Episcopal Church named "official denomination" of Major League Baseball

Here's some exciting news that's breaking this first day in April:
baseball

(by email)

As a part of opening week festivities, Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced today that the Episcopal Church has been designated the Official Denomination of Major League Baseball. The move was announced today in a teleconference with reporters.

"Faith oriented promotions have increasingly become a part of many minor league team," Selig said. "We felt that it was time to tap into this important demographic."

"We also want to reinforce our family friendly image while at the same time reaching out to a wide cross section of life-styles, incomes and tastes," Selig said. "We are pleased that the Episcopal Church will join us in this first partnership between a major sport and a church."

Many denominations were considered for the endorsement. Some traditions did not make bids for theological reasons, but unnamed sources described the behind the scenes competition as intense.

"The Baptists and Catholics both made strong bids," said a baseball official familiar with the negotiations. "And it is true that both traditions brought strong numbers to the table." Few commentators expected the Episcopal Church's bid to be as strong as it was.

Selig said that Episcopalians bring the right mix of arcane tradition, an appreciation of minutiae and a tolerance for long stretches of relative inaction that make them "a good fit for us."

"We believe that Episcopalians understand the nuances of the game and won't meddle with our traditions too much."

As part of the agreement, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori said that a Suffragan Bishop for Baseball will be appointed. A name will be presented at a special House of Bishops meeting called for the purpose in May. The ministry of the Suffragan Bishop for Baseball will be to coordinate the ministries of the church in the baseball environment.

"The designation of Official Denomination will be a boon to our evangelism," said the Rev. Jan Nunley. "Reflective MLB logos will soon appear as a part of the well known Episcopal Church Welcomes You signs in front of every Episcopal Church and along many streets in towns and cities across the US."

Observers also noted that the designation will also help the public differentiate Episcopal Churches from other churches that have recently appropriated the Anglican "brand" for their own use.

"The Episcopal Church encompasses many nations that differ along language and cultural lines—from the Dominican Republic to Taiwan--but we all share a love for Baseball," Nunley said.

"Theologians and poets have long described how the rhythms and traditions of baseball speak to us on many levels," Jefferts Schori told reporters. "Baseball shows us the presence of God in everyday things, that sublime combination of individual and team effort which reminds us of the Body of Christ and in the end God wants us all to come home."

Saying only that the marketing possibilities have "yet to be worked out" neither Selig nor Jefferts Schori would comment on rumors that pre-packaged Holy Communion and box-score editions of the Book of Common Prayer would be offered at kiosks at major league parks.

While some religious and sports commentators expressed skepticism at the move, and some wondered if the Presiding Bishop had the canonical authority to establish such a relationship, others were more forgiving.

"Baseball and Jesus." Nunley said. "They go together like peanuts and Cracker Jack."

Great news for a great day.

Episcopalians return to Episcopal Church

The Visalia Times-Delta reports overnight:

"About 40 former members of Visalia’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church have decided to break away from the current Anglican church and reform their congregation as the Continuing Congregation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Visalia, Calif.

The new congregation has been meeting in the cafeteria of Pinkham School. About 30 members attended services on Easter Sunday and about 40 last weekend.

The larger St. Paul’s Anglican Church remains with the San Joaquin Anglican Diocese."

Read the rest here.

Another report on San Joaquin convention

The Living Church has a report by Timothy Roberts describing the events which took place over the weekend as the Episcopal Church took action to reconstitute the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. (We have other reports here.)

The article in the Living Church points out that the actions that were taken by the Episcopal Church in this situation are possibly going to serve as a model to be used in other similar situations:

"About 500 people from 18 congregations gathered at St. John the Baptist Church in Lodi, Calif., March 29 to declare themselves the representatives of The Episcopal Church in California’s Central Valley and to elect a provisional bishop.

Delegates were certified from 17 congregations previously belonging to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and one new mission congregation; 42 former Episcopal congregations had no delegates certified.

The action by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the remaining parishioners could become a model for dealing with breakaway dioceses, Bishop Jefferts Schori told TLC during a break in the convention.

‘This is the first time this has happened, but it could become a pattern for other places,’ she said.

The convention voted unanimously by voice vote to reverse the actions taken by delegates to the annual convention last December that made the Diocese of San Joaquin the first entire diocese to leave The Episcopal Church in its 219-year history. In December, delegates voted overwhelmingly to affiliate with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone which has its metropolitan headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina."

Read the rest of the Living Church article here.

Opportunity, not Crisis

Tom Ehrich sees opportunity where others have voiced frustration when looking at the results of the recent Pew survey on Religion and Public Life. If people are seeking and moving from church to church, rather than bemoan the fact, we should be getting prepared for those who are going to be coming.

"The Pew findings that religious behavior is marked by 'fluidity,' not consistency, might frustrate institutional managers who had hoped brand loyalty would last a lifetime. But it strikes me as good news that people take their faith seriously enough to examine it and to go in search of real bread.

Rather than pout about brand disloyalty, I'd suggest that denominations and congregations prepare themselves to receive these seekers when they go seeking. After all, it was the refusal of major denominations to notice that baby boomers started leaving in 1964 that caused their steep decline in membership. If you don't see the churn, how do you examine your enterprise and respond to the churn?

If 'none of the above' is the fastest-growing American religious affiliation, then we need to ask: What do adults in America find missing? What movement of the human spirit are we in the religious world failing to sense? What matrix of needs are we ignoring in our stubborn insistence on tradition? What questions are we unable to hear?

Rather than complain about the inadequacies of young adults in failing to grasp the virtues of Protestantism, for example, Protestant course-setters should examine the lives of today's young adults and build bridges to them. There is no virtue in ignoring one age cohort in order to keep an older age cohort satisfied. We should try self-examination, not blame."

We covered the release and some initial reactions to the Pew Reports earlier on the Lead.

Read the rest here.

Clergy protest by refusing to bless marriages

An article in the Baltimore Sun this morning reports on clergy in a number of denominations and religions who are beginning to refuse to solemnize weddings between men and women as a form of protest against what the clergy perceive as discrimination by the state in not allowing legal forms of same-gender blessings to be recognized.

From the article:

"Some rabbis and ministers in states including Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan and Connecticut have told their congregants that when it comes to weddings they are in the business of religious ceremonies - only - and they have redirected couples to the local courthouse for the paperwork.

'There's sort of a steady drip, drip, drip of people starting to do this,' said the Rev. Donald Stroud, minister of outreach and reconciliation at That All May Freely Serve Baltimore, an organization that advocates for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the Presbyterian Church.

'I think it does raise people's consciousness - that's one element. But I think a lot of ministers who do this do this first because their conscience compels them,' said Stroud. The Presbyterian Church does not sanction same-sex marriage, but it also does not compel pastors to sign licenses, he said. And like some of his colleagues, he would decline to do so if the issue arose because of what he sees as the state's discriminatory laws.."

The article continues with quotes from a number of clergy around the country who discuss the reasons for their actions and the various ways their congregations and communities have responded.

Read the rest here.

Faith on campus

There are plenty of anecdotal stories about hostile responses to any attempt to talk about Christian faith on today's college campuses. There are also stories about how that sort of conversation is gratefully received by students. Which view, hostile or grateful, is right?

Most people tend to imagine that hostility toward faith and christian belief is the more commonly encountered reception.

But new evidence shows something different:

"The conventional wisdom, as it turns out, is not quite right.

From the pollsters come recent data showing that religion and spirituality are alive and well at colleges and universities. A recent study by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA finds that more than half of college juniors say 'integrating spirituality' into their lives is very important. Today's juniors also tend to pray (67%, according to the UCLA study) and 41% believe it's important, even essential, to 'follow religious teachings' in everyday life.

In these and similar measures, the college population tends to lag behind the population at large, but not by much. Other new research suggests that one's experience in higher education is not the cause of any falling away from faith. Survey results from University of Texas researchers find that students are less likely to be secularized than others ages 18-25. In other words, navigating the working world takes a larger toll on a young person's faith than braving the nation's supposedly godless college campuses.

It's not just trendy Eastern or New Age religions to which students are gravitating. Christianity is holding its own, too, in part because many campus Christians are showing a different side of their religion than the one that has lent irresistible fodder to comedians and given it a bad reputation in some quarters.

Young Christians, college students or otherwise, tend to emphasize different public concerns than the old-guard Christian Right. Like the older Christian generation, they do consider abortion an important issue, according to a survey by Relevant magazine, but the same survey finds that they tend to care less than their elders about asserting Christian prerogatives in the public square and resisting the advance of gay rights."

Read the rest here.

More about Honor Moore

Publisher's Weekly has an interview with Honor Moore, Bishop Paul Moore's daughter, whose recent book about her father and family has stirred controversy within the family and within the Episcopal Church and the diocese that Bishop Moore served. The article helps to put Honor's effort into a fuller context within her own life journey.

From the article:

"In The Bishop's Daughter, Moore shares center stage with her subject. Intensely personal, this complex family saga is compelling in the contrast between Paul's public career as a charismatic religious leader active in such progressive causes as the civil rights movement and his conflicted private life.

[...]Moore decided to write about Paul for the magazine the American Scholar, when he became sick with cancer in his 80s. ‘I tried a memoir about my father twice before, but I abandoned it because I had no story. I was too angry, too unresolved,’ she says. Ann Fadiman, editor of the American Scholar, suggested she do a piece in the form of a journal, which was published in the fall after Paul's death in 2003 as ‘My Father's Ship.’

This article caught the attention of Jill Bialosky, who would later become Moore's editor at Norton. ‘I was so struck by the beautiful writing,’ says Bialosky, who's excited by the book's prospects. Moore, already well-known in poetry circles as a great reader, is lined up for several appearances on the East Coast. An excerpt ran in the March 3 issue of the New Yorker.

The Bishop's Daughter can be considered a kind of detective story, full of dramatic emotional surprises, in which Moore pieces together the secret side of her father's life. One of the more poignant sections chronicles her getting to know a longtime male lover of her father's in the years after his death. ‘I came to see who my father was in his terms,’ says Moore. ‘He saw himself as a normal person who had a conflict and did the best he could with it.’"

Read the rest here.

What Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, thinks

From a Guardian op-ed today:

As the late Robert Runcie said: "It cannot be irrelevant to evangelism that so many unbelievers think that the place we give to women is absurd."

That is why I cannot support any of the proposed amendments to the bill, which call for the appointment of a male bishop with jurisdiction for those who oppose the authority of a woman bishop. To do so, moreover, would be to sanction schism, to threaten the unity of the church.

If the Church in Wales refuses today to ordain women to the episcopate, it will be in danger of giving the impression that: the maleness of Jesus is more important than his humanity; only men can really represent God and his church to the world; men are the really important members of the human race; the church does not value the gifts and talents of women; and the church is not interested in testing the vocation of women, or even willing to consider their suitability as bishops, because their gender has automatically debarred them from such consideration.

None of these things may be true, but try explaining that to a class of sixth-formers who are interested in what the gospel may be offering them, but for whom that gospel is proclaimed by a church that refuses even to consider the possibility of opening up the episcopate to women.

The author is Dr. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales. Read it all here.

Church closes, ministry continues

Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal (Southern Ohio) writing in the Cincinnati Enquirer:

As some know, the parish of St. Michael & All Angels has been closed, owing to dwindling numbers. This is understandably a sad time for those who are losing their accustomed weekly gathering for worship in a place they love. But this is not the whole story. The Episcopal Church is not leaving Avondale. On the contrary, we are convinced that now, more than ever, we are called to stand with those who seek peace and justice and the possibility of common life in the inner city. God has provided us in St. Michael's with a strategic location for such a ministry, and we intend to move forward as quickly as possible to make this a reality.

I know there are Episcopal parishes in Cincinnati who stand ready to pledge financial and personal resources to create an effective urban mission at St. Michael's. I dream of a powerful ministry to children in Avondale - providing a space on St. Michael's ample property for tutoring, athletics and after-school events. A focus on children would make great sense, given the proximity of Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

But these are just my thoughts. We cannot know what St. Michael & All Angels should become until we have sat with the people of Avondale and learned from them what their needs are and how we can fit into that.
...
It will take time - six months or more - for these conversations to take place and for a clear vision of the future role of the Episcopal Church in Avondale to emerge. In the meantime, the ministries operating out of St. Michael & All Angels will carry on. These include a health clinic and a food pantry, both of which have been fully funded by the diocese, and both of which will continue to receive funding.

One thing is clear: the church cannot turn its back on the city. The Bible and Christian tradition see the city as a central image for the kingdom of God.


Read it all here.

Church can expand

New York Times:

The lawsuit, filed against Boulder County by the Rocky Mountain Christian Church in Niwot, Colo., is an important test of a federal statute aimed at protecting churches and other houses of worship from discriminatory zoning.

The church says it has outgrown its current home, on a 54-acre site in one of the buffer zones the county established decades ago to preserve open space around its towns and villages. In February 2006, the county refused to permit the church to double the size of its buildings. The church sued under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, saying the decision limiting its growth also limited its religious liberty.

Read it here.

Clerics reject women bishops bill

icWales:

Senior clerics with the Church in Wales have rejected a controversial Bill which would have allowed women to be ordained as bishops.

The 140-strong Governing Body narrowly rejected the Bill which would have seen the creation of female bishops in the principality for the first time.

A vote saw the Bill defeated by just three after a day of heated debate on the subject.
...
Under the governing body’s voting system the Bill needed to attract a minimum two-thirds majority to be passed.

Voting was split into three separate sections, the House of Laity, the House of Clerics and the House of Bishops.

The House of Clerics voted 27 to 18 in favour of the Bill but, with abstentions, missed the required two-thirds majority. The other two houses attained the required minimum.

Read it all here.

Archbishop Barry Morgan made his case for the Bill here.

Senior layperson in Church of England: enough mosques

Displaying a level of intolerance that might make Archbishop Akinola blush, a lay member of the General Synod of the Church England has said "There are enough mosques for Muslims in this country, they don’t need any more." The Telegraph describes Mrs. Alison Ruoff as a conservative evangelical. She also sits on the Council for the Bishop of London. Spokespersons for the Diocese of London and for Church of England say the remarks are her own and do not represent the church.

For an excellent roundup of the story go to Thinking Anglicans.

ABC's press secretary moves on

Lambeth Palace has announced that the Revd Jonathan Jennings, Press Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury since 2001, will leave in the summer to take up appointment as Priest in Charge at St Augustine’s, Gillingham in the diocese of Rochester. Mr Jennings, a former Press Officer for the diocese of Manchester, joined Lambeth Palace at the invitation of Dr Carey after six years at Church House, Westminster, as Head of Broadcasting.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, paid tribute to his contribution to the work of the church:

“Jonathan has been a tower of strength to all at Lambeth, and we shall miss both his professional competence and his warmth and friendship”.


Different tone, same secrecy

Archbishop Peter Akinola and the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria have released a pastoral letter that is notable for two reasons: it is less belligerent than usual, and it makes clear that the Church is still unwilling to disclose who is funding the realignment of the Anglican Communion.

We are told that the Lord raised up "those who have felt sufficiently committed to the need to preserve the sanctity of our historic faith that they have committed huge resources to cover all the cost of the conference." But we aren't told who these people are, and what their interests might be.

Virginia judge to rule Friday

The Falls Church News Press reports on this notice from Judge Bellows' clerk:

Judge Bellows has asked me to advise you that the Court anticipates it will issue its opinion regarding the applicability of 57-9 this Friday, April 4. It may, however, issue the opinion a day earlier or later.

The ruling is expected to be on the first phase of issues to determine ownership of the church properties, pertaining to whether an 1867 Virginia statute (57-9) applies in the current case although other rulings may be included.

Read the article here.

Recent stories and background from The Lead here and here.

PB lobbies for global health bill

Dear Members of the House of Representatives:

As Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, I write to offer our Church’s strong endorsement of the U.S. Global HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act passed by the Foreign Affairs Committee and awaiting House floor consideration. The committee-passed bill builds on the successes of our nation’s efforts to fight deadly disease around the world over the past five years, and forges a new bipartisan consensus for expanding and intensifying those programs in the years to come.

The Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, more than half of whose members live in countries hardest hit by AIDS, TB, and malaria. Through our relationships with churches around the world, we are deeply aware of the suffering and upheaval experienced by communities affected by deadly disease, and we are actively involved in efforts to restore health and healing through prevention, care, and treatment. A world that has conquered AIDS, TB, and malaria would be not just healthier and more prosperous, but more stable and secure.

As vital as the work of faith communities and other private actors are in the fight against poverty and disease, however, true transformation can only come when the resources and energies of governments are brought to bear. That’s why the United States government’s efforts over the past five years – along with the work of multinational organizations like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria – have been so vital.

Read it all.

UCC fights back

The United Church of Christ is leagues ahead of The Episcopal Church in its efforts to establish and protect a distinctive Christian indentity. Today's full page advertisement in The New York Times, prompted by the controversy surrounding Sen. Barack Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is just the latest example of the UCC's aggressive approach to refuting its detractors. Our passive Church has yet to grasp the danger in allowing its opponents to define it. We are also behind the UCC in our understanding of viral issue-oriented fundraising, as a nugget from this story makes clear:

An online campaign to raise $120,000 to purchase the ad began on March 27. In less than a week, UCC members, churches and Conferences had gathered enough money to pay for the ad.

Imagine what might have been accomplished had the folks calling the shots for the UCC been calling the shots in our Church after the consecration of Gene Robinson. It's painful to consider how little we did with that phenomenal opportunity to reach out to people who appreciated what we had done.

(Meanwhile, Dan Burke of Religion News Service has a two-part (1, 2) interview with UCC leader the Rev. John Thomas)

Does conservative theology hurt your pocketbook?

Lisa Keister has scanned the Bible and found nearly 2,000 verses in the New Testament that touch on the topic of money. It's those very verses that may be keeping many conservative Protestants from building up long-term wealth, she says.

Keister was surprised that when demographic factors -- such as education, age and race -- were held as constant, religion still proved to be an influential factor in wealth accumulation. Conservative beliefs had a larger impact among black Protestants, she found, but also remained significant among whites.

Read it all.

Why do the poor stay poor?

Drake Bennett of The Boston Globe writes:

In the community of people dedicated to analyzing poverty, one of the sharpest debates is over why some poor people act in ways that ensure their continued indigence. Compared with the middle class or the wealthy, the poor are disproportionately likely to drop out of school, to have children while in their teens, to abuse drugs, to commit crimes, to not save when extra money comes their way, to not work.

To an economist, this is irrational behavior. It might make sense for a wealthy person to quit his job, or to eschew education or develop a costly drug habit. But a poor person, having little money, would seem to have the strongest incentive to subscribe to the Puritan work ethic, since each dollar earned would be worth more to him than to someone higher on the income scale. Social conservatives have tended to argue that poor people lack the smarts or willpower to make the right choices. Social liberals have countered by blaming racial prejudice and the crippling conditions of the ghetto for denying the poor any choice in their fate. Neoconservatives have argued that antipoverty programs themselves are to blame for essentially bribing people to stay poor.

Charles Karelis, a professor at George Washington University, has a simpler but far more radical argument to make: traditional economics just doesn't apply to the poor. When we're poor, Karelis argues, our economic worldview is shaped by deprivation, and we see the world around us not in terms of goods to be consumed but as problems to be alleviated.

Read it all.

The latest on FNL's survival

Michael Learmonth of Silicon Alley Insider writes:

Good news for "Friday Night Lights" fans: NBC didn't cancel it! Bad news: Fans of the show without DirecTV have to wait until February to see the season when it airs on NBC.

Wait-- did someone say filesharing?

The backstory: NBC sold first-run rights for the third season to DirectTV, which will put the show on the air next fall. NBC did that to help finance the show, which has plenty of buzz, but low ratings. NBC gets to air the show (which it also owns) in February after the Super Bowl, six months after it starts on DirecTV.

The show won't be on the Web legitimately until February, when it will be released to NBC.com and Hulu after the first airing on the network.

So here's the conondrum for rabid "Friday Night Lights" fans (we know at least one) this fall: Wait until February while the privileged few DirecTV subscribers get to go back to Dillon, Texas (a non-starter); subscribe to DirecTV (a hassle, and costly); or familiarize themselves with Bittorrent (cheap and free.) Predictions?

Good questions, but the real questions are how to handle the "graduation" of key cast members who should be off to college, and what to do when some of the actors, who are pushing 30, start to look their ages?

Annie Savoy, Episcopalian?

The good sports at Bus Leagues Baseball picked up our April Fool's story and took it a step further. As Bull Durham fans, we are delighted.

Judge rules: Advantage CANA

Updated 8:27 a. m.

The ruling is here. The Diocese of Virginia's response is here. At least one newspaper has erroneously reported that in making this ruling, the court has awarded the breakaway congregations the property. That is not the case, and the diocesan release clears that up well.

We will be updating throughout the day.

Judge Randy Bellows writes:

The Court finds that the evidence presented at trial establishes that the definition of "division" as that term is used in 57-9(A) is in fact that assigned to it by the CANA Congregations, which is "[a] split ... or rupture in a religious denomination that involve[s] the separation of a group of congregations, clergy, or members from the church, and the formation of an alternative polity that disaffiliating members could join."81 (CANA Congregations Opening Post-Trial Mem.7.) In so concluding, the Court first looks to the language of the statute.

And:

Finally, ECUSAjDiocese argue that the CANA Congregations' definition of division would permit a division to be "foisted upon [a hierarchical church] by the acts of a few disgruntled individuals." See Post-Trial Reply Br. for the Episcopal Church and the Diocese 5 n.3. The CANA Congregations' definition, argues ECUSAjDiocese, would make the division statute too "easily applicable." The Court finds no merit in this position. The CANA Congregations' definition requires three major and coordinated occurrences: 1.} a "split" or "rupture" in a religious denomination; 2.} "the separation of a group of congregations, clergy, or members from the church;" and 3.} the formation of an "alternative polity that disaffiliating members could join." The ECUSAjDiocese is correct that division, under 57-9(A}, ought not be "easy." Under the CANA Congregations' definition, it is not.

And:

it blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude, especially given the involvement of numerous churches in states across the country, the participation of hundreds of church leaders, both lay and pastoral, who have found themselves "taking sides" against their brethren, the determination by thousands of church members in Virginia and elsewhere to "walk apart" in the language of the Church, the creation of new and substantial religious entities, such as CANA, with their own structures and disciplines, the rapidity with which the ECUSA's problems became that of the Anglican Communion, and the consequent impact-in some cases the extraordinary impact-on its provinces around the world, and, perhaps most importantly, the creation of a level of distress among many church members so profound and wrenching as to lead them to cast votes in an attempt to disaffiliate from a church which has been their home and heritage throughout their lives, and often back for generations. Whatever may be the precise threshold for a dispute to constitute a division under 57-9(A), what occurred here qualifies. For the foregoing reasons, this Court finds that the CANA Congregations have properly invoked 57-9(A). Further proceedings will take place in accordance with the Order issued today.

What next?

For the reasons stated in the Letter Opinion issued today, hereby incorporated by reference, the Court finds that the Plaintiff Congregations in the above-entitled matters have properly invoked Va. Code § 57-9(A). The Court further ORDERS and schedules the following: The Court hereby schedules oral argument for lOam on Wednesday, May 28, 2008, on the following three issues:

1.) Whether 57-9(A), as interpreted by this Court, violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution;

2.) Whether 57-9(A), as interpreted by this Court, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

3.) Whether 57-9(A), as interpreted by this Court, violates the religious freedom provisions of the Virginia Constitution.

On May 28th, 2008, the Court will hear from the Diocese, ECUSA, the CANA Congregations, and the Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia (amicus).

In its response, the diocese said:

In its opinion, the Court explicitly acknowledged that constitutional issues remain and there will be a hearing on those issues on May 28, 2008. At issue is the government’s ability to intrude into the freedom of the Episcopal Church and other churches to organize and govern themselves according to their faith and doctrine. We strongly believe that, while we may have theological disagreements within the Episcopal Church, those disagreements are ours to resolve according to our faith and governance.

Background on the case is here.

Updated 10:25 a.m.

Thinking Anglicans has a roundup of links including press releases from the Anglican District of Virginia and CANA.

Summary
The only way in which this Court could find a “division” not to exist among the pertinent entities in this case is to define the term so narrowly and restrictively as to effectively define the term out of existence. The ECUSA and the Diocese urge upon this Court just such a definition and further assert that any definition other than the one for which they argue would render the statute unconstitutional. The Court rejects this invitation. Whether or not it is true that only the ECUSA’s and the Diocese’s proposed definition can save 57-9(A) from constitutional infirmity, there is no constitutional principle of which this Court is aware that would permit, let alone require, the Court to adopt a definition for a statutory term that is plainly unwarranted. Rather, the definition of “division” adopted by this Court is a definition which the Court finds to be consistent with the language of the statute, its purpose and history, and the very limited caselaw that exists. Given this definition, the Court finds that the evidence of a “division” within the Diocese, the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion is not only compelling, but overwhelming. As to the other issues in principal controversy, the Court finds the Anglican Communion to be a “church or religious society.” The Court finds each of the CANA Congregations to have been attached to the Anglican Communion. Finally, the Court finds that the term “branch” must be defined far more broadly than the interpretation placed upon that term by ECUSA and the Diocese and that, as properly defined, CANA, ADV, the American Arm of the Church of Uganda, the Church of Nigeria, the ECUSA, and the Diocese, are all branches of the Anglican Communion and, further, CANA and ADV are branches of ECUSA and the Diocese.

Update 10:45 a.m.

AP reports at WTOPnews:

In an opinion released late Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows ruled that Virginia's Civil War-era "division statute" applies to the lawsuit. The language in that law is favorable to the departing congregations.

The judge still has to decide whether the state law is constitutional and whether the departing congregations properly conducted their votes to realign.

Update 2:45 p.m.

AP reports at Richmond Times Dispatch, "The judge is still a long way from deciding who ultimately controls church property."

Washington Post:

Scott Ward, an attorney for several of the congregations, noted that the state statute calls itself "conclusive" and said that might ultimately render a fall trial unnecessary.

But Henry Burt, a spokesman for the diocese, said his side believes that ownership of church property is determined by other things, including a denomination's laws and deeds and the history of how the property has been managed and controlled over time.

Some faith groups said the ruling could impact other religious organizations in Virginia. The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy called it "chilling."

Update: 3:15 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Concerning the Virginia Court Ruling
From the Office of the Presiding Bishop

"We are obviously disappointed in yesterday's ruling by the trial judge against the Episcopal Church and the Diocese that involved one Virginia statutory issue in the case. While we believe that the Court's conclusion that Virginia's unusual "division" statute applies to the current situation in the Diocese, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is incorrect, there will time enough in the future to seek review of that decision if it becomes necessary. In the meantime, we shall present to the Court at the scheduled argument in May our contention that if the statute means what the Court has held, it plainly deprives the Episcopal Church and the Diocese, as well as all hierarchical churches, of their historic constitutional rights to structure their polity free from governmental interference and thus violates the First Amendment and cannot be enforced.

"We also note that this decision does not bar the contentions of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese regarding control over the property of the departing congregations that will be presented to the Court in the fall."

Neva Rae Fox
Program Officer, Public Affairs
The Episcopal Church
212-716-6080
Mobile: 917-478-5659

ENS analysis here.

TIME has a story.

UPDATE: April 4, 6 p.m.
Letter from The Rt Rev Peter J Lee of the Diocese of Virginia follows below (link):

UPDATE: April 5, 9 a.m.
The New York Times reports here.

Read more »

Lord, Save Us From Your Followers

USA Today reports on how conversation about God is changing on college campuses.

Filmmaker Dan Merchant stood before an auditorium of students assembled for the first campus screening of his forthcoming movie, Lord Save Us From Your Followers. Merchant, a Christian, was at Lewis & Clark College, a school in Portland, Ore., deemed by the Princeton Review college guide to be one of the least religious in the USA.

Yet one conspicuous reality defied a key premise of the event from the moment the college chaplain brought Merchant to the stage: Students packed the good-sized hall, overflowing into the aisles and entry ways, for a chance to see what most knew was a Christian-themed movie with a Gospel message.

And by the time they had finished watching the film — a humorous and heartfelt examination of the culture wars featuring a Michael Moore-meets-Monty Python style — those students could not wait to talk to Merchant about his movie and his faith.

"What struck me," Merchant said later, "was their openness to this conversation."

Students open to a conversation about Christianity, even on a campus with an ultrasecular reputation? Such is the state of affairs at the nation's colleges and universities, where religion is experiencing something of a renaissance, although not necessarily in the shapes and forms older generations are used to seeing.

Lewis and Clark College, Portland OR, reports:

In February, Lewis & Clark hosted the first college-campus screening of a forthcoming documentary exploring the collision of faith and culture in America, titled “Lord, Save Us from Your Followers.” Sponsored by the chapel office and the Christian student group Agape, the special event welcomed secular and religious students to a discussion with producer-director Dan Merchant about the issues raised by the film.

About 300 students filled Council Chambers to be among the first viewers of the documentary, which opens nationwide in June. A short film about the Lewis & Clark event captures the students’ emotional and intellectual responses to the film’s message of compassion and cooperation.

USA Today article is here.

Lewis and Clark College report is here.

More on the film here.

You Tube video of Lewis and Clark event follows:

Read more »

40th Anniversary of the King assassination

Many churches and cities are marking the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today.

The AP reports from Memphis:

On the 40th anniversary of his assassination, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was remembered Friday in the city where he died as a man who came to Memphis "to lead us to a better way."

Presidential candidates, civil rights leaders, labor activists and thousands of citizens were coming together to honor King for his devotion to racial equality and economic justice.

King was cut down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968, while helping organize a strike by Memphis sanitation workers, then some of the poorest of the city's working poor.

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represented the workers then and now, marched Friday from their downtown headquarters to the motel.

A line of several hundred people carrying umbrellas in a steady rain set off on the mile-long route.

"Dr. King was like Moses," said Leslie Moore, a 61-year-old sanitation worker who began working for the city in 1968. "God gave Moses the assignment to lead the children of Israel across the Red Sea. He sent Dr. King here to lead us to a better way."

Read the story here.

The American Prospect carries on essay by Kai Wright on the message of King and its words for today.

The Washington Post discusses King's legacy:

Forty years after King was gunned down by an assassin in Memphis, it is this sharper-edged figure who has come into focus again. To mark today's anniversary, several scholarly reports have been released charting the nation's uneven social and economic progress during the past 40 years. Some scholars and former King associates are using the occasion to zero in on the two issues -- war and poverty -- that were consuming him at the time of his death.

Both have particular resonance now: The United States is engaged in a war in Iraq that has grown increasingly unpopular, and the poor -- despite the concerns highlighted by Hurricane Katrina and the subprime mortgage crisis -- are as voiceless as they were in King's day, advocates contend.

"His challenge was much bigger than being nice," said Taylor Branch, author of a three-volume history, "America in the King Years." "It was even bigger than race. It was whether we take our national purpose seriously, which is the full promise of equal citizenship."

Video, photos and more at More Than An Icon.

Also the United Church of Christ is calling for a nationwide discussion on race according to Newsweek

The United Church of Christ, the parent denomination of Barack Obama's church, announced Thursday that it will begin a conversation on racial issues beginning next month in response to sermons by Obama's pastor that were critical of the U.S.

Leaders of Obama's church, Trinity United Church of Christ, meanwhile, asked reporters for respect, saying threats and a media onslaught are disrupting worship at the South Side church. The church has increased security in response to threatening telephone calls, letters and e-mails, they said.

At a news conference, the United Church of Christ's national leadership said the furor over comments by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright demonstrated the complexity of racial issues in the country and the need for churches nationwide to talk about them.

"The members of Trinity United Church of Christ are going through a very difficult time right now. The intersection of politics, religion and race has heightened our awareness of how easy it is for conversations about race to be anything but sacred," said the Rev. John Thomas, the denomination's president.

The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, echoed the call for a national discussion, beginning May 18. Kinnamon said he objects to seeing Trinity portrayed as an extremist sect, saying it and the UCC "are part of the wider Christian community."

Iraqi youth disillusioned by religious violence

The New York Times reports that youth in Iraq are becoming disillusioned by religion in the wake all the violence:

After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.

In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.

“I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don’t deserve to be rulers.”

Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad, said: “The religion men are liars. Young people don’t believe them. Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore.”

The shift in Iraq runs counter to trends of rising religious practice among young people across much of the Middle East, where religion has replaced nationalism as a unifying ideology.


Read the article here.

A ministry of listening

The host of Public Radio International's Speaking of Faith found herself on the other side of the interviewer's mike recently, in a profile on PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. The show won a Peabody award this week, and the R&E piece took a closer look at what Krista Tippett allows might be "a ministry of listening rather than preaching":


ABERNETHY: Most of her interviews are remotes with guests in distant cities, and when she's doing them, alone in her studio, you can see the intensity of what she calls her "life of listening."

What Tippett and her producers create is spiritual and theological insight expressed in everyday language without doctrinal certainty.

Ms. TIPPETT: No one who is listening to the program is hearing someone else say, "This is the truth." But they are hearing people of integrity and wisdom say, "This is my truth. This is how I came to it. This is how I live with it," and that's listenable. You can disagree with a person's doctrine. You can't disagree with his or her experience.

Tippett, who has been an Episcopalian but considers herself in denominational limbo these days, talks about some of the things in her recent book, that shares its title with her radio program. Among the topics: depression, her divorce, conveying faith to her children:

ABERNETHY: And your divorce, along with the pain -- what were there lessons there?

Ms. TIPPETT: Divorce is a death, and it's a failure -- or that's how it feels. That's just another way in which life is not what we wish it to be, and we have to live gracefully with what it is. I'm quite proud of how my former husband and I now are friends and absolutely co-parents to our children.

ABERNETHY: Tippett's children are Aly, 14, and Sebastian, nine, and sometimes when she revisits St. John's Abbey she takes them with her. I asked her why.

Ms. TIPPETT: This experience of mystery that we talked about, I have that experience in the Abbey church here. It's a feeling. It's -- it's a transcendent experience. I want them to experience that, that mystery.

Tune in to the interview/profile here.

The faith of a village

Minto, Alaska, is home to about 180 people. While it's situated less than 80 miles northwest of Fairbank as a bird flies, it takes nearly five hours to get there by car. As Christy McKerny of the Washington Post describes, accompanying the Rev. Bessie C. Titus on the drive to visit Minto's new worship center was a breathtaking experience:

On the way to Minto, we went over some particulars. Some 180 people live in the village, said Bessie. Most who live there are descendants of Athabaskan Indians. The elders speak Athabaskan as well as English.

The journey to Minto climbs through mountain passes, along snowy ridges, through marshes, and past stubbly fields of stunted pine trees. About two hours out of Fairbanks, you turn off the highway and head for the hills on a gravel road for 40 minutes. Along the way, men can be seen unloading dogs from a vented truck and hitching them to a sled. Occasionally, Bessie would point out a trailhead or a hot spring.

Rolling into town, we passed the cemetery where Bessie’s parents are buried, the air strip, log cabins, and then the new Worship Center.

The worship center was built to satisfy the needs of the village residents, many of whom attended both village churches—the Episcopal Church in the morning, and the Assembly of God church in the evening. In an accompanying video, one resident explains that they are not interested in denominational boundaries (owing partly, she says, to their lack of access to education), but rather their relationship with Jesus Christ. But when the Assembly of God minister left, the worship center became the solution.

You can read the article and see the accompanying video here.

Earth Day resources

Since the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, Earth Day has been an annual event for people around the world to celebrate the earth and renew our commitment to building a safer, healthier and cleaner world for all of us. It is a wonderful opportunity to embrace all of God's creation, raise awareness and pray for "this fragile earth, our island home" (Eucharistic Prayer C, Book of Common Prayer).

There are many resources and websites to assist in the planning of your education offerings and worship celebrations on this day - click on resource for link:

Earth Day Network

Take the Ecological Footprint Quiz!

Green Stories from Episcopalians

Update on Greening Efforts around the Episcopal Church

Worship and Formation Resources

Sample Sermons

Congregational Greening Resources and Ideas

Millennium Development Goal #7 resources

Climate Change and the Church

Healing God's Creation

Lord of Creation: Celtic Spirituality

Lessons Plans from the NCCC Eco-Justice Network! The Poverty of Global Climate Change . .

Green Resolutions passed at General Convention over the past 30 years

Episcopal Environmental Conference in Seattle April 2008.

Letter from Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori to the U.S. Senate regarding climate change.

HT to Living In-Formation - a newsletter from Church Publishing. and the Episcopal Ecological Network.

A message from the leadership team of Episcopal Ecological Network (EpEN) follows:

Read more »

Tony Blair on Faith

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a new convert to the Roman Catholic Church, gave his first major speech on religion earlier this week. Here is the Christianity Today report on the speech:

In his first major speech on religion, Tony Blair said last night that religion must be rescued from extremism and irrelevance and used as a force for good at a time of global turmoil.

Blair, who converted to Catholicism last year, made the call in a lecture on faith and globalisation at Westminster Cathedral, the first in 'The Cardinal’s Lectures’ series organised by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor to examine faith and life in Britain.

“For religion to be a force for good, it must be rescued not simply from extremism, faith as a means of exclusion; but also from irrelevance, an interesting part of our history but not of our future," said Blair.

"Faith is reduced to a system of strange convictions and actions that, to some, can appear far removed from the necessities and anxieties of ordinary life. It is this face that gives militant secularism an easy target,” he added.

Blair declared his strong desire to “awaken the world’s conscience” to widespread poverty, illiteracy and poor health, and said that the Tony Blair Faith Foundation would set the Millennium Development Goals as one of its priority areas for engagement when it launches next month.

The foundation will bring together different faith organisations to foster friendship and understanding, and harness people of faith as a force for good in the modern world.

Last night’s faith speech was a turnabout from Blair’s recent admission that he dodged questions on his faith whilst in office because “you may be considered weird”. When an American journalist once asked Blair for his religious views, the former prime minister’s atheist spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, famously blurted, “We don’t do God.”

Read it all here. The full text of the speech is here.

The future of seminaries

Using the bicentennial of Andover Newton Theological School as the occasion, Richard Higgins explores the challenges facing most denominational seminaries:

The nation has 165 seminaries, but 39 percent of seminary students attend just 20 of them. The 20 large institutions, all but two evangelical Christian, raise substantial money, have big endowments or receive moderate to high denominational support — or do all three.

In addition, nonsectarian theological and divinity schools that exist within a university also tend to be in good shape.

But a majority of Protestant seminaries are smaller independents, and many, including Andover Newton, lack adequate endowments. The mainline churches that parented the older seminaries have sharply cut financial support.

A result, said Daniel O. Aleshire, executive director of the National Association of Theological Schools, is that around 30 seminaries are in financial stress. In the future, Mr. Aleshire said, “There may be just two kinds of seminaries, those with substantial endowments or effective annual giving and the nonexistent.”

While Andover Newton is not on the brink, Mr. Carter said, it and other seminaries needed to think about sharing costs and pooling resources. The Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine has begun to outsource information technology work here.

“All of us,” Mr. Carter said, “have to find news ways to relate to and collaborate with each other as institutions or face the prospect that some will go out of business.”

Driven by economics and a desire for innovation, Andover Newton shares its campus with Hebrew College, a rabbinic school. The arrangement saves on fixed costs, Mr. Carter said, and the interfaith discussions it has created has attracted new types of students, grants and donations. Other seminaries are similarly combining resources, Mr. Aleshire said.

Read it all here.

See our earlier report on the future of Episcopal seminaries here.

Born Again Christians and divorce

A new Barna study finds that the divorce rate among born again Christians, including evangelicals, is about the same as the national average. The Christian Post has this report:

After months of revived debate over divorce and its increasing acceptance among Americans, a new study affirmed born again Christians are just as likely as the average American couple to divorce.

The Barna Group found in its latest study that born again Christians who are not evangelical were indistinguishable from the national average on the matter of divorce with 33 percent having married and divorced at least once. Among all born again Christians, which includes evangelicals, the divorce figure is 32 percent, which is statistically identical to the 33 percent figure among non-born again adults, the research group noted.

"There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage," George Barna, who directed the study, stated in the study, which was released Monday.

. . .

While a higher proportion of born again Christians marry (84 percent) compared to the national average (78 percent), recent trends indicate that Americans are growing more comfortable with divorce.

"Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility," Barna noted. "There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life."

Still, the divorce rate among evangelical Christians – who are defined as meeting the born again criteria plus other conditions – was lower (26 percent) than the national average. Meanwhile, those associated with a non-Christian faith were more likely to divorce (38 percent), the study showed.

Read it all here.

The last wish of Martin Luther King

Taylor Branch, the historian of the civil rights movement, has a must read discussion of how Martin Luther King'needs to be remembered in today'sNew York Times:

A certain amount of gloss and mythology is inevitable for great figures, whether they be George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, Honest Abe splitting a rail or Dr. King preaching a dream of equal citizenship in 1963. Far beyond that, however, we have encased Dr. King and his era in pervasive myth, false to our heritage and dangerous to our future. We have distorted our entire political culture to avoid the lessons of Martin Luther King’s era.

He warned us himself. When he came to the pulpit that Sunday 40 years ago, Dr. King adapted one of his standard sermons, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” From the allegory of Rip Van Winkle, he told of a man who fell asleep before 1776 and awoke 20 years later in a world filled with strange customs and clothes, a whole new vocabulary, and a mystifying preoccupation with the commoner George Washington rather than King George III.

Dr. King pleaded for his audience not to sleep through the world’s continuing cries for freedom. When the ancient Hebrews achieved miraculous liberation from Egypt, many yearned to go back. Pharaoh’s familiar lash seemed better than the covenant delivered by Moses, and so the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness. It took 40 years to recover their bearings. Dr. King has been gone 40 years now, but we still sleep under Pharaoh. It is time to wake up.

. . .

We must reclaim the full range of blessings from his movement. For Dr. King, race was in most things, but defined nothing alone. His appeal was rooted in the larger context of nonviolence. His stated purpose was always to redeem the soul of America. He put one foot in the Constitution and the other in scripture. “We will win our freedom,” he said many times, “because the heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.” To see Dr. King and his colleagues as anything less than modern founders of democracy — even as racial healers and reconcilers — is to diminish them under the spell of myth.

Dr. King said the movement would liberate not only segregated black people but also the white South. Surely this is true. You never heard of the Sun Belt when the South was segregated. The movement spread prosperity in a region previously unfit even for professional sports teams. My mayor in Atlanta during the civil rights era, Ivan Allen Jr., said that as soon as the civil rights bill was signed in 1964, we built a baseball stadium on land we didn’t own, with money we didn’t have, for a team we hadn’t found, and quickly lured the Milwaukee Braves. Miami organized a football team called the Dolphins.

The movement also de-stigmatized white Southern politics, creating two-party competition. It opened doors for the disabled, and began to lift fear from homosexuals before the modern notion of “gay” was in use. Not for 2,000 years of rabbinic Judaism had there been much thought of female rabbis, but the first ordination took place soon after the movement shed its fresh light on the meaning of equal souls. Now we think nothing of female rabbis and cantors and, yes, female Episcopal priests and bishops, with their colleagues of every background. Parents now take for granted opportunities their children inherit from the Montgomery bus boycott.

Read it all here.

How would Jesus choose?

Adam Hamilton, pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas, says that it is time says he is pro-choice "with a heavy heart" and that the abortion debate has been too polarized for too long.

Newsweek writes:

Adam Hamilton does not call himself "pro-choice." He prefers "pro-life with a heavy heart." What that means, as he explains in his new book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, is that he believes abortion should be available and legal, that there are instances in which it might be necessary and that those instances should be very rare. Further, he says, the abortion debate has been too hot for too long, and that, as a Christian minister, his job is to try "to support people no matter what decision they make." As an evangelical megachurch pastor in Kansas, a man educated at Oral Roberts University, Hamilton speaks carefully, aware that he's staking out a controversial position.

Or maybe not. About a third of white evangelicals say that abortion should sometimes or always be legal, according to the Pew Research Center—a number that hasn't changed in a decade. In recent election seasons, however, these moderate voices have been drowned out by hard-line shouting on both sides. In the past, an evangelical who might condone abortion in the case of his ailing wife or 14-year-old daughter would never say so in public. Now, the abortion rhetoric has faded somewhat as evangelicals turn their attention to other things: AIDS, the environment, Darfur. In 2004, megapastor Rick Warren announced that abortion was a "nonnegotiable" for evangelical voters. This year, he's been silent. What's new, then, is not that a pastor like Hamilton would take a softer approach to abortion, but that he would feel comfortable enough to say so from the pulpit and in print.

Hamilton new book, released on April 2nd by Abingdon Press, is called Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality and Politics. The book includes 24 essays including, “Where Is God When Bad Things Happen?” “In Praise of Honest Doubt,” “Is Your Jesus Too Small?” “The Messy Truth About Spirituality,” “Will There Be Hindus in Heaven,” “How to be Pentecostal Without Losing Your Mind,” “Homosexuality at the Center,” “Questions of War,” and 16 others.

He hope the book will...

...be helpful to all who have struggled with the black and white, either/or approach to faith, morality and politics - an approach that tends to polarize our churches and our nation. I also hope each chapter will encourage meaningful discussion (there are discussion questions for each chapter included in the book). Abingdon will be releasing video clips as small group discussion starters based upon some of my sermons by September.

Adam Hamilton keeps the blog "Seeing Gray"

Newsweek: How would Jesus choose?

It is written....

Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh has a prophecy. He writes, in the magazine of Trinity Cathedral of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, that 2008 is "the year of of the Gate." And through this gate will march the true church carrying forward a new reformation.

In Hebrew, the number eight is rendered by the letter CHET, which is depicted in the form of a GATE.

The number eight is related to new starts and new life in the Scriptures – the most notable being the resurrection of Jesus which occurred on the eighth day…Eight is the number of the gate…

And I sensed the Holy Spirit saying simply this: 2008 is the year of the open gate. Prepare to pass through the gate. There are new beginnings ahead for those who have been waiting patiently for their moment to come. Obstacles are being removed. The Father is breaking his children out of a sense of captivity to past restrictions. The anointing for new beginnings is on many in this year. The time of frustration and exile is coming to an end. This is the Lord’s time for his people to rise up and follow him through the gates of opportunity. New starts are looming. Many are on the point of experiencing the new life that convergence brings. And the true church even though it will know many trials – is on the point of experiencing new life, a new season of vitality and creativity, a brand new Reformation.

Fr. Jake says that the Bishop is using the language of prophecy to mobilize his supporters in the diocese and the Common Cause Partnership/Network to break from the Episcopal Church and a Canterbury-centered Anglican Communion this year.

Translation...go ahead and leave TEC for another Province...thus saith the Lord.

I have some serious problems with such "prophecies." First of all, it is based on the premise that the future has already been fully determined. That simply cannot be, as I've previously discussed.

Second of all, I find it very odd that the same group who is constantly repeating; "The bible said it, I believe it, that ends it," would now give authority to this rather unusual form of additional divine revelation.

And finally, I find the use of such a "prophecy" by the Bishop to be a form of spiritual manipulation. If God has already given his blessing on the upcoming schism, then there's nothing to discuss, right? It is no longer a debatable point. It is God's will. Not only do we not have to talk about it, we don't even have to think about it anymore.

And, of course, anyone who speaks against this prophecy will have proven themselves to be against God's will. They will be identified as the enemy, and must not only be silenced, but must be cut from the community, so that they do not contaminate others with their apostacy.

Bishop Duncan was found to have abandoned the Communion of this church in January but was not inhibited from ministry at the time by three senior bishops of the Church.

At the time, Bishop Wimberly explained that he did not consent to inhibition because

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.

The question is if, in invoking prophecy, if the Bishop of Pittsburgh is getting ready to attempt to formally remove his Diocese from the Episcopal Church.

Catholicism shrinking in Japan

The New York Times reports how the tiny Roman Catholic population that are clustered in Japan's southwestern islands is declining in the face of greater prosperity and growing influence of the dominant Shinto-Buddhist and secular culture.

Japan’s persecuted Christians fled here centuries ago, seeking to practice their faith in one of the country’s southwesternmost reaches. They eventually forged Roman Catholic communities found nowhere else in Japan, villages where everyone was Catholic, life revolved around the parish and even the school calendar yielded to the church’s.

Today, one quarter of the roughly 25,000 inhabitants of the district, a collection of seven inhabited islands and 60 uninhabited ones, are Roman Catholic, an extraordinary percentage in a country where Christianity failed to take root. It is by far the highest level in Japan, where Catholics account for about one-third of 1 percent of the overall population and where the total number of Christians amounts to less than 1 percent.

But like Japan’s Roman Catholicism in general, this redoubt is also losing its vitality for reasons both familiar to Catholics in other wealthy nations and peculiar to Japan. Young Catholics here are loosening their ties to the church, their spiritual needs fulfilled elsewhere. Those who have left for the cities are marrying non-Catholics and are being absorbed into an overwhelmingly non-Christian culture.

New York Times: On Japan’s Catholic Outposts, Faith Abides Even as the Churches Dwindle

Old sins for a new age

Eduardo Porter observes in the New York Times the difficulties of bringing forward ancient teachings to modern realities, when Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, regent of the Vatican Penitentiary, said that globalization might perhaps need new ways of thinking about sin in more social terms.

“If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a value and resonance that is above all social, because of the great phenomenon of globalization,” Monsignor Girotti told the newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

Sin, however, doesn’t take well to tinkering. Many Catholic thinkers reacted strongly against the idea that new sins were needed to complement, or supplement, the classical canon. They accused the press of exaggerating Monsignor Girotti’s words. Their reaction underscored how tough it is for the church to manage a moral code grounded in eternal verities at a time of furious change.

Here is an article from the LA Times describing what Girotti said.

NYTimes: The Vatican and Globalization: Tinkering with Sin.

Bishop Katharine supports Jubilee legislation

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent a letter to the House of Representatives on April 6 offering the Episcopal Church's "very strong endorsement" for H.R. 2634, the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Debt Cancellation, which is scheduled for consideration on the House floor this week.

Here is the text of the letter provided by Episcopal News Service:

April 7, 2008

Dear Members of the House:

As Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, I write to offer my church's very strong endorsement for H.R. 2634, the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Debt Cancellation, which is scheduled for consideration on the House floor this week. This critical bipartisan legislation begins the process of canceling the debts of poor countries around the world that currently are unable to gain traction in the fight against poverty and disease as a consequence of crippling debt burdens.

The Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, more than half of whose 80 million members live in countries suffering under the weight of widespread and life-threatening poverty and diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria. These countries spend more than $100 million per day repaying old debts to rich countries like the United States, and to multilateral lending institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Astonishingly, Africa alone spends more money each year on debt repayments than it receives in foreign aid focused on fighting poverty. Foreign aid initiatives, like the landmark Global AIDS bill passed by the House last week, must be matched with initiatives to cancel decades-old debt, much of it accrued by corrupt regimes long gone. Today, this debt is creating a slow bleed of precious resources from desperately needy countries.

Recognizing this dire situation, the Episcopal Church, Pope John Paul II, and many other faith leaders and communities played central roles in the Jubilee 2000 movement, which resulted in a first round of limited debt cancellation for some poor countries. Now, nearly a decade after the Jubilee 2000 movement spurred the historic international agreement on debt relief, the fruits of that effort are clear in countries that benefited. Mozambique increased rates of childhood vaccination by more than 80 percent and brought electrification to rural schools and hospitals. Uganda and Kenya were able to increase primary-school enrollment nearly two-fold, providing a future for children -- particularly girls -- who would otherwise be denied access to learning. Cameroon implemented a groundbreaking national HIV/AIDS initiative that has made significant inroads against mother-to-child transmission of the virus. These lives saved are a direct consequence of the generosity of nations like the United States in implementing the Jubilee 2000 debt package and the follow-up initiative of the 2005 G8 meeting.

Today, however, more than 65 countries still need complete cancellation of their debts if they are to meet the poverty-eradication targets adopted by the U.S. and other nations in the Millennium Declaration of 2000. The Jubilee Act begins that process, directing the U.S. Administration to work with other creditor countries to remit both the multilateral and bilateral debts of poor countries. Significantly, the bill requires countries to demonstrate sound governance and fiscal management before qualifying for debt relief, and requires savings to be invested directly in the programs that lift people out of poverty.

Thanks to strong bipartisan leaders like Reps. Waters, Bacchus, and Frank, the Jubilee Act has strong backing among both Democrats and Republicans, and was passed without objection last week in the Financial Services Committee. Its passage by Congress would be a significant and meaningful contribution to the stability and security of our world, and to the lives and full flourishing of millions of God's people across the planet.

In the Christian tradition, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus preached the very first sermon of his public ministry on the expectation of Jubilee, drawing from Isaiah's prophecy of liberty for the oppressed and a season of God's favor for all people. Our nation, in its finest hours, has been a bringer of Jubilee to neighbors in need around the world, and our present engagement in the fight to rid the world of death-dealing poverty and disease is a signal of how deeply that spirit of Jubilee is inscribed in the hearts of our own citizens. Debt cancellation is a critical step in that fight, and I urge your strong support for the Jubilee Act when it comes to a vote this week.

Please know that you are ever in my prayers, and that I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Katharine Jefferts Schori

Episcopal Life Online: Presiding Bishop endorses debt cancellation legislation in letter to House of Representatives

Paul Zahl on grace healing alienated relationships

The Rev. Dr. Paul F.M. Zahl, rector of All Saints Church in Chevy Chase, Maryland, has written "Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life" which he describes as an attempt to understand how the "grace of God or judgment or law of God" relates to various types of relationships and social issues such as "war and peace, and classism."

According to Episcopal Life Online, Zahl, formerly Dean and President of Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry said that "after 2003, when the Episcopal Church went into a time of severe conflict, I decided that I really ought to think about this in terms of a way that might be uniting rather than dividing," he explained. "I myself had been part of a rather divisive traditionalism and I said that this can't be fully right because there is quite a bit of anger to it."

"Grace in Practice" is Zahl's attempt be "positive and heartfelt." He said it is a book for everyone but may appeal specifically to "people who have often felt that Christianity was a matter of prohibitions and admonitions and heavy judgment rather than an enabling word of love and grace."

Read the rest here.

Retreat center planned at site of Jesus' baptism

The Jordan River site traditionally believed to be the spot where Jesus was baptized will be set aside for retreat and study center in the Diocese of Jerusalem thanks to a donation of land by King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Episcopal News Service carries this story:

"It's a privilege for us to have this gift from His Majesty King Abdullah and at the same time we look at this as a project to build a medium-sized Gothic Church with a retreat center," said Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani, who officially dedicated the land on March 28.

The land is important "from a religious point of view because of its location and because it represents an opportunity to strengthen our Christian presence there," Dawani added. "It will be a center for the entire Anglican Communion all over the world to visit and to connect with what's going on here."

Read the rest here.

Give it 4 Good

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation are asking people to use all or some of their economic stimulus checks to make a gift to something that will help others around the world. According to their press release:

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation invites you to become part of a movement for economic sanity and moral accountability.

Join others across the nation and give 100%, 10% or even 0.7% of next month's so-called "economic stimulus" check to an organization of your choice working to acheive the Millennium Development Goals.

Just visit Give it 4 Good to find out how.

At Give it 4 Good, you will find resources for deciding where to give, advocacy actions, how to spread the word, resources for starting conversations about consumerism in your congregation and family ... and much more.

Once you have taken the pledge, spread the word. Email your friends and family and tell them you have taken this important step. Let the people at the nonprofit you have designated know so they can encourage others to Give It 4 Good. Put a button on your website and a flier in your congregation.

Go to the site -- and take the pledge. Then keep checking back to see who has Given it 4 Good, how much has been given and where the money is going to Make Poverty History.


On the first day of the campaign 91 people took the pledge and at least $23,454 has been pledged for the MDGs. A Facebook site is here.

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (EGR) is a small organization of Episcopalians ... a grassroots movement of connection and collaboration for creative ministry following Christ by heeding his call to seek & serve him in the extreme poor around the world. Focusing on the Millennium Development Goals as a vehicle for this ministry EGR offers resources for action for individuals, churches and communities.

See the MDGs below:

Read more »

Prophecy gone missing

Yesterday, The Lead reported that Bishop Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh had received a prophecy from The Rev. Mark Stibbe, Rector of St. Andrew's, Chorleywood, in the Diocese of St. Alban's, England. Today it seems the issue of Trinity Magazine containing Bishop Duncan's comments and the prophecy have been pulled from the Diocesan web site.

The prophecy and Bishop Duncans's repsonse generated a great number of responses on church listserves and blogs.

A video of Mark Stibbe (Evangelicals in the UK do not use Father as a title) is here.

A biography is here.

Andrew Gerns writes on the prophecy here.

Mark Harris comments here.

UPDATE: April 8
Prophecy mystery solved - the issue of Trinity has returned - it seems it was a techno error. See issue here.

HT to Lionel Deimel,

Olympic protests

The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of the Diocese of California, comments on the protests surrounding the Summer Olympics in China and the role of righteous anger:

The best manners, the most respectful posture towards another in the range of our relationships is one that sheds light – love – both outward and inward.

Voices that say that San Franciscans, Parisians, all those living where the Olympic torch is being carried on its way to Beijing should respectfully let it pass should be heard as promoting a lesser form of human kindness. A recommendation for silence over injustice means complicity, and finally more shadows and less light.

It matters, though, and greatly, how we protest. It is heartening to see the unafraid, creative, non-violent way in which protesters have been emblazoning the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Golden Gate Bridge. As my friends and co-workers who have been following these protests tell me about them, they do so with a happy light in their eyes, and with a spark of energy to join in.

The late Rabbi Friedman advised meeting anger with humor – not the easiest prescription to follow, as we human animals tend to either fight or run when confronted with threatening anger. It is a genuinely human response to respond creatively, as these protestors are doing. I would say it is how the fully human Jesus responded to his attackers, and how I hope to follow him.

I said that we must take a posture that shines the light of love outward and inward when we protest. This comes from what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from the Birmingham Jail, when he was responding to clergymen who said, “Wait, be polite,” with respect to the urgency of the Civil Rights Movement. When planning a non-violent action, King wrote, one of the deliberate steps he and others in the Movement took was to purify their motives.

Read it all here.

Protests have begun in the San Francisco area as the torch arrives and passes through that city. AFP reports:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and actor Richard Gere are to attend a pro-Tibet demonstration in the city on Tuesday, during which a "freedom torch" that has shadowed the Olympic torch will be carried to the Chinese consulate.
Tsering Gyurmey, secretary of the Tibetan Association of Northern California, told AFP protestors would be encouraged to demonstrate peacefully.
"We are urging all our supporters to be very peaceful and not be in confrontation with anybody," he said.

Read more news here.

UPDATE: 1:30 p.m.
Bishop Andrus is co-hosting, with Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral an event honoring Bishop Desmod Tutu, sponsored by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commision tonight at Grace Cathedral. Following that event Andrus and Tutu are going to a candlelight vigil for Tibet sponsored by the International Campaign for Tibet.

Letter from The Falls Church Episcopal

The Senior Warden and the Priest In Charge at The Falls Church Episcopal have issued a statement to members of the Episcopal Church in Falls Church VA concerning the rulings by Judge Bellows on the property case of the Virginia churches. In discussing the meaning of the ruling Senior Warden William Fetsch and The Rev. Michael Pipkin say:

What does all of this mean?
The bottom line is that there has been no decision on the ultimate questions of property or assets. Despite what many are writing in the press and what you may read on the internet, the Circuit Court opinion does not reach ultimate questions of disposition of property. These issues are scheduled for trial in October 2008. What happened today is only a small step on this long road toward finality.

While some are declaring this as a victory for “their side,” Judge Bellows’ opinion reminds us that we remain Brothers and Sisters of the Anglican Communion. We are ultimately saddened not by the loss of this case, but in the sadness that is a schism of the Body of Christ.

For the civil courts to look into our Church, which is the Body of Christ, and to declare it divided is ultimately a very sad thing – and certainly NO victory for anyone. And yet, in the brokenness of this moment, in our sadness and in their joy, Jesus is alive and present, and the Holy Spirit continues to work in and through us all.

As for us at The Falls Church Episcopal, we have a lot of work to do, and none of it has anything to do with who owns 115 E. Fairfax Street. There are many in our neighborhood who are in need of the Christian message of love and community that we claim as followers of an incarnate God.

With or without today’s decision, we remain the Church – we will continue to worship, and we will continue to reach out to those in need. We will provide for the needy, minister to the sick, comfort the mournful, and we will strive for justice and peace among all people.
In our work as the Church, we will continue to partner with local organizations, such as Homestretch, and we will develop partnerships with other Falls Church congregations – Episcopal or otherwise – as we meet our Lord in the faces of our neighbors.

While we are may be saddened by today’s events, we are reminded of the need, now more than ever, to proclaim our presence in Falls Church, and to reach out ever more diligently.

In the days ahead you will surely be provided the opportunity to discuss this with friends, family, and neighbors. I urge you to discuss these events, keeping in mind the charity, love, and peace that our Lord showed in his own Passion. I also urge you to invite your friends, families, and neighbors to join us as we continue to grow and proclaim the Good News of God in Jesus Christ!

The complete joint statement of Rev. Michael Pipkin and Senior Warden Bill Fetsch with The Falls Church Episcopal and a triumphal letter from John Yates of the CANA congregation can be found here.

Protecting the Anglican soul

The Church Times, March 28 2008, issue carries an essay by Mark Oakley, who offers some thoughtful concerns about our current controversies:

An issue! An issue! We all fall down
Mark Oakley

The Revd Rod Thomas wrote to this newspaper that 'there are only really two sides to the current controversy over human sexuality . . . there is no room for middle ground'. So far, media commentators have interpreted the division in the Anglican Communion in the same vein — as being between 'conservatives' and 'liberals'.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been mocked as the compromised referee, who ends up managing the ecclesiastical equivalent of herding cats at the Lambeth Conference. The rest of the Church becomes anxious about which side is gaining the upper hand in Synods, councils, and on the bench of bishops. The result is that, as Churchill noted, keeping your ear to the ground means you can't see very far from down there. To be focused more on our purity than our purpose leads to paralysis.

The division, however, is not really between conservatives and liberals at all. It is much more serious than that. It is a division between, first, those who are willing to say that other Christians, who have different views or lifestyles to themselves, are still, nevertheless, Christian, and have a Christian integrity that must be part of the Church; and, second, those who think that this simply cannot and must not be the case.

Following the first approach, and contrary to much reporting, there are Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals, conservatives, liberals, radicals, and everything in between — all knowing where they stand, but, in generosity of spirit, acknowledging the different but faithful approaches to the Bible, tradition, and reasoning that there are legitimately other than their own.

These people believe that the Church is a Noah's ark, where every animal has to budge over in the straw to let someone else nestle down. This is a Church where friendships count for more than sound-bites, and which understands that something of God is shadowed every time a believer forgets that Christian faith is an exercise in humility. This has been the Anglican spirit at its best — with a resistance to over-definition of doctrine, in preference to worshipping together in common prayer.

The second approach, however, challenges this spirit. It argues that there is only one way to interpret scripture or tradition on the issues that are presenting themselves, and that all other views are in error and should not be given any oxygen. Some bishops feel so strongly about this that they cannot even meet in conversation and prayer those fellow bishops with whom they so profoundly disagree. An irony emerges: those who argue so fiercely for family values do not set a good example of how to be a family. Communion needs communication.

I was ordained 15 years ago, and, over these few years, I have found myself increasingly worried about the climate change of the Church.

I was ordained next to remarkable people, with whom I disagreed theologically, but I felt then, as I do now, that by ordaining all of us — asking us the same questions of intent, requiring of us the same assent and declarations in a liturgy in which the Creed was jointly recited — the Church of England was both drawing life from its historical inheritance, and maintaining its passion for balance in proclaiming the gospel afresh. We shared communion together from the start; for, as the New Testament is keen to point out, fear of contagion is not a Christian fear.

Those who want a Church of strict uniformity will say that behind all the issues that currently divide us lies the primary topic of how the Bible is interpreted, and that what are often referred to as secondary issues are not.

Again, something of the traditional Anglican spirit is under attack here. The Anglican tradition has sought to be a scholarly, reflective, and intellectually honest one. It has therefore known that reading the Bible as a community and taking it seriously — honouring the many genuine historical and interpretative questions that are simply there — will inevitably lead to more than one conclusion.

It is not so much that the Bible neatly answers all our questions, as that it questions all our answers. Its treasures are not yielded up overnight, at whim, or as ammunition. The only ultimate uniformity on offer is the constant fidelity of God towards us all.

The boundaries of our theological thinking have been placed on the table for us long ago. Scripture is read, tradition received, sacramental worship offered, and apostolic ministry retained. To agree then that some of our dividing issues today are adiaphora, 'things indifferent', might be a provisional understanding, but I would argue that it is urgently necessary.

A little self-reflection might be important. I cannot be the only person who, since my confirmation at the age of 11, has found himself changing thoughts and opinions on almost everything as the years pass. In those years, though, the Church of England has been large enough to be my home — a spiritual compass, not a dictator telling me with whom I cannot meet or pray.

In 1930, the Lambeth Conference concluded that Anglicans stand for 'an open Bible, a pastoral priesthood, a common worship, a standard of conduct consistent with that worship and a fearless love of truth'. My fear is that those who would now homogenise our Church place some of these at severe risk.

This is not about conservatives and liberals. It is about the survival of the Anglican soul. There is middle ground — and it is where we should all be at times, for the sake of one another and the message of reconciliation entrusted to us.


The Ven. Mark Oakley is Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe

More Church Times here.

Assault on gay leaders in Nigeria

Updated Friday morning

From a press release by Changing Attitude England:

Over the Easter weekend 2008, gay leaders of Changing Attitude Nigeria were seriously assaulted. They, and the Director of Changing Attitude England, were also threatened with death because “they are polluting Nigeria with abomination and immorality”. The attacks were reported to the police in Nigeria, Togo and the UK.

In an open letter to conservative Anglican church leaders twenty Anglican bishops and leaders have expressed concern about the use of incautious language and urge conservative church leaders to consider the effects of the language that they use.

The letter is signed by several UK bishops and other clergy. The signers are: Revd Canon Professor Marilyn MacCord Adams, Rt Revd Michael Bourke, Rt Revd Ian Brackley, Bishop of Dorking, Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ramsbury, Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Rt Revd Richard Holloway, Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme, Revd Sr Una Kroll, Rt Revd Richard Lewis, Rt Revd Jack Nicholls, Bishop of Sheffield, Rt Revd John Oliver, Rt Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon & Leeds,Christina Rees, Rt Revd Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, Rt Revd John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln, Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby, Rt Revd Kenneth Stevenson, Bishop of Portsmouth, Revd Dr Anne Townsend, and The Revd Canon Angela Weaver

The open letter can be read in its entirety in the press release.

The Lead's previous coverage of the Easter violence is here.

Friday morning updateResponding to conservative charges on conservative Anglican websites, Changing Attitude has issued a second press release that reads in part:

Those Primates, bishops and priests who are members of the GAFCON leadership team have an authority and stature among their own constituency. They are able to communicate to their followers and church members and be heard with respect. We ask them to speak now and break their silence. We ask them to state categorically that any Christian who threatens or attacks a person because they are lesbian or gay comes under the judgment of God and disobeys God’s law.

Spiritual leaders' valuable vision

The Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will be in Seattle this week for a national Episcopal conference, "Healing Our Planet Earth: Singing a New Song of Hope." Joel Connelly provides readers of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer with this background. It is positive and yet closes with a tough question:

[Jefferts] Schori is, in a sense, returning home with her Seattle trip. She was raised in Lake City, converted from Catholicism to the Episcopal Church with her family and was an oceanographer before receiving a call to the priesthood. She has climbed 9,415-foot Mount Stuart.

She is here for the kind of event that represents renewal to many in her flock, while others see invasive secular issues capturing the church.

It's a national conference titled "Healing Our Planet Earth: Singing a New Song of Hope."

Schori is not hesitant to embrace science, even linking it to revelation.

"As an oceanographer, I practiced a discipline that understands that no life form can be studied in isolation from its surroundings: As a Christian, I continue to practice a discipline that understands that God created all beings to live in relationship with each other and the rest of creation," she said in a written statement.

"Science has revealed to us unequivocally that climate change and global warming are real, and caused in significant party by human activity.

"These changes are a threat not only to the goodness of God's creation but to all of humanity."

The conference will hear from the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, a seminary dean and former Alaska bishop who heralds "The Genesis Covenant."

The covenant is an interfaith effort that calls on religious communities to make a "public commitment" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50 percent in the next 10 years.

Not even our solemn, secular greens -- the Sightline Institute and Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club -- dare talk of such an ambitious goal.

Here's the problem: How do you make a bigger impact when fewer people are in the pews?

Read it all here.

Check out the conference website here. The Presiding Bishop will speak Friday and Saturday.

Archbishop of Canterbury condemns recent violence against lesbian and gay people

ACNS:

Archbishop of Canterbury condemns recent violence against lesbian and gay people
Posted On : April 9, 2008 5:26 PM | Posted By : Admin ACO
Related Categories: Lambeth

In response to reports of violence and threats towards Christians involved in the debate on human sexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury has given the following statement:

“The threats recently made against the leaders of Changing Attitudes are disgraceful. The Anglican Communion has repeatedly, through the Lambeth Conference and the statements from its Primates’ Meetings, unequivocally condemned violence and the threat of violence against gay and lesbian people. I hope that this latest round of unchristian bullying will likewise be universally condemned.”

Ends

See the Lead's coverage of these threats provided earlier today.

The Lead stands ready to post condemnations of this violence or Christian on Muslim violence in Nigeria should such condemnations come from the Anglican Church of Nigeria or CANA, its North American partner.

Current unpleasantness roundup

Ohio diocese sues breakaway parishes - Cleveland Plain Dealer: the diocese remains committed to resolving the dispute in a "mutually respectful manner," said Martha Wright, communications officer. The first step, she said, is to ask the court who has the rights to the property.

Court injunction preserves status of secessionist - Victoria (British Columbia) Times Colonist: After several weeks of allowing activities to continue as usual, the Anglican Diocese of B.C. decided it was time to assert its position. Locks were changed, and a monitored alarm system was installed a few days ago, effectively barring clergy -- Sharon Hayton and Andrew Hewlett -- from using the building.

Letter of Inhibition of Bishop Edward MacBurney, issued April 2.

Finally, The Living Church reports that, as expected [see item (3) here], the office of Presiding Bishop sent out an email to members of the House of Bishops taking a poll of their willingness to have a special meeting of the House of Bishops to act upon the deposition of Bishop Duncan. Click more for the email.

Read more »

Prepare for clichéd coverage of the Pope

Writing in the New York Times, Peter Steinfels warns readers to prepare for "breathless" coverage of the Pope during his US visit:

When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in the United States on April 15 there will surely be voices in the media apparently disconcerted to discover that, yes, the pope is Catholic.

Yes, he disagrees with Richard Dawkins that atheism is necessary for salvation. Yes, he believes that Jesus of Nazareth is the son of God and the center of human history. Yes, he thinks that Catholic Christianity is truer than Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism or even Protestant Christianity.

Just as the media has been surprised in previous Papal visits:
They are similarly surprised that many American Roman Catholics honor the pope yet disagree with papal positions, whether about using contraception, restricting legal access to abortion, ordaining married men or women to the priesthood, or recognizing same-sex relationships.

This kind of disagreement may signal, as some argue, a severe crisis in church authority. Or it may be more of a norm throughout Catholic history than is widely realized. But whatever it is, it is not new.

Steinfels issues a call for the media to do better in its coverage of religion:
part of the problem in getting a fix on Benedict is simply the feebleness of accepted categories for understanding any serious religious leaders — and hence the impulse to deal with them as celebrities or politicians. Of all the words he speaks during his trip here, the ones that will probably go least examined are no doubt the ones he treasures most, the words of the Mass.

But the pope is not just another spiritual guide or priest. He has enormous institutional powers and responsibilities. To what extent does Benedict conceive of his papacy as a work of prayer and teaching? To what extent does he conceive of it as a renewal of structures and institutions? How does he see those aspects interacting?

His trip to the United States will presumably provide some clues. But they will be missed if it is greeted and framed with all the ready-made reflexes.

Read it here.

Venables makes unauthorized visit to Brazil

Updated. ENS:

The bishops of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil issued an open statement April 9 expressing their "strong repudiation" of a recent unauthorized visit by Southern Cone Archbishop Gregory Venables to Recife "where he took part in and celebrated at official occasions outside his Province without the knowledge and consent of the Archbishop of the Province of Brazil and this House of Bishops."

The report and letter are here. The letter includes this passage:

This disrespectful and arrogant attitude against the Province of Brazil, is another element of discord caused by the Archbishop of the Province of the Southern Cone since the ecclesiastical court hearing and deposition of Robinson Cavalcanti. As it is known by all the Anglican Communion, Mr. Cavalcanti was deposed through a lawful and canonical process due to his breaking of ordination vows.

The action of the Primate of the Southern Cone represents an attack on the pillars of the Anglican tradition, which include respect to Provincial autonomy and collegiality among the Primates of the Communion. Equally, this attitude, unheard of in the Communion, clearly contradicts the Windsor Report and the resolution by the last Primates meeting in Tanzania in February 2007.

Updated Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 10 am

On the website of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brazil, The Most Rev. Maurício Andrade, Primate, wrote on February 17th of the situation in the Province in regards to the Diocese of Recife.

I also spoke with Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone about the situation of Robinson Cavalcanti of Recife and reaffirmed to him what I have already said on other occasions, that is, that I have been trying to develop my ministry in the Anglican Communion as primate of Brazil based on three precepts: reconciliation, restoration, and renewal. And in reaffirming these principles to Archbishop Venables I told him we could follow this threefold path by establishing a conversation with Robinson Cavalcanti. He agreed with me and even committed to take the initiative of setting up a meeting with the three of us in São Paulo in July 2007. But nothing happened. I have read that Archbishop Venables will come to Brazil for a pastoral visit with Robinson Cavalcanti and his clergy. But I have received no message concerning this visit, despite the announcement published on the Web site of Cavalcanti’s diocese. When I saw Archbishop Venables in Tanzania, he told me: “our act was only to show solidarity with the situation in Recife, and it is clear to me that this is merely a temporary situation.”

In view of facts of this nature we are forced to ask: Which path will we take? Who will hear us? How will we bear witness? These are serious questions that we need to answer for the members of the Church.

This is the season of Lent, a time for seeking conversion to God in all our actions; it is a time for prayer and meditation and a time for forgiveness and reconciliation.

I think we need to take a hard look in the mirror and see what we are doing with the Anglican Communion; I think it is time to remember that we are a “communion” and not simply a “federation” of churches and that, therefore, we do not need a “pact.” What we do need is to deepen the communion beyond the search for power, domination, and control.

Who will hear us? Who can hear the message we have to proclaim, which some want to envelop in the concept of “orthodoxy,” when it is in fact the message of God through Jesus Christ, whose love reconciles us with life, and life in abundance? Our words have been words of division. Yet, in Brazil we sing: “The Word was not made to divide anyone; the Word is the bridge over which love comes and goes. The Word was not made to dominate; the destination of the Word is dialogue.” Who will hear the archbishops/primates, bishops, and priests of the Church?

We are seriously preparing ourselves in Brazil to participate in the 2008 Lambeth Conference because we are certain that this is the space for unity, and we know that unity does not mean uniformity. All of us bishops in Brazil and our spouses are in prayer while we await to meet and be reunited with brothers and sisters who live challenges and in different contexts from our own, knowing that we are united in God’s mission. So we are preparing to share our lives, challenges, and experience of being a Church that lives in missionary expansion. In 1998, the Province of Brazil had seven dioceses. Today, in 2008, we have nine dioceses and one missionary district. Despite the difficulties of two schisms, one in 2002 and another in 2004, we can say “thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Sam 7:12, NRSV). We therefore desire to devote ourselves fully at the Lambeth Conference to the Bible study groups, to prayer, and to the breaking of bread (Acts 2).

How will we bear witness? Who will hear us? We are not being honest with ourselves. Could it be that we want to propose the path of disunity for the future of the Anglican Communion?

I believe The Episcopal Church of the United States has been showing all of us an example of the path to unity and reconciliation, because they have met all the requests for visits that were made and answered all the questions that were posed. They have spent time, money, and energy to meet the primates’ requests, always with generosity and openness. I think we need to keep in mind that we are Anglican. We are seeing a disregard of our richness and our ethos, that is, autonomy of the Provinces.

The Anglican Province of Brazil has already spoken out against the creation of a new covenant, because our way of being Anglican has already been defined in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. We are not nor do we want to be a mere federation of churches. We wish to continue in communion with Canterbury, a symbol of our unity, as full members of the Anglican Communion.

We intend to go to Lambeth open to dialogue, and to feel the presence of God guiding us as His people, breaking the bread that unites us in the Body of Christ, and expressing solidarity with the world in need of the Word of transformation and salvation. We therefore reaffirm our reply to the invitation of Archbishop Rowan Williams and deeply regret the boycott by five archbishops.

Brasília, 17 February 2008.

Second Sunday of Lent

The Most Revd. Maurício Andrade

Primate of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil (IEAB)

Message from the Anglican Primate of Brazil to the Anglican Communion

World is 'on course' for halving extreme poverty

Forbes:

Most countries will fall short of nutrition, health, education and other global development goals established in 2000 at the United Nations Millennium Summit, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) said today [April 8].

This year marks the halfway point between when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set when they are due, in 2015.

Although the world is 'on course' for achieving the first MDG goal of halving extreme poverty, this progress is 'uneven' as Sub-Saharan Africa is falling far short, the IMF/WB Global Monitoring report found.

Meanwhile, the world is struggling to meet goals for reducing child and maternal mortality, primary school completion, nutrition and sanitation. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are falling especially short in these areas.

Read it here.

Adding to the cost of nutrition are substantial increases in the price of grains. Paul Krugman explains why prices have increased:

First, there’s the march of the meat-eating Chinese — that is, the growing number of people in emerging economies who are, for the first time, rich enough to start eating like Westerners. Since it takes about 700 calories’ worth of animal feed to produce a 100-calorie piece of beef, this change in diet increases the overall demand for grains.

Second, there’s the price of oil. Modern farming is highly energy-intensive: a lot of B.T.U.’s go into producing fertilizer, running tractors and, not least, transporting farm products to consumers. With oil persistently above $100 per barrel, energy costs have become a major factor driving up agricultural costs.

High oil prices, by the way, also have a lot to do with the growth of China and other emerging economies. Directly and indirectly, these rising economic powers are competing with the rest of us for scarce resources, including oil and farmland, driving up prices for raw materials of all sorts.
...
The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a “scam.”

This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly “good” biofuel policies, like Brazil’s use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation.

And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states.

BBC: Archbishop of Canterbury criticises gay threats

The BBC has covered the ABC's criticism of, in his words, the "latest round of unchristian bullying" in Nigeria.

The article fails to make clear that the "unchristian bullying" is by Christians, not Muslims.

See the Lead's coverage yesterday, here and here.

Whole lot of religion going on....

In what is supposed to be the most secular city in the nation, there is a whole of lot of religion going on this weekend in Seattle. But don't be surprised if it looks a lot different that what most of us are used to.

Tim Matthis, who describes himself as "your basic youth minister/AIDS activist, writes at "Relatively Faithful" about what's going on:

The Seattle Green Festival (HUGE! Tons of hippies, the Mayor, and so forth!)

Seeds of Compassion (HUGEST! The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Dave Matthews (blech), Rob Bell, Steven Charleston, sold out football stadiums...)

Healing our Planet Earth (A little less HUGE than Seeds of Compassion, but HUGER for Episcopalians than the Green Festival! Sally McFague, Katherine Jefferts Schori, ME (well, I'll be helping with sign-ins anyway))

Everything must Change (Less HUGE than the rest, but potentially HUGER for emerging church types. Brian McClaren and friends).

Why in the world is it all happening in the same city on the same weekend?! I can be at one of them anyway...

Relatively Faithful: The Weekend in Seattle....

Affirming Catholicism responsds to Wales vote on women bishops

Affirming Catholicism comments on the narrow defeat in the Church of Wales of a proposal to allow women bishops in that Church, saying it exposes a deep seated problem that also exists in the Church of England.

Vote on women bishops in Church in Wales exposes a key issue for the Church of England too.

Affirming Catholicism shares the disappointment of most members of the Church in Wales that the move to ordain women as bishops did not receive a large enough majority to be passed. We regret that the God-given gifts that women have to offer as bishops for the Church in Wales continue to be refused.

Hendrik Haye, convenor of Affirming Catholicism South Wales, said: ‘Although we are saddened by the result, we are glad that there was no compromise on the principle that women bishops must be accepted on exactly the same terms as men’.

Rev’d Jonathan Clark, a member of the General Synod of the Church of England and of Affirming Catholicism’s Board, said: ‘We believe that the church can and should include, as it does now, people who disagree about this issue. But the debate in the Church in Wales has highlighted the problem also facing the Church of England: some members don’t believe their own church has the right to make decisions about who will be ordained. The issue was fudged when women were ordained as priests: now it has come out into the open.’

The Church of England’s General Synod is expected to debate the ordination of women as bishops at its meeting in July.

Read the news release here.

Hard cases make bad law

Dale Rye reflects on the recent ruling by Judge Randy Bellows that the Commonwealth of Virginia's statute commonly called 57-9 applies in the dispute between the Anglican District of Virginia and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. He says it is a perfect example of why "hard cases make bad law" and that, if the ruling stands, it would be a disaster for every church and religious society in the state and maybe beyond.

These findings illustrate why this opinion portends a disaster for all religious groups in America. The congregations (as collective bodies, as distinct from their individual members) can only invoke 57-9(A) to leave TEC and join ADV with their property if a division has already occurred. Yet the court finds that their departure can itself constitute the division that makes departure possible.

The statute has no application outside Virginia, yet the court regarded it as proven that dozens of congregations had left TEC in those states as well. In other words, the court necessarily found that Episcopal parishes as collective entities, quite apart from 57-9(A), have the right to change their church affiliation (at least from one “branch” to another) by majority congregational vote and that a number of Virginia and non-Virginia parishes have done just that.

The court expressly concludes that 57-9(A) “appears to reflect a determination by the Virginia legislature to protect the voting rights of any local congregation which is subject to a hierarchical church’s constitution or canons.” In so many words, the power of a congregation to determine its fate by majority vote is a right that the government will defend against any contrary rule adopted by a higher judicatory such as a diocese, presbytery, annual conference, or denomination. Indeed, it will protect the rights of all members over 18 to vote; the church cannot limit the franchise to confirmed communicants in good standing, for example. Any parish has the right to secede any time a majority votes to do so. The mere fact that there are enough dissatisfied members to form their own organization constitutes a division that triggers voting rights under 57-9(A).

What authority does a secular legislature or judge have to adopt that rule? This “right” is recognized by only a tiny minority of Christians worldwide; it has been rejected by, among others, the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Reformed/Presbyterians, and Wesleyan/Methodists. Their theological convictions about the priority of the universal church required that rejection. Only the churches derived from the German Anabaptist or English Separatist traditions provide for congregational independence… because their theological convictions about the priority of the local church require it. Again, what is the authority of the state to recognize that minority theology as normative and the majority theology as a violation of inalienable rights?

Episcopalians in Virginia and elsewhere have operated since at least 1790 (and arguably since the first century AD) under a significantly different rule, namely that parishes are not independent entities. They are, rather, the dependent parts of a larger entity subject to oversight by a bishop and synodical government, just as dioceses are not independent entities but part of a larger unity. The very name of The Episcopal Church attests to a dramatically different structure than the congregationalist pattern the judge sees as a right, as do the names of the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Churches and the former Methodist Connection.

To reiterate, those various patterns of governance were not adopted arbitrarily or for purely practical reasons, but because the churches involved had a particular theology of the church (based on their reading of the Word and Command of God) that was felt to require that particular structure rather than another. Anglicans, for example, rank the Historic Episcopate right up with the Bible, creeds, and major sacraments as mandatory features of any church they recognize as fully reflecting the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

And...

For the judge to impose a radically different authority structure ultimately derived from a Congregationalist and Baptist reading of the Bible is (1) to establish a specific religious practice as state-sanctioned in preference to the one chosen by the believers themselves, and (2) to restrict those who conscientiously oppose the state-sanctioned practice from freely exercising their religious convictions. Members of the congregational minorities (who belong to the national or diocesan majority) are subject to being ejected from their parishes due to the substitution of a government rule (enforced by a judge) for the theological rule adopted by their church.

Does that not sound like precisely what the First Amendment religion clauses were designed to prevent? If a judge can impose a particular ecclesiology, what is to keep him from imposing other theological standards? For example, what is to keep a judge or legislature concerned with alcohol abuse from ordering Roman Catholics to either start using grape juice or stop celebrating the Mass? It’s good enough for the Baptists, and the Mormons use water, so why not everyone? Sacramental theology is no more central to Christian belief than ecclesiology. If the state can impose one-person-one-vote democracy on churches that believe the Bible imposes a different leadership structure, what is to stop it from imposing Equal Employment Opportunity standards on churches that believe the Bible imposes an all-male (or all-heterosexual) priesthood? The theology of ministry is no more central to Christian belief than the theology of the church. Can the government constitutionally do any of these things?

Rye concludes:

Given the general climate in society, I think the answer is going to be “Yes, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the other states have the power to determine that congregational self-determination is a good thing as a matter of religiously-neutral public policy (who thinks democracy is a bad thing?), and the states are therefore free to require all church organizations to comply with that principle.” That will open up the churches to still more state interference in pursuit of other public policy positions that the churches oppose out of religious conviction.

The obvious overreaching by TEC in scuttling the Diocese of Virginia’s efforts at settling the dispute without litigation (and their denial that any division is in progress) has created a “hard case” likely to inspire “bad law.” The arguments of ADV that any serious dispute can trigger a binding congregational vote are likely to create precedents making the operation of a hierarchical church almost impossible. We (and our children) may be dealing with the consequences of this for the rest of our lives. Stay tuned for the next chapter in late May.

See Covenant Communion: The Hard Case Making Bad Law

See previous Cafe coverage here. The second phase of the trial is set for October 6-30, 2008

Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans.

Leap of Faith

The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. John Sentamu, will take off in and then abandon a perfectly good airplane for a good cause later this month.

He is doing this to raise money for British airborne troops who served in Afghanistan and their families.

THE Archbishop of York is set to take the ultimate "leap of faith" to raise money for the families of soldiers killed or injured in Afghanistan.

Dr John Sentamu will hurl himself from a plane at 12,500ft with the Parachute Regiment Red Devils display team from RAF Langer near Nottingham on May 27, 2008.

The Archbishop is urging the public to sponsor him to complete the daring parachute jump to generate funds for the Afghanistan Trust - a charity formed in March 15, 2007 to help support soldiers and their families who have served with 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan, and who have been wounded or killed as a consequence.

Dr Sentamu will jump in tandem with businessman Guy Brudenell, who brought the plight of bereaved families to his attention at a special dinner.


Read the rest here.

Religion as political weapon

Prof. David Domke spoke to Episcopal Communicators about the question of Politics and Religion in America today. Domke is Professor of Communication and Journalism and author, with Kevin Coe, of The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America.

His talk was titled "Religious Politics in America: Reclaiming the Founding Vision." Domke is a former journalist for a number of large newspaper and head of Journalism department at the University of Washington. He is married to a Presbyterian clergywoman. Dean Nicholas Knisely live blogged the talk on "Entangled States."

The fundamental issue is about what the proper relationship between religion and politics might be. "Lately politicians in DC have been using religion to justify their positions," Knisely writes. For example, we have heard language like "We went into Iraq to give them God’s gift of freedom."

The central part of Domke's talk is that America has moved from civil religion to political religion. Some of Nick's notes:

Political Religion not Civil Religion

1. Religion is used as a political weapon.
2. faith is used in an unprecedented measure
3. Democrats are now responding. Obama is the most religious of the candidates running to 2008
4. Martin Medhurst ”This is not the rhetoric of the founders - civic piety - it is now particular beliefs offered as justification for certain political positions.
5. We have a political dynamic that is counter to the Founder’s vision for the nation. They fled Europe to escape from the effects that religion has on civic life. (Especially it’s motivation for war and conflict)
6. The Declaration of Independence was a prophetic document (the implications of the interactions of democracy and faith.) The Constitution is the nitty-gritty - it has no mention of God on purpose. It’s kept at arms length not denied.
7. Faith tests for public office will rip our nation’s harmonious fabric apart.
8. The political dynamic that is present in America today steps right into the “War on Terror” trap.
9. Domke: It is a political dynamic that can be changed. It won’t change because people are thoughtful and concerned. We need to get out in a public fashion and become involved in the public conversation to change the conversation.

Read the rest here.

Belief is back

The Newstatesman (UK) has three articles today under the heading "Belief is Back."

Mary Warnock, a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury's advisory group on medical ethics writes:

It is the role of legislators to be consequentialists. They must not ask, "What does my religion teach about this measure?" but "Will society benefit from it in the empirical world?"
...
The assessment of what is good and what is harmful is, for most people, deeply influenced by the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Influence, however, is different from authority. That religion, any religion, may seem beleaguered in a generally secular society may account for the increasingly hectoring demands that it should exercise authority over us. Yet it is essential to hold on to the fact that in this country we are not a theocracy, but a democracy. Parliament must make the final decisions on legislation, even though these are also moral decisions. Parliament must try to judge what is the common good. We all have the right, and duty, to criticise the law.
Stephen Bates writes,
Conservative Christianity has been much less effective in Britain than in the US because it has less social and political influence, less unchallenged access to the media - and less money. But there is certainly a desire in some quarters to mimic the tactics of the US right. They think they are winning the argument, but fear they may be losing the war. They assume that because the world is against them, that means they must be right. But the ultimate irony is that the more urgently they profess the need to win the nation for Christ, the more they repel those they say they most wish to save.
Sholto Brynes gently interviews Tom Wright, the bishop of Durham.

Australia's first female Anglican bishop appointed, strings attached

Australian Broadcast Corporation:

The Venerable Kay Goldsworthy, 51, will be consecrated on May 22 at St George's Cathedral in Perth.

Archdeacon Goldsworthy was one of the first women to be ordained in 1992 shortly after the order allowed women to become priests.

Last year, the Anglican appellate tribunal paved the way for the elevation of women to the position of bishop, saying nothing in the church's constitution could stop such a move.
...
The Anglican Archbishop of Perth, the Most Reverend Roger Herft, says he hopes the appointment will help overcome resistance to the elevation of women from some parts of the church.

Archbishop Herft says the move will refresh the church.

"The church has brought about diminishment to women in the world and in the church," he said.

"So there needs to be a time where we say in this act we are also saying sorry to those many women for whom the church has been a place of isolation and exclusiveness."

As AAP reports, the appointment comes with the typical strings attached:
The unanimous decision was made by Perth Archbishop Roger Herft and his diocesan council last night in the wake of an agreement reached this week between Australia's Anglican bishops on a protocol to handle opponents of women bishops.

Under the protocol, parishes that cannot in good conscience recognise the ministry of a woman bishop will be offered the services of a male bishop.

See also this background on the woman and controversy at Perthnow.

The Diocese of Perth has issued two news releases:

1. Archbishop announces Australia's first woman Bishop (pdf, 49.70 kb)

2. Archbishop's statement on the appointment of Kay Goldsworthy as Australia's first woman Bishop (pdf, 17.31 kb):

Already in the few hours since Diocesan Council endorsed my request, we have been flooded with messages of support from churches around the world and from the general public. As one, they welcome this appointment as clear affirmation of the indispensable role of women in every area of public life.
...
On the international scene over many years, Kay has been a valued Australian voice on the most representative Anglican governing body, the Anglican Consultative Council.

After considerable prayer and seeking God’s guidance, and having spoken about this appointment with a number of key people at local, national and international levels – both within and beyond the Church – I can tell you that they all express enthusiastic support for Kay.

This indeed is a holy moment, filled with grace in which God if glorified.

My emphasis.

Anglican African bishops call for pressure on Mugabe

AFP reports:

African Anglican bishops on Friday urged regional leaders to put pressure on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to accept disputed poll results, ahead of a special summit in Zambia.

The bishops said leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), who will meet to discuss Zimbabwe's poll crisis on Saturday should "prevail upon" Mugabe to accept the results of the election.

After a meeting in Pretoria, bishops from Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia noted "with sadness" delays in announcing results of the presidential poll.

"We are concerned that this situation has given rise to rumour and uncertainty which are bound to fuel despondency, tension and social upheaval," the SAPA news agency quoted the clerics as saying.

Read it all here.

In a brief statement on Tuesday from inside Zimbabwe, the Bishop of Harare, Dr Sebastian Bakare said, "We remain hopeful that change will indeed come, even though not as swiftly as we had hoped."

Jerusalem banned, again

Commentary in The Times:

Why this fastidious anguish over the use of such majestic poetry in a church service? Blake’s vision may be based on the legend that, as a boy, Jesus Christ was brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea, on one of his trading trips. But it does conjure a wonderful image of the Lamb of God hiking across 1st-century England – perhaps enjoying a stroll on the South Downs or gazing in awe at Stonehenge. Two things, however, cause misgivings among some purist clerics. The first is that Blake seems to be calling for mankind, rather than God, to create a “Heaven on Earth”. In other words, Jerusalem is closer to being a humanist cry for social justice than a religious prayer for divine intervention. But doesn’t the Church promote social justice? Don’t congregations pour thousands of pounds on to collection plates to help to alleviate Third World poverty?

Perhaps, then, the second objection is more pertinent: that Jerusalem stirs up nationalist sentiments. It is true that Blake includes the word England four times in two verses. But the references to “dark satanic mills” and “clouded hills” are hardly flattering. And England in this context surely represents earthly existence, just as Jerusalem represents paradise. Besides, it is odd for a priest in the Church of England to object to the use of the word England in a religious context.

My hunch? In his lifetime the anti-Establishment Blake made no secret of his contempt for organised religion in general, and clerics in particular. It is said that he attended church only three times: for his baptism, his wedding and his funeral.

Read more »

Bear Stearns gave away

NYT:

As part of the Bear Stearns culture, molded by the former chairman, Alan C. Greenberg, 1,000 senior managing directors gave away 4 percent of their compensation each year to charity.

Mr. Greenberg himself has been a major fund-raiser for the United Jewish Appeal. An annual September dinner at his home for top donors raised $41 million last year, according to the charity.
...
A number of Bear Stearns executives, including James E. Cayne, the former chief executive, have also given heavily through their own foundations. The James E. and Patricia D. Cayne Charitable Trust held $30.9 million, largely in Bear Stearns stock, on May 31, 2007, the end of its last fiscal year, according to publicly filed documents.

Anglican monastic orders

Episcopal monastery life gets a spotlight from Religion News Service, noting that "unlike Catholic counterparts, they enjoy independence from church hierarchy." The article points out how many people don't realize there are Anglican or Protestant orders, and gives a short summary of the history of monasticism during and since the Reformation. Central to the revival of monastic practices was the influence of women in the latter of the 19th century, according to the article.

While it's mentioned that Anglicans were seeking to bring back "some of the elements of the tradition that were lost at the time of the Reformation," it's interesting to note that said revival took on some distinctly Anglican characteristics:

Friar Gregory Fruehwirth of the Order of Julian Norwich in Wisconsin said that there is great variety to be found within both Episcopal and Catholic communities. Episcopal monasteries, he said, have a "similar breadth, just on a much, much smaller scale."

The monastery to which he belongs, for example, has men and women living side by side, which he said "provides a balanced atmosphere psychologically" and sets them apart from other monastic communities.

Fruehwirth said that like Catholic communities, each Episcopal community decides how and to what extent they participate in local church life. Some may supply parish priests while others might take part in mission work. Still others may choose to remain more isolated, making prayer their main contribution to the church, he said.

The Washington Post has the whole thing here.

Episcopal communicators meet in Seattle

Updated: 4:13 p.m. ET

Some of our number have been in Seattle this weekend, not for the numerous faith conferences and festivals but for the Episcopal Communicators Conference. Exploring the theme of ""Emerging Communications for an Emerging Church," several speakers talked about the role of communications in ministry in these times:

In the conference's keynote address, author and scholar Diana Butler Bass told the gathering that communicators, as people who tell the story of the Episcopal Church, can be the "bards" of a historic chapter in the denomination's life.

Episcopal Diocese of Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel, speaking during the conference's April 9 opening banquet at the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus, told participants that he prayed they would not be "mere spectators" to the changing Episcopal Church but that they would teach the church.

The Episcopal Life Online coverage includes more detailed recaps of the speakers and is available here.

The Very Rev. Nicholas Knisley, liveblogging at the event, provides his notes from the David Domke plenary session here and a link to his Twitter page, where he'd jot notes in an interactive space during the sessions, here.

The 28th Annual Polly Bond Award recipients are listed in a 38-page PDF document linked here. It should be noted that The Daily Episcopalian received an Award of Excellence for Web Writing and the Cafe got two honorable mentions for online publications/webzines, one for the Daily Episcopalian and the other for our Art Blog.

Update: ELO has additional coverage from last night here. It includes more coverage on Domke and some notes on the Rev. Matthew Moretz' presentation on new media and social media tools, such as YouTube.

Jefferts Schori Q&A in Seattle Times

More from the Weekend of everything in Seattle: The Seattle Times has a Q&A on Katharine Jefferts Schori, noting that her participation in the "Healing Our Planet Earth" conference signals how she is merging her vocations as a former oceanographer and presently as Presiding Bishop.

Among the things the writer looks at are why Jefferts Schori left oceanography to become a priest, why she's participating in the conference, what's going on in San Joaquin, and other topics that bring some of the matters of the Anglican Communion to a more general news audience. An excerpt:

Q: Why are you participating in the "Healing Our Planet Earth" conference?

A: As a scientist and as a person of faith, I am interested in these issues. Faith organizations, faith traditions that have a concern for these issues have an ability to motivate their adherents to do something about caring for creation.

Q: What do you hope this conference will achieve?

A: Educate and motivate Episcopalians and other people of faith.

Q: You recently went to the San Joaquin Diocese in California (which voted to secede from the Episcopal Church) to speak with those who remain Episcopalian. You said that healing is possible. How, when the issues seem so intractable and the divide getting wider?

A: The experience of the people present at the convention in San Joaquin is that healing is happening there. In groups of people with a variety of opinions about some of these hot-button issues, it's remembering what it is that originally calls them together.

Q: Property disputes with breakaway churches are a big issue and getting bigger. What do you say to people who feel it's unbiblical to take fellow Christians to court over issues like property?

A: We have a fiduciary and a moral responsibility as leaders in this church to use and steward the gifts ... for the purposes for which they were given. ... Generations before us gave permission in the name of the Episcopal Church and intended them (gifts and properties) for the benefit of communities and generations to come. (The breakaway churches) are clearly saying they're no longer part of the Episcopal Church.

You can read the whole thing here.

"How we can move forward"

Dr. Jenny Te Paa, a Maori theologian, presented the second keynote at the Anglican Communion Conference this week at General Theological seminary. The Rev. Susan Russell, blogging at the event, made an interesting observation about what she saw unfold between Te Paa and Archbishop Drexel Gomez as a result of Te Paa's critique of the covenant process:

... key for many in the room was Dr. Te Paa's confession that she had reconsidered her initial support for "a covenant process" as a result of her experience since the Windsor Report was issued and declared herself to be "both proud and embarrassed by the naivete" that kept her from recognizing, at the time of the Lambeth Commission, just how much "power politics" were in play in pushing an "agenda for domination" by insisting that "what we already had in place was not sufficient" and shifting to "bullying rhetoric used to exploit differences over human sexuality" into what Dr. Te Paa called: sudden onset arch-episcopal paroxysm.

A way to "cure" that disease, she suggested, was to enlist the aid of those not impacted by the syndrome. Dr. Te Paa went onto suggest that the combination of women, young people, indigenous peoples and LGBT folk between them (by her math) who do not see the current differences as "irresolvable differences" came to approximately 75.3% of the Communion ... and that this significant majority of Anglicans needed to be part of a "slowed down, measured & considered process of inviting more stakeholders in the conversations about what it means to be in covenant relationship with each other as Anglicans" offering what she called "a Good News cure" to sudden onset arch-episcopal paroxysm.

She rocked.

She also rocked the boat a little. (Well, a little more than a little.) After lunch, Archbishop Gomez, (who had been what I thought was remarkably "non-defensive" last night during the Q&A following his initial address) took some umbrage to Dr. Te Paa's taking on the primates -- which she did with some gusto.

+Gomez rose and rejected the suggestion that the covenant proposal had been "top down" inspired by the primates and also used the opportunity to work in a quick treatise of his own on "global numbers" explaining that the "biblically orthodox" were a super majority in not only the Anglican Communion but in the wider Christian faith if we throw in the Romans and Eastern Orthodox, too.

Dr. Te Paa listened respectfully ... when he had "done" she said "Thank you, Archbishop" ... and when the moderator asked if she wanted to respond further she smiled politely and said "No, thank you" and went out to take her place in the audience ... right next to +Drexel Gomez.

The thing that struck me about the exchange was not how defensive the Archbishop became but how "apples and oranges" it all was. It was as if he hadn't heard a word she'd really said ... her point being NOT that 75.3% (by her reckoning) of the Anglican Communion AGREED with the American Episcopal Church or the Diocese of New Hampshire or whatever ... but that 75.3% DISAGREED that these differences of opinion rose the to level of "communion splitting."

It seemed to me that there in that exchange was an icon where we are and how we can move forward.

You can read the whole thing here.

The Fourth Estate weighs in on church and state

Some newspapers regularly tackle thorny topics in their opinion columns. Some very regularly approach matters involving what is more and more often being called the Anglican unpleasantness. Others weigh in less frequently, if at all, usually depending on their geographic relationship to a church that is stirring the unpleasantness pot, so to speak.

So it's always interesting when a newspaper that doesn't have that kind of proximity takes on the issue not only as an opinion piece but as an unbylined editorial. Granted, the Virginia Pilot, based in Hampton Roads, Va., may have had in mind the question of why commonwealth resources were being expended on the cases of defecting parishes in the Diocese of Virginia, particularly after the Virginia attorney general spoke up in favor of the departing congregations.

The editorial's position? This case could have implications reaching far beyond these churches in Virginia. Other denominations could be affected if secular courts are allowed to make decisions about church governance. And what happens once we start down that slippery slope?

Virginia's courts have been dragged into what appears on its face to be a property dispute, but a preliminary ruling shows how difficult it will be to sort out the legal issues without straying into questions of faith.

A Fairfax judge gave the breakaway parishes a boost when he concluded that their votes to split from the Episcopal diocese triggered a Reconstruction-era law. The statute was adopted to help Virginia churches break with their Northern counterparts because of disagreements over slavery.

...

The lawsuit rightly has leaders of other hierarchical denominations concerned that rules established over years, even centuries, could be challenged and nullified in a courtroom. That's about as appealing as a judicial interpretation of the book of Leviticus, and should trouble even the independent-minded Baptists, whose rules give individual congregations ownership of their churches.

Attorney General Bob McDonnell plunged into this theological thicket in January after attorneys for the Episcopal Church challenged the constitutionality of the 1867 law governing church break-ups. But McDonnell went beyond a defense of this rarely used statute, advocating for its use in this lawsuit and giving support to the dissenting congregations.

The Fairfax judge seems inclined to take that advice, but has scheduled a May hearing on the constitutional impact on church-state relations. The judge and the attorney general should take this opportunity to reconsider whether they want secular courts telling churches how to run their own affairs. They've already tramped too far onto sacred ground, but it's not too late to tip-toe away.

The editorial is here.

Return to Narnia

The second book in the C.S. Lewis Narnia series is coming to a movie theater near you in the coming month. Mark Earley has a good introduction to the religious themes in this second book:

While you will not find the spiritual lessons in Prince Caspian quite as obvious as those you remember from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, you will find plenty of profound truths about the Christian faith—delivered in a way that only the master, C. S. Lewis, could do.

The saga of Prince Caspian unfolds in a world hundreds of years removed from the Narnia of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this age into which the Pevensie children are suddenly thrust, the evil King Miraz reigns and only a remnant of people actually believe those childish stories of Aslan, the Stone Table, and a time when animals talked.

Like Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter, we enter a world of skepticism that is very much like our own. Let’s just say that the best-selling books in Miraz’s kingdom could easily have been titled The Aslan Delusion and Aslan Is Not Great. Like our children, young Caspian grows up in an age when most people say, “Who actually believes in Aslan nowadays?”

As in the previous stories of Narnia, a cosmic battle between good and evil continues to rage. But unlike the direct head-to-head conflict between Aslan and the White Witch, the conflict in Prince Caspian is being waged between the followers of the opposing powers. On this cosmic stage, individual faith is tested. Will Prince Caspian believe in the stories of Narnia? Will Lucy follow what she believes to be Aslan?

Here is something with which Christians today can certainly relate. It is one thing to be among the first witnesses who exult in the risen Christ. It is quite another to act out of faith when the stories of His witnesses are so many centuries removed from our world. As Jesus told doubting Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). This is our world, and this is the world of Caspian, as well.

In this tale, as much as we learn about faith and doubt, there is also much to learn about the nature of Jesus. As Leland Ryken and Marjorie Mead put in the newly released, A Reader’s Guide to Caspian, what Aslan is like is the “primary theological question of Prince Caspian.” And in it we find several answers that apply to our own Christian walk.

Read it all here.

Two speeches on race

Gary Wills has a very interesting comparison of two speeches on race by two men from Illinois running for President, Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln:

Two men, two speeches. The men, both lawyers, both from Illinois, were seeking the presidency, despite what seemed their crippling connection with extremists. Each was young by modern standards for a president. Abraham Lincoln had turned fifty-one just five days before delivering his speech. Barack Obama was forty-six when he gave his. Their political experience was mainly provincial, in the Illinois legislature for both of them, and they had received little exposure at the national level—two years in the House of Representatives for Lincoln, four years in the Senate for Obama. Yet each was seeking his party's nomination against a New York senator of longer standing and greater prior reputation—Lincoln against Senator William Seward, Obama against Senator Hillary Clinton. They were both known for having opposed an initially popular war—Lincoln against President Polk's Mexican War, raised on the basis of a fictitious provocation; Obama against President Bush's Iraq War, launched on false claims that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs and had made an alliance with Osama bin Laden.

Neither man fit the conventions of a statesman in his era. Lincoln, thin, gangling, and unkempt, was considered a backwoods rube, born in the frontier conditions of Kentucky, estranged from his father, limited to a catch-as-catch-can education. He was better known as a prairie raconteur than as a legal theorist or prose stylist. Obama, of mixed race and foreign upbringing, had barely known his father, and looked suspiciously "different."

The most damaging charge against each was an alleged connection with unpatriotic and potentially violent radicals. Lincoln's Republican Party was accused of supporting abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison, who burned the Constitution, or John Brown, who took arms against United States troops, or those who rejected the Supreme Court because of its Dred Scott decision. Obama was suspected of Muslim associations and of following the teachings of an inflammatory preacher who damned the United States. How to face such charges? Each decided to address them openly in a prominent national venue, well before their parties' nominating conventions—Lincoln at the Cooper Union in New York, Obama at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Read the rest here.

More on Founding Faith

We previously noted several positive reviews of Steven Waldman's Founding Faith. Today, Richard Bookhiser adds to the praise in the New York Times Book Review:

Waldman wants to make two large points, rebuking by turns both sides in the contemporary culture wars. One common myth, he writes, holds that “the founding fathers wanted religious freedom because they were deists.” The First Amendment, in this view, is a conjurer’s trick designed to hold the rubes’ attention while gentlemen professed polite unbelief over their after-dinner port. In fact, Waldman writes, “few” of the founders “were true deists — people who believed that God had created the universe and then receded from action.” Many were orthodox Christians — Waldman lists Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, John Witherspoon (a Presbyterian minister) and Roger Sherman. The founders whose biographies fill our best-seller lists are a more heterodox lot. John Adams, a scrappy Unitarian, scolded Catholics, Anglicans and skeptical French philosophers as each passed under his eye. Benjamin Franklin flirted with polytheism in his youth but ended believing in “one God, creator of the universe,” who “governs the world by his providence.” Thomas Jefferson railed against the Christian church, past and present, as corrupting the teachings of Jesus, and made his own digest of Gospel sayings he considered accurate. “It was the work of two or three nights only, at Washington,” Waldman quotes him, “after getting thro’ the evening task of reading the letters and papers of the day.” Yet even these founders, Waldman says, “believed in God and that he shaped their lives and fortunes.”

According to an equal and opposite myth, America’s national origins were Christian. The 13 colonies, Waldman says, were indeed Christian polities, most of them indulging in persecution to uphold their ideals. But the independent United States “was not established as a ‘Christian nation.’” When George Washington was Revolutionary commander in chief, he mandated that his soldiers have chaplains and strongly encouraged them to attend divine service, but his own writings typically employed nondenominational language, appealing to providence rather than Christ. The First Amendment, which, along with its siblings Second through Tenth, was among the first business of Congress under the new Constitution, rejected a national religious establishment. States were allowed to maintain their own establishments, and some did so for decades, although James Madison had hoped to dismantle even these.

Perhaps the strongest supporters of the separation of church and state in the founding era were the communicants of a new, vigorous church, the Baptists. From 1760 to 1778 there were 56 jailings of Baptist preachers in Anglican Virginia. When the Rev. James Ireland continued to preach through the window of his cell, two supporters of the 39 Articles put a bench to the wall, stood on it and urinated in his face. No Barsetshire atmosphere in the New World. At least 14 jailings of Baptists happened in Madison’s home county. “Though much scholarship has gone into assessing which Enlightenment philosophers shaped Madison’s mind,” Waldman says, “what likely influenced him most was not ideas from Europe but persecutions in Virginia.”

Bookhiser, while praising the book, does suggest some shortcomings:

“Founding Faith” has a few shortcomings. Waldman gives the most ink, as do we all, to the founding all-stars — Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison. Why not spend a little more time, in a book on founding religion, on the most pious and most radical of the founders, Samuel Adams? As a young man, Adams heard Whitefield preach; as an old one, he criticized the anti-Christian polemics of his friend Thomas Paine. Waldman’s favorite among the Big Five is Madison, a wise choice if constitutional interpretation is the core of the story (certainly courts are the venue where church/state issues are hashed out these days). But this is not an unassailable choice. The laws tell us what we may do. Leaders must decide what they themselves should do. If leadership is the focus, then pride of place must go to Washington, who, unlike Madison, ran a successful war and a successful presidency, attributing his success to providence all the while.

Waldman ends by encouraging us to be like the founders. We should understand their principles, learn from their experience, then have at it ourselves. “We must pick up the argument that they began and do as they instructed — use our reason to determine our views.” A good place to start is this entertaining, provocative book.

Read it all here.

What is Bishop Wright talking about?

Updated Monday morning

In a lecture given yesterday, the Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright, says

When the Archbishop issued his invitations [to Lambeth], he made it clear as I said that their basis was Windsor and the Covenant as the tools to shape our future common life. .... After a summer and autumn of various tangled and unsatisfactory events, the Archbishop then wrote an Advent pastoral letter in which he reiterated the terms of his initial invitation and declared that he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation. Those letters, I understand, are in the post as we speak, written with apostolic pain and heart-searching but also with apostolic necessity. I am well aware that many will say this is far too little, far too late - just as many others will be livid to think that the Archbishop, having already not invited Gene Robinson to Lambeth, should be suggesting that some others might absent themselves as well. But this is what he promised he would do, and he is doing it. If I know anything about anything, I know that he deserves our prayers at this most difficult and fraught moment in the run-up to Lambeth itself.
Emphasis added. Just who might the Archbishop of Canterbury think would be particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant? There have been clear boundary crossings by Archbishops of several provinces.

Read Wright's lecture here. A tip of the hat to Pluralist. See his post on the lecture here.

Monday morning update Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans has done a comparison of what Williams said in his Advent Letter with what Wright says. Williams: "I intend to be in direct contact with those who have expressed unease about this, so as to try and clarify how deep their difficulties go with accepting or adopting the Conference’s agenda." Wright: "[Williams] declared that he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation." Go to Simon's post and decide for yourself what the meaning of "unease about this" might be.

The closest Christian book store

Christianity Today notes the growing trend of churches providing space for Christian bookstores:

The Christian bookstore you shop at tomorrow may be as close as your church's front door. More and more churches want to be the place you'll buy your next Beth Moore book or study Bible. Church bookstores enjoy prime locations, low overhead, and (in many cases) volunteer workers. They are "the fastest growing portion of this industry," according to Geni Hulsey, president of the Church Bookstore Network and manager of the Garden Bookstore at Houston First Baptist Church.

Dave Condiff, associate publisher at The Church Bookstore magazine, estimates there are about 5,000 church bookstores in the U.S. A "church bookstore" can encompass anything from a 10,000-square-foot bookstore with $3 million in sales to a narthex book table.

. . .

"As the number of independent stores has decreased, we see more and more pastors making a decision to add a resource center in their churches as an extension of their ministry," Condiff says. Many church bookstores are in megachurches in Texas, the Bible belt, and California.

A church retail store has unique challenges: financial accountability to the church and products that are a theological match, The Church Bookstore assistant editor Allison Hyer says. Often, church bookstores are smaller than their independent retail counterparts, making vendor relationships more complicated.

Mixing retail and worship is also a touchy subject, Hulsey says: "For some, it's a hard pill to swallow, doing retail business inside the church. I believe if our bookstore is not doing ministry and only peddling goods, we have no business being inside this church."

Read it all here.

Late to Matthew's party

We are awfully late to this party, but fortunately, it is still in full swing. Father Matthew Moretz's You Tube ministry is among the most creative evangelism and formation efforts under way in the Episcopal Church. Visit him here. He's currenlty in the midst of a series on the sacraments, and these pieces are both edgy and substantive--Have a look at the video on Baptism. You will never look at being "received" into a congregation the same way again.--but don't miss earlier installments like the Scripture, Tradition and Reason puppet show, the Super Mario Carrilon or the Episcopal Sign Switch.

He gave a plenary session and a few workshops at the annual meeting of Episcopal Communicators in Seattle last week and drew big crowds. So perhaps we will see some video blogging on church-related sites in the not-too-distant future.

About those letters

In a speech on Saturday, Bishop Tom Wright said the Archbishop of Canterbury was "writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation." The notion being that if they are not so prepared they should not attend the Lambeth Conference. "Those letters, I understand, are in the post as we speak, written with apostolic pain and heart-searching but also with apostolic necessity."

This was a curious reading of the Archbishop's Advent Letter, as Simon Sarmiento has pointed out. But now we have this from Jim Rosenthal of the Anglican Communion Office: "No additional letters have been sent to anyone at this point."

Bishop Wright has, at a minimum, jumped the gun. It is also possible that he has no idea how the letters are written--though he certainly makes it sound as though he does--or to whom they will be sent. Do the consecrators of Gene Robinson get letters? Or does John-David Schofield?

Perhaps we can all agree to refrain from further statements of purported fact (and self-serving analysis) on this point until we know what we are talking about.

What is Bishop Wright talking about? Part II

More helpful language from Bishop Tom Wright, who will be in the United States selling books before you know it:

Please note, I do not for one moment underestimate the awful situation that many of our American and Canadian friends have found themselves in, vilified, attacked and undermined by ecclesiastical authority figures who seem to have lost all grip on the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be eager only for lawsuits and property squabbles. I pray daily for many friends over there who are in intolerable situations and I don't underestimate the pressures and strains. But I do have to say, as well, that these situations have been exploited by those who have long wanted to shift the balance of power in the Anglican Communion and who have used this awful situation as an opportunity to do so.

This paragraph [from his Saturday lecture] prompts a few questions, the first of which is: What is he talking about? Who, other than those who seek to leave the Church and take its property have been taken to court? Of what does the "awful" treatment consist? Being in a theological minority? Does he really believe that people who disagree with him about the morality of same-sex relationships have "lost all grip on the gospel of Jesus Christ"?

As the Pluralist points out, this kind of cheap equation of being in a theological minority with genuine human suffering, and of ordaining a gay bishop with, say going to war in Iraq, are becoming the stock in trade of Wright and his acolytes at Fulcrum and elsewhere.

The Pluralist writes:

There is another comment to make as to just how immoral this whole matter has become, how self-obsessed are the Churches, how atrocious is the stance. Look at this comparison also made by Andrew Goddard:
Wannenwetsch then notes that "the recent installation of the first openly homosexual bishop in the Anglican diocese of New Hampshire has been widely recognised an act of this quality" (72). He provides other examples - the South African Dutch Reformed Church's proclamation of apartheid as biblical and the German Protestant response to Nazi Aryan and anti-Semitic teaching.
This is nothing less than appalling. Appalling to compare a consecration of an openly gay man, in a loving relationship, as bishop with the evils of apartheid and Nazism.

Is this what being Church is all about?

Andrew Goddard: you and all those like you should hold your head in shame. For God's sake get some perspective.

UPDATE: April 15, 2 p.m. ET
Ruth Gledhill followed up on this story with Lambeth Palace and with Bishop Wright. Her comments are here.
Speaking of Bishop Wright:

But forgive me, Bishop, if I do dare to doubt.

Do you know what I hope? I hope - indeed pray - that everyone just turns up, whether invited or not. Then they'll be able to fill those 200 empty rooms at Kent University. And then we'll have a story to write this summer. Because otherwise, at the rate it is going, Lambeth 2008 is going to be the biggest non-event ever, the non-event that is perhaps precisely what is desired by Lambeth Palace.

A last round of coverage from the Covenant Conference

Susan Russell reports on the final plenaries given at last weekend's conference on the proposed Anglican Covenant hosted by General Theological Seminary.

On Ian Douglas' presentation:

Douglas made clear that the schedule for the Lambeth Conference, in fact, “has no large plenary session” where it would be even possible for “resolutions to be presented and voted up or down.”

In a nutshell, Douglas drew a picture of a 2008 Lambeth Conference dramatically different from its 1998 counterpart: a community of bishops gathered to converse rather than a conclave of bishops convened to resolve.

We shall see.

During the Q&A following Dr. Douglas’ presentation, Ian was queried about whether the design team had “designed any contingencies” for the potential of having their best laid plans hijacked (I think that’s the word I used) by those who might be coming to Lambeth with juridical intentions in spite of the design team’s missiological intentions.

His response was that no one was more committed to keeping the design of the conference as described than the Design Team … and that the Archbishop of Canterbury had appointed the Design Team to act as the Management Team on the ground in Canterbury.

On Gregory Cameron's presentation:

He expressed “huge reservations about the appendix [of the St. Andrew’s Covenant draft] as it currently exists as it falls into a juridical model.” He also noted that “Jenny’s analysis [see here and here] needs to be taken seriously” and warned of the danger of “creeping authoritarianism.”

Regarding the so called “Instruments of Unity,” Cameron reminded that “they cannot command or require; they can only advise and recommend” going on to say “they can only ever be a council of advice and unless we get that particular point exactly right we are in for all sorts of problems.”

Cameron offered a helpful reminder that the primates are, in fact, “no more and no less than the senior pastors of their own provincial jurisdictions” maintaining that “they cannot speak with any more authority than that.”

Man down

Press watchers will want to know that Jonathan Petre has been fired as religion reporter for The Telegraph, an odd move so close to the Lambeth Conference. The Church Times blog has the story here.

UPDATE: April 15, 10:30 a.m. ET
The Guardian reports:

Staff at the Telegraph titles have been summoned to a crisis meeting amid rising tensions over a spate of sackings, including the dismissal of the entire reader relations department.

Insiders at the paper believe some staff could even call a vote for industrial action at a mandatory National Union of Journalists meeting tomorrow.

Last week, all eight members of the reader relations department, who deal with readers' inquiries about items in the newspaper, were made redundant, a move that staff fear will increase their workload.

Journalists have been told the paper will hire just one replacement to handle editorial inquiries, although the company said it was setting up a new unit based at its subscriptions centre in Chatham, Kent.

The atmosphere at the Telegraph's Victoria headquarters had already soured last week, after the paper dismissed specialist reporters Sarah Womack and Jonathan Petre, a couple with a young child, and told science correspondent Nic Fleming he was likely to go too.

In an email circulated to staff, John Carey, the father of the Telegraph NUJ chapel, told the Telegraph Media Group executive director, editorial, Richard Ellis that Womack and Petre had been treated in a "disgraceful" manner.

Read the rest here.

HT to epiScope.

22 priests deposed in Florida

The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, Florida reports on the deposition of 22 priests in the Diocese of Florida by Bishop Samuel Howard.

A Jacksonville bishop has sacked 19 priests and three deacons from his Northeast Florida diocese, saying they abandoned the Episcopal Church by joining or starting parishes aligned with theologically conservative bishops in places as far away as Africa and South America.

The March 25 action may largely represent the culmination of nearly five years of discord between Howard and theologically conservative Episcopalians who have joined a national movement abandoning the denomination since an openly gay New Hampshire priest was elected a bishop in 2003.

Being deposed means the ministers can no longer function as clergy in any Episcopal church and that they can no longer contribute to the denomination's pension fund, Howard said.

The Rev. Neil Lebhar, one of the deposed priests, said the ministers can both still draw their pensions and contribute to retirement funds created for ministers who have left the denomination.

Howard said he was merely making official what the ministers have done by aligning themselves with Anglican bishops. He inhibited, or suspended, the clergy six months before deposing them to give them time to reconsider.

"They did not desire to remain in the Episcopal Church and this just makes it official," Howard said. "Not one of them came to me and said: 'I want to be an Episcopalian.' "


Read the article here.

Church: after Sunday

Several articles have come to our attention about the use of church facilities during the week. Dr. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, wants churches to play a larger part in becoming centers for their communities. icWales reports:

Dr Barry Morgan wants congregations to think creatively about their church buildings and their wider use and to allow them to play a central role in regenerating towns and villages.

He believes churches can make the best of their assets and reinvent themselves by developing conference facilities, catering for school groups and offering services such as counselling.

He said: “A church that is closed Monday to Friday is the worst possible advertisement for Christianity.

“We cannot go on locking up our treasures in closed buildings any more. We have to open the doors of the churches physically, as well as metaphorically.

“This is about changing perspectives as well as reality. Too often we are perceived to be rather peripheral to the mainstream Monday to Friday life of organisations, communities and individuals.”

He said it was a way for the church to “move from the edge of people’s radar screens” so that the wider community can see the relevance of Christianity to their lives.

Read more here

In San Angelo, Texas CNN reports that members of a local Episcopal Church are helping provide food and lodging for volunteer attorneys for the children of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, a polygamist sect, recently subject to a police raid on charges of abuse.

Read it here

In other items about church and community, Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, commends a new program called Say and Play

Involve and Lambeth Council are trialling a new method for consulting local communities. We are currently working with local primary schools to combine a fun day for young families with an informal process for consulting on Lambeth Council's priorities. The focus is primarily on creating an informal fun atmosphere where families spend an enjoyable relaxing afternoon

A report from Sudan

Anglican Journal, the publication of the Anglican Church of Canada, reports by on life for Christians in Sudan:

Anglican Journal editor Leanne Larmondin travelled to south Sudan from March 26 to April 3 with an international, ecumenical delegation representing the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the All Africa Conference of Churches. The trip – one of the WCC’s Living Letters missions – was meant as a show of solidarity with the people and the churches of Sudan. Both the Sudanese people and the semi-autonomous Government of South Sudan acknowledge that the ecumenical world had a significant influence on the realization of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a 21-year civil war. Four groups visited four different areas: Darfur and Khartoum in the north, Yambio and Rumbek in the south; their visits culminated in a conference in early April in Juba, the capital of south Sudan. While there, international church leaders vowed to walk with the Sudanese in their continuing journey toward lasting peace.

While the nation’s comprehensive peace agreement, signed in 2005, provides for freedom of religion for all Sudanese, in reality there are still obstacles.

“We have little freedom,” said Bishop Kondo, whose diocese is home to many southern Sudanese who fled to Khartoum during the civil war. The Mothers’ Union is active in his diocese and he has 150 clergy and assorted evangelists to minister to the worshippers in about 50 churches; the Episcopal Church claims about 1.5 million members throughout Sudan.

Read the article here.

Florida priest working for peace in Kenya

The St. Petersburg Times reports on the work of the Rev. John Kivuva, 45, a priest at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church and part-time chaplain at St. Anthony's Hospital.

Kivuva left St. Petersburg for what was to be a two- to three-week visit to his former homeland. He planned to meet with Somali and Sudanese refugees on behalf of a group he helped to found in Kenya, supported by the Mennonite and Episcopal churches and others. He also was to speak to young people at an Anglican convention in Mai-Mahiu outside Nairobi.

He managed to do both before Kenya's Dec. 27 elections erupted into a national crisis. The conflict began with an announcement that President Mwai Kibaki, of the powerful Kikuyu tribe, had been re-elected.

Father John Kivuva Mwiya is back home now, safe, reunited with his wife and children. But his mind is troubled. At night, sleep comes slowly. Better get some counseling, he's been told. He is just back from Kenya, his former homeland, where he was caught up in bloody postelection violence. Disturbing images are burned into his brain:

Gunfire, violent mobs, the murder of civilians, terrified and hungry refugees. Perhaps worst, he watched as two men were dragged from his car and tortured on the side of the road. Though Kenya is relatively calm today, with the rival political parties announcing a power sharing Cabinet earlier this week, the unrest took at least 1,200 lives. The toll is likely higher, since some were killed in rural areas, and those bodies may never be found. Tens of thousands fled or lost their homes.

Read the rest here

Krister Stendahl, April 15, 2008

From Harvard Divinity School:

To the HDS community--

It is with immense sadness, but also with immense thankfulness for a singular life wonderfully well-lived, that I write to inform you that Krister Stendahl, our beloved friend, teacher, colleague, and former Dean, died this morning. A funeral service is planned for Friday morning at University Lutheran Church, and a memorial service to be held at Harvard's Memorial Church is being planned for sometime in May. Details on that University event and on other chances to recall, celebrate, and honor Krister will be communicated as soon as we know them, by email as well as on the HDS website. Please keep all of the Stendahl family in your thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely,
William A. Graham,
Dean

Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) mourns the death of Krister Stendahl, a leader in support for women in religion and ministry, bishop of the Lutheran Church of Sweden and former Dean of Harvard Divinity School.

Harvard Divinity School reports ... the death of its beloved former Dean Krister Stendahl... Many on this list knew him personally and others read his work. His contributions were many, especially his support for women in religion and ministry. He was a WATER supporter over the years and encouraging of our work. May his spirit inspire others to follow his example. With gratitude for this good man.

Last year Stendahl published Why I Love the Bible - read it here

UPDATE: A memorial service and celebration of the life and legacy of Krister Stendahl will be held May 16, 2 p.m. at Harvard's Memorial Church.

UPDATE: April 16
Harvard Divinity School obituary.
New York Times remembers Kirster Stendahl.

Parish nurses offer needed ministry

Parish nurses are a growing ministry in the Episcopal and other churches. The Grand Haven Tribune, in Michigan, reports on how a local college is supporting education of nurse to serve in this ministry.

While many churches have had nurses as volunteers for years and years, a Calvin College church nursing program encourages nurses to create staff positions in their congregations. Since the Parish Nurse Basic Preparation Program began in 2003, 113 registered nurses have gone through the 36-hour course.

Suzan Couzens said her organization, the Grand Rapids Area Health Ministry Consortium, now works with close to 50 parish nurses compared with just seven in 2002.

"In our health care system, the need is increasing for nurses to be in churches," she said. "The system is complicated, resources becoming less and less, and the church is being asked to step up more and more — and they're not prepared."

Ferrysburg Community Church Pastor Nate Visker said unpaid nurses organize blood pressure checks and host a flu shot clinic each year.

"I don't even watch the medical dramas, so I have no medical knowledge," he said. "These ladies are both (registered nurses), so they can answer medical questions that would be dangerous for me to address."

Other tasks taken on by parish nurses include initiating health programs and education, calling on the elderly, developing support groups, and sometimes acting as patient advocates, according to Calvin College professor Bethany Gordon.

"Health is often related to body, mind and spirit, and I think we're in a unique position as the church where we can look at this as holistic health," Gordon said. "In everything we do, we are looking at integrating our faith with our health."

Karen Nisja from St. John's Episcopal Church in Grand Haven ... went through the Calvin College program. ... people are starting to become more aware in what a valuable role it can play in church ministry. It really does follow the model of Jesus in healing.

National Episcopal Health Ministries offers support, training and sharing of resources to congregation and parish nurse programs. Click here for more information.

Water projects reconcile Christians and Muslims in Rwanda

Ecumenical News International (ENI) reports on efforts by the Anglican Church of Rwanda to provide clean water to Muslim communities:

An interfaith project to provide clean piped water in eastern Rwanda is a practical way to make amends to Muslims in the east African country who have been marginalised in the past by Christians, says Anglican Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini.

"We Christians see it is one way of saying, 'We are sorry'," said Kolini, referring to the water project in the Gatore sector of Rwanda's eastern district of Kirehe. The scheme was inaugurated on 19 March by the Rev. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation and president of Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa.

"This project signifies more than bringing water to those who lacked it before," said Sheikh Yussuf Bizuru, the grand imam of Rwanda's Eastern Province. "It offers to the rest of Africa and the world a model of harmonious interfaith cooperation for development."


Read the rest here.

Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama

The Seattle Times has a report on last night's event that featured a conversation between the Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican Archbishop of Capetown and the exiled leader of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama.

According to the report:

"Thousands attended the discussion at the University of Washington's Edmundson Pavilion, where young people asked questions and, along with the religious leaders, talked about ways to overcome anger and remain loving when faced with destruction.

Tutu said anger was not necessarily a bad thing. 'It'd be awful if we didn't' get angry when you see someone, for instance, violating a child. That would be awful. So it's something to be thankful for when you lose your cool.'

He said he gets angry with God sometimes. 'I mean — mmmmgh,' he said, shaking his fists. 'How can you? How can you let this, that and the other thing happen?'

But God is incredible, he said, and has given people freedom so they can choose their own way. And God 'has all of eternity to work' on humankind, which is a 'work in progress.'

When people mess up, God 'picks you up, dusts you off and says: try again,' Tutu said."

Read the rest here.

Virginia Tech anniversary

Today is the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech campus shootings that left 33 students and faculty dead and an entire community traumatized.

The day is being observed in Blacksburg in a number of ways. Some students are gathering in small groups and remembering. The University community held a ceremony to mark the moments the shootings occured.

Scott Russell, the Episcopal Campus Chaplain at the University has written a reflection on the experience.

"There is no manual. I checked. There is no manual that could have told me how to deal with a day like April 16, 2007, or the days and weeks and months that have followed. After five years of ministry with the students, faculty, staff and administration of Virginia Tech, I knew this campus and this town quite well. But on that cold, blustery April morning, none of us knew exactly how to respond.

When tragedies happen without warning, we often are left feeling unprepared and powerless. April 16 was more akin to an earthquake than a hurricane. We had no advance warning, no forecasters to tell us what to expect. Even worse, what we in Blacksburg experienced was at its very core an un-natural disaster. As the news of 10, then 20 and finally 33 dead came out, I didn't know how to pray, except for grace, lots of grace."

Read the rest of Russell's essayhere.

Bishop Robinson on NPR today

Bishop Gene Robinson is interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air program today. The interview discusses the events of his life and ministry since his election as Bishop of New Hampshire and the effects the events have had on him and his family.

From the NPR website:

"It's been four years since Gene Robinson was consecrated bishop of the Episcopal diocese of New Hampshire. He's faced challenges and controversies as that denomination's first openly gay bishop — and he's written about them in a new memoir, In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God.

Formerly married, with two daughters and granddaughters, Robinson came out publicly in the 1980s, and has been in a relationship with his partner, Mark Andrew, for two decades. He remains close to his ex-wife and his family, many of whom attended his consecration. But his openness, together with other issues surrounding gay people of faith, have caused controversy within the church, with conservative Anglicans threatening to leave the denomination."

Read the rest here.

Audio of the interview will be available at the link above after 3:00 PM Eastern time today.

The Pope visits the US

Pope Benedict the sixteenth began his first visit as pontiff to the United States today by landing in Washington DC and holding private talks with the President. While the visit begins with head-of-state formality, the primary focus of the trip is to meet with Roman Catholic leaders here in the states and discuss their concerns. But the items they will be focussing on are not what some seem to be expecting.

The Washington Post has an overview of the Pope's visit and the sorts of things that he'll be focusing on immigration much more than people may have expected:

"Benedict's visit will be limited geographically but will embrace a range of issues, including the Iraq war, immigration, the sex-abuse scandal and the state of Catholic education in the United States, through 11 public addresses and a private meeting with Bush at the White House today. His overall agenda for the trip, as he laid it out to journalists on his plane, dubbed Shepherd One, is to bring encouragement and attention to the struggles of the U.S. Catholic Church, to immigrants and their families and to what he sees as the religious foundation of human rights.

On the issue of immigration in the United States, Benedict said he considered the separation of families to be the most serious aspect. 'And this really is dangerous for the social, moral and human fabric,' he said.

The fundamental solution, he said, is to address the economic and employment problems that force many people to move to the United States. Without elaborating, Benedict said he planned to talk with Bush about his goal: 'That there will be enough jobs and a sufficient social fabric so no one has to emigrate anymore. We all must work for this objective.'"

Read the rest here.

(Editorial aside: As a citizen of the state of Arizona, resident in the city of Phoenix which is on the front lines of the immigration debate at the moment, it is reassuring to know that the Roman Church will be working along with others to help find a solution to a very pressing problem.)

Mission in a Virtual World

Mark Brown is sharing a paper on how he's been able to do mission and evangelism work in the online world of Second Life. If you've ever wondered how the church needs to modify or just tweak its message to connect with people, then this paper is worth reading.

Mark's blog post at his site "BrownBlog" says:

"In May I am heading off to the UK for a meeting hosted by the Bishop of Guildford that will discuss in some detail the ministry I am involved with in the virtual world of Second Life. I have written a background paper for the meeting, ‘Christian Mission to a Virtual World’"

Read the rest here (and follow the comments).

If you're just interested in accessing the paper (which is available in pdf format) you can find it here.

Anglican Women's Network empowering women at Lambeth

The Anglican Church of Canada reports on one of the many networks that make up the Anglican Communion. The International Anglican Women's Network was formed in November 1996 following a consultation convened by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and funded by the Mothers' Union and the United Thank Offering of the Episcopal Church Women of the Episcopal Church of the United States. Women from 14 of the (then) 32 Provinces of the Anglican Communion met in London and agreed that an international Anglican Women's Network be formed. Its mandate was to report the work of women, and the challenges that women face, to the ACC. IAWN will offer the presence of women at the Lambeth Conference:

Domestic violence, women in leadership, and women's access to technology-these are a few of the issues that the International Anglican Women's Network (IAWN) would like to discuss with bishops and their spouses at the Lambeth Conference, the meeting of all Anglican bishops in July 2008.

"If the bishop and his or her spouse catch the vision of empowering women, great things can happen," said Canon Alice Medcof, a Canadian member of the IAWN steering group.

IAWN has booked two stalls and three fringe events at Lambeth. At the stalls they will distribute literature and chat with bishops and their spouses. "We are offering all people at Lambeth the opportunity to say what they think are the most important problems facing women," said Canon Medcof.

IAWN is an official network of the Anglican Communion and aims to be the global voice of Anglican women by reporting their work and concerns to the Anglican Consultative Council. The international IAWN steering committee keeps informed through provincial links...

Read more here.

For information on the International Anglican Women's Network click here.

Tragic fire at Ugandan Anglican school

BBC News is reporting that a tragic fire of suspicious origins has swept through the Anglican Buddo Junior School girls' dormitory in Uganda:

It is estimated that more than 60 girls were in the dormitory when the fire started at 2200 local time (1900 GMT).

Some students speculated that the number could have been higher, as extra mattresses are often put on the floor.

A teacher said that the children had been in bed for about an hour when he was alerted to the fire by a porter.

"Getting here the dormitory was in full blast of flames so I quickly reorganised people and called for help from children to bring me water," John Robert Okuudu, the director of studies, said.

"The fire brigade had not arrived yet and we began splashing water."

Mr Okuudu says he helped open the doors at one end of the dormitory and the majority of the children escaped.

Some eyewitnesses say the dormitory doors may have been deliberately locked from the outside to prevent the pupils escaping.

An 11-year-old girl in a different hostel said it was not normal for the doors to be locked at night.

She said her friend, who had gone outside to the toilet just before the blaze, had seen something strange bouncing on the top of the dormitory roof.

Some parents, who came to take their children home, expressed concern about negligence.

The private school is under new management following earlier disputes and staff have recently been on strike over the non-payment of their salaries.

Read it here.

More coverage here.

The New York Times reports here.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh requests prayers for the Anglican school.

Judy Shepard campaigns to erase hate

The Houston Chronicle reports on the journey of personal change made by Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard who died 10 years ago, the victim of a hate crime.

Judy Shepard, an everymom, petite, with a perky blonde bob, wearing jeans and a crisply ironed black button-down shirt, will hear them out, just like she always does. She'll offer each some encouragement, sometimes wrapped in a clever punchline. She speaks from hard experience.

Nearly 10 years ago, her college-student son Matthew was fatally beaten in a gay-bashing murder that shocked the country. In the decade since, Shepard has been traveling the country pleading for acceptance and lobbying for gay rights and tougher hate-crimes laws.

And, from the reception she got at Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts last week, she's also a surrogate mother of sorts to a generation of young gays.

After her speech at HSPVA, attended by hundreds, many of those students line up backstage to meet her. Most throw their arms around her and tell her in a gush about coming out to their parents or describe their horror at homophobia. Several just want to tell her how much her work means to them. There's a sense of urgency to share with her because she somehow will agree and, most of all, understand.

Ten years ago in October, Matthew Shepard was robbed by two men and savagely beaten with a .357-caliber Magnum, then tied to a rural fence and left to die in the cold. His nearly lifeless body was discovered 18 hours later. It was a watershed in the fight for gay rights, opening the eyes of many to anti-gay violence.

As Matthew lay in the hospital dying, Shepard was catapulted into the international spotlight.

Now 55, she's embraced the job she never wanted, as an international spokeswoman, activist and executive director of the nonprofit that bears Matthew's name, created in part with funds sent by family, friends and strangers to help defray Matthew's medical costs.

"I'm just somebody's mom who got really angry at the system and felt I had the opportunity to make a change," Shepard said.

Matthew Shepard served as an youth acolyte at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Casper, WY, the site of his funeral and home church of his parents.

Read the article here.

Governments called to do more to achieve MDGs by 2015

The Rt. Rev. Njongo Ndungane, retired Archbishop of South Africa is calling for all governments to scale up their efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The MDGs have 8 goals for eradicating extreme poverty, improving health, providing education, supporting environmental sustainability, and attaining gender equality. From a press release from Africa Monitor today:

Archbishop Njongo Ndungane, Founder and President of African Monitor, today called on parliamentarians from the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) member states to gear up in order to ensure that Africa and other developing countries also meet the MDGs by 2015. He was addressing the parliamentarians at the UNICEF’s Countdown to 2015 Conference in Cape Town.

The Archbishop called on the governments to do more in order to ensure that the MDGs are achieved by 2015, particularly in the areas of maternal health and child mortality, which affect the most vulnerable segment of human beings.

“The Millennium Development Goals are the most important and comprehensive promises that our governments have made for tackling the scourge of poverty”, he said.

Archbishop Ndungane said that continental bodies, like the African Monitor, will always monitor development programming by both governments and donors and advocate for pro-poor and result-oriented development programmes that listened to and acted on the voices of poor people.

He emphasized the need to hold public officials who made public promises accountable and said that public pronouncements by duty bearers should be less about public relations and more about true actionable undertakings that translated to the improvement of the situation of the poor, particularly women and children.

More information is here.

The Episcopal Church MDG campaign is here.

A network of Episcopalians committed to this work is here.

A list of the Millennium Development Goals follows:

Read more »

Anglican women and girls contribute to new book of prayers

Anglican Communion News Service reports on a call for prayers from Anglican women around to world to be published by Church Publishing.

While worldwide attention is focused on discord and divisions within the Anglican Communion, Anglican women and girls are uniting to make their voices heard on issues of poverty and women’s empowerment, express the power and depth of their faith, and to reveal their connections across cultural and economic differences, by contributing to a new book of women’s prayers.

Following on the popularity of Women’s Uncommon Prayers: Our Lives Revealed, Nurtured, Celebrated, this all-new collection of prayers, with its multicultural global reach, will be organized according to themes of the Millennium Development Goals. Prayers will show the connections between the global concerns of women and girls and their personal lives. The book will be published under the Morehouse imprint of Church Publishing, Incorporated.

Currently, the editors are partnering with networks of Anglican women worldwide to extend the invitation for prayer submissions. Already the editors have held a prayer-writing workshop, for example, with the international Anglican women delegates who were in New York City in February 2008 for the annual gathering of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, representing every province of the Anglican Communion.

Royalties from the book will help to strengthen global partnerships. All proceeds will be given equally to the International Anglican Women’s Network, the organization through which the voices of Anglican women are reported to the Anglican Consultative Council, and Episcopal Relief and Development in support of programs for women.

The deadline for submissions is September 1, 2008. Submissions may be made by email to prayers@cpg.org. To read an online invitation for submissions, visit the website here

Read the press release here.

Society needs religion

The Archbishop of Canterbury has come out in defense of religion's role in the public sphere. While this is not terribly surprising, the argument he puts forward is that the inclusion of religious belief is critical to maintaining a pluralistic society.

From a report on the Archbishop's own website:

"Acknowledging the contribution that increased spiritual awareness can make to social and corporate life, Dr. Williams argues for the continued relevance of traditional religious commitment in developing and sustaining some of the deepest resources needed in a responsible plural society.

'When the great German philosopher Jurgen Habermas acknowledged some years ago in debate with the then Cardinal Ratzinger that traditional religion offered necessary resources to the construction of social reason and just practice, he was paving the way for some such approach on the part of secular government.  There is an implicit acknowledgement, it seems, that what religious affiliation of a classical kind offers is not to be reduced just to an enhanced sense of the transcendent or of the interconnection of all things.'

Dr Williams argues that religion is in fact:

'...one of the most potent allies possible for genuine pluralism – that is, for a social and political culture that is consistently against coercion and institutionalised inequality and is committed to serious public debate about common good.  Spiritual capital alone, in the sense of a heightened acknowledgement especially among politicians, businessmen and administrators of dimensions to human flourishing beyond profit and material security, is helpful but is not well equipped to ask the most basic questions about the legitimacy of various aspects of the prevailing global system.  The traditional forms of religious affiliations, in proposing an 'imagined society', realised in some fashion in the practices of faith, are better resourced for such questions.'

The challenge for those 'who adhere to revealed faith' but do not wish simply to be absorbed into an uncritical post-religious culture focused on 'the autonomous self and its choices' was to rediscover what 'the great Anglican Benedictine scholar Gregory Dix meant by describing Christians as a new 'species', homo eucharisticus, a humanity defined in its Eucharistic practice...'The unleavened bread of sincerity and truth' is the gift of the Easter Gospel, we are told in the liturgy; 'Lord, evermore give us this bread' (Jn 6.34).' "

From here.

The full transcript is found here.

More Covenant criticism

The Church Times has an article summarizing the presentations made at the conference on the proposed Anglican Covenant in New York last week. The article especially features the words of Jenny Te Paa of New Zealand and a member of the Windsor Commission. In her presentation Te Paa talked about the reasons she has since backed away from her initial support of the call for a Covenant's design.

According to the article

"Among the events she cited was the behaviour at the Primates’ Meetings, which had gone from being a gathering for ‘leisurely thought [and] prayer’ to being a ‘quasi-governance body universally perceived as inappropriate, unbidden, and unhelpful’.

Covenant drafts served to ‘protect and enhance . . . dominant male leadership, privilege, and power’, she said. In her view, the ‘fussing with and about one another’ needed to stop, in order to reaffirm the bonds that already exist within the Communion."

By contrast, the proposed Covenant was defended by the Archishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez. “If we can covenant with our ecumenical partners . . . it seems to me to be a pretty pass indeed if we Anglicans decide we cannot covenant with each other.”

And the deputy secretary of the Anglican Communion, Canon Gregory Cameron, said: “In time of distrust, when people feel that boundaries are being manipulated and moved, covenant can be a restatement of where the true roots of Anglicanism lie.”

Read the rest here.

No bishops singled out

Although his take makes it seem otherwise, the real news in George Conger's story today is that the letter Rowan was supposedly writing to recalcitrants is actually going to ALL attendees. No one is being singled out. And look how many attendees there are:

Approximately 600 of the Communion’s 716 diocesan and 171 suffragan and assistant bishops have stated they would attend Lambeth, and more responses are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, a member of the conference team said.

Of diocesans that's 84 percent already.

As to what the letter will say, until we see the letter there is no way of knowing that it commits an attendee to accept anything in particular.

Nigeria responds to accusations

Last week the Church of Nigeria was accused of being involved in some way on a series of assaults upon the leadership of the Changing Attitudes Nigeria organization. While some have questioned whether or not the assaults took place, today the Nigerian Church has responded by deploring any possibility that they might have been connected in any way, calling for an investigation if evidence points their way.

From a statement by the Nigerian Church's Archbishop of Jos which has appeared on the provincial website:

"We are saddened and worried that some Churches and Christians now find these teachings and standards unacceptable.  However, we will never seek to bring any person or persons to our way of thinking and believing by using violence, force, slander or blackmail: to do so would be to contradict the gospel which we proclaim.  Should anyone bring a case against us in this respect we will most certainly investigate it and deal with it.  I would have hoped that the accusations made concerning the attack on Mr. Davis Mac-Iyalla could have been properly presented in this manner, with evidence: it would then have been dealt with swiftly.  This was not done, and it would be helpful to consider that there may indeed be other reasons why certain individuals felt they had a score to settle with Mr. Mac-Iyalla. All my attempts so far to discover the place or the nature of these attacks and threats have proved unsuccessful.

Simply to accuse the Anglican Church of being the perpetrator of a physical attack on the streets of a large city, does not make sense.  If a Nigerian Bishop or church leader were mugged in England, would the Archbishop of Canterbury, or even the Church of England in general, be blamed for this?  That the Archbishop of Canterbury, backed by a group of English bishops should – without evidence being presented – choose to accuse any other person(s) of resorting to violent crime and illegal acts, is in fact to resort to the unchristian bullying and behaviour which they so abhor."

The statement by the Archbishop continues:

May I note that I was invited to speak at a fringe meeting of the Church of England Synod last year. Mr. Mac-Iyalla was present at this public meeting, and at the end of my paper he made comments to which I responded. This all took place without there being any feeling of aggression, or any indication that the Church of Nigeria is homophobic or violent.

Read the full statement here.

Bishop stops arms

An Anglican bishop in South Africa has successfully sued in court to prevent the transport of a large shipment of small arms across South Africa that were en-route to Zimbabwe. Bishop Rubin Philips acted in High Court of Durban and invoked a section of South African law to stop the shipments.

According to news reports:

"[The] legal action was being sought in terms of the National Conventional Arms Control Act (NCACC), which 'requires that any transfer of arms be authorised by a permit issued on terms of the NCACC'.

[...]The controversial cargo packed into 3080 cases allegedly includes three million rounds of 7.62mm bullets (used with the AK47 assault rifle), 69 rocket propelled grenades, as well as mortar bombs and tubes.

The cargo is, according to the documentation, valued at R9,88-million."

Read the full news story here.

UPDATE: The BBC is now reporting that the ship in question has departed from the port of Durban.

UPDATE: April 19 10:30 a.m. ET
Reuters reports that the ship is headed for an Angolan port.

What to do about food?

News about the effects of sky-rocketing food prices is starting to break through to the foreground of public policy discussions. While to this point most of the conversation has focused on the cause or causes of the increase, there are people starting to suggest ways that society needs to respond.

An article by Mark Trumbull published today in the Christian Science Monitor has some specific suggestions:

"Although poor nations are most at risk, much can be done by rich nations to avert a crisis and to set the stage for long-run solutions.

Some of the steps – such as boosting food aid – are obvious. Others are more difficult or politically controversial, but could reap meaningful benefits. Some examples:

  • Ramp up cash-handout programs for people who spend half or more of their income on food.

  • Curb or phase out government mandates or subsidies for using crops as fuel.

  • Expand agricultural research and spread existing technologies throughout Africa, where farmers lag furthest behind.

  • Prepare International Monetary Fund assistance to help food-poor nations cover rising trade deficits.

  • Resist the temptation to tamper with the free-market price signals that will ultimately encourage greater food production. This means resisting price controls or farm subsidies within nations, and keeping trade open among nations."

Additionally the director of the USAID (US Agency for International Development) points out that the national security implications of the developing crisis. He makes additional recommendations about aid delivery mechanisms that are being supported by the US administration, and which may soon be implemented.

The article concludes by pointing out that this does not appear to be a short-term issue. It is expected that the present pressures will intensify squeezing those in extreme poverty more and more in coming years.

Read the full article here.

Passover

Passover is being celebrated by Jewish people around the world beginning tonight at sundown. Passover celebrates the Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt and one of the most important events in the history of the Jewish people.
Some customs and laws of Passover are:

To prepare for the holiday, houses are cleaned thoroughly and dishes and utensils are replaced with those used on Passover only.
Bread and other leavened food (chametz) is forbidden and removed from the home before Passover begins. Many Jews will eat only food specifically marked as "Kosher for Passover."
Matzah, a flat bread made just of flour and water, is eaten.
Work is prohibited on the first two and last two days (in Israel, the first and last days only), when rules akin to those followed on the Jewish Sabbath are followed.
In Temple times, Passover was one of three annual pilgrimage festivals to Jerusalem.
The Seder Ritual: The seder is held on the first night or two (depending on custom) of Passover. Some characteristics of this ritual meal are:
The story of the Exodus is retold, using a book called a "Haggadah."
Bitter herbs are eaten to recall the pain of slavery, and greens to celebrate the onset of spring. Other foods include haroseth--a fruit, nut, and wine mixture--and of course, matzah.
The youngest at the table recites the Four Questions.
Four cups of wine are consumed.
A festive meal is eaten.


Passover takes on new meaning in each generation with the incorporation of the present struggles for liberation with those of the original event. Beliefnet reports:

The custom of customizing even extends to Judaism's most traditional branch. The Orthodox Jewish publishing house, Artscroll Mesora, offers some 50 different Haggadahs, one of which is written by Hasidic rabbi and addiction specialist Abraham Twerski to address the experience of substance abusers.

Adapting Passover's message to fit a range of needs is practically as old as the holiday itself.

"Over and over again, the Bible itself uses the Exodus to justify all sorts of things," from caring for the poor to "any number of laws and practices," Sarna said. "So the idea of trimming the Exodus to justify whatever it is you want to justify really has very deep roots."

Even before people fiddled with the text of the Haggadah, they incorporated illustrations that reflected their times, depicting the modern-day Egyptian as a Russian warrior or Nazi soldier, said Sarna, adding that even the traditional text requires reinterpretation.

"It says in every generation, they arise to destroy us and God saves us. Well, if that's the message," then "obviously we are supposed to interpret this story in light of contemporary events," he said.

Without fail, Passover offers a fitting backdrop for any number of modern-day struggles.

That's why the American Jewish World Service, an international relief organization, dispatched a mass mailing to U.S. synagogues with readings that offer a "fifth question" to Passover's traditional four questions asked at the Seder table. The cards depict a refugee from Darfur and ask: "How can we make this year different from all other years?"

Click here for more coverage of the many aspects of Passover.

In other Passover news, according to Rachel Zoll of AP, Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope to visit an American synagogue Friday, bringing greetings for the Passover holiday and accepting gifts of matzo and a seder plate. Benedict, 81, stopped briefly at Park East Synagogue on Manhattan's Upper East Side, near the Vatican residence.
Read it here.

Scam alert

Some readers have asked about a company called anglican films that advertises videos for churches. Be aware that it is a scam. The alert sent to all Episcopal Communicators follows:

Read more »

The Pope at the UN

The Pope gave a spirited defense of human rights before the United Nations, emphasizing that human rights are not the gift of the State, but are God-given. The New York Times has this report:

The 81-year-old pope, who was a young German prisoner in the war that forged the United Nations, insisted that human rights — more than force or pragmatic politics — must be the basis for ending war and poverty.

“The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security,” Benedict told the United Nations General Assembly.

“Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose human dignity is violated with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence, and they can then become violators of peace,” he said.

He made no explicit reference to a nation or conflict in particular, and he laid no specific blame in the half-hour speech, which was densely packed with philosophy and theology. But he did mention briefly some specific priorities for the Vatican, like protecting the environment, and making sure that poor nations, especially in Africa, also reap the benefits of globalization.

And in a passage that will have particular resonance for the current United Nations leadership, which is trying to establish the right of the outside world to intervene in situations where nations fail to shield their own citizens from atrocities, the pope said that “every state has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights.”

The concept, known as “responsibility to protect,” is one that Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, has backed as a way for international institutions to take action in regions like Darfur.

“If states are unable to guarantee such protection,” the pope said, “the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations charter and in other international instruments.” In an apparent allusion to countries that claim such international actions constitute intervention in their national affairs, he said they “should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty.”

He added, “On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage.”

In his speech, Benedict touched on themes important both to his three-year-old papacy and his decades of writing as a cardinal and one of the church’s leading intellectuals.

At base, the pope presented the idea that there are universal values that transcend the diversity — cultural, ethnic or ideological — embodied in an institution like the United Nations, founded to help prevent the ruin of another world war. Those values are at the base of human rights, he said, as they are for religion. Thus religion, he said, cannot be shut out of a body like the United Nations, which he said aims at “a social order respectful of the dignity and rights of the person.”

“A vision of life firmly anchored in the religious dimension can help achieve this,” he said. “Recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman favors conversion of heart, which then leads to a commitment to resist violence, terrorism, war and to promote justice and peace.

Read it all here. A video and transcript of the speech can be found here.

Interestingly, the Roman Catholic Church is the only religious body to have permanent observer status through the Holy See. Read an interesting explanation here.

The Pope challenges "so-called prophetic actions"

As Rachel Zoll reports, the Pope made comments yesterday that seem to be directed at the Episcopal Church:


At a Roman Catholic church in Manhattan, the pope later warned other Christian leaders against "so-called prophetic actions" that conflict with traditional views of the Bible, a reference to the debate over Scripture that is fracturing churches in America and around the world.

At his visit with Christian leaders, the pontiff said allowing individual congregations to interpret the Gospel undermines evangelism at a time when "the world is losing its bearings" and needs "persuasive common witness" to salvation in Christ.

"Only by holding fast to sound teaching will we be able to respond to the challenges that confront us in an evolving world," Benedict said at the evening service with Protestant and Orthodox clergy at St. Joseph's church, which was founded by German immigrants and still regularly celebrates Mass in German.

"Only in this way will we give unambiguous testimony to the truth of the Gospel and its moral teaching. This is the method which the world is waiting to hear from us."

Benedict did not mention specific issues troubling the churches. However, many Protestant groups have been arguing for years over how to understand what the Bible says about truth and salvation, and whether it prohibits gay sex.

Read it all here. The full text of the remarks can be found here.

What do you think?

Later: Here's the ENS report on the Pope's remarks. A portion:

Read more »

The idolatry of America

The debate over the proper relationship between religion and politics often focuses on whether religious influence in the public square is a good thing or bad thing for the nation. Evangelical Charles Marsh has written a new book, Wayward Christian Soldiers: Freeing the Gospel From Political Captivity that argues that undue political involvement has been bad for the faith.

Damon Linker reviewed the book in The New Republic:

A professor of religion at the University of Virginia and a devout evangelical, Marsh believes that the politicization of Christianity in recent years--using the good name and moral commandments of the church to "serve national ambitions, strengthen middle-class values, and justify war"--has been spiritually disastrous for evangelicalism in the United States. Conservative American Christians, he claims, have forgotten the difference between "discipleship and partisanship." They have "seized the language of the faith and made it captive to our partisan agendas--and done so with contempt for Scripture, tradition, and the global, ecumenical church." The result has been a collapse into spiritual unseriousness, as Christians have "recast" their faith "according to our cultural preferences and baptized our prejudices, along with our will to power, in the shallow waters of civic piety." Resisting despair, Marsh hopes that his book might inspire some of his fellow believers to repent of their recent ways--to "take stock of the whole colossal wreck of the evangelical witness" and then try to rebuild a more authentic Christianity in its place.

Unlike most books about the religious right, positive or negative, Wayward Christian Soldiers is addressed primarily to the movement's most devoted members. Accordingly, much of the book is written in a prophetic register, alternating between rebuke and exhortation, as Marsh tries to persuade his readers of the enormity of their transgressions. He employs a rhetoric of outraged denunciation most effectively in his introduction, where he recounts visiting a Christian bookstore near his home in the spring of 2003, shortly before the start of the Iraq war. The store was stocked with "a full assortment of patriotic accessories--red-white-and-blue ties, bandanas, buttons, handkerchiefs, 'I support our troops' ribbons, 'God Bless America' gear, and an extraordinary cross and flag bangle with the two images welded together and interlocked." By the cash registers, he found numerous books about the faith of George W. Bush. In Marsh's words, "It looked like a store getting ready for the Fourth of July, although Easter was just weeks away."

The problem with such displays is not simply that they blur Christian piety with patriotism, but also that the patriotism is highly partisan. It is not all of America, or even most of America, that these godly patriots love. If Marsh's neighborhood bookshop was preparing for the Fourth of July, it was the holiday as scripted by the Republican National Committee. And such displays have hardly been limited to selected Christian businesses. As Marsh notes, Christian Coalition activists made a habit of attending rallies for Bush's 2004 re-election campaign with specially designed crosses emblazoned with Bush-Cheney logos and American-flag emblems. On some of them, "the president's name appeared in full at the places where Jesus's hands were nailed" to the cross. At these rallies, which took place all over the country, the blending of politics and religion was complete.

Read it all here (subscription required)

Ratzinger's Faith

As the Pope ends his first visit to the United States in his new role as Pope, more American's are trying to understand this man. Is he the conservative that many feared? Christianity Today reviews Tracey Rowland's Ratizinger's Faith, which attempts to explain this Pope:

In the usual telling of the tale, Joseph Ratzinger went from being a progressive reformer at the Second Vatican Council to being God's reactionary Rottweiler as the Catholic Church's chief doctrinal authority under John Paul II.

That standard account misses the truth about the Bavarian theologian who has become Pope Benedict XVI. Tracey Rowland—professor of political philosophy and continental theology at the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, Australia—paints a more complete picture in her new book, Ratzinger's Faith, arguing that Ratzinger's fundamental theological convictions have remained essentially constant while the world around him has changed. Ratzinger's Faith is the first serious book on Benedict's theology since Aidan Nichols' excellent 1987 volume The Thought of Joseph Ratzinger. Unlike Nichols, however, Rowland proceeds thematically, not chronologically, and she strikes a balance between lucid accessibility for non-specialist readers and the kind of scholarly precision that theologians require.

The key to Ratzinger, Rowland explains, is his place in history. Never enthralled by the prevailing neoscholastic Thomism he encountered as a student, Ratzinger gravitated toward an Augustinian and Bonaventurian emphasis on love as an antidote to the hyper-rationalism of God as the logos of pure reason. Ratzinger's long-running theological emphasis on beauty and history can also be traced to his early studies, and the theme of God as love marked his first encyclical as pope.

. . .

For Ratzinger, according to Rowland, "a 'daring new' Christocentric theological anthropology is the medicine that the world needs," and "it is the responsibility of the Church to administer it." We can understand our human destiny only through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

This emphasis on Christology is central to Ratzinger's thinking on just about everything else. Responding to the then-dominant view of revelation that championed its "propositional character," Ratzinger argued that revelation is not a mere collection of true statements about God. Revelation is Jesus Christ himself—not the Greek philosophers' unmoved-mover, but the God of Trinitarian and human relationships, active in the world as creator, redeemer and sanctifier. Dei Verbum, Vatican II's decree on revelation, restored, in Ratzinger's words, the "focus on the biblical God for whom it is precisely relationship and action that are the essential marks."

Revelation, however, is more than a text; here Rowland explains Ratzinger's reservations about the historical-critical method of biblical scholarship: Scripture must be read within a tradition, for the truth of revelation is mediated through a historically defined community—the church—that one can never interpret from the outside. To reject the providential guidance of the Holy Spirit in the historical development of Christian doctrine is to miss the historical role that the Christian church must play in its transmission.

In this light, Ratzinger argues that the church should be viewed sacramentally—as the sacrament of salvation to the world, as the institution that makes Christ present to humanity. Rowland repeatedly stresses that Ratzinger resists all attempts to think of the church in political or sociological terms. In its essence, the church consists of communities that gather to celebrate the Eucharist, but these don't make the Eucharist; the Eucharist makes the communities—which means, as Ratzinger puts it, that the universal church is "logically and ontologically prior to the particular churches."

It becomes easier to understand, then, Benedict's emphasis on church unity, the collegiality of bishops, and the ministry of unity entrusted to the bishop of Rome. Evangelicals might wonder where this places them. Ratzinger stands firmly in continuity with Vatican II in insisting that the church of Christ exists most fully and rightly only within the Catholic Church, but that there are elements of sanctification and truth in churches and ecclesial communities outside Catholicism's formal structure.

Read it all here.

The Visitor

Immigration is certainly the hot political issue of our time. A new film, The Visitor, attempts to give the issue a human face. Christianty Today offers this positive review:

The Visitor centers upon Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins), a crotchety economics professor who masks his loneliness (he's a widower) with a veneer of "cell phone in hand" self-importance. Appropriately for what is to come in the story, Walter is about as white as you can get. He lives in a pristine Connecticut house but also maintains a Manhattan apartment. He drives a Volvo, is never without a glass of fine wine (even at the breakfast table), and takes piano lessons from an old white lady named Barbara Watson. Wherever he goes, Walter seems surrounded by white walls and an antiseptic aura.

On a trip to New York for a conference where he reluctantly must present a paper, Walter's boring, hyper-white life takes a decidedly colorful turn. Upon entering his Manhattan apartment, Walter discovers that two undocumented immigrants have made themselves at home. A predictably dicey confrontation ensues (but is quickly ameliorated) as the foreign intruders try to explain themselves to an understandably shocked Walter. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira) are the pair in question—two "invisible" immigrants from, respectively, Syria and Senegal. What could have been a violent interaction turns out to be the unlikely first step toward a deep friendship—albeit a tentative step. The lonely Walter feels pity on the couple and—as they gather their belongings to quietly leave Walter's apartment—he invites them to stay as long as they need to.

Soon the oddly paired trio becomes something of a family—especially Walter and Tarek. Tarek is a djembe drummer and makes a living playing gigs with jazz bands throughout New York City. For whatever reason, Tarek takes it upon himself to teach the rhythm-challenged Walter to play as well—a process that provides many of the film's funniest moments (including some hilarious scenes of Walter in a suit, banging away in a Central Park drum circle). It also provides the means for some serious cross-cultural bonding, which is ultimately what The Visitor is all about.

Of course, just as things are working out so swimmingly for our ethnically-diverse threesome, the whole immigration issue comes barging in to spoil the multicultural party. Tarek is nabbed on a bogus charge and locked up in a mysterious Homeland Security holding facility in Queens. Since Zainab is also an illegal, she cannot visit Tarek in jail (as she would be apprehended as well). Thus it is up to Walter to be the liaison and lone advocate for Tarek as he tries to fight his way out of deportation. Walter hires an immigration lawyer on Tarek's behalf and prepares to do everything in his power to get Tarek on the path to legal residency.

. . .

As the film goes on, the title—The Visitor—becomes ever more meaningful. Each of the four main characters is at some point in the film an "outsider"—stepping into a world that is not comfortable, and certainly not "home." But in spite of the "fish out of water" motif, the film finds plenty of occasions for deeply felt connection, even if tainted by a pervasive sense of temporality (as the title implies). Ultimately the film is about impermanence, both in its beauty (sharing moments and memories, growing, changing) and ugliness (leaving things behind).

Far from a downer, though, The Visitor is a cheerful bit of comedy-drama with some great acting performances from its four leads. Jenkins is especially brilliant in his first starring role. He's one of those "familiar face" supporting actors who makes an impact in almost every scene he's in. And despite his stoic face and unremarkable countenance, Jenkins exudes more than enough charisma and "everyman" empathy to carry the film. The other actors are equally empathetic, imbuing their characters with emotional range and a complexity that eschews simplistic stereotypes.

Though The Visitor tackles a weighty issue and—ultimately—provides no easy answers, it is a thoroughly satisfying film. It oozes goodness and humanity and—especially in the "love story" portion—a classy reverence for dignity and trans-cultural decorum. The film reminded me of another NYC-based film that tackles a "big issue" with goodness and grace—Bella. Both of these films revel in the good of their characters, offering the audience a glimpse of the joy that comes when people truly care for one another and uphold the value and beauty of life.

During an election year in which immigration is sure to play a significant role, a film like The Visitor is utterly refreshing. Far from a heavy-handed, agit-prop polemic, this is a film that asks us simply to humanize the issue. In the sometimes-harsh post-9/11 climate (and the constant shots of a WTC-less Manhattan skyline remind us that this is what the film is about), humanity sometimes takes a beating by the various "isms" (nationalism, terrorism, patriotism) that swirl around the ashes of 9/11. Christians have long preached (but not always practiced) the importance of loving people, first and foremost—despite their race or culture or religion. The Visitor shows us just how lovely and healing this idea—in practice—can be.

Read it all here.

Gay men at Jewish Theological Seminary

Yesterday's New York Times included a very interesting profile of the first gay men permitted to attend the Jewish Theological Seminary:

Aaron Weininger stood in the ballroom of a Florida hotel last April, a college senior given the compliment of leading the Passover Seder for an audience of university administrators. He reached the sentence in the Hagaddah that implores each generation to feel that it was the one liberated from Egypt. There were few passages in the liturgy he had known better or longer.

In this particular moment, though, the words rippled with new meaning. One week earlier, the leading seminary of Conservative Judaism had dropped its longstanding ban on admitting, teaching or ordaining openly gay students to be rabbis. Ten days later, Mr. Weininger had his interview at Jewish Theological Seminary, seeking to be the first person to break those barriers.

“That line of the Haggadah spoke so directly to me,” Mr. Weininger, 23, recalled in an interview. “To feel what it was like to be liberated from a narrow place. Egypt can mean different things in different generations. And I felt like I was on the threshold of crossing the sea, of leaving that place of narrowness. I hadn’t reached the Promised Land yet, but I was on my journey.”

As Passover of 2008 commences Saturday night, Mr. Weininger, along with Ian Chesir-Teran, is one of two gay rabbinical students at J.T.S., as the seminary is routinely known. Their presence has essentially, if not always easily, settled decades of roiling debate within the Conservative movement over homosexual members of the clergy.

While the centrist Conservative denomination in its middle-of-the-road way operates with three different policies on ordaining gay men and lesbians — two opposed and one in favor — the facts have been established, probably irreversibly. Even before J.T.S. made its decision, the Conservative movement’s other major seminary, the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, had done so.

Conservative Judaism reached a similar juncture a generation ago when it first admitted women as candidates for the rabbinate. Mr. Weininger was born in the same year, 1985, when J.T.S. ordained its first female rabbi, Amy Eilberg. In the months just before he won admission to the seminary, he happened to bump into Rabbi Eilberg at a synagogue in Jerusalem and solicited her advice.

“I encouraged him to remember that since he is a pioneer, some people will project onto him feelings and assumptions that they have about ‘the cause,’ ” Rabbi Eilberg recalled of their conversation in an e-mail message. “As hard as it is not to take others’ criticisms and attacks personally — since they are personal — it is essential to work at remembering that this is about the larger issue.”

Interestingly, the seminary chancellor who permitted gay rabbinical students to enroll, Arnold Eisen, spoke of Mr. Weininger and Mr. Chesir-Teran in almost an opposite way. “Face to face,” Mr. Eisen said in an interview, “you get to know the people and you get to like the people, not as representatives of a cause or an ideology.”

The tension between being an individual and being an emblem animates both Mr. Weininger and Mr. Chesir-Teran. Both had staked out public positions as advocates of gay equality in the Conservative movement even before being allowed to apply to the seminary. Both were involved last month in a major conference at J.T.S. about issues of inclusion, provocatively titled “Adam and Eve, Meet Adam and Steve.” Mr. Chesir-Teran’s taste for the limelight even includes his current stint in an Israeli reality-TV series in which the parents of two gay households swap families.

Read it all here.

Invited or not, Robinson going to Lambeth anyway

Ruth Gledhill reports that the Bishop of New Hampshire is going to England to launch the publication of his new book In the Eye of the Storm and that he will be taking part in public events surrounding the upcoming Lambeth Conference this summer.

The Right Rev Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, has pointedly not been asked by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to attend the conference in his official capacity as an Anglican bishop.

But Bishop Robinson, who will also be in Britain next week to launch his new book, In the Eye of the Storm, to be serialised from next Monday by The Times, is planning to attend the conference anyway. He was elected as a bishop by the Episcopal Church of the US in 2003. He will also take part in a series of public events to highlight what his supporters regard as homophobic discrimination throughout the Anglican Communion.

Bishop Robinson’s decision to be in England in July and August throughout the three weeks of the ten-yearly conference will put paid to any hopes that Dr Williams had of keeping away the issue of gay sex. The last event, in 1998, was dominated by the debate. This time, Dr Williams, who is in charge of the conference as the “primus inter pares” of the Anglican Communion, has scheduled an “official” agenda with the focus on Bible study, prayer and discussion.

Read the rest here.

New Primate for Church in Sudan

Newly elected Primate Daniel Deng Bul Yak will be enthroned as the fourth Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan in a ceremony presided over by the the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini of Anglican Province of Rwanda in Juba, Southern Sudan.

The Sudan Tribune reports:

The Archbishop-Elect stated that the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan is part of the world Anglican Communion family that based its work on the framework of teachings of the Bible about Jesus Christ and the resulting Christian duty to provide practical care to people in spiritual and material needs irrespective of ethnicity, religion, nationality or political opinion.

Adding that ECS vision Sudanese people, who love and fear God to become self reliant, free from poverty and live in peace with each other and that ECS has the mission to spread the Good News for mankind to believe in God, with trust and honesty and to assist efforts to eradicate poverty and help people live in peace.

Primate Daniel Deng emphasized that tribalism, corruption in the church and government of southern Sudan needed more attention and consorted efforts by all peace loving Sudanese.

He further directed ECS to shift its emergency assistance operation during the war time to rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of the war torn southern Sudan now experiencing peace and stability.

In his ten years plan avail today starting from 2008,top priority will be training of clergy, youth and women in various fields, enhancing peace and reconciliation, building of unity for all Sudanese people, promotion of self-reliant ECS church including collection of ten percent tithes from its four million members in the Sudan, reviewed theological training programme in the country, establishment of Sudan theological Universities with three faculties, acquisition of land in Central and Western Equatoria, Yei, Upper Nile, Bhar el Ghazal, Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and other places of Sudan that are good for agricultural cultivation by the church, building of Hospitals each in Lui, Juba, Malakal, Rumbek, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile respectively. In addition the church would also endeavour to build more primary and secondary schools in Dioceses, purchase buses and large Lorries including steamers for transportation of goods besides construction of guesthouses for rent and pharmacies centers in Dioceses.

Read the rest here.

St. George and the dead soldier

Ekklesia reports that a new painting of St. George by highly regarded artist Scott Norwood Witts, which depicts the saint as a man of compassion rather than a crusader, is to be unveiled at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. George, Southwark, to mark the saint’s day next week.

The life-size but intimate portrait will be unveiled as part of the ‘St. George in Southwark’ festival (http://www.stgeorgefestival.org.uk/events/). It shows the 'dragon slayer' as a saint of peace and one who chose risky debate over violence, the artist points out.

St George and Dead Soldier was stimulated by the deployment of British forces overseas and the historical misrepresentation of St George. The patron saint of soldiers and England is shown battle weary, identifying another fatality of war - exploding the contrived mythical identity developed during The Crusades, to reveal a man in mourning. As a high ranking soldier of the Roman Empire converting to Christianity was extremely dangerous, yet his faith inspired him to put down his weapons and personally confront the Emperor Diocletian over his persecution of Christians. The lifesize, but intimate portrait shows the ’dragon slayer’ as a saint of peace and one chose debate over violence.

The painting will be displayed on the 19th and 20th April and then officially unveiled and blessed by the Dean on St George’s Day and exhibited until 3rd May.

Scott Norwood Witts has previously exhibited at the American Church in London and the Carmelite Friary in Kent. Commissions have included altarpieces at Dover Castle and the Royal Garrison Church at British Army HQ Aldershot.

See it here.

Border procession

Christians on both sides of the border between Mexico and US processed along the border, detoured but undeterred by the presence of the expanded wall system growing along the US side, and sharing an agape meal.

The Sierra Vista Herald reports that the Bishop of Arizona, the Rt. Rev.Kirk Smith, took part and, using the image of the wall that surrounded Jericho, said

“Joshua was up against some similar odds as we are. He was facing a wall of fortification that looked like it was impregnable. No one had ever conquered it before,” he said.

“At first it looks like we are up against the same thing. We have this high-tech wall that has been built here with all kinds of electronic gizmos and barbed wire and steel and looks pretty impregnable and we don’t look very powerful against it,” he continued. “Like Joshua, we wonder what could we do against these odds. But the people who built that wall forgot something. They forgot that God does not like walls. And every time we put up a wall, God knocks it down.”

He pointed out the wall in Jericho and the Berlin Wall in Germany were both destroyed, and some day the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border will be torn down.

An agape meal ceremony was held outside the Church of Guadalupe, during which people ate bread and drank grape juice.


The event was a binational effort of church groups from Mexico and the United States. Last year, participants walked down the border to where the fence ended and they shared grape juice and bread and sang. But construction of the border fence at that location prevented them from doing the same this year.

The organizer of the event, Seth Polley, originally wanted people to meet near the port of entry at Naco and take part in a “call and response” activity and possibly sing a song through the wall. But new construction of a parallel fence there prevented that, too.

“When we saw the construction, we thought maybe this is not going to work,” said Polley, who is the vicar of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bisbee and the border missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona.

So, instead, the event started with the dedication of the Migrant Resource Center at Naco, Sonora.

Read the rest here.

UPDATE: Video from the procession is now available

Bishops of Ohio keep their promise

The Episcopal Bishops of Ohio have spoken with one voice in support of proposed legislation before the Ohio State Legislature that would protect the civil rights of homosexual persons in Ohio in housing and employment.

Bishop Breidenthal wrote an e-mail to his diocese and clergy:

A Message From the Bishop's Office
April 21, 2008
Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Today Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, Bishop Price and I, along with the three assisting bishops of the Diocese of Ohio, have submitted a memorandum to the Ohio State Legislature as they consider current legislation that would protect the civil rights of homosexual persons in the State of Ohio, particularly as regards equal access to housing and employment (House Bill 502 and Senate Bill 305). The text of the memorandum is as follows:

*To: Members of the Ohio State Legislature

From: The Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal, Bishop of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth Jr. Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price Jr., Bishop Suffragan of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. David C. Bowman, Assisting Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. William D. Persell, Assisting Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Arthur B. Williams, Jr., Assisting Bishop of Ohio

Re: Statement of Support for Civil Rights for Gay and Lesbian Persons in Ohio

Legislation currently before the Ohio State Legislature seeks to secure equal access to housing and employment opportunities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. The Episcopal Church has stated unequivocally that the civil rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, must be upheld and protected. As the bishops of the two Episcopal dioceses in Ohio, we strongly support the enactment of laws that further this goal in our state. We pray that the demands of justice and equity will guide you as you consider this opportunity to extend a small measure of protection and dignity to our brothers and sisters in the GLBT community.

* I am very pleased that the bishops of our two dioceses have been able to speak with one voice on this matter. While there is a wide range of perspective and conviction in our Church and Diocese on issues related to human sexuality, there is and must be consistent advocacy for the civil rights of all people. This is well reflected in Resolution A069 of the 65th General Convention (1976) which states that "homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church," and A071, which states that homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens, and calls upon our society to see that such protection is provided in actuality." In 2003 our own diocesan convention resolved that "it is the intent of this Diocese that all persons be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or theological stance" (R-2003-03).

We must never flag in our efforts to insist on such equal respect and dignity. This includes working to protect such basic rights as equal access to housing and employment.

Yours in Christ,

+Tom Breidenthal

Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio

Hiltz asks Venables to please stay home

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has written to Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone, asking him to cancel a planned, unauthorized visit to Canada.

The Anglican Church of Canada has posted the text of the letter below:

April 21,2008

The Most Revd Gregory James Venables
Rioja 2995,1636 Olivos,
Province of Buenos Aires,
B1636DMG , Argentina

My Brother in Christ:

In this Easter Season I greet you in the name of our risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It has come to my attention that you will be participating in the Anglican Network in Canada conference, "Compelled by Christ's Love" taking place in Vancouver, B.C., April 25-26,2008. Your visit to Canada is without any reference to or consent from my office or that of the Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster. This represents a breach in what is considered normative in protocol among Primates and Bishops throughout the Communion.

I brought this matter before the House of Bishops meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont., last week. While we recognized that your motivation may be pastoral, there was a strong consensus that your visit at this time will further harm the strained relations between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Network in Canada.

The Bishops believe that we have made adequate and appropriate provision for the pastoral care and Episcopal support of all members of the Anglican Church of Canada, including those who find themselves in consciousness disagreement with the view of their Bishop and Synod over matters of human sexuality. This provision known as Shared Episcopal Ministry was approved by the House of Bishops in November 2004 and commended, in September 2006, by an international Panel of Reference appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. With this provision in place we believe there is no need for pastoral interventions by Primates or Bishops from jurisdictions outside of the Anglican Church of Canada. In fact such interventions are inappropriate. The Archbishop of Canterbury in a recent letter to me which was made public said he cannot "support or sanction" such actions.

I would also add that in a letter earlier this year to one of our Diocesan Bishops Archbishop Rowan Williams stated, "I am quite content to repeat that I do not endorse any cross-provincial transfers of allegiance, and that his office and that of the Anglican Communion recognize one ecclesial body in Canada as a constitutive member of the Communion, the Anglican Church of Canada."

Representing a Province in communion with yours and all others in the world wide Anglican Communion I ask you as a brother Primate to stop interfering in the life of this province. This request is made in the interest of upholding the bonds of affection, and respecting catholic collegiality and provincial autonomy. I believe it is consistent with the ancient canons of the Church, and statements from successive Lambeth Conferences and the Windsor Report. It is also consistent with the commitment that all the Primates, including you, made through the communiqué from the meeting in Dromantine in 2005. That commitment stated that the Primates will, "neither encourage nor initiate cross-boundary interventions." This commitment was repeated in the communiqué from the Primates' Meeting in Tanzania in 2007.In light of these commitments, made by you and your fellow Primates I specifically request that you cancel your visit to Canada.

I make this request with strong support from the House of Bishops. We believe it is in accord with the action of our recent General Synod (June 2007) in support of the Windsor Report. Our resolution made particular reference to that part of the report calling "upon those Archbishops and other Bishops who believe that it is their conscientious duty to intervene in Provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own to implement paragraph 155 of the Windsor Report and to seek an accommodation with the Bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own care."

As I said in my Jan. 9, 2008 letter to all the Primates I am convinced that Canadian Anglicans are very committed to the highest degree of Communion possible in our life in Christ at home and throughout the world. Even as we grieve the breakdown of relationships within the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-26) we are committed to prayer for reconciliation one with another in Christ.

I hope you will prayerful consider and gracefully honour my request.

In Him I am

Sincerely yours

The Most Reverend Fred J. Hiltz,
Archbishop and Primate
The Anglican Church of Canada

Cc: The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Primates and Moderators of the United Churches of the Anglican Communion

Hiltz wrote the letter after consulting with the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Read the letter here.

UPDATE: 7 p.m.
From the Anglican Journal:

Archbishop Venables, reached by telephone in Buenos Aires, where the province is based, said he did not intend to cancel his visit. “I don’t see any reason to call off the trip. I was invited to share with people who have already separated from the Canadian church. I wouldn’t have done anything had they not already separated,” he said.

UPDATE 10:30 p.m. - Globe and Mail

Leaders of the Anglican Church in Canada and South America drew beads on each other yesterday with Canadian primate Fred Hiltz posting a letter on the Internet telling South America's Gregory Venables to stay out of the country and Archbishop Venables icily criticizing Archbishop Hiltz's manners in reply.

“My number is there on the Anglican Communion network,” Archbishop Venables said in a telephone interview from Buenos Aires. “I mean, this is only my humble opinion, but if somebody really wants to talk to me, they can pick up the phone and talk to me."

National Post Archbishop Venables Monday questioned the timing of the request.

"If I wanted to discourage somebody from coming I wouldn't send a letter 12 hours before they get on an airplane," he said from Buenos Aires. "The trip has been planned a long time, it's not a secret. Is [the letter] a publicity stunt? Is it some strange way of playing a game? It was a strange experience to read a personal letter on the Internet before it came to my e-mail address."

Archdeacon Paul Feheley, principal secretary to Archbishop Hiltz, said the letter was e-mailed to Archbishop Venables Monday, two hours before being released publicly, and that it was sent at the earliest possible time.

Pray for Zimbabwe April 27th

Every Christian in every denomination around the world are being asked to pray for Zimbabwe on Sunday, April 27, 2008. We are asked to pray for "a nation in dire distress and teetering on the brink of human disaster."

The Anglican Communion News Service writes:

Let the cry for help touch your heart and mind. Let it move you to do what you can immediately to ensure this Day of Prayer takes place in your country and neighbourhood.

Please pass on this message right now to all the churches and Christian organisations known to you and to the media as well as to everyone anxious to rescue Zimbabwe from violence, the concealing and juggling of election results, deceit, oppression and corruption, and to bring about righteousness, joy, peace, compassion, honesty, justice, democracy and freedom from fear and want.

May a continual strong stream of prayer and supplication flow up to the Lord on behalf of all the people on this Day of Prayer, exhorting His divine intervention throughout the nation.

"It is by making the truth publicly known that we recommend ourselves to the honest judgment of mankind in the sight of God." (2 Corinthians 4:2)

Some advice to Zimbabweans

"Who so putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe." (Proverbs 29:25) "Stand fast, and do not let yourselves be caught again in the yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1) "Make no mistake, you cannot cheat God." (Galatians 6:7) "Do not be overcome by evil but overcame evil with good" (Romans 12:21)

Bob Stumbles, Chancellor - The Anglican Diocese of Harare

ACNS: World Day of Prayer for Zimbabwe on Sunday 27th April 2008

Modern Churchpersons Union is tracking this story at their blog. They examine the question - Could an Anglican Covenant have helped this situation? - in summary - NO.

The BBC reports that the Zimbabwean opposition has appealed to the UN for help.

News from Anglican Information follows:

Read more »

Running a marathon for the MDGs

The Rev. Tim Schenck, who blogs at Clergy Family Confidential, ran in the Boston Marathon yesterday to raise money to fight global hunger. He finished in 4:20:12. You can support Tim's cause by visiting the Tufts' Marathon Challenge Web site.

And since he ran 26 miles to earn it, we are including a plug for Tim's upcoming book, What Size Are God's Shoes: Kids, Chaos and the Spiritual Life.

And now the good people at All Saints, Briarcliff Mannor, N. Y., can have their rector back.

Archbishop of Capetown plea for people of Zimbabwe

The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba of Capetown, South Africa has released a statement on Zimbabwe pleading for help from the world for the people of that country.

Statement from the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba

The plight of the people of Zimbabwe is heart-breaking. Already bruised, broken and crushed by oppression and economic hardship before the elections, they are now even more divided, despondent and, in many cases, hopeless than they were before. At a time of growing global hunger, their situation is particularly acute – four million Zimbabweans depend on food aid and NGOs are reporting that in some areas political violence is making it difficult to supply food.

After the March 29 elections we were told that if there had to be a second round of voting in the presidential election, it would be held within 21 days. That date has now passed, and every day that goes by without the release of presidential election results erodes yet further any remaining trust people may have in the electoral process.

From the church in Limpopo Province, we receive reports that the influx of Zimbabwean refugees is steadily growing. Within Zimbabwe, those who have benefitted from Zanu PF rule are locked in fear of what may happen to them; those who support the opposition live in fear of retribution for voting against the government.

It is distressing to South Africans that our rulers, whom we know to be compassionate people, currently appear to many beyond our borders as heartless and unmoved by the suffering of Zimbabweans. We recognise that the imperatives of acting as honest brokers in a mediation impose constraints on our leaders. However, our failure to communicate our reverence for the dignity of every individual threatens the success of our diplomacy just as surely as would the perception of bias. I appeal to President Thabo Mbeki urgently to seek creative ways of reaching out to our neighbours to reassure them that we care about them deeply.

As a church committed to fighting the arms trade in Africa and the world, we strenuously oppose the sale and transport of weapons to Zimbabwe. We commend the successful efforts of the Bishop of Natal, the Right Revd Rubin Phillip, and the Diakonia Council of Churches to prevent a consignment of weapons for Zimbabwe from being offloaded in Durban, and I intend consulting with my brother bishops in Namibia and Angola on ecumenical action to prevent the shipment from being transported through their countries.

On the basis that a heavily-armed Zimbabwe would threaten peace, security and stability in southern Africa, we call upon the Security Council of the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on its government. We appeal to the South African Government to support such an embargo. We will ask our sister churches in countries which are also members of the Security Council to urge their governments to do likewise.

The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba
Archbishop of Cape Town

April 22, 2008

All churches are asked to pray for Zimbabwe on April 27th, more here.

Bishop Rubin Philips and the arms shipment story is here.

More here - Archbishop talks to South African president and will take his concerns to Lambeth Conference this summer.

Deputies to study draft covenant

President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson has sent a letter to all the Deputies and first Alternates to General Convention 2009. She is asking the deputations to study the second draft of the proposed covenant for the Anglican Communion and reminding all parties that the only body that can make decisions for The Episcopal Church is General Convention. Deputies and alternates are encouraged to meet and make recommendations about the proposal to the bishops before they attend the Lambeth Conference this summer. She writes:

The second draft of the covenant, known as the “St. Andrew’s Draft,” has been developed and released. It will be discussed at the Lambeth Conference this summer by our bishops and other bishops of the Anglican Communion who will be present at the conference. The bishops gathered will have the opportunity to share their thoughts and responses on the covenant with each other and with members of the Covenant Design Group.

It is important to stress that we are told that the bishops at the Lambeth Conference will not be making a decision on the Anglican covenant, nor will they be ratifying any draft of the covenant. The only body with authority to commit the Episcopal Church to an Anglican covenant is the General Convention in which bishops, priests and deacons and lay persons share authority.

A study guide and background material for study of the draft covenant is included in the mailing to the Deputies and Alternates.

Episcopal News Service reports here.

The full text follows:

Read more »

Food rationing in US

Food banks supported by churches and others are seeing an increase in numbers of clients as the cost of food and fuel rises. Rationing has been seen in some stores across the United States. Food riots are beginning to occur around the world, Congress is working on a new farm bill, churches are trying to fill the gap - will we as Christians rise to the challenge?

The New York Sun reports on rationing occurring in the United States:

"Due to the limited availability of rice, we are limiting rice purchases based on your prior purchasing history," a sign (at Costco) above the dwindling supply said.

Shoppers said the limits had been in place for a few days, and that rice supplies had been spotty for a few weeks. A store manager referred questions to officials at Costco headquarters near Seattle, who did not return calls or e-mail messages yesterday.

An employee at the Costco store in Queens said there were no restrictions on rice buying, but limits were being imposed on purchases of oil and flour. Internet postings attributed some of the shortage at the retail level to bakery owners who flocked to warehouse stores when the price of flour from commercial suppliers doubled.


NPR reports from the head of the UN food program:
The head of the U.N. World Food Program says large-scale international action is needed to address an immediate food emergency that threatens to destabilize developing nations.

Speaking at a summit in London on Tuesday, Josette Sheeran said growing hunger is a threat to the political and economic stability of poor nations, with food riots threatening democratically elected governments.

Sheeran's remarks echoed those of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who pledged more than $100 million to the World Food Program and said the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations need to work together to tackle the food crisis.

At the local church food pantry this news is supported by the increasing numbers of working people coming for assistance. As congress works on a new Farm Bill reports of empty shelves show the difficulties:

Across the country, depleted shelves are a common sight at food pantries, where advocates say the supply of donated items hasn't kept pace with demand during the recent economic downturn.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has seen it firsthand in Hocking County in the rural southeast part of the state.

"They'll show up at 3:30 in the morning. The food pantry at the church opens at 8 a.m.," Brown says. "By 12:30, literally 2,000 people come in for food once a month and they get food for about three weeks. It doesn't get them through the month."

Read the report here.

In Utah, the Deseret News reports:

The Utah Food Bank's 2-1-1 hotline this year has taken double the calls for food assistance than it did in the first quarter of 2007. Crossroads Urban Center served 44 percent more families last month than it did the same time a year ago. For Hildegarde's Pantry, a ministry of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, that number increased nearly 50 percent.

In Detroit Lakes,Minnesota the DL-Online News reports how St. Luke's Episcopal Church and others in the MAC/NAPS program are feeling the shortages:

Have you ever truly felt hungry and didn’t know what or where you were going to find something to feed yourself or your family?

With your cupboards and refrigerator empty, what would you do? I have never experienced this, but I know there is hunger all over the world. My name is Karla Mitchell and until I took my present position as the program coordinator of MAC/NAPS, I didn’t realize how prevalent hunger is right here in our community.

The program mentioned is a government program called Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP. It is a program that locally is known as Mothers And Children (MAC) and Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS). The program provides a monthly box of basic food items enough to prepare many meals throughout the month.

These boxes of food are packaged at Second Harvest Heartland in the metro area and shipped to Detroit Lakes for local distribution. Presently, we serve over 300 people a month in our community, and we could serve many more as the need is great.

However, this program is at risk of being cut at the federal level. This program is vital to our community.

MAC/NAPS distribution takes place the first part of each month out of St. Lukes Episcopal Church in Detroit Lakes. A nutrition educator is on site each month to demonstrate how to prepare and make efficient use of the foods as well as share recipes and nutrition information.

Read more here

San Francisco Chronicle reports on Haiti and food shortages here.

But perhaps the most devastating impact has been in Haiti, where more than half the population of 9 million lives on less than a $1 a day, and the price of rice has doubled since December. At least seven people were killed recently in food riots.
Haiti is particularly affected because it imports nearly all of its food, including more than 80 percent of its rice. Once-productive farmland has been abandoned as farmers struggle to grow crops in soil devastated by erosion, deforestation, flooding and tropical storms.

In March, many poor Haitians complained of hunger so severe that it felt like their stomachs were being eaten away by bleach or battery acid. In a matter of days, "Clorox hunger" was being talked about in slums and villages across the country.

Christian Science Monitor reports on the plight of food banks in the U.S. here.

Americans are a generous sort but not as much in a weak economy with food prices climbing more than 5 percent a year. Donations to private food banks are off 9 by percent. A CNN poll finds nearly 1 in 3 people already cutting back on food. Hunger, once again, is rising in America.

You can find online discussion of this article and some similar ones here and here.

Other articles on food insecurity here and here.

More on the Farm Bill from the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) and what you can do to respond here.

Episcopal Relief and Development addresses the issue of food security here.

Welcoming the migrant

The WCC and the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) organized a public hearing last week on migration which was hosted by the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia in Beirut, Lebanon. The hearing is a precursor to a Global Ecumenical Network on Migration meeting held later in the week.

Migration "is a fact of life. It is as much an instinct to survive as it is an inevitable consequence of globalization. We can neither turn our backs on it, nor control it," declared a statement of participants at a 15-16 April Public Hearing on Migration held in Beirut, Lebanon. "Migrants are not commodities, illegal aliens or mere victims, they are human beings."

Around the world, people are leaving their home countries in search of safety, freedom or a better life, the consultation heard. These migration flows are a challenge to churches as migrants bring their own traditions and values into local parishes or create their own religious communities.

At the same time, participants acknowledged, churches need to live up to their mandate to act and speak out in favour of the weak where migrants and refugees are being victimized. These global phenomena and the way they play out in the Middle East were the focus of the hearing.

"Welcoming the stranger is not optional for Christians. Nor is it conditional." said World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary the Rev Samuel Kobia addressing the hearing on Tuesday. The church should strengthen its hospitality in an "era of new forms of migration", whilst being an "advocate and defender of the right of people to move freely within their own nation and leave their home and live elsewhere in search of their God given right to life with dignity," he added.

Read the rest in Ekklesia here.

The full text of the statement by the public hearing on "The Changing Ecclesial Context: Impact of Migration on Living Together" may be found here.

More information on the Global Ecumenical Network on Migration is here.

Middle East Council of Churches web site here.

Who owns a congregation?

Dan Hotchiss: "Who plays the role of stockholders in a business?

Not the members. Not the board. Not the clergy or the bishop or the staff. These all are fiduciaries whose duty is to serve the owner. Symbolically, we might say God or Jesus is the owner. But God’s whole will is too big to guide one congregation. Instead, the board’s job is to discern our mission, the small piece of God’s intention that belongs to us."

Read it all here at The Alban Institute.

China may give up attempt to send arms to Zimbabwe

New York Times:

As protests intensified across southern Africa against the shipment of Chinese-made arms intended for Zimbabwe, the government in Beijing said Tuesday that the ship carrying the arms — owned by a large Chinese state-owned company, Cosco — may return to China because of the difficulties in delivering the goods.

South Africa’s High Court on Friday barred transport of the ammunition, rockets and mortar bombs across South Africa [see our earlier posts here and here] from the port of Durban to landlocked Zimbabwe, after an Anglican archbishop argued that the arms were likely to be used to crush the Zimbabwean opposition after last month’s disputed election.


ABC lays out his hopes for Lambeth

From the Anglican Communion News Service:

Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury today set out his hopes for this year's Lambeth Conference in a video message addressed to Bishops and Dioceses across the worldwide communion.

One key passage:

We don't want at the Lambeth Conference to be creating a lot of new rules but we do obviously need to strengthen our relationships and we need to put those relationships on another footing, slightly firmer footing, where we have promised to one another that this is how we will conduct our life together. And it is in that light that at this year we are discussing together the proposal for what we are calling a covenant between the Anglican Churches of the world. A covenant. A relationship of promise. We undertake that this is how we will relate to one another; that when these problems occur, that this is how we will handle them together, that this is how advice will be given and shared and that this is how decisions and discernment can be taken forward.

That is a very a big part of what we will be looking at this year but it is not everything because no covenant, no arrangement of that sort is worth the paper it is written on if it doesn't grow out of the relationships that are built as people pray together and share their lives together over two and a half weeks.

Click to read a transcript of the video.

Read more »

The sin of our bio-fuels programs

Peter Timmer is Visiting Professor in the Program on Food Security and Environment at Stanford University and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for Global Development. In a Q&A he says,

Unless some way can be found to stop the explosive rise in food prices generally, and rice prices in particular, we will see sharply higher mortality. Most of these deaths will be in Asia because of the huge numbers of poor, hungry people there who are dependent on rice for their daily subsistence.

This will not be mass starvation, with people dying in the streets, but it will be sharply higher infant and child mortality and weakened adults succumbing prematurely to infectious diseases. If current rice prices in world markets are actually transmitted into most Asian countries--and this is not yet a reality, but it becomes more likely every day the world price stays this high--then even conservative calculations suggest that upwards of 10 million people will die prematurely.
...
The trigger for the explosion in rice prices was the decision of the Indian government to impose an export ban in November 2007, taking the world's second largest exporter out of the market. That set off fears in the newly elected, populist government in Thailand that rice prices would get out of control there, so export controls were openly discussed-- Thailand is the world's largest rice exporter. Vietnam followed with export restrictions in January 2008.

On the import side, the Philippines has been throwing fuel on the fire by insisting on huge tenders for rice from a world market that cannot provide it, thus driving up the price in this thin market.
...
There are two obvious things the rich countries can do: first, boost supply by funding food aid channels, including the World Food Program and others, with cash and commodities. Rice is now quite scarce physically in a number of distressed countries--a reversal of situations caused mostly by local crop failures or disasters. Second, end bio-fuel subsidies and mandates immediately. There is substantial disagreement over the role corn-based ethanol (in the U.S.) and vegetable oil-based bio-diesel (in Europe and some parts of Asia) in the recent price spikes--the "respectable" range is from 10 to 60 percent. But there is no way the rich countries can play a leadership role in bringing this crisis under control as long as they insist there is plenty of food for people, livestock, AND automobiles. There just isn't--and we've known that from the start of the U.S. bio-fuels program.


Read it all here.

At econbrowser James Hamilton provides a graphic showing the growth of ethanol corn use in the US. Hamilton asks,

How should a well-fed American react when some of the world's poorest citizens in Haiti and Bangladesh riot over the rising price of food? To be sure, there are many factors influencing food prices. But to me it's natural to begin with the element that represents a deliberate policy choice on the part of the United States. I refer to America's decision to divert a significant part of our agricultural production for purposes of creating a fuel additive for motor vehicles.

On one level, the question of whether it is morally acceptable for us to divert the food that might have fed the hungry for purposes of driving our SUVs is no different from similar questions about any of a number of other details of how the well-off dispose of their wealth. But I'm thinking that the profound inefficiencies associated with this particular disposition of resources may also be relevant. As a result of ethanol subsidies and mandates, the dollar value of what we ourselves throw away in order to produce fuel in this fashion could be 50% greater than the value of the fuel itself. In other words, we could have more food for the Haitians, more fuel for us, and still have something left over for your other favorite cause, if we were simply to use our existing resources more wisely.

We have adopted this policy not because we want to drive our cars, but because our elected officials perceive a greater reward from generating a windfall for American farmers.

Free exchange, the economics blog at The Economist, has this to say:

[Bio-fuel production] has come in for particular scrutiny in America, where government incentives have led to a boom in ethanol production and have helped to tie movements in energy costs to those in food markets.

But the connection between energy and food prices doesn't stop there. Petroleum is an input to farm machinery, and dear petrol adds to the cost of food shipments. And, as Felix Salmon noted yesterday, fertiliser is overwhelmingly produced from natural gas. Mr Salmon quotes Paul Scheckel, who writes:

Fertilizer production is second only to petroleum refining when it comes to industrial use of natural gas in the United States: 97 percent of the fertilizer applied to crops is manufactured from natural gas. With spiking energy costs, fertilizer manufacturers are opting to close their doors and instead sell their natural gas supplies.

Interestingly, this creates another link between biofuel production and food costs. It seems that fields planted repeatedly in corn require an especially large dose of nitrogen fertiliser.

NYT Magazine's Green Issue

The entire issue is here.

Some of the coverage:

Act. An excerpt:

Demand response is, in essence, an inversion of the traditional logic of power generation: instead of paying to create power, you pay money to reduce the need for it. The procedure has been particularly popular in major cities, where grids are strained to the limit. ConsumerPowerline controls 300 huge buildings in New York alone, where hastily brokered turnoffs by Macy’s and major hotels prevented the spread of a 2006 blackout in Queens — a blackout that lasted for more than a week — into Manhattan. “If you’re someone who’s controlling 100 buildings at once, and with a flick of a finger you can change their energy behavior,” says Gary Fromer, ConsumerPowerline’s C.E.O., “that’s very powerful.”

Eat. An excerpt:
It is the locavore’s dilemma that organic bananas delivered by a fuel-efficient boat may be responsible for less energy use than highly fertilized, nonorganic potatoes trucked from a hundred miles away. Even locally grown, organic greenhouse tomatoes can consume 20 percent more resources than a tomato from a far-off warm climate, because of all the energy needed to run the greenhouse. Various organizations like the British grocery chain Tesco and the Global Footprint Network itself are trying to design accurate calculators both for carbon outputs and for general ecological impact.

Innovate. An excerpt:

In late 2006, Toby Heap, the owner of a digital media company in Sydney, Australia, read a report from the University of California, Berkeley, that found that on average black computer screens generally use less energy than white ones. Not long after, Heap noticed a posting on the ecoIron blog claiming that a black version of Google would save 750 megawatt hours per year worldwide. That inspired him to start Blackle, an eco-conscious search engine, in February 2007.
Death. Check out the page on eco-friendly cremation or burial.

Freakonomics: Pay-as-you-drive insurance. An excerpt:

Higher tolls, especially variable tolls like congestion pricing, are one option [to reduce driving]. This seems to have worked well in London but was recently quashed in New York City, where the political hurdles proved too high.

A higher gas tax might also work. If a typical car gets 20 miles to the gallon, then the proper tax would be about $2 per gallon. But with the current high market price for gas and the political hysterics attached to it — well, good luck with that one.

This brings us to automobile insurance. While economists may argue that gas is poorly priced, that imbalance can’t compare with how poorly insurance is priced.
...
Since no one expects to pay the same price for, say, a 60-minute massage as they pay for a 15-minute massage, why should people pay the same for insurance no matter how many miles they drove?

“The objection within the White House,” Edlin recalls, “was there wasn’t good academic research on the subject.”

Edlin and a few others, including Jason Bordoff and Pascal Noel at the Brookings Institution, have since done such research. It makes a compelling case that PAYD insurance would work well, reducing the carbon emissions, congestion and accident risk created by too much driving while leading drivers to pay the true cost of their mileage. Bordoff and Noel put the total social benefit at $52 billion a year.

San Joaquin, a corporation sole

Amended

John-David Schofield has changed the name of his corporation back to "The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin The Living Church reports:

California law provides a somewhat unique form of incorporation for church denominations. Under a “corporation sole,” there is one shareholder, one officer and one director, who are one and the same person, usually the diocesan bishop in an Episcopal diocese.

After a majority of clergy and lay delegates voted to leave The Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone last December, Bishop John-David Schofield filed an amendment to the diocese’s charter, changing the name of the corporation from “The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, a Corporation Sole” to “The Anglican Bishop of San Joaquin, a Corporation Sole.”

Since then, the name has been changed back to “The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, a Corporation Sole.” Earlier this month, Bishop Lamb swore to the California Secretary of State that there was only one Diocese of San Joaquin and that he had been elected provisional bishop of that diocese on March 29.
John-David Schofield has a history of not anticipating the consequences of his actions. Will the real Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin, a Corporation Sole please stand up?

Amendment - A reader suggests that it was not John-David Schofield and friends who changed the name back. It's not clear from the article, but that is a possible reading of the Living Church article. We welcome further clarification.

Stagnating, declining life expectancy in segments of US population

The bottomline of a report on life expectancy in the United States is role of self-destructive personal behavior -- unprotected sex, smoking, fatty foods, and lack of exercise. But is it ultimately a failure of society, including the church, to identify the hurt and provide a message of hope?

Harvard Medicine+Science reports:

A new, long-term study of mortality trends in U.S. counties from 1960 to 2000 finds that an overall average life expectancy increase of 6.5 years for men and women is not reaching many parts of the country. Instead, the life expectancy of a significant segment of the population is actually declining or at best stagnating.
...
The majority of the counties that had the worst downward swings in life expectancy were in the Deep South, along the Mississippi River, and in Appalachia, extending into the southern portion of the Midwest and into Texas.

The study appears in the April 22, 2008, edition of the open-access journal PLoS Medicine.
...
[Lead author Majid] Ezzati said, “The finding that 4% of the male population and 19% of the female population experienced either decline or stagnation in mortality is a major public health concern.”
...
The researchers also analyzed data on deaths from different diseases and showed that the stagnation and worsening mortality was primarily a result of an increase in diabetes, cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, combined with a slowdown or halt in improvements in cardiovascular mortality. An increase in HIV/AIDS and homicides also played a role for men, but not for women.

The diseases that are responsible for this troubling trend seem to be most related to smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. “Smoking and blood pressure have a long history of being controlled through both personal and population strategies[," said Ezzati.]

Commemorating Thurgood Marshall

In 2006, the Diocese of Washington asked the General Convention to include Thurgood Marshall in the book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The request was referred to a church commission, and will be reconsidered at the 2009 Convention

But those who support Marshall's cause can hold a Eucharist in his honor next month, perhaps on May 17, the date that the diocese proposes establishing as his feast. (and the anniversary of his victory in the landmark school desergregation case, Brown. v. Board of Education.

For background on the diocese's effort read these two stories from the Washington Window.

The resolution recommending Marshall's inclusion that was passed by the Convention of the Diocese of Washington, and a biography put together by St. Augustine's, Marshall home parish in Washington, D. C. are also available.

To find the propers of the day, and suggestions for hymns, click on read more.

Read more »

Selective schism?

These few paragraphs from the Episcopal Life Online report on the enthronement of the new Sudanese primate the Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul caught our eye:

Archbishops Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya and Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, along with bishops and priests representing many of the Anglican Communion's 38 provinces, were led in procession by a marching band and massed choir that included a troupe of trumpeters from the Sudanese Diocese of Yei.

An ecumenical delegation from the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) included Episcopal Diocese of Chicago Assisting Bishop Victor Scantlebury, officially representing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; the Rt. Rev. Francis Gray, former assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and diocesan of Northern Indiana; the Rev. Howard Wennes, retired ELCA bishop of the Grand Canyon Synod and interim president of California Lutheran University; and the Rev. Duane Danielson, ELCA bishop of the North Dakota Synod.

Representing the Diocese of Virginia, which is among the seven Episcopal Church dioceses in the U.S. that share a companion relationship with ECS, was Bishop Coadjutor Shannon Johnston; Buck Blanchard, world mission coordinator; and Russ Randle, lay deputy to General Convention.

The Kenyan and Rwandan archbishops each support breakaway congregations in the United States. Neither will take Communion with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church. Yet, there they were at Archbishop Deng's consecration with representatives of the Episcopal Church.

This is all to the good. Indeed, it is cause for celebration. But if Archbishops Nzimbi and Kolini are sometimes willing to commune with Episcopalians and sometimes not, if they are sometimes willing to take part in Communion affairs and on Anglican Communion panels with Episcopalians and sometimes not, it does prompt certain questions about the nature of the schism that some of their supporters in the United States and the United Kingdom keep proclaiming has already taken place. Is the schism "on" when political advantage can be gained by playing to the secular media and "off" when it is time to get about the business of ministry in desperate places like Sudan?

There is more on the Episcopal Church's relationship with the Church in Sudan here.

UPDATE. Check out the photos at the Diocese of Virginia website.

Seeking a way forward in Zimbabwe

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint statement this morning concerning the deteriorating situation of ordinary people in Zimbabwe calling for "a civil society movement that both gives voice to those who demand an end to the mayhem that grows out of injustice, poverty, exclusion and violence."

The text is here, but the most arresting thing about the news release from the Anglican Communion Office is the note at the end:

Notes to Editors

The average life expectancy of Zimbabweans hovers around 35, lower than any war zone. Since 1994 it has fallen from 57 to 34 for women and from 54 to 37 for men.

Zimbabwe has the highest proportion of orphans in the world (1.3 million), largely due to the devastation caused by HIV and Aids.

AIDS related illnesses kill 3,200 people each week.

Exploring a shameful legacy

Stephan Salilsbury of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes:

Old Black Alice, who died in 1802 at the wondrous age of 116, remembered well lighting the pipe of William Penn, when the proprietor and slave owner needed a puff.

She remembered attending nascent Christ Church at a time when the nave ceiling was so low she could touch it with the tips of her weathered, slender fingers.

She remembered it all: working the boats of Dunk's Ferry to help white passengers across the river during the day. And working secretly at night to help fellow slaves disappear across the water to freedom.

When Alice died, she was mourned and eulogized as the keeper of the city's memory, a long-lived resident whose life was intertwined with the lives and deaths of the city, a teller of history who saw much and forgot little and passed it all down to eager and younger listeners.

Now Christ Church, where Alice was a parishioner for decade after decade (never attaining freedom herself, despite helping many achieve theirs), has decided to make her life and stories the centerpiece of a new effort to dramatize the city's early experience with slavery.

Read it all.

Seabury gives faculty notice, cuts nine staff jobs

The Trustees of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary today declared that the Episcopal Seminary “is in (a state of) financial crisis that threatens survival of the institution” and has given notice to all faculty that employment will end on June 30, 2009. The school also eliminated nine staff positions. The final date of employment for most of these staff will be May 23 – a week after graduation and the school’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

UPDATE - Chicago Tribune coverage here: "Officials at the Evanston seminary insist the school is not closing, but that it is redefining its approach for preparing men and women for priesthood."

Read more »

The Good Communicator

Doesn't the Presiding Bishop remind you of Ronald Reagan?

Not, obviously, in her politics, but in her ability to work through the media to amplify her message. One of the things tht the people around Reagan understood was that the press corps was not monolithic, and that reporters at local newspapers were often interested in issues that left the national media cold. Heck, sometimes they were simply interested in the fact that you had visited their town, or spoken on an issue that their readers cared about.

During her first year-and-a-half as Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori has visited dozens of dioceses, granted interviews to the influential dailies in those areas, and generally emerged looking good--and having made the Church look good, too. She's trading, partly, on the fact that, as our first female Presiding Bishop, she is something of a novelty. But in the process, she is establishing herself as someone whom the media looks to as an interpretter of religious and environmental issues, and that is likely to pay dividends in the future.

Here are some recent articles some of which we've pointed to earlier:

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Question authority, says bishop.

From The Seattle Times: "Schori, an oceanographer before she was ordained in 1994, is a compelling guide to lead an exploration of environmental topics and faith."

This, from the very capable Peggy Stack at The Salt Lake City Tribune: Episcopal leader: We need to talk about sexuality

There's this from The Palm Beach Post: Katharine Jefferts Schori's biography notes that the 54-year-old is an instrument-rated pilot, a former oceanographer, the wife of a retired theoretical mathematician and mother of a grown daughter, who is also a pilot. But tellingly, The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori defines herself as a peacemaker.

This, from The San Diego Union Tribune: Church leader battles division

And a Q and A in the South Bend Tribune.

That's six media markets, most of them major. Not a bad couple of weeks' work.

Slate appreciates the classics

Slate is carrying hymns of praise to Café favorites Bull Durham, and Friday Night Lights. Perhaps it is only coincidence, but we prefer to think it is a manifestation of our vast influence over public discourse.

Sara Mosle's piece is the best yet written on FNL, and includes this perceptive paragraph:

Friday Night Lights is also America as it's seldom been seen. It's astounding how few dramas depict ordinary, working-class life in the so-called red states—without, say, first giving several of the inhabitants supernatural powers. Also, on television, the country's lower classes seem to consist entirely of prison inmates, gang members, drug dealers, and the cops who arrest them, and they all live exclusively on the coasts. Dillon, by contrast, is Thomas Frank country. No one here is enjoying the Bush-Cheney tax cuts. People live in modest homes or, if they're particularly poor, in shotgun shacks. Most of the teenagers don't have cars—quite a statement in rural Texas—and must work after-school jobs. They don't have iPods or sport the latest fashions; they shop at the Salvation Army family store. When one football player lands a date with the coach's daughter and springs for a used Members Only jacket, it quickly gets ridiculed as pretentious. Once you start noticing the absence of consumer goods, it's a shock. Friday Night Lights may be the most radical show ever marketed to teenagers.

The Naked Liturgist

The redoubtable Bosco Peters has launched a new feature on his blog that deserves attention for both its name and its flinty sense of humor.

Other denominations support Diocese of Virginia

Several national hierarchical denominations, including the United Methodist church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, filed an amicus curie (or "friend of the court") brief yesterday supporting the position of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia that the §57-9 division statute of the Virginia Code “cannot withstand constitutional challenge.” The other denominations on the brief are the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Worldwide Church of God. This statute is the basis of the CANA congregations' claim that they--and not the Diocese--own church property.

The amicus curie brief makes two arguments:

Section 57-9 violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by requiring civil courts to conduct an extensive inquiry into, and then resolve, fundamentally religious questions.
“Indeed, §57-9 is so hopelessly infused with religious concepts that it gave the Court little choice but to take the nearly unfathomable step of receiving testimony from experts on church polity and church history, in order ‘to assist the court in its obligation to interpret 57-9.’’ Amici Brief at page 2 (quoting Letter Opinion at 63 (emphasis added)).

Section 57-9 discriminates among religious denominations in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The choice to be a hierarchical church “is not motivated by purely ‘administrative’ concerns; rather, the choice reflects a belief – a belief that ‘religious activity derives meaning in large measure from participation in a larger religious community…’” (Corporation of Presiding Bishop v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327, 342 (1987) (Brennan, J. concurring). Amici Brief at page 5.

Section 57-9 cannot withstand such strict scrutiny. As the Court has correctly noted, “the legislature defers completely to the independent church’s constitution, ordinary practice, or custom, whereas in [the clause in §57-9 applicable to hierarchical churches], the legislature shows no such deference” to “a hierarchical church’s constitution or canons.” Ltr. Op. at 48 (emphasis added). On that basis alone, the statute clearly violates the prohibition against denominational preferences. Amici Brief at 10.

Read the Diocese's press release about the brief here. The brief of Amici Curiae is here. All of the other court filings, including the CANA congregations' reply brief can be found here.

The issue of the constitutionality of the statute will be heard by the trial court on May 28, 2008. Then follows part III, the property hearing, in October. See our earlier post and the comments therein.

World Malaria Day

While HIV/AIDS is thought of as the world's greatest public health challenge, there are other significant diseases that are are taking a similar toll. Today is World Malaria Day and a number of organizations around the world have taken advantage of the attention being paid to their work to call for new initiatives in the prevention of Malaria.

The AFM (Africa Fighting Malaria) organization has issued a call for a renewed push for "indoor spraying" of homes with DDT. DDT, banned in much of the world because of its dangers to the environment, is one of the most effective spot treatments in preventing domestic Malaria infection vectors.

From their release:

"Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) is a highly effective method of malaria control recommended by the World Health Organization. Unfortunately it remains underutilized in sub-Saharan Africa, where, each year, malaria kills over a million people and drains the continent of US$12 billion. World Malaria Day 2008 focuses on malaria across borders – some of the best cross-border malaria control programs rely heavily on IRS. Yet most donor agencies are loath to strengthen IRS programs in Africa, train medical entomologists to run them, and invest in new insecticides.

This World Malaria Day, AFM is issuing a Call to Action to support IRS. AFM created an interactive map to indicate which countries are conducting IRS (orange) along with the main financiers - the US President's Malaria Initiative, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the private sector and/or strong domestic government support.  "

Read the rest here.

Episcopal Relief and Development has released a statement today as well.

Episcopal Relief and Development is actively fighting the spread of malaria, which infects 500 million people a year and kills over 1 million, mostly children and pregnant women living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Inspiration Fund is dedicated to achieving MDG 6-Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases- and is in the process of raising $3 million dollars towards this effort.

Episcopal Relief and Development’s NetsforLife® program is a partnership to prevent malaria in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The partnership is comprised of individual, foundation and corporate sponsors including Standard Chartered Bank, ExxonMobil Foundation, The Starr International Foundation, The White Flowers Foundation and The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation. NetsforLife® works in partnership with the Anglican Church and other ecumenical partners in affected communities to distribute long-lasting insecticide-treated nets to the most vulnerable, build awareness about malaria, and train community leaders to teach prevention and treatment methods.

“We know what we have to do,” says StephenDzisi, Technical Director of NetsforLife® .“Our ability to reach vulnerable families living ‘at the end of the road’ is the work of our Church and enables us to contribute to the global effort to eliminate malaria.”

Bishop Gene Robinson's summer

Questions are being raised about the timing of Bishop Gene Robinson's scheduled civil union ceremony this coming June. There are voices that feel that Bishop Robinson intentionally timed the event so as to overshadow the Lambeth Conference that will be held later this summer. Bishop Robinson denies that intention.

The New York Times' Laurie Goodstein reports today:

"He planned his civil union for June, he said, because he wanted to provide some legal protection to his partner and his children before he left for England for the conference. Bishop Robinson has received death threats, and he wore a bulletproof vest under his vestments at his consecration in 2003.

‘We could have, I suppose, just gone to the town clerk and had that signed,’ he said, ‘but, you know, I’m a religious person, and every major event in my life has been marked with some kind of liturgy and giving thanks to God.’

Bishop Robinson will not be attending the Lambeth Conference’s official sessions with his more than 800 fellow bishops. He was excluded from participating by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who, as leader of the Church of England, is responsible for issuing the invitations."


There is one correction to the article as written (according to our sources here at the Lead).

The statement

"Bishop Robinson initially rejected, but has now accepted, the idea that he will spend the conference days in the Marketplace, an adjunct bazaar where church advocacy groups and purveyors of Christian merchandise promote their causes and wares."

is not quite accurate. According to our source, Bishop Robinson rejected Lambeth's offer of a stall in the marketplace and one major press interview as the form of his "invitation" to attend Lambeth. He doesn't reject appearing and being available in the marketplace to meet with people, it's the characterization of that access in the public arena as a form of "invitation" that is not acceptable to him.

Read the rest here.

Southern Baptists in decline

The decline in Episcopal Church membership relative to America's population growth is often attributed to our "lack of biblical faith". Interestingly today, the Southern Baptist Convention, which prides itself on a focus on biblical faith above all else has announced that it must recognize that it is a "denomination in decline".

According to an article published on EthicsDaily.com;

"New statistics released by LifeWay Christian Resources listed total SBC membership in 2007 as 16,266,920, a 0.24 percent decrease from the 16,306,246 reported in 2006. Baptisms, long used as a marker of Baptist vitality, dropped more than 5 percent to their lowest level since 1987.

LifeWay President Thom Rainer called the report 'truly disheartening.'

Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, said membership growth has been moving toward a plateau for some time.

'Many have predicted that membership (an inflated statistic anyway) would soon began to decline, but the statement, 'Southern Baptists are a declining denomination' was not 'officially' accurate,' Stetzer wrote in a LifeWay blog. 'Until today.'

'For now, Southern Baptists are a denomination in decline,' Stetzer wrote."

Stetzer goes in the article to say that membership in the SBC has peaked and the long term trends indicate a decrease that should continue for the foreseeable future given that baptisms are at their all time low.

Read the rest here.

Diocese of San Joaquin sues to reclaim diocese

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has issued this statement:

Michael Glass, Esq., Chancellor to the Diocese of San Joaquin has announced the filing of a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in Fresno County Superior Court to reclaim all property currently being held by John-David Schofield, the former Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin

Michael Glass, Esq., Chancellor to the Diocese of San Joaquin has announced the filing of a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in Fresno County Superior Court to reclaim all property currently being held by John-David Schofield, the former Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, according to a Press Release issued April 25, 2008 by the Stockton-based temporary headquarters for the Diocese.

In a related matter, the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb, Provisional Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, has sent a letter of protest to Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the April 22, 2008 letter, Lamb reminded the Archbishop that his visit to the Diocese of San Joaquin is a violation of the traditions of the Anglican Communion and of the recommendations of the Windsor Report.

Follow the links above to the Complaint, the press release and the letter to Venables.

Additional coverage of this action can be found:

(We'll update this article as additional information comes online.)

Archbishop Venables interviewed

Archbishop Gregory Venables responded to questions while in Canada. He was there visiting Anglicans who insist that they have broken away from the Anglican Church in Canada and become associated with the Province of the Southern Cone where Venables is the primate.

In the interview Venables discusses the situation in the Anglican Communion, how the Church should respond to gay and lesbian christians, and his opposition to "post-modern" interpretations of the Bible.

From the article:

"'I tell people in Canada not to get filled up with bitterness about the homosexual issue, to just try to allow Christ's love and generosity to come through,' says Gregory Venables, who was elected primate (senior archbishop) of the Southern Cone in 2001.

'There's all this silly acrimony. It's like a ping-pong game. But instead of throwing sweets around, we're throwing hand grenades,' Venables said in an interview Thursday in a large home in the Oakridge neighbourhood of Vancouver, where a local Anglican has provided the prelate and his wife a place to sleep.

Even though the British-born leader of roughly 30,000 Anglicans in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay is firmly opposed to homosexual relationships, as well as to 'post-modern' interpretations of the Bible, he still insists liberal and conservative Anglicans in North America shouldn't be so nasty to each other.

At the same time, Venables said he felt free to ignore a high-level plea to stay out of Canada made this week by the spiritual leader of the country's roughly 700,000 Anglicans, Primate Fred Hiltz, because he believes jurisdictional disputes are secondary to doctrinal issues."

Read the rest here.

Episcopal Policy Initiatives

The Episcopal Public Policy Network, an official part of the Episcopal Church can only participate in initiatives that have clear sponsorship by the General Convention or Executive Council. So far, in the years following the most recent General Convention, this work has focused on native american initiatives, climate change, immigration, and economic parity.

But according to a recent communication from the network, their work right now is tracking the following particular areas this spring:

  • Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007 -- S. 1200 -- The first update of critical Indian Health Care in 16 years passed the Senate 83-10 in February and is awaiting consideration by the House. We will let you know when the time is right to contact your Representatives.
  • America's Climate Security Act -- S. 2191 -- This bill has still not made it to a vote in the Senate, but all the attention on Earth Day and on global warming should help move it. See the Presiding Bishop's letter of support here.
  • SAVE Act -- H.R. 4088 -- This is the punitive immigration legislation whose House sponsors are working to bring it to a vote without due process and consideration. They need 212 signatures on their petition and currently have 186 -- if you haven't sent a message to your representative, you can still take action here.
  • Jubilee Act -- H.R. 2634 -- This debt relief bill passed the House by a strong vote of 285-132 and now awaits consideration by the Senate. We will let you know when the time is right to contact your Senator.
  • The GROWTH Act -- H.R.2965, S.2069 -- This legislation to promote economic opportunities for women in developing countries is awaiting action in committees in both the House and the Senate.

If you're interested in more information about these initiatives or would like to get involved, you can find more information about the EPPN's work here.

Power and Light

Several of the Lead editors now track various topics of interest on Twitter.com, a microblogging platform that allows people to convey thoughts and converse in groups using short bursts of 140 characters or fewer. One such "tweet" that crossed the wire this week was "When did Earth Day become Earth Week?"

But for many Episcopalians—indeed, many people of faith, every day is Earth Day. The Rev. Sally Bingham founded Interfaith Power and Light (then Episcopal Power and Light) in 1998 as an initiative to allow churches to purchase renewable energy and is part of The Regeneration Project, an "interfaith ministry devoted to deepening the connection between ecology and faith."

The News and Observer, a newspaper based in North Carolina's Triangle region, caught up with Bingham for a Q&A this week:

Q: How are churches becoming more active in environmental issues?

A: Environmental issues were once political issues. They didn't belong in the church. Now it's integral to mainstream religions in ways unimaginable five years ago. ... We're seeing changes in the liturgy to reflect care for creation. That's huge because in the Episcopal Church there's a deep tradition that resists change.

I am seeing clergy take this responsibility seriously enough to actually say that care for creation belongs with love, justice and peace. You hear the term "JPIC," or justice, peace and integrity of creation. It's putting care for creation on parallel with love, justice and peace ... We have a green mosque in Washington, D.C. We have hundreds of Protestant churches with solar panels on the roof. We have two large cathedrals with geothermal systems -- in Boston and in Cleveland, Ohio. The Catholic Cathedral in Los Angeles in solar.

Q: How has Interfaith Power & Light changed?

A: We now have an office in San Francisco and a staff of seven. We coordinate this national campaign. That means we help the state programs get started ... One of the important things we do is make sure the Interfaith Power & Light campaign doesn't get sidetracked. We don't want to be viewed as the Sierra Club at prayer. We're not political. We're not Republicans or Democrats. Our message is rooted in theology. It's different from an environmental organization. We want to be seen as conservative people coming from a theological perspective. We don't love trees more than people.

Q: What is the spiritual message you offer?

A: I see it as part of the commandment to love God and love your neighbor. If you love your neighbor, you don't pollute your neighbor's air. We are called to serve one another. If you see that your behavior is harming your neighbor and your neighborhood, other species, flora and fauna, or the next generation, it's a direct disobedience to the commandment. Jesus said what you do to the least of these you do to me. If vulnerable and poor communities are harmed by our behavior, we're insulting God.

You can read the whole thing here.

Godcasting

USA Today takes a look at the phenomenon of podcasting sermons and other faith-related content, with commentary focusing on editorial practices that keep the message on target, however subjective the target might be. The article looks as sites such as God's iPod (which, it should be noted, now has an application called God's iPhone), SermonAudio, GodTube, and RabbiPod.

A survey last year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that more people used the Internet to look for religious and spiritual information than to download music, participate in online auctions or visit adult websites.

And a list updated recently by the podcast directory Podcast Alley shows 2,462 podcasts in the religion and spirituality category, the fourth highest among 21 categories, and more than in sports, news and politics.

"The good news about podcasts is this is probably another example of religious traditions trying to keep alive and relevant," says David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

But a possible downside is the higher probability of teachings of questionable quality. "There can be charlatans out there," he says.

Israel Anderson, a software designer in Denver who operates a free site called God's iPod, screens all podcasts submitted to him and weeds out most.

Part of what's driving the popularity of religious podcasts is dissatisfaction with organized religion, Anderson says. "If you're in a home church or go primarily for fellowship but your church isn't particularly good at teaching, a podcast is a good way to hear from a wide variety of people."

You can read the whole thing here.

Theologian joins exodus

Douglas Todd, who maintains the Vancouver Sun faithblog "The Search," has written about theologian James Packer's recent announcement that he is affiliating with the Southern Cone. Packer, named one of the 25 most influential evangelicals by Time magazine, announced his departure from the Diocese of British Columbia earlier this week, condemning what he calls "poisonous liberalism." Todd also quotes the Rev. Kevin Dixon of St. Mary's Anglican Church, who points to Packer's literalism as leading down the same path of logic that could be used to support slavery.

Read the whole thing here.

Archbishop speaks out about financial literacy

The Archbishop of Canterbury was interviewed on Britain's Radio Channel 4 yesterday, addressing topics such as financial literacy among youths, the credit crunch, and the government's role in addressing the wealth gap:


JH: Well people running the banks, until relatively recently, were doing immensely well out of it. Is that something that bothers you?

ABC: It does bother me and now I think we are seeing the results of that in the credit crunch.

JH: But what can you do about it? If you are bothered; are you bothered for instance by a man making here, and this is slightly broad English, but a man making billions literally - £3 point odd billion out of hedge funds, which is a form of gambling, sophisticated, highly sophisticated gambling – does that bother you?

ABC: It does bother me, yes. I haven't got any quick answers to it though. My immediate concern today is looking at the bottom of the ladder and the way in which the credit crunch impacts so disproportionately on the most disadvantaged. Start there because at least you can do something building up the credit union, the financial education.

JH: But if you start there, do you have to look at the gap between the poorest and the richest?

ABC: You have to I think and it is a gap that everyone knows is broadening and I think a growing number of people in society are unhappy with that.

The transcript and a link to the audio are here.

Hardwired for status?

Two recent studies in Neutron have found that we process concepts of cash and status in the same part of our brains, and suggest that our brains may prefer status to cash. Scientific American has this summary:

New research shows for the first time that we process cash and social values in the same part of our brain (the striatum)—and likely weigh them against one another when making decisions. So what's more important—money or social standing? It might be the latter, according to two new studies published in the journal Neuron.

"Our study shows that both behaviorally and in the brain, people place an importance on social status," says Caroline Zink, a postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Md., and co-author of one of studies. "It's hugely influential even [when we're not] in direct competition with someone else."

Zink's NIMH team and their counterparts at Japan's National Institute for Physiological Sciences (NIPS) used different methods to determine that we process social values in the striatum, which had previously been tapped as our brain's monetary reward center. This is key, researchers say, because it provides evidence that our brains consider a good rep—as well as cash—to be rewarding and worth considering as we mull our options. In addition, they note that our brains likely weigh the benefits of each against one another (because they are processed in the same place) as we make up our minds.

"Although we intuitively know that a good reputation makes us feel good, the idea that a good reputation is a 'reward' had long been just an assumption without scientific proof," says Norihiro Sadato, a neuroscience professor at NIPS and a co-author of the Japanese study.

Sadato and colleagues conducted fMRI scans of the brains of 19 subjects while they engaged in two different exercises. The first task was a simple game in which participants had to choose one of three cards in the hope of winning a cash prize. In the second game, fictional evaluators appraised volunteers' characters based on the results of personality trait questionnaires. The researchers found that the striatum activated in response to high and low appraisals (but did not perk up to more neutral comments); it also responded to monetary wins and losses but was quiet if a player broke even.

"The implication of our study is that the different types of the reward are coded by the same currency system,'' says Sadato, "enabling the comparison between them."

In the NIMH study, researchers scanned the brains of 72 volunteers as they attempted to earn money in a computer game. During play, the researchers occasionally revealed how supposed competitors (who, unbeknownst to them, were fake) were faring. The scientists created an arbitrary ranking system of the real and faux players in which some of the bogus gamers appeared to perform better—and others worse—than the real ones. The participants were told that their status in the game had no effect on how much money they could win, but that earning more money could boost their rank.

"We found that the brain reacts very strongly to the other players and specifically the status of the other players," Zink says. "We weren't expecting that profound a response," she adds, noting that the subjects seemed to be concerned with the hierarchy within the game even when it was of no consequence to how much money they could make.

Read it all here. Read more about the Japanese study here and the NIMH study here.

Ring true?

Wright versus Ehrman on evil

Theologians have grappled with the issue of why God allows evil and suffering in the world since the book of Job--and likely before. Beliefnet is hosting a very interesting debate/dialogue on the problem between Bart Ehman and N.T. Wright. Ehrman is James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the author of God's Problem , which argues that the Bible fails to answer the problem of suffering. Wright is the Bishop of Durham for the Church of England and has written Evil and the Justice of God.

Ehrman begins by explaining how the problem of suffering caused a loss of faith:

Suffering increasingly became a problem for me and my faith. How can one explain all the pain and misery in the world if God—the creator and redeemer of all—is sovereign over it, exercising his will both on the grand scheme and in the daily workings of our lives? Why, I asked, is there such rampant starvation in the world? Why are there droughts, epidemics, hurricanes, and earthquakes? If God answers prayer, why didn't he answer the prayers of the faithful Jews during the Holocaust? Or of the faithful Christians who also suffered torment and death at the hands of the Nazis? If God is concerned to answer my little prayers about my daily life, why didn't he answer my and others’ big prayers when millions were being slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, when a mudslide killed 30,000 Columbians in their sleep, in a matter of minutes, when disasters of all kinds caused by humans and by nature happened in the world?

. . .

About nine or ten years ago I came to realize that I simply no longer believed the Christian message. A large part of my movement away from the faith was driven by my concern for suffering. I simply no longer could hold to the view—which I took to be essential to Christian faith—that God was active in the world, that he answered prayer, that he intervened on behalf of his faithful, that he brought salvation in the past and that in the future, eventually in the coming eschaton, he would set to rights all that was wrong, that he would vindicate his name and his people and bring in a good kingdom (either at our deaths or here on earth in a future utopian existence).

N.T. Wright responded:

In a sense, you simply bring us back to where western Europe found itself after the Lisbon earthquake on All Saints Day 1755. Up to then some had said, ‘Look at the world, think about it, and you’ll see that God exists and that Christianity is true.’ The earthquake was a wake-up call to casual western religion, and precipitated the whole Enlightenment revolution, first towards a detached Deism and then into agnosticism or atheism. Have you done anything other than recapitulate that moment? And, if you haven’t, I guess I want to ask: were you not aware, earlier, of the scale of evil in the world – the Holocaust, the dying babies, the inexplicable ‘natural’ disasters, and so on? You’re not implying, are you, that people (like me, for instance) who still hold to Christian faith are somehow failing to notice these horrors, or to reflect soberly and deeply on them? And if, as you say, your book (and your blog posting) do not actually constitute an argument against Christian faith (‘If you reflect on these issues you’ll see that the Christian claim is incredible’), might it not seem that the shift in your own position which you have described is a shift which came about, not because of logical argument, but because of other (unspecified) factors, with the problem of suffering providing a kind of intellectual backdrop to a journey whose main energy was supplied from elsewhere? I’m not saying the arguments are unimportant. But I’m trying to understand what you’re saying when you deny that they constitute an appeal to anyone else to follow your journey.

The second large, general point concerns your handling, and description, of the Bible and Christian faith. I want to take issue with your analysis of the biblical material. This is where I must refer to my own treatment of the same problem in Evil and the Justice of God, which forms part of the groundwork for my new book Surprised by Hope. I don’t know if you’ve read either of them, but in the former I give a very different account from you of the Old Testament material, seeing the call of Abraham not (as on your p. 66) as God simply calling Abraham ‘to be in a special relationship with him’ but as the moment when God launches the long-range plan to rescue the world from its misery. In other words, I read the story of Israel as a whole (not merely in its individual parts, which by themselves, taken out of that context, might be reduced to ‘Israel sinned; God punished them’, etc.,) as the story of theodicy-in-practice: ‘this is the narrative through whose outworking the creator God will eventually put all things to rights.’ Hence the promises of Isaiah 11 and so forth.

The dialogue continues. Read it all here.

Is "Let him who is without sin" Biblical?

It is no secret that the much loved story of the woman caught in adultery, found in John 7:53-8:11, is missing from the early manuscripts, and is of doubtful authenticity This fact is noted in almost all of the recent translations. Christianity Today has an interesting article about how evangelical bibical schaolars are approaching the problem:

When Dallas Theological Seminary professor Daniel Wallace examined New Testament manuscripts stored in the National Archive in Albania last June, he was amazed by what he did not find.

The story of the woman caught in adultery, usually found in John 7:53-8:11, was missing from three of the texts, and was out of place in a fourth, tacked on to the end of John's Gospel.

"This is way out of proportion for manuscripts from the 9th century and following," Wallace said. "Once we get into that era, the manuscripts start conforming much more to each other. Thus, to find some that didn't have the story is remarkable."

Wallace called modern translations' inclusion of the famous narrative, in which Jesus said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" and told the woman to "go and sin no more," the result of "a tradition of timidity."

The Roman Catholic Church requires this story to be considered Scripture, and Protestants have not broken with that tradition, even though it is missing from the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. During the 5th century, the church was sorting out what, exactly, should be in the canon of inspired Scripture. Pericope adulterae, as it is known, first appears in a Greek text during this period, although it is alluded to by Greek writers as early as the 2nd century.

Many scholars agree that the verses are not original to John's Gospel, pointing out that the story interrupts the flow of the verses that come before and after. The style is also noticeably different from that of John's usual writing.

But that doesn't mean that all Bible scholars want the story removed. Many of them disagree with Wallace and believe it relays an historical event and that it belongs in our Bible.

"There is no reason to pull this out," said Craig Evans, a professor at Acadia Divinity School. "Nothing about it says Jesus didn't have this encounter." All of the stories about Jesus began orally — it was a few decades before they were written down — so it is possible that this story just did not get written down until much later, Evans said.

Michael Holmes, a professor at Bethel University, doesn't consider the story inspired Scripture. But he said he would include the story in the Bible, because of its long history and because the verses bear the marks of an authentic story about Jesus.

"[Pericope adulterae] does offer us deep insight into how Jesus dealt with questions such as this, and in that sense is a great illustration to live by," he said.

Such judgments raise questions about what words like canonicity and inspiration mean for evangelicals. If we reserve the word inspired for the text in the earliest manuscripts, yet accept that other material (such as the pericope adulterae) should be included in our biblical canon, are we implying that select biblical passages may be canonical yet not inspired? If so, what should we do with this distinction?

Read it all here.

God and Battlestar Galatica

We have previously noted the religious and spiritual themes on Lost. As any viewer of the SciFi Channel's Battlestar Galatica will note, it too is exploring some pretty interesting religious themes. Carmen Andres, who blogs on religion in popular culture at in the open space explores the themes in some depth:

Battlestar Galatica is no stranger to the exploration of faith and religion in the human (and Cylon) experience. The original series supposedly built itself around Mormon theology, but the current incarnation plays fast and free with elements of monotheism (hints at Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths), polytheism (Greek mythology in particular) and elements of Eastern religions (in particular, reincarnation). But in the promotional campaign leading up to this fourth and final season, BSG got a little more direct with . . . an intentional allusion to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

With the central characters placed in an intentional pose of the painting, the writers are more or less inviting the series’ fans and viewers to consider the characters and the story, at the very least, in the context of this biblical allusion if not within a fuller biblical context. The series’ executive producer alluded to its biblical symbolism when he discussed this promotional photo, and the commercials running during the breaks in last week’s episode used the photo and language related to its biblical context (in particular, the word “savior”).

Where are they going with all this? Heh, that’s anyone’s guess (and, believe me, folks are guessing). But it does lead to some interesting speculation and rumination.

Read it all here. Professor James McGrath offers some interesting observations on "reading Bart Ehrman's book, God's Problem nearly simultaneously with the premiere of season 4 of Battlestar Galactica" here.

Fort Worth Episcopalians organize a steering committee

A steering committee comprised of Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church should the Diocesan Convention and the Bishop of Fort Worth succeed in passing resolutions that attempt to join that diocese with another province of the Anglican Communion.

Katie Sherrod writes in her blog, Desert's Child, that

The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians has been formed to assist those who wish to remain Episcopalians if Bishop Jack Iker tries to achieve his publicly stated goal of taking the diocese out of The Episcopal Church [TEC] and aligning it with another province of the Anglican Communion.

It is these Episcopalians who will, with the help of the leadership of The Episcopal Church, reconstitute the diocese after the bishop leaves TEC.

The work that led to the formation of the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians began immediately after the adjournment of the most recent convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

At that convention, delegates passed the first of two required “readings” of canonical changes aimed at "taking the diocese out of The Episcopal Church." These actions were taken at the urging of the diocesan leadership, including Bishop Jack L. Iker. The second reading will take place at the diocesan convention in November 2008, unless re-scheduled by Bishop Iker.


At that convention, delegates passed the first of two required “readings” of canonical changes aimed at "taking the diocese out of The Episcopal Church." These actions were taken at the urging of the diocesan leadership, including Bishop Jack L. Iker. The second reading will take place at the diocesan convention in November 2008, unless re-scheduled by Bishop Iker.

In the wake of the first vote, many people immediately set to work to identify and empower those who intend to remain Episcopalians.

Primary among these has been the already-existing Fort Worth Via Media. It has been joined by daughter organizations North Texans Remain Episcopal in the northern part of the diocese and Remain Episcopal of Granbury in the southwestern part of the diocese as well as by a group in the mid-cities area and a group of diocesan clergy. Another recently formed group is Steadfast Episcopalians, organized explicitly to reach out to conservative Episcopalians. There were also individuals representing almost all parishes and missions who had self-identified as wishing to remain Episcopalian.

These groups and individuals realized they needed to work together, so they have formed an umbrella organization called the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians. Walter Cabe is president and Courtland Moore is vice president. Margaret Mieuli is treasurer and Bruce Coggin is the committee’s clerk. Other executive committee members are George Komechak, Kathleen Wells, Victoria Prescott and Fred Barber.

According to Komechak, "The primary objectives of this combined group are to remain in the Episcopal Church and to continue the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth as a constituent part of the Episcopal Church. This umbrella organization has been officially recognized as a Texas nonprofit corporation by the Secretary of State. Bylaws have been adopted and a Statement of Mission and Beliefs has been developed for release to the public. Identifying additional persons in diocesan parishes and missions who support staying in the Episcopal Church is one of the Steering Committee’s first items of business. "

Read the rest here.

Statement of Mission and Beliefs

Steering Committee

North Texas Episcopalians

We are committed to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth as a fully participating, constituent part of the Episcopal Church. Recognizing that the church has need of everyone, we will work to ensure that everyone is welcome and that diversity is celebrated in this diocese. We will look for the image of God in everyone, most particularly with those who differ from us, and we will always seek to reflect in our lives the love and charity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We recognize the Episcopal Church of the United States as the American expression of Anglicanism and will remain members of it.

We affirm the hierarchical structure of the Episcopal Church as critical to its polity. We recognize the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies as central to our orderly governance. Moreover we honor the ministry of our Presiding Bishop and Primate.

We will work to identify faithful Episcopalians and provide encouragement and pastoral care for those who do not want to leave the Episcopal Church. We invite the laity to help develop our vision and to implement it in a lively partnership with our clergy. We will resist efforts to remove parishes, property or assets from the Episcopal Church.

We treasure the splendid diversity of the Episcopal Church, and we faithfully pledge to hold open a place in it for those with differing points of view. To anyone who feels torn, confused or marginalized, or who has left the church, we invite you to come home. You are needed.

We seek prayerfully to reconcile with any who contemplate leaving the Episcopal Church by inviting them into dialogue, by listening to them with open hearts and minds and by affirming that they too are valued members of this great church.

We pledge ourselves to Christian service, striving to do all such good works as God has prepared for us to walk in, and seeking always to build up the Body of Christ where we live, where we work and where we worship.

The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians (Steering Committee)

The Steering Committee represents Episcopalians in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth who in and through the Episcopal Church celebrate and proclaim the gracious love of Jesus Christ for all people. The Steering Committee governing board is composed of clergy and lay representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, including members of Fort Worth Via Media, Steadfast Episcopalians, North Texans Remain Episcopal and Remain Episcopal Granbury.

Women in the English Episcopate

The Legislative Drafting Group of the House of Bishops has put forward proposals to allow for women bishops in the Church of England called the "Manchester Report."

The news release from the Church of England says:

“The central issue for the Church of England, as our report points out, is the extent to which the Church wishes to accommodate the breadth of theological views that it currently encompasses in relation to women priests and bishops. Against that background, we have set out the three broad approaches which the Church of England could take if it wishes to move towards ordaining women bishops.”

The three approaches set out by the Legislative Drafting Group are:

• The simplest national statutory approach with no binding national arrangements;

• Legislation that would provide some basis for special arrangements for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops, such arrangements to be made within the present structures of the Church of England;

• Legislation that would create new structures within the Church of England for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops.

The Group does not offer a recommendation of its own but analyses the pros and cons of each approach, identifying, where relevant, various sub options.

You can see the whole report here, but as Thinking Anglicans says "Unfortunately, it is provided only as a series of separate, mostly .doc files. Perhaps the situation will improve later."

Thinking Anglicans: Report on Women as Bishops as an extensive and growing roundup.

Church of England: Women in the Episcopate – Manchester Report published

The Telegraph reports that the Church plans "men only" dioceses here.

Catholic radio station to kick Protestants off the air

The Hartford Courant reports that WJMJ-FM, a station owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, will end the ecumenical format of its programming and use the station to reach out mainly to Roman Catholics.

The station has included many home-grown programs that reflect the religious diversity of the area. The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut has broadcast Sundays at 6 hosted by Fr. Christopher Rose for 24 years.

There appears to be a difference between how the Archdiocese wants to communicate the change and how the station management understands the upcoming changes.

The Archdiocesan communications officer, Fr. John Gatzak, said in a phone interview with the newspaper that "the identity of the station will be Catholic, yes, but that does not mean we will not reach out to other Christian denominations to invite them to participate."

On the other hand, the station's general manager, John Ellinger, told the Courant that he believed that the archdiocese's plan was to take every Protestant show off the air by May.


"They will all be gone," Ellinger said. "If we're told that we're to remove the programs, we simply have to do that. It's a really, really tough decision because we like these guys, and we love what they do."

Several Protestant ministers said that was their understanding as well.

"We were certainly told this was the last week of our program," said the Rev. Ned Edwards, pastor of the First Church of Christ in Farmington.

The same message was conveyed by station personnel to Rose, of the Episcopal Diocese; the Rev. John Corgan, at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hartford; and the Rev. Gary Miller, who leads the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford.

Two of the ministers said they were also ordered not to broadcast "trailers" on WJMJ that invited people to their worship services.

Fr. Rose told the Courant:

"The purpose of the station was not to criticize other Christians, but to lift up what was good about what other churches were doing. I think that's important because we have too much cynicism and criticism already. If this does go through, it will add to the cynicism, instead of promoting common ground. That is the most dangerous fallout from this. I think that would be sad."

The paper says that the station was founded 30 years ago by the late Archbishop John Whalon in the afterglow of Vatican II with a specifically ecumenical format. According to the station's website "WJMJ was founded in 1976 by the late Archbishop John Francis Whealon as the first archdiocesan radio station in the United States, and was the result of a vision brought forth by the Second Vatican Council. It was his dream and goal to create a radio station, to offer the good news of Christ to a wider listening audience through a format of pleasant music and inspiring messages."

Although the station also plays classical and other music, typically in the Frank Sinatra genre, it was created 30 years ago following the Vatican II council as a way of embracing its teachings against bigotry, narrowness and isolationism in the church.

Still, Gatzak hopes some solution will be found.

"Maybe we can create a program that explores outreach to the community," Gatzak said. "We know we have a responsibility to feed the hunger and help the poor. Can WJMJ be used as a catalyst for doing that kind of ministry together? I think there's a lot we can do."

Read it all here.

See also EpiScope.

Bishop opposes arrest of homeless in New Orleans

An ordinance that would have required New Orleans police to arrest homeless persons if they refused to go into a shelter was sent back for study by the New Orleans city council last Monday.

The ordinance is favored by the city's mayor, C. Ray Nagin. It was opposed by Episcopal Bishop Charles Jenkins who wrote in a letter, that was also signed by New Orleans priests and deacons,
said

The failure of our community to develop and implement a comprehensive affordable housing strategy in the wake of unprecedented disaster is a communal failing. Yet this ordinance penalizes only those individuals who have fallen through the cracks—and we expect that there will be many more yet to come.

The ordinance was sent back for study according to WWLTV.com and may be re-submitted to city council on May 8th.

Read Bishop Charles Jenkin's letter on his blog here.

This is what Mayor Nagin said.

Here is the WWLTV.com report.

HT to Grandmere Mimi.

Activist and educator comes home to Voorhees College

Vorhees College, an historically black Episcopal college has appointed Cleveland Sellers as its new president. The story of Cleveland's journey is described by insiderhighered.com

Looking back, it’s as if Cleveland Sellers was preparing his entire life to become president of Voorhees College.

After all, he was born in Denmark, S.C., home of the historically black Episcopal institution, and he even graduated from the college’s affiliated high school in 1962. For the past 15 years, Sellers has driven an hour and 15 minutes — each way, each day — between Denmark, where he still lives, and Columbia, where he is director of the African American studies program at the University of South Carolina. So in a real sense, when his duties commence this fall, he’ll be coming home both figuratively and literally.

“For me it’s almost a complete circle,” Sellers says, recalling a time when he was 3 or 4, acting as a “mascot” for the college where his mother was on the faculty and where he would be named president over half a century later. He’d go on to attend Voorhees — which at that time of heavily enforced segregation was a junior college with an affiliated private high school for black students — for the 9th through 12th grades. It gave him a taste of higher education, a passion he’d go on to pursue, first as an undergraduate at Howard University, then later on earning a master’s degree in education at Harvard University and an Ed.D. at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

“It was a college experience.... It was a world-class educational experience that we got,” Sellers said of Voorhees.

But before pursuing the life of an academic and an educator, the civil rights movement made an activist out of Sellers, who like many young students at historically black colleges in the 1960s found himself participating in nonviolent civil disobedience through groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. After graduating from Howard, he returned to South Carolina as a grassroots civil rights organizer. On Feb. 8, 1968, he came face to face with the brutal violence he’d worked to fight.

Read all about it.

The Happy List

The Independent, a newspaper in the UK, has decided to counter the media's obsession with the rich and famous, with a list of those who are happy because they do good.

The Wealth List, Power List, Influence List, Celebrity List... almost every week some publication or other is worshipping at the shrine of the wealthy and famous. Today, 'The Sunday Times' produces its famous Rich List, an entire magazine devoted to the moneyed. About time, then, we thought, that someone produced an antidote. So here it is: the Happy List, celebrating those Britons who have given back, enhanced the lives of others and realised that in an acquisitive society there's a crying need for values other than mere materialism.

Deciding to do this – because it was needed and because we believe it reflects our readers' values – was the easy part. Choosing who to include, and the criteria they would have to satisfy, was a great deal harder. We'll spare you the pseudo-philosophical debates that ambushed the early days of this project and cut to the conclusions we reached: that the people on our list should be those who make the lives of strangers happier, that this is their prime motive in doing what they do (as opposed to a side-effect of it), and that their example deserves celebrating. And, after considering the conditions under which community happiness tends to flourish, we elected to look for candidates in 10 categories: philanthropy, charity, mental well-being, physical health, pleasure (ie those in the media and culture who make us feel better), environment, innovation, volunteers and time-givers, community activity, and entertainment.

It was obvious from the start, and indeed was quite deliberate, that many of those most worthy of inclusion would be unknown outside their areas, and therefore unsung.

Read all about it.

Anglican Bishops of Brazil: Covenant alien to our ethos

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil have studied the revised Covenant for the Anglican Communion, also know as the St. Andrew's Draft. While appreciating the work that has been done they find that the Covenant is not needed and the focus for our life together should be on what we already have and our common mission and networks.

We are fully convinced that the time in which we live is marked by symptoms that value highly the building up of networks and other manifestations of communion in a spontaneous way in the various aspects of human life. Insisting on a formal and juridical Covenant, with the logic of discipline and exercise of power, means to move in the opposite direction, thus returning to the days of Modernity, with its Confessions, Covenants, Diets and other rational instruments of theological consensus.

The bishops find the Covenant to be alien to our Anglican ethos:

Sections 05 and 06 in the new proposal focus on elements that we believe are unnecessary and inapplicable to our Communion. In the manner in which they are presented, they constitute a serious setback in the understanding of what is Communion, prioritising the juridical dimension more and less so the ecclesiological and affective dimensions that have been the historical mark of our mutual interdependence.

The Covenant continues to be a mistaken proposal for the resolution of conflicts through the creation of curial instances absolutely alien to our ethos.

Kantinho Do Rev: news from the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil is here.

The Pluralist comments here.

The entire letter follows:

Read more »

God in the details

The Washington Post tells of Rowan LeCompte, creator of more than 40 stained glass windows in the Episcopal Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul also known as the Washington National Cathedral.

A life is like a stained-glass window. Colorful yet clear. Translucent yet obscured. Strong yet fragile. An arrangement of shard-moments held by a force that keeps everything in place. Miraculous things -- life and stained-glass windows. Still, yet moving. Works of art that change as daylight inevitably turns to nightdark.

At 83, Rowan LeCompte is in the later stages of both windowmaking and life. His life's work has been the dreaming and designing of exquisite stained-glass windows for the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, better known as Washington National Cathedral. Over the years he has created more than 40 windows. He fashioned his first when still a boy. He is probably working on his last.

The LeCompte windows give the cathedral heavenly color: The kaleidoscopic West Rose that celebrates God's creation of heaven and earth. The green, red and gold Calling of Peter window on the north side of the nave. The delicate little Gable Wheel window in the Pilgrim Observation Gallery.

Among the 233 stained-glass windows in the majestic edifice, LeCompte's have a special glow. He has designed more windows in the cathedral than any other artist. LeCompte is "an artist who marries together traditional techniques and sensibilities with contemporary style," says the cathedral's conservator, the Rev. John A. Runkle. LeCompte, he adds, is skillful at "spanning the ages."

Read it all here.

In the Garden

The Dallas Morning News asks, "Why would the busy, some might say embattled, leader of the 2.4 million-member Episcopal Church travel to Dallas for a 300-member congregation's garden blessing service?

"Well, I was asked," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to lead the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle invited Bishop Jefferts Schori for what was her first official visit to Dallas.

Wearing sunglasses and a white robe, the oceanographer-turned-priest helped preside over an elaborate afternoon service, blessing a garden whose raised-bed vegetable plots will help supply local food banks.

"Coming here to bless a garden, especially at this time in the history of humanity, when we're focused on how the church can be a more proactive voice in caring for the rest of creation, is an important message," she said before the service....

The Dallas Morning News also reports:

The blessing service Monday near Dallas Love Field, attended by about 400, was to some degree a rally for the Episcopal Church and Bishop Jefferts Schori.

"Everyone at St. Thomas the Apostle is standing taller and feeling prouder because she's [here] with us," said Harry Anderson, head of the vestry for a congregation that has long taken progressive stands on race, women's rights and gay rights.

Two buses came from Fort Worth, and many of the visitors wore stickers saying, "Fort Worth Episcopalians Honor Katharine."

"We want to make it clear that the Diocese of Forth Worth is not monolithic," said Katie Sherrod, adding that she considers Bishop Jefferts Schori "fabulous."

Click here for Video.

Read it all here.

Katie Sherrod comments at her blog Desert's Child.

Obama's former pastor to preach in Philadelphia church

According to Episcopal Life Online, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright will serve as revivalist for the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 28 and 29. This is the third consecutive year that Wright has led this revival but the first visit since his prominence in the presidential campaign rhetoric.

Wright is former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC), a mega church in Chicago, Illinois with approximately 10,000 members.

St. Thomas is the oldest African American Episcopal Church in the United States and the first black church in Philadelphia. It was founded by the Rev. Absalom Jones, the first person of African ancestry to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church.

Read more here.

PBS ran an interview with Wright on Bill Moyers Journal.

Wright also spoke at the National Press Club breakfast.

NYTimes reports on Obama campaign and Wright here.

And here is the transcript of today's press conference by Obama on Wright

Venables visit to Fort Worth "unwarranted invasion"

Episcopal Life Online reports that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has advised Southern Cone Presiding Bishop Gregory J. Venables that his planned May 2-3 visit to address a special convocation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth "with the expressed purpose of describing removal to the Province of the Southern Cone is an unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province." Copies have been sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dear Gregory,

I write to urge you not to bring further discord into The Episcopal Church. Visiting a special convocation of the Diocese of Fort Worth with the expressed purpose of describing removal to the Province of the Southern Cone is an unprecedented and unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province. I ask you to consider how you might receive such a visit to your own Province from a fellow primate. The actions contemplated by some leaders in Fort Worth are profoundly uncanonical. They also prevent needed reconciliation from proceeding within this Province.

I urge you to focus your pastoral ministry within your own Province. May your ministry there be fruitful. I remain

Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori

Read the rest of the story here.

Grace in Allentown PA

Grace Episcopal Church in Allentown PA offers grace in the city for those who come seeking spiritual and physical sustenance. PBS39 features the work of Grace, its Montessori primary school, food bank, and other services. The church is committed to serving the community in which it finds itself.

The rector, the Rev. Patrick Malloy tells Episcopal Cafe:

Grace Church is in a once-prosperous neighborhood that declined greatly with the death of the steel industry. While there were no factories in Allentown to be torn down, despite what Billy Joel's song claims, many residents worked in the nearby Bethlehem Steel Works: the largest factory in the world. As the neighborhood decayed and crime soared, the people of Grace Church voted to stay in the urban core and work to revitalize it, even as other mainline churches closed and moved to the suburbs.

Within the past five years alone, the parish has renovated part of a defunct retail space to create a 10-thousand-square-foot state-of-the-art Montessori pre-school and kindergarten (part of the city's urban redevelopment master plan), founded the first Montessori elementary school in Northeast Pennsylvania (and the first elementary school in the Diocese of Bethlehem). Grace Church partnered with the federal government to establish an employment agency for the neighborhood, turned over a significant part of its plant for GED classes, Monday through Friday, and has become the home of a rehabilitation program for fist-time juvenile offenders. Within the last year alone, both legal services and psychological counseling have been made available on-site to clients of all the parish outreach ministries.

Plans are underway for expanding the school into another abandoned downtown retail property, and converting a parish-owned house into apartments that will serve as transitional housing for homeless people.

Watch the video here.

Gene Robinson barred from preaching or presiding in England

Update, Monday 7:35 a. m.: It's official.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has denied the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire permission to preach or preside at the Eucharist during his visits to England this year.

From Of Course I Could Be Wrong, Mad Priest reports:

... that the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, has been denied permission to celebrate the Eucharist or to preach during his visits to England in the coming months. Bishop Robinson said he had written to the Archbishop of Canterbury requesting permission, and had received notification by e-mail this morning that his request had been refused.

Fr Jake Stops the World and Blogula Rasa are reporting on this news as is The Evolution of Jeremiah

No official word has come from Lambeth Palace or the Diocese of New Hampshire.

Williams won't allow Robinson to function as priest in England

Citing fears of creating a controversy, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to grant Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the right to preach or preside at the eucharist in England. Robinson received the news in an email yesterday morning.

Sources familiar with the email say Williams cites the Windsor Report and recent statements from the Primates Meeting in refusing to grant Robinson permission to exercise his priestly functions during his current trip to England, or during the trip he plans during the Lambeth Conference in July and August.

The Windsor Report does not discuss the ordination of a candidate in a gay relationship to the priesthood, and it is priestly, rather than episcopal functions that Robinson had sought permission to perform. The primates' statements, similarly, have objected to Robinson's episcopacy, not his priesthood.

Several provinces in the Communion ordain gay and lesbian candidates without requiring a vow of celibacy. It is unclear whether the Church of England forbids these priests from exercising their functions within its jurisdiction as a matter of policy, or whether Williams' ban extends only to Robinson. Many gay English priests live with their partners, but are expected to remain celibate.

The email, which came to Robinson through a Lambeth official, says Williams believes that giving Robinson permission to preach and preside at the Eucharist would be construed as an acceptance of the ministry of a controversial figure within the Communion.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who gave his support to a failed legislative attempt to limit the rights of Nigerian gays and their supporters to speak, assemble and worship God collectively. Akinola has yet to respond to an Atlantic magazine article which suggests he may have had prior knowledge of plans for retributive violence against Muslims in his country that resulted in the massacre of more than 650 people in Yelwa, Nigeria.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Bernard Malango, the retired primate of Central Africa and one of the authors of the Windsor Report. Malango dismissed without reason the ecclesiastical court convened to try pro-Mugabe Bishop Nolbert Kunonga for incitement to murder and other charges.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone, who has now claimed as his own, churches in three others provinces in the Anglican Communion (Brazil, Canada and the United States). Nor has he denined permission to preach and preside to Archbishops Henry Orombi of Uganda, Emanuel Kolini of Rwanda, or Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, all of whom have ignored the Windsor Report's plea not to claim churches within other provinces of the Communion.

Sources who have read the email say Williams expresses sorrow for the way the ban on Robinson must appear to the bishop and his supporters, but says he is acting for the good of the Church and the Communion.

At Church Times Blog, Dave Walker advances the story in the legal direction:

Questions are being asked as to whether Lambeth Palace has the authority to stop Gene Robinson from preaching if he is invited to do so by the incumbent of a parish. Legal minds have been perusing the Canons of the Church of England and it appears that he would have a strong case for being able to preach if invited.

However, Gene Robinson has ruled out preaching without the permission of the Archbishop. From the Hardtalk [TV] interview (only available for a week) on the BBC [Robinson said]: "In the past he has... declined to give me permission to preach and to celebrate the Holy Communion and I would never do so without his permission."

Read Walker's post here.

Earlier in the day Bishop Robinson had said on BBC Radio that God was "very disappointed" in Williams for his failure to confront Akinola over his treatment of gays. Read here. Listen here.

Presiding Bishop writes to the House of Bishops

Updated

A letter to the House of Bishops from the Presiding Bishop:

April 30, 2008

For the House of Bishops

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

Inasmuch as the past several weeks have involved some significant situations, I thought it would be helpful to review and comment on process. First, regarding deposition for “abandonment of the communion of The Episcopal Church,” it is important to remember that such an act is not by definition punitive, but does give formal recognition to a reality already taking place. Once the Title IV Review Committee has certified that a bishop has abandoned the communion of this Church under Title IV, Canon 9, the bishop in question is given sixty days to respond.

During this sixty day period, Title IV has a provision for temporary inhibition of the bishop by the Presiding Bishop with the consent of the three senior active bishops of the Church. These bishops who must consent to the temporary inhibition do not, however, have a veto over consideration of the merits of the deposition by the House of Bishops, any more than those who must consent to temporary inhibitions in other circumstances have a veto over consideration of the charges by a trial court. This understanding of the canon is held not only by my Chancellor, but also by members of the Title IV Review Committee including an attorney who is an original member of the Committee, the chancellors of several dioceses who have been consulted, and the former Chair of both the Standing Commission on the Constitution and Canons and the Legislative Committee on the Canons at the General Convention.

As the actual vote regarding deposition draws near, it is important to recognize what does and does not constitute a relevant response by the bishop in question. A letter of resignation from the House is irrelevant to the charges brought forward by the Review Committee and the deposition proceedings, since deposition concerns a person’s ordination in this Church, not simply participation in the House of Bishops. Resignation from the House thus has no bearing on following through with the charges brought forward by the Review Committee. Deposition in this situation makes clear in an official way that the bishop in question is no longer permitted to exercise ordained ministry in this Church.

Regarding how the vote is to be taken, the canon is clear that a vote on deposition must occur at “regular or special meeting of the House.” Although we have other canonical consent provisions where consents may be secured by written ballot through the mail, that process does not satisfy the canons here. Every bishop entitled to vote is invited to the meeting and given ample notice that there will be a vote on depositions. Materials surrounding the deposition in question are posted in the “Bishops Only” section of the College for Bishops website. The canon is read that a quorum be present and a majority of all bishops present who are entitled to vote consent to the deposition, as was done in the case of Bishop Davies of Fort Worth in the 1990s and Bishop Larrea of Ecuador Central in 2005. In terms of parliamentary rules of order, any questions about the propriety of a vote are to be raised before the meeting or, of course, during it.

These are weighty matters, and it is important that we take seriously our procedures, as well as their purpose and intent. It is also important that we remember the reason that such canons and procedures are in place. These matters with which we are confronted have ramifications for many outside our House. For those who would like an alternative to deposition, we already have one, in the form of renunciation of vows in this Church, so that anyone may pursue his or her conscience and desires in another part of Christ’s Body. This option makes clear and clean an individual’s departure from The Episcopal Church. Resignation from the House is quite different, since it only deals with the person’s relation to the House, not to The Episcopal Church. Thus, to resign from the House while still claiming jurisdiction over a diocese with its property and assets is not a viable alternative.

Some have misunderstood the impact and intent of deposition. It is this Church’s formal way of saying to the world that the deposed cleric is no longer permitted to act as a sacramental representative of this Church. If vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church are not voluntarily renounced, how otherwise can a cleric take up new vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of another Church?

These are indeed difficult decisions that we at times are called to make, and I have no doubt that all of us would wish things were different. We must respond to the situations with which we are faced, compassionately but not naively, knowing that we make these decisions not for ourselves alone but for the people whom we are called to shepherd and oversee. I remain

Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori

Credit: Episcope

Update, Wednesday afternoon, from the for-what-it's-worth department: according to George Conger at The Living Church,

Sufficient legal grounds exist for presenting Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for ecclesiastical trial on 11 counts of violating the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, according to a legal memorandum that has begun circulating among members of the House of Bishops.
...
Prepared by an attorney on behalf of a consortium of bishops and church leaders seeking legal counsel over the canonical implications of the Presiding Bishop’s recent actions, it is unclear whether a critical mass of support will form behind the report’s recommendations for any action to be taken, persumably as a violation of the Presiding Bishop’s ordination vows.

Iker: Steering committee is "a self-selected vigilante group"

As reported in The Lead on Monday, a steering committee has been formed for Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church should the Diocesan Convention and the Bishop of Fort Worth succeed in passing resolutions that attempt to join that diocese with another province of the Anglican Communion. And then on Tuesday we reported on the Presiding Bishop's letter to Southern Cone Presiding Bishop Venables requesting he not cross boundaries. Now we have reaction from Bishop Iker on both fronts.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on Bishop Iker's reaction to the steering committee:

Fort Worth Diocese Bishop Jack Iker said in a statement Tuesday that the steering committee is "a self-selected vigilante group whose only stated purpose is 'to remain in The Episcopal Church' no matter what -- and regardless of what TEC believes or practices. They espouse a blind institutional loyalty that borders on institutional idolatry."
..
[Walter Cabe, president of the Steering Committee of North Texas Episcopalians] said that the steering committee is a way for several Episcopal groups to bond and work with the national church to stay intact. He said it should not be categorized as liberal or conservative.

"We want a more tolerant attitude toward one another, a willingness to engage in informal adult conversation and eliminate fear and intimidation," he said.

But Iker in his statement said that the diocese's main purpose is to be faithful to biblical teaching and that the annual diocese convention, composed of elected lay and clergy leaders from every diocese congregation, is the only body that can act on behalf of the diocese.

Read the Star-Telegram story here.

Thanks to Katie Sherrod for the pointer. She writes:

This is indeed a strange place when Episcopalians are called vigilantes for seeking to keep an Episcopal diocese in The Episcopal Church, but a bishop who invites the primate of another province to come persuade our convention delegates to "move" to his province is called "Windsor compliant."

It's also sad that while Bp. Iker insists that those who oppose him do not vilify him, he is free to call members of his diocese idolaters and vigilantes.

Vigilante is an interesting word. It is Spanish for "watchman" or "watcher." It came into the English language through the Southwestern United States, where many Spanish words are used daily. The term has gotten a bad rap because some vigilante groups in our history have resorted to violence when those in positions of power failed to deliver the justice they thought was needed.

But mostly those in power don't like vigilante groups because they are "watchers." People who are walking on a thin line of legality particularly do not like "watchers." I think it is a very interesting choice of words by Bishop Iker.

And then there's "meddling." Bishop Iker on the objections of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to the upcoming visit of Presiding Bishop Venables (Southern Cone) to the Fort Worth:
Archbishop Venables is coming to the Diocese at my invitation and as an honored guest, which hardly makes it “an unwarranted invasion.” The only meddling going on here is on Katharine’s part. And who is she to accuse someone else of uncanonical actions?

+JLI

Isn't it remarkable that this is the first comment there? Who knew Iker was such a faithful follower of the blogs?

Almost in answer:

When the Fort Worth delegation declared that they have been forgotten in this battle, the Presiding Bishop replied, “Have you been watching San Joaquin? They were not forgotten and now show dynamic signs of new life. You will not be forgotten, either.”

Throughout much of the question-and-answer session retired Bishop Sam B. Hulsey of Northwest Texas stood in the back of the parish hall. Last January Bishop Hulsey held an organizational meeting for clergy from the Diocese of Fort Worth, offering continuing care to those who wish to remain with The Episcopal Church, an action to which Bishop Jack Leo Iker of Fort Worth objected.
Expanding on his comment at Stand Firm, Bishop Iker has written a letter to the Presiding Bishop . He's not happy. Bishop Gene Robinson would interested in Iker's argument that it is the diocesan's prerogative to make invitations, not the primate's.

Two views of the future of the Church of England

The Rev George Pitcher, Curate of St Bride's, Fleet Street, London in an op-ed in The Telegraph:

It looks as if Dr Williams will continue to strive for worldwide Anglican unity in the face of the lightning-rod issues of dissent - women's and homosexuals' ordination - that so mystify secular society and so enrage the extreme factions of his church. Paradoxically, that suggests he may be facing options that split the Anglican communion on specifics in order to maintain its overall unity.

I don't think he can achieve that kind of compromise. More important, I don't think he has to.

A schism in the Anglican Communion would drive its fissures through the Church of England and elsewhere, but secessionists such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria and those of the "alternative" Lambeth Conference, Gafcon, which will meet in the Holy Lands at the end of June, seriously overstate their power and influence, especially in congregations such as the Church of England's.

Some 20 per cent of the Lambeth Conference may go AWOL in a boycott, but it does not speak for the broad swathes of Anglican congregations in countries such as Britain.

The Church of Middle England's silent majority is far more tolerant, fair-minded and, yes, even liberal, than the fundamentalists give it credit for.

The household of faith may blush at matters of sexuality, as it blushes at the heavy mysteries of theology, but it is altogether more pluralistic than is commonly imagined. It is part of the genius of the Church of England that it doesn't lose touch with the mindset of this constituency.

My prediction? Women bishops will follow as an inevitable consequence of women priests. As a consequence, some will split away and make their own arrangements but, as part of the miraculous survival of the Church of England, we'll soon wonder what all the fuss was about.

In the current melee, it's a future to which Dr Rowan Williams's leadership should aspire.

Theo Hobson blogging at The Guardian:
What explains such jelly-headedness? Why has the church failed to put its authority behind this reform, to see it through?

Could it be that there is a fundamental incompatibility between ecclesiastical authority and modernity? Maybe the very idea of an authoritative spiritual hierarchy is irredeemably pre-modern. That is why the reactionaries can't be defeated: they are always more in tune with the logic of the institution than the progressives. The fact is that the feminist movement is ecclesiastically subversive - and the gay rights movement, too. For they both expose the fact that church authority has a different logic to secular liberal principles.

There's an analogy with the monarchy. To call for it to move with the times, and give equal rights to female heirs, as Vera Baird at least appeared to do the other week, begs a larger question: if equal rights are so important, why is the succession limited to a particular posh white family? In the same way, to press the question of why a woman or homosexual shouldn't be a priest raises the question: "why should anyone be a priest?"

Well, why? The question can only be answered from within a particular church tradition. From a secular liberal point of view, it's meaningless. The fact is that progressive Anglicans have failed to win the church round, to give a compelling account of priesthood that opens it beyond straight males.

Episcopal artists as they see themselves

Episcopal Life Online:

Thirty-one artists contribute works of self-expression to the latest exhibition, Portraits of the Self, launched on the Episcopal Church & Visual Arts [ECVA] website this month.

It is the first exhibit of 2008 and the 25th on the Episcopal artists' website since the organization was inaugurated in 2000.

See the exhibit, curated by David C. Hancock, here.

And don't forget the Episcopal Cafe has its own Art Blog maintained by Mel Ahlborn, President and CEO of ECVA.

United Methodist Church adopts full communion proposal with ELCA

ELCA News Service:

By a vote of 864-19, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) adopted an implementing resolution April 28 that will establish full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Full communion will be fully realized by both churches should the same proposal be adopted at the next ELCA Churchwide Assembly, which meets Aug. 17-23, 2009, in Minneapolis.
...
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, Chicago, said he eagerly awaits the ELCA Churchwide Assembly vote in 2009 and hopes that it, too, will be a strong affirmation of full communion with the UMC. Hanson also preached at an April 29 worship service at the UMC General Conference. "This is about revival of two church bodies that are deeply committed to re-presenting themselves in a pluralistic, dynamic changing culture for the sake of mission," Hanson said.
...
The ELCA's five full communion partners are the Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ.


Asymmetric politics

Editorial in The New York Times:

It is an injustice, a legacy of the racist threads of this nation’s history, but prominent African-Americans are regularly called upon to explain or repudiate what other black Americans have to say, while white public figures are rarely, if ever, handed that burden.

Senator John McCain has continued to embrace a prominent white supporter, Pastor John Hagee, whose bigotry matches that of Mr. Wright. Mr. McCain has not tried hard enough to stop a race-baiting commercial — complete with video of Mr. Wright — that is being run against Mr. Obama in North Carolina.

If Mr. Obama is the Democratic presidential nominee, we fear that there will be many more such commercials. And Mr. Obama will have to repudiate Mr. Wright’s outbursts many more times.

This country needs a healthy and open discussion of race. Mr. Obama’s repudiation of Mr. Wright is part of that. His opponents also have a responsibility — to repudiate the race-baiting and make sure it stops.

Read it all here.

McCain has not been pressed little about his relationship with Hagee. A recent exception did not result in a denouncement or disassociation:

When asked in an exclusive "This Week" interview with George Stephanopoulos if it was "a mistake to solicit and accept his endorsement", McCain replied "oh, probably, sure." Despite admitting his error, McCain made clear he's still "glad to have his endorsement."

Where's the memo on the meaning of "straight talk" ?

Sarah Posner is also drawing parallels between Hagee and Wright today.

Let us trust that we are not bound by what Hagee or Wright say.

Not guilty by reason of nonexistence

San Francisco Chronicle:

A San Rafael minister who presided over several same-sex ceremonies didn't violate Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) rules, because same-sex marriages don't exist in the church, a church court ruled Tuesday.

At the same time, the Permanent Judicial Council's ruling affirmed the right of same-sex couples to have unions, a ceremony that would theoretically have a distinct liturgy.

The ambivalent ruling - affirming the rights of gays and lesbians to have their relationships sanctioned by the church but not considering them equal to those of heterosexual couples - is likely to disappoint both sides in the debate.
...
Clergy "who are authorized to perform marriages shall not state, imply or represent that a same-sex ceremony is a marriage. ... A same-sex ceremony is not and cannot be a marriage."

Spahr said she had conducted hundreds of same-sex unions since 1974. She said that in recent years gays and lesbians have wanted marriages specifically because they saw the term as a measure of equality.

Over the past five years, Spahr said she'd presided over at least 14 such ceremonies.

She called the court's ruling, which removed a censure against her, a mixed ruling.

"To hear once again that they are not equal, but we are separate and unequal, gives me great pause," she said.

Tornado relief fund established

By email:

For Immediate Release

Subject: Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia – Tornado Relief

The Episcopal Church in Southern Virginia has set up a fund for immediate relief for victims of the tornado in the Suffolk area. An initial emergency relief fund of $10,000 from the diocese is being administered through St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 213 North Main Street, Suffolk, VA 23434. The Rector of St. Paul’s, the Rev. Dr. Keith Emerson, is serving as relief coordinator for the Diocese of Southern Virginia. Relief contributions may be made payable to: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and marked “Emergency Relief Fund”. All contributions will go directly to aid victims of the tornado disaster. For further information please call St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 757-539-2478 or email office@saintpauls-suffolk.org.

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