Anne Lamott meets Stephen Colbert

Two Sunday school teachers meet to discuss God and faith from the Protestant and Catholic perspectives. Hilarity ensues.

Anne gives as good as she gets, and gets her message across.

Ostensibly, their meeting is to discuss Lamott's book, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith.

Our first year

We are celebrating our first anniversary today. We actually began operations in this incarnation on April 19, but we’ve decided that today is easier to remember, and probably represented the first day we had most of the bugs worked out and were getting a relatively clean read on our Web statistics.

We’d like to thank all of our visitors, especially those who make us a part of their daily routine. You make doing this work seem worthwhile.

As the Café’s creator, I’d also like to thanks our partners Episcopal Church in the Visual Arts and Trinity Television and New Media, without whom we’d be nothing more than words.

Thanks also to our terrific line-up of contributors, who recently won the Polly Bond Award for best Web writing from the Episcopal Communicators.

I owe my deepest thanks to the people who are elbows (and sometimes neck) deep in the works of the blog every day: Andrew Gerns (Mondays); Ann Fontaine (Tuesdays); John B. Chilton (Wednesdays); W. Nicholas Knisely (Fridays); Helen Thompson (Saturdays); Chuck Blanchard (Sundays) and Mel Ahlborn (art).

In our first year, we received about 1.36 million visits and 3.36 million page views. Our biggest sensation was an essay on a Japanese tourist begin kicked off a train for taking pictures, which drew nearly 60,000 visitors to the site in November—not quite double the 30,000 visitors (and 125,000 visits) per month we’ve been averaging since then. More people visit The Lead, our news blog, than any of our other offerings, but all of the blogs receive an average of at least 250 visits per day.

While people visit to keep up with the Anglican controversies and news of the Episcopal Church (and to read rip-snorting essays like this address by Marilyn McCord Adams to the Chicago Consultation), we’ve also had some off-beat hits like this April Fool's piece on the Episcopal Church being named the official denomination of Major League Baseball and Carol Barnwell’s interview with one of the students portrayed in Denzel Washington’s recent movie The Great Debaters.

Now comes the part where we ask for money.

The Diocese of Washington provided what might be called our start-up capital, but we no longer draw on its budget. As we’d like to redesign the home page of the Café and several of the blog pages (so that all of features and recent postings are visible at a glance) and as we’d like to throw you all a party at General Convention in 2009, we could use a little financial help.

Please consider making a donation to the 2008 Bishop’s Appeal, and marking your contribution “Episcopal Café.” You can do the job here.

Thanks again. Now back to the news.

Jim Naughton

The PB writes at Pentecost

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to the Church in advance of Pentecost. The letter is available on Episcope. This passage may stir some discussion among those who parse her every utterance for evidence of heresy.

Jesus is Lord. In the same sense that early Christians proclaimed that Jesus, not Caesar, is Lord, remember that no one else - not any hierarch, not any ecclesiastical official, not any one of you - is Lord. We belong to God, whom we know in Jesus, and there is no other place where we find the ground of our identity.

The National Day of Prayer and the Religious Right

We haven't had a chance to keep up with the controversy surrounding the National Day of Prayer, but Frederick Clarkson of the blog Talk2Action has. He writes:

The congressionally authorized event is held annually, and the franchise to host official, and often controversial Day- related events is held by Shirley Dobson, wife of James. The official National Day of Prayer Taskforce operates out of the HQ of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. The legislation authorizing also reveals the role of the secretive network known as The Family, in shaping our national culture and political conversation, as detailed in the forthcoming book by Jeff Sharlet, who gave me permission to reveal some important facts from the manuscript of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Have a look.

A Sunni-Shiite fatwa against suicide bombing?

Gregg Zoroya of USA TODAY writes:

High-ranking Shiite and Sunni leaders are preparing to issue a religious decree condemning suicide bombings and other forms of violence, according to an Anglican minister who has led efforts to bring the two Muslim sects closer.

The draft decree, also called a fatwa, cites Quranic verses and says, "The prophet Mohammed prevents the spilling of blood, Muslim against Muslim, and thus suicide bombings are totally prohibited," the Rev. Canon Andrew White said during a dinner Monday with Pentagon officials. The draft calls on Iraqis "to reject and forsake all violence, forsake all killing and provocation," White said.

"What is new is that this will be a fatwa from Shiite and Sunni," White said in an interview. "It's not going to solve all of our problems, but it's the beginning of the process toward the reduction of violence."

Read it all.

Methodist delegates vote to reject same-sex unions

From the Fort Worth Star Telegram:

Delegates at the United Methodist Church's General Conference voted Wednesday to adhere to the church's position that marriage should not include same-sex unions and that homosexual acts are not compatible with Christian teaching.

Those guidelines are included in church's Social Principles, which do not have the force of church law but are to instruct the denomination's 11 million members. The nearly 1,000 delegates at the international conference at the Fort Worth Convention Center are struggling with social issues at the conference that ends Friday.

While affirming the existing guidelines about sexuality, delegates also approved a resolution Wednesday opposing homophobia.


Approved, 517-416, keeping the statement that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

Rejected, 574-298, a measure that would have changed the church's definition of marriage to include same-sex unions.

Approved, 544-365, a resolution opposing homophobia and discrimination against lesbians or gays.

Read it here.

Rather well-mannered, actually

Mike Croghan, the Rude Armchair Theologian, examines a day in the life of The Lead (yesterday as it happens) and asks some pertinent quesitons about the usefulness of hierarchy. Have a look.

They bless boats, don't they?

Boating season is getting under way in the northern United States, and priests on Lake Erie's Ohio shoreline have wisely found a way to make themselves present in marking this rite of spring. There are few things that knit congergation and community together better than shared rituals, as these two accounts from Ohio make clear.

Bishop Robinson's book launch

The Mad Priest presents a report from the UK launch party of Bishop Gene Robinson's new book, In the Eye of the Storm.

Correspondent Mary Clara writes of Robinson:

Looking ahead to the Conference itself, he does plan to be there in the public areas surrounding the meetings and available for conversation. He reported that bishops of The Episcopal Church plan to host two evening events at which other bishops and their spouses will be invited to come and meet him. He emphasized the importance of opportunities of this kind to reach out to the great numbers of people in the broad middle, who do not want to exclude, judge or harm those who are different, but who, perhaps because they haven’t had direct experience of LGBT people living normal lives, are “not yet ready to celebrate us”.

The Covenant, for visual learners

Paul Bagshaw of the Modern Churchpeople's Union blog Only Connect has created a flow chart of the disciplinary process contained in the appendix of the St. Andrew's Draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant. It puts one in mind of Dilbert.

PB: "Same-sex blessings in our lifetime"

The Dallas Voice reports:

Speaking at the predominantly gay parish that was the site of her first official visit to Dallas, the leader of the Episcopal Church said Monday, April 28 that she expects the denomination to sanction same-sex union ceremonies “in our lifetimes.”

Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the U.S. branch of the 80-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, also said she believes openly gay bishop Gene Robinson’s exclusion from the upcoming Lambeth Conference will only serve to increase his impact on the event.

And Jefferts Schori assured supporters from Fort Worth that the church hasn’t forgotten them even though their diocese took steps last fall toward leaving the denomination as a result of a dispute about the role of gays and women.
“A number have people have asked me, ‘How did you decide to come here?’” said Jefferts Schori, who was invited by members of the congregation to bless the garden. “Well, somebody asked, and that’s really all it takes — that and the consent of your bishop here in Dallas.”

Read it all here.

Alan Jones on Wright and Obama

Alan Jones, the Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, has written a commentary on the controversy surrounding the statements of The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright and those of his parishioner, Barack Obama about him.

In the op-ed piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Dean Jones writes that the underlying reason for the nation's reaction to the controversy is due to our inability to place the events into historical context:

"As a people, we are in great danger because of our poor short-term memories; our state of perpetual amnesia puts our fragile democracy at risk. Imagine, for example, what it was like for the parents and grandparents of Rev. Wright growing up in the 1920s. The worry then, among some white 'intellectuals,' was why America was growing stupid! There must, they thought, be a 'scientific' explanation.

Pseudo-scientific racism became very popular. Why were we so stupid as a country? Immigration, of course! Despite the evidence that the longer immigrants were in the United States, the better they performed on IQ tests, the aim of Princeton psychologist C.C. Brigham's 'A Study of American Intelligence' was to show that the southern and eastern peoples of Europe, and Negroes, were of inferior intelligence.

[...] In the late 1980s, American Enterprise Institute Fellow Ben Wattenberg created a firestorm with his book, 'The Birth Dearth,' which forecast the dilution - even destruction - of Western culture by comparatively greater birth rates among non-white peoples of the world. Wattenberg, reflecting fear and disdain, wrote, 'Will we worship cows? ... Will the world backslide?'

It would be a great exercise in patriotism to place the Rev. Wright's possibly-intemperate remarks in the context of history. Obama was right to comment on his pastor's 'memories of humiliation and doubt and fear.'

It's hard to imagine now that many TV commentators or journalists have read any history. We don't expect it of political strategists. It's their job to exploit our ignorance, but journalists have no excuse. We need to know our history because the present is what the past is doing now."

Read the full op-ed piece here.

Pastoral care for veterans and their families

Helping returning veterans reenter civilian life has always been a challenge. It's particularly so for veterans (and their families) these days, who might see might see multiple deployments and repeated cycles of immersion into battle and then return home for training and re-equipping.

A congregation at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Cincinnati is becoming involved in a ministry called "B.O.O.T.S." or the Benevolent Order of Those Serving, as a way of supporting veterans making the transition from battle to peace.

According to an article in

"'You get so used to fear and leading troops,' said Jeffcott, who is a Gunner's Mate 2nd Class. '(Troops) are expected immediately to be the way they were before.'

Jeffcott said he was struggling with returning from war and turned to Rev. Roger Greene of St. Timothy's for help.

Greene said when Jeffcott came to him last summer, he discovered that there was no coordinated effort for reintegration.

'In a situation where people have very different perspectives on this war, this was something they could do together,' Greene said. 'Everyone wants to respond to the things these people are going through, whether they agree with the (war) effort or not.'

Both Greene and Jeffcott agree the support from the parish for this ministry was extraordinary. More than 50 members immediately signed up to help, including veterans from the Vietnam and Korean wars.

The biggest concern for troops when they are deployed is their families, Jeffcott said. When he left for Iraq in August 2006, his wife, Julie, was left to care for a teenage son and triplets.

[...]'We try to concentrate on keeping the family structure strong to ease reintegration,' Jeffcott said.

The ministry also sends phone cards to the troops and has helped soldiers make free videograms.

Rev. Greene said the ministry is willing to help 'anyone, anywhere, anytime,' and the challenge is making the services known."

The article contains additional information about how the congregation was able to use their program to support not only troops from the area, but even their own parishioners as they were deployed.

Read the full article here.

Food prices expected to increase, how is the Church to respond?

The Catholic News Service reports on calls by Roman Catholic bishops that the Church must respond to expected continued rise in the price of basic food commodities.

According to the article:

"Already this year, demonstrations linked to spiraling food prices have struck more than a dozen countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Protests forced Haitian Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis out of office April 12, and demonstrators have been killed in Cameroon, Peru and Mozambique.

The price increases are fueled by a variety of factors that 'are all coming together at once,' said Lisa Kuennen, director of the public resource group at Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency.

[...]Price increases hit poor countries -- and their poorest citizens -- hardest. "

In response:

After violent protests in Haiti in early April, the country's Catholic bishops urged the government to implement both emergency and long-term policies to tackle hunger. In a statement issued April 12, the Haitian bishops' conference condemned the violence that began with protests in the southern city of Les Cayes and left at least five people dead.

Although "the right to demonstrate is sacred," the statement said, "this does not authorize anyone to take lives or attack property belonging to others."

In their statement, the bishops warned that peaceful demonstrations should not be infiltrated by "agitators and interested manipulators." Many Haitian analysts had suggested that the demonstrations over high food prices had been hijacked by politicians trying to turn the unrest to their political advantage.

The article ends with a call for the development of long-term policies in areas such as land reform, export controls and monetary policy changes that together are hoped to be able to "keep large numbers of people from slipping back into hunger and poverty".

Read the full article here.

A statement from the Province of West Africa

Anglican Communion News has the text of a statement released by the Anglican "Church of the Province of West Africa on the state of the Anglican Communion". The statement reiterates the Province's objections to the actions being taken by other Anglican Provinces in ordaining partnered gays and lesbians and in allowing the blessing of the unions. But the statement is notable for what it does not say.

Rather than insist on discipline for the Provinces described in the statement, the call is rather that all parties "tread very cautiously" in these moments. Additionally the statement closes by calling all parties to refrain from intemperate "name-calling", pointing out that such behavior is only making things more difficult.

It's probably also noteworthy that while the Primate of West Africa was among those who refused to take communion with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Dar es Salaam, this statement does not describe the Province as being out of communion with the Provinces with whom it is in disagreement.

The full statement follows:

Read more »

People pedal along for the MDG's

A group of Episcopalians and their friends have banded together to raise money for the Millennium Development Goals. A core of a dozen bikers riding across Iowa, joined by friends along the way, will be collecting money from their sponsors for each mile peddled.

They're supporting the Waters of Hope.

A report in the Hawk Eye gives more details:

"The Waters of Hope's concept of success includes raising $150,000 for clean water projects such as chlorinators and deep water wells for the people of Swaziland and the Sudan in Africa.

[...]Iowa Episcopal Bishop Alan Scarfe will hold a service and blessing at 8:30 a.m. today at St. John's before seeing the riders off at 9 a.m., said organizer the Rev. Mitchell Smith of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Waterloo.

The cyclists will average about 100 miles a day. Each evening they will stop at a different Episcopal church to talk about their mission at a 6:30 p.m. service at the host church."

The overall efforts goal is to raise $150,000 by the end of the event.

Read the full article here.

You can follow along at the Waters of Hope website here. Great pictures from Sudan, of the pedaling, and ways for you to donate.

The Living Church splits a hair

We are linking to this report in the increasingly tendentious Living Church to correct the mistaken impression it attempts to create.

George Conger writes that Gene Robinson has not been banned from preaching in England. This is technically correct. Williams doesn't have the authority to ban Robinson. However, Robinson told Williams several years ago that he would not preach without Williams' permission. Williams did not grant it. And in an email he sent to Robinson earlier this week he said that he did not think that "any extenstion" of the previous arrangement "in terms of permissions" would be appropriate because any public celebration "or even a sermon" would create controversy for Williams and whichever bishops gave Robinson permission to preach.

Lighting to Unite

We don't typically promote local events, but this one seems particularly cool. For three nights beginning on May 9 the south and west faces of Washington National Catheral will be lit in ways that require a visit to the Web site to appreciate.

Guiliani draws fire for taking communion

In other matters we might have missed during this incredibly busy month of news from various faith channels, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani apparently caused quite a ruckus last month by taking communion at a papal mass held at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Seems he and Cardinal Edward Egan had a "tacit understanding" that Giuliani wouldn't take mass because of his support of abortion rights, according to an RNS story picked up at the Pew Forum. When it happened, Reuters ran the story that it was his divorced-and-remarried status that barred him from receiving communion, and tabloids ran rather amok with the report.

But Egan seems to be taking the matter very seriously. The RNS report published at Pew notes his official response, earlier this week, as well as a spokesperson-issued response from Giuliani that highlights the tension between faith-corporate and faith-personal that exists for many people of faith:

Egan said Monday (April 28) that he had a tacit agreement with Giuliani that "he was not to receive the Eucharist because of his well-known support of abortion."

"I deeply regret that Mr. Giuliani received the Eucharist during the papal visit here in New York, and I will be seeking a meeting with him to insist that he abide by our understanding."

Sunny Mindel, a spokeswoman for Giuliani, told The New York Times that Giuliani considers his faith "a deeply personal matter and should remain confidential."

The RNS report is here.

Robinson "trying to walk a fine line"

Bishop Gene Robinson gets another spotlight this week from PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, talking about his upcoming civil union and his ongoing safety concerns. Civil unions became legal in New Hampshire as of Jan. 1, and for Robinson, this allows him and his longtime partner Mark Andrews to enjoy "some 400 of the protections that out of 1,100 that are accorded to heterosexual couples," as he says in the interview with R&EN's Kim Lawton.

Part of the reason for the June ceremony, he adds, is to ensure security for their relationship prior to his going to England during the Lambeth Conference. But, he says, he's not trying to be in anyone's face about it.

In addition, Robinson says that while he's upset that he has not been invited to the conference, he is now able to be a more vocal advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people "at sessions outside the conference," according to the article. He certainly seems aware that people expect him to act in this capacity, but notes that he has surprises for people on either side of the aisle:

Bishop ROBINSON: I think I go with a greater sense of focus on gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people around the world. I think they are looking to me to represent them and be their voice in some way. I'm sure that's not what the Archbishop of Canterbury was hoping for, and I suspect he would prefer me not to come at all.

LAWTON: U.S. bishops are planning two unofficial meetings where international bishops can meet Robinson.

Bishop ROBINSON: I know there are so many bishops around the world who have never had the opportunity to sit and talk with someone who is both openly gay and Christian.

LAWTON: Robinson says he's discouraged by the divisions and what he sees as a lack of listening across the Communion. But in his new book, IN THE EYE OF THE STORM, he writes of the spiritual lessons he has learned amid the controversy.

Bishop ROBINSON: I don't remember a time in my life when God seemed any more present, almost palpably close. Prayer has almost seemed redundant to me because God has seemed so close during all of this. It will surprise both conservatives and liberals how orthodox I am.

Read the entire transcript -- or even better, watch the video -- here.

Rehm on the "Art of Listening"

Renowned radio host Diane Rehm found herself on the other side of the interviewing mike last week at the National Cathedral's Sunday Forum. Rehm, an Episcopalian, related that her faith grew stronger and deeper while she was undergoing treatment for spasmodic dysphonia, the condition which makes it difficult for her to speak. In spite of her condition, Rehm has hosted a call-in radio show at Washington's talk-oriented public radio station, WAMU, for more than a quarter century.

During her conversation with Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III, she described how a good interview is nothing without good listening, and how listening is a multi-sense process that one must finely tune:

“My focus is on listening, and watching, interpreting, being led by how the conversation goes, being led by callers, being led by the spirit in the room, being led by body language of that individual, and learning to listen to each and every aspect of that,” she says. “Someday—someday—I hope to write a book on what it is to listen.”

“Listening is really about hospitality, isn’t it?” Lloyd asks. “It’s creating a space into which someone else steps.” Rehm tells of the emotional hardships of her childhood and youth, and then says:

“One of the ways I learned to listen—I was punished a great deal, and my bedroom was upstairs above the living room. We had constant visitors, because my dad’s family was always here. And when I was by myself, up in my room, I would get down on the floor and put my ear to the floor so I could hear everything. I knew exactly what was going on in that room, and I think that was part of learning to listen.”

An MP3 and a downloadable video of the event are both here.

What the church gets right

Two things that the church gets right, says Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins over at Comment Is Free, are architecture and unofficial welfare. Describing the apparently magnificent restoration of St. Martin-in-the-Fields at Trafalgar Square, Jenkins provides a singular portrait of the architectural anomaly of steeple-upon-portico that became, in the 18th century, the template for many a church to come. But more than that, he adds, are the features that are at once just as permanent and, as individuals, totally transient:

The church is resplendent and the crypt still a refuge for those who have faltered in the battle for urban survival. Yesterday the homeless, the addicted and the miserable were still dozing on the seats among the tourists.

Critics of the Church of England should give credit where it is due. Its house journal, the Church Times, may be filled with feuding bishops, gay rights, embryo conflicts and health-and-safety woes. But there are some things the church does well. One is architecture and the other is unofficial welfare.

Across Britain's cities historic neighbourhoods are being demolished and civic institutions fleeing to the suburbs, to be replaced by shopping malls. The police station is gone, the primary school closed, the youth club defunct, the library and post office shut, their staffs unionised into apathy or regulated beyond financial viability. Yet the old church plods on. The sooty spire soars over the wilderness while round its base fusses the exhausted vicar.


The network of rebuilt crypts beneath the church is a warren of activity. Here are a clinic, a chapel and even a small concert hall. The homeless and other lost souls find beds, showers, laundry, counselling and comfort. They find a surgery, pedicurist and help with alcoholism and mental illness. Given the proximity to Chinatown these services are also available in Chinese. St Martin's offers a one-stop urban welfare state, at an annual cost of £4m.

Jenkins is no big fan of the Church of England, mind. But he's happy to give credit where he sees it fit. You can read the whole thing, including the critical bits and the comments on what Jesus would have done with the £36m it cost to refurbish St. Martin-in-the-Fields in the first place, here.

Professing one's faith

It's common enough that Christian universities hire Christian faculty, according to a front page article in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education. Some places even require that one sign off on a "statement of faith" that includes doctrinal declarations about such things as Original Sin or the inerrancy of Scripture. But one Presbyterian university, Whitworth, in Spokane, Wash., tries to find a balance between the extremes of being a nominally Christian institution and dictating faith to its faculty, and requires that applicants write their own statement of faith as part of the application process.

One applicant to Whitworth University is Jennifer Stafford Brown, who talks about her experiences teaching at secular university and why she's attracted to Whitworth:

In Ms. Brown's experience, at secular colleges "there's a suspicion of people who are Christian." And that gave her pause in the classroom. If, for example, she happened to mention to students her plans to go to church that Sunday, she would be sure to toss in an explanation about her "culture" or how she was raised. "You learn to tiptoe around the subject," she says.

Yet Ms. Brown, a scholar of French literature, felt she couldn't teach her field without discussing religion. "You can't understand the literature of the Middle Ages without understanding faith intellectually," she says. "The church governed everything in the Middle Ages. Unless you can see that point of view, you can't understand why someone would go on a crusade or write a poem about their faith." Ms. Brown expects to be more able to integrate discussion of religion into her lectures at Whitworth.

The faith statement is actually about inclusivity and diversity, say university officials. Faculty range the spectrum from liberal to conservative and from mainline to evangelical. The statement also allows them to hire people who genuinely want to work there, they say. But it's not always an easy fit: some folks aren't as comfortable talking about their faith. Others are clearly not Christians, and still others think Whitworth isn't Christian enough.

Brown, however, found it a good fit, and will begin teaching at Whitworth in the fall. Her faith statement "began with a quote from C.S. Lewis and went on to discuss the Anglican/Episcopalian theology of the 'three-legged stool' of faith: Scripture, reason, and tradition":

As she moved through the hiring process, Ms. Brown was surprised at how many people had read her statement — the search committee, the French department, the dean, the president — and how often it came up. "It's clearly very important to them," she says.

Those discussions not only helped Whitworth evaluate Ms. Brown, but they also helped her determine whether or not she would fit in there. In particular, Ms. Brown says, she wanted to be sure the institution didn't encourage homophobia or discourage feminism. In the end, she was persuaded on both counts.

You can read the article, for as long as it as available free, here.

Evangelicals rethinking relationship with politics

Signs are pointing to increasing dissent among conservative Christian leaders with regard to their involvement in politics. Recently we've seen acknowledgment of climate change from Southern Baptist leaders, and the growing influence of Sojourners within the faith-meets-politics landscape. Now, the Associated Press tells us, a group of conservative christian leaders are working on a "starkly self-critical document saying the movement has become too political and has diminished the Gospel through its approach to the culture wars":

The statement, called "An Evangelical Manifesto," condemns Christians on the right and left for "using faith" to express political views without regard to the truth of the Bible, according to a draft of the document obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

"That way faith loses its independence, Christians become `useful idiots' for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology," according to the draft.

The declaration, scheduled to be released Wednesday in Washington, encourages Christians to be politically engaged and uphold teachings such as traditional marriage. But the drafters say evangelicals have often expressed "truth without love," helping create a backlash against religion during a "generation of culture warring."

"All too often we have attacked the evils and injustices of others," they wrote, "while we have condoned our own sins." They argue, "we must reform our own behavior."

The document is the latest chapter in the debate among conservative Christians about their role in public life. Most veteran leaders believe the focus should remain on abortion and marriage, while other evangelicals - especially in the younger generation - are pushing for a broader agenda. The manifesto sides with those seeking a wide-range of concerns beyond "single-issue politics."

What isn't as clear is who has signed the document; two of the most visible Evangelical leaders, Richard Hand of the Southern Baptist Convention and James Dobson of Focus on the Family, say they haven't. The document is slated to come out on Wednesday, according to the article, which is here.

New Maine bishop begins "adventure"

There's a nice piece on the newly Right Reverend Stephen Taylor Lane, who was consecrated the ninth bishop of Maine today, in this morning's Bangor Daily News, who caught up with him at a press conference yesterday. He will be bishop coadjutor of the diocese until Bishop Knudsen retires. From the write-up:

Lane said ... that he already has put 2,300 miles on the "bishopmobile" and has been Down East to Machias. He plans to continue his travels this summer as he gets to know the state and its people in a position Lane admitted he was not sure he was ready for a year ago.

"I’ve always felt powerfully called to be a minister of the gospel and to be an agent of transformation in the world," he said. "But I was pretty happy and pretty settled where I was, doing my work until I got challenged [at a retreat]. I made a commitment at that retreat to myself and to God to be open to a new call and very shortly thereafter things came from the diocese of Maine."

Lane was overwhelmingly elected bishop on Oct. 26 at the diocesan convention in Bangor. He began working at the diocesan office in Portland on April 1.

"I think for me the struggle has been being open to hearing the call," he said Friday. "Not having my mind already made up about what I thought I was supposed to be doing, and [because I was] being open, here we are in a wonderful new adventure with wonderful people in a wonderful state."

Lane said that his experience with small congregations — a membership of fewer than 150 — in New York and his administrative skills fit well with what the Maine diocese needs at this time in its history. He said what many small churches need is a change in attitude so that they can look outward and discern what their mission is in the community rather than worrying about what kind of shape the church building is in.

From here.

Evangelicals and liturgy

Mak Galli has a very interesting essay in Christianity Today about the increasing relevance of traditional liturgy to many evangelicals:

We've recently featured in CT's pages a story about evangelicals who are attracted to liturgical worship, but in the context of American youth culture, many wonder why. The worship leaders wear medieval robes and guide the congregation through a ritual that is anything but spontaneous; they lead music that is hundreds of years old; they say prayers that are scripted and formal; the homily is based on a 2,000-year-old book; and the high point of the service is taken up with eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a Rabbi executed in Israel when it was under Roman occupation. It doesn't sound relevant.

Yet many evangelicals are attracted to liturgical worship, and as one of those evangelicals, I'd like to explain what the attraction is for me, and perhaps for many others. A closer look suggests that something more profound and paradoxical is going on in liturgy than the search for contemporary relevance. "The liturgy begins … as a real separation from the world," writes Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann. He continues by saying that in the attempt to "make Christianity understandable to this mythical 'modern' man on the street," we have forgotten this necessary separation.

It is precisely the point of the liturgy to take people out of their worlds and usher them into a strange, new world—to show them that, despite appearances, the last thing in the world they need is more of the world out of which they've come. The world the liturgy reveals does not seem relevant at first glance, but it turns out that the world it reveals is more real than the one we inhabit day by day.

. . .

I thank God for the liturgy. The liturgy does not target any age or cultural subgroup. It does not even target this century. (It does not imagine, as we moderns and postmoderns are tempted to do, that this is the best of all possible ages, the most significant era of history.) Instead, the liturgy draws us into worship that transcends our time and place. Its earliest forms took shape in ancient Israel, and its subsequent development occurred in a variety of cultures and subcultures—Greco-Roman, North African, German, Frankish, Anglo-Saxon, and so on. It has been prayed meaningfully by bakers, housewives, tailors, teachers, philosophers, priests, monks, kings, and slaves. As such, it has not been shaped to meet a particular group's needs. It seeks only to enable people—people in general—to see God.

Read it all here.

Catholic fiction

Over at the Catholic group blog Vox Nova, M.Z. Forrest is trying to compile a list of great Catholic fictional literature, which he defines to include "Catholic, Orthodox, and high Anglican authors." To get the discussion going, his initial list includes four authors, one of whom was an Anglican:

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov

C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia

J.R.R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, War and Peace

There is now a lively discussion on the blog about what else belongs on the list--and why it qualifies as Catholic. You can join the discussion here, but be sure to let us know here what else you think belongs on ths list.

Black liberation theology

Michael Powell provides a useful tutorial on black liberation theology in today's New York Times:

As a young, black and decidedly liberal theologian, James H. Cone saw his faith imperiled.

“Christianity was seen as the white man’s religion,” he said. “I wanted to say: ‘No! The Christian Gospel is not the white man’s religion. It is a religion of liberation, a religion that says God created all people to be free.’ But I realized that for black people to be free, they must first love their blackness.”

Dr. Cone, a founding father of black liberation theology, allowed himself a chuckle. “You might say we took our Christianity from Martin and our emphasis on blackness from Malcolm,” he said.

Black liberation theology was, in a sense, a brilliant flanking maneuver. For a black audience, its theology spoke to the centrality of the slave and segregation experience, arguing that God had a special place in his heart for the black oppressed. These theologians held that liberation should come on earth rather than in the hereafter, and demanded that black pastors speak as prophetic militants, critiquing the nation’s white-run social structures.

Black liberation theology “gives special privilege to the oppressed,” said Gary Dorrien, a professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York. “God is seen as a partisan, liberating force who gives special privilege to the poorest.”

. . .

“The black church has always existed along a continuum, from a focus on healing to a focus on liberation,” noted Dwight N. Hopkins, a professor of theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School. “The liberationists emphasize this earth and the more fundamentalist emphasize the resurrection and the life after.”

Language, too, has defined the black church from slavery to liberation theology. Pastors, whether prophetic or fundamentalist, drew unambiguous inspiration from the diamond-hard words of the Old Testament, in which little store was placed in talk of man’s innate goodness. God might love, but He was a deity of forbidding judgments and punishments.

“The Old Testament God is a God who addresses nations, and judges nations and holds them to account,” Professor Noel said. “The prophets are concerned about social sin and God judges nations for their unrighteousness.”

Nor can black liberation theology be divorced from its historical moment. Throughout the 1950s, black church leaders like Dr. King, often steeped in white liberal Protestantism, led the fight for civil rights. But as the struggle turned violent, as black leaders perished and riots swept American cities and revolutions upended third world nations, black religious leaders sought new answers.

Even as Dr. Cone and others such as the Rev. William A. Jones at Bethany Baptist in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, crafted a theology of black liberation, Catholic theologians in Central and South America crafted their own liberation theology, arguing that God placed the impoverished peasants closest to his heart.

There is little evidence that one liberationist talked to another; rather, these were cornstalks rising in a fertile and revolutionary field. “These were remarkable similar arguments, that oppressed people have their own way of hearing the Gospel,” said Dr. Dorrien of the Union Theological Seminary.

Read it all here.

Faith on the Carrier

CARRIER Badge 125 x 40 Brown

This past week featured Carrier, a ten hour PBS miniseries that followed the men and women aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz during a cruise to the Persian Gulf in 2005. It was well worth watching. Fortunately, if you missed any episode, you can still watch entire episodes on the PBS website here.

Of particular interest to readers of The Lead is Episode 8, ("True Believers"), which focused on faith onboard the carrier:

This episode explores the many expressions of faith onboard the USS Nimitz: faith in self, faith in one’s shipmates, faith in the mission of the ship and the president’s call to arms. The major religious groups on board are Catholic and Protestant, but there also is a coven of Wiccans, as well as a Pentecostal group whose newest member is challenged by the duality of his beliefs and the temptations of liberty as the ship drops anchor in Perth, Australia.

(This editor was particularly fascinated by the coven of Wiccans on board. When I was up for Senate confirmation as General Counsel of the Army, Senator Strom Thurman indicated that he might hold up my nomination unless the Army ceased allowing a coven of Wiccans at Ft. Hood. Fortunately, the good Senator backed off, I was confrmed, and the First Amendment rights of the Wiccan soldiers at Fort Hood were respected).

N.T. Wright's new book

N.T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, has written a new book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, that is raising anew a debate in evangelical circles about the public nature of faith. Christianity Today summarizes the discussion:

As with his other works, Wright has encouraged his many fans on both sides of the Atlantic even as he has provoked some critics. Wright's position as a leader in the Church of England exposes him to jabs from all sides. But this role also makes him quite influential. He wants to hold out the gospel for a largely post-Christian United Kingdom, in part by refuting the faulty scholarship of biblical critics. But he also wants to challenge Christians to see the gospel in a new way. Thus, he takes issue with Luther's view on justification by faith alone. He also worries that many Christians have unbiblically privatized the gospel, stripping the Good News of its public imperative.

This last point has renewed a vigorous theological debate. Wright argues in Surprised By Hope that the "mission of the church is nothing more or less than the outworking, in the power of the Spirit, of Jesus' bodily resurrection. It is the anticipation of the time when God will fill the earth with his glory, transform the old heavens and earth into the new, and raise his children from the dead to populate and rule over the redeemed world he has made."

Echoing the long-standing concerns of evangelical leaders such as John Stott, Wright goes on to explain that Christians must never choose between saving souls and doing good works.

"Thus the church that takes sacred space seriously (not as a retreat from the world but as a bridgehead into it) will go straight from worshiping in the sanctuary to debating in the council chamber; to discussing matters of town planning, of harmonizing and humanizing beauty in architecture, green spaces, and road traffic schemes; and to environmental work, creative and healthy farming methods, and proper use of resources," he writes.

Given the distain that many conservatives seem to have for the Episcopal Church's focus on the Millennium Development Goals, the Bishop has shocked many of his admirers with the issue he thinks should be the focus for Christians:

Wright says the "number one moral issue of our day" is relieving Third World debt.

"I've studied the problem of global debt quite intensively," Wright told blogger Trevin Wax. "In fact, I've read probably more books about contemporary economics recently than I have contemporary biblical studies. Curiously, I find myself drawn into that world, and it's quite likely that I'm getting a lot of things wrong."
Idaho pastor and blogger

Douglas Wilson sure thinks so. He believes relieving Third World debt could only end in "horrific humanitarian disaster" or "resurgent neo-colonialism." In typically pointed fashion, he says Wright is inadvertently "insisting on the humanitarian disaster option … in the name of Jesus." In response, Wright says he is calling for mercy, not a complicated debate over the effect of debt on national economies.

In his talk two weeks ago at the Together for the Gospel conference, pastor Mark Dever also criticized Wright. Dever's lecture, "Exercises in Unbiblical Theology," (mp3) became the meeting's hot topic. Unlike Wilson, Dever did not engage Wright's politics. In fact, he wondered whether church leaders should enter such discussions at all.

"As I read the New Testament, I do not see any example of the church understanding its gospel or its mission to be the direct shaping of the laws of the land or the improving of its structures," said Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. "Certainly, the apostle Paul never tells the church to spend its time explicitly instructing the Roman emperor or shaping the pagans' view of culture."

Read it all here.

Pope and ABC to meet

Reuters reports that Pope Benedict XIV and Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, are set to meet today.

Pope Benedict is expected to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Monday in only the second official meeting between the two religious leaders, a Vatican source said on Sunday.

The meeting comes less than two months after the Vatican's top officials for relations with Islam criticised Williams as mistaken and naive for suggesting that some aspects of Sharia law in Britain were unavoidable.

The spiritual leader for the world's 77 million Anglicans, Williams -- who sparked a political storm with the Sharia comments -- last held talks with the Pope in November 2006.

Ties between the two churches have been strained over the past decade over the issue of women priests and homosexual bishops in the Anglican Church, which both leaders have acknowledged as obstacles to unity.

Read it here.

Knock three times

A reporter for the Hartford Courant describes how the priest-in-charge of Bishop Seabury Church, who was appointed by the Bishop of Connecticut, is locked out of his congregation and is not recognized by the current vestry of the parish. They say the parish has joined CANA and the Church of Nigeria, and wishes no further connection to the Diocese of Connecticut.

When the Rev. David Cannon, the priest-in-charge of Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, showed up to start his job two weeks ago, he walked around the outside of the building, trying every door. All locked.

He could hear people moving around inside, so he knocked. No answer.

Eventually, Cannon found his way to the office building, adjacent to the church, where he called out for the Rev. Ronald Gauss, who still heads the parish in defiance of Episcopal officials. The two men have known each other for many years — were on friendly terms, even — and Gauss knew why Cannon was there, but that didn't make this any easier.

Cannon was there to take over Gauss' church — and Gauss was having none of it.

"I wanted access to the church. I wanted the books, the keys, the right to celebrate communion there," Cannon said. "I asked not once, not twice, but three times. I was refused all three times."

Not that Cannon was surprised. Gauss and the 780 members of Bishop Seabury have made it perfectly clear that they feel little allegiance to the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, which appointed Cannon as priest-in-charge on Feb. 29.


Bishop Seabury is one of six Connecticut churches with either severed or strained ties to the diocese — a deterioration sparked by Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith's support of the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire.

Since that time, Bishop Seabury has drawn further and further from the Episcopal Church, voting last January to leave the diocese and join the Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America (CANA), a self-described missionary effort in the U.S. sponsored by the Church of Nigeria.

But they're not ready to give up the keys to the building — putting the congregation on a collision course with Episcopalian authority in Connecticut.

Gauss disagrees with some aspects of Cannon's description of his recent visit to the church — he said the priest never asked for the keys, for example — but both men acknowledge that what started as a disagreement about the interpretation of Scripture has escalated — or sunk — into a battle over property rights.

"The issue is, who owns the building? That's not going to be settled by Ron Gauss or David Cannon," Gauss said. "That's going to be settled in a court of law."

Cannon's appointment — and his presence at Bishop Seabury that April morning — made it clear that Bishop Smith believes the property belongs to the diocese. In January, Smith ordered the congregation to vacate the property by Jan. 20 and dismissed its church leaders.

The congregation responded on Jan. 20 by defying that order, refusing to leave and re-electing the leaders.

Gauss wants to transfer his canonical residence to Nigeria. The Bishop of the diocese is weighing whether Gauss has instead abandoned the communion of this church. As for Cannon, he says:

Cannon, who retired in 1999 after serving as a vicar of St. James in Preston for 35 years, said he just wants to do the job that's been assigned to him.

"I don't have a dog in this fight...My job is to try to care for any of the folks at Bishop Seabury who wish to remain loyal members of the Episcopal Diocese under our canons and constitutions. I may not find anybody, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try."

Read: The Hartford Courant: Episcopalian Split Comes Down To Locked Groton Church

Mildred Loving dies

Mildred Loving, a black woman whose challenge to Virginia's ban on interracial marriage led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling striking down such laws nationwide, has died, her daughter said Monday. The AP's story is here. An essay on the signficance of Loving v. Virginia to the current conflict in the Anglican Communion is here.

See, also:

  • The Free Lance-Star.
  • NPR
  • Update: Rick Perlstein of the American Prospect points out that last year Loving came outin favor of same-sex marriage.

    Will the Church denounce bigotry in the name of Christ?

    Andrew Pierce, writing in The Telegraph, wonders what it will take for the Archbishop of Canterbury to denounce the public bigotry of the Archbishop of Nigeria.

    As a humble lapsed Catholic, I shall not speculate about what the omnipotent one thinks of Rowan Williams, although I can't believe he approves of that terrible beard.

    But I would hazard a guess as to what he thinks of Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria.

    Akinola, the arch-enemy of Robinson, likens homosexuality to "bestiality …a form of slavery", and describes homosexuals as being "lower than beasts".

    Over the years, I have had a fair few homophobic insults directed my way. It's the usual vulgar bar-room banter: pervert, poofter, queer, shirt-lifter, to mention but a few.

    But when the abuse comes not just from an educated man, but a committed Christian who may yet become the leader of a breakaway church, it is shocking.

    Even more shocking is, as Robinson pointed out in his BBC interview, the failure of Williams to denounce in unequivocal terms the bigot in a prelate's clothing.

    Read: The Telegraph: Would God want this bigot speaking for Him?

    Archbishop Rowan on Patriarch Bartholomew

    By turning a position of relative political weakness into a position of influence by staking out a clear moral and spiritual vision, Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, has become one of the world's 100 most influential people, says the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Rowan Williams writes on the following:

    The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople enjoys a resonant historical title but, unlike the Pope in the Roman Catholic context, has little direct executive power in the world of Eastern Orthodoxy. Patriarchs have had to earn their authority on the world stage, and, in fact, not many Patriarchs in recent centuries have done much more than maintain the form of their historic dignities.

    Patriarch Bartholomew, however, has turned the relative political weakness of the office into a strength, grasping the fact that it allows him to stake out a clear moral and spiritual vision that is not tangled up in negotiation and balances of power. And this vision is dominated by his concern for the environment.

    In a way that is profoundly loyal to the traditions of worship and reflection in the Eastern Orthodox Church, he has insisted that ecological questions are essentially spiritual ones.

    Read the rest here.

    Hat tip to Santos Woodcarving Popsicles who writes,

    I lament the fact that our own Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury has had to spend so much time contending with schismatics and angry Anglicans that his voice and attention to issues of war, poverty, and the environment has been less than it might have been.

    I wonder if Archbishop Rowan Williams has perhaps revealed a bit of his own lament for where he has placed his attention (even if he was forced to) over these last 5 years.

    Which comes first?

    Natalie Hanman asks which comes first, gender equality or religious liberty?

    Writing on Comment is Free, for the Guardian, Hanman wonders if gender equality can become the law of the land in Great Britain if there is an exception for religious institutions.

    On Thursday night the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, captivated an audience, as he is wont to do. In a lecture on religious faith and human rights at the London School of Economics [transcript and podcast available next week], the most senior figure in the Church of England outlined in his usual composed and intellectual style some of the ways in which his religious tradition may offer a foundation for a discourse of universal rights.

    Exploring the idea of a communicative body, he argued that a purely secular account of rights is always going to be problematic, citing how the unshakeable inadmissibility of torture has in recent years been very much shaken. The church, he said, has a right to argue and seek to persuade the state on complex matters such as the right to life and the right of the unborn.

    Yet when it came to issues of gender equality and sexuality, I charged the archbishop with sitting on the fence. It's one thing to argue, as Williams did, that "the church reserves the right not to have its mind made up for it on these matters", but reality may soon force just such a decision.

    Comment is Free: Cross purposes.

    Lambeth Palace has made the text of the address available.

    Bringing a bell home

    Diana Eck organized the return of bells to a Russian Orthodox monastery bringing together a decidedly diverse collection of people and resources.

    Who would have imagined that Diana Eck, a preeminent American scholar of religion and also an outspoken supporter of gay rights—and herself married to a female minister in this church—who would have imagined that such a figure would mastermind the return of these bells to the great monastery of the Russian Orthodox patriarch, who has publicly denounced gay marriage and whose church does not ordain women? And who would have imagined that the same patriarch would share public stages…before massive television audiences with Diana Eck? Furthermore, who would have imagined that when the patriarch called publicly for a philanthropist to finance the repatriation of the bells, his call would be answered by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian Jew, whose foundation is run by a Russian Muslim?”

    Harvard Magazine: A Peal before Leaving

    Is there a cartoonist in the house?

    Dave Walker will be the cartoonist-in-residence at the Lambeth Conference, July 16 to August 3, in Canterbury.

    The Anglican Journal writes:

    For the first time since Anglican bishops worldwide began meeting every 10 years (beginning in 1867), this year’s conference, scheduled July 16 to Aug. 3 in Canterbury, England, will have a cartoonist-in-residence....

    For the first time since Anglican bishops worldwide began meeting every 10 years (beginning in 1867), this year’s conference, scheduled July 16 to Aug. 3 in Canterbury, England, will have a cartoonist-in-residence.

    Mr. Walker, whose series on the publication of the Windsor Report,, was a huge hit across the Anglican Communion, said he is delighted by the prospect of having a visible presence at the conference.

    “It is certainly a rather daunting prospect, but I’ll be okay. A planned new easel will be a help,” wrote Mr. Walker on his blog,, in his typical wry manner.

    Mr. Walker said his role would be to draw events at the conference as they develop; his drawings will be displayed by various means, including the Internet.

    Read: The Anglican Journal: Cartoonist’s role at meeting of bishops a bit sketchy

    See Cartoon Church.

    Interview with Dave Walker here.

    What's that police box doing in the church yard?

    The number of young people under 16 who attend church dropped 20 percent over the period 2000-2006, so some in the Church of England are turning to the time-traveling Dr. Who for help.

    The Sunday Telegraph says that some clergy in the Church of England are studying the religious parallels and themes in the science fiction series Dr. Who so that they might convey the Gospel to young people and others who have drifted away or are outside the Church.

    He has inspired devotion from a tiny band of followers, has sacrificed himself for the good of mankind and is destined to live for ever.

    Now, Doctor Who has caught the attention of church leaders, who are encouraging clergy to study the science fiction series to learn about its religious parallels.

    They have been urged to use examples from the programme in their sermons in an attempt to make Christianity more relevant to teenagers.

    At a conference last week, vicars watched Doctor Who clips that were said to illustrate themes of resurrection, redemption and evil.

    It analysed the similarities between the Doctor and Christ, and whether daleks are capable of change.

    The number of under-16s attending Church of England services fell by almost 20 per cent between 2000 and 2006, but the Church believes that improving communication can reverse that trend.

    Andrew Wooding, a spokesman for the Church Army, which organised the conference, said that its intention was to give vicars new ideas for conveying their message.

    "There are countless examples of Christian symbolism in Doctor Who, which we can use to get across ideas that can otherwise be difficult to explain."

    "Clergy shouldn't be afraid to engage with popular culture as for many young people television plays a large role in their thinking," he said.

    Although an atheist, Russell T Davies, the chief writer of the current series has previously acknowledged the benefits of religion.

    “I think religion is a very primal instinct within humans, a very good one, part of our imagination,” he said.

    While he has talked about the humanism in his work he has never admitted to putting overtly religious messages in the story-lines.

    However, with sessions including titles such as "Meaningful Monsters: Daleks through the decades", the clergy looked at several episodes that could have religious meaning.

    Examples highlighted for their symbolism included the Doctor ascending with angels, Rose Tyler inspired by a vision and Daleks terrorising mankind.

    The Tardis was considered to represent a Church by being an ordinary object that points to something higher while the Doctor was likened to Christ in his willingness to sacrifice himself for others.

    The Rev Andrew Myers, vicar at St Aidan’s in Leeds, attended the course and said that he would use Doctor Who in future sermons.

    “We saw the Doctor persuaded to save a family of Pompeians in one of the most recent episodes, surely a reference to Genesis and Abraham’s bargaining with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said.

    "There are many themes relevant to spirituality, such as the Daleks as supreme embodiments of moral evil. Even the more cynical have been convinced that this immensely successful series provides a wonderful toolkit."

    The Rt Rev Tony Porter, Bishop of Sherwood, said it was vital that clergy adapt to the culture around them.

    Read: The Sunday Telegraph: The church is ailing - send for Dr Who

    Rowan and Benedict touch base

    The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope met for about twenty minutes on Monday to discuss Christian-Muslim relations, Christian churches in China and for Williams to update Benedict on plans for the upcoming Lambeth Conference.

    Vatican Radio interviewed Williams before he met with Benedict XVI, asking him what the goals of the meeting would be. The Archbishop said:

    "Well it’ll be a fairly informal and low key meeting: I hope to bring him up to date on our plans about the Lambeth conference, perhaps to discuss with him a little what’s going to be happening at the conference this week at Palazzola and just touch base with him about China, the initiatives we’re involved in with regard to the churches in China.

    You can hear the interview here.

    Reuters reports:

    Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury discussed Christian-Muslim relations on Monday in their first meeting since the Anglican leader caused a storm with comments on the role of Sharia law in Britain.

    The Vatican said the Pope had received Rowan Williams in a private audience but gave no details.

    An Anglican spokesman said the two spoke privately for about 20 minutes and discussed Christian-Muslim relations, inter-faith dialogue and the Pope's impression of his visit to the United States last month.

    He described the visit, the second official meeting between the Pope and the spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, as "warm and friendly".

    Zenit offers this on the current relationship between Rome and Canterbury:

    Vatican Radio noted that some people consider the current relationship between the Holy See and the Anglican Communion to be in its most difficult moment since the Second Vatican Council.

    "It depends where you're looking from," Williams responded. "I think that in terms of the conflicts within the Anglican Communion then yes, it's an unprecedentedly difficult time, no two ways about that."

    The Anglican Communion is facing a fracture because parts of the group, notably the Episcopal Church in the United States, have approved the ordination of women and homosexuals as bishops.

    However, Williams noted that partially through the work of the Anglican Center in Rome, "tremendously deep foundations have been laid" in the Anglican-Catholic relationship.

    The Anglican Center was founded in 1966 on the wave of ecumenical enthusiasm engendered by Vatican II and the birth of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

    The center aims to encourage a special relationship between Anglicans and Roman Catholics through enabling full and frank discussion and debate on issues which unify them, and on those which divide them. The director is also the archbishop of Canterbury's representative to the Holy See.

    During his time in Rome, Williams will preside at a service for the inauguration of the new director of the Anglican Center in Rome, the Reverend David Richardson.

    Williams said the work of the center is "the other side of the story" regarding the Anglican Communion's relationship with Catholicism.

    "Partly because of the work of the previous couple of directors, especially Bishop John Flack, tremendously deep foundations have been laid of personal trust and confidence and in terms of ease of access and honesty of discussion," he said. "I think we're in a very good phase and I'm absolutely confident the new director will be building on that."

    The Guardian says, "despite his conservative views on women priests and homosexuality, Pope Benedict appears determined to bolster Williams's leadership in the name of Anglican unity."

    Reuters: Pope discusses Islam relations with Anglican head.

    Vatican Radio: Pope Meeting with Head of Anglican Communion.

    Zenit: Archbishop of Canterbury visits Benedict XVI

    Help for Burma

    Episcopal Relief and Development reports that it is providing emergency assistance to communities in Burma affected by Cyclone Nargis. The storm, packing winds up to 120 miles per hour, swept through the country on Saturday, leaving at least 4,000 dead and 3,000 unaccounted. Officials fear that the death toll will top 10,000. The low-lying Irrawaddy Delta region suffered the most severe damage.

    The situation in Burma is dire. At best, the infrastructure in Burma is marginal and the storm has placed an unbearable strain on already limited services. Power outages and scattered debris across the country continue to hamper recovery efforts. Reports indicate that tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without shelter. The full extent of the damage throughout the country remains unclear due to poor communications and roads made impassable by the storm. In Rangoon, the capital, machete-wielding monks have taken to the streets to assist with clearing the wreckage.

    Working with our partner, the Anglican Church of Burma, Episcopal Relief and Development is sending funds to secure shelter, food water and other relief needs for people displaced by the Cyclone. As part of our long term strategy, we have been working for the past two years with five dioceses on economic development including agriculture, livestock, and micro-loans, clean water and education programs.

    “Episcopal Relief and Development’s response to the cyclone will involve a long term recovery and rehabilitation strategy for affected areas in which the church has a presence,” says Kirsten Laursen Muth, Senior Program Director for Asia and New Initiatives. “Our prayers are with the people of Burma at this very difficult time,” she added.

    For more information and to donate to Episcopal Relief and Development click here.

    HT to Caminante.

    For information on how church agencies around the world are responding read here.

    UPDATE: 3:15 p.m. ET
    Newsweek reports the death toll at over 22,000 people.

    Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns wielding knives and axes joined Yangon residents Tuesday in clearing roads of ancient, fallen trees that were once the city's pride. And soldiers were out on the streets in large numbers for the first time since the cyclone hit, helping to clear trees as massive as 15 feet in diameter.

    Vatican lends hand to Canterbury

    Following up on our earlier story on the meeting between Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI, The Guardian reports that Cardinal Ivan Dias, the Indian prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, would be among the speakers at this summer's event, which brings Anglican bishops together in London once every 10 years.

    Dias has been touted as a possible future candidate for the papacy. Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, may also attend the Lambeth event.

    "We expect someone from the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity to attend, as we have in the past," said a spokesman for the Anglican Communion office in London.

    Rev Keith Pecklers, a professor of liturgy at the Gregorian University in Rome, who has worked with the Anglican Centre in Rome on relations between the two churches, said: "Cardinal Kasper might be expected to attend, given his role, but Cardinal Dias's presence is proof that the Vatican wants to be supportive of Williams.

    The message of this announcement appears to be that Rome is sticking with Canterbury as the locus of authentic Anglicanism and want nothing to do with GAFCON, even with the presence of women clergy and bishops and gay bishops. This makes the plans for a non-Canterbury centered Anglicanism focused on the "global south" appear to be more and more a lonely outpost far from the heart of catholic unity.

    Read more here.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury is in Rome to participate in the seventh annual Building Bridges seminar, a dialogue of Muslim and Christian scholars. And to preach and preside at the service for the Inauguration of his new Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Revd David Richardson. More here.

    Good news in Haiti

    Greenville Online shares the good news of Christ Church's work in Haiti. Working with Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, the church has aided health care and development in the Haiti's central plateau.

    Harvard professor Paul Farmer told a Greenville church Sunday he measures progress in Haiti by the requests he hears.

    The Haitians mostly asked for food when he arrived in the Caribbean nation 25 years ago. Now they want something else, he said.

    "They say, 'I want a Razr cell phone,' or 'I need a DVD player,'" Farmer said. "I can get annoyed by that or I can say, 'That's progress.'"

    Farmer, a medical anthropology professor, has been working with Christ Church Episcopal and other congregations to help Cange, a village on Haiti's central plateau.

    The worldwide food crisis threatens the progress but Farmer is hopeful that support can be given to weather this threat:
    ... when he first arrived in 1983, Cange was a dusty hilltop village without health-care facilities. Working together, Farmer and church members built a clinic and a school.

    "It's a much different place now,"

    Farmer said sustaining the progress will mean helping Haiti get through its current crisis.

    Read more here.

    Haiti is a companion diocese of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina.

    Court rules for Canadian diocese

    The Anglican Church of Canada has released this statement:

    A Superior Court judgment released yesterday has ordered three parishes in the diocese of Niagara that voted earlier this year to affiliate themselves with the Province of the Southern Cone to share the use of their property with the diocese.

    The judgment, by Madam Justice Jane Milanetti, supported the position advanced by the diocese at a previous hearing. The dissident parishes - St. George's Lowville, St. Hilda's Oakville and the Church of the Good Shepherd St. Catharines were seeking exclusive use of parish properties.

    In her decision, Madam Justice Milanetti ruled that the title of two of the three parishes clearly rests with the diocese and that the third probably does as well.

    She said that the position advanced by the diocese that parish facilities be shared seemed logical to her.

    Madam Justice Milanetti also awarded legal costs to the diocese of Niagara.

    Text of the judgment [PDF] is here.

    News release by the diocese of Niagara [PDF] is here.

    The Globe and Mail reports here.

    The breakaway parishes are considering an appeal.

    More news of Canterbury and Rome: time to choose?

    The Telegraph is reporting:

    The Vatican said last night that the time has come for the Anglican Church to choose between Protestantism and the ancient sacramental Churches of Rome and Orthodoxy.

    Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, told the Catholic Herald that the Anglican Communion must “clarify its identity” and stop hovering between the Catholic and Protestant traditions.

    He said: “Ultimately, it is a question of the identity of the Anglican Church. Where does it belong? Does it belong more to the Churches of the first millennium – Catholic and Orthodox – or does it belong more to the Protestant churches of the 16th century?

    More on the story is found at The Catholic Herald.

    Speaking of choosing - it seems that Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh will attend the Lambeth Conference after all. The diocesan e-newsletter reports:

    Bishops Robert Duncan and Henry Scriven confirmed today that they will be attending both the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jordan and Jerusalem in June and the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in Kent, England, this July and August.

    "After consulting with the people of Pittsburgh and our friends around the globe, we have come to the conclusion that it is necessary for us to be present at both gatherings,” said Bishop Robert Duncan.

    Reports of breakaway bishops boycotting Lambeth seem to have been premature.

    Presiding Bishop speaks out on crisis in Zimbabwe

    epiScope is carrying a statement from the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori on the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe. The Presiding Bishop calls for action by the international community to ensure a fair resolution of the March 29 elections and to stand for an end to political violence, torture and human rights abuses. Joining with the Archbishops of Canterbury, York and Capetown Jefferts Schori calls for an arms embargo.

    Also see, Zimbabwe Anglicans face 'communist-style' persecution, says Zimbabwean bishop.

    The Presiding Bishop's complete statement follows:

    Read more »

    Between relativism and fundamentalism

    Peter Berger, an eminent sociologist of religion and a lifelong Lutheran:

    Under modern conditions, where almost everyone lives in communities in which diversity has taken the place of consensus, certainty is much more difficult to come by. Relativism can be described as a world view that not only acknowledges but celebrates the absence of consensus. So-called post-modernist theorists like to speak of narratives and, in principle, every narrative is as valued as any other. The moral end result of this world view can be captured by imagining a television interview with a cannibal. “You believe that people should be cooked and eaten. I certainly don’t want to be judgmental, but the audience will be interested. Tell us more.” (Laughter.) This is not all that fictitious.

    Fundamentalists respond to the same situation of certainty-scarcity by seeking to regain absolute certainty about every aspect of their world view. No doubt is permitted. Whoever disagrees is an enemy to be converted, shunned or, in the extreme case, removed. The last two centuries of history have made it very clear that there are secular as well as religious fundamentalisms. Both relativism and fundamentalism threaten the basic moral order without which no society, least of all a liberal democracy, can exist: relativism because it makes morality a capricious game, fundamentalism because it balkanizes society into mutually hostile camps that cannot communicate with each other.

    Read more at the Pew Forum's event transcript for "Between Relativism and Fundamentalism: Is There a Middle Ground?"

    Who supports the Evangelical Manifesto?

    The group behind the Evangelical Manifesto is carefully managing its splash in the news and The Lead is playing along. Up until 9am this morning this is all their website said:

    the official web site of

    "An Evangelical Manifesto
    A Declaration of Evangelical Identity
    and Public Commitment"

    ** This web site will be actived at 9:00 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, May 7th. **

    The time has now arrived.

    An Introduction

    An Evangelical Manifesto is an open declaration of who Evangelicals are and what they stand for. It has been drafted and published by a representative group of Evangelical leaders who do not claim to speak for all Evangelicals, but who invite all other Evangelicals to stand with them and help clarify what Evangelical means in light of “confusions within and the consternation without” the movement. As the Manifesto states, the signers are not out to attack or exclude anyone, but to rally and to call for reform.

    As an open declaration, An Evangelical Manifesto addresses not only Evangelicals and other Christians but other American citizens and people of all other faiths in America, including those who say they have no faith. It therefore stands as an example of how different faith communities may address each other in public life, without any compromise of their own faith but with a clear commitment to the common good of the societies in which we all live together.

    For those who are Evangelicals, the deepest purpose of the Manifesto is a serious call to reform—an urgent challenge to reaffirm Evangelical identity, to reform Evangelical behavior, to reposition Evangelicals in public life, and so rededicate ourselves to the high calling of being Evangelical followers of Jesus Christ.

    A press conference is running live in video (from 9:30 AM) here. [Links to the transcript and stored video will be placed in this post once they become available.]

    Read the manifesto (20 page, PDF format).

    Here is the list of "Charter Signatories". Update - Ethics Daily concludes "several signers of the declaration should confess their own involvement in political activity they now condemn." See also this comment on the chief drafter of the Manifesto.

    The Lead will have a roundup of reactions later in the day.

    See The Lead's earlier story on the Evangelical Manifesto here.

    This may be a key paragraph in the manifesto:

    Read more »

    Where in the world is Robinson Cavalcanti?

    Father Jake reports:

    He is rumored to currently be somewhere in the United States. Your help is needed in documenting his movements.

    Who is Robinson Cavalcanti? Here's just a few facts to give you a quick sketch.

  • He was the foreign Bishop involved in crossing Diocesan borders in Ohio back in March of 2004. This was the "trial balloon" for all the future border crossings. Recently deposed Bp. Cox was also involved in this incident.
  • The day after the Windsor Report was released, a document which most conservatives are quite fond of, even though it clearly states that border crossing must end, Cavalcanti claimed two congregations belonging to the Diocese of Olympia; St. Stephen’s Church, Oak Harbor, and St. Charles’, Poulsbo, Washington.
  • Read it all. Jake's post is rich with documentation and links.

    Focus on Os Guinness, drafter of the Evangelical Manifesto

    Os Guinness, principle drafter of the Evangelical Manifesto:

    When you have best-selling authors who appear on public television with “feel-good” gospels who have to apologize to their own churches that they’ve diluted the faith when they get home, something is profoundly wrong. When you have Evangelical leaders who make predictions in the name of God, which by biblical standards are openly false prophecy, something is badly wrong. When scholars and writers can look at the Evangelical political movement and describe them as “theocrats” or worse, as “fascists,” something is badly wrong.
    From his statement at the National Press Club this morning. God and Culture blogger Paul Edwards provides us an mp3 of the statement (5 minutes). Listen to it all.

    More about Guinness here.

    UPDATE. In the comments Jim Naughton points out that Guinness co-authored a recent op-ed in the Washington Post with The Rev. John Yates of the breakaway The Falls Church where Guinness is a parishioner. In the op-ed they wrote about why they left the Episcopal Church. Read for yourself and decide whether the Episcopal Church they describe bears any resemblance to reality. Is it civil to slander an entire church in this way?

    The news of the day: This is the author of the Evangelical Manifesto. He talks the talk, but does he walk the walk?

    Lord Eames speaks on reconciliation

    Shrine Mont Episcopal Retreat Center
    Orkney Springs, Virginia

    Over the course of three days ending today, Lord Robin Eames, former Anglican Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, spoke at the Diocese of Virginia clergy conference on the subject of reconciliation. In his introduction, Bishop Peter Lee recounted Lord Eames' contributions for the church including the Eames Report (on women's ordination), the Virginia Report, and the Windsor Report, and in the negotiations of peace in Northern Ireland. Lee drew laughter from the crowd saying unlike Archbishops of Canterbury, Eames became Lord Eames on the basis of merit. He also drew laughter when he observed that Lord Eames was probably chagrined that in some circles the Windsor Report had taken on a status superior to the 39 Articles.

    In his talks on reconciliation, Lord Eames took most of his illustrations from his experience in the Northern Ireland peace talks rather than the unpleasantness in the Anglican Communion. For his text throughout the conference he choose John 21:15-17 (Do you love me?; Yes; Feed my sheep.)

    Some of his observations:

  • The institutional church is in the shallows. The shallowness of our faith is exposed in times of trial in the communion.

  • God weeps for the Anglican Communion. The secular world is laughing at us.

  • Reconciliation requires that people trust each other.

  • Not all people have the same potential for reconciliation.

  • Don't be surprised if your efforts at reconciliation are misunderstood.

  • Laws cannot bring about reconciliation.

  • I choose "bringing about the kingdom, feed my sheep" over the "thou shalt nots".

  • When we consider scripture we should see something different every time.

  • We must be prepared to move on.

  • I have been dealing with principles, and won't tell you what to do. There has been too much outside interference.

  • I believe the explosive growth in the Anglican Communion would have led to division sooner or later.

  • The strength of the Anglican Communion has been our lack of cohesion, its elasticity.

  • Everyone thinks they're the victim. They're all oversensitive.
  • Padre Rob has more extensive notes here and here.

    Archbishop of Canterbury offers prayers for Burma

    [Episcopal News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has written to the Anglican Church in Burma following the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in the area of the Irrawaddy River Delta.

    In the letter to Archbishop of Myanmar and Bishop of Yangon Stephen Than Myint Oo, Williams assures the church of the prayers of the Anglican Communion and commends the rescue operation now underway.

    "I am heartened to know relief efforts are underway to help hundreds of thousands of people who are without clean water, food, or shelter," said Williams. "Our hearts grieve with all those who have lost their loved ones, their homes and their livelihoods. In the face of such loss, all I can offer in my prayers for you is the totality of the love of God, even in the face of all that on earth is disfigured by natural disaster. 'This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.' (John 6.39). Please be assured that your brothers and sisters across the Communion are holding you in their prayers."

    The Anglican Church in Burma is known as the Church of the Province of Myanmar.

    Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is providing emergency assistance to communities in Burma affected by Cyclone Nargis. The storm, packing winds up to 120 miles per hour, swept through the country on Saturday, May 3, leaving at least 22,000 dead and a further 41,000 unaccounted.

    Working with its partner, the Church of the Province of Myanmar, ERD is sending funds to secure shelter, food water and other relief needs for people displaced by the Cyclone. As part of a long-term strategy, ERD has been working for the past two years with five dioceses on economic development including agriculture, livestock, and micro-loans, clean water and education programs.

    "Episcopal Relief and Development's response to the cyclone will involve a long-term recovery and rehabilitation strategy for affected areas in which the church has a presence," says Kirsten Laursen Muth, senior program director for Asia and New Initiatives. "Our prayers are with the people of Burma at this very difficult time."

    To help people affected by the cyclone in Burma, make a donation to ERD's "Emergency Relief Fund" online here, or by calling 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development "Emergency Relief Fund" P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

    The AP reports the United States envoy in Myanmar estimates 100,000 dead and 1,000,000 homeless. The French foreign minister urges the UN invoke 'the United Nations should invoke its "responsibility to protect" civilians as the basis for a resolution to force delivery of aid to Myanmar, even if over the objections of the military government there.'

    Religious trends in Britain

    Updated Thursday afternoon and evening

    Ruth Gledhill writing in The Times:

    A lack of funds from the collection plate to support the Christian infrastructure, including church upkeep and ministers’ pay and pensions, will force church closures as ageing congregations die.

    In contrast, the number of actively religious Muslims will have increased from about one million today to 1.96 million in 2035.

    According to Religious Trends, a comprehensive statistical analysis of religious practice in Britain, published by Christian Research, even Hindus will come close to outnumbering churchgoers within a generation. The forecast to 2050 shows churchgoing in Britain declining to 899,000 while the active Hindu population, now at nearly 400,000, will have more than doubled to 855,000. By 2050 there will be 2,660,000 active Muslims in Britain - nearly three times the number of Sunday churchgoers.

    The research is based on analysis of membership and attendance of all the religious bodies in Britain, including a church census in 2005.
    Only in the large, evangelical churches of the Baptist and independent denominations is there resistance to the trend, but many of these churches also show some decline. One small area of growth is in Northern Ireland, where the enthusiasm of Pentecostals and other independents has led to a slight increase in numbers of churches - a trend expected to continue to 2050. The three growing denominations are the Orthodox, Pentecostals and smaller denominations, all dependent to a degree on immigration.

    The crisis is particularly acute for Methodists and Presbyterians, as many worshippers are aged over 65. The report predicts that these churches might well have merged with others by 2030. “The primary cause of the decrease in attendance is that people are simply dying off,” the report says.

    By 2050 there will be just 3,600 churchgoing Methodists left in Britain, Christian Research predicts. Anglicans will be down to 87,800, Catholics to 101,700, Presbyterians to 4,400, Baptists to 123,000 and independents to 168,000.

    The national breakdown shows similar declines across England, Wales and Scotland. Churchgoing across all denominations in England will fall from about 3 million today to about 700,000 in 2050. In Wales it will tumble from 200,000 to 42,000 and in Scotland, from 550,000 to 140,000. The figures take into account the recent boost to Catholicism from the number of Polish immigrants to Britain, particularly in Scotland.

    The report predicts that by 2030, when Dr Rowan Williams’s successor as Archbishop of Cantebury will be approaching retirement, there could be just 350,000 people attending just 10,000 Anglican churches, with an average of 35 worshippers each. The next Archbishop after that could find his position “totally nonviable”, the report says, with just 180,000 worshippers in 6,000 churches by 2040.

    George Pitcher at The Telegraph paints a different picture:
    The Church of England moved to discredit the research last night, criticising its methodology and saying the results were "flawed and dangerously misleading".

    A C of E spokesman said: "These sorts of statistics, based on dubious presumptions, do no one of any faith any favours.

    "Faith communities are not in competition and simplistic research like this is misleading and unhelpful."

    The research does not compare like with like, according to the spokesman. The number of practising Muslims, for instance, is based on the number of people who said they were active in the 2001 census.

    If the same process were applied to Christians it would give a figure of 20 million active churchgoers, according to Church House, the headquarters of the C of E.

    The study used the number of adults on the Church's parish-based formal voting lists as the sole measure of its active "members".

    This omitted large numbers who worship every week and are involved in their churches in other ways, according to Church House.

    The Rev Lynda Barley, head of research and statistics for the Archbishops' Council, said last night: "There are more than 1.7 million people worshipping in a Church of England church or cathedral each month, a figure which is 30 per cent higher than the electoral roll figures and has remained stable since 2000.

    "More are involved in fresh expressions of church and chaplaincies across the country and we have no reason to believe that this will drop significantly in the next decade.

    "These statistics are incomplete and represent only a partial picture of religious trends in Britain today."

    By the way, Stephen Bates reports that congratulations are in order for Mr. Pitcher:
    The Daily Telegraph, which recently brusquely sacked its former religious correspondent Jonathan Petre at a few moments' notice after 23 years on the paper, as well as his partner, Sarah Womack, the paper's social affairs correspondent, has announced that it has appointed a real-life reverend to succeed him: George Pitcher, curate of St Bride's church in Fleet Street. Pitcher, a bit of an Anglican leftie who was once of the Observer until he saw the light, told PR Week last year that he was "somebody of the journalistic tribe who is not going to blush when someone says bugger".
    From a more staid announcement:
    The curate of St Bride's church in Fleet Street, the spiritual home of printing and the media, has been appointed religion editor for the Telegraph titles.

    George Pitcher, the former industrial editor of the Observer and co-founder of PR firm Luther Pendragon, will be part of an "integrated religious affairs team" across the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, and

    Word on the street is he's a decent guy.

    Gledhill's piece raised the question of church finances. See Pitcher's informative article on that subject here.

    Thursday afternoon update

    Thinking Anglicans has an extensive roundup including, a statement from the Church of England, and a post by Stephen Brown who reminds us, "One of the rituals of the Christian year [in the UK] is the publication of a report from the evangelical outfit Christian Research suggesting that Christianity is doomed." Ekklesihas an excellent piece of journalism on the reporting. The Times does not fair well in the analysis.

    Check out Thinking Anglicans for more links.

    Last but not least, "Benita Hewitt [the new director of Christian Research Association, whose Religious Trends have been quoted] describes the article as very misleading. Church attendance once a week is compared to mosque attendance once a year, and no allowance has been made for once a month, once a year, midweek and FX church attendance." See also Christian Research's own numbers contradicting the Times here. (With thanks once more to Thinking Anglicans.)

    Reactions to the Evangelical Manifesto

    Updated Thursday morning and again Thursday afternoon and Friday morning

    AP - Many veteran Christian activists on the right side of the political spectrum do not support the declaration. James Dobson, founder of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, reviewed the document and was invited to sign it, but did not, said Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Dobson. Dobson consulted the group's board of directors — a common practice — and the board agreed he shouldn't sign "due to myriad concerns about the effort," Schneeberger said.

    Dallas Morning News - There's an unusually high ration [ratio?] of meat-to-bun in this one, whether you agree with it or not.

    Americans United for Separation of Church and State - Adopting the language of right-wing Catholic priest Richard John Neuhaus, they warn against the “partisans of a naked public square, those who would make all religious expression private and keep the public square secular.” This strikes me as completely bogus. Christopher Hitchens does not have a multi-million-dollar broadcasting empire or an army of devoted Irreligious Left followers. Sam Harris heads no Anti-Christian Coalition with chapters around the country seeking to block religious voters from going to the polls. Religious persons freely speak out on public affairs in this country, and there is no serious effort to stop them.

    CBN News - Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America told CBN News the authors of the manifesto were definitely trying to distance themselves from the religious right. "Basically, they were saying 'those of you who care about abortion, who care about homosexuality, who care about the family disintegrating don't speak for us, because we are too intellectual, we are too sophisticated to be concerned about those kinds of things.'"

    Reuters - Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said of the statement: "It's a sign of maturation of the evangelical movement ... It's an important theological document but it will have limited political influence because it is making a essentially a theological argument.

    World Magazine - the timing of the document's Washington, D.C., release, during the "home stretch" of the presidential primary season, caused some journalists at the event to suggest that claim was disingenuous. [The Washington Times' Julia Duin asked about the timing. Her coverage is here.]

    God's Politics (Jim Wallis) - We have a serious image problem. People think that we should stand for the same things as Jesus did. So it's time to change the image.

    The FundamentaList (Sarah Posner) - And even though it appears to chastise both conservative and progressive evangelicals equally for such politicizing of issues (if someone can tell me who those progressive evangelicals are, that would be mighty interesting), it's the right that has taken umbrage at its exclusion from the drafting process. People close to the writing process have told me that no one was excluded, but another person with knowledge of it interpreted it as a rebuke of the tactics and tenor of the culture wars. I'll have more later in the day over at TAPPED. [That was earlier in the day. It's late evening and there's nothing at TAPPED yet.]

    Updates (latest last):

    Ethics Daily

    Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said several signers of the declaration should confess their own involvement in political activity they now condemn.

    "Those who claim to want to recover the word evangelical played a nasty role in creating political fundamentalism, advancing the anti-everything public image that conservative evangelicals rightfully have, fostering the cultural narrative that GOP stands for God's Only Party and truncating the biblical witness' moral agenda to a few so-called non-negotiable issues," Parham said.

    Parham said some signers, like steering committee member Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, "helped the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention which strengthened Christian Right and its agenda of dominion and theocracy."

    David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, worked over a decade at SBC-related Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Union University in an era when Southern Baptists earned reputation as one of the most stalwart defenders of the Republican Party. Since joining the faculty of a moderate seminary associated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Gushee has moved away from fundamentalists on some issues like torture and global warming.

    Parham said others signers, like Liberty Theological Seminary President Ergun Caner, "have helped to spread a mean-spirited anti-Islamic fear." Caner's book, Unveiling Islam, was cited as the source for former SBC President Jerry Vines' 2002 statement describing Islam's founding prophet "a demon-possessed pedophile."

    Caner stood by Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell until Falwell's death last May. In 2005 Caner lionized old-guard SBC leaders like Adrian Rogers and Jimmy Draper, who helped build bridges between Southern Baptists and the Religious Right in the "conservative resurgence" movement launched in 1979.

    By one Internet account Caner "brought the house down" with a statement aimed at supporting President Bush during a 2006 sermon at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., a prominent SBC church whose pastor, Johnny Hunt, is reportedly running for SBC president this year.

    [The article contains more of the same kinds of instances for signers from the left and the right.]

    Washington Times - [Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council] "Theirs is an ivory tower perspective," said Mr. Perkins, who was not asked to sign. "It's an age-old problem with people who are concerned with being spoken well of. They want to rid the world of evil but they don't want to get their hands dirty. It's not true that you can't preach the Gospel and be engaged in taking on the culture." [...] Janice Crouse, director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute at Concerned Women for America, criticized the paucity of female signers (six out of 77) and the "contradictions" in the document. "While calling for more civil dialogue, they called the 'politically visible public voices' of evangelicalism 'political zealots' and declared that their 'emotional responses' harmed the brand name of evangelicals," she said.

    Wall Street Journal (Alan Jacobs) - Once all the self-description is out of the way, it turns out that the heart of the document is a kind of urgent appeal: Please don't call us fundamentalists or confuse us with them. This strikes me as a regrettable tack.... At the bottom of page 15, these words appear: "The Evangelical soul is not for sale." This is what is called "burying the lead."

    A gentle reminder

    We promise not to go all PBS on you and raise money 'round the clock, but it is the fund raising season, and we ask your support of our work here on the Café.

    As we mentioned in an early posting:

    The Diocese of Washington provided what might be called our start-up capital, but we no longer draw on its budget. As we’d like to redesign the home page of the Café and several of the blog pages (so that all of features and recent postings are visible at a glance) and as we’d like to throw you all a party at General Convention in 2009, we could use a little financial help.

    Please consider making a donation to the 2008 Bishop’s Appeal, and marking your contribution “Episcopal Café.” You can do the job here.

    An invitation

    If you are going to be in the Washington D. C. area on June 7, please join us at the Diocese of Washington's Evangelism Conference, featuring a keynote presentation by Brian McLaren, who gave a preview of his presentation in an interview with the Washington Window. You can register here.

    The conference is being held at the 4-H Youth Conference Center, 7100 Connecticut Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD, and registration begins at 9 a. m.

    The conference also will feature a workshop on personal faith sharing led by the Revs. Heather Kirk-Davidoff and Nancy Wood-Lyczak, authors of Talking Faith: An Eight-Part Study on Growing and Sharing Your Faith, and a how-to session on parish communications and marketing, led by Carol Barnwell, director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Carol is also a member of the Cafe's editorial board.

    Reaching out to Rwandan women

    In today's Nashville Tennessean, Beverly Keel tells the story of the Rev. Becca Stevens, the Episcopal chaplain at Vanderbilt University, and rector of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, who has financed Magdalene, a ministry for women with a history of prostitution and addiction, by founding Thistle Farm, a successful line of bath and body products:

    "Without drugs I couldn't sleep. The marijuana and whiskey helped me to not think about the rapes and the beatings because of prostitution. I am so happy that you've come to hear about my life of sorrow…."

    The letter was one of many thank-yous the Rev. Becca Stevens read after traveling with six Nashvillians to meet with 42 women in Rwanda, a country in east-central Africa that suffered war and genocide in the mid-1990s.

    Read it all, as well as a previous story about Stevens, who is being honored tonight at Nashville's 37th annual Human Relations Awards dinner at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel. She's also got a page devoted to her work in the women's ministries section of the Episcopal Church's Web site.

    Bishop Robinson on Today

    NBC's summary of the interview is here.

    The perils of the God Beat

    Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discusses the difficulties in covering religion during a polarized time. His description of his run in with the proprietor of Little Green Footballs will sound familiar to anyone who remembers a certain Anglican blog defending its right to discuss whether they would "waste a bullet" on the Presiding Bishop.

    Hat tip: Religion News Service Blog

    Free gas is The Word

    CNN has VIDEO on the story of Dr. Rusty Newman, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Snellville, Georgia, who is offering a chance at free gas for those who attend an upcoming revival.

    Stephen Colbert is advocating free gas for all:

    And, last, a story on free gas where "free" takes the verb form.

    Myanmar relief , Farm Bill critique

    Two related items this morning from Episcopal Life Online.

    In Myanmar, Episcopal Relief and Development responds to Cyclone Nargis - Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is responding to Cyclone Nargis and providing churches and individuals with an opportunity to help those affected by the deadly disaster.
    ERD has established relationships with local partners in Myanmar to get assistance quickly to many of the most vulnerable people.
    Churches can use a downloadable bulletin insert, to inform and encourage members to help.

    To help people affected by the cyclone in Myanmar, make a donation to ERD's "Myanmar & Cyclone Response" online here, or by calling 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development "Myanmar & Cyclone Response" P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

    Presiding Bishop urges congressional defeat, presidential veto of Farm Bill - She writes,

    As we are learning more each day about the widening food crisis around the world and the deepening economic problems threatening the poor and those living on the margins at home, it is fundamentally wrong for Congressional leaders to seek passage of a farm bill that harms American family farmers and significantly exacerbates poverty and suffering around the world.
    This week, after months of closed-door negotiations, House and Senate leaders unveiled a package that corrects none of the significant inequities in the current system and, remarkably, goes further than current law in exacerbating human need around the world. Particularly at a time when American attention is focused on the international food crisis, the farm bill "compromise" announced by House and Senate leadership is a moral failure of the highest order.

    President Bush immediately vowed to veto the Farm Bill compromise:
    "This bill increases subsidies to farmers at a time of record farm income," Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said. The negotiators "have done a disservice to taxpayers."
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports the bill. Congressional leaders plan to bring it to the House and Senate floors next week for votes that could test the depth of support for it.

    The package, the product of weeks of closed-door bargaining, is stuffed with plums for key constituencies.
    [A]dministration officials cited a number of problems, including new protections for sugar beet and sugar cane growers that will require the government to buy excess quantities of Mexican sugar and resell it to ethanol plants at a loss.

    UK vicar invites Gene Robinson to preach

    Giles Fraser has invited Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire to preach this summer during the Lambeth Conference (to which +Gene is not invited.) Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury has made it clear that while he does not have the power to ban Bishop Robinson from English pulpits, he would much prefer that Gene not preach in his country.

    Giles has written a column challenging the Archbishop's actions by reminding us all that this is not the first time that such bans have been issued. Maude Royden, a popular woman speaker was banned from speaking from the pulpits of England in the early 20th century because of her gender. An English priest defied the ban.

    From Giles' column:

    "The Rector was defiant. He closed the church — putting up the notice of prohibition — and invited the worshippers to gather in the parish hall instead. Nine hundred people tried to get in. A petition was organised and sent to the Bishop: ‘When an evangelist so plainly called by God is harassed and impeded by those who should be her chiefest upholders and strengtheners, we feel the time for silent acquiescence is past.’

    Conservative voices complained at the presence of ‘ecclesiastical Bolshevists’, and that a woman giving a sermon to men was radical feminism gone mad.

    Giles points out the connections between then and now:

    The contemporary parallels are depressing. I have invited the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, to preach at St Mary’s, Putney. There are no legal impedi-ments to this. But the powers that be want this to happen ‘after the service’ or ‘in the church hall’. Apparently, a few bars on the organ, or the gap between the church and the church hall are sufficient prophylactics to protect the sanctuary from the profanity of being a woman or being gay. What sort of crazy theology is that?"

    Read his full essay here.

    Evangelical political power overstated

    There's an article on the Religion Blog of the Dallas News that reports on a new book by Christine Wicker.

    The book is an examination of how the political power of the Evangelical movement in the US was overestimated, and is now falling back from even what it was at it's height.

    There's an excerpt from her column for the Religion News Service:

    "The truth is that the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest evangelical Protestant church, has seen its growth ebb. The convention recently announced its total membership declined by 40,000 in 2007. The number of baptisms has fallen for the seventh year out of eight. ...

    The truth is that evangelical Christianity has had almost no influence on the country at large. Fifty years ago, the moral stances taken by evangelicals that now seem so reactionary were then commonly accepted. Abortion was abhorred. Children were rarely born out of wedlock. Homosexual behavior was hidden and considered not only morally wrong but also an indication of mental illness. Unmarried couples rarely lived together.

    All that has changed.

    The truth is that after more than 20 years of political action and many electoral victories, the so-called religious right has achieved few of its objectives. Abortion is still legal. The idea that gays and lesbians are normal people, behaving normally and entitled to equal rights is widely accepted."

    Read the full column here.

    Christian Environmental coalition broadens

    A new coalition of voices within the American Christian community is beginning to lobby in concert for a change in US environmental policy.

    The newest voices that are joining to the call for this change are coming from the traditionally politically conservative evangelical wing.

    From an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

    "The once-tiny Christian environmental movement began accelerating quickly in 2006, when 85 prominent evangelical leaders signed on to the Evangelical Climate Initiative calling for action on global warming. The number has climbed to more than 100.

    'It's a bit out of the ordinary for evangelicals to be involved with this issue,' said Jim Jewell, chief operating officer of the Evangelical Environmental Network, a group that educates and mobilizes Christians on environmental issues. 'The evangelical involvement with climate has kind of shaken the political landscape a bit.'

    In March, dozens of prominent Southern Baptist leaders called on followers to acknowledge human contributions to global warming, and demanded bold action to address climate change.

    They said the church's cautious approach was 'too timid' in promoting stewardship of God's creation.

    'To abandon these issues to the secular world is to shirk from our responsibility...' they declared. 'The time for timidity regarding God's creation is no more.'

    Jonathan Merritt, the 25-year-old seminary student from Atlanta who organized the Baptist environmental declaration, said younger Baptists in particular were relieved to see church leaders take a bold public stance."

    Read the full article here.

    According the article this new coalition is expected to have a significant effect on next month's debate over legislation moving through the Senate that is designed to confront global warming.

    Anglicanism transcends cultures

    At least one critic has claimed that Anglicanism and other forms of Western Christianity in their present form are doomed to fail because they are too tightly bound to the West and its culture. But a recent event in Missouri gives another writer hope.

    Pamela Dolan, writing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says:

    "Last weekend I had the opportunity to worship at Christ Church Cathedral as part of the Flower Festival weekend. As the celebration of the Holy Eucharist came to a close, the presider, the Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri, turned to the Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop of Sudan, and invited him to impart the final blessing on the congregation. The words he used to extend this invitation were something like, ‘Archbishop, my brother, would you bless us in the language of your birth?’

    It was, for me, a powerful moment. The Archbishop spoke in what I am told was Dinka, an African language utterly unfamiliar to me (and, I would guess, to nearly everyone else in the Cathedral). And yet, at the moment when he raised his hand high to begin making the sign of the cross over us, every person in that church knew that we were being blessed ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ and it made no difference to us in what language the words were spoken. This was Anglicanism at its best: generous and welcoming, respectful of both liturgical tradition and cultural difference, joyfully making room at the table for all who feel called to respond to Christ’s invitation to reconciliation, fellowship, and transformation.

    It was also a show of mutual respect and Christian charity between an American bishop and an African archbishop, something that news reports about the current state of the Anglican Communion might lead one to think would be impossible."

    Her take-away point from this event to the people who would argue that Anglicanism is too "western" to survive is

    What needs to be made clear is that Anglicanism and the Church of England are not synonymous. This is not in any way intend to belittle the importance of the Church of England, but rather to explain that Anglicanism’s boundaries are not co-terminous with those of the British Isles.

    Episcopalians, in the United States and elsewhere, are also Anglicans, both by virtue of our heritage (religious, not ethnic) and by the simple fact of being members of a church that is itself part of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion is comprised of “over 80 million members in 44 regional and national member churches around the globe in over 160 countries,” according to its website. All of us who worship within this tradition are, in some sense, engaging in and with Anglicanism.

    In other words, denominations like Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism have already demonstrated their ability to thrive in different cultures. The issue is less a question of whether or not the faith can be adapted but, at least today in Anglicanism, what are the proper limits of that adaption.

    Read the full article here.

    IRD board changes?

    There seems to have been a small change in the board of directors of the Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD). The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, who joined the board a few years ago, is no longer listed as a member. Radner's membership stirred controversy because he was simultaneously allied with the IRD, which works to destablize mainline Protestant churches while serving on the drafting team for an Anglican Covenant.

    View the present board here.

    Here's an earlier version with Dr. Radner listed as a member of the IRD board. (Taken from Google's cache of the page).

    There was no announcement of this change as far as we know here at the Lead.

    NB: there are still three members of the IRD staff who are attending congregations that are breaking away from the Episcopal Church in Virginia.

    Pastors recruited to defy IRS

    The Wall Street Journal reports on an effort by a Scottsdale based conservative advocacy group to create a legal test to the IRS's interpretation of the limits of political speech within churches.

    The plan is to recruit 50 or so clergy and their congregations that will intentionally cross the line drawn by the IRS. It is hoped that the publicity surrounding the actions will force the IRS's hand to prosecute the participating pastors.

    From the article:

    "The action marks the latest attempt by a conservative organization to help clergy harness their congregations to sway elections. The protest is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 28, a little more than a month before the general election, in a year when religious concerns and preachers have been a regular part of the political debate.

    It also comes as the IRS has increased its investigations of churches accused of engaging in politics. Sen. Barack Obama's denomination, the United Church of Christ, has said it was under investigation after it allowed the Democratic presidential candidate to address 10,000 church members last year. Last summer, the tax agency said it was reviewing complaints against 44 churches for activities in the 2006 election cycle. Churches found to be in violation can be fined or lose their tax exemptions.

    [...]In recent years, attempts by members of Congress to change the law have failed. 'Tax exemption is a benefit, and it comes with conditions,' says Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonprofit that has filed more than a dozen complaints in the past year with the IRS, accusing nonprofits of tax-code violations. 'So if any pastor out there feels he is gagged or can't speak on partisan politics...forgo the tax exemption and say what you want.'

    [...]Some legal scholars are hoping for a new test case. Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, says a church might make a successful claim that the federal government is burdening the free exercise of religion and cannot do so without a compelling state interest."

    Read the full article here.

    The Cathedral lights

    The light show we alluded to last week is up and running at the National Cathedral. But this is no ordinary light show--Swiss artist Gerry Hofstetter paints the entire Cathedral facade using light. The results are stunning; the Washington Post has a gorgeous flash photo essay here.

    Anglican environmental leader closes out NPR series

    Last month, NPR rounded out its series on the "past, present and future of global warming," a comprehensive look at climate change co-produced with National Geographic that ran more than 200 stories. The last installment featured an onsite interview with Martin Palmer, an Anglican priest and founder of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation. On the grounds of his carbon-neutral church (it has no heat), he shows the reporter, Christopher Joyce, an ancient yew tree and an old Roman trail while framing his thoughts. Palmer feels that faith--rather than science or politics--is the best place to make an appeal for environmental stewardship.

    From the accompanying print write-up, which is not an exact transcript of the radio piece (there's more in the audio):

    After church, Palmer laces up his muddy boots and walks an old Roman path to his home. When Romans lived here, and the climate was warmer, they grew grapes along this path. Experts say the climate will become warm like that again. But Palmer says experts usually don't know how to get people to do anything about it.

    "The predominant model [of] the environmental movement ... is sin and guilt, topped by a good dollop of end-of-the-world language," he says with some disdain.

    The better model, he says, is for people to celebrate nature and their place in it. That's a message that resonates with the United Nations, which is collaborating with the Alliance to organize world faiths around the issue of climate change. U.N. officials say they need people who can speak about climate change straight from, and to, the heart.

    Palmer says that's a job he can do — with help from monks, priests, ministers and clerics of all faiths.

    "My understanding of my God — and I work with many, many different religious traditions — is that my God is not there to solve the problems," Palmer says. "My God is there to say, 'You are co-creators with me, now... work out what that means.'"

    "It is not about, if we pray hard enough to God, he will end climate change. Yes, we should pray to God. We should also get off our backsides, get out there, and do something about it," he says.

    The story is here, and you can click through to the audio there as well.

    Jefferts Schori and Tutu address Sewanee graduates

    The Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, addressed University of the South's School of Theology on Friday, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered the commencement address earlier today.

    Tutu talks about thanksgiving, and about being agents to fulfill God's purpose. Calling on the graduates to heed the cries for help from those in need, he notes that our greater cause is to bring about more compassion, love and laughter in this world.

    The graduation ceremony also culminates the Sewanee's yearlong sesquicentennial celebration.

    From a write-up on Tutu's address:

    People may have their minds on gas prices, grocery bills and whether or not a pink slip awaits them at work, but Americans should not forget the desperation and troubles of others abroad, South African humanitarian leader Desmond Tutu said Friday.

    “We have major problems relating to governments and freedom,” said Anglican Archbishop Tutu, speaking to a crowd of more than 800 at the University of the South. “We have a number of places where the rulers are not there because the people wanted them to be there. There is a great deal of oppression.”

    Archbishop Tutu was at Sewanee to celebrate the school of seminary’s graduation. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to hold the Anglican church’s top office, also was present at the event.

    The write-up in the Chattanooga Times Free Press is here, but it's better to just watch the sermon itself, here.

    Today: Jefferts Schori,

    invoking the epistle lesson for the day, told a packed crowd of undergraduates and their families, faculty, staff and special guests in All Saints Chapel that "provocation is the reason you came here...provocation that invokes love and good deeds."

    In the Baccaulaureate Address for the penultimate event of graduation weekend, the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A., quoted from the Letter to the Hebrews and urged the graduates to cultivate "undefended hearts" that are open to others and to the needs of the world as a way of taking a leadership role.

    Her remarks followed the reading of the first part of a five-part poem, "Sewanee When We Were Young," by Richard Tillinghast, C'62. Tillinghast received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the service, while Jefferts Schori received an honorary Doctor of Divinity.

    Video is not up yet, but should be available later today here.

    The rhythm of prayer beads

    More and more people are making their own sets of prayer beads and using them to structure their prayers. An article in the Grand Rapids Press, in Michigan, examines the phenomenon by talking to some of the beading faithful, including two Grand Rapids sisters who were running a small beading business. They watched demand for the beads grow exponentially after they started their shop in 2001, possibly as a result of the events of that September. Another of the women in the article, author Kimberly Wilson, recently wrote a book about prayer beads that traces the origins of rosary prayers as well as noting the near-universality of prayer beads as traditions in other faiths.

    Says Wilson, in the article:

    "I always had difficulty making everything stop," she said of her prayer life. "The physical nature of them, when I held them, I found I could concentrate on the intention of my prayer, rather than be distracted by the million things that distract me in a day."

    Like Jenista, Winston doesn't use Catholic prayers. She doesn't even use a Catholic version of the rosary. She uses an Anglican rosary, which has four seven-bead "weeks" instead of five 10-bead "decades," as in the Catholic version. And while there are set Anglican prayers for that rosary, Winston goes free form.

    Sometimes she just holds one bead per each deep breath. Lately, she's been using Scripture: "I lift up my eyes unto the hills," said on every bead.

    The key shift was in her attitude. With traditional intercessory prayer, "you put yourself in the position of begging. With prayer beads, I can come to God with myself and my intention of just being with God. I'm not asking for anything, but I'm aware of his strength."

    With prayer beads, "the goal is to focus your mind on communicating with the divine."

    You can read the whole thing here.

    Russell recognized for contributions to LGBT community

    Father Jake points us to the news that the Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Pasadena has been recognized by the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center with a LACE award, which honors "local lesbians and bisexual women who have distinguished themselves by making particularly significant contributions to the local LGBT community." Russell received the award in a ceremony last weekend along with three other women, each with contributions in a specific arena; hers was the spirituality award:

    A parish priest at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena and an outspoken critic of the religious right, Susan Russell travels around the county to lobby for LGBT inclusion in the church. Russell is the president of Integrity USA, a nonprofit organization for LGBT Episcopalians and their supporters, and she is a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion Council. She and her partner—who wed in a ceremony at All Saints—collaborated on Voices of Witness, a documentary about LGBT people in the church. She blogs about her work at

    Turns out she was reticent to post the news on her own blog but was urged to do so by some friends who'd seen the video that introduced her at the event:

    Read her news here.

    Teens and lying

    Dave Munger of Cognitive Daily summarizes some interesting research on teens and lying. The research focused on the issue of when teens thought it was okay to lie to their parents or to their friends. The results are interesting: teens are much more likely to think it is okay to lie to their parents when their parents direct them to do something immoral (such as not to be friends with a person of another race) than other circumstances, but teens are much more likely to lie to their parents than to a friend:

    Serena Perkins and Elliot Turiel came up with six situations in which lying might be justified, then asked 64 teens aged 12 to 17 which ones were acceptable and which were not. The situations are below:

    * Parents don't want their child to befriend another teen because he/she is of a different race
    * Parents want their child to fight another teen because he/she had been teased by them

    * Parents don't want their child dating a teen they don't like
    * Parents think the club their child wants to join is a waste of time

    * Parents object to their child not wanting to finish her/his homework
    * Parents don't want their child to ride a motorcycle

    In each case, the participants were asked whether it would be acceptable for a 16-year-old to lie about doing (or not doing) these things despite their parents' objections. . . .

    [N]early all teens believe it's okay to lie to your parents when you've defied their expectations to commit an immoral act. A statistically significant portion of older teens (age 15-17) believe lying is okay when the parents have personal objections to their behavior, but significantly fewer younger teens (age 12-14) believe this type of lie is acceptable. When the parents seem to be looking out for the child's best interests (the prudential domain), most teens believe lying is wrong -- though significantly more older teens still believe lying is acceptable in this case as well.

    But Perkins and Turiel went further: They asked a separate group of 64 teens the same questions, except the role of parents was completely replaced by the role of a friend. Is it okay to lie to a friend? . . .

    Both groups were significantly less likely to say it was okay to lie to friends in the moral and personal domains -- even if a friend asked you to do something immoral, about 50 percent of teens still said it was not okay to lie to them about the fact that you took the moral high ground (of course, telling the truth might be the higher moral course in this situation). In the prudential domain, the pattern was reversed, and lies were seen as more justified by both groups of teens.

    In many ways these results aren't especially surprising, but it is interesting to note when the differences in age groups come into play. Younger teens are less likely to believe lying about personal / prudential situations is okay compared to older teens, suggesting that older teens justify their lies based on their sense of autonomy.

    But there are limits to this trend: the researchers also asked both groups whether it was acceptable to lie about a misdeed (breaking their parents' / friends' cell phone), and all agreed that this was unacceptable.

    Read it all here.

    The Bishop's Daughter

    Today's New York Times Book Review includes an extended review by Kathryn Harrison of Honor Moore's The Bishop's Daughter. Here are some highlights:

    A young man, heir to a fortune so vast he considers it his “cross of gold,” comes home from Guadalcanal a decorated hero, bearing scars from a bullet that just missed his heart. God has saved him, he believes, for a purpose. The vocation he heard at Yale has grown loud enough to drown out the objections of his family. Ordained an Episcopal priest in 1949, he begins his career in a blighted New Jersey parish, eventually climbing to a position so exalted that at his death in 2003 he is remembered as “a prince of the church,” “a saint.”

    Already many people, whether or not they’ve read “The Bishop’s Daughter,” know it as the book in which Honor Moore outs her famous father, a man celebrated as a paragon of virtue, a priest whose vestments seemed to set him apart from passions that sully ordinary men. But Paul Moore Jr.’s bisexuality — a fact previously known only to family and a few friends — was an important and decidedly not sublimated aspect of his essential self. There is no way to write a book about him, or about being his daughter, that fails to consider its place in his life and its impact on his family.

    . . .

    As Moore describes her father, who retired in 1989 as the Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of New York, Paul Moore was always conscious of, and in conflict with, his own sexual nature, considered deviant and sinful during the decades he served his church. He suffered his transgressions with the understanding that his fallen human state offered him the one experience he could share with his God, who had been crucified for man’s sins. Standing nearly 6-foot-5, regarding the world from pulpits that granted him national and sometimes international attention, Bishop Moore was a gifted preacher who projected a palpable sympathy by placing himself among “the sinful brotherhood of mankind, so that his heart vibrated in unison with theirs, and received their pain into itself.”

    That description was written not by Honor Moore but by Nathaniel Hawthorne, about another renowned, if fictional, minister whose sexual transgressions remained a hidden source of anguish and spiritual power. It’s unlikely Moore imagined “The Scarlet Letter” as prefiguring her story of her father and the adulterous temptations to which he succumbed. But both books explore the repressive hysteria peculiar to American sexual mores, as well as the split between public and private selves; and Hawthorne’s Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, whose virtue cannot be teased apart from his sins, is a useful model for approaching the complex, flawed and extraordinary Paul Moore. And like “The Scarlet Letter,” whose exultant climax is Dimmesdale’s disclosure of a secret sexual sin, “The Bishop’s Daughter” is an eloquent argument for speaking even the most difficult truths.

    . . .

    “If only they knew the truth,” Paul Moore said in his daughter’s therapist’s office, “thinking of people who praised his life,” “his body moving in large waves of sobbing.” “It is inconceivable,” Hawthorne wrote of Dimmesdale, “the agony with which this public veneration tortured him!” The remarkable and loving accomplishment of “The Bishop’s Daughter” is that in revealing Paul Moore as he could never disclose himself, in showing him humbled and suffering, Honor Moore does not diminish but enlarges him.

    Read it all here. We have previously written about this Book here , here and here.

    An interview with Brian McLaren

    Brian McLaren, well known here as a leader of the Emerging Church movement, has written a new book that argues that "Christians must move beyond traditional charity and work for systemic change that addresses the causes of human suffering." Earlier this week, Rachel Zoll interviewed McLaren about this book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises and a Revolution of Hope:

    Q: How is what you recommend different than the humanitarian work churches do already?

    A: It's not working within the paradigm that a lot of Christians work — which is all that God is ultimately interested in is extracting souls for heaven. And we might do some good works here on earth, but we don't really expect any of it to work, because the world is sort of, the toilet has been flushed and it's going down.


    Q: What do you mean by systemic change?

    A: You can make incremental changes within a subsystem but in order to actually change a whole system you have to get a lot of the parts changing all at once. ... You can pour money into building a school, but then if there's a war, the war wipes out all the benefit you got from the school and the school shuts down. You can improve agriculture, but if HIV runs through, then there's so much upheaval, then you can't maintain the advances in agriculture.


    Q: But there's an impression churches are already so active on these issues. Why does anyone need to urge churches to do this?

    A: One of the really important concepts is the difference between mercy and justice. There's that famous passage from Micah 6, "Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God." One way to describe it is unjust systems throw people into misery and mercy brings us to relieve some of their misery, but until we confront the unjust systems by doing justice we're never going to make a change. ... I think what churches in America, especially evangelical churches, are just waking up to is the way they have to deal with systemic injustice, not just charitable giving to people in misery.


    Q: Are you trying to create heaven on earth?

    A: As a Christian, I'm just trying to be faithful. I'm trying to live out what I pray when I pray the Lord's prayer, 'May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth.' ... I'm not a utopian in any way.

    Read it all here. McLaren's blog is here.

    God and Dr. Seuss

    Are there Christian messages in the works of Dr. Seuss? Robert Short argues that there are in his new book, The Parables of Dr. Seuss. The Associated Press discussed the book earlier this week:

    No one has ever doubted the layers of meaning in the stories of Dr. Seuss. The Lorax has obvious lessons about the environment. The Butter Battle Book took direct aim at the Cold War arms race. Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now! was one way to demand the resignation of President Nixon.

    So when Horton's world of Who-ville was "saved by the Smallest of All," Robert Short saw the savior of the Whos as a symbol for the Savior of all people. From Green Eggs and Ham to How the Grinch Stole Christmas , Short has reinterpreted many of Theodor Seuss Geisel's stories as subtle messages of Christian doctrine in the new book, The Parables of Dr. Seuss.

    Questions remain, however, about whether the original author intended such an interpretation or Short, a retired Presbyterian minister, is just seeing the stories through the lens of his own life.

    "I was amazed at what I found when I started looking at it — all this Christian imagery was very carefully factored into his stories," Short said in an interview from his home in Little Rock.

    "And that's what this book intends to do, is show how he has done this in a very carefully crafted way. It's there, and you could make an argument for it being intentionally there, because it's done with such great care."

    Short has spent four decades drawing spiritual lessons from popular culture, starting with the 1965 best-seller, The Gospel According to Peanuts, the first of his eight books. The 75-year-old minister also does presentations that explore religious meanings in the popular comic strip Calvin and Hobbes and even in the last episode of the television comedy Cheers, set in a Boston bar. Short has the congregation sing the Cheers theme song before beginning his talk.

    . . .

    So is The Cat in the Hat really the Christ who arrives with a "BUMP" and turns the world upside down for God's children? Is the mother in the story a symbol of the old religious law? Are the fish in the bowl representative of churches that adhere to a restricting version of the Gospel? Did Dr. Seuss really intend for his stories to be interpreted this way?

    It's a quandary that, for some, would puzzle even the Grinch's puzzler.

    "There's so much of it," Short said. "And it fits so neatly into the configuration of the Christian message that I'm convinced that he knew what he was doing."

    Read it all here.

    African Bishops call for intervention

    A group of bishops from across the southern continent of Africa have issued a call for their governments to intervene in Zimbabwe. They have also asked the United Nations dispatch an envoy to help break the political impasse in that country.

    The statement specifically calls for Mugabe to "abide by the results of the March 29 election".

    From news reports:

    "In a statement on Friday, the Bishops from Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, who met in Pretoria, said they had noted 'with sadness' the delay in the announcement of the results of the Zimbabwe presidential election.

    [...]The church said it was time for a large scale diplomatic offensive by SA and other international players."

    Read the full article here.

    See, also, this commentary at Project Syndicate by Archbishop Tutu and Aryeh Neier (President of the Open Society Institute and founder of Human Rights Watch).

    How and why we give

    An article in the Washington Post examines the reasons we are willing to give to charities and the reasons that we balk. Apparently there is evidence that large gifts are primarily motivated by the self-interest of the giver rather than the need of the recipient.

    The primary motivation for most giving seems to be how personally we feel connected with the situation.

    Peter Singer is arguing that such thinking needs to be challenged because it often creates situations where the greatest needs go unmet. He argues that we'd be better off using Utilitarianism as a criteria for donation decisions. Not everyone agrees.

    "'The first donation was the hardest to make,' he said. 'The first time I wrote a check that had at least a couple of zeroes at the end -- that was the hardest thing.'

    Fiery Cushman, a graduate student in psychology at Harvard who studies how people's moral intuitions can clash with deliberate reasoning, said the unfolding disaster in Burma highlights another dimension of the warring moral compasses we have within ourselves: People are more willing to help in the case of disasters such as the cyclone than with 'mundane' and ongoing problems that are equally deadly, such as malnutrition or malaria in poor countries.

    'Our reasoned judgment says people are suffering in both situations,' Cushman added. 'That is a good example of the mismatch between our emotional responses and rational responses.'

    Still, Cushman questions Singer's utilitarian approach, because he argues that emotions undergird even our most rational responses. And there is abundant evidence that even though people value reason and rationality, human beings are biologically programmed to react emotionally to visceral moral challenges."

    Read the full article here.

    (One of the few organizations that is actually delivering aid in Myanmar is the Anglican Church of that region. You can give to that effort through Episcopal Relief and Development.)

    Rowan Williams' Pentecost Letter

    The Archbishop of Canterbury has written to the bishops of the Anglican Communion in a letter just posted to his web site. The letter describes in more detail what his hopes are for this summer's Lambeth Conference and it lays out his desire that all the bishops who attend are willing in good conscience to participate in the Windsor Process.

    From the specific section on the process, William's writes:

    "As I noted when I wrote to you in Advent, this makes it all the more essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage. We hope that people will not come so wedded to  their own agenda  and their local  priorities that they cannot listen to those from other cultural backgrounds.  As you may have gathered, in circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together.

    Of course, as baptised Christians and pastors of Christ's flock, we are not just seeking some low-level consensus, or a simple agreement to disagree politely.  We are asking for the fire of the Spirit to come upon us and deepen our sense that we are answerable to and for each other and answerable to God for the faithful proclamation of his grace uniquely offered in Jesus.  That deepening may be painful in all kinds of ways.  The Spirit does not show us a way to by-pass the Cross.  But only in this way shall we truly appear in the world as Christ's Body as a sign of God's Kingdom which challenges a world scarred by poverty, violence and injustice."

    Read the full article here.

    The Times Online, UK, reports here.

    The Pluralist comments here.

    Susan Russell, President of Integrity, comments here.

    Presiding Bishop writes to the Primate of Uganda

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi to protest his planned visit to a congregation in the Diocese of Georgia later this week.

    From the text which is posted at Episcope:

    "I understand from advertising here that you plan to visit a congregation in the Diocese of Georgia on 14 May of this year. The diocesan, Bishop Henry Louttit, has not given any invitation for you to do so, nor received any information from you about your planned visit. I must protest this unwarranted incursion into The Episcopal Church. I am concerned that you seem to feel it appropriate to visit, preach, and exercise episcopal ministry within the territory of this Church, and I wonder how you would receive similar behavior in Uganda. These actions violate the spirit and letter of the work of the Windsor Report, and only lead to heightened tensions. We are more than willing to receive you for conversation, dialogue, and reconciliation, yet you continue to act without speaking with us. I hope and pray that you might respond to our invitation and meet with representatives of this Church."

    Read the full article here.

    New violence against Anglicans in Zimbabwe

    All Africa reports that "State sponsored violence against members of the Anglican Church reached new levels over the weekend as police in different parts of Harare gatecrashed church services and beat up parishioners loyal to new bishop Sebastian Bakare."

    At the St Francis parish in Waterfalls riot police interrupted the service during 'holy communion' and told parishioners to leave. Witnesses said the parishioners assumed it was the usual police over-zealousness and some of them remained seated. The police then began beating up people, including women, in the church.

    A furious Bakare said what was happening was a 'national scandal' adding, 'even Ian Smith (former Rhodesian leader) allowed us to worship.' Sources told Newsreel that the ousted Bishop and Mugabe supporter, Nolbert Kunonga, has branded new bishop Bakare an MDC supporter who is receiving money from Britain. The accusation has provided an excuse for a crackdown on Bakare's followers, with instructions being given to the police force that all parishioners loyal to him be barred from using any of the church buildings in Harare. A High Court order that divided time for church services between Bakare and Kunonga was suspended, following the granting of an appeal to Kunonga by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku.

    On becoming Bishop, Kunonga plunged the Anglican Church into disarray after pledging his support for Mugabe's violent land-grab policy. He targeted priests who disagreed with him by posting them to remote areas, while members of the CIO threatened some with death. An attempt by Kunonga to withdraw the Harare diocese from the Province of Central Africa backfired as the province later dismissed him. Kunonga continues to defy the dismissal and has relied on state security to beat up and intimidate his opponents.

    Read it here

    Monday, The Lead carried this story of African bishops calling for intervention in the Zimbabwean political situation.

    Bishop Kunonga has not been invited to the Lambeth Conference.

    Priest to sing at Phillies game

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reports how a congregation is fulfilling their rector's dream to sing the National Anthem at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game.

    It began at a Havertown sushi bar, where he confessed his dream to a parishioner. Then, last November, his adoring congregation celebrated his 10th anniversary as rector of St. David's Episcopal Church in Wayne by surprising him with the chance to realize his dream.

    Tonight at Citizens Bank Park, before the Phillies match bats with the Atlanta Braves, the Rev. Frank Allen's dream will come true when he sings the national anthem.

    "I couldn't be more thrilled," says Allen. "I'm very patriotic and I'm a baseball nut."

    On hand will be more than 1,100 members of his flock, who are "going to be making a joyful noise," predicts Glenn Porter, a St. David's congregant. "When was the last time 1,100 Episcopalians gathered in public? We're not a showy bunch.".

    Read it here.

    Wounds of war

    The Wall Street Journal carries discussion of whether soldiers wounded psychologically should be given the Purple Heart or not.

    ... with an increasing number of troops being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the modern military is debating an idea Gen. Washington never considered -- awarding one of the nation's top military citations to veterans with psychological wounds, not just physical ones.

    While many, especially families of the wounded warriors, are pressing for this award to go to victims of PTSD, The Rev. Robert Certain, retired Air Force colonel and Episcopal priest who preached the homily at the funeral of President Gerald Ford has mixed feelings about the question.

    The question of whether veterans suffering from PTSD should be eligible for the Purple Heart is a deeply emotional issue for military personnel and their families.

    Robert Certain is a retired Air Force colonel who was shot down over Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1972 and held as a prisoner of war. He received a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts and later became an Air Force chaplain and Episcopal priest.

    Mr. Certain suffered severe depression in the 1980s and was formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2000.

    Mr. Certain says that he is conflicted about whether veterans with PTSD should be eligible for the Purple Heart. In his own case, the disorder wasn't diagnosed until decades after the Vietnam War ended but he believes that making troops suffering from the disorder eligible for the award might persuade more of them to seek help.

    In an email, he wrote: "The scars resulting from PTSD are almost all invisible to the observer, but always obvious to the warrior who has them.

    Read it all here.

    Hang out your laundry to help the planet

    With summer on the horizon in the northern hemisphere the Church of England’s Environmental Adviser, David Shreeve, is calling for households to switch off their dryers, and, instead, dry their clothes on good, old-fashioned clothes lines. Reported in Christian Today:

    He makes the environment-friendly plea in the latest edition of ‘People and Places’, a podcast series profiling a wide range of people who work in today’s Church of England.

    When prompted for practical energy-saving advice that anyone could employ, he replies: "I think my tip would be for everybody to make sure if they don't have any to go out and buy some clothes pegs - because I think more and more we should use the benefits of the environment, and I do think tumble-dryers should be turned off and a lot more clothes put out in the sunshine to dry, and that would save an awful lot of energy."

    Church of England website Shrinking the Footprint is here.

    Podcasts are here and also available at iTunes.

    Bronx rally against gun violence

    St. Ann's Episcopal Church in the Bronx, New York City, is a center or work against gun violence. Episcopal Life reports on a Mother's Day rally led by Gloria Cruz of St. Ann's and supported by her rector, the Rev. Martha Overall and Bishop Mark Sisk of New York.

    Chanting "Save our children; No more guns," hundreds marched on the eve of Mother's Day in the Bronx, New York to honor the victims and families of gun violence and bring about awareness for change.

    "It is true that 'it takes a village'," said Gloria Cruz, founder and organizer of the annual 'Walk Against Gun Violence.' "In order to change your community, you have to be active in it."

    For the third consecutive year, Cruz gathered family members, the community, fellow advocates and elected officials in the Bronx, at the playground where the life her 10-year-old niece Naiesha Pearson was abruptly ended by a bullet at a Labor Day picnic in 2005.

    Cruz, a member of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in the Bronx, said the senseless event compelled her to do something.

    The featured speaker at the rally was the Rev. Canon Petero Sabune spoke out for education as an antidote to violence.

    Noting that 40 percent of the inmates at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, in Ossining, New York cannot read or write, and that 75 percent do not have a high school diploma, the Rev. Canon Petero Sabune, protestant chaplain at Sing Sing, said that the "antidote to violence is education."

    "The reality of all of this is that we either get them on this end and prevent them from committing a crime, or get them on the other end in prison," he stated.

    Sabune, the keynote speaker at the rally, said several members of his family "have died due to some form of violence."

    While serving as dean of St. Philip's Cathedral in Newark, New Jersey, Sabune said he gained further insight into violence which allowed him to organize families and local faith communities to respond when an 8-year-old boy named Terrell James was killed in a drive-by shooting.

    "Today's gathering is important because I believe every diocese, bishop, and parish across the country needs to declare peace on this issue," he said. "The Episcopal Church has had a clear unequivocal message against gun violence."

    Read it all here.

    Primate of All Ireland speaks to General Synod

    Episcopal Life reports on the Archbishop of Ireland's remarks to the Church of Ireland's General Synod. The Most Rev. Alan Harper reflects on his visit to the Holy Land and the similarities of the issues in Ireland and the Holy Land.

    In his presidential address to the General Synod, which meets once a year, Harper described his April 29-May 2 visit to the Holy Land as "harrowing but not hopeless."

    Joined by Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh Seán Brady, the Rev. Roy Cooper, president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and the Rev. John Finlay, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Harper said he had been "deeply moved by the resilience of West Bank Palestinians in circumstances of intolerable hardship, denial of dignity and severe restriction of freedom of movement."

    Following his address Harper, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland since February 2007, told a news conference that the Church of Ireland remains in communion with every part of the Anglican Communion and spoke about his hopes for this summer's Lambeth Conference of bishops. "I believe that we will find a way to manage the differences that we have with respect to everyone's ethically held positions," he said.

    Read the article here.

    Archbishop Harper's complete address is here in pdf.

    Virginia property case supplemental briefs filed

    In preparation for the second of the three phases of litigation between the parties in the property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the CANA churches, the parties have filed supplemental briefs. The trial on the constitutionality of the 57-9 stature is scheduled for May 28. Whatever the outcome of that trial, a third trial is scheduled for October to decide the ownership.

    Briefs of all parties can be found at the diocesan website. The supplemental briefs recently filed include,

    See The Lead's earlier coverage here.

    There's also news about another property dispute:

    An El Paso County District Court judge ruled today that the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and officials of Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish in Colorado Springs must resolve their $17 million property dispute at trial.

    District Judge Larry E. Schwartz concluded, after reviewing six volumes of documents filed in the last year, that he cannot make a decision based solely on matters of law because "there is virtually no agreement as to the facts."

    Female clergy in Church of England speak out

    Via Thinking Anglicans comes a statement from female clergy in the Church of England regarding regarding the consecration of women as bishops. Here's a key paragraph from the statement:

    We believe that it should be possible for women to be consecrated as bishops, but not at any price. The price of legal “safeguards” for those opposed is simply too high, diminishing not just the women concerned, but the catholicity, integrity and mission of the episcopate and of the Church as a whole. We cannot countenance any proposal that would, once again, enshrine and formalise discrimination against women in legislation. With great regret, we would be prepared to wait longer, rather than see further damage done to the Church of England by passing discriminatory laws.
    Read it all here.

    Update - Also via Thinking Anglicans comes the Australian protocol, a key sentence of which is "Accordingly, we encourage all dioceses who desire to appoint or elect women as bishops to make provision for reasonable and appropriate episcopal ministry, addressing matters including the following." Considere, also, "We encourage Metropolitans, when planning consecration services, to consider that for some it will be important that three of the consecrating bishops are men, and we also pledge to act with respect for one another in the ordering of services of consecration."

    The pdf of the Australian protocal is here.

    An editor gets baptized

    From the Richmond Times Dispatch

    A generous call to communion during a sermon last November gently demanded of an intruding inquirer something more of himself. The small voice was heard. And as he slept he dreamed a dream. Subsequent lessons taught that Scripture, reason, and tradition comprise a foundation firm yet not confining. There is much to be said for the temperament of a prayer-book people. Pew aerobics iron out the kinks. The decision was made, or, to put it perhaps more accurately, at last understood.

    "The candidates for baptism will now be presented." Bishop and rector performed the rite. As sponsor, a friend of many years stood nearby. While man may be a creature of doubt, of the rightness of Sunday's bow at the font the doubts were none. "Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace."

    The Episcopal Church practices infant baptism. This child of God is 58.

    Todd Culbertson is the editor of the editorial pages of the Richmond Times Dispatch.

    Tom, we receive you into the household of God.

    McCain and religious conservatives, in and out of the Senate

    Today's issue of Faith in Public Life Daily News brings three stories on John McCain.

    Moral Scales in the Senate (Michael Gerson, Washington Post, op-ed) - Seven Republican senators led by Tom Coburn (who happens to be McCain's healthcare advisor) are blocking reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Gerson writes,

    the senators are concerned that AIDS funds might be used for things such as abortion referrals and needle distribution, though the legislation doesn't mention these possibilities. So they are pushing for the extension of a superfluous spending mandate requiring that at least 55 percent of PEPFAR resources be used for treatment, on the theory that this will starve "feckless or morally dubious" prevention programs.

    For all of conservatism's evident virtues, it can have one furtive, seedy vice: A justified suspicion of government can degenerate into an anti-government ideology -- rigid, stingy and indifferent to human suffering.
    Each of the Coburn Seven counts himself pro-life. If a bill came to the Senate floor that would save millions of unborn children, one assumes that pro-life members would push to improve it, accept a few necessary compromises and then enthusiastically support the legislation.

    It is difficult to imagine why pro-life legislation involving millions of Africans should be viewed differently.

    Pastor Backing McCain Apologizes to Catholics (Wall Street Journal)
    John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor who endorsed John McCain, will issue a letter of apology to Catholics today for inflammatory remarks he has made, including accusing the Roman Catholic Church of supporting Adolf Hitler and calling it “The Great Whore.”

    “Out of a desire to advance greater unity among Catholics and Evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful,” Hagee wrote, according to an advanced copy of the letter reviewed by Washington Wire.
    Hagee’s letter explains some of the harsh words he has used when describing the Catholic Church. “I better understand that reference to the Roman Catholic Church as the ‘apostate church’ and the ‘great whore’ described in the book of Revelation” — both terms Hagee has employed — “is a rhetorical device long employed in anti-Catholic literature and commentary,” he wrote.

    The Religification of John McCain (Wall Street Journal, Steven Waldman is president and editor-in-chief of
    John McCain has been focused on a challenging target of his own: religious conservative voters.

    He’s always had a mixed relationship with evangelicals, heretofore a key part of the Republican base. Apparently his decision in 2000 to call Christian leaders “agents of intolerance” did not succeed in winning them over. Go figure.

    His efforts in 2008 to make amends have been somewhat inept, as when he declared that the Constitution established the U.S. as a Christian nation or sought the endorsement of controversial figures like John Hagee. (Hagee Tuesday tried to make peace with Catholics by distancing himself from his own longstanding theological position that the Catholic Church was the “great whore.” He has not retracted his anti-Muslim or anti-gay comments.)

    Last week, Sen. McCain tried again, pledging to appoint conservative judges and combat “moral relativism.”

    But Sen. McCain would be wise to remember that it was not, as Democrats often assume, George Bush’s position on issues like abortion and gay rights that mostly won over Christian voters. It was his personal faith narrative.

    See also, "Case Closed: McCain Blundered," by Jacques Berlinerblau.

    Scientists gain respect for elevated spiritual states

    David Brooks:

    In unexpected ways, science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other. That’s bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They’re going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day. I’m not qualified to take sides, believe me. I’m just trying to anticipate which way the debate is headed. We’re in the middle of a scientific revolution. It’s going to have big cultural effects.
    If you survey the literature (and I’d recommend books by Newberg, Daniel J. Siegel, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Jonathan Haidt, Antonio Damasio and Marc D. Hauser if you want to get up to speed), you can see that certain beliefs will spread into the wider discussion.

    First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.

    The politics of dignity

    Stephen Pinker writes in The New Republic:

    This spring, the President's Council on Bioethics released a 555-page report, titled Human Dignity and Bioethics. The Council, created in 2001 by George W. Bush, is a panel of scholars charged with advising the president and exploring policy issues related to the ethics of biomedical innovation, including drugs that would enhance cognition, genetic manipulation of animals or humans, therapies that could extend the lifespan, and embryonic stem cells and so-called "therapeutic cloning" that could furnish replacements for diseased tissue and organs. Advances like these, if translated into freely undertaken treatments, could make millions of people better off and no one worse off. So what's not to like? The advances do not raise the traditional concerns of bioethics, which focuses on potential harm and coercion of patients or research subjects. What, then, are the ethical concerns that call for a presidential council?

    Many people are vaguely disquieted by developments (real or imagined) that could alter minds and bodies in novel ways. Romantics and Greens tend to idealize the natural and demonize technology. Traditionalists and conservatives by temperament distrust radical change. Egalitarians worry about an arms race in enhancement techniques. And anyone is likely to have a "yuck" response when contemplating unprecedented manipulations of our biology. The President's Council has become a forum for the airing of this disquiet, and the concept of "dignity" a rubric for expounding on it. This collection of essays is the culmination of a long effort by the Council to place dignity at the center of bioethics. The general feeling is that, even if a new technology would improve life and health and decrease suffering and waste, it might have to be rejected, or even outlawed, if it affronted human dignity.

    Whatever that is. The problem is that "dignity" is a squishy, subjective notion, hardly up to the heavyweight moral demands assigned to it.

    Read it all. Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily.

    Is liberal Catholicism dead?

    David Van Biema's essay on the decline of liberal Catholicsm in the United States was among the more perceptive articles written in the wake of Pope Benedict's recent visit to the United States. The Church that American Catholics have struggled to create since Vatican II bears striking similarities to a certain mainline Protestant denomination.

    Van Biema writes:

    The liberal rebellion in American Catholicism has dogged Benedict and his predecessors since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. "Vatican II," which overhauled much of Catholic teaching and ritual, had a revolutionary impact on the Church as a whole. It enabled people to hear the Mass in their own languages; embraced the principle of religious freedom; rejected anti-Semitism; and permitted Catholic scholars to grapple with modernity.

    But Vatican II meant even more to a generation of devout but restless young people in the U.S. Rather than a course correction, Terrence Tilley, now head of the Fordham University's theology department, wrote recently, his generation perceived "an interruption of history, a divine typhoon that left only the keel and structure of the church unchanged." They discerned in the Council a call to greater church democracy, and an assertion of individual conscience that could stand up to the authority of even the Pope. So, they battled the Vatican's birth-control ban, its rejection of female priests and insistence on celibacy, and its authoritarianism.

    Rome pushed back, and the ensuing struggle defined a movement, whose icons included peace activist Fr. Daniel Berrigan, feminist Sister Joan Chittister, and sociologist/author Fr. Andrew Greeley. Its perspectives were covered in The National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal and America. Martin Sheen held down Hollywood, and the movement even boasted its own cheesy singing act: the St. Louis Jesuits. The reformers' premier membership organization was Call to Action, but their influence was felt at the highest reaches of the American Church, as sympathetic American bishops passed left-leaning statements on nuclear weapons and economic justice. Remarks Tilley, "For a couple of generations, progressivism was an [important] way to be Catholic."

    Then he adds, "But I think the end of an era is here."

    Reclaiming the word "jihad"

    Omar Sacirbey of Religion News Service writes:

    The end to Ani Zonneveld's "jihad" on "jihad" came during an episode of "Desperate Housewives," when Lynette (Felicity Huffman) discovers she has cancer and throws a stone at a possum.

    "Look at yourself," replies her husband, Tom. "You've declared jihad on a possum."

    "At that point," said Zonneveld, the co-director of the advocacy group Muslims for Progressive Values, "I think it is too late to redefine the true meaning of jihad."

    Strictly speaking, "jihad" is supposed to mean an inner struggle toward holiness. But for many Americans, the term connotes holy war, especially when militant groups like al-Qaida vow to wage jihad against the United States.

    Zonneveld's frustration with how "jihad" has come to be associated with violence reflects a broader concern among many Muslim Americans who believe various Islamic terms are being misused by the media and politicians, and co-opted by Muslim extremists and anti-Muslim critics.

    Read it all.

    CA Supreme Court strikes down gay marriage ban

    From the LA Times story:

    SAN FRANCISCO -- -- The California Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry, rejecting state marriage laws as discriminatory.

    The state high court's 4-3 ruling was unlikely to end the debate over gay matrimony in California. A group has circulated petitions for a November ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to block same-sex marriage, while the Legislature has twice passed bills to authorize gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both.

    Today’s ruling by the Republican-dominated court affects more than 100,000 same-sex couples in the state, about a quarter of whom have children, according to U.S. census figures. It came after high courts in New York, Washington and New Jersey refused to extend marriage rights to gay couples. Before today, only Massachusetts' top court has ruled in favor of permitting gays to wed.

    (The New York Times' story is here.)

    From the decision:

    Accordingly, we conclude that the right to marry, as embodied in article I, sections 1 and 7 of the California Constitution, guarantees same-sex couples the same substantive constitutional rights as opposite-sex couples to choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.

    And this:

    After carefully evaluating the pertinent considerations in the present case,we conclude that the state interest in limiting the designation of marriage exclusively to opposite-sex couples, and in excluding same-sex couples from access to that designation, cannot properly be considered a compelling state interest for equal protection purposes. To begin with, the limitation clearly is not necessary to preserve the rights and benefits of marriage currently enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. Extending access to the designation of marriage to same-sex couples will not deprive any opposite-sex couple or their children of any of the rights and benefits conferred by the marriage statutes, but simply will make the benefit of the marriage designation available to same-sex couples and their children. As Chief Judge Kaye of the New York Court of Appeals succinctly observed in her dissenting opinion in Hernandez v. Robles: “There are enough marriage licenses to go around for everyone.” Further, permitting same-sex couples access to the designation of marriage will not alter the substantive nature of the legal institution of marriage; same-sex couples who choose to enter into the relationship with that designation will be subject to the same duties and obligations to each other, to their children, and to third parties that the law currently imposes upon opposite-sex couples who marry. Finally, affording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 4.)

    While retention of the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples is not needed to preserve the rights and benefits of opposite-sex couples, the exclusion of same-sex couples from the designation of marriage works a real and appreciable harm upon same-sex couples and their children. As discussed above, because of the long and celebrated history of the term “marriage” and the widespread understanding that this word describes a family relationship unreservedly sanctioned by the community, the statutory provisions that continue to limit access to this designation exclusively to opposite-sex couples — while providing only a novel, alternative institution for same-sex couples — likely will be viewed as an official statement that the family relationship of same-sex couples is not of comparable stature or equal dignity to the family relationship of opposite-sex couples. Furthermore, because of the historic disparagement of gay persons, the retention of a distinction in nomenclature by which the term “marriage” is withheld only from the family relationship of same-sex couples is all the more likely to cause the new parallel institution that has been established for same-sex couples to be considered a mark of second-class citizenship. Finally, in addition to the potential harm flowing from the lesser stature that is likely to be afforded to the family relationships of same-sex couples by designating them domestic partnerships, there exists a substantial risk that a judicial decision upholding the differential treatment of opposite-sex and same-sex couples would be understood as validating a more general proposition that our state by now has repudiated: that it is permissible, under the law, for society to treat gay individuals and same-sex couples differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals and opposite-sex couples.

    In light of all of these circumstances, we conclude that retention of the traditional definition of marriage does not constitute a state interest sufficiently compelling, under the strict scrutiny equal protection standard, to justify withholding that status from same-sex couples. Accordingly, insofar as the provisions of sections 300 and 308.5 draw a distinction between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples and exclude the latter from access to the designation of marriage, we conclude these statutes are unconstitutional.

    Read the decision.

    Andrew Sullivan reacts.


    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was quick to issue a statement. “I respect the Court’s decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling," he said. "Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”

    Integrity has also responded. Click Read more to see their release. An excerpt:

    "As we rejoice in this movement forward on civil marriage equality, Integrity is working hard as to move the Episcopal Church forward on sacramental marriage equality," concluded [the Rev. Susan] Russell. "Although same-gender blessings are permitted by the Episcopal Church and are performed in a many dioceses and parishes, we believe the time has come for an official rite for blessing same-gender couples. Committed to the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments, we will be asking General Convention to authorize such a rite a year from now in Anaheim."

    Read more »

    Diocese of Virginia has more "friends" in court

    From the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which is locked in a legal battle over church property with breakway congregations:

    Over the past four days, eight more religious denominations and judicatories, as well as the two other Virginia Episcopal dioceses have asked the Court to allow them to join the Amici Curiae brief supporting the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church in recognizing that the §57-9 division statute is unconstitutional. All churches in Virginia are threatened by this statute, which discriminates against hierarchical churches in favor of congregational ones, in violation of their faith and the right of churches to structure and govern themselves based on their religious beliefs. All churches in Virginia must have the right to structure themselves according to their faith beliefs without the intrusion of the government.

    The following denominations joined the Amici brief on May 12 and 15, 2008:

    The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), by Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
    The General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists
    The National Capital Presbytery, by The Rev. Dr. G. Wilson Gunn, Jr., General Presbyter
    The Presbytery of Eastern Virginia, by Elder Donald F. Bickhart, Stated Clerk
    The Virginia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    The Metropolitan Washington DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    The Virlina District Board—Church of the Brethren, Inc.
    The Mid-Atlantic II Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
    The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia
    The Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia

    They join the following denominations, which filed the Amici Curiae brief on April 24, 2008:

    The United Methodist Church
    The African Methodist Episcopal Church
    The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
    The Worldwide Church of God
    The Rt. Rev. Charlene Kammerer, Bishop of the Virginia Council of the United Methodist Church
    W. Clark Williams, Chancellor of the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

    Of especial note, the Seventh-day Adventists, despite not being directly threatened by the statute, recognize the dangers inherent in the law, namely “the ultimate and very real danger posed to all religious groups if the legislature is permitted to resolve property rights by reference to inherently religious criteria, much less to ‘defer’ to the rules of some religious groups but not others.” (Motion for Leave to Join Brief of Amicus Curiae, page 3)

    As the Episcopal Dioceses of Southern and Southwestern Virginia point out in their filing, “A statute that singles out the legally binding organizational documents and property arrangements of churches whose property is titled in trustees, and permits a court to invalidate those provisions on grounds not applicable to other types of religious or secular organizations or entities, cannot pass Constitutional muster.” (Motion of the Dioceses of Southern Virginia and Southwestern Virginia for Leave to Join Amici Brief, page 6).

    By making these filings, these denominations and dioceses support the Diocese of Virginia’s and the Episcopal Church’s argument that matters of faith, governance and doctrine are to be free from government interference. This statute is clearly at odds with and uniquely hostile to the concept of religious freedom. We hope that the Court will recognize that the statute is an attack on America’s First Freedom and thus unconstitutional.

    To read these motions in their entirety, visit and click on “Property Dispute.”

    Direct access to Property Dispute page here. Scroll to the end for latest briefs.

    ENS provides further background to this story. See also our story on the scheduled trial that appeared earlier this week.

    A conversation in Pittsburgh

    The Rev. Dr. Jay Geisler, a member of the group of conservative clergy that declared to the diocese and its bishop that they intend to remain in The Episcopal Church, was invited to be guest speaker at a meeting of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh meeting last week, and his visit occasioned a useful exchange of ideas, writes Lionel Deimel.

    Acknowledging that conservatives have sought a place of “safety” within The Episcopal Church, Geisler offered his own solution, at least for the short term. As a mechanism to avoid schism and lessen conflict, he explained that he would like to see the establishment of a non-geographic diocese of conservative parishes within the church, led by a conservative bishop. He admitted that this plan is problematic. He did not say what effect he thought such an innovation would have on Pittsburgh, an interesting question, in retrospect, that no one pursued. He related that Bishop Duncan had discouraged him from advocating his plan because it would, in Duncan’s words, “weaken our position.”

    This was an interesting revelation. I do not favor the non-geographic diocese “solution,” but not for the same reason that Duncan opposes it. (I will have more to say about this another time.) Duncan’s opposition, I think, is to any reconciliation or mechanism that gives even the appearance of unity, since such a scheme would ease tensions in the church and blunt his efforts to engineer a schism that ultimately could place him in the position of leader of his own Anglican province in North America.

    Read it all.

    Makgoba: Foreign nationals are God’s people too

    The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, released the following statement about recent attacks against Malawians in the South African city of Alexandra. We reprint it here, because South Africans aren't the only ones requiring a reminder.

    Much of the appalling violence being inflicted by our people on foreigners in Alexandra and elsewhere is rooted in deep frustration arising from our failure to distribute the gains of economic growth in South Africa to all. But it is unacceptable for those who suffer poverty and deprivation to express their anger by attacking others who are also suffering from poverty and deprivation. Sadly, foreign people are labeled, abused and killed, but those from other countries who live among us are just as much our neighbours, whom we are commanded by Jesus to love as ourselves, as are South Africans. Foreign nationals are God’s people too.
    Reuters has a fresh account of the violence in Alexandra.

    The Times of South Africa reports,

    Anglican archbishop Thabo Makgoba and other church leaders visited Alexandra today, in an effort to establish what caused the recent wave of xenophobic violence in the township.

    Makgoba said he intended to make a stop at the Alexandra police station where displaced foreign nationals have been accommodated since the violence erupted on Sunday.

    About 800 foreign nationals, mainly from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique were attacked after they were accused by local people of crime and stealing jobs.

    Bishops' statements on the California decision

    Two Episcopal bishops in the state of California have made statements on the same-sex marriage decision by the California Supreme Court.

    Marc Andrus (Bishop of California) wrote:

    I welcome the ruling of the California Supreme Court affirming the fundamental right of all people to marry and establish a family.

    All children of God should be afforded the same rights under the law, and this decision recognizes that all Californians, regardless of sexual orientation, have equal access to one of our fundamental human institutions.

    This decision gives our church another opportunity to partner with our state to ensure that all families have the support they need to build relationships that strengthen our communities, state and country.

    Jesus tried to free his disciples from a narrow definition of what it means to be his follower. In Matthew 10:42, Jesus says “whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” God affirms the good in the world outside the boundaries of religious creeds and dogmas. In this spirit, we also affirm and rejoice in this decision by the California Supreme Court precisely because we are Christians.

    Clearly, this momentous decision will have ecclesial implications for the Episcopal Diocese of California. I intend to be in prayerful consultation with the people of our diocese to see how we can use this decision to strengthen our support of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers, and our witness to God’s inclusive love. The Diocese of California will issue an appropriate statement in due course.

    J. Jon Bruno (Bishop of Los Angeles) issued this statement:

    Today's Supreme Court decision on same-gender relationships is important because it reflects our baptismal vow to "strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being" and our commitment to justice and mercy for all people.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has been a leader in working for the rights of all people in the State of California, and that work is honored in today's ruling. The canons of our church, under "Rights of the Laity" (Canon 1:17.5), forbid discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities or age. We affirm equal rights for all.

    We will continue to advocate for equality in the future and will do so at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which will meet in Anaheim in 2009.

    I celebrate and give thanks for this decision of the court and look forward with joy and excitement to a future of justice and mercy for all people in the State of California and the Episcopal Church.

    To paraphrase St. Paul, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, gay nor straight in Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Zimbabwean police storm Anglican worship

    The New York Times reports that riot police stormed St. Francis Anglican Church in Harare, Zimbabwe on Sunday.

    The parishioners were lined up for Holy Communion on Sunday when the riot police stormed the stately St. Francis Anglican Church in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Helmeted, black-booted officers banged on the pews with their batons as terrified members of the congregation stampeded for the doors, witnesses said.

    A policeman swung his stick in vicious arcs, striking matrons, a girl and a grandmother who had bent over to pick up a Bible dropped in the melee. A lone housewife began singing from a hymn in Shona, “We will keep worshiping no matter the trials!” Hundreds of women, many dressed in the Anglican Mothers’ Union uniform of black skirt, white shirt and blue headdress, lifted their voices to join hers.

    Beneath their defiance, though, lay raw fear as the country’s ruling party stepped up its campaign of intimidation ahead of a presidential runoff. In a conflict that has penetrated ever deeper into Zimbabwe’s social fabric, the party has focused on a growing roster of groups that elude its direct control — a list that includes the Anglican diocese of Harare, as well as charitable and civic organizations, trade unions, teachers, independent election monitors and the political opposition.

    Anglican leaders and parishioners said in interviews that the church was not concerned with politics and that it counted people from both the ruling party and the opposition in its congregations. Yet the ruling party appears to have decided that only Anglicans who follow Nolbert Kunonga — a renegade bishop in Harare who is a staunch ally of President Robert Mugabe — are allowed to hold services.

    Over the past three Sundays, the police have interrogated Anglican priests and lay leaders, arrested and beaten parishioners and locked thousands of worshipers out of dozens of churches.

    While Bishop Kunonga has tried to justify his attempt to pull the Diocese of Harare out of the Central African province by tying his actions to opposition to the ordination of gay priests and bishops, both conservative and progressive Anglicans have criticized his actions.

    Bishop Bakare said Mr. Kunonga had preached hatred of gays and lesbians, contrary to the Harare diocese’s stand. “We believe in a church that is inclusive, a church that accepts all people,” Bishop Bakare said.

    But even a spokesman for an alliance of conservative bishops who oppose “the ordination of practicing homosexuals as priests,” distanced them from Mr. Kunonga. Arne H. Fjeldstad, head of communications for the alliance, the Global Anglican Future Conference, said in an e-mail message that Mr. Kunonga was not part of the conference, but “rather that he’s one of Mugabe’s henchmen.”

    Read the rest here.

    Robinson, McKellen to speak at UK premier of For the Bible Tells Me So

    There will be a British premiere of the documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, on Monday evening, July 14, at Queen Elizabeth Hall, at the SouthBank Centre for the Arts, in Central London, on the Thames. In addition to the filmmaker, Daniel Karslake, speakers will include Sir Ian McKellen and Bishop Gene Robinson. The evening will be a celebration of the lives and ministries of gay and lesbian people, on the eve of the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in Canterbury. Some of the proceeds will go toward AIDS work in Africa.

    Robinson's story is one of several told in the film, which chronicles the lives of Christian parents coming to terms with the realization that one of their children is gay.

    Ruth Gledhill is on the story as well.

    Lambeth registrations keep on coming

    With two months to go until the start of the Lambeth Conference, the Church Times says that registrations are still rolling in.

    On Wednesday, numbers stood at 620 of the possible 880 bishops in the Anglican Communion. Officials calculate that about ten per cent of sees are vacant. Nigeria has said that none of its 141 bishops will attend; nor will Uganda’s 31 bishops. This leaves fewer than 20 bishops unaccounted for.

    The 15 bishops of the province of West Africa have come out in support of the Communion. In a statement posted on 2 May, the province said that it abhorred the acceptance and blessing of same-sex marriages and the ordination of open homosexuals and lesbians. But it also urged all members of the Communion to uphold it and its “instruments of unity”, one of which is the Lambeth Conference.

    It appears that the only provinces that are staying away are the ones who have close relationships with leaders of the Anglican right from the United States such as Stephen Noll (Uganda) and Martyn Minns (Nigeria).

    Archbishop Williams has cautioned Bishops about coming to the Conference with deep-seated assumptions about outcomes or agendas.

    Dr Williams spoke out this week against any bishop who thought he or she could attend Lambeth while nursing split loyalties. In an open letter to all bishops to mark the feast of Pentecost, Dr Williams said that he had been in private discussions with some bishops to warn them of the need for unity.

    "In circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together," he wrote.

    It was "essential" that the bishops who came to the Conference were genuinely willing to move towards unity as envisaged by the Windsor report and the Covenant process, he said.

    Read the rest here.

    A progressive Evangelical movement?

    On the blog Immanent Frame, Rebecca Sager writes:

    The close alignment between many evangelical leaders and the Republican Party over the last 30 years has resulted in a growing dissatisfaction from some evangelicals about the appropriateness of these close ties. Once thought of as an unstoppable alliance between the Republican Party and the conservative evangelical movement, there has been a new movement from evangelicals to advocate for policies that are more traditionally aligned with the goals of the Democratic Party.

    In a recent article, Pastor Rev. Rich Nathan of the Vineyard Church of Columbus stated, “Lots of people feel that the evangelical label has been taken captive by a very narrow political program . . . Folks don’t feel that that represents them. Many of the so-called evangelical leaders are saying, we didn’t elect these people, they don’t represent us.” This sense that religion has become captive to politics has sprouted a growing frustration from evangelicals and a new call to action for many.

    Read it all.

    Orombi writes back

    Archbishop of Uganda Henry Orombi wrote back to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who wrote to him on May 12, saying that the congregation he visited in Savannah, Georgia, on Wednesday is not part of the Episcopal Church nor the Diocese of Georgia but is a parish in the Church in Uganda.

    Episcopal New Service says:

    Jefferts Schori criticized Orombi's planned May 14 visit to the historic Christ Church because he had not sought the invitation of Episcopal Bishop of Georgia Henry Louttit. These actions, she said in her letter, "violate the spirit and letter of the work of the Windsor Report, and only lead to heightened tensions."

    Orombi met May 14 with clergy and laity who voted in October 2007 to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church. The group continues to occupy historic Christ Church, Savannah, while the continuing Episcopal congregation meets at Savannah's Church of St. Michael and All Angels. Christ Church dates from 1733.

    "I am not visiting a church in the Diocese of Georgia," Orombi said in a May 14 letter addressed to Jefferts Schori, which her office confirmed had been received. "Were I to visit a congregation within [The Episcopal Church], I would certainly observe the courtesy of contacting the local bishop. Since, however, I am visiting a congregation that is part of the Church of Uganda, I feel very free to visit them and encourage them through the Word of God."

    Orombi's letter is a summary of the argument justifying the Primate of one province cherry-picking parishes from another province.

    He says, like others who have crossed provincial boundaries to serve separated congregations, that they are not crossing boundaries since these churches have joined their province.

    Orombi claims that this crisis that causes an outside province to take over the Episcopal parish is the fault of the Episcopal Church generally and Jefferts Schori in particular.

    Finally, he says that none of the above matters because, according The Windsor Report, there is no "moral equivalence" between crossing provincial boundaries and taking over another provinces churches and the ordination of a homosexual bishop.

    In short, it's not an incursion because the parish is ours not yours; but, even if it is an incursion, it doesn't matter because it's all your fault.

    While the argument breaks no new ground, at least Orombi took the time to write back.

    Read the rest here.

    Bishop Robinson speaks to Church Times

    This week, The Church Times published a lengthy interview with Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.


    What about gay priests who are quietly getting on with their ministry?

    The degree of openness with which one lives one’s life is a very personal choice. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong about that. The question for any gay or lesbian person is: “Is the price that I’m paying for being quiet exceeding the benefit?” When the negative consequences of that secrecy begin to outweigh its rewards, then that’s a dilemma.

    But it’s not just a personal consideration. It’s a political question.

    I would say back to you, then: What is the cost to the Church of secrecy? And I think this especially true here in the Church of England. What does it say to the Church when a vicar gets into a pulpit and calls the congregation to a life of integrity, when it is so obvious to the congregation that the vicar is himself not able to grasp at that straw of integrity? There’s cost to the people themselves, and there’s a a cost to the Church.

    I’ve met, what, probably 300 gay, partnered clergy here in the Church of England, and I could tell you stories that would make you weep about what life is like for them, and the fear with which they live: the difficulty in having their bishop come to dinner at their home, with their partner, have a lovely time, and the bishop be fully affirming of them — and to have the bishop say: “You know, if this ever becomes public, I’m your worst nightmare. I will see to it that you are punished.” Now that does something not just to the bishop and to the couple; that does something to the Church.

    What about gay bishops? Have you had people talking to you quietly about their sexuality?


    And what have you said to them?

    Most of the people who have shared with me that they are indeed gay. These bishops are my age and older. Like me, they grew up in a [difficult] time — when I came out, I thought my life as an ordained person was at an end — they made their choices, and I honour those choices. I would be the last person in the world to out them. They come to me as a pastor.

    Read the rest here.

    Denied communion because of politics

    A conservative, pro-choice Roman Catholic professor of law, Douglas Kmiec, says he was recently refused Communion because he supports Barack Obama for president.

    Having been drawn to Senator Obama’s remarkable “love thy neighbor” style of campaigning, his express aim to transcend partisan divide, and specifically, his appreciation for faith ("secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square"), I did not expect to be clobbered by co-religionists.

    On the blogs, I have been declared “self-excommunicated,” and recently at a Mass before a dinner speech to Catholic business leaders, a very angry college chaplain excoriated my Obama-heresy from the pulpit at length and then denied my receipt of communion.

    Andrew Sullivan says on The Daily Dish,

    That's an outrage - and a declaration by some elements in the Catholic hierarchy of a political war. Kmiec has an extraordinary record of pro-life advocacy and passion. Perhaps that's why he was singled out. But this is an extraordinary sign of how extreme the theocons have become.

    It appears that Kmeic is not alone. reports that "he joins Kathleen Sebelius in the small but growing group: “not at my Communion rail.”

    See The Daily Dish: Denying Kmiec Communion

    The cost of one's calling

    The Washington Post today examines the downsizing and program-trimming trend among Episcopal seminaries, noting a correlation between that trend and the dynamics within the denomination. But the more likely causal factor, the article continues, is, quite simply, money.

    Money, in fact, might be the biggest issue. As a result, seminaries of all stripes are weighing whether they can afford to keep training clergy in a three-year residential model that dates to the mid-1800s.

    John Mitman, executive director of the Society for the Increase of the Ministry (SIM), a Connecticut-based nonprofit that provides financing for Episcopal seminarians, said students often balk at the prospect of relocating to such pricey cities as New York, Berkeley, Calif., and Cambridge, where tuition, books and living expenses can run upward of $40,000 a year.

    What's more, those who leave seminary with debt face average annual student loan payments of more than $12,000 -- with an average starting salary of just $45,500.

    "We hear this all the time," Mitman said. "People are concluding, 'I can't make it work. I can't borrow the money to do the seminary piece and go to work for the church for what the church pays and manage the debt.' "

    At least it hasn't gotten to the point that blogger Sarah Dylan Breuer thought it had when she saw that Hewlett-Packard was in negotiations to acquire Electronic Data Systems, more commonly known as EDS—as is the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge.

    I actually did a double-take before I realized it wasn't about my seminary.

    Now I'm picturing seminary alumnae having to sew patches on their albs, stoles, and chasubles advertising the corporations that bought out their alma mater, and perhaps a little ticker-tape below webcam broadcasts from the chapel: "Hebrew bible reading brought to you courtesy of Staples, Inc. -- keeping parish offices together since 1974."

    You can read the Washington Post piece here, and Dylan's post is here.

    Second Life church, evangelical style

    Recently, I attended a roundtable discussion at the Alban Institute about new/social media and congregational development. One of the people I met there was Andrea Useem, who maintains the magazine-style ReligionWriter blog and covers a wide range of feature topics relating to faith in the world today.

    Recently, she attended a service at the Second Life church that's tied in with JustLife.TV an evangelical church 2.0 mission that's launching later this year. She likens the service itself to another real-life evangelical service she'd recently attended. In fact, the similarities—and the surprising differences—make up a compelling critique that gives insight on how churches can and should be taking advantage of the platform, rather than building an "in-world" church and hoping people come:

    In both cases, I entered a dark theater-like room and sat down in one of the comfy chairs. I stood up and swayed during the Christian-rock praise music. I sat down and listened to the young, handsome male pastor and watched other video interludes featuring hip, casually dressed people who obviously have a passion for their religion. If I was actually a member of an evangelical church, I could see that attending a church service in Second Life might be as relevant and real as attending a brick-and-mortar church.

    The Lifechurch experience was actually so much like real-life church that I was a little disappointed. For one thing, I found the sermon — which appeared via live streaming video — to be too long. Thanks to YouTube, I’m used to watching videos with a little bar at the bottom that tells me how much longer the video will run, which gives a feeling of control. In this case, I had no idea how long the sermon was going to be, which contributed to my sense of restlessness. Another thing: The chat function of Second Life makes it possible for people in the congregation to easily communicate, but no one chatted during the sermon. Since sermons are the definition of top-down content, I was surprised there wasn’t a little innovation here, some way to use the interactivity of Second Life.

    But here was my big disappointment. After patiently sitting through the sermon (okay, maybe I wasn’t so patient — isn’t being patient anathema to being online?), I was looking forward to chatting with people in the cavernous but furnished church lobby. Unfortunately, the 15 or so people who attended the service disappeared quickly, and I found myself as I usually am in Second Life — wandering around by myself. Compare this to my first-time experience at the Reston Community Church, where several people introduced themselves to me, and one woman even sent me a hand-written note in the mail the next week, saying she hoped we would meet again soon. Since I usually associate evangelical churches with being extremely welcoming to newcomers (after all, they do want to evangelize you), I was surprised to find that element missing in my first-time experience at Lifechurch on Second Life.

    You can see her comments, interspersed with other media observations about American Idol and the presidential primary coverage, here.

    Karen Armstrong's TED wish

    Earlier this year, author Karen Armstrong addressed TED conference participants with a plea for the world to embrace the Golden Rule as called for by faith traditions. Her speech was part of TED's annual conference, which features more than 50 keynotes from influential thinkers and leaders that are then distributed online over the course of the year.

    People seem to think -- now equate religious faith with believing things. As though that -- we call religious people often "believers," as though that were the main thing that they do. And very often, secondary goals get pushed into the first place in place of compassion -- the Golden Rule. Because the Golden Rule is difficult. I -- sometimes, when I'm speaking to congregations about compassion, I sometimes see a mutinous expression crossing some of their faces because religion -- a lot of religious people prefer to be right, rather than compassionate.

    Now -- but that's not the whole story. Since September the 11th, when my work on Islam suddenly propelled me into public life in a way that I'd never imagined, I've been able to sort of go all over the world -- and finding, everywhere I go, a yearning for change. I've just come back from Pakistan, where literally thousands of people came to my lectures because they were yearning, first of all, to hear a friendly Western voice. And especially the young people were coming, and were asking me -- the young people were saying, "What can we do? What can we do to change things?" And my hosts in Pakistan said, "Look, don't be too polite to us. Tell us where we're going wrong. Let's talk together about where religion is failing." Because it seems to me that with our current situation is so serious at the moment that any ideology that doesn't promote a sense of global understanding and global appreciation of each other is failing the test of the time. And religion, with its wide following here in the United States -- people may be being religious here in different way, as a report has just shown -- but they still want to be religious. It's only Western Europe that has retained its secularism, which is now beginning to look rather endearingly old-fashioned.

    But people want to be religious and religion should be made to be a force for harmony in the world, which it can and should be -- because of the Golden Rule, "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do to you": an ethos that should now be applied globally. We should not treat other nations as we would not wish to be treated ourselves. And these -- whatever our wretched beliefs -- is a religious matter, is a spiritual matter. It's a profound moral matter that engages -- and should engage us all. And as I say, there is a hunger for change out there. Here in the United States, I think you see it in this election campaign: a longing for change. And people in churches all over -- and mosques all over this continent after September 11th, coming together locally to create networks of understanding. With the mosques, with the synagogue, saying, "We must start to speak to one another." I think it's time we moved beyond the idea of toleration and move toward appreciation of the other.

    Armstrong won one of three annual TED prizes that are designed to fulfill a wish. Hers? The Charter for Compassion:

    I wish that you would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.

    The speech of the video is here, and more information on how to nominate leaders and otherwise help fulfill Armstrong's wish is here.

    Robinson on endorsing a candidate

    Bishop Gene Robinson has taken plenty of flak during the past five years, but according to what he says in a new video post on the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly blog--probably an extra take from last week's feature on him--he's gotten the most grief for endorsing a candidate during the primary season earlier this year.

    In the video, he clarifies that he doesn't want to talk about politics at all in his capacity as Bishop of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church. Rather, his endorsement came from a reflection on values and was made as a private citizen after reviewing IRS guidelines on the matter.

    He continues on to say that it's important for voters to mix faith and politics insofar as remembering what our values are as people of faith, look for the candidate who best embodies those values, and get involved in that campaign, regardless of what our faith is or what party we favor.

    You can see the video here.

    A rare bible returns to historic Canadian church

    Sometimes, things become valuable and historic because they were mistakes: the Inverted Jenny, for instance, is a postage stamp that's legendary because the airplane in its center pane is upside down. Similarly, the Vinegar Bible is so named because of numerous typographical errors in its print run that include referring to the "Parable of the Vineyard" as the "Parable of the Vinegar." The Lunenburg edition that's making headlines in Canada this weekend was printed in 1717, and is one of seven left of that group, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.

    The reason it's getting attention is only partially because it's a rare edition, though. Turns out that the Lunenburg Vinegar Bible went missing for some 200 years:

    The Lunenburg Vinegar Bible once belonged to Rev. Robert Vincent, the town's original schoolmaster and the second Anglican missionary assigned to the fishing town's fledgling St. John's Church. Vincent died early, leaving a poverty-stricken widow who sold the Bible to the governor of Nova Scotia at the time, Michael Francklin, in 1766. Francklin brought the book back to England in 1772, where it's presumed to have remained in his family collection.

    But little is known about the volume until it turned up at Cambridge University about 20 years ago.

    It is known that Francklin kept notes in the back of the Bible, including births and deaths of family members and where they are buried in Halifax. Historians hope that further study could reveal some clues about the early days of the colony.

    "It's tremendously exciting to get this Bible returned to us," says historian and St. John's Anglican Church parishioner George Munroe.

    Munroe said the Lunenburg Vinegar Bible is as significant to the historic fishing village southwest of Halifax as the Gutenberg Bibles are to the world of publishing.

    "This is extremely valuable for us to have this returned," Munroe said.

    The book was once part of the pulpit of Lunenburg's historic St. John's Anglican Church, founded 255 years ago and considered to be one of the finest examples of a style of construction called Carpenter Gothic. The church was destroyed by fire on Nov. 1, 2001, but has been painstakingly restored by local craftsmen after an international fundraising effort.

    "Having the Bible back is frosting on the cake," Munroe said.

    You can read the whole thing here.

    Values and teen violence

    Perhaps the result seems obvious, but it is reassuring nonetheless. A Israeli study of both Jewish and Arab teens has found that teens values are a buffer against violence:

    The researchers are from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The researchers gave questionnaires to 907 Jewish and Arab teenagers in grades 10 to 12 who attended 33 schools in Israel, where Jewish and Arab children attend two separate public schools systems. The teens answered questions about the importance of 10 different values and about their own violent behavior. Values were defined as goals and ideas the students saw as important and guiding principles in their lives. Violent behavior was defined as actions like hitting and threatening. The prevalence of violence in the schools was estimated by averaging, in each school, adolescents' reports of their own violent behavior, violent behavior by their two best friends, and the violence they had encountered at school.

    In both Arab and Jewish schools, adolescents who valued power (trying to attain social status by controlling and dominating others) reported more violent behavior than their peers. Teenagers who valued universalism (promoting understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protecting the welfare of all people and nature) and those who valued conformity (limiting actions and urges that might violate social expectations and norms) reported less violent behavior than their peers. The association of power and universalism with teenagers' behavior was especially strong in schools where children's exposure to violence was relatively common.

    According to the researchers, the study's findings highlight the protective role of values, in the same way that personality and family can be protective. In high-risk environments like violent schools, adolescents who place a low value on power and those who place a high value on universalism may be relatively protected against engaging in violent behavior. This could happen, the researchers suggest, because as teenagers become more aware of violence, their values are more likely to guide their behavior.

    "It has always been a major goal of developmental research to understand the causes of violence," says Ariel Knafo, assistant professor of psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the lead author of the study. "The current study, focusing on a life period considered crucial to the development of values, shows the importance of values considered in the educational context. The results suggest that programs that promote universalistic values at the expense of power values, if properly implemented, may help reduce adolescents' violent behavior."

    Read it all here.

    Prince Caspian

    The film adaptation of C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian, part of the Narnia series of children's books, was released to somewhat mixed but largely positive reviews. Here is Christianity Today's take:

    Lewis wanted to give his readers—including Christians who had unthinkingly bought into modernity—a taste of the spiritual realm that animates our physical world. And since he believed that the pagan, pre-Christian man had a greater aptitude for the spiritual realm, and was thus easier to convert, than the secular, post-Christian man, Lewis wrote the Narnia books to introduce his readers to a "baptized" form of paganism. Nowhere is this more explicit than in the original book version of Prince Caspian, in which the Christ-figure Aslan literally dances with the Greco-Roman god Bacchus.

    But Adamson and his co-writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, show no interest in that particular theme. Gone from this film are any and all references to Bacchus, Silenus or the Maenads—figures as important to this story as Father Christmas was to Wardrobe—and gone too are the scenes in which Aslan and his followers trash the schools that teach Narnian children not to believe in myths and fairy tales. And because those scenes are missing, the divine lion Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson) has very little to do. Indeed, Aslan is almost entirely written out of the movie altogether. His first appearance—an actual encounter with Lucy in the book—is here heavily abbreviated, and quickly revealed to be a dream. It is only in the film's final reels that Aslan indisputably steps onto the stage and takes action.

    Read it all here.

    Slate was disappointed:

    Andrew Adamson's "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" is a much more elaborate, ambitious picture than the 2005 "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and it adds up to far less. The earlier picture, based on the first book in C.S. Lewis' well-loved Narnia series (although some Lewis fans insist the series begins with a later book, "The Magician's Nephew"), was graceful and sturdy, and Adamson didn't seem to feel the need to wring a sense of wonder out of us. Most of the effects -- including the image of the talking lion, Aslan, with his lush, wind-rippled mane -- dazzled quietly. As beautiful as the movie was to look at, it also felt a little rough around the edges, giving the sense, at least, of an object that had been hand-made with care. And it presented us with a haunting villain in Tilda Swinton's White Witch, whose bluish-pale skin looked like nothing that could possibly be found in the human world.

    But in this latest Narnia installment Adamson has lost his way. "Prince Caspian," which is based on Lewis' "Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia," published in 1951, features a few inspired touches, and the four principal child and young-adult actors of the earlier picture -- just a little older now -- reprise their roles here. Yet the human characters come off as afterthoughts, figures that are moved around clumsily in the thicket of the movie's sprawling narrative. They barely exist in the context of the movie's battle sequences, which are designed to be elaborate and dazzling but instead feel simply overworked. There's very little real magic in "Prince Caspian," unless you're talking about the desperate kind of wizardry that chiefly involves waving around a checkbook.

    Read it all here. Jim West calls the movie "theologically profound" on his blog. The New York Times Review is here. Terry Mattingly explores the theological underpinnings of the story here.

    Having just finished the entire Narnia series for the first time this month (I am in my 40's), I plan on seeing the movie. If you have seen the movie, let us know what you thought.

    Martin Marty on when to leave your church

    In light of the controversy over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Martin Marty offers his readers in Christian Century these very useful tips on when you should leave your church:

    This spring a certain Christian layperson has been criticized for not exiting his local church when he disagreed with something his pastor preached.

    . . .

    [W]e offer this little gamelike guide, suggesting where they should sit in church to indicate affirmation or negation. Arrange your pieces on a hypothetical board and play along. Begin in your regular pew.

    1. If the preacher offers the prosperity gospel, announces that you can serve both God and mammon, and uses as sermon text the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal:

    Move ten pews forward and up your pledge.

    2. If the preacher is not wearing a United States flag over her robe:

    Back up 15 pews.

    3. If the preacher avoids all controversial topics and lulls everyone to sleep:

    No response—remember, you are asleep.

    4. If the preacher uses scripture to affirm that all acts by the United States military in all wars have been and are just:

    Move forward ten pews and smile. This is getting good.

    5. If the proclaimer of the gospel announces good news to the poor, healing and hope:

    Move up two pews, but tentatively. As a Christian, you should welcome that kind of message, as long as it is sufficiently vague.

    6. If the preacher blasts secular humanists, Islamofascists, rappers and anyone other than standard-brand heterosexuals:

    Move up three pews and volunteer for the committee to extend your preacher's call.

    7. If the preacher finds that liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites and others, including himself, fall short of gospel-rooted living:

    Stay where you are; ambiguity is confusing.

    8. If the preacher includes a few seconds of strident and edgy language that will make a controversial sound bite at the next congregational assembly:

    Be sure you've recorded it; it will be good ammunition when you are drawing the conclusion that you've had it and don't really belong in this congregation. But stay where you are so you don't look suspicious.

    9. If the preacher asks those who are without guilt to pick up a stone to throw: Head toward the back pew in a hurry.

    10. If a few angry words from the preacher can make you forget how she visited your dying mother, greeted your children as friends and urged you to work for justice with mercy:

    By all means, leave. But admit it—you miss the community, the challenge and the gospel. It's lonely out here, and all you will hear of your former pastor from now on are sound bites.

    Read it all here.

    How pure is your altruism?

    Stephen Dubner has some very interesting observations to make at the Freakonomics blog about why we give in response to natural disasters. He begins by providing some data bout how generous Americans were to some recent relief efforts and makes these observations:

    Americans gave nearly three times as much money after Hurricane Katrina as they did after the Asian tsunami, even though the tsunami killed many, many more people. But this makes sense, right? Katrina was an American disaster.

    Then along comes a terrible earthquake in Pakistan, killing 73,000 people, and U.S. contributions are only $150 million, making the $1.92 billion given after the tsunami look very, very generous. That’s only about $2,054 per fatality in Pakistan, versus an approximate $8,727 per fatality for the tsunami. Two far-away disasters both with huge loss of life — but with a huge disparity in U.S. giving. Why?

    Dubner then offers some thoughts on the disparity:

    There are probably a lot of explanations, among them:

    1. Disaster fatigue caused by Katrina and the tsunami; and
    2. Lack of media coverage.

    Do you remember coverage of the Asian tsunami? I am guessing you do, especially because in addition to hitting poor areas, it also struck high-profile resorts like Phuket. Do you remember coverage of Hurricane Katrina? Of course. But what about the Pakistan earthquake? Personally, I remember reading a couple of brief newspaper items but I didn’t happen to see any coverage on TV.

    . . .

    And what causes one disaster to get a lot of coverage while another doesn’t? Again, there are probably a lot of factors, foremost among them the nature of the disaster (i.e., how dramatic/telegenic is it?) and location. Getting back to the recent disasters in Myanmar and China, I’d say there are a few other things worth considering:

    1. We are in a season of heavy political coverage in the U.S., which is hard to dislodge from the airwaves.

    2. Covering far-away disasters is time-consuming and expensive, which becomes doubly prohibitive when media outlets are in cost-cutting mode.

    3. Neither Myanmar nor China (nor Pakistan) have what one would consider a very high Q Score among Americans. I am guessing that most Americans couldn’t find Myanmar on a map, and if they have any impressions about the country at all, they are not good impressions (think “military junta”).

    Indeed, donations to Myanmar so far are very low. Considering how unevenly disaster aid is often distributed, maybe this isn’t so terrible. But still: if you are the kind of person who donates money to people in need, isn’t the family of a cyclone victim in Myanmar as worthy of your charity as anyone else? The political or narrative forces of a disaster shouldn’t change our response to the need, should they?

    . . .

    It may be that the only kind of altruism that truly exists is what economists like to call “impure altruism.” (This is a subject we’ll be writing about at some length in SuperFreakonomics.) Does this mean that human beings are shallow and selfish — that they only give to a cause when it is attractive to them on some level? Will the future produce some sort of “disaster marketing” movement in which aid agencies learn to appeal to potential contributors?

    Read it all here.

    So is Dubner right? Is all (or at least most) of our altruism impure?

    A GLBT student club on an evangelical campus?

    Students and alumni of a Massachusetts Christian college are struggling to let the voices of the gay and lesbian students of that school be heard. The Hamilton-Wenham (MA) Chronicle reports on students at Gordon College who are attempting to form a new club at the school that would give GLBT students on campus a place to come together and tell their stories.

    The climate at Gordon College began shifting last year as dialogue about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues was brought to the forefront of students, faculty and staff.

    The Wenham campus was buzzing upon the visit of Soulforce, a national group that visits Christian colleges to start dialogue about GLBT issues.

    According to the Soulforce Web site, the “purpose of Soulforce is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.”

    This is what got Green, a heterosexual, first interested in finding a place for the voices of gay students on campus — voices, she said she had never even heard until that year. She entered Gordon College as a freshman, ignorant to the issues of homosexuality. She signed the required life and conduct statement that calls homosexual acts — as well as heterosexual acts before marriage — sinful against God, with full conviction.

    As her years at Gordon went on, however, she began thinking about homosexuality differently.
    “I have a lot of gay friends on campus,” she said.

    She said there have been other initiatives over the years to bring homosexuality to light at Gordon, but have been largely “hush-hush.”

    A group at the counseling center recently formed that is completely confidential. Green said this group is more therapeutic, focusing on how to deal with adversity and other issues. Her group would be a public forum for storytelling and getting to know other students.

    Soon after Soulforce visited Gordon, a small independent magazine called “If I Told You” circulated around campus. Created by student Diana McLean and two other students, it consisted of 12 anonymous stories from gay and lesbian students that were currently at Gordon or had just graduated.

    McLean said she sent out notices asking for people to tell their stories and experiences being gay at Gordon. She did two interviews herself and the book was printed. She initially planned to raise some money and make a few copies; however, word spread and soon she was getting donations from clubs and organizations on campus. With that money, 1,000 copies of “If I Told You” were made and passed out to students.

    “It was a pretty cool thing,” she said. “The response was overwhelmingly positive.”

    McLean said she helped organize the publication because she was astounded to hear stories from friends about how they were treated because of their sexuality.

    “There was not any awareness of this,” she said, adding that when she first arrived at Gordon, it didn’t occur to her that gay students attended the school. “I was completely oblivious of the struggles of these students.”

    She decided other students needed to know what she now knows and “go through the same reflective process.”

    While there are outlets at Gordon for debate on the subject in an abstract way, such as the school paper, there really wasn’t a place to say, “I am gay and this is how I feel; this is how I am treated; this is my experience.”

    McLean said the climate at Gordon has improved since Soulforce and “If I Told You.”

    “Discussions are happening that didn’t before,” she said, adding that when she was a freshman, there was a “big detachment” between homosexuality as a concept and as a reality.

    “Now there is a big concern to address that there are kids on campus (who are gay),” she said. “Conversations are happening that have a personal quality to it.”

    McLean said she wasn’t sure what would happen with the proposed group, but said Gordon should have a continuity to the dialogue and let it continue so incoming freshman will be exposed to it and be thinking about it.

    She said she was unsure if the proposed GLBT group was the best next step; however, she said some kind of group could be positive.

    “It would be nice if the GLBT students get together and start their own group,” she said.

    The Gordon College Student Association turned down the initial proposal turned down the initial proposal on a 7-6 vote.

    Read: The Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle: A place where voices can be heard: Gordon College students advocate for same-sex acceptance on campus

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights discussed online

    The Anglican Examiner has begun an on-line discussion and exploration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to their web-site, "Anglicans and other Christians from around the world, both learned and grass roots, are invited to offer their insights and perspectives on a document that mentions neither God nor Jesus Christ but has attracted the allegiance of the world's Christians for three generations."

    Despite the Lambeth Conference's repeated endorsement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, beginning in 1948 and reiterated and refined right through the 1998 conference, the Anglican Communion has yet to develop a meaningful human rights program or successfully stimulate dialogue about the ways in which respecting human rights principles manifests Our Lord's commandment that we love one another.

    Learn more here.


    Robinson to preach at London Church in July

    Bishop Gene Robinson will preach at St. Mary's, Putney in London on Sunday July 13 at 6 p.m. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has prohibited Robinson from presiding at the Eucharist, but does not have the canonical authority to prohibit him from preaching, although he attempted to dissuade him from doing so. The invitation was made by the Rev. Giles Fraser.

    Previous stories are here.

    Under the headings of reconsideration and apology, the Living Church made an important point regarding the issue of Bishop Robinson's right to preach, and we responded in a churlish way.

    Turning away from Jesus

    On the cover of Harpers Magazine is Garret Keizer's article called "Turning Away Jesus: Gay rights and the war for the Episcopal Church." Keizer discusses the effect of sexuality battles in the Episcopal Church on our mission, and asks questions about whether our attention on these issues helps us ignore other gospel mandates.

    Here is the first of two excerpts that we are re-printing with permission from Harpers:

    For me it is the methods more than the motives [of realignment leaders] that invite scrutiny, and the similarity of these methods to those of corporate culture that has the most to say to readers outside the church. What is “provincial realignment” at bottom, if not the ecclesiastical version of a corporate merger? What is “alternative oversight” if not church talk for a hostile takeover? For that matter, how far is “hostile takeover” from the sort of church talk that makes frequent reference to the mission statement, the growth chart, and evangelism’s “market share”? Martyn Minns, Peter Akinola’s irregularly consecrated missionary bishop to the breakaway churches of the conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America, told me that he had learned more during his years at Mobil Oil Corporation than he’d ever learned in the seminary. I suspect that is a much less exceptional statement than either Bishop Minns or the rest of us would care to admit.

    I was more surprised when I asked Minns what writers in the Anglican tradition had most influenced him, to have him cite Philip Jenkins’ The Next Christianity and Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. Friedman’s status as an Anglican aside, this is a ways from Richard Hooker. This is sola scriptura with a weird appendix, Matthew Mark and Mega-trends—and it is this aspect of the “global crisis” in Anglicanism and of the cant attending it that one would expect to be of greatest concern to any person marching under the flag of orthodoxy: this reverential awe for the “global forces” that we ourselves animate, the idols that speak with your voice. The global dynamics of Anglican realignment work in a manner not unlike the global dynamics of outsourcing and extraordinary rendition: the Galilean carpenter (or the Kabul cab driver) has his part to play and his cross to bear, but it’s the little Caesars calling the shots.”

    We will publish another excerpt later this afternoon.

    There are other quotes on the blog Alive on All Channels: Turning from Jesus.

    The Harpers cover story is available by subscription only here.

    Turning away from Jesus (part II)

    Here is the second excerpt from Garret Keizer's cover story in the latest Harpers Magazine called "Turning Away Jesus: Gay rights and the war for the Episcopal Church." which we are posting with permission from Harpers.

    Garret Keizer writes:

    I loved Martyn Minns, who offered to say a prayer for the success of my assignment (I didn’t refuse), just as I loved Colin Coward, who helped my wife and me buy our first tickets on the London Tube. And I wished Henry Orombi could have heard Coward describe his devotion the Office of Morning and Evening Prayer and that Coward could have heard Orombi’s deep voice—perhaps all the most resonant in the ears of a gay man—when I asked him what he saw of value in the Anglican tradition and he said without a moment’s pause, “It’s beautiful.”

    Most of all, I wish that everyone I talked to could have met the anonymous (as I promised) village curate I met in England, who said she knew, as a woman and as a disabled person, as a child who was always the last picked for teams, what it means to be prejudged and excluded, and who said she would try to minister in a loving way to any gay or lesbian person or couple who came to her church, but that on the rightness of blessing same-sex unions, she was simply not sure, and that it was difficult for her—so palpably difficult that I knew I’d ruined the rest of day just by asking—“to sit her and say I don’t know.” And I’d like to gather all the most strident of those I met in a nice tight pack around her and invite the one who is without doubt to cast the first stone.

    The Harpers cover story is available by subscription only here.

    The first excerpt may be found here.

    GAFCON agenda released

    The "pilgrimage" agenda for GAFCON in Jerusalem has been scheduled for the Renaissance Jerusalem Hotel from Saturday, June 21 through Sunday, June 29. Organizers say that over 1000 people, including 280 Bishops, plus exhibitors will attend.

    The conference includes daily Bible study, worship, and plenary sessions in the hotel conference facilities, with guided tours to selected sites by day, a chance for participants to see sites on their own and a one day bus tour to Galilee.

    It appears that conferees are staying away from Anglican sites in Jerusalem, Israel and Palestine, and it also appears that there will be no planned or official interaction with Palestinian Christians.

    The Conference brochure says that "An initial Consultation in Jordan will include the pilgrimage leadership, theological resource group, those bishops serving in majority Islamic settings and other key leaders."

    From the GAFCON press release:

    Tentative Program for GAFCON in Jerusalem

    (Please note that conference activities will take place at the Renaissance Hotel, unless otherwise specified.)

    Saturday, June 21
    4:00pm – 6:00pm GAFCON Registration Desk Open

    Sunday, June 22
    11:00am – 5:00pm GAFCON Registration Desk Open
    3:00pm – 5:30pm Optional Tour at participants’ personal expense:
    Israel Museum, Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls)
    7:00pm Welcome Dinner
    8:00pm Welcome Session

    Monday, June 23
    7:00am - 12 noon Pilgrimage to the Mount of Olives / Gethsemane
    1:00pm Lunch
    2:00pm Opening Service of Holy Communion
    5:00pm Focus Topic The Gospel and Secularism
    7:30pm Dinner
    9:30pm End of day of Prayers

    Tuesday, June 24
    8:30am Worship and Exposition - Genesis 12: The Promise of God
    9:45am Discussion and Prayer
    11:00am Workshops
    1:00pm Lunch
    2:00pm - 4:00pm Optional Seminar: Addressing HIV/Aids
    Optional tours at participants’ personal expense.
    5:00pm Focus Topic: The Anglican Communion
    7:30pm Dinner
    9.30pm End of day of Prayers

    Wednesday, June 25
    8:30am Worship and Exposition - Exodus 24: The Presence of God
    9:45am Discussion and Prayer
    11:00am Workshops
    1:00pm Lunch
    2:00pm Pilgrimage to Old City, Tower of David, Jewish Quarter, and homes of the Sadducees
    4:00pm Pilgrimage gathers at Ophel Gardens
    7:00pm Dinner
    8:00pm Focus Topic The Gospel and Religion

    Thursday, June 26
    8:30am Worship and Exposition – 2 Samuel 1 – 17: The King of God
    9:45am Discussion and Prayer
    11:00am Workshops
    1:00pm Lunch
    2:00pm - 4:00pm Optional Tours at participants’ personal expense:
    5:00pm Focus Topic Enterprise Solutions to Poverty
    7:30pm Dinner
    9:30pm End of day of Prayers

    Friday, June 27
    8:30am Worship and Exposition - Luke 24: The Son of God
    9:45am Discussion and Prayer
    11:00am Workshops
    1:00pm Lunch
    2:00pm - 4:00pm Plenary Session
    5:00pm Pilgrimage to Church of the Holy Sepulchre OR
    Tour of modern and biblical Jerusalem by coach
    7:30pm Dinner
    9:30pm End of day of Prayers

    Saturday, June 28
    7:30am All day pilgrimage to Bethlehem and Galilee

    Sunday, June 29
    8:30am Worship and Exposition - Revelation 21 The Throne of God
    11:00am Closing Service of Holy Communion
    1:00pm Closing Lunch

    Realignment Reconsidered

    Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh has published “Realignment Reconsidered,” a point-by-point rebuttal to the 8-page handout from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment.” It is available as a PDF file on PEP’s website.

    On April 22, the Diocese of Pittsburgh posted “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment” on its Parish Toolbox Web site. Pittsburgh Episcopalians should understand that this document is not so much de-signed to inform, as to influence. We believe that those who rely on the answers in the diocese’s FAQ may be putting themselves and their par-ishes at great risk. You will find alternative answers here that we think are more helpful and realistic. We understand that many in this diocese discount any document from Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. Schism is a serious business, however, and it should not be undertaken lightly or with incomplete information. Things may not be exactly as you have been led to believe.

    Lionel Deimel writes about the context of the new document on his blog:

    Some background of today’s announcement: On April 22, the Diocese of Pittsburgh posted “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment” on its Parish Toolbox Web site. That 8-page document distills the message Bishop Duncan has been delivering to individual parishes in his recent campaign to shore up support for his plan to remove the diocese from The Episcopal Church.

    Reading “FAQ” is a visit to a looking-glass world in which facts and logic are, shall I say, malleable. For example, question 4 asks: “If the Diocese chooses to realign, what would the immediate consequences be for individual … clergy?” The answer offered by the diocese is the following: “Clergy would need to enter a new retirement plan and would be clergy of the province that the Diocese joins instead of clergy of The Episcopal Church.” Even John-David Schofield, bold as he was in engineering the “realignment” of the Diocese of San Joaquin, was not so presumptuous as to suggest that his diocesan convention could undo the ordination vows of individual priests or deacons.


    It is difficult to identify a question and answer from the new document as being typical, but an example will at least provide a sense of what the Diocese of Pittsburgh has been saying and how we have tried to correct the record. Question 5 from “FAQ” reads as follows:
    Can a congregation “opt out” of diocesan realignment? What would happen to the a) parishes who do not wish to realign, and b) clergy who do not wish to realign?

    a) Parishes would be given time to consider whether to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh by changing the “accession” in their by-laws. The Diocese would work with parishes to make such a decision as conflict-free and charitable as possible.

    b) Clergy would apply to the Bishop for letters dimissory (transfer letters) from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to whatever entity the leadership of the Episcopal Church sets up.

    Our answer is the following (PEP answers are all set in italics):

    It is clear from the experience of the Diocese of San Joaquin that any parish that wants to remain in The Episcopal Church need only declare that intention. Likewise, clergy who want to stay in The Episcopal Church will not need to execute any sort of transfer or require anyone’s permission to do so, especially not that of a bishop who no longer holds authority in the church. Failure of a parish to declare its intention to remain an Episcopal parish could be construed as indicative of an intention to leave the church and could expose it to litigation by The Episcopal Church to recover parish property.

    It is the position of The Episcopal Church, supported overwhelmingly by diocesan chancellors and legal scholars, that a diocese cannot properly remove its accession clause from its constitution, nor can it remove itself from The Episcopal Church. There will continue to be an Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that is part of The Episcopal Church, but it will have new leadership. There will be no need for any parish remaining in The Episcopal Church to amend its bylaws, since there would be no conflict in acceding to the constitution and canons of the diocese that remains in The Episcopal Church.

    Legal precedent for the inability of Episcopal Church parishes to remove parish property from The Episcopal Church is strong. Such matters are largely governed by state law, and a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in the St. James the Less case—a case about which the diocese has largely been silent—gives little reason for realigning parishes to think that they can long remain in control of parish property. Changing parish bylaws will be unavailing.

    PEP’s biggest challenge will be getting “Realignment Reconsidered” into the hands of those willing at least to consider arguments at odds with statements made by their bishop. Proponents of realignment have demonized Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh at least as much as they have demonized The Episcopal Church, which makes it difficult for any PEP document to get a fair hearing in much of the Pittsburgh diocese.

    Read the whole PDF here and Deimel's reflections here. This is PEP's announcement and website.

    Shall we gather at the river

    As part of her three-day visit of the Diocese of Kentucky, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori led a tent meeting, Episcopal style. She presided over baptisms, confirmations and a communion service amid a blend of formal liturgy and an informal atmosphere reminiscent of Kentucky's frontier revivals, including hymns such as "Shall We Gather at the River."

    The Louisville Courier-Journal reports:

    She has studied deep-sea creatures as an oceanographer, piloted her own planes, become the first female leader of the Episcopal Church and traveled the world trying to resolve the controversies touched off by her denomination's ordination of an openly gay bishop.

    But for Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, yesterday marked something new. She acknowledged it was the first time she had ever led a tent revival.


    The service in Leitchfield took place at the diocese's All Saints Retreat and Conference Center, located along the Rough River.

    Jefferts Schori baptized four people, confirmed several others and presided over communion.

    "Each part of God's church has its own context," Jefferts Schori said in an interview yesterday morning, applauding the effort to express the Gospel "in a way that could be understood by the people who live there. It's not just language, but it's musical idiom and visual support."

    Her itinerary also includes worship services yesterday in Paducah and today in Louisville.

    Read about it here.

    News from the Church of Baseball

    In an amazing and inspirational game Monday evening, Jon Lester pitched a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox. ESPN reports on the pitcher who came back to pitch in the big leagues after a bout with a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

    It was Lester's first major league complete game. And what a way to do it.

    "You don't feel tired in that situation. You've got so much adrenaline going," he said.

    "I'm sure it will hit me in the morning."

    Lester (3-2) allowed just two baserunners, walking Billy Butler in the second inning and Esteban German to open the ninth; he also had an error when he threw away a pickoff attempt.

    Lester struck out nine, fanning Alberto Callaspo to end the game before pumping both fists in the air.

    Catcher Jason Varitek, who has been behind the plate for a record four no-hitters, lifted his pitcher into the air. Manager Terry Francona gave a long, hard embrace to Lester, who missed the end of the 2006 season after he was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

    "I've been through a lot the last couple of years. He's been like a second dad to me," Lester said. "It was just a special moment right there."

    Watch it here.

    Zimbabwe bishop excommunicated

    Episcopal Life Online is reporting that Nolbert Kunonga, former bishop of Zimbabwe, has been excommunicated and may no longer function as an ordained person in the Anglican Communion.

    The announcement by the dean of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, the Rt. Rev. Albert Chama, comes following disturbing reports of continued harassment and violence from local police against Anglicans trying to worship in Zimbabwe's capital city.

    Last week, Zimbabwe's Supreme Court dismissed an application from Kunonga to take control of Harare's Anglican churches. However, police in Harare have continued to use physical force in their attempt to bar worshippers from attending church services at the city's Anglican cathedral. [And throughout the cities Anglican churches.]

    Kunonga, who is an avid follower of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and has praised him as "a prophet from God," was replaced in December 2007 by Bishop Sebastian Bakare, who is supported by the majority of the country's Anglicans.

    Read it here.

    Other stories on the situation in Zimbabwe here.

    UPDATE: The NY Times is reporting that the GAFCON bishops have distanced themselves from Kunonga. Read about it and more news here.

    God is a bloke

    A survey of over a thousand people in Britain says that while most people still see a place for religion in modern life, as many as 73% of Christians surveyed said they considered God to be male.

    George Pitcher on the blog Faithbook at the Telegraph website reports:

    A survey of 1,050 people carried out on behalf of the Movement for Reform Judaism in Britain, which speaks for around a quarter of Britain’s 266,740 Jews, found 62 per cent considered God to be male, with only 1 per cent thinking of God as female.

    Christians are even more patriarchal - 73 per cent of those who classified themselves as Christian in the survey considered God to be male.

    Unsurprisingly for such an alpha-male God, just under half of respondents said they thought that all religions “fundamentally discriminate on grounds of gender”, while 56 per cent thought all religions discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.

    But in a blow to secularists who claim that Britain is a post-religious society, when asked whether religion has “no place” in modern life, only 29 per cent agreed while 62 per cent disagreed.


    The poll was commissioned to coincide with the launch of the MRJB’s new daily and Sabbath prayer book, or Siddur.

    The prayer book removes male descriptions of God such as King, Father and Lord, in favour of “gender neutral” expressions such as Eternal One and living God.

    It includes mentions of prominent women from the Old Testament for the first time in prayers such as the Amidah, the central prayer of the Jewish liturgy.

    It also provides prayers for 21st century problems such as environmental and natural disasters and prayers for depression, miscarriage and the death of a child.

    The new prayer book was drawn up after eight years of consultation and is the first new Reform liturgy for 30 years.

    Read: The Telegraph blog "Faithbook:" God is a bloke: Official

    Discernment in the city

    A group of young people came to New York City to see first hand urban ministries and to refine their own sense of call. They saw the effects of redevelopment and the close proximity of enormous wealth and extreme poverty and the challenges this poses to the churches that minister in the city.

    The New York Times reports:

    Angie Hummel craned her neck and beheld a glass-sheathed Upper West Side tower where luxurious studios sell for more than a million dollars. She shifted her gaze ever so slightly downward to the brick building where Mexican immigrant families cram four people into a single room barely big enough for a bed.

    “Oh, my God,” she said. “Nothing like a stark comparison.”

    It was that kind of day. Even where she stood — in front of a century-old brick church that was among the few structures not being demolished for new housing on West 100th Street — was a reminder of the price of progress in urban America. Smack dab in the middle of plenty, if not excess, people scrape by anonymously. For a religious person like Ms. Hummel, faith is found while navigating gently between those extremes.

    “I have my own struggle of what I am called to do in this world,” she said. “What’s the point if there is still going to be devastation and brokenness, even despite good works? Is God really there?”

    The New York Times: Finding, and Refining a Spiritual Call.

    Press conference on Lambeth plans

    The Episcopal Church Center sponsored a press conference today on the Lambeth Conference featuring the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas, professor at Episcopal Divinity School and a member of the Conference's design group.

    Jefferts Schori and Douglas emphasized the conversational aspect of this Lambeth Conference as differing from the 1998 meeting which was more parliamentary with resolutions. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Design Group have put together multiple encounters between those from very different cultural contexts to pray, worship, and talk about issues that both unite and divide the Anglican Communion. There will be times of closed sessions and others of a more open nature.

    According Douglas, the lack of invitation for Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and the bishops of irregular dioceses is rooted in the Windsor Report. Archbishop Williams' decisions were based in the report. In addition others were not invited such as Nolbert Kunonga of Zimbabwe, who is allied with brutal dictator Mugabe. However, it was acknowledged by the Presiding Bishop that when we avoid people who make us uncomfortable it ceases to be an incarnate conversation. The loss of one diminishes all. She reminded all that it is also not up to just one person to represent the story of The Episcopal Church and human sexuality.

    In response to a question by a Diocesan Communicator, Maria Plati of Massachusetts, and the relevance of the Lambeth Conference, Bishop Jefferts Schori remarked that it was an important global conversation of one part of the body. It is a time for listening to one another and that there would be no final decisions made without consultation with other members of the churches.

    In response to questions about the GAFCON conference in Jerusalem, the Presiding Bishop announced that Bishop O'Neil of Colorado will be with Bishop Dawani of the Diocese of Jerusalem to lend him support during that time. Jefferts Schori commented that all conversations can be helpful and GAFCON is no threat to the Lambeth Conference although Bishop Dawani has said that introducing conflict into already conflicted part of the world is not welcome.

    Listen to the webcast here.

    The schedule of events during the Lambeth Conference and other information is here.

    UPDATE: 11:30 p.m. EDT - The Pluralist has extensive reporting and comments here.

    Archbishop of Myanmar plea for aid

    Anglican Communion News Service carries a letter from the Archbishop of Myanmar (Burma) on the situation following Cyclone Nargis and the need for aid for emergency relief and long term redevelopment:

    ...the Church of the Province of Myanmar formed a relief committee on Wednesday 7 April 2008 and immediately sent out 4 teams to survey the affected areas. 3 of these teams returned, reporting general damage but little loss of life. The full extent of the damage in the Delta region, however, is still emerging. The team that was sent to what appears to be the worst affected area has confirmed widespread damage and extensive loss of life. In some places, entire villages have been devastated, with few if any survivors. In other places, survivors have huddled together in makeshift shelters awaiting aid. Travel in that area is very difficult, and villages are often in very isolated and remote areas, accessible only by boat. We have already sent a medical team to some parts of the most affected area, meeting both medical needs and distributing relief supplies. We plan to send a second one in the next few days.

    The overall situation is still relatively fluid, with government policy shifting in response to new developments. It continues to be inadvisable for our overseas friends to travel to the most affected area. We continue to receive reports and accounts, and these will contribute to our assessment of the scale of the human tragedy and how best to meet the immediate needs of survivors made homeless, injured and/or otherwise affected in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. We are also assessing the extent of damage to church buildings and property both in the Delta region and in and around Yango.

    Episcopal Relief and Development is working directly with those who are able to access the area. For how you can help click here. Also find information on relief following the earthquake in China.

    Complete letter is here.

    Church of England: prayers for students taking exams

    The Church of England has published prayers for students and teachers as they approach their exams. The Telegraph reports:

    The Rev Janina Ainsworth, the Church of England's chief education officer, said: "We hope these prayers will be used to give a helpful perspective and a sense of God's infinite love during testing times."

    Six prayers have been written for teachers, primary school children and secondary pupils. One written for teachers says: "I don't suppose that you have time for this, Lord, but I am nervous. Not for myself, but for my class.

    "Today they have that test, Lord; the one that seems to determine their future. They have worked hard, so have I! They deserve to do well. It should not be a problem, but… well, you know this lot, Lord."

    Read the prayers here.

    Mad Priest comments here.

    We often pray at exam time - usually when we have not studied.

    Christianity in the United Arab Emirates

    Via Earned Media:

    On Fridays, the Holy Trinity church compound in Dubai is abuzz with worshipers from early morning till after nightfall. Some 10 - 11 thousand members of more than 120 different Christian groups and congregations come here on the Emirates' weekly day of rest.

    Services in more than a dozen tongues - including English and Arabic, but most of them South Asian such as Urdu, Tagalog, Tamil or Malayam - fill not only the main church from 6 am to 11 pm but the 25 other halls built around a central courtyard adorned with a Canterbury cross.

    A vibrant church life may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Gulf region, which is primarily Muslim. But in a way, the 3-4 million Christians in the region, almost all of whom came in search of work from around the globe, present a microcosm of Christianity and the challenges of church unity.

    At the Holy Trinity compound the Christian testimony is one of diversity in worship, from the solemnity of song to happy clapping. As one services ends, worshippers quickly rearrange what was a sober Protestant worship facility into an Orthodox sanctuary with icons and incense. Glory to God is proclaimed throughout the day in a variety of liturgies.

    In Dubai, as throughout the United Arab Emirates, Christians are free to practice their faith, but only within the limits of their church compounds or in the privacy of their homes. The foundation stone of Holy Trinity Church was laid in 1969 by Sheikh Rashid bin Said Al Maktoum, then ruler of Dubai, who had graciously granted the land to the Christians living in his sheikdom.

    A chaplain was appointed to care for the spiritual welfare of the expatriate Christians living in Dubai, Sharjah and the northern Trucial States, as the state entity which preceded the UAE was called. The following year, Holy Trinity was dedicated as an inter-denominational church building.

    The Chaplaincy of Dubai and Sharjah has strong ties to the Anglican tradition. But it also lives up to its inter-denominational vocation and "the Anglican emphasis on hospitality", as the current chaplain Rev. John Weir underlines, by accommodating more than a hundred congregations of other traditions in the Holy Trinity compound - be they Evangelical, Pentecostal or Orthodox.

    Speaking from experience, this a very accurate description. The cacophony in the courtyard of worshippers coming and going through the Sabbath - from morning into night - is a wondrous sight to behold.

    Read the whole thing.

    Dust up over creation of new diocese of the Anglican Church of Nigeria

    The Daily Sun News (Nigeria):

    Justice Obiora, chairman of the committee, in explaining the rationale behind the Diocesan Synod's rejection of the application, after their working tour of the areas where they conducted a referendum, emphasized that any diocese to be created out of the existing one should promote peace and unity of the church and should not be designed to satisfy the whims and caprices of a few individuals in a community.
    In his contribution,the chancellor of the Diocese on the Niger, Professor Ilochi Okafor, reminded the agitators that their request must meet the provisions of the constitution of the communion, stressing that any request made for a new diocese by any part of the communion should be properly channelled and must represent the wishes and aspirations of the people asking for the new diocese.
    Okafor, who is also the vice chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, warned that the church would not allow a situation where a group of people in a community cause disaffection among other members in the quest for a new diocese.

    Referring to the agitation for the creation of Obosi Diocese, the chancellor made it categorically clear that no diocese would be created in an atmosphere of rancour and bitterness, adding that the recent press statements on the issue lacked merit and at the same time violated the constitution of the Church of Nigeria.
    The applicants which did not hide their feelings when they discovered that their application had been rejected, had accused the bishop on the Niger of blocking the creation of Obosi diocese to pave way for the creation of Ubiaja diocese which will have Awka-Etiti, the bishop’s home town as the headquarters with Obosi as part of the diocese.

    Read it all here.

    Presiding Bishop of Middle East withdraws from GAFCON

    Anglican Mainstream reports the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, Presiding Bishop of the Middle East and Jerusalem, has written that he will not be attending GAFCON. This means that the Primate in whose province the meeting is being held is not coming, and Bishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem, in whose diocese it is being held, wishes it would go away.

    Anis has concerns about the dominance of "Northern personalities" in the organization of GAFCON and the direction of the Global South.

    From his letter:

    Through [Global South] conversations together and clarifications made, we are led to understand and appreciate the principled reasons for participation in GAFCON (June 2008) and Lambeth Conference (Jul 2008). Even if there are different perspectives on these, they do not and should not be allowed to disrupt the common vision, unity and trust within the Global South.

    I would respectfully add that the Global South must not be driven by an exclusively Northern agenda or Northern personalities. The meeting of the Global South in '09 will be critical for the future, and the agenda will need careful preparation ahead of time.

    The constitution of the Global South needs to be reviewed in such a way as to clarify representation and appointment of office bearers. The Global South has contributed much to the initiation of the Covenant process, and will need to consider how it is progressing.

    The Anglican-Mainstream item is here.

    Last week Episcopal Life pointed out "the Most Rev. Mouneer Hanna Anis, primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, previously raised his concerns about the event [GAFCON] and acknowledged that his advice to the organizers -- that this was neither the right time nor place for such a meeting -- had been ignored."

    Over at the GAFCON frontpage, Anis is pictured (click and scroll to bottom) as if he is one of its leadership -- perhaps this oversight will be corrected in the near future.

    UPDATE: Yesterday this letter by Anis was posted at the Global South Anglican webpage, but today (May 23) it seems to have gone missing. But we have a copy below.

    Read the letter by Anis below:

    Read more »

    Communications director appointed bishop

    Thinking Anglicans has a statement from the Church of Nigeria in which the director of communications, the Venerable Akintunde Popoola (or AkinTunde, both spellings are used in the church's press release), is appointed bishop. The statement is signed by the director of communications.

    Read it here.

    Popoola has made frequent appearances on these pages.

    Gambian president vows to behead homosexuals

    From The Point for Freedom and Democracy:

    Speaking last Thursday at a victory celebration held at the Buffer Zone in Tallinding, President Jammeh said that a legislation“stricter than those in Iran” concerning the vice would be introduced very soon.

    He maintained that The Gambia is a country of believers, noting that such sinful and immoral exploits as homosexuality would not be tolerated in this country.

    He avowed that he would “cut off the head” of any homosexual caught in The Gambia.

    The Gambian leader gave orders that thenceforth, any hotel or lodge housing a homosexual be closed down, further warning that if found in any compound, the landlord would be in deep trouble.

    The President said his joy over the victory celebration is marred by the realisation that no one is helping him to make The Gambia the best place.

    Read it all here.

    If the Anglican Communion is serious when it says that just because a person doesn’t want gay bishops doesn’t make them homophobic, and that its leaders really are against discrimination and persecution, then we should fairly quickly receive a statement from the relevant province decrying the president’s intentions.

    If it isn’t forthcoming, we will have to conclude that they are fibbing.

    Bishop Robinson barred by California Cardinal

    The New Zealand Catholic reports,

    Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has barred a controversial Australian bishop from speaking in his California archdiocese.
    In a May 9 letter to Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary of Sydney archdiocese, Cardinal Mahony invoked the Code of Canon Law to explain that he had decided to "deny you permission to speak in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles."

    Cardinal Mahony took action just as the Australian bishops' conference issued a public statement warning of "doctrinal difficulties" in Bishop Robinson's new book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. The Australian bishops noted problems with Bishop Robinson's treatment of "the nature of Tradition, the inspiration of the Holy Scripture, the infallibility of the Councils and the Pope, the authority of the Creeds, the nature of the ministerial priesthood and central elements of the Church's moral teaching."

    Trends: The emergent and the mega churches

    Christianity Today brings us two stories.

    First, CT presented a five day exchange between two emergent church figures:

    Tony Jones is the national coordinator of Emergent Village and author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. Collin Hansen is editor-at-large of Christianity Today and author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists. Both books take a sympathetic journalistic approach to a young but growing movement in American Christianity, examining why it's growing and how it's changing the larger church.

    Second, Willow Creek's 'Huge Shift':
    After modeling a seeker-sensitive approach to church growth for three decades, Willow Creek Community Church now plans to gear its weekend services toward mature believers seeking to grow in their faith.

    The change comes on the heels of an ongoing four-year research effort first made public late last summer in Reveal: Where Are You?
    the analysis in Reveal, which surveyed congregants at Willow Creek and six other churches, suggested that evangelistic impact was greater from those who self-reported as "close to Christ" or "Christ-centered" than from new church attendees. In addition, a quarter of the "close to Christ" and "Christcentered" crowd described themselves as spiritually "stalled" or "dissatisfied" with the role of the church in their spiritual growth. Even more alarming to Willow Creek: About a quarter of the "stalled" segment and 63 percent of the "dissatisfied" segment contemplated leaving the church.

    A call for Kenya's bishops to attend Lambeth

    In commentary in The Daily Nation (Kenya), Charles Njonjo (former Cabinet minister and a member of the Anglican Church) calls upon Archbishop Nzimbi to attend Lambeth:

    The Archbishop of Canterbury’s call has been taken positively by a number of those who had intended to boycott Lambeth, among them Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh Diocese in the US, who said he believes it is important that the diocese be represented throughout the Lambeth Conference, if for no other reason than to provide an alternative perspective on the situation in the Episcopal Church.

    “Those who accuse us of abandoning the Anglican Communion will certainly be present and vocal. It is important for us to be able to respond directly to their claims about the situation in the Episcopal Church and our place in the Communion,” he added.

    The split within the Anglican communion on account of actions by the Episcopal Church needs to be addressed head-on. This conference is important to those Anglicans who wish to remain with the larger communion.

    Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone Province, who also had planned not to attend Lambeth, but has now changed his mind, said:

    ‘‘I think someone has got to go and show their face and speak on the situation... It is clear the division is final. Dialogue is the one thing that is lacking. I don’t think we are going to change people’s minds, but I think it would be wrong for us to get to a point where we acknowledge a division without coming together and talking about it.’’

    The Church as an institution is bound to have its limits. I think we have just hit the limit on this.

    The sad thing is that there seems to be no way the Anglican Communion can fully acknowledge that difference and find a way of gracefully dealing with it.
    We know that already, some bishops who do not take the same position as the Archbishop have courageously registered for the conference. Yet others, maybe from fear, are attending as observers.
    I find it impossible to keep quiet when people are frequently hounded, vilified, molested and even killed as targets of homophobia for something they did not choose — their sexual orientation.

    Where is our Christian charity?

    How sad it is that the Church should be so obsessed with this particular issue of human sexuality when God’s children are facing massive problems — poverty, disease, corruption and conflict!

    Emphasis added.

    Read it here.

    Virginia law threatens hierarchical churches

    The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has produced a cogent media release for reporters covering the May 28 hearing on the constitutionality of the law at issue in the case involving the diocese and breakaway parishes that have joined Archbishop Peter Akinola's Anglican Church of Nigeria.

    Read more »

    Episcopal Church airs "Put Your Faith to Work" ads

    Highlighting community outreach across the Episcopal Church and the theme "Put Your Faith to Work," new print and video advertisements are scheduled to debut starting May 22 for a summer run in public media.

    The first of a series of print ads -- headlined "Get Closer to God.
    Slice Carrots," -- is scheduled to appear in USA Today May 22-23. The accompanying video spot is targeted for the CNN Headline News/Airport Channel during peak holiday travel times, including the Memorial Day weekend.

    The full story is here.

    Two unrequested cents worth of commentary follows:

    I am always delighted whenever any arm of the Church does advertising of any sort. It is a sign that at least a few people recognize that we need to employ new strategies in our attempts to reverse the declining numerical fortunes of our Church. I like the "hands on" theme of this ad, and appreciate that those who planned the campaign have managed to pull this off even though there is no dedicated line for advertising in the budget passed by the General Convention.

    But there are a few things I hope we will consider in our next venture: Church leaders and communications professionals only learned that these ads existed last night. We've had no time to spread the word about them, no time to prepare our clergy and congregations for the questions that the ads might occassion. Generally an organization that is about to run national advertising preps its local affiliates on the campaign long before it appears, so the local units can participate fully in spreading the message. That hasn't happened here.

    I'm also wondering about the timing of this campaign. Perhaps those who planned it know something I don't, but I was under the impression that Back to School, Advent and Lent were the best times to air church ads, and summer was the worst.

    All that said, it's good to see any organized energy viz. evangelism emanating from Episcopal Church Center. Two cheers!

    The IRD goes green. Not

    Sarah Posner of the American Prospect has the story:

    In a new initiative launched last week, a group of conservative Christian organizations that deny the role of human activity in global warming, call for helping the poor by advocating against environmental regulation. This coalition takes direct aim at the "creation care" movement -- a different coalition of evangelicals who advocate for environmental protection.

    Read number 4 on her most recent Fundamentalist.

    Holy Apostle's Soup Kitchen

    For 14 years, Ian Frazier of The New Yorker has taught a writing workshop at Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in the Chelsea section of New York City. In this issue of the magazine, he writes about the church, its wonderful soup kitchen and the many people he has met through the workshop. The story is not available online, but an interview with Frazier is.

    Drexel Gomez, Mr. Unity

    Perhaps the most interesting element of this story about next February's meeting of the Anglican Churches of the Americas is that Archbisop Drexel Gomez, who would have us believe he is working to unite the Anglican Communion has thus far refused to participate.

    "Even though [representatives from the Southern Cone and West Indies] haven't participated in our design team conference calls, they have communicated with me and continue to receive progress reports about the design of the conference," [Bonnie] Anderson, [president of the House of Deputies and one of the organizer's of the conference] said. "We continue to hope that they will participate in the conference."

    That the Southern Cone isn't coming is no surprise. Bishop Gregory Venables has raided three of the other provinces in the Americas, but Gomez, as chair of the Anglican Covenant Design Group, has a responsibility to work toward reconcilation with the communion--a responsiblity he embraces when it includes preaching at the ordinations of bishops whose mission is to lead people (and property) out of the Episcopal Church, but avoids when it involves meeting with people who favor the blessing of same-sex relationships.

    At the recent conference on the Anglican Covenant held at General Seminary in New York, an FOTB (friend of this blog) asked Gomez why his province had yet to make its intentions regarding the conference clear.

    Here is the report:

    I said something like, "What I want to ask you is a question about a MOST encouraging gathering which I understand is being planned for June in Costa Rica to bring together not only primates but other constituent members of different provinces ... it seems to me exactly what I've heard you talking about in terms of finding ways to bring the communion together and I wonder if you can say more about your hopes for this meeting and whether you think it will set a hopeful tone coming so close before the Lambeth Conference." (Or something like that.) He did NOT look amused ... said that the organizers of the meeting had "gotten ahead of themselves" by indicating his province would be represented and that they were meeting in provincial synod (I think that's what he called it ... anyway) and they would be discussing it then. I then asked if I could ask a follow up ... and asked it before I got permission: Could the Archbishop then comment on whether or not he was hopeful that his province would be persuaded to be part of this important gathering as I understood his was one of only two which had not yet committed to be there. He allowed as it would be "difficult" because there were many who did not want to have those conversations. I told him we'd pray for them while they met. He said thank you.

    Surely someone in the Anglican Communion Office or Lambeth Palace is bright enough to realize that this man's behavior makes the covenant a bitter pill for the provinces in the Western Hemisphere, and one they may well balk at swallowing.

    From Utah to Myanmar

    From KSL TV in Salt Lake City:

    Getting help for cyclone victims in Myanmar has been difficult, but one church in Utah has been in the country since the cyclone hit and has a very good relationship with the people there.

    Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah has been to Myanmar twice. The church has a sister diocese there, and this past February she took a group to distribute aid to a region in the north.

    The story is here.

    Hopeful sounds?

    Writer Doug LeBlanc has wondered about the future of conservatives who remain in the Episcopal Church. He says that recently released audio of a two-hour meeting that included Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina offers encouraging signs.

    Hat tip: Episcopal Life Online.

    Appreciative Inquiry at Lambeth?

    Andrew Gerns, a member of the news-team here at the Lead, is thinking that he sees evidence that there's a plan unfolding for this summer's Lambeth conference. But he's thinking it's not going to be business as usual, since doing things the "normal" way is what has gotten us to the loggerheads we're at today.

    "Since 2003, the Anglican Communion, and all the Instruments of Unity together and separately have shown us that we cannot legislate our way out of this, and that diplomatic solutions are at best provisional. The Windsor Report is a disaster precisely because it attempts to solve a problem structurally that is at heart a theological problem. But it did not spring out of nowhere.

    Progressives have tended to go about solving problems by way of organizing and creating legislative and judicial solutions to theological and moral problems. And, in my view, the reasserters have gone wrong because they have attempted to impose a competing, conciliar (structural and political) solution to solve what they fundamentally see as a theological problem.

    In other words, we have a legitimate series of problems and impasses, that need to be addressed concretely. But instead of building on what we do best as a Communion, and in the Episcopal Church, we have tended to focus on fixing specific symptoms through the use of interest group politics. That is building solutions based on our weakness."

    Andrew suggests that by way of response, the design team has decided to intentionally incoporate the principles of Appreciative Inquiry into the proceedings of the conference.

    He makes a convincing argument. He lays out the principles of AI and then observes:

    If the gathered Bishops can build on the positive core, what binds us and draws us together as Anglican Christians; if they can use the stage that Williams and the design team have set for them and allow themselves to appreciate what we have, imagine what we might become, and proclaim what we should be, and then go home and help the rest of us do what must be done, then perhaps, perhaps, this conference next month could be quite revolutionary.

    Read his full thinking here.

    Marriage for all

    All Saint's Church in Pasadena, one of the largest congregations in the Episcopal Church has announced that, in response to the recent California Supreme Court ruling, they have decided to "treat equally all couple presenting themselves" to be married at the church.

    From the press release received from the congregation quotes the Rev. Edwin J. Bacon Jr., rector of All Saints:

    “Today’s decision is consistent with All Saints Church, Pasadena’s identity as a peace and justice church,” said Bacon, following the historic vote. “It also aligns us with the Scriptures’ mandate to make God’s love tangible by ‘doing justice and loving mercy’ (Micah 6:8) and with the canons of our Episcopal Church that forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

    [...]“As a priest and pastor, I anticipate with great joy strengthening our support of the sanctity of marriage as I marry both gay and straight members and thus more fully live out my ordination vow to nourish all people from the goodness of God’s grace.”

    The full press release follows below

    Read more »

    Florida priest reinstated by Ugandan bishop

    There's news today in the Jacksonville Sun of a priest who has been reinstated to the ministry by his Ugandan Anglican bishop. The reinstatement is due to the priest's "modeling true repentance for a real failure". The priest was removed for having an inappropriate relationship with a parishioner in his former parish.

    From the article

    "'Sam has modeled true repentance for a real failure, and we, as believers, need to model and demonstrate true forgiveness,' said the Rev. Neil Lehbar of Church of the Redeemer on Baymeadows Road in Jacksonville, who has been friends with Pasco for 30 years. 'I'm grateful for Sam and Beth's [Pascoe's wife] determination to grow personally and stay faithful to Christ. His return to ministry will be a work in progress.'

    Lehbar invited Pascoe to share his story at the 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. services June 1 at his church. Pascoe, former pastor of Grace Anglican Church, will also celebrate communion for the first time since his defrocking in February 2007 for having an inappropriate relationship with a church member.

    On June 8, Pascoe will be a guest preacher. He hopes to land a full-time pastor position at a church somewhere.

    'That was the church that embraced me. They said, 'We have room for one more sinner.' We can minister out of this, it can't hurt me anymore, it can only heal,' he said.

    After the scandal broke, Pascoe and his family moved to Virginia for a year. He's been in counseling for 15 months now and has been working with some accountability groups. He said his reinstatement was mainly paperwork."

    Read the full article here.

    For background on the situation look at Episcope's archives




    Update: a commenter who didn't leave a name points out that Pascoe was disciplined by a Rwandan bishop and reinstated by a Ugandan. Which seems to indicate that once you decide provincial structure and the concept of geographic diocese is irrelevant, any bishop can claim authority anywhere.

    Flow diagram needed to trace church fragmentation

    Jason Byassee, writing for the Christian Century, makes a wry observation about the complexity of Anglican fragmentation. Even at the local level, he writes, "it takes a long memory or a flow chart to keep straight all the Episcopal-Anglican divisions and acronyms that have developed in the well-heeled suburbs of DuPage County, just west of Chicago." Part of the problem is that most people tuning into the situation are under the impression that homosexuality is the most important issue, but Byassee notes other factors:

    In fact, the local Anglican story is largely about charismatic leaders coming and going, and congregations growing in their presence or folding in their absence. Among the AMIA folks, the juiciest disagreements have been over the ordination of women rather than the ordination of gays. And the biggest fight to date has been over the relationship between church and state in Rwanda, not in the U.S.

    The energy in all these churches comes to a great extent from the many evangelicals who have converted to Anglicanism, a phenomenon outlined some 20 years ago by Robert Webber in Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail. For the most part, evangelicals joined the Episcopal Church out of an appreciation for its liturgy and tradition, not for its generally liberal approach to sexual ethics and scripture. Many of these people have an association with evangelically oriented Wheaton College, where Webber taught for many years.

    Recall that, "last fall, All Souls, a parish with some 150 worshipers, pulled off a coup: it announced that it was bringing Paul Rusesabagina, a hero during the Rwandan genocide, to speak" but at the last minute the event was cancelled at the direction of Archbishop Kolini's direction. Byassee continues:
    Much of this complex history [lying behind the Kolini's disdain for Rusesabagina] was lost on conservative American Anglicans who had fled TEC for AMIA. Sandra Joireman, a professor of international relations at Wheaton College, says of All Souls: "A little church in Wheaton avoided the Scylla at home but not the Charybdis of African ethnic politics."

    The situation is especially ironic because AMIA often uses invocations of the Rwandan genocide to its advantage. Archbishop Kolini even compares TEC with the perpetrators of the genocide, accusing it of engaging in a "spiritual genocide of the truth." He also says, "Ten years ago, when Rwanda cried out to the world for help, no one answered. So when we heard the American church crying out for help, we decided to answer." Western guilt is invoked, African heroism is lauded and AMIA can feel good about itself. But the whole narrative depends on a romanticized vision of church and state in the African country.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Virginia's allies

    The Washington Post covers a story we've discussed earlier. The hearing on the constitutionality of the law in question will be held on Wednesday in Fairfax County.

    A half-dozen national Protestant denominations are supporting the Episcopal Church in a multimillion-dollar Virginia property dispute, saying a state law at the heart of the case could threaten them, too.

    The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA), among others, have filed court briefs in the past few weeks supporting the Episcopal Church, which is fighting 11 breakaway Virginia congregations that say the national church has become too liberal on issues from salvation to sexuality. Majorities of those congregations voted to leave and are now in Fairfax County Circuit Court over who gets to keep the property.

    The power of prayer

    On Speaking of Faith (whose site won the Religion and Spirituality Webby award, it should be noted) this week, Krista Tippett has repurposed some interviews from 2003, before the program was syndicated nationally through Public Radio International, and used them to create a program that examines prayer as a global phenomenon that takes place in many religious and even nonreligious traditions.

    Anoushka Shankar, the daughter of Ravi Shankar, talks about her background in Hindu prayer and meditation and how that was shaped growing up in England and California. Her prayer experience is largely set in the context of music, and she discusses Hindu chants and mantras. She also talks about her journey through faith; she put distance between her childhood faith and her relationship with music as a teenager, but as a young adult, came to realize that her music was infused with an intense spirituality.

    Tippett also talks to Stephen Mitchell about the Psalms, about nonreligious prayer, and how he was drawn to the Book of Job's revelations about the nature of human suffering. He draws a parallel between the insights he gets from Job and koans from the Zen tradition. It doesn't matter, he says, whether prayer takes place in a sacred space or not, because prayer creates the sacred space. Mitchell's love of the poetry of prayer makes a nice contrast to Shankar's connection to music as prayer.

    Finally, Tippett interviews Roberta Bondi, who says there is no "right" way to pray. Bondi has written several books about how she learned to pray, particularly in light of being a "rational, reasonable woman":

    Ms. Tippett: Abbas and Ammas were Christians from all walks of life who, around the fifth and sixth centuries, retreated from a church, which they felt had been corrupted by its own power. They went into the deserts of Egypt and Syria to pray. Politicians, generals, and peasants sought their advice on matters both spiritual and secular. Abba and Amma are Semitic words for father and mother, and their insights were collected by their followers and passed down across centuries as the sayings of the fathers and mothers. The theology of the desert transformed Roberta Bondi's image of God. The Abbas and Ammas imagined a God more understanding, more compassionate than human beings ever are towards each other or towards themselves. They were Christianity's first mystics and psychotherapists rolled into one. Their eccentric, earthy sayings changed Roberta Bondi's way of thinking about religion. Still, she held prayer itself at a scholarly distance until a crisis of confidence early in her marriage to her husband, Richard. One day, as often, he was late coming home.

    Prof. Bondi: I was sitting there on the couch and all of a sudden the Abbas from the ancient desert started saying to me, "Roberta, Roberta, we have something to say to you," and I said, "Shut up and leave me alone. I'm worrying." And they said, "Oh, oh, no. Come on now. Come on. Listen." "Shh, shh, I'm worrying. Leave me alone." And finally I said, "All right. All right. What do you have to say?" And they said to me, "Well, now, you know that the main thing we're doing out here in the desert is prayer, and you have spent a lot of time studying us and working on us, and you might consider whether this might be something for you." And I said to them, "Oh, come on now. Look, I am a rational, reasonable woman, and I'm an academic, and this is, what you're suggesting, just is not really for me." And the answer to that was, "Ho, ho, ho, you might also consider as part of this that you have put Richard into the place of God for you. You know how we say that no one or no thing can fill that hole in your life except God, that your identity rests only in God and that all other loves come out of that, and that no human being can ever fill that. Of course you feel the way you do." So I was very embarrassed, because I knew, of course, instantly that they were right.

    Recurring themes in the three interviews include the resonance, intimacy, timelessness and creativity of prayer.

    You can listen to the whole thing, as well as accessing resources such as transcripts, unedited interviews and an annotated guide to the program, here.

    Before Rolling Thunder, there's Motorcycle Mass

    In preparation for this year's Rolling Thunder event, where hundreds of thousands of bikers descend on the nation's capital in honor of fallen and missing heroes, several thousand strong showed up in New Jersey for the Motorcycle Mass, led by a Catholic priest, Father Mark Giordani. He's actually been doing this since long before Rolling Thunder, now in its 21st year, began: Giordani, himself a biker, started the tradition 39 years ago, according to the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly piece on the event:

    SEVERSON: Nobody loves to ride more than the biker priest, and it's pretty clear that his "hog" belongs to an unusual rider.

    (to Fr. Giordani): So you've got the whole story of Christ on the fender of your Harley Davidson?

    Fr. GIORDANI: Basically, that's right. We have the Nativity. We have the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, and, of course, the Holy Spirit on the tank, which branches out to the saddle bags.

    SEVERSON: Is this what Jesus would drive?

    Fr. GIORDANI: I think if he were physically present here on earth today, definitely this would be his choice.

    SEVERSON: Hard to imagine this machine would be an evangelical tool, but he says it has an impressive record, like the time he came across another biker in Nova Scotia who asked if he could confess.

    Fr. GIORDANI: And then he ended up saying, "It was the most beautiful day of my life. I never felt such freedom, such peace in my heart. Why did I carry this garbage all these years? Why didn't I make a connection with God before?"

    Read/watch the whole thing here.

    Albany resolutions on ordination, marriage

    The Diocese of Albany convention in June will consider two resolutions on marriage and the priesthood. Featured speakers at the convention include the Coordinating Bishop for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. This week the Diocese of Virginia is in court with CANA for a hearing on the freedom of a denomination to organize itself hierarchically, commensurate with its theology.

    Albany Times Union

    The Episcopal Diocese of Albany is weighing changes to local church law that will likely touch off fresh controversy around homosexuality and marriage issues when they come up for a vote next month.

    One resolution mandates that only a person who is in a heterosexual marriage or "celibate and abstinent" can be eligible for ordination as a priest or consecration as a bishop. Another holds that only heterosexual marriages can be celebrated or blessed in the diocese -- and marriage between a man and a woman is the only kind of union permitted on diocesan or parish property.

    Clergy and lay delegates will vote on the proposals during the 19-county Albany Episcopal Diocese's annual convention June 6-8 in Speculator.
    Neva Rae Fox, spokeswoman for the 110-diocese Episcopal Church, said the policy is "we do not discriminate in the ordination process." But the Episcopal Church does not have a rite for same-sex blessings, she added.

    "There is talk that the idea of having a rite for same-sex blessings will come up again at the next General Convention," Fox said. "But there has been no legislation proposed at this point."
    National church canons express an ideal, but the reality on the ground varies from diocese to diocese and bishops have a lot of local autonomy. Three dioceses still do not ordain women even though female ordination was officially adopted more than 30 years ago and national resolutions have mandated that bishops allow women into the process.

    The board of Albany Via Media, a group of liberal-to-moderate local Episcopalians, described the proposal that would allow only heterosexual unions in the diocese as a "defensive" move likely based on "the rumor that New York state will soon pass laws making same-sex unions, and perhaps marriages, legal."

    Read it here.

    Bishop Love writes that "This year’s guest speakers include several very dear friends of mine. The Most Reverend Ben Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria, and his wife Gloria, will address the Convention on Saturday...."

    As previously reported on The Lead, quoting the Dallas New Religion Blog, "Bishop Kwashi is the Coordinating Bishop for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. He's on the board of Trinity School for Ministry and is chairman of Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA) International. It's unclear what the difference in roles is (or will be) betweeen Bishop Kwashi who serves as coordinating bishop of CANA and Bishop Minns, who is to be installed as "Bishop Missionary Leader" of the same organization."

    A new take on mainline's decline

    Commentary from USA Today this week posits that mainline megachurches might be the solution to declining mainline churches—or does it? Once you read past the lede, you'll find the piece takes a closer look at the phenomenon and doesn't buy the oft-touted explanation that all our mainline people have run away to more conservative havens. In fact, with all the attention raining down on mainline churches as a result of renewed focus on faith on the Democratic side of the political process, signs are pointing to hope for these churches.

    But sociologists led by Michael Hout, at the University of California-Berkeley, have found that the problem for the mainliners is not that people are souring on their theology and ideology and defecting to conservative and evangelical churches. A primary reason for mainline decline is lower fertility rates among their predominately white, native-born members, researchers say. Unlike evangelicals, Mormons and Catholics, the low birth rate among mainliners has not been offset by streams of immigrants.

    Culture has also played a role. As American Christians became more prosperous and educated, they tended in the past to join higher-status denominations such as the Presbyterians and Episcopalians. But researchers have found that this historic infusion of members has dried up as evangelicals have become a suburban, middle-class and even affluent demographic. Evangelicals are now remaining loyal to their churches.

    Demographic trend lines notwithstanding, there are still a lot of Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, American (Northern) Baptists and other smaller churches — and mainline membership is at nearly 20% of the U.S. population. Yet evangelical megachurch pastors have stolen the theological show in recent years, perhaps because of the role they've played for the GOP in close presidential elections — and the fact that they have one they claim as their own in the White House.

    Yet mainline Protestants' moral capital remains undiminished. Their passionate commitment to social and economic justice; their long-standing support for racial and gender equality; and their opposition to what they see as unjust wars should give them standing in the national discourse. Just because they are unaccustomed to raising their voice doesn't mean they should be ignored.

    Read more, including significant commentary from the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, here.

    Five things to know about being Episcopalian

    The Wenatchee World, the "fiercely independent voice of North Central Washington," offers up some local wisdom about the Episcopal Church in the form of five bullet-points from the Rev. Patton Boyle of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Wenatchee. Boyle, briefly profiled before moving on to a short primer on "being Episcopalian," makes an interesting observation about ministry that many people might relate to:

    Now, after being an ordained minister for 38 years and a priest for 37, Boyle says it's part of the natural rhythm of his life. "Ministry makes introverts more extroverted. ... I tended to think too deeply about stuff when I was younger. I think I've mellowed over the years."

    The five things you ought to know read almost like a rebuttal to media portrayals of the Episcopal church. It's okay that we disagree, he says; worship is what brings us together. We draw from both Catholic and Protestant traditions, and yes, we are part of the Anglican Communion. From bullet-point No. 2:

    The Episcopal Church approaches the faith from three basic standpoints: Scripture, reason and tradition. Episcopalians aren't expected to accept everything they are told or always agree with the priest or other leaders. "They take what is of value and use it. I expect them to disagree with me at times. ... The church expects people to make their own moral and ethical decisions." Parishioners are asked to explore issues thoughtfully and prayerfully and to come to their own decisions. The approach is more like, "I respect your opinion, and I will think deeply about that, but that may not be, in the end, what I decide is right for me." Parishioners make decisions based on thorough study, reason, prayer and examining one's own conscience rather than having them prescribed to them.

    You can read the entire tip-sheet (which might be of use to you the next time you run into someone who says, "Episcopali-huh?") here.

    The sacramental divide

    David Heim, executive editor of the Christian Century, makes this interesting observation after serving as a hospital chaplain:

    I’ve been doing some chaplaincy work in a hospital, and have been struck by this difference between the patients: When you ask a Protestant patient what you can do for him, he’s likely to say, “You can pray for me.” Ask a Catholic and she’s likely to say, “I’d like to have communion.”

    No big surprise there, perhaps. But it’s still interesting in light of the fact that Lutherans and Episcopalians and other non-Roman Catholics often think of themselves as a sacramental people who believe Christ is mediated through the sacraments in a special, objective way.

    . . .

    Yet a few days of ministry in any hospital brings home this truth: Catholics are sacramental in a way that is profoundly different from the way Protestants are sacramental. If a hospital patient asks the chaplain for communion, the chaplain can be 99 percent certain that the patient is Roman Catholic. Lutherans, Presbyterians and other Christians may say that they give equal weight to word and sacrament or that communion is a central part of their faith, but how many, when they go into the hospital, ask for the sacrament?

    I find myself admiring the Catholics’ tenacity in requesting the sacrament—the way they firmly and clearly insist on bringing the rituals of their faith inside the walls of the medical establishment. At the same time, I find myself wondering in old-fashioned Protestant fashion about whether the sacrament is being consumed in a way that detaches it from the word. These are ancient questions—but still live ones.

    Read it all here.

    When you last met a hospital chaplain, what did you ask for? If you have served as a hospital chaplain (that means you, Marshall), did you notice this divide?

    Blue laws and church attendance

    What did the repeal of blue laws do to church attendance? Some economists looked at the data and they found what you would expect--a reduction in church attendance:

    In their study, which appears in the May 2008 edition of The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Gruber and Hungerman show what happens when religious services must compete with shopping, hobbies and other activities.

    . . .

    The economists used data from the General Social Survey on religious attendance and from the Consumer Expenditure Survey to show a very strong reduction in religious attendance and a decline in religious contributions once the blue laws were repealed. They found no change in other charitable activity, Gruber notes.

    To confirm their findings and to complete the economic portrait, the authors also analyzed budget data for four major Christian denominations over the past 40 years. Church expenditures declined significantly since the repeal of the blue laws, they found.

    Read the MIT press release here. Hat Tip to Economist's View. The full article can be found here (but at a price).

    Teachers preaching creationism in public schools


    Fully one-fourth of science teachers are teaching creationism or intelligent design in U.S. classrooms, according to a recent survey:

    US COURTS have repeatedly decreed that creationism and intelligent design are religion, not science, and have no place in school science classes. Try telling that to American high-school teachers - 1 in 8 teach the ideas as valid science, according to the first national survey on the subject.

    Michael Berkman, a political scientist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, and his colleagues found that 2 per cent of 939 science teachers who responded said they did not teach evolution. A quarter reported teaching about creationism or intelligent design, and of these, nearly half - about 1 in 8 of the total survey - said they taught it as a "valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species" . . .

    Sixteen per cent of the total said they believed human beings had been created by God within the past 10,000 years. The teachers who subscribed to these creationist views, perhaps not surprisingly, spent 35 per cent fewer hours teaching evolution than educators with more scientific views, the researchers found.

    Read it all here. The full report can be read for free here.

    On evangelicals and homosexuality

    With all the excitement in the Anglican Communion over issues of sexuality, we failed to note a quite interesting development on these issues in Evangelical circles. David Gushee, distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, is a self-described Evangelical centrist. He has written two columns for the Associated Baptist Press about homosexuality.

    The first column focused on how the church treats GLBT persons:

    I’m one of the few leaders in Baptist life with the freedom to talk openly and honestly about the complex theological, moral, pastoral, and public policy issues raised by homosexuality without destroying myself professionally.

    Because I hold a tenured professorship in Christian ethics at Mercer University, I am one of those rare souls who can talk candidly about this hot-button issue. And these days I’m finding it hard to avoid the nagging and unsought conviction that this freedom now demands responsible exercise.

    . . .

    In light of the hatred, mockery, loathing, fear and rejection directed at homosexuals in our society -- and in our churches -- I hope to God that I am not and never have been a perpetrator. But I fear I have indeed been a bystander. I am trying to figure out what it might mean to be a rescuer.

    There are always very, very compelling reasons to be a bystander. Mainly these revolve around self-interest. You live longer when you are a bystander. People like you more. And even if you entertain nagging questions of conscience about your inaction, in the end it is easier to stay out of it. And so the hated group keeps getting thrown under the bus.

    . . .

    I want to begin a dialogue in this column by simply calling for the rudiments of Christian love of neighbor to extend to the homosexual. And the place to begin is in the church -- that community of faith in which we have (reportedly) affirmed that Jesus Christ is Lord.

    The second column, published earlier this month, seems to move much further in the direction of affirmation:

    In moments of grave moral conflict there are always such competing narratives about what’s really going on. The question becomes how we discern God’s will, how we read the signs of the times, how we figure out whose narrative is the right one.

    Consider: 1850, United States: Slavery is either a biblically mandated practice or an abomination before God. 1938, Germany: The church is either called to accommodate itself patriotically to Nazi rule or to resist it even to the point of imprisonment and death. 1963, United States: The Civil Rights Movement is either a great Spirit-led force for liberating oppressed black people or a bunch of misguided rabble-rousers destroying public order. 1980, South Africa: Apartheid is either God’s plan for keeping the races separate or a grave violation of God’s will for justice. 1990, Southern Baptist Convention: Full equality of women in church leadership is either direct disobedience to Scripture or a long-delayed fulfillment of God’s will.

    Those caught in the midst of such profound moral conflicts have three options: they can clearly side with one narrative, they can clearly side with the other narrative, or they can seek a kind of in-between position in an effort to take some of the rough edges off of the debate -- and, in doing so, perhaps prevent irreparable divisions in churches and denominations.

    But in the end, as the examples above indicate, on the most significant issues, the middle-of-the-road position almost always fails.

    . . .

    The deeper question is posed by the competing narratives presented above. Either homosexual behavior is by definition sinful, or it is not. If it is sinful by definition, then presumably it must be resisted like any other sin. If it is not sinful by definition, then the homosexuality issue is a liberation/justice struggle for a victimized group.

    Probably the right answer to this question will be very clear to everyone (that is, to 99% of all reasonable Christian human beings) in 100 years, as the proper positions on slavery and Nazism and civil rights and Apartheid are to modern-day Christians. But in real time, right now, it is tearing churches and denominations apart here and around the world.

    Read the first column here, and the second here. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

    Bishop Robinson talks about civil union ceremony

    Bishop Gene Robinson and Mark Andrew will have a civil union ceremony in June. Religious News Service spoke with Bishop Robinson about the ceremony and how this very personal day is a both a sign of hope and a cause for consternation, depending on who one speaks to, in the Anglican Communion.

    Q: How are the ceremony plans coming together?

    A: We're very, very much looking forward to it. The first part will be a civil ceremony that will be presided over by our lawyer, and then we'll proceed with the service of Holy Communion in which we give thanks to God for showing up in our relationship.

    Q: You came under fire not too long ago for saying you always wanted to be a "June bride." Do you now wish you had chosen different words?

    A: Yeah, yes and no. On the one hand, it's just a sign of how little humor there is in this whole debate. What I was trying to say is that all of us grow up wanting our relationships to be affirmed by our friends, and gay and lesbian people are no different.

    Q: Are you calling this a wedding, or a civil union, or a commitment ceremony or something else?

    A: One of the things that drives me nuts is that everyone in the press calls it a wedding, and they say we're honeymooning in Lambeth. Of all the places I'd want to go on a honeymoon, Lambeth is the last place I'd think of.

    Bishop Robinson talks about the timing of the ceremony and it's significance.

    Q: The Lambeth Conference is coming up this summer, and you said in the book that if you did your ceremony before Lambeth, it would be seen as offensive, and if you did it after Lambeth, people would think you didn't care what Lambeth had just decided. So does it matter when you do it?

    A: It does. The real reason we're doing it now is that death threats have already started coming in from England and at our home answering machine. I am simply not willing to travel to the Lambeth Conference this summer and put my life in danger without putting into place the protections for my beloved partner and my daughter and granddaughters that a civil union affords us. It's simply that simple.

    Q: So you're getting death threats and you weren't officially invited to Lambeth anyway. Why go? Wouldn't it be safer to just stay home?

    A: It almost always would be easier not to follow what you discern to be God's call. Even if it is dangerous, the Anglican Communion should not be allowed to meet without the reminder that bishops are meant to serve all of God's people, including gay and lesbian people. Our voices will be there to remind them of that.

    Q: Obviously this is a personal ceremony between you and your partner. But you're doing it in a public way. What's the message for the wider church, or the nation?

    A: First of all, I do this because I love my partner and I'm committed to him for life. Mark and I have been together for 20 years, and this service will be in thanksgiving for God showing up during those 20 years, as well as in the future. We could have sneaked off to the town clerk's office and solemnized our union and it would be legal, but that's not how we're built.

    I'm keenly aware that what I'm about to do was absolutely unthinkable when I was growing up. Gay and lesbian kids today need to know that their relationships can have the kind of affirmation from the culture and the church that they deserve.

    Read the rest: Religious News Service: Gay bishop discusses civil union

    Archbishop Akinola and the Bible

    Archbishop Peter Akinola, who has yet to answer questions about his knowledge of a 2004 massacre of 700 Muslims in Yelwa, Nigeria, was nonetheless granted a visa to enter the United States and deliver the commencement address at Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry. Commenters at Thinking Anglicans are not impressed by his theology.

    Op-eds outline two sides of Virginia dispute

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch has published two op-ed pieces that outline the essential arguments in the current court case of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia vs. CANA and the Anglican District of Virginia.

    The perspective of the Episcopal Church is written by The Rev. Dr. David Cox, David Cox, who holds a Ph.D. in theology and is author of 'Priesthood in a New Millennium,' a study in Anglican ecclesiology.

    Taking CANA's side is the Rt. Rev. David Bena, who is a contact bishop in the Anglican District of Virginia and suffragan bishop in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

    Saying "Don't Let the Courts Dictate Theology," Cox writes:

    When congregations in Northern Virginia and elsewhere seceded from the Episcopal Church, they did two things: First, they took a theological step, not simply because of why they seceded, but also in the very act of seceding.

    Second, their act effectually altered the ecclesiology that they had earlier accepted. These dissenters claim to remain "Anglican" by joining themselves to another Anglican entity, under bishops in Africa or South America. To do so, though, by congregational vote is suddenly to adopt a Congregationalist ecclesiology which is contrary to the Episcopal tradition. They made a momentous theological change.

    Aside from the fact that these two theologies don't mix, what's relevant for the judiciary is that this is a theological issue. It is at heart a conflict of ecclesiology.

    Theology, though, is profoundly not a matter for courts in the United States to decide. For secular judges to determine whether a congregation may or may not depart from its denomination is to enter into an ecclesiological debate. To find for the plaintiffs would say to the Episcopal Church, "you must now follow a free-church ecclesiology." But in so doing, the court would thereby establish a particular form of church governance that is foreign to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion -- even, ironically, to those Anglican provinces that are now accepting these parishes.

    In other words, the government would be establishing a religion. And if government can apply these standards to the Episcopal Church, then it can do so to Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Orthodox, and other faiths that vary from free-church ecclesiology. For that reason, denominations from the Methodist, A.M.E. Zion, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and even Seventh-Day Adventist traditions have filed briefs supporting the Diocese of Virginia.

    To enter into this debate is inherently to "do theology" and, in the end, risk specifying how people should live their faith. Barring some clear violation of law (as with polygamy), under the First Amendment the government simply may not regulate the faith and order of a religious organization. It cannot, must not dictate a doctrine of God, or a doctrine of the church. Not in America.

    Bena says that the Diocese of Virginia is "attacking the faithful:"

    Our congregations simply wished to remain faithful to the historic teachings of the Anglican Communion and could not in good conscience follow the revisionist direction of the Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church and the Diocese walked away from us and the worldwide Anglican Communion by choosing to reinterpret Scripture on a number of issues. They sued us when we refused to follow them on that prodigal path.

    Read the two columns here and here.

    Bishop-elect of Texas

    The second youngest bishop in the Episcopal Church was elected Saturday in Texas. The Rev. C. Andrew Doyle will, upon receiving the proper consents, be the ninth Bishop of Texas. And he's a blogger.

    Episcopal News Service reports:

    The Rev. C. Andrew Doyle was elected May 24 to be the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

    Doyle, 41, is a native of the diocese who has spent his entire ordained ministry in the diocese. He is currently canon to the ordinary for Texas Bishop Don Wimberly. Doyle describes himself in his autobiographical sketch as having grown up "High Church Anglo-Catholic." He and his wife JoAnne are the parents of Caisa, 11, and Zoë, 6.

    He earned the Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1995, was ordained deacon in the Diocese of Texas later that year and ordained a priest in 1996. Doyle served at St. Stephen's School in Austin, Texas; Christ Church in Temple, Texas; and St. Francis Episcopal Church in College Station before becoming canon to the ordinary in 2003.

    Doyle was elected on the fourth ballot from among six nominees. He received 264 of 481 votes in the lay order and 128 of 247 in the clergy order. An election on that ballot required 241 lay votes and 124 clergy.

    Read more here and here.

    Doyle is blogging his experience here.

    Experiencing disability

    The Archbishop of Canterbury and a Rabbi discuss the experience of disability with the BBC. Rowan Williams is totally deaf in one ear and Rabbi Lionel Blue talks about his epilepsy.

    Dr Rowan Williams is totally deaf in one ear, and while recognising that this is a comparatively minor disability, feels that it has made him think about communication, and how disability can create tensions on both sides.

    "When you are with people who have real challenges, deep disabilities, you are left being put in touch with your own vulnerability and your own uselessness, your own lack of omnipotence," he said.

    With Lionel Blue, who has epilepsy, the issue is not so much communication, as embarrassment; but being Rabbi Lionel Blue, he has tried, wherever possible, to see the funny side of life.

    "I think I was grateful for epilepsy," he said.

    "Although materially it has been an inconvenience, spiritually it has taught me a lot.

    "For example, I know what it is like to be at the wrong end of the stick, to need help, to go through a difficult patch in life.

    "And I don't suppose I could have got that knowledge very easily in any other way.

    "I think without it I'd have been a much smugger person."

    Listen to the story here.

    Evangelism: marketing or recruiting?

    The Telegraph's George Pitcher

    What [aggressive evangelism of the Victorian variety] leads to is a sales-performance mindset for the Church, obsessed with the headcount in the pews rather than what the household of faith does with its ministry. And we end up with enjoyable but rather pointless poster campaigns about Jesus Christ as Che Guevara or Mary's "bad-hair day".

    A great former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, famously said that the Church was the only institution to exist for the sole purpose of its non-members. This could be taken as a command to evangelism, but Temple did not say that its purpose was to make new members. What he was saying was that the duty of the Church is to serve the world in which it finds itself.

    So, if marketing is not the correct management discipline, what is? I would suggest that the Church of England abandons the marketing department in favour of the personnel function, or Human Resources as it is more often known these days. The HR department of a company looks after job descriptions and contracts and the Church of England needs to understand its contract with the people. The HR staff will have a diversity policy and a concern for the work/life balance and the welfare of its employees; in extreme cases it should sack people who grossly misbehave. And, yes, HR is responsible for recruitment, a much better word than conversion or evangelism. Recruitment is an offer, not a command, and is attractive and responsible. It invites people in rather than shoving something down their throats.

    Read it at the Telegraph's Faithbook blog. The subject of the post is the call by the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, to do more to convert British Muslims to the Church of England.

    Staying involved

    As noted earlier on The Lead, Douglas LeBlanc describes the encounter between Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina and thinks it is a good model for how conservatives can maintain their place in Episcopal Church and be sure that the church takes seriously our commitment to value and keep the conservative voice at the table.

    He writes in Episcopal Church Online:

    I think these two hours of audio are a good model for how conservative dioceses may stand for what they believe in. For that matter, these sessions are a model for how some conservative parishes might receive their bishop -- in addition to celebrating the Holy Eucharist together -- during a regular visitation. (I realize the diocese did not schedule the Holy Eucharist during the Presiding Bishop's visit. I'll leave the moral outrage about that to others.)

    I think such open exchanges make a few important points:

    * Some conservatives have made it clear that they feel driven, whether by conscience or theology or the promptings of the Holy Spirit, to leave the Episcopal Church. With our continuing presence, we make clear that we are neither leaving nor threatening to leave.
    * We care about doctrine. In South Carolina, that doctrine sounds like a lively mixture of stout Reformation evangelicalism (which has a clear Anglican precedent in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion) and Anglo- Catholicism (which has an equally clear precedent in Anglican history). When it feels as though our beliefs clash with something we hear from leaders of the broader church, we will not be afraid to identify the conflict.
    * Conservatives hear frequently that our voices are an important part of the Episcopal Church. One great way to test that assertion is to speak up about what we believe. In short, we will respect our church's declarations of inclusion by being ourselves. We will trust God, in the fullness of time, to resolve those matters that divide us.

    Read the rest here.

    War is...

    The NY Times blog, Freakonomics reports on twelve replies given by the Canterbury Club at West Point to the question, "What do you think about war in general?"

    1. Unfortunately war is necessary and has been for thousands of years.
    2. War is a tragic and hopefully unnecessary part of life. I pray that militaries may become deterrent forces only.
    3. War is a necessary evil.
    4. While war may appear to be the least beneficial thing to mankind and society in general, there are numerous aspects of it which further our development. Whether it be the liberation of oppressed people or simply the cooperation of two very different peoples, which results in new friendships between cultures, many positives are found amongst the tragedies.
    5. War is the most effective way to get things done.
    6. War is about protecting the innocent and fighting so others don’t have to.
    7. Fear leads to hatred and hatred leads to war.
    8. It is a horrible and necessary thing. We may as well be the best at it.
    9. I believe war is a necessary evil if there is a good enough reason (e.g., World War II).
    10. War is that in which humans grow most.
    11. I think war is a way to strengthen our country. It shows other countries that our country will not be stepped on and we will defend our country.
    12. War is a failure of diplomacy.

    They are all West Point cadets — more specifically, members of the West Point Canterbury Club, whose answers to questions about war were recently featured in an edition of The Episcopal New Yorker".

    Read it all here.

    Church in Iraq opposes death penalty

    Ekklesia reports that an al-Qaeda leader in Iraq has been sentenced to death for the killing of the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho - despite the church's opposition to the death penalty.

    The Iraqi government said the criminal court had imposed the death sentence on Ahmed Ali Ahmed, known as Abu Omar.

    The archbishop of Mosul, who was 65, was kidnapped in February by gunmen who attacked his car, killing his driver and two bodyguards. His body was found in a shallow grave two weeks later.

    The US Embassy in Baghdad welcomed the sentence, saying in a statement: "Reiterating our condolences to the archbishop's family and community, we commend the Iraqi authorities for bringing the perpetrator of this brutal crime to justice."

    But the Archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako said the death penalty against the convicted killer would not help improve the situation in Iraq.

    Read it all here.

    Rest in green

    According to the Telluride, CO Watch you can now have a "green" burial.

    Thanks to Telluride-based EcoffinsUSA, eco-friendly caskets, coffins and urns are now available nationwide to funeral directors and funeral homes for an all-natural, green burial.

    Ecoffins are hand woven from organic sustainable materials, available in six unique casket styles, four coffin patterns and six ashes urns. Standard sizes accommodate adults up to 325 pounds; smaller sizes are also available.

    Ecoffins biodegrade naturally, leaving nothing behind but human remains within six months to one year from the time of burial. The product also works well for cremation, releasing dramatically fewer toxins than conventional coffins during the cremation process.

    More information here and here.

    ... willow coffins are the ultimate consideration towards environmental recycling. This is because willow grows up to 8ft in height in one year and because it grows from the same crown annually, it doesn’t need to be replanted each time it is harvested. Willow requires little mechanical processing, making it one of the few truly environmentally renewable resources. In addition, willow when buried under the ground decomposes far more quickly compared to hard woods.

    Tutu to investigate Gaza killings for UN

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu will visit Gaza later this week to conduct a United Nations investigation into the killing of 19 Palestinians by Israeli shells in November 2006.

    According to a report by Ekklesia:

    [Tutu] is intending to visit the scene of the incident in which Israeli forces fired an artillery barrage into the Gazan town of Beit Hanoun.

    The UN Human Rights Council set up the fact-finding mission in 2006, with Tutu charged with reporting back with his findings, but Tutu had been denied a visa for the last 18 months.

    Read it all here.

    Recently Bishop Tutu spoke at the UN on Faith and Health. Ecumenical News International (ENI) reports:

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a man known for speaking out about injustices from whatever side they come, and for his charismatic preaching peppered with heart-wrenching anecdotes. However, when he visited the United Nations in Geneva on 20 May, he stressed the link between "faith and health".

    Listen to his speech here.

    Zimbabwe update

    The Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare has issued a pastoral letter revealing the harassment, assaults and beatings Anglicans are experiencing in Zimbabwe as they try to gather to worship. He encourages them to join house groups for prayer and support. His letter via Anglican Information follows below.

    ENI reports the Zimbabwe police have banned open air prayer meetings as well.

    Read more »

    Worship and church growth in Sudan

    Anglican Journal of Canada reports from Rumbek, Sudan. Editor Leanne Larmondin reports on worship and church growth in the midst of cultural and political challenges.

    It is mid-morning on a Sunday in late March. The hot, equatorial sun is already warming up the day and still, an hour before the church service begins, the songs of praise are already rising above the enormous tree that provides shade to the hundreds of worshippers gathered below.

    Seating is limited to wooden benches and plastic chairs – a boy of about five years of age even brings his own to guarantee a good seat. Generally, the women sit together in one section with many of them dressed in white dresses and headscarves (the uniform of the Mothers’ Union), shaking bells and other handheld instruments along to the lively hymns in the local Dinka language. The children gather in another section, the smaller ones occasionally wandering around hand-in-hand looking for family members. The men, the smallest group at this service, are on the margins of the gathering of about 1,400. Many of the adults hold distinctive long, wooden crosses through the service (see related story, p. 11).

    Despite the challenges of everyday life in Sudan, the church – as it is in many parts of Africa – is growing. But churches in Sudan say they must contend not only with a nation that is rebuilding after two decades of civil war, but also with the presence (and growth) of Islam.

    Read it all here.

    Bishop's Big Sort

    Scott Stossel, deputy editor of The Atlantic, reviews Bill Bishop's new book, The Big Sort:

    Superficially, the phenomenon Bishop is examining is not new, and the litany of division he recites is familiar. The two major political parties have become more extreme and can’t find common ground anymore. National civic groups and mainline church denominations have withered away, replaced by smaller, more narrowly focused independent groups. Marketers (and political pollsters) have sliced up the population into increasingly “microtargeted” segments. The three-network era of mass media, which helped create a national hearth of shared references and values, is long gone, displaced by a new media landscape that has splintered us into thousands of insular tribes. We can no longer even agree on what used to be called facts: Conservatives watch Fox; liberals watch MSNBC. Blogs and RSS feeds now make it easy to produce and inhabit a cultural universe tailored to fit your social values, your musical preferences, your view on every single political issue. We’re bowling alone — or at least only with people who resemble us, and agree with us, in nearly every conceivable way.

    This separation into solipsistic blocs would perhaps not be so complete if people of different political views or cultural values at least lived within hailing distance, and encountered one another on the street or in the store from time to time. But, increasingly, they don’t. Over the last decade, as 100 million Americans have moved from one place to another, they’ve clustered in increasingly homogeneous communities.
    Does this balkanization matter? Bishop argues convincingly that it does. Psychological studies suggest that the mere fact of division, even when there is no substantive content to it, can be corrosive: in a series of experiments in the 1950s and ’60s, groups of similar people arbitrarily divided into subgroups quickly exploded into conflicts of “Lord of the Flies”-like intensity. Other studies have shown that when relatively like-minded people are grouped together, they don’t settle around the average point of view of the individuals in the group but rather become more extreme in the direction toward which they’re already inclined.

    Any parallels to denominations you may know is purely coincidental.

    Read it all in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. See, also, the LA Times.

    Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial: "dubious legacy of interposition"

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch on the constitutionality of the Virginia law of division:

    The situation in Northern Virginia focuses on property and denominational governance. After leaving the Diocese of Virginia, the breakaway churches affiliated with African branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion. They continue to occupy their buildings. Therein lies the legal irritation. The Episcopal Church is hierarchical. Individual parishes are neither truly independent nor fully autonomous but emanate from the diocese. The bishop serves as the foundation's head. Rectors and priests represent him or her at the parish level. We will not delve further, as in this instance church structure flows from denominational belief and thus falls under the purview of theologians.
    Neither camp has made any of its decisions lightly. The decision to leave a church, or a diocese, is not an idle act; the decision to defend institutional interests is not idle, either -- especially when the interests embody reliance on Scripture, tradition, and reason.

    Virginia prides itself as being the birthplace of religious liberty -- America's first freedom. The Virginia law under review interferes with an intradenominational debate and violates the spirit of church-state separation even as it resurrects the dubious legacy of interposition. If the commonwealth acted wisely when it disestablished the Anglican Church, then it errs when it implicitly tells the Diocese of Virginia how to run itself.

    Read it all. The trial on the constitutional question opens today.

    Amartya Sen's low opinion of ethanol

    Amartya Sen teaches economics and philosophy at Harvard and received the Nobel Prize in economics in 1998. He writes today's New York Times about the global food crisis:

    Much discussion is rightly devoted to the division between haves and have-nots in the global economy, but the world’s poor are themselves divided between those who are experiencing high growth and those who are not. The rapid economic expansion in countries like China, India and Vietnam tends to sharply increase the demand for food. This is, of course, an excellent thing in itself, and if these countries could manage to reduce their unequal internal sharing of growth, even those left behind there would eat much better.

    But the same growth also puts pressure on global food markets — sometimes through increased imports, but also through restrictions or bans on exports to moderate the rise in food prices at home, as has happened recently in countries like India, China, Vietnam and Argentina. Those hit particularly hard have been the poor, especially in Africa.

    There is also a high-tech version of the tale of two peoples. Agricultural crops like corn and soybeans can be used for making ethanol for motor fuel. So the stomachs of the hungry must also compete with fuel tanks.

    Misdirected government policy plays a part here, too. In 2005, the United States Congress began to require widespread use of ethanol in motor fuels. This law combined with a subsidy for this use has created a flourishing corn market in the United States, but has also diverted agricultural resources from food to fuel. This makes it even harder for the hungry stomachs to compete.

    Ethanol use does little to prevent global warming and environmental deterioration, and clear-headed policy reforms could be urgently carried out, if American politics would permit it. Ethanol use could be curtailed, rather than being subsidized and enforced.

    Read it here.

    Government policy does make a difference. World rice prices have tumbled since Cambodia -- one of many countries to institute export controls on rice -- removed its rice export ban. Meanwhile, the U.S. house and senate this month passed the Farm Bill with veto proof majorities.

    75 listen to Bishop Duncan

    The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the Pittsburg Bishop Bob Duncan recently spoke to about 75 persons at a meeting of the Southeastern Wisconsin chapter of the American Anglican Council. The meeting took place "in a Catholic church hall near Nashotah House Episcopal seminary." The Journal Sentinel quotes Duncan:

    "What I can tell you about a meeting of the lead [like-minded] bishops was that there was unanimity among us, that all of the efforts that are swelling up from the ground around the country are to be encouraged, and that we actually anticipate that we will be in a situation within 24 to 36 months in which . . . a separate ecclesiastical structure in North America within the Anglican Communion will exist as a united reality. And that I think is very good news."
    Emphasis added.

    The following message was sent to the office of the Presiding Bishop yesterday:

    The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is saddened to learn the Presiding Bishop and her chancellor will continue to press for the deposition of our Diocesan Bishop, Robert W. Duncan, Jr. for the Abandonment of Communion at the September 2008 House of Bishops Meeting. Although we recognize the authority of the Episcopal Church to discipline and remove its ministers for violations of its canons, we believe Canon IV.9, Sec.1 has been misapplied and Canon IV.9, Sec.2 has been misinterpreted in this instance.

    Should our Diocesan Bishop be validly deposed pursuant to the requirements set forth in the canons, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is prepared to exercise its role as the Ecclesiastical Authority of this diocese.

    Unanimously affirmed by the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, May 27, 2008.

    Emphasis added. The standing committee appears to be attempting to stake a claim to Ecclesiastical Authority in the event Duncan is deposed, even as it acts in concert with Duncan.

    Father Jake has more. Duncan, no doubt, welcomes our attention.

    Female bishop roundup

    Australia: Two female bishops in 10 days

    Stephen Crittenden interviews Dr. Patricia Brennan on Australia's first female Anglican bishops. Brennan is former President of the Movement for the Ordination of Women:

    Stephen Crittenden: Well indeed in your comments when you spoke in Perth the other night, I'm told that you made a very interesting point, that Sydney Anglicanism has been in fact marginalised and made even irrelevant by its continuing opposition to the leadership, the headship of women, and that this is why the Sydney Anglicans have put so much energy in recent years into forging overseas alliances, particularly in the Third World.

    Patricia Brennan: Well how are they going to have an impact on Lambeth? I mean there's military power, there's demographic power and there's moral power. I mean the demographic power they can show now is a statement that four primates who represent 30-million Anglicans are going to have a -

    Stephen Crittenden: And this is the African Primates.

    Patricia Brennan: Yes. I like it that they say Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Sydney. I saw Sydney coming out like a kind of a nation in itself.

    Crittenden also interviewed Canon Barbara Darling who this weekend will become Australia's second female bishop:
    Stephen Crittenden: Do you think that the set of protocols that have been worked out, and unanimously agreed to, which is interesting in itself, do they still perhaps leave women bishops as second-class bishops? Until you're able to be a bishop without conditions, are you going to be a first-class bishop?

    Barbara Darling: There were some conditions. I believe we are called to be bishops and we are going to be consecrated as bishops. There are certain protocols put there because there are some people who are not happy to have women in authority, and that's sad, but it is a reality in the church today, and we need to be able to move forward and to accept each other, and this is a way we can move forward. I've received letters of support from people who are opposed to women in the episcopacy and yet can see there is a genuine call and that God is calling women to this. They will be praying for us, even though they may not be able to accept the authority that is there at the moment. They may change, they may not.

    Meanwhile, Thinking Anglican is covering the latest in the Church of England:

  • The House of Bishops takes a position to move ahead with historic reforms
  • (this post has received 68 comments to date)
  • Petitions in support of women as bishops

  • Petitions opposed
  • Proper procedures used in depositions

    The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls writes to the House of Bishops that the procedures used for consent to deposition of a Bishop for abandoning the communion of this Church were procedurally correct:

    To: House of Bishops
    From: Task Force on Property Disputes
    Re: Proper Use of Abandonment Procedures for Bishops

    Subsequent to our meeting at Camp Allen, some Bishops of The Episcopal Church and some commentators have suggested that we may have failed to follow our own rules for giving consent to the deposition of a Bishop for abandoning the communion of this Church. A careful analysis and examination of the canon law, however, confirms that consent to deposition was procedurally appropriate, as the House’s Parliamentarian ruled and the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor has advised.

    This memorandum is intended to provide the Members of the House with necessary legal background and the reasoning supporting that conclusion for the assurance of the Members as to past actions and in advance of their consideration of any additional such actions in the future.


    The House of Bishops followed the proper canonical procedure for consenting to the depositions of John-David Schofield and William J. Cox from the Ministry of The Episcopal Church as provided in Canon IV.9 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church (2006) for the following reasons:

    A.The intended meaning of Section 2 of Canon IV.9 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church (2006) is that the consent of a majority of the Bishops voting at a meeting of the House of Bishops constitutes valid consent for the deposition of a Bishop.

    B. Precedent establishes that the House of Bishops acted appropriately in considering and acting upon the Presiding Bishop’s referral to it of the abandonment of communion certified to her by the Review Committee.

    C. Procedural safeguards assure fairness and justice in the case of Bishops accused of having abandoned the Communion of this Church.

    The letter is available here in pdf.

    A plague on both your houses

    Garret Keizer's essay [link, subscribers only] appearing in the June 2008 issue Harpers Magazine, continues to impress. Diane Winston, the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California writes:

    "Turning Away from Jesus: Gay Rights and the War for the Episcopal Church" (link currently malfunctioning?) in the June issue of Harper's gave me the chills. It was that good.

    The magazine sat on my desk for over a week. I'd look at the cover (a detail from a Prague altarpiece), and put it down, loath to read yet another piece about the Episcopal sex crisis. Thanks in no small part to the mainstream media, homosexuality has been the defining issue for Episcopalians (as well as Methodists and Presbyterians) for the past 20 years. As a result, mainline Protestantism's (potentially) prophetic voice has been drowned out in the debate over who can sleep with whom and still do God's work. Yes, it's a big deal but so is the war in Iraq, public education, the environment, New Orleans, poverty and the imperial presidency. At times, I wonder if it's an easier fight than the ones with less obvious (depending on your side) heroes and villains,

    Evidently Garret Keizer agrees: "How does a Christian population implicated in militarism, usury, sweatshop labor, and environmental rape find a way to sleep at night? Apparently, by making a very big deal out of not sleeping with Gene Robinson [the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, a gay man, whose election to the episcopacy is the focal point of current divisions between so-called liberals and conservatives domestically and abroad]. Or on the flip side, by making approval of Gene Robinson the litmus test of progressive integrity, a stance that I have good reason to believe would impress no one so little as Gene Robinson."

    Read the rest of Winston's thoughts here.

    The Lead has excerpts from Keizer's essay here and here.

    The solace of centrism

    Jeff Sharlett says Steve Waldman has succumbed to "the solace of centrism" in his new book on the faith of the founding fathers.

    Meanwhile, Founding Faith--a new book by Steven Waldman, a former religion reporter--is the sort of carefully crafted crowd pleaser that trades Williams's liberty of conscience for the solace of centrism. "The Founding Faith," Waldman writes, "was not Christianity, and it was not secularism. It was religious liberty--a revolutionary formula for promoting faith by leaving it alone." Here we see the implications of the fine line Nussbaum draws between "freedom" and "equality." The former, on its own, can collapse into the sort of bland theism announced by an original catchphrase of Beliefnet, an online religion portal created by Waldman in 1999 and recently sold to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp: "Everyone believes in something." In political terms, such a sentiment results in the banal cold war faith of President Eisenhower, who dispensed with the Constitution's Establishment Clause with the curt declaration that "our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply felt religious faith--and I don't care what it is."

    The Nation has his review.

    Virginia church property case focuses on constitutional issues

    The Episcopal Church and a number of other religious denominations squared off in court yesterday against 11 breakaway congregations and the Virginia attorney general's office over the constitutionality of a Civil War-era state law governing religious property disputes.

    Coverage is here, here and here.

    I attended the hearing and was struck by the careful, probing questions of Judge Randy Bellows, by the quality of lawyering on both sides (although Virginia Solicitor General William E. Thro seems to form very strong opinions before mastering basic facts, such as the name of the Episcopal Church's property canon--it's Dennis, not Dean--and how authority is distributed within the church) and by the intellectual rigorousness of the hearing.

    It seems that the case could turn on whether the state has made sufficient provisions in its laws for hierarchical churches to hold property in a way that honors the church's polity. In the Episcopal Church, many parishes hold their property in trust for their dioceses. The Virginia law isn't comfortable with that. It wants the diocese to hold property in the name of the bishop or another official, or else via a corporation.

    It seems obvious to this Episcopalian that putting all property in the name of the diocese would tip the carefully constructed and unevenly maintained balance of power within our Church decisively toward the bishop and away from the laity and clergy, and that this constitutes an infringement of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. But it wasn't clear to me that the Diocese of Virginia’s lawyers made that point as strongly as they could have. Assertions by the breakaway congregations and the state that the church held property as it did out of administrative convenience, and that changing the nature in which we hold property was primarily an administrative matter weren't countered as forcefully as they could have been.

    Another argument, advanced most effectively by the diocese's "friends," including a number of religious denominations, holds that whether the law places too great a burden on the diocese is immaterial because in making the law the state created a special standard for adjudicating religious property disputes, while no similar standard exists for adjudicating similar disputes within secular organizations such as labor unions or fraternal organizations. As a result, this argument goes, the state deprives the religious organizations of the legal protections available to secular organizations (such as having the question of property resolved within the organization via a study of the deed to the property and reference to the organization's own bylaws) and thereby discriminates against the church.

    Three things seemed certain: Judge Bellows’ ruling will be appealed; he is well aware of this; and the ruling will be so tightly tethered to Virginia law that it is unlikely to affect litigation elsewhere.

    I heard speculation that the ruling would be released in late June or early July.

    Lambeth Walk to focus attention on global poverty

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today announced plans to mount an unprecedented mass walk of bishops and other faith leaders through central London during the forthcoming Lambeth Conference to demonstrate the Anglican Communion's determination to help end extreme poverty across the globe.

    The Archbishop will be joined by approximately 600 other archbishops and bishops, and their spouses, alongside other UK faith leaders for the high-profile symbol of commitment to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight promises made by world leaders to halve world poverty by 2015. Taking place on Thursday 24th July, the event will culminate in a rally in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, the London home and office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    The event is being organised in partnership with Micah Challenge UK, part of the international Micah Challenge movement dedicated to uniting Christians to work together for an end to world poverty.

    From the Anglican Communion News Service.

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has also released a communique from her recently concluded summitt on domestic poverty.

    "The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality": a disappointment

    The Anglican Communion has released a new book, The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality - A resource to enable listening and dialogue, edited by Philip Groves. Groves is the Facilitator for the Listening Process and a Canon of All Saints’, Mpwapwa, Tanzania. He has served in parish ministry in England and as a lecturer at St Philip’s Theological College, Kongwa, Tanzania. He is a trustee of CMS, on the Council of St John’s College, Nottingham, and the author of Global Partnerships for Local Mission (Grove, 2006).

    The release is here.

    From the release:

    This study guide is designed to be accessible to all. Its aims are:

    ♦ to hear the diverse responses offered from across the Anglican Communion

    ♦ to inform and encourage study of the issue in parishes, dioceses and provinces

    ♦ to increase the individual reader’s understanding of diverse perspectives of approaches to homosexuality.

    The contributors to this timely book are women and men who reflect the geographical and theological diversity of the Communion. They include bishops, clergy and lay people with a wide range of expertise and experience.

    Editor's note: All well and good, but the book does not do what Resolution 1.10 at Lambeth 1998 suggested that it do. It does not listen to the experiences of gays and lesbians. Rather it listens to perspectives about them. It may be a valuable book, but the change in charge represents a failure of nerve at the highest level of the Communion. It is a tacit admission that some of the leaders of our communion are so bigoted that they will not allow gays to speak for themselves unless space is provided in the same forum for others to speak against them.

    Marriage equality on the move

    Developments in California and New York suggest that the nation's largest states are moving much faster than the Episcopal Church in recognizing the legitimacy of same-sex relationships.

    The Sacramento Bee reports on a recent Field Poll:

    Signaling a generational shift in attitudes, a new Field Poll on Tuesday said California voters now support legal marriage between same-sex couples and oppose a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

    By 51 to 42 percent, state voters believe gay couples have the right to marry, according to a May 17-26 poll of 1,052 registered voters.

    However, the same poll revealed a California electorate that remains sharply divided over gay marriage – split by age, political affiliation, religion and the regions where they live.

    In San Luis Obispo, gay couples are queing up to get married on June 17, the first day such marriages will be performed.

    And across the continent, the state of New York is preparing to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

    Updated: the California campaign to pass a constitutional amendment against gay marriage is going to be expensive, and will involve a familiar figure, Howard Ahmanson, who thinks it is okay to stone homosexuals.

    On the anti-same-sex marriage side, the donors are led by a pair of wealthy Southern California businessmen who are also evangelical Christians. Fieldstead & Co., the company owned by billionaire financier Howard Ahmanson, gave $400,000 in February and March to the committee behind The California Marriage Protection Act. Christian radio magnate Ed Atsinger has donated $12,500. Both live in Southern California. Each man gave $100,000 to back Prop. 22 in 2000.

    Just to refresh memories, here is how Ahmanson explained his views on homosexuality to the Orange County Register in August 2004:

    "I think what upsets people is that [his one-time spiritual leader, the Christian reconstructionist John] Rushdoony seemed to think--and I'm not sure about this--that a godly society would stone people for the same thing that people in ancient Israel were stoned. I no longer consider that essential."

    However, he added:

    "It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things. "But I don't think it's at all a necessity."

    There you have it, the brutal murder of homosexuals isn't essential, but it isn't inherently immoral.

    Zimbabwe: Archbishops appeal to UN to protect worshippers

    Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba joined Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury yesterday in a telephone call to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in which they appealed for help over the disruption of church services and the beating of worshippers in Zimbabwe.

    The two archbishops said in a joint statement on Thursday that Zimbabwe, as well as experiencing "murderous attacks on legitimate political activists," was now also seeing "brutality towards men, women and children meeting for Christian worship."

    They pleaded for "immediate high level SADC and UN mediation and monitoring to ensure a free and fair presidential run-off, and the protection of its [Zimbabwe's] citizens from state-organised violence."

    The full text of their statement follows:

    Read more »

    Property cases elsewhere

    While litigation rolls on in Virginia, the Episcopal Church is quietly regaining property in other dioceses. Members of the congregation of a Trinity Church in Bristol, Connecticut ended their legal fight with the diocese this week by giving up the church.

    Ad removed because of terrorist charges

    According to news reports, Dunkin Donuts has pulled an ad that featured spokesperson Rachel Ray, a Food Network personality, because of concerns that her outfit was communicating a message of sympathy or support for Islamic terrorists.

    The primary voice raising these concerns has been Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin.

    According to news reports:

    "Dunkin' Donuts has pulled [the] ad featuring the Food Network star after concerns grew about a scarf she wears during the commercial, the pattern of which bears resemblance to a keffiyeh, the traditional headdress that Arab men wear. The scarf has enraged conservative Fox News pundit Michelle Malkin and some others. [The keffiyeh], popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant and not-so-ignorant fashion designers, celebrities, and left-wing icons,' Malkin wrote in a column, claiming the keffiyeh 'has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.'

    [...]Malkin took the removal of the ad as a chest-thumping victory for herself, and terrorist-hating Americans. 'It's refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists.'"

    According to Dunkin Donuts, the scarf pictured in the ad was a black and white paisley design that unintentionally appeared to be a keffiyeh.

    Read the full report here.

    Chapel destroyed and priest threatened

    News is starting to be received of a significant escalation in the conflict between a Brazilian Anglican priest and his congregation and a group of wealthy land owners. According to reports, employees of the land owners used heavy construction equipment and gunfire to destroy the chapel of an Episcopal Church at Primeiros Passos Camp near the Brazilian city of Cascavel.

    From the report, which is published on blog of the Secretary General of the Anglican Province of Brazil, the Rev. Francisco Silva.

    "The intimidation occurred in a context of serious tensions between landowners and social organizations. The Episcopal Church and fellow Christian’s churches are firmly defending and supporting the Movement of Landless People in the west of the Paraná state. The Episcopal priest in the area is the Revd. Luiz Carlos Gabas, and he is supporting the families in build a school(also destroyed at the attack)  for children and the chapel. The chapel was planned to be dedicated on May 18 and was built with great effort by the whole community.

    The destruction of the chapel becomes even more symbolic because it represents a clear message from landowners against the Church.
    The Rev. Luiz Carlos Gabas has been suffering intimidation from great landowners as a consequence of his pastoral position in favor of the landless people. settlers camp with which holds a pastoral work recognized by the whole community. A group of 150 families are living in a settlement waiting for legalization of the area. After clear evidences that the Rev. Gabas suffered intimidation the State Commission on Human Rights inserted him into a program of witnesses’s protection."

    Read the full report here.

    News from Christian Today here.

    Canadian court rules in Anglican church's favor

    The Supreme Court of the province of British Columbia has ruled in favor of the Anglican Church of Canada and against that of a group of dissenting parishioners who have aligned themselves with the Anglican Network in Canada.

    The lawsuit arose out of a controversy regarding the use of the building that the dissenting parishioners had been meeting in when they still considered themselves part of the Anglican Church of Canada.

    According the news reports, a group of parishioners from St. Mary's Church in Mechosin B.C. voted to leave four months ago.

    "Following the departure, the Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia had the locks changed and an alarm installed at the church, prompting the group to go to court and ask for an injunction preventing the diocese from interfering in their worship.

    But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Marion Allan refused to grant the injunction, ruling that to give control of a church to a group that voted to leave would accelerate the schism in the Anglican church by adding a layer of legal complexity to the theological debate.

    'To grant the injunction . . . would strike a blow to the authority of the Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia and pose a serious threat to the hierarchical structure of the Anglican Church of Canada,' she wrote in a judgment released Thursday.

    The group is currently using the church building, and will continue to do so until its issues are resolved either by trial or an agreement between the Church and breakaway group, the judgment said."

    Read the full article here.

    Should the Church have special status?

    The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali has written an essay on the dangers that a declining Church of England pose to that nation, and how a declining consistent Christian voice will lead to a moral vacuum that "radical Islam is threatening to fill. Simon Barrow, writing in the Guardian takes Nazir-Ali to task and attempts to refute his main points.

    Simon Barrow writes:

    "Nazir-Ali is not, as some of his critics will want to claim, a stupid or bigoted man. He is, rather, a representative of a whole swath of opinion (some of it militantly Christian and some of it agnostic but conservative) that finds itself up a cultural cul-de-sac and cannot think of anywhere to go but backwards - towards an imagined society of stability and order based on allegedly Judeo-Christian values.

    Much like the idea that churches used to be full to the brim in the Victorian era, a popular misconception punctured by the research of Professor Robin Gill and others, this notion holds little water. The era of Christendom in Europe, one where institutional religion found a secure and privileged place in the social order in exchange for pronouncing its blessing on governing authority, is coming to an end. For many of us, Christians included, that is a sign of hope not despair.

    In a bygone era, organised Christianity did indeed play an important role in encouraging education, instilling civic virtue, promoting social reforms and populating great campaigns like the one to abolish the transatlantic slave trade. But it also blessed wars, maintained a hierarchical social order, used its place in public life to serve its own interests, and justified many of the evils that its sons and daughters subsequently struggled against.

    So the ethical legacy bequeathed by the established religion that Nazir-Ali lionises is a very mixed one. It is not a case of the virtuous past versus an iniquitous present. Indeed, when it comes to some of the greatest positive changes of recent history (such as the extension of the franchise, the emancipation of women, labour rights, decolonisation and environmental consciousness), churches have often been dragged kicking and screaming into the process of change."

    The article concludes with this call in response to the main point of Bishop Nazir-Ali's argument that Christendom is of critical importance to creating civilized society, and that an effort to remove the Church from a central and special role in society will create a moral vacuum:

    What we need instead [of a special status for churches] are more churches that can be actively seen as places where hospitality, forgiveness, peacemaking, economic sharing, love of enemies, care for the outsider and restorative justice is going on. These are the gospel's building blocks for a better society. They come from free participation and cooperation, not the top-down attempt to impose a single ideology.

    Read the full article here.

    Thinking Anglicans has coverage of this as well, with many additional links to discussions of Bishop Nazir-Ali's remarks.

    New Editor named

    Solange De Santis was announced as the next editor of Episcopal Life Media today. Solange, a Canadian follows Jerry Hames, also hired from a position in Canada, who retired from the position last year.

    From the blurb about her on the Episcopal Life webpage:

    "De Santis -- a staff writer since 2000 for the Anglican Journal, the national newspaper of the Anglican Church of Canada -- will shape and plan content for both ELM's online and print editions, and provide editorial leadership for its 225,000-circulation Episcopal Life monthly newspaper."

    Read the full article here.

    Congratulations Solange!

    A street preacher who walks the walk

    Nine years ago, Vincent Pannizzo, now 39, dropped out of his doctoral program at Berkeley to take up preaching. But Pannizzo's ministry in East Oakland, Calif., is different from what most pastors experience; indeed, it stands out even among street preachers. He's known as Preacherman to those that come to his nightly "services" on an otherwise unfriendly street corner:

    Lucid and soft-spoken, he is not mentally ill, by all accounts. Even the police and shopkeepers who monitor his comings and goings say they find this remarkable. They assumed one must be crazy to give up a promising life to sleep in homeless camps and preach to other street people in one of the most violent, impoverished stretches of East Oakland.

    "I've never heard of a street preacher like him anywhere in the country," said Michael Stoops, longtime leader of the National Coalition for the Homeless. "I've often thought that if you're going to minister to the poor, you should try living like them."

    Pannizzo is remarkably self-effacing about his ministry:

    "I don't expect people to become saints listening to me," Pannizzo said as he watched his flock shuffle off. "I just hope they walk away with seeds in them that someday will flower. I want them to live better lives."

    It's not the spare change or the food that draws the crowd, his followers insist. It's the message: Love each other, abandon drugs and booze, don't despair in your poverty, keep faith in God, respect authority, try to lift yourself up. Don't judge each other.

    "He is our lifesaver, the only thing that keeps us from going crazy out here," said Jerry Serrano, 37, who sleeps in alleyways. "The fact that he's homeless like us - that makes him real. But what really matters is what he says to us.

    "There's nobody like him I've ever met."

    Indeed, contrary to the usual street preacher, Pannizzo speaks quietly instead of shouting and doesn't conjure visions of damnation for addicts and homosexuals. His message and style, rather, evoke a low-key Sunday school session. And - being an ancient-history honors graduate of Rutgers University and a former doctoral candidate at Cal - he can carry on an erudite conversation on most things from the intricacies of camping outside to the pitfalls of Roman civilization.

    Curiously, Pannizzo both stands out and blends with his crowd. His jeans and sweatshirts are clean but are worn and often stained from painting jobs. The well-calloused hands and lean, fit physique from hard work contrast with the mild brown eyes and easy smile. He joshes around with the homeless and seems like them in many ways, but when he speaks he is clearly a leader.

    "I'm not nuts," Pannizzo said with a chuckle one recent morning, standing in the unusually tidy camp he keeps with a half-dozen other homeless people. "I'm basically just a regular guy. But at one point I began really reading the Scriptures, and they really blew me away. God gave me faith. This is what I must do."

    The complete story is here. SFGate also has a recording of one of Pannizzo's sermons featured among its podcasts, here.

    Lastly, a hat tip to the Rev. Will Scott for pointing to the story.

    Interfaith comedy

    The Jewish comedian began with a routine about raising adolescents. “There was a reason Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac at 12 and not 13,” he said. “At 13, it wouldn’t have been a sacrifice.”

    A half hour later, the Muslim comedian took the stage, raising his hands so the Jew could pat him down for weapons. He then urged the Muslims and Jews in the theater, adversaries on the world stage, to cheer their commonalities: “C’mon,” he exhorted, “let’s give it up for lunar calendaring.”

    The evangelical Christian comedian also did a half-hour set, observing that though his children’s school teaches abstinence, it also gives out condoms. “That,” he said, “is like a department store saying ‘No shoplifting, but just in case, here’s a trench coat.’ ”

    A very funny story from The New York Times.

    Belts tightening at National Cathedral

    The National Cathedral, facing a budget shortfall, has suspended several programs and laid off 33 people, according to a report in the Washington Post. Also closing is the Cathedral's greenhouse. This is happening despite a rebound in visitors at the Cathedral, with nearly half a million visitors touring the landmark in fiscal 2008--so far. But an increase in donations isn't enough to offset the budget shortfall. And while leaders are claiming the shortfall is a surprise, others say they should have seen it coming, as a $7 million bequest that helped fuel program expansion during the past three years ran out just in time for the economic downturn to affect the Cathedral.

    Cathedral leaders say an ambitious expansion launched by Lloyd to broaden the cathedral's mission, funded mostly by a $7 million bequest that runs out next year, is forcing them to make some tough choices.

    Donations, though increasing, have not climbed enough to make up for the loss of the bequest money. At the same time, the cathedral's endowment is declining because of the struggling financial markets. The cathedral uses proceeds from the endowment -- which sources say stood at $70 million before declining recently -- to fund a portion of its budget.

    Laid-off employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their severance pay, are critical of the leadership of Lloyd and the cathedral's governing body. They say cathedral leaders ought to have seen the financial crunch coming.

    "They should have seen the writing on the wall," said one former employee. "It's very disheartening to see some of the things happening."

    But Lloyd defended his leadership, saying revenue did not climb as quickly as expected and the economic slowdown hurt the cathedral's investments.

    "We knew that we were going to come off it," Lloyd said, referring to the bequest. "We had hoped that the economy would be doing robustly and we wouldn't have to have the kind of bump that we're having."

    In this video accompanying the story, the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd, dean of the Cathedral, talks about the decision to close the greenhouse:

    Read the whole thing here.

    Protesting Heathrow's third runway

    Yesterday, around 3,000 people descended upon Heathrow Airport in London to protest the third runway that would, if it goes forward as proposed, would spell the end of the village of Sipson and increase air traffic along Heathrow's flight path significantly.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury was unable to attend but did send a message of support to the protesters, as reported in the Telegraph:

    "Christians, like all people of faith, believe that human beings are on Earth as stewards of God's creation," he told them. "As such we have a responsibility, both to God and to generations to come, to ensure that this remains a sustainable world.

    "Concern for our environment is a clear imperative arising from the respect we owe to creation and to each other. So questions of airport expansion, like all developments that risk increasing the damage we do to our global environment – which still impacts hardest on the poorest – cannot be considered uncritically, or in a morality-free zone."

    Read more about the protest and background on the proposed runway in the Telegraph's coverage here and the Times' here.

    Controversy over Wisconsin camp closing

    The Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee stopped using the "ecologically diverse" Camp Webb as a diocesan camp and retreat several months ago and began exploring options to sell it, provoking community opposition when it started entertaining an offer for commercial development (i.e. condominiums), according to an interview with the leader of the opposition group PreserveCW featured on

    The diocese’s Executive Council discussed the possibility of sale in early May after receiving a report from diocesan officials who had met with a commercial developer to discuss potential development of condominiums. A formal vote to put the camp up for sale is the first agenda item for June 5th Executive Council meeting. After learning of the situation, PreserveCW, a group formed to preserve the camp, asked supporters to contact Bishop Steven Miller and Executive Council members to ask that they seriously consider non-commercial options for the camp before considering sale to commercial interests.

    “We don’t question any right of the Diocese to sell the camp” stated Matthew Payne, Chair of the PreserveCW Steering Committee and former Camp Webb board member, staff member and camper. “Our concern is the Diocese’s fiduciary duty, especially as a church and not-for-profit corporation in the State of Wisconsin. To consider sale to commercial interests before giving due consideration to non-commercial options is both irresponsible and careless and may have possible legal ramifications. Until and unless the Diocese of Milwaukee has exhausted all avenues of non-commercial options, it should not consider sale of the camp to any commercial interest.”

    Steering Committee member Connie Ott who has been connected to the camp since 1966 is also a current member of the Executive Council. She noted that, “This ecologically sensitive land should be preserved for generations to come. Any hope for preservation would be destroyed by a sale to any commercial interest.”

    More information is here.

    Blair gets into interfaith relief and development game

    The New York Times reports:

    Tony Blair, the former prime minister of Britain, formally unveiled plans in New York City on Friday for an ambitious new charity that he hopes will enlist religion as a force for economic development and conflict resolution, rather than violence and strife....

    Mr. Blair said one of his main goals was to support religious leaders who were working to counter extremism within their faiths.

    “Though there is much focus, understandably, on extremism associated with the perversion of the proper faith of Islam,” Mr. Blair said, “there are elements of extremism in every major faith.”

    Obama quits Chicago church

    Tongues wagging on the blogosphere hinted that Obama was going to break from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, whose former pastor has made headlines for his controversial sermons. Today, we have confirmation that he has resigned his 20-year membership at the church. Details are still emerging, but the Associated Press has confirmation and background on the story here.

    Ulfilas, the goth apostle

    Ulfilas was a bishop (also known as Wulfila) who translated the Bible from Greek into the language of the Gothic barbarian tribes and preached the Gospel to those tribes in the early 300s. Craig Gilman of Birmingham, UK, chose to name his Second Life avatar after the bishop, because of his nominally similar mission: bringing the Gospel to the goths of today even as he dismantles some of the misconceptions about the black-clad participants in this oft-misunderstood subculture*.

    The BBC has spotlighted Gilman's work in Second Life, where he's made an effort to incorporate a fresh vision for liturgy and worship. Something worth noting for Second Life skeptics: His Second Life ministry is clearly a way of reaching out to people who might not otherwise go to church.

    The Ulfilas service at St Hilda's is informal in style. Out go regimented pews and in come cushions scattered in a circle and a gothic approach to worship. Craig explains that it's partly why people are part of a subculture – they don't want to conform to the mainstream way of thinking. Singing hymns is difficult to achieve in the online world, so contemporary goth songs are played into the church, gothic liturgy is read and prayers are used from the Goth Eucharist service.

    "We concentrated on people who are hurting, depressed, or might self harm, because you get a lot of that in the goth and emo cultures. The prayers reflect that. Candle prayers we call them, where we light candles for a certain group of people, people who are depressed, suffering abuse, or are terminally ill.

    "We intersperse that with some reflective music, give time for people to be quiet and pray. I use my voice with the computer microphone and speak live into the service and copy things onto notecards to give people the wording, so they can print it off after the service.”

    Craig’s vision for the Christian goth church in Second life is to give it a community feel. He explains how many of the churches in Second Life emulate real churches: "I didn't want to make it a traditional church. You don't have to sit inside your own head in Second Life, you can pan your camera around and look from all angles, so there’s no need to have a replication of a real world church. In a virtual world you can reinvent it, so we tried to reinvent it with a gothic need."

    Visitors to the church can enjoy the impressive gothic aesthetics, contemplate in the church yard, and even socialise in the 'Cathedral Club', a nightclub element of the church where goth music is pumped out. "We look at ways we can show the love of God through the way that we are," says Craig.

    You can read the whole thing here.

    *Editor's note: I got my start as a journalist writing about goth music for the Philadelphia City Paper around the time of the Columbine massacre and have my own goth tendencies, so I've seen a lot of that misunderstanding firsthand. -HTM)

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