The limits of science

Scientific American has a fascinating article about a mathematical proof that no intellect within our universe could ever fully understand our universe. If true, of course, this would have interesting theological and philosophical implications:

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A survey on technology and the church

The Barna Group, best known for its surveys on faith attitudes, has a new survey that focuses on the use of technology by different generations, and the implications for churches:

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A trip to the least religious nations on earth

Peter Steinfels' religion column in the New York Times yesterday features a sociologist who studied the religious attitudes of Sweden and Denmark--the least religious nations on the planet:

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Kim Fabricius: Ten propositions on Dawwin and the diety

Kim Fabricius's "Ten Propositions" on issues of theology are always worth a read, and his most recent list of Darwin and religion is well worth a read in full. Here are some highlights:

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TEC kicked off of ABS web-site?

Updated (see below the fold).

It appears that the American Bible Society might have inserted itself into the Anglican family squabble by dropping the Episcopal Church from its list of denominations able to use their web-site building service called ForMinistry.

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The pastoral visitors, a primarily English boys club

If one were trying to make members of the Episcopal Church suspicious of the new "pastoral visitors" who have "named by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to assist in healing and reconciliation given the current tensions in the Anglican Communion," here is what one would do:

  • Have the visitors consist primarily of members of the Church of England.
  • Make sure that none were women.
  • Have them meet for a private briefing before their appointments are announced.
  • Include on the briefing team at least one former member of the board of directors of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who urged that the provisions of the Primates communique from Dar es Salaam be imposed on the Episcopal Church against its will.
  • Make sure none of the briefers are women, either.

Read on. They went five for five. Fortunately these people have no power, but if you want a sense of what the new Anglican world order that Rowan Williams and supporters of the proposed Anglican Covenant are constantly pushing for, consider this a preview.

The Primates' Meeting should remain a meeting

The Church of Ireland Gazette believes that the Primates Meeting should remain a place of consultative fellowship and stay away from a more formal Primates Council.

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Northern Michigan bishop-elect controversy

The announcement of the election of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, pending consents from a majority of Standing Committees and Bishops of the Episcopal Church, has created a stir in the blogosphere. The two questions about the election are about the process and about his participation in Zen meditation practices.

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Ntahoturi of Burundi does not want border crossing bishops

The Archbishop of Province de l'Eglise Anglicane du Burundi, Bernard Ntahoturi, has said that his province “doesn’t want the crossing of borders” by Bishops and others seeking to found competing Anglican jurisdictions.

He was speaking at a welcoming ceremony for Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada who was in Burundi from February 12 -15.

The Anglican Journal reports:

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has thanked his Burundian counterpart, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, for the Anglican Church of Burundi’s stance against cross-border interventions, notwithstanding its opposition to more liberal views on homosexuality in some churches in Canada.

“I am very grateful for the position that the Anglican Church of Burundi has taken,” said Archbishop Hiltz who met with Archbishop Ntahoturi during the course of his solidarity visit hosted by the diocese of Bujumbura Feb. 12 to 15. “We value our relationship with Burundi and it’s part of the reason why there are young people in our delegation; we would like a building and renewal of relationship.”

Archbishop Hiltz was responding to opening remarks made by Archbishop Ntahoturi, who underscored that his province “doesn’t want the crossing of borders.” (Some primates in Africa and South America have exercised episcopal oversight over conservative parishes in North America that are opposed to the blessing of same-sex unions and the election of a gay bishop.)

“We walk in different contexts but we value our communion as human beings,” said Archbishop Ntahoturi, who added that he would like to “open more doors” of partnership between the Burundian and Canadian churches.

Read the rest here.

ACC's International Anglican Women's Network meets

The first meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council’s International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN) took place last week at the Desmond Tutu Center in New York.

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Archbishop of Canterbury talks about Lent

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, reflects on Lent as a time to: "Sweep and clean the room of our own minds and hearts so that the new life really may have room to come in and take over and transform us at Easter".

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PA Court asked to remove priest from church property

The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has asked a civil court to remove the Rev. David Moyer as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, and to declare the diocese as owner of the parish's property.

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ABS listing of TEC resolved

UPDATED: 4:30 p.m. ET See below

Monday, The Lead reported the story of The Episcopal Church and the American Bible Society listings of denominations on their ForMinistry site. Today we want to offer our thanks to Ms Autumn Black, who quickly responded to letters and our story (see that letter below the fold).

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Decoding letters from the former bishop of Pittsburgh

Lionel Deimel of the Episcopal Diocese of PIttsburgh has analyzed the latest letter from the former bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan. He notes that it is important to remember that Duncan calls his breakaway diocese The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the legitimate Diocese the "new" diocese. Deimel writes:

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Tutu asks for justice in Sudan

The Rt. Rev. Desmond Tutu writes an OpEd in the New York Times today:

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Episcopal Divinity School cuts tuition

The Board of Trustees of Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) has voted to cut tuition from $16,500 to $12,500 for the Masters of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theological Studies programs for the school's fall and spring semesters of 2009. The Board cited the economic conditions of the world and the desire to make education affordable as the reasons for the cuts. The new tuition will be effective at the Cambridge, Massachusetts seminary beginning in the Fall of 2009. Dr. Randall Chase, acting president states:

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Prop 8 to be argued in court tomorrow

Emma Ruby-Sachs gives a preview of what we can expect to hear in the oral arguments before the California Supreme Court concerning Proposition 8:

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Diocese of Ottawa to write liturgy for same-sex blessings

The March 2009 issue of Crosstalk (PDF), the newspaper of the Diocese of Ottawa, reports on the decision of the diocese to move forward with "an agenda for discerning whether the blessing of same-sex couples will become a practice on a limited basis in the Diocese of Ottawa."

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Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth seeks orderly transfer of assets

The chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has sent a letter to the former chancellor of the diocese, seeking a peaceful and orderly transition of assets.

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Good News for chocolate egg lovers

Cadbury commits to going Fairtrade. Church Times Blog has a roundup of reports.

TEC dioceses expanding relationships with Episcopal Church of the Sudan

As was reported here last month, a mission team from the Episcopal Church traveled to Southern Sudan.

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Dobson steps aside

Don't stick a fork in it. The Religious Right isn't done. But as Steven Benen writes in Washington Monthly's Political Animal, "James Dobson is done. Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy have passed away. Billy Graham is ailing. Pat Robertson is nearly 80 and has been relegated to sideshow status.The Republican Party isn't the only far-right institution with a leadership vacuum." Benen points us to this quote in an article by Julia Duin at the Washington Times:

"It's a changing of the guard," said Brian McLaren, 52, cited in 2005 by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. "There is a possibility the religious right will collapse on itself. Or someone will articulate a new religious center. The evangelical community has been slowly diversifying, and there may not be a center anymore."

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Black ministers circle the wagons for Senator Burris

NPR:

Nearly every day over the past week or so, groups of African-American ministers, community leaders, lawyers or politicians have held news conferences and rallies in Chicago to pronounce their support for Burris and to ask that calls for his resignation stop.

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The truth gets its pants on

Colin Coward of Changing Attitude-England has looked into a report by Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream, that the Episcopal Church had withheld $100,000 in donations to the Church of Sudan after Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng called for the resignation of Bishop Gene Robinson at the Lambeth Conference. He writes:

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At some point, someone will ask Rowan Williams this question:

But we are not holding our breath:

Has the Anglican Communion, made any inquiries into what Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria knew or did not know about the organized massacre that took the lives of at least 660 Muslims in the Nigerian town of Yelwa in 2004?

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Born to believe

Michael Brooks writes in the New Scientest (click Skip in the lower right hand corner if you get an ad):

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New stats to analyze and argue about

The latest statistical study of the Episcopal Church is now online.

A couple of hard facts about our future:

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Episcopal school students celebrate Terkel's legacy

Erin Donaghue in the suburban Maryland Gazette papers:

Now in its 12th year, the American Century Project at St. Andrew's [Episcopal School in Potomac. Md.] was launched by history teacher Glenn Whitman, who was inspired by his own work collecting oral history as an undergraduate and also the work of legendary broadcaster and oral historian Louis "Studs" Terkel. Through the project, Whitman hopes to encourage students to become recorders of history, rather than just its observers. "The best interviews are those whose voices are uncovered by this project," Whitman said.

St. Andrews has collected the largest pre-collegiate oral history archive in the United States through the work of its students, and according to Whitman, that goes to show that students can make a meaningful contribution to history.

Read it all. The proud Dad moment is at the end.

Preaching God's word with an eye on politics

Rich Barlow of The Boston Globe profiles the formidable Katharine Ragsdale, executive director of Public Research Associates and FOtC, (friend of the Cafe):

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Bishop Lee to serve at Grace Cathedral

The Diocese of California announced today that Bishop Peter Lee, the bishop of the Diocese of Virginia will serve as Interim Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Lee will begin this ministry in October of this year and will serve until the new dean has been installed.

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Prop 8 legality being tested

Proposition 8, a voter-passed addition to the California constitution that overturns the ruling of the state's Supreme Court earlier in the year which ordered same-sex to be allowed under the equal protection clause, is being challenged by groups in California that claim it is an unconstitutional response.

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Vatican can be named in clergy sexual abuse suits

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Vatican can be held liable for damages in some cases of sexual abuse committed by Roman Catholic clergy.

From a report in the Los Angeles Times:

In a 59-page decision issued Tuesday, a three-judge panel from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the man -- who says he was molested in the 1960s by a priest at a Catholic school -- can pursue a civil lawsuit against the Holy See because the priest allegedly abused him while serving in a religious capacity.

Lawyers for the plaintiff hailed the ruling as a watershed moment for victims of clergy abuse, who for decades have wanted to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for protecting priests.

Bishop excommunicates those who helped 9 year old rape victim obtain abortion

A Roman Catholic archbishop in Brazil has punished the doctors and the mother of a 9 year old who became pregnant as a result of being raped by her step father. The mother and the doctor were found to have aided the girl in ending the pregnancy by means of abortion.

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+Niagara speaks with ABC about same-sex blessings

It slipped under our radar at the time, but Bishop Bishop Michael Bird of the Diocese of Niagara (Anglican Church of Canada) met in late January with Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and in their private interview discussed the plans of the diocese to introduce same sex blessings.

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Anglican bishops in Africa cautiously welcome new Zimbabwe government

The bishops of Central Africa have released a statement regarding the formation of a new "Unity" government in Zimbabwe, a country whose president Robert Mugabe's rule was strongly condemned by this same group last year.

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Mainline clergy surveyed

Public Religion Research has issued what it calls "is the largest survey of mainline clergy in seven years, and the broadest ever in scope." The mainline denominations included were: "United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, American Baptist Churches USA, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)."

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Bishop Lee speaks about changes in the communion

As reported earlier today in The Lead, when Bishop Peter James Lee retires from the Diocese of Virginia in the fall he will become interim dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

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Saturday collection 03/07/09

Here is a collection of a few of the good things that Episcopalians and their congregations have done that made the news this past week. And other news fit to print.

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Manifest Christianity takes a back seat to the Great Commandment

In her new book, A People's History of Christianity, Diana Butler Bass takes a people's perspective of Christianity that Howard Zinn took in his path breaking book, A People's History of the United States. Rather an institutional history, and how the institution spread, it's a history of the people who are Christian and how they live. In an interview she explains it this way:

It is parallel to the story of the secular history of the United States. I think that in the book I actually use the phrase "Manifest Destiny Christianity" to describe it, in the same way that we have "Manifest Destiny" American history.

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A TEC visit to Southern Sudan: Part II

Buck Blanchard, diocesan coordinator for world mission for the Diocese of Virginia, and other representatives from the Episcopal Church recently completed a month-long trip to build and strengthen relationships with dioceses in Sudan. The Rt. Rev. David C. Jones and the Rt. Rev. Frank Gray have also traveled to Sudan to take part in their House of Bishops meeting. The following is the second of two reports filed by Blanchard during the trip. (Here is the first.) In it he talks about the bishops he meet during his travels to dioceses in Southern Sudan. And he describes the House of Bishops meeting he observed.

Click read more to see his report.
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The kindness of a remorseful stranger

Sam Hodges in the Dallas Morning News:

A mysterious stranger with a conscience left a cashier's check for $3,255 at Dallas' Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, explaining in a note that he was trying to atone for crimes of his past.

Two other times this year, the financially strapped church has had scatterings of $20 bills turn up unexplained in the vestibule, apparently stuffed through a gap in locked front doors.

Though no note came with those donations, the Rev. Canon Victoria Heard speculates they were from the same man.

Regardless, she's grateful.

"It was a godsend, especially in the middle of the winter when our fuel bills are the highest," said Heard, canon-in-residence at the Far East Dallas church.

Peter Singer on affluence and ethics

The Wall Street Journal this week featured a new book, The Life You Can Save, by Princeton philosopher Peter Singer about the ethical obligations of the affluent to help the very poor:

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Vatican backs Brazilian bishop

BBC:

A senior Vatican cleric has defended the excommunication in Brazil of the mother and doctors of a young girl who had an abortion with their help.

The nine-year-old had conceived twins after alleged abuse by her stepfather.
...
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, himself a Catholic, said on Friday that he regretted what he described as the cleric's deeply conservative attitude. "The doctors did what had to be done: save the life of a girl of nine years old," he said.

Earlier report here.

Giving up technology for Lent

Several bishops of the Roman Catholic Church are putting a modern twist on Lenten discipline:

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Meditating on the bishop-elect of Northern Michigan

Ruth Gledhill reports on the bishop-elect of Northern Michigan praising his ability to meditate as a needed skill for the office of bishop in that part of the world and mystified at those who are all upset about it.

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Tails I win, Heads you lose

Natasha Mitchell of ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) interviews two experimental philosophers, Joshua Knobe and Eduoard Machery about our judgments of a person's actions -- specifically whether we are consistent in judging their intent to do good or bad.

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What we can learn from Reinhold Niebuhr

Brian Urquhart has an interesting review of a new edition of noted American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and two new books that take a distinctly Niebuhrian view of recent world affairs in the New York Review of Books:

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Are you a Christian hipster?

We assume, of course, that Cafe visitors are, by definition, Christian hipsters. But if you are uncertain whether you belong to this group, contemplate this item from Brett McCracken at the blog Still Searching:

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A one-minute story of reconciliation

An Argentinian bank created an ad that says that if a bank can change and be generous, then maybe we can too. Watch this video:

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Sad news

Our prayers go out to the Rev. Bosco Peters, his wife Helen and son Jonathan, after the sudden accidental death of their daughter Catherine during a University-sponsored Alpine Club outing in New Zealand.

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A nation of religious free-lancers

The latest American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) shows that more and more Americans claim no religious affiliation and that fewer Americans call themselves Christian than a generation ago.

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Archbishop Harper condemns attack

The Most Revd Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland has condemned the attack on a group of British soldiers and two civilians at the military base in Antrim, northwest of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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"Left Behind" authors say Obama is not the anti-Christ but close

Mark Hulsether over at Religion Dispatches looks at the whole interview that Tim LaHaye and Jim Jenkins, co-authors of the Left Behind series, had on the Rachel Maddow show last week, when she asked them if they understood President Obama to be the anti-Christ.

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Church of Ireland grows by 50%

An almost unnoticed, but historically dramatic, social change has occurred in Ireland over the past few years: more and more Irish Catholics are joining the Church of Ireland according to the Independent.ie.

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World Water Day designated

March 22 has been designated World Water Day by the United Nations. In Episcopal Life Weekly bulletin inserts for that Sunday, Mary Getz of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations writes that "water is central to our understanding of God's relationship to the world, carrying the image of renewal, promise, and hope," and that the conservation and wise use of water is, therefore, a duty of all Christians. She describes steps that can be taken to improve access to clean water for people all over the world.

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Barbara Andrews, bishop-elect in Canada

The Anglican Churches of the Central Interior announces that after two ballots the delegates of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior elected The Rev. Barbara Andrews as the Nomination for Bishop Suffragan to the Metropolitan with responsibilities for the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior. The Rev. Andrews name will be forwarded to the Provincial Electoral College on March 27, 2009 where they will elect the Suffragan for the Interior.

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Stem cell research and religion

US News writer, Dan Gilgoff, of God and Country, and on The Lead's blogroll, reports:

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International Women's Day and faith

Religion Dispatches reports on a movement organized by Muslim women to ensure that Muslim family law recognizes and operationalizes the equality of women within the family.

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Happy Purim

Cathleen Falsani, who writes for the Chicago Sun-Times, and is the author of Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace, discusses the Jewish festival of Purim at her blog, The Dude Abides:

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Republicans argue in defense of hierarchical denominations

It's not always conservatives who push bills to regulate church polity. In Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma that has been the case. But in Connecticut the shoe is on the other foot. The Catholic Church isn't happy.

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Divisive issue results in unlikely divinity school friendship

The Durham News carries a story about the how divisive issues in the Episcopal Church show up in Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke University.

One vignette:

Director Jo Bailey Wells recalls a friendship between two students that highlights the conflict. Lauren Kilbourn and Andrew Rowell had sought each other out at AEHS, hoping to better understand each other's opinions. Kilbourn, a lesbian in a committed relationship, supports the ordination of gay clergy. Rowell adheres to conservative views of homosexuality. For a year they met weekly for coffee and prayer.

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New bill proposed to further oppress Nigerian gays

BBC:

Nigerian gay rights activists have told the country's lawmakers that a new bill to outlaw same sex marriage would lead to widespread human rights abuses. The new law would mean prison sentences for gay people who live together, and anyone who "aids and abets" them.

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Hell’s Kitchen Social Club

The City Room blog at the New York Times discovers a thrift shop on 10th Avenue run by St. Clement’s Episcopal Church around the corner on 46th Street. It's called Outcasts Resurrectible Goods. It raises money for the church’s food pantry:

The shop caters largely to the artists, actors and musicians in the area. The store stocks lots of plays and monologues and theater books. There is sheet music, and a selection of old movies on VHS.

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Faith leaders push for FDA control of tobacco

Radio Iowa:

Some religious leaders in Des Moines Tuesday called on the Iowa Congressional delegation to support legislation that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products.

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Closing arguments in Colorado Springs court case

KRDO News in Colorado Springs, Colorado reports that the trial to resolve ownership over a multi-million dollar church is one step closer to being decided.

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Pope confesses mistakes were made

In a letter to bishops worldwide, the pope says that the internet should have been used to check backgrounds, and that the reasons for lifting the excommunications should have been better explained. At the same time, the pope suggests he was not given the benefit of the doubt.

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Religious leaders fight N.Y. bill to open abuse cases

Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish officials in New York are mounting an intense lobbying effort to block a bill before the State Legislature that would temporarily lift the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging the sexual abuse of children.

Paul Paul Vitello in The New York Times:

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Nigeria once again considers harshly punitive anti-gay legislation

Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans has an excellent round-up of recent developments in Nigeria's attempts to ban gay marriage--which is already illegal.

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Vermont clergy voice support for gay marriage bill

The Rev. Linda Maloney of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont is among those featured in a report from WPTZ in Burlington about 185 clergy of various faiths who support a bill legalizing civil marriage for same-sex couples in Vermont.

Faith in the Balance: A Call to Action

From the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs:

A groundbreaking report, Faith in the Balance: A Call to Action, which calls on The Episcopal Church to address the issues and concerns of the poor in this country, was released today.

The report, based on the outcomes of 2008 Presiding Bishop’s Summit on Domestic Poverty, presents a Model for Domestic Poverty Alleviation, with an initial endeavor in Native American communities. This innovative Model works in tandem with the Episcopal Church’s global poverty initiatives of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Click Read more to see the full release.

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March Gladness

Sports-crazed Americans may not have been looking for a way to follow the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament while supporting the Millennium Development Goals, but that didn't stop the Rev. Mike Kinman of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation from developing one.

As Mike explained in a recent email:

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Two new seasons for Friday Night Lights?

Western Civilization is on the verge of acquiring a new two-year lease on life according to a report in Entertainment Weekly:

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A dumb, depressing document from Peter Akinola and his Church

Updated, Friday 10:00 p.m.: Andrew Brown has weighed in. Remember when a similar bill was first introduced in 2006 and Martyn Minns and a host of conservative bloggers asserted that there was no evidence that Archbishop Akinola actually supported it? Turns out that this time around, the Church of Nigeria is actually busing people to the hearings to support the legislation.

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The Good Nigerian

The Parable of the Good Samaritan as rewritten by Mad Priest:

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Same sex benefits rulings put Obama on the spot

A pair of rulings by California judges is forcing President Obama to face the issue of insurance benefits for same sex partners of federal employees. The New York Times reports,

In separate, strongly worded orders, two judges of the federal appeals court in California said that employees of their court were entitled to health benefits for their same-sex partners under the program that insures millions of federal workers.

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Oprah taps All Saints, Pasadena rector for series

Episcopal Life Online reports that The Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, will co-host Oprah's Soul Series. His first appearance will be Monday, March 16.

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Nigeria's legal system adequate for persecution

Reading the US State Department's latest Human Rights Report for Nigeria (issued Feb 25, 2009) you'd think the Nigerian system of justice was adequate for the persecution of homosexuals. For one thing, there are stringent laws on the books for homosexual practices. For another, the police forces regularly abuse their powers.

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Bishops blogging, March 13 - House of Bishops

The Rt. Rev. Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri, is blogging the House of Bishops meeting. He writes:

This afternoon I took a short course in blogging, offered again by the College for Bishops and led in this instance by Nicholas Knisely, dean of the cathedral in Phoenix and one of the pioneers in staking out a presence for the Episcopal Church on the web. (and member of the Cafe´staff, ed. note) It was very good, compressing a lot of information into a short period of time. So here I am, blogging again, as I am journeying once more on behalf of the Diocese of Missouri. Keeping in touch during these occasional pilgrimages is the purpose of blog, and I am trying to remain faithful.

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Religious violence of "defending marriage"

Religion Dispatches writes "A recent article in The Atlantic, and recently released Lutheran documents, give good reasons to revisit the status of gays and lesbians across American society. Unfortunately, few commentators to date have addressed the most troubling development of the past few years: the growth of DOMA Laws, or “Defense of Marriage Acts.” These laws are forms of religious violence."

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Robert Wright and the Gospel of Mark

In his new book The Evolution of God, Robert Wright leans on the first gospel--that of Mark--to suggest that later gospels present a Jesus who is less historically authentic, but more palatable to modern tastes, especially on interfaith issues:

For many Christians, the life of Jesus signifies the birth of a new kind of God, a God of universal love. The Hebrew Bible—the “Old Testament”—chronicled a God who was sometimes belligerent (espousing the slaughter of infidels), unabashedly nationalist (pro-Israel, you might say), and often harsh toward even his most favored nation. Then Jesus came along and set a different tone. As depicted in the Gospels, Jesus exhorted followers to extend charity across ethnic bounds, as in the parable of the good Samaritan, and even to love their enemies. He told them to turn the other cheek, said the meek would inherit the Earth, and warned against self-righteousness (“let he who is without sin cast the first stone”). Even while on the cross, he found compassion for his persecutors: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

But there’s a funny thing about these admirable utterances: none of them appears in the book of Mark, which was written before the other Gospels and which most New Testament scholars now consider the most reliable (or, as some would put it, the least unreliable) Gospel guide to Jesus’ life. The Jesus in Mark, far from calmly forgiving his killers, seems surprised by the Crucifixion and hardly sanguine about it (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). In Mark, there is no Sermon on the Mount, and so no Beatitudes, and there is no good Samaritan; Jesus’ most salient comment on ethnic relations is to compare a woman to a dog because she isn’t from Israel.

He also argues that globalization will eventually promote interfaith understanding.

Minns, Duncan at HOB in Nigeria

Archbishop Peter Akinola reports that Martyn Minns and Robert Duncan are among the bishops at the Church of Nigeria House of Bishops meeting.

Minns and Duncan have the opportunity to speak out against the support Akinola and his church have given to a bill persecuting gays. Unless they do so, they are directly implicated.

Akinola:

We are glad to welcome back home our CANA bishop, Martyn Minns. With us at this meeting is Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh. Bob leads the Common Cause Partnership that will soon metamorphose against all odds into a new Anglican Province in North America.

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Saturday collection 3/14/09

Here is a collection of a few of the good things that Episcopalians and their congregations have done that made the news this past week. And other news fit to print.
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Self examination for a nation of jailers

Brown University economist Glenn Loury on race and incarceration rates in the U.S.:

It is a central reality of our time that a wide racial gap has opened up in cognitive skills, the extent of law-abidingness, stability of family relations, and attachment to the work force. This is the basis, many would hold, for the racial gap in imprisonment. Yet I maintain that this gap in human development is, as a historical matter, rooted in political, economic, social, and cultural factors peculiar to this society and reflective of its unlovely racial history. That is to say, it is a societal, not communal or personal, achievement. At the level of the individual case we must, of course, act as if this were not so. There could be no law, and so no civilization, absent the imputation to persons of responsibility for their wrongful acts. But the sum of a million cases, each one rightly judged fairly on its individual merits, may nevertheless constitute a great historic wrong. This is, in my view, now the case in regards to the race and social class disparities that characterize the very punitive policy that we have directed at lawbreakers. And yet, the state does not only deal with individual cases. It also makes policies in the aggregate, and the consequences of these policies are more or less knowable. It is in the making of such aggregate policy judgments that questions of social responsibility arise.

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Bishops blogging, March 14 - House of Bishops

A daily roundup of what bishops are blogging from their meeting in Kanuga.

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Why is the Southern Baptist Convention shrinking?

If you read enough right-wing criticism of Mainline Protestant religious denominations such as ours, you will run--repeatedly-- across the unsupported assertion that our membership numbers are in decline because our theology is not sufficiently conservative. No doubt that explains why those crypto-Communistic, syncretistic, New Age revisionists in the Southern Baptist Convention are also experiencing a decline in membership.

Does religion corrupt charity?

"Does religion corrupt charity?" has been the question of the week at the Guardian, and this question has provoked some interesting comments this week. The issue was framed as follows:

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Episcopal Cafe catches March Gladness

The NCAA's Selection Show airs this evening and Episcopal Cafe has caught a case of March Gladness. We are offering a $100 bonus to the MDG-related charity designated by the winner of March Gladness, an ingenious bracket-related competition devised by the Rev Mike Kinman of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (e4gr). The only catch is that you have to leave us a comment on this or some subsequent posting, telling us what organization you are playing for. And that info has to be in before the tournament tips off on Thursday.

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Are our hymns becoming stupider

Professor John Stackhouse thinks that contemporary hymns are insipid and says so in a blog post here. Ben Myers of the Faith and Theology blog takes a different view:

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God on the brain

The Scientific American reports that neuroscientists are claiming to have identified the "religious" parts of the brain:

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Bishops blogging, March 15 - House of Bishops

Today the bishops are observing 24 hours of sabbath with their only commitment being to celebrate the Eucharist together. Saturday they heard presentations on the current state of the economy and the activities of the US Congress.

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The culture wars are ending?

Frank Rich points out some interesting implications of the lack of controversy over President Obama's lifting of President Bush's stem-cell research ban. He sees an American public less tolerant of being manipulated by moral "scolding".

From his Op-Ed piece in the New York Times this weekend:

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Anglicans call for vigilance regarding equal rights in difficult times

The Anglican delegates to the United Nation's Commission on the Status of Woman have issued a call for the world's governments and the leadership of the Anglican Churches to be careful to guard against any erosion of women's status during the global economic crisis.

From the statement just released:

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March Gladness reminder

Just a reminder that the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is about to begin, and Episcopal Cafe is helping to support the March Gladness competition sponsored by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation. To participate, all you do is:

1) visit their March Gladness page, contribute $10 bucks and fill out a tournament bracket (maximum 5) BEFORE the first round games on Thursday.

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Redding story still developing

Ann Holmes Redding, a priest argues that her subsequent conversion to Islam should not invalidate either her priestly ministry or her Christianity, is in the news again today.

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Church foreclosure rate rising

Young congregations are struggling across this country as their physical plant's construction debt, created when the economy was booming, is suddenly becoming a major drag on their ability to provide the programs that were fueling their growth.

According to this AP article:

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What torture says about America

Andrew Sullivan has a pretty stark way of framing an issue. In the case of the policy of using torture against enemy combatants, he compares the United States' policy as investigated by the Red Cross to that of the Gestapo's. It's pretty sobering.

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Bishops blogging, March 16 - House of Bishops

The Bishops' Spring Meeting in Kanuga is settling into business sessions now that the educational segment has been completed. Sunday evening, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gave her impressions of the Primates' meeting. Departing bishops, assessments, and the election in Northern Michigan were discussed, and the election of a bishop for Central Ecuador has begun.

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Integrity gears up for the General Convention

The Rev. Susan Russell: It is critical that the Episcopal Church move beyond B033 and toward marriage equality. Watch the nine-minute video.

Pope: distributing condoms helps to spread AIDS

From the Times of London:

The Pope courted further controversy on his first trip to Africa today by declaring that condoms were not a solution to the Aids epidemic – but were instead part of the problem.

In his first public comments on condom use, the pontiff told reporters en route to Cameroon that Aids "is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems". ....

He said the "traditional teaching of the Church" on chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it had proved to be "the only sure way of preventing the spread of HIV and Aids".

The World Health Organization, on the other hand, says that "consistent and correct" condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90 per cent. Are the pope's comments morally responsible?

AP is on the story as well.

Update:

France, echoing the reaction of some aid agencies, said it "voices extremely sharp concern over the consequences of [the Pope's comments]".

"While it is not up to us to pass judgment on Church doctrine, we consider that such comments are a threat to public health policies and the duty to protect human life," foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said.

March Gladness reminder

Episcopal Cafe is supporting March Gladness, a clever initiative by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation that has caught the eye of the mainstream media.

The deadline looms in 48 hours, so fill out a bracket, and join in. Full details are available in previous posts.

Sorting through The Big Sort

The bishops of the Episcopal Church spent some time last week with Bill Bishop, author of The Big Sort: Why the clustering of like-minded Americans is tearing us apart.

Bishop's thesis is summarized cogently in his sub-title. His chapter on religion (read a few paragraphs here) begins like so:

Rick Warren's wildly popular book The Purpose-Driven Life begins with a challenge to Americans' post-materialist self-centeredness: "It's not about you." In the sense of the Great Commission, that is exactly right. Life and the church are about finding salvation in Christ. The imperative of "like attracts like" evangelism, however, caters to the individual from the time the convert first answers the call to worship. Whenever the evangelist Billy Graham issued his altar call, inspired people would stream to the foot of the stage to pledge their lives to the church. At that first moment of their new faith, Graham made sure the freshly converted were met by volunteers of the same age, sex, and race. The shepherding of people into their proper "homogeneous units" begins at the beginning. Which raises a question: in this world of segmented Sunday school classes, stopwatch-timed sermons, "people like us" altar calls, and preachers in market-tested cruise ship attire, isn't there something very pervasive that's all about you?

What are the implications of the Big Sort for the Episcopal Church's efforts to reach out to new people?

(You can find a ton of Big Sort links with a quick Google Search, but here are a few that caught our eye: The New York Times , Talking Points Memo and the Economist.)

The Lead covered The Big Sort last year: here and here.

Violence in Sudan: the LRA strikes

I just had a call from Tom Bair, who is married to Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island. He and his wife visited the Diocese of Ezo in southern Sudan in December to begin a companion diocese relationship with the Church there. They've been in close contact with people in that diocese since their return.

This morning Tom got a call frmo Ezo saying that on Friday the Lord's Resistance Army attacked a village nine miles from Ezo, killing nine people and taking six hostages. This is the latest in a series of attacks that began late last year and have continued sporadically since then.

We've been able to locate a couple of media reports about the situation in the southern Sudan. Additionally, the Church of Sudan has a Web page with information about recent attacks. And here are some photos from Ezo.

Archbishop Daniel Deng has appealed to the government of the United Kingdom and to the Primates of the Anglican Communion of help. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's statement is here. The Episcopal Public Policy Network has also been active on this issue.

The platform of The Consultation

The Consultation is a potent coalition of 13 independent organizations within the Episcopal Church committed, in the words of its Platform for the 2009 General Convention, "to peace with justice."

The platform includes several challenging segments, and raises a number of issues--single payer health care--on which even committed liberals might disagree. But it is well worth reading, and discussing, and we'd be eager to hear your thoughts.

Riot police at the altar, but Bishop of Harare carries on

The Times reports that despite the provocations of riot police in church, Zimbabwe's Anglican bishop, Sebastian Bakare, celebrated communion this past Sunday:

In front of the church’s first full congregation for years Bishop Bakare told the representative of Zimbabwe’s security services: “If you want to attack me, I am in your hands.”
...
A fortnight ago the Church secured an affidavit from Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, in which denied knowing anything about a police operation to force Anglicans away from their churches. It was read to parishioners by Anglican priests wherever they met, and they were urged to return to their churches on Sunday.

Emboldened by the formation of the new power-sharing Government, the church’s flock is now beginning to return in force.

Read it all here.

Update: We have received a further description from Anglican Information,

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Pop goes the sermon

Michael Paulson in The Boston Globe:

The first sign that this is not an ordinary worship service is the pair of toasters on the chancel of the oak-paneled chapel.

Teenagers are seated in pews, eating bowls of corn flakes and raisin bran.

And, at the base of the pulpit, there is a small black iPod - not a choir member or a hymnal in sight.

It's iSermon Sunday at Cochran Chapel, and the Rev. Anne E. Gardner, the new director of spiritual and religious life here at Phillips Academy, is fiddling with her laptop.

In one example of how clergy are attempting to use technology and popular culture to reach out to the young, Gardner is constructing a monthly sermon using songs from the iPods of her students, rather than biblical excerpts from a lectionary, as her texts. In her first three efforts, she has attempted to extract moral lessons from the lyrics of Kanye West, Nickelback, and India.Arie - three artists she had never heard of until her students brought them to her attention.

Sources: US to sign UN gay rights declaration

AP:

The Obama administration will endorse a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality that then-President George W. Bush had refused to sign, The Associated Press has learned.

U.S. officials said Tuesday they had notified the declaration's French sponsors that the administration wants to be added as a supporter....

[One] official added that the United States was concerned about "violence and human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual individuals" and was also "troubled by the criminalization of sexual orientation in many countries."

"In the words of the United States Supreme Court, the right to be free from criminalization on the basis of sexual orientation 'has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom'," the official said.

Bishops Blogging, March 17 House of Bishops

Bishop Dan Edwards, Nevada, post VI (Monday night):

...Tomorrow we will be discussing whether to consent to the consecration of the Bishop Elect of Northern Michigan. I know, like, and respect him. There are a couple of issues about liturgy that give me pause, but I still want to support him. I am afraid he will get nailed because of his Zen meditation practice and a general bias against the edgy way Northern Michigan operates. I pray it will go well.

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In San Diego exodus over: Episcopalians of St. John's can return

From a Diocese of San Diego press release:

On Wednesday, March 11, the California Supreme Court dismissed the petition for review that had been filed by the former members of St. John's Episcopal Church in Fallbrook. The Supreme Court remanded the case with instructions for the Fourth District Court of Appeal to republish the opinion it previously had issued in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and the Episcopalians of St. John's Church. That opinion affirmed the right of the bishop to resolve intracongregational disputes over who is eligible to serve on a church board.
...
“I am overjoyed with this result which will finally allow the Episcopalians of St. John’s to return to their church,” said Bishop Mathes. “It is now time to bring to a close this unnecessary legal proceeding. The Episcopal Church will continue its ministry of following Jesus as an inclusive, servant church. All are welcome at St. John’s; there is room enough in God’s house for everyone.”

Read it all. The case is known as New v. Kroeger. See the Supreme Court's action here (one line).

ENS has a thorough report on the history of the case.

March Madness Gladness reminder

(Updated: the Associated Press included an item about March Gladness at the bottom of its weekly round-up of religion briefs.)

Episcopal Cafe is supporting March Gladness, a clever initiative by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation that has caught the eye of the mainstream media.

Fill out your NCAA men's basketball tournament brackets, picking the winners all the way to the national champion. (You'll need a Yahoo ID to do this. If you don't have one, it's OK, it's free, easy and zero risk -- click on "Sign Up" when you click to register) - MAKE SURE YOUR BRACKET NAME IS YOUR NAME + THE NAME OF YOUR NONPROFIT (e.g. Michael Jordan -- Nets For Life). Got your name and the name of your nonprofit? You're ready to click here.

The deadline looms in 24 hours, so fill out a bracket, and join in. Full details are available in previous posts.

Trinity Wall Street announces grant recipients

In a press release Trinity Wall Street reports "grants of more than $1 million to aid communities in metro New York during 2008" and "an additional $2 million was awarded to Episcopal dioceses in the United States and the 70 nation Anglican Communion."

Applications for 2009 are now being accepted. For more information about the Global Partners Initiative and other grants, visit http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/grants.

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American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan

Introducing American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (AFRECS). It's been around since 2005.

AFRECS’s goals are to:

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Fear Not: bishops issue pastoral letter on the economy

The bishops have concluded their Spring Meeting issuing a Pastoral Letter to the Episcopal Church and to mission partners around the world. They encourage the Church to rise above fear and offer hope, to reach out to those suffering from loneliness and anxiety, and to share our resources with one another:

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The End is Near: March Gladness deadline looms

You've only got a few hours left to enter March Gladness.

Episcopal Cafe is supporting March Gladness, a clever initiative by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation . Follow the first link for full details on March Gladness.

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Communique from Standing Committee of Church of Nigeria

The standing committee of the Church of Nigeria met March 10-14. It has issued a communique. Some excerpts:

For more than twenty years there has been an unrelenting religious crisis in Nigeria. The Christian Church has been the target of attack and has suffered irreparable losses in many parts of the North. At different times various reasons have been advanced: unemployment, poverty, politics and sectarian tensions. However, those who have perpetrated these destructive actions have never been brought to justice, operate with impunity and appear to be motivated by the conviction that if they persist they will be able to claim entire sections of Nigeria for their faith. We reject this claim.

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Bishop of Jerusalem visits Gaza

In February The Lead reported that the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem was denied entry into Gaza when he and others were on their way to visit the Anglican Ahli Arab Hospital. Tuesday they were given permission according to a report from the The Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem:

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Offering "meat" for the Bishops' Pastoral Letter on the Economy

Terry Martin, Evangelism Officer for the Episcopal Church, follows up on the Bishops' Pastoral Letter. He offers some "meat" for the thoughts contained in the bishops' letter:

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Women are from Bethany, Men are from Tyre

The Washington Post reports some interesting data from the Clergy Voices Survey about the gender gap in political ideology among protestant clergy:

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Bishop Ely testifies in support of same-sex marriage bill

Bishop Tom Ely of Vermont testified (via video tape) before the Senate of the State of Vermont in support of a bill now before the General Assembly called “An Act to Protect Religious Freedom and Promote Equality in Civil Marriage.”

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Good things happening in NE PA

Episcopal parishes and a local television stations are working together to develop an advertising campaign and web-presence that highlights the churches in the station's viewing area. The Episcopal Churches in the Northern Tier of the Diocese of Bethlehem have partnered with WNEP-TV in Scranton, PA as part of that station's Good Things Are Happening project.

The Rev. John Major, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church of West Pittston, PA, and Prince of Peace Episcopal Church of Dallas, PA, explained the project:

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David Walker blogs the G20 Summit

Cartoonist and blogger David Walker will be blogging the G20 Summit for The Church Times on April 2nd during the meeting in London.

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Our God--and our mission--is recession-proof

The Center for Church Communication (aka Your Church Marketing Sucks) tells the story of a church in Michigan that has cut back their staff and program because of the recession, and then turned around and gave out $100 bills to whomever wanted it, as long as they would multiply it for mission. The Episcopal Foundation of Wyoming did something very much like that.

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Street child world cup

While we in the States are focused on the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, the rest of the world is gearing up for the World Cup to be held in Durban, South Africa a year from now. Christian charities and others want to give a voice to street children, the "world's greatest football fans," through an initiative called The Street Child World Cup.

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Churches that default and those that don't

When the headlines trumpet the news of a church being foreclosed upon, it is something of a man-bites-dog story because it is so rare. Closer scrutiny shows that how a local parish is organized, their connection (or not) to a denomination, and their theology can be predictors as to which churches might fall into debt trouble.

Daniel Burke of the Religion News Service looked into churches that default and looked for patterns and what they might teach us.

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Quick, somebody tell Fred Phelps he's made a typo

Quick, somebody tell Fred Phelps he's made a typo. And alert Peter Akinola, too, while you are at it.

figs.jpg


Jeremiah 29:17
Mark 11: 12-14
Matthew 21: 18-20

Emily_Litella.jpg
Emily Litella, anyone?

Hat tip: Pastor Dan at Street Prophets.

Saturday collection 3/21/09

Here is our weekly collection plate, offering a few of the good things that Episcopalians and their congregations have done that made the news this past week. And other news fit to print.

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Northern Michigan leadership defend their choice and process

The Diocese of Northern Michigan has released a statement describing their choice of The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester to be their next bishop and defending the process by which he was chosen. They have also released supporting letters from two bishops, the Rt. Rev.Tom Ray, retired bishop of Northern Michigan and The Rt. Rev. Rustin R. Kimsey, currently Assisting Bishop for the Diocese of Alaska.

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DOMA laws: religious power through exclusion

"DOMA Laws have been passed with the support and lobbying of religious groups. Such laws point, unfortunately, to a deep tendency of religions to consolidate power through exclusion, as Miroslav Volf has so cogently shown; these laws have no rationale for their existence apart from that exclusion. People who wish to "defend" [against] corrosive influences on marriage – and I count myself as one – might actually find allies among gays and lesbians who desire public recognition for their pledges of fidelity and their commitments to share resources and responsibilities with one another. A true defense of marriage would not involve mean-spirited exclusions, but would embrace practical policies that strengthen deep trust and support families facing economic challenges,"
- Jon Pahl, Professor of the History of Christianity in North America at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

H/T to Andrew Sullivan.

What did he say this time?

Peter Akinola:

We are especially concerned about those who are using large sums of money to lure our youth to see homosexuality and lesbianism as normative. We must consistently and faithfully teach about God’s commands on this ungodly practice and help those with such orientation to seek deliverance and pastoral counsel.

It was also our great delight to welcome to our meeting, the Rt. Rev Bob Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh in the USA, and Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership which is a fellowship of about 11 Anglican groups that are determined to maintain the Biblical and historic convictions of our faith, including CANA (also represented at this meeting by our own Bishop Martyn Minns).


Despite sentiments like these Minns praised the recognition recently bestowed upon the Anglican Church in North America by the Church of Nigeria amd saying, "Once again, we within CANA are grateful to the Church of Nigeria for creating a formal branch between orthodox Anglican congregations in North America and the well-respected Province, as the Church of Nigeria did for CANA several years ago." Bishop Duncan added, “Both in Nigeria and in North America,we understand our mission very similarly, that is, to reach our societies with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.”

Vatican press office applies profilattici

The Times reports that the Vatican press office has altered the words of the Pope who had said to reporters Aids was a “tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”:

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Pullman lauds Williams, but asks if his strategy is working

Philip Pullman, author of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy was recently profiled in The Times of London. Among the issues he discussed with Alan Franks was the current state of the Church of England, of which he is not a member:

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Intimations of "an ultimate reality?"

Bernard d'Espagnat, who last week won the Templeton Prize, was brought up a Roman Catholic, but told Reuters he does not practice any religion and considers himself a spiritualist.

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TEC part of broad pro-trade coalition

The Episcopal Church has joined a broad coalition that joins the usual free-trade proponents with those with an anti-poverty agenda:

In a March 20 letter to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, a pro-free trade coalition urged the completion of the Doha free trade pact and a “reaffirmation” at the leaders summit of the Group of 20 nations of the “critical importance of rejecting destructive protectionism.”

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Economists are good for something

Many in need of a kidney transplant die before they ever get to the top of the queue waiting for transplants. The problem would not exist if each person in need had a family member willing to donate who was a good tissue match. But that is not true. But what is true is that for each person in need of a transplant there are many in the general population who are good matches.

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Faith and waste in public life

Updated, March 28, The Economist:

The participants were not asked directly how religious they were but, rather, about how they used any religious belief they had to cope with difficult situations by, for example, “seeking God’s love and care”. The score from this questionnaire was compared with their requests for such things as the use of mechanical ventilation to keep them alive and resuscitation to bring them back from the dead.

The correlation was strong. More than 11% of those with the highest scores underwent mechanical ventilation; less than 4% of those with the lowest did so. For resuscitation the figures were 7% and 2%.


___________________

Religious dying patients more likely to get aggressive care reports the Boston Globe:

"These results suggest that relying upon religion to cope with terminal cancer may contribute to receiving aggressive medical care near death," the authors write in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. "Because aggressive end-of-life cancer care has been associated with poor quality of death . . . intensive end-of-life care might represent a negative outcome for religious copers."

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Author of "The Disabled God:" dies at 44

The New York Times reports that Nancy Eisland, author of The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability has died at age 44.

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Nigerians push back on anti-gay laws

In What has Africa done to organised religion to deserve this...,

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Poor farmers helping rich countries

Small farmers from poor countries are helping larger rich countries cope with the financial crisis.

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Dalai Lama denied visa to South Africa

South Africa has refused the Dalai Lama a visa to attend an international peace conference in Johannesburg this week, a presidential spokesman said. The Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Laureate did not receive a visa because it was not in South Africa's interest for him to attend, said Thabo Masebe.

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Hard Times, Good Ideas

Nicole Seiferth, Trinity Wall Street (New York, New York) news, writes:

Just as everyone in America is affected by the economic crisis, so, too, are their parishes. Here, a few innovative tips – some practical and some pastoral – from parishes and people around the country on how they are handling these difficult times.

Read about these good ideas.

How is your parish handling the economic crisis? What pastoral needs are you responding to? How are you saving money while responding to the growing needs in your community? Share your ideas and challenges here.

The war on terror and women's rights: the connection?

Religion Dispatches interviews Michelle Goldberg, author of The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World. In the book Goldberg tackles issues like population control, female infanticide, genital cutting, HIV/AIDS, and global poverty. She makes the convincing case that women’s oppression is at the heart of many of the world’s problems; that, as she puts it, "underlying diverse conflicts—demography, natural resources, human rights, and religious mores—is the question of who controls the means of reproduction."

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Living the Five Marks of Mission

Henriette Thompson, director of The Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod Partnerships Department, attended the recent Americas Conference on Mutual Responsibility and Mission. There she had an opportunity to hear and record the story of a fellow delegate, Enrique Espinosa Bentancor.

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Vermont moving toward allowing same-sex marriages

The Vermont Legislature appears likely to approve a bill which would legalize same-sex marriages in the state. The state Senate passed the bill overwhelmingly yesterday. Bishop Tom Ely of the Diocese of Vermont was among those who testified in support of the bill to a Senate panel last week.

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General Convention committee appointments posted

Legislative Committees are where the real work of General Convention takes place. They receive the reports of Standing Commissions and the included resolutions as well as all the other resolutions that have been proposed by dioceses, bishops and deputies. They are charged with trying to mix the whole lot together into a coherent whole.

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Scottish bishops to observe moratorium

The bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church have posted a response to the Primates of the Anglican Communion following the spring meeting of their bishops.

In the document, while pointing out that there is a wide range of opinion regarding the issues of ordaining a partnered gay or lesbian as a bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions, the Scottish College of Bishops states that it is going to abide by the request of Lambeth for "gracious restraint".

They make clear that, in the case of same-sex blessings, they are refraining from officially authorizing liturgical rites. It does not require that priests performing such actions be prosecuted.

The document ends expressing a unanimous observation that Anglican provincial boundaries must be observed.

The full letter, in PDF format, is found here.

There are links to additional resources at Thinking Anglicans.

Breaking: Episcopal diocese prevails in Colorado Springs court case

Updated 7:00 pm:

Police called to remove diocesan security guards from church property.

From here.

Updated, 3:30 pm:

- Judge's order (received via email)
- Press release from the CANA congregation
____________________

The Episcopal Diocese and the continuing congregation at Grace Church in Colorado Springs have prevailed in court today. The breakaway congregation associated with CANA has been ordered to leave.

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The Rev. Emily Hewitt appointed to a top US Court post

The Rev. Emily Hewitt, one of the Philadelphia 11 (the first group of women ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church) has been appointed by President Obama as the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

From here.

Gay and Lesbian advocacy groups hailed the appointment in particular. Judge Hewitt is married to attorney Eleanor Dean Acheson who was formerly part of the Clinton Administration's efforts for equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans.

Judge Hewitt's bio follows.

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Controversy spreads over Obama speech at Notre Dame commencement

President Obama's invitation to speak at Notre Dame this spring is causing a number of Roman Catholic leaders to boycott the ceremony, including the Bishop of the local diocese. The problem is centered in the President's support for keeping abortion legally available in the United States. According to Daniel Burke, the Jesuits at Notre Dame, among others, are coming out in support:
"'People need to recognize that Catholic universities have to be places where freedom of speech and discussion is recognized and valued. Not to allow a diversity of speakers on campus is to put Catholic universities into a ghetto,' says Reese. Meanwhile, National Catholic Reporter takes the gloves off, calling Patrick Reilly, whose Cardinal Newman Society incites a lot of commencement outrage, a 'self-appointed ayatollah' and 'overseer of false orthodoxy.'  '...as Cardinal Newman rolls over in his recently relocated grave, Reilly uses the cardinal's good name to promote the idea of university as Catholic madrassa,' says Joe Feuerherd, NCR'spublisher and editor-in-chief."
Read the full article here.

Episcopal services resume at Tejon St. property on Palm Sunday

Update, 5pm: The Gazette reports,

A judge on Wednesday ordered the Anglican parish that's been meeting at Grace Church, 631 N. Tejon St., to vacate the building by April 3 at 5 p.m., setting the stage for the exiled Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal parish to hold its first service in the gothic church on Palm Sunday.

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C of E considers sale of church to SSPX

BBC:

The Society of St Pius X has expressed an interest in purchasing St George's Church in Gorton, Manchester.

One of its bishops, Richard Williamson, provoked anger after saying he did not believe Nazi gas chambers existed. He later apologised.

Although the group distanced itself from his comments, local politicians have objected to the church sale.

The Church Commissioners which manages the Church of England's historic assets is considering the sale and has asked for feedback by the end of the month.

A report will then be submitted to the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, who will in turn make his recommendations.

Williamson has not retracted his expressed views on the holocaust, women's rights, or Mother Teresa.

Debating the charitable deduction

It would be hard to find anyone more qualified than Martin Feldstein to predict the effects of President Obama's proposal to limit the tax deductibility of charitable contributions:

A high-income person paying taxes at a 35 percent marginal rate lowers his tax bill by 35 cents for every dollar that he contributes to a charitable organization. The net cost to the individual is 65 cents for every dollar received by the charity. A substantial body of economic research shows that, on average, each 10 percent reduction in the cost of giving raises the amount that a person gives by about 10 percent. So, the 35 percent reduction implied by current deductibility rules raises the amount of charitable giving by about 35 percent.

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Lay employee census conclusions

Through Resolution A125 the 75th General Convention "authorize[d] and request[ed] the Church Pension Group to conduct a survey of lay employees concentrating on employee demographics, the exercise of authority in the employment setting, and compensation and benefits. The Bishop or other ecclesiastical authority of each diocese shall be requested to supply relevant data for each employing unit in the diocese to the Church Pension Group." The CPG has concluded this survey/census and draws the following conclusions:

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Williams: a vision of the world and the humans in it free from possession

The evening Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, delivered a lecture entitled "Renewing the Face of the Earth: Human Responsibility and the Environment."

An excerpt:

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PCUSA considers deep cuts

From Presbyterian News Service:

Senior staff of the General Assembly Council (GAC) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) outlined their plans for closing a $9.92 million shortfall in the 2009 General Assembly Mission Budget at a meeting of the council’s executive committee here March 24.

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Take that, Karl Marx

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, David Barash writes:

Marx was wrong: The opiate of the masses isn't religion, but spectator sports. What else explains the astounding fact that millions of seemingly intelligent human beings feel that the athletic exertions of total strangers are somehow consequential for themselves? The real question we should be asking during the madness surrounding this month's collegiate basketball championship season is not who will win, but why anyone cares.
and

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Therapists and the "treatment" of homosexuality

The BBC reports on a new survey that sheds some light on how far out on the psychotherapeutic right wing the ex-gay movement, endorsed by many of the leaders of the schismatic movement in the Episcopal Church really is. A grand total of 4 percent of therapists in the study believe it is possible to change someone's sexual orientation.

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CDSP Professor of Liturgics on bishop elect of No. Michigan

Bishops and Standing Committees around the Episcopal Church have had many questions about The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, bishop elect of Northern Michigan. The primary questions are on his practice of Buddhist meditation, the process of his election, and his liturgical experimentation. The first two are addressed at the Diocesan website.

In regard to the last question some have questioned how he can fulfill the episcopal role of unity when he has been in the forefront of liturgical experimentation. One bishop said that Forrester understands the difference in roles and is fully ready to assume the duties as listed in the rite for the Ordination of a Bishop.

Dr. Louis Weil, professor of Liturgics at Church Divinity School of the Pacific writes to bishop-elect about his understanding of the how liturgy develops and changes in history, the current state of liturgy in churches, both Episcopal and others. Weil addresses the unity question with his interpretation of how unity can flow from the episcopacy, bringing the margins into dialogue with each other, therefore promoting deeper unity by transcending difference rather than enforcing uniformity:

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The Archbishop of Canterbury's own shortcomings on climate change

As we reported earlier, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has given a speech on climate change. The headline at The Church Times' blog reads: "Archbishop of Canterbury: Religious communities "failing profoundly" in climate change response."

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Person to person evangelism works best, survey says

Cathy Lee Grossman of USA Today reports on some helpful findings from a survey conducted by the Southern Baptist Convention:

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South African religious leaders say let Dali Lama in

Writing as chairman of the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Primate of the Anglican Church of South Africa has asked President Kgalema Motlanthe to reconsider the decision to deny a visa to the Dali Lama:

The Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum wishes to express its serious concern over South Africa’s decision to deny a visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the occasion of the proposed conference to celebrate world peace and the 2010 Football World Soccer Cup in South Africa. We raise our voice alongside the many others of our civil society expressing anger and disappointment, including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s clearly stated unhappiness with the action and its underlying causes. ....

We note that speculation surrounding the motivation for this decision has provided a stark reminder of the need to separate the functions of the ruling political party from those of Government and Head of State.

More fundamental is the question of the relationship between domestic and international human rights norms and values, and policy-making.

Click Read more to see the full letter.

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The Vatican's curious timing

Fresh off its failure to Google Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson before welcoming him back into the Church, the Holy See is planning a pastoral instruction on the internet. Ruth Gledhill has details.


Lambeth Conference funding shortfall causes probed

Last year's Lambeth Conference had some problems, at least financially speaking. A just completed audit of the funds raised and spent to hold the conference has uncovered some serious concerns about decisions made.

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Groups ask U.N. to reject call for ban of religious defamation

A large number of groups have called upon the United Nations to reject a proposal that would commit the U.N. to working to stamp out "religious defamation".

The proposal, which comes from a group of countries with large Islamic majorities in their population, has been proposed to ban speech such as the series of Danish cartoons that were understood to be criticizing the Prophet Mohammed.

However, according to an article in the Washington Post:

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The blue book has been released

Just posted this morning on the Episcopal Church's website:
"The Blue Book, the collection of reports to the Episcopal Church's General Convention of the work done by its committees, commissions, agencies and boards (CCABs) during the 2007-2009 triennium, is now available online [].

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Anglicans providing respite for other Anglicans

News today of an attempt to support the work of the Anglicans in Sri Lanka:

"Clergy from the Church of England are being invited to provide respite for Sri Lankan priests in the war-torn country.

CoE clergy will be asked to take over from Sri Lankan clergy in safe regions, so that those clergy can provide respite for their countrymen in conflict zones."

Read the full news report here.

Science fiction does not always "get" religion

Anyone who loves science fiction as a literary genre soon discovers that there's typically little respect for authority and less for religious beliefs in most author's works. It's not surprising therefore that religion, organized or not, gets pretty beat-up in most science fiction novels and films.

Charlie Jane Anders has collected seven examples of this and posted them in a self described rant online:

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Lancet: Pope's comments wildly inaccurate, devastating

BBC:

One of the world's most prestigious medical journals, the Lancet, has accused Pope Benedict XVI of distorting science in his remarks on condom use.

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Church of England: Bishop Nazir-Ali to retire

The outspoken conservative Evangelical bishop of Rochester is stepping down 10 years short of his required retirement date. The expressed reason is bridge-building with the Muslim community with which he has been at odds.

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Saturday collection 3/27/09

Here is our weekly collection plate, offering a few of the good things that Episcopalians and their congregations have done that made the news this past week. And other news fit to print.

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Abraham's Tent: Muslims, Jews and Christians dream of peace

In Omaha, Nebraska, the three Abrahamic faiths gathered for dinner and conversations.

“Conversation on Peace” was held with Rabbi Peter Knobel, immediate past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Primate of the Episcopal Church, and Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, moderated by Mark Pelavin of the Religious Action Center.

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Northeast meets Biblebelt

Brown University student Kevin Ross '09 writes about his semester at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University:

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George Tyrrell's excommunication still confronts Christianity

George Tyrell was a Jesuit priest and a Modernist theologian. He died in 1909, denied burial in a Catholic cemetery. The ideas that led to Tyrrell's expulsion and excommunication still confront Christianity, says Oliver Rafferty:

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Ahmanson becomes a Democrat

Kathleen Parker, a columnist for The Washington Post writes:

In what one might call a biblical move, Christian philanthropist Howard Ahmanson -- one of three major funders of the campaign for California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages -- has abandoned the GOP for the Democratic Party.

No one ever said the multimillionaire isn't idiosyncratic.

In a rare interview Thursday, Ahmanson shared some of his thoughts about why he switched parties. In a word, taxes.

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ABC has a word with the BBC

The story behind the story is the sheer number of stories of how the Church of England is dealing with the fact that the UK is no longer a Christian nation.

The Telegraph
:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has complained to the Director General of the BBC about the decline of religious programming at the Corporation. Dr Rowan Williams warned Mark Thompson at a meeting at Lambeth Palace that the broadcaster must not ignore its Christian audience.
...

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The case for putting 0.7% back into the budget

From Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (more here):

By now you have probably heard that the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has sent a draft budget to General Convention that eliminates the 0.7% line item for the Millennium Development Goals.

Be not afraid. Be very excited.

Why? Because this has provided us a moment of great opportunity -- an opportunity to give everyone a vision for prophetic and inspirational living out of our Christian call through our budgets. This is an opportunity for us to take a joyful and exciting leap of faith in a time of fear. We need to approach it as that. Read on, and we'll show you how.

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Religious leaders call on G20 to remember the most vulnerable

The Most Rev. Rowan Williams and other Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders are calling on the leaders of the G20 nations to remember the most vulnerable and the moral implications of their choices when they meet in London this week.

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Does Nazir-Ali's resignation mean the end of GAFCON?

George Pitcher writes in the Telegraph that the retirement of Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester may be "emblematic of the decline of a political force in worldwide Anglicanism, which as recently as last year threatened to tear our Communion apart."


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EDS appoints new president and dean

The Rev. Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, president and executive director of Political Research Associates and vicar of St. David’s Episcopal Church, Pepperell, Massachusetts, has been named the new president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School.

Earlier, we posted a story in the Boston Globe about Ragsdale and her work as vicar and director of PRA.

The complete news release from EDS is below the fold.

The Boston Globe reports here.

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Churches, federal funds and discrimination

The Washington Post says in an editorial that the Obama administration has not ended the Bush administration practice of allowing faith-based groups that receive federal funds to discriminate in hiring.

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Railway stations of the cross

The Church Times says that a narrow gauge railway museum in northwest Wales is planning a round-trip excursion on Good Friday evening retracing by rail the fourteen Stations of the Cross.

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Easter message from the Presiding Bishop

Here is the 2009 Easter message from the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

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Presiding Bishop meets Pennsylvanians

For two hours on Sunday afternoon (March 30), Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori held a conversation with lay people in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia Cathedral, listening to their views and responding to their questions about the diocese, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

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G20: grow up and remember the poor

Dave Walker at Church Times blog reports on a debate held at St. Paul's Cathedral in London as the G20 leaders gather to meet and discuss the global economy, the environment and other pressing issues:

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Catholic Church knew of sex abuse in 1950's

The National Catholic Reporter writes that as early as the 1950s the US Roman Catholic Church was being warned about sex abuse cases.

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Is the HoB Theology Committee stalling?

The 2009 Blue Book online, has a report from the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops:

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Baseball or Good Friday or both?

Opening day for the Detroit Tigers falls on Good Friday. The Rev. Harry Cook, rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Clawson, MI, writes on the conflict for Christian baseball fans. He reports on Hank Greenberg who sat out of a game that fell on Yom Kippur.

...Christians who divide their loyalties between religion and baseball will just have to make a choice: Opening Day or the solemnity of Good Friday? It poses a similar dilemma for Jews, who will be celebrating the second day of the Jewish feast of Passover.

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The "Am-against-it" church

Howard E. Friend, writing in the Alban Institute Weekly, explores how the embers of an "Am-against-it" Church can begin to burn with the fires of the Spirit:

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