The Halloween costume that went too far

News reports abounded yesterday about Halloween costumes that were age-inappropriate or too "sexy." So perhaps it wasn't surprising that one New Jersey 8th grader was sent home to change when his costume was deemed too distracting. What caused the Associated Press to pick up the story for national circulation, however, was the fact that Alex Woinski, an honor-roll student from an interfaith family, had chosen to wear a white robe, a red sash, sandals, and a crown of thorns.

“We're a little stupified by this whole thing,” said the boy's mother, Kim Woinski.

Jesus Christ was “one of the greatest men that ever lived," she added. "If he went as Abe Lincoln would they say he couldn't do that?"


Woinski said her son complied with the requests of teachers and administrators, without complaint, and called his mother to pick him up. He was home for an hour and a half before returning to school.

When she went to pick her son up from school, administrators were unavailable to speak with her regarding the matter. But in an effort to comply with their requests she took her son home, she said.

“It's not like he’s not a good student. The kid’s on the high honor roll,” she said.

Woinski is Catholic while her husband is Jewish. Their son, who had recently celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and has been studying Bible scripture, is interested in Jesus as an historical and religious figure, according to his mother.

He wanted to translate that interest into a Halloween costume.

From the hometown report at the Bergen Record, here.

CBS 2 also covered the story here.

Bringing the saints to life

Sister Gemma Legel wanted to help her students in Westland, Mich., learn about the saints in a more interactive way earlier this week. So, instead of her usual catechism class at Divine Savior Catholic Church, the students brought the parade of saints to life. They each dressed up as their chosen saint (there were several Joan of Arcs in attendance, for instance) and gave a presentation about that saint.

"We're here to honor saints and God and celebrating All Saints," said Sister Legel. She went on to explain the Feast of All Saints is usually observed on Nov. 1, but is not a holy day of obligation this year because it falls a day before Sunday. Instead Catholics celebrate All Souls Day Nov. 1-2, to remember the dead.

"How do you become a saint?" asked Sister Legel. "Most were ordinary people. They loved God and showed that love by loving their neighbor. We're saints in the making."

One by one the children came to the front of the room to tell about their saint. Kyle Broffitt, 9, of Plymouth, was St. Martin of Tours, the patron of soldiers.

"He gave it up (being a soldier)," Kyle said. "He didn't want to do violent acts."

Later, Kyle said he learned to honor saints and that saints can be pretty cool.


Jodi Engler thinks the process will help her children retain their lesson on the saints longer. Katie, 9, was St. Margaret of Scotland, the queen who fed orphans and the poor before she would eat. Jenny, 7, was dressed as the North American Indian, Kateri Tekakwitha, patroness of ecology and the environment.

"I liked how it brought the saints to life, put a face with the name," Engler said.

From here.

Also along this line, in case you missed it, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's All Saints Day message exhorts us to "celebrate the [saints] whose names you know and the ones whose names you haven’t yet learned."

As you gather to celebrate on the feast of All Saints, take with you the name of a saint whose example you have seen in action, and one whose name you don’t know, and give thanks. The appropriate companion prayer to one of thanks for the witness of other saints is that we, too, might be holy examples to those whom we meet.

From here.

The living and the dead

Thomas Lynch, writing in the New York Times, observes that the days following Halloween are ones set aside to honor the departed:

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are time set aside to broker peace between the living and the dead. Whether you are pagan or religious, Celt or Christian, New Age believer or doubter-at-large, these are the days when you traditionally acknowledge that the gone are not forgotten. The seasonal metaphors of reaping and rotting, harvest and darkness, leaf-fall and killing frost supply us with plentiful memento mori. Whatever is or isn’t there when we die, death both frightens and excites us.

Thus, throughout most of the Western world, graves are decorated on these first days of November with candles and fresh flowers. Picnics are held among the old stones and markers, relatives gather round family plots to give the dead their due of prayers and remembrances.

But not so much in the United States, he continues, citing Professor June Hobbs and some of her experiences teaching an honors course called "Death in American Culture." Part of the class involves a trip to a local cemetery, and Hobbs says that many of her students have never been to one before the class trip.

“I find this astonishing,” says Professor Hobbs. “This county had more casualties during the Civil War than any other. The dead were everywhere, the churchyards filled up, Sunday afternoons were spent visiting graves. The dead were very much a part of the community, kept alive in everyday conversations.” Now they’ve been downsized or disappeared.

She speaks to a culture that quietly turned the family “parlor” into a “living room,” the “burial policy” into “life insurance” and the funeral into a “celebration of life,” often notable for the absence of a corpse, and the subtle enforcement of an emotional code that approves the good laugh but not the good cry. Convenience and economy have replaced ethnic and religious customs.

The dead get buried but we seldom see a grave. Or they are burned, but few folks ever see the fire. Photographs of coffins returned from wars are forbidden, and news coverage of soldiers’ burials is discouraged. Where sex was once private and funerals were public, now sex is everywhere and the dead go to their graves often as not without witness or ritual.

Still, there remains something deeply human in the way we process mortality by processing mortals in the journey between life as we know it and life as we imagine it, in whatever space the dead inhabit. Wherever the dead go or don’t, it is the duty of the living to get them to the edge of that oblivion.

Since the first cave-dwelling Neanderthal awakened next to a dead kinsman and knew something would have to be done about it, we humans have looked into the tomb or grave or fire and asked ourselves the signature questions of our species: Is that all there is? Can it happen to me? What comes next? Only the dead know the answers. And the living are well and truly haunted by them.

Read the whole thing here.

Baking up a plan to help end homelessness

Sweet Miss Giving's is a new bakery in Chicago that opened last week to great fanfare. Mayor Daley not only attended the grand opening, he helped cut the ribbon. After all, the city had contributed nearly $100,000 towards its opening--because it's part social service agency. The bakery, a public-private cooperative venture, is the brainchild of the Rev. Stan Sloan, CEO of Chicago House, which provides community-based support to people who have been marginalized because of HIV and AIDS. With the bakery, the organization is able to provide valuable job training to people like Mary, a former street hustler, and Stanley, an ex-convict who had been homeless since his release from prison.

The bakery hires homeless people with HIV and other disabilities, teaches them to chop, cream, fold, mix, pack, clean, deliver. They cater meetings and events for businesses, peddle wholesale to restaurants and coffee shops, sell gift packs to the public on their Web site (

The proceeds go to Chicago House. And other businesses recognize that the intern bakers are worth hiring.

Another do-gooding utopia destined to fail?

Reverend Stan grinned. It looked like a dare. "Watch us grow."

The first 13 interns were carefully selected, tested to see if they understood the delicate arithmetic of baking—measuring, fractions—and then trained in hard but simple acts like showing up on time.

"Work is habits," Stephen said. "We have to teach habits."

And work is patience. A couple of times Mary, frustrated, has announced, "I quit!"

"No, you don't," Reverend Stan says.

"Thank you," Mary says.

Baking is hard work. Cold refrigerators, hot ovens, hours on your feet.

"I don't have the best of legs," Stanley says. He wears support hose for the gout. "But I have the motivation of wanting to do something on my own."

He wiped his sudden tears. "I cried so much a couple of years ago, you just wouldn't believe it."

Now, he said, it feels like making art to him, the way the green zucchini mixes with the orange carrot and the batter turns into bread.

News on the opening from here (the source of the above excerpt) as well as here. The bakery website goes live on Monday, so look for that here.

Andrew Brown: why I am not a Christian

Guardian reporter Andrew Brown, who used to cover religion, explains why he is an atheist:

I have been writing about Christians for more than 20 years now. I am married to one; I was brought up as one, more or less. Half a dozen of the most admirable, brave and honest people I know are Christians, and I don't think for a moment that I am either smarter or better than they are. If I am right, and they are wrong, this is due to no great merit on my part. It is certainly not because I am less prone to illusion than they are, or more firmly attached to the truth. I know I can generate quite enough illusions of my own without supernatural help.

. . .

When I became a religious affairs correspondent, and started to meet Christian intellectuals, I came to realise that some at least believed nothing I found abhorrent or ridiculous. They no more take the Bible as a work of history than I do. There were some with whom I could and can talk seriously in the confidence that we understand the world in almost exactly the same light and see it disfigured by the same shadows. It would be wrong and invidious to name living people, but the late Lord Runcie was one of the most admirable men I have ever known, and if Jesus was good enough for him that's a powerful argument.

Yet still I won't join. In need only reread some parts of CS Lewis to know that if that hectoring certainty is right, I would rather be wrong. Most of the bishops I have known have been a sorry lot. It is hard to believe that they are right about anything much and I would certainly not wish to associate myself with the modern Church of England and all its squalid vanities. I left the 1998 Lambeth Conference determined to do nothing which might have me mistaken for a Christian. No doubt the feeling is mutual. This wouldn't matter if they were representatives of a great tradition. But I find I can't believe in the tradition, either. Looking at what Christians have actually believed about the world, and the ways that they have in practice understood their doctrines, I know that almost every Christian now alive would have been considered a heretic 500 years ago; and that the witch-burners of the 17th century would themselves have been heretics 500 years before.

For similar reasons, I can't accept the intellectual authority of the Roman Catholic church. Calvinism, while it it intellectually satisfying, is emotionally repugnant to me. In the end, I suppose, my objections to God are, as they must be, theological: the workings of divine providence are just a little too inaccessible to human reasoning. The problem of suffering remains insoluble. There is no possible theodicy. But I can't, either, take the Dawkinsian view that the problem of suffering is an illusion generated by the illusion of God. You can't mend the heart in a heartless world by observing that the world is in fact heartless. That's not the point.

I suppose I end up saying that I accept the Christian account of the problem; I just can't accept Christianity's account of the solution, and so I remain, by the grace of God perhaps, an atheist.

Read it all here.

Godless in North Carolina: Bearing False Witness

The Campaign for Senate in North Carolina is close, and Senator Dole has decided to win the race by making false allegations about her opponent's alleged atheism. Here is the ad that Dole has been running:

The response by Kay Hagen, an elder at a local Presbyterian Church where she teaches Sunday school was quick, and effective:

At least one analyst, J.P. Green, thinks that Dole just lost the election by resorting to this tactic:

It appears that Sen. Liddy Dole (R-NC) has lost either her marbles or control of her campaign. Dole has unleashed a ridiculously bombastic ad that tries to slime her opponent, Kay Hagan as "Godless." Hagan has put in time as both a Sunday school teacher and church elder in a Greensboro Presbyterian church her family has attended for more than a century.

. . .

It's a huge blunder. No doubt Dole hopes to fire up her evangelical base for the home stretch. But Dole's absurd allegations are easily rebutted, given Hagan's clear record of commitment to her Christian faith. It's hard to see how Dole can get off scott-free from the consequences of such a silly accusation. And not all evangelicals are happy about what Hagan describes as Dole's 'false witness.' The latest NC Senate race poll average at has Hagan ahead by a margin of 46.6 to 43 percent. If the people of North Carolina are as decent as I think, Dole's ad could cost her the election.

I remember Dole once saying that her husband, Bob Dole's lagging campaign for the Presidency needed "adult supervision." It looks like her campaign has the same problem.

Read it all here.

What do you think?

Why children like to share

We are taught to believe that Darwinian "survival of the fittest" has rewarded selfish behavior. Recent scientific studies, however, paint a much different picture. Nature has rewarded cooperation--which is why older small children like to share:

In recent years the tide has swung dramatically against such a bleak view of human nature, however. Researchers are increasingly coming to understand that people are also “programmed” to care about others. A recent contribution to this theme comes from neuroscientist Ernst Fehr at the University of Zurich and colleagues. In a study, the researchers explored a particular type of unselfishness known as inequality aversion. Suppose individual A has $10, and individual B has a lesser amount, say $5. We say individual A is inequality averse if he shares some of his cash with individual B, thus reducing the inequality between them. We say individual B is inequality averse if he is willing to sacrifice some part of his money, provided individual A’s endowment is reduced to an even greater degree, so that, once again, the inequality between the two is reduced.

Fehr and colleagues show that, in a sample of 229 children between the ages of three and eight years, younger subjects overwhelmingly conform to selfish (self-regarding) preferences. They don’t like to share and aren’t interest in reducing inequality. In contrast, the vast majority of the older subjects are inequality averse when put in either the advantageous (individual A) or inadvantageous (individual B) position.

Moreover, the researchers find that the older children are “rational” in the sense that they are more willing to share when the cost of doing so is low than when the cost is high. Finally, the children tend to be more inequality averse in dealing with “ingroup” members, or children from their own school or day care. This preference for sharing with ingroup members occurred even the sharing game was purely anonymous, so no child could determine the identity of the other players.

. . .

Although it’s now generally recognized that children are inequality averse, one experimental difficulty has been separating out strategic behavior, such as reputation building, from true preferences for sharing. In other words, I may share with you because in the future, you may reciprocate, or I may punish you at personal cost because the next time, you will be more careful to give me my “fair share.” These are purely strategic behaviors that can be attributed to perfectly selfish individuals.

The Fehr study differs from prior studies of inequality aversion in children by scrupulously preventing such an interpretation. They made all behaviors anonymous so children could never identify their partners, and therefore could not sacrifice in hopes of gaining in the future. This strategy contrasts with previous studies, which either watched children at play or analyzed teacher-pupil interactions. Although these studies found consistent pro-social behavior—the children demonstrated a willingness to share—they could not ascertain whether it was calculated selfishness or true other-regarding behavior.

It is instructive to compare and contrast human behavior regarding others with that of our nearest biological relative, the chimpanzee. My assessment of the literature is that female chimps, at least, reveal a high level of kin altruism (fathers exhibit virtually none).” Chimps of both sexes also demonstrate a fair amount of reciprocal altruism, as in mutual grooming and coalition formation, and show considerable concern for the plight of other chimps. On the other hand, chimpanzees show virtually no real inequality aversion, in the sense that they do not share with non-kin except as a means of not being pestered by beggars, and do not sacrifice to reduce their personal disadvantage. In this sense, inequality aversion seems to be a rather human innovation.

Read it all here.

A faith and politics 2008 election round-up

Even the political junkies among the editors of the Lead are ready for election day to come and go. Nonetheless, this has been a very interesting campaign season. Barack Obama is not merely the first African-American nominee of a major party. His campaign is the first Democratic campaign for President in decades to make an intentional outreach to so-called "values voters"--and with some success.

U.S.A. Today offers a good summary of the focus of the Obama campaign on faith voters:

When she was director of religious outreach for John Kerry's Democratic presidential campaign four years ago, Mara Vanderslice could hardly have seemed lower on the campaign totem pole.

"I had one unpaid intern who didn't have a phone," she said. "We didn't have a budget, and they never let me talk to the press."

Her low status reflected a widely perceived unease in the Democratic Party at reaching out to voters on religious grounds.

Political observers say the changes are evident in advertisements on Christian music stations, biblical references in stump speeches, and networking with pastors, as Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and others in his party try to appeal to people who might view the party as hostile to religion.

"It could not have changed more in only four years," Vanderslice said. "The Obama campaign has six staff people (on religious matters). Josh DuBois (Obama's head of religious outreach) is actively speaking to the press. They're doing 'Faith and Family' tours."

For her part, Vanderslice has formed a political action committee called The Matthew 25 Network, choosing the name from a well-known biblical passage in which Jesus prods people to help the "least of these" — the poor. The group has raised about $300,000 and is working on behalf of Obama.

The Matthew 25 network has run three different advertisements on Christian radio. The first, "Sources of Hope" can be heard here. Another advertisement features pro-life conservative Douglas Kmiec defending Obama's position on abortion, and can her heard here.

Are these efforts working? It appears that Obama is getting support from values voters--most notably observant Catholics and members of mainstream denominations:

For a while this summer, Obama polled like a typical Democrat among this group—which is to say, he polled quite poorly compared to John McCain, who until late summer enjoyed an 18-point advantage among voters who attended church weekly or more. But as the race moves to a close, Obama is doing better than either John Kerry or Al Gore among religious voters: in mid-October the Pew Center released a poll suggesting that white mainline Protestants prefer Obama to McCain by 48-43, and that white Catholics prefer Obama 49-41. (With the same voters, Bush beat Kerry by 10 points and 13 points, respectively.) And, as Morris and others won’t let you forget, Obama is working uphill—against the 12 percent of the country that still believes he is a Muslim.

Read it all here.

Perhaps one reason that Obama has done well with values voters is that he has not bought into myths about what these voters are all about:

We use the term "values" to talk about deep things -- what is most important to people, what organizes their lives. "Family values," by contrast, is the term for a collection of transient political positions that began their prominent political life as "wedge issues" in the campaigns of the 1980s: opposition to abortion and gay marriage or support for prayer in school and teaching creationism.

Traditional values in the United States, Baker found, are very different than in other nations. Unlike nations where collective identity is based on common ancestry, in the United States, he wrote, the imagined community is "a shared set of ideas." These are the ideas of the Constitution: personal liberty, equality, democracy and the rule of law. America was invented, not inherited. Our traditional values don't come from the fatherland, the volk or an ancient regime. Nor are our most basic shared values a selection of moral positions held by conservative American Christians.

Seen in this way, it is clear that traditional American values are alive and well. Constitutional ideals have unchallenged legitimacy, as do the worth of family, religion (or spirituality) and national pride. This is a stark contrast to the countries that have radically rejected their traditional values: Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Japan and the former Eastern Bloc nations.

Read it all here.

Can this crazy quilt hold together?

Giles Fraser says that conservative Anglo-Catholics will find no refuge in GAFCON.

To think that GAFCON is a safe haven for traditionalist Anglo-Catholics is like believing in fairies. Whereas Forward in Faith sees Rome as the “rock from which we are hewn”, and that working towards unity with the See of Peter is essential to its very being, conservative Evangelicals still denounce Romanism as an ecclesiological sin at every turn.

Again, the Thirty-Nine Articles: “the Romish Doctrine” concerning icons and saints, for instance, is “repugnant to the Word of God”. Conservative Evangelicals stick by all this. They believe the Church to be only half reformed, and are itching to finish the job.

Leviticus 19.19 tells us not to wear a garment made of two types of material. Perhaps the problem is that once the garment is washed or distressed in some way, it will tear and begin to fall apart. I have never seen the sense in this passage from scripture until now.

Many traditional Catholics are feeling unloved by the C of E. I wish it were not so. But to believe that Catholic sacramental theology is safe with GAFCON is a self-deception.

And, as if on cue, GAFCONites are beginning to tear each other apart on theological grounds using the 39 Articles against each other.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. John H. Rodgers criticized Ian Ernest, chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) when he addressed the Primate of the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean and Bishop of Mauritius.

So what did Ernest do to earn Rodgers ire? According to Anglican Mainstream,

Ernest wrote that CAPA bishops should eschew a political solution to the divisions over doctrine and discipline and focus instead on church transformation through Christian witness. CAPA must resist becoming one interest group among many within the Anglican Communion, he said.

Rodgers says Ernest misunderstands the nature of the Church failing to see the difference between the Church Visible and the Church Invisible. But the real problem is that so many CAPA bishops attended Lambeth and appear to value Anglicanism as a Communion.

Read Giles Fraser in The Church Times: A garment that will tear apart.

See also Anglican Mainstream South Africa: AMiA Theologian Challenges CAPA Chairman Over Nature of the Church

Regarding the crazy quilt: Forward in Faith "regrets the recent decision of the Synod of the diocese of Sydney with regard to lay and diaconal presidency at the Eucharist, both of which are clearly contrary to the foundational documents of Anglicanism."

Five myths about values

Dick Meyer the author of "Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium" says that much of what believe about the role of "values" in American politics is wrong.

He writes in the Washington Post that,

Values became a popular term in America mostly in describing the kinds of ideas and customs that are specific or relative to different societies or cultures, as distinct from absolute or universal. Conservatives are supposed to prefer absolutes, of course, but they've done a good job co-opting values talk. Political battles aside, much of what we think we know about values in America isn't really of much value.

There are five essential myths about values that are widely held but are wrong.

1. "Moral values" determine who wins elections . The myth of the values voter became 21st-century conventional wisdom because of the exit polls conducted for the 2004 election. ..."moral values" means different things to different people. Some voters undoubtedly meant to express that they voted for the candidate who they thought had better values and character.

2. Americans have broadly rejected "traditional values." Actually, Americans retain our traditional values more than just about any other developed country in the world.

3. Americans are polarized and fighting a culture war over values. "Americans are not divided into two opposed camps based on incompatible views of moral authority," (University of Michigan sociologist Wayne) Baker wrote.... "In fact, Americans tend to share attitudes, values, and beliefs, and to be united when it comes to the most important values."

4. Traditional values are "family values" or "moral values." Nope. We use the term "values" to talk about deep things -- what is most important to people, what organizes their lives. "Family values," by contrast, is the term for a collection of transient political positions that began their prominent political life as "wedge issues" in the campaigns of the 1980s: opposition to abortion and gay marriage or support for prayer in school and teaching creationism.

5. Basic values, properly understood, are compatible and harmonious. "This is what most of the world's religions and great systematic philosophies teach. The harmony of ultimate values is a comforting thing to believe in. But it is a dangerous political philosophy in real, live societies because it fosters wishful thinking and rationalizes the irrational. For example, liberty and equality are basic ideals in American democracy, but they often clash."

Myers concludes:

The bottom line on values is that there is no crisis: Americans have not rejected traditional values. They are not deeply divided over questions of values. Noisy, persistent conflicts aren't a sign of civic rot, but of humans being human. Americans are indeed frustrated and challenged by a lack of community, by rapid social and technological change and by economic pessimism. But our values are not the problem.

Read more here.

PB visits Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on the Katharine Jefferts Schori's visit to Calvary Church, Shadyside in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The head of the country's Episcopal Church visited Pittsburgh on Sunday, a show of support to the 20 local churches that are remaining faithful to the New York-based leadership, even as twice as many others align with a more conservative governing body based in Argentina.

About 700 parishioners and other Episcopalians jammed the pews of Shadyside's Calvary Episcopal Church to welcome Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States. A typical 11 a.m. service draws about 250 people, said Calvary Rector John Lewis.

"It's a great joy for us to welcome Bishop Katharine," Lewis said "We knew we had the support of the Episcopal (Church), but to have her here in the flesh is to have an outward and visible sign of that support."

After the liturgy,

Jefferts Schori fielded questions from about 350 people who stayed after the service to discuss their church's future. While some have come to terms with the growing role of gay men and lesbians in the diocese, a few said their fellow parishioners wonder whether the presiding bishop sees Jesus Christ as the sole way to salvation.

Jefferts Schori replied that like most Christians, she believes Jesus died for "the whole world." But his life and resurrection did not sever the promise God made to Jews and to Muslims, she added, and those groups still have access to salvation.

"I see evidence of holiness in people who are not Christians. I have to assume in some way God is present and important in those people who may not consciously know Jesus. And it's really God's problem to figure out how to deal with that," she said, to surprised laughter and applause. "My problem is to be the best Christian I can be and to share what I know of the power of Jesus in my own life."

Read the rest here.

A witch hunt disguised as screening

It appears that the Roman Catholic Church continues to officially blame the sex abuse scandals of the last decade on homosexuality and is mandating even more drastic measures to root out and banish gay men from the ranks of the priesthood.

Toby Cohen writes:

Sex tests will be applied to men wishing to become Catholic priests, according to new guidance issued by the Roman Catholic Church yesterday.

After a series of sex-scandals involving priests, Pope Benedict XVI has authorized a new strategy which will aim to root out applicants with devious sexual urges. The guidance states the tests should also aim to vet for those with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies”.

The tests have been underlined as voluntary, but will be requested by rectors in appropriate cases. The guide stipulated that applicants would be refused entry to the priesthood if it is “evident the candidate has difficulty living in celibacy: That is, if celibacy for him is lived as a burden so heavy that it compromises his affective and relational equilibrium.”

The Vatican affirms that a priest must have a “positive and stable sense of one's masculine identity,” and that the test will aim to identify those who are ‘immature’.

The Catholic News Service Blog the Vatican says that in 2005 the church could not "ordain men with 'deep-seated' homosexual tendencies" but did not define who would define or determine these so-called tendencies. The document released last Thursday outlines this process.

The “Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood” states that psychological evaluation should be used when there is a suspicion of “psychic disturbances” or “grave immaturity” in a candidate — such as uncertain sexual identity or deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

It also said that in judging a candidate’s capacity for living the charism of celibacy with joy and faithfulness, his sexual orientation must be evaluated....

One lingering doubt about the (2005) homosexuality document was whether a homosexually oriented man who was nevertheless committed to celibacy could be ordained a priest. At Thursday’s press conference, Cardinal Grocholewski gave a rather forceful “no,” and here are the essential parts of his answer:

“The candidate does not necessarily have to practice homosexuality (to be excluded.) He can even be without sin. But if he has this deeply seated tendency, he cannot be admitted to priestly ministry precisely because of the nature of the priesthood, in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. Here we are not talking about whether he commits sins, but whether this deeply rooted tendency remains.”

Cardinal Grocholewski was then asked why, if a man with strong heterosexual tendencies but who is celibate can be ordained, the same could not be true of a man with homosexual tendencies? His answer:

“Because it’s not simply a question of observing celibacy as such. In this case, it would be a heterosexual tendency, a normal tendency. In a certain sense, when we ask why Christ reserved the priesthood to men, we speak of this spiritual paternity, and maintain that homosexuality is a type of deviation, a type of irregularity, as explained in two documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Therefore it is a type of wound in the exercise of the priesthood, in forming relations with others. And precisely for this reason we say that something isn’t right in the psyche of such a man. We don’t simply talk about the ability to abstain from these kinds of relations.”

Psychological tests have been used in some seminaries for fifty years. A 2005 Vatican document allowed men to become priests if they had suppressed homosexual urges for three years. However, after spending vast sums on law suits in recent years, the Roman Catholic Church has seen the need for less tolerant measures.

The report and the process outlined misses the mark according to the Survivor of Those Abused by Priests. The Associate Press reports:

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said the Vatican needs to go beyond screening seminarians to end what the group calls the church's "virtually unchanged culture of secrecy and unchecked power in the hierarchy" that left dangerous priests in parishes.

"Every barrel will always have some bad apples," the Survivors Network said. "Real change requires effectively reforming the barrel and those who oversee it."

As long as the Roman Catholic Church assumes, against the best evidence, that neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality is an accurate predictor of who might perpetrate sexual abuse against children and adolescents, then their scapegoating will not result in a safer church nor in deal effectively with the consequences of abuse.

Prayers for the election

Prayers for the Election
(before, during, and after)

A Prayer for the Day of the Election

Almighty God, source of all grace and truth,
to whom we must account for all our decisions
and for all our powers and privileges,
Guide us in the election of our officials and representatives.
Give us grace to see ourselves, as individuals and as a people,
not as we want to see ourselves, but as you see us:
as we are and as you are calling us to be,
That we might see the candidates,
not as they want us to see them, but as you see them:
as they are and as you would call them to be.
Help us to discern your will for our choices,
that we may act and vote, not out of fear, nor out of anger,
nor out of any form of thoughtless bias or prejudice,
but out of your truth and love. Amen

A Prayer Before Voting

God of grace,
as I cast my vote,
remind me that I do so as a citizen of your kingdom.
In the name of the One
who showed us how to lead by serving,
Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for after the Election

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world:
We commend this nation to your merciful care,
that being guided by your Providence,
we may dwell secure in your peace.
Grant to the President of the United States,
the Governor of this State, and to all in authority,
wisdom and strength to know and to do your will.
Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness,
and make them ever mindful of their calling
to serve this people in your fear;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen.

HT to The Rev. Ken Howard of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, Diocese of Washington

Reflections on an election

US citizens go to the polls today to elect a new president. A historic election because of the candidates. The process has revealed both the progress we have made in overcoming our racist heritage and the continuing undercurrent of that disease in our national soul. Ads for and against candidates and gatherings of supporters have shown our worst and our best.

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Dia de los muertos

Many Episcopal churches around the country celebrated Dia de Los Muertos - the Day of the Dead, on All Souls or sometime during the past 4 days. The Skagit Valley Herald in Washington state reports on one in Mt Vernon, WA.

Moises Ibañez and his wife, Teresa Santos, cupped their hands to protect two tiny white candles as they carried them from the back of the church and down the aisle to the altar.

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What does the election mean to religion observers?

Christianity Today interviewed several religious political observers about the meaning of the election and what various outcomes might mean:

To both evangelicals and religion and politics scholars, Election Day is about more than just coloring in state lines. If they had their own CNN magic map, the graphics would show more than just red and blue. The focus would be on state ballot initiatives and where evangelicals land in exit-poll results. It might show whether California was rainbow colored and whether evangelicals were feeling more blue than usual. We asked several political observers what they are watching for tonight.

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500 years of Calvin celebrated in chocolate

Something from Switzerland to sweeten your election eve:

Swiss chocolatier Blaise Poyet believes he has captured the essence of the Protestant reformer Jean Calvin in special chocolate pralines he created to mark the 500th anniversary of the religious figure who made his mark on European history.

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Prayers for President-elect Barack Obama

Episcopal Cafe offers prayers and congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama.

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. (BCP p. 180 #19)

How Obama won the faith and values vote

On Faith, a feature of the Washington Post offers an analysis of how President-elect Barack Obama won the election on the faith and values issues:

Now that Barack Obama is president-elect we have to figure out how issues pertaining to religion contributed to his victory. I will get to the exit-poll data tomorrow, but tonight I want to float the following theory: On the Faith and Values front Obama won this election, in part, because he avoided all the errors made by the Kerry campaign in 2004.

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How Obama sees religion's role

Back in 2006 Barack Obama delivered his 'Call to Renewal' Keynote Address. It perhaps encapsulates his views on role of religion in politics. In our president-elect's own words:

Mr. Keyes's implicit accusation that I was not a true Christian nagged at me, and I was also aware that my answer did not adequately address the role my faith has in guiding my own values and my own beliefs.

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Prop 8 in the balance

Corrected and revised

With 95% of precincts now reporting it appears CNN's exit poll call on Prop 8 was premature. The LA Times anticipates the gay marriage ban will win.

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Update on status of Prop 8

From No On 8: Nov 05, 2008

Results Status

Roughly 400,000 votes separate yes from no on Prop 8 – out of 10 million votes tallied.

Based on turnout estimates reported yesterday, we expect that there are more than 3 million and possibly as many as 4 million absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted.

Given that fundamental rights are at stake, we must wait to hear from the Secretary of State tomorrow how many votes are yet to be counted as well as where they are from.

It is clearly a very close election and we monitored the results all evening and this morning.

As of this point, the election is too close to call.

Because Prop 8 involves the sensitive matter of individual rights, we believe it is important to wait until we receive further information about the outcome.

Proponents of Prop 8 claimed victory yesterday.

A black president, the capacity of America to change

Not unexpectedly, both candidates had something to say last night about the significance of the election of America's first black president.

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Joy, joy, joy

McCain, Obama and Bush have had their say on the significance of the election of the first black president. And, then, there is the joy of African-American voters:

"The best part of my two-hour wait was when an elderly Black woman got dropped off at the polls," another voter, posting on, reported. "She had a walker, but pulled a polling judge to the side and asked her if they had wheelchairs. She hadn't been out of her bed in ages and was afraid she wouldn't be able to move to actually get inside the building. The polling judge told her that they didn't have any wheelchairs, and was at a loss at what to do. That's when five Black men got out of line to assist this woman, supporting her back, arms and legs, they carried her into the polling center. The crowd was so overwhelmed with the comraderie, that everyone started clapping."

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Social issues on state ballots

In addition to gay marriage other social issues were on state ballots, issues like issues such as abortion, euthanasia, gay adoption, and embryonic stem-cell research.


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Prop 8 challenges

The ACLU and other groups will challenge Proposition 8:

The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a writ petition before the California Supreme Court today urging the court to invalidate Proposition 8 if it passes. The petition charges that Proposition 8 is invalid because the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the constitution's core commitment to equality for everyone by eliminating a fundamental right from just one group – lesbian and gay Californians. Proposition 8 also improperly attempts to prevent the courts from exercising their essential constitutional role of protecting the equal protection rights of minorities. According to the California Constitution, such radical changes to the organizing principles of state government cannot be made by simple majority vote through the initiative process, but instead must, at a minimum, go through the state legislature first.

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The Religious Right has not left the building

At Religion Dispatches, Bill Berkowitz writes:

Right off the bat, longtime leaders of the Religious Right, monitoring every move Obama’s transition team makes, will distribute angry press releases critical of Obama Administration appointees. Organizations will post heated blog entries and dash off Daily E-Mail Alerts to supporters cataloguing a host of Obama missteps including complaints about the reversal of a number of Bush Administration Executive Orders.

Conservative evangelical leaders will engage in a spirited and steadfast attempt to rebuild and reinvigorate a wounded movement, leading to the US Postal Service and direct mail companies experiencing a surge in business as urgent fundraising appeals pepper the mailboxes and inboxes of Religious Right supporters.

At its worst—as was done during the Clinton Administration—forums will be convened to discuss whether the Obama presidency is legitimate.

An Obama presidency will force the Religious Right to re-think its strategy and tactics; a process that has been happening over the past few years due to the deaths of several prominent conservative Christian evangelical leaders and the aging of others.

Support from surprising quarters

The Guardian asked several writers whether the United States is still "one nation under God." Here is how Judith Maltby replied:

At church the next day at my home parish, the sort of Episcopal parish that would give the Archbishop of Nigeria a heart attack, we prayed, as I have heard in every Episcopal church I've been in since the war began, for those serving under arms in Iraq and Afghanistan, including members of the parish. I can't recall when I last heard prayers for British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in an English church. In England, perhaps, public prayers like that would be taken to imply support for the war. Nothing could be farther from the truth here and this is another way "one nation under God" manifests itself from perhaps a surprising quarter.

At the heart of all this is American exceptionalism – the belief that there is something special about the United States held by Americans of varied religious beliefs and none – it ought to be a country in which a seven-year-old Muslim American can aspire to be president. What seems to have divided Americans in this election is not disagreement over America's unique calling, but whether that vocation confers privilege or responsibility.

Studying the Catholic vote

Catholics are in a tight race with white evangelical Protestants for the most closely analyzed segment of the electorate.

Public Religion Research reports the following via Faith in Public Life:

Obama beat McCain soundly among Catholics (55% - 44%), performing better than Kerry in 2004 and Gore in 2000

* Among white Catholics, Obama narrowed the Republican advantage from Bush’s 13-point advantage (56% - 43%), with McCain holding only a 5-points advantage (52% -47%).

* In a few key states, Obama made significant gains.
In FL, Catholics swung from the Republican party to the Democratic party. Obama improved upon Kerry's Catholic performance by 16 percentage points, from trailing by 15 points in 2004 (57% - 42%) to leading by 1 point (50% - 49%) in 2008.
In IN, a 13-point GOP advantage in 2004 (56%-43%) disappeared, with Catholics split evenly between the candidates (50%-50%).
However, in PA, McCain won Catholics 54%-46%, increasing GOP advantage from Bush’s margin of 52%-48%.

The Catholic Bishop of Scranton was especially active on the Republican side in the run-up to the election. However, heavily Catholic Lackawanna Country, the largest jurisdiction in his diocese, went for Barack Obama by roughly 66,500 to 39,200.

Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe writes:

There must be a lot of disappointed Catholic bishops this morning -- dozens of them issued statements over the last few weeks suggesting that abortion should be the primary issue for Catholic voters, and yet it appears that a majority of Catholic voters opted for the abortion-rights supporting candidate in the race, Barack Obama, and helped him win the presidency. Obama's running mate, Joseph Biden, will become the first Catholic vice-president, but he, too, is a supporter of abortion rights.

Both he and the team at the Dallas Morning News blog feature the analysis of Father Tom Reese of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, who wrote:

A closer look at the exit polls should be as discouraging for left-wing Catholics as for right-wing Catholics. Catholic voters did not embrace either the conservative non-negotiables or the church's preferential option for the poor. They were concerned about themselves and their families.

Will the abortion debate rise up again in four years at the next presidential election? A lot depends on President Obama and the Democratic Congress. If they push through the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), then they will have betrayed their pro-life Catholic supporters. This will make it nearly impossible for these people to support them again. On the other hand, if they make a priority the enactment of an abortion reduction bill, then it will be more difficult for the bishops and the Republicans to portray the Democrats as the pro-abortion party.

Robinson on meeting Obama

The Times:

Regarding the election, Bishop Robinson said, “To see the tears in the eyes of African-Americans, it’s just been a profoundly, I would say religious, experience, very exciting.”

[In their meeting Robinson and Obama] spent more time discussing international issues than lesbians and gays. “He certainly indicated his broad and deep support for the full civil rights for gay and lesbian ... I pressed him on the Millennium Development Goals. I wanted to know whether he thought more about them than just they were a good idea but whether he had any intention of pushing for their full funding and so on.”

Bishop Robinson said he feared that the economic crisis might affect this agenda. “I hope the United States will not shirk its responsibilities in aid to the developing world. That’s going to be a hard-fought fight, not just with President Obama but all the powers in Washington.”

The Anglican church’s first gay bishop and the United States’ first black President-elect discussed in depth the place of religion in the state.

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Equality takes work

The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, as 1850s abolitionist, Theodore Parker said but it takes arduous work. Today's NY Times editorial, Equality's Arduous Path, reiterates this need:

Amid the soaring oratory about the presidential election, it was Barack Obama who put it best late Tuesday night. “That’s the genius of America, that America can change,” he said. “Our union can be perfected.”

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The vernacular

Courtney Stewart of the Bible Society of the West Indies talks to Riazat Butt about a project to translate the Bible into Jamaican patois. (audio.)

Primates to meet in Egypt

The details of the next Primates meeting are starting to be reported. According to an article in Living Church the next meeting takes place the first week of February.


"Among the topics expected to be discussed are the proposed Anglican Covenant and the three-fold moratoria proposed during the Lambeth Conference by the Windsor Continuation Group.

In a letter written shortly after Lambeth, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams proposed using the indaba discussion process used during Lambeth for at least part of the primates’ meeting."

Read the full article here.

It's interesting that Egypt was chosen. Archbishop Mouneer Anis was noticeably absent at the GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem this summer. (Jerusalem is located within the Anis' province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.)

Addendum. Episcopal Life has a thorough report and analysis.

Bishops react to presidential election

There are numerous articles appearing about the reactions around the world to Tuesday's presidential election results. The Church Times in the UK has collected a number of reactions from African American leaders in the Episcopal Church and other reactions are being shared from around the world. President-elect Obama is featured on the front cover of the issue.

From the opening paragraphs of the article in the Church Times,

"The Bishop of North Carolina, the Rt Revd Michael Curry, said on Wednesday: ‘This is a day that I honestly never dreamed I would see. I think about my grandmother, who was the daughter of a sharecropper here in North Carolina. My ancestors were slaves here. My daddy went to jail so folk could vote.

‘My great-aunt Callie was a Sunday-school teacher at Sixteenth Street Baptist chapel where the little girls were killed in 1960. Somehow, all the things that people did without knowing how it was going to turn out helped to make this moment possible.

‘But they never dreamed this. Americans have said what we want to be: a country for all. That was the American dream from the beginning. God blesses us sometimes, in spite of ourselves, and, every once in a while, something happens that says that dream is real, and don’t give up on it for America, and ultimately for the whole world.’"

Read the full article in the Church Times here.

The Church Times blog also has this reaction from the Bishop of the Diocese where President-elect's father's family lives:

[...]the Rt Revd Joseph Wasonga, told Ecumenical News International: “I want to congratulate Obama. I think his winning will bring hope and healing to the whole world. His election has shown that America is truly democratic. . . I hope he will be able to challenge bad governance in Africa.”

The Bishops of the Church of Canada have released a statement as well.

No apology given

There are some further developments coming to light about the story of a same-sex liturgy celebrated in London that we've been following since this summer. Today the vicar in question insists that he never offered an apology for his actions in leading the liturgy.

According to an article by Martin Beckford in the Telegraph:

"In a letter published in this week's Church Times he disputes the claim of the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Assistant Bishop of London, that there was 'a series of frank discussions' about the service, and insists that he never issued a 'statement of apology'.

His latest public comments are likely to further enrage those who believe he should have been dealt with much more strictly. They will also confirm suspicions that he is rather enjoying the storm he has brewed and is unwilling to let it die down."

Read the full article here.

Some background material and previous coverage can be found and is linked from here.

Quincy votes to leave

The Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy has voted this afternoon to leave the Episcopal Church.

The vote was announced as

Clergy 41 yay - 14 nay
Laity 54 yay - 12 nay

The resolution (2008-RM-1) that they were voting on can be viewed here.

The Diocese has also voted to associate with the Province of the Southern Cone. The vote was announced:

Clergy 46 yay - 4 nay
Laity 55 yay - 8 nay

The Diocese was immediately received into the Southern Cone and a Canon of the Diocese was appointed the Ecclesiastical Authority until a new bishop could be elected. The entire diocese was invited to a party in Argentina this evening to celebrate the anniversary of Archbishop Venable's enthronement. New licenses for the clergy will be distributed tomorrow. All clergy resident in the Diocese is automatically now part of the Southern Cone unless they individually act to refuse that transfer.

In related news, the portion of the Diocese of Pittsburgh which voted to leave the Episcopal Church and become a part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone has elected Bob Duncan to serve as their bishop.

Addendum: Living Church report on Quincy here.

And Episcopal Life reports here.

Addendum 2. Episcopal Life has a very complete report.

Design team declares victory

From Matthew Davies at ENS

The Lambeth Conference Design Group, meeting one last time to review last summer's gathering of Anglican bishops, was unanimous in its assessment that the 2008 conference was an overwhelming success, says the Rev. Ian Douglas, the group's only U.S.-based Episcopal Church member.

And about the money:

Although a deficit of up to £1.2 million ($1.6 million) had been projected, Lambeth Conference manager Sue Parks told ENS that the final figures were not complete but that the Lambeth Conference Company -- the body responsible for the conference's finances and administration -- was looking into ways to meet the shortfall. Parks said that the deficit was less than had been expected because some bishops boycotted the gathering and the budget had been compiled "in the hope that as many people as possible would attend."

Douglas said that, although the design group received information on the finances, it wasn't its fundamental responsibility to raise funds or manage the budget. He said that the group heard at its recently concluded meeting that the conference's deficit wasn't as much as £1.2 million and actually came in under budget to what had been projected.

The board and the council agreed in August to make up to £1.2 million available as an interest free loan to the Lambeth Conference Company "to enable the company to honor its commitments while fundraising efforts continued."

Unfortunately the design team was unable to prevent Rowan Williams from undoing much of the good that had been done with his final presidential address and closing press conference at which he alienated, perhaps once and for all, those who cannot stomach his willingness to deny gay and lesbian Christians the full birthright of their baptisms. The lasting lesson of this Lambeth Conference may be that the structure of the Anglican Communion not necessary to sustain the relationships that currently exist between various members.

GAFCON and the Global South

At the beginning of the week a statement by the Primates and Standing Committee of CAPA (the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa) released a statement from their meeting in Nairobi back in early September. There was also an article detailing the views of some of the leadership in GAFCON with the ongoing Anglican Covenant process. Read together, the two statements indicate that there are different groups headed in different directions.

The CAPA statement deals at some length with the tensions in the Global South, CAPA and the GAFCON organizations whose constellations contain various grouping of Anglican Provinces and the attendant dangers of seeing all issues through the lens of stances taken on the inclusion of Gay and Lesbian Christians.

There were two key sections of the statement that deal with the tensions caused by differing responses to the GAFCON movement:

First the following dangers were noted (key sections in italics):

  • Defining each other’s spirituality in light of the choices made to attend either of the two meetings;
  • Not appreciating that homosexuality and lesbianism are not only issues in the West, but that they are actually at our door-steps;
  • Overlooking the seriousness of the challenges related to the human sexuality debate and if we attempt to address them in a fragmented manner;
  • Getting preoccupied with issues of human sexuality and ignoring other issues that deprive God’s people of their dignity prevalent in our Provinces and when we fail to care and support each other within the CAPA family to respond to those pressing challenges;
  • Not taking advantage of every space available to engage on the issues affecting the communion as running away gives the space to the devil and eventually will damage us. Being discouraged is not a Christian virtue;
  • Failing to build our economic capacity as this leaves us vulnerable to diverse interests.

And then, toward the end of the statement the following actions were listed:

  • We will support the CAPA Secretariat to operationalize the linkages of Dioceses as agreed upon at the All Africa Bishops Conference in Lagos;
  • We shall rotate all CAPA events including meetings;
  • We shall respond to each others needs to the extent that we are able;
  • We shall establish strategies that will make CAPA economically independent and able to support Provinces in the same direction; this will involve among other things - Sharing good investment practices - Working towards establishing a micro-finance bank
  • We shall develop pastoral strategies in our respective Provinces to reach out to those who are struggling with their sexual orientation and sensitize the populations against those de-humanizing tendencies/practices;
  • We shall use all available resources including the catechism, to equip and disciple our flock into the faith and enable them to understand their privileges and responsibilities placed on them in their choice to follow Christ;
  • That the new Strategic Plan and ongoing constitutional review process pick up those concerns and aspirations. On matters concerning the Anglican Communion GAFCON is encouraged to maintain its commitment to being a renewing fellowship within the Anglican Communion.
  • We remain engaged on issues concerning the Anglican Communion, and in this regard Primates will respond positively to the invitation by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2009.
  • Encourage the Global South to speed up the preparations for the 4th Trumpet and mandate them to continue to give us the lead in the on-going dialogue regarding the proposed Covenant.

As mentioned above, earlier this week, just before Election Day, there was a report that a number of leaders in the GAFCON movement have decided that the proposed covenant for the Anglican Communion is unlikely to be able to heal the animosity between various parts of the Communion.

George Conger reports in an article for Religious Intelligence:

"The proposed Anglican Covenant is an ‘exercise in futility,’ theologians affiliated with the Gafcon movement tell The Church of England Newspaper, and the current draft is beset with ‘a considerable degree of theological confusion.’

[...]This week the Sydney theologian Dr Mark Thompson, Dean of Moore Theological College, argued the covenant process would not resolve the problems before the Anglican Communion. The actions of Bishop Schori and New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham since Lambeth “have made clear that the covenant idea simply will not deal with the real issues.” The “Lambeth Commentary itself refuses to deal with the real issues,” he noted, observing that the covenant was “entirely irrelevant” and would “make no difference to the current situation and will be unable to prevent future challenges of the same magnitude,” Dr Thompson said. The present draft of the Anglican Covenant made a “simplistic appeal to the biblical covenants” in support of its agenda, yet the biblical covenants “were instituted by God as a gift which provided a framework for understanding Israel’s relationship with him. At the heart was hearing, believing and obeying God’s word. They ought not be confused a covenant between human beings,” he said. The Lambeth Commentary was also unclear as to what it understood the Covenant to be, describing it both as a “central text” while also “speaking about it as a ‘foundational document’.”

[...]Prof Stephen Noll, Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University told CEN the “most important requirements of a workable covenant are doctrinal substance and disciplinary efficacy [emp added]. The drafts to date have fallen short on both counts.” Both Dr Thompson and Prof Noll argued that the exclusion of theologians and leaders of the Gafcon movement weakened the credibility of the document. “If the Covenant Design Group truly wishes to be inclusive, it needs to sit down with the leadership of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and seek to incorporate the principles of the Jerusalem Declaration into the Covenant,” Prof Noll said.

[...]“The St Andrews Draft of An Anglican Covenant, and the Lambeth Commentary on that draft, are institutional responses to a situation that can only be resolved by much, much more,” [Thompson] concluded. "

Read the full article here.

Robinson recognized by gay advocacy group

Stonewall, a U.K.-based LGBT advocacy organization, has recognized Bishop Gene Robinson with its Hero of the Year award for 2008. The award is voted on by Stonewall supporters and was presented to him at a ceremony in London Thursday night.

In a release about the award, Stonewall cited that Robinson "has bravely endured sustained personal attacks in recent months, as church debate on homosexuality has intensified, [and was] recently barred from Lambeth conference." He received a standing ovation from the audience at the Victoria and and Albert Museum, where the ceremony was held.

From his comments to the audience, via Pink News:

I have tried to bring God's voice to the struggle we are all in. God's voice has been abused in the name of hatred and bigotry for far too long and it is time we took Scripture and the Church back from those that would use it to hurt us.

The Church is different from God, you do not need me to tell you that, the Church often gets it wrong, but God never does.

We learnt that with using Scripture to justify slavery, we learned it when Scripture was used to subjugate and denigrate women, and now we will learn that we also got it wrong about LGBT people.

I am doing everything I can to undo the harm that has been done by churches because I think it is going to take religious voices to undo all that has been done in God's name.

He also discussed his recent conversations with President-Elect Obama, calling him "the genuine article."

From here.

Let the music play

The Houston Chronicle has a piece on the phenomenon of professional musicians who serve multiple houses of worship--even if the houses of worship are of different faiths.

At Congregation Emanu El and Congregation Beth Israel, the city's two large Reform synagogues, an unexpected combination has proved successful and nurturing for decades. At both, the organist and most of the paid singers are Christians, some of whom also work at big churches.

The same situation sometimes occurs in reverse at churches. A paid Beth Israel singer who is Jewish also sings at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church. More generally, as an acquaintance noted, "Check the orchestras playing in churches at Christmas and Easter, and half may be Jews." They're the musicians who are available at that time.

Ann Frohbieter became organist at Emanu El in 1967. She also plays at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church and previously worked at Grace Presbyterian Church and St. Luke's United Methodist Church.

Tom Crow eased into the position at Beth Israel in 1978 with a strong background in Jewish worship, having attended a temple with his best friend in high school and then playing there during college. He also works at Bethany Christian Church and previously was at St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Memorial Drive Lutheran Church.


Both Crow and Frohbieter have had minimal reactions from acquaintances and friends about their crossover jobs.

"I've never really had anybody mention it except some who know me tease me about getting mixed up and playing Avinu Malkeinu (the High Holy Days prayer) during communion some Sunday — that kind of thing," Crow said.

Frohbieter gets the same kind of reaction: "Often the person will say, 'How do you know what to play at each place? Don't you get confused and play the wrong music at the wrong place?' "

It hasn't been a problem, she said.

Some Methodists aiming around noncelibate-gay clergy ban

Annie Britton was preparing for ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church when she came out to the congregation she was leading in Southwestern Massachusetts; she had been keeping her wedding ring hidden because she was married to a woman. The announcement left her ineligible to continue her ministry at that church and ended her ordination process, or so she thought.

Britton continued to study at Boston University's School of Theology, and she was approached by the Rev. Susan Morrison, a pastor at another nearby church. Morrison explained that there was a movement within the denomination that is attempting "to model what the United Methodist Church can be."

"We have other progressive organizations working to reform the denomination, and it became our vision that we would be the church that we wanted to be," Morrison said. "We would not leave the denomination or try to change it, but be the change."

So Church within the Church held what it called the "extraordinary ordination" ceremony in Baltimore at which it says it ordained Britton, as well as a heterosexual woman, Jenna Zirbel, who could not be ordained in the United Methodist Church because she refused to say she supports the church's position on sexuality. The ordination ceremony was ecumenical, featuring two retired United Methodist bishops, as well other Christian clergy.

The United Methodist Church does not recognize the ordinations, which took place on Oct. 19.

Here's a photo of Britton before her ordination from the Baltimore Sun, and lots more pictures here.

Story from the Boston Globe here.

More information on the Church Within a Church movement is here.

What if Starbucks used church marketing?

This video from the blog Beyond Relevance suggests how off-putting a church can feel to newcomers. Hat tip to Think Christian.

Looking forward after Prop. 8

There has been a great deal of anger, sadness and concern after the disappointing result in California on same sex marriage. Andrew Sullivan reminds his readers that this is not the end of the battle:

I totally understand the anger, hurt and pain now roiling the gay community and our families, especially in California. But it's important to keep our heads. I've been in the middle of this fight for two decades. It's important to remember that we have never had this level of public support for marriage equality before. In eight years in California alone, the majority in favor of banning marriage equality has gone from 61 to 52 percent. Meanwhile, California's legislature has voted for it, 18,000 couples are legally married in California, and legally comparable (if still unequal) domestic partnerships are available. Very soon, thousands of gay couples will be able to marry in Connecticut. The one state with a history of marriage equality, Massachusetts, is showing how good and positive a reform it is. New York recognizes Massachusetts' civil marriages.

Calm down. We are not experiencing a massive, permanent backlash.

The next generation overwhelmingly backs the right to marry, and there is no sign of cultural reversal, even if we have suffered some electoral set-backs. If Obama has taught us anything, it is to keep our eyes on the prize, and not always to react impulsively to hatred, bigotry or simple ignorance by exaggerating its power over us. We are winning. We lost this one, by an excruciatingly small margin. But the whole point of this movement is education in support of toleration. Even though we lost, we persuaded many of something they barely thought about a short time ago. I am immensely touched by the support of straight readers and all of you, gay and straight, who donated time and money to the No On 8 campaign. We need to remember this as well. And the sight of a small minority having basic equality stripped from them by a religiously-funded majority is itself educational. It has already changed minds. One thing we need to remember is dignity in defeat. That's how it becomes victory.

Read it all here.

Obama and evangelicals

Much has been written about Obama's success with evangelical voters. D. Michael Lindsay looks toward the future of the relationship of President Obama and evangelical leaders and comes to a few conclusions.

First, he speculates about whch evangelical leaders will have the President's ear:

So who will President-Elect Obama turn to when he wants to hear what the evangelical community is thinking? As has been the case with President Bush, he will first turn to members of his own administration who are evangelical. I expect Burns Strider, who once led religious outreach in Hillary Clinton's campaign, will serve somewhere, most likely in the office of public liaison. This is the office that was institutionalized by Presidents Nixon and Ford as a way of maintaining regular contact with core constituencies. There has been a person in this office tasked with religious outreach for over three decades. No one in the Democratic Party has done a better job reaching out to evangelicals in recent years than Strider, and although they were not on the same team in the primary season, I expect President-Elect Obama will count on him. . . .

There are also high-profile evangelical pastors who will have the president's ear. Kirbyjon Caldwell publicly supported George W. Bush in 2004 and then backed Barack Obama in 2008. Joel Hunter, who leads a church in Orlando prayed with Obama on Election Day and delivered the benediction on the closing night of this year's Democratic National Convention in Denver. Caldwell pastors Windsor Village United Methodist Church, the largest United Methodist congregation in North America, and frequently participated in conference calls with the Obama campaign.

Next, he argues that the religious right will be strengthened, not weakened by an Obama presidency:

Is the Obama presidency the final nail in the coffin for the Religious Right? Don't count on it. For one thing, political movements like the Religious Right don't need a "god" to succeed, but they do need a devil. Nothing builds allegiances among a coalition like a common enemy. Within the first few days of the new administration, the White House will reverse the so-called "Mexico City Policy" that bans all non-governmental organizations receiving federal funding from performing abortions in other countries. President Clinton repealed this policy, first enacted by President Reagan and continued with President George H.W. Bush, on his first day in office in 1993. In 2001, President George W. Bush reenacted the policy upon entering the White House. The policy has become a political hot potato. Shortly after the inauguration, President-Elect Obama will, no doubt, repeal the policy and thereby reinvigorate the Religious Right, for whom abortion remains the defining policy issue.

Read it all here.

Reformation Day in Chile

The Economist notes that Reformation Day is now an official holiday in Chile and notes the changing face of faith in Latin America. The Catholic monopoly is gone:

Latin American countries have long celebrated a plethora of Roman Catholic public holidays, from Corpus Christi to St Peter and St Paul. But this year Chile set a regional precedent, declaring October 31st a public holiday in honour of “the evangelical and Protestant churches”. It marks the date in 1517 when Martin Luther pinned his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, starting the Protestant Reformation. Only Slovenia and some German states take it as a holiday.

In the latest census in 2002 in a once staunchly Catholic country, 15% of Chileans said they were “evangelicals” (a synonym in Latin America for Protestants). State schools now offer a choice of Catholic and evangelical religious teaching, and the armed forces have chaplains from both denominations.

Chile is not alone. More than 15% of Brazilians and over 20% of Guatemalans are now evangelicals. Most Latin American Protestants are Pentecostals, stressing direct experience of God. Pentecostal churches continue to multiply in poorer areas of Santiago, as they do across the region. A former Catholic bishop and liberation theologian was elected as Paraguay’s president this year. But the embrace of Protestantism by Latin America’s socially aspirational poor looks like an inexorable trend. Five centuries after the region’s forced conversion to Catholicism, Chile’s new holiday is a cultural milestone.

Read it all here.

Archbishop Tutu on the Obama Victory

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has an essay in today's Washington Post about the Obama victory:

Against all this, the election of Barack Obama has turned America's image on its head. My wife was crying with incredulity and joy as we watched a broadcast of the celebrations in Chicago. A newspaper here ran a picture of Obama from an earlier trip to one of our townships, where he was mobbed by youngsters. It was tacitly saying that we are proud he once visited us.

Today Africans walk taller than they did a week ago -- just as they did when Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994. Not only Africans, but people everywhere who have been the victims of discrimination at the hands of white Westerners, have a new pride in who they are. If a dark-skinned person can become the leader of the world's most powerful nation, what is to stop children everywhere from aiming for the stars? The fact that Obama's Kenyan grandfather was a convert to Islam may -- shamefully -- have been controversial in parts of the United States, but elsewhere in the world, Obama's multi-faith heritage is an inspiration.

. . .

Obama's election has given Americans the message that hope is viable, that change is really possible. He galvanized huge numbers of his compatriots across the board, particularly young people who had become disillusioned with politics. He drew huge numbers of volunteers and raised record amounts of money, not just in donations from the wealthy but in relatively small amounts from many so-called ordinary people. Judging by the reception he received in Berlin earlier this year, he has given the world similar hope.

The renowned African scholar Ali Mazrui has pointed out that Obama could never have gotten as far as he has without an exceptional level of trust on the part of white Americans. In this, his achievement is similar to what Nelson Mandela had achieved by the end of his presidency; Mandela's party may never have drawn a majority of white votes, but he has come to be revered by white as well as black South Africans as the founding father of our democracy.

Mazrui likens Obama to Mandela in other ways, saying that both men share a readiness to forgive and show "a remarkable capacity to transcend historical racial divides." Both, Mazrui says, are "potential icons of a post-racial age which is unfolding before our eyes."

Such a post-racial age for me has the characteristics of a rainbow. We are in a different time now than when I first spoke of a rainbow nation, describing the South Africa that Mandela led for the first time in 1994. But my vision for such a place remains. It is a place where people of each race and cultural group exhibit their own unique identity, their own distinct attributes, but where the beauty of the whole gloriously exceeds the sum of its parts.

Read it all here.

Peace be upon us.

Muslims got rough treatment during the last election. One campaign tried to smear their opponent by claiming Islam is a shorthand for terrorism. The other campaign virtually ignored the Islamic community so that those smears would not stick. Journalist Jonathan Curiel wants to change that.

Paul Barret of the Washington Post reviewed Curiel's book "Al' America."

Jonathan Curiel intends his book Al' America as an antidote to the fear. Ignorance, unsurprisingly, lies at the heart of it. Start with basic demographics: Most Arab-Americans are Christian, not Muslim, and most American Muslims are not Arab. Private surveys show that the largest segment of the American Muslim population -- about one-third -- traces its roots to South Asia, primarily Pakistan and India. Arabs make up only about a quarter of the Muslims in this country; African Americans, mostly converts and their children, another fifth.

Muslims in America are more varied in background and outlook than their non-Muslim neighbors realize and in many cases have been in the United States longer than is generally understood. Two-thirds of Muslims here are immigrants. Fully one-third are American-born and -schooled. The U.S. Census doesn't count by religion, so there is no reliable Muslim headcount. Private surveys yield estimates ranging from 2.4 million to 6 million.

The reviewer is correct is pointing out that equating fraternal organizations like the Shriners with Islam is shaky at best. Still it is worth the effort to cut through the spin and see Islam and American culture differently. It is also worth nothing that what happens when Islam and Christianity meet in America is a very different experience than when the two religions meet in other parts of the world.

Finding Christian community is hard work

Our baptismal covenant teaches us that Christians need community. Still, finding healthy, supportive Christian community is hard work. In this week's Alban Institute e-newsletter, Timothy C. Geoffrion reflects on the obstacles to Christian community and the joys of living within it.

Pursuing God within community, then, can offer many benefits. For greater safety and security, pursuing God within a community of sincere, knowledgeable pilgrims can be reassuring and helpful. For greater knowledge and wisdom, interacting with both learned people and those from other traditions and faiths in the broader world can be quite fruitful. For encouragement and support for the journey, finding the right kind of community offers companionship, perspective, and essential help along the way. On the other hand, those who try to go it alone or who refuse to listen to others set themselves up for futile wandering at best and disaster at worst. Spiritual arrogance, rooted in self-centeredness and an overly self-confident reliance on one’s own thinking and experience, can easily lead to making significant personal mistakes and to hurting others.

Sometimes finding a church that feels like a good fit is really hard. Sometimes others don’t want to resolve their conflicts with us or cannot do so peacefully. Trying to develop authentic, mutually beneficial relationships is often hard work and doing so with some people seems impossible. Most of us have memories of being hurt by someone in Christian community, and some of us still carry the scars from our wounds. Finding, cultivating, and maintaining spiritually vital relationships within community sometimes may seem like too much work with too little promise. Nevertheless, in my experience, without Christian community we simply cannot experience the fullness of life God intends for us, and we will limit our spiritual growth and miss out on important aspects of Spirit-led living.

Adapted from One Step at a Time: A Pilgrim's Guide to Spirit-Led Living by Timothy C. Geoffrion, copyright © 2008 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.

Two crises: financial and moral

The current financial crisis is also a moral and ethical crisis. Michael Smith says the current crisis is a result of separating capitalism from conscience.

For one thing, Smith says, many people have heard of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" but very few of us remember that he was more than an economist, he was a moral philosopher.

Never has a financial crisis focused so starkly on moral, ethical and even spiritual issues. The words used by commentators have run the gamut of emotions: greed, dishonesty and fear, panic replacing confidence, risk and hubris versus prudence, and faith in the banking system or lack of it. Never have the virtues of trust and integrity been more needed in the global economy....

...those who are driven solely by the profit motive and “the love of money”, described by St Paul as “the root of all evil”, are discovering that security based on material wealth is an illusion. A curious weakness of human nature says that the more we have, the more we still want. When Rockefeller was asked “How much is enough?” he is said to have replied, “Just a little more”. Yet the roots of security and satisfaction lie elsewhere, not in amassing wealth but in seeking the divine purpose for our lives....

...As Stephen Young, of the Caux Round Table group of business executives, argues in his book Moral Capitalism, the separation of Smith’s two texts has given us a distorted notion of how capitalism should work.

Capitalism cannot be separated from conscience and even a divine providence, a guiding hand. For without conscience, without the “invisible hand” of divine grace, untamed capitalism too easily leads to corruption — and to the greed and dishonesty, the loss of humanity and common sense, that we have recently seen in the financial markets. To rescue capitalism and the banking system, we need to revisit Adam Smith’s moral philosophy — and our own consciences.

hat tip to Thinking Anglicans.

The once and future Diocese of Fort Worth

Via Media of Fort Worth envisions what the future Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth might look like after the upcoming convention vote.

Katie Sherrod writes on her blog:

On Saturday, Fort Worth Via Media held an event entitled The Once and Future Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth -- Dealing with the present, planning for the future.

A panel of professional counselors both lay and ordained offered tools for coping with the stress, anxiety, anger, grief, and fear many have been suffering as we move closer to our diocesan convention. That's when our leadership will urge delegates to pass illegal resolutions they claim will realign the diocese with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Regardless of the illegality of their move, the effect on the ground will be split parishes, split friends, even split families. The grief already is palpable.

The panel offered much good advice, including using humor and visualization, and stressed the importance of staying in community through the coming days.

We broke into small groups, each facilitated by a counselor, to give individuals a chance to express their feelings about the impending split. There were some tears, some anger, and much much sadness.

But then we moved on. Each group was next asked to talk about their dreams, hopes, and vision for the reorganized continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

What we came up with said as much about the current diocese as it does about our hopes for the future.

Every one of the six groups expressed hope for a diocese that is Christ-centered and Spirit-led. We want a diocese that focuses on spiritual growth for all, that focuses on what unites us, not what divides us. We want diocesan-wide activities built around worship, bible study, and spiritual growth. We want a diocese that is mission-focused -- focused outward, not inward.

All expressed hope for a diocese that is accepting, that will honor a diversity of opinions, that is welcoming to all, that will be open to a diversity of worship and community, that will be a “safe place to worship, learn, give,” that will respect all members. We want a diocese that will be open to new ideas, that is comfortable with differences.

One group expressed it like this -- “a joyous and welcoming community of the Body of Christ – a beacon of hope in action – participating the Kingdom of Heaven.

Another group expressed it as “lay-led, clergy guided, Christ-centered.” We want clergy to be pastoral, inspired and accountable. As one group put it, we want “strong honest clergy; leaders who feed their sheep.” The first group that mentioned wanting a diocese “open to priests who are women” was greeted with loud applause in the room and remarks of, “At last we can say it out loud.”

A desire for an enhanced respect and a larger role for lay people – especially women -- was a strong theme in all the reports. We want EFM to be common and accepted. We want the Baptismal Covenant taken seriously by all in the diocese. We want lay people to feel empowered to speak up!

We want better Christian Education programs, for all ages.

Again and again, the desire for a diocese where “we can be joyous, we can have fun, we can celebrate” came up. One group wrote that they wanted a diocese where “joy is now acceptable.”

Another group wrote that they want a diocese where we can have “the audacity of hope.”

All the groups wrote that we needed to educate people about the Episcopal Church’s history, beliefs, and polity, to counter the misinformation that’s been so prevalent for so many years. We need to “reclaim the brand,” one person said. Everyone wanted to “rejoin the mainstream of the Episcopal Church,” especially to make use of national and provincial resources for youth.

Youth – the word was heard again and again. That we had to invest money in youth ministers, that we might have to combine resources to have a diocesan youth minister at first, but that it must be a priority. We want to have “more kids in our church and more church in our kids.”

We want a diocesan center for social justice issues that will gather resources to help parishes work on issues of the elderly, employment, health, homelessness, hunger, people in prison, housing, immigration. The desire for diocesan leadership on social justice issues, including the MDGs, was expressed again and again.

We want better diocesan-wide communication, not only from the diocesan leadership, but also among parishes. We no longer want to be isolated from one another, divided by fears of differences.

We want our diocesan canons and constitution brought back into alignment with those of the Episcopal Church. We want to use the language of love when talking with and about one another.

We want the continuing diocese to welcome back those Episcopalians who have been worshipping elsewhere as well as those who may choose to leave with the bishop, but change their minds later.

We want our diocese to participate in inter-faith, inter-denominational dialogues in our community. We want a diocese that does outreach to the community, that lets our community know we are here to do the work of the Gospel, not fight over who’s out and who’s in.

We want a bishop who is freed to do the job of chief pastor to the clergy, teacher and shepherd to us all. We do not want a bishop to become a CEO. We can hire someone to do that [and we can fire them, too.]

We want a diocese that grows, although several cautioned not to judge our success by numbers, especially at first. We want a diocesan office on music and worship that will gather resources for parishes. We want a diocesan choir.

We want a diocese based on the two great commandments – to love God with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our might; and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Pray for us as we move through our convention this weekend and on toward building this vision in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

In other words, the participants want a diocese that acts like a diocese.

Night of broken glass

Seventy years ago last night the Holocaust formally began in Nazi Germany during an organized riot since known as "Kristallnacht." On the night of November 9-10, 1938, 92 Jews were murdered and as many as 30,000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps. More than 200 Synagogues and thousands of Jewish businesses and homes were ransacked or destroyed. reports on the observance taking place in Germany:

Germany will commemorate the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht on Sunday, through a series of events aimed at ensuring a new generation of Germans, too young to have known anyone connected with those events, about the horrors that flowed from the racism of the German past, in the hope of guarding against any future recurrence.

Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to mark the anniversary by speaking alongside the head of Germany's Jewish community, Charlotte Knobloch, in the Ryke Street synagogue in the old eastern part of Berlin. Although the synagogue had been torched on Kristallnacht, or Reichspogromnacht as some German Jews now prefer to call it, its structure remained intact and it was reopened last year for the first time since World War II. The ceremony will include the screening of a documentary on the night itself, and another on the Jewish community in Germany today.

Elsewhere in Berlin, a Mozart requiem and concert for violin by Felix Mendelssohn will be performed by the Philharmonic chamber orchestra. The mayor will accompany a ceremonial procession from the old city hall in Alexanderplatz in the former East Berlin to the so-called "new synagogue" in the center of the city, where an exhibit of rare photographs of the event entitled "Fire! Anti-Jewish Terror on Kristallnacht" is being shown.

"The questions that these exhibits continue to raise is how was this possible in a democracy? Why didn't the fire department put out the fires?" says Andreas Nachama, director of the Topography of Terror Foundation, an independent research foundation that is sponsoring the Kristallnacht exhibit. The mass circulation Bild newspaper set aside its usual fare of crime and sports to show one of Berlin 's largest synagogues in flames under the headline "The night that the Synagogues burned!" while German TV is carrying documentaries about the pogrom.

Read more »

Pittsburgh breakaway says ABC has no moral authority

The National Post, in Canada, is reporting that dissident former Anglican and Episcopal churches in Canada and the United States say they will form a new conservative jurisdiction in the next year though it may be difficult if the Archbishop of Canterbury does not approve.

Parishes that have left their national churches over the issue of same-sex marriage and a general trend toward liberalism want to create a single "province" that would report to a conservative North American bishop who shares their values.

"I believe the next year will be critical," said Rev. Peter Frank, a spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, which voted last month to leave the U.S. Episcopal Church. "The first proposals will be formed in the very near term, in a matter of weeks, frankly."

Mr. Frank said that any opposition from Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will be moot because the spiritual head of Anglicanism has lost his moral authority.

"Frankly, [he] is not in a position to do anything. At this point, the leaders of a majority of the world's Anglicans are going to recognize us when we [separate]."

But he added it would make it more difficult if Mr. Williams did not give his blessing.

Read it here.

One has to wonder who this single authority will be? Venables of the Southern Cone? Akinola of Nigeria? Orombi of Uganda? and what will happen if they disagree on ordination of women or the Real Presence or lay presidency?

Quincy cathedral reported to remain in The Episcopal Church

According to the Quad City Times four churches, including the Cathedral, will continue as part of the Episcopal Church. Quoting the Presiding Bishop “We are working to assist in the reorganization of diocesan affairs.”

It now appears that four churches, including St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Peoria, Ill., the largest in the diocese, will continue to align with the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, which includes churches in the Iowa Quad-Cities, has no intention of leaving the national affiliation, officials have said.
“We pray there will be no litigation,” the Rev. Ed den Blaauwen said Monday. Den Blaauwen, the rector of Christ Church in Moline, is also the newly appointed vicar general of the diocese that is now aligned with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, based in Argentina.

Church resources would be better used for Christian activities than in the courts, he added.

The Episcopal Church will protect its history and heritage, said the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop of the national church in New York City. Church officials will not give away property to a foreign province, he said, adding, “This is our heritage and, more than that, the heritage of those who have not even come our way yet.”

The Episcopalian (sic) Church still exists in the Quincy Diocese, Robertson stressed. “Our first concern for followers is that they know that our church continues,” he added.

According to Episcopal Church statistics Diocese of Quincy membership in 2007 was about 1850 with an average Sunday attendance of 1000 and St. Paul's Cathedral in 2007 was about 400 with an ASA of 220.

Read the article here.

Veterans' Day

Two 50-something Episcopal priests, now serving churches in Pensacola, reflect on faith in the face of war in the Middle East from their tours of duty as military chaplains. The Pensacola News Journal reports:

One serves as a Navy chaplain at a combat-support hospital in Kuwait. The other serves as an Army chaplain at military prisons in Iraq.

Less than three years after they're finished with their active-duty service, they end up at Episcopal churches in Pensacola, some six miles apart.

The Rev. C. Neal Goldsborough and the Rev. Jeffrey A. Jencks emerged from combat with similar perspectives: They firmly believe they have seen God — and his dark counterpart — on the blood-soaked battlefields and field hospitals of the Middle East.

It's Veterans Day, and the two priests say it's important that Americans remember that the sacrifice we ask of our young men and women overseas isn't just a physical sacrifice.

It's a moral sacrifice as well, where troops are asked to shed all they have been taught about killing and the sanctity of life in order to fight a greater evil.
God was not far off even in these most tragic of circumstance, said Goldsborough, who has been at Christ Church for six weeks. Evil was never far away either, something that became obvious to him as the remains of a child from Flight 77 were recovered.

"Everyone paused while I said a prayer and made the sign of the cross," he said. "It was at that point in my life that the reality of evil became very, very real to me. But as I watched the volunteers, the brave military people, the people from the Red Cross working to combat all the destruction, I learned firsthand the reality of God and learned that God's love is stronger than evil."

When serving at the detention camps, "Jencks said he ensured the detainees had new Qurans, and even brought in tutors to help them read and understand the words of their faith better. He helped ensure their religious dietary requirements were met and that they had a chance to vote in government elections." "The Muslims knew my cross," he said. "And a majority of them would see it as a sacred symbol."

Read the article here.

Meanwhile in England there is a controversy over church participation in Remembrance Day events. The BBC reports:

Services of remembrance are taking place at parish churches across the UK. Liberal Christian research group Ekklesia says this amounts to the Church making a "political statement" at odds with its teaching and beliefs.

But the Rector of Putney said this "missed the point" and it was right to remember sacrifices made for others.

Ekklesia said it was not suggesting that the Church is celebrating British victories, even less that it is celebrating war itself.

But it does claim that, when the Church says it is commemorating "those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today", it is ignoring the political and theological implications of its actions.

Rev Dr Giles Fraser, the Rector of Putney in south-west London, and frequent contributor to The Lead, said that Ekklesia was missing the point.
"I think the Iraq war was wrong... but these aren't services in celebration of some cheap nationalism," he said.
"We are celebrating the service of people who put their lives on the line for others... and that's absolutely right and proper".

Dr Fraser - who lectures Army officers on the ethics of conflict - presided over a service of remembrance typical of those in other Anglican churches.
He received a military parade and then welcomed troops into St Mary's Church, in Putney, where their standards were placed behind the altar.
He said the Church of England's special position in the state allowed it to "articulate a spiritual and a moral side" to institutions such as the armed forces.
"They do a very difficult job... they don't get a lot of money, they don't get a lot of glory for doing it, they do it in the care for others. That's exactly right with my values as a Christian, and other people's too," he said.

Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia offers his hope for a more realistic view of all who died in war and an examination of war itself and the role of Christianity:
Two years ago Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow talked about the ‘poppy fascism’ in the broadcasting industry, which required their display by public figures every November. There is a similar unspoken oppression in the way that the church deals with Remembrance. Only the very brave would suggest from the pulpit that the dead might not all be ‘glorious’, that some might have died in vain, or that our recollections should encompass those that our country’s soldiers killed – even though that it what the Church is supposed to believe.

A few weeks ago I found myself doing a radio interview with a war veteran who wanted a campaign medal to be given to Bomber Command. Bomber Command, and those involved with it had never received one. The reason, he said, was that the carpet bombing that they had been ordered to undertake in World War Two had been considered by many shameful and embarrassing. They had been quietly forgotten and pushed to one side.

The 50,000 aircrews and personnel who died, need a proper memorial. They should be remembered. And perhaps it is the church’s role to make sure that people like those, whose story has been marginalised, continues to be told.

But it is also important that their actions and the consequences should be remembered, - openly and honestly. We should recall that in a few nights of bombing, a similar number - 50,000 but this time civilians - were burned alive in the firestorm at Dresden.

This is not to judge the soldiers and aircrews, or indeed fail to recognise and acknowledge the huge price that they paid. Rather it is to be truthful about what took place, and make sure that all the dead are remembered.

Read the BBC article here and Ekklesia here. Jonathan Bartley adds that he is encouraged by Remembrance Day here.

Alleged child witches abused in Nigeria

The Telegraph reports on the danger to children who are named witches by religious leaders in their villages.

Ostracised, vulnerable and frightened, she wandered the streets in south-eastern Nigeria, sleeping rough, struggling to stay alive.

Mary was found by a British charity worker and today lives at a refuge in Akwa Ibom province with 150 other children who have been branded witches, blamed for all their family's woes, and abandoned. Before being pushed out of their homes many were beaten or slashed with knives, thrown onto fires, or had acid poured over them as a punishment or in an attempt to make them "confess" to being possessed. In one horrific case, a young girl called Uma had a three-inch nail driven into her skull.

Yet Mary and the others at the shelter are the lucky ones for they, at least, are alive. Many of those branded "child-witches" are murdered - hacked to death with machetes, poisoned, drowned, or buried alive in an attempt to drive Satan out of their soul.
[They] are "identified" by powerful religious leaders at extremist churches where Christianity and traditional beliefs have combined to produce a deep-rooted belief in, and fear of, witchcraft. The priests spread the message that child-witches bring destruction, disease and death to their families. And they say that, once possessed, children can cast spells and contaminate others.

Some Nigerians are trying to help the children find safety, shelter and a future:
The children's shelter was started five years ago when Sam Itauma, a Nigerian, opened his house to four youngsters accused of witchcraft. Today, he and his five staff are caring for 150 youngsters. "Every day, five or six children are branded as witches," he says "Once a child has been stigmatised as a witch, it is very difficult for someone to accept that child back. If they go out from this community... there is a lot of attacks, assault and abuses on the children." Children often arrive at the shelter with severe wounds, but few clinics or hospitals will treat a child believed to be a witch.

The government has passed laws about the treatment of children but they are widely ignored. Churches do not seem to be in leadership against this practice.

Read it here.

9/11: Where the hell was God?

The Times is carrying excerpts from the biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. One segment is called: September 11, where the hell was God?. Archbishop Williams answers that God is in the midst of the suffering. All the easy answers about God were tested in the experience of being in the midst of the attacks on the World Trade Center:

On September 11, 2001, Rowan Williams was due to address 22 spiritual directors from across the US in a church-owned building next to Holy Trinity, Wall Street [New York], on 'the shape of a holy life', and reached the venue, 74 Trinity Place, at 8.35am. His host was the Rev Fred Burnham, director of the Trinity Institute, an educational foundation attached to the neighbouring church. The two went up to the 21st floor. Burnham was sitting in his office when the World Trade Centre's north tower was hit at 9.03am; and even though Flight 11 came from the opposite direction (Trinity Place is south of Ground Zero), the noise sounded like a sonic boom. Burnham raced to the room where Rowan was and cried that 'some cowboy' had just gone through the sound barrier. Then came a scream: one of the secretaries could see what had happened through her window. Burnham, Rowan and the others joined her to look. Though aghast, they assumed that the crash was accidental.

After a few minutes of watching smoke spurt from the north tower and debris flying by, they decided to go down to the studio where Rowan would give his speech. It was not until the second tower had been hit that everything changed.

Suddenly, as Burnham recalled later: 'We knew we were in the middle of a war zone and this was not a happy day.' Burt Medley, one of his colleagues, suggested that the Archbishop be asked to lead prayers, and this happened almost spontaneously. Rowan's words were like balm; the group began to feel more composed. Not only did he pray about the obvious things - the loss of life, the general anguish - he also began to lift up to God the anxieties of everyone in the room.

For 20 minutes they were able to watch a television monitor showing what was happening at the World Trade Centre, but then the first tower disintegrated with a colossal roar, 74 Trinity Place itself began to shake, and the monitor went blank. When it flashed on again a short while later, the group became more aware of what had happened. At the same time, smoke and soot began to enter their auditorium. The urge to move was confirmed by security staff, who came to guide them towards the bowels of the building via a service stairwell. It was thought that the absence of windows and air vents on this route would make respiration easier; but this hope proved to be misplaced. Some of Rowan's companions went back upstairs to the nursery that was also housed in the building; there they found blankets, which they tore up and moistened with water, to provide impromptu face masks.

Scarcely able to breathe, yet convinced that the atmosphere in the street was more treacherous, Burnham felt close to death. 'We were pretty much told to stay where we were and the most profound moment of the whole day, for me, was when five or six of us were gathered on the landing in the stairway, where the air had become virtually suffocating and I began to think, Well, it's worse outside, and I don't know how much longer we can tolerate this, maybe we've got 15 minutes, and beginning then to realise I would die.'

Elizabeth Koenig, a friend of Rowan who teaches at New York's General Theological Seminary, now laid a hand on the Archbishop's shoulder and said: 'I can't think of anyone I'd rather die with.' At that moment Burnham felt enclosed in 'a circle of love' that he would never forget.

'We were bonded for life. We became comrades in the face of death. And there was in the group a total submission and resignation to the prospect of death. No fear.'

Their thoughts of the hereafter were interrupted by screaming harbingers of the here and now. Police officers had broken down a back door of No 68 and were ordering everyone to evacuate, knowing that the second tower would almost certainly collapse soon. Rowan's group descended two flights of stairs and emerged into a cataclysmic scene on Greenwich Street, parallel to Trinity Place. Everything lay covered in ash and shards and personal belongings - bags, books, shoes.

They began making their way towards the southern tip of the Financial District, from where ferries and buses were escorting people to safety. The distance was small - barely 700 yards - but before the group had covered a block and a half, the second tower came down. They turned to see the elephantine dust cloud sweeping towards them. Again, the group thought it highly likely that they would die and Burnham recognised Rowan's courage. A woman on the staff of Holy Trinity was paralysed by fright. One of her colleagues asked the Archbishop if he would help; he put his arm round her and walked her down the street. They were breathless and coated with soot by the time they reached the Staten Island ferry terminal. The group approached a trailer with an open door and were welcomed inside by a group of construction workers. As in certain fictional tragedies, a macabre scene was briefly tinged with humour. One of the builders decided that everyone needed to turn to the Lord. He began to lead prayers himself, unaware that there were clergy by his side.

Half an hour later the air was clearing and the police began evacuating people on buses. The Trinity group were driven slowly up East River Drive, on Manhattan's eastern edge, and down 32nd Street to the junction with Fifth Avenue. From there, Rowan walked to his hotel and was able to contact his secretary by phone and to leave a message for [his wife] Jane that he was all right. Over lunch and a bottle of wine, the Archbishop and Burnham began to shed tears. Burnham set off for home towards the end of the afternoon, leaving Rowan to work on a brief article for that week's Church Times. 'I'm obviously very glad to be alive,' he wrote, 'but also feel deeply uncomfortable, and my mind shies away from the slaughter.'

The following day he managed to reach St John the Divine Cathedral, where he was due to give a lecture, with time to spare. He was immediately asked to celebrate an unscheduled Eucharist at the high altar and agreed to do so. Burnham was inspired.

'When [Rowan] got to the rubric for the homily he was totally surprised; he hadn't expected to preach, so he preached off the cuff. He went back to an encounter that he had with an airline pilot on the streets at 7am that morning. The pilot said to him, 'Where the hell was God?' Rowan's answer was that God is useless at times like this. Now that's pretty shocking, but actually what he then went on to unpack is that God didn't cause this and God [was not] going to stop it, because God has granted us free will, and therefore God has to suffer the consequences of this like we do. So in a sense he exonerated God...'

Rowan gauged each intercession so as to address a different facet of the disaster. At first the response ('Hear our prayer') to the invocation 'Lord, in your mercy' was quiet. Then Burnham sensed a swell of feeling throughout the congregation.

'As they realised how he was touching them, each one individually, they began to shout their response and by the time he finished, the response was like a football game...I was standing there with tears streaming down my face and I could hear people on all sides of me a magnificent way Rowan had liturgically connected with the people. And it was profound.'

Read it here.

Reflections on Veterans' Day

Today is dedicated to remembering all who have served in the military especially those who suffered in wartime. Stories and reflections from The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion follow:

The SF Gate, Hawai'i Insider, tells of Putting a (Nisei) Face on Bravery:

The island of Kauai, which hosted its annual Veterans Day parade on Saturday and will hold a graveside ceremony tomorrow (Nov. 11) at the veterans' cemetery in Hanapepe, also pays special tribute year-round to its Nisei veterans. Shortly after World War II, the Japanese American congregation at St. John's Church in Eleele gave a stained-glass window depicting St. George's slaying of the dragon as a memorial for the men of the 442nd who fell in battle -- and chose as a model a parishioner of Japanese descent. Below this Nisei St. George is an inscription from the Bible (Malachi 2:10): "Have we not all one Father? Have we not One God who created us?"
StGeorge.jpgThe Rev. Mary Lindquist, the rector of the Episcopal church, wrote me that she "loves the window," and finds the "sentiment and story behind the image very moving." Noting that the parishioner who served as its model passed away a few years ago, she added, "Every year there is a memorial service for those who lost their lives in the 100th battalion, and those who are still living attend and are honored for their service. Now there are only a few men left here on Kauai."

If you're visiting the Garden Island on a Tuesday or Wednesday (or if you call for an appointment on another day), you can stop by the Kauai Veterans Center for a peek in its small but poignant museum, which documents islanders' military service dating back to the Spanish-American War. It's been several years since I've visited, but the dozens of names of Nisei (and others born on this small island) killed far from home is still haunting.

Read more here.
Missy Daniels, on Faith Streams reports on commemorations in some Episcopal Churches:
... churches around the country will join national observances with the usual services and music to salute the armed forces and to recognize the sacrifices of those who bear the burden of America's wars.

But at some churches a quieter and much less visible acknowledgment of that military sacrifice has been going on for years now, week after week -- praying aloud by name at Sunday morning worship services for every soldier who has died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Rev. James L. Burns, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City, says including the individual names of the war dead in the church's weekly prayers for the departed has been met with gratitude by all members of his congregation, whatever their political persuasion. Burns is a Navy veteran, the son of a World War II veteran, and the grandson of a veteran of the Spanish-American War. "Every generation gets its war," he says. "We are a species that seems incapable of living without war. War costs dearly, and we should stop and remember."

Many churches pray more generally for all members of the military and those "in harm's way," but naming the dead one by one, says the Rev. Morris K. Thompson, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Lexington, Kentucky, powerfully reminds people what their country has asked the armed services to do. "Wars are started by the president and the Congress, not by the military," says Thompson, a Marine veteran. "They have just followed orders, and we remember them simply because of that -- they are following an order." One or two of his members complained that reading the names in the prayers somehow makes a politically charged statement, but Thompson says such prayer is not about politics. "It is a reminder of what we are doing. On behalf of every one of us, America has asked them to go to war. Agree with the war or not, we have asked them to go and fight a battle. The prayers are to remember their duty and sacrifice, and remembrance is an important type of theological reflection."

Some weeks, says Thompson, when thirty or forty names have been read, the effect has been especially profound. "It gets very quiet, and it does sink in, one name after another after another," he observes. By reading each name deliberately and intentionally, he adds, "we are giving to God what is God's, giving these people back to God, that they will continue to know God even in death."

In Washington, D.C. at St. James Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, in addition to its weekly prayers naming the military dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of the [4193 as of today] names of the military killed in the two current wars in the Middle East are read at a special evening prayer service on November 2, All Souls Day. The prayers took almost an hour last year, according to the Rev. Richard E. Downing, who says their significance is all-embracing. "It is like what the poet John Donne said about for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for you. We are all a part of everybody else.

The Rev. James Bhawan writes in The Fiji Times:
At the St. Simon and St. Jude Church, an Anglican Church in the Diocese of Oxfordshire, which is the closest to where I am currently staying, the service was simple yet poignant. This small community gathered to remember the men of the village who had made the ultimate sacrifice for King and country over the course of two world wars. Their names were read out by an Royal Air Force officer who had just returned from Afghanistan. Wives, children, grandchildren and neighbours gathered in this act of communal remembering. Preaching form the text of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12), the Rev. Anne Hartley reflected on the sacrifices made for peace, righteousness and justice, as well as those whose lives are affected by conflict, grieving families, the persecuted and oppressed, the poor and hungry. She reminded us that the blessing given by Jesus ("Blessed are those...") is not just to be understood as some reward in heaven but as we pray for the Father's kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as in heaven, we must look to the promise of this blessing in the present and work towards it.

This act of remembering and of sacrifice has put a frame around all the events of the past week. As President-elect Obama made his victory speech he paid a fitting tribute to all those who had sacrificed not just for his campaign but embodied the spirit of change in the generations past to make a dream a reality. Not just for African-Americans and civil rights champions but for anyone that dreams of the opportunity to make a difference in their country and perhaps the world.

The Scottish Episcopal Church offers prayers and readings for Remembrance Day:
O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those whose memory we cherish,
and those whose names we will never know.
Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world,
and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm.
As we honour the past, may we put our faith in your future;
for you are the source of life and hope, now and for ever. Amen.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:27

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Chatham, NJ, writes at her TellingSecrets blog about lessons from her father about war:
I couldn't possibly have understood - still can't possibly understand - the full cost of war, but I knew he had paid - and was continuing to pay - a heavy price for playing his part in The War that was supposed to have ended all wars. But didn't.

"War," he said again, "is a terrible thing."

He said it as fact and he said it as prayer.

I understood then, that some may have fought for freedom for all, but all may not ever again be fully free.

Pray for our Veterans on their Day.

Pray for peace in our time - and their's.

The Rev. Steve Rice, rector of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, Winston-Salem, NC offers the prayer found in many places this day:
A Prayer for Veterans' Day
O Judge of the nations,
we remember before you with grateful hearts
the men and women of our country who in the day of decision
ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy.
Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land
share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines.
This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thanksgiving for Heroic Service, BCP 1979

Taking the L.D.S. Church at its word

The Mormon Church took a prominent role in the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Gay advocates in Utah see a positive fallout from the church's engagement with the issue of same-sex marriage. The New York Times reports,

Equality Utah, said statements made by Mormon leaders in defense of their actions in California — that the church was not antigay and had no problem with legal protections for gay men and lesbians already on the books in California — were going to be taken as an endorsement to expand legal rights that gay and lesbian couples have never remotely had in Utah, where the church is based.

“We are taking the L.D.S. Church at its word,” said Stephanie Pappas, Equality Utah’s chairwoman.
[F]ive bills would be drafted in time for the opening of the Legislature in January, all narrowly tailored to what church leaders had said they could live with in California.

No attempt will be made ... to overturn Utah’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, passed in 2004. The group will propose, however, striking out language in the amendment that prohibits legal protections for domestic unions.

The proposed laws would also expand protections for same-sex couples in health care and hospitalization decisions, housing and employment and in inheritance issues in probate court.

Saudis promote culture of peace

How odd is it that a country that represses religious diversity at home, is promoting religious tolerance abroad? Today is the opening day of the Culture of Peace meeting at the United Nations, sponsored by Saudi Arabia.


The United Nations avoids religious discussions, so the two-day session of the General Assembly is officially being labeled as a meeting about the "culture of peace." Most of those attending are political rather than religious figures.
ged Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. But Western states considered that wording a knock against freedom of speech.

"We are arguing human rights, they are arguing values," said Jean-Maurice Ripert, France's ambassador to the United Nations. "The reconciliation of those two differences is very complicated."

The compromise formula is that there will be no formal resolution, but an oral statement that condemns disparaging other religions.

Saudi Arabia bars its citizens and its sprawling expatriate community, including tens of thousands of Christians, from any public worship outside Islam. The more than two million Saudi Shiites face widespread discrimination in worship, education and employment.
Diplomats around the [UN] building noted that because the Saudi government recently donated $500 million to the World Food Program, no one was likely to confront it openly about domestic issues of religious freedom.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement which says, in part: "There is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, yet the kingdom asks the world to listen to its message of religious tolerance...The dialogue should be about where religious intolerance runs deepest, and that includes Saudi Arabia."

Brawling monks a metaphor

There's a lesson in the news reports of recent brawl monks about who got to stand where in at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem says Giles Fraser:

Pope Pious 9th was absolutely spot-on about how one defends the church. One defends it best by not defending it, by not being obsessed with it and instead by looking outward, looking towards the needs of the others.

Jesus said that only those who are prepared to loose their life will find it. The logic is counter intuitive. The more you give away the more you have. The more your focus in life is outside of yourself, the more your own soul will flourish. This is why the introverted piety of churchyness is, in the end, a complete betrayal of the message of the church - which is exactly what happened with those warring monks.

But surely also, there's a lesson here for a huge number of us. For many of us do spend a great deal of our time and energy, at work and at home, defending some pathetic little patch of turf which, in the great scheme of things, means precious little. If we're not careful we can easily find that we've invested our lives in battling for some shrinking space that is, ultimately, as inconsequential as the place of a monk in a procession.

How do we guard against becoming like this? The Christian answer is that that we find freedom from the ego's ever narrowing obsessions by placing our centre of interest outside of ourselves.

Obama's 2004 faith interview

Steve Waldman gives the setup: "The most detailed and fascinating explication of Barack Obama's faith came in a 2004 interview he gave Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani when he was running for U.S. Senate in Illinois. ... Falsani has graciously allowed [beliefnet] to print the full conversation here."

Some excerpts:

OBAMA: ... I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.
FALSANI: So you got yourself born again?

OBAMA: Yeah, although I don't, I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.

I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it's best comes with a big dose of doubt. I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.
OBAMA: ... It's interesting, the most powerful political moments for me come when I feel like my actions are aligned with a certain truth. I can feel it. When I'm talking to a group and I'm saying something truthful, I can feel a power that comes out of those statements that is different than when I'm just being glib or clever.

FALSANI: What's that power? Is it the holy spirit? God?

OBAMA: Well, I think it's the power of the recognition of God, or the recognition of a larger truth that is being shared between me and an audience.
FALSANI: Can we go back to that morning service in 1987 or 88 [his altar call] -- when you have a moment that you can go back to that as an epiphany...

OBAMA: It wasn't an epiphany.

It was much more of a gradual process for me. I know there are some people who fall out. Which is wonderful. God bless them. For me it was probably because there is a certain self-consciousness that I possess as somebody with probably too much book learning, and also a very polyglot background.

FALSANI: It wasn't like a moment where you finally got it? It was a symbol of that decision?

OBAMA: Exactly. I think it was just a moment to certify or publicly affirm a growing faith in me.

Sounds like a good Episcopalian. The Episcopal Church welcomes you. As Bishop Whalon says, "I must say that I wouldn’t mind at all if they discovered the Episcopal Church! After all, St. John’s, Lafayette Square, will be right across the street." That's just one of many excellent options.

Read it all.

For the deep South, there's no other explanation than race

Comparison of how whites in deep South states voted appears to show that for in substantial number of whites Obama's race was the deciding factor in voting for McCain. This is in contrast to much of the rest of the country where the percentage of whites voting for the Democratic presidential candidate exceeded the percentage in 2004.

New York Times:

Southern counties that voted more heavily Republican this year than in 2004 tended to be poorer, less educated and whiter, a statistical analysis by The New York Times shows. Mr. Obama won in only 44 counties in the Appalachian belt, a stretch of 410 counties that runs from New York to Mississippi. Many of those counties, rural and isolated, have been less exposed to the diversity, educational achievement and economic progress experienced by more prosperous areas.
“Race continues to play a major role in the state,” said Glenn Feldman, a historian at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. “Alabama, unfortunately, continues to remain shackled to the bonds of yesterday.”

David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, pointed out that the 18 percent share of whites that voted for Senator John Kerry in 2004 was almost cut in half for Mr. Obama.

“There’s no other explanation than race,” he said.
Don Dollar, the administrative assistant at City Hall, said bitterly that anyone not upset with Mr. Obama’s victory should seek religious forgiveness.

“This is a community that’s supposed to be filled with a bunch of Christian folks,” he said. “If they’re not disappointed, they need to be at the altar.”
“I am concerned,” Gail McDaniel, who owns a cosmetics business, said in the parking lot of the Shop and Save. “The abortion thing bothers me. Same-sex marriage.”

“I think there are going to be outbreaks from blacks,” she added. “From where I’m from, this is going to give them the right to be more aggressive.”

While not explicitly referring to a Southern strategy, David Brooks foresees a national Republican party that will go choose insularity over reform:

...this embattled-movement mythology provides a rationale for crushing dissent, purging deviationists and enforcing doctrinal purity. It has allowed the old leaders to define who is a true conservative and who is not. It has enabled them to maintain control of (an ever more rigid) movement.

In short, the Republican Party will probably veer right in the years ahead, and suffer more defeats.

At the same time, many pundits have said Obama was elected by a country which twice elected George Bush and the country is still essentially center-right, as witnessed by Prop 8 and Obama's calculated reluctance to make an unequivocal position on gay marriage or the second amendment.

For more on racism, there's this:

Read more »

Affluent voters one key to Obama's win

Mark J. Penn, chief adviser to President Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential election and to Hillary Rodham Clinton during her Senate and presidential races writing in Politico:

...the fusion of expanded minority voting and the expanded upper class, combined with shifting demographics, were key to Obama’s victory. But while demographers have been predicting the growth in minority voting — especially the Latino increases — for decades, they did not predict the upscale income changes in the electorate or focus on them. Most people in America (over 80 percent) no matter what their income, say they are middle class, which is why that phrase is so powerful on the stump.
69 percent of all Americans in polls I conducted in recent years now also call themselves “professionals,” a new class transcending the old class labels or working or middle class or the wealthy. They have white-collar jobs requiring higher education and are earning more than ever before. Because of layoffs and business scandals of recent years, they have become increasingly embittered toward the corporate cultures that would have otherwise been their natural home base.

Unlike the small-businessman who is typically anti-government, these professionals come out of the era of the growth of global corporations believing more than ever before in government intervention, teamwork and collective action. They are the voters who favored the bailout, while the left and the right saw it as a betrayal of their fundamental principles.

These higher educated voters generally believe more in science than religion, in the interconnectedness of the world, and in pragmatism over ideology. They see us all living in a new world and are watching their kids enter it taking new economy kinds of jobs in places increasingly far away from home.

Catholic bishops on abortion rights

Over the past several days Catholic bishops have met in Baltimore and have taken action or made statements on ACORN, the economy and the abortion.

The Washington Post reported that "The nation's Catholic bishops Tuesday approved a statement declaring that if the Democratic-controlled Congress and the incoming Obama administration enact proposed abortion rights legislation, they would see it as an attack on the church." The formal statement was written overnight by Francis Cardinal George, president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops and read and approved by the bishops on Wednesday.

From the statement (with emphasis added):

The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.
The Catholic League characterized the statement as a rebuke to the Catholic Left. Catholics for Choice stated,
It is by now well-known that the majority of Catholics disagree with the dictates of the Catholic hierarchy on matters related to sexual and reproductive health. In addition, the vast majority of Catholics do not believe they are under a religious obligation to vote on issues the way their bishops recommend. The election of President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden proves this. Despite attempts by about two dozen bishops to make this election about abortion and abortion alone, the exit polls showed Catholics voted 54 percent for the prochoice Democratic nominee...

Catholic voters and prochoice Catholic policy makers understand the importance of the church’s teaching on conscience in guiding them on the most important matters. In voting the way they do in elections and when making policy, Catholics follow their own consciences and respect the consciences of others.

While the Catholic League said “Cardinal George explicitly rejected the ‘common good’ mantra of the Catholic Left that justifies legal abortion while pursuing ameliorative social policies that may reduce abortions,” David Gibson observes that
Cardinal George’s latest remarks on that score seem far more nuanced than his personal pre-election motu proprio. The cardinal’s quote: “We express again our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation. The common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.”

The president-elect has said,

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Pa. bishop appeals deposition

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

In hopes of salvaging his career, suspended Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. yesterday asked a special church court convened in Philadelphia to reverse its recent sentence removing him from holy orders.


Attorney Larry White, representing the Episcopal Church, told the court yesterday that Bennison deserves deposition because he has "failed to demonstrate he comprehends and takes responsibility for the damage he caused" the victim and her family.

White's remarks were followed by testimony from the victim and her mother, both of whom urged the judges to sustain their deposition order.

Bennison "has not shown the godly sorrow that leads to repentance," the victim told the judges, adding that the sentence had provided her with "spiritual healing" and renewed trust in the church.

Blogging the Compass Rose meetings

The Rev. Rick Lord of the Diocese of Virginia has been blogging from the meetings of the Compass Rose Society in Canterbury.

Note the prominent role played by at this meeting by members of the Windsor Continuation Group, a group put together by the Archbishop of Canterbury to accomplish no one is quite sure what. The only thing that can be said with any certainty about this group is that not one of its members supports gay ordination. As a result Anglicans who favor gay ordination are understandably suspicious of its power and its pronouncements. The Rev. Lord quotes Bishop Clive Hanford, the chair of the group as saying that trust has broken down within the Communion. But Hanford himself has played a role in breaking down this trust by supporting the formation of a separate Anglican province in North America for those who would like to break from the Episcopal Church. Why exactly should Episcopalians trust a man with those views?

The Rev. Lord has two entries on the wisdom of Rowan Williams. These might wear a little thin on readers who have noticed that for all his brilliance, Williams' bottom line throughout this controversy, which he helped create by nervously convening an emergency meeting of the Primates in October 2003, has been that gay people must suffer for the sake of the Communion.

The emerging moral psychology

Dan Jones of Prospect magazine writes:

Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, economists, primatologists and anthropologists, all borrowing liberally from each others’ insights, are putting together a novel picture of morality—a trend that University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt has described as the “new synthesis in moral psychology.” The picture emerging shows the moral sense to be the product of biologically evolved and culturally sensitive brain systems that together make up the human “moral faculty.”


A pillar of the new synthesis is a renewed appreciation of the powerful role played by intuitions in producing our ethical judgements. Our moral intuitions, argue Haidt and other psychologists, derive not from our powers of reasoning, but from an evolved and innate suite of “affective” systems that generate “hot” flashes of feelings when we are confronted with a putative moral violation.

This intuitionist perspective marks a sharp break from traditional “rationalist” approaches in moral psychology, which gained a large following in the second half of the 20th century under the stewardship of the late Harvard psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg. In the Kohlbergian tradition, moral verdicts derive from the application of conscious reasoning, and moral development throughout our lives reflects our improved ability to articulate sound reasons for the verdicts—the highest stages of moral development are reached when people are able to reason about abstract general principles, such as justice, fairness and the Kantian maxim that individuals should be treated as ends and never as means.

But experimental studies give cause to question the primacy of rationality in morality. In one experiment, Jonathan Haidt presented people with a range of peculiar stories, each of which depicted behaviour that was harmless (in that no sentient being was hurt) but which also felt “bad” or “wrong.” One involved a son who promised his mother, while she was on her deathbed, that he would visit her grave every week, and then reneged on his commitment because he was busy. Another scenario told of a man buying a dead chicken at the supermarket and then having sex with it before cooking and eating it. These weird but essentially harmless acts were, nonetheless, by and large deemed to be immoral.

Hat tip: Arts and Letters Daily.

Sharp stuff from Religion Dispatches

Religion Dispatches, which will have a bright future if its early content is any indication, has two excellent essays about President-elect Barack Obama and the Religious Left--such as it is.

In one, Jonathan L. Walton asks:

Is President Obama destined to disappoint progressives? Our columnist channels theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, reminding us of the human potential for both good and evil, and offering a pragmatic approach...

In the other, our friend Daniel Schultz (Pastor Dan of Street Prophets) "addresses the Religious Left with suggestions, words of caution, a plea for compromise and a more broadly-conceived coalition than any to date."

Going greener in Vermont

Jay Vos of the blog Blazing Indiscretions was a delegate to the Diocese of Vermont's recent convention. He makes a point about resolutions that each of us should bear in mind:

I’ve always questioned the purpose of resolutions at these conventions. This was my first time as a delegate from my parish, but I’ve also been a delegate at conventions in another diocese. Mostly I find resolutions are just puffed up words that make the promoters and delegates feel good and think they’ve done something noteworthy. Usually these pithy expressions get hidden away in the diocesan journal and forgotten forever.

Conventions are forever considering resolutions that the neither the convention nor the people in attendance have the power to advance, enforce, etc.

That said, in his address to the convention Bishop Tom Ely took some legitimate steps toward transforming sentiment into action:

First, I will reestablish our Diocesan Committee on the Environment and charge it with keeping this subject before us, both in terms of education and action. The Reverend Anita Schell-Lambert, Rector of Saint Peter’s, Bennington and convener of the Program Committee for this Convention, will serve as chair of this committee. I will seek concurrence from the Diocesan Council in December, and if Council shares my concern I will appoint additional members to serve on this committee. You are welcome to make your interest known to Anita or to me.

Secondly, in addition to this Committee and in cooperation with its work, I will convene a Task Force to study and plan for what it will take to bring renewable energy projects to Rock Point and to make Rock Point - by the year 2015 - a model of energy conservation and efficiency in Vermont and beyond. Chuck Courcy, our Property Manager, is already in conversation about this with others, including the students at Rock Point School. I will bring this agenda to the Rock Point Board in December for discussion and action. I have every reason to believe that there are many people with expertise in this area, who value and cherish Rock Point as we do, and who are ready to assist us in this effort.

And speaking of going green, Trinity Episcopal Church in Redlands, Calif., is leading the way, according to the San Bernadino County edition of the Press-Enterprise.

When priests attack

A Catholic priest got exercised when a California reporter attempted to ask him about reports that he had expelled a woman from Mass "because her vehicle sported painted signs in support of president-elect Barack Obama." Violence ensued. has the story.

Reporter Ryan Chalk did manage to return to his office and write up the incident involving the Obama signs.

Imagine the response among right wing bloggers and a few African Primates had the priest been an Episcopalian and the signs in support of John McCain.

Hat tip: Dallas Morning News.

Credit where it is due

From the Associated Press:

President Bush, reflecting on his time in office, said Wednesday that "one of the most uplifting" experiences of his nearly eight-year tenure has been witnessing the gains Africa has made in education and fighting hunger and disease.

Speaking at a charity dinner, Bush called the work done for Africa by his administration and family "a labor of love." Before his remarks, he accepted the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, which pays tribute to leaders in humanitarian fields for Africa.

The dinner benefits Africare, a U.S.-based charity that aims to improve the quality of life in Africa by addressing needs in food security, agriculture, health and HIV/AIDS.

The story notes: "The dinner is in memory of Bishop John T. Walker, the first African-American Episcopal Bishop of Washington and the longtime chairman of Africare's board." The Diocese of Washington, which worked with the Bush administration to help secure grants from the President's AIDS and malaria initiatives for the Church of Southern Africa and the Diocese of Mozambique respectively, recently founded a school in Bishop Walker's honor.

"The defense of liberal theology"

From Episcopal News Service

The council of the Modern Churchpeople's Union (MCU) met November 6 in London's Docklands to develop a strategy for the defense of liberal theology.

Firmly opposed to the proposed Anglican covenant, the group plans to extend its network beyond England, improving links with the Episcopal Church, building branches in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, recruiting a range of ages and denominations, and increasing support among bishops and academic theologians.


Among MCU's many supporters is the Most Rev. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of the Church in Wales, who chaired the July conference in Hoddesdon, England, and is one of the organization's vice presidents. Speakers included the Rev. Canon Professor Marilyn McCord Adams, of Oxford University; the Rev. Canon Dr. Charlotte Methuen, of Oxford University; Bishop Michael Jackson of Clogher, Church of Ireland; Bishop Frank Griswold, 25th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; and Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana.

Griswold told the July gathering that the search for truth is a communal one, and that "the Holy Spirit can do different things in different places."

Mwamba spoke of "delusions of grandeur" among some of the African primates and noted that many church members throughout the continent had not been consulted about issues of human sexuality, and were "frankly not bothered with the debate."

"Some of our primates act like ecclesiastical Mugabes," he said, making reference to Zimbabwe's tyrannical president who has led his country into a humanitarian crisis and financial collapse.

The Abbot on "Temperance"

Christopher Jamison, the Abbot of Worth, in the Inaugural "Noah Lecture" has spoken about ways that people of faith might act to lead society out of the present financial and global climate crises. He points the finger of blame at our willingness to start believing that "greed is good" and says that we need to return to the basics of moral theology.

From a report in the Church Times today:

"Fr Jamison argued for a revival of the cardinal virtues: fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence. ‘We need rules and laws aimed at reducing climate change, but they will not be enough.’

[...]He argued that the four virtues could be applied to the practicalities of energy policy and consumer choice. Thus, for example, the question needed to be asked: ‘Are human beings capable of running a virtuous nuclear power industry?’

The Abbot was critical of the way in which greed had infiltrated people’s mental image of their life and its needs. The commercial version of Christmas was a good example. ‘So Nike and the other great corporations now inhabit our imagination, the place where greed is generated. Once planted there, they can make us endlessly greedy. And that is what they are doing.’"

Read the short article here.

The full text of the Abbot's lecture is posted here.

Priest calls for penance for presidential vote

The Roman Catholic bishops of the US have come out pretty clearly against supporting any candidate they deem to be "pro-choice". The problem has been though that many Roman Catholic voters have ignored that advice. Now a priest is suggesting a way for wayward RC's to repair the damage to their souls for voting for Obama last week.

"The Rev. Jay Scott Newman told The Greenville News on Wednesday that church teaching doesn't allow him to refuse Holy Communion to anyone based on political choices, but that he'll continue to deliver the church's strong teaching on the 'intrinsic and grave evil of abortion' as a hidden form of murder.

Both Obama and Joe Biden, the vice president-elect, support legal abortions. Obama has called it a 'divisive issue' with a 'moral dimension,' and has pledged to make women's rights under Roe v. Wade a 'priority' as president. He opposes a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court decision.

At issue for the church locally and nationwide are exit polls showing 54 percent of self-described Catholics voted for Obama, as well as a growing rift in the lifestyle and voting patterns between practicing and non-practicing Catholics."

Read the full in the Greensville News here.

Saudi sponsored UN interfaith conference

There have a been a number of news reports over the past day or so about the ongoing conference at the United Nations where leaders of the worlds religions are meeting. What's particularly interesting to many is that this conference has the King of Saudi Arabia as a full participant, a first for this sort of conference since the rise of the House of Saud in holy land of Islam.

But while much of the coverage about the King's participation has been laudatory, there are those who see this event as possibly having an alarming consequence.

In an Op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor two members of the United States Human Rights Commission point out:

"The UN session is designed to endorse a meeting of religious leaders in Spain last summer that was the brainchild of King Abdullah and organized by the Muslim World League. That meeting resulted in a final statement counseling promotion of 'respect for religions, their places of worship, and their symbols ... therefore preventing the derision of what people consider sacred.'

The lofty-sounding principle is, in fact, a cleverly coded way of granting religious leaders the right to criminalize speech and activities that they deem to insult religion. Instead of promoting harmony, however, this effort will exacerbate divisions and intensify religious repression.

Such prohibitions have already been used in some countries to restrict discussion of individuals' freedom vis-à-vis the state, to prevent criticism of political figures or parties, to curb dissent from prevailing views and beliefs, and even to incite and to justify violence.

They undermine the standards codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the keystone of the United Nations, by granting greater rights to religions than to individuals, including those who choose to hold no faith – or who would seek to convert."

Read the full essay here.

Holy Cross Retreat center destroyed in fire

The AP is reporting that the Mount Calvary Retreat Center in Santa Barbara was destroyed by the wildfires burning in the city region.

"Santa Barbara County Sheriff-Coroner Bill Brown, who flew over the burn area early Friday, said the Mount Calvary Benedictine monastery appeared to be completely destroyed and that he counted more than 80 homes burned to the ground, many in the winding streets around Westmont College."

The Center is operated by the Order of the Holy Cross, an Anglican-Episcopal Benedictine community.

Our prayers here at the Cafe go out to the brothers and all from the community who have been affected by the fire.

UPDATE: The Rt. Rev. George Packard, Bishop for Chaplaincies writes on his blog:

For our often rootless population we have claimed it as a refuge and spiritual home. We, and alot of other pilgrims do so. This is a very sad moment. Please join me in prayers for the all those who are now homeless. Pray as well for the firefighters, those who have been injured, and those who have died.

Of course we stand with the members of the Order of the Holy Cross in any intention they have for the future. Checks payable to the Treasurer of the Diocese of Los Angeles and earmarked, "Montecito Fire Recovery" may be sent to Bishop Jon Bruno, 840Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90028.

The inferno can't burn away the sweet memories of that place in our hearts and we each have them. Let's hope those recollections can be the intention to join in re-building for tomorrow. +gep

The press release with additional information follows

Read more »

Obama and religious voters

The exit polls from last week's presidential election are starting to show us who voted for whom. One of the most interesting facts that's being noticed is that the "God Gap", the way religious voters tend to vote for Republican candidates, is still present in American politics.

President-elect Obama reached out throughout his campaign to religious voters in the Mainline, Catholic and Evangelical churches and to a degree far greater than any recent democratic nominee had done. Yet in spite of this there was still a clear preference for John McCain when most religious voters cast their ballots.

Yet while the gap remains, it was narrowed significantly. The President-elect did much better than any recent candidate has in actually narrowing the gap.

According to polls by Pew Research:

"Analysts pointed out two major reasons for the shift:
  • Most important, perhaps, voters said their decision-making was dominated by economics, not cultural issues with strong religious dimensions such as abortion and same-sex marriage that were so important in 2004.

  • Moreover, Obama worked harder than Kerry in reaching out to faith groups; he also won some hearts in faith communities by speaking about faith in his own life more fluently than Kerry did.

Within religious affiliations, Obama won over Catholics and made inroads among Protestants compared with 2004. He even made a measurable dent among white evangelical Christians, the religious group least disposed to him overall."

Read the full article here.

Members of Diocese of Fort Worth set to leave -UPDATE

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m. ET - Fort Worth: members and clergy vote to leave The Episcopal Church

Clergy and lay delegates, by about an 80 percent margin, approved the secession at the diocese's annual convention, held in a packed school gym in Bedford.

They were to decide later today on whether to realign with a conservative, Argentina-based province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Read it here.

Address to the Diocesan Convention by The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth:

I will not attempt to rehearse all of the reasons and explanations for this course of action. By now, we have heard them many times before, and most of us are tired of debating them. The clergy and lay delegates to this Convention are probably the most well informed and best prepared in the history of this diocese when it comes to the issues that are before us. I doubt that anyone’s vote will be changed by any of the debates that take place here today. Our minds are made up. The time for discussion has come to an end, and the time for decision is upon us.

Read it all here.

Statement by those who will remain:

I have been asked to present remarks on behalf of many of your fellow delegates who will remain as members of the Episcopal Church. We thank Bishop Iker for graciously designating a place on the agenda for us to make this summary statement of our continuing opposition to the propositions that are before the convention today and for including this statement as part of the formal record of the convention. As a result, those of us who adopt this statement will not present statements when debate opens on the individual propositions.

Specifically we will vote against, and we urge you all to vote against, the propositions which purport to amend our diocesan constitution and canons and the resolution regarding membership in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Those of us who will remain in the Episcopal Church respectfully but profoundly disagree that passage of these propositions will in fact “remove” the Diocese itself, as well as church property in the diocese, from the Episcopal Church.

Read it all here or below.

The Diocese of Fort Worth is expected to be the fourth diocese to announce its departure from the Episcopal Church today. With its stance against ordaining women priests, to say nothing of certain developments in other dioceses and in church leadership in recent years, Bishop Jack Iker's diocese will vote on its secession today. The Dallas Morning News takes a long look at Iker's actions, putting them up against those of his neighboring bishop, James Stanton of the Diocese of Dallas, who has stated that they will remain with the church.

The Episcopal Church officially permitted female priests in 1976, and the Diocese of Dallas had its first in 1985. But the Fort Worth Diocese still hasn't had one.

"It's a departure from the biblical witness," Bishop Iker said, noting that Jesus chose 12 male apostles, "and from the historical practice of the church."

The Episcopal Church decided in 1997 that dioceses must allow female priests. Though that hasn't been enforced in Fort Worth, Bishop Iker is sure the Episcopal Church would eventually force the diocese to comply.

As more evidence of a church galloping down a liberal, nonbiblical path, Bishop Iker points to the 2003 decision by top church leaders to allow an openly gay bishop (the Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire) and the 2006 election of a woman as presiding bishop (the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori).

"We're not leaving the Episcopal Church," he said, echoing Ronald Reagan's quip about the Democratic Party. "The Episcopal Church has left us."

But many within the Fort Worth Diocese support the national church's direction as showing Christian acceptance and justice to women and gays. Or they at least believe the Episcopal Church remains a big tent under which people of different views can worship and serve together.

Katie Sherrod argues that under Bishop Iker and his predecessors, the Fort Worth Diocese has become a refuge for priests who oppose women's ordination and take every chance to criticize the Episcopal Church.

"There's been this huge disinformation campaign," said Ms. Sherrod, a Fort Worth writer active in local groups advocating loyalty to the Episcopal Church. "Voices that would offer a counterpoint have not been heard."

Iker estimates about 1/5 of congregants are likely to remain with the Episcopal Church, and also expects the Episcopal Church will arrange alternate leadership for those congregants and take action to maintain and rebuild those congregations. He says he expects, in the long term, some kind of settlement.

This is all from here. We may update this post as things unfold.

Read more »

2 percent - UPDATE on Ft Worth vote

UPDATE: 3:30 PM ET --Statement from the Presiding Bishop from epiScope:

November 15, 2008

The Episcopal Church grieves the departures of a number of persons from the Diocese of Fort. Worth. We remind those former Episcopalians that the door is open if they wish to return. We will work with Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth to elect new leadership and continue the work of the gospel in that part of Texas. The gospel work to which Jesus calls us demands the best efforts of faithful people from many theological and social perspectives, and The Episcopal Church will continue to welcome that diversity.

UPDATE: Vote tallies below

Updated at bottom with link on Fort Worth's departure.

Mark Harris writes:

In all likelihood the bishop, and a majority of clergy and lay delegates to the Diocese of Fort Worth convention will vote to leave the Episcopal Church, align temporarily with the Province of the Southern Cone and wait upon the right time to become part of a new improved Anglican Province of North America.

In this action the bishop and delegates will join similar groups of folk in the Dioceses of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh and Quincy.

The question is, how may people does this represent? Well, its hard to tell.
In terms of raw numbers, the most recent estimates we have on these dioceses are as follows:

_______Total Membership ........................ Average Sunday Attendance (ASA)
San Joaquin ... 10,500 .................................................. 4,000
Pittsburgh ........ 20,000 .................................................. 8,000
Quincy ................. 1,850 .................................................. 1,000
Fort Worth ........ 17,000 .................................................. 7,000
Totals ............... 49,350 ................................................. 20,000

The current figures given for the membership of The Episcopal Church is 2,154,000 (domestic) 2,320,000 total. The average Sunday attendance is 764,000 (domestic) 804,000 total.

This means that if everyone in the four dioceses left those dioceses, the percentage of the whole membership and ASA would be approximately 2.2% total and 2.5%. ASA.

But of course not all the people of those dioceses are leaving. Supposing 3/4 are, that percentage drops below 2%.

News on Fort Worth session is here. Bishop Jack Iker joins Bishop Bob Duncan and John-David Schofield in breaking the vows he took first as a priest and later as a bishop.

Read more »

From the UN, some notes on faith and tolerance

A bit more from the United Nations Interfaith Conference on Dialogue of Civilizations that we mentioned yesterday: While there has been some controversy about the event, spearheaded by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, it's mostly been about irony and the tension between freedom of religion and freedom of the press (remember that Danish cartoon?). As the Canadian Press notes:

Abdullah warned delegates Wednesday that human beings must "live together in peace or harmony, or they will inevitably be consumed by the flames of misunderstanding, malice and hatred."

"Terrorism and criminality are the enemies of every religion and every civilization," he said, adding that they have appeared because the absence of tolerance. Abdullah said constructive dialogue can revive "these lofty ideals."

The king made no mention of criticism from Human Rights Watch and others about Saudi Arabia's "intolerance" in refusing to allow the public practice of any religion other than Islam and restricting those who do not follow the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

From here.

On Thursday, a declaration unanimously affirmed by the attending nations affirmed "their rejection of the use of religion to justify the killing of innocent people and actions of terrorism, violence and coercion which directly contradict the commitment of all religions to peace, justice and equality," according to a Washington Post article that covered President Bush's comments at the event. For his part, Bush offered:

"One of my core beliefs is that there is an almighty God, and that every man, woman and child on the face of this Earth bears his image," Bush said. ". . . I know many of the leaders gathered in this assembly have been influenced by faith as well. We may profess different creeds and worship in different places, but our faith leads us to common values."


The president also emphasized that democratic systems are best suited to encourage tolerance among different faiths. "We strongly encourage nations to understand that religious freedom is the foundation of a healthy and hopeful society," he said.

From here.

And from TED, some other words on global compassion

Last May, we reported on Karen Armstrong's winning wish for a Charter for Compassion. TED -- Technology, Entertainment, Design conference -- now has the project under way, and reports that it is seeking translators to help get the word about this shared ideal. They have created a video, directed by the same fellow who created "Yes We Can," the short film that put music to Obama's stump speech.

Whatever else we believe in, most of us believe in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize, she wished for the Charter for Compassion, a document that affirms this core belief. The Charter will prove that most people around the world -- no matter our religion -- share this ideal.

To help start the project, we've created a beautiful short video about the Charter. Listen for powerful stories of one-on-one compassion, and reaffirm your own belief in the power of voices united to share the Golden Rule.

Originally, the team behind the charter project and some volunteers translated the film Spanish, Portuguese, French and German. Since making a call for translations, they have expanded that list to include Bulgarian, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Swedish and Turkish. And they hope to find more languages to tell the story.

Information and the video are here.

Garrison Keillor at the Washington National Cathedral

Back in September, Garrison Keillor appeared at the Washington National Cathedral. He gets a spotlight in this week's Religion and News Weekly over at PBS, which you can see here:

These were people with no money and not much in the way of books, except for the Good One, of course, and commentaries on it, and they read their Scripture very, very seriously. They departed from all of this—from the stone and from carved wood and from images and from gold and silver and vestments. And they met in plain rooms and spoke plainly, as a result of which there were never very many of them.

They believed in forgiveness in theory, but in practice it was, of course, it was of course more difficult, and living in a small town, they knew much too much about you to be merciful sometimes. But they loved, they loved the King James. They loved Scripture. They loved old hymns. They wouldn’t have belonged in the praise churches today, where people gather in big gymnasiums, and they hold their hands up over their heads, and they sing what we call 7-Eleven songs, where you sing seven words 11 times.

Over at USA Today, Cathy Lynn Grossman wants to know whether this is a "fair" slam against praise music.

But if you'd rather get the whole thing with acapella context (quite a bit of it, actually), the Cathedral archive is here (direct link to Windows Media File).

From here.

It's Mitzvah Day!

Today is the annual Mitzvah Day in London--a tradition that began in many U.S. Jewish communities and that is now spreading to Jewish communities across the world. Julia Neuberger explains:

For some years now in the United States, Jewish communities in any given area hold an annual Mitzvah Day, literally a "good deed day". In Los Angeles, for example, tens of thousands of Jews mark the day by giving time, rather than money, to support not only their own community but their neighbours' communities too.

My friend, Laura Marks, experienced Mitzvah day for herself when she lived in the US. She was much moved by the spirit behind it and the atmosphere it engendered, so she brought the idea to London, to the Jewish Community Centre for London (JCC), which has been the nursery garden in which it could take root.

The JCC will be taking an active part again this tomorrow, but now Mitzvah Day is going national in the UK too, under Laura Marks's charismatic leadership. This year, mitzvot (good deeds) will be being done from Exeter to Leeds and Glasgow to Brighton. Over 10,000 British Jews are involved, maybe cleaning out an overgrown garden, collecting recycling, visiting an elderly or disabled person, or in one of 250 other ways, reflecting the 250 projects taking place around the country.

But the idea has not only gone national. It has also spread to other communities. When asked why she would involve herself in something called Mitzvah Day, Atheah Ghani of Nottingham's Muslim community replied: "With common moral values across our faiths of respect for fellow human beings, care for the rest of creation and building towards peaceful coexistence, there wasn't a single reason for me not to get involved."

Read it all here. Seems to me that this is a day we all of us should celebrate (and not just one day each year).

Darwin is not the enemy of Christianity

Charles Darwin is often identified both by atheists and some Christians alike as an enemy of the faith. Andrew Brown argues otherwise. He notes that scientific challenges to literalism were already overwhelming before Darwin wrote his texts, and that Darwin's evolution may offer an answer to the problem of evil in the world:

By the time that Darwin published the On the Origin of Species in 1859, it was already obvious that the God of the Bible was being squeezed right out of the educated world view. The physical world was increasingly revealed as law-bound; and Hume had argued that miracles (pdf)had to be understood as breaches of these natural laws, to be credited only when no other explanation was possible. The belief in the workings of providence in history could not among intellectuals easily survive the study of Gibbon and Voltaire. The literal truth of the Biblical narratives and even the credibility of their perspective on history had already been destroyed by the geologists' discovery of the unimaginable age of the earth.

All this was true – and fatal to traditional Christianity – before Darwin published a line. The only theist argument that his work destroyed was the argument from design. But the argument from design is of interest only to nerds, whether atheist or believers. Most people just don't have the kind of systematising imaginations which make the question of design in nature look compelling; other forms of imagination, while they marvel at the complexities of living things, don't see why this should not be the work of a God responsible for the laws of natural selection.

. . .

What made Darwin threatening to Christianity was not that he abolished the argument from design, but that he threatened – and threatens – human uniqueness. Against this, though, two points can be raised. The first is that Darwinian explanations of humanity end up with accounts of us which are much more compatible with the Christian view of human beings as inherently sinful and "fallen" than is the simple faith in human moral progress that was a powerful alternative to Christianity. The second is that Darwin lets God off the hook for much of the suffering of the natural world.

The more we understand about the workings of biology, the more horrible much of life appears. Most of it is parasitic; most of it is unremittingly ruthless; all of it is doomed. Tennyson called nature "red in tooth and claw" in 1843, 16 years before Darwin published the Origin of Species. If God had personally designed every last parasitic wasp and tapeworm: if some celestial watchmaker had carefully sculpted the HIV virus to make it so effective, and had shaped Eve to make her die so often in childbirth, then the case against him would be morally quite unanswerable, as Voltaire saw.

Darwin's theory allows Christians – whether they want to or not – to understand the hideous and constant cruelties of the world as part of the mechanisms necessary to produce any kind of intelligent life. Disease, decay and death need no longer be exhibitions of gratuitous cruelty on the part of a creator. This isn't by any means a knock-down argument for belief. But it is a conclusive argument against one kind of morally outrageous god.

Read it all here.

What is death?

Last week, a Washington, D.C. court heard the case of Motl Brody, an Orthodox Jewish boy that a hospital declared dead because he has no brain function. Because his heart and lungs are still functioning, however, according to his parents' religious beliefs, he is still alive. Slate used this case to discuss how various religious communities are beginning to accept the lack of brain function as an appropriate definition of death despite long traditions focused on vital signs:

How is death defined in other religions?

Usually, the same way it has traditionally been defined in all cultures: by a lack of vital signs. Most world religions lack a clear doctrinal statement that certifies when, exactly, the moment of death can be said to have occurred. For most of human history, there was no need for one since prior to the invention of life-support equipment, the absence of circulation or respiration was the only way to diagnose death. This remains the standard of death in most religions. By the early 1980s, however, the medical and legal community also began to adopt a second definition of death—the irreversible cessation of all brain functions—and some religious groups have updated their beliefs.

. . .

Christians who ardently support the traditional circulatory-respiratory definition of death tend to be fundamentalists or evangelicals. They may point to Leviticus 17:11, which states that "the life of the flesh is in the blood," or Genesis 2:7, which describes how God "formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Most mainstream Protestant groups in the United States accept brain death as a valid criterion for death, as does the Roman Catholic Church, though that ruling is not without controversy.

In 1986, the Academy of Islamic Jurisprudence—a group of legal experts convened by the Organization of the Islamic Conference—issued an opinion stating that a person should be considered legally dead when either "complete cessation of the heart or respiration occurs" or "complete cessation of all functions of the brain occurs." In both cases, "expert physicians" must ascertain that the condition is irreversible. However, the academy's statement was merely a recommendation to member nations, not a binding resolution, and the question remains an open one for many Muslims.

Read it all here.

Why we lost: An analysis of the "No on 8" campaign

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a student at Harvard Divinity School and the director of The Progressive Project (which was active in the No on 8 campaign) offered an analysis of why the campaign lost, with a focus on the failings of the field campaign:

On November 4, Proposition 8 passed in California, enshrining in the state constitution a ban on same sex marriage. Similar amendments also passed in Florida and Arizona. We have now lost campaigns like this in 29 states; we have won only once - in Arizona in 2006. On a human level, these defeats are a blow to people across the nation who care about civil rights and equality. On a strategic level, they are explicable; after all, we continue to rely on the same strategies despite mounting evidence that they do not work.

What is required as the LGBT movement goes forward is a commitment to permanent political engagement and a national grassroots strategy and infrastructure that complement our national legal strategy. We must also finally do what our opponents have long been doing: treating each statewide ballot measure as a national campaign.

. . .

Proposition 8 passed by 510,591 votes. We don’t know if that gap could have been closed. But we do know that the "No on 8" campaign could have run a more visionary, nimble and aggressive field strategy. Ultimately the field strategy came up short in two critical, related areas:

First, the "No on 8" campaign did not become national until October, limiting both the volunteers and donors it could engage.

Second, the campaign’s field strategy failed to effectively reach enough swing voters enough times to turn them out as “no” voters.

. . .

Geography is no longer a barrier to engaging in political campaigns: new media technology, social networking features, and online predictive dialing systems mean that people can participate in a campaign from anywhere in the country.

The "Yes on 8" campaign was able to make this a national effort from the start, by tapping into the infrastructure of churches and online networks like Focus on the Family that know how to mobilize quickly. Additionally, they immediately saw both the national and historic implications of this campaign, arguing that it mattered at least as much as the presidential race.

In contrast, the "No on 8" campaign did not become national until October and even then it remained challenging for people outside California to engage as anything but donors. The common explanation for this is that there simply wasn’t enough time. Yet as early as 2006, I was told by strategists at a national LGBT organization that they fully anticipated fighting an anti-marriage ballot measure in California in 2008, and that it represented a rare chance to win. During the last two years, it would have been both prudent and strategic to develop a blueprint for a national campaign that could be quickly activated when the ballot measure was announced.

Instead, the campaign got off to a fitful and inaccessible start in May. It was not until June that volunteers in California were able to participate meaningfully in the campaign; and not until September that out-of-state volunteers were able to do anything more than give money. During this time, efforts to engage (by hosting remote phonebanks, and by coming to California to volunteer) were met by near radio silence from the campaign.

Read it all here.

For those involved in the No on 8 campaign: does this analysis ring true?

A reply to Jack Iker as he leaves The Episcopal Church

Katie Sherrod, well known journalist from Texas and lay leader in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth responds to the former bishop of Fort Worth, Jack Iker, at her blog Desert's Child.

Here is the statement that the former bishop of Fort Worth wanted read in all parishes today. My responses are in italics.

Read more »

Departing Anglicans plan their own province

Various groups that have left the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada since 1873 are planning to form their own province that would cover the United States and Canada.

The Living Church reports that the leadership of the Common Cause Partnership (CCP) has scheduled a constitutional convention on December 3, 2009 to form the proposed province. After that the organizers will visit each province and lobby for recognition as a member of the Anglican Communion.

Mark Harris writes about what he calls "the New Improved GAFCON Province in North America" or NIGPNA:

Right now the four groups that have left The Episcopal Church in San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Quincy and Fort Worth and have formed as Dioceses in the Province of the Souther Cone are appendages to the Province of the Southern Cone. Any two of these groups has more members than all of the Province of the Southern Cone put together. It is only temporary, for which the PSC ought to give thanks. They claim they are only part of the PSC until a new improved GAFCON Province of North America NIGPNA can be formed.

Of course this may not be all that good as good news. When they form NIGPNA they will cease to be part of the Anglican Communion, having lost their already tenuous connection through membership in PSC. But it appears they don't really care. GAFCON is the wave they are catching, not the Anglican Communion.

The PSC expanded involves the dioceses already in the Southern Cone plus the 4 formed by people having left TEC.

No doubt Moderator Duncan will be the primate-like persons for this GAFCON invention. NIGPNA will, one assumes, cover all of North America where TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) is or has been the jurisdiction....

...No matter the fine words from CCP and most recently Quincy and Fort Worth about compassion and brotherly love for those who have not joined them: The object of the exercise is to form a new Anglican entity in North America that stands over against the ACoC and TEC which are viewed by the groups making up this new "Province" as heretical and apostate. This new entity, called by them a Province, will not be in communion with TEC or ACoC. At least some parts of this new entity will believe that the women in ordained ministry in TEC or ACoC are simply lay ministers in clergy dress. Most will believe that TEC and ACoC are wrong about the way these churches deal with the issue of marriage after divorce, abortion, and certainly the possible full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the church (remembering that neither church has completely made its peace with the issues here.)....

The new improved GAFCON Province of North America purports to be closer to the true Anglican ideals and corrective of the awful TEC and ACoC. But come the first week in December I believe we will be dealing at last with the great effort to change the nature of leadership in the Communion. This is the hard right of the Global South flexing its muscle, testing its strength. The rest of the Communion in the Global South and elsewhere will have to decide if the flexing is to be challenged.

Of course, given that all the churches (Provinces) of the Anglican Communion are autonomous, it hardly needs to be said that all such power is assumed and an illusion. TEC and ACoC will go about being who we are quite independently of the NIGPNA or any other church with which we are not in communion.

The formation of this new denomination (or federation of denominations) is not unexpected. Several of the groups that make up the Common Cause Partnership identify themselves as some kind of denominational lifeboats for the theologically conservative and openly hope for the creation of a province that will replace the TEC and ACoC as the Anglican franchise in North America.

What will bear watching will be the results of their global lobbying among the Primates, especially the moderate CAPA primates, in advance of the next Primates meeting. They hope that should enough Primates support their effort that they will become de facto members of the Anglican Communion with or without the recognition of the ABC.

Pray for the Democratic Republic of Congo

Bishop Pierre Whalon invites his colleagues and us to hold the people of Democratic Republic of Congo in prayer this coming Sunday, November 23, 2008. Meanwhile, African religious leaders call for the various parties in the conflict to honor their agreements and stop the violence.

Bishop Whalon writes:

Date : 17 novembre 2008 10:35:40 HNEC

Dear colleagues,

As you know, the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to fester. Much is still underreported. In addition to the crisis in the Goma region, there are two areas of rebel activity in Congo which have not hit the news: the Dungu area, in the north, where the Lord’s Resistance Army has attacked villages and abducted adults and children in recent weeks, and also the Gety/Aveba/Nyankunde region, close to Bunia, where a new militia group emerged in late September and displaced many people from their homes.

Our Anglican sisters and brothers in those areas have been deeply affected, and are in the forefront of relief efforts and peacemaking.

I am echoing Archbishop Fidèle Dirokpa's call for a day of prayer for peace in the Congo on Sunday 23 November.

You can use the following prayer, if you like, or do your own.

O God of peace and abundant life, You call peacemakers your children. Let your Holy Spirit guide and govern all those who are making peace in Congo, and give them success, So that all your people may have that abundant life promised through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God in Holy Trinity. Amen.

Episcopal Relief and Development is sending aid. Please encourage your people to help in any way they can—prayer first, but also material help as well. See for information on sending direct help.

Here is a short documentary on the underlying issues that have led to what is called "The Third World War." Five million have already died...

Thank you in advance,


The Lutheran World Federation reports:

Representatives of a Pan-African grouping of faith leaders say the mineral resource-based conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could be prevented if signatories to peace agreements honored their stated commitments.

Key leaders of the Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) also appealed to the continent’s religious leaders to urgently engage political leadership in the DRC and neighboring countries to end a crisis for which civilians continued to suffer the greatest atrocities.

“Are we not moved by the inhuman conditions of those [internally displaced] mothers and children? Is it not correct to say that while this war is raving, the mineral resources are being taken out of the country for the benefit of others other than the citizens of the DRC?” remarked IFAPA president and general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Rev Dr Ishmael Noko, in his keynote address to the third IFAPA Commission meeting, taking place, 10-13 November, in Entebbe, near the Ugandan capital Kampala. Established in 2002, IFAPA comprises representatives of Africa’s seven main faith traditions.

In the past few weeks, fighting has intensified between government soldiers and rebels allied to dissident general Laurent Nkunda in the mineral-rich eastern DRC region, especially North and South Kivu, with relief agencies reporting massive displacement of civilians. Nearly 200,000 people, according to United Nations’ relief agency reports, are receiving emergency assistance near the city of Goma, while an unknown number is said to be cut off in the nearby forest.

HT to Ekklesia.

Bishop Whalon keeps BIshopBlogging

UPDATE: 11/18
Ekklesia reports on the Congolese Catholic Bishops' Conference protest of the situation in their country:

Member of the permanent committee of the Congolese Catholic Bishops' Conference (CENCO) have issued a "cry of grief and protest" about the murderous situation in their country - calling for more concerted action from the UN, the authorities and the international community.

The bishops say that they are "disturbed and overcome by the human tragedy in the east and northeast Democratic Republic of Congo", and that many in their congregations and communities have been affected by the appalling violence there.

In a message sent to Agenzia Fides (entitled "The Democratic Republic of Congo mourns its children without consolation") the CENCO members affirm that in the eastern part of the country they are witnessing a "a silent genocide."

"The great massacres of the population, the planned extermination of the youth, the systematic robberies used as a weapon of war...a cruelty and exceptional violence is once again being unleashed upon the local people who only ask that they can live in a decent manner in their homeland. Who is willing to take interest in this situation?"

The Bishops criticise the UN peacekeeping force, saying that "the most deplorable fact is that the violence is taking place right before the eyes of those whose duty it is to maintain peace and protect the civilian population."

Choose to choose hope

Howard E. Friend, Jr. says there is a "hope-based" movement that is reaching a crecendo among a wide variety of groups around the globe.

There is a movement arising and gaining momentum that is without precedent in human history, a movement grounded in hope. I believe we are graced with the opportunity and challenge to live the most significant and meaningful lives ever lived because we are faced with history’s most extraordinary threats to life on earth. Unplanned and unnoticed by most, even by those within it, this is nevertheless a movement whose time has come. A movement without a name, not even approaching “ism” status, it eludes being manipulated or marketed. It is a movement without visible spokespersons, charismatic leaders, or dominant figures, so it avoids becoming cultish and personality-centered. Those drawn into this movement do not shy from harsh realities, but refuse to surrender to discouragement and hopelessness....

...Tony Campolo, a well-known author and speaker and a longtime colleague and friend of mine, has spoken thousands of words, but a single sentence, a line from a sermon I’d heard him preach, is etched in my memory: “Frankly, the argument against believing in God or against placing one’s trust in Jesus is every bit as persuasive as the argument for it. So I chose to choose to believe and trust. And that choice has made all the difference.” “Choosing to choose” can seem awkward and redundant, but it may be a necessary first step in the search for a genuine hope. This is not splitting hairs or playing word games. Choosing to choose is different from merely choosing. It evokes a sturdy intention, flexes against doubt and resistance, hones resilience, and sends down hearty roots. It has stamina and longevity, poised for a long-distance run. It is resolute and determined. Merely choosing can be unreflective and impulsive, while choosing to choose is reasoned and measured.

A two-word imperative—“choose life”—concludes Moses’s final speech on the banks of the Jordan (Deut. 30:19). After a long season of divine patience, Elijah announces that a time of choosing is at hand: “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?” Elijah asks. “If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). “You cannot serve God and money,” Jesus proclaims succinctly; a choice must be made. Be hot or cold, but not lukewarm; hear the knock and open the door (Rev. 3:15–16, 20). It is a matter of choice. Choose to choose hope.

See The Alban Institute: Hope: A Matter of Choice.

Defending religious liberty by attacking civil liberty

It appears that some religious leaders believe that religious freedom and civil liberties cannot co-exist.

This line of reasoning has been popping up in the political discourse especially since the election two weeks ago: that the promotion of civil liberties for all to an attack on the religious freedom of some. The reasoning has appeared in Proposition 8 debate in California and in Roman Catholic circles since the election of Barack Obama.

The Dallas Morning News has a feature called Texas Faith. It is a weekly discussion that poses questions about religion, politics and culture to a panel of religious leaders. This week's question: "Is a compromise between religious liberty and gay civil rights regarding marriage possible – and if not, which of the two is more important?"

The question assumes that the religious liberty and civil liberties cannot co-exit. That one must always give way to the other. For example, one of the arguments used by opponents of gay marriage is that if passed, then religious groups will be forced by the government to perform them. Similarly, the claim is made that if access to abortion were protected then even religious hospitals would be forced to perform them.

The answers by some of the people approached by the Dallas Morning News deals with these tensions:

Read more »

Bishops Iker and Wantland change their minds

William Fleener, Jr. highlights some interesting facts about the former leadership of the Diocese of Fort Worth on his blog Est Anima Legis (The Spirit of the Law). Bishops Jack Iker and William Wantland, two of the leaders of the breakaway movement in the Episcopal Church once asserted in a lawsuit that the Dennis Canon - which holds that parish property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church- should be regarded as having the force of law in secular courts. Now they are arguing that the Dennis Canon is irrelevant as they try to take Episcopal Church property to the Province of the Southern Cone.

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A new province: who makes the call?

The Living Church asserts in an article today that the power to recognize new provinces within the Anglican Communion rests with the Primates. This statement, at a minimum, seems debatable.

Section 3 of the constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council begins as follows: The Council shall be constituted with a membership according to the schedule hereto. With the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the council may alter or add to the schedule.

The operative word there would seem to be may. May is permissive. Must is mandatory. The council is not required to accede to the Primates' request.

Beyond that, lies the question of whether this section of the constitution can sensibly be applied to a situation such as the one developing in North America in which conservatives are attempting to carve a non-geographic province from the territory of existing provinces against those provinces' wills. If such a maneuver is permitted then Anglican provinces are not autonomous, as is frequently asserted, but subject to being divided into pieces at any time for any reason by the Primates and the ACC. Membership in such an organization would seem to have more risks than rewards, unless one belonged to the party holding the carving knife.

Whatever the case, the Primates will have an influential role to play in legitimizing a new province. I don't think two-thirds of the Primates of the 39 churches on the ACC schedule of membership will vote to recognize a new non-geographic province in North America--The precedent would have staggering implications, creating a Communion in which the only way to guarantee one's survival would be to attempt to carve up adversarial provinces. Of course we may already be living in such a Communion and simply not realize it yet.--but I haven't done a complete counting of noses.

Based on my limited information, I'd say the provinces certain to vote against (corrected) a new North American province are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Central America, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Scotland, the United States and Wales. (I don't include England because I think the leadership of the Church of England is largely antagonistic toward the Episcopal Church, and the United States.)

Those I'd say unlikely to vote to recognize a new province are: Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Southern Africa. However, I don't know much about the Asian churches.

I don't know where Melanesia stands. I think it is likely that almost all of the African churches will be pressured into recognizing the new province by Peter Akinola and the North Americans who are bankrolling this movement. Some have already done so. Central Africa has no primate, and I don't know whether the bishop currently running the province would be allowed to make a commitment of this magnitude.

I'd love to hear from others who may have better intelligence than I do on this issue.

The Anglican Consultative Council seems a less hospitable arena for this proposal than the Primates' Meeting because the American right has not cultivated its members as assiduously as it has cultivated the Primates, but that is a story for another day.

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President-elect invited to try Epiphany Church in DC

Time Magazine asks "What Church Will President Obama Attend." Amy Sullivan talked to a number of people who know the religious world ... in Washington and solicited their church recommendations:

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Music helps your heart

Science Daily reports that listening to your favorite music may be good for your cardiovascular system.

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Bishop Tutu chides church for gay stance

In an interview with BBC Radio 4, [Tutu] said the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had failed to demonstrate that God is "welcoming".

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President-elect accused of being the anti-christ

Newsweek reports on the far edge of religion where fear and racism combine to accuse the President-elect of being the anti-christ. This rhetoric supports those who would make threats to the family and office of the President. This activity is hopefully under close scrutiny by hate-watch groups and the Secret Service.

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Church of England can't sign Anglican Covenant

Peter Owen of Thinking Anglicans calls our attention to what may be the most overlooked aspect of the current controversy in the Anlgican Communion, namely that Rowan Williams believes that the solution to our problems lies in the development of an Anglican covenant which the Church of England CANNOT LEGALLY SIGN. (excuse the capital letters, but really...)

Note this response from the Secretary General of the Church of England to a written question from a Synod member:

Mr Justin Brett (Oxford) to ask the Secretary General:

Q2. What research has been undertaken to establish the effect of the Church of England’s participation in an Anglican Communion Covenant upon the relationship between the Church of England and the Crown, given the Queen’s position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the consequent tension between her prerogative and the potential demands of a disciplinary process within the proposed Covenant?

Mr William Fittall to reply as Secretary General:

A. The Church of England response of 19 December 2007 to the initial draft Covenant noted on page 13 that ‘it would be unlawful for the General Synod to delegate its decision making powers to the primates, and that this therefore means that it could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of action that the Church of England should take.’ The same would be true in relation to delegation to any other body of the Anglican Communion. Since as a matter of law the Church of England could not submit itself to any such external power of direction, any separate possible difficulties in relation to the Royal Prerogative could not in practice arise.

A pattern is beginning to emerge here. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada must cease blessing same-sex relationships, but the Church of England does not have to because it does so quietly. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada must relinquish their autonomy and sign on to a covenant that will almost certainly be used to marginalize them, but the Church of England doesn't have to because it is an established church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury continues to demand from the North American churches what he does not ask from his own people. And the peculiar thing is that nobody seems to find this objectionable.

National Cathedral adjusts to economic downturn

Washington National Cathedral plans to slash its budget dramatically and lay off 30 percent of its staff to close a widening budget gap, leaders said yesterday.

Just six months after its last round of cuts, the century-old institution plans to shut down a historic building on its grounds, cut back on choir performances, shrink its lecture and class schedule, outsource its retail operation and rely on volunteers to take over other functions, the Rev. Samuel Lloyd III, dean of the Episcopal cathedral, said in an interview yesterday.

So reports the Washington Post. More:
The cathedral is self-supporting and does not receive funds from either the Episcopal Diocese of Washington or the national Episcopal Church. Nor does it receive government funding -- a fact that many visitors and potential donors do not understand, Lloyd said.
In the economic downturn says Kathleen Cox, the cathedral's chief operating officer says the cathedral is turning conservative in its budgeting:
The cathedral's endowment, valued last spring at $66 million, has declined about 25 percent since then, Cox said. Cathedral leaders have opted to draw $1 million from it instead of the usual $3.5 million. Anticipating the effects of the economy on all nonprofits, the cathedral is budgeting for a drop in donations and program revenue, even though it is ahead of projections right now.
Addendum: ENS has a thorough report.

Morning news roundup

In this morning's New York Times:

- The Benedictine Anglican monks whose Mount Calvary Monastery and Retreat House which was engulfed in the recent Santa Barbara fire. See also also the ENS story from two days ago which includes links to dramatic photos.

- The geothermal heating and cooling system at General Theological Seminary that in time will expand to be the largest system of geothermal pumps in the Northeast.

Atlanta resolutions pass

At its recent convention the Diocese of Atlanta passed several resolutions of note:

The council handled seven resolutions, two of them sending a message to the 76th General Convention next summer that the Diocese of Atlanta supports "development of appropriate rites for the celebration and blessing of sacred unions for gay and lesbian persons" and the repeal of General Convention Resolution B033, which, authors said, had "run its course" and brought pain to the gay community. Hearings held on both matters revealed few objections, and the resolutions passed without floor discussion by substantial margins.
The council also "Also approved was a new canon (39), which gives the bishop authority, when warranted, to declare an emergency in a parish." The new canon (39) states, in part,
In the event that the vestry or other authorities of a parish are unable to function adequately due to natural disaster or other emergency, loss of personnel, or abandonment of The Episcopal Church (TEC) by parish officials, the Bishop, in his discretion, may declare an Emergency in the parish. Disputes among parish officials who remain within TEC shall not in themselves constitute an Emergency within the meaning of this Canon.
In explanation:
Emergencies of this type have arisen in most of the dioceses of Province IV in the last few years, and it is thought to be valuable to have the emergency powers of the Bishop in such a situation recognized and incorporated into the Canons of the Diocese. These situations frequently have legal implications with possible court interpretation by a judge who probably will not be an Episcopalian.
Examples of where emergency powers have been needed recently in various dioceses in the Church include situations where the vestry has been scattered by natural disaster, and where vestry members have abandoned the church en masse, leaving no Episcopal Church authority in the parish.

Singapore may legalize compensation for human organs

Singapore's Ministry of Health is seeking public input on proposed amendments to the country's Human Organ Transplant Act. The amendments would

(a) Lift the upper age limit for cadaveric organ donation;
(b) Allow donor-recipient paired matching for exchanges of organs; and
(c) Compensate living donors according to international ethical practices.
Regarding compensation,
To protect the welfare of living donors, MOH is proposing that these donors be compensated for direct costs incurred as a result of the donation, and indirect losses such as lost earnings and future expenses due to the donation. The compensation framework will be in line with international and local ethical recommendations.
Thus, someone with lower earnings would receive less compensation.

The ministry says it would not be creating a market for organs:

HOTA will continue to prohibit the buying and selling of organs. To protect donors and recipients from exploitation by unscrupulous middlemen, MOH is proposing to raise the penalties to deter organ trading syndicates and unscrupulous middlemen.
In a well-functioning market every donor would receive equal compensation for an organ of equal quality.

The National Kidney Foundation in the U.S. says it is "in the process of evaluating our position on financial incentives for organ donation."

There is some suggestion that Singapore is seeking to expand its medical tourism sector.

Thanks to Marginal Revolution.

Finally, in a world first, a woman has had a body part replaced using stem cells. Her own stem cells.

The faith-based initiative: Bush and Obama

The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy has a link-studded overview of the Bush faith-based initiative, and gives a look toward how Obama would adapt the program. Obama has said that faith-based initiatives would be a real part of his White House's operation and that Bush underfunded the program.

Steven Waldman argues that the Faith-based initiative could be one of several fault lines that could appear between Obama and amongst religious liberals:

Unlike many secular Democrats, most liberal religious groups were pleased when Mr. Obama promised during the campaign to expand rather than eliminate President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative. But behind the scenes, they were quite worried about Mr. Obama’s promise to make it illegal for faith-based groups to limit hiring to people of their own faith. The position thrilled civil libertarians but raised concerns among some nonprofits that Mr. Obama would go too far in restricting the operations of religious groups.
Contrast Waldman's view with the Andre Willis' expressed at The Root:
If the past eight years have been dominated by prominent conservative evangelicals like Pat Robertson and James Dobson, the Obama years may be the era of Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, social-justice-minded evangelicals in the model of Walter Rauschenbusch and Martin Luther King Jr.
Domestically, look for an overhauled office of faith-based initiatives. In Denver, the Democratic Party's first "faith caucus" engaged a spirited discussion on the role and relevance of such programs and how they might differ from similar policies offered by George W. Bush. Most likely, the least of these thrusts of progressive evangelicalism will empower the already flourishing network of Christian social programs that emphasize economic equality and burgeoning anti-poverty movements. The warriors in this fight will not only be religious figures. Marian Wright Edelman has been framing poverty as a moral/religious issue for the last 35 years, even though conservative evangelicals would never claim her (or she them).

CA court to hear Proposition 8 challenge

The Sacramento Bee reports that "the California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to consider complaints by opponents of Proposition 8 that it improperly revised the constitution to ban gay marriage. The court declined to stay its enforcement in the meantime."

Court spokeswoman Lynn Holton said the court asked the parties involved to write briefs arguing three issues:

Read more »

Is God bad for the GOP?

Yes writes Kathleen Parker:

the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth -- as long as we're setting ourselves free -- is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

No writes Daniel Larison:

Certainly there is an argument to be made that dead-end partisans qua dead-end partisans who cannot speak to anyone outside their party are a problem, and you can make the case that the holdouts who still think Bush has done a good job are complicit to some degree in all of his errors and crimes. Maybe there is some significant overlap with the so-called “oogedy-boogedy” set, but then the problem with them wouldn’t be their religiosity or their social conservatism or any of the cultural markers that freaked out every pundit east of the Appalachians when Mike Huckabee would start to speak. Instead, the problem is that they were too wedded to the Bush administration and its failed record, and they were too dependent on reciting the trite slogans they heard on the radio and read in syndicated conservative columns.

Your thoughts?

If it worked for the Boston Celtics... can work for the Episcopal Church. The theme of the 2009 General Convention is ubuntu, a Swahili word meaning (roughly) "I am because we are."

Turns out, as these videos attest, it was also the concept the Celtics coach Doc Rivers instilled in his team during its NBA championship-winning season.

Read more »

Church Planting Central

There is a new blog in town called Church Planting Central, and it focuses on church planting and evangelism. I was taken both by this item on "The big E word," and this one on the parable below, which I first heard years ago and have been trying to find ever since:

Parable of the crude little life-saving station (by Dr. Theodore O. Wedel)

On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and gave of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.

Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building.

Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in the club’s decorations, and there was a liturgical life-boat in the room where the club’s initiations were held. About this time a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split among the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station. So they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

Dr. Theodore O. Wedel was a former canon of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1931, he served for a time as president of the Episcopal Church. He penned this parable in 1953.

Be your own Primate

Our friend Pluralist has decided that he, like Bob Duncan, needs an Anglican province of his very own.

Church of England still can't sign Anglican Covenant

The Church of England is legally prohibited from signing the proposed Anglican Covenant on which Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has hung his hopes for saving the Anglican Communion. We reported on this two days ago and nothing has changed, but really, it can't be overemphasized.

The Anglican Church of Australia is also an established (that is, state-chartered) Church, and may face difficulties similar to England's although I don't know that for sure. Additionally, the leaders of the semi-schismatic GAFCON movement, which include several African primates have already rejected the most recent draft of the covenant.

The question then is why conversation about the covenant is frequently framed as follows: Will the North Americans sign it? If not, will Rowan throw them out?

The covenant, it seems, faces far more serious problems than whether the Episcopalians and the Canadians will sign on, yet the media won't give up on this story line, and neither will those who grasp at any impediment available to deny gay and lesbian Christians the birthright of their baptism. Unfortunately, one member of the latter camp is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seldom misses an opportunity to make it seem that the future of the Communion hinges on North American's willingness to betray the GLBT members of their churches.

For further discussion of this issue, visit this thread on Thinking Anglicans and pay particular attention to the comments of Martin Reynolds who writes, in part:

Take the matter of the statistics recently reported to the Design Group on the responses from Lambeth.

There were 670 questionnaires issued at the Lambeth conference – only 370 bothered to fill them in and only 343 of these find their way into the statistical survey! So though they claim some 64% approval for the idea of a Covenant – in fact only 37% of those polled at Lambeth registered their contentment and only just over 24% of the bishops eligible to vote are known to be content.

The attempt to poll those not present has not been a success, we are told. In this case silence cannot be seen as consent – indeed rather the opposite might be assumed.

That 300 bishops should have shrugged their shoulders and trashed the questionnaire is an amazing fact bearing in mind how vital to the future of the Communion this new covenanted relationship was claimed to be. There was a massive input at Lambeth, Drexel’s introduction no fewer than FIVE separate lectures on the present draft – TWO whole indaba sessions – and still 45% of the bishops who TURNED UP – and were a captive audience - couldn’t be bothered to comment in this short questionnaire..

Taking into consideration the pathetic responses to the Covenant from the Communion’s Provincial structures – it is plain to see that there is no will for this – no will at all. If I were associated with this proposal I would be ashamed at the lack of genuine engagement that Provinces (other than TEC!) have shown to this proposal, and the failure of the Lambeth bishops to engage and approve of it.

The single-issue faithful

Andrew Sullivan:

The American Family Association puts out a DVD showing how homosexuals have a plan to infiltrate and take over every small town in America in order to construct a new Sodom to terrorize your children. Or something like that. Is it my imagination or has the far right, salivating over their three anti-gay victories in the last election, decided that fear and loathing of homosexuals is now the fundamental tenet of American conservatism?

Tensions in the English Church

A meeting of Evangelicals in England earlier this month became much more animated than people expected when a controversy arose regarding a vote on Jerusalem Declaration. The Church Times has a detailed account of events which led to the National Evangelical Anglican Consultation's decision to not ratify the declaration.

According to the account the issues started when the unexpected resolution to support the Declaration was distributed to the delegates with the stipulation that the delegates would not be allowed to make any amendments to the resolution.

From the Church Times:

"Rodney Curtis, a management con­sultant who worships at St Ebbe’s, Oxford, likened attending the meeting to ‘watching a car crash in slow mo­tion’, as Dr Turnbull ignored advice from Dr Philip Giddings, the con­vener of Anglican Mainstream, and Canon Michael Saward to withdraw the resolution. ‘The management of the day was so amateur that I felt embarrassed,’ he said. ‘We were being bounced into supporting GAFCON at the say-so of Richard Turnbull.’

[...]The meeting has reinforced con­cerns about who speaks for Evan­gelicals. Dr Christina Baxter, who chairs the House of Laity of the General Synod, expressed her concern that the meeting had been, in the main, elderly, male, and white. Speaking on Tuesday, she said: ‘I am concerned that when Evangelicals come together, they represent the broad spectrum in terms of people groups.

Chris Sugden, a leader of the GAFCON movement argued that it was important that the resolution of support be adopted so that parts at least of the English church would be able to stay connected to the larger groups of Anglicans around the world.

Canon Sugden said that GAFCON was guarding the Evan­gelical heri­tage in the wider Communion. ‘GAFCON is our connection to the Global Anglican Communion. The GAFCON Pri­mates and bishops are the true successors to John Stott. The Canterbury network is unsure and even confused about what Global Anglicanism means.’

The article continues describing how the resolution was ultimately rejected. For those who are interested in understanding the tensions present in the Church of England it makes fascinating reading.

Read the full article here.

You can find additional coverage at Thinking Anglicans.

Reuters swings and misses

An article by Michael Conlon for Reuters details the GAFCON backed plan to create an alternative or parallel Anglican province in the United States. The article has a number of quotes by Bishop Minns of Nigeria and claims that the Communion is likely to recognize his efforts to create this new structure. Unfortunately there seems to be a lack of actual balanced reporting in the article.

The article begins in a straightforward enough manner:

"Conservatives who have abandoned the U.S. Episcopal Church by the thousands in recent years are trying to form a separate-but-equal church, a move that could leave two branches of Anglicanism on American soil.

'I have tried to see if we can create a safe haven (for traditional views) within the Episcopal Church, but failed,' said Bishop Martyn Minns, a leader of the conservatives.

He is helping write a constitution for a new church, to be unveiled December 3, in an effort to be recognized as a new entity within the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Then it reports the following statement from the Bishop

Minns, a former Episcopalian elevated to bishop by the Church of Nigeria and leader of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, said the new province could count on 100,000 people as its average weekly attendance. The Episcopal Church says its average weekly attendance is about 727,000.

The problem is that contradicts other estimates which describe the 100,000 number as membership, not weekly attendance. Which, if is true, should then be compared the total membership of the Episcopal Church of 2.1 million. Christopher Seitz of the Anglican Communion Institute also questions the number.

The article continues:

Becoming a province would require approval from two-thirds of the primates and recognition from the Anglican Consultative Council, another church body.

'More than half of the Anglican world will support us,' Minns said in an interview, referring to the primates. 'My guess is that we have provincial recognition from at least a majority.'

People can quibble with this number. Some sources have suggested that at most a third of the primates will support the initiative, but either way, Bishop Minns indicates that the support is less than the needed 2/3rds.

The article then continues:


The primates meet in February and, if they approve a new province, the matter would go to the Consultative Council when it meets in Jamaica in May of 2009, according to church publications."

Which seems to give credence to the idea that this initiative will be widely recognized. A close reading of the text of the article would seem however lead one to think that this section heading's statement is misleading at best.

Nowhere through out the article does one find any attempt to put Bishop Minn's statements into context or give voice to the many who dispute his claims.

Like I said, the article swings, but misses.

Read the full article here.

h/t to Kendall Harmon

What do you all think?

The Advent Conspiracy

A new site is out to change the way we understand the Christmas holiday by recasting it so that it is viewed through the lens of the Season of Advent.

From the front page of the site:

"The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.

So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists.

And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?

Welcome to Advent Conspiracy."

You can find the site here.

Advent, being the season in which we look for the in-breaking of the fullness of the Kingdom of God often gets ignored as we rush to the Celebration of Christmas. This site's particularly provocative in that is uses the preparation for Christmas as a call to make the present world begin to more fully anticipate the reign of Christ the King.

Interfaith Reflections on Auschwitz - Birkenau

Earlier this month the Archbishop of Canterbury traveled with the Chief Rabbi to two of most notorious concentration camps of World War II. Both the Archbishop and the Chief Rabbi's reflections on that trip have been published on the Archbishop's website. Both call for a renewed recognition of the fundamental humanity of those with whom we disagree.

From the Archbishops speech:

"In a world where it's possible for people to take monstrosity for granted as normal, as ordinary; you and I have to decide to be human - to decide that we're not going to take inhumanity for granted.  To decide to look at one another in a radically different way, to look at one another with gratitude, with a sense of mystery, with a sense of humility."

And from the Chief Rabbi:

Please friends I hope you will take away from today what I take away – an extraordinary signal of hope. This is the first time in Britain certainly that we have come together not one faith, but the leaders of all nine faiths in Britain; Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Zoroastrian and Bahá'í. Because the tragedy of Auschwitz transcends this people or that. It simply touches on what is human in all of us. Therefore may the fact that we have come together in this moment of grief remembered lead us to come together in the future for the sake of hope, friendship, tolerance and life. And may each of us ask just one question from today: "How, having seen what I have seen can I become in my life, an agent of hope".

Read them both in full here.

Presiding Bishop visits Haiti

Many people are surprised to learn that the Diocese of Haiti is the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church with nearly 100,000 members. The Presiding Bishop visited Haiti back in ???. You can see pictures of the visit here and video here.

There images of the Presiding Bishop and Bishop Jelinek (of Minnesota - a companion diocese of Haiti), of the Presiding Bishop and the Bishop of Haiti and of her meeting with the President of Haiti in particular.

Winning the president

Never before, say historians, has there been this much attention on what church the president-elect will attend. As a follow-up to Time's asking the "which church" question, today the Washington Post also examines the phenomenon of churches trying to "maneuver themselves to attract the nation's first African American president and his family to their house of worship":

They are waging a "quiet but intense campaign . . . to put their best foot forward," said Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations. ad_icon

Some churches started their campaign even before Obama won the election. Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ sent a letter to the Obama campaign several months ago inviting the family to worship with them.

"We thought we'd better get something out there," said the Rev. Rich Smith, senior minister of Westmoreland. "It seemed like it would be worth a shot anyway."

The excitement astonishes presidential historians.

"I can't recall another situation where there is this kind of interest before the president even takes office in terms of where he is going to go to church, and churches campaigning for his attendance," said Gary Scott Smith, author of "Faith and the Presidency" and a history professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. "This is unique in American political history."

Sally Quinn recommends the National Cathedral. As we've written before, the Episcopal Church welcomes you.

With such competition, perhaps the Obama transition office should create a form for pastors to make their appeal on their site. That is, after all, how they're handling the demand for people who want to work for the new administration.

Bishop Iker inhibited

Bishop Jack Iker, who presided over the vote in the Diocese of Fort Worth to leave the Episcopal Church, has been inhibited in the exercise of the ministry in the Episcopal Church by the Presiding Bishop.

Katie Sherrod, writing at Desert's Child has the details here.

You can read the full letter from the Presiding Bishop (pdf) here.

Monday Addendum. ENS report now available, and Iker and his followers respond.

"Online religion" becoming more common

Facebook and other online platforms are becoming more prevalent in American religious culture. Religion and Ethics Newsweekly (complete with a shiny new web design) looks at the phenomenon with a particular focus on a Boston pastor's challenge to his congregation to live by the rules of Leviticus for a month and then blog about it at their Facebook group and then looks at the pluses and minuses of online religion.

SEVERSON: Critics of online religion say it might work for an individual, but it doesn’t foster family togetherness.


SEVERSON: Charles Henderson, who is now the editor of CrossCurrents Quarterly, says the Internet should not replace the real thing.

Mr. HENDERSON: I think that the experience online has to be considered as a supplement to real friendships and real community life in local congregations. It’s not a replacement for that kind of real community, although some people do use it as a substitute for religious community. I don’t think that is the ideal.

SEVERSON: But for Cathleen Falsani and others like her, the old-time church is being replaced, for now, by religion on the Internet.

Ms. FALSANI: You know, I was finding that I was getting more hurt by congregational life than I was being fed and that I could find that elsewhere and still be safe spiritually. And so this is a beautiful thing for someone like me to have, and I’m not the only one who’s experienced that in the group.

SEVERSON: Although most churchgoers still prefer religion the old-fashioned way, an increasing number, especially those under 30, are exploring religion online. A study in 2001 by the Pew Research Center found that one-in-four adults use the Internet for religious and spiritual purposes. That was seven years ago. Today, the number is probably considerably higher.

The whole transcript, and video, is here.

The Anglican Cathedral in Second Life has an uncredited cameo at 1:58 in the piece, by the way. And the Episcopal Cafe group on Facebook, now 925 members strong, is here.

It's not easy being green

General Theological Seminary in New York has successfully installed seven geothermal wells, with 15 more slated for installation. These wells will replace the fuel oil heating system and reduce the seminary's carbon footprint significantly, as we noted last year. But the red tape surrounding the green project has been a nightmare. Despite public support and a supportive city administration, New York's administrative bureaucracy has exhibited the peculiar lethargy that plagues many public organizations and has thrown up countless stumbling blocks to the project.

Among the 10 different city agencies involved were the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Seminary executive vice president Maureen Burnley, struggling to flatten the bureaucratic stovepipes, notes that without steady prodding from the seminary and a policy advisor in Mayor Bloomberg's office, nothing would have happened. From the New York Times:

The aspirations of the mayor and his planners on paper, however, cannot come to life without the consent of the city’s bureaucracy. “Those folks in the agencies don’t seem to feel that they answer to the executive branch,” Ms. Burnley said.

At one point, the seminary waited three months for the city Department of Transportation’s permission to drill into the sidewalk, Ms. Burnley said. “The conversation went like this: ‘What is the status?’ ‘It has no status.’ ‘Do you need more information?’ ‘No, we have what we need.’ ‘Then how can we get it moving?’ ‘You can’t get it moving.’

“We were in absolute purgatory,” she said. “What was going on was an internal debate between the engineers and what are the real world requirements, and the lawyers with the legal requirements.”

If geothermal is to become a practical application, Ms. Burnley added, “someone has to lock all these engineers in one room, lock those lawyers in another room, and try to make this affordable and doable.”

The delays have contributed to the project going significantly over its original planned cost and consumed four years. More from here.

Multiverse: alternative to a creator?

In recent decades it has become increasingly clear that our universe seems "fine-tuned" for intelligent life. One explanation, of course, is that there is a creator who created a universe where such life could thrive. Discover magazine explores another alternative: that we live in only one of an infinite array of universes:

Consider just two possible changes. Atoms consist of protons, neutrons, and electrons. If those protons were just 0.2 percent more massive than they actually are, they would be unstable and would decay into simpler particles. Atoms wouldn’t exist; neither would we. If gravity were slightly more powerful, the consequences would be nearly as grave. A beefed-up gravitational force would compress stars more tightly, making them smaller, hotter, and denser. Rather than surviving for billions of years, stars would burn through their fuel in a few million years, sputtering out long before life had a chance to evolve. There are many such examples of the universe’s life-friendly properties—so many, in fact, that physicists can’t dismiss them all as mere accidents.

“We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible,” Linde says.

Physicists don’t like coincidences. They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea. Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.

Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multi­verse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.

The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable non­religious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life.

The entire article is fascinating. Read it all here.

Herod's Lost Tomb

Last April, biblical scholars were excited by the discovery of Herod's tomb. Tonight the National Geographic channel presents Herod's Lost Tomb about the discovery. Information about the program, include a video, photos and a game can be found here. The December issue of National Geographic includes an article about Herod's importance to Israel:

Eight miles south of Jerusalem, where the last stunted olive trees and stony cornfields fade into the naked badlands of the Judaean desert, a hill rises abruptly, a steep cone sliced off at the top like a small volcano. This is Herodium, one of the grand architectural creations of Herod the Great, King of Judaea, who raised a low knoll into a towering memorial of snowy stonework and surrounded it with pleasure palaces, splashing pools, and terraced gardens. An astute and generous ruler, a brilliant general, and one of the most imaginative and energetic builders of the ancient world, Herod guided his kingdom to new prosperity and power. Yet today he is best known as the sly and murderous monarch of Matthew's Gospel, who slaughtered every male infant in Bethlehem in an unsuccessful attempt to kill the newborn Jesus, the prophesied King of the Jews. During the Middle Ages he became an image of the Antichrist: Illuminated manuscripts and Gothic gargoyles show him tearing his beard in mad fury and brandishing his sword at the luckless infants, with Satan whispering in his ear. Herod is almost certainly innocent of this crime, of which there is no report apart from Matthew's account. But children he certainly slew, including three of his own sons, along with his wife, his mother-in-law, and numerous other members of his court. Throughout his life, he blended creativity and cruelty, harmony and chaos, in ways that challenge the modern imagination.

. . .

The precise location of Herod's tomb remained a mystery for nearly two millennia, until April 2007, when Netzer and his colleagues at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem unearthed it on the upper slopes of Herodium. The discovery provided new insights into one of the most enigmatic minds of the ancient world—and fresh evidence of the hatred that Herod excited among his contemporaries. It also became a political incident, with Palestinians arguing that the artifacts at the site belonged to them, and Jewish settlers saying that the tomb's presence strengthened their claim to the West Bank. To Netzer, whose work at various Herodian sites has for decades been interrupted by war, invasion, and uprisings, the controversy was hardly surprising. In the Holy Land, archaeology can be as political as kingship.

Read it all here.

The Bible's Buried Secrets

Last Tuesday, the PBS program NOVA featured The Bible's Buried Secrets, which focused on what both biblical scholarship and archeology tell us about the events described in the Hebrew Bible. It is safe to say that biblical literalists will hate the program. Most prominent biblical scholars, however, had only praise for the program. It broke no new ground, but fairly described the state of the scholarship.

If you missed the program, you can view it online here. A wealth of resources on issues related to the program can be found here.

The Biblical Archeology Review review of the program can be found here.

I'm Not One Of Those 'Love Thy Neighbor' Christians

In light of the aftermath of Proposition 8, we thought you would enjoy this column from The Onion (hint to the humor-impaired: this is satire):

Everybody has this image of "crazy Christians" based on what they hear in the media, but it's just not true. Most Christians are normal, decent folks. We don't all blindly follow a bunch of outdated biblical tenets or go all fanatical about every bit of dogma. What I'm trying to say is, don't let the actions of a vocal few color your perceptions about what the majority of us are like.

. . .

I'm here to tell you there are lots of Christians who aren't anything like the preconceived notions you may have. We're not all into "turning the other cheek." We don't spend our days committing random acts of kindness for no credit. And although we believe that the moral precepts in the Book of Leviticus are the infallible word of God, it doesn't mean we're all obsessed with extremist notions like "righteousness" and "justice."

My faith in the Lord is about the pure, simple values: raising children right, saying grace at the table, strictly forbidding those who are Methodists or Presbyterians from receiving communion because their beliefs are heresies, and curing homosexuals. That's all. Just the core beliefs. You won't see me going on some frothy-mouthed tirade about being a comfort to the downtrodden.

. . .

Now, granted, there are some Christians on the lunatic fringe who take their beliefs a little too far. Take my coworker Karen, for example. She's way off the deep end when it comes to religion: going down to the homeless shelter to volunteer once a month, donating money to the poor, visiting elderly shut-ins with the Meals on Wheels program—you name it!

But believe me, we're not all that way. The people in my church, for the most part, are perfectly ordinary Americans like you and me. They believe in the simple old-fashioned traditions—Christmas, Easter, the slow and deliberate takeover of more and more county school boards to get the political power necessary to ban evolution from textbooks statewide. That sort of thing.

Read it all here. Enjoy.

ERD blog

Rob Radtke, the president of Episcopal Relief & Development, has launched the "President's Blog" to be featured on the Episcopal Relief & Development website at .

"This blog will be a place for friends of Episcopal Relief & Development to interact, debate, discuss, question and become more actively involved with our organization" said Radtke. The blog will focus on the intersection between faith and global development. "I hope readers will find the blog a useful place to exchange views and have lively debate" said Radtke

Trust is essential for mission

Bishop Pierre Whalon writes in response to the notion that an Episcopal diocese is free to disassociate from the Episcopal Church at will and reminds us about the process for disciplining bishops who attempt to take their dioceses out of this church.

The Constitution makes clear that dioceses are created by General Convention (Article V). It also provides that dioceses can be merged and therefore dissolved by action of GC, but in all cases a diocese does not have by itself the power to vote to secede or merge with another diocese. It could petition General Convention to do so, of course. In particular, there is significant provision for transferring TEC jurisdictions to other provinces of the Communion, in "foreign lands." Through this we have been able to create about 25% of the Communion's provinces. But none of those happened merely by diocesan action.

Nor does a diocese have the power to change the doctrine of the church, though it would have the right to petition the GC to do so, by action of its convention and bishop. (Whether the General Convention can change the doctrine of the church is an issue for another day.)

Turner's argument against the interpretation of Canon IV.9, “Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop,” to depose Bishops Cox, Schofield, Duncan and soon Iker has a little more substance. (You can download the Canon Law in .pdf here.) Certainly Canon IV.9 has some confusing passages. Does it really intend to give one single bishop, on the basis of seniority alone, the power to stop a proceeding of abandonment? One can read it that way, and it would seem that the whole argument against these actions turns on that issue. But this is inconsistent with the rest of the canon. What is the Review Committee for, in that case? Or the House of Bishops, for that matter? Why not just submit the matter to the triumvirate of the seniors...?

n the final analysis, our polity exists to support a dynamic missionary expansion as its first priority, and it does this admirably. After all, TEC, despite our small size, has launched about one-quarter of the provinces of the Communion. As such, it is less well suited to resolving significant conflicts about doctrine and discipline, because sufficient agreement on these is presupposed in the structures themselves. How can you undertake to evangelize the world if you do not have enough basic trust in each other's grasp of the Gospel and catholic order—the synthesis that is the genius of Anglican ecclesiology?

Read it all here.

Seeing what we say

For people who believe that they are created in the image of God and follow the Logos, we can be very naive about our communications. Lynne Baab says that for our communications--both among ourselves and to those outside our churches--to be effective, we have to look at the whole picture and then, from time to time, evaluate what that picture is really saying.

Conveying a congregation's identity and values clearly and through a variety of means of communication will help the congregation connect to the community around it. At the same time, clear expressions of values and identity will also have a deep impact on the congregation itself. The people involved in a congregation are shaped by what they hear about that congregation. Their expectations for the life of faith and for their involvement in the community are influenced by the ways in which the congregation talks about itself and its values.

For decades congregational leaders have been making decisions—both consciously and unconsciously—about identity and values and how they are communicated. The nine myths below lay out some of the underlying issues that may influence these choices and their effectiveness.

Myth 1: We've got a mission statement, so we've figured out who we are.
Leaders and members are tempted to believe that once a mission statement is in place, the congregation can get on with doing ministry. A mission statement, however, is simply one small way among many that a congregation can communicate its heart and soul. In fact, everything about a congregation communicates. Its bulletin, newsletter, and website may include its mission statement, but the photos, layout, and additional text also contribute to the reader's perception of who the congregation is. The actions of a congregation—its worship style, preaching, ministries, and mission activities—speak of its DNA, its story.

Myth 2: Our identity is rooted in our faith.
Leaders and members are tempted to believe they don't need to spend time considering the specific identity of their congregation because they assume their faith values provide the DNA for their congregation.

Myth 3: If we focus too much on figuring out our own identity, we may become self-absorbed.
While focusing on it all the time would definitely cause an imbalance, many congregations are already out of balance in that they focus too little on the way their actions, publications, and use of symbols communicate their priorities and the distinctiveness of who they are. "Who are we and what are we about?" is a key question that needs to be front and center for all congregations.

Myth 4: We don't need to think any further about the implications of new communication technology because we already use it well.
Focusing on the deeper questions, the issues that lie behind the use of new technologies, is important. Congregational leaders need to consider how everything the congregation does—communication technologies as well as things like programming and the use of physical space in the building—speaks about the congregation's priorities.

Myth 5: We're a traditional congregation, and we have chosen not to use most of the new communication technologies. We've figured out our identity; it's the same as it's always been, so why complicate things?

Myth 6: We avoid the new technologies because we're leery of the consumer culture, and we don't want our congregation and even our faith to turn into yet one more consumer item.
I see congregational identity as an issue that relates to much more than selling something. Very simply, everything we say and do communicates what we consider to be important, and what congregations communicate about faith values shapes how members act on their faith. Therefore, from time to time, congregations need to stop and evaluate what they are communicating.

Myth 7: Our congregational values are being communicated effectively through words. Our pastor and leaders preach the sermons and put a lot of thought into the words used in our newsletter and on our website.
Much of Jewish and Christian tradition is strongly word oriented, emphasizing the significance of words over images. With the move away from a word-based to an image-based culture, leaders of congregations need to do some careful thinking about the role of visual communication in our time.

Myth 8: We've got a great Web designer and newsletter editor, and our newsletter and website are terrific.
I believe that all the new communication technologies have created the necessity for "critical friends," people who understand the importance of the new forms of communication for congregations and, at the same time, are willing to look at those forms with a critical eye. These critical friends pay attention to the congregation's websites, blogs, projection screens, and other forms of communication that have a large visual component to see if the visuals harmonize with the words used and whether the verbal and visual components together communicate important values about the congregation.

Myth 9: If your heart is in the right place, communication takes care of itself.
(It is true that...) Faith values cannot be communicated if no faith values are present. But Babb does not agree that the result of a vibrant faith is that all communication will automatically be okay. Just as individuals with good intentions can benefit from learning listening skills for their personal relationships and speaking skills for their oral communication, so congregations can benefit from considering the implications of the ways they communicate and what they are communicating.

Which of these nine myths best describe the situation in your congregation?

A reminder about the Communion

If the former-Anglican and semi-Anglican followers of Bishop Duncan succeed in forming their own unified North American denomination, will it become a so-called 39th Province? Fr. Tobias Haller thinks not. Here's why:

First, one would assume that to be a member of the Anglican Communion one needs to be in communion with the Church of England. That is determined, according to English Canon Law, jointly by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the two English Primates.

Second, to be listed on the schedule of Churches or Provinces that are part of the Anglican Consultative Council requires an affirmative vote of the Council and the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the already existing member Churches or Provinces.

Both of these seem unlikely. In the first case, the Archbishop of Canterbury has already indicated his not wanting to depart from the long tradition of geographical integrity that has formed a part of Anglicanism since the Reformation. (See Article 37 of the Articles of Religion.) His personal "nightmare" as he mentioned in a speech some years ago, is having St Mary's Anglican Church across the street from St Joseph's Episcopal Church -- members of two different provinces of the Communion in the same location. (Previous rare exceptions on the basis of history, as in Europe, or because of cultural or linguistic differences, as in some Church of South India parishes functioning in the US, are anomalies -- and more important, are engaged in a cordial and mutual relationship; not the antipathy and lack of communion we are seeing develop with Duncan et alia.) Archbishop Rowan has to date steadfastly refused to recognize any of the extant bishops of this constellation, though he is of course quite willing to meet with them to talk. But it seems unlikely he will back a second province for disaffected Anglicans in North America.

Secondly, it is very unlikely two-thirds of the Primates would want to see such a development, as it would open the door for similar adventures in their own Provinces.

Of course, there will be a parcel of Primates who will go ahead and recognize the New Duncanian Thing, whatever the ACC or Canterbury and York say about it. There have long been signals from the Global Southerners that they think they can do without Canterbury, and they may soon have to see what that is like.

What such a blend of partial recognition (by some Primates but not enough to change the Constitution) and nonrecognition (of and by Canterbury) will lead to remains to be seen. My prognostication is a temporary division in the Anglican Communion As We Know It, as some, but not all, of the Globally Southern and Their Friends in Other Places create some boundaries between themselves and the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Read the rest.

Goth eucharist in Nanticoke


A small church in northeast Pennsylvania is having a Goth Eucharist modeled on one that was begun by the Church of St. Edward King and Martyr in Cambridge.

St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, which is in near Scranton and in the Diocese of Bethlehem will hold the first Goth Eucharist this coming Saturday.

The of Scranton, PA, writes:

Spiky-haired youths, wearing black eyeliner, dressed in black clothing and black boots. It’s a sight rarely seen at local religious services.

A Luzerne County church is seeking to change that.

St. George’s Episcopal Church on Main Street will hold its first Goth liturgy at 9 p.m. Saturday, opening its doors to members of the “Goth” community and anyone else who is looking for “a different kind of spirituality,” Deacon Lou Divis said.

“I think experiencing a liturgy that’s a little off the wall is intriguing,” she said. “I’m expecting spikes and chains and beauty and joy.”

Deacon Divis said she hopes attendees will feel the truth and joy of God’s love, be who they are and not feel they have to appear in their “Sunday best.” Her goal is to “let people worship God in a way that’s meaningful to them, within the parameters of the liturgy.”

“It’s allowing people to come as God sees them,” she said.

Goths typically embody the dark, dramatic and mysterious mood or aesthetic, but also embrace the Elizabethan, Victorian or medieval periods, which were replete with Christian and religious imagery. White makeup, dark hair and makeup, and black clothing are stereotypical Goth attire, although Deacon Divis said many do embrace and use color. Many Goths are already Christians, and this service is a way of making them feel accepted in the mainstream church, she said.

Marcus Ramshaw wrote about being Christian and being Goth here:

A Christian Goth may initially seem to be an oxymoron. Goths, in terms of today’s sub-culture celebrate, with both an ironic and cynical attitude, an approach to life which is frequently both nihilistic and fatalistic. Christians, in contrast are associated with a joyful, faith-filled and positive approach to life, full of hope and a strong belief in redemption. The gothic view of life appears to be a stark contrast to the Christian one.

Modern day ‘goths’ tend to identify with each other through their musical tastes and dress sense, yet even then, there is less distinction made between a poseur, wannabee goth, more concerned with image and a real, committed approach to an outlook on life which is more authentically ‘gothic’. In reality, the ‘gothic imagination’ draws heavily from a variety of sources – literature, film, taste and philosophy, as well as music and fashion.

Trying to define a ‘modern day goth’ is a torturous exercise. Most goths themselves refuse to acknowledge the label. They continually debate amongst themselves what is ‘gothic’ and what is not. The two most obvious areas of group recognition – music and fashion are not, in themselves, as helpful as you might think. In music there are some obvious mainstream bands such as Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Christian death, Nightwish etc, though even with these there is some debate about their gothic credentials. However the gothic imagination didn’t simply start as a reaction to punk music in the late 1970s, it has a much older pedigree. In music what could be more gothic than the works of Wagner or even the music that originated from medieval plainsong?

In terms of fashion goths are stereotyped as the people who wear a lot of black and sometimes add white make up with black eyeliner. For goths wearing black is often the default option in their wardrobe. Many goths delight in luxurious rich colours, incorporating purple, red and dark blue. There is often a fascination with pre-raphaelite art which incorporates a vibrant array of colours. Gothic dress is more about making a statement which is invariably theatrical, rather than simply wearing black.

So what makes you a ‘goth’ in the 21st Century? I think it is principally a state of mind, an attitude towards the world, a way of viewing life and those around you. For the modern day goth this is a deep identity with the darker dimensions to our existence. They feel that they don’t fit in with conventional or ‘respectable’ society. They regard themselves as different and often misunderstood by the wider world. It would be too simplistic, however, to regard this outlook as an entirely bleak approach. There is a longing for something more from the world, though with little expectation that this will materialize. There is often a deep-rooted desire for a more inclusive and non-judgmental world.

Anglimergent had a discussion about reaching out to punks and goths in September. It included this comment by Edward Green, the 33-year-old curate at Soham and Wicken:

I am not really a MCA but I most certainly have a musical taste which falls in the realm of Gothic so I hope you don't mind me joining to throw a few thoughts in.

Firstly 'Goth' is as wide as 'Anglican' as a term when referring to music and subculture.

The roots of the movement were not so much about what you could describe as 'macho' rebellion, but far more about subversion and romanticism. Many of the first 'Goth' bands in the period between 1979 and 1983 were dubbed 'Positive Punk', because the message was not 'Destroy' but 'Subvert'. Gothic was as in literature (Byron, Shelley, etc) rather than marauding tribes. Or maybe architecture - if Classical or Romanesque architecture represented the starkness of late 20th century modernism then Gothic almost represents a return to medievalism, but with a post-modern critique and playfulness.

Sound familiar?

The music deals with religious themes, but frequently in a playful questioning way. The style of dress was frequently androgynous. Aesthetic and Content were seen as a whole in life, music and being, Bands such as The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Specimen, Killing Joke and Bauhaus, would give a general feel for the music and tone (although Goth's would argue if all of these were 'really' Goth).

It will come as no surprise that I know a lot of Christian Goths in this mold. Most of them are Catholic Anglicans or Roman Catholic. Most of them would be theologically Orthodox, but socially and ethically liberal.

However the word Goth has widened since the early 80's to become a bit of a catch all for anyone who wears black and looks a bit different.

The first level of this is the 'Goth Scene'. The scene includes people of all ages and backgrounds. Thinking of half a dozen folks who I know in the scene most are in their early thirties and are professionals earning upwards of $60k a year who dress in black at work, but at the weekends really push the boat out. Their taste in music and culture will be informed by the definition above, but will be far wider than that. There is a large group of people who listen to industrial harsh dance music who are part of the scene. So Goth here is a grown up sub-culture or club. An escape from the mundanity of life for the middle class kids who grew up successful but never felt they fitted in. I know even more Christian Goths in this area.

The second level is kids. At least in the UK kids call themselves Goths even if they listen to music like Heavy Metal (Cradle of Filth, some Death& Black Metal) or Industrial Rock (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson). Some of this music I would describe as Anti-Christ, and in some ways Anti-Goth (it certainly isn't philosophical, thoughtful, positive or romantic!). Being a musical purist I struggle with this lot. Because they make a big thing of being rebellious and 'Gothic' without having any idea what the latter means. Int he UK at least most of these kids are middle class.

UK studies have recently shown that Goths have higher than average intelligence, are more likely to go to university, and find themselves in successful creative careers.

Learn more about the Goth Eucharist here.

Central Africa year end report

The Anglican-Information newsletter reports on the dioceses of the Province of Central Africa.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION observes that this ‘end of year’ article is a little early but we have issued it now as we can see no sign of any improvement in the Central African Province or change amongst the bishops. It’s all in the hands of God but at least everyone is united in praying that the rainy season, due to start soon will be a good one otherwise the big problem will be starvation.

Some excerpts:
In Malawi - priests and people remain without their bishop in the Diocese of Lake Malawi as the Bishops refuse to follow proper constitutional and canonical procedures to resolve the long-running impasse over the farcical ‘Court of Confirmation’ after the election of the new bishop in 2005.

In the Diocese of Upper Shire the bishops are still intending to force their preferred candidate on an unwilling diocese at their pre-Christmas meeting in Lusaka, Zambia to be held on 16th December.

In both dioceses the bishops have suggested that the plaintiffs remove their Court injunctions and ‘trust them’ – which proposal has been understandably greeted with derision by priests and people who have no confidence whatsoever that trickery, fast dealing and general duplicity will not be the result.

In Zimbabwe matters are worsening again and dangerously so with an effective failure of the political power sharing agreement. The only bright spot has been a well-deserved international award presented to Bishop Sebastian Bakare caretaker Bishop of Harare in the front line against the notorious ‘Archbishop’ Nolbert Kunonga.

In Botswana the subliminal tentacles of Kunonga’s influence are increasingly troubling Bishop Trevor Mwamba who is facing a group of six dissident priests out to make political and legal trouble.

Read it all below:

Read more »

Joint Standing Committee meets at Lambeth Palace

The Anglican Communion News Service has published this news release:

Primates, bishops, lay people from the various regions of the Anglican Communion are meeting this week at the Anglican Communion Office and Lambeth Palace in London. The group meets on a regular basis between official gatherings of their larger meetings.

Elected from within their respective bodies, the JSC are focusing attention on the forthcoming meetings of the Primates, in February in Alexandria, Egypt, the ACC in Jamaica, in May and ongoing business.

Those attending the meetings are:
Mrs Phillipa Amable, Ghana (West Africa)
Mrs Jolly Babirukamu, Uganda
Mr Robert Fordham, Australia
The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe (Sir Lanka)
Prof George Koshy (India, Vice-Chair)
The Rt Revd John Paterson (Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Chair)
The Lay Canon Elizabeth Paver (England)
The Rt Revd James Tengatenga (Southern Malawi)
Ms Nomfundo Walaza (Southern Africa)

The Most Revd Phillip Aspinall (Australia)
The Most Revd Barry Morgan (Wales)
The Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori (TEC/USA)
The Most Revd Rowan D Williams Archbishop of Canterbury

The Secretary General, the Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon and the Deputy Secretary the Revd Canon Gregory Cameron and the Lambeth Palace Chief of Staff, Chris Smith are in attendance as are other staff as required.

Two members of the Primates Meeting group are absent, Uganda: The Most Revd Henry Orombi and Jerusalem and the Middle East: The Most Revd Mouneer Anis (Egypt).

We wonder if perhaps Africa needs to elect a new representative as Archbishop Orombi has been unable to attend these meetings lately leaving the Primates of Africa voiceless.

Supporting a right to food

The Anglican Journal reports on a conference linking the right to food with trade and investment:

Earthquakes, floods, rocketing food prices and bank failures are issues consuming the early part of the 21st century, and have led religious groups and civil society organizations, as well as high ranking United Nations and World Trade Organization (WTO) officials, to meet and discuss their impact in Geneva on Nov. 24 to 25.

The Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) said on Nov. 21 it was one of the organizers of the conference, which would focus on finding ways to conduct trade and investment that support the right of all people to food. The alliance is one of the increasing efforts by church or religious-backed organizations to engage with the inter-linked food, climate, trade and financial systems that are said to aid or stymie human development.

The EAA said it was an initiator of the Geneva conference, along with other civil society organizations from around the world. Olivier de Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, and Pascal Lamy, the director general of the WTO, are expected to address the conference.

The conference aims to bring together different constituencies that work on agriculture, trade and human rights in order to deepen understanding of the impact of trade and investment on the right to food. The gathering will explore the impact of climate change, agro-fuels and the recent food and financial crises.It will also seek to develop new approaches to trade and investment that emphasize human rights.

Read more here.

Southern Cone "suspension": Sabre rattling? Trial balloon?

Ruth Gledhill at The Times has a noteworthy story that captures the mood of exasperation among many leaders in the Anglican Communion toward Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Province of the Southern Cone, but perhaps overstates the consequences that are likely to ensue. She writes:

A conservative province in the Anglican church faces “punishment” this week for offering a safe haven to conservatives.

Senior bishops and laity meeting in London are to consider suspending the Anglican church in South America for taking rebel US dioceses under its wing.

Now leaving aside the use of the phrase "safe haven" which equates having to live in a Church in which one is out of sympathy with the views of the majority with being persecuted, this lead probably promises more than the story can deliver. There are very few ways a province can be "punished," even if one attempt to soften the word by putting it in quotes.

Later in the story, Ruth writes:

The penalty being considered against the Southern Cone, which has 22,000 members in Argentina and surrounding nations, includes the removal of voting rights at the forthcoming meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, the central governing body of the Anglican Communion, in Jamaica next May.

When the council last met in Nottingham in 2005, the lay and ordained members from Canada and the US were allowed to attend as observers but were barred from voting. This was because a diocese in Canada had authorised a rite for same-sex blessings and The Episcopal Church had gone ahead with the consecration of the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

This isn't quite right. The Episcopal Church voluntarily refrained from voting at the Nottingham meeting at the request of the Primates. Had the Episcopal Church not voluntarily refrained, there is nothing anyone could have done to prohibit it from exercising its franchise. The same is true in this situation. The Southern Cone would have to voluntarily "suspend" itself. This seems unlikely.

But perhaps we are missing something. Whatever the case, it is enjoyable to speculate on whether this information was leaked by someone trying to put the squeeze on Venables or trying to rally support for him. It is also instructive to look at the one important number in this story: 22,000. The Province of the Southern Cone, which consists of much of the South American continent, has 22,000 members.

Read it all here.

Archbishop of Canterbury reflects on Advent

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury is featured on a youtube video reflecting on Advent and waiting. He suggests ideas for preparing for the coming of Christmas that are beyond a calendar and daily chocolates.

The Church of England has an Advent Calendar to assist with contemplation of the season here.

Trinity Wall Street offers a calendar here.

A download of Advent08 for your iPod or MP3 player is available here.

These begin on November 30.

Evangelicals warm to Advent

USA Today:

Evangelical Christians are adopting — and adapting — the rituals of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas that are traditionally celebrated by Catholics, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox and other liturgical churches.
Popular evangelical authors are offering readings and composing prayers for the Advent season. And Family Christian Stores, the nation's largest Christian retailer with 301 stores nationwide, has seen sales of Advent-related items climb 35% in the past year.
This year the chain is featuring characters from the VeggieTales video-and-book empire, with a Merry Christmas felt wall hanging that counts down from Dec. 1 to 24th with a candy cane to mark the days.

"We're also seeing big growth in demand for Advent candle sets, set in decorative wreaths, for family home devotionals, as people want to incorporate more old traditions," says Klamer.

Giving combat drones ethical judgment

New York Times:

“My research hypothesis is that intelligent robots can behave more ethically in the battlefield than humans currently can,” said Ronald C. Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech, who is designing software for battlefield robots under contract with the Army. “That’s the case I make.”
In a report to the Army last year, Dr. Arkin described some of the potential benefits of autonomous fighting robots. For one thing, they can be designed without an instinct for self-preservation and, as a result, no tendency to lash out in fear. They can be built without anger or recklessness, Dr. Arkin wrote, and they can be made invulnerable to what he called “the psychological problem of ‘scenario fulfillment,’ ” which causes people to absorb new information more easily if it agrees with their pre-existing ideas.

His report drew on a 2006 survey by the surgeon general of the Army, which found that fewer than half of soldiers and marines serving in Iraq said that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect, and 17 percent said all civilians should be treated as insurgents.

The true meaning of Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving was November 26, 1789, and it was created by proclamation of George Washington in thanksgiving for the establishment of the new government of the United States of America. That day was to be devoted "to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be."

The Continental Congress and its president were thankful for the new nation, but beyond that they also sought forgiveness.

Washington's proclamation said the nation was to "beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions." These are the words of a general who led troops in battle. He knew the price of the peace enjoyed by the new nation.
We did not get a national day of thanksgiving as an annual event until the country was in the midst of the Civil War. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the national holiday. It was this document that inaugurated Thanksgiving, though not as we know it now. That proclamation, written by Secretary of State William Seward and signed by Lincoln, called for prayers for forgiveness as well as thanks.
Beyond the myth of the first Thanksgiving being a noble feast, we find a nation whose great leaders acknowledge both God's gifts and our own shortcomings.

The author is The Rev. Frank Logue is the vicar of King of Peace, Kingsland, Georgia. Read it all in ELO.

Remember, too, it took the Pilgrims a while to adopt an institution that harnessed their self interest and served each other.

KJS: "The subject has not come up"

ENS reports on the November 24-26 meeting of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Read the second paragraph:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was among those attending the JSC meeting, which was held behind closed doors at the Anglican Communion Office and Lambeth Palace in London. She noted that a November 26 report in The Times of London newspaper, that suggested the JSC had discussed plans to discipline the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone for its recent incursions into other provinces, was untrue. "The subject has not come up," she told Episcopal News Service.
The diversion produced The Times story distracts from what the JSC did do:
The Rev. Canon Gregory Cameron, deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion, addressed the committee on what he expects in the next version of the [Anglican] covenant. "The first two sections will be relatively unchanged," said Jefferts Schori, "but he's expecting some significant changes in the third section and an almost completely new [appendix]."

JSC members spent some time reflecting on the Lambeth Conference and reviewing its indaba process -- a Zulu work meaning "purposeful discussion" -- that formed the basis for groups of around 40 bishops that met each day during last summer's gathering.

Jefferts Schori said committee members discussed ways the ACC could use the indaba process and "the discoveries of how Lambeth worked in terms of ensuring that all voices are heard."

It's all here.

Africa looks to Obama

Chris Blattman is a Yale assistant professor of political science and economics who blogs about economic development and violent conflict. His research "examines the causes and consequences of civil war, the reintegration of ex-combatants, post-conflict economic and social programs, and the development of new forms of governance and peace building after war. Much of his work applies field experiments (and natural experiments) to conflict and post-conflict scenarios."

Blattman is currently in Liberia setting up a field experiment. His latest blog post:

The election is the ultimate icebreaker in the remotest of villages, buying us easy entry into conversation with big men and bystanders alike.

We passed a taxi on the road with a hand-painted windshield: “Obama will change the world.”

And the 400 ex-combatants at the reintegration center we work with? They stayed up the whole night watching the election on DSTV and sport Obama hats and t-shirts.

My favorite experience so far: the nation’s leading imam gripping my hand, looking me in the eye: “Thank you for electing Barack Obama.”

(An irony: Blattman is Canadian.)

Digital Satellite TV. Africans are not out of touch with events in the world as this post illustrates. Clearly hoping "Obama will change the world" is outsized, but when the nation's leading imam gives thanks there's something telling about that.

Blattman has filed several other posts during this trip to Liberia including one asking How would you reduce aid dependence?

I'm spending a lot of time in isolated villages, pre-testing our survey instrument. If you ask a villager who bears the most responsibility for building public latrines and wells, eight times out of ten you'll hear, "the NGOs". After five years of intense humanitarian aid, have people forgotten how to provide their own public goods?
He's also written one asking, Never write about Africa? Blattman can do so authoritatively. But it's a good question for most of us.

Colorado Springs church target of police search

You may recall Grace and St. Stephen's Church which moved to CANA under the cloud of charges of financial mismanagement by its rector, Don Armstrong.

Colorado Springs police chose the eve of Thanksgiving to search the church. The Denver Gazette reports:

Colorado Springs police detectives raided Grace Church and St. Stephen's Wednesday morning to seize paper financial records and computers as part of a theft investigation launched more than a year ago.

More than 20 officers cordoned off the block-long church complex at 601 N. Tejon St., evicting its controversial pastor, the Rev. Donald Armstrong, who wandered the sidewalk in clerical garb, a copy of the warrant clutched in his right hand.
Members who left Armstrong's flock in the split stood near the police tape to watch the raid.

"This is a day I've been awaiting for a long time," said former Armstrong follower Stormy Burns as police hauled bags of evidence from the parish offices. "This is my church. It's very emotional, but I'm glad there has been action the part of police."

KRDO adds, "a criminal investigation has been underway and Wednesday's warrant is likely part of that investigation."

Rocky Mountain News reports police also took material from Armstrong's home.

Earlier stories on The Lead: Out of Grace: Shredders... | Why, yes, CANA will take you | More from the archives

Handwashing eases evil-doing

The Economist:

A study just published in Psychological Science by Simone Schnall of the University of Plymouth and her colleagues shows that washing with soap and water makes people view unethical activities as more acceptable and reasonable than they would if they had not washed themselves.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Pontius Pilate is portrayed in the Bible as washing his hands of the decision to crucify Jesus.
Dr Schnall’s study was inspired by some previous work of her own. She had found that when feelings of disgust are instilled in them beforehand, people make decisions which are more ethical than would otherwise be expected. She speculates that the reason for this is that feeling morally unclean (ie, disgusted) leads to feelings of moral wrongness and thus triggers increased ethical behaviour by instilling a desire to right the wrong. However, as the cleanliness and purification rituals found in many religions suggest, physical cleanliness, too, is linked to moral behaviour, so she decided to investigate this as well.

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day

October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Some thoughts on Thanksgiving

Lelanda Lee writes:

A natural consequence of regularly saying "Thanks be to God" is that one begins to notice all the people in everyday encounters who are to be thanked for what they do. Saying "Thank you" to the checkout clerk at the store becomes specific, thanking her for the care she has taken to wrap my breakable items carefully. I find myself adding, "I hope you're having a good day, too," in response to her parting "Have a good day."

Street Prophets offers a meditation on the first Thanksgiving.

Bishop George Packard also has thoughts on Thanksgiving. And Father Tim at Clergy Family Confidential has an amusing sketch on another aspect of the season.

However, the Faith in Public Life bloggers remind us that:

Just days before most of us sit down to eye-popping amounts of turkey, stuffing and pie, we read that nearly 1 in 8 Americans "struggled to feed themselves adequately last year."

Getting to know you

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Returner's euphoria

The Friday after is known in retailing a Black Friday, the day that symbolizes the effect that Christmas shopping has on retailers' profits. The current economic downturn makes it less likely that a retailer will end the year in the black, but it has magnified a trend amongst shoppers; circle shopping, buying and returning merchandise. It's no longer known as "buyer's remorse," because in the brain chemistry of these shoppers euphoria comes with the purchase and the return.

The Boston Globe reports:

Gabrielle Mancuso, a nursing student and certified nursing assistant, adores shopping. American Eagle, TJ Maxx, H&M, those are her haunts. But with bad economic news bombarding her daily, there's something that brings the stylish Mancuso more pleasure than buying jeans and tops: returning those jeans and tops -- unworn.

"I get cash back," Mancuso, 19, of Franklin, explained as she browsed at the Prudential Center recently. "It's instant gratification."
"There's a weird euphoria when you return something," said Michelle Foss, 33, as she shopped. "You're relieved that it's coming off your credit card."

Unlike "wardrobers" - crooked shoppers who buy with the intention of using their purchases before returning them - returnistas are guilty of nothing more than a bad case of buyer's remorse. Some have lost jobs and know they shouldn't be shopping at all, others haven't seen a decrease in income, but worry they should be saving for an uncertain future. Some feel guilty about spending when others can't.

Most of us know the thrill of the buy, and perhaps both empathize and at the same time see the spiritual poverty in this behavior. There is sin here, and it includes the costs the behavior imposes on retailers and other buyers. At the same time, retailers know the thrill of the purchase, and have long used it in marketing.

Where is the church?

Breaking: Stock clerk dies in stampede at a Long Island Wal-Mart this morning.

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Diocese ignores bigger issues in Quincy

In the midst of economic disaster in Illinois, Tom Ehrich reflects in the Indianapolis Star, "With Detroit imploding and farmers struggling, people are watching Caterpillar Corp., the area's major employer, not a fringe church's opinions on sexuality."... "I doubt that much sleep was lost, in heaven or on earth, when the tiny Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, Ill., recently voted to secede from the national Episcopal Church for being too liberal"

With 1,800 members scattered over a large area bordering the Mississippi River, the diocese has long been a recalcitrant outpost of the fading Anglo-Catholic wing of the Episcopal Church. Its stern refusals -- no to women as priests, no to gays, no to theological diversity -- have played poorly in Peoria.
If a church wanted to walk the walk of Jesus as savior, it wouldn't be debating sexuality. It would be helping people deal with economic deprivation and correct the values that led to this. It would promote community and sacrifice.

A church that truly accepted the authority of Scripture would know that God "hates and despises your festivals" and condemns those who live "at ease" and exploit others. It would know that the more ancient Israel became effete and self-focused, the more God welcomed invading Assyrians and Chaldeans.

A truly evangelical church would embrace all of Scripture and not just cherry-pick the few verses that confirm a cultural stance on homosexuality. It would risk seeing why Jesus was rejected by the religious establishment and stop seeking to be the religious establishment.

A church truly concerned about "historic Christian teaching" would look at Christian history -- the gap between Jesus' circles of inclusion and the early church's hierarchy and exclusion; the gap between Jesus' call for peace and church-sponsored wars; the gap between Jesus' humility and prelates' pride -- and conclude that, yes, perhaps it's time to take a fresh look at what they claim and what they are.

Tom Ehrich, an Episcopal priest, can be contacted here.

Bait and switch in New York?

The NY Times is wondering if New York Democrats pulled a bait and switch on gay rights supporters.

After a pledge from New York Democratic leaders that their party would legalize same-sex marriage if they won control of the State Senate this year, money from gay rights supporters poured in from across the country, helping cinch a Democratic victory.

But now, party leaders have sent strong signals that they may not take up the issue during the 2009 legislative session. Some of them suggest it may be wise to wait until 2011 before considering it, in hopes that Democrats can pick up more Senate seats and Gov. David A. Paterson, a strong backer of gay rights, would then be safely into a second term.

The question of how aggressively to proceed has touched off an intense debate among legislators and gay rights supporters about how ready the broader electorate is to embrace same-sex marriage, both in New York and across the country.

Gary Paul Gilbert, marriage equality activist in Jackson Heights, Queens, thinks the NYTimes is wrong on this and offers his analysis of the situation. He writes his response in an email:
As things stand now, we have to wait till January to find out if Malcolm Smith will be the State Senate Majority leader. If that happens, then the marriage equality bill will be openly gay State Senator Tom Duane's baby. Smith won't want to bring this to a vote until he knows he will win.

It will also depend on how strongly Duane will work for this. Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell devoted himself exclusively to passing the mariage equality bill in the Assembly in 2006. Dick Gottfried had been in charge of it before 2006 but he had many bills to work on and couldn't give it his all. Even in this NYT article, Tom Duane is quoted that he is not a patient sort. Senators who owe Duane for his support on other issues will eventually have to reciprocate.

I see no reason to fear rightwing moneybags coming to New York State because we don't have a referendum system like they do in California. In New York State, the legislators make the law and our assembly has already voted for marriage equality, and Governor Paterson supports marriage equality as well.

New York State has defacto gay marriage because since Martinez versus Monroe County, marriages of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions have been recognized. The decision was unanimous, which made it difficult to appeal anyway. Martinez was decided in February 2008. Read the decision here.

Last Friday Monroe County said it would not appeal the decision, so same-sex couples who married elsewhere are definitely married in New York State and entitled to all 1324 protections which come with marriage in this state. The insurance commissioner said insurance companies in New York State must offer insurance to spouses of same-sex couples.

In any case, LGBTs and liberals in New York State will have to do a lot of work in New York State to demand equality in the Senate.

Something working in our favor is that Connecticut, which is not that far from NYC, is marrying couples, so there will be plenty of same-sex couples who will go there to get married and then claim benefits under NY State law. Eventually, New York State will be forced to compete with Connecticut for the marriage business. And New Jersey is on the verge of getting marriage equality too, which would put more pressure on New York because a couple could cross the river from NYC in fifteen minutes, get married, and come back to NYC legally married in New York State.

New York City Comptroller William Thompson issued a report in 2005, "Love Counts," which estimates that New York City alone would make about 149 million dollars the first three years of allowing same-sex couples to marry. New York City would make 140 million and the total for the state would be 247 million. Read the report here.

Gay City News', Andy Humm, writes:
Duane said he wasn't "overly concerned" about the three Democratic senators -Pedro Espada of the Bronx and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn, in addition to Diaz - who have not yet pledged to vote for Democrat Malcolm Smith of Queens as their new majority leader. That vote is January 9. Duane said Smith is "100 percent committed to same-sex civil marriage and 100 percent committed to bringing it to the floor."

Duane and Van Capelle emphasized the need for Republican votes for marriage equality, though Log Cabin's Jeff Cook said later, "We believe we will have Republican support, but we're not talking names yet."

The Pride Agenda keeps a running tally of the positions of senators on these and two other issues - transgender rights and a school anti-bullying bill - on its website.

Van Capelle said that while 55 percent of New Yorkers polled support opening marriage to gay couples, the more important figure to politicians is the finding that the issue was only important to 9-12 percent of voters making a decision in the booth. Many elected officials could be convinced that there is less downside to a pro-marriage vote than they might suspect.

ed. note - We have had some trouble with the comments over the long weekend - fix coming on Monday.

UPDATE: More below

Read more »

Grandma and grandpa online

The NY Times reports on the growing connections between grandparents and grandchildren even though separated geographically.

Her grandfather wanted to play tea party, but Alexandra Geosits, 2½, insisted she had only apple juice. She held out a plastic cup, giggling as she waited to see if he would accept the substitute.

That they were a thousand miles apart, their weekly visit unfolding over computer screens in their respective homes, did not faze either one. Like many other grandchildren and grandparents who live far apart, Alex and Joe Geosits, 69, have become fluent in the ways of the Web cam.

“Delicious,” Mr. Geosits exclaimed from Florida, pretending to take a sip from the cup, which remained clasped here in Alex’s small hand.

Video calling, long anticipated by science fiction, is filtering into everyday use. And two demographic groups not particularly known for being high-tech are among the earliest adopters.

In a way that even e-mailed photos never could, the Web cam promises to transcend both distance and the inability of toddlers to hold up their end of a phone conversation.

Some grandparent enthusiasts say this latest form of virtual communication makes the actual separation harder. Others are so sustained by Web cam visits with services like Skype and iChat that they visit less in person. And no one quite knows what it means to a generation of 2-year-olds to have slightly pixelated versions of their grandparents as regular fixtures in their lives.
We would be strangers to them if we didn’t have the Web cam,” said Susan Pierce, 61, of Shreveport, La., who will be a virtual attendee at Thanksgiving dinner with her grandchildren in Jersey City this year.

Over the last year, Ms. Pierce and her husband watched Dylan, 17 months, learn to walk and talk over the Web cam, and witnessed his 4-year-old sister Kelsie’s drawings of people evolve from indeterminate blobs to figures with arms and fingers and toes.

But the powerful illusion of physical proximity also sharpens their ache for the real thing. “You just wish you could reach out and cuddle them,” said Ms. Pierce, a nursing professor. “Seeing them makes you miss them more.”

Nearly half of American grandparents live more than 200 miles from at least one of their grandchildren, according to AARP. Prof. Merril Silverstein, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, has found that about two-thirds of grandchildren see one set of grandparents only a few times a year, if that.

But many grandparents find that the Web cam eases the transition during in-person visits, when grandchildren may refuse to sit on their laps or may reject their hugs because they do not recognize them. As one Web cam evangelist wrote on her blog, “You’ll be able to pick up where you left off without those warming up to you, awkward moments.”

Did you "talk" online to your relatives over Thanksgiving?

What are the ramifications for churches? Live webcams for baptisms? Streaming video for funerals? Will it bring us closer to one another? Or give an excuse for keeping a distance?

New religious violence in Nigeria

The BBC is reporting new religious violence in Nigeria, following a hotly contested election:

Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in central Nigeria after Christians and Muslims clashed over the result of a local election.

A Muslim charity in the town of Jos says it collected more than 300 bodies, and fatalities are also expected from other ethnic groups, mainly Christians.

. . .

The Nigerian Red Cross says at least 10,000 people have fled their homes.

The mostly Christian-backed governing party, the People's Democratic Party, was declared to have won the state elections in Plateau, of which Jos is the capital city.

The result was contested by the opposition All Nigeria People's Party, which has support from Muslims.

Violence started on Thursday night as groups of angry youths burnt tyres on the roads over reports of election rigging.

It expanded along ethnic and religious fault lines, with mobs burning homes, churches and mosques on Friday and Saturday.

Bodies from the Muslim Hausa community were brought into the central mosque compound from the streets where they had been killed.

The local imam says their number is "in the hundreds".

Any Christian casualties would have been taken to the hospital morgues, but no clear figure has emerged for the number of their fatalities.

. . .

In 2001, more than 1,000 people died in religious clashes in the city, situated in Nigeria's fertile "middle belt" that separates the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south.

And in 2004, a state of emergency was declared in Plateau State after more than 200 Muslims were killed in the town of Yelwa in attacks by Christian militia.

Correspondents say communal violence in Nigeria is complex, but it often boils down to competition for resources such as land between those that see themselves as indigenous versus the more recent settlers.

In Plateau, Christians are regarded as being indigenous and Hausa-speaking Muslims the settlers.

The unrest is the most serious of its kind in Africa's most populous nation, roughly equally split between Christians and Muslims, since President Umaru Yar'Adua took power in May 2007.

Read it all here.

Earlier The Lead stories about Yelwa: Archbishop Akinola owes the world some answers | Andrew Brown on Akinola and The Atlantic

Presiding Bishop on Idaho Public Television

The Presiding Bishop participated in an extensive interview on Idaho public radio. Here is a description of the program:

Organized just before the American Revolution, the Episcopal Church in the United States claims more than two million members. But the Episcopal Church today faces a serious rift, one that causes dissent within and could dissolve its historical alliance with Anglican communities elsewhere in the world. Host Joan Cartan-Hansen speaks with Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori about this division and the role of the Episcopal Church in the world.

You can watch or listen to the program here.

Belief in God and children

The blog pages of the Guardian provide the forum for a debate on whether research shows that children have a propensity to believe in a supreme being. AC Grayling, in a rather angry post, argues that this is nonsense propounded by Christian believers funded by the Templeton Foundation:

Earlier this week I had occasion to debate – if the soundbite culture of radio news permits that description – with a member of Oxford University's Centre for Anthropology and Mind the "findings" of its cognition, religion and theology project, to the effect that children are hardwired to believe in a "supreme being". The research is funded by the Templeton Foundation, an organisation keen to find, or to insert, religion into science and to promote belief in their compatibility – which, note, comes down to spending money on "showing" in the end that the beliefs of ancient goatherds are as good as modern physics.

. . .

"Religious belief" and early childhood interpretations of how the world work are so far removed from one another that only a preconceived desire to interpret the latter in terms of "intelligent design" and "a supreme being" – the very terms are a giveaway – is obviously tendentious, and this is what is going on here. It would merely be poor stuff if that was all there is to it; but there is more. The Templeton Foundation is rich; it offers a very large money prize to any scientist or philosopher who will say things friendly to religion, and it supports "research" as described above into anything that will add credibility and respectability to religion. Its website portrays its aims as serious and objective, but in truth it is just another example of how well-funded and well-organised some religious lobbies are – a common phenomenon in the United States in particular, and now infecting the body politic here.

But the Templeton Foundation would do better to be frank about its propagandistic intentions, for while it tries to dress itself in the lineaments of objectivity it will always face the accusation of tainting the pool, as with the work of this Oxford University institute.

Read it all here.

The subject of this attack, Justin Barrett, had this response:

Last week at Cambridge University's Faraday Institute, I summarised some scientific research that leads me and many of my colleagues to argue that from childhood humans have a number of predispositions that incline them to believe in gods generally and perhaps a super-knowing, creator god in particular. Unlike Andrew Brown, AC Grayling has opted to ignore the science and focus on the alleged motivations of the scientist (me) and one of his sources of funding (the John Templeton Foundation). As a philosopher, Grayling should know that attacking an argument not on its merits but by discrediting the arguer commits the ad hominem fallacy which is generally the strategy of school kids and desperate, uninformed people.

. . .

Because Grayling assumes that the only people arguing for the strong natural disposition to believe in gods are religious (most are not as far as I can tell), he cavalierly disregards the mounting body of scientific evidence in favour of an alternative account that he backs with no evidence at all. Grayling favours what I call the "evolved gullibility hypothesis": for good evolutionary reasons they [children] are extremely credulous. I do not disagree that children have a tendency to trust their parents and other adults – surely this is how children learn about the particular god of their cultural environment – but children are not equally likely to believe anything that parents teach them.

Good luck teaching a five-year-old that people don't really have conscious minds or that it is okay to murder the neighbours in their sleep. The preponderance of scientific evidence (peer-reviewed and published) shows that some ideas find children's minds infertile ground, whereas others readily grow and flourish.

Grayling may disagree with me regarding just which ideas are most at home in children, but surely it is the scientific evidence that we should determine who is right instead of trying to psychoanalyse each other's motivations.

Read it all here. The irony of this attack by an atheist--as Barrett points out--is that many of the scientists doing this research have been attacked by Christians for trying to come up with a biological explanation for faith.

St. John the Divine restored

After nearly seven years of restoration after a December 18, 2001 fire, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine today is returned to its full glory:

The rededication signifies the return of the whole cathedral — all 601 feet of it — to useful life.

Since a fire on Dec. 18, 2001, one part of the cathedral after another has been closed for cleaning, refurbishing and restoration. Now, from the bronze doors on the west front to the stained-glass windows in the easternmost chapel, the cathedral seems to have shed not only the mantle of destructive smoke, soot and water stains (for the most part), but also the general dulling brought on by more than a century of hard use.

. . .

It does not seem unreasonable to think that the cathedral has not looked this good since it was first dedicated, on Nov. 30, 1941, after the nave was completed. As 10,000 people watched, immense gray curtains parted at the east end of the nave, permitting a view all the way to the apse.

“The entire length of this building, America’s greatest cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, now stands open for the worship of God and for the blessing and inspiration of men,” Bishop William T. Manning declared in his sermon that day. He added that he hoped the towers, the crossing and the north transept might be finished while he was still bishop.

Read it all here. Other coverage here and here.

Online Advent calendar returns

The Diocese of Washington's fifth annual online Advent Calendar supports the Bokamoso Youth Program of Winterveld, South Africa. Each day from December 1 through Christmas, visitors can open one of the calendar’s windows to find links to a daily meditation, the daily office and a videotaped interview with one of the scores of young people who have benefited from Bokamoso’s work.

Founded in 1999 to help at-risk youth, the Bokamoso program provides essential training in life skills, scholarships for college-level education and the emotional support for the young people of Winterveld. Through the performing arts, program participants spread their message in their own community and in the United States, spending a month each in residence at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Md.

The youth program is part of the Bokamoso Life Center, a community center, and is run by South Africans, but relies on U.S. support. By U.S. standards, the cost of changing a life in South Africa is astonishingly low. With grants of only $1,500 per year, graduates have received the college education they need to go work in the health professions, retail management and technical fields-careers that would have been unimaginable without Bokamoso's support and guidance.

The connection between St. Andrew’s and Bokamoso was forged by Roy Barber, a music and drama teacher who has visited South Africa more than 20 times since the mid-1990s, and who writes much of the music that the group performs. This summer, the diocese’s gave Barber a small video camera to record interviews with the youth in his program. These interviews are featured in the calendar.

Please make a donation to support Bokamoso.

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