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.

We don't know if this is by accident or on purpose because the people who have discovered this omission have asked The American Bible Society about it and have not yet received an answer.

The discovery was made by drbones, who keeps the blog Openly Episcopal in Albany, when he tried to update the website for the outreach ministry of this Episcopal parish:

The folks over at The American Bible Society are good people. That's what everyone tells me, and I'm inclined to believe it. After all, they are in the business of spreading the Gospel. The Episcopal Church has supported the work of the American Bible Society since its foundation. So I suggested to our parish that we use ForMinistry to host our church website. ForMinistry is a website builder and host domain for churches and church organizations. The committee decided on a different web host, but I used ForMinistry to start a small website for a parish outreach ministry, which I updated regularly.

So here's the problem:

When I tried to update my ForMinistry webpage recently, I was denied access, saying the account was inactive. The tips they suggested on the host site for reactivating did not work, and emails to the ForMinistry administrator were unanswered. I told our parish webmaster, who said that he had heard of similar problems. The board of The American Bible Society had just welcomed a new member from the breakaway Anglican diocese in Pittsburgh, he said. Perhaps TEC was being squeezed out? Hmm, I thought, sounds like a conspiracy theory.

But anyway, I checked the list of denominations served by ForMinistry. Previously, the website had listed The Episcopal Church and several Episcopal parish websites. Now, ForMinistry only lists Anglican as a denomination, not TEC!

Just to be clear about the nature of the problem: there was already a web-site hosted by ForMinistry that listed Episcopal but drbones cannot now access it because The Episcopal Church no longer appears as a denomination on the ForMinistry list. TEC was not forgotten by the designers of the site but taken down by the administrators. ForMinistry is owned and operated by the American Bible Society.

forministrydotcom%20web%20site%20%284%29.JPG

Holland decided to write Tobias Haller, who keeps the blog In a Godward Direction, and he wrote the following letter:

Autumn Black, Director of Public Relations American Bible Society ablack@americanbible.org

Dear Ms. Black,

I was surprised this evening, on visiting the ForMinistry website operated from your Virginia offices, to discover that The Episcopal Church does not appear in the Church Directory.

I note that when one enters "Anglican" as a general denomination (there being no entry for "Episcopal"), a number of other Anglican churches appear as possible choices, but not The Episcopal Church, which is, at this time, the only U.S. church recognized as a member of the Anglican Communion.

I hope this oversight will be corrected. It is shocking to think that The Episcopal Church is not listed in this directory, considering that one of the American Bible Society's founding member and first president -- John Jay -- was an Episcopalian.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I am sharing a copy of this note with the Bishops and Deputies of The Episcopal Church.

Yours,
(The Rev.) Tobias Stanislas Haller

Our problem is not with the representation of denominations that claim to be "Anglican" or "Episcopal" in their name. But we do wonder what prompted the removal of the Episcopal Church while preserving the presence of the Anglican Church in Canada, not to mention other denominations from which there have been conservative off-shoots such as the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ as well as the ELCA, which is listed alongside their conservative Lutheran cousins. In particular, we wonder also about what happened to existing Episcopal websites hosted by ForMinistry which, like drbones, have apparently been taken down.

See: Openly Episcopal in Albany: The American Bible Society Drops TEC?

Also: In a Godward Direction: To the American Bible Society

Let us know, in the comments below, if your Episcopal website is hosted by ForMinistry and if you can still edit it or if you have been kicked off as well?

Update:

See the comments below for the letter that was recieved from Ms. Black of the American Bible Society to Fr. Tobias Haller. Substantially the same letter was sent to the Cafe. We appreciate and echo Tobias' reply.

Comments (7)

What bugs me most is the intro text that says that churches from "every denomination" are listed. If this is not an oversight -- and it is hard to think it is one -- then this is clearly a falsehood. From the American BIBLE Society.

That, and of course, the fact that it is in the long run (if intentional) such a petty and small-minded act.

A slight bit of shameless semi-self promotion: Episcopal Church Web Hosting, a ministry of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge USA (SPCK/USA) is not as full-featured as ForMinistry, but provides low-cost web hosting for Episcopal and Anglican churches and ministries. See www.ecwh.org or www.spckusa.org for more information. I was Chairman/CEO of ECWH when it was a separate organization and remain a client.

Using FirstMinistry to search for Anglican Church in America the list includes 43 (I didn't check if some are repeats). But none in Virginia. How odd, given Bp Minns (Nigeria) and Bp Guernsey (Uganda) serve churches in Virginia.

ACiA member Falls Church can still be found be entering "Episcopal" under "Church name" and selecting state=Virginia.

You can also still find some TEC churches. Just be sure to choose denomination=All and enter "Episcopal" under "Church name". Many pop up in a search including state=Virginia. The majority are in TEC. Some are former TEC.

But none of this answers Andrew's question: "if your Episcopal website is hosted by ForMinistry can you still edit it or if you have been kicked off as well." You may still appear in the public directory, but not be able to edit your entry.

Obviously, there are some bugs to be worked out.

Dear Mr. Gerns,

I pray this update meets you in excellent health and spirits. I wanted to share with you additional information regarding the current discussion regarding the American Bible Society’s ForMinistry.com offerings with regards to churches seeking registration.

All of the listings on ForMinistry.com are user generated. I encourage you to reference the "Specific Denominations" field on the following link: http://www.forministry.com/profile/ChurchSearch.cfm for a listing of the Episcopal denominations currently added by users of the ForMinistry.com service to date:

• African Methodist Episcopal Church
• African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
• Charismatic Episcopal Church
• Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
• Reformed Episcopal Church
• Reformed Episcopal Church of Canada
• Southern Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.
• Traditional Episcopal Church

We welcome you and your colleagues to list your respective denominations as deemed appropriate.

In addition, although this list is user generated, we would be pleased to add "Episcopal" to the "General Denominations" drop down list and welcome any additional denominations that would be appropriate for the “Specific” field as requested.

Because we do so value our long and important collaborations with the Episcopal Church, please feel free to contact my office at (212) 408.1215 if you have any additional concerns or for assistance with your account.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support of the American Bible Society.

Sincerely,


Autumn Black
Director of Public Relations

Good news. I’ve heard from Ms. Black. Here is what she wrote:
Dear Rev. Haller,

Thank you for contacting the American Bible Society. Your comments are appreciated and very much aligned with the collective spirit under which our ForMinistry.com website operates.

All of the listings on ForMinistry.com are user generated. We welcome you and your colleagues to list your respective denominations as deemed appropriate.

In addition, I encourage you to reference the “Specific Denominations” field on the following link: http://www.forministry.com/profile/ChurchSearch.cfm for a listing of the Episcopal denominations currently added by users of the ForMinistry.com service to date:

• African Methodist Episcopal Church
• African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
• Charismatic Episcopal Church
• Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
• Reformed Episcopal Church
• Reformed Episcopal Church of Canada
• Southern Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.
• Traditional Episcopal Church

Although this list is user generated, we would be pleased to also add “Episcopal” to the “General Denominations” drop down list and welcome any additional denominations that would be appropriate for the “Specific” field.

Please feel free to contact my office at (212) 408.1215 if you have any additional concerns. Thank you for your continued prayers and support of the American Bible Society.

Sincerely,
Autumn Black
Director of Public Relations

I responded as follows:

Dear Ms. Black,

Thank you for your very kind note. I am not sure how to make a change to the denominational listing (as opposed to a listing for a congregation) in the directory. The list of denominations you sent me, while they include the word “Episcopal” are not connected with my denomination, The Episcopal Church (also known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, a rather cumbersome title). Some of them are connected with the broader category “Anglican” but not all of them (the AME Zion Church, for example, is not connected with either the Anglican Communion or the Episcopal Church.)

Thank you for the further information. I have registered my own congregation on the site, and selected “Episcopal Church” as the general denomination. However I don’t see any way to edit the drop down choices in the “Find a Local Church.” I would more properly use “Anglican” as the general denomination and “Episcopal Church” as the specific denomination, but don’t see how to make that change.

So I would appreciate it if someone in your office could add the “Episcopal Church” under the list of specific denominations, and include it as part of the “Anglican” general denomination. I suspect that would then allow me to edit my listing to reflect the change.

Yours in Christ,
Tobias

Still, something seems awry. If the list is "user generated," that would suggest that no congregation has been listed there prior to today. Otherwise, one would expect that "The Episcopal Church" or some variation on our name would already be in the list.

Marshall Scott

'm very happy to report that an email note was waiting for me this a.m. from Ms. Black at the American Bible Society. She worked with the ABS IT folks and the Episcopal Church now shows up as a "specific denomination" under the general denomination heading "Anglican" at the ForMinistry "Find a Church" utility. She was most cordial, and I think we can now rejoice that the 3,000-some Episcopal parishes listed in the directory now once again show up if someone chooses "Anglican"!

Thank you, Ms. Black!

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