure that startled Daniel Barlow of the Rutland Herald.

"Two thousand children across the world have died since I began speaking here today," Jefferts Schori said.

The 53-year-old presiding bishop, the first woman elected by the Episcopal Church to that position, met with supporters and fans at the Ira Allen Chapel at the University of Vermont in Burlington and put the plight of the poor and hungry around the world front and center.

For nearly two hours, Jefferts Schori spoke of the need for both the United States and its community of churches to make a concerted effort to reduce poverty and hunger and boost educational and health efforts across the globe.

She urged members of the church to invest in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a lofty measure adopted by nearly 200 nations that aims to reduce world poverty by half by 2015.

The blog Blazing Indiscretions described "a weekend of celebration."

It's a weekend of celebration in Vermont. This morning nearly 350 people gathered at St Paul's Cathedral in Burlington as the Most Rev'd Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, preached and presided at the Eucharist on the Feast of Richard Hooker and the 175th convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont (and the 216th of the Episcopal Church in Vermont!).

The Presiding Bishop urged the church to focus less on what divides and more on the mission that unites us.

"Obviously a handful of our church leaders are still upset and would like to see the church never ordain and never baptize a gay or lesbian person," she said. "We need to refocus on more life-and-death issues like starvation, education, medical care."

Read more: epiScope "+KJS in Vermont" and "more +KJS in Vermont."

Pastoral care in the church of baseball

At the 222nd convention on Saturday, November 3rd, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts voted to send condolences to the bishops of Cleveland (Hollingsworth) and Colorado (O'Neil) upon the loss of the American League pennant and the World Series - both bishops formerly with the Diocese of Massachusetts.

DioMass%20Red%20Sox%20110407-2.JPG

Read more »

Running the race

The 12th Season of CBS TV's Amazing Race was broadcast last night, Sunday, November 4th 2007. It starts with 11 teams traveling all over the world the last team standing wins a million dollars. There is a Female couple competing on it, a Priest and Deacon Couple from the Episcopal Church.

Melissa Evans of the LA Daily News writes:

There weren't any women ministers - much less lesbian ministers - when the Revs. Kate Lewis and Pat Hendrickson were young.

Although times have changed, role models are still hard to find, they say, even in the liberal-leaning Episcopal Church.

Lewis and Hendrickson, who have been in a relationship since meeting at a religious retreat in 1997, hope to change that with their appearance on "The Amazing Race," the CBS reality show that launches its 12th season tonight.

"We're happy to offer ourselves up to show people that Christians come in many different stripes," said Lewis, a minister at St. Cross Episcopal Church in Hermosa Beach. "Some of us are progressive and inclusive."

The potential for a $1 million prize, along with a globe-spanning adventure, didn't hurt, either.

"We are very serious about our relationship with God, and we are very serious about winning this race," said Hendrickson, a minister at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Thousand Oaks. "We're not afraid to have a good time, either. There's nothing wrong with having a little fun."

Amid the cast of brothers and sisters, co-workers and heterosexual couples, Lewis and Hendrickson are the only lesbian team ever to compete. The fact that they are both ordained ministers adds to their allure.

The teams travel nearly 50,000 miles by air, sea and land in a physically and mentally demanding race through several countries, including Ireland, Lithuania and Croatia. Eleven teams will compete this season to see who can master the geography, culture and climate of each country the fastest.

Here is the description of Kate and Pat's Team from the show's web site:

TEAM 11

Kate & Pat

Married Ministers

Kate: Thousand Oaks, CA, 49, Episcopal Priest

Pat: Thousand Oaks, CA, 65, Ordained Deacon

Kate & Pat dated for seven years before tying the knot three years ago. These well traveled Episcopal clergy are ready for the adventure of lifetime-but don't let the collars fool you-they can play dirty too.

Kate is an Episcopal priest and has one grown son. She claims that the biggest difference between herself and Pat is that she avoids conflict while Pat dives right in. Kate describes herself as passionate and sarcastic while Pat says she is persistent and dependable.

Pat is a vocational deacon in the Episcopal Church and her ministry in the community is to people with disabilities. She is also the mother of two sons and grandmother of three. Pat's biggest pet peeve about Kate is that she constantly misjudges her time, an issue that could surely cause problems on the Race.

Both are out to prove that they are not afraid to compete with anyone and they are extremely confident that their years of experience will help them combat the physical prowess of the younger Teams.

They already finished the first leg and survived.

Read more: epiScope: The race that is set before us and An Inch at a Time: How cool is THIS??????????.

Television Without Pity has a discussion board for each set of racers. Here is the link for Pat and Kate.

Concerned Canadian bishops

Solange de Santis in Anglican Journal reports that Canada’s Anglican bishops, at their regular fall meeting, decided to leave in place a set of pastoral guidelines concerning church services for gay couples that stops short of blessings or marriage. They also expressed serious concern about Canadian participation in activities widening the schism in the Anglican Communion. Some notes from the article:

Discussions on communications and on sexuality proved to be the thorniest of the shortened business meeting (the bishops meet in spring and fall, usually for four days) and two sessions were closed to the public.

The longest (90 minutes) concerned several aspects of the controversies surrounding homosexuality. Archbishop Hiltz, chairing the meeting, said before it was closed that bishops would discuss their pastoral statement from last spring that included the instruction that clergy may celebrate a eucharist and intercessory prayers with a gay couple but not a wedding or nuptial blessing.

Bishop Spence said the reaction in Hamilton, Ont.-based diocese of Niagara was a "firestorm" after General Synod. "There is frustration that Niagara, which has held the line, is not allowed to go forward (with same-sex blessings)," he said. If the matter arises again at synod, "my expectation is that I will not be able NOT to give my assent," he said. (Niagara's 2004 synod voted in favor of blessings, but Bishop Spence withheld his consent in favour of church unity.)

After the session, several bishops said serious concerns were raised about the activities of retired bishop Don Harvey, of the diocese of eastern Newfoundland and Labrador. He has participated in irregular consecrations of bishops who intend to minister to conservatives in the U.S. and, in a recent letter posted on the Anglican Essentials Web site, he said, “If you have been following events in the Anglican world, you have likely sensed that the years of talking and waiting are nearly over. Change is in the wind. Many primates are now convinced there is no solution for orthodox Canadian Anglicans within the established structures.” He has also visited conservative parishes that have broken away from the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster, the only Canadian diocese so far to permit same-sex blessings. Diocesan bishop Michael Ingham has criticized Bishop Harvey for not following church rules and asking permission to minister in the diocese.

Bishop Ralph Spence of Niagara said after the closed session that, “I am very frustrated over Don Harvey. When you start to talk schism, this house needs to deal with it.”

Read it all here.

Chris Ambidge of Integrity Toronto comments:

There was also considerable discussion about the schismatic actions and statements from Bp Don Harvey and Essentials. (Bp Harvey is the retired bishop of Eastern NF and Labrador, and who has been in Pittsburgh supporting Bp Duncan, participating in irregular ordinations and the like)

Now we wait for the vote from Niagara in November and the results of the Essentials meeting the same month. The Niagara synod will have the blessing same-sex marriage issue again, and as you can see, they're likely (he said, crossing his fingers) to again approve blessing of marriages, and this time +Ralph Niagara may agree. And notice +Ottawa's comments on "not wanting to act alone, but I don't think I'll have to".

Botswana and West Missouri: companions in mission

Anglicans in Botswana have some new companions in west Missouri according to the Springfield, MO News-Leader. Anglican Bishop Trevor Mwamba has traveled around west Missouri, visiting Episcopalians who have opted to establish a companion link with their co-religionists in the African nation. The relationship will not only link the Diocese of West Missouri with Botswana, it will pair up churches in both places. "When I can face you face-to-face, I know you," Mwamba said. "This will strengthen the bonds of affection within God's ... family, fellow Christians in the faith."

Areas of mutual interest between the two churches include health care and children. The Serowe church is working to open a preschool, and the Bolivar church is working on a countywide project to establish a crisis nursery. Both churches are also interested in hospice care.

"It's very important that we get down to the nitty gritty, the grass roots," Mwamba said of the work between parishes.

Read it all here

Finding the key to unity in South Carolina

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson urged a group of Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina November 3 to take advantage of an "incredible moment" in the life of that diocese to begin talking to people "whom you may not have talked to recently" so that together they might develop new models for mission, reports Mary Frances Schoenberg in Episcopal Life Online.

The moment to which Anderson was referring was created when the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence, the diocese's bishop-elect, recently received the canonically required consent to his ordination and consecration from a majority of the standing committees of the Episcopal Church dioceses and from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction.

"You have some opportunities for newness," Anderson said told nearly 150 who attended the "Connecting with the Episcopal Church in 2007" event sponsored by the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina for which she was the keynote speaker. The meeting took place in Charleston at the Inn at Middleton Place.

Joining Anderson were her chancellor, Sally Johnson, and the Rev. Francis Wade, a member of Anderson's Council of Advice and the recently retired rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church on the grounds of Washington National Cathedral.

South Carolina Bishop Ed Salmon spoke during the day-long gathering and participated in a question-and-answer panel that closed the day. Forum President Lynn Pagliaro read the letter of greeting from Lawrence in which the bishop-elect said in part that it was his "firm conviction that in Christ's reconciling work we shall find the key to our unity."


Read the article here.

The Charleston Post and Courier story is here

Outsiders and insiders

Joel Connelly, of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a member of St. Augustine's in the Woods on Whidbey Island in Washington state, writes about being a delegate to the convention of the Diocese of Olympia (western Washington). He raises the issue of the voting power of large cities in a diocese of small towns.

Straight out of the box, the convention began balloting on delegates [ed.note: Deputies] to the Episcopal General Convention...

The last diocesan gathering produced an all-King County slate of eight clerical and lay delegates: Six were from Seattle parishes, and four from the liberal bastion of St. Mark's Cathedral.

With a lot of candidates and recent staff layoffs putting St. Mark's under a bit of a cloud -- one laid-off priest made national news by proclaiming that she is BOTH a Christian and a Moslem -- a more diverse delegation seemed likely in this year's voting.

'Wasn't so. One after another, King County claimed the General Convention delegate slots.

The four priests who served as delegates to the 2006 General Convention will repeat as delegates to the 2009 General Convention. All all-King County lay delegation -- with three from Seattle and two repeaters from St. Mark's -- was elected. One delegate is reputed to be a moderate.

An interesting note occured during the usually perfunctory Courtesy resolutions when one for the Archbishop of Canterbury raised questions about thanking him for his efforts to foster forebearance. The convention amended the resolution to send greetings and prayers.

The Living Church is reporting that Olympia joined Utah in calling upon the Archbishop to delay Lambeth 2008. The report from the Living Church here

Fears of Christians in Pakistan

Ekklesia is reporting that Pakistani Christians are expressing concern about the public order situation in their country, and the security of minorities, following President Pervez Musharraf's widely criticised suspension of consitutional government and his declaration of a state of emergency over the weekend.

The General's move, which has embarrassed his Western allies and outraged democracy and human rights advocates, comes ahead of a Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn his recent election victory. The signs are that Musharraf, and his 20 per cent poll righting is likely now to slip to single figures.

"This move is not about law and order primarily, it is about Musharraf's desperate attempt to survive politically", a leading analyst, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons,told Ekklesia. The army loyal to General Musharraf has been arresting lawyers, opponents and civil society advocates in a widespread clampdown.

There are signs of public protest, but widespread fear. Churches now fear that the situation will be exploited by those who wish to carry out more attacks on the minority Christian community.

Read the rest here

To et or not to et

Josh Jarman in the Columbus Ohio Dispatch reports on a rabbi who tackles the most common religious rationales forbidding same-sex relationships.

With a bit of characterization and Jewish witticism, Rabbi Steven Greenberg made his point clear: You shouldn't use the Bible to pass judgment on others. Greenberg shared this belief during a sermon today at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church on the campus of Ohio State University.

Greenberg, who was raised in Bexley and is in Columbus for five days, is America's first openly gay Orthodox rabbi. He isn't saying that the Bible is not the revealed word of God. But according to Jewish tradition, he said, God gave that word to man and entrusted him to decipher it. "No one can say, ‘It says in the Scripture,' to ground any policy," Greenberg said. "All we can say is, ‘My community says this.'"

Mike Wernick, Chair, Faith in Life, Diocese of Southern Ohio, who attended Greenberg's presentation reports:

The Diocese of Southern Ohio's Faith in Life committee just had Rabbi Steven Greenberg here as a Hobson lecturer, to speak about biblical authority and homosexuality from a Jewish perspective. Yesterday afternoon's session focused on his book Wresting with God and Men. In one passage, he assesses the underlying meaning of the original Hebrew from Leviticus, and I offer it for your consideration:

"The sages of the Talmud believed that every letter of the Torah was filled with meaning. Nothing was accidental. For this reason there was great competition among sages to find ways to read everything as important, nothing as inessential.

The Hebrew word et is a grammatical word that often has no translatable meaning but simply marks a transfer of action, usually after a verb and before the direct object. Since its use is sporadic, sometimes appearing before objects and sometimes not, the rabbis decided that when it appears, it must mean something. The standard reading was that et adds something to the general class of things mentioned, to include hidden elements, to speak the unspoken.

A celebrated incident of this rabbinic penchant for finding added meaning in every letter of the Torah appears in the command to fear the Lord:

Nehemia Haimsoni was expounding on all the et' im in the Torah, explaining how each et was there to add something. As soon as he reached the verse, "You shall revere (et) the Lord your God" (Deut. 10:20), he stopped. [For there is nothing to revere other than God.] His pupils asked him, "Rabbi, what will be with all the other et' im that you already expounded upon?" He answered them, "Just as my attempt to interpret them all was worthy, my withdrawal from the project is equally worthy." Until Rabbi Akiva came and expounded: "You shall revere (et) the Lord your God, the et comes to include the students of the wise.

For Rabbi Akiva, talmidei hakchamim, the sages of every age, deserved a portion of reverence as well, because without them God's Torah would remain inert. Without the living embodiment of the Torah in the lives of great teachers, few of us would have the resources to revere God. In this fashion the presence of et in a verse offered the rabbis an opportunity to open up verses to say what was left unsaid.

There is only one sexual prohibition in Leviticus 18 that begins with the word et.

Ve'et zakhar - - - And (et) a male

Lo tishkav - - - you shall not sexually penetrate

Mishkeve ishah - - - to humiliate

Toevah hi - - - it is abhorrent

In less poetic Hebrew the sentence would read, "You shall not penetrate et a male to humiliate, it is abhorrent."

Given that et adds an unspoken element to the text, there is an obvious candidate to suggest—a woman!

V'(nekeva o) zakhar - - - And (either a female or) a male

Lo tishkav - - - you shall not sexually penetrate

Mishkeve ishah - - - to humiliate

Toevah hi - - - it is abhorrent

Until very recently only the sexual humiliation of men could be understood as abhorrent. However, as women become their own agents, as they approach equality with men, the verse cries out to apply to women too. It could be argued that this superfluous word was ready and waiting for the moment when human equality would be fully extended to women, when as a culture we would be ready to interpret the verse to mean that the fusion of sex and power into a single act is abhorrent between any two people.

In an amazing a paradoxical fashion the very verse that was for centuries read as requiring the ongoing demotion of women through the marking of intercourse as humiliation, and thus femininity as degraded could be read as a full-fledged critique of the male-dominated social hierarchy! The only way to redeem intercourse from its inevitable dominations is to press for gender equality on the deepest emotional planes, to work formally toward ending the gender hierarchy, and to heal the ugly misogyny at its foundation."


Tobias Haller, BSG - resident scholar and blogger on In a Godward Direction questions Greenberg's translation:
The object marker "et" though not much used in chapter 18 is used in many of the commandments in the parallel chapter Lev 20, in addition to reappearing with "et zakar." This would render "zakar" a definite rather than indefinite object. ("The male.") It can also be more simply understood under the less common meaning "with" as in "with a male." That is the usual choice, and is reflected in most translations.

Translating "mishk've ishah" as "to humiliate" is odd. It means, "the lyings-down of a woman." (Important: woman, not female; singular, not plural) I thus find the idea that one should read the "et" as providing a way to add "female" to the opening phrase unlikely, as it would produce "With a male or a female you shall not lie down the lyings-down of a woman..."

I would suggest that a more direct translation would be --

"With a male you (singular masculine) shall not lie down the lyings-down of a woman. It (she) is an abomination."

If we understand "abomination" in its usual sense as connected to idolatry, and take the "Hi" as "she" rather than as "it" and take due note of the plural "lyings" and singular "woman" it is easier to see this as a reference to cult prostitution, and a statement that a Hebrew man is not to become a cult prostitute, taking the position of a woman servicing (multiple) other males.

Alternatively, some scholars have suggested that the "lyings-down of a woman" refers to the other incestuous relationships described in the rest of the chapter; so that it would represent a prohibition on same-sex incest. That has the virtue of making sense; I would be interested in seeing some justification for translating "mishk've ishah" as "to humiliate.

Debating the meaning of scripture to help clarify possibilities is a characteristic rabbinic approach to interpretation. The debate keeps our scholarship honest and not a captive of one side or another.

Sexual abuse is a crime, not an affair

Dr. Westley Byrne of Beaufort, South Carolina, a pubic health doctor and nurse practitioner in pediatrics writes in Episcopal Life Online regarding the charges against Bishop Charles Bennison and the wording of news reports of his actions that brought on the charges.

My first reaction to the news about Bishop Charles Bennison (Pennsylvania bishop inhibited from ordained ministry, Oct. 31, 2007) and his brother John was a mixture of anger and sadness.

As I read further, though, another reaction set in. This second response wasn't so much to the news itself but to the way that news was described.

Seminarian John Bennison's criminal acts toward a child under his lay pastoral care are variously characterized as initiating a "sexual relationship," having a "relationship," and engaging in "sexual relations." As an ordained Episcopal deacon and then priest, John is said to have continued a "sexual relationship with the 14-year-old."

Charles, then a priest and John's supervisor during much of this time, knew that "his brother was conducting a sexual affair with an underage member of [his] church's youth group." It's said that Charles even came upon John Bennison and the 14 year-old-girl "while they were engaged in sexual relations."

Charles is charged with doing nothing, however, "to hasten the end of the affair."

But this wasn't an "affair." Neither was it a "relationship." What it was was child sexual abuse.

The first hint at that awful truth in the Presentment against Charles Bennison doesn't come until the bottom of page 3, where it's termed sexual misconduct. Well into page 5, John Bennison's behavior finally is labeled correctly as sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse is a crime, not an affair. (emphasis added)

Read it all here.

Just in time for Christmas

A gift for the religious geek who has everything:

leather hymn book cover for your iPod

iPod, it's a new religion!
...
The tough leather case will help you cherish your music.

Click to see photo.

iPiety anyone?

Leveraging Lambeth

Is the agenda for Lambeth in play? Archbishop Rowan Williams has said Lambeth 2008 will not be a business meeting, but a gathering to build relationships.

The other day Archbishop Akinola once again used the 'we'-may-not-come-to-Lambeth-2008 card: 'Akinola said there was no need to go there for “jamboree.”' This after Akinola and Minns failed to convince CAPA to come out in favor of a Lambeth boycott. Earlier several of Akinola's bishops had made it plain they were prepared to attend.

Two American dioceses show that more than one can play this strategic game. The first to move was Utah:

Delegates overwhelmingly approved Tanner Irish's letter to Jefferts Schori urging the presiding bishop to ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to cancel the Lambeth Conference planned for 2008.

Irish's letter said that the Anglican Communion is in "disarray" over "irregularly consecrated" bishops and that the Episcopal church is "leery about using" Lambeth "to present a covenant that is exclusionary, that centralizes authority, or adds to the core doctrine of our faith."

Her letter also cites the cost of Lambeth and suggests that proceeding with the conference "under the present circumstances is disproportionate to its benefits."


Over the weekend Olympia followed suit:
Convention delegates in the Diocese of Olympia said they are "leery" of the presentation of an "exclusionary" Anglican Covenant at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and approved a resolution calling for postponement of next year’s conference of bishops.
...
By a vote of 299-79, clergy and lay delegates voted to approve an amended resolution calling for the 2008 Lambeth Conference to be postponed “until the listening process is more complete.”

This resolution was submitted by Bishop Suffragan Nedi Rivera after convention began. The wording of the resolution will comprise the text of a letter sent to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori over the signature of bishops Greg Rickel and Rivera.

GOP senator investigates prosperity gospel ministries

Senator Grassley (R.-Iowa) is investigating several TV ministries. The Washington Post reports

After receiving reports of lavish spending at the ministries, Grassley said yesterday that he has requested detailed documents on the finances of the organizations, which bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in donations annually.

All of the ministries have been the target of complaints for years by watchdog organizations, which have alleged that the groups' charismatic leaders dip deeply into donations to fund extravagant lifestyles.

The Grassley investigation is "well-deserved and well-overdue," said Rusty Leonard, who runs MinistryWatch.com, which examines how nonprofit Christian organizations spend donations.
...
Grassley, who in recent years has forced changes in such nonprofit organizations as the American Red Cross, the Nature Conservancy, American University and the Smithsonian Institution, said in a statement that the allegations involve such amenities as private jets and Rolls-Royces. He has also asked for credit card records, clothing and jewelry expenses and any cosmetic surgery expenses.
...
Meyer, who is based in Fenton, Mo., has said that her accouterments, including multimillion-dollar homes and luxury cars, are blessings from God.

More news coverage beneath the fold (click more)

Read more »

Campaign to Frighten Rowan (CAFRO) kicks into high gear

Peter Akinola, individually, and in concert with eight other Primates or former primates alleging to speak for the Global South, is attempting to pressure Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, into postponing the Lambeth Conference and calling an emergency meeting of the Primates.

As Akinola's influence wanes, his tactics become more confrontational.

Soup kitchen saves a church [CORRECTED]

=======================
[Update 21 Nov 2007]
Correction by The Rev. William A. Greenlaw Rector, Church of the Holy Apostles Executive Director, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen:

There were several unfortunate and very misleading errors of fact in the recent article in The Living Church, “Soup Kitchen Bowls Over Parish,” November 25, 2007 (print version):

1. The soup kitchen’s annual operating budget is $2.6 million. The soup kitchen does not “contribute” $2.6 million to parish income, as claimed by the article: rather the soup kitchen contributes $130,000 allocated by our auditors to various non-religious shared expenses and $71,000 depreciation to the building fund to offset the wear and tear on the physical plant. These facilities costs are small considering that this is for several thousand squarefeet of handicapped accessible ground floor space in Midtown Manhattan.

2. The church suffered a very serious fire in 1990. In substantial part, because of the church’s reputation in sponsoring the soup kitchen, a large number of people and institutions contributed to the restoration of our landmark building. That restoration was completed in 1994 and the nave of the church, now a flexible usespace, was able to double as the main dining room of the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

3. The person who envisioned and established Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen was the Rev. Randolph Lloyd Frew, rector from 1978-84, not the Rev. Paul Coleman Cochran, priest in charge from 1975-77.

=======================

ORIGINAL POST

This is one of those man bites dog stories:

“We owe our existence as a parish to the Soup Kitchen,” said the Rev. William A. Greenlaw, rector. “It has put us on the map. Many who are now vestry members began as Soup Kitchen volunteers.”

Thirty years ago, the congregation and the facility were both worn out. Fr. Greenlaw said his predecessor, the Rev. Paul Cochran, was sent to Holy Apostles’ to preside over its closure. Instead, Fr. Cochran decided to launch the Soup Kitchen. Holy Apostles’, which reports average Sunday attendance of about 120, recently completed a $7-million renovation. Some individuals who contributed did so because of the Soup Kitchen.

In addition to drawing traffic to the parish, the Soup Kitchen also contributes to net parish income.

To the annual tune of $2.6 million net.

Read it all here in The Living Church.

Self righteous in the extreme

New research suggests that those who say the believe they are moral are likely to take extreme actions. The Washington Post reports:

Scott Reynolds and Tara Ceranic of the University of Washington said their research highlights the idea that people with exceptionally strong convictions about their moral goodness are likely to follow extreme courses of action because they can convince themselves that whatever they do is good. When the right course of action is ambiguous, they added in a paper published in the November issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, such people are likely to gravitate to opposite ends of a range of behaviors. When there is wide social consensus that something is wrong, they tend to conform to social norms.

When the researchers tested their hypothesis on managers who were asked to make a judgment call involving a conscientious employee who needed to go home early one day, they found that the managers who believed most strongly that they were good people came to extreme conclusions: They either let the employee off for the rest of the day with full pay, or insisted the employee stay and work full hours. The managers who did not think they were particularly good people tended to reach moderate conclusions: They had the employee finish some work and then leave early.


Read it all here (scroll to the end).

Robin Hanson has some thoughts and a link to the research at Overcoming Bias.

Does this research have any implications for the church?

Bishop Chane speaks out for Farm Bill

As the United States Senate began floor debate on the nation's Farm Bill, Washington Bishop John Bryson Chane and five other faith leaders spoke at a news conference November 6 calling for Senators to pass a Farm Bill that creates a "new covenant" with rural America and people living in deadly poverty around the world.

According to Episcopal Life Online a new ad was unveiled at the news conference, signed by 26 Episcopal bishops, calling for the Senate to pass several key amendments to the Farm Bill designed to restore "the moral foundation" of a bill that was created by Congress in the 1930s as a "covenant" with rural America and people in need.

"Congress created the first Farm Bill to be an expression of the character of America and a covenant with farmers rooted in fairness, equity, and opportunity for all," said Chane. "Today's Farm Bill has strayed far from this vision, benefiting primarily large, rich farms while adding to the struggles of hard-working family farmers and exacerbating deadly poverty around the world."

Read more here.

To urge your Senator to vote for the Farm Bill click here.

3 bishops face discipline

The Living Church reports that three resigned bishops of the Episcopal Church face discipline:

An ecclesiastical trial against the Rt. Rev. William Cox is still pending, despite the fact that he transferred to the Anglican Church of Southern Cone last March. Bishop Cox told The Living Church he was not aware that he was still a target of interest to the ecclesiastical court.

Bishop Cox served as Bishop Suffragan of Maryland from 1972-1980 and assisting Bishop of Oklahoma from 1980-1988. He previously admitted ordaining two priests and a deacon at Christ Church in Overland Park, Kan., in 2005 after he was asked to do so by the Primate of Uganda. A month later, he returned to Christ Church and led a service of confirmation.

Disciplinary investigations of the Rt. Rev. Andrew Fairfield, retired Bishop of North Dakota, and the Rt. Rev. David Bena, former Bishop Suffragan of Albany, are in process. Last June, Bishop Fairfield transferred to the Church of Uganda. Shortly before his own renunciation last January, the Rt. Rev. Daniel Herzog, former Bishop of Albany, approved the transfer of Bishop Bena’s episcopal orders to the Anglican Church of Nigeria.
...
The canons of The Episcopal Church require bishops to receive permission to resign from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction. ... Bishops Bena, Cox and Fairfield wrote Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori informing her of their transfers, but they did not request approval for their actions from the House of Bishops.

Unlike priests, bishops cannot be found guilty of abandonment of communion without a trial. According to Title 4, Canon 9, section 1(iii), in order for inhibition and a trial to proceed, the Presiding Bishop must receive the unanimous endorsement of the three most senior bishops with jurisdiction before the accused bishop can be inhibited from performing ordained ministry functions.


Read it all here.

Southern Cone offers to take in Pittsburgh

Updated (added to end of post)

According to The Telegraph's Jonathan Petre the Diocese of Pittsburgh has been offered haven by the Southern Cone:

Archbishop Venables said that the Americans were to blame for triggering the crisis by consecrating Anglicanism's first openly gay bishop in 2003 in defiance of official Church policy.

The British-born Archbishop, who is the Primate of the Province of the Southern Cone, told the Telegraph: "This is a pivotal moment in the history of the Anglican Communion.

"The new realignment demonstrates the depths of the divisions that already exist. "
...
"Conservatives in America and elsewhere cannot wait in limbo any longer. They need a safe haven now."

Archbishop Venables unveiled the decision of his bishops and other leaders after the plans were overwhelmingly approved by his provincial synod during a meeting in Chile last night.


Read it all here.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori last week warned Pittsburgh's Bishop Bob Duncan that if his course of direction did not change the church would have to consider "whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action."

Three other American bishops now affiliated with foreign provinces already face discipline by the church.

See, also, our earlier entry, The Episcopal Church is not divisible.

UPDATE - click Read More

Read more »

WWJT?

One might think that Christians, whatever their theological or political differences, could agree on the immorality of torture. Um, no. Andrew Sullivan has been following a debate (1, 2, 3) which has taken place largely on Evangelical Outpost. (1, 2.)

The Washington Post is also asking for your opinions on the subject.

Diocese of Virginia property dispute documents available

The dispute between the Diocese of Virginia and "separated CANA congregations" goes to trial next week. The diocese has made available various court filings of the diocese, the national church, the CANA congregations, and the Court.

Regarding the upcoming trial the diocese states,

Trial Regarding Virginia Division Statute (Va. Code § 57-9)

By agreement of the parties, the Court determined that it would first address issues related to the applicability and interpretation of the Virginia statute under which the congregations claim to be entitled to the property. The trial is scheduled for trial November 13-15, 19-21, 2007.


The diocese provides the briefs filed by the parties on the scope of the trial and the Court Ruling on the scope. The Court Order re Evidence is summarized thusly:
On Oct. 26 the Court ordered that the November 57-9 trial will not involve evidence on the title of the real and personal property at issue.
The documents are available at the diocesan website here.


Same sex unions could split Anglican Church of Canada

The National Post interviewed newly elected Canadian Archbishop Fred Hiltz on the future of the Anglican Church in Canada. In the interview he said that disagreement over whether to bless same-sex unions could result in a split in the Canadian Province of the Anglican Communion.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said in an interview with the National Post that the Church may eventually have to face the fact it will never find agreement on the contentious issue. But, he said, some in the Church will not be able to live with same-sex blessings happening anywhere under the Anglican name and will leave.

"There may come a point we have to acknowledge that and respect their decision. It's not what any of us want, but it's what happens sometimes. If they feel they cannot stay and withdraw other parishes with them, obviously it's a sad moment for the Church. But I also think at that point you don't fight. You don't fight. You have to acknowledge the situation, acknowledge the pain, acknowledge the brokenness. It's the kind of stuff that drives the Church to its knees."
...
My own personal position is that there's an urgency in many places where it would be appropriate for parishes to move ahead on blessing same-sex unions," Archbishop Hiltz said.

"The reality is, in the office I hold now, my task is to hold the Church together in a conversation, so we arrive at some conclusion. But my sense is that over this particular issue we may have to acknowledge that we're never going to find consensus, we're never going to reach a position where we all agree that this is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do."

Archbishop Hiltz added: "In the final analysis, the real challenge may be to learn how to disagree with grace. How can we remain a church in which we have huge theological differences? There's a huge challenge there."

Read it all here.

Read more »

"Black Jesus Church"

Claudia Mair Burney, writes of her search for a spiritual home and how an Episcopal Church, and the artwork it had on the side of the building has drawn her in.

"Every city has its mythology. Inkster is no exception. Said Anglican church is called St. Clements Episcopal Church (see piccha above). I've never been to a service there, but I'm going to venture to say that it's probably predominately African American (Inkster is very segregated. We just don't mix it up like all that). Now, I could be wrong about St. Clements members, and if I am I'll gladly report back. So think of this African American Episcopal church in the heart of Inkster. And the mythology attached to it? Weeeeeeell, all my life people who don't go to St. Clements Episcopal church has called it, Black Jesus Church."

[snip]

I don't know why, but in the materials I collected today, and from a peek at the online history they give of the church on their website, nobody mentions that big, honkin' black Jesus.

Nuthin'!

Not how long he's hung there. Was he there from the very beginnings of the budding parish? A gift that came later? I dunno. And why can't you see Him on the church's piccha!? No photo of Him in the parish photos on the website, either.

Maybe it's taken for granted that everybody in Inkster knows he's there. Maybe they're a little salty that people call their parish Black Jesus church, totally dissin' its patron saint. While there is a drawing of him on a flier, I could get no satisfaction finding any history of him.

Still. You gotta love something that homey and delightful. I plan to attend Holy Eucharist on Sunday morning. Maybe someone will tell me about him then.

Read the rest the story and see the pictures here.

A Nigerian response to Akinola

Davis Mac-Iyalla, the director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, has published a response to the letter published earlier this week by the primate of his church, Archbishop Akinola. In his letter Mac-Iyalla asks:

"Peter Akinola likens the present situation in the Anglican Communion to the occasion when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Cathedral in Wittenburg. Archbishop Akinola helpfully reminds us that, among other things, Luther was asserting that the TRUTH of the gospel must always take precedence over the structures of the church.

For once, how much Changing Attitude Nigeria is in agreement with Archbishop Akinola! In particular we are sure Archbishop Akinola will rejoice at us reminding him of No. 90 of the 95, where Martin Luther asserted that,

‘To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy’.

Let us remember that in 1998 at the last Lambeth conference, all the bishops including those representing the Anglican Church in Nigeria committed to Lambeth resolution 1.10. Among other things, this included The Listening Process to listen to the experiences as well as the spiritual and theological arguments of gay and lesbian Anglicans. Instead Archbishop Akinola encouraged the government to introduce legislation to oppress us further. Can Archbishop Akinola please explain how that is compliant with Lambeth Resolution 1.10, and how his behaviour is so different from Martin Luther’s 90th thesis?"

Read the rest here.

Four British bishops back Duncan

Four British bishops have written in support of Bishop Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and have taken the American Presiding Bishop to task for the tone of her recent letter to him. Thinking Anglicans has the summary and a link to the article in the Church Times.

"THE BISHOPS of Chester, Chichester, Exeter, and Rochester issued a statement on Tuesday in support of the Rt Revd Robert Duncan, the Bishop of Pittsburgh, after the warning letter sent to him by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori…

…The English bishops’ statement, which was instigated by the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, read: ‘We deeply regret the increase in the atmosphere of litigiousness revealed by the Presiding Bishop’s letter to Bishop Duncan. At this time, we stand with him and with all who respond positively to the Primates’ Dar es Salaam requests. We hope the Archbishop’s response to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida will also apply to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh.’

The Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, said on Tuesday that the statement gave personal support to Bishop Duncan. He described the Presiding Bishop’s letter as ‘aggressive, inappropriate, and unfortunate’. ‘They are acting as if it is the OK Corral. This is the North American culture: it is a managerial rather than a pastoral approach.’

Dr Forster emphasised that issuing the statement did not imply support for decisions taken at the Pittsburgh diocesan convention."

Read the rest here.

Bishop Robinson isn't the real issue

An article in the Concord Monitor claims that the real issue in the Episcopal Church isn't the election and consecration of an openly gay bishop. The author argues that the actual problem is that the Episcopal Church is not being able to respond to the real challenges it is facing in a rapidly changing world because conservative voices keep the focus on Robinson rather than on the larger issues.

From the beginning of the article:

"Is the Episcopal Church's impending schism really about the theological rift that sprung up after the consecration of its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire?

Or is the brouhaha really about a church in battle with itself about how to be financially solvent and theologically relevant in today's competitive religious marketplace?

Last weekend, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted in favor of separating from the national church over theological beliefs on homosexuality. 'What we're trying to do is state clearly in the United States for the authority of Scripture,' Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh said after the vote.

But 'authority of Scripture' doesn't hold weight here because the Episcopal Church has always been challenged on this issue.

In the 1970s, the argument for authority of Scripture came up with the ordination of women - and so, too, did the threat of a schism. But in 1989, the church consecrated its first female bishop, Barbara Harris."

Read the rest here.

Homeless Veterans

We will remember Veterans Day this weekend on Sunday. There will most likely be prayers offered in thanksgiving for their service to their country in churches all over the US. But there are other issues at stake here as well. It has been recently reported that almost a quarter of the homeless on America's streets are former veterans who served to defend her.

A report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness states:

"Far too many veterans are homeless in America. Homeless veterans can be found in every state across the country and live in rural, suburban, and urban communities. Many have lived on the streets for years, while others live on the edge of homelessness, struggling to pay their rent. We analyzed data from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau to examine homelessness and severe housing cost burden among veterans. This report includes the following findings:
  • In 2006, approximately 195,827 veterans were homeless on a given night—an increase of 0.8 percent from 194,254 in 2005. More veterans experience homeless over the course of the year. We estimate that 495,400 were homeless in 2006.
  • Veterans make up a disproportionate share of homeless people. They represent roughly 26 percent of homeless people, but only 11 percent of the civilian population 18 years and older. This is true despite the fact that veterans are better educated, more likely to be employed, and have a lower poverty rate than the general population.
  • A number of states, including Louisiana, California, and Missouri, had high rates of homeless veterans. In addition, the District of Columbia had a high rate of homelessness among veterans with approximately 7.5 percent of veterans experiencing homelessness.
  • We estimate that in 2005 approximately 44,000 to 64,000 veterans were chronically homeless (i.e., homeless for long periods or repeatedly and with a disability)."

The report concludes with a call for congress and state legislatures to being to act to find solutions to this issue.

Read the rest here.

They're coming back!

Earlier this week the Pope met with the King of Saudi Arabia. Their conversation included discussion about the treatment and tolerance of Christian people living in Saudia Arabia. The issue is one of increasing importance because it is thought that Christians will soon become the majority in at least one arabian state, and are increasingly present in Saudi Arabia as well.

The site Chiesa online has a series of articles about the effect this is having:

"Three months ago to the day, on May 31, the Holy See established diplomatic relations and exchanged ambassadors with the United Arab Emirates.

Few noted the fact that the United Arab Emirates has the greatest Christian presence of any Islamic country.

And it is a new and growing presence. Exactly the opposite of what is happening in other regions in the Middle East like Iraq, Lebanon, the Holy Land, where Christian communities of very ancient origin actually face extinction.

The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain – situated along the middle of the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The capital is Abu Dhabi. Almost all of the citizens belong to the official religion, Islam.

But there are many more immigrants than citizens. Foreigners now make up more than 70 percent of the more than 4 million inhabitants, coming from other Arab countries, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines.

More than half of these foreign workers are Christians. Adding up the figures, Christians account for more than 35 percent of the population of the United Arab Emirates. Around a million of them are Catholic. And it's not only in the UAE – in Saudi Arabia, too, it is estimated that there are already about a million Catholics from the Philippines. "

Read the rest here.

Appealing to "emerging adults"

In the most recent issue of Christianity Today's Books & Culture magazine, Christian Smith writes:

There is a new and important stage in life in American culture, and it is not entirely clear that the Christian church understands or particularly knows what to do with it. I am talking about what scholars call "emerging adulthood." This is the time of life between ages 18 and 30, roughly, a phase which in recent decades has morphed into quite a new experience for many.

The key passage in his persuasive essay, at least for church leaders, reads:

Jeffrey Arnett explored the religious beliefs and practices of the more than one hundred emerging adults he interviewed in various locations around the country. Here is what he concluded:
The most interesting and surprising feature of emerging adults' religious beliefs is how little relationship there is between the religious training they received throughout childhood and the religious beliefs they hold at the time they reach emerging adulthood … . In statistical analyses [of interview subjects' answers], there was no relationship between exposure to religious training in childhood and any aspect of their religious beliefs as emerging adults … . This is a different pattern than is found in adolescence [which reflects greater continuity] … . Evidently something changes between adolescence and emerging adulthood that dissolves the link between the religious beliefs of parents and the beliefs of their children.

Although the transmission of religious faith is not a central concern of Arnett's, he still finds this observation startling. He writes, "How could it be that childhood religious training makes no difference in the kinds of religious beliefs and practices people have by the time they reach emerging adulthood? It doesn't seem to make sense … . It all comes to naught in emerging adulthood? Yet that seems to be the truth of it, surprising as that may be." Need I say that these findings raise serious questions? To be sure, Arnett is not working with nationally representative data, and so his findings must be viewed with some skepticism. Even so, the very possibility should make Christians sit up and notice.

Read it all.

Archbishop Ernest's balancing act

Consider the political balancing act currently being executed by the Most Rev. Ian Ernest, primate of the province of the Indian Ocean and president of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. On October 30, he signed a group statement calling for the postponement of the Lambeth Conference. (Item 7.2, here.) It was the second such statement he had signed.

But then, earlier this week, he chaired the meeting of the Lambeth Conference design team, which met first in Canterbury and later in London with Archbishop Rowan Williams. As there are no plans to postpone the conference, Archbishop Ernest is probably going to have to declare himself publicly in the near future.

Here's more (and more) on the archbishop.

Chicago elects Jeffrey Lee

The Diocese of Chicago reports that the Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, from Medina, WA was elected as their twelfth bishop on the second ballot. His profile is here.

The Lead covered the nominations here.

Update. The Chicago Tribune:

"I am overwhelmed and grateful to God for the opportunity to come to such a great diocese," Lee said by telephone. "In many ways, I believe Chicago reflects the face of the Episcopal Church in all its diversity. Rich and poor, urban and suburban, black and white, gay and straight . . . and I believe I've been called to be a bridge-builder and a reconciler."
...
When asked about his stance on gays in the church, Lee said he supported full inclusion.

"I believe God is calling us to full inclusion of gays and lesbians in ministry of this church. . . . There is a place for everyone in the church, and the church has to catch up with God's vision," he said.

Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Rev. Kendall Harmon said, “The people in Chicago wanted the person who could function well in a large, diverse urban diocese. Jeffrey Lee came off as the best person.”

Religion journalism on the Web

If you follow religion news on the Web, you may already know about the Dallas Morning News' excellent blog (although you may not know that blogger Sam Hodges is the author of the hilarious novel B-4). Now Tom Henaghan and other Reuters reporters have launched a lively new blog called Faith World. We don't know if Tom has written a hilarious novel, but will give him equal time if he has.

New NCC leadership elected

With all the happenings in the Anglican Communion, we overlooked the fact that the National Council of Churches elected new leadership. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, who represents the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) in Washington, and the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergyman, were installed as NCC president and general secretary. The National Council of Churches represents 45 million worshippers in over 100,000 congregations, and includes the Episcopal Church.

The Christian Post gives more detail:

As the National Council of Churches (NCC) in the USA reshapes amid budget shortfalls, top officials were installed Thursday to lead the ecumenical group.

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, who represents the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) in Washington, and the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergyman, were installed as NCC president and general secretary, respectively.

Aykazian is the third Orthodox president and the first from the Oriental Orthodox tradition, according to NCC News Service. He will succeed outgoing president Michael Livingston, who served in the office since January 2006, as the 24th NCC president in the group's more than 50-year history.

Kinnamon was unanimously elected to succeed the Rev. Bob Edgar, who resigned on Aug. 31 to head the Washington-based advocacy group Common Cause, becoming the ninth general secretary of the ecumenical organization.

Both officials will take office Jan. 1.

As general secretary of an organization representing Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and Living Peace churches, Kinnamon acknowledged differences among the various faith groups but stressed the church of Jesus Christ is "already one."

"Unity is not synonymous with agreement," he said, according to NCC News Service. "We understand that we have deep disagreements and try to address them. This is a consequence of being in Christ.

"We can fight like cats and dogs and still sit at the same table," he added.

Read it all here.

A Secular Age?

Charles Taylor, Board of Trustees Professor of Law and Philosophy at Northwestern University, is causing quite a stir with his new book A Secular Age. Among his more interesting arguments is that Christianity itself is responsible for the rise of secularism. Robert Bellah has written a glowing review:

I have long admired Charles Taylor and have read most of what he has written and always found him helpful. Yet for me, A Secular Age is his breakthrough book—one of the most important books to be written in my lifetime. Taylor succeeds in no less than recasting the entire debate about secularism.

From the very first pages it is clear that Taylor is doing something different from what others writing about secularization have achieved, because he distinguishes three senses of secularity. Almost all the literature on secularization with which I am familiar falls under Taylor’s first two categories of secularity:

• Secularity 1: the expulsion of religion from sphere after sphere of public life.

• Secularity 2: the decline of religious belief and practice.

Many excellent books have been written on these two aspects of secularization.

But Taylor’s focus in this book is on what he calls

• Secularity 3: “the conditions of experience of and search for the spiritual” that make it possible to speak of ours as a “secular age.”

I doubt that many people have even perceived this third dimension, and Taylor’s book should be as much a revelation to them as it has been to me.

. . .

Taylor argues that the Reformation—with its radical rejection of the monastic life and the demand of a kind of monastic discipline for everyone—is just the preliminary culmination of a thousand years of pressure of Christianity toward Reform. He then shows how, even when Protestantism itself comes in question, long-term pressure toward Reform continues, first in 18th-century Deism and its attendant strong emphasis on Benevolence, and then in the 19th-century emergence of unqualified (secular) humanism with its emphasis on progress.

According to Taylor, it is not “science” or “Darwinism” that accounts for these developments, but the continuation of a moral narrative that was already long present in Christianity. Even the emergence in the late 19th century of anti-humanism (Nietzsche) cannot be understood except in terms of the particular features of what was being rejected: namely, both Christian and secular social ameliorism. By seeing the emergence of the secular age in narrative form primarily, rather than as a theoretical discovery, I think he makes the whole thing far more intelligible and explains our present quandaries far better than any competing accounts.

Read it all here. And read other commentaries by other (including Taylor himself) on the themes of his book here.

Vatican conference on the human embryo

In an effort to both bridge the gap between science and Catholic teaching on bioethical issues such as abortion and stem cell research, the Vatican is organizing a conference next week on the origin and development of the human embryo. Here is the Associated Press report:

The Vatican is organizing a conference on the origin and development of the human embryo, saying current bioethical debates regarding stem cells, cloning and assisted fertility often overlook what it considers the crucial origin of organisms.

Church teaching holds that human life begins at conception. The Vatican has been on an increasingly vocal campaign in recent years against abortion and technologies such as embryonic stem cell research which destroy embryos.

The Nov. 15-17 conference is part of a Vatican teaching and research program involving six pontifical universities. The program was created in 2003 to further explore the relationship between science and faith.

"The study of human life from the point of view of its individual origin acquires a particular interest in today's world," said the Rev. Rafael Pascual, dean of the philosophy department at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university, which is hosting the conference.

He cited issues such as assisted fertility, cloning, genetic manipulation and embryonic stem cell research.

The Vatican program, "Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest," was created to help what officials say was a mutual prejudice between religion and science that has bedeviled the Catholic Church since the time of Galileo.

The project, which is under the auspices of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture, was inspired by Pope John Paul II's 1992 declaration that the church's 17th century denunciation of Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension."

Galileo was condemned for supporting Nicholas Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun; church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

The head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, was asked if in the scope of its research the Vatican would entertain scientific views that differed from its own regarding the origin of life.

He said that in research, there must always be respect paid between two sides but at the same time each side must hold fast to its beliefs without compromise.

Read it all here.

Does fair trade work?

The Fair Trade movement is becoming quite active, but its premise--that consumers will pay a bit more for better pay to workers--is often based on stories and assumptions rather than data. At least some economists, however, have begun to study the so-called "Ben & Jerry's Effect", and they are finding that at least some consumers purchasing some products, fair trade works:

These days, everyone from big oil to Wal-Mart claims to be jumping on Ben & Jerry's bandwagon. Corporate America is busy announcing charitable-giving programs, releasing sustainability reports, and otherwise going all-out to demonstrate a commitment to corporate social responsibility. And so it's worth asking, does it pay for corporations to be nice?

This is the question animating a recent study (yet to be published) by Harvard researchers Michael Hiscox and Nick Smyth. They set out to discover whether customers prefer to buy from do-gooder companies. In their research at Manhattan's ABC Carpet and Home, they found that shoppers care a lot. When an item was labeled as being produced under "fair labor" practices, sales jumped. And when Hiscox and Smyth raised the prices of "fair labor" products, people bought even more than before. So, at least for ABC Carpet, being nice is good business.

We already know from surveys that consumers claim to prefer to eat their ice cream and wear their T-shirts free from the guilt that someone may have suffered for their consumerist pleasures. Or, if they don't care about ethics for their own sake, many people believe that conscientious companies are more likely to make high-quality, reliable products. (The people running these companies would presumably feel guilty about doing otherwise.)

But economists have a general distrust of surveys, since they're about words rather than actions. That's why Hiscox and Smyth set up their shopping experiment at ABC Carpet and Home, an upscale department store in lower Manhattan. They picked two brands of towels and two brands of candles that had all been produced under fair labor conditions. First, the researchers recorded the weekly sales of the towels and candles without labeling any of them as fair-labor certified, measuring purchasing decisions based solely on taste. After a few weeks, Hiscox and Smyth spent the night at ABC sticking fair-labor labels on one brand of towels and one brand of candles. When the store reopened, sales of the now-labeled fair-labor towels jumped by 11 percent relative to sales of the unlabeled brand. For candles, the effect was even greater—an increase of 26 percent.

A few weeks later, Hiscox and Smyth were back in the stockroom, marking up the prices on the labeled towels and candles by 10 percent. Quite remarkably, this increase made people buy even more towels and candles (a 20 percent increase for towels and 30 percent for candles). The authors suggest this may be because the higher prices made the products' fair-labor claims more credible.

By looking at both towels and candles, the researchers deliberately contrasted a mundane, anonymous household item (towels) with a luxury good that was much more likely to be purchased as a gift (candles). And they think that helps explain why the fair-labor sticker boosted candle sales more. Virtuous towel purchasers are anonymous in their good deeds. When you give a fair-labor-certified candle, others also bask in the warm glow of your goodness.

While encouraging, the researchers offer an important caveat:

As anyone who has ever paid a visit to ABC Carpet knows, its customers are not normal people. (I realized this when I first went there a couple of years ago and saw ethically sourced tree stumps selling for thousands of dollars apiece.) As Hiscox and Smyth acknowledge, ABC customers are wealthy, liberal New Yorkers who can afford to pay $15 for a candle or $40 for a single towel. So, what we've really learned is that socially minded rich folk can afford to let conscience dictate their purchasing decisions, whatever the markup. ABC shoppers, however, represent only the tiniest sliver of American consumers, and their buying preferences alone aren't enough to make American businesses kinder, gentler, and cleaner.

Will home builders at large pay more for fair-labor plywood at Home Depot? Could Wal-Mart raise prices by 5 percent to cover health-care costs for its workers, pass the cost along to its customers while telling them the reason for the higher price, and take no hit in the market? This new research doesn't really tell us. But if Home Depot were willing to let them try, I'm sure Hiscox and Smyth would be happy to spend a few more nights in the stockroom with their label gun to find out.

Read it all here. Read the study itself here.

The Confederacy of Duncan's

The Rev. Harold Lewis, Rector of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh writes of Bishop Duncan's "New Confederacy"

If indeed the Episcopalians seeking realignment can be seen as the new Confederacy, we can take some comfort in the knowledge that the old Confederacy and the church that it spawned were short-lived. Already there is dissension in the ranks. In this diocese, although we could not tell by their behavior at Convention, there are several clergy and lay leaders from conserving” parishes who have indicated to the bishop that when push comes to shove, they will not join ranks with the Realigners, and will instead remain in the Episcopal Church. Beyond the bounds of the Diocese, other Realigners are seeking different paths. The bishop of Fort Worth, for example, whose diocese is a member of the Network, has indicated that his diocese will only realign with a province which does not recognize the ordination of women. One religious body which is a member of the newly formed group called Common Cause is reportedly considering a petition to the Holy See. Such, historically, has been the fate of religious organizations formed in protest against other religious organizations.

For the foreseeable future, the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh are living in a situation not unlike that of a couple who have decided to divorce, but who for whatever set of reasons, still share a residence. But it is actually worse than that. For whereas some couples may actually recognize that their marriage has failed but have no animosity toward each other, the conservative party sees itself as the wronged party in the marriage who has informed the progressive party in this Diocese that they have sullied the marriage because we follow a different Gospel and a different Lord.

Lewis' essay is well worth the read in its entirety. Thinking Anglicans has it all here. The original is from the current issue of Agape (pdf), the Calvary parish newsletter.

Pittsburgh conservative warns against schism

Jerry Bowyer is an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He thinks that the Episcopal Church "made a terrible mistake when it installed Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2004." And he says the answer is not found in schism which would, in his view, "break more commandments."

In an essay he wrote for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, he describes his discussion with his wife, a reader at St. Stephen's, McKeesport, PA, who was instructed by Bishop Duncan to no longer pray for the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

This directive placed his wife, along with many other laity, in a bind. Bowyer's advice was

"that Katharine was elected lawfully under the standards of the Episcopal Church. Robert was using his authority to tell her to disregard Katharine's authority. When there is a disruption in the chain of authority, I said, "look to the highest authority." He said, "Love your enemies, pray for those who despitefully use you." If you should pray for your enemies, should you not pray even more for friends with whom you disagree?"

Bowyer has read the scriptures and understands tradition and believes that "secession is not the biblical pattern of resistance to flawed authority."
Are my fellow conservatives fully aware of the biblical and patristic teachings on schism? How do they justify a break with the Episcopal Church to which they have literally sworn loyalty? How do they justify taking Episcopal property with them? Given Paul's command to the first-century Corinthian Church not to address church issues in secular courts, how do they justify the inevitable legal battles that accompany a schism? How much will the litigation cost? Will the money come from our offerings?

There are moral questions, too. If we break with the Episcopal Church in America over gay priests, how can we then align ourselves with African bishops who tolerate polygamist priests? Paul says that a church leader is to be "the husband of one wife." Do we think that the word "husband" is inerrant but the word "one" is not?

If the Episcopal Church really has become apostate and its current leaders really are enemies of God, then how can we justify leaving the church, its resources and its sheep in their care? If not, how can we justify this separation?

Yes, there are times when it's necessary to leave one authority for another. When the New Testament writers were forced to deal with this issue, they concluded that they were compelled to obey higher authority at all times, except when it commanded them to disobey God. Roman Emperors were monstrous beasts. The church preached against them and prayed for them to repent, but Christians still obeyed the law. It wasn't until Rome ordered them to stop preaching the gospel and to offer sacrifices to Caesar that the early church was forced to disobey.

By analogy, New Hampshire can install a whole pride of gay bishops, but we don't break our oath of loyalty to the Episcopal Church until they order us to start installing them here.

Until then, the pattern of David and Jesus holds: Be faithful. Be patient. Be active in good works. And be in prayer for all in authority ... "for Katharine, our presiding bishop; Robert and Henry, our bishops; and Jay, our priest, I pray. Lord, hear our prayer."

Read: Jerry Bowyer: The Pittsburgh Schism.

Hat tip to epiScope for pointing us to this important essay.

Tasting life under occupation

An Episcopal priest from Illinois writes about his experience visiting, and trying to get out of, the occupied West Bank. Robert Cotton Fite describes what it was like to stand in line for hours only to be denied entry and then finally to be let in with the help of a sympathetic Israeli.

Waiting in line at a West Bank border checkpoint, intimidated by the prisonlike atmosphere and frustrated by the Israeli soldier denying me passage back into Israel, I got my first real taste of what it's like most days for thousands of Palestinians. There I was, having just enjoyed visits to several Palestinian towns, looking very much the harmless, middle-class American tourist, with what I was sure were the right stamps in my passport, being told I could not re-enter Israel nor continue my trip to Nazareth.

I gave the young soldier my best surely-you-don't-mean-me look. Then, a polite request to "please call a superior officer." All to no avail. I would have to return to "wherever I came from."

And,

On this trip I was trying to understand a life under occupation.

For a caretaker at a Jerusalem nursing home, it meant that a daily trip that should take half an hour instead takes two to three hours. For a Palestinian father of five, a Jewish holiday meant "closure" of the border and the threat of a lost job when he could not get to Jerusalem for work. For a man in his 60s from Zababdeh whose identity papers would not allow him to travel to Ramallah for the heart surgery he needed, occupation meant "borrowing" his cousin's identity papers to gain passage through a crucial checkpoint.

Read: Robert Cotton Fite: A glimpse at a life in line: For Palestinians, a tense daily grind.

Day in court arrives

A long-awaited court date has arrived in Virginia. The Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church go to court to prevent the eleven congregations that comprise the Anglican District of Virginia, a part of the Nigerian-based Convocation of Anglicans in North America, from retaining Episcopal Church property when members of these congregations voted to depart the Episcopal Church and come under the jurisdiction of another Anglican province namely the Church of Nigeria (Anglican).

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports

Lawyers for Virginia’s Episcopal Church and about a dozen splinter congregations will wrangle in court Tuesday over a key legal issue at the core of which side ultimately gains control of tens of millions of dollars worth of disputed property.

This week’s trial, which will weigh both sides’ interpretation of religious property rights statutes in Virginia code, represents a major step in a legal dispute that could last well into next year.

It began last December and January when 11 conservative Virginia Episcopal churches voted to split from the Diocese of Virginia. The break, which culminated decades of ideological disagreement, came after the consecration of a gay bishop in New England four years ago.

The dissident churches — which include the Truro in Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church - joined an Anglican sect affiliated with a conservative African archbishop.
The diocese sought soon afterward to reclaim eight properties held by the dissident churches in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

The Washington Times reports:

The case is informally referred to as "57-9" in many documents because the coming hearing is based on Virginia Code Section 57-9. This says when a diocese or a denomination experiences a "division," members of a congregation may determine by majority vote which side of the division to join, along with their property.

"This case is literally historic, because it's based on a statute enacted by the Virginia legislature during the Civil War," said Mary McReynolds, one of 24 lawyers involved on CANA's side of the dispute. "The Virginia division statute is unusual, and my understanding is there are not many situations in the country that allow this."

Thus, many of the documents filed by the breakaway churches talk of 1860s splits among Baptists and Presbyterians over slavery and secession, including an 1867 article in the New York Times.

The "Multi-Circuit Episcopal Church Litigation," as the case is formally called, is a consolidation of 22 separate court cases. The trial is scheduled to last six days, and has amassed 15 feet of filings, stored in kelly-green cases in the records room two floors below the fifth floor of the courthouse, and is expected to feature a number of star witnesses.

Back in January, after the first congregations voted to secede and retain the buildings they occupied, Virginia attorney William Etherington wrote in the Richmond Times that


In the Colonial era, the Church of England was the established church of the Virginia Colony. The disestablishment of the church followed the Revolution, and the new commonwealth asserted that the properties were properties of Virginia. The properties were subsequently conveyed to trustees - under the predecessor of current Virginia Code Title 57 - who held the properties for the use of the parishes and for the benefit of the newly constituted Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church, which is now the rule of Canon I.7.4; the trustees are fiduciaries for the diocese and the Episcopal Church.

Recent stories have characterized the current dispute as one of property ownership. In reality, the property questions are but an adjunct to a larger question that relates to church governance. Litigation probably will result favorably for the diocese, most likely not by affirmative decision, but rather by a civil court's refusal to accept subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. Historically, civil courts have deferred to ecclesiastical authorities when disputes arose within hierarchical churches.

And

The Virginia Supreme Court - in its 1985 decision in Reid v. Gholson, reaffirmed in Cha v. Korean Presbyterian Church of Washington in 2001 - acknowledged the hierarchical-congregational distinction, holding that hierarchical churches are guided by a body of internally developed canon or ecclesiastical law. The decisions of such churches under their internal laws may be promulgated as matters of faith and considered entirely independent of civil authority. Persons who become members of such churches accept their internal rules and decisions of their tribunals.

For that reason, the court held that civil courts must treat a decision of a governing body or internal tribunal of a hierarchical church as an ecclesiastical determination constitutionally immune from judicial review. This is the Doctrine of Church Autonomy, derived from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. ... [The U.S. Supreme Court in 1871] recognized that the dispute ... at issue - although sounding like a property dispute - was really about which group would select pastoral leaders to inculcate the faith among parishioners. Essentially, it was a request for a civil court to side with one theological faction over another.

The Times report says that the diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church "have filed 67 documents undergirding their case and are calling in 19 witnesses. They include Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee; Canon Samuel Van Culin, former secretary-general to the Anglican Consultative Council in London for 11 years, now working at the Washington Cathedral; church historian Robert Bruce Mullin; seminary professors Ian Douglas and the Rev. Katherine Grieb; and David Beers, chancellor to the Episcopal Church."

And in response the ADV has "filed 174 documents and the names of 17 witnesses. They include Penn State professor Philip Jenkins, a scholar of Pentecostal Christianity and other emerging religious movements in what's known as the 'Global South,' a term he coined."

A complete outline of the legal dispute to date, including the initial filings by the CANA congregations that sparked the suits are found here.

An unjust mess

The Archbishop of Canterbury describes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an tragic mess that fail to conform to the principles of just war theory. According to Ekklesia, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams told an audience of 600 on Remembrance Day, November 11, 2007, that "while people should recognise and honour the bravery of soldiers at war, past and present, the Middle East conflicts fell short of one of the significant requirements of what is traditionally held to be a just war."

“One of the aspects of traditional just war theory is that you need to know what would count as a good end and how you would know when you have that and what to do then."

Dr Williams continued: “I don't think we had that in place sadly. I don't think we knew what we would do next or what would count as our ending. And that is the tragedy.”

Dr Williams also talked about how Christian pacifists can reconcile their beliefs with the reality of war and the church's development during some of the most turbulent times in history saying that for much of its early history it was involved in “damage limitation” exercises.

“Granted there are going to be wars, how do you stop then being nightmares and a mere expression of naked power?" he asked.

Christian peace campaigners have criticised the accommodation of mainline churches to violence during the 1700 years of Christendom, arguing that the core Gospel message calls for a more creative, nonviolent role in a iolent and divided world.

Read it all.

Amazing Race ends for Kate and Pat

AP:

"I admit I was out of shape," says Hendrickson, who's lost 40 pounds since filming. "I could do much better now."

During the race's first Detour challenge, Lewis and Hendrickson opted to search through a parking garage full of bikes. Looking back, Lewis and Hendrickson wished they would've chosen to hoist furniture up the side of the building.

"We definitely could've done that," says Lewis. "I've done macrame, too."

Lewis, 49, and Hendrickson, 65, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., tied the knot three years ago. The "married ministers" team are the oldest duo featured in the 12th edition of the Emmy-winning competitive reality series, and the show's first lesbian couple.
...
The pair asked permission from their church to participate in the around-the-world race.

"We've been supported 100 percent by our bishop," says Lewis. "We did have to ask permission to do this because we are under vows to our bishop. He didn't even think twice. He was 100 percent supportive."


It's all here.

Here's BuddyTV's exclusive interview with the couple who are both Episcopal ministers.

Iker gets hot under the collar

Jan Nunley writing in Episcopal Life Online under the headline, "Fort Worth bishop responds to warning letter from Jefferts Schori"

In his reply, Iker termed Jefferts Schori's letter "highly inappropriate" and "threatening," and claimed that it "appears designed to intimidate" delegates to the diocesan convention.
...
Fort Worth's diocesan convention meets November 16-17 to consider the first reading of a constitutional amendment that would remove accession to the Constitution and Canons of General Convention, as well as several canonical amendments that eliminate mention of the Episcopal Church.

Iker has publicly endorsed the changes and declared his intention to separate the Fort Worth diocese from the Episcopal Church.
...
The Presiding Bishop could ask the Title IV Review Committee to consider whether the bishops supporting those constitutional changes have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church. If the committee agreed that abandonment had taken place, the bishops would have two months to recant before the matter went to the full House of Bishops. If the House concurred, the Presiding Bishop could depose the bishops and declare the episcopates of those dioceses vacant. There is no appeal and no right of formal trial outside of a hearing before the House of Bishops.

Members of congregations remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary. An assisting bishop would be appointed until a search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated. A lawsuit could be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property.


Read it all here.

Iker's letter is here. An extract:

I must remind you that 25 years ago this month, the newly formed Diocese of Fort Worth voluntarily voted to enter into union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. If circumstances warrant it, we can likewise, by voluntary vote, terminate that relationship. Your aggressive, dictatorial posturing has no place in that decision.

The Diocese of Fort Worth is a creation of The Episcopal Church. It was formed as many new dioceses are as an administrative division of a large diocese. See the history of the Diocese of Dallas.

The presiding bishop's letter to Iker is here.

Majority of new clergy in Church of England are women

The Church of England ordained more women than men during 2006, the first year this has happened. This and other statistics are provided in statistics released today by the church.

But there's more to be told when you look at stipendiary ministry only:

The Church ordained 478 new clergy in 2006, a drop on the 505 ordained in 2005, the highest number since 2002.... Overall, more women (244) than men (234) were ordained in 2006, though the majority of these were ordained to non-stipendiary ministry. Of those ordained to full-time, stipendiary ministry, 128 were men and 95 were women.

Regarding attendance the figures "show a mixed picture for trends in church attendance." "The decline in infant baptisms continued.

"Total income rose. "Average giving to the church is around three per cent of average incomes."

Read it here.

Diocese of Colorado moves to sue 18 individuals

As the Rocky Mountain News puts it the Diocese of Colorado has "turned up the heat" in its legal tangle with the secessionist group that seized the property of Grace and Holy Trinity Church in Colorado Springs:

The petition asks the court to add 18 people to the diocese's existing countersuit, which is seeking monetary damages as well as repossession of the church.

The targeted members include everyone on the parish's governing board as well as the church's main spokesman, Alan Crippen, and its rector of 20 years, the Rev. Don Armstrong.

In its press release announcing the move the diocese states

In accordance with Colorado law, which requires that all essential persons be included in a suit, the Episcopal parish and diocese are requesting that the court add as parties those individuals who have led the secessionist group in taking the property.

Read the Rocky Mountain News coverage here. Read the diocese's press release here.

The diocese also accuses Don Armstrong of financial wrongdoing. An earlier press release dated October 23 stated:

The Bishop has reported the results of the Diocese's investigation to the appropriate legal authorities, has turned over all documents related to the investigation, and is cooperating fully with law enforcement officials. Bishop Robert O’Neill today expressed his confidence that the criminal justice system will respond appropriately.

Idol Chatter about the Golden Compass

The movie of Philip Pullman's book, The Golden Compass, will be released in December. Beliefnet's entertainment blog Idol Chatter has created a Golden Compass category. Go here to see the series of posts. They are studded with links. This recent post includes videos of an interview with the author.

In the latest post Kris Rasmussen writes,

I suggest you read fantasy author Jeffrey Overstreet's anaylsis, in which he describes in detail his respect for Pullman's writing while pointing out that with Pullman's anti-religion bias, he still never has the courage to deal with the true nature of Christ himself.

You could also check out critic Peter Chattaway's take on the movie, where he discusses how there have been complaints that movie has been dumbed down so that it wouldn't be so anti-religious--and that has inflamed the secularist group Pullman belongs to.

Virginia property trial opens

Matthew Barakat writing for AP has one of the better descriptions of the events of day 1 in the trial:

An obscure Virginia law from the Civil War era might play a deciding role in whether two of the Episcopal Church's largest and most prominent congregations will be permitted to leave the flock amid a standoff over sexual morality and other theological issues.

A two-week trial began Tuesday in Fairfax County Circuit Court that will determine whether the 1867 law governs the dispute between 11 Virginia congregations that voted to leave the church and Episcopal leaders who reject the validity of those votes.
...
In opening statements Tuesday, CANA lawyer Steffen Johnson said history shows that the Virginia General Assembly envisioned exactly this type of dispute when it enacted the law. At the time, Protestant churches had been torn apart over slavery and abolitionism, and the splits were never amicable or formally recognized by both sides.
...
In court papers, diocesan lawyers argue that requiring a judge to rule on whether a "division" has occurred in the Episcopal Church sets up an unconstitutional intrusion into the church's religious affairs. The 1867 law must be interpreted in light of the fact that the Episcopal Church is a hierarchical organization that vests ultimate authority in its presiding bishop and national governing bodies rather than at the congregational level.
...
The trial is expected to last two weeks. No matter how Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows rules, the property dispute likely will remain unresolved.

If Bellows rules that the Virginia law applies, the diocese can challenge the voting procedures used by the congregations or the constitutionality of the 1867 law, arguing that religious freedom is infringed when the state interjects itself into disputes over canon law.

If he rules the law does not apply, the two sides could still dispute whether the individual congregation or the diocese are the ultimate owner of the property and whether a trust interest claimed by the Episcopal Church is valid.

In a statement Tuesday, the breakaway congregations urged the Episcopal diocese to either resume settlement talks or withdraw their lawsuit, which has resulted in millions of dollars in legal fees.


Read it here in the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

Ironically, in contrast to many other denominations, the Episcopal Church was not split as a result of the Civil War.

The Washington Post adds: "The trial, which is scheduled to go on until late next week, is actually the first of two trials, and no resolution in the land dispute will come until early next year at the earliest. The first trial is meant to determine whether the congregations "divided" under the legal meaning of the word. ... Bellows's ruling in the first trial will help whichever side he rules for in the second, representatives on both sides said. "

See also The Living Church and this background article from yesterday's Richmond Times Dispatch.

The bestowal of the American Episcopate

On this date in 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated bishop in Aberdeen, Scotland "by the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness. He thus became part of the unbroken chain of bishops that links the Church today with the Church of the Apostles. ... The Episcopal Church of Scotland ... had no recognition by the government, and for some time operated under serious legal disablities. However, since it had no connection with the government, it was free to consecrate Seabury without government permission, and it did. This is why you see a Cross of St. Andrew on the Episcopal Church flag." (James Kiefer, source)

The Church of England had provided no bishops for the colonies prior to the Revolution and it was not prepared to do so afterwards. The consecration of Seabury was a key to the formation of the Episcopal Church. Its relationship to the Anglican Communion was figured out later. The Anglican Communion, it seems, is familiar with conflict.

Today's Speaking to the Soul quotes Seabury on the practice of weekly communion. Seabury's private communion office, closely based on the Scottish rite, is here at justus. As bishop of Connecticut, Seabury was stern with certain of the clergy in the diocese "who neglect that Holy Office." He signed An Ernest Persuasion "By the Right Reverend Father in GOD, SAMUEL, their Diocesan Bishop."

Bates glad he's no longer a religious war correspondent

Recently Stephen Bates concluded a seven year tour of duty as the religion correspondent for the Guardian. He returned to civilian service having lost his faith. Religious folks, he found, can be rather nasty. One excerpt:

Only a week or so ago, a US blogger was remarking charitably that it wasn’t worth expending a bullet on the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, who is the first woman to lead a major Christian denomination. The blogger, incidentally, was herself a woman.

Read it all in the December issue of the New Humanist. Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for the pointer.

Flooding in Mexico, El Salvador, Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic

11/13/2007

In the southern Mexican state of Tabasco, a week of heavy rainfall caused massive flooding, killing one person and forcing nearly a million people to escape the rising waters by seeking higher ground. In neighboring Chiapas, four people were killed and 7,000 were evacuated due to floods.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon visited the region and offered “all help humanly possible” to the more than 300,000 Tabasco residents whose homes were flooded or damaged and to the thousands of farmers whose entire harvests were destroyed....


11/6/07
Hurricane Noel, originally a tropical storm that grew to a Category 1 hurricane, swept across the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas, and Cuba causing severe flooding and mudslides killing at least 140 people. The storm is now the deadliest to hit the Atlantic region during the 2007 hurricane season....
Episcopal Relief and Development is responding. For ways to help follow either link above. Or go to er-d.org.

Entangled States goes back to the future

Nick Knisely writing at Entangled States:

But things in the blogsphere have changed in the last year. Last spring saw the beginning of Episcopal Cafe, a team blog that Jim Naughton, I and others had been dreaming up for some time. It’s built up quite a readership in the 6 months or so since it went “live”. On a good day I might get 500 readers here. Episcopal Cafe can see upwards of 100,000. As one of the regular contributors and part of the news-team, much of what I would have once posted here is instead going to the Cafe. Which is a good thing because it's being seen by many more people.

And a few months ago I was invited by some friends to be part of Covenant Communion. That site is still figuring out how it wants to work and what sort of voice it will share, its given me a place to engage with other moderate and some conservative voices on what it does mean to be moderate/centrist within the Episcopal Church.

So with two major areas moved offsite, what’s left?

I think I’d like to return to my original thoughts here - how science and theology interact with each other. I’m particularly interested in how good science can inform good theology. I’m also interested in the more practical matters of the ethical challenges that decisions made from a scientific viewpoint have for the people affected by them.

Nick, we look forward to following your fresh thoughts, wherever they go.

Rescinding the invitation

Susan Russell has the story of how Bishop Dabney Smith of the Diocese of Southwest Florida withdrew permission he had previously granted for Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to speak at a Sarasota church. Bishop Smith has apparently taken a lesson from the Jeffrey John chapter of the Rowan Williams playbook entitled, "How to Alienate your Supporters without Placating your Adversaries."

The bishop has decided that it is too politically costly to allow the listening process, recommended in Lambeth Resolution 1.10, to take place in his jurisdiction. Here is how the rector of the church which had invited Robinson explained Smith's decision to his parish:

Bishop Smith said he took this action because of all the heat he is getting. Previously Bishop Smith had given his permission for the visit and said it was not a problem for him although he anticipated a reaction. He told me that it has been more of a reaction than he anticipated.

Smith's decision raises the larger question of which Episcopal bishops will be permitted to speak at churches in the Tampa/ St. Petersburgh area. Does a bishop who participated in Robinson's consecration pass muster? How about a bishop who voted with the majority in affirming Robinson's election? Is any speaker subject to cancellation if sufficient outrage can be generated, or just the gay ones?

The church awaits clarification on these issues from Bishop Smith, or whichever group is now making up his mind for him.

In the meantime, the disenchanted can buy this button.

Souls at stake in elections, say Roman Catholic bishops

Roman Catholic bishops have been providing guidance to their flock on political issues for ages, and for the past thirty-odd years they've even explicitly sounded off about various matters at stake in the voting booth. But this year, the bishops have taken it further by addressing how what voters tick on their ballot ties in with their salvation, according to an article in today's Chicago Tribune. But what those issues are may surprise you:

... The guidelines issued Wednesday for the first time spelled out possible consequences as well as giving much more nuanced instruction to the Catholic electorate than in years past.

Voters are implored not to support abortion-rights political candidates but also advised that views on abortion should not be the sole factor. Catholics should also weigh church teaching on such moral issues as immigration, just war and poverty, bishops said.

"It was groundbreaking not in the sense that it changed any doctrine or added any doctrine," said Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn. "What we did provide for the first time in this document is some concrete guidance in how a voter goes about making prudential judgments."

The article notes that this may be a sign that the church is emerging from its sexual abuse crisis, moving beyond the abortion argument and emerging to lead on issues such as peace and immigration. You can read the whole thing here.

Morning Edition on NPR also did a short piece on it here.

"Bibliolatry" among evangelicals comes under fire

The Evangelical Theological Society held its annual meeting earlier this month, and Christianity Today's blast email today features a piece on ETS's most popular breakout session. CT blogger Ted Olsen reports on J.P. Moreland’s standing-room only “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It.”

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,” he said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.”

The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.”

Suppose an archaeologist discovered a portion of the ancient city of Jerusalem that was specifically described in the Old Testament, Moreland said:

Could the archaeologist have discovered the site without the use of the Old Testament? Once discovered, could the archaeologist learn things about the site that went beyond what was in the Old Testament? Clearly the answer is yes to both questions. Why? Because the site actually exists in the real world. It does not exist in the Bible. It is only described in the Bible and the biblical description in partial.

Likewise, Moreland argued, “because the human soul/spirit and demons/angels are real, it is possible, and, in fact, actual that extra-biblical knowledge can be gained about these spiritual entities. … Demons do not exist in the Bible. They exist in reality.”

By not researching how demons work, how to fight them, and other such issues by, for example, working with exorcists, Christian scholars are harming the church, Moreland argued. In a similar vein, he thinks evangelical scholars and the movement as a whole are rejecting “guidance, revelation, and so forth from God through impressions, dreams, visions, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom.”

“We shut that down because of charismatic excesses,” he said. “Because of abuses, we fear teaching people how to use it. We think it’s all going to be Benny Hinn or something like that.”

A third area where Moreland critiqued evangelical over-commitment to Bible was in the scarcity of evangelical appeals to natural theology and moral law in their political and cultural discussions.

“The sparse landscape of evangelical political thought stands in stark contrast to the overflowing garden both of evangelical biblical scholarship and Catholic reflection on reason, general revelation, and cultural and political engagement,” he said. “We evangelicals could learn a lesson or two from our Catholic friends.”

The whole thing is here.

Gulf Coast Housing Act set for Senate attention

The Episcopal Public Policy Network notes that during its recent meeting in New Orleans the House of Bishops called upon Congress to fulfill its moral obligation "to create a new vision for recovery of the Gulf Coast." H.R. 1227, which addressed this call, passed the House of Representatives with "strong bipartisan support," according to EPPN, and now the Network has turned its attention on generating grassroots support for the Senate version, S.1668.

Sadly many needs in the Gulf Coast remain unmet. Even more tragic, those who were poor and vulnerable before the storms have continued to be neglected in the recovery process. "What more can we do? How can we continue to help?

Contact your Senators today and urge them to support S. 1668, the Gulf Coast Housing
Recovery Act of 2007:

This legislation, which passed the House as H. 1227 with strong bipartisan support, is an opportunity for concerned Episcopalians across the nation to give the Gulf Coast a tremendous boost with our voices. The Senate could soon consider S. 1668, which will help ensure that all residents—homeowners, renters, first-time homebuyers and public housing residents alike—have a way to come home. Episcopalians and people of faith are doing our part; we must encourage our Government to fulfill its commitment to Gulf Coast Rebuilding.

Read the full appeal here.

Church of England statistics on giving and attendance released

Earlier this week we had a discussion of the latest Episcopal Church statistics. Now the Church of England is releasing her results from the past year. In a nutshell, attendance is down, money is up and there are an increasing number of woman in the priesthood.

From the article:

"THREE MILESTONES were recorded in Church of England statistics, released on Tuesday. Average weekly giving rose above £5 a week in 2005; average Sunday attendance fell below one million in the same year; and more women than men were ordained in 2006.

Direct giving to parish churches by electoral-roll members averaged £5.08 a week, while subscribers to tax-efficient schemes gave an average of £8.26 a week.

...Churchgoers continued to give generously to charitable causes compared with the population at large, said John Preston, the Church’s National Stewardship and Resources Officer. ‘Average giving to the Church is about three per cent of average incomes, still somewhere short of the five per cent of disposable income recommended by the General Synod since 1978.’

...Attendance figures for this period, included in this week’s package, were released earlier in the year (News, 26 January). They showed a fall of two per cent for Sunday worship — from 1,010,000 in 2004 to 988,000 in 2005. The picture was acknowledged to be mixed, since 15 dioceses saw annual increases in their attendance figures, as well as a dramatic increase in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day attendance."

Read the rest here.

End of schism in sight?

Almost a thousand years ago, one of the longest lasting schisms in Christianity happened between the Eastern and Western branches of the Church. According to a report in the Times, representatives of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have signed a document that provides a roadmap to ending the split. The Pope would be acknowledged as the Universal Pontiff of the Church, but would give up his claim of Infallibility.

From the article:

The 46-paragraph “Ravenna Document”, written by a special commission of Catholic and Orthodox officials, envisages a reunified church in which the Pope could be the most senior patriarch among the various Orthodox churches.

Just as Pope John Paul II was driven by the desire to bring down Communism, so Pope Benedict XVI hopes passionately to see the restoration of a unified Church. Although he is understood to favour closer relations with traditional Anglicans, the Anglican Communion is unlikely to be party to the discussions because of its ordination of women and other liberal practices.

Unification with the Orthodox churches could ultimately limit the authority of the Pope, lessening the absolute power that he currently enjoys within Catholicism. In contrast, a deal would greatly strengthen the Patriarch of Constantinople in his dealings with the Muslim world and the other Orthodox churches.

Pope Benedict has called a meeting of cardinals from all over the world in Rome on November 23, when the document will be the main topic of discussion. The Ravenna “road map” concedes that “elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion”.

...If the proposals move forward, the Pope would be acknowledged as the universal Primate, as he was before the schism. Although it is not stated outright, he would be expected by the Orthodox churches to relinquish the doctrine of infallibility. The proposals could also allow married priests in the Catholic Church, as already happens in the Orthodox.

Read the rest here.

English bishops urged to model acceptance of gays

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Britain has released a statement calling on the leadership of the Anglican Church in that country to model supportive actions toward its gay and lesbian members and clergy as a way of helping British parents build healthy relationship with their gay and lesbian children. The statement was released as part of the Church of England's participation in the Listening Process begun as a result of the 1998 Lambeth conference.

“The Church has a wonderful opportunity to lead rather than to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Christianity is such an inclusive religion,” said Professor Michael King, an executive committee member of the College’s special-interest group of 200 to 300 psychiatrists who work with lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transsexual people.

His committee has submitted a report to the Church’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality, to inform a study guide for next year’s Lambeth Conference. The report, endorsed by the full College “from the President down”, said that there were no scientific or rational grounds for treating lesbian, gay, and bisexual people differently, Professor King said on Monday.


Read the full article here.

Entire text of the RCP statement is here (pdf), or - via Thinking Anglicans - here (html).

An emergent force for social-action

An opinion piece in USA Today by Tom Krattenmaker about the emergent church movement points out the increasing servant-ministry focus of the post-modern Christian communities spring up in and out of denominations.

"There's a growing buzz about the emerging movement, and depending on your point of view, its robust growth and rising influence are worthy of applause, scorn, or perhaps just puzzlement. Fitting for a movement that eschews hierarchy and dogma, emergents defy simple definition. Perhaps the best one can say is that they're new-style Christians for the postmodern age, the evangelicals of whom the late Rev. Jerry Falwell disapproved.

Postmodernity is nothing new. Philosophers will tell you we've been living in the postmodern age for decades. But its expression in the context of fervent Christianity, in the form of the emerging church, is a fairly recent phenomenon, only about a decade old.

Like the postmodern philosophy it embraces, the emerging church values complexity, ambiguity and decentralized authority. Emergents are quite certain about some things, nevertheless, especially Jesus and his clear instruction about the way Christians are to live out their faith — not primarily as respectable, middle-class pillars of status quo society, but as servants to the poor and to people in the margins. In the words of Gideon Tsang, a 33-year-old Texas emergent who moved himself and his family to a smaller home in a poorer part of town, 'The path of Christ is not in upward mobility; it's in downward.'

...The "downward mobility" [...] applies as well to the church-growth strategy, or lack thereof, of emerging communities. Unlike the megachurches of mainstream evangelicalism, emerging groups do not emphasize attracting new members (although it seems to happen anyway) or constructing church buildings. Some emerging groups meet in rented auditoriums, some in people's homes, some in pubs. There is less emphasis, too, on programming for members. In their view, the church exists not primarily to serve members but to serve the community.

Typical of the movement's critics, [Jerry] Falwell accused the emerging church of trying to "modernize and recreate the church so as not to offend sinners." That's probably code for "liberal," a shoe that would certainly fit."

Read the full op-ed piece here.

Tobias Haller: "Fission"

Tobias Haller writes about two of the topics of the moment in the Episcopal Church, the movement by the Diocese of Fort Worth to separate from the Episcopal Church, and the trial ongoing in Virginia to block similar actions taken by a group of parishes to associate with Anglicans connected to Nigeria.

He writes of the Fort Worth situation:

"The Diocese of Fort Worth is in the process of considering a resolution that includes a clause ‘dissociating itself from the moral, theological, and disciplinary innovations of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.’ What form this dissociation might take remains unknown, although there has been a move afoot to realign the diocese with the Church of the Southern Cone.

There is a procedure for clergy to transfer their membership to other provinces of the Anglican Communion. Many have made use of this in recent times. There is also a procedure for a priest or deacon or bishop to renounce the Ministry of The Episcopal Church. There is no procedure for a diocese to do so. It appears that the intent of the Bishop and some of the clergy of the Diocese of Fort Worth is to separate the diocese itself from the discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church. This has all of the appearance of renunciation and abandonment on their part — not of the faith of the Church, but, as the Canon says, ‘the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church’; that is, The Episcopal Church. Two out of three appear to be at play in this current proposed action.

The Bishop and Clergy of Fort Worth cannot have it both ways. They are either under the discipline of TEC, or they reject it; and rejection, in this case, constitutes abandonment."

And of the situation in Virginia and the arguments being made in court regarding the act of division in a congregation (which is a legal concept under Virginia state law):

It appears to me that they have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick — or the branch. The statute uses “division” to refer to decisions made by a church hierarchy to split itself into two or more denominations — as happened during the Civil War with a number of American churches, though, significantly, not with The Episcopal Church, which never recognized the separate establishment of a Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America any more than the Congress recognized the legitimate establishment of the Confederate States themselves.

The dissident parishes are claiming that the word “division” can be applied to the present state of disagreement in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. This argument, which I find it hard to believe anyone could take seriously, would, if applied consistently, lead to the total dissolution of any church in which there was any significant level of disagreement on any given topic.

Read the rest here.

San Joaquin invited to join Province of Southern Cone

This news release appeared on the Diocese of San Joaquin's website:

"The Diocese of San Joaquin today announced that the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of South America has extended an invitation to offer the Diocese membership on an emergency and pastoral basis.

The announcement comes three weeks before the Diocese is scheduled hear the second and final reading of Constitutional changes first adopted on December 2, 2006. Should the second reading of the Constitutional changes be approved at the Diocesan Convention on December 8, 2007, the Diocese is free to accept the invitation to align with the Province of the Southern Cone and remain a diocese with full membership within the Anglican Communion.

According to the Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, ‘We welcome the invitation extended by the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. The invitation assures the Diocese’s place in the Anglican Communion and full communion with the See of Canterbury.’"

The pastoral letter says that this emergency provision will remain in place

Until the Episcopal Church:
  • repents and complies with the requests of the Windsor Report;
  • respects the conscience of the parishes and dioceses which wish to adhere to the theological, moral and pastoral norms of the Anglican Communion, once held also by the Episcopal Church;
  • and its Presiding Bishop and officers cease to pursue and intimidate these dioceses and parishes by means of lawsuits, confiscations and depositions;

Or

Until adequate, effective and acceptable alternative primatial and episcopal oversight be offered as recommended by the Primates in Dar Es Salaam;

Or

Until the Archbishop of Canterbury takes clear action and responds effectively to the legitimate and urgent concerns of the “alienated” parishes and dioceses of The Episcopal Church offering pastoral leadership to protect them;

Read the full text and the Pastoral letter here.

The calendar is coming

The Diocese of Washington's fourth annual online Advent calendar will make its debut on December 1.

Beneath each "window" in the calendar, visitors will find a photograph of one of the figures from the annual crèche exhibit at Washington National Cathedral and links to a daily meditation, a daily carol (courtesy of the choir of Trinity Church Wall Street) and a giving opportunity (many of them culled from Episcopal Releif and Development's annual Gifts for Life Catalog.)

Visit the 2004, 2005 and 2006 calendars.

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

From the Associated Press: When some of the world's leading religious scholars gather in San Diego this weekend, pasta will be on the intellectual menu. They'll be talking about a satirical pseudo-deity called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose growing pop culture fame gets laughs but also raises serious questions about the essence of religion.

There's no more scientific basis for intelligent design than there is for the idea an omniscient creature made of pasta created the universe. If intelligent design supporters could demand equal time in a science class, why not anyone else? The only reasonable solution is to put nothing into sciences classes but the best available science.

"I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence," Henderson sarcastically concluded.

Read it all. And then, on a somewhat more serious note (honest) consider the church of the Moo shoo Burrito.

You can go home now

The Anglican Church of Canada thinks that the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone has done quite enough.

In particular, we cannot recognize the legitimacy of recent actions by the Province of the Southern Cone in purporting to extend its jurisdiction beyond its own borders. We call upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism and are in contravention of the ancient and continuing traditions of the Church. They aggravate the current tensions in the Anglican Communion.

For readers unfamiliar with the Anglican Saga, the Southern Cone is a church of vast territory (Argentina, Bolvia, Chile, Peru and others) but few people (20,000 to 30,000) that has attempted to annex dioceses and churches in Brazil, Canada and the United States (thus more than doubling its size.) These churches are often at odds with the Southern Cone on such seemingly essential matters as the nature of the Eucharist and the importance of the sacraments. But they are united in their desire to bar women, gays and lesbains from full inclusion in the Church.

The Primate of the Southern Cone, Archbishop Gregory Venables is a British evangelical who, for unknown reasons, is often treated by the media as a spokesman for the traditional values of the southern hemisphere.

Barry Bonds, Bill Belichick and the average fan

David Kuo of Beliefnet suggests that the sporting public's response to cheating is becoming increasingly ambiguous. And that's bad.

We can't do anything about Barry Bonds anymore. His career is already almost over. His legal punishment awaits. But we can do something about the New England Patriots. We can say that yes, they are having an amazing season, but they cheated and that means that their attainments are marred. There needs to be a certain mark of shame that comes with cheating. Our children need to know that. Other teams and athletes need to know that. And most importantly we need to know that.

Meanwhile, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated suggests that the guy who gave up Bonds' record-breaking home run is more worthy of our respect than Bonds himself.

Elect the bishops in Britain!

Andrew Linzey, member of the Faculty of Theology at Oxford University and Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, writes that the Church of England has an historic opportunity now that the Prime Minister has decided to pull the government out of the process used to choose British bishops. Prof. Linzey calls for the Church of England to follow the model used by the Episcopal Church and have the laity and clergy of each diocese directly choose their bishops by election.

Linzey writes:

Bishops are currently chosen by the Crown Nominations Commission, a mixture of synodical and local representatives, church and state advisers, and the archbishops themselves. No aspect of church government is more imbued with unease and suspicion, if not downright distrust. The proceedings are confidential so that even those who are under consideration may not be aware of it, and the antecedent process (I am told) involves bishops circulating lists of individuals deemed suitable for preferment.

This process has traditionally been defended on the ground that, since these are Crown appointments, there is no other way because confidentiality must be ensured. But one result of appointment by committee is that the process of making bishops has become remote from ordinary Anglicans. Indeed, most are in total ignorance of the system and assume (with some justification) that appointments are rewards for deference and docility. Since the heady days of Bishops John Robinson and David Jenkins, appointments have increasingly been of the “safe” managerial variety. Church leaders, in the words of Donald Reeves, “have probably never been so competent, hard-working, moderate and dull”.

...Candidates should be required — as is currently the case in the Episcopal Church — to answer questions in person and in writing, usually about their own histories, their beliefs, as well as their views on church polity. The diocesan cathedral should be given over to a whole week's public interrogation of the candidates, interspersed with prayer and communion, culminating in a ballot based on the preferable vote system. We would at last see the Body of Christ in operation — as a body with equal votes for all.

Such an arrangement would have one redeeming characteristic above all: transparency. With no more closed committees or backroom jockeying for power, Anglicans could debate openly the issues that face them and, where there are differences — well, at least they will be public ones properly aired and in the context of prayer. Some will reply that this devolution of power would reduce the Church to autonomous dioceses and threaten catholicity. But safeguards could easily be built into the system. In the Episcopal Church, for example, each diocesan election must be ratified by a majority of “consents” from diocesan bishops and their standing committees. Thus the Episcopal Church allows a high degree of autonomy within a unitary system.

Read the full article here.

Read more »

Canadian Diocese of Niagara allows same sex blessings

The Diocese of Niagara, which makes up the Southern part of Ontario, meeting at its annual synod, today voted by large margins to allow civilly-married gay couples, “where at least one party is baptized,” to receive a church blessing. The Anglican Journal has the details:

Bishop Ralph Spence, who had refused to implement a similar vote three years ago, this time gave his assent, making Niagara the third diocese since the June General Synod convention to accept same-sex blessings.

Of the 294 clergy and lay delegates, 239 voted yes, 53 said no and two abstained. In 2003, out of 319 delegates, 213 voted yes and 106 said no.

“The question has been asked, ‘Where do we go from here?’ Much consultation will take place … When and how this will be implemented will be dealt with in the days that lie ahead. We are aware of the vote’s ramifications,” said Bishop Spence, who also said he has been in consultation in the past week with Lambeth Palace (residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury), the Canadian primate (Archbishop Fred Hiltz) and his successor, Bishop Michael Bird, who takes office on March 1. Bishop Spence declined to say whom he had spoken with at Lambeth Palace.

The dioceses of Ottawa and Montreal recently passed similar motions and their bishops have said they will consult widely before deciding whether to implement the decisions. (The Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster has offered blessings since 2002.) Civil marriage has been legal for homosexual couples since 2003.

. . .

Asked if his action would jeopardize work he will take up in March in London and at the Lambeth Conference meeting of bishops next July in England, Bishop Spence said he did not think it would. “My role at Lambeth is not constitutional. I will be chaplain to all the workers and make sure all the safe church practices are followed,” said Bishop Spence.

More than 50 speakers came to the microphones during the 90-minute debate.

After the blessings vote, synod approved a motion that said bishops from other diocese may not exercise ministry in Niagara without the bishop’s permission and that parishes and clergy seeking oversight from another bishop may only do so with the Niagara bishop’s approval.

Read it all here.

From pastor to executive

For many urban churches, a social ministry naturally moves beyond feeding the homeless to offering housing and jobs to the neighborhoods they serve. Yet, few seminaries offer the clergy the coursework they need to be succcessful at this ministry. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania hopes to fill this gap:

Pastor T.L. Rogers, head of a mid-sized church in suburban Maryland, calls himself a "closet developer."

"One thing that makes my heart beat is the smell of drywall. I love to look at something and see what it can become," says Rogers, who led his Hyattsville, Md., Baptist church in renovating a strip mall in the late 1990s. The church sanctuary is now a former Soap-N-Suds dry cleaners, the church administration office inhabits a former Domino's Pizza and a former Duron Paint store is now the church fellowship hall.

Having completed that project, Rogers and his congregation are thinking even bigger: "We want to reach out into the community," he says. They recently purchased a restaurant, which they plan to tear down, next to their church. In its place will be an adult charter school offering vocational training and English-as-a-second-language classes to local residents, many of whom are recent immigrants.

But for Rogers, whose advanced degree is in Bible studies, meeting with bank executives is sometimes a challenge. "Finance is a whole different language. They use acronyms I've never heard of," he says. "As pastors, the toughest thing for us to admit is when we don't know something." When Rogers met Sidney Williams, a pastor and venture capitalist fluent in the languages of both faith and finance, he saw "how things should be done. I realized I needed more than a Finance-101-level understanding."

Moving development-minded pastors from good intentions to executive ability is the purpose behind a new Wharton executive education program for pastors and other faith leaders. The program is spearheaded by Wharton management professor Bernard Anderson and Williams, who is the founding CEO of EKOS Ministries, a Fort Washington, Md.,-based consulting group that assists churches with development projects. "There have been many efforts encouraging clergy to engage in real estate and economic development, but I cannot identify a program focused on equipping pastors to function in an executive role, and that's what this one aims to do," says Williams, formerly a partner in a venture capital fund that invested in urban businesses.

This involvement in economic development is not new to the Church:

Read more »

Christian politicians

David Helm, executive editor of the Christian Century offers some interesting thoughts on the issue of the appropriate involvement of the faithful in politics on the Christian Century Theolog blog:

I have been hearing some significant voices on the right that are disillusioned about political engagement.

For example, at a Yale Divinity School conference on religion and politics in October, David Kuo, former aide in the Bush White House, talked about the need for Christians to “fast from politics” for a few years. Conservative Christians helped Republicans get control of Congress and the White House, he said, but they didn’t accomplish that much for the country and, with their focus on partisan politics, they ended up diluting or distorting their own spiritual life.

Also speaking was Gregory Boyd, a dynamic pastor in Minnesota, who doubts that anything good comes from aligning oneself with Caesar (his words to describe Christians engaging in politics). He spoke eloquently about how the church is called to embody Christ’s self-sacrificing love in the world, not to take up the levers of power.

Skepticism about politics is always healthy. But it strikes me that Kuo’s and Boyd’s comments reflect a broad, unhelpful tendency in American Christianity to oscillate between two poles: either a fervent engagement in politics for the sake of the gospel and the world, or an equally fervent detachment for the sake of the purity of the gospel and the health of the church. Isn’t there something between the two poles?

It might help the discussion of religion and politics if we thought not about the two poles of political engagement and detachment but about politics as a particular kind of vocation to which Christians are called in different ways depending on their gifts and their position in the church and society.

I’d be happy to stipulate, with Boyd, that the church as church is not called to be Caesar or even Caesar’s adviser. We don’t want bishops, pastors or church councils issuing statements on tax laws or free trade agreements or on which version of the SCHIP bill should be passed. Churches and church leaders have their particular vocation of proclamation, worship, prayer and sacramental ministry. Except in emergency situations, the church—here I mean the church as an official body—leaves the details of what public justice means to those who are called to the work of politics.

Meanwhile, however, individual Christians have their particular vocations. In a democracy, all people have the vocation of citizen and so are in some degree called to the work of politics. Beyond that, a certain number of individual Christians are called to a more specific vocation: to study, analyze or participate in the day-to-day workings of politics. They make arguments and pay attention to data. They look for affinities between the gospel and political philosophies and programs. They listen to what constituents say and arguments other people make. Their work is fallible, limited, pervaded by sin, always subject to revision—but so are lots of vocations.

Unless one takes a truly separatist view of the Christian life and wants to preclude anybody with political influence from being a member of the church, then one has to grant that some Christians have the specific vocation of working out the details of seeking justice in political life. This is not the only task of the Christian life, nor is it the primary task of the church. But it is a genuine vocation for Christians, one just as worthy as farming or schoolteaching. If we are clear about the distinct vocations to which Christians are called, there is no reason for Christians to fast from politics or apologize for their involvement in it.

Read it here. What do you think? Is politics part of our vocation? Or is it time for the faithful to fast from politics?

Empires and tolerance

Today's New York Times Book Review includes a review of Amy Chau's Day of Empire, which makes some very interesting observations about the role of toleration and inclusion to the success of several empires, including Achaemenid Persia, imperial Rome, Tang Dynasty China, the Mongol empire, the Dutch commercial empire of the 17th century, the British Empire and the United States. Lance Morrow, a longtime essayist for TIME magazine wrote the review:

The emperor Claudius thought about the dynamics of imperial ingestion. He reminded the Roman Senate that the founder Romulus would “both fight against and naturalize a people on the same day.” Claudius argued that the Gauls, by logical extension, could be accepted into the Senate because “they no longer wear trousers” — that is, they could be counted on to come to work wearing the Roman toga and thus to have effectively become Romans.

The great Mughal emperor Akbar flourished by practicing a similar “strategic tolerance” — which included what Amy Chua in “Day of Empire” calls “multicultural copulation.” A Muslim himself, the emperor intermarried widely: “By the time of Akbar’s death, he had more than 300 wives, including Rajputs, Afghans, princesses from South Indian kingdoms, Turks, Persians and even two Christian women of Portuguese descent.”

E pluribus unum.

Chua argues that all of the world-dominant powers in history — among them, Achaemenid Persia, imperial Rome, Tang Dynasty China, the Mongol empire, the Dutch commercial empire of the 17th century, the British Empire and hegemonic America — prospered by a strategy of tolerance and inclusion, the embrace (and exploitation) of diversity and difference.

. . .

The death of empire, in Chua’s thesis — the Kryptonite that vitiates a superpower — is intolerance and exclusivity, an insistence on racial “purity” or religious orthodoxy. Chua wonders how different 20th-century history might have been if Hitler had been a tolerant and accommodating conqueror. “By murdering millions of conquered subjects and hundreds of thousands of German citizens,” she observes, “the Nazis deprived themselves of incalculable manpower and human capital. ... Germany lost an array of brilliant scientists, including Albert Einstein, Theodore von Karman, Eugene Wigner, Leo Szilard, Hans Bethe, Edward Teller and Lise Meitner, many of whom went on to play an integral role in the construction of the world’s first atomic bomb, which the United States used to win the war.” It was history’s most spectacular example of shooting oneself in the foot.

Further unintended consequences of doctrinaire malice: In 1478, the Inquisition, decreed by papal bull, ended an era of relative tolerance in Spain. In 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella gave Jews the choice of either converting to Catholism or leaving. Ten years later, the Muslims of Castile were ordered to convert or emigrate. “The Spanish monarchy had officially embraced intolerance,” Chua writes, “and for an empire hoping to rise in global pre-eminence, this was a staggeringly bad move.”

Chua, the John Duff Jr. professor of law at Yale Law School, unfolds an agreeably plausible case with clarity and insistent simplification, like a lawyer pacing before the jury box, hitting the same points (tolerance, diversity, inclusion) for emphasis as she clicks off centuries and civilizations. Always in the back of her mind is the drama of America.

. . .

Few would quarrel with Chua’s absorbing PowerPoint presentation, her shrewd and happy argument that a generous policy of tolerance and inclusion leads on to success and prosperity. Or with her somewhat more intricate (or circular?) case that even the most embracingly inclusive empires eventually disintegrate because they lack “glue” — an overarching political identity to give coherence to the whole.

But in the 21st century, “empire” and “superpower” and “hyperpower” are terms that may require rethinking. They suggest boundaries, borders — even as they connote the expansion of territory and influence. But most of the powerful forces, good and evil, of our new century are borderless, globalized — the almost unimpeded global flow of information (images, ideas, news, music, movies, emotions, hatreds), products, commodities, capital, environmental pollution, climate change and terrorism. Perhaps, eventually, nuclear terrorism. In such a world, an idea (a rage, a grievance, a difference of cultural perspective) may create a superpower without borders, using a cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan as its Pentagon.

Read it all here.

God must be weeping

Instead of facing problems such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, and global conflict, Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the BBC that the Church, particularly the Anglican Communion, is obsessed with homosexuality and gay clergy. "God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another," Tutu says.

Archbishop Tutu referred to the debate about whether Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, could serve as the bishop of New Hampshire.

He said the Anglican Church had seemed "extraordinarily homophobic" in its handling of the issue, and that he had felt "saddened" and "ashamed" of his church at the time.

Asked if he still felt ashamed, he said: "If we are going to not welcome or invite people because of sexual orientation, yes.

"If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God."

The interview will be broadcast on Tuesday, November 27 on BBC4 from 2000 to 2040 GMT.

Archbishop Tutu reject the notion that homosexuality was a choice.

"It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual.

"You must be crazy to choose a way of life that exposes you to a kind of hatred.

"It's like saying you choose to be black in a race-infected society."

BBC News-Africa: Tutu chides Church for gay stance

BBC Radio 4: Religion and Ethics: From Calvary to Lambeth.

Fine tuning the guest list?

The Telegraph published a report describing speculation that the Archbishop of Canterbury may fine tune his strategy of using the 2008 Lambeth conference to promote Anglican unity. The story is that he may choose not to invite-- and even dis-invite-- Bishops who have an agenda that is too much at odds with his desire to maintain the unity of the Anglican Communion.

Jonathan Petre writes that

(Dr. Williams) has now indicated that he is prepared to scrutinise controversial bishops he had already invited if there is evidence that they are unwilling to compromise their views.

The Archbishop will seek assurances that they can abide by the broad principles of the Windsor Report, but he has not ruled out barring them from the three-week conference.

The headline says that "pro-gay" bishops are "targetted," but the body of the report makes it clear that it is not that simple.

Insiders point out, however, that Dr Williams could also target hardliners if he believes they are breaching guidelines against bishops intervening in foreign dioceses, as some Africans have done.

If he decides to take the drastic step of withdrawing the invitation to bishops on either the liberal or conservative wing, he will risk a barrage of criticism and could provoke further damaging boycotts.

The theory is that Williams can deal with the pressure from conservatives to punish wayward provinces by focusing instead on individual bishops. It might be deemed more palatable to exclude individual bishops. He has earlier said that he could withdraw invitations, so it seems he has reserved the right to act in this way. But the approach could backfire if enough invited bishops (or those whose invitations remain valid) decide to stay away in solidarity with an excluded bishop.

Read: The Telegraph: Jonathan Petre- Dr Rowan Williams to target pro-gay bishops

Loving God and neighbor together

Christian scholars, religious leaders and laity are reaching to Muslims to create a dialog based on what the two faiths share in the hope of overcoming misunderstanding, mistrust and violence that arises out of an unfamiliarity with the two faiths and the two cultures, publishing a full page ad in yesterdays New York Times and issuing a statement of confession, reflection and vision about the future of Muslim-Christian relationships.

The Yale Center for Faith and Culture has organized a response to a letter last October from 138 Muslim scholars called "A Common Word Between Us and You." The document called Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to 'A Common Word Between Us and You.' says, in part:

As members of the worldwide Christian community, we were deeply encouraged and challenged by the recent historic open letter signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world. A Common Word Between Us and You identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism. Jesus Christ’s call to love God and neighbor was rooted in the divine revelation to the people of Israel embodied in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians world-wide. In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbors.

The statement begins with an honest word of confession:

Muslims and Christians have not always shaken hands in friendship; their relations have sometimes been tense, even characterized by outright hostility. Since Jesus Christ says, “First take the log out your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matthew 7:5), we want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the “war on terror”) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors. Before we “shake your hand” in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.

The stakes are high. Together Christians and Muslims make up over half the world's population, the statement says. Without peace between the two religions, peace in the world is jeopardized.

Recognizing that the two religions share the fundamental command to love God and to love neighbor, the writers of the Christian response propose that

...our next step should be for our leaders at every level to meet together and begin the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another.

Some of the signatures in the New York Times full page ad included The Very Rev. Sam Candler of the Diocese of Atlanta (a contributer at Episcopal Cafe), Episcopal bishops Lee and Johnson of Virginia, Beisner of Northern California and Gulick of Kentucky as well as Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary and others from Fuller Seminary and Wheaton College also signed.

You can read about "A Common Word Between Us and You" here.
You can find "A Christian Response to 'A Common Word Between Us and You" here.
Read more about "A Common Word" in the Cafe here and recall the Archbishop of Canterbury's response here .

Priest fired for being scandalously good

This is how Father Ray Martin got fired from his three parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baltimore: he invited an Episcopal priest...a woman!... to read the Gospel at a funeral mass. He also hired a handyman who was arrested once...and for whom the charges were dropped. The handyman, Frank Gulbrandsen, lost his home and his job in the process, but hire him Father Martin did.

Liz Kay and Kelly Brewington broke the story for the Baltimore Sun on November 9th:

Baltimore's new Roman Catholic archbishop removed a priest who was pastor of three South Baltimore parishes for offenses that include officiating at a funeral Mass with an Episcopal priest, which violates canon law.

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien personally ordered the Rev. Ray Martin, who has led the Catholic Community of South Baltimore for five years, to resign from the three churches and sign a statement yesterday apologizing for "bringing scandal to the church."

Martin led the funeral Mass on Oct. 15 for Locust Point activist Ann Shirley Doda at Our Lady of Good Counsel with several clergy, including the Rev. Annette Chappell, the pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Redemption in Locust Point, Martin said.

Doda's son, Victor, who had invited Chappell to participate in the service, was stunned and outraged by the action taken against Martin.

The Sun followed up with the residents of Locust Point and found that they were hopping mad.

So the news ... that the Rev. Ray Martin, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, was forced to resign for offenses that included officiating at a funeral Mass with an Episcopal priest, was met with outrage. Community members of all faiths decried Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien's action and vowed to protest, noting how sharply it seemed to break from the emphasis on religious tolerance by his predecessor, Cardinal William H. Keeler.

"Locust Point was ecumenical before it was kosher to be," said Joyce Bauerle, 65, who attends the Church of the Redemption. "The three churches have always worked together. We do dinners together. We work at their church. They work at our church. Christmas bazaars, Easter bazaars, we always help each other.

"This is just a big slap in the face to this whole community," she said yesterday. "We're appalled by this."

The three women sitting around her, all congregants of Our Lady of Good Counsel, nodded their heads in agreement.

One, Helen Kazmarek, an 81-year-old lifelong Locust Point resident, wore a T-shirt with a picture of the community's three churches.

"A Community In Unity," it read.

The Archdiocese said that one of the reasons it removed Martin was that he hired a man with a criminal background to work as handyman in the parish. Given the recent news of other kinds of scandal and abuse in the church, this might have seemed a prudent response except that there is more--and less--to the story according to the Sun.

But who is this maintenance man? How serious is his criminal record, and how old are the charges against him?

Answer: He's Frank Gulbrandsen, a 41-year-old welder and handyman. Most of his problems with the law go back to the early to mid-1990s, when he was in his 20s. Some of the charges against him involved drugs, including marijuana and PCP; most were dropped.

His relationship with Martin developed last spring, when the priest hired Gulbrandsen to make repairs at Holy Cross Church in South Baltimore, one of three in Martin's pastorate. More than his supervisor, Martin became Gulbrandsen's encouraging friend and spiritual mentor. By late summer, Gulbrandsen, who was raised a Lutheran, was ready to convert to Catholicism.

He was happy - "Closer to God than I've ever been before," he says - until the Archdiocese of Baltimore rejected him as a full-time employee at Holy Cross.

And the archdiocese rejected him, he says, because of a crime he did not commit.

In 2005, Gulbrandsen owned a modest rowhouse on a side street in the Brooklyn section of Baltimore. He rented the second floor to a young woman.

One day, his tenant's boyfriend was arrested in the basement of the house for selling drugs. Police arrested Gulbrandsen, too, though he claimed he had nothing to do with the crime. "They arrested me because I owned the house, that's all," he says.

Though the charges against him were eventually dropped, Gulbrandsen says, the arrest cost him the house; he spent 2 1/2 months in jail, fell behind in mortgage payments and lost the property in an auction. He lost most of its contents to theft.

Sun writer Dan Rodricks thinks this shows that in its quest for order and discipline, the Church--in this case the Diocese of Baltimore--has lost sight of the big picture.

Read more »

Laity of Malawi make appeal to Archbishop of Canterbury

The House of Laity of the Diocese of Lake Malawi has made an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury to assist them with the impasse over the election of their new bishop. Although The Rev. Nicholas Henderson was the choice of the diocese, Archbishop Malango has attempted to place a different person in the diocese as the bishop. The Rev. Trevor Mwamba of Botswana had brought them to resolution but then more pressure was brought upon the Diocese to accept Archbishop Malango's choice.

The letter as carried in Anglican Information follows:

Read more »

For the Bible Tells Me So shortlisted for Oscar

Cinematical reports that the Documentary For the Bible Tells Me So is on the shortllist for an Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are currenly 15 films on the list. The final five will be announced on January 22.

According to the For the Bible Tells Me So website:

Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families -- including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson -- we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

The Blog is here

Sean McConnell writes in Episcopal Life Online: They're like monks of old, scribing texts on Scripture and theology, prayer and meditation, church governance and liturgics -- topics that resonate with them and their experiences of faith in the current day.

They're bloggers -- writers of Internet weblogs ("blogs," for short) -- whose readers respond with comments for posting online. Episcopal Cafe lists bloggers at The Blogscape. Another listing of many of the Episcopal blogs are found at epiScope a news gathering blog edited by the Rev. Jan Nunley. executive editor of Episcopal Life Media

Together they populate the "blogosphere," a communication environment that, spiritually speaking, includes content that comes as fresh air to some and rhetorical smog to others.

But an informal sampling of blogs shows that Episcopalians, for the most part, blog to build Christian community. Mainly, these blogs are virtual locations for gathering groups of people who love their church and express that love in diverse ways. A few writers may sow discord, yet most work to widen connections and collegiality that might otherwise remain untapped.

Regarding Episcopal Cafe - Sean writes:

A virtual newcomer, but already a frequently visited site, is Episcopal Café. (See article, above.) The Café is the brainchild of author and journalist Jim Naughton (The New York Times, Washington Post, Slate, ESPN), who is now canon for communication and advancement for the Diocese of Washington.

Episcopal Café is what some call a group blog, because it is managed by a fairly substantial and geographically far-flung group of writers, editors and news aggregators. One striking difference between the Café and other blogs is its requirement that people who post comments on articles use their full names. This is an attempt to keep the discourse civil and an air of accountability for comments made on the site, Naughton said.

"If people don't want to put their names on a response, then I don't want to read it," he added.

On blogs that "allow anonymous comments -- people can speak from the id without having to worry about being held accountable," Naughton said when asked whether blogs had benefited discourse in the Episcopal Church.

"I don't discount that this is sometimes liberating," he said, "but if you can be anonymously vicious in a community of people who are anonymously vicious, then you have a sort of cyber-tribalism."

Read it all here

Schism in Canada

The Rt. Rev. Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster has filed a protest against a retired bishop who plans to hold ordinations in the Diocese. Ingham says there is now a “full-blown schism” within the Anglican Church of Canada, following the departure from the church of a retired bishop opposed to same-sex blessings, who is leading a conference Nov. 22-23 that will offer a separate body for conservative Canadian Anglicans.

The retired bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Donald Harvey, who relinquished his ministry with the Anglican Church of Canada and announced his defection to the South American province of the Southern Cone Nov. 15, is also planning to perform ordinations in the diocese of New Westminster, according to Bishop Ingham
Archbishop Hiltz said that problems would arise if Bishop Harvey, who may no longer function as a cleric in the Anglican Church of Canada since he’s now a bishop in the jurisdiction of another province, chooses to exercise his ministry in Canada.

Bishop Harvey is moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada, which describes itself as “a national fellowship of Canadian Anglicans who share a commitment to biblically-faithful, historically-authentic Anglicanism.”

The Network is meeting this week in Burlington, Ont., where it will unveil its plans for conservative Anglicans, unhappy with what they consider to the national church’s liberal views on homosexuality

.

The Council of the General Synod issued a statement earlier this month urging the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, “to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism and are in contravention of the ancient and continuing traditions of the Church. They aggravate the current tensions in the Anglican Communion.”

Read it all here.

Update.

Globe & Mail - 'Full-blown schism' in church, Anglican bishop says

Southern Cone plans to take in Canadian Anglicans

The National Post (Canada) reports that the expansion aspirations of the Province of the Southern Cone include more than disaffected dioceses in the United States. As we know, on Friday Bishop Donald Harvey left the Anglican Church of Canada and became a full-time bishop of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of the Americas. (The Anglican Church of Canada was swift in its reaction.)

In a news release on the weekend, Bishop Harvey said: "Because of the unabated theological decay in the Anglican Church of Canada, many long-time Anglicans have already left their church and left Anglicanism. We want to provide a fully Anglican option for those who feel their church has abandoned them and who are contemplating taking the same action."

On Thursday, the Anglican Network of Canada, which Bishop Harvey leads, plans to announce a plan by which other dissident Anglicans can leave the Canadian Church.
...
"[At the meeting] we will unveil a proposal and some [parishes] will be in a position to take the option then and others will have to go back to their parishes and meet before making a decision."

Bishop Harvey said there are only a few parishes he knows of that are willing to follow his lead, but hopes his decision will act as a symbolic opening to many others who are unhappy with the Canadian Church.

Read it all here.

Read the Reuters version here. It says, "Harvey said on Monday that 18 to 20 Canadian congregations were considering joining the Southern Cone."

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

The United States will soon host a conference of international leaders in Annapolis, Maryland to make progress toward ending the conflict in the Holy Land. Let us join together in prayer in support of our government's efforts and for the success of this important meeting.

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) offers this prayer for the churches to use this Sunday and during the conference:


PRAYER FOR PEACE
O God, we come to you with open hands and open hearts.

We pray for peace and for all those that suffer violence and
injustice in the midst of war and conflict.
We pray for the innocent, combatants, peacemakers, and religious and
political leaders.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the holy city of God and
spiritual home to all the children of Abraham.

O God of mercy and compassion,
Embrace our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters.
They have endured profound loss and sorrow.
They are fatigued by fear and anger.
Mend their broken hearts and failing spirits.
Ignite in them sparks of hope.
Comfort them and guide them onto the road of peace.

O God of peace and reconciliation,
Lift up the international leaders who search for peace.
They have talked before without success.
They face a difficult road and many obstacles.
Inspire them to move from words to actions that fulfill a greater
vision of peace.
Arouse in them a passion for righteousness.
Bless them and their work for peace.

O God of all creation,
Your people cry for peace.
May your promise of justice and enduring love
Breathe renewed Life
Into our commitment to a sustainable peace,
When two states - Israel and Palestine - are a reality,
Living side-by-side in security, harmony and peace.

Amen.

Read about the conference here and here.

Phase 1 of Virginia property trial ends

The Falls Church News-Press has an extensive description. Read it all here.

For an excerpt click read more.

Update - Living Church

Read more »

Just retired bishop renounces vows

From the website of the Diocese of Southwest Florida:

In a letter to the diocese, Lipscomb said he has written to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, asking “to be released from my ordination vows and the obligations and responsibilities of a member of the House of Bishops. I have taken this step in order to be received into the Catholic Church.

“Through a long season of prayer and reflection Marcie and I have come to believe this is the leading of the Holy Spirit and God’s call for us for the next chapter of our lives,” he wrote.

Lipscomb stepped down Sept. 15 after a decade as bishop of Southwest Florida.

Give thanks for free enterprise

It has become a tradition every year for Caroline Baum to run this Thanksgiving column about the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving. Some excerpts:

In the spring of 1623, Governor Bradford and the others ``begane to thinke how they might raise as much corne as they could, and obtaine a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery,'' according to Bradford's history.

One of the traditions the Pilgrims had brought with them from England was a practice known as ``farming in common.'' Everything they produced was put into a common pool; the harvest was rationed according to need.

They had thought ``that the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing,'' Bradford recounts.

They were wrong. ``For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much imployment that would have been to their benefite and comforte,'' Bradford writes.
...
After the Pilgrims had endured near-starvation for three winters, Bradford decided to experiment when it came time to plant in the spring of 1623. He set aside a plot of land for each family, that ``they should set corne every man for his owne perticuler, and in that regard trust to themselves.''
...
Bradford writes: ``This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted than other waise would have bene by any means the Govr or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave far better content.''

And, for your further entertainment, check out the Milton Friedman Choir performing The Corporation is Amoral.

Stem cells and ethics

AP science writer Malcolm Ritter yesterday reported, " Scientists have made ordinary human skin cells take on the chameleon-like powers of embryonic stem cells, a startling breakthrough that might someday deliver the medical payoffs of embryo cloning without the controversy."

The method promises not just to be a substitute for embryo cloning but to be superior to it medically and ethically:

The new work shows that the direct reprogramming technique can also produce versatile cells that are genetically matched to a person. But it avoids several problems that have bedeviled the cloning approach.

For one thing, it doesn't require a supply of unfertilized human eggs, which are hard to obtain for research and subjects the women donating them to a surgical procedure. Using eggs also raises the ethical questions of whether women should be paid for them.

In cloning, those eggs are used to make embryos from which stem cells are harvested. But that destroys the embryos, which has led to political opposition from President Bush, the Roman Catholic church and others.

Those were "show-stopping ethical problems," said Laurie Zoloth, director of Northwestern University's Center for Bioethics, Science and Society.

The new work, she said, "redefines the ethical terrain."

Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the new work "a very significant breakthrough in finding morally unproblematic alternatives to cloning. ... I think this is something that would be readily acceptable to Catholics."

The story is frontpage news today at the Washington Post and the New York Times. Another article in the Washinton Post asks whether this vindicates President Bush's policy of refusing to fund embryonic stem cell research. The NYT also looks at the politics, reminding readers that Bush "steadfastly maintained that scientists would come up with an alternative method of developing embryonic stem cells, one that did not involve killing embryos. Critics were skeptical."

Anna Quindlen writes a Thanksgiving story on Holy Apostles, Manhattan

Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in Manhattan "has fed the hungry for 25 years now without missing a single weekday, including the morning after the fire, when the church lay in ruins, still smoldering, and 943 meals were served by candlelight." So writes Anna Quindlen in Newsweek.

She concludes:

If elected officials want to bring God talk into public life, let it be the bedrock stuff, about charity and mercy and the least of our brethren. Instead of the performance art of the presidential debate, the candidates should come to Holy Apostles and do what good people, people of faith, do there every day—feed the hungry, comfort the weary, soothe the afflicted. And wipe down the tables after each seating.

Read it all here.

An earlier post on the Soup Kitchen at Holy Apostles that was based on a Living Church article contained significant factual errors. Please the corrected version the post here.

Anglican conference on peace in Korea

The conference issued its concluding communique yesterday. A roundup:

TOPIK calls for peace and reconciliation in Korea - ENS wrapup.

Towards Peace in Korea Communiqué

Towards Peace In Korea - Official website

Best wishes for Korea peace conference - Archbishop of Canterbury

The driving force behind TOPIK (Towards Peace in Korea) has been The Most Revd Francis Park, Primate of the Anglican Church of Korea (ACK). The conference is to be divided into three parts, each chaired by the Primate of one of the churches who have cooperated in preparing the Conference. The first element, chaired by the Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the USA's Episcopal Church, is a Peace Visit to North Korea - crossing through the demilitarised zone, the world's most heavily fortified border. During the visit the Anglican delegation plans to deliver some humanitarian aid to a North Korean village. The aid, including medicines and agricultural tools, is the result of a successful "Special Collection" organised across the Anglican Communion by ACK.

The visit to North Korea aims to give direct experience of the Korean situation as preparation for the subsequent Peace Forum in Paju (South Korea) which will be chaired by the Most Rev. Nathaniel M. Uematsu, Primate of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Japanese Anglican Church). In the forum experiences of fighting for reconciliation, forgiveness and healing from around the world will be shared and discussed through addresses given by a range of distinguished speakers.

Episcopal parish supports an HIV ministry in Nigeria

John Animasaun is a pharmacist and a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Albany. He was born and raised in Nigeria, the eldest of six children. St. Paul's supports Animasaun in his ministry to Nigerians with HIV/AIDs.

The Times Union (Albany) interviewed Animasaun:

With help from St. Paul's parishioners, I was able to set up two merit-based scholarships for high school students. Each is about $100 and pays a full year of tuition and books.

It is difficult to separate an African man from his beliefs. It is common in Nigeria to say AIDS stands for American Idea of Discouraging Sex. Many people don't realize it is a real disease.

What happened when you returned?

I spoke at St. Paul's at a coffee hour discussion. I said I would like to do more. The church sponsored a second trip and I went back for about a month. By this time, I had a bigger network and had established World Care International Organization.

Read more »

Rector invites entire congregation over for turkey

During its first half-century, the church's founder was killed in a plane crash. The first full-time vicar was defrocked, and the priest who replaced him was an alcoholic. The Rev. Ken Trickett finally brought some stability to the church in 1984, but he died within three years. The priest who replaced him disappeared in the middle of the night at Christmastime, never to be heard from again.

By 1991, the son of the church's founder returned to shepherd the flock, and congregants were convinced their troubles were finally over. But 18 months later, the Rev. Tim Kazan and his wife were killed in an auto accident.

"The person who offered me this job did not tell me one of those stories until after I said I would come," the Rev. Keplinger recalls.

The Episcopal Diocese of Utah had annexed Page into its boundaries after one official there approached church officials in Phoenix, who said they had no way to provide the resources needed in the border town.

The Rev. Keplinger and his wife were charged with giving the ministry a final go, after church officials in Salt Lake City had decided to give the experiment six months to succeed or they would shut it down.


Read the rest of the story of St. David's Episcopal Church.

Responses of the Primates to New Orleans communiqué

ACNS reports:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written to Anglican Communion Primates and members of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) with a summary of their individual responses to the outcome of September House of Bishops meeting of the Episcopal Church (USA). He made it clear that he was not at this stage advancing his own interpretation of these responses.

He would include his own reflections in his (annual) Advent Letter to the Primates in the coming weeks .

In his 2004 Advent Letter to the Primates (dated November 29) he wrote:
Any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent. We are bound to ask, with the greatest care, how we best communicate the challenge of the gospel to homosexual persons and how we may free ourselves from unreasoning fear or even hatred.

His 11 page report is available here (pdf).

Read more »

Divisions are distracting us

"Drenched in Grace" is a residential conference offered up by Inclusive Church, and is going on now in England. The writers over at Inclusive Church Blog are providing recaps of the featured speakers. Notable was yesterday's opening keynote, delivered by the Dr Jenny Plane Te Paa, who "lamented our obsession with drawing lines that exclude, which is distracting us from the enormous suffering so many people face."


In a strong speech, Te Paa reminded us “how pervasive the reach of enmity has become amongst us.” She urged us “not to notice the bad behaviour of the few, but the good behaviour of the many.” Calling to mind the great humanitarian needs of the world, Te Paa lamented our obsession with drawing lines that exclude, which is distracting us from the enormous suffering so many people face. We must not “fret and fight” while people are literally dying.

Te Paa is Principal of the College of St John the Evangelist in Auckland, New Zealand, was a member of the 2003 Lambeth Commission, and assisted in the St Augustine’s Seminar responsible for planning the detailed content for the forthcoming Lambeth Conference 2008.

The Revd Canon Giles Goddard, chair of Inclusive Church, said, “We are not a pressure group of the like-minded.” He added, “We are ordinary Anglicans who love our church, and we are deeply concerned by the way in which the effort to exclude is overtaking the calling to live the Gospel.”

The summary is here, a link to the audio of Te Paa's speech is here, and coverage continues with today's speakers here.

Presiding bishop gives thanks in Guam

Fresh from her visit to the peace conference in Korea (coverage here), Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori visited Guam, which is estimated to have about 250 Episcopalians, according to the Pacific Daily News. Yesterday, she visited St. John's School and delivered a sermon to the more than 500 students there:

"The basic reason you and I have come to a place like this is to say, 'Thank you,'" she said. "Thank you for our blessings from God. Thank you for the abundance of life, ... for our family, friends and neighbors."

While children know the history of Thanksgiving as a civil holiday, the religious roots of its teachings run deep, she said. "Our faith is learning to say thank you in all times, places and circumstances," she said. During the sermon, St. John's students donated more than 100 items of canned goods to the Salvation Army to give away during its Thanksgiving feast today.

Before Jefferts Schori's sermon, Ben Helmer, archdeacon of the Episcopal Church in Micronesia, was giddy. He said he didn't think a presiding bishop had visited Guam since 1977.

"Most Episcopalians never get to meet the presiding bishop. It's really very exciting," he said. "There are a lot of people who never thought they'd meet anyone this important."

The article is here, and we'll follow up in this space when more information about the Guam visit becomes available.

In the meantime, the editors of the Lead would like to extend our thanks to you, our readers, and our hopes that you are enjoying a wonderful and safe holiday. We invite your prayers of thanksgiving.

Relief response to Bangladesh cyclone

Episcopal Relief and Development launches an appeal for financial support to support its aid to the victims of the recent cyclone that hit Bangladesh

As of today [19 Nov] 7 million people have been uprooted and reports say the death toll may reach as high as 10,000. In the worst affected districts, the low-lying coastal regions, 90 per cent of homes and 95 percent of rice crops and prawn farms were obliterated by the 150 mph winds, which generated a 20ft tidal surge that swept everything from its path.
...
To help people affected by the Cyclone in Bangladesh, please make a donation to ERD’s “Emergency Relief Fund/Bangladesh Cyclone” online at http://www.er-d.org/, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development “Emergency Relief Fund/Bangladesh Cyclone” P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Church Times has a good story with photos.


Concerns over bishops being excluded from Lambeth

Various groups in England are reacting to the news of last week that the Archbishop of Canterbury is considering withdrawing invitations to Lambeth for certain bishops. Ekklesia, reports that groups gathered the "Drenched in Grace" conference have released a number of statements.

"The Rev Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, said this week: ‘If the Archbishop Canterbury is proposing to withdraw invitations to the Lambeth Conference from bishops who are seen as being ‘pro-gay’ (according to the definition of conservative Anglicans) he will have to withdraw the invitation from every bishop who is a patron of Changing Attitude and from every English bishop who has participated in the registration or celebration of a civil partnership for one of their clergy or who have accepted partnered gay clergy in their diocese. There are a significant number of English bishops who quietly support LGBT people contrary to the principles outlined in the Windsor Report.'

He added: ‘Bishops from the conservative global south are unwilling to come to Lambeth because they don’t want to be present with bishops from The Episcopal Church. Changing Attitude hopes every bishop in the Anglican Communion will be invited to Lambeth and will accept their invitation. The commitment of Lambeth 1998 to listen to the experience of lesbian and gay people can only be fulfilled when every bishop is present and is willing to listen to the deeply held Christian convictions of people who may differ from them in theology, understanding of the Bible and of human sexuality and relationships.’"

Read the rest here.

The end of the tithe?

Calling for tithing is becoming a subject of some controversy in a number of congregations according to an article today in the Wall Street Journal. While the Episcopal Church has called for a tithe to be the "minimum standard of giving" since 1982, and most Episcopalians are not tithers, many other congregations are reevaluating whether the tithe is a biblical pillar of the faith.

"Can you put a price on faith? That is the question churchgoers are asking as the tradition of tithing -- giving 10% of your income to the church -- is increasingly challenged. Opponents of tithing say it is a misreading of the Bible, a practice created by man, not God. They say they should be free to donate whatever amount they choose, and they are arguing with pastors, writing letters and quitting congregations in protest. In response, some pastors have changed their teaching and rejected what has been a favored form of fund raising for decades.

The backlash comes as some churches step up their efforts to encourage tithing. Some are setting up 'giving kiosks' that allow congregants to donate using their debit cards when they attend services. Others are offering financial seminars that teach people in debt how they can continue tithing even while paying off their loans. Media-savvy pastors, such as Ed Young in Grapevine, Texas, sell sermons online about tithing. And in a shift, more Catholic parishes are asking churchgoers to tithe, says Paul Forbes, administrator of McKenna Stewardship Ministry, a nonprofit that says it has encouraged more than 500 parishes to tithe in the last decade. Popes haven't requested tithes in recent decades."

Read the rest here.

Pub based evangelism

It's becoming increasingly common of late to hear of Episcopal clergy going out of their parishes to local pubs and bars as a way of connecting with people with questions about God. Often the event will start by posing a provocative question and then letting discussion flow organically from that. Today's news brings a report of just such an event in Walnut Creek CA that's notable because it included the diocesan bishop as one of the clergy:

"The ale flowed as Episcopal clerics, including the bishop, went to a downtown pub recently to talk faith with 20- and 30-somethings.

Churchgoers on a mission to sober up sinners? Not at all. 'Faith on Tap' is about bringing together young adults hungry for community, rousing discussion and a meaningful life. It's spreading across the country faster than a moonshine delivery.

In the Pyramid Brewery's Diablo Room, Bishop Marc Andrus, the Rev. Phil Brochard, and parishioners from St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek, and more than 20 others gathered around tables laden with glasses and pitchers.

The topic amid the cacophony spilling in from the adjacent main room: 'Is there a God pill?' It was the second installment in a three-part series called 'Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.'"

Read the rest here.

'Tis the season...

...to despair for the future of Western civilization. Check out the Gucci baby carrier, a steal at $850. Hat tip Matthew Yglesias.

The Golden Compass

The first instalment of Philip Pullman's hugely successful trilogy of fantasy books, His Dark Materials, has had a troubled transition to the screen. The adaptation has managed to upset both Christians and atheists, the former because of the book's anti-religious themes and the latter because those very themes have been watered down and virtually excised from the film, writes John Hiscock of the Telegraph, adding that the film "lacks the impact or charm of The Chronicles of Narnia, the special effects are extraordinary and the film is sure to be a success with young audiences."

Read it all.

And here's a side of controversy.

The Onion strikes again

Panelists discuss the tragic lack of media access in Darfur and how we can help Darfurians realize how much we're helping them.

Christian/Islamic dialog continues

Several weeks ago, 138 Muslim scholars, sent a lengthy letter entitled 'A Common Word Between Us and You,' to Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders. Last week, numerous American Christian scholars responded positively with a letter of their own. In these clips from Voice of America and National Public Radio, Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane and his friend Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, take the converstion further.

Meanwhile, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has criticzed American imperialism in an interview with Emel, a magazine for Muslims. The Sunday Times reports here.

New York Times Notable Books

The December 2, 2007 New York Times Sunday Book Review will feature its lists of the editors' call on the 100 most notable books of the year. While the print version of the list is a week away, the list is now available online here.

A remarkably large number if these books have religious themes, including the following:

THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST. By Mohsin Hamid. (Harcourt, $22.) Hamid’s chilling second novel is narrated by a Pakistani who tells his life story to an unnamed American after the attacks of 9/11.

CIRCLING MY MOTHER. By Mary Gordon. (Pantheon, $24.) Gordon’s deeply personal memoir focuses on the engaged and lively Catholicism of her mother, a glamorous career woman who was also an alcoholic with a body afflicted by polio.

EASTER EVERYWHERE: A Memoir. By Darcey Steinke. (Bloomsbury, $24.95.) A minister’s daughter confronts her own spiritual rootlessness.

FORESKIN’S LAMENT: A Memoir. By Shalom Auslander. (Riverhead, $24.95.) With scathing humor and bitter irony, Auslander wrestles with his Jewish Orthodox roots.

HOW TO READ THE BIBLE: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now. By James L. Kugel. (Free Press, $35.) In this tour through the Jewish scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament, more or less), a former professor of Hebrew seeks to reclaim the Bible from the literalists and the skeptics.

PORTRAIT OF A PRIESTESS: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece. By Joan Breton Connelly. (Princeton University, $39.50.) A scholar finds that religion meant power for Greek women.

THE STILLBORN GOD: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West. By Mark Lilla. (Knopf, $26.) With nuance and complexity, Lilla examines how we managed to separate, in a fashion, church and state.


The online list includes links to the New York Times review of each listed book.

Was Shakespeare Roman Catholic?

For several years, Shakespeare scholars have speculated on whether William Shakespeare had been a closeted Catholic. The Rev. David Beauregard, a Roman Catholic priest who teaches Shakespeare at the seminary of St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine in Boston, has published a new book, Catholic Theology in Shakespeare's Plays", that makes the case that Shakespeare was indeed Catholic:

"My case isn't based on documentary evidence," Beauregard acknowledged in a recent interview. Religion back then was a matter of don't ask don't tell. The Church of England was the state denomination; what devout Catholics thought and did privately was their business, but Elizabeth I demanded public fealty to the church she headed and was prepared to punish, even brutalize dissidents. In 1581, she made a martyr out of Jesuit priest Edmund Campion.

Biographical detail of any kind about Shakespeare is scant, but a now-lost Catholic document found in the 18th century suggested that Shakespeare's father, John, was a loyal Catholic, and an Anglican clergyman, the 17th-century cleric Richard Davies, wrote that the great playwright "died a Papist."

With Shakespeare's life shrouded in murkiness, scholars must probe the sprawling thicket of his writing for evidence of his religious views. A chat with Beauregard to sample a few bits of his research is to beam back to high school or college English classes.

He'll remind you that in "Hamlet," the ghost of Hamlet's murdered father tells his son that he is in purgatory, a Catholic concept. Or that an earlier play, "King John," portrays its titular character, who feuded with the pope and, said Beauregard, was a hero to Protestants, as an evil tyrant who dies violently. True, there are antipapal lines in the play, one of several examples in Shakespearean works in which he mocks Catholic figures. But Beauregard said the diatribes are in keeping with John's character, as a rebel against Rome.

Isabella, a novice nun in "Measure for Measure," is a model of virtue, a break with Protestant dramatists who depicted Catholic religious as sinners, said Beauregard. (It's telling, he adds, that Shakespeare made Isabella a novice; an earlier play on which "Measure for Measure" was partly based portrayed Isabella as a secular woman.) In "All's Well That Ends Well," Helena cures the sick king, attributing her success to "inspired merit" - "a very Catholic phrase," Beauregard said.

Not every scholar is persuaded:

They don't convince Stephen Greenblatt, professor of Renaissance literature at Harvard, a Shakespeare scholar, and an author of several books on the Bard. In an e-mail, Greenblatt notes Shakespeare's family and its Catholic ties, but said: "I think throughout his life, he drew upon this experience of the outlawed faith. He was, in this and in other ways, a specialist at recycling damaged or discarded institutional goods. But I do not myself believe that the adult Shakespeare was a pious Catholic or Protestant."

Read it all here.

A revisionist history of tolerance

Peter Steinfels has a very interesting column in yesterday's New York Times on a new perspective on the development of the concept of religious toleration. While the typical history is a story of intellectual history involving scholars and other elites, Benjamin Kaplan, a professor of Dutch history at University College London and the University of Amsterdam, offers a history focused on the popular culture and every day believers in Divided by Faith, just published by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. With this perspective, the radical nature of religious tolerance becomes much clearer:

Every town and village was a microcosm of the body of Christianity. Civic rituals were not separate from sacred ones. Daily, weekly and seasonal time had a religious dimension. Communal welfare depended on divine wrath or favor, which might bring on flood, famine or bountiful harvest. Tolerating heretical deviations was a high-stakes business.

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg,” Jefferson could write in 1781. A century earlier, such individualism was unthinkable to most Europeans. Indulging heresy, as Mr. Kaplan points out, threatened not only to pick their pockets but also to endanger their souls.

. . .

Without grasping the very different mentality prevailing in post-Reformation Europe, one cannot fully appreciate what the heroes of Mr. Zagorin’s more familiar account achieved. In that account, religious toleration comes across as obvious common sense. Resistance to it could only stem from irrationality or vice.

That impression is exactly what worries Mr. Kaplan. As usually told, the story of the rise of toleration becomes a myth, he writes, “a symbolic story, with heroes and villains and a moral” — the moral being that the precondition of toleration is the triumph of reason over faith.

Kaplan tells how toleration developed in small communities in a Europe ravished by religious conflict:

Contrary to the once-popular notion that religious toleration rose steadily from the Middle Ages through the Protestant Reformation and on to the Enlightenment, Mr. Kaplan maintains that religious toleration declined from around 1550 to 1750.

This was the age of frightful religious wars, as rulers yoked religion to dynastic ambitions. But religious wars did not usually mean neighbor against neighbor. Religious violence among neighbors tended to be sporadic, often ignited when one religious group engaged in public rituals that a rival group felt contaminated communal space.

In response, believers devised intricate boundaries allowing them to live more or less peaceably with neighbors whose rival beliefs were anathema. Mr. Kaplan describes shared churches, where Protestants worshiped in the nave while Catholics used the choir space around the main altar, and what the Dutch called “schuilkerkerken,” supposedly clandestine churches that maintained their facades as houses but were in reality well known to officials and neighbors.

This new perspective on tolerance could be critical as we try to understand the persistence of religious intolerance in many areas of the world today:

“If toleration depends on the adoption of certain contemporary Western values,” Mr. Kaplan warns, “its fate in the rest of the world, and perhaps in our own future, is uncertain.”

Yet a fuller understanding of European history suggests that “even in communities that did not know our modern values, people of different faiths could live together peacefully.”

“Even in profoundly religious communities where antagonisms were sharp,” he writes, “religion was not a primitive, untameable force.”

“Divided by Faith” ends with five words that sum up its message and could serve as a motto for historical studies generally: “the possibility of other options.”

Read it all here.

Reaching out for peace

Episcopal bishop John Bryson Chane of Washington recently visited Iran to discuss the points of contact between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and found among the theology students there an interest in peaceful reconciliation.

In a profile published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, James Giannini of the Copley News Service writes:

Between trips to the Middle East and Africa to across the United States, John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., and former dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego, has been busy.

His most recent venture: Iran, where he met with religious officials to discuss similarities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“We're all monotheists, and that means we share a tremendous amount theologically in common, which I find fascinating,” Chane said. “The Virgin Mary is venerated more times in Iran than in the gospels, and they celebrate Jesus Christ's birthday.”

Chane was amazed at the interest in theology among students he met at Iranian universities. While Iran is seen as being hostile toward the United States, he said he found people in search of a peaceful relationship. Chane plans to return in April to continue discussions on religion and terrorism.

Read: "Episcopal Bishop Reaches Out for Peace."

Read more, including links to audio interviews about the relationship between Islam and Christianity here.

Rowan Williams under quick burst attack

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is under attack for statements he made about America and the war in Iraq. A stream of criticism has come in comments by Americans to the Sunday Times website. But much of the attack is based on the misleading Sunday Times headline, and one particularly misleading selective quotation from an article in Emel based on an interview with the archbishop. The Lead first pointed to the Sunday Times article and the Emel article here. As was observed there in a comment,

The tragic thing about The Sunday Times report is the way it distorts what the archbishop says - and leaves him appearing to be ignorant of basic distinctions in the American political landscape.

For example, ...

1) The Sunday Times writes, He said the crisis was caused not just by America’s actions but also by its misguided sense of its own mission. He poured scorn on the “chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God’s purpose for humanity”.

2) Emel writes, Christian Zionists support the return of Jews to Israel because they believe the second coming of Jesus will not occur until all Jews are in Israel. The Archbishop is scathing, accusing them of being connected to “the chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God’s purpose for humanity.”

Stephen Bates writing in The Guardian today:
The archbishop's criticism of Christian Zionism - the fundamentalist movement, particularly in the US, which supports the Jewish homeland of Israel because it sees it as a fulfilment of biblical prophesy - was transcribed by the [Sunday Times] newspaper as a more general criticism.
...
The remarks were immediately seized upon by US conservatives, scathing of the archbishop for his attempts to hold the worldwide Anglican communion together in its internecine struggle over the place of homosexuals in the church, as they attempt to wrest control of the US Episcopal church from its liberal leadership.
Ekklesia today: Archbishop of Canterbury Dr
Rowan Williams has found himself at the centre of an unexpected row, following cautious remarks to a Muslim magazine, after a Sunday newspaper construed it as an all-out attack on the US and the BBC gave neocon hard-liner John Bolton free rein to attack him this morning.
...
The Sunday Times chose to interpret the interview as an assualt on the United States as the "worst" imperialist nation, an accusation not made in the interview.

Meanwhile, John Bolton, a former US ambassador known for his extreme neocon views, launched a vitriolic attack on the archbishop and all critics of the US-led war on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

He called Dr Williams' comments "incoherent", said that there "was a good reason that the Anglican church does not declare its leaders infallible" and invited the archbishop to "concentrate on his day job".

Mr Bolton had been given the opportunity to plug his new book on Iraq and related issues. Unchallenged by any opposing viewpoint, he called for the selective bombing of Iran over the nuclear installations row.

British military chaplains serving in Iraq are among those criticizing the archbishop.

Among the American professional pundits criticizing the archbishop are Victor Davis Hanson and Mark Steyn.

See also the coverage by The New York Sun.

Drenched in grace

180 people gathered in Derbyshire, England, for Inclusive Church's first residential conference called "Drenched in Grace." The goal was to offer "a model of engagement to the Communion at large. In our disagreements we acknowledged the primacy of God's love in which we are all held together, but we did not keep silent about our differences."

Attendees represented every tradition and stripe of Anglicanism. According to Inclusive Church, the conference included:

Dr Jenny Te Paa (St John's College, Auckland NZ) opened the conference. In a strong speech, Te Paa reminded us "how pervasive the reach of enmity has become amongst us.” She urged us "not so much to focus too intently and singularly on the bad behaviour of the few, but rather to focus anew on the very good behaviour of the many.”

Revd Dr Sharon Moughtin-Mumby in her talk "Out of the Silence” said "I believe it is vital for us to .... refuse to skip over the difficult and challenging or awkward passages of the Bible, just as in Inclusive Church we are committed to refusing to skip over those who can be made to feel like the difficult, challenging or awkward members of the people of God.”

Revd Dr Louis Weil (Berkeley, California) spoke about the central place baptism holds in our ecclesial understanding. Speaking of the sacraments of baptism and communion, he said "our obsession with validity has weakened the boldness of the sacramental signs. This creates a low level of expectation and weakens our understanding of mission.” We are in communion with one another by God's grace, not by any human action. "I am in communion with Peter Akinola (the Archbishop of Nigeria)” he said. "I will remain in communion with Peter Akinola until we are both on the other side.”

Canon Lucy Winkett (St Paul's Cathedral) spoke of the need to "forge relationships on the anvil of profound disagreement.” "The worry that we have as Anglicans is that our faith can be so driven by fear that our liturgy is tedious and our public pronouncements shrill and irrelevant.” In a powerful and wide ranging address she called for engagement with others across the theological spectrum.

Mark Russell, the Chief Executive of Church Army, sent us out into the world, calling passionately for the church to unite. "Unity is not saying that we will always agree with each other, unity is a deeper spiritual concept. Unity allows me to love my brothers and sisters even when I don't always agree with them. Love allows me to hold difference and diversity.” He challenged us to "go from here, with a renewed vision to pursue a costly unity, and a vision to bring a gospel of hope to all.”

Giles Goddard said in remarks that opened the conference:

We believe that the Gospel as it has been received by the Church of England and across the Communion has something special to say about the love of God and the love of Jesus Christ. Something about welcome; something about openness, and something about including everyone, regardless of who, what or why they are.

Read more here. From this page you will be able to link to full texts of the lectures given.

Slo mo schism

The new religion correspondent at the Guardian, Riazat Butt, has mixed feelings about the slow fracture of the Anglican Communion. In a column in Religious Intelligence, she says that on the one hand, she admires the openness of debating in public about scripture, sexuality and more. At the same time, she just wishes we'd just get on with it.

Talking is something that Anglicans are good at. But I kind of wish they’d do something else. For at least four years the threat of a schism has been hanging over the communion and people write about walking apart and falling off fences but the key word here is threat. Unless I’m deaf I’ve not heard the crack of a rupture so it leaves me thinking that this much-hyped schism, which by all accounts should have happened months ago, is the longest and slowest break-up in history.

She comes to this conclusion:

I’ve not been at the party that long but a clear pattern is emerging. Every week I read about more Americans fleeing to what they perceive to be more tolerable climes and more bishops seething in their mitres as the Archbishop of Canterbury fails to satisfy someone’s demands.

All in all, she'd love some closure:


In the absence of international Anglican Top Trumps I would like some closure, not fudging, from all sides. If you’re going to break up, please do it now so we can move on. There’s nothing worse than being in a relationship that isn’t moving forward. The hardest ultimatums fail to get the desired response, leaving one party resorting to increasingly dramatic gestures. You’re tied to each other, you can’t remember why, but you’ve been together for so long you’re almost too scared to go it alone. How long can you keep threatening to leave someone?

Read the rest.

The Miniature Earth

If you could express what the world would look like if it were a community of only 100 people, what would it look like? This is the idea of The Miniature Earth, to help us easily understand the differences in the world.

Click here to learn what the Miniature Earth looks like.

The web site

There are many types of reports that use the Earth’s population reduced to 100 people, especially in the Internet. Ideas like this should be more often shared, especially nowadays when the world seems to be in need of dialogue and understanding among different cultures, in a way that it has never been before.

The text that originated this webmovie was published on May 29, 1990 with the title “State of the Village Report”, and it was written by Donella Meadows, who passed away in February 2000. Nowadays Sustainability Institute, through Donella’s Foundation, carries on her ideas and projects.

Donella Meadows' original "State of the Village Report" may be found here.


The text used here has been modified. The statistics have been updated based on specialized publications, and mainly reports on the World’s population provided by The UN, PRB and others.

The Miniature Earth website was first published in 2001, since than it has been seen by more than 2 million people around the globe and linked by more than 20.000 websites.

This is the third version of the project.

The Miniature Earth is also found on YouTube.

Bono dazzles powerful to end poverty and combat AIDS

The Washington Post Style section tells how when Bono speaks, "We want to rush out and do what he says."

How does he get legislators and heads of state and titans of industry together, and get them to offer up billions in debt relief to help lift Africa out of poverty?

According to writer, Sridhar Pappu, "He dazzles them in telling them what to do, and they do it."

As proof of his potency in Washington, one need only look at the crowd that Bono, 47, draws one fall evening on the second floor of Sonoma, a restaurant on Capitol Hill. Surrounded by administration officials and Hill staffers -- Democrats and Republicans -- and musicians from Mali, he mixes easily with these folks, most of whom he knows and greets by first name. Daschle is there, as is Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) and Jendayi Frazer, the State Department's top official for Africa. Yes, they are together for Africa. But they're really here for him.

"When I first met him, I was thinking, what does this man have to do with the people I represent?" says Rep. John R. Carter (R-Tex.), a third-term congressman from the district that includes the Fort Hood Army base as well as the blossoming suburbs north of Austin. "But listening to him, well, he's a straight shooter, and that's what we like back home."

The straight shooter has control of the room soon enough. Looking out at the bipartisan crowd, Bono talks about the stats that have been flashing on flat-screen televisions all evening, of the 20 million African children going to school because of debt cancellation.

Read how he re-energized the fight against HIV/AIDS and pushed debt relief to combat poverty here.

Silence your cell

Over 20,000 people from all faiths in over 20 countries have already signed up to join the worldwide initiative, with businesspeople, schoolchildren, religious groups, dance groups and even 4,000 children from a refugee camp in Darfur joining in. The Religious Intelligence website reports:

The focal point of the Just This Day in the UK will be three minutes of quiet at St. Martins in the Field, in central London. Joining Elizabeth Edmunds will be representatives from the all the major faiths, including, the Bishop of Reading, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, from the Muslim Council of Great Britain; Rabbi Alan Plancey, from the office of the Chief Rabbi; Bryan Appleyard, Vice-President and Chairman of The Buddhist Society, Mr SH Ruparell from the Swami Narayan Temple in Neasden and Brahma Charini Sumarti Chaitanya, Chinmaya Mission UK.

Mrs Edmunds says: “The noise and fast pace of life has made us prisoners in our own worlds, with little space for connecting with ourselves. Putting our mobiles and minds on silent mode for just three minutes and doing nothing will give access to stillness which I believe can truly change our own lives and the world for the better.”

The Anglican Bishop of Reading, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, author of the book ‘Do Nothing and Change Your Life’ which he famously publicised by handing out egg timers at a railway station, rediscovered his love for poetry in a moment of stillness. He says, “Our world is busy and in the turmoil we forget we all share the same space. Regardless of your faith, age or background, going into silent mode is something we could all do more of.”

Read it all here and silence your cell phone and your mind Wednesday at 10 a.m. GMT. Of course most in the US will be asleep so it should not be too hard.

HUGS for the homeless

Church youth group members in Reno, Neveda, devised a project last year that became such a success they are doing it again this Christmas.

Moved by stories of what homeless people face in wintertime Reno, including frequently going without socks or underwear because those items so rarely are donated, the young people planned a special drive. They sought Hats, Underwear, Gloves and Socks. They called their project HUGS.

Read how they did it at Episcopal Life Online.

Bastion of privilege or beacon of hope?

Texas Monthly features St. James' Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas. William Martin writes of his recent visit:

One seldom encounters the Nicene Creed and the gospel-country classic “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” in the same worship service. But Austin’s St. James’ Episcopal Church, “an inclusive multicultural community,” is not your average Anglican assemblage. In the early forties, when a small group of African American Episcopalians found themselves unwelcome at the city’s all-white churches, they enlisted the Reverend John D. Epps, the dean of the Colored Convocation of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, to help them form a “Negro” congregation. Today, the five-hundred-plus-member church is fully integrated, flourishing, and such an exemplary parish that its former rector, the Reverend Greg Rickel, was installed this past summer as bishop of the Diocese of Olympia, which includes Seattle and the rest of western Washington. As an even more visible sign of its vitality, the church, which had outgrown its facilities on East Martin Luther King Boulevard, recently moved into spacious new quarters a few blocks away, on Webberville Road.

Continuing his description of the the mix of ancient liturgy and modern concerns, and highlighting the ministry of the St. James' School and the blessing of its teachers, Martin concludes:

The service ended in a grand manner, as we sang James Weldon Johnson’s rousing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which the NAACP designated “the Negro National Anthem” in 1919 and has long been a standard in black churches. It was a fine way to climax two hours of encouragement, worship, and fellowship, acknowledging the deep imperfections of our country but refusing to surrender to despair—and recognizing that churches, Episcopal and other, can be a bastion of privilege or a beacon of hope

St. James' also has a Spanish language Eucharist at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon and a Jazz-Gospel-New Zealand Prayer Book Eucharist at 6 p.m. Sunday evening.

Read it all here.

USA Today on faith bloggers

USA Today features faith bloggers from a variety of denominations and points of view. Episcopal Cafe, Louie Crew, TitusOneNine, and others are mentioned as Episcopal sites.

The 2003 triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, inspired scores of new blogs in full battle cry over the vote by bishops, clergy and lay leaders to accept the election of an openly homosexual bishop in New Hampshire.

Blogging your beliefs is a lonely venture [for David] Virtue, "Even my wife doesn't altogether agree with me."

"It's hard to keep your day job" given all the research and reading required, says conservative Anglican blogger the Rev. Kendall Harmon. Harmon is canon theologian for the diocese of South Carolina, along with blogging at TitusOneNine.

"There is a truth and reliability quotient. I post stuff I virulently disagree with. The idea is to influence the discussion," Harmon says.

Canon Jim Naughton of the Diocese of Washington, D.C., creator of the Daily Episcopalian, a liberal blog, has seen it transformed into a multi-blogger site featuring art, essays, news and posts on faith "in the spirit of charity," the home page of Episcopal Cafe says.

Read the full article by Cathy Lynn Grossman, who covers religion for USA Today here

From Calvary to Lambeth on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 is currently airing From Calvary to Lambeth on their Religion and Ethics program.

According to the web site:

Michael Buerk reports on the divide over homosexuality in the worldwide Anglican Church. He talks to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who gives vent to his feelings of shame over homophobia.

To listen click here and then on Listen Live.

Read more on Desmond Tutu by Howard Anderson at Daily Episcopalian.

UPDATE: if you missed it click here for an archived version.

The Archbishop and the war

The blogosphere continues to debate the interview of the Archbishop of Canterbury with Emel, a Muslim lifestyle magazine published by The Times Online. Archbishop Rowan Williams remarks were covered in an earlier article by The Lead here.

Andrew Brown in The Guardian comments on how the Archbishop has managed to offend both liberals and conservatives in the U.S.

To say that the British Empire was a better model of imperialism than what the Americans have done in Iraq is absolutely guaranteed to offend almost everyone in the US, whether or not they oppose the war. It is a remark made more forgivable because it's something that almost everyone in Britain has thought. In context, there is nothing to argue with about what he said: to smash the country up and then abandon it is "the worst of all possible worlds." This was the conventional wisdom even among the liberal hawks before the war started. It is horrible bad luck on Rowan that the one time he says something that could command wide support, it is presented as a gaffe; but it is luck he has made for himself.

The Anglican Scotist blog offers 5 questions for those who would be a critic of the Archbishop. The hard hitting questions ask about Just War and participation in the Eucharist of those who commit violent acts.

Hopefully, all who comment on the Emel interview with Rowan Williams will read the actual article before writing. But perhaps bloggers would not want to be confused by the facts before putting forth an opinion.

Annapolis peace conference brings hope

An announcement out of the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and of Israel have agreed to begin immediate negotiations for a peace settlement to be reached by December 2008 "brings hope to Israelis and Palestinians alike," Maureen Shea, director of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations, said November 27.

According to Episcopal Life Online Shea adds:

"President Bush and Secretary of State Rice are to be commended for their efforts, and particularly for inviting Syria to this historic meeting.>

She noted, however, that "realizing the goal of two states living side by side in peace will require the continued sustained commitment of both the president and the secretary of state."

The New York Times reported that the agreement creates a framework for talks aimed at creating a democratic Palestinian state that would exist peacefully with Israel. The talks could begin within weeks. The Annapolis agreement does address the issues involved in creating and implementing such a two-state solution.

Delegations from 49 countries and international organizations are gathered for the conference at the United States Naval Academy.

As a sign of how difficult the talks will be, the Times reported, violence broke out during demonstrations in the West Bank when security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas clashed with Islamists who brand him a traitor for taking part in the Annapolis talks.

Meanwhile, in Annapolis, St. Anne's Episcopal Church is hosting events, coinciding with the conference, "designed to promote peace in the Middle East through dialogue, discussion and education," according to the congregation's website.

Read it all here

Ekklesia carried commentary and news today here and here

Prayers for peace in the Middle East follow:

Read more »

Letter by Christians noted in Muslim world

Several weeks ago, 138 Muslim scholars, sent a lengthy letter entitled 'A Common Word Between Us and You,' to Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders. As was noted in these pages last week, numerous American Christian scholars responded positively with a letter of their own.

That Christian response is receiving an appreciative response in the Muslim world. The Gulf News (United Arab Emirates):

Dr Habib Ali Al Jafri, Muslim propagator, said: "I am happy with this letter, which is considered as an unprecedented step to bring the Islamic and Christian faiths and civilisations closer."

Speaking at a press conference held yesterday at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, Al Jafri said Muslims and Christians make up 55 per cent of the world's population, and this new closeness serves as the first firm step towards returning to peace, brotherhood and harmony between people.

He added that more steps would follow in response to the apology to enhance interfaith dialogue. The letter from Muslim scholars was sent to 27 Christian heads of churches around the world, including the Vatican.

Twenty-five of them replied, but no reply has been received yet from the Vatican and an Orthodox church, Al Jafri said.
... The clerics who signed the letter are from all over the world, mostly from the US....


The Gulf News also published the letter in full with the list of signatories which included several bishops of The Episcopal Church. And here is the paper's editorial comment.

Archbishop Says

Reading the newspapers Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, may wonder if his last name has been changed to Says as in Archbishop Says. In the Roman Catholic Church there was a cardinal by the name of Cardinal Sin, but Sin was his family name.

Williams objects to the notion that as leader of the Anglican Communion and the state church he must speak on every moral issue or every issue confronting the church. In an interview in 2006 he said,

Leadership is - is, to me, a very, very murky and complicated concept. Often, as I - I think I've said before, what people mean when they say leadership is making - making the right noises, affirming a particular set of views, convictions or even prejudices. It doesn't always have very much to do with how you make a difference. And I think the question I always find myself asking of myself is: will a pronouncement here or a statement there actually move things on, or is it something that makes me feel better and other people feel better, but doesn't necessary contribute very much?
...
What I mean I think is that why doesn't the Archbishop condemn X, Y, Z? Because that's what Archbishops do, you know, they condemn things, they - they make statements usually negative or condemnatory statements. And I - I just wonder a bit whether, you know, when an Archbishop condemns something, suddenly in, I don't know, the bedsits of north London, somebody may say oh, I shouldn't be having pre-marital sex, or in the cells of Al-Qaida, somebody says, goodness, terrorism's wrong, the Archbishop says so.
...
Again, what is or - or should be said in public is something I would - see previous remarks - weigh very carefully, what actually moves things on [in the divisions in the church]. I don't believe that all of this should necessarily be conducted on the internet, as some do.

Andrew Brown noted yesterday at The Guardian blog: "He has remained friendly with individual journalists, but he talks to the press in public and on the record as little as he can. Even so, he can't quite rid himself of the belief that somewhere out there he will find a sympathetic interviewer with whom he can talk without being overheard by malevolent idiots." In another recent post Brown criticized the archbishop for appearing to be aloof to divisions in the church and, more specifically, recent "statements by conservative primates in Africa and South America have made it clear that they mean to continue with the policy of planting and extending their churches in the US."

Giles Fraser sees it differently:

[The archbishop] wants us to slow things down, to resist the frantic fascism of the diary. He calls on us to fight back with a battery of practices: art, prayer, holidays. Not art to make us more sophisticated; not prayer to lobby God; not holidays to get us ready for yet more work - for all this is to render them in overly functional terms, as if they always must have some further purpose.


Tobias Haller asks though
whether the archbishop hasn't confused pontification with communication:

I am beginning to wonder if what we have here may be a failure to communicate. I am not the first to note the vagueness of Rowan-speak, which coupled with the Archbishop's stated view that he is not in charge and cannot give unilateral direction, may lead to misunderstandings.

For instance, I can imagine a conversation in which Venables [Archbishop of the Southern Cone], noting that the Primatial Oversight Plan favored by Williams had failed to fly, suggested he might, on his own, extend the right hand and crozier of primatial fellowship to disaffected dioceses or parishes northward beyond the Cone. I can then imagine Williams saying this was well within his range of action -- not intending approval, but merely observing that there was no Anglican InterPol to stop it -- which Venables then took to be a positive encouragement rather than a neutral statement of fact.

A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.

Over the Thanksgiving holidays in the United States there was a major news story out of Lambeth. Williams wrote "to Anglican Communion Primates and members of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) with a summary of their individual responses to the outcome of September House of Bishops meeting of the Episcopal Church." See The Lead's coverage here. In the words of the ACNS press release the archbishop's "own reflections in his (annual) Advent Letter to the Primates in the coming weeks." Perhaps that is when the church will hear what the archbishop says blessing border crossings.

Tutu and his critics

The BBC Radio 4 program with Archbishop Tutu discussing homosexuality is now available here. The blurb:

Michael Buerk reports on the divide over homosexuality in the worldwide Anglican Church. He talks to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who expresses his feelings of shame over homophobia.

The 40 minute program intersperses clips from Tutu with critiques by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan Bishop of Pittsburgh, Stephen Green (Director of Christian Voice), Anne Widdecombe MP and Canon Chris Sugden (Anglican Mainstream). None of these critics explains why homosexuality is a sin; it's in the Bible. They deny there is such a thing as corporate sin and brush aside Tutu's argument that the church is diverted from mission to the truly needy.

The BBC maintains its archives for one week. Listen now.

Questioning the wisdom of Lambeth 2008

In his essay yesterday in the Daily Episcopalian, The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School and former Bishop of Alaska, writes: "At their most recent diocesan convention, the people of Utah voted to request that the next Lambeth Conference be cancelled. In a nutshell, they expressed the opinion that no good could come from hosting Lambeth at this time." As it happens, Archbishop Akinola agrees.

While discussing pros and cons Bishop Charleston appears to come down on side of cancellation:

Perhaps the most persuasive thing about the Utah suggestion is that it forces us to confront our own dysfunction. More meetings enable more silly behavior. The waffling of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the manipulation of meetings by some bishops, and the lame rhetoric of other bishops who have made a cottage industry out of doom and gloom prophecies has to be faced. For too long we have all been watching this soap opera called Anglican leadership and wondering when the adults would come back into the room to make the kids play nice.

That may not happen unless we take some serious steps. What the diocese of Utah raised is an idea for just this kind of wake up call and action.


The essay has generated comment at Father Jake, a place known for comment. Father Jake's take is, "Not only is Lambeth a disaster just waiting to happen, it is a huge waste of resources. Let it go."

Others favor going. Jim Naughton, editor of Episcopal Café, comments:

The ABC's decision to invite all Episcopal bishops except Bishop Robinson, while deeply regrettable for its singular omission, was his way of settling the question of who, in his mind, speaks for American Anglicans--namely, the Episcopal Church and no one else. It would be a serious tactical mistake to give back this gift.

Additionally, the Episcopal bishops who attended the meeting that Trinity Church sponsored this summer in Spain met many African bishops who are willing to remain in Communion with us despite our differences. We'd be walking away from potentially beneficial conversations if we didn't go to Lambeth, and simultaneously weakening leaders throughout the Communion who do not want to capitulate to Akinola/Minns/Jensen, etc.
...
There may come a point at which conscience requires abandoning the Anglican Communion, a day on which the short-term compromises required to retain our membership cannot be justified by the possibility of long term success. Anyone who has been involved in the fight for full inclusion has woken up on certain mornings and wondered if today would be that day. But I don't think it has come yet, and I think our best shot at postponing it indefinitely rests in remaining fully involved with our partners in the Communion.

Commenting at the Daily Episcopalian Ian T. Douglas writes:
I'm afraid I have to strongly disagree with my President and Dean Bishop Charleston, as well as the Diocese of Utah, in their call to cancel the 2008 Lambeth Conference of bishops. Bishop Charleston's position is based on the assertion that the 2008 Lambeth Conference will be similar to recent Lambeth Conferences in both form and function.

As a member of the Design Group for Lambeth 2008, I can say without hesitation that the planned conference for next summer will be very different from previous Lambeths. ... As planned, there will be no plenary debates on divisive issues resulting in an atmosphere of winners and losers. That is not to say that the hard and difficult questions and issues before the Anglican Communion will be avoided. Rather the issues will be engaged in smaller gatherings where accountability, listening, and the search for mutual understanding are foremost.

I'm sad that Bishop Charleston is suggesting that bishops not go to Lambeth 2008 without considering what the Conference will and will not be....

Archbishop Akinola has disparagingly referred to the new form and function as a "jamboree."

Is it Christmas?

There is now an entire website devoted to the question, "Is it Christmas?" Check out the answer here.

In a similar vein, click here to find out more about the movie Santa Claus doesn't want you to see.

And don't miss Merry Kitschmas.

December 1 is World AIDS Day

Last week, based upon improved statistical sampling, the UN downward revised its estimates of the number of persons with HIV/AIDS. The New York Times picks up on a more important finding that stems from the correction:

Ignore the fuss over the news last week — the United Nations’ AIDS-fighting agency admits to overestimating the global epidemic by six million people. That was a sampling error, an epidemiologist’s Dewey Defeats Truman.

Look instead at the fact that glares out from the Orwellian but necessary revision of the figures for earlier years. There it is, starkly: AIDS has peaked.

New infections reached a high point in the late 1990’s — by the best estimate, in 1998.


However, it is not time to relax:
More than three million annual new infections in 1998, or an estimated 2.5 million for 2007, “is not a particularly happy plateau,” said Dr. Robert Gallo, a discoverer of the AIDS virus.

Dr. Mark R. Dybul, the Bush administration’s global AIDS coordinator, added: “I don’t think it radically shifts our thinking, at least not for 5 to 10 years. We still need to prevent 2.5 million infections, we still need to prevent 2.1 million a year from dying.”


Some other disturbing observations:
It’s still not clear why southern Africa was hit the hardest. There are theories — migratory mine labor, less circumcision, perhaps a still-undiscovered genetic susceptibility.

But the southern Africa explosion has not repeated itself as the virus moved on into Asia’s much greater populations. It has hit very susceptible pockets, like the red light district of Calcutta, but seems to have stalled in them.
...
[The disease] can also lull its hosts into acting foolishly again; that has happened in San Francisco and Germany, Dr. [Paul] De Lay [director of monitoring and policy for Unaids] noted, where new infections are ticking up again as young gay men revive the bar scene of the 1980’s.

The Anglican Communion News Service has several posts today on the initiatives of the Anglican Communion in the battle against AIDS:

Read more »

A brilliant question

The Anglican Scotist asks a brilliant question, and offers some of the best analysis of the dangers implicit in the current Communion controversy for the Episcopal Church.

The separated have bigger plans then mere unity among themselves; they want to be in the AC as a province, and to kick TEC out of the AC as a province. They have not given up these plans--separation is merely stage one. Performing the Provincial Two-Step will take years--even decades--of well-funded, high-decibel bitterness at an international level. The funding and the shouting will be there in good supply.

It takes two to bicker. Is there a creative way for Loyalists to unilaterally stop bickering? What would that look like on the national, diocesan, and congregational levels? What should it look like?


Read it all.

The Advent Conspiracy

Starting in 2006 a number of clergy and congregations began to push back against the increasing commercialization of Christmas by inviting their members to consider giving gifts to charity instead. In the first year hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised.

An article on Ethics Daily describes how the movement gained steam and expanded across the nation and beyond from its start in the Portland Oregon area:

"...pastor friends from around the country hatched what they called the Advent Conspiracy. They challenged their congregations: Spend less on Christmas, give relational gifts and donate the money saved to the poor.  

...In the following few months, word of the Advent Conspiracy spread over the Internet. McKinley and like-minded people such as 'Purpose Driven Life' author Rick Warren talked about it every chance they got.

This year, about 491 churches from 10 nations have joined the conspiracy, says Jeanne McKinley, who directs the program from Imago Dei Community with her husband Rick. World Relief, an evangelical mission group, has recruited 500 more churches to participate. About 1,700 individuals have joined on the Internet, she says.

Rick McKinley asks one thing of his co-conspirators--that they donate at least 25 percent of their Christmas savings to clean water projects. The United Nations Development Program estimates that $10 billion a year would help solve the shortage of clean water.

'The church needs to be on the leading edge of solving this problem,' he says."

Read the rest here.

The Diocese of Minnesota prepares for its future

The Bishop and people of the Diocese of Minnesota commissioned a study group and asked them to look hard at the present state of the diocese and its immediate future. The answer they found is not a happy one. But they have developed a plan to respond to what they found.

From the report:

The Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota is at a critical juncture in its life. Almost every measurable trend is downward. Courageous and visionary efforts to address this reality over the past several decades have not succeeded in any measurable way. Apart from a significant change in the way the diocese conceives of its life and engages in its ministry, the BCMS holds out little hope that these patterns will be reversed in the future. That is why this process has focused on rethinking, reframing and reclaiming the identity and purpose of the diocese. Recommendations regarding these matters constitute the first part of this report. The plan outlined on the following pages is designed to build on and help implement the identity and purpose that have been named. It assumes that the following critical realities need to be understood, accepted and addressed.

The plan proposed by the Commission has four primary goals:

  • Goal 1: Spiritual Transformation and Fuller Participation in God’s Mission
    For the congregations in the Diocese of Minnesota to experience a profound sense of shared spiritual transformation and theological renewal, which leads all Minnesota Episcopalians to participate more fully in God’s mission in our world.

  • Goal 2: Renew Congregations in Context
    For every congregation to connect or re-connect its ministry directly to its particular mission field and become communities in which discipleship is a way of life for all God’s people.

  • Goal 3: Recreate the Diocese as a Network
    To redevelop the entire diocese by the end of 2009 to function primarily as a network of congregations and ministries. These networks will exercise local initiative and responsibility for shared ministry in their contexts.

  • Goal 4: Develop Effective Stewardship of Financial Resources
    For the diocese to develop and implement fiscal strategies that make the best use of the resources God has entrusted to us, and to challenge and motivate all Episcopalians to generous and faithful giving.

The full report is here in PDF format.

Ireland proposes a different draft Anglican Covenant

The Anglican Church of Ireland's General Synod has published an alternative form of an Anglican Covenant. The Irish province accepts the need for a covenant, it does not find the present form helpful.

The Covenant as they propose it calls upon the Anglican provinces to recognize the moral authority of the "Instruments of Communion" while making clear they have no juridical authority over the provinces. In extreme instances when a province will not fulfill the substance of the Covenant by actively listening and engaging with the other provinces, that province could be considered to have withdrawn from the Communion.

From the report:

"In discussion it became clear that, though procedures were felt to be inappropriate within the context of a Covenant, the Anglican Communion would have to put in place procedures, in keeping with the Covenant, to deal with crises which might develop.

The redrafting of the Covenant as attached here is offered in the sincere conviction that the Church of Ireland has a real contribution to make. This response is representative of work undertaken together by those of a wide variety of views in relation to both churchmanship and issues of human sexuality.

It reflects a determination to stay together in the face of the current difficulties. This redrafting is offered as a suggestion as to a possible Covenant which might be agreed on the one hand by those who emphasized the need for a greater sense of communion and all that this implied, and on the other by those who stressed the need for the recognition that provincial autonomy must remain paramount."

Read the full text of the proposed Covenant here.

Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans for the pointer.

Pastoral Statement from Canada

The Primate and Metropolitans of the Anglican Church of Canada have released their promised pastoral statement on the recent incursions into their province by bishops of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

The statement begins by restating the findings of the St. Michael's report that the issue of same-gender blessings is an "issue as matter of doctrine but not core doctrine."

The report then states

"...we deplore recent actions on the part of the Primate and General Synod of the Province of the Southern Cone to extend its jurisdiction into Canada through the Essentials Network Conference. This action breaks fellowship within the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion.

We affirm the statement unanimously agreed to by the Council of General Synod which appeals to the Archbishop of Canterbury ‘to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism.’ We too appeal to him in his capacity as one of the instruments of communion and as chair of the Primates' Meeting to address the very serious issues raised by this intervention.

The actions by the Primate of the Southern Cone are not necessary. Our bishops have made adequate and appropriate provision for the pastoral care and episcopal support of all members of the Anglican Church of Canada, including those who find themselves in conscientious disagreement with the view of their bishop and synod over the blessing of same-sex unions. These provisions, contained in the document known as Shared Episcopal Ministry, were adopted by the House of Bishops and commended by the panel of reference appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The actions by the Primate of the Southern Cone are also inappropriate. They contravene ancient canons of the Church going as far back as the 4th century, as well as statements of the Lambeth Conference, the Windsor report and the Communiqué from the Primates' Meeting earlier this year. Furthermore these actions violate Canon XVII of the Anglican Church of Canada which states that ‘No Bishop priest or deacon shall exercise ordained ministry in a diocese without the license or temporary permission of the Diocesan Bishop.’

Any ministry exercised in Canada by those received into the Province of the Southern Cone after voluntarily relinquishing the exercise of their ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada is inappropriate, unwelcome and invalid. We are aware that some bishops have, or will be making statements to that effect in their own dioceses."

Read the full statement here.

Advent Calendar 2.0

This is the fourth year that the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (which, we note gratefully, also hosts the Café) has offered its online Advent Calendar. Each day starting tomorrow, a new link becomes available, each featuring a daily meditation, giving opportunity or pieces from the National Cathedral's crèche exhibit.

This year, however, there's a new kind of file hiding under the windows: podcasts.

"We designed the calendar four years ago, primarily as a way for office workers to observe the season of Advent," said Jim Naughton, canon for communications and advancement for the Diocese of Washington. "But we've found that teens and families really enjoy it, too."

Some visitors are drawn by the more whimsical figures from the crèche exhibit, Naughton said, others by the opportunity to use the web to enrich their prayer life.

"Each year we try to offer them a little more," Naughton said. "The audio features are new this year. I think people are going to love listening to Trinity's choir, and Lonnie Lacy, the chaplain at Georgia Southern University, was kind enough to let us link into his podcasting project."

Read Episcopal Life Online's writeup here.
Bookmark the Advent Calendar here.

"State of the Church" interim report

Identity. Mission. Organization. These are the three things that Episcopal News Service is reporting are being addressed in an interim report issued by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church. In this report the Committee addresses concerns about the decline in attendance and participation in the church, a trend that is affecting all the mainline denominations in one form or another.


"Who are we?" the report asks. "What does it mean to be an Episcopalian? What are our core values? How are we differentiated from other Christian faith traditions? What are our strengths and weaknesses? Where are our opportunities?"

Described as a "brief assessment of facts and trends," the report points out that "marvelous work goes forward at all levels of our church, often understated, and not fully appreciated, but truly transforming in nature."

The report notes that the Episcopal Church's experience of declining membership and attendance is "similar to other mainline Protestant denominations in the United States." Declining membership and attendance levels mean "we need a plan for action at all of our organizational levels -- parish and diocese, as well as the Episcopal Church Center."

"We recognize that the Episcopal Church does not routinely gather important demographic data, and that we must look to supplemental sources of data and qualitative information to obtain the best understanding that we can of the life and times of our church," said Alfred D. Price, committee chair. "That has meant examining the results of other national surveys and studies in which we have participated in recent years with other mainline Protestant denominations."

The ENS article, with links to the interim report as well as the committee's report to the 75th General Convention, is here.

The teacher and the teddy bear

Everyone is talking about the incident in the Sudan where schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons asked her 7-year-old students to pick their favorite name for a Teddy Bear. If you haven't heard about it, numerous news outlets are reporting on the situation; first one that crossed this editor's desk was the Washington Post reports here and here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has released a statement:

Dr Rowan Williams said: “I can't see any justification for this at all.

“I think that this is an absurdly disproportionate response to what is at best a minor cultural faux pas and I think that it's done the Sudanese Government no credit whatever.”

From here.

Starving the food banks

Food banks are an important hunger ministry, but according to a story in the New York Times, they are facing food shortages caused by shifts in supply and demand, and the way food markets handle their surpluses are wreaking havoc on their ability to feed the hungry. The market forces creating the shortages are being wrought by rising energy prices and housing costs. Even the subprime lending problems may be contributing, said one source:

“It’s one of the most demanding years I’ve seen in my 30 years” in the field, said Catherine D’Amato, president and chief executive of the Greater Boston Food Bank, comparing the situation to the recession of the late 1970s.

Experts attributed the shortages to an unusual combination of factors, including rising demand, a sharp drop in federal supplies of excess farm products, and tighter inventory controls that are leaving supermarkets and other retailers with less food to donate.

“We don’t have nearly what people need, and that’s all there is to it,” said Greg Bryant, director of the food pantry in Sheffield, Vt.

“We’re one step from running out,” Mr. Bryant said.

“It kind of spirals,” he added. “The people that normally donate to us have less, the retailers are selling to discount stores because people are shopping in those places, and now we have less food and more people. It’s a double, triple, hit.”

The Vermont Food Bank said its supply of food was down 50 percent from last year. “It’s a crisis mode,” said Doug O’Brien, the bank’s chief executive.

For two weeks this month, the New Hampshire Food Bank distributed supplies reserved for emergency relief. Demand for food here is up 40 percent over last year and supply is down 30 percent, which is striking in the state with the lowest reliance on food banks.

“It’s the price of oil, gas, rents and foreclosures,” said Melanie Gosselin, executive director of the New Hampshire Food Bank.

Ms. Gosselin said household budget squeezes had led to a drop in donations and greater demand. “This is not the old ‘only the homeless are hungry,’” she said. “It’s working people.”

Complete article here.

ECVA Advent exhibition mirrored in Second Life

Last year, the folks over at Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts featured the online Advent exhibition “Unto us a Child is Born”. From the curator's statement:

The church has entered the holy season of Advent, a time of wondrous expectation when we gather and ponder the mystery of God incarnate. How could it be that the Creator and Master of the entire physical known universe could become so small, less than the smallest atom on a speck of dust, to be born as one of us? This is a deep and inscrutable mystery beyond all form of human comprehension.

“Unto us a Child is Born” ponders this mystery through the creative gift of art. Looking at these works, taking them in with a contemplative eye and heart, one begins to cross the boundary between this world and the world of spirit. It is from this world of spirit and devotion that these works of art originate. There is no limit to the styles or media presented here; there are paintings, drawings, woodblocks, photographs, sculptures, vestments, etc. Yet all reflect the creative imagination of souls seeking and embracing the mystery of God coming to dwell in our midst, Emmanuel!

But wait! There's more! The exhibition is having a second run on.. you guessed it, Second Life. Second Life users can visit a virtual version of the exhibition at the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life. From an email:

The Anglican Church in Second Life, a “Christian community for those who call themselves: Anglicans, Episcopalians or members of the Church of England, Episcopal Church or any of the other bodies of believers who share the Anglican heritage,” has teamed up with The Episcopal Church & Visual Arts (ECVA) to present an “in-world” showing of artwork from the ECVA 2006 online exhibition, “Unto Us a Child is Born…”

The exhibit will take place within Second Life, a 3-D virtual world created almost entirely by its residents. The Anglican Group, which was founded in November 2006, has its headquarters on Epiphany Island, a parcel of virtual land which contains a cathedral and parish house, as well as a meditation garden and other scenic venues. The art show will be staged in the south courtyard of the cathedral.

Here's this editor's avatar having a bad hair day but checking out the exhibition in Second Life.
vahnia-exhibit.jpg

Clicking on each piece of virtual artwork provides a notecard with information about the piece and the artist. The exhibition is located on the grounds of the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life, which Second Life users can access via this link.

For more information about the exhibition and the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life, click here. And if you're in Second Life, be sure to search groups for "Episcopal Cafe"--and there is an informal set of tables for lounging and socializing set up outside the north side the Cathedral Parish house.

This is Second Life Episcopal Cafe correspondent Vahnia Gregory reporting.

Advertising Space