Don't confuse Jesus with super heros

The key message of Christmas is that God in Jesus commits to dignifying and transforming human ordinariness, not to fantasies about a super-hero figure or military conquerer, the Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, President of the Methodist Conference in Britain, has declared in his seasonal message.

He writes: "When Jesus Christ came into our world he was more ordinary and human than many expected – both then, and now. The ancient Jews had expected Messiah for a long time, and their expectations increased over time. Older expectations of the coming of a great but essentially human King became anticipation of a more supernatural figure. They expected a mighty warrior who, Superman like, could remove invaders from the land, and purify the Temple with a wave of his hand. Or he would be the perfect Law keeping machine, the immaculate Pharisee."

A similar note was struck by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in a Christmas Eve article appearing in The Times newspaper, where he wrote: "[T]he [Gospel] story goes on to say something quite strange and surprising. God steps in to sort it all out. But he doesn’t step in like Superman, he doesn’t even send a master plan down from heaven. He introduces into the situation something completely new – a new life; a human baby, helpless and needy like all babies."

Read it all here.

Ugandan priest in Tampa Palms

The Tampa Tribune features a Ugandan priest who leads Grace Episcopal Church in Tampa Palms.

Growing up in Uganda, the Rev. Benjamin Twinamaani studied the Bible every day. He fell in love with the passages and, despite opposition from some of his countrymen, made a commitment to Christianity. Walking to church, Twinamaani dreamed of one day preaching God's word to others.

In 1992, he traveled to the United States to study theology. In 2000, he graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and took his place in the Episcopal Church.

Today, Twinamaani is the head priest at Grace Episcopal Church in Tampa Palms. He describes the church:

It is a young church. It is only 14 years old. We have a young congregation. Our average age is 35, which is unusual for the Episcopal Church. Twenty-five percent of our church members are under 18. We have about 250 people attending service each week.

We have a very small space. We want to expand.

What is the church's role in the community?

We want to be the church that anchors the Tampa Palms community, whether it is for the people's spiritual life, education for the children or recreation. We used to have trails here for biking and jogging. I want to reopen them.
Although Twinamaani keeps a busy schedule as priest and pastor as well as managing the business of the church, he says, "I take Friday off every week to spend with my family. My eldest is 6, then 4, then 4 months. At home, when I walk into the door, all work must remain outside."

Read it all here.

Blogging and your soul

Well known Episcopal commentator, Doug LeBlanc reflects on an essay by Buddhist blogger EJ Eskow about the challenge of balancing blog-inspired activism with Buddhist disciplines. LeBlanc mention[s] Eskow’s essay by way of confession. "Blogging is not my default setting as a writer, and I’m not sure I’ve ever found a relaxed, unguarded voice in this medium. Blogging has sometimes made it too easy to lapse from noting irony to indulging unkind sarcasm."

How do I blog without losing something important in my soul? For now, this is my answer: I must blog less, and do more long-view writing that generates joy — both in my life and, I hope, in the lives of my readers.

Read it all here

Buddhist monks in top ten of religious news stories

Religion writers recently named their top ten religious news stories of the year. Their list differs from Time Magazines' top ten. The Anglican Journal notes: For the top religion newsmaker of the year, the journalists chose the Buddhist monks in Myanmar who last September demonstrated in support of democracy but were squelched by the military-backed government. Here is a summary of their choices.

1. Evangelical voters undecided.

2. Democrats and faith and votes.

3. Role of lesbians and gays in faith groups.

4. Global warming and religion.

5. Illegal immigration.

6. Buddhist monks.

7. Episcopal re-alignment and court cases.

8. The Supreme Court votes with conservative religion.

9. Death of TV several prominent TV evangelists.

10. The cost of priestly sex-abuse to the Roman Catholic Church.

Read more about their list in the Anglican Journal

Presiding Bishop podcasting

During Christmastide the Presiding Bishop made two appearances via podcast and radio. One with State of Belief on Air America is available now on podcast and the other is available on BBC Radio 4. [The PB's segment of the BBC program is available here.]

The State of Belief interview featured questions for the Presiding Bishop on the current state of the Episcopal Church, religious liberty, and the future.

Notes from the interview:

Why are we where we are?
The immediate background is the ordination of women and emphasis on ministry of all the baptized in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Looking at the history of the church - decisions about inclusion from Peter and Paul's debate about the Gentiles to today.
Another factor is the current polarization of society politically and reflected in the church impatience with diverse ideas plus external groups set to undermine and polarize in all mainline denominations.
The current division seems to be between those who believe their salvation is at stake if they don't separate and those who believe an inclusive body expresses the reign of God.

What about the Diocese of San Joaquin?
We are in a between time, limbo -- as soon as the status of the bishop is determined then the status of clergy can be determined.

Will we resolve our current divisions?
Not in our lifetime -- so we need to learn to live together.

Why keep going?
There is work to be done - plant churches, preach the gospel, help healing of world.

What would you tell people about The Episcopal Church?
It is multi-national, multi-cultural, values diversity and finds hope in diversity, believes in the Incarnation - which means life in this world is important - justice, peace, mission of solace, feeding, comfort, healing; offering a challenge to those who are more comfortable, there is work to be done.

Thinking Anglicans reports on the BBC interview here.

The BBC news reports that "The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori, told the BBC her church is paying the price for its honesty over sexuality."

Link to State of Belief interview here

The easiest way to download the interview with State of Belief is through the iTunes store online - free. Search "State of Belief".

Link to BBC Radio 4 interview here

Lisa Fox comments at her blog, "This is one of the very finest interviews I've heard or seen with our Presiding Bishop."

Update: The AP adds,

"Those services [blessing of same sex unions] are happening in various places, including in the Church of England, where my understanding is that there are far more of them happening than there are in the Episcopal Church," Jefferts Schori said.

A link to just the Presiding Bishop's BBC interview here. No waiting 45 minutes to her part.

Recapping Episcopal/Anglican news of recent weeks

For those of us who've been away from news of the communion over the last past week or so, here is a recap of postings at The Lead.

December 27
Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) 2008 - Another announcement that broke over the holiday was that of conservative Anglicans organizing their own global event, as reported in a press release. And what does the blogosphere make of it? Plenty, by our feeds both leftish and rightish.

December 29
News from San Joaquin - In early December the convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin voted to leave The Episcopal Church and join the Province of the Southern Cone.Although dioceses and churches cannot leave The Episcopal Church, Bishop Schofield has been steadily taking actions to close churches and consolidate his base, as the Church follows the canonical procedures for halting his actions. The latest event transpired on Christmas Day with the firing of the vicar of St. Nicholas.

Global Anglican Future fracturing - Dr. Michael Poon has posted some hard questions for the organizers of the Global Anglican Future Conference at the Global South Anglican web site. His first two questions seem to indicate that the organizing primates have gone too far without consultation with others. [See also Greg Jones at The Daily Episcopalian.]

More on GAFCON - More news is emerging about the backers of the Global Anglican Future meeting planned to be held prior to Lambeth 2008. Some of it emerged in further strong reactions to Dr. Poon's questions.

January 1
The Presiding Bishop accused other churches, including the Church of England, of double standards over sexuality. Katherine Jefferts Schori, told the BBC her church is paying the price for its honesty over sexuality.

Bishop in Jerusalem: "Regrettably, I have not been consulted about this planned conference"

UPDATE January 2: Anglican Communion News Service sees fit to run Dawani's press release here.

From the Diocese of Jerusalem website:

PRESS RELEASE
Contact:
The Rt Revd Suheil Dawani
Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem
Bishop’s Office
Diocese of Jerusalem
bishop@j-diocese.org

Re: Global Anglican Future Conference planned for the Holy Land in June 2008

The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Bishop Suheil Dawani, has expressed his concern about the Global Anglican Future Conference planned for the Holy Land in June this year.

“Regrettably, I have not been consulted about this planned conference,” said Bishop Suheil. “The first I learned of it was through a press release.

“I am aware that the post-Christmas announcement that this conference is to be held here has excited considerable interest around the Anglican Communion, and has become the subject of online discussion. Yet we Anglicans who minister here have been left out in the cold.

“I also note that the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, who appears to be one of the organisers, is encouraging clergy and lay people from his diocese to attend the conference with him and his bishops. He speaks of the meeting taking place because the Anglican Communion is, he says, ‘in disarray over fundamental issues of the gospel and biblical authority’.

“I am deeply troubled that this meeting, of which we had no prior knowledge, will import inter-Anglican conflict into our diocese, which seeks to be a place of welcome for all Anglicans.

“It could also have serious consequences for our ongoing ministry of reconciliation in this divided land. Indeed, it could further inflame tensions here. We who minister here know only too well what happens when two sides cease talking to each other. We do not want to see any further dividing walls!

“I believe our Primate, Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis,is also concerned about this event. His advice to the organizers that this was not the right time or place for such a meeting was ignored.”

“I urge the organizers to reconsider this conference urgently.”

# # #

If you want further information on this topic, please email the office of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem at bishop@j-diocese.org.

Update: Episcopal Life Online has a story.

Updated at 8pm: Mark Harris has some analysis here. See, also, Father Jake's piece "Sorting out the GAFCON gaffes".

Church of England responds to the draft Anglican Covenant

(Updated)

Thinking Anglicans provides news of the Church of England response to the draft Anglican Covenant:

Press Release

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, as Presidents of the General Synod, have submitted a Church of England Response to the draft Anglican Covenant published last year for discussion around the Anglican Communion.

All Anglican Provinces were invited to comment on the text prepared by the Covenant Design Group chaired by the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez.
...
The text of the response has been overseen by the House of Bishops’ Theological Group and builds on the earlier work of the Faith and Order Advisory Group. The draft response was discussed by the House of Bishops in October and by the Archbishops’ Council in November.

The Covenant Design Group will be meeting at the end of January to consider all Provincial responses. A ‘take note’ debate on the Church of England response to the Anglican Covenant is planned for the General Synod in February 2008.

Here's the text of response (rtf format). The response is an extensive examination of the covenant. One comment of many:
An important question that is raised by this Preamble is what is meant by the phrase ‘the Churches of the Anglican Communion.’ Are the churches of the Anglican communion, properly so called, the thirty eight national bodies that belong to the Communion or are they the dioceses of the Communion gathered round their diocesan bishops? This is not just a theoretical ecclesiological question, but also a practical one since it raises the question of whether the bodies that should subscribe to the Covenant are the national bodies or the dioceses.

Update at 5pm. The BBC has a story. An excerpt:

The Church of England has made clear its disapproval of Anglican provinces which intervene in the affairs of other churches without authorisation.
In a document it said such interventions should not take place except as part of "properly authorised schemes of pastoral oversight".

Update at 8pm. Tobias Haller has a reading here.

2400 lunches

The Signal of Santa Clara Valley:

By 10 a.m., the room at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Newhall was busy with volunteers of all ages putting together meals of all kinds.

At a table, one woman put together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Near a rows of chairs, another woman lined up paper bags decorated by local Girl Scouts to drop snacks into.

It was the fourth Thursday of the month, which meant the volunteers from St. Stephen’s and The Church of Hope ELCA in Canyon Country would gather to prepare lunches to take to the HIV and AIDS patients at the Los Angeles County Hospital and USC Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The group of roughly 10 church members have been preparing lunches for over five years.

Initially, the luncheon project was started 20 years ago by a Los Angeles synagogue looking to help the poor and homeless.

Later on, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, which St. Stephen’s is part of, joined the program of preparing and delivering lunches.

Read it all here.

Over 1,000,000 served

Congratulations to Father Jake Stops the World which crossed the 1,000,000 mark in total visits yesterday evening. Jake is a worthy Thorn in the Anglican blogscape.

Some recent posts at Jakes Place (in reverse order):

Sorting Out the GAFCON Gaffes

Reactions to the Southern Cone's Seizure of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, Atwater

Should Lambeth be Cancelled?

Pittsburgh's Bizarre Scenarios

Life, going on

One is a retired priest; the other is a retiree that became a priest. Two separate stories in Ohio and Oregon, yet both resonate the theme that we never need retire from faith.

The Rev. Elizabeth Lilly became a deacon in 1976 and was the first woman to be ordained at Trinity Episcopal in downtown Columbus, Ohio. She was ordained a priest in 1984, and recalls several anecdotes of that time:

One priest asked her whether she was having a midlife crisis. Another mused that women in the priesthood could mean fashion shows in the sanctuary. She left one congregation after a priest gave a "hen can't be a rooster" sermon as she sat in the third pew.

The story explores her work in the church but also shines a spotlight on what she's been doing since retiring from active priesthood: creating icons:

She discovered she could create icons in 1996 when she was working on a Lenten series on the subject of Taize worship (French-inspired chanting and song) that called for candles, music and icons. She just started sketching and painting, unaware that the wood needed to be covered with linen and marble dust.

Still, Lilly started to perceive that something holy was going on, and it scared her.

"I was touching holy things," she said. "I was touching his body."

She has made about 30 icons in the past decade. She's studied under five master iconographers, and people now commission works.

"It's a miraculous thing," said her husband, Carter Lilly, 74. "She's just taken it on, and it's become wonderful. They're all over the house."

One icon shows Jesus' resurrection, the Messiah standing atop the gates of hell and literally pulling Adam and Eve out of their tombs. Several icons show Mary and Jesus, solemn-faced and earth-toned, adorned with metallic gold halos. In one, Christ cures the blind man, placing an index finger on his eyelid.

Read the whole thing here.

Meanwhile, across the country in Eastern Oregon, the Rev. Larry Rew practiced law for nearly four and a half decades. He was forced into retirement after a colon cancer diagnosis in 2005, and currently is going through his second round of treatment--but that hasn't stopped him from pursuing his calling. He was ordained a priest on Nov. 18:

His recent ordination, on the other hand, completes a series of events which began in the mid 1990s when the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer began a four-year course on training for the ministry, largely a class on the history of religion. Out of the entire group that finished that class, Rew said, there were five ordinations, including two new priests and three deacons.

Rew was one of the deacons and for several years served as chancellor, carrying out volunteer legal work for the diocese. Although most priests first study at a seminary, the Episcopal Church does not require it in some cases.

"To have a full-time rector now under the guidelines of the church ... is pretty expensive and an awful lot of churches can't afford it," Rew said, explaining the Eastern Oregon diocese includes several small, isolated parishes.

Read his story here.

Southern Cone and Canada plans revealed

The Anglican Journal of Canada reports on the meeting and plans of the breakaway Anglican Network of Canada. According to the article by Solange de Santis, they see themselves as the true Anglican Church in North America along with their US partners in Common Cause. A fund of over $1,000,000 is being amassed for lawsuits.

“We have the higher goal of becoming a parallel province in North America,” said Rev. Trevor Walters of the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster. He noted that a meeting of bishops last September “outlined a 15-month timetable to create a separate ecclesiastical structure in North America” that could replace the Anglican Church of Canada or the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

The Network also has a potential $1-million legal fund, which it could use to defend congregations that want to leave the Canadian church and retain their buildings and property.

“There is a group of people in Vancouver who have committed to underwrite a fund of $1 million, but it is my belief that we may need to raise a lot more than that if we need to defend this up to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Ms. Chang, a Vancouver-based lawyer and a member of its legal team. She said she could not identify the donors.

The network has about 500 individual members and 16 member parishes, said Canon Charles Masters, national director of the network. The Anglican Church of Canada has about 2,800 congregations and 641,000 on parish rolls.

Read it all here.

Previous Lead article here.

Tutu in Kenya

Five days after President Mwai Kibaki unexpectedly defeated Raila Odinga, ethnic violence continues to ravage the country and its attorney general has called for an independent verification of the vote tallies. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has gone to Kenya to help mediate the explosive situation, which has turned the generally stable nation on its ear.

CNN reports (story here):

The crowds were gathering as Archbishop Desmond Tutu began meeting with opposition officials, including Odinga, in an effort to mediate the election dispute.

"We've come to express our solidarity with the people of Kenya to express our sympathy at the carnage that has happened, hoping that we will be able to encourage the leadership to take action that would stop that carnage," Tutu said.

It was not immediately clear if the Nobel laureate would also talk with Kibaki's party. A government spokesman said a meeting could be arranged with Tutu if it would help with the process.

NPR has a good recap of the situation in Kenya so far here.

Two cheers for dithering

Andrew Brown writes:

Over the last few years, Dr Rowan Williams has sometimes looked criminally innocent ("The trouble with Rowan is that he's too damn Christian,") as one of his colleagues remarked; sometimes merely well-meaning but powerless; very occasionally he has looked as if he is working to an angelically cunning plan. This week has been a good week for the cunning plan interpretation. It is not that he has done anything - but his rigorous policy of inaction and delay has given his opponents an opportunity to fall apart which they have exploited to the full.

Read it all.

Bless, O Lord, this creature beer

In Gatineau, Quebec, the oldest Protestant church in the Ottawa Valley stands deconsecrated and empty since late 2006. The century-old stone building is the third church to stand on the site; previous ones had burned down in fires. Now, a businessman wants to buy the church building and convert it into a brewpub and entertainment site, but the remnants of St. Andrew's congregation aren't keen on the idea.

"I am not happy that this place could become a brewery because people on city council told me it could only be used as a church," said Blaine Meadows, a former member of the St. James congregation, adding that he and three or four supporters still hold prayer services on the sidewalk in front of the church every Sunday morning. "As far as we are concerned, it is still our church, even though the diocese changed the locks and stole our church."

"I don't know whether we could have our prayer meetings inside if the building became a brew pub. It gets kind of complicated."

Geoffroy, however, said the church would be an ideal home for a microbrewery because its basement has a ceiling high enough to accommodate brewing equipment. Some of the world's most famous beers are brewed by religious orders in Belgium, he argued.

Geoffroy also noted that the main floor has excellent acoustics and religious artifacts that could be preserved in a pub.

"We intend to enhance and promote the historic, brewing and industrial heritage of the city," Geoffroy said. "It will be a cultural place that would offer classical music and performances by small groups."

The story is here.

The title of this post, it should be noted, comes from a prayer from the Rituale Romanum that is a favorite around the Thompson/Mosher household, as my fiance is a craft brewer. It goes like this:

Bene+dic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi: et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti, ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corporis, et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, that Thou hast been pleased to bring forth from the sweetness of the grain: that it might be a salutary remedy for the human race: and grant by the invocation of Thy holy name, that, whosoever drinks of it may obtain health of body and a sure safeguard for the soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

GAFCON organizers meeting in Jerusalem next week

The news about GAFCON is starting to be covered in more and more venues. The Australian newspaper, The Age has coverage from a local angle that highlights the role of the Archbishop of Sydney.

Archbishop Jensen is planning on traveling to Jerusalem next week and hopes that he and Archbishop Akinola, the primary organizers of the meeting will have a chance to meet with the Bishop of Jerusalem:

"Outspoken Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen is galvanising opposition to homosexuality in the church, in the lead-up to an unofficial meeting of conservative bishops in Jerusalem.

As rifts in the worldwide Anglican Church threaten to become a schism, the Sydney Archbishop said American Anglicans had become missionaries for homosexuality in defiance of the Bible and Anglican teaching.

...Dr Jensen, the main Western leader of the conservative evangelical strand, said he hoped to meet Bishop Dawani in Jerusalem next week. Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, the other main conservative Anglican leader, will be there too."

Read the rest here.

There is additional coverage in "The Australian" that mentions the local opposition to Archbishop Jensen's actions:

"Moderate voices in the Australian Anglican Church yesterday criticised the decision to hold a separate conference, which some see as a challenge to the authority of the Lambeth Conference.

Anglican Bishop Tom Frame, the director of St Mark's National Theological Centre in Canberra and head of the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University, said: "It can only be construed as a provocative gesture. Any international gathering of only part of the Anglican Communion might suggest, in the minds of some, that an alternative force to the Anglican conference is coming in to existence.""

(From here.)

"Faith-fueled candidates" win in Iowa

Jeff Sharlett of The Revealter writes:

If tonight's Iowa results prove anything, it's that religion isn't leaving the public square when W. rides home to Texas. Huckabee's huge victory over robot Republican Mitt Romney is the most obvious sign that Holy Ghost power still matters in power politics. But Obama's victory should be read as almost as big an indicator that we are living in a deeply religious moment. Of course, other factors contributed to both men's victories -- Huck's faux-populism, Obama's pure charisma -- but there's no denying that both Republicans and Democrats in Iowa chose the two most faith-fueled candidates.

Imagine a Huck vs. Obama general election: the two candidates most comfortable at a pulpit fighting it out for the hearts and minds of American evangelicals. That's right -- Obama has almost as much of a shot at a big chunk of the evangelical vote as Huckabee. Huckabee may be a pastor, but Obama talks more like a prophetic preacher. Huckabee may come from an evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptists, but Obama's church, an Afrocentric UCC congregation, worships in a style more recognizable to the multitudes of a megachurch nation.

Read it all.

More on the Church of England response to the draft Covenant

The Church Times has published an analysis of the Church of England's response to the proposed Covenant. (The release of which we covered previously here.)

The article points out a number of substantive concerns that the Church of England response has to the draft. One of the key concerns is the imbalance in power given to the "instruments of Communion" in the draft.

From the article in the Church Times:

"In the section ‘Our Commitment to Confession of the Faith’, issue is taken with the phrase ‘biblically derived moral values’ because it ‘assumes a deductive approach to the relationships between Christian ethics and the Bible to which many Anglicans would not subscribe’. Changed wording is suggested here.

The response tightens up much of the wording in the original. Bishops should be described as ‘guardians’ and not ‘custodians’ (mere maintainers) of the faith in the section ‘Our Unity and Common Life’, which seeks a much more expanded definition of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The section ‘The Unity of the Communion’ should set out ‘the distinctive Anglican theological method, the distinctive Anglican approach to discernment and decision-making in the life of the Church, and the distinctiveness and importance of the Anglican liturgical tradition’.

The original draft text gives the Primates’ Meeting the power to ‘offer guidance and direction’ where there is no common mind, after ‘seeking it with the other Instruments and their councils’.

Stephen Slack, head of the legal office and legal adviser to the General Synod, said that it would be unlawful for the Synod to delegate its decision-making power to the Primates. It ‘could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the Primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of action the C of E should take’. A new form of words that removes the word ‘direction’ is suggested.

The C of E text also includes a new subsection that addresses intervention in the affairs of Anglican churches — absent from the original draft. In the suggested wording, signatories commit themselves ‘to [refraining] from intervening in the life of other Anglican Churches (sc. provinces) except in extraordinary circumstances where such intervention has been specifically authorised by the relevant Instruments of Communion.’"

Read the rest here.

The Church of Ireland also released its response to the Covenant in 2007. The full response can be found here.

Thinking Anglicans pulled out the following highlights from the Irish response which had deeper objections to the proposed Covenant than did the English church and advocates a complete rewriting:

The thinking behind the Church of Ireland re-drafting could be listed as threefold:

1. A Covenant should express very clearly the themes of Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence within the Body of Christ;

2. A Covenant should aim, insofar as possible, to be inclusive;

3. Whilst perhaps not solving the present crisis a Covenant should, by emphasising what is implied by mutual responsibility, go some way to prevent similar crises in the future.

The methodology of the redrafting included the following:

  • To reduce discursive material;
  • To remove elements of legislative structure;
  • To recognise that the present Instruments of Communion should not be “set in stone”; in a Covenant, as these have evolved in the past and will do so in the future;
  • To sharpen a sense of common identity and inter-dependence;
  • To retain an emphasis on provincial autonomy;
  • To emphasize responsibility to consult and listen in the context of mutual commitment.

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 full analysis and commentary that followed the release of the Irish response can be found here on the Thinking Anglicans.

Asian people and the Episcopal Church

The Episcopal missionary work among asian people began more than a century ago in the western parts of the United States. Over the years the Episcopal Church has been key in creating evangelical foundations, worship sites and congregations that are specifically sensitive to the needs of asian american and recent immigrants.

Asian Week has a feature this week that covers the history of the Episcopal Church's evangelism efforts in this area.

From the article comes the account of the most recent work:

"In 1973, the Episcopal Church’s general convention established the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry to serve the growing numbers of immigrants from Asian countries.

Today, the Ministry has 120 missions, congregations or ministries that are served by more than 100 Asian or EAM-related clergy, including two bishops. The Asian church members, including 18 Chinese congregations, comprise approximately 1.8 percent of the 2.5 million Episcopalians.

‘I see the rise of Asian American leadership in the Episcopal Church, the increasing level of their involvement in all aspects of the Church’s life and at all levels of its activities,’ the Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara says. Based at The Episcopal Church Center of New York, Vergara has served as the current missioner for the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry since 2004.

Vergara also predicts a ‘golden age’ and the ‘flowering of Asian American ministry’ in the Episcopal Church. At its 158th convention, the Diocese of California adopted a five-year plan to develop multiethnic and multicultural ministries. The diocesan convention also called on Bishop Marc Andrus to install a multicultural commissioner by June 2008. California clergy and lay leaders were asked to complete two sessions of anti-racism training over the next two years."

Read the rest here.

Kibaki and Tutu back dialogue in Kenya

A Kenyan based blogger has reported that the hoped for meeting between the retired Archbishop of Capetown and the present leader of Kenya has taken place.

From the report:

"President Kibaki and South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu today called for an end to the post election violence in the country saying leaders from across the political divide must give dialogue a chance.

President Kibaki assured Archbishop Tutu that he was committed to political dialogue with members of other political parties.

At a meeting held at State House Nairobi today, the President Kibaki and Archbishop Tutu noted that there was urgent need to find a solution to the politically instigated violence. The two underlined the sanctity of human life noting that political protests must never be an excuse for killing innocent people.

They called on political leaders in the country to stop their supporters from engaging in violent acts, saying it was imperative that all Kenyans involve themselves in peace overtures so as to quickly restore sanity to the country.

President Kibaki reiterated that he was ready and willing to begin consultations and reach out to political party leaders to find solutions to contentious issues. He asked all leaders to cooperate, saying they must be seen to provide positive leadership at this challenging time in the history of the country."

The report of this meeting and subsequent statement is also being carried on the EuroNews site.

Read the rest of the bloggers report here.

Updated:

The Diocese of Kansas has connections in Kenya via a deacon working in the region and through a mission trip that the bishop and other members of the diocese undertook this past summer. As a result they have been pointed to this information about the present conditions inside the country. Food is starting to be hard to find and the level of violence is increasing.

Church moves to reconstitute the Diocese of San Joaquin

Episcopal Church News Service has news of the steps underway now to minister to the Episcopalians who live in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

"From Sonora to Bakersfield, from Stockton to Fresno, a growing number of remaining Episcopalians—those who opposed a December vote to realign the Central California Valley Diocese of San Joaquin with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone—are meeting in homes, community centers and other churches, excited to be 'moving on' to evangelism, mission and Gospel good news.

Fed up with years of rancor over the ordination of women and gays, they say healing is emerging after initial grief and loss over the split. So are new congregations. 'They are preparing to reconstitute the diocese; it's heartwarming because it's been a long haul for them,' said the Rev. Canon Robert Moore, appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as a pastoral presence in the interim.

Also affirming, Moore said, is observing a flood of 'support for them (which) has come from all over the world and being able to watch the church rise up and to say, 'You do not have to do this alone, we will do whatever we have to do to help you move forward.' '

The Presiding Bishop's canon, the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, agrees: 'We want to reassure all continuing Episcopalians in San Joaquin that we will continue to be there for them as the larger Church.'

Moore will be among those offering support and encouragement at a January 26 gathering in Fresno planned for continuing Episcopalians. Also present there will be House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, and representatives of Remain Episcopal, a group dedicated to reconstituting the diocese and advancing the Episcopal Church's ongoing ministries in the region.

Anderson commended the faithful laity and clergy for their 'sheer grace and hopeful courage to refrain and reconstruct the diocese and to listen to what God is calling them to do at this time in our history.

'The Episcopal Church at large has a unique opportunity to encourage and support these faithful Episcopalians,' said Anderson who keynoted a 2007 mission conference in San Joaquin."

Read the rest here.

Apocalypse, soon

Frank Furedi writes at spiked-online:

One consequence of Western societies’ obsessive preoccupation with the apocalypse-to-come is that less and less creative energy is devoted to confronting the all too important problems that exist in the here and now. Take the global credit crunch unleashed by the sub-prime home loan crisis this year for instance.

In terms of its material impact, this was arguably the most significant event of the year. After more than a decade of economic stability, the world economy faces the threat of a major recession with important implications for people’s lives. This threat may not make an exciting plot for a sci-fi movie, but it has a direct bearing on the quality of life of millions of people. It also raises important questions about an economic system that is so heavily reliant on using fictitious capital to reproduce itself. Unfortunately, however, today’s future-frightened public debate about economics seems more interested in finding ways to transform capitalism into a carbon-free, green-leaning system than in discussing the steps we need to take to minimise the destructive impact of a global recession on people’s lives and aspirations.

He's cavalier about global warming, and his argument might be stronger if he dealt with the influence of 9-11 on the popular imagination, yet he scores some solid points against the broader phenomena of apocalypse-mongering. Read it all.

What was she thinking?

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Fort Worth has determined that there were no wise women visiting the infant Jesus and has sent out this letter to the diocese:

To the Clergy and 2007 Convention Delegates,

The members of your Standing Committee thought you should be aware of this.

The Presiding Bishop has done something which defies explanation. This is the Christmas card she sent to Bishop Iker and presumably other TEC bishops. Given the increasing polarization in TEC (and the Anglican Communion) today, the only reason we can see for her to make this choice is that she is only interested in pushing the polarization just that much further.

The Presiding Bishop is an intelligent woman, so this re-interpretation of Scripture to exclude masculine images must be intentional. This card illustrates in many ways the core problem of the General Convention Church. Scripture cannot be made to conform to us, we must conform our lives and our faith to Scripture. We will continue to stand for the traditional expression of the Faith.

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth


Here is the card available for purchase here:

card.jpg


Andrew Gerns comments here. Danger: Wise women ahead!

Preacher men

It is perhaps no surprise that the religious left is comfortable with Barack Obama. Just listen to this interview with the Concord (NH) Monitor:

"We know that 90 percent of Americans believe in a higher power, we know that huge chunks of voters in swing states consider religion a really important part of their lives," Obama told the Monitor. "If we aren't speaking to those issues, then I think we're missing a huge part of the electorate that cares about family, poor people, a lot of issues I care about as a senator and a presidential candidate."

In his approach to religion, Obama has walked a fine line, emphasizing the importance of Christian faith to his own life while advocating a universal ideology that respects the separation of church and state.

"I've always said that my faith informs my values, and in that sense it helps shape my worldview, and I don't think anyone should be required to leave their religious sensibilities at the door," Obama said. "But we have to translate those concerns into a universal language that can be subject to argument and doesn't turn into a contest of any one of us thinking that God is somehow on our side."

Locally, Obama's message has garnered support from liberal religious leaders. "People talk about the Christian church and think right-wing fundamentalism," said the Rev. Leanne Tigert, a pastoral psychotherapist and United Church of Christ minister in Concord who supports Obama. "Obama has really opened up an avenue for many of us 'progressive people of faith' that says you don't speak for us. We are people of faith, we are pro-choice, pro-gay lesbian equality, civil rights. . . . He's giving us a voice."

(If you listen to the speech Obama gave after winning the Iowa caususes, it's easy to tell that he's heard a sermon or two in his time.)

But what's really intriguing is how uncomfortable some on the right are with how Mike Huckabee interprets the Bible's teaching on economic issues. The Wall Street Journal raises the alarm, saying that on pocketbook issues, Huckabee's values are those of the religious left:

Speaking to the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, in 1933, FDR explained that the "object of all our striving. . . should be to help citizens realize the abundant life Christ said he came to bring." According to Mr. Smith, "Roosevelt wanted to ensure that 'all elements of the community' had an equitable share of the nation's resources. The federal government's social planning, he contended, was 'wholly in accord with the social teachings of Christianity.' " It is not hard to imagine Mr. Huckabee -- standing at a podium in the Rose Garden to announce a raft of government programs -- talking in exactly this way.

Jacques Berlinerblau also offers a few thoughts on Huckabee:

Unlike Romney, Huckabee presently has no ecumenical game plan, no well crafted appeal to any group other than his own. Little as of yet suggests that he will carry Catholics, as Bush did in 2004. As for Mormons (who also voted overwhelmingly for the current president) Huckabee’s musings about Jesus and Satan’s fraternal bonds will never be forgotten or forgiven. ....

On the bright side, Huckabee has shown himself to be an extremely canny politician. Aware that 75% of the nation’s voters are not Evangelicals, he has been toning down his over-the-top religious rhetoric on the stump in the last few days. He is also a likable and refreshingly serene candidate. Most importantly, he just may have patched together an attractive quilt of liberal and conservative positions that could cover up some his aforementioned weaknesses.

The Wire returns

The best show on television returns tomorrow night at 9 p. m. on HBO. The Wire is the most honest, the most searching, the most moving examination of life in an American city that has ever been written or performed. It is the kind of work Charles Dickens would be doing were he alive today.

Here is a collection of recent stories to get you in the mood for the first episode of season five.

"Charm City’s Cops and Robbers, Schoolboys and Stevedores" in The New York Times recounts the first four seasons.

Bittersweet Work of Wrapping ‘Wire’ in The Times is a profile of director/actor Clark Johnson.

"One Last Case to Solve For Detective on 'The Wire'" from Reuters is a profile of actor Wendall Pierce.

Tom Shales review of the final season is already online along with a slideshow, and a brief video on the shooting of the final episode.

Our previous paens to this brilliant program are here, here, here and here.

Scaife family values

Richard Mellon Scaife, who has helped finance the campaign against the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the Church through his contributions to the Institute on Religion and Democracy, is the subject of an intriguing profile in Vanity Fair magazine. It turns out that Scaife favors open marriage.

Michael Joseph Gross writes:

Asked whether his infidelity is hypocritical, in light of his political commitments, he refers not to a moral principle but to his own personal history. “My first marriage ended with an affair,” he says, amused. And monogamy is not, he continues, an essential part of a good marriage. “I don’t want people throwing rocks at me in the street. But I believe in open marriage.” Philandering, Scaife says with a laugh, “is something that Bill Clinton and I have in common.”

Those are surprising words indeed to hear from a man who spent so lavishly to uncover Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes and to advance the movement fueled by family values. But it would be a mistake to read the saga of Richard Mellon Scaife’s divorce as simply a story of moral hypocrisy. His treatment of women, especially his first wife, suggests a high regard for his own gratification. His commitment to conservative politics has never been primarily about upholding traditional morality; it has been about promoting policies that help to preserve his own wealth and that of people like himself.

Pastors criticize Kenyan bishops

Daniel Nyassy and Maurice K’aluoch of the Sunday Nation of Kenya report:

The Kenyan clergy have been criticised for taking sides in the post-election crisis.

Nineteen evangelical pastors from Malindi blamed them for “bias and openly showing favouritism towards one of the feuding sides” instead of being reconciliatory.

In a statement issued after three days of praying and fasting, the pastors urged President Kibaki and ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga to speedily initiate dialogue to end the violence.

The pastors from various churches said it was shameful that foreign clerics, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, have had to come to reconcile Kenyan leaders as local bishops kept mum or took sides.

Read it all. Then have a look at this story, which suggests that Kenyan Primate Benjamin Nzimbi is now involved in trying to find a solution to the problems in his country.

A handbook for Muslim teens

Jane Lampman of The Christian Science Monitor writes:

Growing up in today's culture can be exciting, confusing, and chock-full of challenges.

For young American Muslims, navigating adolescence has proven especially daunting since the events of Sept. 11, 2001. They must sort out not only who they are individually but also how they fit into a society that knows little about them but holds a host of impressions.

"The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook," was written to offer some guidance.

Read it all.

Iowa and the poles of Protestantism

There was a great deal of reaction to the results of the Iowa Caucus last Thursday. Among the more interesting comments, however, was by Diana Butler Bass, who notes that Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee come from the two very different "poles of Protestantism":

But evangelicals are not the only religion story from Iowa. Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama represent something much more profound in American politics and religion. With Huckabee as a Southern Baptist and Obama as a member of the United Church of Christ, the two men symbolize the poles of Protestantism, the divided soul of America's majority religion.

In the late 19th century, American Protestantism divided into fundamentalist and modernist camps. In the political realm, fundamentalists believed that personal conversion was the foundation of politics. If Jesus changed individuals, individuals might change society if God so called them. But they more typically shied away from politics as sinful, defining it as an essentially hopeless enterprise. They eschewed social change in favor of a kind of feisty Jesus-centered ethics of personal responsibility, private prayer, and morality. They bemoaned the possibility of political change without being born again.

Modernist Protestants argued that politics existed as part of larger social structures—economic, social, and class systems. These structures were corrupted by sin and injustice. Yet, they could be transformed through human goodness and God's justice. Instead of emphasizing individual morality, modernist Protestants extolled a political theology of the common good regardless of personal faith. As a result, they stressed hope, change, and the future in their politics—and its communal emphasis tended to resonate with African-American Protestants.

During the last century, these two visions have gone through several historical permutations. However, they continue to shape American Protestantism. As a Southern Baptist, Huckabee emphasizes Christian conversion, personal morality, and individual character. Obama, as part of a liberal denomination, articulates the communal vision of progressive Protestantism, appealing to human goodness, optimism, and social justice. Whereas Huckabee speaks of the "zeal" of individuals to "do the right thing" and act heroically, Obama preaches on "building a coalition" to transform the nation through innovation and creating a new global community. They are replaying, in dynamic new voices, an old disagreement in American religion.

The Iowa winners represent the two major traditions of Protestant political theology. If Huckabee and Obama wind up as presidential nominees, it would be the first time since the Great Protestant Divide that candidates so clearly articulated these two versions of religion and politics—and so clearly have the opportunity to reshape an old argument. Although it is far too early to make such predictions, the next election could be a referendum on the Protestant political soul.

Read it all here.

The Slate reviews Joel Osteen

Joel Osteen is the pastor of Houston's Lakewood Church, which may well be the largest congregation in the country. Even beyond his own congregation, he is well known for his positive message of the Gospel — a message that many call the Prosperity Gospel. Chris Lehmann reviews Osteen's latest book, Become a Better You, and is not at all impressed:

Joel, who succeeded to the Lakewood pulpit on his father's death, has pointedly refrained from pronouncing visions, performing wonders of the spirit such as speaking in tongues, or really doing much biblical preaching at all. He has the wardrobe and tirelessly dapper mien of an oil industry lobbyist; it's as a walking advertisement of the success creed, and not as any manner of prophet, that he's made his name. "I'm not called to explain every minute facet of Scripture or to expound on deep theological doctrines or disputes that don't touch where people live," he writes dismissively in Become a Better You. "My gift is to encourage, to challenge, and to inspire."

. . .

There's, of course, nothing inherently suspect or dishonorable about seeking uplift and consolation in the Bible. But the point of those "deep theological doctrines" that Osteen seems to deride is to leaven that quest with the less agreeable features of life—pain and suffering, the persistence of evil, the fleeting quality of all endeavor, the cosmic insignificance of the human self, let alone that self's subordinate chosen modes of expression in body posture or a near-pathological penchant for smiling. After all, the same Bible that Lakewood's arena full of believers champion as a handbook for what they can do and be also contains these words, in Revelation 3:17: "Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."

Read it all here.

So what do you think? Is this a fair criticism of Joel Osteen's message?

Are Democrats not religious?

Mark Stricherz of Get Religion notes the surpising absence of any reporting about the role of religion in the Democratic results in the Iowa caucus — in sharp contrast to the focus on the faith of the Republican voters:

After the caucus results came in, it was natural to assume that reporters would tell us about the Democratic Party’s commitment to religion. So what did reporters tell us? Well, the major papers told us . . . nothing.

Consider the major poll of those who attended the Iowa caucuses; it was done at the behest of the four major television networks plus CNN and the AP. Republicans were asked two questions: whether it mattered that the candidate shared his or her religious beliefs and whether the voter would describe himself or herself as a “born-again or evangelical Christian.” Democrats were asked — well, they were not asked anything about their religious beliefs or lack thereof.

The Washington Post and The New York Times, two rivals to the media behemoths that commissioned the Edison/Mitofsy poll, might have been expected to note the absence of religious questions to Democratic caucus-goers. Did any reporter at either paper do so? I didn’t see anything.

. . .

The absence of coverage about the Democratic Party’s faith is a major oversight, tantamount to not covering the religious faith of Republicans. By not following up on the Democrats-have-gotten-religion story, reporters further the idea that Democrats are basically a secular party. Conservatives like Ann Coulter can claim that Democrats are godless.

So what’s the deal?

Read it all here.

Melissa Rogers makes a similar point:

No wonder I was having such a difficult time yesterday finding the results of the surveys on the religious affiliations/beliefs of Democratic Iowa caucus-goers—the media apparently only asked those questions of Republican Iowa caucus-goers.

. . .

[T]he decision to ask this question of Republicans but not Democrats has a significant impact on how the media cover the election results, and it tends to strengthen the common but mistaken theme that religious people are a big factor in the Republican party but not in the Democratic party. That's a problem that needs to be addressed.

Read it all here. A similar point was made here at the Faith and Public Life blog.

And there was indeed a story missed by most of the media, as explained by Kim Lawton on PBS:

Kim, welcome. Let's start with Obama. To what extent did religion play a role in his campaign?

KIM LAWTON: It played a huge role and one that I think is not widely acknowledged. He had a very active effort to court people of faith, including some of those evangelical voters. He held a series of faith forums across Iowa. A lot of times he didn't personally show up. His campaign had these meetings for people of faith, so it was under the radar partly because he wasn't there, but he brought people together to talk about social justice and moral issues. His campaign, actually on the Web site, had a phone number that the week before the Iowa caucuses every day people could call at 8:30 in the morning and pray for Barack Obama's campaign there. So it was very intense and very targeted.

. . .

ABERNETHY: And Clinton and Edwards in Iowa?

Ms. LAWTON: In Iowa, they didn't have as strong of a faith-based outreach. Certainly it was there. Hillary Clinton's campaign does have a faith and values strategy. It's been a little more active in South Carolina than it was in Iowa, and I think that that's going to come into play for her, coming up in South Carolina.

Read it here.

Like Mark asks: So what's the deal. Would it not be all interesting to see if many evangelicals crossed over to support of the the Democratic candidates? Given that Obama's faith (as well of that of Edwards and Clinton) were big news stories just a few months ago, why is the media assuming that faith is important only to Republican voters?

Peter Steinfels predicts the future

Peter Steinfels, the co-director of the Fordham Center for Religion and Culture, has a fun post on the Commenweal website that "predicts" the big religion stories in 2008. Here are some highlights:

January: Retooling his successful Iowa campaign for New Hampshire, former Baptist pastor Michael Huckabee expresses previously unnoticed interest in becoming a Congregationalist. Congregationalist Barack Obama, looking toward a tight race with Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, begins referring to his “inner Baptist.”

. . .

March: Two weeks before Easter, CNN broadcasts a special report on a newly unearthed “Gospel of Joseph” revealing that Jesus was a troublesome teenager. Princeton University expert on early Christianity, Elaine Pagels, hails the document for making Jesus appear more human. Other scholars complain that the ancient manuscript appears to be written with a ball-point pen.

. . .

May: Dismay fills the ranks of atheists at news that Richard Dawkins has been seen lighting votive candles and fingering a rosary at a small church near Cambridge. Witnesses challenge Mr. Dawkins’s initial protests that he was merely “doing research.” He promises to undergo therapy and later declares himself cured of belief.

. . .

July: Fears that the Episcopal Church’s consecration of an openly gay bishop might disrupt the world’s Anglican bishops at the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Canterbury are completely eclipsed by word that the Vancouver diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada intends to begin ordaining whales. Fierce debate breaks out over the meaning of five biblical passages about “the Leviathan.”

Read the entire post here. Hat tip to Melissa Rogers.

No-go or not no-go, that is the question

(Updated) A Pakistani-born Bishop in the Church of England has written that some areas of Britain have become so dominated by Islam that these areas are a "no-go" area for Christians and anyone who is not Muslim. His comments have prompted an angry response from Muslim groups in England who accuse him of fear mongering.

Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that,

In fewer than 50 years, Britain has changed from being a society with an acknowledged Christian basis to one which is increasingly described by politicians and the media as "multifaith".

One reason for this is the arrival of large numbers of people of other faiths to these shores. Their arrival has coincided with the end of the Empire which brought about a widespread questioning of Britain's role.

On the one hand, the British were losing confidence in the Christian vision which underlay most of the achievements and values of the culture and, on the other, they sought to accommodate the newer arrivals on the basis of a novel philosophy of "multiculturalism".

This required that people should be facilitated in living as separate communities, continuing to communicate in their own languages and having minimum need for building healthy relationships with the majority.

In addition to immigration and multi-culturalism, Nazir-Ali also blames the loss of consciousness of the Christian roots of British culture. He says it less "less possible for Christianity to be the public faith in Britain" because of the rise of multi-faith chaplaincies and programs that treat different faiths with the same favor.

Needless to say, Nazir-Ali's words have provoked a reaction.

(New:) Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, writing in the Independent, called his column a "rant" that uses "divisive rhetoric and stoking up hatred" which "cannot and should not be forgiven."

The nutter, I thought when first skimming through yet another fundamentalist intervention by the Bishop of Rochester, The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, Pakistani son of Christian converts. Or maybe he is again seeking attention because he needs it so, sad guy that he is.

It could be his disappointment speaking – he never got to be an Archbishop, and possibly still thinks it should have been him when they were choosing the great men of York and Canterbury. Whatever his psychological flaws (and in true Islamic spirit I extend my sympathy to the brother), his latest rant in a right-wing newspaper cannot and should not be forgiven.

She says that his writing will inflame Britons justifiable concern over religiously driven terrorism into hatred, and that the Bishops words will "validate hostility." She also wonders why the Bishop has not addressed the question of violence against Eastern European immigrants in "white enclaves where Eastern Europeans are regularly beaten up and driven out by indigenous Brits." At the same time, she acknowledges that there is a segment of the Muslim community that is committed to another, more exclusive and radical vision of Islam.

He knows the nation is already edgy and suspicious of Muslims and that his words will validate the hostility. I do understand why so many non-Muslim Britons are wary of us. Islamicists pose real terrorist threats, and have successfully launched one terrible attack. There are indeed some localities where Wahabi Islam has taken a hold and imposed cultural separatism between those believers and the rest, including diverse other Muslims who are contentedly European. The power of the Wahabis – funded by our ropey friends the House of Saud – is frightening and growing. Some Muslim organisations are mad, bad and dangerous, make demands on the state that are unacceptable. They encourage total religious identification and self-exclusion. Readers know I detest this willed disconnect from the nation and its other citizens.

Read the rest here.

The Independent also reported other reactions:

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accused Dr Nazir-Ali of scaremongering.

"Bishop Nazir-Ali's remarks are quite frankly more like the kind of commentary we would have expected from the far-right BNP, not a responsible figure in the Church of England," he said. "Where are these so-called "no-go" areas that he speaks of? He doesn't say."

The Bishop cited the fact that several mosques have applied for permission from local authorities to broadcast the daily call to prayer using loudspeakers.

Those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them. In many ways, this is but the other side of the coin to far-Right intimidation. Attempts have been made to impose an "Islamic" character on certain areas, for example, by insisting on artificial amplification for the Adhan, the call to prayer.

Such amplification was, of course, unknown throughout most of history and its use raises all sorts of questions about noise levels and whether non-Muslims wish to be told the creed of a particular faith five times a day on the loudspeaker.

Sheikh Imam Ibrahim Mogra, a Leicester-based imam who runs interfaith programs with Christian clergy, said he was very disappointed by the bishop's decision to criticize the call to prayer.

"I cannot understand why a man of faith would have a problem with God's name being called out in an increasingly non-religious society – it's beyond belief," he said. "We've had church bells ringing in our country for centuries and yet the character of our country is not really Christian, we are a predominantly non-religious society."

Reuters reports that there has been a wide-ranging debate in Britain over integration and radicalization among Britain's 1.8 million Muslims since four UK Muslims killed 52 people in suicide attacks in London in 2005.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has spoken of the need to integrate communities better and isolate extremists from the moderate majority of Muslims.

A spokesman for his Downing Street office had no comment on the bishop's remarks.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said Nazir-Ali was "talking nonsense" and had no evidence to support his views.

"This is irresponsible scaremongering," an MCB spokesman said. "Where are these so-called areas that he's talking about?"

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the idea of no-go areas was "a gross caricature of reality", while Conservative Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News the bishop had "probably put it too strongly".

Bishop Nazir-Ali is president of the Network for Inter-faith Concerns of the Anglican Communion, but also has been known to play up the differences between Britain's various faiths. Some in the Muslim community believe that he can no longer be trusted to lead efforts at interfaith dialog. Others have accused him of whipping up hatred for Islam.

Mohammed Shafiq, a spokesman for the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth group, caalled on the bishop to resign. "His article is once again an attempt to whip up hatred against Muslims and cause division," he said.

Ajmal Masroor, spokesman for the Islamic Society of Great Britain, said: "It's nonsense. It's a distortion of reality. I believe our communities are far more integrated than they were 10 years ago. If the Church of England had an iota of fairness in their minds they would definitely take serious action."

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accused the bishop of scaremongering. "Bishop Nazir-Ali appears to be exercised by what he perceives as the decline in the influence of Christianity upon this country, but trying to frantically scaremonger about Islam and Muslims seems to us to be a rather unethical way of trying to reverse this," he said.

An editorial in the Telegraph differs with Nazir-Ali on some points but lends support to his claim by saying that the problem is not religious difference, but a perceived misunderstanding of the nature of democratic procedure in Britain, the nature of the rule of law, and a resistence of the new groups to take on 'British values.'

In 2008, it is not necessary to be Christian to enjoy the full liberties of the British subject (and it has not been for at least 150 years). Although it may be the result of a Christian heritage, the British way of doing things today has little to do with commitment to a specific religion: those of different faiths, whether Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or whatever, are of course full members of any British society that is worth having and preserving. What is required, however, is commitment to the democratic procedures by which law is made in Britain, and to the laws those procedures produce.

That is not a commitment that excludes much - but it does exclude the idea that all "man-made", as opposed to "God-made", law is illegitimate. So it excludes, for example, the narrow theocratic extremism of the Islamist sects that insist that only laws which derive from the Koran or Islamic tradition should be obeyed or enforced, and that they must be allowed to rule their own communities by Koranic law.

Multiculturalism allowed narrow theocratic extremism of that kind to flourish in Britain. The Government has finally realised that this was a mistake, and has promised new policies based around inculcating "British values". That is a huge improvement on multi-culturalism, which did not even insist that immigrants learn English. But it has yet to dismantle the enormous bureaucracy dedicated to promoting multiculturalism, or the jobs of the thousands of officials that depend on it.

The government has been more circumspect in it's response but it is critical nonetheless.

A spokesman for the department of Communities and Local Government said most Muslims found the views of extremists "completely abhorrent".

He said: "The overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful, make a huge contribution to British life and find the views of a small minority of violent extremists completely abhorrent. Britain also has a proud tradition of different communities living together side by side. But we are not complacent - the Government has completely re-balanced its community cohesion strategy putting far greater emphasis on promoting integration and shared British values (as the Bishop acknowledges in his article)."

Read Nazir-Ali's column here
and the editorial in the Telegraph here.

Here is the Reuters article and here is the Press Association reaction piece.

Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans for gathering the material on this here and here.

New: Ekklesia said this.

Inclusive Church says Bp Nazir-Ali undermines the work of the Church of England here.

Pakistani Christians seek international support after assasination

Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in Pakistan condemned the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and appeal for international help in eradicating terrorism in their country.

According to Ecumenical News International, the National Council of Churches in Pakistan issued a statement saying,
"We earnestly appeal to the national and global communities and specifically churches to pray for the welfare of the State of Pakistan which is passing through a very difficult period of its history and to encourage the nation to bear such a big loss."

The grouping of four Protestant churches strongly condemned "the brutal assassination" of Bhutto, who was killed on 27 December near Islamabad while campaigning for national elections. Voting has been postponed from 8 January to 18 February 2008 following the violence triggered by the assassination.

The council further urged the "global communities to help the Pakistani nation and its government machinery to eradicate the terrorism which is playing havoc with the lives of the innocent people and disturbing the peace of Pakistan and a great hurdle in the restoration of true democracy in Pakistan".

The National Commission for Justice and Peace, a human-rights body of the Roman Catholic Church, called Bhutto's death as "a national loss" and said the assassination "raised questions about the effectiveness of the so-called war against extremism".

"The re-occurrence of suicide bombing manifests the impunity available to terrorists to take lives of the innocent people," said the commission.

Calling for respect for "a soul who fought courageously to bring down hatred and division", the commission stated that "the tragedy should be properly investigated without delay and the culprits behind this should be brought to justice".

See Ecumenical News International: Pakistan churches urge international support after Bhutto's death

Also: Ekklesia carries the same release.

On "Tres Reyes," a search for shelter

Latin Americans celebrate "Tres Reyes" by acting out a "La Posada" Mary and Joseph's journey to find shelter. A man and woman portray the couple as they knock on doors and are rebuffed before they finally find a place where Mary can have her baby.

The Boston Globe describes how 350 people gathered and followed two high school students around the city to demonstrate the plight of migrants in our country and to remind us that Jesus and his parents were themselves migrants and refuges in search of shelter.

Immigrants and advocates gathered on the Common amid holiday lights still twinkling on barren trees to re-create the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Reading from a script in English and Spanish, the two high school students acted out skits illustrating the hardships immigrants face.

With Mary about to give birth, a worried Joseph knocked on innkeepers' doors and was repeatedly turned away. Finally, the baby was born in a manger.

"That's why it's a good story for us," said the Rev. Robert Bowers of the Paulist Center, a Roman Catholic church and community in Boston. "The struggles they faced, people denying them shelter, welcome, healthcare - she was pregnant - and being turned away at the door, literally. That tiny little story is like the big story now."

And:

When the two students stopped at the State House, they asked for work at an unnamed New Bedford factory - designed to remind people of the real immigration raid there last March that led to 361 immigrants being detained - but the fearful owner said no.

At the next stop, immigrants sought sanctuary at the Paulist Center, but the church wavered and turned them away.

Then, they asked an American, symbolizing the United States, for admission to the country, and were rejected.

In the end, as onlookers watched at St. Paul's Cathedral, an Episcopal church, a 7-year-old girl named Noelle let them in.

With immigration like to become the 'wedge issue' of this year's election cycle, the procession demonstrated the moral and ethical dimensions on the faith which is often lost in the sound bytes and slogans of an election year.


"It seems to have become very easy for people who call themselves Christians to forget this fundamental theme of our faith - that God directed us to love everyone without exception," said Jarrett Barrios, an organizer of the event and a former state senator who in 2006 sponsored a bill to allow illegal immigrant children to pay in-state tuition, which ultimately failed.

Read: The Boston Globe: Through Bible story, many others told

Young people called upon to unite churches

The Taize community gathered tens of thousands of young Christians from all around Europe in Geneva to celebrate the New Year and to organize "vigils of reconciliation" for unity between churches that are divided from each other.

Ekklesia reports that Brother Alois, prior of the ecumenical community spoke to the young people saying "How can we be credible in speaking of a God of love if we remain separate?"

Brother Alois, who became the community's leader after the death in 2005 of its Swiss-born founder, Brother Roger, said,

In Christ we belong to one another. When Christians are separated, the message of the Gospel becomes inaudible.

How can we respond to the new challenges of our societies, notably that of secularization and of mutual understanding between cultures, unless we bring together the gifts of the Holy Spirit placed in all the Christian families? How can we communicate Christ’s peace to all if we remain separated?

Let us no longer waste so much energy in the oppositions among Christians, sometimes even within our denominations! Let us come together more often in the presence of God, in listening to the Word, in silence and praise:

Once a month or every three months we can invite those who live in our towns, villages or regions to a “vigil for reconciliation”.

To prepare such a vigil, young people can set out and go towards others, to another parish or congregation, to another movement or group, and even invite young people searching for faith.

Then the desire will grow to do together all that can be done. What unites us is more important than what separates us: we need to let this reality shine out by our lives!

This is how Ekklesia described the event:

The "European Meeting of Young Adults" from 28 December to 1 January 2008 included moments of prayer, silence, song and testimonies. Taizeis a community of brothers that includes Protestants and Roman Catholics. It has developed its own style of music for meditation, using simple phrases, usually lines from the Psalms or other pieces of Scripture.

Brother Alois announced that the next European meeting would take place in Brussels, from 29 December 2008 to 2 January 2009, and that there would be a meeting for young adults from Africa in Nairobi in November 2008.

As well as evening prayer at the Palexpo centre each evening, there were smaller meetings at churches throughout the city as well as at the Geneva headquarters of the World Council of Churches. Many of Geneva's streets thronged with young people during the period.

"It's an encouragement to see young people in Europe getting closer when some people say Europe is going through post-Christianity," WCC general secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia told Taizeparticipants meeting at the church grouping's headquarters.

In his 28 December opening meditation, Brother Alois recalled that Brother Roger had left Geneva in 1940 to look for a place in France where he could found a Christian community.

The Geneva gathering was the 30th Taizemeeting of young adults from Europe. The first was held in Paris over the 1978-1979 New Year, and the last before Geneva was held in the Croatian capital, Zagreb. The community said 40 000 people took part in the five-day Geneva gathering, 30 000 coming from outside Switzerland. The biggest national grouping was from Poland, with more than 9000 participants.

Read: Ekklesia: Taize leader urges young people to help unite churches

Also, check out the Taize community's own description of the event here and here.

Moving Forward, Welcoming All

Remain Episcopal in the Diocese of San Joaquin is sponsoring a "listening tour" and an all day gathering designed to help Episcopalians in their diocese understand the steps ahead as they work to maintain an Episcopal presence in the Diocese, whose bishop and convention voted to secede from the Episcopal Church and become part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Remain Episcopal describes the listening tour:

The Rev. Canon Bob Moore, appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as an interim pastoral presence in the Diocese of San Joaquin, will make a 5-day "Listening Tour" of the central valley.

From January 21st through the 25th, Canon Bob will travel the valley meeting with both clergy and laity who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin. At stops in Stockton, Lodi, Fresno, Hanford, Bakersfield, and other towns in between, Canon Bob will listen to the stories, concerns and hopes of the Episcopal faithful in San Joaquin. To assure that your parish, clergy or laity group is included in the Listening Tour, please contact us at contact@remainepiscopal.org.

Their website also describes the conference, called "Moving Forward, Welcoming All."

At the conclusion of the Listening Tour, the Rev. Canon Bob Moore, interim pastoral presence in San Joaquin appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, will keynote a day-long gathering at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford on Saturday, January 26th, 2008. Canon Bob will be joined by special guest Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church. This will be Bonnie's second visit to San Joaquin following an event in Lodi held in February, 2007. Both Canon Bob and Bonnie will address those gathered and have additional time set aside to take questions.

Attorney Michael O. Glass, who respresents both congregations and individuals within the diocese, will provide pertinent legal information followed by a Q & A session. Remain Episcopal co-founder, Nancy Key, sees the gathering as "an opportunity to tell people in the diocese who do want to stay in the Episcopal Church what are the next steps. It will answer their questions from a pastoral and legal standpoint because they're hungry for information."

The title of this event, "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" expresses the desire of the Remain Episcopal membership that their diocese be rebuilt with an inclusive and Christ-centered message of love and alvation, rather than a judgmental attitude that demands schism. We hope many will experience the joy of reconnecting with the national church in a spirit of mutual respect, and the prospect of a renewed mission for Jesus Christ as experienced in and through the Episcopal Church.

The event will be held at Church of the Saviour, a historic parish that has confirmed its commitment to stay within the Episcopal Church. The gathering will be held in the sanctuary - a beautiful red brick building built in 1910 with a memorable stained glass window above the altar. Also on the grounds is the lovely old chapel, dating back to 1883, which was recently restored. It will be a great location. Directions to Church of the Saviour.

The exact schedule for the day-long event on Saturday, January 26th is still being fine tuned. Please check back as additional details will be posted when available. For questions, or to RSVP your reservation, please email contact@remainepiscopal.org.

Read the rest here.

Hat tip to Fr. Jake.

Matters of life and debt

The Church of England has compiled a post-Christmas debt check for consumers worried about how much their wallets have been hit by Christmas and New Year spending. It has also published a range of prayers for people living with debt.

“If a household can say ‘yes’ to any of the statements on the checklist, it may be on the verge of encountering serious debt issues, and should carefully consider taking some of the advice included in the pages of Matter of Life and Debt,” says the Church of England’s National Stewardship and Resources Officer, John Preston, who put together the Post Christmas Debt Check, and co-authored Matter of Life and Debt.

1) You need to get an extra credit card or to increase the spending limit on your current credit cards…..

2) You tried to get a higher credit limit on your cards recently, and have had your application turned down…..

3) You will only be able to pay the minimum on your credit cards this month…..

4) This month you will need to use one credit card to pay off another card…

5) You can’t face adding up your total debt, because it scares you…

6) You are keeping the cost of Christmas, or your total debts, hidden from your partner or your family…

7) You often feel anxious about money, in particular, how much you owe…

8) You used to have savings, but they’ve gradually disappeared…

9) This month you’re having to use credit cards for things you normally pay for with cash…

10) You’ve checked your credit card statement from a year ago - and you owe more now than you did then…

If you answer yes to 3 or more of these it is recommended that you consult a debt counselor. Check to be sure that you have contacted a non-profit or government sponsored agency - not a company that consolidates your debt by charging you even more money.

Read the article here.

HT to Episcopal Life Online.

Facebook and Communion

Anglicans Online asks whether the Communion is becoming like Facebook or another social networking site with people adding and deleting each other at will. The essay encourages ideas for how our relationships can be strengthened and deepened across time and space.

The more we considered it, the more we began to see that Anglicans may be in danger of regarding relationships of ecclesial communion with the same degree of seriousness as Facebook users treat adding and deleting 'friends' or creating, joining and leaving special interest groups online. The primary point of intersection is in the non-reciprocity of the relationships of Facebook friendship and Anglican communion. One can, apparently, be in communion with a central figure in Anglicanism, yet not with other people, dioceses and provinces in communion with that bishop's province and diocese.

Christian communion is historically reciprocal, deliberate, public, duty-creating, love-impelling, and church-strengthening. As the ground of Christian life it is not something we choose, but something we are given: given from God the Father through God the Son, enlivened by and filled with God the Holy Spirit. It is a profound, ideally eternal relation with people we may never meet or befriend on this side of the veil. It is a far cry from the point-and-click ecclesiastical relationships we watch unfold week by week in Anglicanism. Anything less than reciprocal, public, sacramental, Christ-grounded, God-given communion is less than what it ought to be, and less than the people of God need to really serve and know the one 'unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid'.

Do what you can this year to keep our Anglican Communion from becoming a Facebook communion, and to enliven your friendships with handshakes, telephone calls, letters, shared meals, good walks and good deeds

.

Read it all here

Mark Harris counters at his blog Preludium that perhaps a commonwealth in cyberspace has advantages for relationships and the inclusion of all Anglicans not just those with money to travel for face to face meetups.

More from Jason Wells at [lab]oratory

Immigration and the church

Episcopal Life Online features the immigration debate and the role of the church in welcoming the stranger.

As immigration reform eludes Congress and as resentment, hate speech and anger about the issue build across the United States, leaders of the Episcopal Church are calling church members to stand with the suffering.
Undocumented immigrants, disparaged as "illegal aliens" by some who want them out of this country -- and out of its schools, hospitals and jobs -- present a moral dilemma for dioceses and ministries in every state. Raids at workplaces, and the arrests, detentions and deportations that follow, devastate families and divide communities.

Katharine Jefferts Schori spoke out in September, after Congress failed again to pass an immigration reform bill. The Presiding Bishop wrote to the church:

"I call on all people of faith to vehemently insist that immigrants be protected from inhumane treatment."

She criticized the raids making news across the country. "Families have been separated, with breadwinners being placed in detention or a parent deported; families have been suddenly ruptured."

She deplored the "wrenching accounts" of such separations, the deportations, racial profiling and stepped-up enforcement measures along the country's borders.

"I would urge our government, in the strongest terms, to cease these incursions into workplaces, homes and other venues where migrants gather until we have comprehensive immigration reform. This one-sided approach to addressing our immigration problems neglects the tenets of justice and compassion which define us as Christians and as a church which embraces the marginalized and the defenseless."

Read what churches are doing and what can be done by the church here

Previous articles on immigration and the church in The Lead here and here.

Jesuits to elect new leader

Time Magazine reports on the election of a new leader for the Jesuits.

The Jesuits' outgoing Superior General is a soft-spoken Netherlands native named Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, who has served since 1983. The 79-year-old last year became the first ever Jesuit leader to ask for, and receive, papal permission to retire from the post. White-haired and goateed, Kolvenbach has kept a low public profile during his quarter-century reign, but is widely praised for his skills in reestablishing good ties with the Holy See after the run-ins with top Vatican officials of his predecessor, a charismatic Basque-born progressive named Pedro Arrupe.

Most Jesuits... focus... on frontline missionary work amongst the poor and oppressed. Noted in particular for their vast network of schools and universities, the Jesuits are widely considered the day-to-day educational and intellectual motor for Roman Catholicism. ...lately been working on an education project in the hinterlands of Mongolia. "Whereas a Benedictine is centered around his monastery, the Jesuit's life is the road. The way we've achieved our credibility is getting our hands dirty, getting involved in issues of countries."

Read it all here.

Anglican theologian honored by Queen Elizabeth

Mary Tanner, one of the eight presidents of the World Council of Churches, is to receive one of the highest honors given by the British monarch in the Queen's New Year's honors list. Tanner, an Anglican theologian, is to be created a Dame of the Order of the British Empire, or DBE, for "services to the worldwide Anglican church". The title will be formally conferred by Queen Elizabeth II or the Prince of Wales at a Buckingham Palace investiture later in the year. Tanner was the theological secretary to the Church of England's Board for Mission and Unity, which became the Council for Christian Unity, serving as its general secretary from 1991 until her retirement in 1998. Information from Ecumenical News International

Read more here.

T-school goes to B-school

The Wall Street Journal does an interview at Villanova about its masters in church management program. A snip:

Beyond the need for better financial controls, what other management issues should get more attention from church leaders?

Performance management is definitely an important but neglected area. That's partly because it's a very touchy issue. Who is going to appraise the performance of a priest or a church worker who is also a member of the parish? There's great reluctance on the part of the clergy to be appraiser or appraisee. You have to view the parish as a family business and understand that it's like evaluating members of your family.

How will Villanova's church management degree be different from what other universities have started offering?

Some schools combine standard business classes with courses from theology and other departments. But if you're taking a regular M.B.A. finance class, you're learning about Wall Street and other things that aren't really relevant. What we're doing is creating courses specifically for this degree program, so there are both business and faith-based elements in every class. For example, the law course will deal with civil law relative to church law so students understand the possible conflicts. The accounting course will cover internal financial-control issues for churches. And the human-resource management class will include discussion of volunteers, a big part of the labor force for parishes.

Have you encountered any resistance from church officials?

Yes, some people say a church is not a business. But I point out that we still have to be good stewards of our resources -- our financial and human capital -- to carry out God's work on Earth. When you use management terms with bishops, they often get turned off. But when you use the word stewardship, it has more impact because it's in the Bible. Jesus talked about the importance of our being good stewards who take care of our talents and other gifts.


Eleven year old feeds the hungry

The Miami Herald features a story of Jack Davis, an eleven year old member of St. Thomas Episcopal Parish, who is challenging the Florida legislature to pass a law to protect restaurants and food services who want to give their food to homeless shelters.

As a fifth-grader, Jack Davis learned about how government works, even drafting pretend legislation in his social studies class. A year later, 11-year-old Jack is pressing for a real law -- one that could help feed Florida's homeless. The sixth-grader is being credited for inspiring a bill that will allow restaurants and hotels to donate leftover food to places like homeless shelters and not face legal liabilities. For years, many eateries and other places have simply thrown the food away, rather than face a lawsuit if someone got sick. ''I kind of used my social studies teacher's advice,'' said Jack, a sixth-grader at Ransom Everglades School. ``She told us to make a difference.''

Jack, with the help of his attorney dad, Jeff Davis, got in touch with a friend, Miami attorney Stephen Marino. Marino, a board member of the Florida Justice Association, a statewide association of consumer advocates, brought Jack's idea up a few days later during lunch with State Rep. Ari Porth, the bill's House sponsor. ''I've never been contacted by someone so young about an idea for a bill,'' Porth said. ``I think it's highly unusual and very impressive.''

It all started one summer morning after breakfast as Jack and his family finished eating at a buffet in Chattanooga, Tenn. He was one of the last at the buffet line -- a typical spread of biscuits, bacon and eggs -- and a manager told the family to eat as much as they could. Jack asked why? The manager told him the rest would be thrown away. ''He explained to me if they gave the food to a homeless shelter they could be sued for sickness or food poisoning,'' Jack said.

Read it all here.

Archbishop of Canada writes Primates on same sex blessings and boundary crossing

Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canadahas written to all the Primates of the Anglican Communion to clarify the status of the conversations about same sex blessings in the Canadian church and to ask primates to stop cross provincial actions.

"As a partner in the worldwide Anglican Communion and in the universal Church, we proclaim and celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ in worship and action.

We value our heritage of biblical faith, reason, liturgy, tradition, bishops and synods, and the rich variety of our life in community." In the spirit of that statement and in the interest of clarity I feel it is important to write to you regarding conversations dealing with the blessing of same-sex unions in Canada. I hope to dispel rumour or
misunderstanding by sharing with you what is actually happening.

More on the letter is found in the Anglican Journal.

Complete text of the letter below or here

Read more »

Episcopal tradition and emerging church

Christianity Today reviews a new book on emerging church.

Rising from the Ashes: Rethinking Church explores the interface between the emerging church and traditional, liturgical churches. The book is a series of interviews — the author, Becky Garrison, describes it as a "salon." It's a helpful ... sampling of discussions about recovering authentic Christian witness in postmodern urban culture.

Becky Garrison, senior contributing editor for the Wittenburg Door, had in-person, phone, e-mail, blog, and IM interactions with 33 people, most of whom are involved in "emerging" groups, "alternative worship," or other innovative worship practices. About half of the contributors are of the Episcopal/Anglican tradition; nearly half are women.

They note eight themes in the book, one of these is the relationship between Episcopal traditions and emerging church:

A new partnership between traditional churches and emerging churches. Episcopal and Anglican leaders are building bridges from older liturgical forms of church worship to emergent forms. Jonny Baker works with the (Anglican) Church Mission Society to "reimagine worship, faith, and community in postmodern/emerging cultures." Karen Ward (abbess of Seattle's Church of the Apostles) is excited about "amazing 'convergence'" she finds "between Anglican ethos and practice and [that of] the emerging church."

Read it all here

Ward also created a social network for people interested in the Anglican emergent church here.

Fort Worth examines the Southern Cone

Katie Sherrod has a post providing the text if "A Preliminary Report from the Bishop and Standing Committee on the Invitation to Join the Province of the Southern Cone." A key passage of the report:

We have now had opportunity to review the Constitution and Canons of the Province of the Southern Cone; an English-language edition of those documents is being edited and will be released shortly. Based on our review, we have concluded that the structure and polity of the Province of the Southern Cone would afford our diocese greater self-determination than we currently have under the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. This autonomy would be evident most specifically in the areas of property ownership, liturgy, holy orders, and missionary focus.
Should this group leave the Episcopal Church, Episcopalians in the Fort Worth diocese faithful to The Episcopal Church are making preparations. Via Media Fort Worth announces:
What is at Stake for Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth?
A small group unhappy with decisions made by the majority within The Episcopal Church has been working to undermine the church for nearly two decades. The leadership of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has been an active part of that effort. They have begun the process of unilaterally taking the diocese and its property out of The Episcopal Church and aligning it with another Province in the Anglican Communion, an action certain to result in expensive litigation. But many Episcopalians in the diocese have no wish to leave The Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Tom Woodward will talk about what is at stake for them on Saturday, January 19, at 2 p.m. in the Sid W. Richardson Hall, Lecture Hall 2, Texas Christian University, 2840 W. Bowie Street. His address will be followed by a question-and-answer session.


Read more here.

Burning of the greens

It's common during the first week of January to see Christmas trees lying naked by the side of the road. For some, including the congregation at St. James Episcopal Church in Leesburg, Va., disposing of the trees has become an occasion for gathering for an Epiphany bonfire, bringing to life the light that is the promise of Advent and Christmas. The event, which drew about 100 people from the church and the community, was featured in a Washington Post video this week.

"We bring that light and warmth into what is often a very cold and dark night," says the Rev. John Dohmer, rector of St. James. (It bears noting that temperatures in the D.C. region have been unseasonably warm this week.) The bonfire commemorates and celebrates the light of Christ coming into the world, he continues.

Kirker steps down

The leading advocate for gay and lesbian rights in the Anglican Church in Britain is stepping down after 30 years, according to the New Statesman, which profiles the Rev. Richard Kirker and provides some insights into his work at the helm of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

For the first half of that time, he fought a lonely battle to get church leaders to discuss sexuality. Now it's hard to get them to talk about anything else, but not in the way he had in mind. Homosexuality is at the centre of a global struggle for the soul of the Anglican Communion, and as gay people are accused of bestiality and demonic possession, the Church seems to have become a repository for the homophobia unacceptable in the rest of society.

....

If Rowan Williams has issued any rebuke, it has been barely audible until recently. Gay-friendly before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, he now reserves his chief condemnation for the North American Episcopalians who have elected an openly gay bishop. Many of the archbishop's former close gay friends have been left reeling by what they call his betrayal.

"The situation is appalling. Life for gay priests is immeasurably worse than when I started doing this job, because of the obsessive scrutiny of those who hate us," says Kirker, a battle-scarred 56-year-old whose shoestring organisation still numbers no more than 2,000 members. "Many people have given up the fight and left the priesthood. Others do not join it because it's not worth putting themselves through the indignity of interviews that intrude into personal morality in a way that was once never considered desirable or necessary. It is now official policy to ensure that gay people who don't give a commitment to celibacy are not selected for ordination."

Read it here.

Nevada bishop's spiritual journey

Dan Edwards' path to becoming the new bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada may not seem conventional to some. But even when he was a lawyer, he was committed to social justice, representing "unpopular causes" such as migrant workers and American Indians. Raised a Baptist, he moved through a cycle of faith that included boredom, disenchantment, agnosticism that bordered on atheism, Buddhism and, in his 30s, a return to faith and a call to serve the Episcopal Church.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal profiles the new bishop, noting that Edwards is a good fit for the 6,000-member diocese and its frontier sensibilities.

Deacon Sandy Oetjen of All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas, a member of the diocesan search committee, says Edwards brings "a broad range of experience" to the diocese. And, because of his work with American Indians and migrants in Colorado and Idaho, he also "has some familiarity with the kind of Western way of approaching things."

"We're a very different kind of diocese, and that was important to us: That somebody would recognize the differences between us and one of these very large dioceses

."

About his spiritual journey, Edwards offers:

..."the religion part of it came to seem superfluous. So the religion dropped away and my mind really became about social action and advocacy. And that was essentially an atheist period or, at least, an agnostic-leaning-toward-atheistic period."

However, during law school, Edwards began meditating, "simply for the purpose of stress management. But in the course of meditation, I discovered something much deeper and wider than stress management."

"That was an experience of what I would now call 'God' and I didn't have much of a word for it then," he says. "But that sent me off on a path of searching Eastern religions."

During the early years of his law practice, Edwards was a practicing Buddhist. But, he says, "there came a point when that was no longer adequate for me."

Christianity again called, in part because the message of Jesus meshes so well with Edwards' own interest in social justice and advocacy on behalf of the poor and suffering. In addition, Edwards says his law practice "brought me into encounters with depths of evil I had not experienced before," including the case of an alleged contract killing that took place amid "a larger network of deceit and malevolence (that) was pretty discouraging."

"It was a very dark chapter," Edwards recalls, "and I was looking for a story big enough to have such a dark chapter in it and still come out with a good ending. And Christianity offered me that."

It was then that Edwards "kind of came to the Episcopal church without believing in it. But I decided I would do it as an experiment."

He attended worship regularly. He committed prayers from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer to memory, and recited the prayers throughout the day, saying them "whether I believed them or not."

"And, sometimes, it was painful to say the prayers," Edwards says. "But, as uncomfortable as it was, I kept feeling, sensing, intuiting that there was something to it."

And, little by little, Edwards felt something changing.

Read the whole thing here.

More from Episcopal Life, here.

Better living through ascetism

Researchers in Greece have determined that there may be relationship between the monastic lifestyle and a decreased incidence of cancer. For 1,000 years, the monks of Mount Athos have maintained dietary and lifestyle habits that include a mediterranean diet and lots of produce, according to the research:

The dietary and lifestyle habits of monks on the all-male community in Mount Athos have shown that the regular consumption of olive oil, daily portions of fish, seasonal fruit and vegetables are among the main contributors towards keeping prostate cancer below international averages, data presented by urologist Haralambos Aidonopoulos showed.

"It is not just the Mediterranean diet that helps but generally a diet consisting of old, traditional standards," said Aidonopoulos.

Aidonopoulos said he had examined hundreds of monks living on Mount Athos since 1994 and found that the incidence of prostate cancer was four times lower than the international average.

More about the study here.

Directors appointed for new mission centers

Three priests have been chosen to head up three new mission centers as part of the reorganization taking place at the church's national headquarters in New York City, according to Episcopal News Service:

Continuing to reorganize the Episcopal Church Center staff to achieve new levels of service and collaboration, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has named directors for three of four new churchwide Centers for Mission.

Director for the new Advocacy Center is the Rev. Canon Brian J. Grieves, who has led Peace and Justice Ministries at the Church Center since 1988. Concurrently, Grieves will serve as interim director of mission, the Presiding Bishop said, until completion of the search for a successor to the Rev. James Lemler, who has accepted a new position as rector of Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut.

The Rev. Suzanne E. Watson, the Church Center's staff officer for congregational development, will lead its new Center for Evangelism and Congregational Life, and the Rev. Margaret Rollins Rose, the Church Center's director of women's ministries, is director for the new Center for Mission Leadership, the Presiding Bishop said.

The complete article, with bios for each of the new directors, is here.


An interesting sidebar: Watson administers a blog with resources for small churches. Check it out here.

Kenyan Church responses to crisis

There have been a number of recent developments in the continuing political unrest in Kenya following the recent election. The World Council of Churches has issued a statement overnight calling on churches in the country to continue to work for peaceful reconciliation between the parties in the dispute.

From the statement by the Council:

"'We call on the political leaders, especially President Kibaki and the Honourable Raila Odinga, to refrain from taking decisions that might frustrate the process towards dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the conflict', he added.

Violence tainted with ethnical components erupted across the country following a disputed presidential election last December. Reports estimate that about 600 people have been killed, while some 200,000 have fled their homes.

Dr Kobia praised the work of the Kenyan churches, which have been 'strongly involved in resolving the situation and calling for peace', at a time when their 'ministry of healing and reconciliation' is deeply needed.

'Church leaders must continue to rise above ethnic differences and politics and call for an end to the disputes', he said."

The Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Benjamin Nzimbi, has issued a call asking for a recounting of the votes, and he has critizied clergy who are taking sides in the partisan struggles:

From an article in The Church Times:

The move [by Nzimbi] has been rejected by the Opposition Democratic Movement, which is simply calling for the President, Mwai Kibaki, to step down. None the less, the Churches are united in their call for a measured response to the political crisis.

This was echoed by the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, who visited Kenya last week at the invitation of the All Africa Conference of Churches and the National Council of Churches of Kenya. A government spokesman said that foreign intervention was not welcome; nevertheless, Dr Tutu met President Kibaki and opposition politicians. “This is a country that has been held up as a model of stability,” Dr Tutu said, on his departure. “This picture has been shattered. This is not the Kenya we know.”

Archbishop Nzimbi was himself criticised by one of his bishops, the Rt Revd James Ochiel, Bishop of Southern Nyanza, in the heartland of the opposition leader Raila Odinga. In a letter copied to all Anglican bishops and their US mission partners, Bishop Ochiel said that the Archbishop and other national church leaders might have saved the country from violence by confronting President Kibaki with the truth.

Read the rest of the article about the WCC statement here.

Australian Bishop disassociates from GAFCON

An Anglican bishop in Australia has spoken publicly against the call by the Archbishop of Sydney for bishops to attend the Jerusalem meeting of like-minded Anglicans opposed to the direction of the Lambeth meeting later this summer.

The Australian edition of Christian Today:

"The Anglican Newcastle Bishop, The Right Reverend Dr Brian Farran, has disassociated himself from the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), describing it as a one-dimensional conference designed to ‘cause embarrassment,’ whether intended or not, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and to the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Dr. Farran declared that GAFCON is a theological politically conference designed to act as a ‘counter-conference’ to the 2008 Lambeth Conference and has the potential to damage or lessen the moral authority of it.

‘GAFCON is being organized because its proponents are dissatisfied with the breadth of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation list to Lambeth. It is therefore a theologically political conference. It will cause embarrassment whether intended or not to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the rest of the Anglican Communion,’ the bishop said.
Bishop Farran said the Catholic Anglicans in Australia – those who seek to research and theologize by the parameters of classic Anglicanism – were ‘dismayed’ at the Global South ‘rigid’ approach in constantly returning to the homosexual agenda. The classical Anglican method is to seek consensus on controversial issues.

He defined theology as a conversation not so much with perceived adversaries as with others who with integrity seek the truth as it is found in Jesus Christ.

What was more concerning for him on GAFCON was the lack of consultation to inform the Bishop in Jerusalem that it would be held in the Bishop’s diocese. In a rebuke against the conservatives organising GAFCON, he described their selection process of where to hold the conference as an ‘imperious’ decision indicative of their ‘impositional’ mind-set. "

The bishop's diocese is part of New South Wales, and while not representing a direct challenge to the call by the Archbishop of Sydney to consider boycotting Lambeth in favor of attendance at GAFCON, it does represent an act of differentiation within the Australian Church.

Read the rest here.

Saturday morning update (via Thinking Anglicans)

Read more »

Virginia State Attorney General intervenes in property dispute

Updated

From the Anglican District of Virginia (CANA) comes the news that the state Attorney General has filed a motion to intervene in the Episcopal Church property litigation. From the Anglican District's press release:

Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell has filed a motion to intervene and a brief in the ongoing church property litigation that is being heard by Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows involving eleven congregations that separated from the Episcopal Church in 2006 and 2007 and joined the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV). In his brief, Attorney General McDonnell defended the constitutionality of the Virginia Division Statute (Virginia Code § 57-9), thereby validating the position of the ADV churches and making it clear that there is no constitutional problem with applying the Statute in exactly the way ADV attorneys have advocated.

As stated in the Attorney General’s motion to intervene, “As a matter of federal constitutional law, the Episcopal Church is simply wrong. The Constitution does not require that local church property disputes be resolved by deferring to national and regional church leaders.”

The Secretary of the Diocese of Virginia, Patrick Getlein, provided this official response: "The Judge has asked us to respond to him with our position on the motion next Thursday and we will do that."

The attorney general's two filings are available here and here. (The Diocese of Virginia maintains the files related to property dispute here.)

Bob McDonnell is a Republican and served in the state senate before being elected Attorney General; he plans to run for governor in the next election. Examination of the document properties of the two filings reveals they are authored by William E. Thro who is state Solicitor General and a Republican lawyer.

The second in command to McDonnell is Chief Deputy Attorney General Bill Mims a former state senator who stepped down to accept the appointment from McConnell. During his tenure as state senator Mims introduced a bill in 2005 (SB1305) to have sections of the Virginia Code (including 57-9) amended. He eventually pulled the bill in the face of intense opposition. Mims is (or was) a member of Church of the Holy Spirit, Ashburn. That's not one of the 11 that are in court, but it was one of the early departed congregations.

In an editorial at the time the Washington Post suggests these interventions are exactly what separation of church and state is all about:

You might expect that in its short legislative session the Virginia General Assembly would have more important business than intervening in internal arguments within the Episcopal Church over gay rights. But a bill pending in the state Senate would make it far easier for Episcopal congregations upset at the church's consecration of a gay bishop in New Hampshire to bolt from the national church yet keep their buildings and property. The bill, championed by Sen. William C. Mims (R-Loudoun), responds to a real problem: Mr. Mims argues persuasively that Virginia law on the subject is archaic. But his bill would make matters worse, not better. It should be voted down.

While some Episcopal congregations are angry about the church's toleration of gay clergy, they have not, by and large, left the church. One reason may be that their property is, while purchased with local money, held in trust for the national church. So if they leave, they leave their church behind physically as well as spiritually. Mr. Mims's bill would change that. It would give a congregation's property to the local congregation when it secedes from a church unless the property is specifically deeded to the national church or -- under an amendment he is proposing -- unless a trust agreement explicitly designates the national church as having its use. The bill is not explicitly directed at the Episcopalians, but it seems to respond directly to their current fight. And its result would be that conservative Virginia congregations could leave the Episcopal Church without becoming homeless.


The bill was criticized not just by the Washington Post. See this roundup from Daily Episcopalian Classic, this one at Thinking Anglicans, and this one by Episcopal News Service.

Saturday morning update

Washington Post

"Certainly there is nothing improper about the attorney general weighing in, but it does strike me as a little out of the ordinary for them to get involved in a circuit-court-level case," said N. Thomas Connally, a McLean lawyer who specializes in real estate.
...
McDonnell's office has another connection to this issue -- his deputy, former state senator William C. Mims (R), who has been a member of another Episcopal church that broke away from the national church over the same issues of how to understand Scripture as it pertains to homosexuality. Mims prompted controversy and much debate in 2005 when he -- as a senator -- proposed a bill that would have explicitly allowed congregants who leave their denominations to keep their land. The measure failed, and opponents said it was an inappropriate insertion of government into church affairs.

Mims did not return a message, and [McDonnell spokesman J. Tucker] Martin said he was unavailable for comment.

Controversy evolves

Earlier this week, Ruth Gledhill, an article entitled "Don't Shoot the Heretics" reported on the ongoing disputes between faculty and administration at Wycliffe Hall, one of England's premier evangelical seminaries. At the moment the controversy is focused on the dismissal of faculty members who are in theological disagreement with the new administration.

Craig Uffman, writes that the situation at Wycliffe Hall signifies a significant development in the developing controversy within the Anglican Communion. Rather than being focused on the issue of whether or not certain Anglican provinces are in error in moving toward the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians, the conflict at Wycliffe Hall is between two different branches of the Evangelical Party in the Church of England.

From Uffman's article:

It’s not unusual for Anglicans to be divided these days. But what’s tragic is that the division that is the context of both of these controversies is mostly between conservative and ‘open’ evangelicals, two groups who share a lot of common ground. In what follows, I hope to gesture towards what I believe is a major cause of the division. If I am correct, then the current controversies may portend a widening conflict in which human sexuality is no longer the presenting issue. For at the heart of these controversies is a dispute over the nature and implications of the Gospel itself for Christian ethical conduct and the ordering of the Church.

It seems that many conservatives confuse the concept of an “open” evangelical, as the term is used in England, with the way “open” is sometimes used in North America to refer to a pro-Gay stance. “Open evangelicalism” does not mean one is open on issues of human sexuality or any other matters of Christian ethics. I write to propose a way of understanding this concept that I believe is pertinent to the situation at Wycliffe Hall but also helps us to understand tensions between self-described ‘orthodox’ Christians who, were their disagreements not so passionate on this particular issue, would likely be fast friends.

The point that Uffman is making is that the stresses in the Communion are beginning to expose fault lines that have been long present yet to this point dormant. The response to these stresses, to stay in conversation with people with whom we disagree or to separate ourselves from them goes to the heart of both the acceptance or rejection Windsor process or the willingness of the administration at Wycliffe Hall to employ or dismiss people who believe that conversation should continue.

Thinking Anglicans continues to compile stories on the Wycliffe controversy here and here. And here.

Presiding Bishop acts to formally inhibit Bishop Schofield

Updated

The Episcopal News Service has this news this evening:

"Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on January 11 inhibited Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield.

In the text of the inhibition, Jefferts Schori wrote: 'I hereby inhibit the said Bishop Schofield and order that from and after 5:00 p.m. PST, Friday, January 11, 2008, he cease from exercising the gifts of ordination in the ordained ministry of this Church; and pursuant to Canon IV.15, I order him from and after that time to cease all 'episcopal, ministerial, and canonical acts, except as relate to the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese of San Joaquin,' until this Inhibition is terminated pursuant to Canon IV.9(2) or superseded by decision of the House of Bishops.'

Jefferts Schori acted after the Title IV Review Committee certified that Schofield had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.

On January 9, Upper South Carolina Bishop Dorsey Henderson, committee chair, wrote to Jefferts Schori, telling her that the nine-member committee had met that day and that a majority agreed that the documentation provided to them 'demonstrated that Bishop Schofield has abandoned the communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church.'

Jefferts Schori needed, in accordance with Title IV, Canon 9, Sec. 1, the consent of the three senior bishops of the church with jurisdiction (as opposed to being retired or not in diocesan seats) to issue the inhibition. She noted in the inhibition that Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, Peter Lee of Virginia, and Don Wimberly of Texas gave their consents January 11.

'I think what is crucial for us is that the bishop was presented with potential consequences of his actions long ago and repeatedly, and now the review committee has indeed made their determination, which will go forward to the House of Bishops,' the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told ENS. 'The three senior bishops have given their consent to his inhibition and, again, the ministry of the Episcopal Church continues and moves forward.'"

Read the rest here.

In related news, the Episcopal Church has moved to support the Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin. The ENS story is here.

Saturday morning update

San Jose Mercury - Episcopal Church bans bishop for 2 mos. after he pushed secession

Thinking Anglicans has a roundup of news reports.

Bishop of Pittsburgh issues invitations to GAFCON

The Episcopal News Service reports on the invitations that have been sent to select bishops around the Anglican Communion by the Bishop of Pittsburgh:

"Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the Common Cause Partnership, which describes itself as 'a federation of Anglican jurisdictions in North America,' has invited conservative archbishops, bishops, clergy and laity from around the world to a June 14-22 conference in the Holy Land, ignoring a plea from Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani who says he is 'deeply troubled' by the planned gathering and has asked its organizers to reconsider.

Dawani, who was not consulted about the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), is concerned that it 'will import inter-Anglican conflict into our diocese, which seeks to be a place of welcome for all Anglicans,' he said in a January 2 statement.

GAFCON is due to be held one month prior to the Lambeth Conference when more than 800 of the Anglican Communion's bishops will descend on the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, for more than two weeks of spiritual reflection, learning, sharing and discerning.

According to organizers, GAFCON is not intended as a specific challenge to the Lambeth Conference, but it 'will provide opportunities for fellowship and care for those who have decided not to attend Lambeth.'

Duncan's invitation, dated January 6 and addressed to 'all bishops of the common cause partnership,' was issued on behalf of six Anglican Primates, several bishops -- some of whom are former Episcopalians -- and two lay canons.

Meeting under the theme, 'A Gospel of Power and Transformation,' the conference, Duncan said, 'will bring together orthodox Anglican bishops from all over the world, especially gathering those who for reasons of conscience are unable to accept their invitation to this year's Lambeth Conference, as well as some who believe it crucially important to attend both conferences.'"

Read the rest here.

What does "moral values" mean?

From Harris Interactive:

Political commentators and journalists often use the phrase "moral values" to mean the issues of importance to some conservatives and members of the "Christian Right", issues such as abortion, gay rights, same-sex marriage and stem cell research. In fact, when the public uses the phrase, only a few people are referring to these issues.

Most people who say that moral values are very important to them in deciding how to vote (46% of all adults) say that what they mean are the characters of the candidates - such as honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and their likelihood of "doing the right thing".


Read it all.

Hat tip: Faith in Public Life

Stem cells: controversy averted?

The LA Times reports:

Scientists reported Thursday that for the first time they have made human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, a development that the government's top stem cell official said would make the controversial research eligible for federal funding.

Story Landis, who chairs the National Institute of Health's stem cell task force, said that with certain safeguards, the new method appeared to comply with federal restrictions that have largely cut scientists off from the $28 billion the government spends on medical research each year.

But:

Though the technique spares embryos, it still raises ethical concerns.

The Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said that removing a single cell from an embryo turns it into "a starting source for harvestable raw materials, in a gesture that reduces young humans to commodities."

And because the single embryonic cell can be grown into stem cells, some scientists and ethicists wondered whether the cell itself has the potential to become a whole new embryo.

"It would be hard to rule out," said Martin Pera, director of the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at USC.

Read it all.

Image problem

Adele Banks of Religion News Service writes:

Almost three-quarters of Americans who haven't darkened the door of a church in the last six months think it is "full of hypocrites," and even more of them consider Christianity to be more about organized religion than about loving God and people, according to a new survey.

Almost half those surveyed--44 percent--agreed that "Christians get on my nerves."

But the survey of "unchurched" Americans by LifeWay Research also found that some 78 percent said they would be willing to listen to someone who wanted to tell them about his or her Christian beliefs.


Read it all.

Is he or isn't he?

Updated

It's been suggested by some that the inhibition of Bishop Schofield is a case of "you can't fire me, I quit."

Yet (although the bishop was unavailable to take a call from the Presiding Bishop yesterday afternoon informing him of the inhibition) an email response was quickly disseminated to the conservative blogs. One of the last to post the email was Titus 1:9 at 10 AM this morning.

Now we read that the text of the email sent of behalf of Schofield is being revised and the new text will be made available soon:

UPDATE: The Text below is incorrect. A correct text is coming soon. In particular this line, "Bishop Schofield is currently a member of both the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone, not prohibited by either house." is in error.

Matt

[Update (4:25 PM) There has been some revision of history. In the link above the text of Bishop Schofield's statement and the reference to "a correct text is coming" has been removed. It has been replaced with the text of the statement from Venables which quoted below. At this time the key quote still appears in the comments.]

Could it be that the Bishop of Fort Worth has brought up the question in his message of support for Bishop Schofield?:

The matter is complicated by the fact that Bishop Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin, by constitutional action of their Convention, are no longer a part of The Episcopal Church.
The Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone also seems befuddled by the statement from Schofield's office:
A statement from The Most Reverend Gregory Venables, dated January 11,2008:

“As of December the 8th, 2007 Bishop John-David Schofield is not under the authority or jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church or the Presiding Bishop.He is, therefore, not answerable to their national canon law but is a member of the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone and under our authority.

Un fuerte abrazo.

--The Most Rev. Greg Venables, Archbishop of the Southern Cone

It would seem that after some backrooms conferring Schofield will be shifting his position from 'It's OK to be a member of two houses' to 'I'm beyond the reach of the discipline of The Episcopal Church.' It will be interesting to see if the Archbishop of Canterbury withdraws Schofield's invitation to Lambeth on the grounds that his position is no different from bishops in AMiA or CANA.

If nothing else the inhibition has finally forced Bishop Schofield to make clear his intentions.

Update. A recap of the time line:

1. Conservative blogs (Baby Blue, Titus 1:9, Stand Firm) post an email from San Joaquin that responded to the inhibition that stated "Bishop Schofield is currently a member of both the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone, not prohibited by either house."

2. Stand Firm and Titus 1:9 post an email from Bishop Iker that states "the matter is complicated by the fact that Bishop Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin, by constitutional action of their Convention, are no longer a part of The Episcopal Church. They now function under the authority of the Province of the Southern Cone. Disciplinary actions cannot be taken by this Province against a Bishop who is a member of another Province of the Anglican Communion."

3. Titus 1:9 posts the "clarification" from Venables.

4. Stand Firm revises its post of the email from San Joaquin stating the sentence is in error.

5. Stand Firm revises its post of the email from San Joaquin changing its subject to the email from Venables. It removes any reference to the email from San Joaquin. Titus 1:9 erases its post of the email from San Joaquin entirely. Baby Blue changes her post, deleting the email from San Joaquin and substituting the Venable's email. As of Sunday morning none of these blogs had acknowledged the changes.

See Tobias Haller's cogent observations on this sequence of events at In a Godward Direction. Jake has also followed these events. He notes that Thinking Anglicans has some new news: the original statement was put together by a public relations firm.

Monday afternoon

Episcopal Life Online has the story. Hat/tip to Kendall Harmon.

The lost art of cooperation

In a delightfully incisive essay in The Wilson Quarterly, Benjamin R. Barber writes:

Whatever we make of it, today competition dominates our ideology, shapes our cultural attitudes, and sanctifies our market economy as never before. We are living in an age that prizes competition and demeans cooperation, an era more narcissistic than the Gilded Age, more hubristic than the age of Jackson. Competition ­rules.

We need only look at America’s favorite ­activities—­sports, entertainment, and ­politics—­to notice the distorting effect of the obsession with competition. Sports would seem to define competition, as competition defines sports. But beginning with the ancient Olympics, sports have also been about performance, about excelling (hence, excellence), and about the cultivation of athletic virtue. It is not victory but a “personal best” that counts. In the United States, however, athletics is about beating others. About how one performs in comparison with others. Ancient and modern philosophers alike associate comparison with pride and vanity (amour-propre), and have shown how vanity corrupts virtue and excellence. When Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar protests, “Such men as he be never at heart’s ease/While they behold a greater than themselves,” he captures what has become the chief hazard of a ­hyper-­competitive culture. No wonder ours is often an ­outer-­directed culture, unreflective, grasping, aggressive, and ­cutthroat.

It is, ironically, a culture that tries to pin on the animal world responsibility for human viciousness. Michael Vick, one of our great gladiatorial football competitors, recently admitted to sponsoring brutal dogfights. The real dogfights, of course, are the football games he played in, where injury and even death are not unavoidable costs but covertly attractive features of the sport. Where steroid use is forgivable, or at least understandable, on the way to a winning record. And where dogfighting itself (like bullfighting and cockfighting) is justified by an appeal to the “laws of nature,” though it is men who articulate those laws to rationalize their own warlike ­disposition.

It is much the same with entertainment. Our most successful shows, themselves in a competition for survival with one another (sweeps week!), pit ­on-­camera competitors against one another in contests only one can win. The eponymous show Survivor is the Darwinian prototype, but the principle rules on all the “reality” shows. On American Idol, singing is the excuse but winning the real aim. In the winners’ world of television, nothing is what it seems. Top Chef is not about excellence or variety in cooking, but about winning and losing. Project Runway turns a pluralistic fashion industry that caters to many tastes into a race (with clocks and time limits) in which there is but one winner. The competitive culture hypes winners but is equally (more?) fascinated with losers. “It is not enough that I win,” proclaims the ­hubris-­driven American competitor, “others must lose.” And Americans have shown themselves ready to become big losers in order to be eligible to become big ­winners—­however remote the odds. We are a nation of gamblers willing to tolerate radical income inequality and a large class of losers (into which we willingly risk being shunted) for the chance to ­win.

American politics too is founded on competition. Contrast electoral politics in our representative democracy with citizen politics in a participatory democracy, where the aim is not to win but to achieve common ground and secure public goods—a model of politics in which no one wins unless everyone wins, and a loss for some is seen as a loss for all. The very meanings of the terms “commonweal” and “the public interest” (the “res publica” from which our term “republic” is derived) suggest a system without losers. How different from this the American system has become. As each election rolls around, we complain that ideas and policy are shoved to the background and personality and the horse race it engenders are placed front and center.

What’s gone wrong here? Why, as a nation, are we so obsessed with competition, so indifferent to cooperation?

Read it all.

Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily.

A new generation honors Dr. King

From Washington National Cathedral:

On January 21, Washington National Cathedral and young people throughout the area will honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by asking, “What would Dr. King’s platform be for the next U.S. president?”

Local poet, performer and educator Bomani Armah will lead the multi-sensory, musical and energized celebration along with middle and high school students as they call for peace and justice in their communities and consider what Dr. King’s passions would be now.

“I'm looking forward to ‘edutaining’ the young people during the program on MLK day. We are anxious to make the fight for social justice alive and personal to a generation that often feels that Dr. King's dream is a subject for history books and not a living idea that they are a part of,” said Armah. “I'm always amazed to see the sense of empowerment that young people feel when artists, activists and educators are able to break down the mythical fourth wall that separates them from our society’s most revered figures. Through music, poetry and hip-hop we hope to show them that the best qualities that they see in Martin Luther King Jr. lie within them.”

Radio and television personalities Anwan “Big G” Glover and Jeannie Jones will also guide the event. Performances by Urban Nation H.I.P.-H.O.P. Choir, Princess of Controversy, Lamont Carey, The Hueman Prophets and Tri-Flava are scheduled.

The celebration takes place in the Cathedral’s “crossing,” the same area where the Canterbury pulpit is located. Dr. King delivered the last Sunday sermon of his life from Canterbury pulpit on March 31, 1968. A memorial service was held in the Cathedral five days later.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s death.

The 2-4 pm event is free and open to the public.

The moral instinct

Steven Pinker, the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and the author of “The Language Instinct” and “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature,” has an essay in today's New York Times Magazine that is well worth a read.

He discusses the current state of science (from a variety of fields, including genetics, psychology and neurology) about our moral instinct. He does more than merely describe the science--he also notes that science is itself affecting our moral debates:

We all know what it feels like when the moralization switch flips inside us — the righteous glow, the burning dudgeon, the drive to recruit others to the cause. The psychologist Paul Rozin has studied the toggle switch by comparing two kinds of people who engage in the same behavior but with different switch settings. Health vegetarians avoid meat for practical reasons, like lowering cholesterol and avoiding toxins. Moral vegetarians avoid meat for ethical reasons: to avoid complicity in the suffering of animals. By investigating their feelings about meat-eating, Rozin showed that the moral motive sets off a cascade of opinions. Moral vegetarians are more likely to treat meat as a contaminant — they refuse, for example, to eat a bowl of soup into which a drop of beef broth has fallen. They are more likely to think that other people ought to be vegetarians, and are more likely to imbue their dietary habits with other virtues, like believing that meat avoidance makes people less aggressive and bestial.

Much of our recent social history, including the culture wars between liberals and conservatives, consists of the moralization or amoralization of particular kinds of behavior. Even when people agree that an outcome is desirable, they may disagree on whether it should be treated as a matter of preference and prudence or as a matter of sin and virtue. Rozin notes, for example, that smoking has lately been moralized. Until recently, it was understood that some people didn’t enjoy smoking or avoided it because it was hazardous to their health. But with the discovery of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, smoking is now treated as immoral. Smokers are ostracized; images of people smoking are censored; and entities touched by smoke are felt to be contaminated (so hotels have not only nonsmoking rooms but nonsmoking floors). The desire for retribution has been visited on tobacco companies, who have been slapped with staggering “punitive damages.”

At the same time, many behaviors have been amoralized, switched from moral failings to lifestyle choices. They include divorce, illegitimacy, being a working mother, marijuana use and homosexuality. Many afflictions have been reassigned from payback for bad choices to unlucky misfortunes. There used to be people called “bums” and “tramps”; today they are “homeless.” Drug addiction is a “disease”; syphilis was rebranded from the price of wanton behavior to a “sexually transmitted disease” and more recently a “sexually transmitted infection.”

Indeed, as Pinker notes, if morality is hard-wired in our brain, why should we consider our moral choices as fixed? Pinker offers some thoughts on why we should view morality as existing apart from our biology even if we accept that our moral instincts are indeed hard-wired in our brains::

Here is the worry. The scientific outlook has taught us that some parts of our subjective experience are products of our biological makeup and have no objective counterpart in the world. The qualitative difference between red and green, the tastiness of fruit and foulness of carrion, the scariness of heights and prettiness of flowers are design features of our common nervous system, and if our species had evolved in a different ecosystem or if we were missing a few genes, our reactions could go the other way. Now, if the distinction between right and wrong is also a product of brain wiring, why should we believe it is any more real than the distinction between red and green? And if it is just a collective hallucination, how could we argue that evils like genocide and slavery are wrong for everyone, rather than just distasteful to us?

Putting God in charge of morality is one way to solve the problem, of course, but Plato made short work of it 2,400 years ago. Does God have a good reason for designating certain acts as moral and others as immoral? If not — if his dictates are divine whims — why should we take them seriously? Suppose that God commanded us to torture a child. Would that make it all right, or would some other standard give us reasons to resist? And if, on the other hand, God was forced by moral reasons to issue some dictates and not others — if a command to torture a child was never an option — then why not appeal to those reasons directly?

This throws us back to wondering where those reasons could come from, if they are more than just figments of our brains. They certainly aren’t in the physical world like wavelength or mass. The only other option is that moral truths exist in some abstract Platonic realm, there for us to discover, perhaps in the same way that mathematical truths (according to most mathematicians) are there for us to discover. On this analogy, we are born with a rudimentary concept of number, but as soon as we build on it with formal mathematical reasoning, the nature of mathematical reality forces us to discover some truths and not others. (No one who understands the concept of two, the concept of four and the concept of addition can come to any conclusion but that 2 + 2 = 4.) Perhaps we are born with a rudimentary moral sense, and as soon as we build on it with moral reasoning, the nature of moral reality forces us to some conclusions but not others.

Moral realism, as this idea is called, is too rich for many philosophers’ blood. Yet a diluted version of the idea — if not a list of cosmically inscribed Thou-Shalts, then at least a few If-Thens — is not crazy. Two features of reality point any rational, self-preserving social agent in a moral direction. And they could provide a benchmark for determining when the judgments of our moral sense are aligned with morality itself.


This is a very rich and useful essay--and is well worth a read. Read it all here.

Religious Democrats write the pollsters

In response to exit polls in Iowa that asked Republicans numerous questions about their religious beliefs, but asked Democratic voters nothing about their faith, several religous leaders, including Joel Hunter, David Neff, Jim Wallis and Brian McClaran have written an open letter to media political and polling directors:

Your entrance and exit polls at the Iowa caucuses asked Republican caucus-goers if they were “bornagain or evangelical Christian(s),” but did not ask the same question of Democrats. This omission left a substantive hole in subsequent news coverage of the caucuses. Based on your polling, the public helpfully learned that born-again or evangelical Christians played a central role in Mike Huckabee’s victory, but received no information about the impact of evangelical voters in the Democratic race.

As reported by numerous news organizations, candidates of both parties spoke explicitly of their religious faith while campaigning in Iowa and have robust faith outreach operations. By omitting the question of evangelical/born-again identification from the Democratic polls, you prevented the public from seeing the full picture of how the bipartisan courtship of evangelical voters affected the outcome of the first contest of the 2008 campaign and perpetuated the misperception that all evangelical Christians are Republicans.

No party can own any faith. Evangelicals have broadened their agenda to include care for the planet, the poor and the stranger, and as a result are increasingly diverse politically. Your New Hampshire exit polls gathered much more detailed information about voters’ religion but still
asked only Republican voters if they were evangelical or born-again. The data revealed a significant difference between the voting patterns of Republican evangelicals in Iowa and New Hampshire. In Iowa, Mike Huckabee dominated, claiming 46 percent of evangelicals’ support, with no other candidate receiving even 20 percent. In New Hampshire McCain, Romney and Huckabee split the evangelical vote almost evenly. The disparity of these results suggests that evangelical voters’ behavior may not conform to expectations, which further shows the need to measure it in both parties.

With voters entering polling sites in Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina in the coming days and weeks and Super Tuesday following shortly thereafter, it is imperative for you to remedy the imbalance in your exit polling immediately. Evangelicalism is not a monolithic movement that fits neatly into one party. For the sake of accuracy and dispelling shopworn stereotypes, we urge you to allow all evangelicals an opportunity to be represented in your surveys and polling data.

Read the entire letter here.

Some purpose-driven humor

Devout Christians--especially evangelicals--are dull, and have no sense of humor. Right? In a daily effort to prove this assumption wrong, LarkNews is the Onion for the Christian faithful. The current edition, for example, includes "news" that Pastor Rick Warren has bought the Saints:

Pastor and author Rick Warren has signed a deal to purchase the New Orleans Saints football franchise for $320 million from current owner Tom Benson, and has pledged to pour his time and energy into helping the city and team rebuild.

"This is the start of the Saints' turnaround," a Warren spokesman said. "America is going to see what a purpose-driven team can accomplish."


Read it all here.

Other headlines this month include "Holy Spirit neglects to show up at revival" (in local news), "Blessing the iPod: Churches sanctify music devices", and "Wal-Mart rejects 'racy' worship CD" ( a CD that features such hits as "My Lover, My God," "Touch Me All Over," "Naked Before You," "I'll Do Anything You Want," "Deeper" and "You Make Me Hot with Desire").

Christianity Today has a good profile of Joel Kirkpatrick, the creator of The Lark.


A son repents

Francis Schaeffer was a deep evangelical thinker whose mission was to save the West from itself one intellectual at a time. His son, Frank, took him mainstream bringing his father's work together with the agenda and ambitions of American fundamentalism. Together they helped create what we now know as the religious right.

That was then. Through a combination of what might be called religious and celebrity burn-out, raising a family and deep introspection, Frank Schaeffer says he has repented of nearly everything the American Religious Right stands for, even though he was for a time a major player in bringing critical elements together.

In an interview with Jeff Sharlet of the Revealer, Schaefer says that the success of much of the Religious Right today depends on the continuing failure of the government, of Israel, of the military and even of public education.

It’s one of the ironies of the Religious Right that came out of the 1960s and ’70s. Back then, the idea was that the Right was patriotic and that the Left was always suspect of being unpatriotic, critical of America, wanted to see the U.S. defeated. But by the mid-’70s, I started noticing a change: the rhetoric of the emerging religious Right was more fundamentally anti-American, always rooting for failure, than anything coming out of the Left. When you look back at it, the Left really wanted reform – whether it was about race, or foreign policy, or women’s rights. But the Right, since then, roots for real failure – to prove a philosophical and theological point. An analogy is the Religious Right’s support for Israel. On one level, right-wing fundamentalists are rooting for Israel. On another level, for their theology to be proven correct, Israel has to be destroyed, Jews killed. Which is almost literally the same idea for America when it comes to a Falwell or a Robertson. They slipped up and expressed those sentiments openly after 9/11, but that was only a dramatic example of what’s been said for years privately and sometimes not so privately.

And...

The essence of their theology and their philosophy is that America was founded as a Christian country, in the most literal sense a theocracy, under a special blessing from God. The U.S. has a special destiny in the world, which is not only political but also theological. So where they root for American failure is when America departs from that supposed destiny. If America prospers and is blessed without adherence to biblical principles and out without a return to theocracy – in practice if not in form – if homosexuality can be practiced in the open and no thunderbolts hit, given their orthodox theology, America should lose its special place and enter into an irreversible decline. If not, American well-being disproves America’s special place in the divine order of things. It’s a situation of a test-case, of proof. If crime goes down in New York, or if test scores go up without prayer in schools, it casts doubt on all the theological claims of right wing fundamentalist Christianity.

Anyone who went to evangelical churches in the seventies and early eighties probably saw (at least once) a film series featuring Francis Schaeffer called "How Should We Then Live?" Frank produced these films based on his father's earlier writings, but turned them into a wide-ranging critique of American with a rigid anti-abortion spin largely absent in the books. The films were a whip-lash of condensed images and ideas meant to convey how quickly the world was going down the drain. For many evangelicals, it was an introduction and a validation of a way seeing the culture as doomed to failure. But it also further built a wall of separation between historic Christianity and mainline Protestantism and evangelicalism because the simplistic view of history left no room for debate, critique or choice.

Now that many followers of the ideologies of the Religious Right have moved from outsiders to insiders, they have become a new kind of political establishment whose purpose is to use the levers of power to make government and social institutions ineffective because they fundamentally believe that progress and reform is not only impossible but undesirable.

Where you see their real colors is in the absolute, steady drumbeat against public education. There would be no public schools if the Religious Right got its way. They don’t care if public schools are working or not, because remember, good news is bad news for them. They don’t want them to work. The same philosophy that gives us “No Child Left Behind,” that demands higher test scores, with one hand it gives and the other it takes away. It’s the same voices calling for vouchers so that parents can pick religious education for their children, so they can control everything their child learns until the child is 18. Another place I see this, when I began thinking about the military because I was writing a book about my son becoming a Marine, is in the all-volunteer army. The irony now is that the biggest defenders of the all-volunteer army come from the Right, not the Left. It’s the philosophy and orthodox theology of deconstructing government, of privatization at any cost. I was on a radio show with a right-wing host and I was talking about this, about the ways in which the draft had this strong democratic element, and how the Left now thinks about it in terms of, “Would we be in these wars if everybody had to serve?” And I was trying to talk about sacrifice, about a draft that would require everybody to sacrifice, and the host came back and said, “The rich already do sacrifice, they pay taxes.”

Read: The Revealer: "How I Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back"

Frank Schaeffer's home page is here.

A review and a synopsis may be found here.

Feedback on the Covenant

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and The Anglican Church of Scotland have both weighed in on the proposed Anglican Covenant. They are both respectful but clear about what they see as shortcomings to the document as proposed and leery of the assumptions behind it. Both offer alternate ways forward.

The ACANZP says:

The responses show that our Church has at least three different attitudes to the Covenant as a solution to the Communion’s difficulties:

1. The Anglican Communion does not have machinery that allows us to discern the validity or otherwise of differing points of view and the Covenant may be a way of creating such a mechanism. We should be able to trust the international process to resolve any detailed difficulties we may have.

2. The nature of this Draft Covenant, and the underlying assumptions make it an unsatisfactory solution to our difficulties as a Communion, and runs the danger of exacerbating them. We therefore need to keep searching for a different way forward.

3. For Tikanga Maori tino rangatiratanga (self determination), Christian and ethnic identity are of foundational importance. Tangata whenua (the indigenous people) have a rootedness that precedes the Anglican Communion, and would not lightly cede their autonomy.

The history and context of ACANZP suggests that the concept of a "covenant" is deeply rooted and not to be taken lightly.

A number of groups expressed concern about the word Covenant as applied to any agreement reached by the Communion. There were two distinct reasons for this concern:

• The Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand, was understood by Maori as a Kawenata (“Covenant”) and was therefore given appropriate respect by its Maori signatories. Subsequent controversies about how well or otherwise the Treaty has been honoured by the Crown has caused some to question the use of the word Covenant in this new context.

• For others a Covenant is linked to the concept of something given to us by God. The move to call this proposal a Covenant is therefore to claim far too much. They see this exercise as a very human device and are by no means convinced that it is worthy of any other status.

There is concern that "Given the breakdown of trust implied by signs of impaired communion, we are not convinced that a solemn covenantal agreement is the way forward. In fact the risk is that such an agreement might itself become a weapon in the hands of those committed to a particular viewpoint in this controversy."

On the other side of the globe, the Scottish Episcopal Church has also released it's response to the Covenant. While framed in a different context, the concerns of Auotearoa and New Zealand are echoed.

We have three principle areas of concern regarding the Draft Covenant.

* The discussion of the foundations which are traditionally held to undergird Anglicanism omits to mention reason, which has long been thought to stand alongside scripture and tradition.
* The wording of section 6 of the Draft Covenant is potentially open to a wide variety of interpretations. For example, to take paragraph 6.3 alone, we feel that the expressions such as ‘common mind’, ‘matters of essential concern’, and ‘common standards of faith’, all require significant further definition before they can bear the weight being placed upon them in the context of this Covenant. We are led to wonder whether the wording of section 6 of the Draft Covenant is fit for purpose in any practical circumstance in which it is likely to be called upon.
* We note that the Draft Covenant invests the Primates’ meeting with considerable and wide-ranging powers. We question whether the Primates’ meeting is the Instrument of Unity best suited to the task being entrusted to it (rather than the ACC, which contains a more wide-ranging representation of Church members).

The Scots have two other concerns:

First, that the Covenant assumes that the normative narrative of Anglican identity is the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which is not the case for the Episcopalians of Scotland.

We feel that nuances which are of significance to particular provinces have been overlooked as a consequence of the quest for agreed principles. For example, our liturgical tradition has foundations other than just the Book of Common Prayer of 1662. As a consequence, the narrative of institution does not have the privileged place in our Eucharistic liturgies that is implied in section 2.3: indeed, the invocation of the Holy Spirit (the epiclesis), which does not appear in the 1662 prayer book, is equally as significant in our tradition. Instances such as this, taken singly, may appear trivial; but we are concerned that the production of any document of this type may fail to do justice to the rich pluriformity which exists within our Communion.

Second, they offer the American-Scottish Concordact of 1784, which predates any language of Anglican Communion, as a model for clarifying relationships between the several churches of the Anglican Communion.

While we believe it to be regrettable that any formal document should be required for the continuation of relationships within our Communion, rather than the mutual bonds of understanding, trust, and respect which have hitherto underpinned Anglicanism, if such a document is felt to be necessary, within our own tradition in Scotland the term ‘concordat’ has been preferred to ‘covenant’ (the latter word having painful resonances in our context that would not be present in others'). A concordat, or bond of union, celebrates those things which its signatories have in common, reminding them thereby of their mutual affections and responsibilities. The American-Scottish Concordat of 1784 noted that the parties involved ‘agree in desiring that there may be as near a Conformity in Worship and Discipline established between the two Churches, as is consistent with the different Circumstances and Customs of Nations.’ We offer to our Communion such a model as a possible alternative to the Covenant proposal which is currently before us.

The ACNZAP values conversation and relationship, but is concerned that a central authority might diminish the concepts of covenant and mutual respect and interdependence which characterize their identity. Consequently, they offer a way forward that is based on a very different set of assumptions about the nature of communion than the one that is at the heart of the Draft Covenant:

The General Synod Standing Committee was concerned to offer a positive contribution to the difficult and complex process of managing difference across the Anglican Communion. We do this by appending our own Mission Statement, in which we share our experience of working with difference in our own church.

This Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia in living out the transforming Gospel of Christ believes that its unique three Tikanga nature is a gift (Taonga) from God. We celebrate and rejoice in the receiving and establishing of this gift.

We have seen each Tikanga discover and strengthen its distinctive gifts and identities. We thank God for this cultural incarnation of the Gospel.

With that confidence we commit ourselves to enhancing these gifts for the glory of God, recognising that each Tikanga will establish its own preferences and tasks. As a whole church we commit to supporting each other in realising those preferences through resource sharing, honest conversation and through naming, confronting and reconciling modes of operation and unjust structures.

Therefore this Standing Committee encourages the whole church to seek opportunities to work together, building community, offering generous hospitality and working beyond boundaries defined by our present structures.

Read: The ACANZP response to The Anglican Covenant on Anglicans All.

Also see: SEC Response to Draft Anglican Covenant

Confusion in Zimbabwe

Update

In the Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe, in the Province of Central Africa, there are two bishops who claim authority over the same diocese. One Bishop says the Diocese is no longer part of the Province and the other has been appointed by the Province to fill his place. This might sound familiar to Americans following our own local difficulties, but the differences end there and the stakes much more immediate.

The ousted former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kononga, refuses to vacate his office and believes he is still in charge of his clergy. He claims that the Diocese of Harare has unilaterally pulled out of the Province of Central Africa. The Province of Central Africa, on the other hand, says that decision was rigged and consequently has disciplined Bishop Kononga and appointed retired Bishop Sebastian Bakare to lead the diocese.

Last week, after repeated violence broke out when supporters of Kononga, a close ally of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, attacked Anglicans trying to worship under the leadership of clergy appointed by Bakare, the police warned the two sides to back off, allAfrica.com reported.

Police have summoned Anglican Harare Diocese faction leaders and warned that the law will take its full course should the violence that has rocked the diocese since late last year persist.

The warning follows repeated clashes involving parishioners aligned to Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and Bishop Sebastian Bakare respectively.

The skirmishes have left church property damaged and worshippers injured, culminating in the two rival camps holding separate church services at the Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints simultaneously under heavy police guard.

This prompted police to summon the feuding clergymen to Harare Central police station for a post-mortem of the disturbances.

Diocese information officer Reverend Morris Brown Gwedegwe and diocese secretary Reverend Barnabas Machingauta attended the meeting on behalf of the Kunonga faction while warden Mrs Christabel Maziriri and Mrs Sekai Chibaya represented the Bakare camp.

Harare province police spokesman Inspector James Sabau confirmed the meeting, held on Tuesday.

ZimOnline, a Zimbabwean new agency describes the scene at the Cathedral:

There was chaos as the Anglican’s St Mary’s and All Saints Cathedral in Harare yesterday after ousted controversial bishop Nolbert Kunonga held a rival service under heavy police presence.

Kunonga, who is a vocal supporter of President Robert Mugabe, is refusing to leave office as archbishop of Harare after he arbitrarily pulled out the diocese from the Province of Central Africa.

The Province of Central has since appointed the retired Bishop Sebastian Bakare to take over from Kunonga.

On Saturday, Father Morris Brown Gwedegwe claimed Kunonga was still in charge of the diocese.

"The only bishop who is there is Bishop Kunonga and you can see that all priests attended our meeting," Gwedegwe said.

But events proved otherwise yesterday when the majority of the Cathedral parishioners attended a service in the church's hall conducted by Father Webster Mahwindo, who had been posted to Bindura by Kunonga two years ago.

Kunonga's faction held its own service at the same time in the main church, led by Father Caxton Mabhoyi.

"We decided at our vestry on Saturday that we should hold a separate service because we no longer recognise Bishop Kunonga," a warden of the Bakare faction announced yesterday.

"Bishop Bakare will be formally appointed at a function which the leaders of the Province of Central Africa will attend on February 3, and we hope our colleagues would have seen the light and joined us."

The warden said they had to hire the police force for protection during the service after violent skirmishes that have rocked the diocese since Bakare's appointment.

Kunonga's supporters have allegedly been attacking parishioners who back Bakare.

Kunonga has in the past vociferously defended Mugabe over his controversial policies particularly the violent seizure of white farms for redistribution to landless blacks eight years ago.

Supporters of Kononga do not talk about his connection with Mugabe, rather they produce wild charges that range from being under the control of Western governments to promoting homosexuality, attempting to align the Mugabe-friendly control of the church with the work of other "Global South" provinces. These other provinces have remained largely silent on the issue.

Today, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion released this statement:

The situation with respect to the Anglican Church in Harare is a matter of grave concern to all in the Anglican Communion. Bishop Kunonga’s close ties with President Robert Mugabe is of deep concern to many and the resort to violent disruption has been widely deplored.

His unilateral actions with respect to the Diocese of Harare and his own status within the Province of Central Africa are, to say the least, questionable and have brought embarrassment to many. Above all, I am concerned for the well-being of faithful Anglicans who seek to practice their faith in peace and free from violence.

We assure Bishop Sebastian Bakare of our prayerful support in this difficult situation, and it is my firm hope that the Province of Central Africa will be enabled to find a way forward at this anxious time.

The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General

During the meeting with the police, "The police wanted to know whether we were heading towards the right direction or disaster. As police they said they had no solution to the church problems as that lay with the people in the church. They told us to agree to disagree in a manner that promotes peace," said Diocese information officer Reverend Morris Brown Gwedegwe, a supporter of the ousted Bishop.

AllAfrica.com reports that while the Bakare faction seemed happy with the police's suggestion to share the church assets that did not go down well with the Kanonga faction.

Part of the solution including the holding of competing church services under police guard.

Gwedegwe said the Bakare faction had no right to use the church premises and they should apply to them, should they need to use it.

"We from the Dr Kunonga side feel that those who want to use our church should do so through an application to the bishop and the property committee which considers such applications."

Local parish councils and clergy have contended that the vote last September to remove the Diocese from Province of Central Africa was illegal. Kunonga supporters say that local parish councils have no say in diocesan matters but only local matters and that clergy are bound to support Kunonga. The Province claims that Kunonga is no longer the bishop and that the clergy and congregations are under Bakare.

Stay tuned and keep praying for all concerned.

Read: A Statement from the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion

Read: ZimOnline: Mugabe churchman conducts rival service in Harare

Read: allAfrica.com: Zimbabwe: Police Summon, Warn Anglican Faction Leaders

More background from previous Lead stories here and here.

Monday evening update

Lambeth Palace - “The Archbishop of Canterbury condemns unequivocally the use of state machinery to intimidate opponents of the deposed bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, and is appalled by recent reports of Zimbabwean police forcibly stopping Sunday services in several churches in Harare where clergy have publicly and bravely refused to acknowledge Kunonga's Episcopal authority. The Archbishop of Canterbury stands in solidarity with the Province of Central Africa ... Kunonga's position has become increasingly untenable within the Anglican Church over the last year, as he has consistently refused to maintain appropriate levels of independence from the Zimbabwean Government.“

See also the ENS coverage and the roundup at Thinking Anglicans.

Who is the faithiest of them all?

The Revealer, a daily review of religion and the press, posts a summary of where each candidate stands on faith-based initiatives. They ask:

Will the uneasy merger of church and state known as faith-based initiatives survive into the next administration? A Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life examination of the candidates says yes. Every major candidate is in favor of some version of the program.

Here is a summary of each candidate's position on Faith Based Initiatives. The positions range from whole-hearted support to support with reservations about constitutional questions and equal employment opportunities.

The Revealer also links an article by The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy concerning the durability of the Faith-based Initiative.

As it approaches its seventh anniversary, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has put in place a series of administrative and structural changes that could have implications beyond the end of the Bush administration.

The big question is just how significant - or how permanent - the effort to encourage grassroots religious groups to provide more social services will be. The answer may depend, in part, on the ability of the Initiative's promoters to cement the effort's philosophy and practices in this final year of President Bush's term, observers say.

Some close watchers of the Initiative detect a steady decrease in the effort's visibility over the last several years, particularly from the White House itself. Others, however, see the past year as a time of expanded presence for the effort at the level of federal agencies, as well as with state and local government officials, with proponents emboldened by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in their favor and an affable White House faith-based director who has both a strong sense of conviction and a solid strategy.

Read all here.

One of the early partners in Faith-based work was Episcopal Migration Ministries.

Lambeth to launch on Monday

The Lambeth Conference is underway with the first event to be held next week. The media received the following invitation for January 21.

Official Launch of the 2008 Lambeth Conference and Spouses’ Conference with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Jane Williams Briefing panel includes the Archbishop of Melanesia, the Archbishop of the Indian Ocean and Mrs Margaret Sentamu, Spouses Programme to be followed by a photo call with Bishops from around the Anglican Communion

Monday, 21 January, 2008 at 2.30 p.m.
Refreshments will be served

The Atrium
Lambeth Palace
London SE1 7JU ....

The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops of the Anglican Communion is held every ten years at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The nugget of news tucked in this announcement is that the Most Rev. Ian Ernest, Primate of the Indian Ocean, will be on hand. Ernest recently succeeded Archbishop Peter Akinola as the chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA.) It would appear that the efforts of Akinola and his American allies to organize an all-African boycott of the conference have failed.

More on the Lambeth Conference here. Here's the latest Lambeth Conference blog post.

Faith and the Supremes

Ruth Bader Ginsberg speaks about her faith and being a Supreme Court justice. The Washington Post reports on the latest justice to reveal the role of faith in her life.

It is a story told in many versions, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says near the beginning of the new PBS series "The Jewish Americans," "but mine is: What is the difference between a bookkeeper in New York's garment district and a U.S. Supreme Court justice? One generation."

Ginsburg, 74, repeated the story last week at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington for an audience that watched clips of the series and then listened to Ginsburg speak of her heritage with filmmaker David Grubin.

"I am the beneficiary of being a Jewish American," she told Grubin, the child of a father who immigrated at age 13 and a mother "conceived in the Old World and born in the New World."


In her generation she faced obstacles of gender and religion.
As for her career, Ginsburg said, being a woman provided more obstacles than being a Jew. She graduated tied for first in her 1959 Columbia Law School class, she said, but did not receive a job offer from any New York law firm. That she was a woman hurt, she said, but that she was the mother of a young child was "the real killer."

Ginsburg spoke of the anti-Semitism that faced the first Jewish justice, Louis Brandeis, even from within the court. But when President Bill Clinton named Ginsburg to the court in 1993, and Stephen G. Breyer the next year, "our religion had nothing to do with our appointment. . . . It didn't come up at all."

If the five Jews who preceded her on the court were known collectively as the "Jewish justices," she said, she and Breyer "are justices who happen to be Jews.''

Read it all here.

Reconciliation Village in Rwanda

IRIN, humanitarian news and analysis by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports on Imidugudo, which translates as “reconciliation village”, in Nyamata, 30km south of the capital, Kigali, an experiment whereby genocide survivors and confessed perpetrators live in the same community, in small tin-roofed houses they built themselves. The village is the brainchild of Pastor Steven Gahigi, an Anglican clergyman who survived the genocide by fleeing to Burundi with his wife and two children. His mother, father and siblings all died and Gahigi thought he had lost his ability to forgive.

Before the Rwandan genocide, Mutiribambi Aziri and Jaqueline Mukamana were neighbours in the town of Nyamata, south of the capital Kigali. When the 100-day slaughter began in April 1994, Mukamana, a teenage Tutsi student, and Aziri, a Hutu farmer, found themselves on opposite sides as 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu militias, known as the Interahamwe, and ordinary Rwandans.

Mukamana went to fetch water from the community well and returned to find her entire family hacked to death by neighbours. She hid in the fields and then fled on foot to neighbouring Burundi.

Aziri was one of those whipped up into a killing spree by Rwanda's hard-line Hutu administration. He did not murder Mukamana's family but he admits to killing some of her neighbours with a machete.

Thirteen years later, they are neighbours again, chatting on the dusty roads and attending church services together.

Read it all here.

HT to epiScope

Spiritual life without church

According to a recent survey adults who do not attend church are cultivating their spiritual life through retreats, prayer, meditation and other spiritual practices.

USAToday reports "a growing number of Americans are recognizing a need to develop their inner life — if not as a spiritual practice, as a way to cultivate balance and depth in an increasingly hectic, chaotic, 24/7 world."

To many people, focusing on their "inner life" means cultivating a closer relationship with God, perhaps by developing a meditation or prayer practice or developing other spiritual disciplines. To others, it may be a more secular quest for tranquility and connectedness.

"An inner life is something everybody has, but we lose touch with it," says Bill Dietrich, executive director of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Md. As Americans, "our lives don't support a contemplative lifestyle" so much as "a constant search for efficiency. We've got to have some way of breaking through to what's really important for us, and spiritual discipline helps us to do that."

Whether religious or secular in nature, Dietrich and others say, an inner life blossoms as its four key components are purposefully cultivated. These involve:

•Taking time for quiet and solitude.

•Cultivating some type of regular spiritual practice or discipline.

•Grounding this spiritual practice in the support of a community.

•Bringing reflection and heightened awareness to everything you do.

Read it all here

Review committee says Bishop Duncan has abandoned communion

The Episcopal Church's Title IV Review Committee has certified that Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan has abandoned the communion of the church according to Episcopal Life Online:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori informed Duncan on January 15 of the certification and sent him a copy.

Her letter told Duncan that she sought the canonically required permission from the House's three senior bishops with jurisdiction to inhibit him, based on the certification, from the performance of any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.

"On 11 January 2008 they informed me that such consents would not be given at this time by all three bishops," Jefferts Schori wrote.


Read it all here.

Comment: This is similar to the Bishop Schofield charge but without the Senior bishops' consents Bishop Duncan cannot be inhibited. The House of Bishops will act on the abandonment charge at their next regular or special meeting after the 60 days for recanting has elapsed as per the time limits in Title IV Canon 9.2. If a majority of bishops eligible to vote then agree with the charge, the Presiding Bishop deposes him.

UPDATE:
Mark Harris comments at Preludium.

Fr Jake's comments are here

The Diocese of Pittsburgh responds here

Bishop Duncan offered a brief response to the news, saying, “Few bishops have been more loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church. I have not abandoned the Communion of this Church. I will continue to serve and minister as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh."

The report of the Review Committee is here.

Meanwhile, Bishop Iker reveals he has received another letter from the Presiding Bishop.

Progressive Episcopalians see opportunity for reconciliation

A press release:

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) sees reason for hope in the statement issued yesterday by The Episcopal Church’s Title IV Review Committee certifying that, in its view, Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert Duncan has abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church. PEP believes that the canonical procedures set in motion by this decision will clarify issues of polity that have become confused in this diocese.

Under Canon IV.9, the House of Bishops will, at its fall meeting or at a special meeting called earlier, give or withhold its consent for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to depose Bishop Duncan.

“The action of the Review Committee gives all of us in Pittsburgh serious cause to reflect,” said Dr. Joan Gundersen, President of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. “This can be an opportunity for all of us to consider how we can change course and restore relations with one another and with The Episcopal Church.”

The Rev. Diane Shepard, First Vice President of PEP, commented, “We understand that Bishop Duncan must follow his conscience regarding the kind of church he believes is faithful to the Gospel. Whether he can resume his role in The Episcopal Church or must relinquish it, we pray that he finds a way to serve Christ’s Church in peace and good conscience.”

The Lead's coverage of the certification of abandonment is here.

Carey on GAFCON: "It's crazy"

The former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, "was in Houston this week to install the Rev. Russell J. Levenson Jr. as rector of St. Martin's Episcopal Church, one of the largest Episcopal churches in the United States." He spoke with Richard Vara of the Houston Chronicle.

He had advice for his successor:

"If I were in my successor's shoes, what I would be wanting to do is say that the American House of Bishops must commit itself to the Windsor Covenant and be wholehearted about that," Carey said of the 2004 report calling for the moratorium. "Around the Windsor Covenant we can actually find a way to deepen the dialogue and get people there.

"If we don't insist upon that, then I think our number is up and so I worry about that," he said.

He also had implied advice for the leaders of GAFCON:
Conservative leaders, including Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, are calling for an Anglican conference in June in Jerusalem....

"If the Jerusalem conference is an alternative to the Lambeth Conference, which I perceive it is, then I think it is regrettable," said Carey, a conservative. "The irony is that all they are going to do is weaken the Lambeth Conference. They are going to give the liberals a more powerful voice because they are absent and they are going to act as if they are schismatics. It's crazy."

Despite his thinking "our number is up" he also spoke these words:
"Basically the Anglican spirit aches for unity and I don't think there are going to be many people who are going to be in a rush to run away from the See of Canterbury."

Judge sets date for second phase in Virginia property dispute

Via the Diocese of Virginia e-communique of January 16, 2008:

The Hon. Randy I. Bellows has set Oct. 6-30, 2008 for the second phase of the trial over ownership of Episcopal Church property.

In late November 2007, Judge Bellows presided over the first phase of litigation regarding Episcopal property in Virginia. The Trial was held in Fairfax Circuit Court and focused on the civil actions (also known as 57-9 filings for the section of the Code of Virginia) filed by the leadership of the CANA congregations in an effort to take Episcopal Church property with them when they decided to leave the Church.

The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church defended Episcopal Church property, stating that no division in the Church has occurred. While members of the Church are free to leave, the CANA congregations acted inappropriately when they asked the Court to let them take Episcopal Church property with them. Judge Bellows has not indicated when he will rule on the 57-9 matter.

In this second phase The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church seek declaratory judgment regarding the property, a ruling that requires the CANA congregations to vacate Episcopal property, transfer of title and a full accounting of all property.

Filings, motions and other updates can be found in the newsroom on the Diocese of Virginia Web site (http://www.thediocese.net/press/pressroom.shtml) in a special section under the link "Property Dispute." The newest items are posted on the bottom of the page on an ongoing basis.

Here's the link to Property Dispute section. There are additional dates to note there:
At the conclusion of the November trial on the interpretation and application of Virginia Code 57-9 to the CANA congregations' effort to appropriate Episcopal Church property, the judge ordered that each side file three post-trial briefs which restate each side's argument and also address constitutional issues according to the following deadline schedule: Dec. 31; Jan. 11; Jan. 17. The briefs [Diocese and CANA] will be made available through the links below which will be activated as briefs are filed.
...
On Thursday, Jan. 10, Attorney General Robert McDonnell filed a motion to intervene in the dispute to defend Virginia law and oppose the position of The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia. The Judge has asked that the Diocese and The Episcopal Church respond with their position on the motion on Thursday, Jan. 17.
The Lead's coverage of the Attorney General's motion is here.

Reactions to the Certification of Abandonment

An article from Episcopal Line Online this afternoon compiles reactions to yesterday's announcement that the Episcopal Church's Title IV Review Committee had certified Bishop Robert Duncan has abandoned the communion of the church. It also clarifies for the uninitiated what the next steps are.

Here are some of the documents:

* Certification of the Review Committee and documents 'the committee received submissions alleging Duncan's abandonment of communion from "counsel representing individuals who are either clergy or communicants in the Diocese of Pittsburgh" and from the Presiding Bishop's chancellor, David Beers, and his colleague, Mary E. Kostel.' (40 pages, PDF images)

* A brief response from Duncan.

* Statement of support for Duncan from Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker dated January 16.


The following excerpts from today's ELO may help readers follow the next steps, and make the distinction amongst certification of abandonment, inhibition and consent of the House of Bishops:

[The Presiding Bishop's] letter told Duncan that she sought the canonically required permission from the House's three senior bishops with jurisdiction to inhibit him, based on the certification, from the performance of any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.

"On 11 January 2008 they informed me that such consents would not be given at this time by all three bishops," Jefferts Schori wrote.

"[In due course I shall forward the Review Committee's to the House of Bishops for its consideration.] Pursuant to the time limits stated in Canon IV.9, the matter will not come before the House of Bishops at its next scheduled meeting in March 2008, but will come before the House at the next meeting thereafter," the Presiding Bishop wrote in her letter.

"I would, however, welcome a statement by you within the next two months providing evidence that you once more consider yourself fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church," Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter to Duncan.
...
The time limit to which Jefferts Schori referred is a two-month period afforded to bishops subject to such a certification to retract their acts, demonstrate that the facts alleged in certification are false, or renounce their orders by way of Title IV, Canon 8, Sec. 2 or Title III, Canon 12, Sec. 7.

Links in the ELO article. Bracketed material is original to the Presiding Bishop's letter and is included here to underscore that the matter next goes to the House of Bishops.

From Canon IV.9 Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop:

[I]t shall be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to present the matter to the House of Bishops at the next regular or special meeting of the House. If the House, by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote, shall give its consent, the Presiding Bishop shall depose the Bishop from the Ministry, and pronounce and record in the presence of two or more Bishops that the Bishop has been so deposed.

Huckabee: "amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards"

Is religion in America protected by enshrining in the Constitution one view of God's word?

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than trying to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family."
- Mike Huckabee, January 14, 2008 (video)

The Faith in Public Life blog, Blogging Faith, notes that about the time "more than two dozen Catholic, Evangelical and Mainline Protestant leaders issued a statement asking candidates to respect religion's proper role in public life. The statement, Keeping Faith: Principles to Protect Religion on the Campaign Trail (PDF), released by Faith in Public Life and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, expresses concern about divisive rhetoric and identifies three basic principles to protect religion in public life."

Those three principles:

* No person should be expected to leave their faith at the door when operating in the public square. But it is inappropriate to use religious or doctrinal differences to marginalize or disparage candidates, by either comparison or assertion. No religious test may be applied to candidates for public office - not by the law, not by candidates, not by campaigns.

*Candidates for public office should welcome the contributions that religion brings to society. But just as government may not endorse or favor a religious faith, candidates for public office are obliged, in their official capacity, to acknowledge that no faith can lay exclusive claim to the moral values that enrich our public life.

*Just as government policies must be in service to the nation and not to any religious faith, the same holds true for candidates' positions on policies. While it is appropriate for candidates to connect their faith to their policy positions, their positions on policy must respect all citizens regardless of religious belief.

Addendum: The Christian Science Monitor reports 'Only a slim majority (56 percent) of Americans said in a 2007 survey that freedom of worship should extend to people of all religious groups, no matter what their beliefs (down 16 points, from 72 percent in 2000).'

Meanwhile, back in Fort Worth

A couple of quick notes about things unfolding in the Fort Worth diocese. First, ELO reports on Bp. Iker's response to a letter from the presiding bishop—or perhaps, more accurately, notes the response and reports on the letter itself, here:

The letter, dated January 9 and received by Iker on January 15, was intended to be a pastoral exchange between the Presiding Bishop and Iker, according to Episcopal Church Public Affairs Officer Neva Rae Fox.

In a short statement posted on the Fort Worth website along with a copy of the letter, Iker termed the letter "a second threatening letter."

Jefferts Schori wrote that she continues to assert that "individuals may leave" the Episcopal Church "but congregations and dioceses do not."

She wrote that she believes that "any encouragement of such a belief, or action toward departure, as I believe it to be a violation of the vows we have both repeatedly taken to 'conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church."'

In that short response from Iker, however, he added that "Fort Worth is in the same position as Pittsburgh" and:

BISHOP STANTON OF DALLAS AND I had a very good meeting yesterday at St. Vincent’s, where we discussed how to make provision for any parishes in this Diocese that may choose to remain in TEC if the Diocesan Convention votes to separate from The Episcopal Church. We were joined by our Canons to the Ordinary, the Presidents of our respective Standing Committees, and the Chancellor of the Diocese of Dallas. You will be hearing more about this in due course.

Food for thought: is this a proposition for a merger, as Father Jake has suggested? Or is a different economy metaphor more appropriate, such as feudal lords swapping vassals?

Iker's message is here.

Anderson writes San Joaquin faithful

House of Deputies president Bonnie Anderson has written a letter in support of Remain Faithful in San Joaquin, urging individuals and dioceses to remember the diocese in their prayers and to spread the word about the situation there:

The future will be revealed through the grace and abundance of God's inclusive love. Remain Episcopal is working to rebuild and renew the diocese with those who wish to remain within the Episcopal Church. Its vision is one of a church that welcomes all, regardless of theological perspective.

There are a number of ways General Convention deputies can provide much needed support to our sisters and brothers in Christ in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. You can pray regularly for Episcopalians in San Joaquin, and urge the people in your diocese to do the same. Part of the charge to all deputies is to help keep the members of their dioceses informed. You can urge people to read the information listed above so that they understand what is happening in San Joaquin.

The entire message, including the specific needs of those remaining in San Joaquin, is below in the extended entry.

Read more »

Bishop Wimberly: why I did not consent to inhibition

Bishop Don Wimberly of Texas has released the following statement on his reasons for not consenting to inhibit Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori asked me along with the other two most senior bishops (Peter Lee of Virginia and Leo Frade of Southeast Florida) for consent to move forward with two inhibitions, one for John-David Scofield, Bishop of San Joaquin and Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburg, for abandonment of the Communion of the Church. We consented to Scofield because the Diocese of San Joaquin had recently voted to leave the Episcopal Church. We did not consent to the request for Bishop Duncan because the Diocese of Pittsburgh has not held their annual convention yet and therefore has not formalized any change to their membership within the Episcopal Church, as the Diocese of San Joaquin had. Even though waiting postpones the issue coming before the House of Bishops, I believe it is prudent to take every precaution and afford Bishop Duncan the opportunity to remain in the Episcopal Church.

The Rt. Rev. Don A. Wimberly, Bishop of Texas

It is not known whether or not the other senior bishops gave consent.

About that Virginia Attorney General...

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia today announced its opposition to the Attorney General's intervention in the ongoing cases being heard in Virginia courts. What's particularly notable is that it's not just the Episcopal diocese that's speaking out—the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is weighing in, as is the Bishop of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, citing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and the trust clause.

In stating their opposition, the Diocese and the Church noted that the Commonwealth had failed to meet the requirements that govern intervention in such a dispute and that the state “lacks any right or interest in the subject matter,” namely the property unlawfully occupied by individuals in the CANA breakaway congregations. The Diocese and the Church raised no objections, however, to the Attorney General filing an amicus curiae or friend of the court brief on the matter of the constitutionality of section 57-9 of the Code of Virginia which is at issue at this stage in the case.

The Diocese and the Episcopal Church have argued that it would be unconstitutional for the court to apply section 57-9 in such a way to rule that a division had occurred within the Diocese or the denomination at large. Such a ruling would be an unconstitutional intrusion by the state into the affairs, doctrine and polity of a hierarchical church.

A trial was held in November on the interpretation and application of that section of the Code of Virginia. The judge has not yet issued a ruling. The third and final post-trial brief ordered by the judge also was filed today.

The briefs by the diocese and by the CANA congregations are available here, at the bottom of the page under "post-trial briefs" and "Attorney General Moves to Intervene".

In the Diocese's statement, they note the recent precedent set by Judith Williams Jadgmann, who was Attorney General in 2005 when she notified then-State Sen. Bill Mims that “Constitutional principles dictate the least possible involvement of the state in church matters.” Mims, who is now Deputy Attorney General of the commonwealth, was trying to change a key piece of legislation that would allow churches departing a larger body to take their property with them—and was, at the time, senior warden of a church mission that has since "quit the Episcopal church."

You can read the entire statement under the extended entry here.

The Dharma Index

The latest evolution in social responsible investing comes out of Dow Jones & Company, which has partnered with the Indian firm Dharma Investments to create new "dharma indexes" that will track the stocks of companies that observe the values of dharma-based religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

The Dow Jones Dharma Indexes are the first to measure dharma-compliant stocks and now track more than 3,400 companies globally, including about 1,000 in the U.S., according to the company. In addition to the global index, Dow Jones has created dharma indexes for the U.S., Britain, Japan and India.

...

"The principle of dharma contains precepts relevant to good conduct, but also the implicit requirement of mindfulness about the sources of wealth -- and therefore responsible investing," said Dharma Investment CEO Nitesh Gor.

Advisory committees of religious leaders and scholars will screen and monitor companies' environmental policies, corporate governance, labor relations and human rights, among other criteria. Companies from business sectors deemed un-dharmic, such as weapons manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, casinos and alcohol, are barred from the index.

Bhakti Charu Swami of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness said, "If one only considers the profit motive of an investment without recognizing how that profit was generated, one may unknowingly commit sinful activity. Every link in the entire chain of events is liable for the results."

The whole thing is here.

Update on Kenya

Amidst fears of renewed violence in Kenya this weekend, the Anglican Church there has appealed that all parties seek to avoid any action that would inflame the situation.

According the Church Times report this morning, the 33 Anglican bishops of Kenya have called for amending the country's constitution to help avoid these situations in the future.

"The Church has appealed to would-be demonstrators to avoid violence, and to the police to avoid the use of live bullets, to prevent the loss of more lives. More than 500 are said to have been killed in the unrest, triggered on 30 December.

...The Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Benjamin Nzimbi, told a press conference in Nairobi: ‘We are not against the idea of mass action, but our fear is that some people may use the event to engage in violence and to loot property. Law enforcers should provide security without excessive force.’"

Read the rest here.

Bonnie Anderson to visit Albany

Bonnie Anderson, the President of the House of Deputies (of the General Convention) will be visiting the Diocese of Albany over the weekend. While invited by Albany Via Media, this visit includes participation by the diocesan bishop (Bill Love), which is unusual for these sorts of visits previously.

According to the article in the Times Union, this is being billed as an intentional bridge-building event that is explicitly seeking ways to find reconciliation.

From the report in the Times Union:

"The highest-ranking lay officer of the national Episcopal Church will be in Albany Saturday for an event organized to build bridges between different wings of the church.

Episcopal House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson will speak at 2 p.m. at St. Andrew's Church, focusing on the state of the church and the broader Anglican Communion -- and how that affects the Albany diocese.
 
The address will be preceded at 1 p.m. by a celebration of the Eucharist, led by Albany Bishop William Love.

'This is the first time since Bill Love became bishop that a high-ranking representative of the national church has met with the bishop and with other Albany Episcopalians in a public forum,' said Robert Dodd, president of Albany Via Media.

Albany Via Media, the group sponsoring Saturday's event, is made up of liberal-to-moderate local Episcopalians who want to keep the Albany diocese in communion with the national church."

Read the rest here.

Does the lack of inhibition of Bishop Duncan matter?

There has been a lot of discussion about the meaning of the senior bishops' lack of consent to inhibit The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The question has been "does this mean the process is stopped or not?" The letter to Bishop Duncan from the Presiding Bishop and Canon IV.9.2 state that the process continues not withstanding the senior bishops' non-consent to inhibition.

Letter from the Presiding Bishop (ed. underline):

5 January, 2008

Dear Bob,

I am sorry to have to tell you that on 17 December 2007 the Title IV Review Committee certified to me that in its view, you have abandoned the Communion of this Church, within the meaning of Canon IV,9 of this Church. A copy of that certification, together with the submissions on which the commmittee based its decision, is included with this letter.

Pursuant to that Canon, I submitted the matter to the three senior bishops of this Church having jurisdiction - Bishops Frade of Southeast Florida, Lee of Virginia, and Wimberly of Texas - and asked that they consent to your inhibition, pending consideration of this matter by the House of Bishops. On 11 January, 2008, they informed me that such consents would not be given at this time by all three bishops.

In due course, I shall forward the Review Committee's certification to the House of Bishops for its consideration. Pursuant to the time limits stated in Canon IV.9, the matter will not come before the House at its next scheduled meeting in March 2008, but will come before the House at the next meeting thereafter. I would, however, welcome a statement by you within the next two months providing evidence that you once more consider yourself fully subject to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this church.

You continue in my prayers. I remain
Your servant in Christ, Katharine Jefferts Schori

The relevant portion of Canon IV.9.2 reads

"Otherwise, it shall be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to present the matter to the House of Bishops at the next regular or special meeting of the House. If the House, by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote, shall give its consent, the Presiding Bishop shall depose the Bishop from the Ministry, and pronounce and record in the presence of two or more Bishops that the Bishop has been so deposed.”

It is clear from the Presiding Bishop's letter and the Canon that the discussion and vote on deposition of Bishop Duncan will not occur at the bishops' March meeting, but at the following meeting. Unless a special meeting is held it will occur at the Fall 2008 meeting of the House of Bishops. The Presiding Bishop is proceeding on this basis.

More on this story from Episcopal Cafe here and here and here.

Scholarships for black seminarians

At Virginia Theological Seminary it is now possible for any black full or part-time Episcopalian student to receive a full tuition scholarship.

From the seminary's website:

"‘I am very excited about this initiative,’ said the Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary. ’It will strengthen the community at VTS and the wider Church as a new generation of black Episcopal leadership emerges.’

The Bishop Payne Scholarship is named for the Bishop Payne Divinity School, established in 1878 in Petersburg, Virginia, to prepare black men for ministry in the Episcopal Church. The school was named for the Rt. Rev. John Payne (1815-1874) who graduated from VTS in 1836 and was the first missionary bishop to Liberia. In 1953, Virginia Theological Seminary and the Bishop Payne Divinity School merged. The assets of the Bishop Payne Divinity School became the principal for the Bishop Payne Scholarship Fund to be used for the benefit of black Episcopalians preparing for the ministry. It is from the seed of those funds that the Bishop Payne Scholarships have been funded. Each student receiving this award will be named a Bishop Payne Scholar."

Read the rest here.

Madrid Conference on Western and Islamic world divide

Time Magazine reports on a world-wide conference held in Mardid this past week on the subject of the future of Civilization. This is the first of a series of annual conferences and this one dealt in particular with the clash of cultures between Western Civilization and the Islamic world.

Many notable civic and religious leaders from across the divide participated in the conversation.

From Time's article:

The gathering certainly was not short on inspiring talk. Former Irish President Mary Robinson urged attendees to "open ourselves to new ways of thinking," and "to find a way to communicate that is humble." And Jordan's Queen Noor insisted that "there is a fundamental, common humanity that towers above our differences." But there was skepticism about whether the worthy pronouncement could usher in concrete change. Forum participant Mohammed El-Fifi, a spokesman for the Islamic Cultural Center, Spain's largest mosque, summed up a widely held concern: "Talk is talk. Can they transform all this talk into action? That's the question."

The article go on to highlight one of the particular programs discussed at the meeting:

One of the most intriguing innovations was the launch of a "Rapid Response Media Mechanism," which would enable the Alliance to generate accurate, responsible reports in times of international crisis. "Anytime something happens, the jihadis have the capability of getting their side online within a few hours," said David Michaelis, director of current affairs for the San Francisco-based LinkTV, and a Forum participant. "We have to be able to answer, to get a moderate point of view up, just as quickly." Hameed Haroon, CEO of the Pakistani media group, Dawn Publications, came out of the media workshop bursting with ideas. "It needs to be like a superblog, a super-Google," he says. "A place that unites a survival guide for reporters going into conflict zones, with expertise from universities around the world, and reports from local journalists who are actually working on the fault lines."

...Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director of the Gallup Organization's Center for Muslim Studies, says she was encouraged by the many Forum experts' view of religion as a neutral tool, rather than a force inherently good or evil. "People here understand that blaming religion for conflict is like blaming the gun for shooting someone," she says. Mogahed also hailed the initiatives launched by Noor and Sheikha Moza. But she couldn't help wondering about something that might undermine the Alliance's high-minded efforts. "I haven't seen a single American policy-maker here," she says. "Their lack of engagement, their absence, is a gaping hole."

You can read the full article here.

The website for the Alliance of Civilizations conference is here and includes background, presentations on the topic and the full agenda.

Religious freedom runs off track

Juashaunna Kelly, a Muslim girl from a Washington, D. C. high school, was disqualified during an invitiational meet in neighboring Montgomery County, Maryland, after meet officials ruled the unitard she wears for religious reasons violated National Federation of State High School Associations' standards. The girl's coach pointed out that she has competed in that uniform for two years without incident.

Follow the Washington Post's coverage of this story here and here. And don't miss this slide show. Update: this morning's editorial.

The most troubling quote in either story is this one:

"What she needs to do is get some religious documentation saying it's part of her heritage and bring it with her to every meet," said Jim Vollmer, the commissioner of track for Montgomery County public schools.

An added twist: Kelly is running winter track right now, but she also excels at cross country. Much of the high school cross-country season takes place during Ramadan, so Kelly runs 30 miles per week or so while fasting.

Bishop Frade consented to inhibition of Bishop Duncan

The Rt. Rev. Leo Frade, Bishop of the Diocese of Southeast Florida has released the following statement explaining his consent to the inhibition of Bishops Duncan and Schofield:

Dearly Beloved in Christ:

Greetings from the Holy Land! While leading my yearly pilgrimage of the faithful to the land of our Lord Jesus, I have been asked to comment on the decision of the Three Senior Bishops to unanimously move to inhibit the Bishop of San Joaquin, but not to inhibit the Bishop of Pittsburgh.

I must state that after carefully examining the decision of the Review Committee headed by the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, which recommended the move to inhibit both bishops--of the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and of San Joaquin--and after reviewing all the supporting documents that give evidence of their actions, I was astonished that we neglected to take action any sooner on their obvious violation and breach of their oath to engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.

I firmly believe that any bishops whose words and actions are in violation of this oath, as stated by church canon, should be equally subject to the appropriate canonical discipline.

I also believe that it is my episcopal duty to assiduously safeguard both the membership and patrimony of our Church as a whole. The faithful of those dioceses that have been betrayed by their bishops need to know that they are not abandoned by their Church.

The Episcopate must not tolerate such actions as these bishops have taken; they have betrayed the trust that was given them when we, their brother and sister bishops, consented to their election. The seriousness of this betrayal is not mitigated by the fact that in one of the cases the goal of turning away from The Episcopal Church has not been fully achieved. As I have learned to say in America, "You can not just be a little pregnant."

It was with great sadness that I concluded I had no other choice but to vote to move to inhibit two of my brothers who have betrayed their trust to be faithful shepherds of their dioceses, which are integral parts of our Episcopal Church.

The beauty and flexibility of Anglican polity has allowed since its foundation disparate and disagreeing parties to remain in full communion. It is my sincere hope and prayer that these two bishops, who once pledged of their own free will to engage to remain faithful to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church, will in a spirit of reconciliation choose to fulfill their previous promises.

If they are unable to do so, we in the HOB must do our sad duty to discipline them and move in a timely manner to protect and provide for the many remaining faithful of these dioceses.

Blessings,

The Rt Rev Leopold Frade
Bishop of Southeast Florida and Senior Bishop with Jurisdiction of TEC. (780)

Ministering to the long-haul trucker

Paul Canady, deputy for youth in the Diocese of Washington, is also a candidate for Holy Orders. As part of his training he has just completed an immersion ministry at a truck stop in Carlisle, Pa. You can read about this off beat ministry and the people he met on this blog.

His story begins with the following item:

[O]n Monday, January 7th, 2008, I will head to Carlisle, PA, to spend two weeks with the Carlisle Trucker Ministry. You can go to this website to learn more about the ministry: http://www.pachurches.org/html/carlh.html

I'm not totally sure what to expect. But my phone call today with the chaplain overseeing the minsitry, Chaplain Dan Lehigh, made me feel a little bit better. "Ours is really just a ministry of presense," he said.

So a presense is what I will be to as many of the 20,000 truckers that come through Carlisle every day.

Please keep me, and this ministry, in your prayers. I'll do my best to update daily, but forgive me if I don't.

If you go along for the ride, you'll meet some interesting folks, and perhaps emerge with a new sense of what ministry means.

In praise of melancholy

If you have experienced a "dark night of the soul" and emerged stronger, or, if you've ever even dabbled in the arts, Eric G. Wilson's recent essay about melancholia and the creative impulse in The Chronicle Review might strike a chord with you.

He writes:

Melancholia, far from a mere disease or weakness of will, is an almost miraculous invitation to transcend the banal status quo and imagine the untapped possibilities for existence. Without melancholia, the earth would likely freeze over into a fixed state, as predictable as metal. Only with the help of constant sorrow can this dying world be changed, enlivened, pushed to the new.

These are not metaphysical claims, not some New Age claptrap. On the contrary, these statements are attuned to the sloppy world as it simply appears to us in our everyday experience. When we, with apparent happiness, grab hard onto one ideology or another, this world suddenly seems to take on a static coherence, a rigid division between right and wrong. The world in this way becomes uninteresting, dead. But when we allow our melancholy mood to bloom in our hearts, this universe, formerly inanimate, comes suddenly to life. Finite rules dissolve before infinite possibilities. Happiness to us is no longer viable. We want something more: joy. Melancholia galvanizes us, shocks us to life.

Melancholia pushes against the easy "either/or" of the status quo. It thrives in unexplored middle ground between oppositions, in the "both/and." It fosters fresh insights into relationships between oppositions, especially that great polarity life and death. It encourages new ways of conceiving and naming the mysterious connections between antinomies. It returns us to innocence, to the ability to play in the potential without being constrained to the actual. Such respites from causality refresh our relationship to the world, grant us beautiful vistas, energize our hearts and our minds.

Read it all.

An urban hermit

Paul O'Donnell writes in New York Magazine:

Martha Ainsworth rides a bus into Port Authority from New Jersey at least three times a week, twice for work and once on Sunday to attend Mass at St. John’s in the Village. Like any good New Yorker, Martha tries to make use of her commute. As soon as she’s settled in her seat, she pulls out a rosary and begins to pray. By the time she has boarded the bus on a normal day, she’s already spent more than an hour in formal prayer and at a kind of devout study known as lectio divina. By the time she goes to bed, she’ll have spent three more hours in prayer. Some days, she is so transported that an hour steals by without her realizing it.

Last month, Martha wrote to Bishop Mark Sisk, head of the Episcopal Church’s New York diocese, formally requesting to become a solitary, a designation in the church’s canon laws that recognizes a life of solitude and silent prayer. If the bishop accepts her petition, Martha will embark on a years-long process to discern her fitness for religious life. She’ll undergo a background check and assemble a board of advisers to oversee her practice. She’ll take annually renewed vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, like any other monastic novice, in the hope of making them permanent.

But unlike a cloistered monk, who shares chores and helps generate a common income by making cheese or fruitcakes, Martha will arrange her prayer life around a schedule that looks from the outside like any other citizen’s. Week after week, she will encounter the din of the city. She will keep her apartment, shop for groceries, answer her phone, and earn a paycheck. She’ll have no abbot or abbess, and no sisters, owing her obedience only to the bishop. Martha will become, in effect, a contemplative order of one.

Read it all.

Full disclosure, I worked with Martha at Beliefnet.

Is liberal Anglicanism finished?

Theo Hobson thinks so. Look into his crystal ball and see if you agree.

This year Anglicanism will define itself with new clarity - the once-a-decade Lambeth conference will confirm the anti-liberal mood of the last five years. The humiliation of liberal Anglicanism will be complete. Its demand for equality for homosexuals has been thrown out in the most decisive possible way.

I think it's time to admit that the tradition of liberal Anglicanism is finished. Those Anglicans who carry on calling for an "inclusive church" are relics of a previous era. They should face the fact that the religious landscape has changed utterly. Liberal Anglicanism has become oxymoronic. For the first time this church has defined itself in opposition to liberalism, taking a decisively reactionary stance on a crucial moral issue.

It says here he is jumping the gun. But read it all.

Digging the Bible

David Plotz, the Slate author who blogged the books of the Hebrew Bible last year is now digging the Bible--he is reporting his experiences at various archeological sites in the Holy Land. Here is a sample from his first post:

So, it's not exactly the Ark of the Covenant. In fact, it's not exactly much of anything—just a dirty shard of pottery the size of my big toe. But I found it. I had been scraping the floor of this Israeli cave when I spotted its sharp edge. I fished the piece out of the dirt and pushed on it, as instructed, to see if it crumbled. If it did, it was probably just the local limestone, which is as soft as a bar of soap. But my piece firmly resisted, so I brushed off the dirt until I could see smooth pottery, one side black, the other brick red. I'm the raider of the lost pot.

. . .

I've spent much of the last year blogging the Bible for Slate, writing about reading the Good Book for the first time. Now I've come to Israel to see the Bible, to dig it. I've read the stories. Now I want to see where they happened and to learn if they happened—to experience the Bible through archaeology, history, politics, and faith.

That's why I'm spending the day with Ian Stern. An American-born Israeli in his early 50s, Ian operates Dig for a Day, probably the biggest archaeology outreach program in the world. Every year, Stern's dig here at Maresha is visited by 30,000 to 50,000 tourists—most of them American Jews. They do spadework for Stern's academic research, get a hands-on crash course in archaeology, and experience their own history by digging in the dirt.

You can start with the entire series by reading the first entry here.

Schofield fires most of San Joaquin Standing Committee

Updated

Dan Martins is reporting on his blog, Confessions of a Carioca, that six of the eight members of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin have refused to become members of the Province of the Southern Cone. Bishop Schofield has renounced his membership in The Episcopal Church and joined the Province in South America.

The message from Bishop Schofield:

On December 8th at our Diocesan Convention the overwhelming vote to transfer from the Episcopal Church to the Province of the Southern Cone was passed. At that time I became a member of the House of Bishops of that Province. Therefore, the Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America, who writes:

“In welcoming you to the Province of the Southern Cone on December 8th it is my clear understanding that even though you are allowing a period of discernment for those clergy who are still undecided, it would be highly inappropriate for any officer or leader within the Diocese of San Joaquin to be currently undecided or clearly within the Episcopal Church and continue as an officer or leader. The requirement governing each diocese of the Southern Cone is that all members of Diocesan Council, Standing Committee, and those selected as representatives at Synod be recognized Members of this Province.”

Therefore, this morning I received the resignation of those members of the Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications. Communication and correspondence related to the Standing Committee should now be directed to the new President of the Standing Committee, ---------, at the Diocesan Offices.


Then we have this , from the duly-elected president of the Standing Committee:
During the Standing Committee meeting of January 19th, the Bishop determined that the elected members of the Standing Committee who had not publicly affirmed their standing in the Southern Cone [whose congregations are in discernment, some over the legality of convention's actions] were unqualified to hold any position of leadership in the Diocese, including any elected office. He pronounced us as unqualified. No resignations were given. The question of resignations was raised and rejected. The members of the committee at this morning's meeting were quite clear on this point, we did not resign, we were declared unqualified to hold office. The Bishop's decision affects up to 6 of the 8 elected members of the Committee including all of the clergy members.

The Presiding Bishop's representative and the President of the House of Deputies are scheduled to meet with members of the Diocese of San Joaquin to discuss the future of the church in central California.

More stories from The Lead here and here.

Read Dan Martins' comments at Confessions of a Carioca. Until a recent call to another diocese Dan was a priest in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

UPDATE: more details emerge on the "firing" - read it at Fr Jake Stops the World

FURTHER UPDATE: Dan Martins offers a further update to the story here, including the following from Michael McClenaghan, Rector of St Paul's in Modesto:

Just a quick clarification regarding the changes that took place with the Standing Committee this morning.

Bishop Schofield informed the Standing Committee that members must be composed of clergy and lay members who have openly declared that they are members of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. His letter following the meeting states: "The Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America."

We were told that this standard for serving on the Standing Committee applied to both clergy and lay members, not just clergy, and the clear message was that any members of the Standing Committee who were in discernment regarding their affiliation with the Province of the Southern Cone or The Episcopal Church, or anyone who had made a decison to remain in The Episcopal Church was disqualified from serving on the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin. No resignations were made by any members of the Standing Committee, either verbally or in writing. Rather, the majority of the Standing Committee members were removed by the Bishop, including all four of the elected clergy members, one lay member, and possibly another lay member who was not able to attend the meeting. There was no misunderstanding about the process of removal during the meeting and the action of the Bishop was recorded in the minutes of the meeting by the Secretary, Ted Yumoto.

Monday Afternoon - John-David Schofield responds here. An excerpt:

certain members of that Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications, by their own conscience, understood that they were not qualified to remain in those positions unless and until they can accept fully their membership in the Province of the Southern Cone. Every one of these former members of that Committee are strong, faithful and orthodox leaders within this Diocese who are taking the opportunity afforded them for discernment as parish priests and we thank them for their past, present and future service. Communication and correspondence related to the Standing Committee should now be directed to the new President of the Standing Committee, Mr. Ted Yumoto, at the Diocesan Offices.

Congressional food and indulgences

The Democratic majority has changed the food at the Congressional cafeteria, and the Republican minority is unhappy:

"I like real food," proclaimed Republican leader John Boehner when asked about the new menu by a producer for another cable news outfit. "Food that I can pronounce the name of."

Boehner is now forced to wrap his lips around such phrases as "broccoli rabe and shaved persimmon," "balsamic glazed butternut squash," and "calico pinto beans"...all on this afternoon's menu, along with the downright patriotic "American Regional Yankee Pot Roast," which, even Boehner would have to admit, kind of rolls right off the tongue. On Fridays, there is a real sushi bar tended by a bona fide Japanese sushi chef. Gone are such grade-school cafeteria specialties as Salisbury steak and fried chicken, slathered in gravy and served with a side of chips. Debate rages among regulars about the merits of the new offerings. One consensus downside: the prices have gone upscale right along with the fare.

The company that Nancy Pelosi and her people have hired has a mandate to "Go Green," complete with a mission statement posted outside the cafeteria on an eco-friendly LCD screen and a requirement to buy carbon offsets. Boehner doesn't think much of that either.

"It reminds me of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, when we had indulgences," says Boehner of the offsets. Perhaps he will nail his theses to the cafeteria door.

Read it all here.

I am the rich

As an excellent example of the change in focus now occuring in evangelical circles, check out a very insightful essay by Heather Koerner at Boundless, a webzine for twentysomethings published by Focus on the Family:

It's struck me over the last few weeks: I am "the rich" that the Bible talks about.

I have heard pastors and authors say it before but, for some reason, it never stuck. To me, "the rich" conjured up pictures of Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey or Warren Buffett. It's "the rich" who own those million dollar homes on the coasts. Or who live in that certain neighborhood in my town. Or who shop at those stores where nothing ever goes on sale.

. . .

But I was wrong.

I was reminded of this by Randy Alcorn, author of many books including Money, Possessions and Eternity. Alcorn points out that if you and I have sufficient food, decent clothes, live in a house or apartment and have a reasonably reliable means of transportation, we're among the top 15 percent of the world's wealthy.

That challenges my perspective. After all, I had all those things when I considered myself a "poor as a church mouse" college student. If you had told me then that I was wealthy, I would have probably laughed. But all I could see were those immediately around me. Just as a 6'5" NBA player may feel comparatively short, we may feel comparatively average, less than average or even poor.

But our wealth perspective is skewed. The fact is that 6'5" is tall. And the fact is that most of us are rich.

Even the average Christian teenager in America, who has about $1,500 in disposable cash income each year, makes more than 80 percent of the people on the earth.

Read it all here.

Christian unity is not what it used to be

What started out as a time of prayer by an Episcopal priest and nun a century ago is now observed by Christians around the world and planned by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches. But the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has both suffered from its success and highlighted that profound differences still exist within and between the several Christian traditions.

Peter Steinfels writing in the New York Times says:

...for most Christians, the week, centennial or not, carries no more resonance than, say, National Secretaries Week (now officially Administrative Professionals Week).

Has the ecumenical movement lost steam? Or has it, perhaps, fallen victim to its own success? One way or the other, does it make any difference?

In 1908, it certainly did to the Rev. Paul Wattson and Mother Lurana White, an Episcopal priest and nun, founders, in Garrison, N.Y., of a small Anglican religious community in the Franciscan tradition. They initiated eight days of prayer between what were then feast days associated with Saints Peter and Paul.

These two leaders and their Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement soon became Roman Catholics, so the week of prayer naturally had little appeal to Protestants. Still, all sorts of other streams fed into the cause of joining in prayer for Christian unity: the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, often described as the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement, and efforts by the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A.

Christian unity was, of course, a chief goal of the Second Vatican Council, when the world’s Catholic bishops invited Protestant and Orthodox leaders, now known as “separated brethren” rather than “heretics” and “schismatics,” to observe and consult during the council’s four sessions from 1962 to 1965.

That work has been carried on by Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox ecumenical officers and theologians engaged in interchurch dialogue. These highly committed people track the progress of unity the way brokers watch the stock ticker.

But people in the pews appear to have other things on their mind. They take for granted the lowering of what were once painful barriers dividing spouses and family members and even citizens.

Steinfels says that the success of the movement has removed the sense of urgency. Also, the vision of what Christian unity might look like has changed. Instead of a single church devoid of institutional and denominational barriers, the vision has become one of diversity of communities and traditions. "Thanks to the understanding and fellowship generated by dialogue, what was once the scandal of division now looks more like the virtue of diversity."

Relationship between religions, such as between Islam and Christianity, has supplanted the need for dialogue within Christianity. "To the extent that religion currently abets violence, it is hardly in conflicts over papal authority or whether worshipers sharing in the Lord’s Supper should partake of both bread and wine."

Finally, what were once well-defined differences between Christian traditions has become a kind of homogenization especially among Protestant traditions, where Presbyterians rarely speak of predestination and Methodists no longer think about arminianism. The most apparent conflict in Christianity today -- over homosexuality -- is largely fought out within, not between, traditions.

Read the rest here.

Learn more about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity here.

Here is the official website for the 2008 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Beware of excommunicating each other on Earth

The Right Rev. Musonda Trevor Mwamba of Botswana, spoke to the convention of the Diocese of North Carolina Saturday, and he wondered out loud "When I hear all these harsh tones being exchanged...I ask if anybody is praying."

Mwamba says that the sexuality debates roiling Anglicanism around the world are simply not a central concern to most Africans.

"The majority of African Anglicans," he said, "they have their minds focused on life and death issues, like AIDS, poverty ... and not what the church thinks about sex or the color of your pajama pants. Villagers who live on less than $1 a day aren't aware this is going on. The majority of Africans who can afford TVs and radios, they don't want to see the communion incinerate."

Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina, who invited Mwamba to come to North Carolina as the diocese formalized a companion diocese relationship with Botswana, said:

"I know that will be new news to Americans.... What the bishop said is in fact accurate. These are not front-burner issues (in Africa). It's 'How do I get my children a good education?' It's 'Where do I find clean water and food to eat?' They go to church to praise the Lord and to find the strength to live another week."

"This companion link is so sacred", said Bishop Mwamba. "we need to experience God afresh and have our hearts transformed. In encounters such as this one, we'll discover that those who we fear are just like us and even though we differ, we can respect one another and even be friends. God's will is working right now as we are discovering this oneness between the dioceses of North Carolina and Botswana."

According to Nancy McLaughlin, writing for the News-Record of Greensboro, NC, Mwamba said the core message among Christians should be enlarging the Kingdom of God and not looking for ways to make it smaller.

"So why do we keep thinking separately — us and them?" Mwamba asked. "Could it be because we have lost sight of the height and depth of the kingdom ... the infinity of God in us?"

Anglicans, he said, have a history that is rooted in moving beyond each other's differences.

"We may discover," he said, "that the person we fear or resent is 'just like me,' is 'just like us.'"

But Mwamba reminds us that man does not have the final say-so.

"Let us beware of excommunicating each other on Earth ... we shall find in heaven we are still bound together at the table of God," he said.

Read: Bishop asks for perspective in debate on gays.

Read about the Diocese of North Carolina, their convention and their companion relationship with the Diocese of Botswana here.

Lambeth Conference alive and well

Seventy percent of the world's Anglican bishops have registered for the Lambeth Conference with more on the way. This is a signal, says Rowan Williams, that more bishops are interested in relating to one another through the Communion and doing ministry than fighting each other for turf.

He also notes that the many Anglican organizations and partnerships that reach across the globe in the spirit of Christian service reflect a deep desire for unity that does some earthly good.

Archbishop Williams says:

In spite of the painful controversies which have clouded the life of the Communion for the last few years, there remains, as many people have repeatedly said, a very strong loyalty to each other and a desire to stay together. The fact that about 70% of bishops worldwide have already formally registered for the Conference, with a number of others who have signalled that they will attend, shows something of this desire. But it is also reflected in the life of so many Anglican organisations that continue to work across national and regional boundaries – the Mothers’ Union, the enormous variety of church-based development projects dealing with HIV/AIDS or educational matters, the partnership relations between bishops and dioceses from different parts of the globe – the relationship, for example, between my own diocese of Canterbury and the church in Madagascar, or between Salisbury diocese and the Sudanese province. These close and personal relationships, which are not often in the headlines because they simply carry on doing the work they set out to do, are part of the solid ground that helps us cope with the turbulence in other areas. The programme of pre-Lambeth hospitality which is being offered by local churches here in the UK will help to consolidate these relationships for the future, in ways that will respect the integrity of all.

Jane Williams says the Spouses Conference will cover important areas of Christian concern that are more than affect everyone.

We plan to look at some of the huge issues that face us all, and that diminish God’s people and make it harder for others to hear God’s good news. For example, the effects of ecological change, the challenge of health care projects, or the way in which gender violence affects our communities. For some of these themes, we will be joining the Bishops’ Conference, because these are not ‘women’s issues’. The whole people of God need to be challenged and have their needs heard and ministered to in these areas.

Despite heavy publicity that the Conference would be diminished by the absence of some, or perhaps even boycotted by certain Primates and their bishops, the conference has drawn a healthy response from a majority of the Communion's bishops.

Lambeth%20Launch.jpg

Read: Anglican Communion News Service: Launch of Lambeth Conference 2008

Additional photographs and audio from Episcopal News Service.

ABC condemns interventions in other churches

Updated

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has written to Canadian Primate Archbishop Fred Hiltz to say that he "cannot support or sanction" foreign interventions in the affairs of the Canadian Church."

The text of the letter says:

I noted also the reference to the appeal of the Canadian Church to myself about interventions and irregular ordinations: as you will understand, I have no canonical authority to prevent these things, but I would simply repeat what was said in my Advent Letter, to the effect that I cannot support or sanction such actions, in line with what successive Lambeth Resolutions and Primates’ Communiques have declared, as well as the statements of my predecessor about irregular ordinations and the clear directions of the Windsor Report.

This came in response to a letter Hiltz wrote to all the Primates of the Anglican Communion earlier this year outlining the process the Canadian Church has undertaken in their discussion of same-sex blessings.

Hiltz appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury "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 the news that a retired Canadian Bishop has become part of the Province of the Southern Cone and was seeking to establish a parallel Anglican presence in the Canadian Church. Hiltz has appealed to Canterbury "to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism."

Read the letter from Archbishop Fred Hiltz to the Primates here.

Read the response from Archbishop Rowan Williams here.

Background on interventions in Canada here, here.

Monday Morning Update - The Globe and Mail, Archbishop of Canterbury speaks out against poaching of priests

We are one in Jesus

Last Saturday, Episcopalian in the Diocese of Albany prayed together, listened to each other, and reached across the divide that afflicts the church these days/ They were trying to build trust and find a new way to negotiate strongly held visions of how to respond to the Gospel.

Albany Via Media invited both Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, and Diocesan bishop The Rt. Rev. William Love to take part in a gathering called "'Can we talk?': Faith and Diversity in the Episcopal Church" which took place last Saturday afternoon at St. Andrew's Church, Albany.

Robert Dodd, President of Albany Via Media said “We would like to begin the process of reconciliation.”

Time-Warner's Capital News 9 channel says:

Dodd says it is time to talk and on Saturday, the President of the Episcopal House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, the Bishop of Albany, William Love, and Reverend James Brooks-McDonald of St. Stephens in Schenectady did just that, spending hours with parishioners at a forum in Albany.

“It's about being together in tension and having different viewpoints in the Episcopal Church and still remain in communion together,” Anderson said.

“I hate to see the Episcopal Church break apart. We all don't agree on the same things,” said Brooks-McDonald. “But can we live together in our disagreement?”

Marc Perry of the Albany Times-Union reported on the gathering:

Bonnie Anderson, president of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies, challenged the more than 200 people gathered at St. Andrew's in Albany to come up with a model for the national church of how believers of different views can communicate.

"You cannot get on with God's work until you trust each other," Anderson said.

Division has fractured the church since the 2003 consecration of V. Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop. Speakers at Saturday's event -- a service led by Love followed by a question-and-answer session -- stressed unity and communication. But the exchanges were sometimes tense.

The event was organized by Albany Via Media, a group of liberal-to-moderate local Episcopalians. Members generally disagree with Love's opposition to ordaining gay clergy and blessing same-sex marriages, and they want the Albany diocese to remain in communion with the national church.

"We talk about the struggles of the church, and we seem to think that it all has to do with sex," Love said during his sermon. "That's only a symptom of something much deeper. That issue much deeper is God's word. How is it to be understood? How is it to be interpreted? How is it to be lived out?"

Some speakers told the bishop they felt shut out of diocesan events and publications. Some criticized links to conservative religious Internet sites on the diocesan Web page. One said he wasn't comfortable being referred to as a "sodomite" or "heretic" on a Web site recommended by the diocese.

Love said he could check the policy regarding links. He also suggested that if the speaker found the material offensive, "Don't read it."

That drew loud disapproval from the audience and, later in the session, an apology from Love.

Anderson's visit attracted attention on several religious Web sites. Some commentators expressed disappointment Love would even participate. On one Web site billed as a place for "traditional Anglicanism in America" and linked to on Albany's diocesan Web page, a commentator wrote of the bishop: "He may be operating under the adage, 'Keep your friends close -- and your enemies closer.' "

In interviews at St. Andrew's Saturday, though, people on both sides of the ideological divide gave the bishop credit for showing up. A lot of credit.

"This is true Anglicanism, where you come together even with a divergence of views," said David Kennison, senior warden at St. George's Church in Schenectady and a former Albany Via Media board member.

The Rev. Peter Schofield, a conservative from Christ Church in Schenectady, said he feels Albany Via Media has been "very disruptive in the diocese." But he, too, praised Saturday's service.

"If we did worship together a lot more often than we do, I think we'd have a lot less problems," he said. "We're all one in Jesus."

Read: A fractured church seeking common faith.

Read another article by Perry written before the event here.

This is the Albany Via Media page.

Here is the Capital News 9 story with a link to the video of their story.

Keeping cool

A brief profile of Katharine Jefferts Schori describes how she keeps her cool in a very stressful job.
Daniel Burke of Religious News Service says even those who disagree with her notice how focused and unflappable she can be.

"She's centered and intense," said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, a well-regarded conservative theologian from South Carolina. "You get a sense when she answers a question that she's trying to channel all her passion in one place."

About a year after her installation as Presiding Bishop, Jefferts Schori describes the "steep learning curve" that came with this new ministry.

"It's been a year of a steep learning curve," she said in an interview Wednesday (Jan. 16). "But it's been a delightful privilege to travel around and see the ways in which the church is fully engaged in its mission."

Part of that mission, Jefferts Schori said, is demonstrating how a diverse community can "value the person and positions of others who disagree with us."

Her historic election in 2006, when she became the first woman to lead a national province of the worldwide Anglican Communion since the Church of England was founded in the mid-1500s, immediately riled traditionalist parts of the church, even as women rejoiced.

Inevitably, any discussion of this first year in office must turn to the dissent and departure of parishes opposed to either women clergy or the ordination of homosexuals or both. Recent disciplinary actions against Bishops who have taken their dioceses the Episcopal Church or are preparing to have highlighted how sharp the situation is.

"She has the hardest job in the world," said Diana Butler Bass, an Episcopalian and author of "Christianity for the Rest of Us," who had high praise for Jefferts Schori's leadership. "What a terrible time to come into a job."

It would be easier to let U.S. conservatives secede to join another Anglican province without a fight, said Jefferts Schori, "but I don't think that's a faithful thing to do."

Episcopal leaders are stewards of church property and assets, protecting past generations' legacies and passing them on to future Episcopalians, according to the presiding bishop. Allowing congregations to walk away with church property condones "bad behavior," she said.

"In a sense it's related to the old ecclesiastical behavior toward child abuse," when priests essentially looked the other way, she said.

"Bad behavior must be confronted."

The column also quotes others who believe her style to be too heavy-handed such as the Rev. Neal Michell, canon for strategic development in the Diocese of Dallas.

Read: Beliefnet.com: Episcopal Bishop Keeps Her Cool in the Hot Seat

I would rather die than hate you

Sarah Vowell reflects on a holiday dedicated to radical love:

Here’s what Dr. King got out of the Sermon on the Mount. On Nov. 17, 1957, in Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he concluded the learned discourse that came to be known as the “loving your enemies” sermon this way: “So this morning, as I look into your eyes and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you: ‘I love you. I would rather die than hate you.’ ”

Go ahead and re-read that. That is hands down the most beautiful, strange, impossible, but most of all radical thing a human being can say. And it comes from reading the most beautiful, strange, impossible, but most of all radical civics lesson ever taught, when Jesus of Nazareth went to a hill in Galilee and told his disciples, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.”

The Bible is a big long book and Lord knows within its many mansions of eccentricity finding justification for literal and figurative witch hunts is as simple as pretending “enhanced investigation technique” is not a synonym for torture. I happen to be with Dr. King in proclaiming the Sermon on the Mount’s call for love to be at the heart of Christian behavior, and one of us got a Ph.D in systematic theology.

Read the rest: New York Times: Radical Love Gets a Holiday.

A moral deficit

Barak Obama preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta yesterday. But he was doing more than appealing for votes in this symbolic and important congregation. His description of a national moral deficit is important because it the moral implications of policy decisions and reminds that morality is not limited to the narrow parameters that dominates so much Christian discussion.

He said:

Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.

I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.

We have an empathy deficit when we’re still sending our children down corridors of shame – schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.

We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can’t afford a doctor when their children get sick.

We have a deficit in this country when there is Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others; when our children see nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree today, in the present, in the twenty-first century.

We have a deficit when homeless veterans sleep on the streets of our cities; when innocents are slaughtered in the deserts of Darfur; when young Americans serve tour after tour of duty in a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged.

And we have a deficit when it takes a breach in our levees to reveal a breach in our compassion; when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed; the sick He calls on us to care for; the least of these He commands that we treat as our own.

So we have a deficit to close. We have walls – barriers to justice and equality – that must come down. And to do this, we know that unity is the great need of this hour.

Unfortunately, all too often when we talk about unity in this country, we’ve come to believe that it can be purchased on the cheap. We’ve come to believe that racial reconciliation can come easily – that it’s just a matter of a few ignorant people trapped in the prejudices of the past, and that if the demagogues and those who exploit our racial divisions will simply go away, then all our problems would be solved.

All too often, we seek to ignore the profound institutional barriers that stand in the way of ensuring opportunity for all children, or decent jobs for all people, or health care for those who are sick. We long for unity, but are unwilling to pay the price.

But of course, true unity cannot be so easily won. It starts with a change in attitudes – a broadening of our minds, and a broadening of our hearts.

It’s not easy to stand in somebody else’s shoes. It’s not easy to see past our differences. We’ve all encountered this in our own lives. But what makes it even more difficult is that we have a politics in this country that seeks to drive us apart – that puts up walls between us.

We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don’t think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.

Read the entirety of the sermon here.

Bishop of Jerusalem meets with organizers of GAFCON

From the minutes:

The Rev’d Canon Dr Chris Sugden then posed the question in what way the conference was imposing on the diocese?

The Rev’d Canon Hosam answered that the conference was imposing the issue of homosexuality on the diocese.

The Rev’d Canon Dr Chris Sugden responded by saying that this conference was not about homosexuality.

The Rev’d Canon Hosam replied by reminding Archbishop Akinola that he had referred to the split of the Anglican Communion in 2003.

Archbishop Akinola refrained from answering. Instead, he said that he could not understand how this conference would have all these impacts on the diocese.

The Very Rev’d Michael Sellors highlighted that this could not be fully understood unless you lived in the Holy Land and experienced the sensitivity. ...

Archbishop Akinola then said, that this was a pilgrimage and wondered what the difference was to other pilgrimages.

The Rev’d Canon Hosam responded by saying that this was not only a pilgrimage, since the Archbishop himself was talking about a conference with an agenda.

Archbishop Akinola replied that he would be happy to change the terminology and refrain from calling it a conference, in which case he would call it a pilgrimage.

The Guardian reports on the meetings here.

Comments from Sarah Dylan Breuer at Anglicana.

In any case, none of the Jerusalem Christians present were going to buy the line that GAFCON isn't really a convention -- at least not as it's currently being organized. And so, although he hadn't been asked his opinion on what might help, Bishop Suheil rather generously offered a suggestion: that Akinola's agenda be spilt in two, with the conference taking place in Cyprus so what happened in Jerusalem could be a pilgrimage only.

Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans which provides further links.

Support urged for Native American health care

Episcopal Life Online reports that the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) is calling on Episcopalians to contact their United States Senators and urge them to support the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007 (Senate Bill 1200) when it comes to the floor this week.

"Indigenous people are suffering and we are your neighbors," Janine Tinsley-Roe, the Episcopal Church's national missioner for Native American Ministries, said in an EPPN alert, which is emailed to more than 21,000 Episcopalians and religious advocates. "We live and love every bit of this country but have been historically neglected by our 'caregivers' on the local, state and especially federal levels. We need our elected officials to advocate for us and to ensure Indigenous people the resources we need to thrive. The time for justice in our health-care crisis is now."

The EPPN alert noted that Native American infant mortality is 150% greater for Indians than for Caucasian infants. Indigenous people are 650% more likely to die from tuberculosis and 318% more likely to die from diabetes compared with other groups.

Read more and take action here.

Lesbian and gay relationships are psychologically healthy

The Dallas Morning News reports on a new study in the journal Developmental Psychology of a study of committed gay, lesbian and heterosexual relationships. A key paragraph from the conclusions:

The current study adds to this literature by demonstrating that, controlling for demographic differences, gay males and lesbians in our studies were generally not distinguishable from their committed heterosexual counterparts on measures of self- and partner reported relationship quality, as well as in how they interacted with one another—and responded physiologically—while attempting to resolve conflict in their relationships.

Translation: Far as these researchers can tell, gay and lesbian committed relationships look to be as psychologically healthy as committed heterosexual relationships.

A link to the pdf of the paper is here

Lee also did not consent to Duncan inhibition

Bishop Peter Lee, the bishop of the Diocese of Virginia has released the following statement in response to questions about whether or not he agreed to consent to acting to inhibit Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh who has been charged with the abandonment of the Communion of the Episcopal Church:

I along with the two other most senior active bishops in the House of Bishops were asked by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to review the evidence and give consent to moving forward with the inhibitions of the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of San Joaquin on the charge of abandonment of the communion of this Church. I gave my consent for the inhibition of Bishop Schofield. It is clear that by his actions and their result he has abandoned the communion of this Church. I did not give my consent for the inhibition of Bishop Duncan at this time. The Diocese of Pittsburgh, which Bishop Duncan leads, has not formalized any change to their membership within the Episcopal Church. I do not take either of these actions lightly, the giving or withholding of consent to these inhibitions. I fear that Bishop Duncan’s course may be inevitable. But I also believe that it is most prudent to take every precaution and provide every opportunity for Bishop Duncan and the leadership of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to turn back from the course they seem to desire and instead to remain in the Episcopal Church.

The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee
Bishop of Virginia

As we've already posted, Bishop Wimberly also was unwilling to consent to the inhibition of Bishop Duncan. Bishop Frade did consent.

Lambeth Conference hits youtube

Videos from the Lambeth 2008 opening press conference are now on youtube. Three videos have been posted here, here, and here.

The press materials from the Lambeth Launch reveal the organizational teams and plans for the bishops and spouses who will be attending Lambeth 2008. Some interesting bits gleaned from the materials:

In addition to the Bishops' Planning Group which The Lead noted included Archbishop Ernest of the Province of the Indian Ocean and Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa CAPA, the Spouses' Planning Group includes Mrs. Alice Nzimbi, the wife of Kenyan Archbishop Nzimbi (who has said he may not attend). Others on the committee led by Mrs Jane Williams, Church of England are Mrs Maria Okrofi, Province of West Africa; Mrs Bronwyn Fryar, Anglican Church of Australia; Mrs Margaret Sentamu, Church of England; Mrs Judy Venner, Church of England [from the Diocese of Canterbury]; Mrs M Whalon, The Episcopal Church; and Mrs Rhody Yin Mya, Province of Myanmar
. From the document on finances, while is it expected that bishops and spouses will pay their own way or that their Province will offer support:
It is the expressed intention of the conference planners that no bishop or spouse should be prevented from attending the conference because they do not have the financial resources to enable them to do so. The estimate is that around 42% of conference participants will require some external financial assistance in order to attend the conference.
And what is is expected to cost? Note - not including travel:
Bishops’ Conference - £4.4 million + travel costs ($8.59 million in USD) Spouses’ Conference - £1.2 million + travel costs ($2.3 million)
From the document on Hospitality it is noted that nearly 70% of the bishops attending the Lambeth Conference will be doing so for the first time.
Partnerships for World Mission secretary Stephen Lyon said: “For around five days, each delegate will be invited to share in the life of a British diocese. They will have the opportunity of taking in the sights and sounds of our countries and cultures. They will bring with them the joys and challenges of their own ministries and share these with our dioceses and parishes. They will begin to develop a sense of what it means to be a global communion before beginning the business of the conference in Canterbury.”

The days will also give delegates the chance to relax and unwind, providing a breathing space from the hectic round of diocesan responsibilities and the pace of the Lambeth Conference. It will provide time to get over jetlag and the pressures of international travel.


The theme of the Spouses’ Conference 2008 is “God’s People for God’s Mission”. The Rev Jackie Cray, England (wife of the Bishop of Maidstone, The Rt Revd Graham Cray) will be chaplain to the group - a new experience for some of the bishops' spouses who live in dioceses where women cannot be ordained priests.
The principal aim is to equip bishops' spouses for their varying roles and contexts.

This will be approached from four angles:
• Who is ‘the bishops’ spouse’? How to be effective in that role
• Who is our family? Upholding close relationships
• Our world and context: the leadership challenges facing us
• Our own and others’ health and personal development

Running throughout the conference as a foundational methodology will be the sharing of stories. Also central will be prayer and worship together, which will happen each day.


From the release about the Lambeth Conference "The purpose of the Lambeth Conference 2008 is to enable the Bishops of the Anglican Communion to discern and share more deeply their Anglican identity, and to become even better equipped for their Christ-given task of being leaders in God’s mission." This purpose will be accomplished through retreat time, small group Bible studies, workshops on aspects of episcopal ministry, and larger group gatherings on topics of mutual concern.

Youth from around the Anglican Communion are being recruited to be present at the Conference and to steward the events. There will also be a Marketplace and Fringe events.

For more information and to read complete press releases go to the Lambeth Conference web site.

The Archbishop of Canterbury office announces a new web site which can be found here.

See Lambeth Conference Alive and Well here.

Election troubles in Diocese of Lake Malawi

News from the Diocese of Lake Malawi tells of plans for another election of a bishop regardless of the will of the people. Anglican-Information reports on the situation:

Despite counsel to the contrary Bishop Albert Chama, acting Dean of the Province of Central Africa, is continuing with his plans for a forced election for another bishop in the Diocese of Lake Malawi.

Existing bishop
Readers will recall that the Diocese of Lake Malawi already has a validly elected bishop and that due synodical agreement had been negotiated last year with all parties by the then Dean Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana to resolve the matter of the disputed Court of Confirmation by an independent Provincial Court.

Planned forced election
Subsequently, former Archbishop Bernard Malango managed to persuade the remaining Provincial bishops to accept that new elections should be forced in Lake Malawi, even though they exceeded their constitutional powers in doing so by attempting to overrule synodical processes. It is widely thought that Malango and Bishop Chama are very reluctant to have an independent assessment of the happenings at the original Court of Confirmation, held in November 2005.

Now, following leaking of the dates concerning the proposed forced election, letters have finally gone out from Bishop Chama to parishes in Lake Malawi, ordering an election to take place – to be mysteriously located outside the diocese in Malosa, Upper Shire Diocese, the previous diocese of former Archbishop Malango. It should be noted that this ‘notification’ is also an uncanonical procedure as three months notice should be given and most parishes will be lucky to get three weeks. The article continues below.


The House of Laity of the diocese has written the following letter objecting to the new elections:
House of Laity
Diocese of Lake Malawi
18th January 2008

The Rt Rev Albert Chama
Bishop of Northern Zambia
PO Box 22317
Kitwe
Zambia

His Grace Bishop Chama,

Subject: Election of Bishop of Diocese of Lake Malawi

At an emergency meeting held today at St Peter’s Parish, Lilongwe, we the Laity were saddened to hear that elections for a Bishop of the diocese of lake Malawi are to take place on 16th February 2008 at Malosa in Zomba.

The Laity have agreed unanimously that the elections will not take place until their appeal of the Bishop Elect of the Diocese of Lake Malawi issue is taken to a Provincial Court (Canon 26, 5 &6) for review as is stipulated in the Canons.

You may also wish to be advised that the Laity feel that the current situation in the diocese is not conducive to further elections since there are a lot of internal wrangles still unresolved.

Yours in Christ,

Luke Matchiya
Chair: House of Laity

Copies to:
Vicar General, Diocese of Lake Malawi
All Archdeaconaries, Diocese of Lake Malawi
All Parishes, Diocese of Lake Malawi
All Bishops, Province of Central Africa

The rest of the story, received by email from Anglican-Information is below:

UPDATE Thursday January 24: see below for a letter from a concerned member of the diocese that outlines more of the issues.

Read more »

Is member of Executive Council also with Southern Cone?

The newly appointed president of the Standing Committee of San Joaquin of the Province of the Southern Cone is Mr. Ted Yumoto. At present The Episcopal Church lists Yumoto as a member of its Executive Council representing Province VIII. His term runs to 2009; see here and here.

As earlier reported, on Saturday Bishop John-David Schofield removed certain members of the San Joaquin standing committee. His explanation at the time read, in part:

Therefore, this morning I received the resignation of those members of the Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications. Communication and correspondence related to the Standing Committee should now be directed to the new President of the Standing Committee, Mr. Ted Yumoto, at the Diocesan Offices.

Later that same day, the duly-elected president of the Standing Committee contradicted the bishop stating "The members of the committee at this morning's meeting were quite clear on this point, we did not resign, we were declared unqualified to hold office." On Monday Schofield issued a revised statement replacing the paragraph above with this:
The members of the Standing Committee were elected and seated prior to the convention’s overwhelming vote to accept the invitation of the Province of the Southern Cone. At the moment of ratification, qualification for service on Standing Committee, as well as elected and appointed diocesan leadership positions changed. Therefore, certain members of that Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications, by their own conscience, understood that they were not qualified to remain in those positions unless and until they can accept fully their membership in the Province of the Southern Cone. Every one of these former members of that Committee are strong, faithful and orthodox leaders within this Diocese who are taking the opportunity afforded them for discernment as parish priests and we thank them for their past, present and future service. Communication and correspondence related to the Standing Committee should now be directed to the new President of the Standing Committee, Mr. Ted Yumoto, at the Diocesan Offices.
At least two questions remain. (1) Has Mr. Yumoto resigned his position on the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church?, and, if not, (2) Does he, by his own conscience, understand that he is not qualified to serve as Schofield's new president unless and until he can accept fully his membership in the Province of the Southern Cone?

Read more »

Note on Lambeth items

The newest items are last and the oldest first. Scroll down to read the latest news and commentary.

Evangelicals represent "one out of 11 voters"

The religious pollsters, The Barna Group, have issued an analysis of their latest poll.

Barna Group surveys make a spiritual beliefs-based distinction between born again Christians and the subset of born agains who are Evangelical:

The survey explored two important slices of the Christian vote: born again Christians, a group of Americans who accounted for about half of all ballots cast in the 2004 election and the smaller, more socially conservative subset of born agains, labeled as evangelical voters. Evangelicals represent about one-fifth of all born again Christians [or about one out of every 11 voters]. Note that Barna surveys do not classify a person based upon a respondent’s use of the terms "born again" or "evangelical," instead basing the classification on what a person believes about spiritual matters.

According to Barna, of the 68 registered voters who are born again, 15 million (22%) of those are evangelicals. Further, "Faith affiliation does not neatly follow party lines: about two out of every five registered Democrats are born again voters, while roughly three out of every five Republicans is classified by the Barna team as a born again." As Revolution in Jesusland observed about the exit polls in Iowa - which did not ask Democrats about their religious affliliation:
The headlines after Iowa proclaimed, “Huckabee helped by Born Agains!” But should there also have been a headline, “Obama edges out Clinton thanks to Born Agains?” We’ll never know. And was Huckabee also helped by union voters? Again, no way to know.

And so the assumptions of the punditocracy go on fulfilling themselves. And we are presented with a picture of a more and more divided America.

David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, concludes:
One of the myths about the 2008 election is that the evangelical vote is splintering over issues such as abortion and homosexuality. In fact, when defined based upon a consistent set of theological perspectives, evangelicals remain very united on abortion and homosexuality.... However, concerns about same-sex relationships are less unifying and less troublesome to the broader born again constituency. Born agains are far less concerned about homosexuality than they are about abortion. Protestants and Catholics don’t agree on same-sex concerns. Evangelicals and non-evangelicals differ. Homosexuality remains important for 2008, but the debate is shifting and taking on new dimensions for many people.
Check out the evidence here.

How about extending don't ask don't tell to heterosexuals?

Ian Ayres guest blogging at Freakonomics:

There are also two ways to end the military’s de jure discrimination based on sexual orientation. We can either repeal DADT, or we could extend its application to heterosexuals as well. If extended, no soldier could talk about his or her orientation without risk of exclusion.

My own church, St. Thomas Episcopal in New Haven, tried a version of this strategy. In 2004, the church vestry adopted a resolution “calling for St. Thomas’s clergy to treat same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples equally in administering the sacrament of marriage,” as the church Web site describes it. The Bishop was not amused, and within 3 days he called an emergency meeting warning our rector, Father Michael Ray, that he risked being defrocked if he performed marriage ceremonies for any same-sex couples inside the church. Ray responded by honoring both the request of the vestry and the demands of the Bishop by announcing a moratorium on the celebration of all marriages. The Times ran a great piece describing the event.


Read the whole thing at Freakonomics.

Presiding Bishop to greet continuing Episcopalians in San Joaquin

Episcopal Life Online:

When Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin gather on Saturday, January 26 for "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford, California, they will welcome an online audience.

Viewers may access the live video stream, to be carried via Episcopal Life Online, by logging on to http://www.episcopalchurch.org/.

The video stream will also bring Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's greetings to continuing Episcopalians gathered at the Central California Valley historic church, starting about 10 a.m. Pacific time (11 a.m. Mountain, 12 a.m. Central, 1 p.m. Eastern), said Mike Collins, Episcopal Life Media Video/Multicast Unit director.

Read the entire story here.

The Lead's previous reporting on this upcoming conference is here.

God thinks it's cool

The Episcopal Church of the Advent in Logan Square offers a service for dogs and dog walkers every Sunday. Check out the video here. The story is here:

"It came out of this observation that we have so many people in the neighborhood who are dog owners," says Rev. Sandra Castillo, rector at the Episcopal Church of the Advent and La Iglesia Episcopal de Nuestra Senora de las Americas. "We thought this might be a good way to reach out."

"We used to have an 8 o'clock service, but it ended in September and we figured why not try this?" adds Sonia Davidson, a member of the congregation, dog person and moving force behind the idea. "It's kid-friendly, pet-friendly. If you're walking your dog, you stop in."

The services are short -- 15 or 20 minutes -- and simple. Some readings, prayers and announcements in a corner of the beautiful century-old church.

"We went through the prayer book and it's basically the morning prayer service," says John Medenwald, one of the five church members who take turns officiating at the service, which is lay-organized and led.

There is blog devoted to The Episcopal Church of the Advent & & Nuestra Senora.

Tradition is the democracy of the dead

From the latest weekly letter from Anglicans Online:

We have watched with interest and not a little confusion as Anglican parishes, dioceses and perhaps provinces in some parts of the world have appeared to adopt a plebiscite-based model of church affiliation in recent years. We would like to see all people able to worship freely according to their conscience. We also understand that church history shows us an important model of government and decision-making in the conciliar process during which bishops cast votes for or against critical doctrinal definitions. None of this adds up to a strong case that plebiscites are the normal decision-making process for breaking or establishing relationships of ecclesial communion, and this is because we live in a tradition that accepts and is guided by Tradition. In G.K. Chesterton's memorable words, 'Tradition means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. [...] Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.' We search in vain for examples of plebiscites in church history; as far as we know there are none to be found, but we hope you will let us know about them if you know better.

Chesterton's famous quote cuts in many directions, but it reminds us that the churches in which we worship, and the dioceses and provinces in which they are situated, are things we have received in trust and hope to pass on in trust. Aside from the absence of an impartial monitor for the plebiscite-like votes that have taken place of late, we also lack the crucial participation of that 'most obscure of all classes' and an honest commitment to honour legitimate outcomes. Even taking all these things into account, we hold onto hope that there may be some way of resolving what seem from our limited perspective like intractable problems and disagreements. The knowledge that plebiscites are likely not a route to such a solution does not mean that there can be no solution.

Read it all here. More about the quote from Chesterton at the American Chesterton Society. The quote comes from chapter 4 of his Orthodoxy.

Day by day at Lambeth

Lambeth Conference Daily Themes

Monday 21 July: Celebrating Common Ground: the bishop and Anglican identity

Tuesday 22 July: Proclaiming the Good News: the bishop and evangelism

Wednesday 23 July: Transforming Society: the bishop and social injustice

Thursday 24 July: The bishops and their spouses are in London

Friday 25 July: Discerning our Shared Calling: the bishop, other churches and God’s mission

Saturday 26 July: Safeguarding Creation: the bishop and the environment

Sunday 27 July: Hospitality in local parishes or at the Cathedral

Monday 28 July: Engaging with a multi faith world: the bishop, other religions and Christian witness

Tuesday 29 July: Equality in God’s sight: when power is abused (jointly with the spouses)

Wednesday 30 July: Living under Scripture: the bishop and the Bible in Mission

Thursday 31 July: Listening to God and each other: the bishop and human sexuality

Friday 1 August & Saturday 2 August: Fostering our common life: the bishop, the Covenant and the Windsor Process.

Daily Schedule

A typical ‘working’ day at the Lambeth Conference will look like this:

Eucharist
Breakfast
Bible Study groups of 8 (Indaba groups)
Coffee Break
Extended Indaba groups of 48 – including midday prayers
Lunch
Free time
Self Select Sessions
Evening Prayer
Evening Meal
Free time (fringe events)

Read more »

Worshipping together?

The LA Times ran a story that's created some drama in the blogosphere about a service in which Hindus and Christians worshiped together at an Episcopal service. The story ran on Jan. 20, claiming that "All were invited to Holy Communion, after the Episcopal celebrant elevated a tray of consecrated Indian bread, and deacons raised wine-filled chalices."

Today, a correction:

FOR THE RECORD:
Hindu-Episcopal service: An article in Sunday's California section about a joint religious service involving Hindus and Episcopalians said that all those attending the service at St. John's Cathedral in Los Angeles were invited to Holy Communion. Although attendees walked toward the Communion table, only Christians were encouraged to partake of Communion. Out of respect for Hindu beliefs, the Hindus were invited to take a flower. Also, the article described Hindus consuming bread during Communion, but some of those worshipers were Christians wearing traditional Indian dress. —

The original article includes a description of the significance of the service:


During the service, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, issued a statement of apology to the Hindu religious community for centuries-old acts of religious discrimination by Christians, including attempts to convert them.

"I believe that the world cannot afford for us to repeat the errors of our past, in which we sought to dominate rather than to serve," Bruno said in a statement read by the Rt. Rev. Chester Talton. "In this spirit, and in order to take another step in building trust between our two great religious traditions, I offer a sincere apology to the Hindu religious community."

The bishop also said he was committed to renouncing "proselytizing" of Hindus. Bruno had been scheduled to read the statement himself, but a death of a close family friend prevented him from attending the service.

Swami Sarvadevananda, of Vedanta Society of Southern California, was among about a dozen Hindu leaders honored during the service. He called Bruno's stance "a great and courageous step" that binds the two communities.

"By declaring that there will be no more proselytizing, the bishop has opened a new door of understanding," Sarvadevananda said. "The modern religious man must expand his understanding and love of religions and their practices."

The story, with correction inserted, is here.

Fireside chats with KJS

Father Jake offers a recap and commentary on his "fireside chat" with the Presiding Bishop on Tuesday . A sample:

Bp. Katharine reminded us that there are two stories of creation in Genesis. One begins with the creative act of God, after which we are told that God looked upon creation and declared that "It is very good." The other creation account focuses on the fall in the garden.

The divisions among Christians today can be seen to be loosely along the lines of which of these stories we choose to emphasize. Do we begin with recognizing that we were created "very good," that the intention was always for us to be "God's beloved," or do we begin with the story of the fall, beginning our relationship with God with the idea "I am a miserable sinner." Where we begin influences the nature of our conversations, not only among other Christians, but with the world, and with God.

Another way to sum up these differences among Christians today would be to suggest that there are those focused on "the depravity of man" and those who choose to focus on "the glory of God." Of course, in the end it is not a matter of "either/or" but "and/also." However, if we choose to begin the story of God with a blessing, that will lead us to quite different conclusions about the nature of our relationship with God in comparison to beginning with a story whose conclusion involves judgment and punishment.

Read it all here.

Episcopal women's orgs going 2.0

Episcopal Life points us to how members the Council of Episcopal Women's Organizations (CEWO) are learning about how to reach "new audiences through blogs, Facebook, YouTube, iPods and other electronic forms of staying in touch" in the new media environment. The reporting on it is rather thin, but you can read about it here.

And don't forget the Cafe is on Facebook as well, both as a group for social interaction and a page for feeds.

Yumoto vacated from Executive Council position

Almost in answer to our question yesterday about whether Ted Yumoto can remain on the national Executive Council (here), Episcopal Life is reporting that the Province VIII executive committee needs nominations for a lay representative to the national Executive Council to fill the position considered vacated by Ted Yumoto:

The Rev. Jack Eastwood, Province. VIII president, said that a decision was made to vacate the seat held by Ted Yumoto of the Fresno, California-based Diocese of San Joaquin after Yumoto told them he "had voted to amend canons and the constitution of the diocese" to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Eastwood said he was appreciative of Yumoto's "stable and consistent" leadership to Province VIII and the church over the years. But, the provincial leadership "agreed that we need to have a representative who is professing to be a member of the Episcopal Church and not some other loyalty," Eastwood said January 24.

"I'm really very sorry this is happening," said Eastwood, the retired rector of St. Paul's, Oakland. "But, we felt we needed to take this action for the province and the responsibility to represent it on Executive Council, we felt we needed to move forward on this."

Economy, govt. cleanup, poverty top issues among Evangelicals

Last week, Beliefnet conducted an online poll of 980 self-identified "evangelical/born again" respondents, and it showed that 85 percent of respondents marked the economy and "cleaning up government" as top issues. While most still identify as conservative and express their views of the Bible as being "the inerrant word of God," many would be surprised by what comes next:

Generally speaking, however, evangelicals ranked traditionally progressive or Democratic causes as more important than traditionally conservative or Republican ones. Twenty three percent said their views had become less positive about Republicans, twice the number who said they'd soured on Democrats, though half of respondents said they had become less positive about both parties. Almost 60-percent said they favored a more progressive evangelical agenda focused more on protecting the environment, tackling HIV/AIDs, and alleviating poverty and less on abortion and homosexuality.

Combining those who labeled an issue "most important" or “very important,” the results were:

The economy (85%)
Cleaning up government (85%)
Reducing poverty (80%)
Improving public education/access to health care (78%)
Protecting the environment (70%)
Ending torture (68%)
Ending Iraq war (67%)
Ending abortion (61%)
Combating sex and violence in the media and entertainment (59%)
Illegal immigration (59%)
Stopping gay marriage (49%)
Helping Africa (48%)
Winning Iraq war (46%)
Fighting Islamic radicalism (58%)


Additionally, more than half of the respondents answered yes to this question:
"Lots of media attention has been paid to a progressive evangelical agenda focused more on protecting the environment, tackling HIV/AIDS, alleviating poverty, and promoting human rights and less on abortion and homosexuality. Does this more progressive agenda reflect your political priorities?"

68 percent of evangelicals polled felt that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is by changing the culture through education and other means, as opposed to the 26 percent that think the best way is by limiting abortion rights, such as by overturning Roe v. Wade.

The story is here, and the complete poll results are here.

Church of England reaction to GAFCON

The Church Times has a pair of articles that report on the effects that the Jerusalem based GAFCON conference might have on the Lambeth Conference this summer.

In the first article, which discusses the press briefing that accompanied the launch of the Lambeth Conference Office, both the Bishop of Durham, and the Archbishop of Canterbury have expressed their concern:

"...prominent Evangelical, the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, has also countered the impression that ‘the GAFCON movement’ is the cradle of biblical orthodoxy. Writing in this week’s Church Times, he states: ‘Some who want to go to Lambeth are under primatial pressure not to do so, and to go to GAFCON instead.’

On the subject of GAFCON, Dr Williams said merely: ‘I do have real concerns that in this case there are unresolved issues for the local Church, the Church in Jerusalem, that have pinpointed some real anxieties about having such a conference at this time in the Holy Land.’"

In the second article, the Church Times reports on the Bishop of Jerusalem's request that a different venue be found for GAFCON in his meeting with the Conference organizers, a story that we covered earlier in the week.

Thinking Anglicans has a summary of additional news, plus a link to the article by Bishop Wright, which appears in the Church Times, but which is not otherwise available to paid subscribers.

UPDATE: The site Covenant-Communion has the full text of Bishop Wright's article which was with permission of the author.

Read the rest here.

North Carolina and Botswana

The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina has entered into a companionship relationship with the Diocese of Botswana.

The News Observer, a local North Carolina newspaper has a long article that discusses the significance of the relationship between the dioceses:

[In] the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, one of the most liberal in the nation, a new experiment is taking shape. Last week, Bishop Michael Curry and the Anglican bishop of Botswana signed a historic companion partnership agreement.

It will enable members of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, stretching across 39 Piedmont counties, to work with their Anglican counterparts in Botswana on youth programs, medical missions, day-care centers, schools and university chaplaincy programs.

The article continues with a brief history of the controversy that is found at present in the Anglican Communion, and then concludes by stating that the Diocese of North Carolina's stance on the issues is not seen as something that should block its ability to work alongside Anglicans in Botswana:

"The crisis is far from over, and it's not clear what may happen at the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference, when leaders of the Anglican Communion gather in England this summer. One thing is clear: The diocese of North Carolina is not backing down. At last week's convention in Greensboro, delegates approved a resolution asking the national church to support the full inclusion of gays and lesbians and to encourage the development of liturgies to bless same-sex unions.

That didn't seem to bother Bishop Mwamba of Botswana. During a convention speech, he received enthusiastic applause when he said, 'Let us beware of excommunicating each other here on Earth, for we shall find in heaven we are still bound together at the table of Christ's love -- Archbishop Akinola sitting next to Gene Robinson.'"

Read the rest here.

The ENS reporting on the same story can be found here.

Diocese nears settlement with Bristol parish

An article in the Hartford Courant reports that leadership of Trinity Church in Bristol Connecticut and the Diocese of Connecticut are beginning to approach a settlement in a property dispute that resulted when the leadership of parish voted to leave the diocesan structures.

From the article:

'Lawyers for a Bristol congregation, which defected from the Episcopal Church to join a more conservative Anglican group last year, and the Connecticut Diocese are negotiating an end to litigation over the church property, according to church sources.

Members of the Trinity Church parish and its pastor, the Rev. Donald Helmandollar, probably will vacate the property once the diocese's lawsuit against Trinity is dismissed, the sources said.

Neither Helmandollar nor Connecticut Episcopal Bishop Andrew Smith would discuss the negotiations, citing the sensitive nature of the relationship between Trinity and the diocese.

The question of who keeps the church building and all the property once a congregation votes to leave the Episcopal Church is one that has preoccupied church officials on both the state and national level in recent years."

The article points out that this settlement may only effect this parish. The other congregations which voted to leave are using different strategies and creating alliances with other conservative groups within the Anglican Communion.

Read the rest here.

Covenant Conference

General Seminary in New York will be the site of conference to discuss the proposed Anglican Covenant. The conference is scheduled for mid-April and will use the Desmond Tutu Center as its venue. The conference title is "An Anglican Covenant: Divisive or Reconciling?"

According the press release received today:

The Tutu Center conference is an opportunity to engage the issues. Will an Anglican Covenant clarify Anglican identity and strengthen mutual interdependence? Or will it be a tool of exclusion and dominance? Is a covenant a biblical way forward, or would it impose a uniformity foreign to Anglicanism? Would a covenant assist or impede reconciliation among Anglicans?

Three keynote speakers from parts of the Anglican Communion outside North America will present diverse views about the advisability of a covenant, the current draft, and the dynamics of current covenant discussion. Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the Province of the West Indies chairs the Covenant Design Group and is a strong advocate for a covenant. Offering a different analysis will be Dr. Jenny Te Paa, Dean of the College of St. John the Evangelist in Auckland, New Zealand, who also served on the Lambeth Commission on Communion. Canon Gregory Cameron, Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, will speak on the theme "Boundaries Old and Boundaries New: Views from the Edge of the Anglican Communion."

All interested persons from congregations, dioceses and the ecumenical community are welcome to the conference, as are persons who hold views anywhere along the wide spectrum of views in the current controversies of the church.

Panels of scholars from seminaries of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada will address the covenant question of reconciliation from the perspectives of scripture, history, theology, liturgy, ethics, mission and Anglican polity. As of mid-January, confirmed presenters include the Rev. Dr. Ellen Wondra of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary; Dr. Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski of Church Divinity School of the Pacific; the Rev. Dr. Leander Harding of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry; the Very Rev. Dr. John Kevern of Bexley Hall; the Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas of Episcopal Divinity School; and the Very Rev. Dr. Joseph Britton of Berkeley Divinity School. Students from the seminaries will be included as respondents to keynote and panel addresses

.

The full press release is found below

Read more »

Is capitalism good for the soul?

In this essay from the Australian magazine Policy, Peter Saunders argues that while capitalism lacks romantic appeal, it "offers the best chance we have for leading meaningful and worthwhile lives." Socialism’s history, he writes, "is littered with repeated failures and with human misery on a massive scale," yet it is attractive to "people who never had to live under it."

Is there any sense in which capitalism might be said to be good for the soul? The Judeo-Christian tradition doesn’t offer much help in building such an argument. The Christian idea of the ‘soul’ refers to the spiritual essence of a human being created in the image of God, and there has been no shortage of theologians claiming that capitalism is incompatible with the full development and expression of this spiritual essence. For some church leaders, the basic principles of capitalism (private property rights, competition, and the pursuit of profit through free market exchange) seem incompatible with Christian ethics. Their arguments are familiar—inequality is immoral, the pursuit of wealth is ignoble, private property is selfish—and these claims are commonly backed up with the authority of scripture. Didn’t Jesus preach that it is ‘easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’? Doesn’t the first epistle to Timothy warn that ‘love of money is a root of all sorts of evil’?

However, not all theologians interpret the scriptures in this way. Some suggest that it is not profit, private property, or free markets that the Bible condemns so much as individual greed and covetousness. Paul taught that ‘greed … amounts to idolatry,’ but his message was not that riches themselves are bad. He simply warned rich people against allowing the pursuit of money to eclipse what is really important in life. Much in the Christian tradition emphasises God’s desire that we should be innovative in developing and improving the world. In the parable of the three talents, for example, the master rebukes the servant who buried his money, but praises those servants who invested and created more wealth—which is precisely what modern capitalism is about.

It is not difficult from within the Judeo-Christian tradition to argue that capitalism is ‘a highly moral system, nourishing the best that is in us and checking the worst.’ But as Michael Novak reminds us, the revelations of God recorded by Jews, Christians, and Muslims centuries ago were intended to be universal, and were not tied to any one system of organising human affairs. Therefore, it is probably a mistake to trawl through the scriptures searching for nuggets that might support this or that system of political economy, for the word of God was never intended to be used as a blueprint for designing socioeconomic systems.

Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily.

Bp. Lee addresses Virginia Council

During a pastoral address that summarized the mission work of the Diocese of Virginia and illustrated the problems faced when giving doesn't add up to diocesan needs, Bishop Peter James Lee, noted the following about the the funding of ongoing litigation with breakaway parishes, reiterating statements from the parish about the court case and the Va. Attorney General's recent intervention in it:

Defending our heritage and securing our future is expensive. We have spent so far nearly two million dollars on litigation costs as a defendant. We are blessed with dedicated and very effective lawyers, a number of whom are either working pro bono or at discounted rates as a gift to the church. Mike Kerr, our chief financial officer, with the authorization of the Executive Board has obtained a line of credit for the legal fees so we are current in paying them. The interest on the line of credit is being paid by endowment income so that no pledge money from churches or individuals is used for legal fees. At the conclusion of this litigation, we expect to pay off the line of credit by selling undeveloped and unconsecrated property, a process that is already under way. No one likes lawsuits but at the same time, our generation has a stewardship responsibility to protect the property of our churches for Episcopalians in the next 400 years.

This case involves Virginia’s historic tradition of religious liberty. Virginia is the home of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, adopted by the General Assembly in 1786. The recent motion of Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell to intervene in the case represents an intrusion by the state into the freedom of the church. The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia, as well as other faith communities from across the Commonwealth, oppose this intrusion. Whether the Attorney General will be permitted to intervene is the subject of a hearing today in Fairfax Circuit Court. If the Attorney General’s view of the law prevails, it will mean that the Commonwealth of Virginia gives preference to churches with congregational governance, discriminates against churches that are hierarchical or connectional in their governance and intrudes into the doctrine and discipline of communities of faith. We are involved in a legal case that has serious consequences for religious liberty.

But the hot topic at the annual council was immigration. R-9s, "Working for Just and Humane Immigration Policy," generated passionate debate over whether the resolution should contain a stipulation that it apply to legal immigrants only, in light of recent legislation proposals that could criminalize humanitarian assistance to undocumented aliens. But the resolution ultimately passed without any changes, resolving that the Council joins the 75th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Church in adopting the policy principles set forth in Resolution 2006-A017 supporting opportunities for undocumented aliens in response to recognized labor force needs as well as policies that support families and due process for all persons.

The complete text of Bishop Lee's pastoral address is here.

Webcast provided for San Joaquin Remain Episcopal event

Updated

The "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" gathering of Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin is being broadcast online, live today at 10 a.m. Pacific. The video stream will bring live coverage of the gathering at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford, California. It will also bring Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's greetings to continuing Episcopalians gathered at the Central
California Valley historic church, said Mike Collins, Episcopal Life Media Video/Multicast Unit director.

"The situation in the Diocese of San Joaquin is something that is on the minds of Episcopalians across the country," Collins said. "We felt it was important to provide live streaming coverage to the wider church as well as to show support for those who remain in the diocese."

A direct link to the webcast is here, or you can access it directly from the Episcopal Church website. A full release on the webcast is http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_94267_ENG_HTM.htm

Updated Saturday afternoon: More developments unfolding from the diocese, as Jefferts Schori has written to the members of the standing committee who unanimously voted to disaffiliate the diocese from the national church that she does not recognize them as the standing committee and is supporting those seeking to reconstitute the diocese:


"The Presiding Bishop has asked for the formulation of a broad based steering committee on the local level who will work with her and her Office in a variety of ways, including working with her on a process for the calling of a special convention," said the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop.

"This convention will, among other things, elect a new Standing Committee and make provision for an interim Bishop. It is unclear when the special convention will be called," Robertson said.

The response comes in part to earlier reports that Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin had closed mission congregations and fired vicars who did not support his move away from the Episcopal Church.

"The Episcopal Church is prepared to provide financial support to those mission priests who are dismissed and remain loyal to the Church and to assist in expenses related to the reorganization of the Diocese," Robertson added.

More on that here.

The implication is that those Standing Committee members who were removed by Schofield as members of his standing committee (because they are members of congregations who are exercising the option to decide whether to follow Schofield out of the Episcopal Church) would not automatically be members of the standing committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin; the Anglican Communion Office listing for the Diocese of San Joaquin lists the diocese under The Episcopal Church, and states that the position of diocesan bishop is vacant. See also The Lead's story from Thursday in which the seat of a member of TEC's Excutive Council was declared vacant he reported he "had voted to amend canons and the constitution of the diocese" to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

On a listening process

The Rev. Thomas Woodward, who writes for The Episcopal Majority blog, was invited to speak with members of the Fort Worth Via Media about "remaining Episcopal." Before he did so, he asked Bishop Iker if they could meet and discuss whether Iker had concerns over his visit. He has written about the experience, noting his appreciation for the meeting and summarizing several insights about what it's like to be in dialog with someone from the other side of the aisle, so to speak:

First, what a joy it is when two people, so opposed on so many critical issues and concerns, can spend time relating to the best in the other with the best of ourselves. That is not the whole truth, but it is part of the truth. Second, I do not discount the hurt and sometimes the humiliation my friends and others in Fort Worth have suffered when +Jack has stepped over the line, nor the havoc his beliefs and attitudes about women’s ordination and our “Anglican agonies” have wreaked. Third, at this point the two of us are in the same church and attempting to follow the same Lord. Fourth, there is certainly pain when we encounter the worst in each other, but the pain is worse when we encounter their best, for it is then that the deep ache sets in as we wait for a time when our several wounds are healed and our fears are stopped in such a way that our best is our consistent selves. We are obviously not there yet.

The reflection is here.

The Bible in fiction

Washington Post blog contributor Alan Cooperman lists his five favorite "retellings" of Biblical stories, and is very effusive over the Jenkins/LaHaye books. But before listing his top five, he invites readers to share their favorites as well—or perhaps to just abuse him with their favorites; hard to say.

His list:

1. Joseph and His Brothers (1933-1944) by Thomas Mann. Four sublime volumes by the Nobel Prize winner, a great work of literature and learned Bible commentary, even if Mann did base Joseph's rescue of the Egyptian people from starvation on FDR's New Deal.

2. J.B. (1958) by Archibald MacLeish. The poet and librarian of Congress won a Pulitzer for this play, a re-telling of the Book of Job with some debt to Jean-Paul Sartre, too.

3. Song of Solomon (1977) by Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison. OK, this isn't exactly a retelling, more a string of biblical themes and allusions, complete with a character memorably named "First Corinthians." It was an early Oprah Book Club pick and a bestseller.

4. The Red Tent (1997) by Anita Diamant. A feminist retelling of the rape and avenging of Dinah, whose own voice is conspicuously missing from Genesis 34. Socko popular fiction, millions sold.

5. The Left Behind series and The Jesus Chronicles (1995-present). 65 million copies sold and counting, though I suspect that The Jesus Chronicles (retelling the four gospels) won't enrapture nearly as many readers as the apocalyptic books did.

So far in comments, readers have submitted The Last Temptation of Christ; East of Eden; and Lamb: The Gospel of Biff, Jesus' Childhood Pal. If you would like to put a few nominees up, you can read the post here.

Hispanic evangelicals moving to the Democrats

Christianity Today is reporting that the Republican Party's hold on Hispanic evangelical votes is slipping, and the rhetoric about immigration is a leading cause. While this vote is small, it could make the difference in several swing states:

Nearly four in ten Hispanic voters and two-thirds of Hispanic evangelicals backed Bush in 2004—and those numbers were headed up for 2006. "Conservative projections had 53 percent of all Hispanics and 80 percent of born-again Latinos going Republican," said Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Then immigration came to the forefront of national discussion. Republicans generally pegged it a law-and-order issue and talked tough, leaving an opening for Democrats to appeal to Hispanic voters. "Democrats are saying, 'Let's talk about your family and your faith,'" Rodriguez said. "They're saying, 'The other side doesn't want you.'"

In the 2006 midterm elections, Latino support for Republicans sank. "Exit poll numbers showed Hispanics shifted away from the Republicans," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "Latinos gave 30 percent of their vote to Republican candidates, a 10-point swing."

If the pattern continues, the resulting double-digit dive could mean millions more lost votes for the Republicans in 2008. Although Latinos will likely cast only 6.5 percent of the votes in November, according to Lugo, they may double that showing in swing states like Florida, New Mexico, and Colorado.

And the issue of immigration is creating a schism between white and Hispanic evangelicals:

White evangelicals and Hispanic evangelicals are deeply split on the issue. While white evangelicals have polled higher than the general population in considering immigrants a burden to society, for instance, nearly 60 percent of Hispanic evangelicals believe immigrants strengthen society.

"A divide is an understatement," Rodriguez said of white and Hispanic evangelicals' differing views. "The term is schism."

Read it all here.

New Age faith and mental health

A University of Queensland PhD thesis come to some interesting conclusions about new-age spirituality and mental health:

Rosemary Aird examined a possible correlation between new forms of spirituality and mental health as part of her University of Queensland PhD studies.

After surveying more than 3700 Brisbane-based 21-year-olds, she found spirituality and self-focused religions may undermine a person's mental health.

"I had a look at two different beliefs - one was a belief in God, associated with traditional religions, and the other was the newer belief in a spiritual or higher power other than God," Dr Aird said.

The research found non-traditional belief was linked with higher rates of anxiety, depression, disturbed and suspicious ways of thinking and anti-social behaviour.

New-age beliefs promote the idea of self-transformation, self-fulfilment and self-enlightenment, which could see many people excluded from a community environment, she said.

"Traditional religion tends to promote the idea of social responsibility and thinking of others' interests, whereas the new-age movement pushes the idea that we can transform the world by changing ourselves.

"The downside is that people are very much on their own and not part of a community, which may lead to a kind of isolation."

Young people with new-age beliefs were twice as likely to be more anxious and depressed than those with traditional beliefs, the research found.

Why would this be the case? Aside from the lack of community, Aird notes the lack of a stable belief system:

As people have moved away from traditional religious beliefs in recent times, most have been left with a desire to find meaning and purpose in life, she said.

"People who are into the new-age spirituality tend to shop around and will often borrow from all sorts of old beliefs, like Wicca, witchcraft or Native American religions.

"It's a whole mish-mash and changes all the time, where they'll do something for a while before doing something else."

Read it all here. Hat tip to Religion News Blog.

What do you think?

Presiding Bishop wows them in Roanoke

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, elected leader of the nation's 2.7 million Episcopal Church members, roused an audience of her denomination's regional leaders in Roanoke on Saturday.

"Pester your legislators" to be more aggressive in battling poverty and hunger across the globe, urged Jefferts Schori. "Annoy them."

The 53-year-old former oceanographer, who is said by religious scholars to be the only female top-ranked official of a major denomination -- except for Queen Elizabeth II, whose crown makes her head of the Church of England -- spoke with the conviction of a street preacher.


That's this morning's Roanoke (Va.) Times reporting on our Presiding Bishop's address to the delegates assembled at the annual council of the Diocesese of Southwestern Virginia. Jefferts Schori had a busy day.
Later in the day, Jefferts Schori joined a group of about 180 youths at St. John's Episcopal Church to help pack dry meals for shipment to Third World nations.

To be sure, one afternoon's preparation of meals won't go far among the Earth's underfed masses, but Jefferts Schori recognizes the importance of symbols. She is one, after all, embodying a new era among Episcopalians.

And, as The Lead earlier reported, she also addressed Episcopalians in San Joaquin by a live video link yesterday.

An economist takes on modern marriage

The New York Times Freakonomics blog is always provocative, and a guest post by economist Justin Wolfers on the history and economics of marriage is no exception.

Quoting from an earlier essay by himself and Betsy Stevenson, Wolfers argues that the history of family life has been a move from shared production to shared consumption--and that marriage has bcome an "hedonistic" institution as a result:

Here is how they describe tradtional marriage:

[F]amilies have always played a role in “filling in” where incomplete market institutions would otherwise have hindered economic development. For example, even in the absence of well-functioning contract law, families found ways to enforce agreements among kin. This naturally gave the family a role as an organizing device for economic activity, and the limits of the firm often coincided with the limits of the family. … Similarly, prior to the expansion of the welfare state, the family had been a key provider of insurance, as spouses agreed not only to support each other “through richer, through poorer, in sickness and in health,” but also extended this guarantee to parents, children, and siblings. Before modern credit markets arrived, access to capital was often facilitated through family ties. … A number of goods and services, such as freshly-cooked meals or childcare, were historically not sold in the market sector. Thus, the family became the firm producing these household services.

But, as they note, things have changed:

The forces shaping family life have changed with the development of the market economy. An increasingly sophisticated system of contract law has made possible enormous economic benefits, but in the process the modern corporation has come to supplant the family firm as the key unit of production. The development of social insurance has spread greater security to many but has reduced the role of the family as a provider of insurance. Most recently, technological, social and legal changes have reduced the value of specialization within households.

. . .

So what drives modern marriage? We believe that the answer lies in a shift from the family as a forum for shared production to shared consumption. In case the language of economic lacks romance, let’s be clearer: modern marriage is about love and companionship. Most things in life are simply better shared with another. … The key today is consumption complementarities — activities that are not only enjoyable, but are more enjoyable when shared with a spouse. We call this new model of sharing our lives “hedonic marriage.”

The Freakonomics post can be found here. The original essay can be found here.

As we said at the outset, this is provocative stuff. Clearly, this is the view of marriage from an economic perspective, and does not purport to fully explain modern marriage. Still, what do you think?

Neither right nor left, but a moral center

Last week evangelical activist Jim Wallis said that the dominance of the religious right in American politics has ended. He appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (and in other places) talking about his new book The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in the Post-Religious Right America. He says:

The dominance of the religious right over our politics is finally finished…

But the even better news is that now a new generation has come of age and they’re applying their faith to the biggest issues each of us faces: the moral scandal of poverty, the degradation of the environment which we call God’s creation, climate change, Darfur, human rights…the exclusive use of war to fight evil and the cultural assault on your three year old and my four year old.

And:

The country isn’t hungry for a religious left to replace the religious right. They don’t want to go left or right. They want to go deeper. They want to go to a moral center.

Hat tip to: Revolution in Jesusland.

See also: The Comedy Central video.

Towards a positive definition of Europe

The Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed for a "positive definition" of Europe that identifies the best of its history, faith and culture.

According to a report on the BBC News website, Dr Rowan Williams said most discussion on Europe focused on what it is not, rather than what it is.

"We need to understand some of the most basic things for which the word Europe stands when used positively," he urged.

He was speaking at Liverpool Cathedral during a visit to the city, which is European Capital of Culture 2008.

The Press Association carries this summary:

In the speech, entitled Europe, Faith and Culture, he said that much discussion suggests people are better at saying what Europe is not, rather than identifying what it is.

Dr Williams said: "But we need from time to time to try and rescue a positive definition of some sort; which means a bit of history and a bit of political philosophy...

"We need to understand some of the most basic things for which the word Europe stands when it is used positively, we need some thinking about religion as well specifically about Christianity.

"And if the presence of Europe in the world hasn't been and isn't now exclusively a source of good things, it may be...we find the problems appear in proper perspective only when we've thought harder about these religious issues..."

He said that a way forward "from some of our world's most stale and destructive situations" could happen only when such work had been done.

Dr Williams said he was treating a great deal of what the US presented as its "unique contribution" to the world as derivative from certain trends which start in Europe.

He continued: "Grace Davie has written of the European exception in discussing the patterns of religious commitment and practice in our world.

"She is of course saying this in the light also of the statistically high level of religious practice in the USA; but I'd want to suggest that since religion in the USA is characterised by many deeply untraditional features, by a sort of market principle of maximum variety and choice, it is itself as untypical as Europe in the context of what the rest of the human race thinks about religion."

Read: BBC: Archbishop urges better EU focus

Read: The Press Association: Give Europe a chance - Archbishop

A link to the speech on the ABC's own website appears to be down. As soon as we know the site is up, we will link it here.

Saving houses of worship

Preservationists, who have in the past been reluctant to offer landmark status and preservation dollars to religious institutions, are sounding alarms that houses of worship that anchor urban neighborhoods are beginning to decay from neglect, lack of funding in poor congregations for complex maintenance, and decay. These spaces have also become targets for acquisition by developers where choice real estate is in short supply.

The New York Times reports :

Throughout the city, houses of worship built in the last century for Jewish and Christian immigrants from Europe are now home to congregations with roots in Latin America, the Caribbean or the American South. Some are grand palaces that occupy a regal spot in a neighborhood, while others are modest halls nearly indistinguishable from bland storefronts. They sustain communities by helping slake spiritual and material thirsts.

Many of these buildings are under threat, crumbling from years of neglect and deferred maintenance in the case of impoverished congregations, or becoming targets for acquisition by developers in neighborhoods where choice real estate is scarce.

Preservationists have begun to sound alarms, warning that rich urban traditions of art, religion and community service are imperiled.

“You see in these buildings history and continuity, and the influence of new populations and new religions,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “The face of the city will change and an important part of our history will be lost if these buildings disappear.”

Preservationists and urban planners say that city officials have generally been reluctant to landmark religious buildings or to help them with funds for structural repairs and rehabilitation out of concern over separation of church and state. But some advocates have argued that these congregations, which are often community anchors in distressed neighborhoods, deserve a measure of public help.

Julia Vitullo-Martin, director of the Center for Rethinking Development, an urban-policy group, has urged city officials to form a commission dedicated to preserving religious buildings and the role they play in communities. She is the author of a recent paper that suggests city officials could mediate between developers and congregations that wish to strengthen their coffers by selling air rights or unused buildings and parcels.

Ms. Vitullo-Martin said that without a consistent planning approach, cash-poor congregations risk having to demolish their buildings or riling their neighbors by allowing developers to build tall apartment buildings.

“If nothing is done, these churches could fall like dominoes,” she said. “There is something sad about the destruction of something of great beauty. It is the ultimate in using up your capital when you destroy a church or synagogue.”

The article, written by David Gonzalez, gives particular attention to Christian congregations that occupy former synagogues in neighborhoods that were once predominantly Jewish. The unstated implications, obvious to anyone who works to preserve and grow an urban church in a mainly suburban world, is that the past dynamic of one congregation replacing another as one group gave way to another is less and less an option for those interested in preservation.

As the religious landscape changes, many of these neighborhoods are not forming new congregations to fill old spaces, but convert these buildings to secular uses. Preservation schemes, laudable as they are, may be a subtle indicator of greater social (and religious) forces at work in the culture.

Read: The New York Times: Once Synagogues, Now Churches, and Ailing Quietly.

Wright on GAFCON

Last week, Bishop N.T. Wright wrote a piece for the Church Times called "Evangelicals are not about to jump ship" and it is available on their web-site only to subscribers. The text appears here with the permission of the Church Times.

ST PAUL, facing shipwreck off Malta, spotted the soldiers getting into a small boat to rescue themselves. "Unless these men stay in the ship," he said to the centurion, "you cannot be saved."

A similar urgent plea must now be addressed to those who, envisaging the imminent break-up of the good ship Anglican, are getting into a lifeboat called GAFCON, leaving the rest of us to face the future without them.

I have shared the frustration of the past five years, both in the United States and around the world. I have often wished that the Windsor report could have provided a more solid and speedy resolution. But the ship hasn't sunk yet.

The rationale of GAFCON (the Global Anglican Future Conference) is: "The Communion is finished; nothing new can happen; it's time to split." No mention is made of the Windsor report, the proposed Anglican Covenant, or, indeed, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent letter, insisting as it does on scriptural authority, which GAFCON seems to regard as its monopoly.

That last point is crucial. To say "scripture is our authority" does not commit anyone to joining the small group represented by Chris Sugden, Martyn Minns, and Peter Jensen. It is clear that they are the prime movers and drafters, making a mockery of Canon Sugden's claim (Comment, 11 January) that GAFCON is about rescuing the Churches from Western culture. But they have marshalled impressive support, particularly from great leaders like Henry Orombi of Uganda.

But where are Archbishops Mouneer Anis, John Chew, and Drexel Gomez, not to mention the Windsor and Camp Allen bishops in the States, and the great majority of traditionalist Anglicans, including most Evangelicals, in the UK? The rhetoric of "We are the Bible-believing orthodox; so this is what we must do" simply isn't good enough. Many others share the
belief, but draw different practical conclusions.

DESPITE official denials, GAFCON will appear to many to be an alternative to the Lambeth Conference. Some who want to go to Lambeth are under primatial pressure not to do so, and to go to GAFCON instead. Even those free to choose may find two trips beyond their limited means.

Going to the Holy Land shows an alarming lack of awareness of Christian realities in the Middle East, including what looks dangerously like a casual disregard for the local bishop and Primate, who were informed at the last minute.

The Jerusalem Post article about the conference, proudly displayed on the GAFCON website, highlights different Anglican attitudes to the Israel/Palestine question. Do the organisers really want to raise those matters? Do they know what will happen if they do?

THE DANGER of GAFCON is that the rhetoric - "the Communion's finished" - could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of the organisers actually seem to want a Lambeth Conference robbed of lively, orthodox bishops from around the world, so that they can point to the results and say: "There you are: told you so."

If, instead, such bishops come, bringing their cheerful worship, their deep understanding of scripture, and their wide experience of mission among the world's poorest, this could be a great moment of renewal. Dr Williams has made it clear that Windsor and the Covenant are the tools
with which to forge our future. "Orthodox" bishops should celebrate that, and join in the task.

Our Communion has for the past five years been living through 2 Corinthians: the challenge to re-establish an authority based on the gospel alone and embodied in human weakness. Inevitably, "super-apostles" then emerge, declaring that such theology is for wimps.

To them I would say: Are they Evangelicals? So am I. Are they orthodox? So am I. Do they believe in the authority of scripture? So do I (including the bits they regularly downplay). Are they keen on mission? So am I, and on the full mission of God's kingdom which an older Evangelicalism often ignores.

Those who want to be biblical should ponder what the Bible itself says about such things. There are many in the GAFCON movement whom I admire and long to see at Lambeth, but the movement itself is deeply flawed. It does not hold the moral, biblical, or Evangelical high ground.

To say no to GAFCON is not to say yes to the revisionist agendas prevailing in much of the Episcopal Church in the US. It is to say yes to a Lambeth Conference based on and taking forward the Archbishop's agenda of Windsor and the Covenant, in pursuit of what Dr Williams refers to in his recent letter as "an authoritative common voice".

It is, in other words, to say yes to a future Anglican Communion rooted in the full authority of scripture. The Archbishop has spoken of the Lambeth invitation in terms of facing the suffering of the cross together, in order to share the glory of the resurrection. When Jesus said that to his followers, James and John immediately started to think about their own chances of power and prestige.

Thomas, however, had the right idea: "Let's go with him, so that we may die with him." And, before they even arrived, they saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead.

Dr Tom Wright is Bishop of Durham.

The column will be available on the Church Times website for non-subscribers after February 1.

The significance of this column for the American audience is that it is a prime example of the fact that the Anglican right cannot essential strategy. Other examples include Matt Kennedy's analysis that the movement that calls itself Anglican orthodoxy is in disarray, Archbishop Anis' disagreement with the presence of GAFCON in Jerusalem (Anis was a harsh critic of the Episcopal Church at the House of Bishop's New Orleans meeting), the fact that many in Diocese of San Joaquin have not completed the jump to the Province of the Southern Cone.

Holocaust remembrance

Holocaust survivors and religious leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks took part in a ceremony consisting of poems, music and speeches as well as personal stories from survivors in observance of Holocaust memorial day in Liverpool on Sunday.

Faith leaders called for the end of genocide throughout the world as they gathered in Liverpool to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, signed a Pledge Against Genocide in the form of a large mural artwork.

The mural on the ground outside the city's Philharmonic Hall was dedicated to encouraging individuals to add their support for an end to the systematic destruction of others in the 21st century.

More than 1,600 people, including survivors of the Holocaust, attended the emotional national commemoration service at the Philharmonic which featured personal testimony from survivors and relatives, poetry, music and speeches.

The event in the European Capital of Culture fell on the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Among the speakers were Kay Fyne who came on the Kindertransport before the outbreak of the Second World War and now lives in Liverpool, and the Rev Leslie Hardman, who participated in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration and led the first Jewish service there.

Read: The Press Association: Call for an end of genocide

Read: Christian Today: Archbishop of Canterbury joins Liverpool Holocaust memorial

Also read: inthenews.co.uk: Holocaust memorial day observed in Liverpool today

A weekend of hope and information

After weeks of waiting the fog in the Central Valley of California is beginning to clear. In December, the Diocese of San Joaquin voted to leave The Episcopal Church (TEC) to join the Province of the Southern Cone (Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America). San Joaquin Episcopalians who have opposed this move have wondered as clergy were threatened, vicars were removed from churches by Bishop Schofield, the Standing Committee fired by Bishop Schofield, and Bishop Schofield was inhibited by the Presiding Bishop and awaiting deposition by the House of Bishops. Plans for reconstituting The Episcopal Church were revealed.

Now the first weekend of the new era has passed. Actions and comments from bloggers and news sources reveal a bit more clarity although many of the details are still in various stages of execution.

The Fresno Bee reports on the gathering held Saturday, January 26, that brought new hope to Episcopalians in Central California. The morning session of worship and talks by the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, the Presiding Bishop's official pastoral presence and others was broadcast and can still be seen here.

"I'm beginning to hear there's hope," said (Steve) Bentley, youth director at St. Anne in Stockton. "It's beginning to sound better than in the past."

About 250 people came to worship and to hear representatives of the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Fresno-based Remain Episcopal organization. The message was clear: Don't feel abandoned.

"You are not alone," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a video message shown during the gathering. "God is always with you."


The Lodi News Sentinel reports:
As bishop, Schofield refused to allow women to be priests or serve Communion at Episcopal churches within the diocese, but on Saturday, three women served Communion during the Eucharist, said Andee Zetterbaum, an active member at St. John's who made the trip to Hanford on Saturday.

Other news reports here and here.

Jake at his blog Father Jake Stops the World, has extensive coverage of the weekend and its events. He comments on the Presiding Bishop's letter to the former Standing Committee members and live blogs with others through the comments section.

Dan Martins, former priest in San Joaquin who is currently serving in Indiana, comments here with several posts on the situation through the eyes of one who remains loyal to The Episcopal Church but is good friends with those who continue to live in San Joaquin and have served as leaders. He sees missed opportunities for reconciliation. It seems there is surprise and dismay as the consequences of approval, acquiescence and/or silence about the actions of Bishop Schofield and the former diocesan leadership closed the door to remaining in the Episcopal Church.

Katie Sherrod reflects here on the events and how they are seen by loyal Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth as Bishop Iker and that diocesan leadership follows in the footsteps of San Joaquin.

Along with many Episcopalians in Fort Worth, I watched the live video stream from the "Moving Forward, Welcoming All," gathering of the Remain Episcopal group in the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin.

It was full of hope, and even better, information.


Mark Harris comments on the Standing Committee status at Preludium.

Episcopal Life Online reports on the Gathering, the Presiding Bishop's letter to the Standing Committee, and ongoing coverage here. ELO also has this story on House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson's Sunday-morning visit to the Holy Family Episcopal Church in Fresno.

Casting out sinners

A small but growing portion of evangelical churches practice shunning and expulsion as a routine part of a common life which increasingly emphasizes discipline and conformity.

Alexandra Alter of the Wall Street Journal reported on January 18 about the practice. These pastors and congregations attempt to apply Matthew 18:15-1. When they hear of a person who is accused of sin, either by confession or through the report of another, the person is confronted in private and then publicly castigating and possibly expelling the person if they do not repent. But in modern times churches that follow this practice face controversy, rebellion, and even lawsuits.

Scholars estimate that 10% to 15% of Protestant evangelical churches practice church discipline -- about 14,000 to 21,000 U.S. congregations in total. Increasingly, clashes within churches are spilling into communities, splitting congregations and occasionally landing church leaders in court after congregants, who believed they were confessing in private, were publicly shamed.

This reflects...

a growing movement among some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline, an ancient practice in which suspected sinners are privately confronted and then publicly castigated and excommunicated if they refuse to repent. While many Christians find such practices outdated, pastors in large and small churches across the country are expelling members for offenses ranging from adultery and theft to gossiping, skipping service and criticizing church leaders.

The revival is part of a broader movement to restore churches to their traditional role as moral enforcers, Christian leaders say. Some say that contemporary churches have grown soft on sinners, citing the rise of suburban megachurches where pastors preach self-affirming messages rather than focusing on sin and redemption. Others point to a passage in the gospel of Matthew that says unrepentant sinners must be shunned.

Some members who have been expelled have pushed back, sometimes through the courts.

In the past decade, more than two dozen lawsuits related to church discipline have been filed as congregants sue pastors for defamation, negligent counseling and emotional injury, according to the Religion Case Reporter, a legal-research database. Peggy Penley, a Fort Worth, Texas, woman whose pastor revealed her extramarital affair to the congregation after she confessed it in confidence, waged a six-year battle against the pastor, charging him with negligence. Last summer, the Texas Supreme Court dismissed her suit, ruling that the pastor was exercising his religious beliefs by publicizing the affair.

Courts have often refused to hear such cases on the grounds that churches are protected by the constitutional right to free religious exercise, but some have sided with alleged sinners. In 2003, a woman and her husband won a defamation suit against the Iowa Methodist conference and its superintendent after he publicly accused her of "spreading the spirit of Satan" because she gossiped about her pastor. A district court rejected the case, but the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the woman's appeal on the grounds that the letter labeling her a sinner was circulated beyond the church.

Within the congregations that practice expulsion and shunning, there is no general agreement on how it should be carried out, says Gregory Wills, a theologian at Southern Baptist Theological seminary. He says that some pastors remove members on their own, while other churches require agreement among deacons or a majority vote from the congregation.

Read: The Wall Street Journal: Banned from Church

Kenyan Archbishop laments silence of the church

Dennis Onyango in The Standard writes:

Since foreigners began jetting into the country to mediate in the post-election conflict, retired Archbishop Dr David Gitari has been a perplexed man.

For decades, Kenyans considered the Church a powerful and neutral voice in national religious and secular affairs, including politics.

So how did it come to be that when the dispute erupted, retired South African Priest Desmond Tutu got more acceptability and raised more hope than the local prelate?


Retired Archbishop Gitari wonders what has happened to the strong voice for justice the church exercised in the past.
The candidness with which the Church handled [issues] has since dried up.

Today, even Church leaders themselves say the fire has died. They only differ on why. Gitari says: "We did not need Tutu to come all the way from South Africa to solve this crisis. We did not need Kofi Annan. The Church should have been able to solve this problem. But they are seen as partisan."

Read it all here.

HT to epiScope.

Archbishop of York meets the Pope

The Guardian reports on the first meeting of the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu with Pope Benedict XVI.

When meeting the Pope it is customary to offer him a gift, and Benedict XVI has amassed many tokens of esteem. Tony Blair gave him a painting of the Catholic convert Cardinal Newman and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah presented him with a jewelled scimitar.

When the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, met the pontiff he gave him the Holy Grail, a beer brewed in Masham, North Yorkshire.

It was the highlight of the archbishop's first trip to Rome to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and to cement cordial relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.


The Rev Canon Robert Paterson, Sentamu's chaplain, said of the meeting and discussions of the Anglican Communion:
"We said, 'Nothing is broken. Lambeth is going ahead, Rowan [the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams] is fine and it's steady as she goes'." Vatican insiders said Williams and the Pope bonded immediately when they met in 2006. Both academics, they had read each other's books before their private audience and the Pope was delighted that Williams addressed him in German. "They had a three-hour lunch," said one source. "The Pope never has a three-hour lunch with anyone."

Read it all here.

Teen elected president of ECW

A 16-year-old Alamosa High School sophomore has been elected president of the Episcopal Churchwomen at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church, Alamosa, according to the Pueblo, NM Chieftain

Samantha Sparrow, daughter of Linda Sparrow, was unanimously elected this month to the post traditionally reserved for the graying set. It is believed she is the youngest woman to be elected to the position in parish's history.

Next month she and other churchwomen will put together hygiene bags for La Puente, the San Luis Valley's homeless shelter. The women of St. Thomas typically contribute 50 or more such bags containing combs, soap, washcloths, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, lotion and other personal products to the shelter.

Read it all here.

Trevor Mwamba to be in Ladies #1 Detective Agency film

The Tacoma, Washington News Tribune interviews Alexander McCall Smith, author of the Ladies #1 Detective Agency series.

“Mma Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Kgale Hill.”
Alexander McCall Smith acknowledges that the opening sentence in his 1998 best-seller, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, is an homage to the opening line in another famous novel, Out of Africa, by Danish writer Isak Dinesen.

Smith’s series of books about Ramotswe (the ninth, The Miracle at Speedy Motors, will be published this spring) are a valentine to Botswana, and by extension, much of southern Africa. They describe its parched, rolling landscape, endless blue skies and gentle, forthright people in loving terms.

The books are not really detective stories in the true sense of the word. The crimes investigated are not gory homicides, but rather the less dramatic trespasses of everyday life: cheating husbands, errant children, wily con men.

Are your characters composites of people you have met?

Usually they are. I tend not to base fictional characters on very specific people. What I do is, I put real people in the books – with their agreement.

I put words into their mouths and I show them what they say. They usually say, “I would have said that, if I’d thought of it.”

Also revealed in the interview is the film role for Bishop Mwamba:

In the Botswana novels, there are real people. Trevor Mwamba is the real Anglican Bishop of Botswana. He actually is appearing in the film. Anthony Minghella (the director) gave him a part in the film.

Read it all here.

Africa: a need for nuance

Harvard Divinity Bulletin offers a variety of articles on the intersection of faith and life: articles, reviews, and opinion pieces on religion and contemporary life, religion and the arts, religious history, and the study of religion. Two articles in this issue discuss religious life in Africa. One, From Periphery to Center, on how pentecostalism is transforming the secular state in Africa. The other, On Africa, a Need for Nuance is a response to the first article.

Simeon O. Ilesanmi contends that as mainline churches become more and more entwined with governmental and financial power, Pentecostalism is providing space for those who do not have power.

In Nigeria, for example, while all the public federal and state universities are becoming shadows of their former glories, private universities established by Pentecostal churches have become oases of relative stability and quality education. As the secular state retreats into irrelevance and reduces the possibilities of meaningful life for millions of Africans, signs of hope are emerging from unlikely quarters. While ordinary Pentecostal members rarely prosper (even if the brand of the gospel they preach promises prosperity), they stay in the movements because they find personal security there. That is the current tale of African Pentecostal Christianity. It is the tale of a movement that has progressively moved from the periphery of Africa's social and cultural life to a position where it now defines the soul, the very center, of African collective personality.

Jacob Olupona begins by agreeing with Ilesanmi but goes on to plead for nuance in looking at Africa and religion.

Simeon Ilesanmi begins, as will I, by pointing out the challenges produced by thinking of religious studies as an objective science. On the contrary, religious studies is innately subjective. The willingness of scholars to turn a blind eye to this fact has, in many cases, allowed—or rather encouraged—the blithe introduction of provincial, racist, and hierarchical attitudes into the study of so-called primal African religions. This must serve as a potent reminder that we must remain constantly vigilant, as scholars, to our own shortcomings as people. It is the easiest thing in the world to see without ever truly seeing. Learning to truly see another person—to see his or her world in the way he or she would have it be seen—is the work of a lifetime. Ilesanmi also makes a telling critique of globalization. The same process which has generated wealth, luxury, and expanded horizons for many of us has, in much of the world, simply created more tensions, conflicts, suffering, and competition for already limited resources. This surely cannot surprise anyone, for it is a truism that many must go without for a few to have so much. But, as I have already said, it is very easy not to see.

He continues to explore the role of traditional and newer religious expressions and concludes:
Until recently, African traditional religions existed under the watchful eyes of traditional rulers (chiefs, kings, lineage, and clan heads) who also doubled as patrons and custodians of tradition. These traditions held in trust the sacred knowledge and moral fabric of the people. These traditions provided a strong basis for the economic and political foundations of villages and towns. They held a legitimate space precisely because they were of and for the people, constituting a collective worldview and lifeway. For centuries, African traditional practices—such as ancestor veneration, taboos, and totems—served as the pivot of the moral universe and the root of indigenous knowledge. Now, traditional worldviews are increasingly being characterized as evil, premodern, and inimical to progress and economic development. Consequently, several of these institutions have been driven underground, transforming themselves into cults and occult practices which are contrary to the welfare of their own people. It seems that the rise of witchcraft and secret societies is partly a response to the displacement of traditional religion. As Pentecostalism and evangelicalism—aided and abetted by a dysfunctional and corrupt state—denounce the high moral authority of the king and promote forced conversion, the center is falling apart and traditional rulers are ceasing to be the custodians of tradition. They can no longer provide the sacred canopy under which robust African pluralism existed for centuries. I would argue that the Pentecostal and evangelical demand for a radical divorce of converts from traditional worldviews is doing violence to African people and societies.

But I prefer to see hope everywhere: In Africa and her diaspora, there are religious communities fed up with violence, illness, and poverty. They are taking it upon themselves to see the HIV/AIDS crisis as a problem that they must address with compassion and speed—before a tipping point is reached beyond which there will be only death and more death. There are communities that see famine and violence as the real enemies of a gospel of prosperity—and, rather than retreating into self-help mantras, they are engaging in food banks, peasant cooperatives, and neighborhood watches. These communities have recognized that peace is only possible with cooperation across barriers—that there is no good life to be gotten from anything less than hard work and engagement. We would do well to take their example.


Read these here. Also featured are models of peacemaking as well as other articles on religion and contemporary life.

Churches oppose corporal punishment of children

Ekklesia reports that churches around the world are speaking out against spanking and other forms of physical punishment of children. Often justified by misuse of the Bible corporal punishment of children is seen as causing long term permanent emotional and mental damage.

Outdated language used to justify corporal punishment of children is set to be removed from new translations of the Bible in Norway.

Church leaders have given the green light to the proposal, put forward by the Norwegian Ombudsman for Children, to replace the word “chastisement” with more appropriate language reflecting its original and intended meaning.

Ombudsman Reidar Hjermann found that children subjected to physical harm, who had contacted his office, believed violence may be authorised by the Bible.


Read it all here

Third Annual Evolution Weekend

The third annual Evolution Weekend, February 8-10, will be marked by members of more than 100 Episcopal congregations calling upon scientists and science educators in their communities to employ their skills as preachers and teachers according to Phina Borgeson writing for Episcopal Life Online.

One important goal of the observance is "to elevate the quality of the discussion on [religion and science] -- to move beyond sound bytes" notes Michael Zimmerman, founder of the initiative.

Evolution Weekend is an outgrowth of the Clergy Letter Project, signed by more than 11,000 religious leaders of many denominations who recognize the compatibility of evolutionary theory and Christian belief. Formerly Evolution Sunday, the name has been changed to embrace all faith traditions.

"Preaching positively about science can strengthen the credibility of church leaders at a time when our voices are sorely needed in important debates about abortion, stem cell research, cloning, resource sustainability, and other issues," says Peter M. J. Hess, faith project director at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

"Creationism -- in both its 'Young Earth' and its 'Intelligent Design' variants -- continues to trouble congregations. This rises to the level of scandal when a pastor of an educated congregation preaches a world view that disregards the work of astronomers, geologists, biologists, geneticists, and practitioners of a host of other sciences, some of whom may be members of the congregation," he adds. "The pulpit is a powerful tool, and one way to use it in the service of truth is to participate in some way, small or great, in the observation of Evolution Weekend."

Read the whole article here.

Additional Resources:
A Catechism of Creation: An Episcopal Undertanding here

Science, Evolution, and Creationism from the National Academy of Sciences.

Ideas for participating in Evolution Weekend here

Bush's visit to Jericho

President Bush followed his last State of the Union address with a visit to Jericho, a program in East Baltimore that helps former inmates find jobs and reenter society that is run by Episcopal Church Social Services. The president used the visit to highlight his program of faith-based social services. He also spoke bluntly about his own struggles with alcohol addiction.

From the Washington Post story:

President Bush plopped himself into a chair between two former prisoners, Thomas Boyd and Adolphus Moseley, and asked to hear how their lives had changed. But first, he wanted them to know something about him: "I understand addiction," he said, "and I understand how a changed heart can help you deal with addiction."

The scene inside a tiny room in an East Baltimore rowhouse Tuesday was part of an unusual day for the president, who referred repeatedly to his struggle with alcohol as a way of connecting with the participants in Jericho....

"Why were you in jail, if you don't mind me asking?" Bush asked Moseley, a gregarious 42-year-old who replied that he served time for cocaine possession. "It's just one of those things that you need to put behind you," he told the president.

Moseley told Bush they could use more such mentoring and counseling programs on the west side of Baltimore, and Bush replied: "There are programs like that all over the city; they are called churches."

"They are not sincere, like Jericho," Moseley replied, seeming to take Bush a bit aback.
...
The president tried to relate to Boyd and Moseley in other ways, too. Moseley talked about how he was worried "to death" about his daughters when he was in prison, and Bush interjected, "You can be worried when you are incarcerated, and you can be worried when you are not incarcerated," drawing laughter.
...
After Bush departed the facility, Jean Patterson Cushman, executive director of Episcopal Community Services, said the people who met Bush today found the president inspiring: "They were kind of amazed that the president would talk to them about his own problems," she said.

From the Baltimore Sun

Jericho has received more than a half-million dollars in grants yearly under the Bush program.

"It was the first large grant this organization had ever applied for," said Jean Cushman, executive director of Episcopal Community Services. "It would have been harder for us to get it" without the Bush faith-based initiative, she said.

The White House press release for the event is here.

Rift amongst conservative Episcopalians is showing

Updated Monday morning

From this morning's Pittsburgh Gazette

In the first public sign of disagreement among theologically conservative clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh over the leadership of Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr., 12 such rectors and priests told him this week they disapprove of his effort to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church and will, instead, remain with the denomination.

The 12, including the president of the diocese's clergy association and its longest-tenured rector, mailed a signed, one-paragraph letter yesterday to the diocese's 66 churches saying that while they supported the "reformation of the Episcopal Church ... we have determined to remain within, and not realign out of" it.
...
"This [action by the group] was not unexpected," said Peter Frank, a spokesman for Bishop Duncan, "but it's still sad to see friends signal their intention to end in a different place than many of their fellow priests.

"The bottom line is that we all face momentous decisions in the Episcopal diocese this year."


Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has informed Bishop Duncan he faces the prospect of being deposed (removed from office) by the House of Bishops if he does renounce his advocacy for removing the diocese from the Episcopal Church. (See this earlier story in The Lead.)

Monday morning update

One signatory of the letter - The Rev. James Simons, St. Michael's of the Valley, Ligonier - recently met with St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Somerset after its rector left to start a church outside TEC. Until recently Simons had been a perennial Deputy to General Convention. He has also been active in the American Anglican Council and has had a relationship with the Institute for Religion and Democracy. Most important, he is on the Standing Committee of the diocese.

Another signatory - The Rev. Scott Quinn, Rector, Church of the Nativity, Crafton - signed the 2007 Pittsburgh Compact. Like Simons long served the diocese as a Deputy to General Convention.
The open letter follows:

Read more »

Clamor for new diocese in Nigeria

The Daily Sun reports:

The Anglican Diocese on the Niger may have been thrown into a deep crisis over the creation of more dioceses out of the existing Niger Diocese.
...
At a Press conference recently at Obosi, Nkemena and Offor, chairman and secretary of the Committee for the Creation of Obosi Diocese out of the Niger Diocese, said that the Anglican community in Obosi, Oba, Nkpor, Ojoto, Awada, Ugwuagba, Umuoji and Akwu-Ukwu had in 2003 applied for the creation of Obosi Diocese or whatever name it may be called.

Also, Sir G. A. Nwokolo, the spokesman of the committee, accused the bishop on the Niger “of blocking the creation of Obosi Diocese to pave way for the creation of Ubiaja Diocese which will have Awka-Etiti, the bishop’s home town, as the headquarters with Obosi as part of the diocese”.
...
The committee for the proposed diocese consequently in a letter to the Primate of Anglican Communion, the Most Rev Peter Akinola, dated July 24, 2007, requested that they should henceforth, from the date of the letter, be administered directly by the primate, since they wished to cease to have any further relationship with the Diocese on the Niger.
...
Referring to the agitation for the creation of Obosi Diocese, the [Chancellor of the Diocese on the Niger] made it categorically clear that no diocese would be created in an atmosphere of rancour and bitterness, adding that the recent press statements on the issue lacked merit and at the same time violated the constitution of the Church of Nigeria .

Also speaking, the Chairman of the committee looking into the possibility of creating a new diocese out of Niger Diocese, Justice Peter Obiora, emphasized that any diocese to be created out of the existing one should promote peace and unity of the church and should not be designed to satisfy the whims and caprices of a few individuals in a community.

Read it here.

Putting "Anglican" in quotation

Bishop Howe (Central Florida) in his Convention Address:

While people can call themselves anything they like, the only true “Anglicans” are those in full communion with Canterbury. The Anglican Mission in the Americas, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, the Reformed Episcopal Church, the Charismatic Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Episcopal Church, the Anglican Province in America, and so on…are NOT.

So, the process of “disaffiliation,” and “realignment” – in order to be more truly “Anglican” seems to me a fairly specious and vain enterprise. The way to remain Anglican – at least for now – is to remain Episcopalian!

Unless it falls under "and so on" the bishop, however, does not address his perspective on the situation in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

Thanks to Mark Harris for the link. See his observations on the bishop's address here.

Letter is a "signal"

Updated Wednesday evening

Episcopal Life Online adds important information to this morning's news of a clear rift amongst conservatives in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The key paragraphs from the ELO report

[The Rev. Dr. James Simons, rector of St Michael's of the Valley in Ligonier, Pennsylvania] said the group would like to be involved in any discussions that might take place within the diocese to establish what he called a "protocol" for how people and congregations would stay in the Episcopal Church. Simons added that the letter was also meant to signal the Presiding Bishop that there are people in the diocese who would like to be involved in and would support any talks she might have with those who want to remain in the church.

Simons, who has served in the diocese for 23 years, said the Pittsburgh diocese has not in the past been "monochromatically" conservative and that the members were able to express their faith in a number of ways. Until recently, he added, the diocese's efforts to protest the wider church's direction and to prompt reform did not involve an attempt to leave the Episcopal Church.

That stance changed, Simons said, during a meeting of the diocese's leadership in May. Now the perceived need to leave the Episcopal Church is a "widely held belief by a majority of the leadership in the diocese."

Read it all here.

Earlier coverage and the text of the letter signed by Simons and 11 other clergy is here. Besides conservatives interested in staying in TEC, there is also Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh.

Wednesday evening update

The conservative Christian Post has its take

But Bishop Duncan believes the dissenting clergy will be terribly disappointed in their line of action, said Peter Frank, a spokesman for Duncan.

"The place that the majority of the diocese is at is a different place than these priests are ending up," Frank told The Christian Post. "That's difficult where most of the Diocese of Pittsburgh say 'let's get on with ministry and not continue what has been a 30-year losing struggle to reform The Episcopal Church from within.'"

The clergy's public statement this week about was not unexpected, said Frank. The 12 - out of 180 clergy in the diocese - were part of the minority who did not favor leaving The Episcopal Church during last November's vote. Discussion with the dissenting group began last summer and the diocese has been aware of their stance, according to Frank.

It appears from this statement that Duncan is not in favor of reversing course.

What the Christian Post fails to mention is that of the 180 clergy others are in progressive parishes and were not part of this group of 12 conservatives. It has been estimated that together the opponents of the course Duncan is taking could represent as much as 45 percent of average Sunday attendance in the diocese.

Jensen brothers encounter the director of the Tallis Singers

Updated Thursday morning

The director of the Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips, writes a regular column in The Specator. In his most recent column he criticizes the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, and the man he appointed as the Dean of St Andrew's Cathedral, his brother Philip Jensen.

From The Spectator column

The fact that the Dean and the Archbishop of Sydney are brothers makes the situation for lovers of good music at Sydney’s Anglican Cathedral especially unfortunate. For the parishioners there is no escaping the hard-line and destructive opinions of these two, whose double-whammy reminds one of the accumulation of power by the Kaczynski twins in Poland. There is a difference, though: the Kaczynskis never made any pretence about being politicians who wanted to be elected to high office; whereas the Jensen brothers speak derogatively about how formalised religion, with buildings, hierarchies and ritual, runs counter to the spirit of the early Church, and then allow themselves to be appointed to just the kind of posts they think shouldn’t exist.

One wonders how they came to be appointed in the first place. Here is what the Dean, the Very Reverend Phillip Jensen (a title he doesn’t hesitate to use), has to say about large religious buildings of the kind he now runs: ‘There is no discussion in the Bible about buildings. So we must not make too much of them, they are not central to God’s purpose, not important, not the church of God, not a replacement for the Temple.’ And about Church music he opines: ‘Using the language and categories of worship in church is untenable...It is no accident that feelings of epiphany (transcendence) occur when certain human activities are undertaken, especially music’, and that they can induce these feelings ‘regardless of the content or the religious context. We need to help people to see that nice feelings are nice. But they don’t represent contact with God.’

Phillips was also interviewed by Stephen Crittenden on The Religion Report on ABC (Australian) Radio National. Here's a portion of the transcript of that interview:

STEPHEN CRITTENDEN: Why are you choosing to enter the fray in this way, at this time?

PETER PHILLIPS: Well I represent the point of view I think that God is beautiful, and can be approached - best approached - by mortal men through beauty. Any sort of beauty; I mean it could be a beautiful building, or the incense that the Catholics have. But I represent music, and my experience is that good music takes people nearer to God than anything else, and quicker. It happens just like that, you feel him, right there.

Take the Allegri 'Miserere' for example.

STEPHEN CRITTENDEN: That many people will know.

PETER PHILLIPS: Which I hope they do. The moment that piece is sung, the first time I heard it which must now be 40 years ago in the original King's recording, I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and it wasn't that it's fantastic music exactly, it's an atmosphere that's created by those lines and those harmonies and the building that it's sung in, that produces its effect.

And it wasn't just like listening to a Beethoven symphony and admiring the sonata form or something, it was something quite other-worldly. Something of the numinous.

(Sound of Allegri 'Miserere' [full version])

STEPHEN CRITTENDEN: In your article in The Spectator you quote Phillip Jensen with a completely contrary point of view to the one you've just put. He says music like the Allegri 'Miserere' represents "the gaudy baubles of sacramentalism", and "an alternative gospel that we must never get tired of opposing".

PETER PHILLIPS: Yes, I mean the Ayatollah Khomeini once said that music was an evil which distracted people from more serious things and should be defeated at all costs. It seems to me very similar to that; that was an Islamic fundamentalism, but there's very little difference.

Links to the full transcript and audio links of the interview here.

Thursday morning update

Peter Jensen complains "No opportunity was given to respond to these remarks before they aired."

Before they aired? When the interview was re-aired on the program PM, presenter Michael Colvin said,

The Jensen brothers declined PM's request for an interview about that story but the Anglican Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen, issued a statement saying that "the church's mission is for all people, not just those who follow an elitist repertoire of church music".

From tennis star to nun

Remember tennis wonderkid Andrea Jaeger? She's been a Dominican nun in the Episcopal Church since 2006.

The Denver Post reports

Last week, Sister Andrea jetted off to Atlanta to accept the 2008 John Wooden Citizenship Award, presented by Athletes for a Better World. As always, she made time for kids, leading a program at Atlanta's Children's Hospital. She also attended the funeral of a child who had once attended her camp. In Sister Andrea's world, hope and heartache are constants.

Friday night, Jaeger, who has lived in Colorado since 1989, will be inducted into the Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame, largely for her contributions as a humanitarian.

Jaeger considers it an ironic blessing that although she quit the professional tennis circuit 23 years ago, her meteoric athletic career continues opening doors and helps raise the $4.5 million needed annually to keep her foundation running.
...
None of her struggles today, however, compares to the shallow, empty, lonely feeling Jaeger felt on the tennis circuit after turning pro at age 14. She soon found that her real joy came from helping sick children.

One day, on the spur of the moment, she sold an $18,000 gold watch she received from a commercial endorsement and spent the money on presents for children, which she anonymously donated to hospitals near her home in Florida.

Though she loved the athleticism involved in tennis, she didn't put her heart and soul into matches in part because she didn't want to win at someone else's expense.

Read it here. The link includes a video of an interview with Sister Andrea Jaeger.

Here's an earlier Lead story on Jaeger.

Akinola on GAFCON

Archbishop Peter Akinola has clarified the purpose of GAFCON, stating unequivocally that the conference is an alternative to Lambeth, and that they believe their purpose extends well beyond the question of homosexuality and into what amounts to a nebulous rejection of "modern" culture, presumably in the sense of present-tense life in much of the Anglican communion. By asserting the primacy of Scripture and the Word over engaging with said culture, Akinola declares that he is leading people away of a significant tradition in the Anglican church:

What led to GAFCON? It is a very long story. In the last five years we have had this endless controversy in the Anglican Communion. To the world this is about homosexuality. To us it is just a symptom of the real problem. Homosexuality is not peculiar to Anglicans but Anglicans have the courage to discuss it openly. The issue is that there are members of our Anglican family who are not paying attention to scripture, but are giving prominence to modern culture. They are bringing new principles to interpret scripture. The word of God has precedence over any culture. Those of us who will abide with the Word of God, come rain come fire, are those who are in GAFCON.

Those who say it does not matter are the ones who are attending Lambeth. There might be a view, for whatever it is worth, that they want to be there to observe what is going on. But Uganda, Rwanda, Sydney, Nigeria: we are not going to Lambeth conference. What is the use of the Lambeth conference for a three weeks’ jamboree which will sweep these issues under the carpet. GAFCON will confer about the future of the church, which will set a road map for the future. We are a movement that will move away from the “maybe - maybe not”.

The issue is that church leaders are endorsing what is wrong. They are not willing to make the gospel that the Lord can bring change available. We want to move forward with commitment to the word of God. The question is asked how many people we are. The question is rather how many people we are representing. Four primates who are in the leadership of GAFCON represent more than 30 million Anglicans.

Akinola is careful not to name the four primates, but the Archbishop of Sydney is not a primate.

The full address, given as a press conference in Lagos, Nigeria, yesterday, is here.

It's also important to observe that Kenya is missing from Akinola's list. Further, while Akinola speaks of whole provinces boycotting Lambeth, Lambeth Palace is concerned that some primates are threatening bishops who want to attend Lambeth with discipline if they do in fact attend. Some in Sydney have gone to the trouble of disassociating themselves from GAFCON. Furthermore, three provinces in Africa responded to the efforts of Akinola and Minns to organize an all CAPA boycott of Lambeth at the last CAPA meeting.

As to whether GAFCON is about homosexuality, remember the minutes of his recent meeting with the Bishop of Jerusalem.

Mark Harris calls it for what it is:

GAFCON is about forming a new Communion of bible-belt Anglicans.

The fourth point of the Lambeth Quadrilateral speaks of the historic episcopate locally adapted in the methods of its administration. It turns out that "locally adapted in its methods of administration" has come to include ripping out the leg of reason, trimming the leg of tradition, both of which have a large dose of "modern culture" to them, and sitting on the post of scripture. Well, so be it. When the Archbishop dozes off, he will fall over. When he gets up, the Archbishop will no longer be an Anglican.

His post is here.

The ups and downs of New Monasticism

Given the interest in emergent movements and how they might apply to Anglicans, The LA Times' article on New Monasticism gives an unromanticized take on a movement that piques peoples' imaginations over how to live more Christlike. Following two couples who spend a year together in a Billings, Mont. home, the article shows the highs and lows of aiming for simplicity and not knowing what to give up or how to reach out:


A few months into the experiment, at a weekly house meeting, Jake Neufeld framed the vision this way: "Church is not something we attend. It's something we are."

But even lofty rhetoric could not lift the mood that sleety evening in early April. A quarter of their year together had passed, and the friends felt they had failed. They had not met a single neighbor. They had not given any aid. Everyday life seemed to suck up all their energy; it was draining just to figure out whose turn it was to mop the kitchen floor.

"We're trying to live so every dimension of our lives is different," Jeromy said. Then he admitted: "We don't know what that will look like."

The household consisted of Jeromy, a fundraiser for a Christian nonprofit, and his wife, Debbie, who stays home with their toddler and newborn son; Kyle Porrett, an architect, and his wife, Phyllis, who cares for their baby daughter and two young foster children; and Jake, a builder.

Theirs was a radical vision, but also a trendy one, part of the New Monastic movement sweeping white, suburban evangelicals. In the last few years, perhaps 100 communities like the Billings house have been founded across the country, and hundreds of Christians have attended workshops to learn of the concept.

And like many movements that are rooted in authenticity but too broadly evangelized, It's easy to get swept up in the notion of giving up a life of privilege, but it can be harder to actually do. Jane Carol Redmont, blogging over at Acts of Hope, notes that as a movement, New Monasticism is reinventing the wheel and perhaps leaving adherents to fend for themselves (perhaps DIY Monasticism is a more-apt tag) when there are ample movements already in place grounded in history and ecumenism:


If they just connected with other similar communities past and present -- Catholic Worker houses, various communes and religious houses, Amish, more mainstream Mennonites and Brethren, Quaker communities (Quaker testimonies include "simplicity") and retreat/resource centers, Jesuit Volunteer Corps communities and Mercy Volunteer Corps (not to be confused with the Mercy Corps) and their Presbyterian counterparts (yes, the Presbys have a volunteer corps, doing border work in and around Tucson), the Sojourners folks (the original ones, anyway) and any number of others -- they could get some practical tips and talk to people who've been at it for a while, in the case of the present-day communities in the U.S. The Rule of Benedict isn't made for married people, but checking in with Catholic and Anglican communities who have associates or oblates might also be helpful. Community and simplicity aren't new impulses in Christianity, though in any era they are tremendously challenging.

...

Of course the fault may be partly ours in the institutional churches that have wonderful and rich resources. We've hidden them or not made them attractive or failed to help people outside our immediate communities see how they could renew their lives and nourish them. And folk are suspicious of established churches for all kinds of very good reasons. So, there's work for us to do too.

The LA Times feature is here: "What Chores Would Jesus Do?"

Redmont's commentary, with lots of links, is here.

Sand Mandala at the Philadelphia Cathedral

For the past two weeks, the Philadelphia Cathedral has been hosting Losang Samten, a Buddhist monk from Tibet, who spent his days there creating a Mandala--an 8'-diameter sand painting/sculpture. Mandalas are a form of iconography in which millions of grains of sand are laid down into patterns that represent the cosmos and everything in it; but they are, being nonpermanent installations (except as photographed), ephemeral. Now that the Mandala is complete, it will be available for public viewing through February 2. After the 10 a.m. service on Sunday, the congregation will sweep the sands back to the river, handful by handful.

The Philadelphia Bulletin reported on the Mandala construction:

For two weeks, Losang Samten, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, has been rasping fine lines of sand out of a metal tube to create careful images that portray the frailty of the human condition and the consequences of giving in to the "poisons" of ignorance, greed and anger. Every image carries symbolism, from the trio of animals at the center (pig, pigeon and snake, corresponding to the three poisons) to the six surrounding landscapes to the evolving love story around the perimeter. The images cycle from infancy through death, tying together pain and joy, yin and yang, and showing the consequences of giving in to the three poisons. According to Buddhist beliefs, in order to cure suffering, one must train the mind to notice and eliminate the poisons, and so the "Wheel of Life" provides a tool for meditation and contemplation on this life-long journey.

The detailed workmanship is astounding. Using varying finenesses of sand, Mr. Samten outlines bricks, miniscule arrows and the decorative trim of a woman's dress and sculpts buildings, mountains and rivers. He blends colors, so a band of yellow fades to green to meet the dominant blue of the largest circle. Although the overall effect is two-dimensional, Mr. Samten periodically turns off the overhead lights and uses a side-light to highlight the sand's relief, and suddenly ocean waves and fruit trees come to life with depth and shadows.

The Evening Bulletin story is here.

More from the Philadelphia Cathedral site, including pictures, is here. The Philadelphia Inquirer has several photos in this gallery, as well as a story here.

English bishops write open letter urging attendance at Lambeth

Updated Thursday evening

As reported in the Church England Newspaper (weekly edition) "a group of evangelical English bishops in the Church of England" has written "an open letter to the Archbishops of Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone" urging "those Primates threatening to boycott this year’s Lambeth Conference to attend the 10-yearly meeting."

From the letter: "We long to share with you in fellowship and in celebration at Lambeth and, beyond that, we look to sharing with you in our common calling to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord throughout the world."

The letter was signed by,

David James (Bishop of Bradford), Mike Hill (Bristol), Graham Dow (Carlisle), Tom Wright (Durham), Jonathan Gledhill (Lichfield), John Pritchard (Oxford), George Cassidy (Southwell), David Hawkins (Barking), Richard Inwood (Bedford), Bob Evens (Crediton), Nick Baines (Croydon), Cyril Ashton (Doncaster), Clive Young (Dunwich), Geoffrey Pearson (Lancaster), James Langstaff (Lynn), Graham Cray (Maidstone), James Newcombe (Penrith), Paul Butler (Southampton), Lee Rayfield (Swindon), John Went (Tewkesbury)
The entire article can be read here via Anglican Mainstream.

The letter follows a widely read op-ed by Bishop Tom Wright in last week's Church Times in which he wrote "evangelicals are not about to jump ship" and,

Despite official denials, GAFCON will appear to many to be an alternative to the Lambeth Conference. Some who want to go to Lambeth are under primatial pressure not to do so, and to go to GAFCON instead. Even those free to choose may find two trips beyond their limited means.
As if in answer the op-ed and the open letter, Archbishop Akinola yesterday held a press conference on GAFCON in which he said,
Uganda, Rwanda, Sydney, Nigeria: we are not going to Lambeth conference. What is the use of the Lambeth conference for a three weeks’ jamboree which will sweep these issues under the carpet. GAFCON will confer about the future of the church, which will set a road map for the future. We are a movement that will move away from the “maybe - maybe not”.

Thursday evening update

The Church Times has a report on the open letter.

Where everyone knows your name

Theology on Tap is a Catholic program that's been around for over a quarter century, and in Boston, the lecture series is becoming increasingly popular. Several churches take turns sponsoring the event at various bars around town; most recently, Church of the Advent, an Episcopal church on Beacon Hill, sponsored the event at Cheers as part of its "Portraits of Jesus" series:

The series at the Beacon Hill Cheers is the 14th for Church of the Advent, said Gray, who aims to organize three series a year. Summers feature a series called “The Gospels According to . . . ,” drawing on such influences as the Simpsons, J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Matrix” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

“It’s incorporating culture, arts, hot topics,” said Sarah Livingston, 25, of Jamaica Plain, who attends Park Street Church. “It’s intellectual and stimulating. It’s relevant.”

Theology on Tap is just one way that churches are reaching out to adults in their 20s and 30s. The Friends at the Advent, for example, sponsors community groups, a Flannery O’Connor reading group and a dart night at a local bar.

Park Street Church’s Cafe (for 20-somethings) and Crosswalk (for 30-somethings) ministries draw 200 people total most weeks, according to assistant pastor Dr. Chris Sherwood, who pointed out that Park Street has had young-adult programs since the early 1900s.

“Once you hit a critical mass, it becomes a gathering place for folks,” added Rev. Jeff Schuliger, Park Street’s minister of small groups. Currently, associate minister Rev. Daniel Harrell is leading a group of parishioners blogging about “Living Levitically” in conjunction with his sermon series (www.parkstreet.org).

At the packed midweek Theology on Tap session, Christa Carter, 25, of Roxbury, pointed out that often the church feels like it belongs to the previous generation.

“People our age are disillusioned with the church,” said Carter, who doesn’t attend Advent but regularly attends Theology on Tap. “I want it to be mine . . . to see how it fits in with our generation.”

“It’s a healthy place for a skeptic to walk into,” added Cleveland. “They can ask a challenging question and not be brushed off.”

Read the full story.

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