Will the real Anglican Covenant please stand up?

For the Cafe's analysis of the St. Andrew's Draft of the proposed Anglican covenant, see these articles by Tobias Haller, Marshall Scott, Nicholas Knisely (2), Sally Johnson and Mark Harris--all of whom are members of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies. The Episcopal Church has also published a study guide.

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Breakfast reconciliation at Lambeth

Jim Mathes, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, had a meeting over breakfast with Bishop Gregory Venables, Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone. After an apology was offered on the part of Bishop Venables, both bishops have committed themselves to trying to find a way to resolve the tensions over "incursions" in the Diocese of San Diego.

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Live: Lambeth bishops reflecting on sexual ethics

First draft of the Lambeth reflection on the bishop and human sexuality:

THE CONTEXT OF OUR TALKS

We met in a spirit of generosity and prayerful humility which enabled us to listen patiently to each other. Apologies have been expressed in the Indaba groups by some of the Episcopal church who had no idea that their action in the consecration of the present Bishop of New Hampshire had caused such a negative impact in many parts of the Communion. Although there has been a great appreciation of one to one conversation, there is the need to develop further the trust in the relationships that have started here.

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Live: softpeddaling the appendix

By Jim Naughton

Press briefers at the Lambeth Conference continue to speak encouraging words to Left Wing Inclusion Mongers--trademark pending--even as a disappointing draft of the bishops' reports on human sexuality emerged from the indaba groups.

Canon Gregory Cameron, of the Anglican Communion Office, secretary of the Covenant Design Group, discussed progress toward a covenant at this morning’s news conference, and was at pains to emphasize that the St. Andrew’s Draft of the covenant is open to revision.

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Live: Mouneer Anis forgets his lines

By Jim Naughton

Mouneer Anis, presiding bishop of Jerusalem the Middle East, has just given the most extraordinary interview here at the Lambeth Conference. If you want to know why homosexuality is a difficult issue within the Anglican Communion, and why the media culture here is so debased, this interview and the ruckus around it are helpful.

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Bishops blogging, August 1

Yesterday was the first really uncomfortable day in the Indaba groups for the bishops as their conversations turned to matters of human sexuality and the proper response of the Church to gay and lesbian Christians. Most the reports are that the discussions were frank and honest and mostly loving.

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Live: bits and pieces as time ebbs at Lambeth

By Jim Naughton

Expect a flood of journalistic activity today a little after 5 p. m. Canterbury time. (That’s noon on the East coast of the US.) That’s when the bishops will release the most recent draft of their reflections, and when they will begin a previously unscheduled hearing, which will be their last real opportunity to influence the reflections that will be released near the end of the conference tomorrow.

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Live: feudal morality

By Jim Naughton

A touching, revealing moment at the press conference just now. The bishops have been talking for several days now about sacrifice. “What are you willing to sacrifice” to keep the communion together?” The clear implication is that Western churches must sacrifice their desire to include gay Christians more fully in the Church.

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Canadian primate uneasy at Lambeth

Archbishop Fred Hiltz of Canada has put his finger on the principal disconnect at the Lambeth Conference, the highly relational indaba groups, and the more political hearings held to influence the work of the Windsor Continuation Group and the Covenant Design Group Marites N. Sison of Anglican Journal writes:

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Live: Semi-final draft of Lambeth Reflection paper

Update with reactions

The penultimate draft of the Reflections paper from the Lambeth Conference is now available on the conference web site. Section K on the Windsor Process is likely to have the immediate impact in setting an agenda for our Church. The Windsor section and the Sexuality sections of the report are published below. To see the Covenant section, read below.

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Vacation's all I ever wanted

The Roanoke Times points out that even pastors sometimes have to just get away. They interviewed about two dozen local clergy members from various denominations and came away reporting just how difficult it is for many of them to take that time off. The Rev. Barkley Thompson of St. John's Episcopal in Roanoke, Va., was one of those priests—trying to get out the door for his vacation even as he was being interviewed, Book of Common Prayer in hand as his family loaded up for the trip.

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The divine rush of running

Andrea Useem writes on Health.com's Poked and Prodded blog about the condition known as runner's high, and her own experience with it during her first marathon. The exultation she felt reminded her more of a religious experience than of any chemical rush, she says, and it piqued her interest enough to drill down into the phenomenon a bit more, interviewing Andrew Newberg, MD, a researcher who has explored brain imagery and how it changes during meditative experiences. Useem points us to a Pew event transcript in which Newberg and others talk about this phenomenon, and goes on to tie it back to her marathon experience:

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Bishops Blogging, August 2

Today, much talking about the talk, so to speak: How language challenges us. How we hear things, how we say things, and how to truly listen--and speak--when there's so much noise. The Bishops are coming to the end of indabas and bible study with colleagues from around the world, and are feeling pangs of sadness at it being time to go, wonder at what has been accomplished (even if it hasn't seemed like much to those outside).

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Live: low clouds, low mood

By Jim Naughton

The last morning of the Lambeth Conference was marked by low clouds, occasional rain and a subdued atmosphere on the University of Kent campus. We are to receive the final draft of the reflections on the indaba process at 2:30 p .m (9:30 a. m. , EDT) and a copy of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s third and final presidential address at 3:30. A press conference with the archbishop is scheduled to begin at 4:30, and the closing Eucharist at 6. I will be writing, rather than attending the Eucharist.

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Live: The Reflections document

The Reflections Document from the 2008 Lambeth Conference is now online.

Here is the section on the Windsor Report and the three moratoria. I have boldfaced a problematic and I think erroneous addition since yesterday's draft in paragraph 145, and what I consider helpful phrasing in paragraph 146:

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Live: Rowan Williams' third presidential address

The Archbishop of Canterbury's final presidential address to the 2008 Lambeth Conference is now online.

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Live: the kinds of things people were saying

By Jim Naughton

I darted around this morning talking to bishops, and what follows is more a reporter’s notebook that a fully-crafted story. In summary, I would say bishops of the Episcopal Church, and those generally sympathetic to it are saying that they thought that the conference went very well and moved the issues in the right direction; that they were glad that no definitive statement on some of the controversial issues was planned, and that they recognized that gay and lesbian people were talked about, rather than talked with.

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Live: breaking, final press conference

By Jim Naughton

The Archbishop of Canterbury put the squeeze on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada today, saying that the Anglican Communion would be in “grave peril” if the North American churches did not adopt a moratorium on same- sex blessings and the consecration of gay bishops.

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The ghost at the table won't go away

At the end of the Lambeth Conference, John F. Burns writes another profile of Bishop Gene Robinson and describes both the man at the center of the storm and the tough road ahead for Anglicanism if it is to positively build on the work of Lambeth.

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Blogging Bishops: August 3

UPDATED:

The Blogging Bishops offer some thoughts onthe final day of the Lambeth Conference. Most emphaized the value of the conversations at Lambeth. Several expressed disappointment at the "Reflections" document issued earlier today.

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Live: heading home

That's going to do it for me, folks. I am heading home on Monday, and will probably be laying low for awhile. I have more strong feelings than are helpful about what has happened here, and I am not yet sure how I think our Church should respond to it. But those are conversations for another day.

Obama's VP choices include two different Catholics

Michael Sean Winters, author of Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats has an interesting article in the New Republic about two of the three Catholics that are reportedly on Barack Obama's short list for the Vice President slot on the ticket:

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Religion and disease

Do religions survive because they are useful in combatting infectious disease? One researcher thinks so and he has some data to support his thesis. Here is the report from the Economist:

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Round-up: the two personalities of Lambeth

In many ways the Lambeth Conference had dual personalities. There was the listening, engaging personality of the Indaba groups, along with the Bible Studies, the worship. Then there was the organizational side where the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion Office and the Bishops attempted to find a structure by which the Communion could hold together.

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Press round up post-Lambeth

Now that the Bishops are on their way home, the press is trying to make summarize the just completed Lambeth Conference and the pundits are polishing their crystal balls to tell us what it all means.

Press summaries are found on Thinking Anglicans here and here. TA also points to the audio of the final press conference here.

Here is epiScopes summary of Lambeth news and here is the ENS report of the last day.

John F. Burns of the New York Times says Anglicans to Seek Pact to Prevent Schism.

Here is Rachel Zoll's (AP) take.

The Telegraph says that Archbishop Williams is upbeat after Lambeth.

Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks plenary to the Lambeth bishops generated some letters to the editor in the Jerusalem Post.

The Guardian's lead is here.

The Times' lead is here.

The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin says that Anglicans need "space without pressure."

Bishops blogging, after Lambeth

Sitting in airports with wifi and traveling home after the Lambeth Conference, bishops reflect on their experiences and offer thoughts on "what now?"

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Stopping religious discrimination in the workplace

Citing changing demographics and a steady increase in complaints from people of faith, a federal agency last week released an updated compliance manual on religious discrimination in the workplace according to USA Today.

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Muslims host common ground meeting

While Anglican bishops were meeting in Canterbury, senior Christian and Muslim scholars and leaders were meeting in the United States seeking common ground in their different faiths to foster better understanding between Islam and the West according to Reuters.

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Development talks fail

International development agency Christian Aid says the blame for the collapse of the latest Doha Development Round talks in Geneva lies squarely with major agricultural exporting countries putting self-interest above other considerations according to a report in Ekklesia.

The talks were supposed to result in a deal that would help poorer countries develop through trade.

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Nets for Life: phase 2

The Episcopal Relief and Development program, Nets for Life, has succeeded in preventing malaria in many parts of the world. With the success of the distribution of treated mosquito netting, the effort will be increased over the next five years. Nets for Life partners with Episcopalians and corporations to raise funds for the prevention of malaria. According to Episcopal Life Online:

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Gathering storm: climate change and humanitarian efforts

IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, June issue, has an in-depth report and analysis of the effect of humanitarian efforts to mitigate the devastation caused to the poorest of the poor by climate change:

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Orombi: a child of empire?

Orombi: a child of empire, is the headline in The Guardian today. Priyamvada Gopal writes that Archbishop Orombi's claims of colonialism by Archbishop of Canterbury reveal a colonized mindset. She sees the anti gay rhetoric from Orombi as learned from the British colonists as the church and the empire moved across Africa:

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Why won't Archbishop Williams stand up to bigots?

Why does Rowan Williams bow down before those belligerent African Anglican bishops and their conservative supporters who view homosexuality as "unnatural" and a "sin"? By doing so he is not only betraying the spiritual welfare of gay Anglican communicants but also undermining any claims his church has to be established asks Will Self in The Evening Standard, UK.

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Themes of the Lambeth Conference: Videos from Trinity Wall Street

Videos were shown at the outset of each day of the 2008 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion. These videos introduced participants to the day's theme. Trinity Wall Street has all ten videos available at their web site.

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Williams once believed gay relationships comparable to marriage

UPDATED
In a private correspondence conducted eight years ago, Rowan Williams, now the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote that gay sexual relationships can “reflect the love of God” in a way that is comparable to marriage, according to Ruth Gledhill in The Times.

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Canada stands firm

Randall Palmer of Reuters writes:

OTTAWA (Reuters) - There seems little chance that all Canadian Anglican clergy will honor the moratorium on blessing same-sex unions requested by the worldwide Anglican communion.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the global Anglican church, warned on Sunday that the 80-million-member church would be "in grave peril" if the U.S. and Canadian branches did not agree to moratoriums on same-sex blessings and on the ordination of gay bishops.

But the head of the Canadian church, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, told Reuters in a phone interview on Wednesday it would be especially tough for Bishop Michael Ingham of the British Columbia diocese of New Westminster to halt the homosexual blessings altogether.

Hiltz pointed out that the decision-making synods of four more Canadian dioceses have in the past year asked their bishops to authorize same-sex blessings.

Real listening at Lambeth

Phil Groves, who led the Listening Process for the Anglican Communion Office received this letter and permission to share it:

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Pa. Standing Committee wants Bennison deposed

John T. Connolly of the Philadephia Bulletin writes:

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has issued its opinion that the bishop should be deposed for covering up the sexual abuse of his brother.

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Notes from the PB's Web cast

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Mark Sisk of New York spoke about the Lambeth Conference today on a web cast. The conversation, a kind of modified press conference with viewers e-mailing questions, will be available soon at episcopalchurch.org

Here are a few things that struck me, feel free to add your own observations in the comments, but remember, we require you to use your full name.

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Are TEC liberals equivocating?

Michael Paulsen of The Boston Globe has interviewed Bishop Tom Shaw of Boston:

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Inevitable! Untenable! Rowan Williams and his letters

There is rather more fallout from the revelation that the Archbishop of Canterbury holds a position on gay relationships that we already knew he held but had never seen him state so clearly than seems entirely necessary. People are telling Ruth Gledhill that a split in the Communion is now "inevitable," and Steve Doughty of the Daily Mail that Williams' position is now "untenable."

At moments such as these, a seasoned gambler would bet on evitability in the first instance and tenability in the second because whether this is a put up job or not, it sure looks like one, and people will begin to see that.

Africans, yes. African-Americans, not so much

Dan Burke of Religion New Service wrote a provocative story from the Lambeth Conference that received too little attention.

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Exhuming Newman

Another story perhaps lost in the Lambeth avalanche was Jonathan Wynne-Jones' article on the exhumation of Cardinal John Henry Newman, a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church, who was buried with his best friend, Ambrose St. John ( a name which the English pronounce "Sinjin" or "Wuster", or something like that)

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An American press flack at Lambeth

(Paul Handley of The Church Times kindly asked me to write the Press column for last week's issue while Andrew Brown was on vacation. In return, as you will see at the bottom of the column, they ordained me. I think this has certain implications involving my pension which my employers are unaware of -- Jim Naughton)

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Update on Pittsburgh

Lionel Deimel, a lay person in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who is opposed to efforts to realign the Episcopal Diocese and remove it from the Episcopal Church, and perhaps from a connection with the Archbishop of Canterbury, has posted his analysis of the latest filing by that diocese in response to a lawsuit brought by one of the congregations.

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Immigration's effect on Evangelicalism

The demographic makeup of the evangelical movement within American christendom is changing. The driver of this change appears to be the assimilation into evangelicalism of large numbers of immigrants from around the world. Their presence is effecting the way evangelicals as whole view the relationship between Church and State, but it's also serving to reinforce many of the existing social views of present evangelicalism.

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Anglican Church of Canada and residential school abuse

On August 6, 1993, Archbishop Michael Peers, then-Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, stood before the National Native Convocation in Minaki, Ont. and apologized for his church's involvement in residential schools. The Anglican Church of Canada had helped administer around three dozen schools between 1820 and 1969, and many students had suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury responds

Earlier in the week we had coverage of the release of letters written by the Archbishop of Canterbury about his private views on the question of the sanctity of same-sex unions.

This statement appeared on the Archbishop's website:

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Of Messages and Flags

Tonight in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, the flag of the United States will be carried by one of the nation's newest citizens, Lopez Lomong. Lomong has only been a US citizen for 13 months, having immigrated as child from the Sudan where he was one of the "lost boys", a forced migration of children caused by war and the persecution of christians and their communities in that nation.

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Whalon on 24

No, not the TV series. France 24 did an extended interview with Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. +Whalon, as one of the blogging bishops, has written extensively about his impressions about Lambeth. But in this more mainstream media piece, Whalon explains a brief history of the Anglican church and its status as the third-largest body of Christians in the world. And when he's asked whether he felt the move toward schism at the meeting, Whalon states firmly, "No, actually, I thought we were moving away from it."

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Struggling to reach a new level of maturity

Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has a long-view column in the Guardian. Her conclusion:

The Anglican communion's present reality reflects a struggle to grow into a new level of maturity, like that of adult siblings in a much-conflicted family. As we continue to wrestle, sufficient space and respect for the differing gifts of the siblings just might lead to greater maturity in relationship. This will require greater self-definition as well as decreased reactivity. Jesus' own example in relationships with his opponents and with his disciples will be instructive.
Read it here.

And then there were bills

The Telegraph is today covering--as in writing about, not paying for--the shortfall faced by Lambeth organizers now that the £6 million price tag is coming due. The Archbishop's Council of the Church of England is lending £600,000 of the £1 million that the Lambeth Company urgently needs to raise to cover expenses, including the three-week rental of the University of Kent campus as well as feeding and transporting hundreds of bishops and their spouses.

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What good can come from homonegativity?

Dr. Bernard Ratigan, writing in Comment is Free over at the Guardian, is a member of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy and observes that the "gay issue" is thorny for many reasons, not the least of which being a strong distaste for it coming up again and again to the detriment of, as some see it, more important work in the church. Dr. Ratigan comes at it from a more clinical point of view, noting that gays who remain in a church that is hostile toward their sexuality have a greater rate of mental illness:

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Chinese Religiosities

With the Olympics going on, much attention is gathering around China's policies on religion. Speaking of Faith took a look at China and its religious identity crisis of sorts a couple of weeks ago when Krista Tippett talked to professor and documentary director Mayfair Yang:

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Presidential candidates on faith

Time let John McCain and Barack Obama to describe their faith. Each used the opportunity to offer a very different take of the issue of the importance of faith in their lives. Both essays are worth reading in full.

Here is a highlight from McCain's essay:

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The most segregated hour

The main stream media is beginning to pay attention to the fact that the faithful are racially segregated during Sunday morning services. CNN offered this sobering account:

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Comment is free: "I am not the Archbishop of Canterbury"

Have a look at Jim's article on the Comment is Free section of the Guardian's Web site:

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How would you spend $10 billion?

Controversial Danish scientist Bjorn Lomborg, best known for expressing doubts about environmental priorities, asks a very interesting question in the Wall Street Journal this week. How would you spend $10 billion:

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How not to preach the parables

Are we watering down the message of the parables? Australian Anglican blogger Ben Myers thinks so:

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Treating all Lambeth resolutions as holy writ

The Rt. Rev. David Rossdale, CofE Bishop of Grimsby, Diocese of Lincoln, has an idea which he discusses in his blog. He says

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The Church is not always in church

Phyllis Tickle talks about going to "Beer and Bible Tuesdays" at a small neighborhood pub where about eight or nine, often more, people gather to kick around "everything from hell to salvation, Christianity to Zoroastrianism, the relative validity of experiential truth to that of empirical truth, etc., etc."

There are usually eight or nine of us regulars around the table at Kudzu's on Beer and Bible Tuesdays. Sometimes there are more of us than that, of course, and sometimes we are joined by an in-house "visitor" or two who hear our racket, leave their barstools to eavesdrop, and -- inevitably -- join us. We've had a preacher or two come by to try to figure out what we're up to, and even a trained theologian or two. But by and large, we are just finding our way toward a form of being together that has no pre-existing aims and certainly no set pattern to follow or expectations to fulfill. I can say, however, that in all my years as a professional religionist, I have never heard theology more earnestly or more intelligently talked than it is at Kudzu's.

She writes that she has spent a lot of time talking about the situation of the Church in 21st century, and knows that many people worry about it's decline.

It would irreparably offend most of those distressed people if I were to say to them, face-to-face, that the church is not necessarily in churches anymore. In fact, church is increasingly more active and fully present in places other than sacred buildings than it is in them. But I can say so here.

I can say here what I know to be true: Christianity has never been more alive and vigorous than it is right here and right now. And Kudzu's is but one of thousands of vibrant proofs that that is so.

Beliefnet: Beer and Bible Night at Kudzu's (by Phyllis Tickle)

Churches deal with energy costs in a variety of ways

Updated

As energy costs rise, the church must contend with energy costs. Some congregations are looking at ways to conserve, others are changing the fuel they use, and the General Theological Seminary is heating and cooling the close with geothermal technology.

Chicagotribune.com writes:

When a historic seminary in the heart of Manhattan went searching for a way to cut its energy costs in an environmentally friendly way, it didn't turn to the heavens for sun or wind power but sought salvation in an unlikely direction for a religious institution. It looked underground.

Tapping the energy stored in the Earth, the General Theological Seminary, the oldest Episcopal seminary in America, is in the midst of a multiyear effort to construct the largest geothermal project on the East Coast. When completed, 20 wells reaching depths of at least 1,500 feet will supply water to heat and cool the seminary's 275,000 square feet of space.

The institution—built on land donated by Clement Clark Moore, who wrote "The Night Before Christmas"—is hardly alone in seeing the potential for geothermal power. From large power plants in the West that produce electricity to a hospital in the Chicago suburb of Elgin to homeowners looking to save money on their utility bills, geothermal power is experiencing steady but largely unnoticed growth in America.


The Boston Herald ran a story outlining the ways in which congregations of several traditions are dealing with the high cost of fuel in New England where the main source of heating energy is heating oil. The description of the choices faces St. Stephen's Church in Lynn, MA, shows that energy costs are not just the church budget issues but the affect congregation's work in the community.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Lynn: During the first six months of the year, the church spent $32,996 of its $47,250 fuel budget on heating oil, despite creating heating zones and purchasing a high-efficiency boiler several years ago, church officials said. The church, which rents to several community organizations and provides space to 12-step groups, is considering a plan to move all meetings into a parish house that is easier to heat, said the Rev. Jane Gould. “Where do community groups go to have meetings if church space can no longer be free? We used to be able to say, ‘Sure you can use our space.’ Now we really have to think about it,” she said. Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light has helped improve its energy efficiency.

Read: chicagotribune.com: Geothermal power tapping its potential

And: Boston Herald: Churches eye new solutions

HT to EpiScope which highlights two other stories:

Worcester Telegram, MA
Churches looking for ways to ease heating Read it

Salisbury Post - Salisbury, NC
Catawba's environmental stewardship conference makes impact on many Read it

Creating new Christian communities in cyberspace

Simone Heidbrink (aka Hana Undertone) is a junior researcher at the Institute for Religious Studies at University of Heidelberg and has looked at social networking as it effects the creation of new kinds of faith communities via the internet.

Her presentation is called Following Jesus into Cyberspace? Web 2.0 and Social Networking as Generators of new Christian Communities of Practice?

She explains the background and theory of social networking and then poses several examples of religious communities, networks and resources on the web.


HT to Kendall Harmon on T19: Following Jesus into virtual space.

See also: Church 2.0: Following Jesus into virtual space.

Common principles of Anglican canon law

The Anglican Communion Legal Advisors Network have created a book called "Principles of Canon Law Common to the Anglican Communion." The book was given to the Bishops attending the Lambeth Conference about midway through the conference and outlines principles of canon law that all the provinces of the Anglican Communion share.

The Anglican Communion Legal Advisors Network was established by resolution of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong in September 2002.

The book is outlined into eight sections: Church Order, the Anglican Communion, Ecclesiastical Government, Ministry, Doctrine and Liturgy, Ecclesiastical Rites, Church Property and Ecumenical Relations.

Canon Rees said that the principles described in the book are meant to be descriptive not proscriptive. ENS reports:

Saying it is not intended as a covenant or a code of law, Canon John Rees, the legal adviser for the Anglican Communion, told media that a newly released draft document is intended to assist lawyers around the world and "to inform, not to oblige," especially in provinces that have limited legal provisions.

"The Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion" has been presented to the bishops at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and their feedback will inform the development of a second draft of the document.

Rees told the media that the principles, which were deduced by looking at a range of legal provisions in a variety of churches around the Anglican Communion, are "descriptive, not prescriptive."

The principles address issues such as ordination, clergy discipline, doctrine and liturgy, ecumenism, and church property, which Rees said needs to be "held in trust [for the church] and be available from generation to generation."

The document is the result of the work of the Anglican Communion Legal Advisers' Network and a drafting group, which has been meeting for six years. It originated in a series of conversations between Rees, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, and Norman Doe, director of the Centre for Law and Religion at Cardiff Law School.

Members of the drafting group include Rees, Philippa Amable, chancellor of the Diocese of Ho, Ghana; David Booth Beers, chancellor to the presiding bishop, the Episcopal Church, United States; Robert Falby, chancellor of the Diocese of Toronto, Canada; Bernard Georges, chancellor of the Province of the Indian Ocean; Rubie Nottage, chancellor of the West Indies; and Fung-Yi Wong, provincial registrar of Hong Kong.

Rees described the principles as an "exercise" that would help "to keep faith with our Anglican heritage, doctrinally, liturgically and structurally. These principles are an attempt to map out what the main legal themes of that inheritance might look like, when some of the peripheral local detail is stripped away."

George Conger writes:

Canon Rees noted the booklet was not “any sort of quick fix,” it was “not the Covenant,”" and was not “a code of canon law,” but might serve as a “”fifth instrument of unity” for the Anglican Communion.

Conger describes some of the principles in this way:

Under the heading of church property, Principle 80 states that property is held in trust by local church leaders as stewards for the national church—a point currently under litigation in the United States. David Booth Beers, chancellor to US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the United States is credited as one of the authors of the code.

Principle 13 attacks the interventions of the Gafcon primates by stating that “no church, or any authority of person within it, shall intervene in the internal affairs of another church without the consent of that other church given in such a manner as may be prescribed by its own law,”

The right of the churches to pursue liturgical and doctrinal experiments is enshrined in Principle 12,, which states that “each autonomous province has the greatest possible liberty to order its life and affairs, appropriate to its people in their geographical, cultural and historical context, compatible with its belonging to and interdependence with the church universal.”

According to The Church Times, Rees said

“It is Anglican DNA. It is illustrative in some ways of some of the elements that will be incorporated in different ways in the Covenant,” he said. It could have “persuasive authority”, but it could “not be quoted directly in a court of law”.

Each province would have to do its own exercise within its cultural tradition and common law to apply the shared principles that the legal team had discovered. The relationship between provinces was not like that between the hub of a wheel and its spokes, Mr Rees said. It was a web of interconnectedness, and, where the many of the lines crossed, the Anglican Communion was apparent. The relationships between the provinces were “genetic and historical”.

The Anglican Communion Legal Advisors Network website is here. The page describing the Principles is here. A PDF of the document may be found here.

Read: George Conger: Canon Law Reader Released

ENS reports on the document here.

Church Times: Lawyers see 1662 as still able to unite

A video of Canon John Rees describing the Principles may be found here.

Labor organizing effort leads to theological dispute

The Sisters of St. Joseph, a Roman Catholic order of nuns, sponsors a system of 14 hospitals and employs 20,000 workers in three states. The Service Employees International Union wants to organize in these hospitals. After five years, the hospital and the union have reached an impasse as to the rules of the election.

The irony is that in the 1970's, this order supported the unionization of farm laborers, and it may be that the hospital management position opposing the union is in stark contrast to Roman Catholic teaching affirming the rights of workers to organize.

In practical terms, the stakes are about 9,000 employees of eight of the nine St. Joseph hospitals in California, essentially all the workers except doctors, nurses and operating engineers. The impasse between the union and the hospital system involves the rules for holding an election on whether, and by whom, those employees want to be represented in collective bargaining.

Such a thumbnail description, however, cannot possibly convey the visceral heat of the conflict. This showdown between former comrades goes well beyond the usual labor-management confrontation with its ritualized drama of each antagonist playing tough before sensibly settling. On both sides of the wrought-iron fence at the Mother House, the mutual senses of betrayal and hypocrisy run deep and personal.

Beyond those emotions is an intense debate about whether a community of nuns is violating the Catholic Church’s teaching on social justice. Pressing home that point, the union has lined up public support from many priests and appealed directly to California bishops, a tactic that has particularly inflamed the sisters.

Some of the workers most involved in the drive, like Gilbert Zamora, used to take their families to Mass in the Mother House on Christmas and Easter. Carmelo Gutierrez, a Catholic and a 14-year employee at a St. Joseph’s hospital, said simply of the nuns, “We thought they were just.”


. . .

Kevin Murphy, the health system’s vice president for theology and ethics, characterized the resistance to the union-recognition effort as consistent with Roman Catholic teachings. The papal encyclical, “Rerum Novarum,” issued in 1891, lent the Vatican’s moral force to the labor movement, and has been followed over the decades by similar pronouncements. Mr. Murphy, however, emphasized the concept of individual choice, including the choice to spurn a union. (Unions do, though, represent workers in some St. Joseph’s hospitals.)

“The foundation of the tradition is the human dignity of the individual,” Mr. Murphy said. “First book of Genesis, man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God and invited to co-create with God. There is human dignity. That’s the strand within this tradition of how important human dignity of the individual is.”

The headwaters of the present struggle go back to 2003, when employees in a St. Joseph system hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif., approached the service employees union about representing them. The union had recently won the right to represent workers of Catholic Healthcare West, another hospital system.

Over the next few years in Santa Rosa, the essential battle lines emerged. The St. Joseph system, while insisting that its conditions were so generous that no union was needed, was nonetheless bound by federal law to have a recognition election.

NYT: On Religion- Theology Finds Its Way Into a Debate Over Unions

Fort Worth requests union with Roman Catholic Church

Updated again 8/12

Katie Sherrod of the Diocese of Fort Worth reveals an attempt by several clergy, with the apparent support of their bishop, to take the Diocese to the Roman Catholic Church. According to the document William A Carey, Charles A Hough, Louis L. Tobola, and Christopher Stainbrook, leaders in the Diocese of Fort Worth, claiming the Bishop Iker 'gave us his "unequivocally support" to proceed further by having this conversation with you', proposed to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Fort Worth that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth become a Roman Catholic Diocese.

Read more »

Too big a tent?

Savitri Hensmen, writing inThe Guardian writes about the prices gays and lesbians are paying around the world when church leaders tolerate bigotry in the name of inclusion. Some excerpts from her comments:

Read more »

The new abolitionists

How do you eliminate slavery and human trafficking? Modern abolitionists across the globe are tackling that question head on – and collaborating via the Internet on their efforts. Christian Science Monitor reports on programs that help end slavery by providing alternatives to support families.

Read more »

4 star rating for Episcopal Relief and Development

Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) announced August 11 that it has achieved a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management according to a report in Episcopal Life Online.

Read more »

Research project on right-wing attacks on mainline churches

Political Research Associates (PRA) has launched an investigation into right-wing efforts to destabilize mainline Protestant denominations and their LGBT rights programs and policies with the hiring of Project Director Kapya John Kaoma. A news release from PRA continues:

Read more »

Women's empowerment conference to be held in Jordan

Episcopal Life Online reports that the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East is hosting a leadership and empowerment conference for women August 16-22, and expected among the participants are both men and women from the Diocese of Tokyo.

Read more »

Ireland reflects on Lambeth

The Church of Ireland Gazette has an editorial entitled "Anglican Governance." It opens:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in responding to a Times report last week on correspondence in which he engaged some eight years ago on the issue of homosexuality, affirmed his acceptance of Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference "as stating the position of the worldwide Anglican Communion on issues of sexual ethics". Dr Williams continued: "As Archbishop, I understand my responsibility to be to the declared teaching of the Church I serve, and thus to discourage any developments that might imply that the position and convictions of the worldwide Communion have changed."

This statement raises questions about the role of the Lambeth Conference itself and, indeed, the ecclesial nature of the Anglican Communion.

The Lambeth Conference is, precisely, a conference. It is not a synod.

Read it all.

The tyranny of true believers

Robert Samuelson takes a look at Bill Bishop's "The Big Sort":

It's not red and blue states so much as red and blue counties. Bishop -- a recovering newspaper columnist -- collaborated with Robert Cushing, a retired professor of sociology from the University of Texas, to examine voting patterns in presidential elections. They classified counties as politically lopsided if one candidate won by 20 percentage points or more. Their findings are stunning. In the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election, a virtual dead heat, 33 percent of counties qualified. By 2000, also a dead heat, that was 45 percent. In 2004, it was 48 percent.
...
Bishop, like many others, has exaggerated the extent of the polarization. Evidence of growing differences of opinion among the general public -- as opposed to tinier political elites -- is slim.

Consider two decades of polls from the Pew Research Center. On many questions, there was little change. One question asked whether "government should care for those who can't care for themselves." In 1987, 71 percent agreed; in 2007, 69 percent did. Or take immigration. In 1992, when the question was first asked, 76 percent of respondents favored tougher restrictions; in 2007, 75 percent did. On some cultural issues, opinions converged. In 2007, only 28 percent thought school boards should be able to "fire teachers who are known homosexuals," down from 51 percent in 1987. In 1987, only 48 percent thought it was "all right for blacks and whites to date each other"; by 2007, 83 percent did.
...
The "Big Sort" of residential segregation is still reshaping the political landscape, though more indirectly. With fewer competitive congressional districts, the real political struggles now often take place in primaries, where activists' views count the most. Candidates appeal to them and are driven toward the extremes.

What Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called "the vital center" is being slowly disenfranchised. Party "bases" become more important than their numbers justify. Passionate partisans dislike compromise and consensus. They want to demolish the other side. Whether from left or right, the danger is a tyranny of true believers.

Now consider this Q&A:
Mohler: Now you are affiliated with and a priest of the Diocese of Central Florida, that’s known as more of the conservative of the regions of the Episcopal Church. I would compare that to San Francisco, or Washington, or Los Angeles. In what sense are you really part of one church at this point?

Conger: We’re not part of one church in the sense that I could not function… A priest from, say, San Francisco who was a gay man or had been divorced and remarried, for example, could not come to where I am near Orlando and function as an Episcopal Priest. I could not get a job or license because of my theological views in many parts of the Episcopal Church. There is no interchangeability of clergy. It’s become Balkanized along doctrinal and theological views.

Has the Episcopal Church lost its vital center?

Related posts: Bishop's Big Sort; More on "The Big Sort"

Quincy studies separation

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Quincy is studying the question, "Shall the Diocese of Quincy separate from the Episcopal Church?"

It has distributed a 35-page document, "The Church in Crisis: A Resource for the Diocese of Quincy," to every member household in the diocese. The standing committee says it contains "reliable information on the current situation."

It's worthy of note that Virtue Online is listed as a reliable source. That's not surprising given that Bishop Ackerman and David Virtue hung out together at Lambeth. So why do conservative websites, among others, consistently ignore Virtue?

Indicative of the overall sloppiness of the document, the Presiding Bishop's name is inconsistently and incorrectly spelled throughout. On page 11 alone you will find Katharine Jefferts Schori (correct), Kathyrn Jefferts Schori, and Kathyrn Jefferts-Schori.

The document devotes a page to listing names of "Clergy Casualties." But most of those are not casualties. These individuals merely resigned; they were not forced out.

The diocese reported an average Sunday attendance of 1,105 in 2006. In 1996 its ASA was 1, 325. (Source.) Much of the Sunday attendance is at the Cathedral. Since 1996 ASA in diocese has declined 19 percent; Ackerman became bishop in 1994. By comparison, domestic attendance in The Episcopal Church has declined 8 percent over the same time period.

Read the document and check the facts (PDF).

Concerns that Obama is the antichrist

John McCain has a TV ad out suggesting Obama has a messianic complex. Steve Waldman takes a look and concludes,

My guess is that the McCain camp viewed the ad as a three-fer: some viewers would view it as a playful poke at Sen. Obama’s ego, showing Sen. McCain to have a sense of humor and Sen. Obama to be too full of himself. Other, more religious voters, would be downright offended by Obama’s Messianic complex, since, antichrist aside, it’s offensive for anyone to think he’s God-like. And still other voters would view it as validation or reinforcement of the messages they’ve heard elsewhere that Obama is the antichrist.

Among other things, the ad plays on Obama's popularity with Europeans, and may play on the fears of world government in some corners of American society. Yet, while Obama is popular with Europeans, in an op-ed Susan Neiman has observed:
With gestures that ranged from a wink to a sneer, most anyone you met here [Berlin] this week volunteered the view that Barack Obama’s visit to Europe caused unprecedented frenzy. But it’s been hard for me to find a European, aside from two Harvard-educated friends in Paris, who confessed to excitement — not just about the visit, but the prospect of an Obama presidency.

Vatican: thou shalt not sing the name of Yahweh

Catholic News Service:

In the not-too-distant future, songs such as "You Are Near," "I Will Bless Yahweh" and "Rise, O Yahweh" will no longer be part of the Catholic worship experience in the United States.

At the very least, the songs will be edited to remove the word "Yahweh" -- a name of God that the Vatican has ruled must not "be used or pronounced" in songs and prayers during Catholic Masses.
...
two Vatican officials noted that "Liturgiam Authenticam," the congregation's 2001 document on liturgical translations, stated that "the name of almighty God expressed by the Hebrew Tetragrammaton and rendered in Latin by the word 'Dominus,' is to be rendered into any given vernacular by a word equivalent in meaning."

"Notwithstanding such a clear norm, in recent years the practice has crept in of pronouncing the God of Israel's proper name," the letter said. "The practice of vocalizing it is met with both in the reading of biblical texts taken from the Lectionary as well as in prayers and hymns, and it occurs in diverse written and spoken forms," including Yahweh, Jahweh and Yehovah.

(Thanks to A Blogspotting Anglican Episcopalian.)

In other news from the Vatican,

Italian activists have petitioned Pope Benedict to stop wearing his ermine-trimmed hat and cape but a former Vatican official says there are more important issues to address.
...
Italian activists have petitioned Pope Benedict to stop wearing his ermine-trimmed hat and cape but a former Vatican official says there are more important issues to address.
...
Benedict has revived the use of clothing, including a white ermine-lined cloak and a similarly adorned hat last worn by Pope John XXIII in the 1960's.

In the wake of the Edwards' affair

In an essay on Ethics Daily , Robert Parham writes:

For decades, Christian conservatives blindly brought the moral righteousness of the Republican Party, sold effectively by Southern Baptist fundamentalist preachers, James Dobson and others.

Centrist-to-progressives are buying into the moral goodness of faithful Democrats, sold repeatedly by a cast of evangelical and mainline religious leaders. Political liberals and quasi-religious activists have been working non-stop to recapture the flag of faith from the Republicans who have let it fall from their grip.

The sound of music, not gunfire

Sheila Stroup in the New Orleans Times-Picayune :

The Rev. William Terry isn't naive. He knows criminals won't come running when they hear about a gun-exchange program.

But Horns for Guns is about more than turning in guns. It's about putting musical instruments into the hands of young people and teaching them to play. It's about people coming together as a community.

"It reaches across our parochial boundaries and offers kids an alternative to the streets," Father Bill says.

Rick Warren, moderate?

The Washington Post's On Faith section would like us to believe that megachurch pastor Rick Warren, who is hosting Saturday evening's Saddleback Forum at which Senators John McCain and Barack Obama will speak about issues of faith, is a religious moderate. We beg to differ.

Warren wrote Time magazine's egregious puff piece on Nigerian archbishop Peter Akinola, and supported Ugandan archbishop Henry Orombi's decision to boycott the Lambeth Conference because supporters of an openly gay bishop would be there.

Cafe regulars will remember that Akinola supported anti-gay legislation criticized by every major human rights group, the European parliament and the U. S. State Department, and has yet to answer questions about his knowledge of a massacre of 700 Muslims in Yelwa Nigeria in 2004.

Orombi isn't quite as bad. He only believes that gay people and their supporters are out to kill him, and will pay Africans to become homosexuals.

A Kampala newspaper report on Warren's support of the Lambeth boycott included this paragraph:

Dr Warren said that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. "We shall not tolerate this aspect at all," Dr Warren said.

Maybe Senators McCain and Obama should turn the tables and ask Warren a few questions, like whether he would like to recriminalize homosexual activity.

All that said, counting Akinola as your spiritual leader does not seem to disqualify one from being considered a religious moderate, as the career of that great advocate of the emerging center Michael Gerson makes clear.

Olympics shine light on religious repression in China

On Sunday, The Washington Post wrote that while China was allowing Olympic athletes freedom of worship, the policy did not extend to its own citizens.

In this Olympic year, government officials have sharply tightened restrictions on religion, arresting leaders of unregistered "house churches," stepping up harassment of congregations, denying visas to foreign missionaries and shutting down places of worship, church members and religious activists said.

Now it turns out, that the interfaith center in the Olympic village are "woefully" in adequate according to some athletes.

The quality of the religious services center came into sharper focus on Saturday after the fatal attack against Todd Bachman, the father-in-law of the coach of the U.S. men's volleyball team, at a popular tourist spot in Beijing. To help athletes with their grief, the U.S. team had to scramble for official permission to get a chaplain who spoke English fluently into the village.

Phelim Kine, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, said the ban on foreign chaplains runs counter to the Olympic charter's "dedication to fundamental ethical principals and freedom of expression." He also said the International Olympic Committee shares the blame.

"This is yet another example of IOC's failure to enforce and to stand up to China's efforts to roll back basic freedoms that have been taken granted at previous Olympics," Kine said.


15 Moments from The Wire

We interrupt our coverage of all things Angican to direct you to this photographic tribute to The Wire from EW.

Churches call for peace in Georgia

The World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches and World Vision have called for peace in the military conflict between Russian and Georgia.

Ecumenical News International (ENI) reports:

The patriarchs of the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches have issued calls for peace as military conflict between Russia and Georgia over the pro-Russian separatist enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia escalated into the first war between countries with Orthodox Christian majorities in modern history.

"Today blood is being shed and people are perishing in South Ossetia, and my heart deeply grieves over it. Orthodox Christians are among those who have raised their hands against each other. Orthodox peoples called by the Lord to live in fraternity and love are in conflict," Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II said in a statement on patriarchia.ru, his official Web site.
....
The Web site of the Georgian Orthodox Church, patriarchate.ge, reports that in a sermon on 10 August, Patriarch Ilia II called for prayers to end the conflict.

Backing for the patriarchs' appeals came from two international church groupings that said the United Nations must "ensure the territorial integrity and political independence of Georgia".

In a 12 August joint statement, the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches warned, "The use of force in the dispute over South Ossetia and Abkhazia has cost the precious lives of civilians and soldiers, risks destabilising a fragile region, and reawakens deep fears there and far beyond."


Read more here and from Ekklesia here.

Ekklesia carries the plea from World Vision:

As fierce fighting continues in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region, international aid agency World Vision is calling for the international community to help broker an immediate ceasefire.

"Thousands of civilians are in harm's way right now, including women and children," warned David Womble, World Vision's national director for Georgia.

"The U.N. Security Council must make this matter a priority, and help broker an immediate ceasefire between the parties. If fighting continues, thousands of families will be forced to flee, and we could be faced with a humanitarian crisis."

To avoid any further civilian casualties and suffering, World Vision is calling for the United Nations Security Council to work to broker an immediate ceasefire. It also urges that combatants abide by international law and protect civilians, particularly children and women, who are most vulnerable.


Read more here.

Jewish relief groups are also active in care for refugees:

The evacuation effort has been a lightning, joint project of international Jewish organizations working in close conjunction with the Israeli government. The Israeli Embassy has become a hub of activity where leaders and refugees have shuttled to and from since the conflict began.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, one of the agencies working on the ground, estimates that more than 700 Jews have been displaced in recent days.


Read more here.

Demographic shifts a' coming

According to projections released yesterday by the US Census bureau, the racial makeup and age distribution of America's population is about to undergo some important changes.

The study reports that by the year 2042 minority groups in the US will outnumber the population of white Americans, and will represent more than 50% of the population by 2050 (when the US population is expected be nearly 440 million.)

From an article in the Washington Post:

The shift will happen sooner among children, 44 percent of whom are minority. By 2023, more than half are expected to be minority, and by 2050, the proportion will be 62 percent.

The largest share of children, 39 percent, is projected to be Hispanic, followed by non-Hispanic whites (38 percent), African Americans (11 percent) and Asians (6 percent).

Hispanics, including immigrants and their descendants as well as U.S.-born residents whose American roots stretch back generations, are expected to account for the most growth among minorities. That population is expected to nearly triple by 2050, growing from about one in six residents to one in three.

In addition to the change in racial distribution, the study predicts that the population will be older on average. The percentage of Americans 85 years and older in the population will double from it's present value of 2% to 4% by 2050.

The article in the post goes on to discuss the challenges to the US economy and infrastructure that these changes will bring. But there's little discussion of the effect they'll have on denominational life.

English bishops reach out to Anglo-Catholics

Bishops in the Church of England have published a letter in response to concerns raised by a number of Anglo-Catholics there who strongly object to the recent Synod decision to move forward with the ordination of woman priests to the Episcopate.

Fourteen bishops have written responding the concerns raised by a large number of English clergy who feel that adequate provision for their consciences have not been made. The bishops, traditionalist anglo-catholics themselves, write that it is not a foregone conclusion that an exodus of clergy from the Church of England is the only option. They urge the Synod to revisit the question and clarify the scope of the provisions that will be made.

An article in Church Times reports on the letter and the points being made by its authors:

Lambeth had shown that the Anglican Church had substantially changed in its perception of itself and the ecumenical dimension, said the Bishop of Fulham and chairman of Forward in Faith, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst. “That has serious implications for lots of people, including us,” he said on Tuesday.

“As a whole constituency — not just Forward in Faith — we have always made it quite clear that juris­diction is not our top line: it’s our bottom line. There is a kind of naïve stupidity about — that it is a negotiating ploy; but it is not. Nothing else will do. That view is shared by all 14 bishops.”

There had been a real sense of shock about the lack of charity at the General Synod, Bishop Broadhurst said. “I don’t think I have ever known an atmosphere like there was in York — a wilful disregard for fellow Christians.” As to whether the situation could be redeemed: “If the bishops show they are willing to deal with it themselves and take it back, it can be redeemed; but I’m not over-optimistic.”

Read the full article in the Church Times here.

Praying for rain on his parade

A former pastor and former meteorologist is working to drum up interest in a nation-wide effort to pray to God to let rain fall on the day and at the place where Barack Obama is scheduled to make his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for president.

According to news reports, Stuart Shepard, presently working for Focus on the Family (James Dobson's group) is leading the effort because of his concerns about what might happen to the country if Obama is elected president.

From here.

Obama "the most pro-life candidate"?

Joel Hunter, a major voice in the evangelical movement in the United States has agreed to offer up the closing prayer at the Democratic convention. He's doing this, in part because, in his mind, Obama is the most pro-life candidate running for president this year.

According to Steve Waldman, writing on Beliefnet.com reports how Hunter is responding the charges that Obama is the most pro-choice candidate ever:

"Hunter makes a practical argument: providing women with economic help in carrying babies to term can actually reduce the number of abortions more, and more quickly, than focusing on overturning Roe v. Wade. 'With eight years of Bush the abortion rates have not declined. Every indication is that with financial support and different forms of supporting pregnant mother and then some post birth help also we could come close to 50% reduction in abortions. That's huge. That's huge.'

Continuing with the same culture war paradigm is therefore morally dubious. 'If we insist on keeping this an ideological war we're literally not saving the babies we could save. The Democrats have a huge opportunity here to really steal the thunder from those who are seen as traditionally pro life.'"


No indication yet as to whether or not Hunter will be praying for good weather.

h/t to Zack over at Revolution in Jesus Land.

Lambeth '08 in retrospect

The lead editorial in the Church Times today provides an excellent overview of what happened at the most recent Lambeth Conference and some context in which to view it.

Asking the rhetorical question "What happened?" the article answers:

"They did talk about sexuality. They did talk about the threat of schism and the means of heading it off. The two-and-a-half weeks in Canterbury were not an avoid ance exercise; for it was known beforehand that the Conference by itself had no authority to resolve the crisis over homosexuality, even had the GAFCON bishops been present. For this reason, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his team devised a programme that emphasised conversation rather than resolution.

We have no quibble with the Lambeth Conference conceived as a means of enlarging bishops’ vision and enabling them to serve their dioceses better. We should not mind, even, if in 2018 the Archbishop (it might be Dr Williams: he would be only 68) clears the programme completely of meetings and turns the whole thing into a bishops’ holiday — just so long as the Conference has no executive function.

The Anglican Communion is an episcopal body, but not exclusively. Much has been said of Anglican ‘gifts’ in recent days. One is the strong sense of the equality of all lay and ordained members of the body of Christ. The expression of this in a form of synodical government that includes representation of the laity (as well as the clergy) came later to the Church of England than to other provinces; none the less, the place of the clergy and laity in the governance of the Church is now a key mark of Anglicanism."

Towards the end is written:

This ought to have been the story of Lambeth ’08: rifts healed, suppositions challenged, sympathies gained, friendships forged. It is difficult to tell, but there was no opportunity even to try. As it is, the burden falls on the bishops to be the story as they return to their dioceses. St Paul’s message to the Corinthians, appointed for the Transfiguration, is apposite: “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men . . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Corinthians 3.2,3). The task requires courage and a good memory. Many will want their bishop to feed back into their two-dimensional narrative of good and evil. It is a pressure that not all will be able to resist.

Read the full editorial here.

Also check out the official "Lambeth reflections document" entitled Lambeth Indaba: Capturing Conversations and Reflections from the Lambeth Conference 2008: Equipping Bishops for Mission and Strengthening Anglican Identity, and the digest of that document provided by the Church Times. Both can be found here.

Presbyterians take on the Episcopalians in Wichita

After a dispute arose among the followers of Christ in the city of Wichita as to which of them were first in the city, a combat by trivia was declared. Hilarity ensues?

The Wichita Eagle is reporting on the "First Annual First Church in Wichita Bible Bowl" that is to help tonight between the clergy and people of First Presbyterian Church and St. John's Episcopal Church.

"The background to the battle goes back to last year, when the Rev. Catherine A. Caimano, rector at St. John's, shared in an article in The Eagle her goals for the upcoming year.

Among them: 'I want us to look again at our rich history as the first church in Wichita, our reputation for outreach and community care, and to give new energy and vision to both as we start this new year.'

Her good friend, the Rev. Cathy Northrup, pastor of First Presbyterian, joked with her about that statement.

'I believe Cathie misspoke,' Northrup said.

First Presbyterian, Northrup said, is actually the first, with a charter date of March 13, 1870. St. John's charter date is Oct. 4, 1870, according to its archivist, Katie Pott.

But although First Presbyterian had the earlier charter, Pott said St. John's had the first church building -- a sod-roof structure made of cottonwood slabs at Main and Central.

As Northrup and Caimano were having coffee one morning -- as they frequently do -- they thought of the idea of a Bible trivia contest.

They checked it out with their members, and settled on the format. They asked Hawn to come up with the questions.

Hawn, who used to referee hockey, said he might even wear his referee shirt."

Read the full article here.

Mere Christianity redux?

Back in the middle of the twentieth century a thin book was published by C.S. Lewis entitled Mere Christianity. The book was an attempt to explain Christianity in such a way that it be easily understood by a mass audience. The book was very successful. Other authors have tried their hand at the same task since but no one has come close yet. Why?

An article in the Wall Street Journal, which is focused on a possible successor to Lewis' work suggests that the reason may be because of Lewis' shortcomings more than his talents.

Lewis's real ambition was, he revealed in his letters and diary entries, to be numbered among the great English poets. He didn't get there. Unlike his Narnia novels, Lewis's poems are largely forgotten. But when we marvel at a metaphor or memorable passage in "Mere Christianity" -- such as the famous claim that Jesus, given what he said, must have been either a lunatic or the very Son of God -- we are the beneficiaries of a gifted dreamer's not quite successful quest. And maybe that's as good as it gets.

Perhaps, just as the Portuguese proverb evocatively suggests, "Our God is a God who can draw straight with crooked lines," Lewis' success tells us something more about God than we might otherwise expect.

The next Billy Graham

The Economist offers an interesting profile of Rick Warren, the sponsor of this weekend's faith forum:

On August 16th John McCain and Barack Obama will both appear at one of America’s great mega-churches, Saddleback, in Lake Forest, California, to discuss “leadership and compassion”. The result of the “discussion”—it is not a formal debate because the candidates will be appearing in sequence rather than side by side—will not only help “values voters” decide which man they support. It could also determine whether the host of the event, Rick Warren, can lay claim to one of the most sought-after titles in America, that of “the next Billy Graham”.

. . .

There are plenty of candidates for Mr Graham’s unofficial job, such as Mr Graham’s son, Franklin, who has inherited his father’s striking looks as well as his organisational abilities, and mega-preachers such as T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen. But all have drawbacks. The younger Mr Graham has described Islam as “a very evil and wicked religion” and Messrs Jakes and Osteen are too attached, both personally and theologically, to the “prosperity Gospel”. None of them has Mr Warren’s combination of qualities.

Mr Warren could hardly look less like Mr Graham—he has a beard rather than a lantern jaw and sports open-necked shirts, mostly of the Hawaiian variety, rather than a suit and tie. But the two have a remarkable amount in common, from their Southern Baptist faith to their entrepreneurial skills.

Both men have proved to be geniuses at adapting religion to their times. Mr Graham took the barbed-wire fundamentalism of his youth and reshaped it for the post-war era of two-car garages and upward mobility. Mr Warren took post-war evangelicalism and reshaped it, yet again, for the world of suburban anomie and the search for meaning.

This required entrepreneurial skills of a high order. Mr Graham founded two of the most powerful organisations in post-war evangelicalism, Christianity Today and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Mr Warren has become a one-man dispenser of “purpose”. More than 400,000 pastors have attended his seminars on the “purpose-driven church”, and more than 30m people have bought his book, “The Purpose-Driven Life”. Mr Graham has preached to some 215m people in 185 countries. Mr Warren, though not yet in that league, is also going global, not only with his preaching but also with his charitable work.

Both men also share political skills of a high order. Like Mr Graham, Mr Warren allowed himself to get too close to the Republican Party. In 2004 he supported Mr Bush behind the scenes, taking part in White House conference calls and informing thousands of pastors that they should regard issues such as abortion and gay marriage as “non-negotiable”. But like Mr Graham, he has realised that you need to tread lightly on those non-negotiables if you want to preserve your influence. He is now emphasising poverty, HIV-AIDS, global warming and overseas aid.

Read it all here. The Christian Science Monitor profiles Rick Warren here.

Don't You Forget About ...

'80s nostalgia is everywhere these days, but one American Baptist preacher has taken it to another level. Tripp Hudgins, the 37-year-old pastor of the Community Church of Wilmette near Chicago, was looking for a way to help boost summer attendance. So he created a sermon series in which he discusses the spiritual themes that are woven into the films of John Hughes.

Hughes' oeuvre includes the now-classic teen movies Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science—and many others, but these four were the focus of the series. Hudgins, who blogs as the Anglobaptist, screened the movies on Wednesdays and then discussed them on Sundays. Then on Monday, he'd videoblog on the sermon. He describes how this was an attempt to help people see that sermons aren't something delivered from on high but rather something that happens in a congregation's midst.

In a write-up for the Chicago Sun Times that was also picked up by the Huffington Post, Cathleen Falsani provides an overview of what Hudgins and his congregation discovered during the series. These observations, for instance, tie in with my personal favorite, The Breakfast Club.

In that 1985 film, which follows five teens -- a jock, a burnout, a geek, a Goth girl, and a prissy rich chick -- imprisoned in the school library for a Saturday detention, Hudgins found parallels to a story from the New Testament. In the Book of Galatians, St. Paul writes to the church in Galatia, which is struggling with infighting about whether new converts had to first become Jews before they could become Christians.

St. Paul says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Likewise, in the letter Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) writes to the detention master on behalf of the group, he says, "We are all a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal."

Here's the accompanying videoblog:

You can find additional "Monday Videoblogs" on the other movies at Hudgins' YouTube Channel.

Religious discussion in an age of incivility

Andrew Brown, writing for the Guardian, posits that much of the acrimony in religious debate today is the result of people not taking online discourse seriously, and adds that the current schism may in fact be the result of how the Internet allows people to voice their opinions without the same filter that one generally applies to their face-to-face communications. Additionally, the same online tools that allow us to connect and see things we have in common that we might not otherwise know also allow us to see what we have in opposition that we might not otherwise know.

He draws on an anecdote about his great-grandfather, who spared nothing in his distaste for the Pope but regularly had the local Catholic priest over for a bit of whiskey and discussion. More than mere civility, then; these two men were friends. Brown continues:

How very different the conduct of religious discussions on the internet. On the web the participants are often sober and they spare no pains to offend and insult one another, even when there is nothing at stake. I nearly wrote "nothing but prestige" but prestige in whose eyes? Who is watching? The strange, weightless intimacy of online communication has enabled complete strangers to hate each other passionately within minutes. This has had measurable effects in the real world. In the US, for instance, the breakup of the Anglican Communion has already resulted in some huge and juicy lawsuits and will certainly result in many more as conservative parishes try to remove their churches from the liberal central body. The schism could never have happened without the internet, which allowed each side to see exactly what the other was up to, and then deliberately to misunderstand it.

Brown also notes that there is a similar "listen but not hear because I already know I'm right" attitude that comes from "the New Atheists." He's concerned that religious differences, to some, might seem like a game one can play over the internet without heed of how it affects other people. But what happens to those for whom religious differences can get them killed?

The whole thing is here.

GOP can't bank on evangelicals anymore

Updated to include link.

It's a trend that we've noted previously as we've followed nonconservative evangelical groups and seen reports of this through the Pew Forum, but the Washington Post gave over part of its front page yesterday to put a new face on the changing landscape both for evangelicals and the Republican Party---that of Jonathan Merritt, 25, a Baptist preacher's son who explains in an interview how he personally has experienced that change:

"I grew up believing an evangelical couldn't be a Democrat," said Merritt. "The two were mutually exclusive."

But in the past year, as the presidential campaign has focused on the country's problems, Merritt has begun to question the party of his father. There was his recent revelation that "God is green," a mission trip to orphanages in Brazil that caused him to worry about global poverty, an encounter with a growing strain of politically liberal evangelicalism that has taken off online, and a nagging sense that Bush's unpopularity has been an embarrassment to the evangelicals who overwhelmingly voted for him.

"When you look at the political party that has traditionally championed poverty, social justice and care for the least of these, it's not been the Republican Party," said Merritt, who now considers himself an "independent conservative" and is unsure whom he will vote for in November. "We are to honor the least of these above even ourselves. It's very difficult to reconcile totally."

He is part of a growing group of young born-again Christians standing on one of the many generational breaks surfacing in this election cycle. Merritt still shares his parents' conservative convictions on abortion, a core issue that forged Falwell's Moral Majority and brought evangelicals firmly into the Republican camp, but he says they are no longer enough for him to claim the Republican Party.

Update: Here's the link. Oops.

New evidence on the Shroud of Turin

Researchers are hosting a conference at Ohio State University in which they are announcing that they have shed more light on—or shrouded further in mystery, if you'll pardon the pun—the possible authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. Carbon dating authorized by the Roman Catholic church in 1998 established it, for many, to be medieval in origin. New research, however, suggests that the shroud may have been vandalized and/or patched during medieval times, introducing cotton fibers that are not part of the original.

At the conference this weekend, believers in the shroud's authenticity say they will reveal new data showing that the corner that was sampled contained cotton threads, and is therefore not representative of the main cloth, which is linen. A sample that's not representative can't be used to date the shroud, the researchers say.

The work was led by Robert Villarreal, a chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

His work further confirms the theory of Dublin couple Joe Marino and Sue Benford. Neither is a professional researcher, but they've devoted a combined 42 years to studying the shroud.

...

In the 1500s, the shroud went on a tour of Europe, and security wasn't tight, Benford said. It's possible somebody removed a small piece of the shroud and patched it using "invisible weaving," a common technique at the time that would've left the alteration unnoticeable to the naked eye.

The Columbus Dispatch did some pre-event coverage here, and Blogspotting Anglican Episcopalian, who is at the conference and to whom we owe a hat tip for this announcement, has more:

Using some of the most advanced analytical equipment available, a team of nine scientists at the famed Los Alamos National Laboratory confirmed that the material used for radiocarbon dating of the shroud in 1988 was not part of the shroud’s fabric. Previously, micro-chemical tests had demonstrated that the cloth is at least twice as old as the medieval date determined by the now discredited carbon 14 tests. This gives new life to historical and forensic arguments that suggest that the shroud might be the burial cloth of Jesus.

This from here.

"Left Behind" and Obama

Well, this is certainly a huge relief: Left Behind authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have decided that Barack Obama is not the antichrist--and the publisher of their books actually released a press release on this announcement:

John McCain's campaign ad "The One" has generated a lot of buzz regarding the "Left Behind Series." Political commentators are comparing McCain's portrayal of competitor Barack Obama with the blockbuster apocalyptic series' depiction of the antichrist. But even the series authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins don't think Obama is the antichrist. What may have been created as a farce has generated a firestorm of controversy on the internet.

LaHaye and Jenkins take a literal interpretation of prophecies found in the Book of Revelation. They believe the antichrist will surface on the world stage at some point, but neither see Obama in that role. "I've gotten a lot of questions the last few weeks asking if Obama is the antichrist," says novelist Jenkins. "I tell everyone that I don't think the antichrist will come out of politics, especially American politics."

"I can see by the language he uses why people think he could be the antichrist," adds LaHaye, "but from my reading of scripture, he doesn't meet the criteria. There is no indication in the Bible that the antichrist will be an American."

Jenkins and LaHaye don't take McCain's commercial or the antichrist speculation over Obama too seriously.

Pundits have pointed out that there are similarities between the "Left Behind Series" character Nicolae Carpathia and Obama. Other than some vocabulary and charisma, Carpathia, a young Romanian politician who eventually oversees a one-world government, and Obama don't have much in common. "If even the people who created the character Nicolae Carpathia don't see the comparisons as warranted, then perhaps this is overblown," says Jenkins.

Read it all here.

I really don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Related posts: Concerns that Obama is the antichrist

Welcoming challenging members

In the wake of controversy over the Bertha, Minn. church that kicked out a 13-year old boy with autism, the Oregonian did a very interesting story about how Portland area churches addressed the problem of "challenging members":

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A theological conversion

Young blogging theologian Chris Tilling describes his "conversion experience" from hardcore fundamentalist after listening to Walter Brueggemann:

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Backtracking in Fort Worth

As we reported last week, there was an apparent attempt to take the Diocese of Fort Worth to the Roman Catholic Church. Katie Sherrod, who lives in the Diocese of Fort Worth, and who first broke this story, now reports that the following email was sent to clergy in the Diocese last night:

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A story of reconciliation and sports

Today's New York Times Book Review includes a review of John Carlin's Playing The Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation, which describes how Nelson Mandela used sport to help reconcile South Africa:

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"Sole test of Orthodoxy"

Last week a series of letters were released in which the Archbishop of Canterbury, discussed his personal views on the morality of same-sex relationships. We had coverage here, here and here.

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Pittsburgh timeline

James Simons, a priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, former board member of the American Anglican Council and presently a member of the President of the House of Deputies Council of Advice, was a signatory on a letter released in Pittsburgh back in January that announced that he and a number of other rectors would not be supporting efforts to realign the Diocese of Pittsburgh with another Anglican province.

There were a number of questions at the time about the timing of the letter's release and effect it would have on the debate in Pittsburgh.

Jim has responded to those questions by posting a detailed narrative of the process by which the group that signed the letter attempted to respond to their bishop in good faith over nearly a year's time.

Jim describes how the group arrived at the decision to finally go public with their stance back in January:

"On January 15th 2008, the Bishop was informed by the Presiding Bishop that he had been charged with abandonment of the communion. Up until this point no negotiations had happened between the diocese and the Presiding Bishop's office. The group of rectors who would not realign met on January 18th (a meeting scheduled long before the charges were announced). Since the reason for delaying the statement was to enable negotiations and it was clear that those negotiations were not forthcoming, we decided to write a brief statement about our decision, and pray for the next week about issuing it. At the end of that week we agreed to issue the statement with the twelve signatures. Three members of the group met with the Bishop on January 28th to inform him of the statement after which it was mailed out to every parish on the 29th. Unfortunately, a member of the group sent the statement to the press without consulting the other eleven and so it was in the Pittsburgh papers the day after being sent."

Read the full article here.

Mission work in Myanmar

Katharine Babson is a priest of the Episcopal Church who's been doing missionary work in Myanmar on and off since 1994. There's an article published today that describes her ministry and her love for the people among whom she works.

From the opening of Saturday's article in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald:

"Babson, an Episcopal priest who lives in Brunswick most of the year, figures everyone has their own spiritual journey. She speaks about what she believes in when asked, but proselytizing is not on her agenda.

She's too busy building preschools, helping Christian students with their applications to Western seminaries, and generally working to keep open the lines of communication between this politically volatile country and the rest of the world.

'I love what I do,' Babson said. 'Not many people understand this strange way of being a ministry, or they hear I'm officially a missionary and they say, 'Oh that's awful, you're over there converting everybody' and they don't ask any more questions. But what has evolved is this amazing cultural exchange, an opening up of a community to a world beyond itself.'"

Read the full article here.

Evangelism in action

The Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy, a priest in the Diocese of Bethlehem (PA) writes of what it was like for a number of congregations in that diocese to set up an evangelism event at a regional gathering of GLBT people.

He reports:

"Yesterday, about 40 members of the Diocese from six parishes (Grace, Allentown; Mediator, Allentown; St Andrew’s, Allentown; St. Anne’s, Trexlertown; Trinity, Bethlehem; and Trinity, Easton) hosted our booth at the Lehigh Valley Gay Pride event. It was a remarkable show of solidarity. Of the 40, only four or five were themselves gay. That sent a clear message that the Episcopal Church, not the gay members of the Episcopal Church, welcomes everyone into our community. Other parishes that contributed to the two-page ad in the Pride in the Park booklet and to the cost of the tent and materials were the Cathedral, Bethlehem; Christ Church, Stroudsburg; St. Margaret’s, Emmaus; and Trinity, Mt. Pocono; as well as the Safe Spaces Committee of the Diocese.

[...]The Episcopalians at our booth did not try to convince our visitors of any theological position about any issue, including the issues related to sexuality that trouble our Church and the Anglican Communion. (The staffers may not even have held the same position. They did not discuss it.) What our Sisters and Brothers did was extend a welcome to everyone who would receive it. They handed out brochures for all the congregations that sent them, as well as literature from Integrity concerning the conversation in our Church about GLBT people and their place in our common life.

At the entrance to the park, fundamentalist street preachers with large placards stationed themselves. They spewed hate and berated those who passed by. Our Diocese, along with a few other individual congregations of other denominations, painted a far more flattering picture of Christianity and offered a real Gospel witness. Whatever your view on issues of human sexuality, I think you would have been proud of our Brothers and Sisters. They represented us exceedingly well."

Read the full article here.

Hunger in Ethiopia

Remember the images from the 1980's of the starving people of Ethiopia, and how those images mobilized a global response? The failed harvests and inadequate food distribution channels still exist in that country. The good news is that we do not expect a repeat of the wide-spread crisis of the 80's. The bad news is that a state of near starvation has become the new "normal" for Ethiopians.

USA Today has an article reporting on the situation:

Unlike 1985, when images of a famine that killed 1 million Ethiopians shocked the West — "We are the world!" pop stars sang at the globally televised Live Aid concert that raised more than $250 million — this year aid workers say there probably will be no mass starvation. An expensive, elaborate social welfare apparatus, erected largely by the world's rich nations to avert another 1985, will not permit it.

Those good intentions, however, have helped produce another problem: A nation that has long seen itself as the most independent in Africa faces an ever-growing dependence on food aid from countries who now must deal with increasing food problems of their own.

At least 14 million Ethiopians — 18% of the nation — need food aid (much of it from the USA) or cash assistance, according to government figures and aid agency estimates.

Since 1985 the population has doubled to almost 80 million, and per-capita farm production has declined. Meanwhile, the global cost of raising and moving food keeps rising.

It all makes Ethiopia's hunger "a ticking time bomb," says Peter Walker, a Tufts University famine specialist.

Read the full article here.

The upshot is that while the existing programs can function to stave off any further starvation, should any additional pressures on the food supply occur, the mechanisms in place may inadvertently make the resulting calamity much more intense and longer lasting than it would otherwise be.

Oh, how we miss hearing from you

There's a problem with our commenting system right now. We are aware of the problem, are looking into it and hope to have it resolved soon.

In the meantime, you can continue the conversation at our Facebook group. Cafe reader Bill Wong has set up a topic under the discussion boards for that purpose, adding to please include the title of the post you are responding to.

Bishop of Pittsburgh has concerns

The Bishop of PIttsburgh, Bob Duncan, currently charged with abandonment of this church, has written a letter regarding his concerns about the Windsor Continuation Group:

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Progressive and religious

Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist leaders are moving beyond the culture wars and attempting to bring a progressive religious voice from their traditions to political and public life. According to the web site:

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Anglicans pray for peaceful elections in Ghana

The Accra Daily Mail, Ghana, reports that the former Eastern Regional Manager of the Anglican Educational Unit, Very Rev. Gyebi Danquah, has appealed to the Christian Council and other religious groups to fast and pray for peaceful elections in December.

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How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?

The Diocese of Ohio has challenged all congregations and Episcopalians to take a small action for the earth's environment. They will exchange incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents according to Phina Borgeson reporting for Episcopal Life Online:

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Who was the first Christian president of the US?

Andrew Sullivan asks "Who Was The First Truly Christian President?"

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Availability changes behavior

Richard Whitmire writing in the The Chronicle of Higher Education

One key element to the pickup culture, however, remains unreported: American colleges are undergoing a striking gender shift. In 2015 the average college graduating class will be 60-percent female, according to the U.S. Education Department. Some colleges have already reached or passed that threshold, which allows anecdotal insights into how those imbalances affect the pickup culture. What can be seen so far is not encouraging: Stark gender imbalances appear to act as an accelerant on the hookup culture.

Go to Whitmire's blog on why boys lag in education, Why Boys Fail, for a link to the article.

Court limits scope in Virginia property case

Judge Randy Bellows ruled yesterday on some intermediate issues in the property dispute between the Diocese of Virginia and 12 CANA congregations. It is the latest in a series of rulings. The trial remains scheduled for October with a hearing on August 22 regarding the scope of the trial given the court's decisions issued yesterday. For context check our related posts at the end of this post, but, in short, the Virginia case is unique due to the state's Reconstruction-era "church division statute" 57-9.

The Diocese has issued this statement:

Court Limits Scope of October Trial

While we are disappointed in today's ruling, we are committed to exploring every option available to restore constitutional and legal protections for all churches in Virginia. Meanwhile, we look ahead to the October trial and the issues to be considered in the fall.

The Diocese remains firmly committed to ensuring that loyal Episcopalians, who have been forced to worship elsewhere, will be able to return to their Episcopal homes. Generations of Episcopalians pledged themselves to the Diocese in order to ensure a lasting legacy of Episcopal faith and worship in Virginia.

The CANA congregations have a statement here.

October looks to be busy. Today the California Court scheduled oral arguments for October 8 in its Episcopal Church property cases.

From the diocesan property dispute news page:

Court Finds Contracts Clause Inapplicable; Denies Diocese's Assertion of Waiver by CANA Churches

Related posts (most recent listed first): Meanwhile back in Virginia | CANA wins another round | Virginia church property case focuses on constitutional issues | Virginia's allies | Virginia law threatens hierarchical churches | Diocese of Virginia has more "friends" in court | Virginia property case supplemental briefs filed | Other denominations support Diocese of Virginia | Hard cases make bad law | Judge rules: Advantage CANA | About that Virginia Attorney General | Judge sets date for second phase in Virginia property dispute | Virginia State Attorney General intervenes in property dispute | Virginia property trial opens | Diocese of Virginia property dispute documents available | More on Va. ruling

Uncomfortable questions

Steven (Freakonomics) Levitt, Ronald Fryer and their co-authors ask an uncomfortable question: "What’s it like to grow up with one parent who is black and another who is white?"

Here's part of how Levitt describes their results:

The really interesting result, though, is the next one.

4) There are some bad adolescent behaviors that whites do more than blacks (like drinking and smoking), and there are other bad adolescent behaviors that blacks do more than whites (watching TV, fighting, getting sexually transmitted diseases). Mixed-race kids manage to be as bad as whites on the white behaviors and as bad as blacks on the black behaviors. Mixed-race kids act out in almost every way measured in the data set.

We try to use economic theory to explain this set of facts. I can’t say we are entirely successful. If we had to pick an explanation that best fits the facts, it would be the old sociology model of mixed-race individuals as the “marginal man”: not part of either racial group and therefore torn by inner conflict.

Read the rest of the blog post at Freakonomics where there is also a link to the paper.

What's next? Will Levitt be asking how the children of gay couples fair? It is an empirical question that has not been answered.

Here's a more comfortable question: Will church attendance boost your child's GPA? Researchers say, yes:

"There are two directions you can go with this research,"[said Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa]. "Some might say this suggests that parents should have their kids attend places of worship. Or, if we use it to help explain why religious participation has a positive effect on academics, parents who aren't interested in attending church can consider how to structure their kids' time to allow access to the same beneficial social networks and opportunities religious institutions provide."

Senior clergy compensation more than $80,000

Your results may vary, but according to the 2009 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, annual compensation packages for senior clergy in the U.S. exceeds $80,000 the Christian Post reports:

Compensation packages, including benefits such as retirement, life insurance, health insurance and continuing education allowances, have increased to $81,113 per year for the average senior pastor.
...
According to the survey, churches that draw 101 to 300 people each week pay senior pastors $72,664 per year, including benefits. The pay increases to $88,502 for pastors at churches that average a weekly attendance of 301 to 500 people, and then to $102,623 when attendance averages 501 to 750 people.
...
Senior pastors, full-time secretaries and administrative assistants in the New England states have higher compensation compared to those in other regions, the survey also found.
...
Pay also differed among denominations. Pastors leading in Presbyterian and Lutheran churches earn the most with over $100,000 in compensation while executive and administrative pastors make more on average with independent and nondenominational churches ($80,469) than any other denomination.
Find out a bit more from this press release. An excerpt:
The comprehensive results and analysis for this year’s survey of 13 distinct church positions, ranging from senior pastor to church secretary, can be found in The 2009 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff. The complete analysis includes breakdowns based on church denomination, income budget, size, and geographical setting.

This release from 2007 is also interesting:
Although the overwhelming majority (93.7%) of solo-pastor respondents were male, female solo-pastors reported 10.4% higher total compensation.
...
According to survey results, the role of full-time solo pastor is one of two positions where females reported higher compensation than their male counterparts. The other position is Secretary/Administrative Assistant.

No word on whether those results remain true in the latest survey.

Does probity translate into policy?

Randall Balmer, professor of religious history at Barnard College, the editor-at-large for Christianity Today, and, since 2006, an Episcopal priest, was interviewed today on Fresh Air about his book God in the White House. It's well worth clicking through the link above where you'll find two podcasts. Did you know that as late as 1976 the Southern Baptist Convention supported the legalization of abortion? What mobilized evangelicals politically, Balmer says, was the IRS ruling that Bob Jones University was not a charitable organization because it did not admit blacks. It was not until 1991 that the university admitted blacks and not until 1995 that it admitted unmarried blacks. Hmmm.

An excerpt from the book:

Does probity translate into policy? The record of the past four decades is mixed. Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon was an expression of his religious convictions. Jimmy Carter's sense of morality led him to renegotiate the Panama Canal treaties and to draw attention to human-rights abuses around the world. Ronald Reagan's moral compass prompted him to reverse his earlier support for abortion rights and to advocate a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution.

On the other side of the equation, Lyndon Johnson's personal life would never suggest that he was a paragon of virtue, but he worked passionately for civil rights and sought to improve the lot of those less fortunate. Richard Nixon, hardly a moral exemplar, nevertheless sought to protect the environment and signed several bills that restored lands and a measure of self-rule to Native Americans.

These examples suggest that the quest for moral rectitude in presidential candidates may be chimerical. The candidates' declarations of faith over the past several decades provide a fairly poor indicator of how they govern.

Is an avowed atheist in line to be Prime Minister?

A. C. Grayling writes:

When Labour cabinet members were asked about their religious allegiances last December, following Tony Blair's official conversion to Roman Catholicism, it turned out that more than half of them are not believers. The least equivocal about their atheism were the health secretary, Alan Johnson, and foreign secretary David Miliband.
...
Atheist leaders will not be tempted to think they are the messenger of any good news from above, or the agent of any higher purpose on earth. Or at very least, they will not think this literally.

Best of all, if David Miliband becomes prime minister, the prospect of disestablishment of the Church of England will have come closer. This is a matter of importance, for two chief reasons. The first is that the CofE's privileged position gives other religious groups too much incentive to try sharp-elbowing their way into getting similar privileges, such as the ear of ministers, tax exemptions, public funding for their own sect's faith schools, and the big prize of seats in the legislature.

Secondly, the CofE has far too big a footprint in the public domain, out of all proportion to the actual numbers it represents: just 2% of the population go weekly to its churches. Yet it controls the primary school system - 80% of it - and a substantial proportion of the secondary school system, with dozens more academy schools soon due to fall under its control.
...
Despite appearances, the world is not seeing a resurgence of religion, only a big turning-up of the volume of religious voices. This is itself a response to increasing secularism among people tired of the disruptions, obstructions and conflicts religion so often causes. Public acknowledgement of atheism by a senior politician who might soon lead his country is just one indicator of the fact that the tide is actually running in the opposite direction: and that is a welcome and hopeful sign.

Would it be healthy for the Communion if the Church of England became less reliant on the state for its survival? Would it be healthy for the Church of England if it operated from the margin of society rather from the center of power?

My big fat straight wedding

What’s the difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals? Andrew Sullivan remembers his own wedding and says, after the California Supreme Court ruling last May, that American culture and law are at last acknowledging that there is none.

What if gays were straight?

The question is absurd—gays are defined as not straight, right?—yet increasingly central to the debate over civil-marriage rights. Here is how California’s Supreme Court put it in a key passage in its now-famous May 15 ruling that gay couples in California must be granted the right to marry, with no qualifications or euphemisms:

These core substantive rights include, most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish—with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life—an officially recognized and protected family possessing mutual rights and responsibilities and entitled to the same respect and dignity accorded a union traditionally designated as marriage.

What’s notable here is the starting point of the discussion: an “individual.” The individual citizen posited by the court is defined as prior to his or her sexual orientation. He or she exists as a person before he or she exists as straight or gay. And the right under discussion is defined as “the opportunity of an individual” to choose another “person” to “establish a family” in which reproduction and children are not necessary. And so the distinction between gay and straight is essentially abolished. For all the debate about the law in this decision, the debate about the terms under discussion has been close to nonexistent. And yet in many ways, these terms are at the core of the decision, and are the reason why it is such a watershed. The ruling, and the language it uses, represents the removal of the premise of the last generation in favor of a premise accepted as a given by the next.

The premise used to be that homosexuality was an activity, that gays were people who chose to behave badly; or, if they weren't choosing to behave badly, were nonetheless suffering from a form of sickness or, in the words of the Vatican, an "objective disorder." And so the question of whether to permit the acts and activities of such disordered individuals was a legitimate area of legislation and regulation.

But when gays are seen as the same as straights—as individuals; as normal, well-adjusted, human individuals—the argument changes altogether. The question becomes a matter of how we treat a minority with an involuntary, defining characteristic along the lines of gender or race. And when a generation came of age that did not merely grasp this intellectually, but knew it from their own lives and friends and family members, then the logic for full equality became irresistible.

This transformation in understanding happened organically.

(snip)

...Arendt put the right to marry before even the right to vote. And this is how many gay people of the next generation see it. Born into straight families and reared to see homosexuality as a form of difference, not disability, they naturally wonder why they would be excluded from the integral institution of their own families' lives and history. They see this exclusion as unimaginable—as unimaginable as straight people would if they were told that they could not legally marry someone of their choosing. No other institution has an equivalent power to include people in their own familial narrative or civic history as deeply or as powerfully as civil marriage does. And the next generation see themselves as people first and gay second.

Born in a different era, I reached that conclusion through more pain and fear and self-loathing than my 20-something fellow homosexuals do today. But it was always clear to me nonetheless. It just never fully came home to me until I too got married.

It happened first when we told our families and friends of our intentions. Suddenly, they had a vocabulary to describe and understand our relationship. I was no longer my partner's "friend" or "boyfriend"; I was his fiancé. Suddenly, everyone involved themselves in our love. They asked how I had proposed; they inquired when the wedding would be; my straight friends made jokes about marriage that simply included me as one of them. At that first post-engagement Christmas with my in-laws, I felt something shift. They had always been welcoming and supportive. But now I was family. I felt an end—a sudden, fateful end—to an emotional displacement I had experienced since childhood.

The wedding occurred last August in Massachusetts in front of a small group of family and close friends. And in that group, I suddenly realized, it was the heterosexuals who knew what to do, who guided the gay couple and our friends into the rituals and rites of family. Ours was not, we realized, a different institution, after all, and we were not different kinds of people. In the doing of it, it was the same as my sister's wedding and we were the same as my sister and brother-in-law. The strange, bewildering emotions of the moment, the cake and reception, the distracted children and weeping mothers, the morning's butterflies and the night's drunkenness: this was not a gay marriage; it was a marriage.

Read the rest here.

Going to church improves GPA

Does going to to church improve kids GPA? A new study shows that children and youth who attend church have higher grades than their peers. The surprise in the study is that it does not matter if they believe what they hear in church, it is attendance that matters.

Researchers found that church attendance has as much effect on a teen's GPA as whether the parents earned a college degree. Students in grades 7 to 12 who went to church weekly also had lower dropout rates and felt more a part of their schools.

..... Students who attend religious services weekly average a GPA .144 higher than those who never attend services, said Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa.

The study.....identifies several reasons the students do better:

*They have regular contact with adults from various generations who serve as role models
*Their parents are more likely to communicate with their friends' parents
*They develop friendships with peers who have similar norms and values
*They're more likely to participate in extracurricular activities

"Surprisingly, the importance of religion to teens had very little impact on their educational outcomes," Glanville said. "That suggests that the act of attending church -- the structure and the social aspects associated with it -- could be more important to educational outcomes than the actual religion."

Religious-service attendance had the same effect across all major denominations, the researchers found. The results are detailed in the winter 2008 issue of the Sociological Quarterly.

Read more at Friends of Jake.

New IRS publication on churches & tax exemption

The Internal Revenue Service has issued a revised version of its publication, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations. The 28-page multi-colored publication provides guidance on obtaining and keeping tax exempt status, employment taxes, unrelated business income taxes, employee business expenses, record keeping and filing requirements.

The IRS says that this is meant to be a quick reference to the current state of tax law and procedures as they relate to churches and religious organizations. They say it will be revised from time to time.

Download the document here and pass one along to your treasurer and vestry.

HT to Religion Clause.

Some social conservatives tiring of politics in the pulpit

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a survey that says that some Americans are tiring of their pastors bringing electoral politics to their pulpits.

Some Americans are having a change of heart about mixing religion and politics. A new survey finds a narrow majority of the public saying that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day social and political matters. For a decade, majorities of Americans had voiced support for religious institutions speaking out on such issues.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center reveals that most of the reconsideration of the desirability of religious involvement in politics has occurred among conservatives. Four years ago, just 30% of conservatives believed that churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics. Today, 50% of conservatives express this view.

As a result, conservatives' views on this issue are much more in line with the views of moderates and liberals than was previously the case. Similarly, the sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats that previously existed on this issue have disappeared.

There are other signs in the new poll about a potential change in the climate of opinion about mixing religion and politics. First, the survey finds a small but significant increase since 2004 in the percentage of respondents saying that they are uncomfortable when they hear politicians talk about how religious they are - from 40% to 46%. Again, the increase in negative sentiment about religion and politics is much more apparent among Republicans than among Democrats.

Second, while the Republican Party is most often seen as the party friendly toward religion, the Democratic Party has made gains in this area. Nearly four-in-ten (38%) now say the Democratic Party is generally friendly toward religion, up from just 26% two years ago. Nevertheless, considerably more people (52%) continue to view the GOP as friendly toward religion.

(snip)

In addition to somewhat greater worries about the way religious and non-religious groups are influencing the parties, the survey suggests that frustration and disillusionment among social conservatives may be a part of the reason why a greater number now think that religious institutions should keep out of politics. However, there is little to suggest that social conservatives want religion to be a less important element in American politics.

The greatest increases since 2004 in the view that churches and other houses of worship should not express themselves on political matters have occurred among less-educated Republicans and people who say that social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage will be important to their vote. For example, among people who rate gay marriage as a top voting issue, the percentage saying that churches should stay out of politics soared from 25% in 2004 to 50% currently; there was little change over this period on this question among people who do not view same-sex marriage as a very important issue.

Read the rest here. A PDF version of the survey may be found here.

I am my brother's keeper

Updated-Monday, August 25, 2008

Father Patrick Malloy, Rector of Grace Church, Allentown, PA, reflects on the violence that visited his congregation and neighborhood when Jameel Clark was murdered in the parish's parking lot.

Jameel Clark was only 20 when he died on Aug. 10. That morning, one of his friends took sidewalk chalk and wrote outside his apartment building, ''I am my brother's keeper.'' Sidewalk chalk is a child's toy. Jameel was hardly more than a child. I had to walk over the words because I live in that building, too.

Jameel was shot to death behind Grace Episcopal Church at Fifth and Linden in Allentown. The members of the parish went there for Sunday morning worship just eight hours later. They had no idea that only feet from where they parked, a man had been killed in the darkness. I had to go to Grace Church on Sunday morning because I am the priest.

The violence that plagues Center City Allentown suddenly feels very close. I am not afraid. I do not fear that I will be hurt, living and working here, no matter how close the violence comes. The mayhem that waits in the darkness outside my home and outside my church does not choose random targets. The Morning Call reported that Jameel predicted his murder the very day it happened. Something was up and he knew it.

Jameel and I must have crossed paths many times in the lobby of our shared home, but I took notice of him only once. He opened the door for me and called me, ''Sir.'' People don't call me, ''sir,'' unless they want to sell me something or I'm dressed like a priest. He didn't, and I wasn't, and so I was struck by the politeness of a man who seemed too old and yet too young to be so polite: a man caught between childhood and maturity.

(snip)

We Christians root our moral convictions in a belief that God loves the human race and each human. From that conviction -- that each person has a place in the heart of Infinity -- every moral decision flows. Tragically, though, there is so much in the lives of so many people that tells them something else: that they are not worth much at all, that the universe is not a benevolent place, that life -- theirs and everyone else's -- is ephemeral and cheap. And if that is so, why not murder a 20-year-old man over what we will surely discover was a trifle?

Just a few feet from where Jameel Clark died, in the same parking lot, the people of Grace Church gather in the dark every Holy Saturday night -- the night before Easter Sunday -- and we light a great fire. It is an ancient tradition, beginning in sixth century Ireland. And from that fire, struck in defiance of the darkness, we take light: a light that we cherish as a sign of Jesus rising in defiance of the darkness of death. I wrote about that fire on this page two Easters ago. ''The fire marshal stands and watches, and well he does, because you never know what a fire in the city might do. We live in Center City Allentown. We are people born of Easter light. We will not shrink from the darkness. We'll stay put, and we'll build a fire.''

This coming Sunday, the congregation will process from their sanctuary to the place where Jameel was murdered. The parish has invited the public to join them in taking "back the streets from the chaos and evil.''

Read the rest here.

Update

Here is a report about the Sunday procession to the parking lot along with reactions of parishioners, neighborhood members who took part and parts of Fr. Malloy's sermon.


Those at church Sunday morning proceeded outside following the church's Paschal Candle, their hymns rising above the muffled noise of light street traffic. They stopped at the spot where Clark was slain and prayed that God would deliver the world, the city, from the darkness -- from crime, injustice and suffering.

Most of the approximately 60 people who filled the pews Sunday were members of the Grace congregation. A few were not.

Inside the church, Malloy told of handing one letter to a young man whose hand was marked with a Latin Kings symbol. Still, he said he wasn't scared as they shook hands and looked each other in the eye.

''We were like two soldiers in a complex war protected by the rules of engagement,'' Malloy said.

Friday also was the day The Morning Call ran an opinion piece by Malloy on Clark's death, the worth of every human, and the need for light in the darkness. He said things changed when he got back to his office and read the online comments about his article. ''I was afraid as I read the comments that had been posted,'' he said, characterizing some of the commentary as cowardly, vicious and full of hate.

Unlike the man he met on the street that morning, Malloy said, the online commenters ''have no tattoos that would let me know the rot that has claimed their hearts.''

Malloy said those people were angry over the desire to find light in the midst of the darkness of Clark's murder. ''The suggestion that the light was stronger than the darkness enrages them,'' he said.

Here is a portion of Father Patrick's sermon, which may be found here:

Every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, our fellow citizens kill people. We pay them for what they do. But I want to believe that they suffer many sleepless nights because of it.

Ask the wife of a man who came home from the Second World War or Korea or Vietnam. Ask the wife of a man who was not the same man who had gone off to the fields of battle. Ask them, and they will tell you that people forced to take a human life – even for a just cause – instinctively know that they have transgressed a great boundary, and they will never be the same again.

But not everyone.

On the streets of our cities, people take human lives every day, and they do not lose one minute of sleep. They do not sink into deep depression. They do not die inside. Maybe they don’t die inside when they take a life because they died inside a long time ago. Even when they are only 18, maybe they died inside a long time ago.

Imagine taking a gun and killing a person over a lost fistfight. Imagine taking a gun and killing a person over a broken string of beads. Imagine taking a gun and killing a person over anything less than the most noble and selfless of causes. And, even then, imagine taking a gun and killing a person and not feeling a crushing pain that will follow you for the rest of your life.

What must have happened in the life of that tragic 18-year-old man who killed Jameel Clark? What must have happened in his life – the life only of a child -- that could have stripped him of the very thing that makes us human?

The death of Jameel Clark, and the nearness of his death, forced me to confront social decay as I never had before. But even then, I was not prepared for the horror that was still to come. The op-ed piece I published in Friday’s Morning Call had barely appeared online when the vicious, hate-riddled responses began to be posted. Do not fool yourself into thinking that we can protect ourselves from social decay by fleeing to the tree-lined streets of the suburbs. Do not think that it rots only the hearts of young black men or young Latino men in the broken city. Do no think that the jackals are all Latin Kings. The decay spreads wide, and most of the time it is as invisible as air.

If it were only a rot in the hearts of the Latin Kings, we could at least hope to control it. We could look for the gang gesture, the gang colors, the gang markings. And we could run. And until Friday, I fear that I was naïve enough to think that something like that was true.

But then the responses began to mount in response to my article. Many times standing here and writing on the pages of the Morning Call I have said that I am not afraid to live in Center City Allentown. And even with the death of Jameel Clark, it is still true. But I am deeply afraid to live in a world with the people who responded to my op-ed.

The Diocese of Bethlehem blog newSpin has a recap of Jameel Clark's murder and the response of Grace Church, Allentown, PA here.

Cathedral plans to serve parallel Anglican jurisdictions

Updated

Saying that they don't want to choose between "competing Anglican bodies," the Chapter of Trinity Cathedral in Pittsburgh will vote on a plan that would allow the Cathedral to serve both the remaining Episcopalians in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and those who would separate from the Episcopal Church at this fall's diocesan convention on October 4, 2008.

A news release from the Cathedral says the plan is to provide a process by which the Cathedral could serve both groups. That system envisions giving seats on the Cathedral’s governing bodies to representatives of both contingents, inviting the bishops of both to serve as co-presidents of the Cathedral Chapter, and working with both on issues such as clergy appointments."

The release says that Bishop Robert Duncan is in full support of the plan.

According to Cathedral Provost Canon Catherine Brall, the draft resolution was prepared over the last several months by the Cathedral Chapter and sent to all active members of the Trinity on August 22. Cathedral parish members will have a number of opportunities to discuss the resolution over the next three weeks, and then will come together for a final all-parish meeting on September 14. Canon Brall praised the work of the Chapter, saying that the ideas encapsulated in the resolution “grew out of a very thorough and wonderful season of Chapter members seeking to envision how Trinity Cathedral might best position itself to fulfill its unique identity and destiny as a historic Penn Land Grant Church deeded to foster and preserve Anglican and Episcopal worship.”

It is clear that the Cathedral assumes a split will definitely occur this fall and that there will be two Anglican bodies vying for space not only in the Cathedral but in the Diocese. The plan recognizes that not everyone in the diocese, among them both conservative and progressives, will vote to re-align, and that the remaining Episcopal Churches will move immediately to fill vacancies in Episcopal and Diocesan leadership should a split occur.

The language of the plan recognizes that the realigning group, headed by Bishop Duncan, will no longer be apart of the Episcopal Church while at the same time this new group will claim that they still part of the Anglican Communion. The framers of this plan hope that they can avoid being fought over by the competing groups by planning before the convention to serve both the canonical diocese and the new entity.

It appears from the language of the motion that the Cathedral assumes that they will remain an Episcopal congregation who would welcomes the realigned members of the new entity and include representatives of the realigned diocese in the decision-making of the Cathedral.

But there may be more to this than meets the eye.

Lionel Deimel, for one, is skeptical. On his blog, he writes that the thinks that this proposal is part of Bishop Duncan's plan to hang on to separately incorporated entities within the Diocese of Pittsburgh should realignment occur. He also believes that if this is an attempt by the Cathedral leadership to try and avoid being caught in the inevitable legal crossfire, it will not work. He writes:

I had heard rumblings that such a resolution was in the works. Although it is being represented as a Cathedral Chapter initiative, I have a suspicion that it is an integral part of the bishop’s realignment strategy. At last year’s diocesan convention, the bishop’s address contained a section called “Behaviors for the Time Ahead.” I reproduce a subsection titled “Forgive” below, from pages 112 and 113 of the 2007 Convention Journal:
Do not dwell on the hurts. Let go of the things that wound. Make your confession often. It is our Lord’s direction to us in the prayer He Himself taught us.

It is in this spirit that I share with you one of my convictions about what our God is calling us to in our stewardship of assets in the years ahead of us. It is my growing conviction that all the things we presently hold in common need to continue to be administered for the good of all, even if we find ourselves in two different Anglican Provinces at the end of the day.

Consider Trinity Cathedral. It is, more than any other church building, the city’s and the region’s parish church, a true cathedral. It belongs to the whole community, not just the Episcopal Diocese, and certainly not just to those who may “win” the right to administer it. I intend to challenge the Cathedral Chapter at their annual January retreat to make plans for how our Cathedral can continue to serve all of us and all of the community – in the separated future that lies ahead. Magnanimity and grace can characterize our future, if we choose it.

How will those who hold Calvary Camp or the Common Life Center Property or the Growth Fund or Pool One administer these assets? For all, or just for some? These matters are a choice, after all.

I do not need to remind the Convention of how Diocesan Council dealt with St. Stephen’s Church in Wilkinsburg during the period when they were joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit: we fully supported their Youth Program despite the conflict between us. The present diocesan leadership has a track record, as does the national Episcopal Church. Locally, we also have a vision: “One Church of Miraculous Expectation and Missionary Grace,” impelling us to support each other wherever we can support each other, in areas and in concerns where we do agree. Forgiveness is Jesus’ witness from His undeserved cross. May it be our witness too.

Readers not thoroughly familiar with recent Diocese of Pittsburgh history should be reminded that any evaluation of the diocese’s generosity toward St. Stephen’s—likely the diocese did not wish to suffer the public relations fallout from killing a youth program for disadvantaged African-Americans—should also take into account the fact that the bishop, at an earlier convention, threatened to throw plaintiffs Calvary Church and St. Stephen’s Church out of the diocese if they did not drop the lawsuit against the bishop and other diocesan leaders.

As I remarked at the 2007 convention, Bishop Duncan was essentially saying that he is willing to share any diocesan property he is unable to steal outright. His fallback position is, at least from my perspective, less that a model of Christian charity.

Here is a link to the full text of the resolution.

Update

Here is the PDF showing the participation and giving trends of Trinity, Cathedral in Pittsburgh. The church has experienced a drop in Average Sunday Attendance since 2002 and a marked decreased in baptized membership since 2005. One wonders, should the diocese split into two distinct camps, if the Cathedral can maintain itself. Perhaps the hope is that, should this plan pass, that both camps would stay and support the cathedral despite their divergent denominational loyalties.

Plans to separate continue

CANA holds their Council 2008 this weekend in Akron, Ohio. The group continues its plans to set up a separate Anglican Province in North America.

According to their conference website, the agenda include reports from GAFCON and updates on the Common Cause Partnership. They also say they will begin work on their own Constitution and Canons and the adoption of their own American Prayer Book.

During a legislative session tomorrow, they will vote on the following resolutions:

RESOLUTION NO. 1-Establishment of the Great Lakes Region as a Region of CANA

RESOLVED, that the Convocation Council recognizes that the Great Lakes Region has been duly established as a region within the Convocation the Convocation of Anglicans in North America ("CANA"), in accordance with Section 5.3 of the Bylaws of CANA.

RESOLUTION NO. 2-Regarding the Global Anglican Future Conference

RESOLVED, that the Convocation Council hereby expresses its gratefulness to the majority-world Anglican leaders recently gathered at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem, who stood in solidarity with all Anglicans who struggle against revisionist forces in the Anglican Communion. We also hereby express our appreciation to the CANA bishops, the bishops' wives, and others for representing CANA at GAFCON. We echo their endorsement of the Statement on the Global Anglican Future and the confessional Jerusalem Declaration. We commit ourselves to pursue the GAFCON goal to "reform, heal and revitalize the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world." We endeavor to support the emerging GAFCON movement and its Primates Council.

RESOLUTION NO. 3-Regarding Recognition by the Primates Council of the Global Anglican Future Conference of a New Anglican North American Province

RESOLVED, that the Convocation Council hereby supports the Common Cause Partnership (CCP) desire to embrace the invitation by the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) leadership to recognize CCP as an emerging Anglican province in North America. As we set forth plans for the future of Anglicanism in North America, our prayer is that our Common Cause federation will continue to grow and mature as an Anglican province.

So CANA appears to have moved beyond simple border crossings and are working with the GAFCON churches in setting up a new, self-defined, doctrinally conservative and reformed-evangelical Anglicanism. By forming their own constitution and canons and developing their own prayer book, they no longer are a parallel jurisdiction within the Anglican Communion but see their future as a new and separate denomination that is aligned with certain members of the Anglican Communion.

Resolution # 1 will provide the new jurisdictional home for the members of the diocese of Pittsburgh who vote to leave the Episcopal Church--taking their property and assets as they go.

Resolution #3 is another step that CANA and the GAFCON Churches are taking to create their own style Anglican Communion and to separate themselves from both Canterbury & York and the rest of the Instruments of Communion.

HT to Fr. Scott & Co.

Getting off the fence in San Joaquin

Episcopal Bishop Jerry Lamb sent a letter dated yesterday to the active clergy in San Joaquin who have not yet recognized his authority within the Diocese—giving them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they are still undecided, but also giving them a date by which they need to make up their minds. From a diocesan press release:

Bishop Jerry Lamb directed all active clergy who have not indicated their recognition of him as the duly authorized ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese of San Joaquin to do so by September 5, 2008 or potentially face disciplinary action.

In his letter Bishop Lamb stated that he did not "relish" using disciplinary action, adding "I would prefer to engage you in conversation and reconciliation."

This is a followup action after his July 10 letter asking, Are you in? We covered that one here. According to the release, some one-third of the priests answered that yes, they are staying.

The release and the letter are available from the San Joaquin website as PDFs here.


This letter follows a previous letter mailed July 10 requesting each clergy member to confirm his or her status in the Episcopal Church. About one-third of the active clergy members living in the diocese responded to this letter by stating their desire to remain in the Episcopal Church. According to the Canons of the Episcopal Church, clergy who do not comply with a directive of their bishop may be subject to ecclesiastical discipline for violation of their ordination vows or other offenses. They also may lose their eligibility for church medical insurance as well as further contributions to the church's pension fund.

Prior to the letters of July and August, Bishop Lamb extended invitations to all clergy to participate in the Special Convention held in March of this year, and personally invited clergy to talk with him individually or through a "reconciliation tour" in June 2008. Letters were not sent to clergy who are inactive, or who are no longer residing in the diocese.

A copy of the letter is posted on the diocesan website (www.diosanjoaquin.org ).

On doctors who deny treatment

Richard Sloan, writing an op-ed column in today's LA Times, waxes trenchant over the California Supreme Court ruling earlier this week that it was discriminatory for a medical group to refuse a woman treatment for her inability to get pregnant. At issue wasn't the artificial insemination procedure itself, but rather the fact that the woman in question is a lesbian. I had to read Sloan's commentary twice to determine what was the "welcome, if unusual, turnabout in a disturbing trend that has characterized American medicine over the last three or so decades" even though I'd heard about the decision on the radio--is anyone else accustomed to hearing "disturbing American trend" in a completely different context?

At any rate, Sloan reminds readers that "Freedom of religion is a cherished value in American society. So is the right to be free of religious domination by others," and it turns out the disturbing trend is this one:

Recent studies have shown that 14% of U.S. doctors, when confronted by possibly objectionable but legal medical treatments, not only would refuse to deliver such care but also would refuse to inform their patients about it or refer them to physicians who would deliver the care. That translates to about 40 million people who would receive substandard care from these physicians, who believe that their religious convictions are more important than the well-being of their patients.

The tradition of religious freedom in the United States is one of the founding ideals of this country. But as our framers envisioned it, religious freedom referred to a right to practice one's own religion free of interference from others. It did not refer to religiously based interference with the rights of others, who may have their own and different religious traditions. Even in the relatively religiously homogeneous era of the framers, such interference was not acceptable. It is even less so in 21st century America. With religious heterogeneity growing, the devotional demands of one group may be increasingly at odds with those of others.

And of course you don't need to be in a different religion or even a different denomination to see that kind of heterogeneity in action.

Story is here.

Blame Buffy (er, uh, actually, that would be Willow)

It's a bit funny that the Telegraph picks a downright smoldering picture of Sarah Michelle Gellar—cropped in a fashion that shows her bare-shouldered—in a report that says the decline in young women's attendance at church has to do with the church not being relevant to them. On the upsurge, they note, is their attraction to Wicca, glamorized in pop culture such programs as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now, *this* Cafe editor is to Buffy the Vampire Slayer what Jim Naughton is to Friday Night Lights, but despite my insider knowledge of the series and all its DVD extras, the money quote that gave Telegraph editors its handy story frame is partly accurate. Buffy was a show about female empowerment, and that is something that spoke to the people who watched the show when it ran for seven years in the waning years of the 90s until 2004.

Saving that commentary for the comments, but the study notes some reasons why women have been leaving the church. It underscores that the recent brouhaha over women bishops' in the Church of England may drive some people out for theological reasons, but it may help address why people have been leaving all along:

Her research, published in a new book called Women and Religion in the West, cites an English Church Census which found more than a million women worshippers have left churches since 1989.

Over the past decade, it claims, women have been leaving churches at twice the rate of men.

In addition, the census is said to show that teenage boys now outnumber girls in the pews for the first time.

Dr Aune says the church must adapt to the needs of modern women if it is to stop them leaving in their droves.

She believes many women have been put off going to church in recent years because of the influence of feminism, which challenged the traditional Christian view of women's roles and raised their aspirations.

Her report claims they feel forced out of the church because of its "silence" about sexual desire and activity, and because of its hostility to single-parent families and unmarried couples which are now a reality for many women.

But it also says changes in women's working lives, with many more now pursuing careers as well as raising children, mean they have less time to attend church.

The story is here. And remember, kids, Willow wound up in a 12-step program to kick the magic habit. Don't try this at home.

Remembering Giordano Bruno

High schools students all know about the troubles that Galileo had with the Catholic Church, but few have ever heard of Giordano Bruno, who died at the stake. The New Yorker has a fascinating review of a new book about Bruno:

In 1600, Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori, now a nice plaza lined with cafés, was one of the city’s execution grounds, and on Ash Wednesday of that year Giordano Bruno, a philosopher and former priest accused of heresy by the Inquisition, was taken there and burned. The event was carefully timed. AshWednesday is the primary day of Christian penance. As for the year, Pope Clement VIII chose it because 1600 was a jubilee for the Church—a festivity that would be enhanced by the execution of an important heretic. Bruno rode to the Campo on a mule, the traditional means of transport for people going to their death. (It was also a practical means. After years in the Inquisition’s prisons, many of the condemned could not walk.) Once he arrived and mounted the pyre, a crucifix was held up to his face. According to a witness, he turned away angrily. He could not speak; he had been gagged with a leather bridle. (Or, some say, an iron spike had been driven through his tongue.) He was tied to the stake, and the pyre was lit. When it had burned out, his remains were dumped into the Tiber. As Ingrid Rowland writes in “Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $27), the Church thereby made Bruno a martyr. But “a martyr to what?” she asks. That is the question that her book, the first full-scale biography of Bruno in English, tries, with difficulty, to answer.

So why was Bruno burned at the stake? He was an original thinker with often provocatively modern ideas:

In this system, there were three main ideas. One was heliocentrism, the notion that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of the universe. This revision of the standard, Ptolemaic cosmos was, of course, not original to him. It had been made by the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus in 1543, five years before Bruno was born. But while Copernicus’s repositioning of the earth and the sun was a radical proposal—indeed, a heresy (the Church needed the Earth, the arena of salvation, to be the center of the universe)—in other respects his cosmos was quite orthodox: a finite structure consisting of fixed spheres that revolved in concentric circles, just as in Ptolemy. Bruno, on the other hand, proposed an infinite cosmos, consisting of innumerable heliocentric worlds. This, his second and most important idea, was also not new. It had been put forth by Nicholas of Cusa, a German cardinal, in the fifteenth century. But here, too, Bruno went further, claiming that the universe was a vast, wheeling, unknowable thing, and that all theories about it, including his own, were not descriptions but merely approaches—“models,” as we would call them today.

Finally, Bruno developed an atomic theory, whereby everything that existed was made up of identical particles—“seeds,” in his terminology. Other people, notably Lucretius, had had this idea, but, again, Bruno expanded it. Not only were all parts of the cosmos constituted of the same elements, but God, whom the Church strictly set apart from the material world, resided in these elements. It was his love, informing every “seed,” that unified the world.

Read it all here.

The Pope's scientists

Well, much has changed since Bruno has burned at the stake. The Vatican now operates a premier observatory. As Discover reports, the Vatican also operates a well regarded, but little known science academy that explores a wide variety of scientific issues:

The lessons learned from the trial and condemnation of Galileo in the 1600s have guided an era of scientific caution and hesi­tancy within the Vatican. Today the Vatican’s approach to science is a complex undertaking involving nearly every facet of Church life. The Roman Curia—the Church’s governing body—includes a network of 5 pontifical academies and 11 pontifical councils, each of them charged with tasks ranging from the promotion of Christian unity to the cataloging of martyrs. To varying degrees, each of the 16 offices—and, of course, the independent Vatican Observatory—intersects with scientific issues, and they tend to rely on the efforts of one academy to provide clarity and consultation: the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Housed in a building several centuries old deep inside Vatican City, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is a surprisingly nonreligious institution as well as one of the Vatican’s least understood.

Though it is virtually unknown among laypeople, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is an independent and remarkably influential body within the Holy See. Over the years its membership roster has read like a who’s who of 20th-century scientists (including Max Planck, Niels Bohr, and Erwin Schrödinger, to name a few), and it currently boasts more than 80 international academicians, many of them Nobel laureates and not all of them Catholic—including the playfully irreligious physicist Stephen Hawking.

Academy members are elected by the current membership. There are no religious, racial, or gender criteria. Candidates are chosen on the basis of their scientific achievements and their high moral standards. When a nomination for membership is made, the Vatican Secretariat of State is consulted in order to prevent the appointment of someone with a questionable history.

“We’re a group of people from all over the world—many religions and attitudes,” says physicist Charles Hard Townes, a Nobel laureate and an inventor of the laser. “It is essential for scientists to participate in this and try to help the Catholic Church, advise them on their policies. Many civilizations in the world are not directly affected by science and technology decision making, but they are affected by mandates and decisions of the Catholic Church.”

. . .

Today the academy’s mandate involves promoting the progress of mathematical, physical, and natural sciences and participating in the study of related epistemological questions and issues. The academy convenes plenary sessions in which its members offer presentations addressing a certain theme. Held every two years, the meetings highlight the most recent advances in the sciences. The next session is slated for October.

Although the academy’s mission seems as benign as that of any other scientific body, its presence within the Vatican invites controversy. During the early 1990s, at a time of alarm about population problems, the academy issued a report saying that there was an “unavoidable need to contain births globally,” a position that supposedly infuriated Pope John Paul II.

A pope, more than anyone else, knows the exact reason for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. In 1992 John Paul II told the members that “the purpose of your academy is precisely to discern and to make known, in the present state of science and within its proper limits, what can be regarded as an acquired truth or at least as enjoying such a degree of probability that it would be imprudent and unreasonable to reject it.” In the pope’s eyes, the academy is an instrument that teases scientific fact from fiction.

The full article is well worth a read.

The 2008 Mindset List

Each August, Beloit College releases the "Mindset List" that reflects the very different mindset and cultural assumptions of every incoming class of college freshmen. Here are some highlights from this year's list:

The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm, and colleges no longer trumpet the fact that residence halls are “wired” and equipped with the latest hardware. These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.

It is a multicultural, politically correct and “green” generation that has hardly noticed the threats to their privacy and has never feared the Russians and the Warsaw Pact.

. . .

Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born in 1990.

For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.

. . .

2. Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.

3. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.

4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.

5. Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.

. . .

20. The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.

. . .

28. IBM has never made typewriters

Read it all here.

The real challenge of teaching evolution

The New York Times has an interesting article on the challenge that many science teachers have teaching evolution to a largely fundamentalist student body. Removing legal barriers is obviously only the first step:

David Campbell switched on the overhead projector and wrote “Evolution” in the rectangle of light on the screen.

He scanned the faces of the sophomores in his Biology I class. Many of them, he knew from years of teaching high school in this Jacksonville suburb, had been raised to take the biblical creation story as fact. His gaze rested for a moment on Bryce Haas, a football player who attended the 6 a.m. prayer meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the school gymnasium.

“If I do this wrong,” Mr. Campbell remembers thinking on that humid spring morning, “I’ll lose him.”

. . .

But in a nation where evangelical Protestantism and other religious traditions stress a literal reading of the biblical description of God’s individually creating each species, students often arrive at school fearing that evolution, and perhaps science itself, is hostile to their faith.

Some come armed with “Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution,” a document circulated on the Internet that highlights supposed weaknesses in evolutionary theory. Others scrawl their opposition on homework assignments. Many just tune out.

With a mandate to teach evolution but little guidance as to how, science teachers are contriving their own ways to turn a culture war into a lesson plan. How they fare may bear on whether a new generation of Americans embraces scientific evidence alongside religious belief.

“If you see something you don’t understand, you have to ask ‘why?’ or ‘how?’ ” Mr. Campbell often admonished his students at Ridgeview High School.

Yet their abiding mistrust in evolution, he feared, jeopardized their belief in the basic power of science to explain the natural world — and their ability to make sense of it themselves.

Passionate on the subject, Mr. Campbell had helped to devise the state’s new evolution standards, which will be phased in starting this fall. A former Navy flight instructor not used to pulling his punches, he fought hard for their passage. But with his students this spring, he found himself treading carefully, as he tried to bridge an ideological divide that stretches well beyond his classroom.

It is a wonderful profile of a very good science teacher. Read it all here.

Christchurch bishop prepares for new ministry

The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews begins her new ministry as Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand. She reflects on her ministry as Bishop in Canada and her new call as well as her experience at the recent Lambeth Conference.

Victoria Matthews quietly chuckles when people assume that because she is a woman in a traditionally male role she must be a liberal.

Stereotypes do not sit well with the 54-year-old Canadian who will be enthroned as the new Anglican Bishop of Christchurch next Saturday. Nor do questions about how she, as a woman, will cope with the role.

"The challenge has nothing to do with gender. The challenge has to do with coming to a new part of the world and learning a new culture, a new language in part because I don't speak Maori at the moment, and learning to steer the good ship Christchurch wherever God would have her sail."

After just five days in the country and two in her new job, Matthews told the Star-Times she may be a novelty in New Zealand, but she is part of a long tradition.

"The Anglican Communion has had women bishops now for about 20 years. I was the first in Canada ... I'm kind of tired about all the talk about firsts. I happen to be a woman who happens to be a bishop. What's the point?"

Whether she likes it or not, Matthews' appointment as Christchurch's first female bishop has drawn attention around the world. But then Matthews is no stranger to attention.

Read it all here.

HT to T19.

Related: St. Michael Report | Canadians focused on redefining marriage | Bishop Victoria Matthews will resign | Archbishop of Canterbury appoints Windsor Continuation Group | Victoria Matthews elected bishop in New Zealand

The purposeful work of healing

The Alban Institute discusses the work of afterpastors, who are interim pastors specifically trained to deal with congregations who have experienced a betrayal of pastoral trust. The work is often very stressful for the afterpastors themselves as they absorb the unresolved and unnamed emotions of the congregants.

The term "betrayal of pastoral trust" refers to serious professional misconduct by the ordained leadership of a congregation. This violation could be an instance of sexual abuse or misconduct by clergy or it could be a financial misconduct such as an embezzlement or some other professional violation within their parish.

Afterpastors, or clergy who minister in the aftermath of betrayal of pastoral trust, are challenged with a complex and stressful set of circumstances as they assume the leadership of the troubled congregations their predecessors have left behind. The relationships and interactions in their ministries are frequently characterized by distrust and suspicion. Afterpastors often feel misheard or unheard by lay leaders and congregants, and they often report feeling manipulated, coerced, and sabotaged by lay leaders or seeing their decisions co-opted or corrupted by poor process or underhanded leadership. And many say they are often criticized without cause or unwarrantedly berated for incompetence.

Nearly all afterpastors describe a general reactivity to their presence or position that encumbers their work and relationships. And some describe reactivity so acute that it makes them lightning rods for every upset, conflict, and complaint—large or small—in the congregation.

More often, afterpastors are triangulated in petty, perennial conflicts or caught in webs of mixed messages. Communications are characterized by boundary challenges, power struggles, threats, and coercion. Each requires considerable perspective, diligence, objectivity, and grace from the afterpastor, lest he or she become entangled in the dynamics.

Read more here.

African woman appointed dean of African cathedral

Dean Martha Deng Nhial is the first African women to serve as the dean of an African cathedral in the history of Christianity. She has been as the first dean of the Cathedral of St. Matthew, Diocese of Renk, Episcopal Church of Sudan.

The Rev. Lauren Stanley, appointed Episcopal missionary for the Diocese of Renk in Sudan writes on the blog at EGR:

A week after Dean Martha was installed, special prayers were offered at her home. Fifty women gathered to praise her, to praise the Church, and to thank God and the Church for lifting her up, and for her ability to lift all of us up in our lives.

Even before she became dean, Martha was a force to be reckoned with in Renk. She was a nurse, as well as a member and then leader of the Mothers Union here. When she walked through town, with a purposeful stride, everyone could see that she was a woman of strength... When Martha spoke, everyone listened, because they knew she was a woman of faith. When she became one of the first women priests ordained in Sudan, all applauded her for her courage.

Culturally, Sudan is still a land where women are expected to do certain kinds of work, none of which involve leadership. In the countryside, it is still not unusual to see the boys being educated while the girls are kept at home. In Renk, boys can pretty much roam the streets at will; girls, on the other hand, are kept under tighter supervision....

So to see Dean Martha being installed – to see her daughters weep at her service – to hear the women in town sing her praises and encourage her to greater heights for herself and beg her to lead them to greater heights – was awe-inspiring.

Forget the history.

Read more about The Rev. Martha Deng Nhial here.

Learn about the Diocese of Renk here.

Read the rest of Stanley's account here.

The new Ebionites

The Washington Post reports on a new trend. Home circumcisions. For Christians. Are these modern day Ebionites?

Mark Kushner pulled up to the Watson family's suburban Philadelphia home a week after the birth of their first son, Colin. In the dining room, he unpacked the tools of his trade: sterilized surgical instruments, topical anesthetic, prayer shawls and a small bottle of kosher wine.

The shawls went back into his black bag. But to Megan and Christopher Watson's happy surprise, the mohel -- pronounced "moyle," the title for a Jewish ritual circumciser -- had copies of several prayers appropriate for the Presbyterian parents to read for the occasion.

"We thank You for the miracle of human experience in the birth of our child," they recited while Kushner gently rocked their infant before the procedure.

Kushner, who is based in Philadelphia, and Philip Sherman, a mohel in the New York City area, say they have performed more than 30,000 circumcisions since training together in Israel in the 1970s. Most of their business comes from traditional brith milah ceremonies for 8-day-old Jewish boys. But in recent years, they have increasingly catered to Christian families who eschew a hospital procedure in favor of a $300 to $800 house call, a trend Sherman has dubbed "holistic circumcision."

Many Christian clients, including the Watsons, liked what they saw at a friend's brith milah, also known as a bris. Others are conservative Christians who want to follow Old Testament tradition or learned about holistic circumcisions from the Internet, their doctors or others, Kushner said.

Does this indicate a trend among some Christians who might want follow Jewish customs...or is it simply a fad among people looking for meaningful symbols in the marketplace?

Read the rest here.

Faith has a high profile at Democratic convention

The Chicago Tribune reports that faith has a very high profile at the Democratic National Convention now meeting in Denver, especially when compared to four years ago.

At the first official event Sunday of the Democratic National Convention, a choir belted out a gospel song and was followed by a rabbi reciting a Torah reading about forgiveness and the future.

Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun who wrote "Dead Man Walking," assailed the death penalty and the use of torture.

Young Muslim women in headscarves sat near older African-American women in their finest Sunday hats.

Four years ago, such a scene would have been unthinkable at a Democratic National Convention. In 2004, there was one interfaith lunch at the Democratic gala in Boston.

But that same year, "values voters" helped re-elect President Bush, giving Democrats of faith the opening they needed to make party leaders listen to them.

The result was on display at Sunday's interfaith service, staged in a theater inside the Colorado Convention Center, and will be evident throughout the convention agenda and on the sidelines.

There will be four "faith caucus" meetings, blessings to open and close each night, and panels and parties run by Democratic-leaning religious advocacy groups that didn't even exist in 2004 — not to mention protests from religious groups and leaders opposed to the Democratic platform.

Other challenges may come from within. At Sunday's service, Bishop Charles Blake, head of the predominantly black Church of God in Christ and a self-described pro-life Democrat, said Barack Obama should be pressed to "elaborate upon his stated intention to reduce the number of abortions by providing alternative programs."

One hallmark of Democratic faith efforts at the convention is diversity, which might soften objections from party activists wary of the Christian right or any mixing of religion and politics. Behind the scenes, efforts to attract the religious vote will concentrate largely on Christian "values voters."

"If we create or become a mirror image of the religious right, we have failed," said Burns Strider, who ran religious outreach for Hillary Clinton's campaign and now does faith-based political consulting. "But if we have increased the number of chairs around the table, ... then we've succeeded."

One reason religion is playing such a prominent role at this week's convention is that Obama has made faith outreach prominent in his campaign.

"People of faith are being engaged in the convention in a new and robust way ,and it's because of Senator Obama's acknowledgment that people of faith and values have an important place in American public life," said Joshua DuBois, the Obama campaign's religious affairs director.

Read the rest here.

Archbishop of Canterbury writes the bishops of the communion

From the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Archbishop's Pastoral Letter to Bishops of the Anglican Communion

Tuesday 26 August 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today sent a letter to the bishops of the Anglican Communion, setting out his personal reflections on the Lambeth Conference. The full text of the letter can be found below:
...
The final document of Conference Reflections is not a 'Report' in the style of earlier Conferences, but an attempt to present an honest account of what was discussed and expressed in the 'indaba' groups which formed the main communal work of the Conference by the Reflections Group. But although this document is not a formal Report, it has a number of pointers as to where the common goals and assumptions are in the Communion. Let me mention some of these.

First, there was an overwhelming unity around the need for the Church to play its full part in the worldwide struggle against poverty ignorance and disease. ...

Second, on the controversial issue of the day regarding human sexuality, there was a very widely-held conviction that premature or unilateral local change was risky and divisive, in spite of the diversity of opinion expressed on specific questions. ...

Third, there was a general desire to find better ways of managing our business as a Communion. Many participants believed that the indaba method, while not designed to achieve final decisions, was such a necessary aspect of understanding what the questions might be that they expressed the desire to see the method used more widely – and to continue among themselves the conversations begun in Canterbury. This is an important steer for the meetings of the Primates and the ACC which will be taking place in the first half of next year, and I shall be seeking to identify the resources we shall need in order to take forward some of the proposals about our structures and methods.

Read it all.

Let there be light, on occasion

The Times:

The Church of England is asking members to cut back on illuminating churches, eight years after embracing a multimillion-pound scheme to install floodlights at 400 places of worship.

A guide endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, states that vicars should try to curb their use of floodlights in an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint.

The guide, Don't Stop at the Lights, suggests that nightly lighting is an extravagance and that illumination should be reserved for special occasions such as sponsored evenings in memory of a loved one or to celebrate an anniversary.

The advice represents a sudden drop in enthusiasm for exterior lighting, which peaked in 2000 when the Millennium Commission awarded £2.3million of lottery money to the Church Floodlighting Trust.

Check the Church of England press release for further information on "Don't Stop at the Lights".

A proponent's view of the Church Lighting Trust is here. Proponents of dark skies call it night blight. At the millennium the scheme was called "a lasting legacy from your Lottery funding."

In India Hindus and Christians clash

A wave of violence between Hindus and Christians has struck the state of Orissa in eastern India. The AP provides some background:

Christians clashed with Hindu mobs who attacked churches, and eight people died in the violence in an eastern region known for deadly religious fighting.

Police imposed a curfew in the Kandhamal district of Orissa state after overnight attacks by hardline Hindus to avenge the killing of one of their leaders, whose death they blamed on Christian militants.
...
The violence comes after Hindu hard-liners set ablaze a Christian orphanage early Monday, killing a 21-year-old woman who was teaching children to use computers and seriously injuring a priest. The Vatican condemned the attack as "a sin against God and humanity."

The latest violence was set off when unidentified assailants killed a Hindu religious leader, Swami Laxmmananada Saraswati, and four others. Police blamed Maoist rebels, but Subhash Chauhan, a World Hindu Organization leader, accused "Christian militants" in the death.

Relations among India's religious minorities — such as Christians, who account for 2.5 percent of the country's 1.1 billion people, and Muslims, who make up 14 percent — are usually peaceful.

However, Orissa has a long history of Hindu-Christian clashes, usually sparked by Hindu suspicions over missionary work.

Episcopal Life Online has more from Ecumenical News International.

The Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop, has issued the following statement:

There have been recent, alarming reports of violence against minority Christian groups living in Orissa, India. The news of churches being destroyed, orphanages set on fire, and Christians forced to flee for their lives are cause for great concern. We urge all Episcopalians to keep the Church of North India and particularly the Rt. Rev. Bijay Kumar Nayak, Bishop of Phulbani, in our prayers. In the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians, We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."
Here's a Church Times report concerning the violence last Christmas.

Court maintains freeze on San Joaquin Diocesan accounts

Updated to include Living Church story

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has issued a press release (pdf) reproduced in full below:

August 26, 2008

Court maintains freeze on Episcopal Diocesan accounts pending litigation

In April the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin filed a lawsuit to recover the property and the assets of the Diocese from its former bishop, John-David Schofield. As a result of this lawsuit several of the disputed investment accounts and related funds belonging to the Diocese were frozen.

In a hearing yesterday, the Court adopted a stipulation and ordered that these accounts may only be accessed with the consent of the Episcopal Diocese and/or by further order of the Court. Several of the affected accounts included those critical to the operations of the Evergreen Conference Center in Oakhurst (ECCO).

Bishop Jerry Lamb called the continuation of ECCO’s ministry “critical.” At the direction of the Episcopal Diocesan Council, the Chancellor for the Diocese and attorneys for the Episcopal Church contacted Mr. Schofield’s attorneys to negotiate terms for interim access to funds to support camp operations, including staff salaries, daily operations and certain capital improvements. According to the order and stipulation, the ECCO management will provide operational and financial information to the Episcopal Diocese and report to Diocesan Council.

Copies of the Court’s Order and Stipulation are posted on the diocesan website (www.diosanjoaquin.org).

The Court has set a tentative date of August 24, 2009 to hear the lawsuit.

Direct links to the Court's Order (4 page pdf image file) and Stipulation (14 page pdf image file).

See this Living Church story on the court's decision.

Charles Wesley code broken

From The Telegraph:

Rev Prof Kenneth Newport, pro vice-chancellor of Liverpool Hope University, has deciphered more than 1,000 pages written 250 years ago between 1736 and 1756.

He has uncovered details of Wesley's anxieties over the possibilities of a split from the Church of England, his younger brother's plans to marry and even over the growing influence of Islam.

He used a handwritten transcription of the four gospels made by Wesley as a guide to deciphering the journals themselves.
...
"He was very much opposed to separation, he saw the Methodist Societies as within the established church and anything that smacked of separation was something he took a very strong view of," Rev Prof Newport said.

"At one point in the journal he is talking to the society at Grimsby and goes into block capitals and says 'I told them I would remain with them as long as they remained with the Church of England but should they ever turn their back on the Church they turn their back on me'."

Wesley's opposition to the split is disclosed despite his older brother John, with whom he co-founded the Methodist Church, being widely credited with setting the process in motion.

It was John Wesley who ordained clergy to lead the movement in America and who set up the structures which would ultimately replace those of the established church.

The story is covered in several other papers today including The Times, and The Independent

In Canada, legal maneuvers over church property

The Diocese of New Westminster filed this press release yesterday. An extract:

The Diocese of New Westminster has taken steps under the its bylaws (Canon laws) to remove clergy who have left the Anglican Church of Canada rather than accepting the decisions of its local and national governing bodies (Synods).

Following the failure of the clergy in question to leave Church premises in response to a late May request to do so, and an indication that Parish Wardens supported such actions by these clergy, the Diocese has invoked a provision that returns control of the parishes to the Diocese.
...
On May 11, 2008, each of them declared they had voluntarily left the ordained ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada. They claimed to have come under jurisdiction of a bishop reporting to the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, which is based in six South American Countries. Such foreign jurisdiction is not recognized by the Anglican Church of Canada.

Following their decision to leave the ordained ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada, they were asked by the diocese on May 29, 2008, to cease using the property of their former parishes.
...
In the past few months, the Courts in both B.C. and Ontario have issued preliminary findings in similar cases upholding similar actions by two other Dioceses, one on Vancouver Island and one in the Niagara area. Attempts to appeal those rulings in both cases have been unsuccessful and costs have been awarded to the Dioceses involved.

Related post.

Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for the pointer. Check Thinking Anglicans for more about these recent developments.

Don't wait: Skill begets skill; skill cross-fosters motivation

James Heckman, professor of economics at the University of Chicago, writes on the growing polarization in American society and concludes:

The family plays a powerful role in shaping adult outcomes that is not fully recognised by current American policies. As programs are currently configured, interventions early in the lives of disadvantaged children have substantially higher economic returns than later interventions such as reduced pupil-teacher ratios, public job training programs, convict rehabilitation programs, adult literacy programs, tuition subsidies, or expenditure on police. This is because life-cycle skill formation is dynamic in nature. Skill begets skill; motivation begets motivation. Motivation cross-fosters skill, and skill cross-fosters motivation. If a child is not motivated to learn and engage early on in life, the more likely it is that when the child becomes an adult, he or she will fail in social and economic life. The longer society waits to intervene in the life cycle of a disadvantaged child, the more costly it is to remediate disadvantage.
Read more at VOX. Thanks for the pointer to Richard Baldwin at freeexchange|economist.com who frames the U.S. presidential race in the context of Heckman's results:
Progressives want the Presidential campaign to be about American inequality; conservatives the American family. Professor James Heckman, an economist with a Nobel Medal on his desk, has just accomplished the unlikely task of writing a Vox column that both camps will cite in the debate over what’s wrong with America and how to fix it.

Bishop Mwamba calls on press to be "gracious and balanced"

From Ecumenical News International via ELO:

"The rest of the world needs to know that apart from press coverage in the West, the gay issue is not a pre-occupation of the poor," said the Zambian-born [Trevor] Mwamba. "And we don't want it imposed on us as a priority agenda. Our agenda is about basic survival, food for the hungry, and we cannot focus on other agendas. In the words of a Swahili proverb, 'An empty stomach has no ears to hear with'."

Mwamba added, "I can only pray that the media will be as passionate in reporting on these issues as they are on the homosexual debate."
...
His call for what he believed would be better and more balanced reporting on African issues came only a few weeks after Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in an interview with ENI that for some people in the media, morality means sex.

"In the Bible," Williams said, "morality means justice, compassion, and the defence of the needy. It means humility, realism and questioning, repentance and generosity. That's quite a lot to be going on with."

For more on his thoughts on Africa and Anglicanism, see Mwamba's paper, A Holy Mess and the Grace of Ambiguity, delivered earlier this summer at the 2008 Modern Churchpeople’s Conference. Thinking Anglicans has a round up of the papers delivered at the MCU conference.

Clear as mud

A transcript of the Archbishop of Canterbury's final press conference at the Lambeth Conference is now available. You can also listen to it online.

Beginning at the 21:10 mark, Dr. Rowan Williams attempts to offers some clarity to the old argument about what he means by a moratorium on same sex blessings. Note the first bold faced section. He certainly seems to be saying that the proposed moratorium on "same-sex blessings" is on the authorization of rites for same-sex blessings, not on the practice of providing such blessings.

However, note the second bold faced section. Here Williams conveys the impression that some Episcopal dioceses have authorized rites for blessing same-sex relationships. This isn't the case. So what "practices" is he talking about? Are those "practices" unique to the "American" church, or do they take place in many provinces--including the Church of England?

Is the archbishop simply having trouble articulating what he means? Is he poorly informed about the state of play on this issue in the Episcopal Church? Or is he using TEC as a prop in a self-exculpatory charade? Same-sex blessings are widespread in the Church of England. Many of them are quite public, as the service at St. Bartholemew's, London, in May made clear. The only discernible difference between the Episcopal Church and the Church of England on this issue is that some Episcopal bishops acknowledge publicly that blessings take place in their dioceses and are willing to admit that they are not troubled by this.

That wouldn't seem a distinction significant enough to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to let himself off the hook in assigning blame for the "strain" in the Communion. But that seems to be what he is doing.

One of the problems around this is that people in different parts of the world clearly define 'public' and 'rights' and 'blessing' in rather different ways. I'd refer I think to what I said in the address this afternoon. As soon as there is a liturgical form it gives the impression: this has the Church's stamp on it. As soon as that happens I think you've moved to another level of apparent commitment, and that I think is nowhere near where the Anglican Communion generally is. In the meeting of Primates at Gramado in Brazil some years ago, the phrase 'A variety of pastoral response' was used as an attempt to recognise that there were places where private prayers were said and, although there's a lot of unease about that, there wasn't quite the same strength of feeling about that as about public liturgies. But again 'pastoral response' has been interpreted very differently and there are those in the USA who would say: 'Well, pastoral response means rights of blessing', and I'm not very happy about that.

(Question about moratoria and 'gracious restraint' and time limits.)

The indaba groups had a lot of discussion about whether moratorium should have a time limit on it, most do. I think frankly it is very difficult to come to a common mind on this at present and, I think a phrase used by the Primates 'unless until a wider consensus emerges' is about as specific as it's got in the past so I don't think we're much further forward than that at the moment.

Archbishop, two of the three moratoria refer to actions that have happened mostly and exclusively in the Episcopal Church the lady from integrity posed a question about why lesbian and gay Christians were being sacrificed and that point has also been made by Susan Russell – are you putting a squeeze on the American Church to get into line?

I'm saying that some of the practices of certain dioceses in the American church continues to put our relations as a communion under strain and that some problems won't be resolved while those practices continue. I might just add perhaps a note here that one complication in discussing all this is the assumption readily made that the blessing of a same sex union, and or the ordination of someone in the act of same-sex relationship is simply a matter of human rights. I'm not saying that is claimed by people within the Church, but you hear that from time to time, you hear it in the secular press and that's an assumption that I can't accept because I think the issue about what conditions a Church lays down for the blessings of unions have to be shaped by its own thinking, its own praying. Now, there's perfectly serious theological reflection on this in some areas – I'm not saying there isn't - but I don't want to short-circuit that argument by saying it's just a matter of rights. Therefore to say that the rights and dignities of gay and lesbian people as people in society is not what we're disagreeing about - I hope and pray anyway.

Christians studying the ways of Muslims in Nigeria

At the end of this item on the Church of Nigeria's opposition to same-sex marriage come these refreshing words from Bishop Josiah Fearon, who used to be an archbishop before Archbishop Peter Akinola, the Primate of Nigeria, busted him over his desire to remain part of the Anglican Communion:

"For us in Kaduna State, we realised that to live peacefully, we need to understand the religion of each other and so, we are convinced that the best way to promote peace and encourage it, is to know the well-being of your neighbour and the well-being of your neighbour is dictated by what he or she believes in.

The well-being of the Muslim is dictated by Islam and so, we are concentrating on the Christians learning about Islam".

Hats off to Bishop Fearon, and while we are on the subject, the Kaduna state includes the town of Yelwa, site of intense religious violence in 2004--violence that culminated in the iincreasingly well-known massacre. It's worth noting that despite highly suggestive evidence, neither Rowan Williams, nor any of the GAFCON primates has evinced any interest in finding out what Akinola knew about the massacre, or what his involvement might have been.

As our moral values are regularly called into question by these folks--It seems we are captives of our decadent culture and can no longer distinguish the evil inherent in the Bishop of New Hampshire's sleeping with a man.--we'd be interested in knowing how many dead bodies it takes to merit their attention.

All creatures great and small

The Humane Society of the United States is announcing its 2008 “All Creatures Great and Small” campaign, which involves a pledge to either switch to cage-free eggs or egg substitutes for the month of October. Nearly 280 million laying hens in the United States are confined in barren, wire cages so small the birds can’t even spread their wings, and consumers can reduce animal suffering by making a few simple changes in their purchasing.

The HSUS is joining with religious leaders to ask people of faith to pledge for one month to either switch to cage-free eggs or egg substitutes as a way to end the cruelest confinement systems employed by the egg industry.

October was chosen because October 2nd is the end of Ramadan, October 4th is the Feast of St. Francis and October 8 & 9 is Yom Kippur.

Here is a link to a 25 minute video called "Factory Farming" which makes the connection between food and faith.

Sign up here.

Greenbelt: what exactly is it?

We've done a little bit of reading and searched through various sections of the Web site, but we still don't quite get this Greenbelt business. The festival (if that's the right word) drew more than 20,000 people to a race track in Cheltenham, England, for three days of what seems to have been innovative worship and intriguing conversation--and the Church Times takes is seriously!--so we feel we should understand it better than we do.

Is it a good thing? Do we want one in America?

Calling on churches in tough economic times

In a Religion News Service article appearing on Crosswalk, Kirsten Campbell discusses the double bind that can hit churches in hard economic times:

For faith-based organizations, widespread economic woes might seem to have the potential to create a complicated situation: At the same time that more people may call upon them for assistance, those who routinely provide funding to charitable groups may be less able to respond.

Historically, however, church-member giving doesn't necessarily decline in a recession, according to empty tomb, inc., an Illinois-based research group that studies religious giving. This "probably has to do with the fact that churches are generally seen as the layer immediately beyond the family in terms of responsibility, accountability, relationships," explained Sylvia Ronsvalle, executive vice president of empty tomb.

No rain last night in Denver

As a couple of commentators have pointed out, despite a half-serious attempt to call down rain on Barack Obama's "parade" last night, the sky was clear of the stadium where he gave his acceptance speech.

Read Brian Kaylor's take here.

California prisons respond to change in marriage law

A few months ago the Supreme Court in the State of California ruled that laws which made same-gender marriages illegal were in violation of the state Constitution's equal-protection clause. The resulting scramble to change existing regulations has resulted in a few bumps along the way. The state's Department of Corrections has responded by deciding to now recommend that prison chaplains stop performing any marriages for inmates.

From a report by the Religion Clause:

"The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in the midst of drafting new regulations on the subject, has decided that the same rules will apply that govern opposite-sex marriage. Inmates will be able to marry, but, for safety and security concerns, marriages between fellow inmates will not be allowed. Last year, California became the first state to allow conjugal visits and overnight stays for inmates with outside same-sex partners. Department lawyers also recommend that prison chaplains stop performing weddings for all inmates and leave that task to outsiders so chaplains who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds are not in the position of performing ceremonies only for some."

Read the full article here.

The GAFCONistas have their say

The GAFCON primates have said a little bit about the Lambeth Conference, as have the border-crossing bishops they ordained. Mark Harris provides excellent analysis:

Goodbye Global South, goodbye Lambeth, goodbye Archbishop of Canterbury. As far as the Primates Council is concerned, "the Anglican Communion as a communion of ordered churches is at the probable brink of collapse." Will these Primates meet with the others at the next Primates Meeting? How will they dare?

This Communique on the one hand says nothing not already in the works at GAFCON. It simply puts in place the various pieces. But it has become divisive in its own house. There are notable realignment provinces missing from this group and for good reason. This is not about saving the Communion. It is about replacing it, and if that is not possible, about starting something else entirely and recruiting from the Anglican Communion as it can.

(boldface added.)

If you doubt Mark's conclusion, take a look here.

Religious right likes McCain's pick

Religious conservatives are excited by Senator John McCain's choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, says Ralph Reed in The New York Times:

“They’re beyond ecstatic,” said Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition. “This is a home run. She is a reformer governor who is solidly pro-life and a person of deep Christian faith. And she is really one of the bright shining new stars in the Republican firmament.”

Ms. Palin is known to conservatives for choosing not to have an abortion after learning that she was carrying a child with Down syndrome. “It is almost impossible to exaggerate how important that is to the conservative faith community,” Mr. Reed said.

(Politico is on the case as well.)

While running for governor, Palin said she thought creationism and the theory of evolution should both be taught in public schools.

Talking Points Memo has more.

Dallas Morning News Religion Blog has more. Palin is a member of the Assemblies of God Church.

From the Anchorage Daily News in 2006:
Palin's parents say they are not political and don't know how she decided to turn her ambition and work ethic toward politics. Her Christian faith, they say, came from her mother, who took her children to area Bible churches as they were growing up (Sarah is the third of four siblings). They say her faith has been steady since high school, when she led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and grew stronger as she sought out believers in her college years.

Palin doesn't brandish her religion on the campaign trail, but that doesn't prevent others from doing so. After she was first elected mayor, her predecessor, John Stein, objected that a Valley cable TV program had hailed her as Wasilla's first "Christian mayor." In a column for the local newspaper, he named eight previous mayors and added that he, too, was a Christian, despite a name that led some voters to suspect "I must be a non-Christian, have non-Christian blood or at least have sympathized with a non-Christian sometime in my career."

Her official campaign bio, still up on her campaign site, offers evidence that she didn't "brandish" her religion during that campaign. While it mentions her membership in the Iditarod PTA, htere is nary a mention of a church or religious affiliation.

Advice for the candidates

Panelists at the Washington Post's On Faith section were asked to advise the two presidential candidates on the role that religion should play in their campaigns. Bishop John Bryson Chane of Washington is among those who responded.

He said in part:

Understand that all theology is political. By that I mean in looking at the Holy texts of at least the 3 Abrahamic religions they all focus on care of the sick, the alien, the widows and orphans, the poor, the dispossessed, caring for the least among us, and always focusing on radical hospitality for all including strangers. Much of what is done from a contemporary perspective in the legislative process at the state and federal level is aimed at addressing these very same issues. And these issues cannot be addressed well unless through the political process.

Gearing up for Gustav

As Gustav looms large in the Gulf of Mexico, churches that remember all too well the marauding of Katrina are preparing to be at the front lines, drawing from lessons learned in the storm of 2005. The NBC affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi, interviewed the Very Rev. Edward O'Connor about his experiences with Katrina and how he's applying the knowledge he gained to preparations for the current storm:

Edward O'Connor remembers well the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Before becoming Dean of St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Jackson, he was the rector of a church in Gulfport that was destroyed by Katrina.

"So many powerful moments post-Katrina on the gulf coast," said O'Connor. "From worshipping the Sunday after the storm on a concrete slab that used to be our church home to gathering with all manner of people who were devastated by the destruction."

Now, St. Andrew's, like many other churches in the Jackson metro area, is using past experience to prepare for Gustav.

"Everyone recognizes that faith groups were perhaps the backbone of recovery, both on the coast and in Jackson," said O'Connor. "After Katrina, a lot of different people ran off in a lot of different directions, so the goal this time around and with each coming disaster is to be that much more organized."

Story here.

A message from Bishop Jenkins in Louisiana includes the following:

Hurricane Gustav continues to look as though it will make its way into the Gulf this weekend. Given this forecast, we have a responsibility to protect those entrusted to our care. I call on the leaders of this diocese, both lay and ordained, to prepare for a potential landfall along the Louisiana coast line.

I have asked my staff to implement our emergency readiness plan. This plan is designed both to protect our staff and to insure our ability to provide ministry resources that will be needed in case Gustav does strike us.

Hat Tip to the ever-watchful The Blogspotting Anglican Episcopalian for that one.

Lastly (for now), in an eerily timely piece, the Episcopal News Service has covered the advocacy group that went to Denver for the National Democratic Convention to speak out for a concerted effort to rebuild the Gulf region, here.

Pining for liberal Republicanism

Michael McGough, writing in the Opinion section of the L.A. Times, observes that the shift in the Republican party during the past 20 or so years has made a curiosity out of what he calls "liberal Republicans" such as Sens. Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe. He also notes that such Republicans seem to have a tendency toward being Episcopalians, and dryly observes that there are parallels between the demise of these Republicans politically and what's happening in the church itself:

My nostalgia for liberal Republicans is as much cultural as it is political. The pejorative term for them is “country club Republicans” who, like Leach and the first President Bush, often belonged to the Episcopal Church, a denomination disproportionately represented in power élites and in news coverage (what editor can resist a gay-bishop story?).

I may be the only one to see this parallel, but liberal Republicans have always struck me as the political equivalent of Anglo-Catholics: those high-church Episcopalians who in their liturgy with its “smells and bells” are more Catholic than the pope they don’t acknowledge. Liberal Republicans live a similarly paradoxical existence in the political world, espousing positions (at least on social issues) more common in the opposing party. We should pray –- in an Episcopal Church, of course –- for their resurrection.

From here.

The Rev. Certain to give RNC invocation

The Rev. Robert Certain made headlines in 2006 when he gave a sermon at Gerald Ford's funeral, and caught our eye here in the pre-Lead days when the Cafe was just the Daily Episcopalian for saying that one of Ford's wishes was that we would work toward reconciliation in the church. Certain is in the spotlight again, this time having accepted the invitation to give the invocation at the Republican National Convention.

Certain says in an interview with the Palm Springs Desert Sun that he was invited because of a number of things he has in common with John McCain. Both were pilots that were shot down, and have met at POW reunion events, among other things:

I got an invitation from the convention team a couple weeks ago. John was raised as an Episcopalian; he made a statement he is still an Episcopalian though he attends a Baptist church. There is the POW tie; there was my service to the Ford family and my service on the (Department of Defense) Defense Health Board. So all of those things are out there.

He talks a bit more about how to put a reflective stamp on a "stage-managed" event: You can read it all here.

Solar panels may be too hot a commodity

Who knew that there was a black market for decreasing your carbon footprint? A recent crime wave in the San Francisco Bay area involved a string of thefts of solar panels. A sophisticated thief or thieves—the crime takes technical skills to execute—has been removing solar panels from various facilities. A suspect is thought to have been selling them on e-Bay, according to InsideBayDaily.com.

One of the buildings that was hit, more than once, was an Episcopal church, despite attempts to deter the thieves:

Other thefts include St. Anselm's Episcopal Church in Lafayette, which was hit twice in the spring. Doug Merrill, a parishioner in charge of the project, said six of their 42 panels were taken at the end of April.

Some church members stayed at the church overnight, and they also left on flood lights. But the thieves were undeterred and returned in May to steal seven more panels.

"They have to go through some trouble," Merrill said of the thieves. He said the church's electrical bill has dropped from between $3,500 and $4,000 a year to about $300, but church officials never expected someone to steal them. "But it turns out this is a common problem."

The story is here.

Related: The high value of recycled metal has led to an epidemic of thefts of copper roofs and lead downspouts from churches in England.

McCain's chaplaincy

Newsweek takes a look at John McCain the Vietnam POW chaplain, which McCain describes as being the result a happy accident of his fluency with liturgy from his Episcopal upbringing rather than any particular religious devotion. But as it happened, that cart did come before the horse. His experiences "leading" worship helped him see just how powerful faith could be in bringing people together.

Michael Gerson, in writing the article, is making an argument for McCain in terms of other ways his Episcopal upbringing has influenced his policy decisions.


He appealed effectively to religious conservatives on a variety of specific issues—abortion, school choice, judicial appointments—but devoted only a single sentence to his own theology. And he is largely incapable of explaining how his faith informs his public priorities.

But McCain does have a case to make, even if he can't seem to make it. His old Episcopal training seems to have given him something more than a mastery of the Nicene Creed. He has often shown a stubborn sense of decency and morality that should appeal broadly to Protestants (mainline and evangelical), Roman Catholics, Jews and others who are concerned about social justice.

There remains the question of who will make the case if McCain cannot, however. You can read Gerson's attempt to, here.

McCain picks post-denominational Palin

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter says that John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin is an example of a post-denominational Christian. No longer identified by particular practices or beliefs of separate Christian traditions, a post-denominational Christian has a style of believing that draws from many sources and is highly individualized.

The initial confusion surrounding Palin’s denominational identity, therefore, has a simple explanation: She doesn’t have one. Instead, Palin appears to be part of that rapidly expanding galaxy of “post-denominational” Christianity, where elements of Evangelical and Pentecostal styles of faith and worship fuse into a myriad of unique local combinations, and where old denominational loyalties are essentially dead.

Though post-denominationalists are, by definition, difficult to catalog and index, they’re unquestionably numerous. 2007 survey conducted by LifeWay found that fully one-third of American Protestants were contemplating attending a different church in the future, and of that group, only one in four said it would be important that their future church belong to the same denomination as the one they currently attend.

Indeed, Ron Dreher over at Crunchy Con has noticed the same thing about Palin, asking "What kind of Christian is Sarah Palin?"

It's hard to say. People say she's an Evangelical, but what does that mean, really? Is she a Pentecostal? A Bible churcher? Christianity Today reports that she was baptized a Catholic as an infant, but her parents raised her in Bible churches. She has attended Pentecostal churches in recent years. It sounds like she's like a lot of US Christians today: a little of this, a little of that.

Allen says to that we should not confuse post-denominationals for Evangelicals.

Not all post-denominationalists are conservative Evangelicals. The “emergent church” movement, for example, is often considered an expression of independent Christianity, and the relatively loose and flexible approach to creedal matters of some emerging churches – sometimes called “generous orthodoxy” – is regarded as unacceptably fuzzy by many Evangelicals. Globally, however, the largest share of the post-denominational universe is occupied by various forms of Evangelical and Pentecostal spirituality, with a strong emphasis on Biblical literalism and a lively sense of the supernatural.

Some of these independent Christians are even hesitant to adopt descriptive labels such as “Evangelical” or “Pentecostal,” for fear that such terminology could breed a new form of denominationalism. This is part of what makes estimating the total Evangelical or Pentecostal population in America, or the world, such a maddening exercise, because depending upon the day of the week and what mood they’re in, many believers these days (including, perhaps, Palin) might consider themselves both, or neither.

Post-denominational Christians share a common identity and have formed their own culture. They may look like generic evangelicals to us main-liners, but they know each other when they meet:

Although independent Christians spurn membership cards, they typically have little difficulty recognizing one other – in part, because there’s a shared culture formed by music, conventions in praise and worship, and spiritual language, which different congregations dip in and out of to varying degrees.

For example, those who watched Palin’s announcement speech yesterday in Dayton, Ohio, might have noticed a throaty roar from the crowd when she said, “We are expected to govern with integrity and goodwill and clear convictions and a servant’s heart.”

That reaction wasn’t simply about approval of good government; the phrase “servant’s heart” is a popular bit of Evangelical terminology, used as a short-hand for Christian humility. A quick web search reveals thousands of churches, ministries, and bands that use some variation of “servant’s heart” in the title; there’s even a residential cleaning service in Calgary called “Servant’s Heart.”

Ironically, traditional Catholics may leans toward Palin while many post-denominationals will tend to identify with Biden:

There’s a bit of political irony for [Roman] Catholics. Given Palin’s strong pro-life credentials, it’s likely she will appeal to the most strongly “denominational” Catholics, those most devoted to traditional Catholic identity and teaching. Meanwhile, what one might call “post-denominational Catholics,” meaning those for whom religious branding carries less theological significance, may embrace Palin’s Democratic rival, Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, the lone Roman Catholic on either ticket, because of his progressive stands on social and political matters. In other words, the denominationalists on the Catholic side will back the post-denominationalist, while the Catholic post-denominationalists will probably pick the candidate who bears the Catholic denominational label.

Read the rest of Allen's column here.

HT to Diocese of Bethlehem blog newSpin.

The origin of the species

Jonathan Sacks:

Next year will be a double anniversary for followers of Darwin: the 200th anniversary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species. We will no doubt hear it asserted that Darwin dealt a death blow to religious belief.

That, it should be said, is quite untrue. What it dealt a death blow to was one very poor argument for the existence of God, namely the argument from design. This argument figures nowhere in the Hebrew Bible. It does not even belong to its world of thought. It belongs instead to the tradition of Ancient Greece and to the idea that the most important truths are those that can be proved.

You got a plan?

Updated. As Gustav approaches the Gulf Coast, three years after Katrina, the operative question is "You got a plan?" This time nearly everyone does.

Ask any stranger -- Sheila Bickham in LaPlace; Carlos Anderson in Slidell; Denise Galloway on the sidewalk outside Galatoire's.

"Got a plan?"

They did. Bickham, to Alexandria; Anderson, to Tennessee; Galloway: Memphis or Destin.

On Friday, Hurricane Gustav was 1,100 miles away and still on the other side of Cuba.

But in the fragile psyche of a traumatized region, the faintest tickle of National Hurricane Center cross hairs on New Orleans, even if provisional and temporary, was electric.

Plenty of time to make house and family arrangements, yes; to wait nervously for clarity, yes; to fill the time with familiar routine, yes.

But in the meantime, everybody made a plan.

And there was also another overlay -- a weird, almost bitter coincidence.

The threat of Gustav rose ominously in the region's consciousness three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina ravaged South Louisiana.

Even as the storm approaches, volunteers are still coming to New Orleans to help rebuild from Katrina.

Uptown, Pete Nunnelly, a coordinator of Episcopal storm volunteers, helped load a rental truck with files, telephones and office equipment, temporarily transferring the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana to Baton Rouge.

The night before, it fell to him to tell a group of Calgary volunteers at zydeco night at Rock 'n' Bowl that housing repair work would be shut down over the Labor Day weekend. They would have to leave for arranged quarters in Monroe.

Nunnelly is a Virginian, at 31 a former middle-school physical education teacher and one of those "new" New Orleanians who moved here to help rebuild after Katrina.

"The city gets in you, if you've got any soul at all, " he said.

The packing done, he discussed the weekend behind oversized plastic sunglasses, with thick white arms embossed with outrageous, chromed grape clusters.

"They make me feel better. Got them at a gas station in Chalmette. Three corn dogs, a map and these."

He said he has been getting e-mails from his distant volunteer contacts.

"People worry about Katrina fatigue? People are writing me, wishing good luck, " he said.

"But they're saying, 'If you need us again, we'll be back.' "

Read it all here.

Update, Monday 9/1 6:45 am EDT
: On Saturday 8/30, Bishop Jenkins wrote on his blog the following (HT to Inch at a Time):

On Friday night the Muslim call to prayer rang out in Temple Sinai in New Orleans. It was the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. People of faith from the Jewish, Sikh, Bahia, Muslim, and Christian communities came together to pray in thanksgiving and to remember what happened to us. We prayed for the living and the dead, some eighty of whom were buried with no name on this very day. We came together as people brought low, many of us still living with injury and loss, but as one people of hope. We know that we are not disposable people because God’s mark is upon us. The Archbishop of New Orleans, the Most Revered Alfred Hughes, gave a wonderful homily noting how we are building a better place in the midst of ruin. We lit the Sabbath candle, sang the blessing of the wine, and then our host, Rabbi Cohn lit a candle for the departed of our city and by name those of Temple Sinai.

Like most of us, Louise and I are packing to leave. We have offers of hospitality from around the country but will likely go to Baton Rouge so that we can be poised to minister to God’s people here in the place we call home. The threat of Gustav has stirred up in me feelings and emotions too complicated to explain now. I am in touch with my brokenness and I am aware that it is by God’s grace alone that I can put one tired foot in front of another. I share this because I know that I am not alone in getting in touch with the hurt from Katrina and the fear that is ours this night. It is a strange and painful time and many of us are struggling. We struggle together, friends, we are one. The pain is not only emotional but physical. Many triggers are pulled in my mind. I cannot believe this is happening on the very day New Orleans flooded. I pray God to give me patience, strength, and humility to accept with gratitude the many blessing of life. I likely will not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood tomorrow (Sunday) in the outward and visible forms. I pray Christ will come to me inwardly and spiritually as I do so desire Him. Please remember me and all of us when you make your Communion.

Bishop Charles Jenkins

A centuries old blending of religion and science

Christianity and Judaism are not alone in discovering how science and religion intersect. Islam depends on astronomers to determine exactly when Ramadan begins.

Here is an account from the Washington Post:

In synch with the sun and the moon, the traditions of 1,400 years and the acts of Muslims all over the world, members of one of Egypt's seven official moon-sighting committees pulled into a parking lot high on a ridge overlooking hazy Cairo at sunset Saturday.

There were government astronomers in open-neck shirts, snapping open tripods to support their telescopes. Taking a preliminary look through the scopes at Cairo's western horizon, the astronomers didn't bother to announce what they saw at first glance: nothing.

There was a 70-year-old Muslim cleric, wearing glasses of stratified thicknesses, a gauzy black robe with gold tassels and a beatific smile. Declining a look through the telescopes, the cleric, Abdul Monim al-Berri, only sat and looked on, his presence as one of Egypt's leading religious scholars giving the gathering the stamp of religious approval. "I'm the legitimacy," he said.

And there was an al-Jazeera satellite news crew, trying to go live to tell the world the news from the parking lot, but having trouble with audio.

Frustrated, the network's reporter folded her arms across her chest and rocked back on her heels in the gravel, staring blindly at the sky.

Together, the committee members were on a mission: to look for the crescent moon that signals the start of Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, and tell the world whether they had seen it....

At 6:17 p.m., the same time when the crescent is expected to appear Sunday, the astronomers bent in earnest over their telescopes.

Bystanders fell silent.

The men stood in the hush, minute after minute, squinting at the rim where earth met sky.

In the silence, the rusty voice of a single old man rose from a mosque in the valley below. Carrying out a ritual older than the moon-watch committees, he man called the faithful to evening prayers.

"Allah akbar," the mosque singer cried. "God is great."

From his chair in the parking lot, Berri raised his fingers to the sky as if to pinch the absent crescent moon.

He then brought his fingers to his mouth and kissed them.

"This is the best part, the mingling of science and religion," Berri said. "It's beautiful."

Washington Post: Religion and Science Blend in a Centuries-Old Ritual

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