Robinson looks ahead

Bishop Gene Robinson joined in a discussion of the relationship between religion and public policy held at the think tank where he will serve as a Senior Fellow after his retirement in January..

The Nashua Telegraph reports:

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World AIDS Day

From NPR Story Corps:
REVEREND ERIC WILLIAMS & JANNETTE BERKLEY-PATTON

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Diocese of Bristol votes no confidence in Synod vote on women in the episcopate

The Church of England Diocese of Bristol passed a vote of no confidence in the ability of the General Synod of the Church of England to effect the clear will of the majority of Church members in relation to women bishops:

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Advent opportunities

UPDATED: see below

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Nun responds to Vatican with song of protest

Sister Kathy Sherman of the Congregation of St. Joseph responded to the harsh assessment of women religious in the US with a song that has become the anthem of support for the sisters. Reported in the New York Times

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Church of England House of Laity to call special meeting

Thinking Anglicans is reporting the story from the Mail Online:

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ABC Rowan Williams Advent letter to the Primates

The Most Reverend Rowan Williams has written an Advent Letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion as he nears the end of his time as the Archbishop of Canterbury:

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1 Advent

Something to get you in the mood for the season of Advent

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A calling card for the Episcopal Church?

Here is the Facebook page of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, where my business partner and I had the pleasure of giving a communications workshop on Saturday. You'll notice that the cover photo features Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and another woman giving Holy Communion. (PS: why not "like" it while you are in the neighborhood.)

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The pope is on Twitter. Most Episcopal bishops are not.

The leader of a global institution know for adapting quickly to fast-paced change has joined Twitter.

Yep, Pope Benedict XVI has made the leap before the vast majority of bishops in the allegedly nimble Episcopal Church.

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APA awakens: Being transgender no longer a mental illness

The mental health establishment is catching up to what friends of transgender people have long known: being transgender is not a mental illness. Zack Ford writes:

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An Abrahamic solution in the Middle East?

Mark Silk calls our attention to a sermon by Guy Strousma at the Oxford University Cathedral that proposes that a reinterpretation of sacred scriptures holds the key to catalyzing progress toward peace in the Middle East. Silk writes:

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Liturgy for blessing of same sex couples begins use

Episcopal News Service has the news on the first days of use of the liturgy for blessing same-sex couples' relationships:

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Talking theology with a 10-year-old who is learning to knit

The Rev. Megan Castellan recently had occasion to talk theology with a 10-year-old boy while teaching him to knit. And as one doesn't get a chance to write a sentence like that every day, we are glad that she wrote about it.

Here's a taste of their conversation:

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Episcopal Church reports 8.2% annual return on trust funds

Episcopal Church reports annual return of 8.2 % for previous decade
From the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs

Episcopal Church reports annual return of 8.2 % for previous decade

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U.S. needs to support International Disability Rights

Gary Arnold urges the Congress to pass the legislation ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. In The Huffington Post Arnold writes:

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UK Girl Guides and Boy Scouts consider oath for atheists

UK Boy Scouts and Girl Guides are considering development of an oath for atheist scouts and guides according to The Guardian:

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Vicar wears Prada

A little stir in the Church of England over a photo shoot featuring a Vicar wearing Prada. Some think it's terrible - others laud her style.

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The Power of Time

Time is perceived in many ways depending on one's culture. How might this concept affect how we do church? Professor Philip Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. Time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world.

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New website for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has a new website. They offer "Welcome" on their homepage:

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Breaking: Presiding officers announce members of Structure Task Force

The Office of Public Affairs has just sent a media release announcing the membership of the new Task Force for Church Structural Reform. We hope to have a new post with about half an hour with more information about who some of the members are, as we suspect many are not widely known in the church--which we further suspect may be a good thing.

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Structure Task Force members: who they are, what they do

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, today announced the names of the 24 members of the task force charged by General Convention with presenting a plan to the next General Convention “for reforming the Church’s structures, governance, and administration."

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Presiding Bishop accepts Lawrence’s renunciation

The Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs has sent a media release announcing that The Presiding Bishop has accepted Mark Lawrence’s renunciation:

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An Interfaith Advent

The Rev. Susan Russell writes in Huffington Post on Advent at All Saints Pasadena, and an upcoming convention being held at the church:

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Is bad science like bad religion?

Biologist and author Rupert Sheldrake suggests in Huffington Post that "bad science" is indeed like "bad religion":

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Opponents of marriage equality cite religion as major factor

A new Gallup poll indicates that religion is a major consideration for Americans who oppose legalization of same-sex marriage. Answering an open-ended question, 47 percent of those who oppose marriage equality say religion and the Bible are the top reasons. Supporters of same-sex marriage cite equal rights and personal freedom to explain their choice, and make no mention of God or religion.

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Lawrence insists he's still Bishop of SC

From Episcopal News Service:

Mark Lawrence, who led some of the members of the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church, has said he remains the bishop of the diocese, and called Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s Dec. 5 decision to accept his renunciation of orders as “superfluous.”

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This time around, Warren silent on draconian Ugandan law

Faithful America is urging evangelical preacher Rick Warren to speak out against a horrific law in Uganda which would sentence gays and lesbians to life in prison or even the death penalty. From the group's Web site:

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The true legacy of St. Nicholas

Before this St. Nicholas Day draws to a close, let's take a few moments to ponder the life of this amazing historic figure:

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Michael Barlowe named Executive Officer of General Convention

The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe has been named Executive Officer of General Convention of the Episcopal Church. From TEC's Office of Public Affairs:

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Embezzlement hits Kentucky scholarship fund

A Federal indictment alleges that in a period of over five years Charles and Diana Muir embezzled $1.4 million from the Woodcock Foundation, an Episcopal Church-related charity and scholarship fund founded in 1872 and based in Louisville..

The Foundation awarded scholarships to needy college students for the past 50 years.

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Updated: Cameron supports gay marriage in churches

UPDATED: The PM has spoken. Video and story at the BBC.

The Church of England is quick to respond, and forcefully object.

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Caution: nervous bishops ahead

A few Bishops in the Church of England want a go-slow approach to approving women bishops while four organizations have written a joint letter to the Bishops saying now is the time to act boldly.

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Supreme Court to hear two cases on gay marriage

Breaking: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases concerning marriage equality, one challenging the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 and the other, from New York, challenges the Defense of Marriage Act.

The New York Times reports:

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Tiffany's religious art on display

An exhibit of the religious art of Louis C. Tiffany gives a glimpse into an era when houses of worship were built in growing cities.

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Call me Mary

Call me Mary. Youth group tells the story of the Annunciation.

Brought to you by the youth group of First United Methodist Church of Smithville, TX. Happy Advent! Check out the rest of the story in the gospel of Luke, chapters 1-2.

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Advent: the importance of waiting and doing nothing

Former Episcopal Café editor and current seeker of news for the Café, the Rev. Torey Lightcap, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Sioux City, Iowa, writes in Huffington Post
The Importance of Waiting and Doing Nothing: an Advent reflection:

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Hanukkah

Hilary Leila Krieger writes about Hanukkah in the New York Times:

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PB to visit Diocese of South Carolina

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori will visit the Diocese of South Carolina in January according to Morning News Online scnow.com:

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Why don't people go to church?

David L. Hansen writing in The Lutheran finds out why people don't go to church:

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10 spiritual practices for Advent and Christmas

The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia features 10 spiritual practices Towards a Peaceful Christmas by the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, rector of Trinity, Everett, WA:

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Blue Christmas

Maggie Dawn, chaplain and professor at Yale Divinity School reflects on Christmas and the feelings it sometimes evokes:

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O come all ye tweetful

Huffington Post notes that "the country's senior bishops are set to tweet their Christmas Day sermons for the first time this year in a Christmas Tweet campaign"

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Once in Royal David's City

Another song of the season for your Sunday evening pleasure:

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Experience, community and evangelism

Harriet Baber makes a couple of provocative claims in a comment on yesterday's item about why people don't go to church. She notes:

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Do we do a good job in discerning priestly vocations?

Our item on why people don't go to church is eliciting some heartfelt comments. This one from Ben Miller speaks to what he sees as problems in the way in which we discern priestly vocations. Miller writes:

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How avoiding conflict harms the church

Giles Fraser has written an excellent column about how fear of conflict distorts church politics. He is focusing on the Church of England, but the lessons are transferable.

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Reflections on the life of Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton, a giant of 20th century spirituality, died 44 years ago today. The Rev. James Martin reflects on Merton's life.

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UK plan for marriage equality bans England/Wales Anglican Churches

UPDATED:
Church Times reports on the UK government's plan for marriage equality which bans all Church of England and Church of Wales churches from conducting these services unless the governing body "opts in." Key points:

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CPG report on ordinations and clergy statistics

The Church Pension Group released its statistical report on clergy of the Episcopal Church. Key findings:

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Church of Canada releases theology report on Anglican Covenant

The Rev. Alan Perry, Executive Archdeacon in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada comments on the recently released theological analysis of the Anglican Covenant:

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Gay marriage ban 'step too far' says Archbishop of Wales

The Archbishop of Wales says his church should receive the same option as other churches to opt in on gay marriages. The BBC reports.

The Archbishop of Wales says making it illegal for the Church in Wales to offer same-sex marriages will be a "step too far".

Dr Barry Morgan says the freedoms of the church would be curtailed by a ban.

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CofE to vote again on women bishops in July

Breaking: The House of Bishops of the Church of England released a statement detailing the path forward on women in the episcopate.

Essentially, the will form a drafting group consisting of members of all three houses in February, settle on all the elements of new legislation when the Synod meets in May and then put the measure up for a final vote in July.

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+Gene on The Daily Show

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show interviews the Rt Rev. Gene Robinson on the changing Christian attitudes toward same-sex marriage and explains how the commonly misinterpreted story of Sodom and Gomorrah actually deals with poverty.

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Rick Warren Tweets opposition to Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill

Rick Warren has been under some pressure to speak out on proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda.

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Episcopal Relief and Development highly rated by Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports tells their readers to "Make sure your donation counts".

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Brian McLaren's open letter to Uganda

Brian McLaren posted an open letter to Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament. Kadaga has stated that the proposed Ugandan law against gay persons is something Ugandans want "as a Christmas gift."

Excerpted from his letter:

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Feeding South Sudan

Bishop Joseph Garang Atem of the Diocese of Renk in South Sudan spoke at the convention of the Diocese of Chicago, which has a companion diocese relationship with Renk. Bishop Garang is among those wrestling with how to feed, house and provide medical care for tens of thousands of homeless people fleeing religious persecution and ethnic and political violence.

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Landfillharmonic

"People realize that we shouldn't throw trash away carelessly ...Well, we shouldn't throw people away either" ~Favio Chavez, orchestra director:

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Egypt court sentences Christian to 3 years for blasphemy

Things are miserable in Egypt for Christians these days. A young Coptic Christian in Egypt was just sentenced to three years in prison for blasphemy after posting a video on Facebook. (Not just any video; the amateur video made in the U.S. that sparked outrage across the Muslim world.) His neighbors turned him in. ABC News reports:

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Storm over climate change vs. biblical end times

Six in 10 Americans, including a number of Christians, believe that climate change is actually impacting the weather, according to a new survey. But many, many others are of the opinion that severe weather is a sign that we're smack in the middle of biblical end times. According to a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service:

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Using Pinterest as a tool for evangelism

Now that your parish is on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Yelp, should you add Pinterest to your evangelism mix as well? Or have you already? Consider these tips for parishes from Kingswood Communications:

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Christmas message from the Presiding Bishop

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued her 2012 Christmas message today:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined. Isaiah 9:2

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Silent retreat - great in theory, difficult in practice

While silent retreats are gaining popularity in our busy, noisy culture, many people have a lot of trouble adjusting to the quiet. And what does it mean to be on retreat when we can stay connected to the outside world through cellphones and iPads? The Washington Post reports:

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The power of failure

What if religious leaders gathered around a table and became totally honest about our failures and confessed the risks we took that backfired? Would that create a more accountable, more experimental leadership environment...or would we just hide?

Sarika Bansil writes in the NYT Opinionator blog about the value that leaders of major non-profit charities gain from learning from failure, but first one has to admit it.

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Church of England not consulted on gay marriage ban

The BBC reports that a spokesman for the Church of England was not properly consulted when a proposal to ban gay marriages in the Church of England and the Church of Wales came before parliament on Tuesday. The spokesman said that there should not be separate rules for conforming and non-conforming churches.

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Prayers for the people of Newtown

UPDATED

Prayer for Victims of Trauma:

Holy One, you do not distance from the pain of your people, but in Jesus bear that pain with us and bless all who suffer at others' hands. Hallow our flesh and all creation with your cleansing love bring healing and strength to the victims of the shootings in Newtown and by your justice lift them up, that in the body you have given them, they may rejoice. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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Schrödinger’s bishop

An unlikely solution to the Church of England's stand-off over women bishops emerged recently following the unexpected intervention of Professor Brian Cox according to the blog "Tea and Cake or Death?"

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The Queen James Bible

A new edition of the Bible seeks to claify what the Bible actually says about homosexuality.

The Digital Journal reports:

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Ministry and prayers for Sandy Hook, Newtown CT

Update on Sandy Hook shootings.

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Episcopal leaders respond to massacre in Newtown

Updated at bottom with additional statements at 1:25

Episcopal Church leaders have begun to respond to the massacre yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut. Here are some of their responses.

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Bishops of Connecticut issue new update

The latest from the Episcopal bishops of Connecticut includes news of a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown who was killed in the shooting. They write:


Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

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The Names

Charlotte Bacon, 6, Daniel Barden, 7, Olivia Engel, 6, Josephine Gay, 7, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6, Dylan Hockley, 6, Madeleine F. Hsu, 6, Catherine V. Hubbard, 6, Chase Kowalski, 7, Jesse Lewis, 6, James Mattioli, 6, Grace McDonnell, 7, Emilie Parker, 6, Jack Pinto, 6, Noah Pozner, 6, Caroline Previdi, 6, Jessica Rekos, 6, Avielle Richman, 6, Benjamin Wheeler, 6, Allison N. Wyatt, 6.

The staff: Rachel Davino, 29, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Lauren Rousseau, 30, Mary Sherlach, 56, Victoria Soto, 27.

(Our addition: Adam and Nancy Lanza.)

(From The New York Times)

Starbucks partners with Seamans' Church Institute

Starbucks and Seamen's Church Institute are collaborating to help seafarers according to Episcopal News Service:

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In sermons, Episcopal leaders in Washington call for gun control

The leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington will use their sermons this morning to call for stricter gun control legislation.

Both Bishop Mariann Budde, who is preaching at a confirmation service at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, and the Very Rev. Gary Hall, who is preaching at Washington National Cathedral, where he is dean, are calling for a ban on the sale of assault weapons and ammunition for such weapons in addition to other legislation.

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Dean Gary Hall's sermon on the Newtown massacre

Dean Gary Hall of Washington National Cathedral preached this sermon at the 8:45 Eucharist. He will preach again at the 11:15 service.

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Bishop Marianne Edgar Budde's sermon on the Newtown massacre

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde preached this sermon at a Confirmation service at St. Alban's Church in Washington, D. C. this morning.

What Shall We Do?

And the crowd asked John the Baptist, “What shall we do?”

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Preaching the massacre

Updated: with this link to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's sermon this morning in the Diocese of Lexington. She said, in part:

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In the wake of Newtown, what should Christians do?

In the aftermath of a massacre such as the one that occurred Friday in Newtown, is it helpful for Christians to do anything other than pray and offer comfort to those who have been affected by the violence?

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President as preacher, prophet and parent

The Lede blog at The New York Times has extensive coverage of President Barack Obama's speech at an interfaith service commemorating the victims of the Newtown massacre. It includes this:

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Zimbabwe Anglicans are back in their churches!

The Anglican Communion News Service reports some very good news:

Thousands of worshippers took part in an historic thanksgiving service in Harare today to celebrate the return of St Mary and All Saints Cathedral and other properties to the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) and Zimbabwe Anglicans.

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"We believe that goodness can come out of the darkest days"

We hope to post links or excerpts from a few of the sermons preached yesterday in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut in the wake of the Newtown massacre. They come to us through the good offices of Karin Hamilton, the diocese's director of communications. This one is by the Rev. Molly James of Saint James, Higganum.

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What they preached about in Connecticut

Karin Hamilton, director of communications in the Diocese of Connecticut and the Rev. Molly James are collecting sermons preached in the diocese on Sunday in the wake of the kills at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. You can read them here.

Ugandan president speaks against homosexuality at consecration

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni spoke against homosexuality at the consecration of The Rt. Rev. Stanley Ntagali as primate of the Church of Uganda this weekend. But has he also signaled his intention not to sign the draconian anti-gay legislation under consideration by that country's parliament. From the Daily Monitor of Uganda:

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A monk in the midst

A new video feature A Monk in the Midst from the Diocese of Massachusetts features Bishop Tom Shaw, a brother of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, which has its monastery on Harvard Square. In this one, he speaks of how the church "wrecks" Christmas.

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The collapse of US evangelicalism

John S. Dickerson, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church and author of The Great Evangelical Recession writes in the New York Times:

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Time to end the Church of "No"

This month the Church of England has suffered a one-two self-inflicted punch. First, the General Synod narrowly defeats women bishops, now the reaction to the proposal to marriage equality, which went from panic to stepping back from the ledge. This is not just an institutional battle. It has become the way that many people have come to know the Gospel. The preoccupation with women and sex is driving people away from the Church.

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An idiot's guide to church and state in the UK

Frank Cranmer has a created a useful guide to understanding church and state in the United Kingdom, which is not only needed by politicians and religious leaders there and is also a useful primer for Episcopalians.

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Most Americans now believe climate change is real

Ekklesia reports on a Public Religion Research Institute Survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service:

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Malaria progress threatened by lower funding

BBC notes that a drop in funding will threaten the goals for eradicating deaths from malaria. Episcopal Relief and Development offers to match your gift to Nets for Life:

Its latest World Malaria Report says 1.1 million lives were saved in the past decade but that the expansion in funding from 2004-09 halted in 2010-12.

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Ugandan Archbishop enthroned

News from Uganda: Robert Duncan, former Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh and currently Archbishop of the "Anglican Church in North America" preached at the enthronement of Archbishop Stanley Ntagali as eighth Primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda.

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How do we make sense of the Sandy Hook tragedy?

The Rt Rev Ian Douglas comments on the religious questions in the face of the horror of the Sandy Hook killings. Sunday School Director Sue Vogelman speaks to CNN about answering children's questions and praying with them. From Episcopal News Service::

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Joy in the midst of our wintry days

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) posts photos every day of the wonders of space. On this day they offered us a dancing world:

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Ancient bones show a culture of compassion

From the New York Times:
While it is a painful truism that brutality and violence are at least as old as humanity, so, it seems, is caring for the sick and disabled. And some archaeologists are suggesting a closer, more systematic look at how prehistoric people — who may have left only their bones — treated illness, injury and incapacitation. Call it the archaeology of health care.

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Plans for inaugural interfaith prayer service

NPR carries the Associated Press story:

President Barack Obama is planning to participate in a special prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral the morning after he takes the oath of office, his inaugural committee announced Tuesday.

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More on God in the Newtown tragedy

Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar, writes on these 6 things he's sick of hearing concerning the Sandy Hook massacre, describing them each in a paragraph:

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Seeing God in schools

Couple of blog posts on God in schools:

Cafe News Blogger Kurt Wiesner responds to calls to "Put God back in schools." Part of it was rebuttal of bad theology, and another part clarifying church and state laws: both why separation of Church and State is critical, and what the Constitution protects concerning prayer in school.

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Friday's honoring of the lives loss in Newtown

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proclaimed Friday a day of mourning in his state and asked Connecticut residents to toll bells and observe a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m.

From The Ridgefield Press:

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Presiding Bishop journeys to Jerusalem for Christmas

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will celebrate Christmas in Jerusalem, preaching at Midnight Mass Dec. 24 at St. George's Cathedral. From Episcopal News Service:

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Church leaders unite to battle violence in U.S.culture

The New York Times reports today that "religious leaders across the country this week vowed to mobilize their congregants to push for gun control legislation and provide the ground support for politicians willing to take on the gun lobby, saying the time has come for action beyond praying and comforting the families of those killed." According to the Times:

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For whom will our bells toll?

Tomorrow morning, Episcopal parishes across the country will open their doors in order to provide space for prayer and meditation. It will have been one week since tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, transpired, when Adam Lanza killed 27 people before ending his own life, at his own hand. Churches with bells or carillon systems may elect to toll bells to mark and remember the lives lost.

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Christmas gifts for the Episcopalian on your list

Last-minute shoppers, take heart - you still have time to order great gifts online for the Episcopalian on your Christmas list (and anyone who might appreciate a bit of sacred inspiration). A few suggestions:

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Tug of war in the Church of England

The Washington Post describes the war for the soul of the Church of the England on the way to modernization.

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National Religious Leaders speak out on gun violence

As churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious groups toll their bells for the victims in Sandy Hook Elementary School, national religious leaders gathered at the Washington (DC) National Cathedral this morning to speak out on gun violence. WAMU carries the story:

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Hope and peace in a violent world

Rabbi Matthew Gevirtz, Bishop Mark Beckwith and Imam Deen Shareet appear on a "Faith on Fridays" segment on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." They talk about the aftermath of the Newtown shootings, the times when God transcends the limits of our faith, and how working together the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace has reached out in the wake of the violent gun deaths of young people in their city.

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More armed guards are not the answer

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, has released the following statement in response to the NRA’s comments made in a press conference today.

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Attitudes towards guns and violence

Reducing gun violence isn't just about what policies will work. It is also about changing hearts and minds of the electorate. There is a Christian duty in both. While the focus may be turning to Washington and away from Newtown, we must not forget that politics are also local.

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Christmas frames sexuality debate

Pope Benedict XVI used his Christmas message to assail same sex marriage and to attack "gender theory" as a distortion of human nature. Meanwhile, an Anglican Church in Auckland says that it's Christmas, it's time for Jesus to "come out."

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Episcopal church #8 in 2012 religion news writers' stories

Religion news journalists voted for the top 10 religion stories of the year. The poll was taken before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown CT or the tragedy and search for meaning would have been number 1.

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Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves urges reform of gun laws, NRA

We've asked folks to send us the statements that their bishops, rectors and lay leaders have made in the aftermath of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and will be presenting a few of those today and tomorrow. This one comes from Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves of the Diocese of El Camino Real, and though it was written before the National Rifle Association called for installing armed officers in every American school, it does speaks directly to the need to reform that organization.

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Bishop Mathes says NRA's proposals are misguided

In a letter to his diocese, Bishop James Mathes of San Diego voiced opposition to the National Rifle Association's proposal to put an armed person in every American school. The bishop writes:

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A Blessing Station: out in the midst of the Advent crowds

Here on the Cafe a while back, we had a conversation about how the church should make itself present on Black Friday. I suggested that the church needed to do more than bemoan commercialism, and wondered whether we might develop an Advent counterpart to the extremely successful Ashes to Go initiative that was coordinated in February by the Rev. Emily Mellott of Calvary Church in Lombard, Ill.

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Bishops urge petitions against gun violence

The Rt Revs Jon Bruno of Los Angeles and James Curry of Connecticut are asking people to sign online petitions to end gun violence:

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Preaching Newtown

As we mentioned yesterday, bishops, clergy and lay leaders from around the Episcopal Church have been attempting to make sense of and otherwise respond to the horrific shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday. Here are a few links to some of the sermons and statements that have come to our attention.

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Rowan Williams: If all you have is a gun, everything is a target

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spoke out on gun violence in his comments on the BBC's Thought for the Day:

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Church ushers and safety

Lisa Fox writing at the blog My Manner of Life discusses the expanded training for ushers:

For the last several years, usher training has consisted of three parts: (1) our role in welcoming, (2) our liturgical role, and – alas – (3) our role in security.

Does your church train ushers on security?

Brooklyn church damaged by fire

Fire at St. Luke and St. Matthew Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, that has been used for superstorm Sandy relief, may be arson according to CBS-New York:

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Evangelism on Christmas Eve: #nativityvigil

Christmas and Easter are perhaps the only two times of the year when people who generally ignore the church take at least a momentary interest in it. They are, therefore the two times of the year when it is most helpful to post the times--and perhaps the nature--of your services not only on your website, but on social media as well.

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On not heart-ing Clement Moore

Nineteen years ago, the Rev. Roger Ferlo, who is now president of Seabury and Bexley Hall Seminaries, was rector of St. Luke in the Fields in Greenwich Village, a church where Clement Moore, author of A Visit from St. Nicholas, otherwise known by its first line: "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was once senior warden.

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The Christmas Story by kids

An oldy-but-a-goody from St. Paul's in Auckland, New Zealand: The Christmas Story as told by kids.

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The Rebel Jesus

A Christmas wish from "a heathen and a pagan."

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Once in Royal David's City

Wishing you a happy and holy Christmas Eve.

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Presiding Bishop's Christmas Eve Sermon

“A child is born, a prince of peace who will establish justice, here and around this earth,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her sermon on Christmas Eve, December 24 from St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from all of us at Episcopal Café:

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Washington's Bishop Jane Dixon has died

UPDATE: a memorial page can be found on Facebook

The following is received tonight from Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of Washington:

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Trinity Episcopal Church in Mobile "likely a total loss"

Trinity Episcopal Church in Mobile, Alabama was badly damaged by the Christmas Day storm.

The Rev. Bailey Norman posted the following on the church's website:

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Queen's Christmas speech

Queen Elizabeth spoke to her nation in the Annual Christmas address, as reported by The Telegraph:

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"Why, God?" (death takes no holiday)

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times hands her column over to Father Kevin O'Neil:

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George H.W. Bush in intensive care

Eighty-eight year old George H.W. Bush, the oldest living former president (and Episcopalian) has been hospitalized for the past month and is now in intensive care.

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Those in S.C. loyal to national church start over

Schism is "like a death in the family,"says a woman in South Carolina who left her congregation when her congregation left the Episcopal Church. But Episcopalians in South Carolina loyal to the national church are soldiering on. From the Augusta Chronicle:

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Spiritual wisdom of 'Les Miserables'

Whether you have seen or plan to see the new movie "Les Miserables," whether you loved the movie or hated it, Victor Hugo's classic has spiritual implications worth pondering. At CNN's religion blog, the Rev. Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio, Episcopal priest and author of "God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom," offers this wisdom about a bishop's act of generosity toward the thief who has stolen his candlesticks, Jean Valjean:

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Remembering Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon

Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, who died Christmas Day, was "seen as a warm, empathetic mentor, particularly to female lay leaders and clergy in the Episcopal Church, which has wrestled in recent decades with rifts over gender roles, sexuality and biblical literacy," the Washington Post reports today.

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Priest offers solace through San Francisco chaplaincy program

An inspiring story from the San Francisco Chronicle highlights the vital ministry of hospital chaplains:

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Holy Innocents and violence against children

Two weeks after the deaths of children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, the Feast of the Holy Innocents is particularly poignant for many Americans.

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Boyd meets Merton

Malcolm Boyd recalls the day he was met Thomas Merton.

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"Friending" a world wide flock

When Pope Benedict XVI sent his tweet before Christmas, he was joining a long line of churches and clerics who already explore ministry through social media.

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Remembering the martyrs of Mankato

Remembering the 150th anniversary of the execution of 38 Santee Sioux in Mankato, Minnesota.

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More on Church of England bishops' meeting

Thinking Anglicans publishes more reports from the Church of England December House of Bishops meeting, noting their discussion of Women in the Episcopate legislation and nomination for the episcopate of men in civil partnerships:

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Longing for fiction

Erin Newcomb writing at Patheos encourages fiction as a route to truth and faith:

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Coffee with Jesus

If you haven't encountered Coffee with Jesus on Facebook or here -- Michelle Francis Donnay at the blog Quantum Theology writes about how it often brings her up short about living her faith:

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Episcopal Church named in top 5 religious advances

GLAAD (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has named the Episcopal Church in its top 5 religious advances of 2012:

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General Ordination Exams

January 3-7 Episcopalians seeking ordination will be taking the General Ordination Exams. The Rev. Canon Susan Russell offered some advice for preparation with only a few days left to study. From Facebook:

Chaplain Susan's Free Gratis for Nothing GOE Advice:

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Jackson WY priest is a newsmaker of the year

The JH Weekly (Jackson, WY) has chosen the Rev. Mary Erickson, St. John's Episcopal Church, as their Newsmaker of the Year 2012 for forming Jackson Hole United: "citizens of Jackson Hole standing for civility, compassion and love, united to protect our community and our children:"

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Justin Welby: Alpha male

Damian Thompson writes in The Spectator about the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Thompson has written many disparaging pieces on Rowan Williams and the Church of England but has some interesting insights about Justin Welby:

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New church ideas

New churches are forming around art galleries, cafés and performance spaces according to this story in The New York Times:

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Episcopal Cafe 2012: Favorites

We'll be looking back at 2012 on Episcopal Cafe today, and to begin we'd like to ask you what were your favorite essays, items, meditations, art work and videos of the year. Let us know in the comments.

Episcopal Cafe 2012: Numbers

More than 1.34 million visits from what Google Analytics calls 313,698 "unique visitors" who looked at 2.56 million pages.

Slightly more than 26 percent of our visitors were new to the site in 2012. Twenty three percent of our visitors have visited the site more than 200 times. Slightly more than 49 percent have visited at least 50 times.

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Episcopal Cafe 2012: First quarter highlights

January: The voluminous number of comments generated by Derek Olsen's piece on the Non-negotiables. Derek said the Book of Common Prayer was non-negotiable. Commenter Josh Magda said the prayer book was "the first thing" that needed to be negotiated. The two pieces garnered 153 comments between them.

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Episcopal Cafe 2012: Second quarter highlights

Our most popular story in April ran on the first day of that month and concerned a local church procession that ended in chaos.

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Episcopal Cafe 2012: Third quarter highlights

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church was held in Indianapolis in July, and though the convention passed a trial rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships, extended canonical protections against discrimination to transgender people, created a special task force to begin the process of restructuring the church, voted to take no action on the proposed Anglican Covenant and elected the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings to succeed Dr. Bonnie Anderson as President of the House of Deputies and the Hon. Byron Rushing as her vice president, none of those significant developments generated the most highly read items of the month.

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Episcopal Cafe 2012: Fourth quarter highlights

The story of two bishops dominated the Episcopal Café in October.

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