Currents in world growth shaping Methodist church, too

Boom in Christianity Reshapes Methodists

Rachel Zoll, Associated Press

The United Methodist Church is the latest Protestant group caught in the shifting currents of world Christianity. While the American denomination is shrinking at home, its congregations in the developing world are growing explosively.

Over the last decade, the number of United Methodists outside the U.S. more than tripled. The denomination's largest district is now in the West African nation of Ivory Coast. At the next national church assembly, the 2008 General Conference in Texas, overseas delegates will have more say than ever in the church's future—as many as 30 percent could come from abroad.

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Archbishop Akinola coming to Virginia in May

Archbishop Akinola, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) will be coming to Woodbridge Virginia early next month to install Bishop Martyn Minns in his new role as the leader of CANA.

The Installation will take place on May 5th at the The Cecil D. Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge. Jim Robb, CANA’s media officer confirmed the Archbishop’s visit, but said that complete press information about the event has not yet been posted. He does expect to have further information posted in the near future however.

Additional details will, most likely, be posted here.

Asian Anglican Archbishop to Speak in Dallas

The Dallas Morning News reports that recently retired Anglican Archbishop of Southeast Asia Yong Ping Chung will speak next Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Church of The Holy Communion in Dallas TX.

From the congregation's announcement:

"The Archbishop’s topic will be, 'Recover the Vision', how Anglicans in North America can return to Jesus' Great Commission to spread His Word. His Grace will share the dynamic of the Global South of the Anglican Communion that has made this part of Anglicanism one of the fastest growing churches in the world.

The Archbishop remains one of the most influential Anglican leaders in the traditional and devout Global South of the eighty million member worldwide Anglican Communion. An outspoken proponent of biblical and orthodox Anglicanism, he is known as an 'Asian Tiger for Jesus Christ'. He has described much of the Anglican leadership in the West as 'spiritually bankrupt', believing the correction is a return to true commitment to Jesus Christ and His Holy Word.

Church of the Holy Communion is affiliated with the Reformed Episcopal Church."

Read the rest here: Dallas Morning News (Religion staff): Asian archbishop to speak in Dallas

Anglican Communion Institute re-organizes

There's news from the Anglican Communion Institute this week.

The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. - ACI Appoints Treasurer

The Anglican Communion Institute is pursuing incorporation in the state of Texas, and the process should be concluded in good time. We have received excellent legal counsel. In many ways this move is a reversion to the status we had at SEAD for over a decade. We are grateful that the Revd Frank Fuller has agreed to serve as Treasurer and Mr Craig Uffman as webmaster. We have seen profit in adjusting our domain name at this time to http://anglicancommunioninstitute.com. The older site will automatically convert to the new one. It has a slightly different format but all the older material is there, or will be, in due course.

Craig Uffman is a staff member of Holy Trinity Church in Raleigh, North Carolina

Armstrong presentment progresses

Some news this morning regarding the presentment now filed by the Diocese of Colorado against the Rev. Don Armstrong:

"The Rev. Donald Armstrong was officially 'served' by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, according to diocesan sources, notifying him that his case would be tried by an Episcopal Court. Armstrong apparently has until May 10 to respond, but we're still a long way from seeing even this chapter through: According to diocsesan sources, a trial date might not be set for another three months.

Whether Armstrong shows up to such a trial is another matter. Armstrong is now a priest in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America -- an organization connected with the province of Nigeria -- and doesn't consider himself to be under the diocese's authority at all anymore.

Alan Crippen, spokesman for Armstrong and Grace CANA, said Armstrong hasn't actually received any notice from the diocese yet. But, if he had been, Crippen added, 'it would be about as relevant as the Presbyterian Church serving him.He's not under their jurisdiction.' It seems likely that, if Armstrong speaks in any court, it'll be a secular one, not ecclesiastical.
"

Read the rest here: Faith at Altitude: Armstrong Served

Bishop Robinson to register civil-union

New Hampshire just passed legislation allowing same-gender unions legal status within the state. Bishop Robinson has said that he and his partner Mark Andrew will register:

"Shortly after a civil unions bill cleared its last hurdle Thursday, the state's best-known gay resident said he will use it.

'Absolutely. My partner and I look forward to taking full advantage of the new law,' Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson told The Associated Press. The Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Union of which it is part are still dealing with repercussions from Robinson's 2003 consecration as bishop of New Hampshire."


Read the full story here

Duncan to attend Minns installation

The Washington Times is saying:

Despite a general invitation to CANA-affiliated parishes in Virginia plus about 200 invitations to out-of-town church officials, most conservative Episcopal leaders are avoiding the rite.

A phone survey of 10 Episcopal dioceses that belong to the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) -- a confederation that opposes the Robinson consecration -- revealed that only its moderator, Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, plans to attend. Bishop Don Harvey, moderator of the Anglican Network of Canada, has also accepted.

Read more »

Court supports diocese in property dispute

The following has been posted on the website of the Diocese of Florida:

Judge Karen Cole of the Circuit Court of Duval County has granted the diocese's motion for summary judgment in connection with our claim of ownership of Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville. We expect to regain possession of the church property very soon and Episcopal worship and ministry under the leadership of the Rev. Davette Turk will be resuming at Redeemer shortly. Please stay tuned for details regarding the schedule.

The full court motion is found here.

Canadians rebuff Bishops’ proposal

Integrity Canada has released a statement today that takes issue with the recent Canadian Anglican House of Bishop's statement on Same-Sex blessings. The statement is posted on Integrity USA's blogsite:
"Gay Anglicans offer mixed reviews of a statement by the Canadian House of Bishops in which the bishops claim to support 'the most generous pastoral response possible' toward gay and lesbian couples while they also signal they will veto attempts to clarify the church's teaching. Members of Integrity Canada are at turns offended, disappointed, and confused by the bishops' 'possible pastoral responses' and demands for prolonged dialogue and study. The proposed pastoral provisions are a 'slap in the face of committed gay and lesbian couples,' says Michelle Crawford-Bewley of Integrity Toronto. 'We are relegated to second-class status in our own church.'"
The release quotes a member of Integrity stating:
"As limited as the proposal is," observes Chris Ambidge of Integrity Toronto, "in some jurisdictions this would be an improvement. In some places children of gay parents are denied baptism, gay people are turned away from the communion rail, and the bishops know that. We'd expect them to implement their earlier policy that it is unacceptable to deny baptism to children to discipline their parents, but until then any tentative statement in that direction is welcome."
You can read the rest of the release here: Gay Anglicans rebuff Bishops’ proposal for “pastoral care” and more study

Anglican Essentials Canada has posted a statement from that also rejects that Canadian HoB statement but for opposite reasons. It states in part:
Unfortunately, the Bishops' statement forecloses any further discussion of the blessing of same sex unions by accepting those in committed homosexual relationships to Communion and confirmation. The statement advocates using the Eucharist as a device to give the church's recognition to gay and lesbian married couples. This supposes that gay and lesbian practice is, in principle at least, a form of Christian holiness, and it clearly insinuates the hope that the forthcoming General Synod will explicitly sanction the blessing of same-sex unions, so bringing the ACC into line with the civil marriage of gay couples that are now sanctioned by Canadian law. This deviates directly from the pastoral care of homosexuals which the whole Christian church has practiced till very recently, and to which the Lambeth Conference of 1998 recalled us all, and to which the greater part of the world-wide Anglican Communion adheres today. The deviation is totally unacceptable to all those who hold to the apostolic Christian faith as the churches of the Anglican Communion have received it.
The full statement by Anglican Essentials is posted here.

The article published in the Star (and on Canada.com as linked above) which claimed the HoB called for the "status quo" has been responded to by the General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada. He specifically rejects any sense that the matter is settled going forward. He states:
The statement issued by the Canadian House of Bishops was intended to anticipate the pastoral needs of Anglicans after a decision on same-sex blessings, which will be made by our General Synod in June. The statement describes the status quo and is not pre-emptive of the decision General Synod will make. Bishops will be part of that process, but they do not make such decisions on their own.

Nigerian bishop visits Texas

The Right Reverend Dr. Ben Kwashi, bishop of the Diocese of Jos in the Church of Nigeria, will celebrate the Holy Eucharist at both 8:30 and 11 a.m. services at Family of Holy Trinity Anglican Church on Sunday, May 6.

...Holy Trinity Anglican Church is a new member of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Church leaders say that since its first service, March 18, the congregation has grown steadily, and the parish has bought land on Miller Road in Rowlett to eventually build a permanent home.

Bishop Kwashi is the Coordinating Bishop for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. He's on the board of Trinity School for Ministry and is chairman of Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA) International.

It's unclear what the difference in roles is (or will be) betweeen Bishop Kwashi who serves as coordinating bishop of CANA and Bishop Minns, who is to be installed as "Bishop Missionary Leader" of the same organization.

News report from here

Vestry says don't vote

More news from the swirl of controversy surrounding Grace and St. Stephen's parish in Colorado Springs:

Faith at Altitude: Vestry says Don't Vote

"We ask that you not participate in this vote both because it is unlawful and because its outcome has already been determined," the vestry told parishioners in a May 3 letter. Grace's Web site states it's now part of CANA, and the banner in the sanctuary is that of CANA, too -- replacing the Episcopal flag.

The Grace Episcopal vestry called Grace CANA a "secessionist congregation now occupying our property," and argued the whole vote was anti-Episcopalian, and anti-Anglican, for that matter.

"We don't vote locally about parish migration," the letter read. "If Father Armstrong comes to disagree with Archbishop Akinola (who leads the Nigerian province) or if Bishop Minns (leader of CANA) investigates him for wrongdoing, what then? Another move to another bishop followed by another sham vote?"

There's much more, and also the text of the letter that was sent by the leadership of the "episcopalian" portion of the congregation, at the link above.

Pie Thrower in Colorado

The Grace Episcopal Church controversy took a bizarre turn Sunday when a man barged into the 9 a.m. service, hurled a cream pie at the Rev. Don Armstrong and dashed out without saying a word.

More: According to a report by Jennifer Wilson in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

The pie thrower didn’t get far. Several parishioners chased him for several blocks, apprehended him near Palmer High School, then hauled him back to the church for Colorado Springs police.

Marcus Hyde, 18, faces misdemeanor charges of harassment, trespassing, criminal mischief and disrupting a lawful assembly, police Sgt. Vince Niski said. Hyde was cited and released at the scene.

Armstrong was delivering a sermon titled “Of Christian Love and Charity” when Hyde burst through the side door closest to the pulpit, said church member Tim Chambers, who wrote about the incident on his blog at tbc.livejournal.com.

Armstrong responded to a request for an interview by writing an e-mail to The Gazette. In it, he said he avoided a face full of dessert by ducking behind the pulpit. He said the missile smelled like banana cream.

“He aimed right at me and would have hit me squarely, but I ducked into the pulpit and it went right over me and onto the floor,” Armstrong wrote. “This poor guy needs to find a more effective (way) to express himself without all the messy resulting complications.”

Reached by phone Sunday night, Hyde declined to comment, saying he had to speak with an attorney first. Police said he told them he was passing judgment on Armstrong on behalf of church parishioners.

A blog post written by a person who was there and a supporter of Fr. Armstrong called the incident "a hate crime." The Gazette spoke to a friend of Hyde's who said “It’s a protest move, and it’s hilarious.” Both the Gazette and the Rocky Mountain News said that Hyde "was passing judgment on Armstrong for his fellow parishioners, according to a police report."

Somewhere between hilarious and a hate crime is the fact of the emotionality of the situation and one hopes that the acting out remains both civil and safe.

ERD, local dioceses support tornado-ravaged town

The news from Greenburg, Kansas, this weekend has been heart-wrenching. A tornado devastated the town in mere minutes (photos here), and uplifting stories of survival and hope have alternated with tragic tales of loss.

Rains accompanying the storm have added to the tragedy by causing heavy flooding throughout the state. Episcopal Life Online reports on a May 7 letter from Bishop Dean E. Wolfe of Kansas:

...more than 90 percent of the town had been destroyed, and victims and survivors were still being discovered. He offered prayers for those who have lost loved ones.

Wolfe noted that Kansas state has also been affected by widespread flooding in the aftermath of these tremendous storms. "Many are finding themselves displaced by these floods, and we anticipate damages in the aftermath of this flooding to be substantial," he said.

...

The Kansas diocesan office and conference center have flooded basements due to heavy rains, Wolfe reported in his letter. "The diocesan office had three inches of water that damaged records and other stored items. The Bethany Place Conference Center has 16 inches of standing water, and we are told the boiler and water heater will need to be replaced. We are quick to realize how fortunate we have been in comparison to the losses sustained by others."

The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas is working closely with ERD and the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas to coordinate an effective response to this situation, Wolfe said. "We are people who believe thoughts and prayer must be accompanied by resources and action when neighbors are in need. We join with our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas to offer whatever help we can, and we stand together as Kansans in this time of need."

The article goes on to note that contributions for local needs and to assist ERD in responding to the needs of victims throughout the state can be made to:

The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas
Tornado and Flood Relief
835 SW Polk Street
Topeka, KS 66612

The complete article, including a link to Bishop Wolfe's letter, is here.

Washington DC priest takes stand on immigration reform

The Episcopal News Service reports on a Washington DC priest speaking out in favor of amending the present Immigration reform bill making its way through the capital so that it would emphasize family reunification rather than focusing on selecting candidates for immigration solely on needed skills:

"Expressing support for immigrant family reunification at a May 23 Capitol Hill news conference, the Rev. Dr. Luis Leon, rector of St. John’s Lafayette Square Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., spoke in favor of a proposed amendment authored by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007.

The Senators’ amendment would remove barriers to reunification for the nuclear families of lawful permanent residents.

'The Episcopal Church’s 2006 legislative body, General Convention, expressed strong support for comprehensive immigration legislation and regarded family unity as an imperative of any reformed system,' stated Leon. 'Sadly, the Senate compromise legislation includes provisions that devalue family sponsored immigration.' The Clinton-Hagel-Menendez amendment would reclassify the spouses and minor children of lawful permanent immigrants as 'immediate relatives,' thereby exempting them from the visa caps."

Read the rest here (which includes the full text of Leon's remarks): Episcopal Life Online - NEWS

That We All May Be One

Bishop Epting (the Episcopal Church's chief ecumenical officer) has posted some news on his blog about a joint statement just issued by the Anglican and Orthodox Churches:
"The International Commission for Anglican – Orthodox Theological Dialogue has released The Church of the Triune God, an ecclesiological statement registering considerable agreement over a wide range of issues on the nature and mission of the Church. The introduction to this 117 page document states that ‘the publication of this Cyprus Agreed Statement concludes the third phase of the Anglican – Orthodox international theological dialogue. It began in 1973…(and) the first phase of the dialogue was concluded by the publication of the Moscow Agreed Statement in 1976. The publication of the Dublin Agreed Statement in 1984 brought its second phase to a conclusion.’ Episcopal Bishop Mark Dyer and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon have been co-chairs of Commission and write in their preface that this statement ‘is offered to the Anglican and Orthodox churches in the hope that, as it is studied and reflected upon, it will help Christians of both traditions to perceive anew the work of the Triune God in giving life to His Church, and draw us closer to that unity which is His will for all the faithful.’"
Read the rest here. The Episcopal News Service has some more information posted here.

Trinity Episcopal Appoints AMiA Bishop Rodgers Interim Dean

From The Living Church

Trinity Seminary Names AMiA Bishop Rodgers Interim Dean

The Rt. Rev. John H. Rodgers, Jr., has been appointed interim dean at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. He will serve for one year beginning Aug. 1 while Trinity searches for a permanent successor for the Very Rev. Paul F.M. Zahl, who announced May 10 that he would resign effective at the end of July.

Bishop Rodgers is dean and president emeritus, having served as dean of Trinity from 1978 to 1990. He is also a trustee emeritus at Trinity and a former member of the faculty at Virginia Theological Seminary.

In 2000, Bishop Rodgers and the Rt. Rev. Charles H. Murphy III were consecrated bishops for the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), part of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. Bishop Rodgers previously retired from active service with the AMiA.

“The board voted without hesitation to appoint Dr. Rodgers to this post,” said the Rev. Canon David H. Roseberry, chairman of the board of trustees at Trinity. “He is the perfect person to help guide our school through this transition, and he has the full support of the board and the faculty.”

Fr. Roseberry noted that Trinity has been accepting students who do not plan to pursue ordination in The Episcopal Church for more than 10 years, and the appointment of Bishop Rodgers is reflective of the multi-denominational character of the seminary alumni.

Link to story
Link to Trinity homepage

Religious Conflict in Nigeria

A wide angle view of Nigeria and religion emerges from religious scholars and Nigeria experts gathered in a symposium to discuss the current religious climate. The Episcopal Church has been focused on the Church of Nigeria in the Anglican Communion. It is helpful to see the Anglican Church in the context of its religious neighbors. Six out of ten Christians identify as Pentecostal. While Muslims for the most part tolerate Roman Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals, the Pentecostal emphasis on conversion has put them in conflict with Muslims and other Christian groups.

The Council on Foreign Relations hosted a symposium on religious conflict in Nigeria, May 8, 2007. The symposium offers insight into what is called “the most intensely religious population in the world.” The panelists examined the political compromises that maintain relative stability in Nigeria.

Before independence about 30% of the population were neither Christian nor Muslim. Currently Christianity claims growth from 21% in 1950 to 48% today. Now about 1% belong to neither faith and about 51% are Muslim. Recent elections revealed widespread rigging and irregularities but did not cause religious or ethnic strife.

Other findings included:
*There is not as much religious conflict as one might expect.
*When religious conflicts do arise, they often have political or economic roots.
*There are many different “brands” within each faith.
*The rise of religion can be directly linked to the weakness of the Nigerian state.
*Religion is only one of many Nigerian identities
*There is no religious component to conflict in the Niger Delta. (contrary to US press reports)
*However, oil wealth plays a role in religious tensions.
*The political system is designed to mitigate religious and ethnic conflict.
*The political system suffers from a crisis of governance as well as power sharing.

The summary of the symposium is HERE in pdf.

Transcripts and video and audio of the entire symposium can be found HERE

Bishops Steve Jecko and Frederick Putnam have died

Bishop Stephen Jecko, the retired Bishop of Florida has died overnight. Canon Kendall Harmon's site has the news:

"His cancer apparently progressed rapidly, and the Lord took him home peacefully. More details will be forthcoming later from appropriate sources. Funeral arrangements are pending."

Episcopal Life Online has the additional news about Bishop Putnam's passing.

The details of their funerals and more biographical information can be found in the Episcopal Life article linked just above.

May your servants Stephen and Frederick rest in peace and rise in glory and may their families know the loving presence of Jesus among them in this hour.

South Carolina tries again

The Diocese of South Carolina, which elected Mark Lawrence to be there next bishop, but failed to receive the needed number of consents to that election is planning to a new election with Mark as the only candidate as of now.

They are creating a process for additional nominees to be named by petition.

From the Diocesan website:

"At its meeting, the [Standing] Committee unanimously agreed:

1. To call for a Special Convention to elect a Bishop. The Convention is to be held at ten o’clock a.m. on Saturday, August 4, 2007 at St. James’ Church, James Island, South Carolina.

2. The Standing Committee unanimously nominated The Very Reverend Mark J. Lawrence to be the next Bishop of South Carolina.

3. Because of the necessity for background checks, no nominations from the floor will be allowed at the Convention. In lieu thereof, the Committee has established a petition process..."

Read the rest here.

Saturday morning news roundup

Before we move into more reflective vein, here is a quick rundown of Saturday morning news developments, the most interesting of which is that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori continues to attract the attention of the largest newspaper in whatever media market she visits. Here she speaks with the Indianapolis Star about the Millennium Development Goals.

The Church Times' coverage of the recently-announced Kenyan incursion is here, and Padre Mickey's entertaining take on that affair is here.

Resolve War: Forgiveness, Not Punishment

Forgiveness Will End the LRA War - Clergy
Henry Mukasa, Kampala reports that "Ugandan and Sudanese clergy have recommended forgiveness, not punishment, as a means to resolve the 20-year-long war in northern Uganda."

After inter-denominational prayers held at All Saints Cathedral Juba on Saturday, the religious leaders argued that accountability, repentance and forgiveness would more effective by healing the scars of the war in the region.

The acting Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Natalian Deng, said Ugandans needed to reconcile with the LRA just like Jesus reconciled bitter enemies: the Jews and the Gentiles.

"I pray that God brings that reconciliation to Juba (venue of the talks)," he said at the prayers which were organised by the Sudan Council of Churches and the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC).

"We are one people. I don't know why we are suffering. We must unite and forget our suffering. Anything someone did to you, forget it," Deng implored.

Ugandan Archbishop Yonah Lwanga said UJCC had recommended alternative (traditional) justice for the rebels instead of the punishment that the International Criminal Court is seeking.

Lwanga explained that the recommendations were contained in their booklet, A Framework for Dialogue on Reconciliation and Peace in Northern Uganda.

Read it all Here.

Bishop Persell: reaching across the divide

The Chicago Tribune website (free subscription required) has a long article reporting on the work and ministry of Bishop William Persell, the Episcopal Bishop of Chicago:

"'Communion is about relationships,' Persell said in a recent interview. 'Building meaningful relationships is more important than other things happening in the [Anglican] Communion. If we have a relationship, we don't have to agree.'

Since becoming Chicago's bishop, Persell, 64, has encouraged his 44,000 parishioners from Chicago to Galena to maintain a healthy lifestyle while his own health has been in decline. But he has also tried to maintain his reputation as a champion of social justice and civil rights while trying to keep the church together despite tumult.

Last year, Persell announced to this flock that he would step down as their bishop in February 2008, when a new bishop is installed. An aortic aneurysm and deteriorating vision made the demands of the job difficult. This week, he underwent surgery for prostate cancer. He reiterated the importance of a healthy ministry when he announced his resignation.

'While my mind and heart are very much committed to helping advance the church's mission here, my stamina is not what it was when you welcomed me into your life,' he wrote."

The article talks about Bishop Persell's commitment to trying to find a middle ground that will the Church to comprehend different understandings of how to be Christian in the world:

In 2003, [Persell] called a similar meeting among clergy in his own diocese to study the issues that were dividing the Episcopal Church. For as long as he could, he put off deposing conservative clergy supporting breakaway parishes. But Rev. Martin Johnson, who leads a breakaway parish in Wheaton, said Persell finally had no choice. Johnson expects to be the second priest in the diocese to have his ordination rites revoked by the end of the year.

But that doesn't alter his tremendous respect for Persell.

"To some of us it's a therapeutic issue and the possibility of healing," Johnson said. "For him it's a matter of simply affirming how people are created in God's sight."

He knows that he and Persell share a deep love for the church.

They also share a love of opera. Sitting next to each other at the Lyric Opera one night during a five-hour production of Wagner, Persell asked Johnson during intermission if he planned to stay for the final acts. They exchanged knowing looks and agreed to go the distance. Persell wasn't just talking about the opera, Johnson said. He was talking about the church.

Read the rest here.

Canadian Anglicans vote "no" on same-sex blessings

The vote to explicitly allow Canadian Anglican clergy to perform same-sex blessings was defeated by a very small margin by the bishops of the church. The lay and clergy votes both supported its passage.

The vote at the Canadian Church's General Synod was announced as:

"Laity 78 / 59 Passed

Clergy 63 / 53 Passed

Bishops 19 / 21 Failed

Motion Fails"

The Canadian Church has this story posted on its website.

We'll be updating this report as more news becomes available.

Read the live blog account of the parlimentary session here.

How Akinola Lost His Re-Election Bid

The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria reports how the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) lost his re-election bid to head the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in an election last Tuesday.

A number of reasons were cited including disapproval of Akinola's leadership style, how voting members from differing traditions worked together, and more. There was even accusation that Akinola tried to manipulate the outcome by tinkering with the vote calender.

However, the politics, which compelled Mbang to describe CAN as a funny organization seemed to have played out fully last Tuesday, when the 105 member National Executive Council (NEC) of the association gathered at the NCC to elect a new president,

Indeed, these forces came to play in the election, which saw the defeat of Akinola and made him the first CAN president to fail to get a second term.

The drama, started almost three weeks to the election, after the electoral college, made up of 15 spiritual leaders drawn from the five blocs of CAN, completed their assignment of selecting the top most preferred candidates.

While the report of the electoral college was supposed to have been kept secret till the NEC meeting, reports indicated that the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev. John Olorunfemi Onayeikan, was in the lead; even though the incumbent, Akinola and his deputy, Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) were seeking re-election.

Furthermore, there was an allegation that the incumbent CAN President had tried to manipulate the electoral process by changing the date of the NEC meeting, in order to favour his candidacy and pave way for his return.

Read the rest here.

Lutheran Synod removes gay pastor

Lutheran Pastor Brad Schmeling has lost his appeal to remain a pastor in a Lutheran Church in the Atlanta area. He was removed because he is a gay man in a relationship, which is contradictory to Lutheran canons.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an article detailing the most recent developments and which includes background links plus the news that this particular case is expected to be appealed.

"The Rev. Bradley Schmeling lost another skirmish with the nation's largest Lutheran denomination over the fact that he is in a gay relationship.

But he and his flock at Atlanta's St. John's Lutheran Church intend to take the battle national.

Schmeling and members of St. John's in Druid Hills say they will travel to a national church conference in August to try to change the minds of delegates on gay issues.

They will host a forum, hoping that hearing Schmeling share his story will convince delegates to change ELCA policies.

Schmeling said he will remain St. John's minister."

Read the rest here: Gay pastor's bid for inclusion denied.

Conservatives to create coalition?

Jonathan Petre, writing in the Telegraph, has more news about the maneuvering happening in the Church of England prior to the beginning of General Synod:

"Senior Church of England conservatives are plotting a new coalition to mount their biggest offensive yet against their liberal opponents over issues such as gay priests.

According to insiders, they are planning talks at this week's General Synod aimed at uniting a broad spectrum of evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics to act together during crucial debates.

Supporters of the new movement believe that it could gain the backing of up to half of the Synod, the Church''s 'parliament', frustrating the efforts of liberals to promote their agenda. Its leaders are expected to include prominent clergy and lay people within the Synod and the Archbishops' Council, the Church's managing body.

...

One Synod member said that many conservatives were dismayed by the failure of the bishops to enforce their own guidelines against clergy who are openly in active gay relationships, in defiance of Church policy. 'The bishops are totally pathetic. They are abject cowards. The Archbishop of Canterbury does nothing but sit on the fence,' she said.

But liberals dismissed the latest initiative, predicting that the new coalition would fall apart because of internal squabbling."

Read the rest here.

Canon Groves on the Listening Process

Episcopal News Service has an audio interview up this morning:

"The Rev. Canon Phil Groves speaks with ENS national correspondent, the Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, during a recent visit to New York about the Anglican Communion's Listening Process, its progress so far, and the next steps.."

You can listen to the interview here: Canon Phil Groves on the Listening Process

The Cafe had previous coverage of Canon Groves' visit to meet with representatives of the Episcopal Church here.

Seven new wonders of the world

The poll results are in and the new seven architectural wonders of the world have been announced. Here is Associated Press report:

The Great Wall of China, Rome's Colosseum, India's Taj Mahal and three architectural marvels from Latin America were among the new seven wonders of the world chosen in a global poll released on Saturday.

Jordan's Petra was the seventh winner. Peru's Machu Picchu, Brazil's Statue of Christ Redeemer and Mexico's Chichen Itza pyramid also made the cut.

About 100 million votes were cast by the Internet and cellphone text messages, said New7Wonders, the nonprofit organization that conducted the poll.

The seven beat out 14 other nominated landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Easter Island in the Pacific, the Statue of Liberty, the Acropolis, Russia's Kremlin and Australia's Sydney Opera House.

. . .
Also among the losing candidates were Cambodia's Angkor, Spain's Alhambra, Turkey's Hagia Sophia, Japan's Kiyomizu Temple, Russia's Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral, Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle, Britain's Stonehenge and Mali's Timbuktu.

You can read the full report here.

Given the dominance of the industrialized west in recent centuries, isn't it a bit suprising that European wonders did so poorly?

Letty Russell died yesterday

This news began to be reported this morning:

"Letty Mandeville Russell, one of the world's foremost feminist theologians and longtime member of the Yale Divinity School faculty, died Thursday, July 12 at her home in Guilford, CT. She was 77. A leader for many years in the ecumenical movement, she remained active in ecumenical circles until her death, working for the World Council of Churches and the World YWCA.

She was one of the first women ordained in the United Presbyterian Church and served the East Harlem Protestant Parish in New York City from 1952-68, including 10 years as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Ascension. She joined the faculty of Yale Divinity School in 1974 as an assistant professor of theology, rose to the rank of professor in 1985 and retired in 2001. In retirement, she continued to teach some courses at Yale Divinity School as a visiting professor."

Many of us who studied with Prof. Russell remember her ability to see quickly to the heart of any complex issue, and the depth of her faith.

May her soul rest in peace and rise on the last day to glory.

Read the rest here: Yale Divinity School-News

What a cat can see

The Egyptians revered cats; some have thought them agents of witches and Satan. So what of Oscar the Cat, a feline who seems to be aware when nursing home residents are about to fly away to God's celestial shores? Creepy, or angelic? Dr. David Dosa, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, leans toward the latter in an essay describing Oscar as he makes his daily rounds. You might think it troubling that his appearance at your bedside is a harbinger of doom, but this is the advanced dementia unit of a Rhode Island nursing home, where many lonely souls drift and drift before they can fly home.

Doctors and nurses have come to trust Oscar's prescience, and often, when he takes up the vigil, they know to alert families to join him. And when there is no family, or no one comes, Oscar stays faithfully at their sides.

This story was picked up by many major news outlets today, giving many a moment to pause and contemplate this "news of the weird" item. But Dr. Dosa's eloquent tribute is not to be missed:

Making his way back up the hallway, Oscar arrives at Room 313. The door is open, and he proceeds inside. Mrs. K. is resting peacefully in her bed, her breathing steady but shallow. She is surrounded by photographs of her grandchildren and one from her wedding day. Despite these keepsakes, she is alone. Oscar jumps onto her bed and again sniffs the air. He pauses to consider the situation, and then turns around twice before curling up beside Mrs. K.

One hour passes. Oscar waits. A nurse walks into the room to check on her patient. She pauses to note Oscar's presence. Concerned, she hurriedly leaves the room and returns to her desk. She grabs Mrs. K.'s chart off the medical-records rack and begins to make phone calls.

Within a half hour the family starts to arrive. Chairs are brought into the room, where the relatives begin their vigil. The priest is called to deliver last rites. And still, Oscar has not budged, instead purring and gently nuzzling Mrs. K. A young grandson asks his mother, "What is the cat doing here?" The mother, fighting back tears, tells him, "He is here to help Grandma get to heaven." Thirty minutes later, Mrs. K. takes her last earthly breath. With this, Oscar sits up, looks around, then departs the room so quietly that the grieving family barely notices.

Read the whole thing here.

UK faces further rain

There hasn't been much coverage here in the States of the flooding happening in Britain (apparently the latest female celeb legal issues are judged more important). The good news over the past few days was that the situation, especially in hard-hit Gloucestershire was starting to slowly right itself. So this news from the BBC is a bit concerning for the weekend:

"Heavy rainfall is predicted for Saturday night and Sunday morning as the extent of the damage in flood-hit Gloucestershire is emerging.

The BBC Weather Centre says rain in south Wales and central and southern England could cause localised flooding."

A number of british bloggers have been providing local reports, including "The Gray Monk".

For those who can, please add the folks in the flooded regions to your parish's prayer this weekend.

Read the rest here: BBC NEWS | UK | Flood-hit areas face further rain

Finally, check out this image of flood-bound Tewkesbury Abbey.

The God particle

Physics may be on the verge of proving the existence of an essential building block of the current model of the structure of matter--or it may be forced to go back to the theoretical drawing board. What is at stake is a search for the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle, which the standard model of particle physics states is the particle that acts to form the Higgs field, which gives particles their mass.

The New York Times recently reported on rumors that the Fermilab near Chicago may have discovered the Higgs boson, and the growing excitement over a new accelerator at CERN in Europe, which was specifically designed to find the Higgs boson, and that will soon begin operations:

Earlier this summer, the physics world was jolted by a rumor that a team of scientists from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, in Batavia, Ill., had found a bump in their data that might be a legendary particle that has haunted physicists for a generation. It is known colloquially as the Higgs boson and sometimes grandly as the “God particle.” According to the Standard Model that has ruled physics for 30 years, the Higgs endows elementary particles in the universe with mass.

. . .

According to the Standard Model, a suite of equations that describe all the forces but gravity, elementary particles and forces are born equal and without mass. Some then acquire mass by wading through a sort of a cosmic molasses called the Higgs field (named after the physicist Peter Higgs) the way a V.I.P. acquires an entourage pushing through a cocktail party.

Unfortunately, the model does not say how heavy the Higgs boson itself — the quantum personification of this field — should be. And so physicists have to search for it the old-fashioned train-wreck way, by smashing subatomic particles together to create primordial fireballs and then seeing what materializes out.

The Higgs, if formed, would decay into smaller jets of quarks or other particles, depending on its mass. The heavier it is, the more kinds of particles it can decay into. These would be recorded and counted by the detectors.

. . .


The history of physics is full of bumps that could have been revolutionary but have disappeared like ghosts in the night, and this rumor of a possible Higgs sighting was not even the first this year. Most physicists who have heard this rumor think that this bump is likely to be another of those disappearing anomalies, like the trimuons that frustrated Dr. Weinberg. But then these same physicists point out that you never know.

. . .

As the analyses proceed and the Tevatron hums its trillion-electron-volt tune, this is a summer of rumors, hope and hype. Whatever the outcome for this particular Higgs rumor, the buzz about it illuminates the galloping expectations, tensions and rivalries roiling physicists as they await the inauguration next summer of the Large Hadron Collider, a giant accelerator at CERN, the nuclear laboratory outside Geneva expressly designed to find the Higgs particle and explore new realms of nature.

Even if the Fermilab did indeed find a bump that proves the existence of the Higgs particle, it will require a re-examination of the Standard Model, and may even offer evidence for supersymmetry, a theory with little empirical proof to date:

If it is a Higgs, theorists say, it is probably not the one prescribed by the Standard Model, which would not be produced plentifully enough to be seen yet.

The leading alternative is that it would be one of five Higgs bosons predicted by a theory called supersymmetry, which theorists have been yearning for as the next step toward a more all-embracing, unified theory of nature. One bonus of supersymmetry is that it predicts the existence of more, yet undiscovered elementary particles, one of which might be the mysterious dark matter that binds galaxies together in the universe. All this would fall into the lap of the Large Hadron Collider scientists, if it exists, which is one reason the CERN physicists will be happy no matter what the outcome.

Read the entire article here. And Tommaso Dorigo, from the University of Padua in Italy, has a blog largely devoted to the search for the Higgs particle here.

So what does this all have to do with the Episcopal Church? Other than an important discovery of God's creation, not much. Still, the Higgs boson is called the God particle. And there is a contingent of your Lead editors (known affectionately as "the nerds" or "Chuck and Nicholas") who think this stuff is cool.

Godparenting today

It's not really news that godparenting has evolved into "a revered but blurry mix of religious and secular duty," but The Tennessean has devoted an extended feature to describing the history and current context of the tradition, which aligns closely with infant or child baptism and traces back to around the 8th century, when Catholic doctrine decreed that one's spiritual birth is distinct from one's physical birth.

What does a godparent do? In most cases, whatever they, and their godchild's parents, think best. The role may be centuries-old, but it's far from anachronistic. People customize everything from their rides to their ringtones to suit their tastes these days, and how they treat godparenting is no different, keeping the lifelong position going strong and its prospects healthy.

"It's this resilient, tenacious tradition that has lost its past," said Lisa Kimball, a lecturer with the University of Minnesota who studies godparenting. "It's lost its connection back to its history. What is its role today? People are inventing it."

...

People are fashioning it as a quilt of institutional knowledge, tradition and social expectation, Kimball said. The role has largely developed into one of companionship and mentoring, not always with a spiritual component.

The article features comments from several sets of godparents as well as a Catholic priest, and is available here.

Bishops meet with Iranian president

The Episcopal News Service has a report on an important meeting between Anglican bishops and the leadership of Iran:

The former president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, met August 9 with the newly installed Bishop in Iran, Azad Marshall, along with Church of England Bishop Michael Nazir Ali of Rochester and Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Marshall was installed as Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Iran during an August 5 service at St. Paul's Church in Tehran.

...Bishop Michael Nazir Ali expressed appreciation for Dr. Khatami's focus in inter-faith dialogue on Stewardship of the Creation, the Dialogue of Civilisations and the Theology of Dialogue and hoped this could be developed. They also exchanged reflections on Persian poetry.

...The former president noted that Nietzche had proclaimed that God is dead, by which he meant that the thought of God is dead in the modern world. The new civilization has brought many achievements for humanity, but in it the thought of God has been forgotten. In its place has been put the super-man, the will to power. This has been expressed in the face of Hitler. Hitler is dead, but his spirit exists in war, terrorism and violation of people.

He continued that we dare to say that God is alive. It is our duty to vitalize the thought of God among humanity. We are sure that Christianity and Islam are trying to address the absence of the thought of God among us. The great task for all of us is to fill the gap, a task in which we can all be together though we have differences in detail.

The most important dialogue in the dialogue of civilizations is the dialogue among religions.

Dr. Khatami closed by saying "Emphatically I wish success to Bishop Azad. Bishop Azad, this is your home."

On behalf of the province of Jerusalem and the Middle East and the diocese of Iran we express our profound gratitude to Dr. Khatami for his words and his welcome.

Bishop Chane of the Diocese of Washington DC has also visited in the past with Khatami when he was in the United States. That meeting though was the occasion for a great deal of criticism.

Lutherans defer debate

The Sun Times has posted a report on the action of the Lutheran Assembly taking place in Chicago this week.

The Assembly has voted to defer any decision on same-sex union until the next bi-annual meeting of the Assembly in 2009.

"But attendees thwarted an effort to quash any discussion whatsoever on present policy mandating celibacy for gay and lesbian clergy within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

For an allotted hour, they calmly debated whether to remove the celibacy standard or to also defer the matter to the task force. Further debate and a vote by the more than 1,000 voting members are expected before the weeklong assembly ends Saturday.

An amendment proposed Thursday calls for all clergy, regardless of the gender of their mate, to live by the same standards of 'fidelity to their partners.'"

Read the rest here.

Court issues initial ruling in VA church cases

Babyblue, the blog of one of the people named in the suit as a member of the vestry of a congregation that has associated itself with the CANA congregations, has news of the results of initial hearing on a petition for a summary judgement this afternoon:

"After extensive argument over the plea of statutory immunity, the court was prepared to rule but suggested that the parties work out an agreement. After recess, the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church agreed to dismiss all of the vestry members and rectors as defendants without prejudice and the individuals agreed to honor any determination of the court regarding the plaintiffs’ property claims, subject to their rights of appeal of any adverse ruling.

"Babyblue's" post goes on to describe in more detail about what the ruling today might mean for both parties. As far as this particular news-editor can understand, the ruling basically states that there's a strong enough argument that can be made for both sides that ruling before they have a chance to fully present their cases would be inappropriate.

Read the rest here: A Very Good Day

(Via BabyBlueOnline.)

Lutherans vote on question of discipline for gay and lesbian clergy

There are a number of news stories out this evening about what the decisions made by the Evangelical Lutheran Church meeting in the final day of their assembly. Having decided to postpone any decisions on officially sanctioning same-sex blessing until 2009 earlier this week, a resolution passed today encourages Lutheran bishops to refrain from disciplining clergy "who are in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship" in the interim.

This action is being taken to mean that the Lutheran Church now officially allows non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy, according to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times:

"For the first time, clergy in same-sex committed relationships can serve the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America without threat of discipline to them, their congregations or their bishops.

The historic decision, made today at a national assembly at Navy Pier, was spearheaded by Bishop Paul Landahl of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod.

A day earlier, attendees voted down a measure that would have ended a ban on non-celibate gay clergy. But Saturday’s vote calls on church leaders to ‘refrain from or demonstrate restraint’ in disciplining those who violate the policy."

But as Eric Bjorlin, who presents the situation in detail points out:

The assembly seemed to say that we (the entire 4.8 million members of the ELCA, as represented by the assembly) aren’t ready to make formalized changes of policies and procedures, but if certain areas (via their bishops) don’t want to abide by the rules established, then we’ll accept that. As Phil Souchy of Lutherans Concerned said, it’s basically a call by the assembly saying, “Do not do punishments.” Now while this doesn’t technically change anything, but it’s an obvious step in a new direction and a likely indicator of where the ELCA is headed. There is technically no “official” change, but the Yahoo! News article’s title would have you think there had been.

It will probably be a while until the full implications and ramifications of the decisions are understood.

Why Prosperity?

The New York Times published an article about the rather innovative and provocative theories of economic historian Gregory Clark about how humans made the transition from poverty to relative prosperity during the Industrial Revolution. Clark's theory is that the surge in economic growth occured due to a change in human beings. Beginning in the late seventeenth century, we began to adopt behaviors that lead to more productivity:

Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution — the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.

Because they grew more common in the centuries before 1800, whether by cultural transmission or evolutionary adaptation, the English population at last became productive enough to escape from poverty, followed quickly by other countries with the same long agrarian past.

. . .

Generation after generation, the rich had more surviving children than the poor, his research showed. That meant there must have been constant downward social mobility as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the progeny of the rich took over their occupations. “The modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages,” he concluded.

As the progeny of the rich pervaded all levels of society, Dr. Clark considered, the behaviors that made for wealth could have spread with them. He has documented that several aspects of what might now be called middle-class values changed significantly from the days of hunter gatherer societies to 1800. Work hours increased, literacy and numeracy rose, and the level of interpersonal violence dropped.

Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people’s preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

“Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,” Dr. Clark writes.

Around 1790, a steady upward trend in production efficiency first emerges in the English economy. It was this significant acceleration in the rate of productivity growth that at last made possible England’s escape from the Malthusian trap and the emergence of the Industrial Revolution.

In the rest of Europe and East Asia, populations had also long been shaped by the Malthusian trap of their stable agrarian economies. Their workforces easily absorbed the new production technologies that appeared first in England.

It is puzzling that the Industrial Revolution did not occur first in the much larger populations of China or Japan. Dr. Clark has found data showing that their richer classes, the Samurai in Japan and the Qing dynasty in China, were surprisingly unfertile and so would have failed to generate the downward social mobility that spread production-oriented values in England.

. . .

Dr. Clark says the middle-class values needed for productivity could have been transmitted either culturally or genetically. But in some passages, he seems to lean toward evolution as the explanation. “Through the long agrarian passage leading up to the Industrial Revolution, man was becoming biologically more adapted to the modern economic world,” he writes. And, “The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.”

What was being inherited, in his view, was not greater intelligence — being a hunter in a foraging society requires considerably greater skill than the repetitive actions of an agricultural laborer. Rather, it was “a repertoire of skills and dispositions that were very different from those of the pre-agrarian world.”

Given what we know about the operation of natural selection, it seems highly unlikley that genetic change explains the change that Clark asserts. (And such a genetic explanatio is fraught with unfortunate implications). But cultural change can occur this rapidly (simply think of the cultural change inour own lifetimes). Historians are therefore impressed, but most reject the genetic emphasis of Dr. Clark:

Reaction to Dr. Clark’s thesis from other economic historians seems largely favorable, although few agree with all of it, and many are skeptical of the most novel part, his suggestion that evolutionary change is a factor to be considered in history.

. . .

Most historians have assumed that evolutionary change is too gradual to have affected human populations in the historical period. But geneticists, with information from the human genome now at their disposal, have begun to detect ever more recent instances of human evolutionary change like the spread of lactose tolerance in cattle-raising people of northern Europe just 5,000 years ago. A study in the current American Journal of Human Genetics finds evidence of natural selection at work in the population of Puerto Rico since 1513. So historians are likely to be more enthusiastic about the medieval economic data and elaborate time series that Dr. Clark has reconstructed than about his suggestion that people adapted to the Malthusian constraints of an agrarian society.

“He deserves kudos for assembling all this data,” said Dr. Hoffman, the Caltech historian, “but I don’t agree with his underlying argument.”

The decline in English interest rates, for example, could have been caused by the state’s providing better domestic security and enforcing property rights, Dr. Hoffman said, not by a change in people’s willingness to save, as Dr. Clark asserts.

The natural-selection part of Dr. Clark’s argument “is significantly weaker, and maybe just not necessary, if you can trace the changes in the institutions,” said Kenneth L. Pomeranz, a historian at the University of California, Irvine. In a recent book, “The Great Divergence,” Dr. Pomeranz argues that tapping new sources of energy like coal and bringing new land into cultivation, as in the North American colonies, were the productivity advances that pushed the old agrarian economies out of their Malthusian constraints.

Read it all here.

What do you think?

Remembering Jonathan Daniels

The violent death of Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Daniels' was remembered Saturday by 200 people who braved in 103-degree heat to honor the white seminary student who gave up his life to save a black teenage girl 42 years ago, according to a report in the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. A student of the Episcopal Divinity School, Daniels answered the call of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders for the church to become more involved in the struggle for civil rights. Daniels was killed on August 20, 1965 by a shotgun blast fired by an Lowndes County special sheriffs deputy at a small convenience store where Daniels and several other civil rights activists had gone following their release from the Lowndes County Jail, where they spent a week behind bars on charges related to a protest in Fort Deposit.

Episcopalians were joined Saturday by adherents of other faiths from throughout Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi, who paid their respect to Daniels and the civil rights cause under a blistering sun.

Jerry McGee of Destin, Fla., recited a Biblical passage about "giving your life for another," something Daniels did without question when he stepped in front of 16-year-old Ruby Sales to protect her and take the fatal shotgun blast.

"That's why I wanted to come here and honor him," said McGee. "He gave the greatest gift he could possible give -- his life."

The Rev. Polk Van Zandt of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Selma said Daniels has been given a "Black Letter Day," which sets aside a day each year to honor his memory.

Van Zandt said others given "Black Letter Days" include nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale and author C.S. Lewis, but added that Saturday's commemoration was "more than just about him."

"This is also about all the martyrs of Alabama," said Van Zandt, who alluded to honors bestowed Saturday on several others who were killed during the civil rights era.

Also included in the commemoration were four girls killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and Viola Liuzzo, who was shot to death by Ku Klux Klansmen in Lowndes County a few months before Daniels was killed

.

Daniels was a native of Keene, New Hampshire, and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. The VMI archives writes about Daniels in this way:

In August 1965 Daniels and 22 others were arrested for participating in a voter rights demonstration in Fort Deposit, Alabama, and transferred to the county jail in nearby Hayneville. Shortly after being released on August 20, Richard Morrisroe, a Catholic priest, and Daniels accompanied two black teenagers, Joyce Bailey and Ruby Sales, to a Hayneville store to buy a soda. They were met on the steps by Tom Coleman, a construction worker and part-time deputy sheriff, who was carrying a shotgun. Coleman aimed his gun at sixteen year old Ruby Sales; Daniels pushed her to the ground in order to protect her, saving her life. The shotgun blast killed Daniels instantly; Morrisroe was seriously wounded. When he heard of the tragedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "One of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry was performed by Jonathan Daniels."

In the years since his death, Daniels' selfless act has been recognized in many ways. Two books have been written about his life, and a documentary was produced in 1999. The Episcopal Church added the date of his death to its Calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, and in England's Canterbury Cathedral, Daniels name is among the fifteen honored in the Chapel of Martyrs.

And:
At VMI, the Board of Visitors voted in 1997 to establish the Jonathan M. Daniels '61 Humanitarian Award. The award emphasizes the virtue of humanitarian public service and recognizes individuals who have made significant personal sacrifices to protect or improve the lives of others. The inaugural presentation was made to President James Earl Carter in 2001; the second award was presented to Ambassador Andrew Young in 2006.

In addition, one of only four named archways in the VMI Barracks is dedicated to Daniels, as is a memorial courtyard.

The feast commemorating Jonathan Daniels is August 14

Here are two other remembrances: here and here.

Quotable quote about the Diocese of Virginia

The Falls Church News-Press has given a fair amount of coverage to the split in the Diocese of Virginia, considering the Northern Virginia church for which the city is named is a prominent CANA parish. In a piece published today, FCNP editor Nicholas Benton observes that last week's ruling is a victory for the Episcopal Church even as the Rev. John Yates of the Falls Church takes a "never surrender" posture toward it:

It was a victory for the Episcopal Church against the defectors that include a majority of voting members at the historic Falls Church that have continued to occupy that church property.

Still, one important defector, the Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, told his congregation recently that no matter how the court finally rules, it will be years before they will actually have to depart the premises. That’s because of planned lengthy court appeals, he said, even though he conceded that contingency plans are underway.

Benton proceeds to relate several quotes from the conservative faction, which leads to an interesting response from Patrick Getlein, secretary of the diocese:

A statement from the Rev. Frederick Wright of The Falls Church on behalf of the defrocked priests said that the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia had no authority to defrock them, since they’d all already left and aligned with the Nigerian Anglicans. As “they remain Anglican clergy no longer in service of the Episcopal Church,” he said, “the church cannot dispose or remove them from their pulpits.”

James Oakes, also speaking for the defectors, said it was “like trying to fire someone after they quit their job.”

Replying to that, Getlein said yesterday, in the context of the legal fight over control of the church property, “That’s an interesting comment and it occurs to me that trying to take Episcopal Church property after you’ve left the Episcopal Church is like trying to take your office after you quit your job.”

The whole thing is here.

(Coverage from the Lead on this decision ran over the weekend, here and here.)

ERD ready to help with Peruvian earthquake disaster

Episcopal Relief and Development, the primary disaster relief agency within the Episcopal Church has the following announcement on it's website:

"Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) offers support for the people affected by a destructive earthquake that struck the Ica region of Peru yesterday.

On Wednesday evening at 6:40pm (7:40 p.m. EDT), a fierce 7.9 magnitude earthquake shook the coastal province of Ica, located 165 miles south of Lima, Peru’s capital city. The quake has killed at least 336 people in the province and one in Lima and more than 700 people were injured. Among those killed were 17 worshipers at the Senor de Luren church in Ica who were attending evening mass when the quake struck.

Rescuers are having difficulty reaching Ica due to fallen power lines and damage to the Pan-American Highway. In Lima, tremors caused office buildings to rattle briefly and a few homes collapsed in the city center. Telephone and mobile phone service were also disconnected due to downed power lines.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia has declared a state of emergency in the Ica province and is sending three cabinet ministers to inspect the worst affected areas of the province.

Our staff is in communication with ERD’s partners in Latin America to identify needs. ERD stands ready to provide emergency aid as needs are identified.

Please pray for those affected by this terrible disaster"

Read the rest here.

Episcopal Bishop of Utah calls congregations to prayer this weekend.

The Rt. Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, bishop of the Diocese of Utah, has issued a statement calling the Episcopal congregations of her diocese to prayer this weekend in support of families dealing with tragedy of the Crandall Canyon Mine accidents:

"Our Episcopal communities across the state feel deeply connected with those families mourning this latest great loss. The courageous men who attempted the rescue of the six trapped miners did so on behalf of all who have followed this painful story over the past two weeks, and we honor them. Our Diocesan staff and congregations continue to pray for healing and hope for those who survive and those who comfort them. We pray as well for those making decisions in the coming days and for all who work to promote greater safety measures in mines and all other work places.

I am asking all of our congregations to use this prayer during worship in the coming days:

Prayer:

O God our times are in your hands. Look mercifully on those who mourn the loss of their loved ones in Crandall Canyon, those miners who remain trapped there, and those who care for the injured. Let your Holy Spirit abide within and among them, reminding us all of our call to care for all God's people. We give thanks for all who risk their own comfort and safety for the sake of others and all whose work puts them in harm's way. Keep us mindful of our responsibilities to press for increased safety measures in their work places. We pray in the name of the one whose very name is Mercy.

Amen."

Read the rest.

Bishop of El Salvador calls Anglicans to mutual aid

The Anglican Bishop of El Salvador (who is also the Primate of the Anglican Church of the region of Central America) has released a letter to the people of his province in light of the recent natural disasters of earthquake and hurricane in South and Central America. He calls on the people of his country and all the Anglican Provinces of the Americas to do what they can to help out in these difficult days:

"From our Anglican Church in El Salvador, we have been following the reports of so many recent disasters, such as the earthquake in Peru and the effects of Hurricane Dean. In Christian love we are praying for the people who are suffering from the effects of these disasters. We also pray for the force and witness of our relief and development institution that has already given so much help to these affected people, especially those in Peru hit by the earthquake.

Here in El Salvador, we know the suffering wrought by such disasters, the same as for other countries in the Province of the Anglican Church of the Region of Central America. It is for this reason, that through love for our Savior Jesus Christ, I make a call for solidarity to the people of our province, to our friends in the United States and Canada, and other parts of the world that, within each of our capacities, we can help our suffering brothers and sisters. The quantity of our donations is less important than our being truly united in our love for Christ.

Please send any donations to Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). Even better, if you wish to designate specifically the donation, it can be earmarked for the Emergency Relief Fund. We can agree that God will give us in recompense 101%."

Read the rest: From the Archbishop of IARCA/Bishop of El Salvador

Thinking about God and generosity

Here is something you can point to next time you hear Christopher Hitchens or another atheist talk about the horrors created by religious belief: Thinking about God makes us more generous according to Bitish of Columbia psychologists:

Thoughts related to God cultivate cooperative behaviour and generosity, according to University of British Columbia psychology researchers.

In a study to be published in the September issue of Psychological Science journal, researchers investigated how thinking about God and notions of a higher power influenced positive social behaviour, specifically cooperation with others and generosity to strangers.

UBC PhD graduate Azim Shariff and UBC Assoc. Prof. Ara Norenzayan found that priming people with 'god concepts' -- by activating subconscious thoughts through word games -- promoted altruism. In addition, the researchers found that this effect was consistent in behaviour whether people declared themselves believers or not. The researchers also found that secular notions of civic responsibility promote cooperation and generosity.

"This is a twist on an age old question -- does a belief in God influence moral behaviour?" says Shariff. "We asked, does the concept of god influence cooperative behaviour? Previous attempts to answer this question have been driven by speculation and anecdote."

. . .

The researchers undertook two related studies. In both studies, groups were randomly assigned to the religious prime or to the control group. Participants in the religious prime group were given a word game and had to unscramble sentences (using spirit, divine, God, sacred and prophet). Those in the control group were given the same task with non-spiritual words. After this task, all participants played an anonymous dictator game, whereby subjects were given 10 one-dollar coins and asked to make a decision of what to keep and what to share with an anonymous recipient.

The researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the positive results for the religious prime in both studies. Sixty-eight per cent of subjects from the religious prime groups allocated $5 or more to anonymous strangers, compared to 22 per cent from groups where neutral or no concepts were activated.

In the second study the researchers also investigated the strength of the religious prime relative to a secular prime. They used concepts of civic responsibility and social justice to prime subjects (with target words civic, jury, court, police and contract) and obtained almost identical results.

"We did not anticipate such a subtle prime, simply getting participants to unscramble sentences with a few key words, having such a large effect on people's willingness to give money to strangers," said Shariff. "These are compelling findings that have substantial impact on the study of social behaviour because they draw a causal relationship between religion and acting morally -- a topic of some debate. They by no means indicate that religion is necessary for moral behaviour, but it can make a substantial contribution."

Read it all here.

How the public resolves conflict of science and faith

A series of recent polls on the public's view of faith and science displays a paradox: the public has immense respect for science, but rejects the views of socientists on issues like evolution. And when forced to make a choice, the public will reject science that comes into conflict with faith:

A}ccording to a 2006 survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 42% of Americans reject the notion that life on earth evolved and believe instead that humans and other living things have always existed in their present form. Among white evangelical Protestants – many of whom regard the Bible as the inerrant word of God – 65% hold this view. Moreover, in the same poll, 21% of those surveyed say that although life has evolved, these changes were guided by a supreme being. Only a minority, about a quarter (26%) of respondents, say that they accept evolution through natural processes or natural selection alone.

Interestingly, many of those who reject natural selection recognize that scientists themselves fully accept Darwin's theory. In the same 2006 Pew poll, nearly two-thirds of adults (62%) say that they believe that scientists agree on the validity of evolution. Moreover, Americans, including religious Americans, hold science and scientists in very high regard. A 2006 survey conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University found that most people (87%) think that scientific developments make society better. Among those who describe themselves as being very religious, the same number – 87% – share that opinion.

So what is at work here? How can Americans say that they respect science and even know what scientists believe and yet still disagree with the scientific community on some fundamental questions? The answer is that much of the general public simply chooses not to believe the scientific theories and discoveries that seem to contradict long-held religious or other important beliefs.

When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin's theory.

This reliance on religious faith may help explain why so many people do not see science as a direct threat to religion. Only 28% of respondents in the same Time poll say that scientific advancements threaten their religious beliefs. These poll results also show that more than four-fifths of respondents (81%) say that "recent discoveries and advances" in science have not significantly impacted their religious views. In fact, 14% say that these discoveries have actually made them more religious. Only 4% say that science has made them less religious.

These data once again show that, in the minds of most people in the United States, there is no real clash between science and religion. And when the two realms offer seemingly contradictory explanations (as in the case of evolution), religious people, who make up a majority of Americans, may rely primarily upon their faith for answers.

Read it all here.

Is this true of Episcopalians as well? The large majority of us accept evolution as not in conflict with our faith, but are there areas in which science and even an Anglican faith could come into conflict?

Standing room only

It was standing room only for the students of Trinity Prepartory School of Winter Park, Florida, who put on their production of La Cage aux Folles at the Universal Orlando Theater. Adam Hetrik of Playbill News wrote:

La Cage aux Folles, which was not a part of Trinity Preparatory school's regular theatre schedule, was offered as a summer intensive open to all local high school students, not only those enrolled at Trinity Preparatory School. The program was designed to provide students with a credit for a fine arts requirement by bringing in local theatre professionals in order to allow students the experience of a professional rehearsal and production process.

When the show was publicized at the start of the school year, controversy erupted.

(The) parents and students were aware of the musical's content. Having previously produced A Chorus Line at Trinity Prep, a musical with many progressive central themes, (Department head Janine) Papin hoped audiences and the school were willing to go on the latest journey with her.

However, when Bishop John Howe, head of the Diocese of Central Florida, read of Trinity Preparatory's intended presentation of La Cage aux Folles in a local paper, a letter was sent "officially requesting" the school's headmaster to cancel the production.

The cancellation might have been the end, but news of the move brought forward both a flood of protest and offers from area theater companies and arts groups to put on the show. Playbill reported that the students received at least 15 offers to stage the production. After negotiations it was decided to hold the production at Universal Orlando, but without the official sponsorship of Trinity Prep. Read more here.

Tanya Caldwell of the Orlando Sentinel reported that over 300 people attended the performance on opening night.

The students took the show to Orlando Repertory Theatre after a week of debate about whether the bishop overstepped his bounds or held his moral ground. At least three other theaters also opened their doors to the group.

At least 300 parents, peers and neighbors arrived for the opening night, laughing at the jokes, smiling during the solos and whistling as grinning drag queens danced across the stage.

The Broadway musical has won several awards and was later tuned into an American movie called The Birdcage, which starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. La Cage features a gay couple in which one partner runs a French nightclub and the other performs there as a drag queen. The couple has been together for 20 years but make changes when their son bring home his fiancee and her conservative parents.

According to Playbill, Bishop Howe issued the following statement:

"We regret that the scheduling of this performance has been interpreted as a departure from our 40-year history as an Episcopal school. The students who worked hard to prepare for this play had neither a political nor social agenda."

Papin, who is unable to comment publicly on the production due to school administration restrictions, issued the following statement in an official Trinity Prep press release:

"I am quite proud of the students' tenacity and determination through this very difficult process. And I am thrilled that the students will get to perform the show on which they have worked so very hard. I am so grateful to all who supported our students' work."

When you are in jail, watch what you can't read

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has directed the departments chaplains to purge their libraries of all religious books which are not on list approved developed by the Bureau. According to a New York Times report by Laurie Goodstein, the move is supposed to prevent inmates from getting relgiously-based terrorist ideas.

Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, said the agency was acting in response to a 2004 report by the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department. The report recommended steps that prisons should take, in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, to avoid becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. The bureau, an agency of the Justice Department, defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.”

The list, which has reduced religious libraries to a list of 150 approved books and 150 multi-media for each of 20 religions or religious categories, does not ban liturgical texts, prayer books or scriptures.

The lists are broad, but reveal eccentricities and omissions. There are nine titles by C. S. Lewis, for example, and none from the theologians Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth and Cardinal Avery Dulles, and the influential pastor Robert H. Schuller.

Chaplains already watch out for materials that promote violence or disparage groups or classes of people, so, they say, the effort is unnecessary. The department has not provided funds for Chaplains to purchase the approved materials. This means that many prison library have simply been cleared of materials.

This effort has managed to displease nearly everyone: evangelical Christian groups have found their materials banned as well as Jewish and Muslim groups. Already some prisoners have filed suit.

If bureaucrats are concerned about radical ideas that are infectious, they may want to have another look at those Gospels.

Read the rest here including a multi-media description of the banned materials.

Are there left-wing and right-wing brains?

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work according to an article in the Los Angeles Times

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.

The results show "there are two cognitive styles -- a liberal style and a conservative style," said UCLA neurologist Dr. Marco Iacoboni, who was not connected to the latest research.

Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one political orientation was better. The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation, he said.

Read it all here

Perhaps this might explain why people have different preferences for the reading of Scripture.

Interest high, pickings slim

There is little to be found in this morning's papers on developments in New Orleans.

The Sunday Telegraph (to be distinguished from The Telegraph) was obliged to run coverage, if not least because they have their own reporter covering the meeting of the House of Bishops. Jonathan Wynne-Jones has two reports here and here. The Sunday Telegraph has this bulletpoint of their take on the personalities -- and the Archbishop's eyebrows.

The Virginia Episcopalian has run Special Editions including coverage of yesterday's workday. These are compiled here (pdf).

Today's BBC Radio program "Sunday" has an interview with Stephen Bates here. The interview broadened to cover attendance at Lambeth Conference. In Bates' telling the majority of Nigerian bishops want to go to Lambeth -- contrary to the position of their primate, Peter Akinola.

New census data on marriage

Americans now have less than a fifty percent chance for having a marriage that lasts more than 25 years, according to new U.S. Census data. The trends for a marriage surviving even fifteen years are also troubling. Still, it appears that the divorse rate has actually remained steady in recent years. Here is the New York Times report:

For the first time at least since World War II, women and men who married in the late 1970s had a less than even chance of still being married 25 years later.

“We know that somewhere between 40 percent and 50 percent of marriages dissolve,” said Barbara Risman, executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families, a research group. “Now, when people marry, everyone wonders, is this one of those marriages that will be around for awhile.”

But David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, a marriage research and advocacy group, said he was struck that the percentage of people who celebrated their 15th anniversary had declined. “This seems to be saying more recent marriages are more fragile,” Mr. Blankenhorn said.

About 80 percent of first marriages that took place in the late 1950s lasted at least 15 years. Among people who married in the late 1980s for the first time, however, only 61 percent of the men and 57 percent of the women were married 15 years later.

Among currently married women, non-Hispanic whites were the only group in which a majority had marked their 15th anniversary.

The survey by the Census Bureau, in 2004, confirmed that most Americans eventually marry, but they are marrying later and are slightly more likely to marry more than once.

Those trends continued, although the latest numbers suggest an uptick in the divorce rate among people married in the most recent 20 years covered in the report, 1975-1994. The proportion of all Americans who have been divorced, about one in five, remained constant, however.

“Basically, it looks like we’re pretty much holding steady,” said Rose Kreieder, a Census Bureau demographer. “There are not radical differences.”

Read it all here.

Rowan Williams speaks out on Iraq

The BBC is reporting the Archbishop of Canterbury's critique of humanitarian and security situation in Iraq. His words are in response to his trip to Syria where he had the opportunity to meet with a number of Iraqi refugees and to hear their stories and first-hand reports of life in that country:

"The Iraq conflict has wreaked 'terrible damage' on the region - far more than has been acknowledged, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Dr Rowan Williams said 'urgent attention' was needed to stabilise the country.

[...]Dr Williams also said he regards any further 'deliberate destabilisation' of the region - such as action against Syria and Iran - as 'criminal, ignorant...and potentially murderous folly'.

Referring to US political advisers, he added that 'we do hear talk from some quarters of action against Syria, or against Iran'.

'I can't understand what planet such persons are living on when you see the conditions that are already there. The region is still a tinderbox,' Dr Williams said.

Earlier, the archbishop said 'events of the last few years have done terrible damage in the whole of this region'.

He said many people 'do not see the cost in human terms of the war which was unleashed'.

Dr Williams concluded: 'Security that will enable these people to return to Iraq depends on a settlement for the whole of that country guaranteeing the liberty and dignity of every minority.'"

Read the rest here.

Raiders of the faux ark

Eric H. Cline writes in The Boston Globe:

Noah's Ark. The Ark of the Covenant. The Garden of Eden. Sodom and Gomorrah. The Exodus. The Lost Tomb of Jesus. All have been "found" in the last 10 years, including one within the past six months. The discoverers: a former SWAT team member; an investigator of ghosts, telepathy, and parapsychology; a filmmaker who calls himself "The Naked Archeologist"; and others, none of whom has any professional training in archeology.

We are living in a time of exciting discoveries in biblical archeology. We are also living in a time of widespread biblical fraud, dubious science, and crackpot theorizing. Some of the highest-profile discoveries of the past several years are shadowed by accusations of forgery, such as the James Ossuary, which may or may not be the burial box of Jesus' brother, as well as other supposed Bible-era findings such as the Jehoash Tablet and a small ivory pomegranate said to be from the time of Solomon. Every year "scientific" expeditions embark to look for Noah's Ark, raising untold amounts of money from gullible believers who eagerly listen to tales spun by sincere amateurs or rapacious con men; it is not always easy to tell the two apart.

Read it all.

Marriage and Health

The Church Times reports on an analysis of demographic statistics in the United Kingdom. The surprising news is that even as cohabitation is on the rise in Britain, couples that are married stay together longer and enjoy better health than those that are living together without being married.

"Marriage is on the decline, but married people are more likely to stay together than cohabiting couples, says an in-depth analysis, Focus on Families, from the office of National Statistics. Married people live longer, and enjoy the best health; they provide unpaid care for their sick, disabled, and elderly relatives, and their children get better results at school than those of single or cohabiting parents.

The number of married couples fell by four per cent to 12.1 million in the past decade. Now only 65 per cent of children live with married parents, as compared with 72 per cent in 1996. There are 2.3 million cohabiting-couple families and 2.6 million lone-parent families — a rise of eight per cent over the previous decade.

[...]In general, married people have the best health, followed by single people, with the formerly-married having the worst. ‘Many studies of historical marriage and mortality data have shown the association between marriage and health is enduring and pervasive,’ the authors say.

They suggest: ‘Former benefits of partnership, such as a generally better standard of living, seem less important as the single breadwinner model disappears. For a number of reasons, differences between marital status groups might be expected to decline, but the clearest evidence (given by mortality trends) suggests that these differentials are, in fact, increasing, so that the link between health and family remains strong.’"

Read the rest here.

Dallas paper profiles Robinson

The Dallas Morning News offers a profile of Bishop Gene Robinson and a sidebar on his parents. The bishop says: I take the long view of history. The debate will end with the full inclusion of GLBT people. We're really only arguing about timing."

Susan Russell has the cover photograph here. The bishop was in Washington, D. C. last night to speak at a screening of For the Bible Tells Me So in northern Virginia.

Paroled Episcopal priest suspended

The San Francisco Chronicle has news that the Rev. James Tramel, a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of California, has been suspended while an allegation of sexual misconduct made against him is being investigated.

Tramel is well known as the priest who was recently ordained while in prison serving time having been convicted of second-degree murder. Tramel's story of repentance and subsequent acceptance into the church's ordained ministry is told here.

According to the Chronicle's article:

"An adult member of Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco, Tramel's parish, filed the complaint with the diocese Tuesday, and Tramel, 39, was suspended that day from all pastoral, administrative and sacramental duties, according to diocesan spokesman Sean McConnell.

Parishioners at the church were told of the suspension during Sunday morning services, McConnell said.

Reached on Sunday, Tramel said Bishop Marc Andrus had instructed him not to speak on the matter. Andrus said the alleged sexual misconduct occurred over time and did not involve criminal activity."

Read the rest here.

Webcast conversation with the Presiding Bishop

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, spoke to a live audience at the studios of Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York and responded to questions from Web viewers and the studio audience. The Webcast concluded just before 4 p. m. EDT, but will be available on demand soon at this address.

Her opening statement is here.

In her remarks, Bishop Jefferts Schori mentions the 'five marks of mission" articulated by the Anglican Communion. The document she mentions is here.

Race, environment and genetics

James Watson, who won a Nobel Prize in medicine for his work in determining the structure of DNA, caused quite a furor when he said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really.". He said he hoped that everyone was equal, but countered that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

Watson has since backtracked from these comments, but the furor continues. (And, as the father of an African-American child, this is an issue that I take quite personally). Steven Levitt, one of the authors of Freakonomics offers some interesting data that suggests that Watson is simply wrong in his conclusions:

Roland Fryer and I have done some research on this topic which we think is potentially quite interesting and important — although we seem to be the only ones with this opinion at present. (The paper was rejected yesterday by the American Economic Review on the second round of review, and a search of Google Scholar reveals only two citations to the working paper version released in early 2006.)

In my work with Fryer, we analyzed a newly available nationally representative survey of children ages two and under, done by the Department of Education. Included in this study are tests of mental ability around a child’s first birthday. While you might think it would be impossible to capture anything meaningful at such a young age, it turns out that these measures of one-year-olds’ intelligence are somewhat highly correlated with IQ scores at later ages, as well as with parental IQ scores.

The striking result we find is that there are no racial differences in mental functioning at age one, although a racial gap begins to emerge over the next few years of life.

So what does this mean for the genetics vs. environment debate? Quoting from our abstract, “the observed patterns are broadly consistent with large racial differences in environmental factors that grow in importance as children age. Our findings are not consistent with the simplest models of large genetic differences across races in intelligence, although we cannot rule out the possibility that intelligence has multiple dimensions and racial differences are present only in those dimensions that emerge later in life.”

Like all research, our study has its flaws and limitations. I have to say, however, that I imagined a lot of reactions to this paper, none of which were utter indifference on the part of academics and the popular press. But that was the reaction we got.

Read it all here. Read the entire paper here.

Anglicans back to Rome

Scattered across the news feeds are reports of Anglican parishes "defecting to Rome." The request seems to have come out of Ireland, joined by others from 12 countries. From Catholic News Service:

If approved by the Vatican, the move would allow 400,000 traditional Anglicans worldwide to be admitted into the Catholic Church.

The decision to petition for the move "seeking full, corporate, sacramental union" was made during an early October plenary meeting of the Traditional Anglican Communion, the umbrella organization for traditional Anglicans, in Portsmouth, England. The move, requested in a letter to the Vatican, would see the entire parish communities received into the Catholic Church.

It is extremely rare for entire Anglican communities to seek corporate communion with the Catholic Church whereby every member of the parish becomes Catholic and the parish effectively becomes part of the Catholic Church.

At the Vatican, officials would not comment on the letter, although they confirmed the doctrinal congregation had received it.

It's interesting to note that the breaking point for this group is over the ordination of women, not gays, as is being reported in some less reliable places.

The whole story is here.

More coverage at the Independent.

New Orleans ready to reach out to California

The New Orleans based Times-Picayune newspaper has a story this morning about how the people of the region are ready to do whatever is needed to help the folks of Southern California get back on their feet after the wildfires.

"'I'm getting phone calls: 'Can we go? Can we go?,' ' said Archdeacon Dennis McManis, operations director of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana's office of disaster response. 'I'm telling them, 'Let's sit back and see what they need.'

Images of families distraught about their losses have particular resonance in the New Orleans area, where tens of thousands of families received large and small gifts of aid, housing and other gestures of generosity in the weeks immediately after Hurricane Katrina.

"But we also remember how we got inundated in those first days with people wanting to give us stuff -- often stuff we didn't need. Or people coming here and just telling us what they could do for us," McManis said."

The article goes on to describe how various other religious agencies are preparing to help out once the needs are known. The groups include mainline protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic archdiocese and evangelical church groups.

Read the rest here.

Diocese of Maine elects new bishop

Episcopal Diocese of Maine elected The Rev. Canon Stephen Lane as Bishop on the first ballot this morning. Bishop-elect Lane is presently the Canon for Deployment and Ministry Development in the Diocese of Rochester.

The ballot totals are here.

There's more information about the bishop-elect here.

Religion and wealth

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Pew Research never fails to provide interesting survey information. This graph, showing the relationship between religiousity and per capita GDP is no exception. Religiosity is measured using a three-item index ranging from 0-3, with "3" representing the most religious position. Respondents were given a "1" if they believe faith in God is necessary for morality; a "1" if they say religion is very important in their lives; and a "1" if they pray at least once a day.

Pew offers this analysis:

Global publics are sharply divided over the relationship between religion and morality. In much of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, there is a strong consensus that belief in God is necessary for morality and good values. Throughout much of Europe, however, majorities think morality is achievable without faith. Meanwhile, opinions are more mixed in the Americas, including in the United States, where 57% say that one must believe in God to have good values and be moral, while 41% disagree.

The survey finds a strong relationship between a country's religiosity and its economic status. In poorer nations, religion remains central to the lives of individuals, while secular perspectives are more common in richer nations. This relationship generally is consistent across regions and countries, although there are some exceptions, including most notably the United States, which is a much more religious country than its level of prosperity would indicate. Other nations deviate from the pattern as well, including the oil-rich, predominantly Muslim -- and very religious -- kingdom of Kuwait.

The survey also measured global opinion about contemporary social issues, finding a mix of traditional and progressive views. Throughout Western Europe and much of the Americas, there is widespread tolerance towards homosexuality. However, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Israel stand apart from other wealthy nations on this issue; in each of these countries, fewer than half of those surveyed say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Meanwhile, in most of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, there is less tolerance toward homosexuality.

Regarding gender issues, there is a broad consensus that both boys and girls should receive an education. In all 47 countries surveyed, at least seven-in-ten respondents believe that education is equally important for boys and girls. Most publics also believe that men and women are equally qualified for political leadership, although there is less agreement on this issue. Notably, in several predominantly Muslim publics -- including Mali, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- majorities say that men make better political leaders. The survey also asked about another often contentious gender issue: Muslim women wearing the veil. In 15 of 16 Muslim publics surveyed, majorities say women should have the right to decide whether they wear a veil. Women generally are more likely than men to express this opinion.

Read it all here. the full research report can be found here.

Arsonist arrested on steps of Grace Cathedral

A convicted arsonist was arrested on Sunday outside of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco by police following a tip that he was intending to burn the Cathedral. The man had previously been arrested for setting the "Burning Man" aflame in an act he claimed was an act of love earlier this summer.

"[The suspect, Paul Addis] was wearing an old ammunition belt that carried small explosives, Mannina said. He was booked on suspicion of attempted arson, possession of an incendiary substance, possession of explosives and possession of explosives with intent to terrorize a church.

A bomb dog was brought in to search the area and found no other explosives at the California Street cathedral.

Deputy Chief Morris Tabak said Addis had only a small amount of explosives.

'Did he have the capability to do substantial damage? Absolutely not,' Tabak said.

Tabak said police didn't know what Addis' alleged motive was. 'He said something about it was his religious right,' Tabak said."

Read the rest here.

Ontario priest disciplined for marrying same-sex couple

From the Anglican Journal today:

"A priest in the diocese of Ontario has been disciplined and had his licence to marry cancelled after officiating at the wedding of a same-sex couple last August in a church in rural Ontario, where he is the incumbent.

Rev. Michael Bury, rector of St. John the Evangelist church, in Stirling, Ont., a small village located about 190 km east of Toronto, confirmed in an interview that his licence to perform marriages has been cancelled.

In an interview at the house of bishops meeting in London, Ont., diocesan bishop George Bruce said the cancellation is effective until further notice. ‘I had issued a directive in 2003 that we would not bless same-sex relationships nor conduct marriages. There was no canonical permission to do it. There are consequences (to such an action),’ he said."

Read the rest here.

Topeka Baptist Church must pay 11 million to slain soldier's family

Westboro Baptist Church, known for its website "GodHatesFags", has been fined for demonstrating at the funeral of a US soldier killed in Iraq.

"The brokenhearted father of a Marine killed in Iraq won a long-shot legal fight today after a federal jury in Baltimore awarded him nearly $11 million in a verdict against members of a Kansas church who hoisted anti-gay placards at his son's Westminster funeral.

The jury's announcement 24 hours after deliberations first began was met with tears and hugs from the family and supporters of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, whose March 2006 funeral was protested by members of the Westboro Baptist Church with signs including 'Thank God for dead soldiers.'

Snyder's father, Albert, won on every count of his complaint, as well as $2.9 million for compensatory damages and $8 million for punitive damages."

People from the congregation of the Baptist church have long been notorious for their demonstrations against congregations, including many of the Episcopal Church, and at the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, a gay man killed in a hate crime motivated slaying.

Read the rest here: here.

Religion: It just won't go away

The Economist surveys the impact of religion and modern culture, and finds that modernism and religion are uneasy bedfellows.

Many secular intellectuals think that the real “clash of civilisations” is not between different religions but between superstition and modernity. A succession of bestselling books have torn into religion—Sam Harris's “The End of Faith”, Richard Dawkins's “The God Delusion” and Christopher Hitchens's “God is not Great—How Religion Poisons Everything”. This counterattack already shows a religious intensity. Mr Dawkins has set up an organisation to help atheists around the world.

Part of that secular fury, especially in Europe, comes from exasperation. After all, it has been a canon of progressive thought since the Enlightenment that modernity—that heady combination of science, learning and democracy—would kill religion. Plainly, this has not happened. Numbers about religious observance are notoriously untrustworthy, but most of them seem to indicate that any drift towards secularism has been halted, and some show religion to be on the increase. The proportion of people attached to the world's four biggest religions—Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism—rose from 67% in 1900 to 73% in 2005 and may reach 80% by 2050.

Moreover, from a secularist point of view, the wrong sorts of religion are flourishing, and in the wrong places.

One effect of a globalizing economy is the culture wars have also gone global.

Pious people are shouting “Stop!” (or at least “Slow down!”) to things liberals regard as progress. The three main battlefields are culture, science and economics.

Such a sweeping generalisation requires an immediate caveat. The three battlefields are reasonably well defined, but the people fighting on them are not. On the secular side, progressive Parisians and New Yorkers may both be modern, but often have very different attitudes to economics. The religious side is even more fragmented. Conservative American churches tend to embrace modern capitalism, but are suspicious of biotechnology and modern culture; by contrast, leftish American evangelicals are much more bothered about globalisation than about stem cells. The technophobic Catholic hierarchy in Europe is mildly hostile to modern culture, science and capitalism, and technophile Muslim fundamentalists loathe all three.

Anyone who has taken a high school or freshman Western Civilization survey course may have been taught believe that religious wars are a thing of the past, but religious conflict is all too common.

Faith is once again prolonging conflict. Religion is seldom the casus belli: indeed, in many struggles, notably the Middle East in modern times, it is amazing how long it took for religion to become a big part of the argument. But once there, it makes conflicts harder to resolve. A squabble over land (which can be divided) or power (which can be shared) or rules (that can be fudged) becomes a dispute over non-negotiable absolutes. If you believe that God granted you the West Bank, or that any form of abortion is murder, compromise is not really possible.

But not all religious conflict leads to war or violence. They can have a transforming, even democratizing effect.

Yet the foremost way in which religion has expressed itself around the world has been more peaceful: the ballot box. Religious people have either formed religious parties (such as India's BJP) or converted secular ones into more faith-driven outfits (such as America's Republican Party). In places where religion was frowned upon by the state, such as Mexico or Turkey, greater freedom has allowed the pious to form parties, such as the Catholic-oriented PAN party or the Islamic AK Party.

And it has not just been a case of democracy helping religion. Timothy Shah of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that it can go the other way too. By his calculation, more than 30 of the 80 or so countries that became freer in 1972-2000 owed some of the improvement to religion. Sometimes established churches helped to push for democracy (eg, the Catholic church in Poland), but more often it was pressure from the grassroots: religious people usually look for a degree of freedom (if only to pursue their faith).

The most significant change driving religion today--and the impact of religion on culture-- is that more and more dynamic religion is chosen religion. In the past, religion was defined pretty much by where and to whom one was born. Today, the more modernized the culture, the more likely that religion is chosen, and a religion that one chooses is held more tightly than religion one inherits.

Choice is the most “modern” thing about contemporary religion. “We made a category mistake,” admits Peter Berger, the Boston sociologist, who was once one of the foremost champions of secularisation but changed his mind in the 1980s. “We thought that the relationship was between modernisation and secularisation. In fact it was between modernisation and pluralism.” Religion is no longer taken for granted or inherited; it is based around adults making a choice, going to a synagogue, temple, church or mosque.

This has a profound affect on public life. The more that people choose their religion, rather than just inherit it, the more likely they are to make a noise about it. Miroslav Volf, director of Yale's Centre for Faith and Culture, says this is showing up in the workplace too: “It used to be that workers hung their religion on a coat rack alongside their coats. At home, their religion mattered. At work, it was idle. That is no longer the case. For many people religion has something to say about all aspects of life, work included.”

This look at religion from the economists' standpoint--how religion and culture intersect and impacts peoples choices--calls us to look at the impact of faith in new ways and may challenge long-held assumptions about how the Gospel is proclaimed in an increasingly global, connected world.

Francis Collins Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

In a White House ceremony tomorrow, Dr, Francis Collins will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work as "director of the National Human Genome Research Institute is being honored for his leadership of the Human Genome Project and for greatly expanding the understanding of the human DNA."

In addition to his work as a scientists, Collins is also well known in Christian circles for his book "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief", which acts as both a defense of the compatibility of evolution to the Christian faith and as a modern day defense of the rationality of the Christian faith.

Christianity Today has coverage of the award,including links to several articles about Dr. Collins and his book here.

San Joaquin invited to join Province of Southern Cone

This news release appeared on the Diocese of San Joaquin's website:

"The Diocese of San Joaquin today announced that the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of South America has extended an invitation to offer the Diocese membership on an emergency and pastoral basis.

The announcement comes three weeks before the Diocese is scheduled hear the second and final reading of Constitutional changes first adopted on December 2, 2006. Should the second reading of the Constitutional changes be approved at the Diocesan Convention on December 8, 2007, the Diocese is free to accept the invitation to align with the Province of the Southern Cone and remain a diocese with full membership within the Anglican Communion.

According to the Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, ‘We welcome the invitation extended by the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. The invitation assures the Diocese’s place in the Anglican Communion and full communion with the See of Canterbury.’"

The pastoral letter says that this emergency provision will remain in place

Until the Episcopal Church:
  • repents and complies with the requests of the Windsor Report;
  • respects the conscience of the parishes and dioceses which wish to adhere to the theological, moral and pastoral norms of the Anglican Communion, once held also by the Episcopal Church;
  • and its Presiding Bishop and officers cease to pursue and intimidate these dioceses and parishes by means of lawsuits, confiscations and depositions;

Or

Until adequate, effective and acceptable alternative primatial and episcopal oversight be offered as recommended by the Primates in Dar Es Salaam;

Or

Until the Archbishop of Canterbury takes clear action and responds effectively to the legitimate and urgent concerns of the “alienated” parishes and dioceses of The Episcopal Church offering pastoral leadership to protect them;

Read the full text and the Pastoral letter here.

It's not just good for you, it makes you good

Newsweek reports on the latest in bottled water:

Observant Muslims wash hands and feet before they pray, orthodox Jewish women take ritual baths once a month—and every Christian denomination still uses water as part of its sacred rites. Mormons, when they take the weekly sacrament, drink water instead of wine.

So it's not surprising that a few savvy marketers would seize on this universal symbol of purity for financial gain. Inspired, perhaps, by vitamin and energy waters, a number of new companies have begun making more explicit claims: their water doesn't just promote good health, it actually makes you good. Holy Drinking Water, produced by a California-based company called Wayne Enterprises, is blessed in the warehouse by an Anglican or Roman Catholic priest (after a thorough background check). Like a crucifix or a rosary, a bottle of Holy Drinking Water is a daily reminder to be kind to others, says Brian Germann, Wayne's CEO.

What, no Episcopal priests?

Highway of Holiness I-35

If you turn to the Bible -- Isaiah Chapter 35, Verse 8 -- you will see a passage that in part says, "A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness."

Now, is it possible that this "highway" mentioned in Chapter 35 is actually Interstate 35 that runs through six U.S. states, from southern Texas to northern Minnesota? Some Christians have faith that is indeed the case.

It was with that interesting belief in mind that we decided to head to Texas, the southernmost state in the I-35 corridor, to do a story about a prayer campaign called "Light the Highway."

Read it all here

Time's Top 10 religion stories

Time Magazine has released its list of the top ten religion stories in 2007. Topping the list is Mother Teresa's crisis of faith. The Anglican Communion's conflict comes in at a solid number 5.

Read the entire list here.

Pay that latte forward

People like to give. Example:

At the Starbucks on 116th Street NE in Marysville, Washington, a chain of more than 350 people bought coffee for the people in line behind them -- either in the drive-through or inside -- starting with a woman who first came in about 8 a.m.
...
During the holidays, it's not uncommon for customers to occasionally buy coffee for whomever is next in line, said Nix, who used to work at the Starbucks in Lake Stevens.

But she's never seen anything like this.

"I'm really shocked," Nix said. "This makes Christmas so much nicer, knowing people care."

Some customers went above and beyond paying for the next person, giving $15 or $20 to the coffee shop. Any extra money that isn't used to pay for drinks is planned to be used for Starbucks' holiday toy drive, Nix said.

But it didn't stop there: "By Thursday afternoon, a chain of more than 813 customers had bought drinks for the next person in line at the Starbucks on 116th Street NE. The woman started the chain when she bought her regular iced tea Wednesday morning."

Bless, O Lord, this creature beer

In Gatineau, Quebec, the oldest Protestant church in the Ottawa Valley stands deconsecrated and empty since late 2006. The century-old stone building is the third church to stand on the site; previous ones had burned down in fires. Now, a businessman wants to buy the church building and convert it into a brewpub and entertainment site, but the remnants of St. Andrew's congregation aren't keen on the idea.

"I am not happy that this place could become a brewery because people on city council told me it could only be used as a church," said Blaine Meadows, a former member of the St. James congregation, adding that he and three or four supporters still hold prayer services on the sidewalk in front of the church every Sunday morning. "As far as we are concerned, it is still our church, even though the diocese changed the locks and stole our church."

"I don't know whether we could have our prayer meetings inside if the building became a brew pub. It gets kind of complicated."

Geoffroy, however, said the church would be an ideal home for a microbrewery because its basement has a ceiling high enough to accommodate brewing equipment. Some of the world's most famous beers are brewed by religious orders in Belgium, he argued.

Geoffroy also noted that the main floor has excellent acoustics and religious artifacts that could be preserved in a pub.

"We intend to enhance and promote the historic, brewing and industrial heritage of the city," Geoffroy said. "It will be a cultural place that would offer classical music and performances by small groups."

The story is here.

The title of this post, it should be noted, comes from a prayer from the Rituale Romanum that is a favorite around the Thompson/Mosher household, as my fiance is a craft brewer. It goes like this:

Bene+dic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi: et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti, ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corporis, et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, that Thou hast been pleased to bring forth from the sweetness of the grain: that it might be a salutary remedy for the human race: and grant by the invocation of Thy holy name, that, whosoever drinks of it may obtain health of body and a sure safeguard for the soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Kibaki and Tutu back dialogue in Kenya

A Kenyan based blogger has reported that the hoped for meeting between the retired Archbishop of Capetown and the present leader of Kenya has taken place.

From the report:

"President Kibaki and South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu today called for an end to the post election violence in the country saying leaders from across the political divide must give dialogue a chance.

President Kibaki assured Archbishop Tutu that he was committed to political dialogue with members of other political parties.

At a meeting held at State House Nairobi today, the President Kibaki and Archbishop Tutu noted that there was urgent need to find a solution to the politically instigated violence. The two underlined the sanctity of human life noting that political protests must never be an excuse for killing innocent people.

They called on political leaders in the country to stop their supporters from engaging in violent acts, saying it was imperative that all Kenyans involve themselves in peace overtures so as to quickly restore sanity to the country.

President Kibaki reiterated that he was ready and willing to begin consultations and reach out to political party leaders to find solutions to contentious issues. He asked all leaders to cooperate, saying they must be seen to provide positive leadership at this challenging time in the history of the country."

The report of this meeting and subsequent statement is also being carried on the EuroNews site.

Read the rest of the bloggers report here.

Updated:

The Diocese of Kansas has connections in Kenya via a deacon working in the region and through a mission trip that the bishop and other members of the diocese undertook this past summer. As a result they have been pointed to this information about the present conditions inside the country. Food is starting to be hard to find and the level of violence is increasing.

Better living through ascetism

Researchers in Greece have determined that there may be relationship between the monastic lifestyle and a decreased incidence of cancer. For 1,000 years, the monks of Mount Athos have maintained dietary and lifestyle habits that include a mediterranean diet and lots of produce, according to the research:

The dietary and lifestyle habits of monks on the all-male community in Mount Athos have shown that the regular consumption of olive oil, daily portions of fish, seasonal fruit and vegetables are among the main contributors towards keeping prostate cancer below international averages, data presented by urologist Haralambos Aidonopoulos showed.

"It is not just the Mediterranean diet that helps but generally a diet consisting of old, traditional standards," said Aidonopoulos.

Aidonopoulos said he had examined hundreds of monks living on Mount Athos since 1994 and found that the incidence of prostate cancer was four times lower than the international average.

More about the study here.

Kenyan Church responses to crisis

There have been a number of recent developments in the continuing political unrest in Kenya following the recent election. The World Council of Churches has issued a statement overnight calling on churches in the country to continue to work for peaceful reconciliation between the parties in the dispute.

From the statement by the Council:

"'We call on the political leaders, especially President Kibaki and the Honourable Raila Odinga, to refrain from taking decisions that might frustrate the process towards dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the conflict', he added.

Violence tainted with ethnical components erupted across the country following a disputed presidential election last December. Reports estimate that about 600 people have been killed, while some 200,000 have fled their homes.

Dr Kobia praised the work of the Kenyan churches, which have been 'strongly involved in resolving the situation and calling for peace', at a time when their 'ministry of healing and reconciliation' is deeply needed.

'Church leaders must continue to rise above ethnic differences and politics and call for an end to the disputes', he said."

The Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Benjamin Nzimbi, has issued a call asking for a recounting of the votes, and he has critizied clergy who are taking sides in the partisan struggles:

From an article in The Church Times:

The move [by Nzimbi] has been rejected by the Opposition Democratic Movement, which is simply calling for the President, Mwai Kibaki, to step down. None the less, the Churches are united in their call for a measured response to the political crisis.

This was echoed by the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, who visited Kenya last week at the invitation of the All Africa Conference of Churches and the National Council of Churches of Kenya. A government spokesman said that foreign intervention was not welcome; nevertheless, Dr Tutu met President Kibaki and opposition politicians. “This is a country that has been held up as a model of stability,” Dr Tutu said, on his departure. “This picture has been shattered. This is not the Kenya we know.”

Archbishop Nzimbi was himself criticised by one of his bishops, the Rt Revd James Ochiel, Bishop of Southern Nyanza, in the heartland of the opposition leader Raila Odinga. In a letter copied to all Anglican bishops and their US mission partners, Bishop Ochiel said that the Archbishop and other national church leaders might have saved the country from violence by confronting President Kibaki with the truth.

Read the rest of the article about the WCC statement here.

Update on Kenya

Amidst fears of renewed violence in Kenya this weekend, the Anglican Church there has appealed that all parties seek to avoid any action that would inflame the situation.

According the Church Times report this morning, the 33 Anglican bishops of Kenya have called for amending the country's constitution to help avoid these situations in the future.

"The Church has appealed to would-be demonstrators to avoid violence, and to the police to avoid the use of live bullets, to prevent the loss of more lives. More than 500 are said to have been killed in the unrest, triggered on 30 December.

...The Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Benjamin Nzimbi, told a press conference in Nairobi: ‘We are not against the idea of mass action, but our fear is that some people may use the event to engage in violence and to loot property. Law enforcers should provide security without excessive force.’"

Read the rest here.

Scholarships for black seminarians

At Virginia Theological Seminary it is now possible for any black full or part-time Episcopalian student to receive a full tuition scholarship.

From the seminary's website:

"‘I am very excited about this initiative,’ said the Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary. ’It will strengthen the community at VTS and the wider Church as a new generation of black Episcopal leadership emerges.’

The Bishop Payne Scholarship is named for the Bishop Payne Divinity School, established in 1878 in Petersburg, Virginia, to prepare black men for ministry in the Episcopal Church. The school was named for the Rt. Rev. John Payne (1815-1874) who graduated from VTS in 1836 and was the first missionary bishop to Liberia. In 1953, Virginia Theological Seminary and the Bishop Payne Divinity School merged. The assets of the Bishop Payne Divinity School became the principal for the Bishop Payne Scholarship Fund to be used for the benefit of black Episcopalians preparing for the ministry. It is from the seed of those funds that the Bishop Payne Scholarships have been funded. Each student receiving this award will be named a Bishop Payne Scholar."

Read the rest here.

Diocese nears settlement with Bristol parish

An article in the Hartford Courant reports that leadership of Trinity Church in Bristol Connecticut and the Diocese of Connecticut are beginning to approach a settlement in a property dispute that resulted when the leadership of parish voted to leave the diocesan structures.

From the article:

'Lawyers for a Bristol congregation, which defected from the Episcopal Church to join a more conservative Anglican group last year, and the Connecticut Diocese are negotiating an end to litigation over the church property, according to church sources.

Members of the Trinity Church parish and its pastor, the Rev. Donald Helmandollar, probably will vacate the property once the diocese's lawsuit against Trinity is dismissed, the sources said.

Neither Helmandollar nor Connecticut Episcopal Bishop Andrew Smith would discuss the negotiations, citing the sensitive nature of the relationship between Trinity and the diocese.

The question of who keeps the church building and all the property once a congregation votes to leave the Episcopal Church is one that has preoccupied church officials on both the state and national level in recent years."

The article points out that this settlement may only effect this parish. The other congregations which voted to leave are using different strategies and creating alliances with other conservative groups within the Anglican Communion.

Read the rest here.

Saving houses of worship

Preservationists, who have in the past been reluctant to offer landmark status and preservation dollars to religious institutions, are sounding alarms that houses of worship that anchor urban neighborhoods are beginning to decay from neglect, lack of funding in poor congregations for complex maintenance, and decay. These spaces have also become targets for acquisition by developers where choice real estate is in short supply.

The New York Times reports :

Throughout the city, houses of worship built in the last century for Jewish and Christian immigrants from Europe are now home to congregations with roots in Latin America, the Caribbean or the American South. Some are grand palaces that occupy a regal spot in a neighborhood, while others are modest halls nearly indistinguishable from bland storefronts. They sustain communities by helping slake spiritual and material thirsts.

Many of these buildings are under threat, crumbling from years of neglect and deferred maintenance in the case of impoverished congregations, or becoming targets for acquisition by developers in neighborhoods where choice real estate is scarce.

Preservationists have begun to sound alarms, warning that rich urban traditions of art, religion and community service are imperiled.

“You see in these buildings history and continuity, and the influence of new populations and new religions,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “The face of the city will change and an important part of our history will be lost if these buildings disappear.”

Preservationists and urban planners say that city officials have generally been reluctant to landmark religious buildings or to help them with funds for structural repairs and rehabilitation out of concern over separation of church and state. But some advocates have argued that these congregations, which are often community anchors in distressed neighborhoods, deserve a measure of public help.

Julia Vitullo-Martin, director of the Center for Rethinking Development, an urban-policy group, has urged city officials to form a commission dedicated to preserving religious buildings and the role they play in communities. She is the author of a recent paper that suggests city officials could mediate between developers and congregations that wish to strengthen their coffers by selling air rights or unused buildings and parcels.

Ms. Vitullo-Martin said that without a consistent planning approach, cash-poor congregations risk having to demolish their buildings or riling their neighbors by allowing developers to build tall apartment buildings.

“If nothing is done, these churches could fall like dominoes,” she said. “There is something sad about the destruction of something of great beauty. It is the ultimate in using up your capital when you destroy a church or synagogue.”

The article, written by David Gonzalez, gives particular attention to Christian congregations that occupy former synagogues in neighborhoods that were once predominantly Jewish. The unstated implications, obvious to anyone who works to preserve and grow an urban church in a mainly suburban world, is that the past dynamic of one congregation replacing another as one group gave way to another is less and less an option for those interested in preservation.

As the religious landscape changes, many of these neighborhoods are not forming new congregations to fill old spaces, but convert these buildings to secular uses. Preservation schemes, laudable as they are, may be a subtle indicator of greater social (and religious) forces at work in the culture.

Read: The New York Times: Once Synagogues, Now Churches, and Ailing Quietly.

Anglicans take Kunonga to court

Updated Friday evening

There are new reports from Zimbabwe on the developing controversy in the Diocese of Harare:

"The High Court of Zimbabwe will tomorrow hear an application by the Anglican church authorities over the ‘unbecoming’ behaviour of ousted bishop for Harare Diocese, Nolbert Kunonga who is alleged to be defying a High Court ruling ordering him not to interfere with church services.

The application, which comes two weeks after High Court Judge Rita Makarau ordered Kunonga not to interfere with church services conducted by acting bishop Sebastian Bakare at the church’s Cathedral of Saint Mary and All Saints in Harare, was filed by the church secretary, Reverend Christopher Tapera on behalf of the church.

Squabbles in the Harare Diocese of the Anglican Church started in September last year when Kunonga unilaterally attempted to withdraw the Harare Diocese from the Central Africa Province on allegations that the province did not openly criticize the appointment of gays into priesthood.

Court papers indicate that on January 20 Kunonga, who was in the company of one Reverend Munyanyi, disrupted services at the cathedral in flagrant violation of Makarau’s order."

Read the rest here.

For more background on the situation you can see previous stories on the Lead here and here.

The ordination of Kunonga's successor and rival Sebastian Bakare is scheduled for this weekend according to news reports.

Friday evening update

The High Court has ruled that Kunonga's diocese "does not exist." As reported by the Zimbabwe Independent

"Applicant (Kunonga's Harare Diocese) cannot exist outside the constitution of first respondent (CPCA [Church of the Province of Central Africa]). It has no separate constitution of its own. It, therefore, has no structures of its own other than those set out in the constitution," Hungwe ruled. "The assets under contention are assets which respondent lays claim to. The question of ownership of these assets is not presently before me."

Hungwe said it was clear to him that Kunonga's diocese was nowhere "near demonstrating that it has placed itself within the purview of those who confess to be Anglicans and who abide by the constitution" of their church.

"There is no claim that there was resolution of the synod of the diocese adopting this alleged breakaway (by Kunonga)," the judge ruled. He said Kunonga by breaking away from the CPCA violated the constitution of the church.

Read it all.

2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches

The National Council of Churches will publish it's 2008 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches both in hardcopy and on-line in March.

This has become an essential reference to understand the trends and patterns of religious life in these two countries. The NCCC says the Yearbook is "the most up-to-date compilation of contacts, facts and figures on US and Canadian churches and church agencies."

WNET's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly provided brief highlights of the membership figures:

...meanwhile, new figures on American church membership. in the national council of churches annual survey, Jehovah's Witness's reported more than one million members and a growth of 2.25% in 2006-- the largest percentage increase of any denomination. the Episcopal Church had the largest percentage decrease, more than 4% to roughly 2.1 million members. The largest denominations remain the Catholic Church with 67.5 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention with more than 16 million, and the United Methodist Church with close to eight million.

Meanwhile, a major new survey on religious membership is expected from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life some time this week. "Based on interviews conducted in English and Spanish with a representative sample of over 35,000 adults, the survey includes detailed information on religious affiliation and provides estimates of the size of religious groups that are as small as three-tenths of 1 percent of the adult population."

Parsing and interpreting this new data should keep bloggers, pundits, journalists and denominational executives busy for a while. When the Survey is released, we'll tell you about it here.

Massive new study on Religion in American released

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a landmark survey this morning. The survey represents the largest study ever done on denominational demographics in the United States. Over 35,000 people participated in the study and it apparently is able to see groups and affiliations down to 0.3%

From the summary of the report:

"While those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic. These losses would have been even more pronounced were it not for the offsetting impact of immigration. The Landscape Survey finds that among the foreign-born adult population, Catholics outnumber Protestants by nearly a two-to-one margin (46% Catholic vs. 24% Protestant); among native-born Americans, on the other hand, Protestants outnumber Catholics by an even larger margin (55% Protestant vs. 21% Catholic). Immigrants are also disproportionately represented among several world religions in the U.S., including Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

Although there are about half as many Catholics in the U.S. as Protestants, the number of Catholics nearly rivals the number of members of evangelical Protestant churches and far exceeds the number of members of both mainline Protestant churches and historically black Protestant churches. The U.S. also includes a significant number of members of the third major branch of global Christianity - Orthodoxy - whose adherents now account for 0.6% of the U.S. adult population. American Christianity also includes sizeable numbers of Mormons (1.7% of the adult population), Jehovah's Witnesses (0.7%) and other Christian groups (0.3%).

Like the other major groups, people who are unaffiliated with any particular religion (16.1%) also exhibit remarkable internal diversity. Although one-quarter of this group consists of those who describe themselves as either atheist or agnostic (1.6% and 2.4% of the adult population overall, respectively), the majority of the unaffiliated population (12.1% of the adult population overall) is made up of people who simply describe their religion as 'nothing in particular.' This group, in turn, is fairly evenly divided between the 'secular unaffiliated,' that is, those who say that religion is not important in their lives (6.3% of the adult population), and the 'religious unaffiliated,' that is, those who say that religion is either somewhat important or very important in their lives (5.8% of the overall adult population)."

Read the report here.

Just a couple of quick impressions, the report distinguishes between Episcopalians, Anglican (CoE) and Anglicans in the Mainline tradition. It's unclear what the distinctions mean in practice, though they are detailed in Appendix 2. Glancing at the data table the strongest difference seems to be the age distribution with "Anglican" skewing to the older age groups and Episcopalians to somewhat younger demographic groups.

The New York Times article on the Study is here.

The Washington Post's coverage is here. Their lede:

Forty-four percent of Americans have either switched their religious affiliation since childhood or dropped out of any formal religious group, according to the largest recent survey on American religious identification.

USA Today coverage is here.

TIME here. Christian Science Monitor here. For AFP the highlight is that Protestants are verging on becoming a minority. For the Washington Times the highlight is that Evangelicals outnumber Catholics. For Jewish Telegraphic Agency it's that Jews are wealthy, educated, and old.

What do you find most interesting in the study?

(We'll be adding to this post as we make our way through the information, but there's enough data in this study to launch a flotilla of Masters theses and Doctoral dissertations so it will probably be a while before all the implications are recognized.)

Archbishop kidnapped in Iraq

A Chaldean Catholic archbishop was kidnapped in Mosul earlier today. According to reports gunman killed three people in abduction of the archbishop, who was taken after celebrating a Mass at a local church.

According to the Associated Press report:

"An aide to Iraq's Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of the church, said he did not know who was behind the kidnapping of the 65-year-old archbishop.

'We pray for his release as soon as possible,' said Archbishop Andreos Abouna. 'This act of abduction against a Christian clergy member will increase our fears and worries about the situation of Christians in Iraq.'

Last year's International Religious Freedom Report from the U.S. State Department noted that Chaldean Catholics comprise a tiny minority of the Iraqi population, but are the largest group among the less than 1 million Christians in mostly Muslim Iraq.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraqi Christians have been targeted by Islamic extremists who label them 'crusaders' loyal to U.S. troops."

Read the rest here.

A fresh look at the unchurched

As new ways of connecting and engaging with faith community emerge, defining what is "unchurched" becomes a good deal more complicated, as noted in a new Barna Group research study:

Popular measures such as the percentage of people who are "unchurched" - based on attendance at a conventional church service - are out of date. Various new forms of faith community and experience, such as house churches, marketplace ministries and cyberchurches, must be figured into the mix - and make calculating the percentage of Americans who can be counted as "unchurched" more complicated. The fact that millions of people are now involved in multiple faith communities - for instance, attending a conventional church one week, a house church the next, and interacting with an online faith community in-between - has rendered the standard measures of "churched" and "unchurched" much less precise.

Trying to accommodate these variables, Barna developed new categories. The traditional categories of "churched" and "unchurched" have been redefined as "conventional" and "unattached," and in between are new descriptions:

  • Intermittents, or the "underchurched"
  • Homebodies, who are more likely to attend house churches
  • Blenders, who go back and forth between house churches and conventional churches.
  • The study (which, it should be noted, also asserted that unchurched folks are more likely to be stressed out, liberal, pessimistic, and not willing to assert the accuracy of the bible, among other things) also noted that churchgoers are more likely to interact with faith community in new ways, such as through web sites or special ministry events.

    You can read about it here.

Bishop of Swaziland speaks truth to power

Bishop Meshack Mabuza, of the Diocese of Swaziland, has come out strongly in opposition to the "new" government in his country. Mabuza is critical in particular of the new constitution put in place by King Mswati III, the last absolute ruler in Africa. The Diocese of Swaziland is part of the Anglican Province of South Africa.

According to an article in Religious Intelligence by Canon George Conger:

"On Feb 6, 2006 a new constitution went into effect granting parliamentary government. However, it forbad candidates from forming political parties, effectively giving the King the sole authority to appointment ministers and squelching organized dissent.

The new constitution was being used by royalists as a ‘fig-leaf to cover the international shame of 33 years of rule by decree’ by the King, Bishop Mabuza charged. It was a ‘piece of paper that is not being promoted or even defended by the government,’ he said, and its guarantees of the rule of law had been ignored.

‘This year has seen defenceless suspects killed by the police, public meetings broken up or prevented from happening, union members harassed, property taken without due court processes, newspaper editors intimidated, journalists threatened by government. The people of Swaziland are in the dark about the constitution and their rights and the government seems more than happy to keep them that way,’ Bishop Mabuza said.

The Swazi people were no longer ‘subjects’ of the King, but ‘citizens’ of a constitutional democracy, the bishop said. ‘The difference is profound,’ he noted as ‘citizens cede their power to politicians and then call them to account for their stewardship. Subjects do as they are told.’"

In the article the leadership shown by Bishop Mabuza is called "a fine example of 'the holistic mission that defines the Anglican Communion at its best'".

There has been evidence of a rising level of political violence of late, so this public position by Swaziland's Anglican bishop carries with it some real concern for his safety.

Read the rest here.

Kidnapped Chaldean archbishop murdered

CNN reports:

A Christian archbishop kidnapped in northern Iraq last month has been found dead, according to a Nineveh province official.

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paul Faraj Rahho's body was found Thursday near the town of Mosul, where he and three companions were ambushed by gunmen on February 29.

The kidnapping had been condemned by the Vatican, Jordan's Prince Hassan, and the United Nations, among others. The archbishop was abducted during a push by Iraqi and U.S. troops against al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents in Mosul.

Christians are a tiny fraction of Iraq's population, but insurgents have targeted their religious sites and leaders in recent years.

Chaldean is a form of Aramaic, spoken at the time of Jesus. The Chaldeans converted to Christianity in the first century A.D., and the Chaldean branch of Christianity has been in Iraq since then. It is part of the Roman Catholic Church.

Read it all. Other stories are here.

Bridging science and theology

Polish theologian, cosmologist, and philosopher Michael Heller, who lived through both Nazi and communist rule and has long sought to reconcile science and religion, has won the 2008 Templeton Prize.

The £820,000 prize (more than $1.6 million) is awarded "for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities."

"He's one of the key contributors in the international scholarly community dedicated to the creative dialogue on science, theology, and philosophy," says Robert John Russell, founder and director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, Calif. "He's a great example of someone who bridges these fields."

The Christian Science Monitor has it all.

Bishop death threats

According to an article in Ekkleisia, the Anglican bishop of Oxford has been receiving death threats after coming out in support of the public call for Muslim prayer in the city of Oxford.

"In January the Rt Rev John Pritchard, who also studied at Oxford University, backed the Muslim loudspeaker call, Adhan, which would take place every Friday in Oxford.

[...]He told the Daily Telegraph: 'I received extraordinary mail. One said, 'resign' six times in a large font. One called for me to be beheaded and another said: 'I wish I lived closer so I could spit on you.' The dark underbelly of British society was coming out.'

The Telegraph claims that a spokesman for the representatives from Oxford's Central Mosque has repeatedly stated their wish to be able to play the muezzin's (caller's) traditional message to the Muslim faithful from speakers on a minaret. But the Anglo-Asian Association for Friendship in East Oxford told Ekklesia that 'this is the total opposite of what the two authorised representatives of the Central Mosque said at the meeting [to discuss the issue]'."

Read the rest here.

Experiencing Good Friday

The faithful flocked to Jerusalem to retrace the steps of Jesus on Good Friday along the Via Dolorosa. The route, which was extrapolated by Franciscan monks in the 14th century, ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre--the church believed to be on the site of Jesus' death and burial, and owned by Muslims.

Reports on the pilgrimage are here:
Agence France-Presse
Voice of America
Additional coverage
Associated Press, via USA Today

BBC has a photo essay of Good Friday around the world here

Dean of Seattle Cathedral resigns

Amid mixed feelings about his leadership, the Very Rev. Robert Taylor resigned as dean of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle yesterday. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's blogstaff posted the story under the category "Seattle politics," noting details such as a generous severance package and controversy over Taylor's 9-year tenure in leadership at the cathedral, particularly in the past year:

The cathedral became a vortex for controversy just before Easter of 2007.

Citing budget problems, Taylor laid off two women priests as well as the director of one of the church's programs. One of the priests, St. Mark's director of faith formation, was preparing a class of converts to be received into the church at Easter Vigil.

The layoffs sparked controversy, especially at revelation that Taylor had received a substantial salary increase while he was under consideration to become Bishop of California.

Noting his "swan song" sermon of Palm Sunday, the PI blog also listed some of Taylor's accomplishments with regard to social justice, particularly in leading the charge against homelessness.

And as Eastertide came round, Bishop Greg Rickel stepped up to help smooth the transition during Holy Week:

Recently installed Episcopal Bishop Greg Rickel, who has mediated ongoing internal disputes at St. Mark's, filled in for the absent dean. Rickel presided as this year's class of converts was welcomed into the St. Mark's community.

"The man (Rickel) has made this church his cathedral in a manner not seen around here in 40 years: This man has been our pastor, and he loves us," said Rev. John Huston, a retired priest who spent years on the staff at St. Mark's.

After filling in for Taylor, and helping negotiate his departure, Bishop Rickel sent a letter to St. Mark's parishoners "written with a heavy heart and an indescribable mix of emotions."

Whole story here.

Episcopalians return to Episcopal Church

The Visalia Times-Delta reports overnight:

"About 40 former members of Visalia’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church have decided to break away from the current Anglican church and reform their congregation as the Continuing Congregation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Visalia, Calif.

The new congregation has been meeting in the cafeteria of Pinkham School. About 30 members attended services on Easter Sunday and about 40 last weekend.

The larger St. Paul’s Anglican Church remains with the San Joaquin Anglican Diocese."

Read the rest here.

Another report on San Joaquin convention

The Living Church has a report by Timothy Roberts describing the events which took place over the weekend as the Episcopal Church took action to reconstitute the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. (We have other reports here.)

The article in the Living Church points out that the actions that were taken by the Episcopal Church in this situation are possibly going to serve as a model to be used in other similar situations:

"About 500 people from 18 congregations gathered at St. John the Baptist Church in Lodi, Calif., March 29 to declare themselves the representatives of The Episcopal Church in California’s Central Valley and to elect a provisional bishop.

Delegates were certified from 17 congregations previously belonging to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and one new mission congregation; 42 former Episcopal congregations had no delegates certified.

The action by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the remaining parishioners could become a model for dealing with breakaway dioceses, Bishop Jefferts Schori told TLC during a break in the convention.

‘This is the first time this has happened, but it could become a pattern for other places,’ she said.

The convention voted unanimously by voice vote to reverse the actions taken by delegates to the annual convention last December that made the Diocese of San Joaquin the first entire diocese to leave The Episcopal Church in its 219-year history. In December, delegates voted overwhelmingly to affiliate with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone which has its metropolitan headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina."

Read the rest of the Living Church article here.

Catholicism shrinking in Japan

The New York Times reports how the tiny Roman Catholic population that are clustered in Japan's southwestern islands is declining in the face of greater prosperity and growing influence of the dominant Shinto-Buddhist and secular culture.

Japan’s persecuted Christians fled here centuries ago, seeking to practice their faith in one of the country’s southwesternmost reaches. They eventually forged Roman Catholic communities found nowhere else in Japan, villages where everyone was Catholic, life revolved around the parish and even the school calendar yielded to the church’s.

Today, one quarter of the roughly 25,000 inhabitants of the district, a collection of seven inhabited islands and 60 uninhabited ones, are Roman Catholic, an extraordinary percentage in a country where Christianity failed to take root. It is by far the highest level in Japan, where Catholics account for about one-third of 1 percent of the overall population and where the total number of Christians amounts to less than 1 percent.

But like Japan’s Roman Catholicism in general, this redoubt is also losing its vitality for reasons both familiar to Catholics in other wealthy nations and peculiar to Japan. Young Catholics here are loosening their ties to the church, their spiritual needs fulfilled elsewhere. Those who have left for the cities are marrying non-Catholics and are being absorbed into an overwhelmingly non-Christian culture.

New York Times: On Japan’s Catholic Outposts, Faith Abides Even as the Churches Dwindle

Anglican monastic orders

Episcopal monastery life gets a spotlight from Religion News Service, noting that "unlike Catholic counterparts, they enjoy independence from church hierarchy." The article points out how many people don't realize there are Anglican or Protestant orders, and gives a short summary of the history of monasticism during and since the Reformation. Central to the revival of monastic practices was the influence of women in the latter of the 19th century, according to the article.

While it's mentioned that Anglicans were seeking to bring back "some of the elements of the tradition that were lost at the time of the Reformation," it's interesting to note that said revival took on some distinctly Anglican characteristics:

Friar Gregory Fruehwirth of the Order of Julian Norwich in Wisconsin said that there is great variety to be found within both Episcopal and Catholic communities. Episcopal monasteries, he said, have a "similar breadth, just on a much, much smaller scale."

The monastery to which he belongs, for example, has men and women living side by side, which he said "provides a balanced atmosphere psychologically" and sets them apart from other monastic communities.

Fruehwirth said that like Catholic communities, each Episcopal community decides how and to what extent they participate in local church life. Some may supply parish priests while others might take part in mission work. Still others may choose to remain more isolated, making prayer their main contribution to the church, he said.

The Washington Post has the whole thing here.

Bishop Robinson on NPR today

Bishop Gene Robinson is interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air program today. The interview discusses the events of his life and ministry since his election as Bishop of New Hampshire and the effects the events have had on him and his family.

From the NPR website:

"It's been four years since Gene Robinson was consecrated bishop of the Episcopal diocese of New Hampshire. He's faced challenges and controversies as that denomination's first openly gay bishop — and he's written about them in a new memoir, In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God.

Formerly married, with two daughters and granddaughters, Robinson came out publicly in the 1980s, and has been in a relationship with his partner, Mark Andrew, for two decades. He remains close to his ex-wife and his family, many of whom attended his consecration. But his openness, together with other issues surrounding gay people of faith, have caused controversy within the church, with conservative Anglicans threatening to leave the denomination."

Read the rest here.

Audio of the interview will be available at the link above after 3:00 PM Eastern time today.

The Pope visits the US

Pope Benedict the sixteenth began his first visit as pontiff to the United States today by landing in Washington DC and holding private talks with the President. While the visit begins with head-of-state formality, the primary focus of the trip is to meet with Roman Catholic leaders here in the states and discuss their concerns. But the items they will be focussing on are not what some seem to be expecting.

The Washington Post has an overview of the Pope's visit and the sorts of things that he'll be focusing on immigration much more than people may have expected:

"Benedict's visit will be limited geographically but will embrace a range of issues, including the Iraq war, immigration, the sex-abuse scandal and the state of Catholic education in the United States, through 11 public addresses and a private meeting with Bush at the White House today. His overall agenda for the trip, as he laid it out to journalists on his plane, dubbed Shepherd One, is to bring encouragement and attention to the struggles of the U.S. Catholic Church, to immigrants and their families and to what he sees as the religious foundation of human rights.

On the issue of immigration in the United States, Benedict said he considered the separation of families to be the most serious aspect. 'And this really is dangerous for the social, moral and human fabric,' he said.

The fundamental solution, he said, is to address the economic and employment problems that force many people to move to the United States. Without elaborating, Benedict said he planned to talk with Bush about his goal: 'That there will be enough jobs and a sufficient social fabric so no one has to emigrate anymore. We all must work for this objective.'"

Read the rest here.

(Editorial aside: As a citizen of the state of Arizona, resident in the city of Phoenix which is on the front lines of the immigration debate at the moment, it is reassuring to know that the Roman Church will be working along with others to help find a solution to a very pressing problem.)

Bishop stops arms

An Anglican bishop in South Africa has successfully sued in court to prevent the transport of a large shipment of small arms across South Africa that were en-route to Zimbabwe. Bishop Rubin Philips acted in High Court of Durban and invoked a section of South African law to stop the shipments.

According to news reports:

"[The] legal action was being sought in terms of the National Conventional Arms Control Act (NCACC), which 'requires that any transfer of arms be authorised by a permit issued on terms of the NCACC'.

[...]The controversial cargo packed into 3080 cases allegedly includes three million rounds of 7.62mm bullets (used with the AK47 assault rifle), 69 rocket propelled grenades, as well as mortar bombs and tubes.

The cargo is, according to the documentation, valued at R9,88-million."

Read the full news story here.

UPDATE: The BBC is now reporting that the ship in question has departed from the port of Durban.

UPDATE: April 19 10:30 a.m. ET
Reuters reports that the ship is headed for an Angolan port.

Welcoming the migrant

The WCC and the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) organized a public hearing last week on migration which was hosted by the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia in Beirut, Lebanon. The hearing is a precursor to a Global Ecumenical Network on Migration meeting held later in the week.

Migration "is a fact of life. It is as much an instinct to survive as it is an inevitable consequence of globalization. We can neither turn our backs on it, nor control it," declared a statement of participants at a 15-16 April Public Hearing on Migration held in Beirut, Lebanon. "Migrants are not commodities, illegal aliens or mere victims, they are human beings."

Around the world, people are leaving their home countries in search of safety, freedom or a better life, the consultation heard. These migration flows are a challenge to churches as migrants bring their own traditions and values into local parishes or create their own religious communities.

At the same time, participants acknowledged, churches need to live up to their mandate to act and speak out in favour of the weak where migrants and refugees are being victimized. These global phenomena and the way they play out in the Middle East were the focus of the hearing.

"Welcoming the stranger is not optional for Christians. Nor is it conditional." said World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary the Rev Samuel Kobia addressing the hearing on Tuesday. The church should strengthen its hospitality in an "era of new forms of migration", whilst being an "advocate and defender of the right of people to move freely within their own nation and leave their home and live elsewhere in search of their God given right to life with dignity," he added.

Read the rest in Ekklesia here.

The full text of the statement by the public hearing on "The Changing Ecclesial Context: Impact of Migration on Living Together" may be found here.

More information on the Global Ecumenical Network on Migration is here.

Middle East Council of Churches web site here.

Pastoral care for veterans and their families

Helping returning veterans reenter civilian life has always been a challenge. It's particularly so for veterans (and their families) these days, who might see might see multiple deployments and repeated cycles of immersion into battle and then return home for training and re-equipping.

A congregation at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Cincinnati is becoming involved in a ministry called "B.O.O.T.S." or the Benevolent Order of Those Serving, as a way of supporting veterans making the transition from battle to peace.

According to an article in

"'You get so used to fear and leading troops,' said Jeffcott, who is a Gunner's Mate 2nd Class. '(Troops) are expected immediately to be the way they were before.'

Jeffcott said he was struggling with returning from war and turned to Rev. Roger Greene of St. Timothy's for help.

Greene said when Jeffcott came to him last summer, he discovered that there was no coordinated effort for reintegration.

'In a situation where people have very different perspectives on this war, this was something they could do together,' Greene said. 'Everyone wants to respond to the things these people are going through, whether they agree with the (war) effort or not.'

Both Greene and Jeffcott agree the support from the parish for this ministry was extraordinary. More than 50 members immediately signed up to help, including veterans from the Vietnam and Korean wars.

The biggest concern for troops when they are deployed is their families, Jeffcott said. When he left for Iraq in August 2006, his wife, Julie, was left to care for a teenage son and triplets.

[...]'We try to concentrate on keeping the family structure strong to ease reintegration,' Jeffcott said.

The ministry also sends phone cards to the troops and has helped soldiers make free videograms.

Rev. Greene said the ministry is willing to help 'anyone, anywhere, anytime,' and the challenge is making the services known."

The article contains additional information about how the congregation was able to use their program to support not only troops from the area, but even their own parishioners as they were deployed.

Read the full article here.

The perils of the God Beat

Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discusses the difficulties in covering religion during a polarized time. His description of his run in with the proprietor of Little Green Footballs will sound familiar to anyone who remembers a certain Anglican blog defending its right to discuss whether they would "waste a bullet" on the Presiding Bishop.

Hat tip: Religion News Service Blog

African Bishops call for intervention

A group of bishops from across the southern continent of Africa have issued a call for their governments to intervene in Zimbabwe. They have also asked the United Nations dispatch an envoy to help break the political impasse in that country.

The statement specifically calls for Mugabe to "abide by the results of the March 29 election".

From news reports:

"In a statement on Friday, the Bishops from Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, who met in Pretoria, said they had noted 'with sadness' the delay in the announcement of the results of the Zimbabwe presidential election.

[...]The church said it was time for a large scale diplomatic offensive by SA and other international players."

Read the full article here.

See, also, this commentary at Project Syndicate by Archbishop Tutu and Aryeh Neier (President of the Open Society Institute and founder of Human Rights Watch).

Presiding Bishop writes to the Primate of Uganda

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi to protest his planned visit to a congregation in the Diocese of Georgia later this week.

From the text which is posted at Episcope:

"I understand from advertising here that you plan to visit a congregation in the Diocese of Georgia on 14 May of this year. The diocesan, Bishop Henry Louttit, has not given any invitation for you to do so, nor received any information from you about your planned visit. I must protest this unwarranted incursion into The Episcopal Church. I am concerned that you seem to feel it appropriate to visit, preach, and exercise episcopal ministry within the territory of this Church, and I wonder how you would receive similar behavior in Uganda. These actions violate the spirit and letter of the work of the Windsor Report, and only lead to heightened tensions. We are more than willing to receive you for conversation, dialogue, and reconciliation, yet you continue to act without speaking with us. I hope and pray that you might respond to our invitation and meet with representatives of this Church."

Read the full article here.

Makgoba: Foreign nationals are God’s people too

The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, released the following statement about recent attacks against Malawians in the South African city of Alexandra. We reprint it here, because South Africans aren't the only ones requiring a reminder.

Much of the appalling violence being inflicted by our people on foreigners in Alexandra and elsewhere is rooted in deep frustration arising from our failure to distribute the gains of economic growth in South Africa to all. But it is unacceptable for those who suffer poverty and deprivation to express their anger by attacking others who are also suffering from poverty and deprivation. Sadly, foreign people are labeled, abused and killed, but those from other countries who live among us are just as much our neighbours, whom we are commanded by Jesus to love as ourselves, as are South Africans. Foreign nationals are God’s people too.
Reuters has a fresh account of the violence in Alexandra.

The Times of South Africa reports,

Anglican archbishop Thabo Makgoba and other church leaders visited Alexandra today, in an effort to establish what caused the recent wave of xenophobic violence in the township.

Makgoba said he intended to make a stop at the Alexandra police station where displaced foreign nationals have been accommodated since the violence erupted on Sunday.

About 800 foreign nationals, mainly from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique were attacked after they were accused by local people of crime and stealing jobs.

A rare bible returns to historic Canadian church

Sometimes, things become valuable and historic because they were mistakes: the Inverted Jenny, for instance, is a postage stamp that's legendary because the airplane in its center pane is upside down. Similarly, the Vinegar Bible is so named because of numerous typographical errors in its print run that include referring to the "Parable of the Vineyard" as the "Parable of the Vinegar." The Lunenburg edition that's making headlines in Canada this weekend was printed in 1717, and is one of seven left of that group, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.

The reason it's getting attention is only partially because it's a rare edition, though. Turns out that the Lunenburg Vinegar Bible went missing for some 200 years:

The Lunenburg Vinegar Bible once belonged to Rev. Robert Vincent, the town's original schoolmaster and the second Anglican missionary assigned to the fishing town's fledgling St. John's Church. Vincent died early, leaving a poverty-stricken widow who sold the Bible to the governor of Nova Scotia at the time, Michael Francklin, in 1766. Francklin brought the book back to England in 1772, where it's presumed to have remained in his family collection.

But little is known about the volume until it turned up at Cambridge University about 20 years ago.

It is known that Francklin kept notes in the back of the Bible, including births and deaths of family members and where they are buried in Halifax. Historians hope that further study could reveal some clues about the early days of the colony.

"It's tremendously exciting to get this Bible returned to us," says historian and St. John's Anglican Church parishioner George Munroe.

Munroe said the Lunenburg Vinegar Bible is as significant to the historic fishing village southwest of Halifax as the Gutenberg Bibles are to the world of publishing.

"This is extremely valuable for us to have this returned," Munroe said.

The book was once part of the pulpit of Lunenburg's historic St. John's Anglican Church, founded 255 years ago and considered to be one of the finest examples of a style of construction called Carpenter Gothic. The church was destroyed by fire on Nov. 1, 2001, but has been painstakingly restored by local craftsmen after an international fundraising effort.

"Having the Bible back is frosting on the cake," Munroe said.

You can read the whole thing here.

A GLBT student club on an evangelical campus?

Students and alumni of a Massachusetts Christian college are struggling to let the voices of the gay and lesbian students of that school be heard. The Hamilton-Wenham (MA) Chronicle reports on students at Gordon College who are attempting to form a new club at the school that would give GLBT students on campus a place to come together and tell their stories.

The climate at Gordon College began shifting last year as dialogue about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues was brought to the forefront of students, faculty and staff.

The Wenham campus was buzzing upon the visit of Soulforce, a national group that visits Christian colleges to start dialogue about GLBT issues.

According to the Soulforce Web site, the “purpose of Soulforce is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.”

This is what got Green, a heterosexual, first interested in finding a place for the voices of gay students on campus — voices, she said she had never even heard until that year. She entered Gordon College as a freshman, ignorant to the issues of homosexuality. She signed the required life and conduct statement that calls homosexual acts — as well as heterosexual acts before marriage — sinful against God, with full conviction.

As her years at Gordon went on, however, she began thinking about homosexuality differently.
“I have a lot of gay friends on campus,” she said.

She said there have been other initiatives over the years to bring homosexuality to light at Gordon, but have been largely “hush-hush.”

A group at the counseling center recently formed that is completely confidential. Green said this group is more therapeutic, focusing on how to deal with adversity and other issues. Her group would be a public forum for storytelling and getting to know other students.

Soon after Soulforce visited Gordon, a small independent magazine called “If I Told You” circulated around campus. Created by student Diana McLean and two other students, it consisted of 12 anonymous stories from gay and lesbian students that were currently at Gordon or had just graduated.

McLean said she sent out notices asking for people to tell their stories and experiences being gay at Gordon. She did two interviews herself and the book was printed. She initially planned to raise some money and make a few copies; however, word spread and soon she was getting donations from clubs and organizations on campus. With that money, 1,000 copies of “If I Told You” were made and passed out to students.

“It was a pretty cool thing,” she said. “The response was overwhelmingly positive.”

McLean said she helped organize the publication because she was astounded to hear stories from friends about how they were treated because of their sexuality.

“There was not any awareness of this,” she said, adding that when she first arrived at Gordon, it didn’t occur to her that gay students attended the school. “I was completely oblivious of the struggles of these students.”

She decided other students needed to know what she now knows and “go through the same reflective process.”

While there are outlets at Gordon for debate on the subject in an abstract way, such as the school paper, there really wasn’t a place to say, “I am gay and this is how I feel; this is how I am treated; this is my experience.”

McLean said the climate at Gordon has improved since Soulforce and “If I Told You.”

“Discussions are happening that didn’t before,” she said, adding that when she was a freshman, there was a “big detachment” between homosexuality as a concept and as a reality.

“Now there is a big concern to address that there are kids on campus (who are gay),” she said. “Conversations are happening that have a personal quality to it.”

McLean said she wasn’t sure what would happen with the proposed group, but said Gordon should have a continuity to the dialogue and let it continue so incoming freshman will be exposed to it and be thinking about it.

She said she was unsure if the proposed GLBT group was the best next step; however, she said some kind of group could be positive.

“It would be nice if the GLBT students get together and start their own group,” she said.

The Gordon College Student Association turned down the initial proposal turned down the initial proposal on a 7-6 vote.

Read: The Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle: A place where voices can be heard: Gordon College students advocate for same-sex acceptance on campus

Florida priest reinstated by Ugandan bishop

There's news today in the Jacksonville Sun of a priest who has been reinstated to the ministry by his Ugandan Anglican bishop. The reinstatement is due to the priest's "modeling true repentance for a real failure". The priest was removed for having an inappropriate relationship with a parishioner in his former parish.

From the article

"'Sam has modeled true repentance for a real failure, and we, as believers, need to model and demonstrate true forgiveness,' said the Rev. Neil Lehbar of Church of the Redeemer on Baymeadows Road in Jacksonville, who has been friends with Pasco for 30 years. 'I'm grateful for Sam and Beth's [Pascoe's wife] determination to grow personally and stay faithful to Christ. His return to ministry will be a work in progress.'

Lehbar invited Pascoe to share his story at the 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. services June 1 at his church. Pascoe, former pastor of Grace Anglican Church, will also celebrate communion for the first time since his defrocking in February 2007 for having an inappropriate relationship with a church member.

On June 8, Pascoe will be a guest preacher. He hopes to land a full-time pastor position at a church somewhere.

'That was the church that embraced me. They said, 'We have room for one more sinner.' We can minister out of this, it can't hurt me anymore, it can only heal,' he said.

After the scandal broke, Pascoe and his family moved to Virginia for a year. He's been in counseling for 15 months now and has been working with some accountability groups. He said his reinstatement was mainly paperwork."

Read the full article here.

For background on the situation look at Episcope's archives

Here

and

Here

Update: a commenter who didn't leave a name points out that Pascoe was disciplined by a Rwandan bishop and reinstated by a Ugandan. Which seems to indicate that once you decide provincial structure and the concept of geographic diocese is irrelevant, any bishop can claim authority anywhere.

Before Rolling Thunder, there's Motorcycle Mass

In preparation for this year's Rolling Thunder event, where hundreds of thousands of bikers descend on the nation's capital in honor of fallen and missing heroes, several thousand strong showed up in New Jersey for the Motorcycle Mass, led by a Catholic priest, Father Mark Giordani. He's actually been doing this since long before Rolling Thunder, now in its 21st year, began: Giordani, himself a biker, started the tradition 39 years ago, according to the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly piece on the event:

SEVERSON: Nobody loves to ride more than the biker priest, and it's pretty clear that his "hog" belongs to an unusual rider.

(to Fr. Giordani): So you've got the whole story of Christ on the fender of your Harley Davidson?

Fr. GIORDANI: Basically, that's right. We have the Nativity. We have the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, and, of course, the Holy Spirit on the tank, which branches out to the saddle bags.

SEVERSON: Is this what Jesus would drive?

Fr. GIORDANI: I think if he were physically present here on earth today, definitely this would be his choice.

SEVERSON: Hard to imagine this machine would be an evangelical tool, but he says it has an impressive record, like the time he came across another biker in Nova Scotia who asked if he could confess.

Fr. GIORDANI: And then he ended up saying, "It was the most beautiful day of my life. I never felt such freedom, such peace in my heart. Why did I carry this garbage all these years? Why didn't I make a connection with God before?"

Read/watch the whole thing here.

Chapel destroyed and priest threatened

News is starting to be received of a significant escalation in the conflict between a Brazilian Anglican priest and his congregation and a group of wealthy land owners. According to reports, employees of the land owners used heavy construction equipment and gunfire to destroy the chapel of an Episcopal Church at Primeiros Passos Camp near the Brazilian city of Cascavel.

From the report, which is published on blog of the Secretary General of the Anglican Province of Brazil, the Rev. Francisco Silva.


"The intimidation occurred in a context of serious tensions between landowners and social organizations. The Episcopal Church and fellow Christian’s churches are firmly defending and supporting the Movement of Landless People in the west of the Paraná state. The Episcopal priest in the area is the Revd. Luiz Carlos Gabas, and he is supporting the families in build a school(also destroyed at the attack)  for children and the chapel. The chapel was planned to be dedicated on May 18 and was built with great effort by the whole community.

The destruction of the chapel becomes even more symbolic because it represents a clear message from landowners against the Church.
The Rev. Luiz Carlos Gabas has been suffering intimidation from great landowners as a consequence of his pastoral position in favor of the landless people. settlers camp with which holds a pastoral work recognized by the whole community. A group of 150 families are living in a settlement waiting for legalization of the area. After clear evidences that the Rev. Gabas suffered intimidation the State Commission on Human Rights inserted him into a program of witnesses’s protection."

Read the full report here.

News from Christian Today here.

Canadian court rules in Anglican church's favor

The Supreme Court of the province of British Columbia has ruled in favor of the Anglican Church of Canada and against that of a group of dissenting parishioners who have aligned themselves with the Anglican Network in Canada.

The lawsuit arose out of a controversy regarding the use of the building that the dissenting parishioners had been meeting in when they still considered themselves part of the Anglican Church of Canada.

According the news reports, a group of parishioners from St. Mary's Church in Mechosin B.C. voted to leave four months ago.

"Following the departure, the Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia had the locks changed and an alarm installed at the church, prompting the group to go to court and ask for an injunction preventing the diocese from interfering in their worship.

But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Marion Allan refused to grant the injunction, ruling that to give control of a church to a group that voted to leave would accelerate the schism in the Anglican church by adding a layer of legal complexity to the theological debate.

'To grant the injunction . . . would strike a blow to the authority of the Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia and pose a serious threat to the hierarchical structure of the Anglican Church of Canada,' she wrote in a judgment released Thursday.

The group is currently using the church building, and will continue to do so until its issues are resolved either by trial or an agreement between the Church and breakaway group, the judgment said."

Read the full article here.

New Editor named

Solange De Santis was announced as the next editor of Episcopal Life Media today. Solange, a Canadian follows Jerry Hames, also hired from a position in Canada, who retired from the position last year.

From the blurb about her on the Episcopal Life webpage:

"De Santis -- a staff writer since 2000 for the Anglican Journal, the national newspaper of the Anglican Church of Canada -- will shape and plan content for both ELM's online and print editions, and provide editorial leadership for its 225,000-circulation Episcopal Life monthly newspaper."

Read the full article here.

Congratulations Solange!

Belts tightening at National Cathedral

The National Cathedral, facing a budget shortfall, has suspended several programs and laid off 33 people, according to a report in the Washington Post. Also closing is the Cathedral's greenhouse. This is happening despite a rebound in visitors at the Cathedral, with nearly half a million visitors touring the landmark in fiscal 2008--so far. But an increase in donations isn't enough to offset the budget shortfall. And while leaders are claiming the shortfall is a surprise, others say they should have seen it coming, as a $7 million bequest that helped fuel program expansion during the past three years ran out just in time for the economic downturn to affect the Cathedral.

Cathedral leaders say an ambitious expansion launched by Lloyd to broaden the cathedral's mission, funded mostly by a $7 million bequest that runs out next year, is forcing them to make some tough choices.

Donations, though increasing, have not climbed enough to make up for the loss of the bequest money. At the same time, the cathedral's endowment is declining because of the struggling financial markets. The cathedral uses proceeds from the endowment -- which sources say stood at $70 million before declining recently -- to fund a portion of its budget.

Laid-off employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their severance pay, are critical of the leadership of Lloyd and the cathedral's governing body. They say cathedral leaders ought to have seen the financial crunch coming.

"They should have seen the writing on the wall," said one former employee. "It's very disheartening to see some of the things happening."

But Lloyd defended his leadership, saying revenue did not climb as quickly as expected and the economic slowdown hurt the cathedral's investments.

"We knew that we were going to come off it," Lloyd said, referring to the bequest. "We had hoped that the economy would be doing robustly and we wouldn't have to have the kind of bump that we're having."

In this video accompanying the story, the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd, dean of the Cathedral, talks about the decision to close the greenhouse:

Read the whole thing here.

Mugabe cracks down on aid groups, opposition

NYT:

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Zimbabweans — orphans and old people, the sick and the down and out — have lost access to food and other basic humanitarian assistance as their government has clamped down on international aid groups it says are backing the political opposition, relief agencies say.
...
Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, speaking on Tuesday at a United Nations food conference in Rome, accused nongovernmental organizations of interfering in politics and contended that the West had conspired “to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy” and bring about “illegal regime change.”

“Funds are being channeled through nongovernmental organizations to opposition political parties, which are a creation of the West,” he said. “These Western-funded NGOs also use food as a political weapon with which to campaign against government, especially in the rural areas.”

On Friday and Monday, representatives of aid groups were summoned by administrators in four districts and instructed to cease all work in the field until a bitterly contested presidential runoff was held on June 27 between Mr. Mugabe, in power for 28 years, and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Today, Mr. Tsvagirai was detained TIME reports:
Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was detained Wednesday at a military roadblock, a day after President Robert Mugabe suspended the work of foreign aid groups on which hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans depend for food. In what appeared to be an acceleration of repression ahead of a presidential run-off election on June 27, Mugabe's challenger was "unlawfully detained" at a checkpoint north of Bulawayo, a spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told TIME.
...
Foreign ministers from Britain and Australia branded as "obscene" the fact that Mugabe was attending a food summit while so many Zimbabweans were on the bread-line as a result of his policies.

Tiseke Kasambala, a Zimbabwe expert at Human Rights Watch, added that the government's suspension of independent aid operations was merely a tactic to influence the upcoming vote by leaving it up to the government to allocate food. The suspension of aid could have immediate effect on the millions of Zimbabweans who rely either entirely or partly on it for their daily bread. Unemployment stands at 80%, the inflation rate is more than 100,000%, and average life-expectancy is in the mid 30s. "The decision to let people go hungry is yet another attempt to use food as a political tool to intimidate voters ahead of an election," said Kasambala. "President Mugabe's government has a long history of using food to control the election outcome."

Are we looking at a man's last desperate grasp to hold onto power, or the failure of the international community to bring justice to bear?

The situation in Pittsburgh

Last week Mark Harris posted some thoughts on what this fall might bring to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. There are rumblings being heard from various quarters of the Episcopal Church (including the House of Bishops) that are calling for Bishop Robert Duncan (the bishop of Pittsburgh) to be formally inhibited and then deposed because of his actions in that diocese and in the Episcopal Church.

Mark's post was motivated by a statement that the Standing Committee of the Diocese (who would be the official authority in the diocese should the bishop be removed) was willing and able to step in and run the diocese in his absence. The problem is that the Standing Committee fully supports the bishop's actions and there is no expectation that their leadership would be any different than his has been.

Various voices from around the Communion left comments on Mark's article. But there was a particularly disturbing post by Joan Gunderson, a parishioner of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and active voice in PEP (Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh) who have opposed the recent trajectory of the diocese.

Joan writes and explains just how little change can be expected if the Standing Committee takes charge. She also points out that Bishop Duncan and his assistant bishop have been granted land and retirement homes and money that is expected to be safe from any punishment that should be meted upon them by a Church court.

Joan says:

"The situation in Pittsburgh is such that even if Bishop Duncan were to be deposed at a House of Bishops meeting in September, the Standing Committee would go forward with the vote at convention to eliminate the accession clause from the diocesan canons. In fact, the diocesan leadership decided at its spring leadership retreat to move the convention forward to the first weekend in October (usually first weekend in November) so that there would be less time between such a deposition and the convention.

Please note that Bishop Duncan has assured himself of a comfortable transition. He has built a retirement house on land owned by the diocese and he and his wife have been deeded (as of November 2007) a life interest estate (to the longest lived survivor) in that house. The diocese also loaned Bishop Duncan the money to build that house (terms not in the public record.) In addition we understand that he AND Bishop Scriven have signed consultant contracts with the diocese for two years at full pay which will go into effect SHOULD BISHOP DUNCAN BE DEPOSED.

The Standing Committee has an overwhelming majority that supports 'realignment,' but there is one member who signed a public letter saying he was not realigning. This person is working hard to encourage parishes to stay in TEC. Trying to bring members of the standing committee up on charges before 'realignment' would be useless because the group ('The Array') that would conduct any Title IV proceedings is itself packed with supporters of realignment. Furthermore, there is no provision for trying the 4 lay members of Standing Committee.

However, rest assured that there are people planning for the future of the EPISCOPAL diocese of Pittsburgh. The group doing the planning represents the full cross section of those who will still be Episcopalians AFTER convention. This includes clergy and parishes who until this year have voted for all the measures put forward by those now pushing 'realignment.' We are a larger group than you might think."

Later on David Wilson, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, President of that Standing Committee and a supporter of Bishop Duncan's writes with this small correction to Joan's words:

Just to set the record straight, the consultancy contracts are for one year not two and also include Canon Mary Hays as well as the two bishops

Mark's original post and the comments quoted above can be found here.

Bishop Duncan's deposition would likely follow a vote by the Diocese of Pittsburgh to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The resolutions that would empower this action can be already found in the Diocesan web site.

Bishop Shaw visit to Zimbabwe

Episcopal News Service has the following report:

"Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, of the Diocese of Massachusetts, visited Harare, Zimbabwe, between May 26 and June 3, on behalf of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the invitation of Bishop Sebastian Bakare of Harare to witness the ongoing religious and political violence among the people of Zimbabwe. Shaw bore the Presiding Bishop's message of solidarity with Anglicans there who are suffering from oppression and human rights violations, including lockouts from their churches and physical violence. For security reasons, no advance notice about the trip was published.

As a result of his visit, Bishop Shaw has written a formal statement that will be shared with the United States Congress as well as the larger Anglican Communion.

From his statement:

What I have seen and experienced on this trip only magnifies my agreement with the call by church and political leaders around the world for far stronger international action to contain Zimbabwe's rapidly escalating political crisis.

[...]I was asked to travel to the Diocese of Harare to express the church's solidarity with our Anglican brothers and sisters who suffer under this profound oppression and to gather information for the Presiding Bishop about the political situation there. I interviewed some 50 priests, lay people and human rights lawyers in Harare over the course of my one-week stay. I also met with U.S. Embassy staff.

I can report that the situation in Zimbabwe is indeed grave. What we read and hear is true. There are widespread violations of human rights, daily reports of murder and torture and an economic and humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions. The inflation rate is one million percent and unemployment ranges between 80-90%. I have seen the long lines for gas and at banks and experienced the limited electricity and clean water and virtually empty shelves in supermarkets. The judiciary has been compromised as members of the high courts and Supreme Court have directly benefited from President Mugabe's so-called "land reforms," fueling corruption and violations of civil liberties.

According to the Zimbabwe constitution, citizens are entitled to freedom of religious expression and conscience but these rights are being violated daily. Thousands of Anglican worshipers have been locked out of their churches, their church properties have been occupied by government-backed allies and their personal automobiles have been confiscated. One local priest must move from house to house every night to avoid possible arrest. A nine-year-old boy and a widowed mother of five children were beaten by police for failing to leave their church site.

Read the full article here. Read the Boston Globe report here (includes link to video).

Church supper meatballs source of deadly E. coli bacteria

Nebraska Beef has been accused of making people at a church social very sick; one elderly woman died. Meatballs served at a smorgasbord of the Salem Lutheran Church in Longville, Minn., were tainted with deadly E. coli bacteria, and Nebraska Beef was named as the culprit in lawsuits filed by the dead woman’s husband and by Ellie Wheeler, one of 17 other people who became ill according to The New York Times.

All of this is straightforward enough, and you might expect that it would lead to an out-of-court settlement, with the meat company vowing to clean up its act.

But Nebraska Beef, based in Omaha, is pursuing a very different tactic.

For starters, the company has denied that it is responsible for providing bad meat, and it has provided a culprit of its own. It blames the Salem Lutheran Church — contending in its own lawsuit that the volunteer church ladies who prepared the food were negligent.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports:

The meatballs were made in a mixer in a center island in the church kitchen; the cooks wore gloves while making the meatballs. The volunteers also cooked turkeys, sliced ham, prepared a mashed-potato dish and a carrot salad, and chopped eggs and potatoes for a potato salad.

But according to a report by the Minnesota Department of Health, the ladies of Salem Lutheran Church didn’t do everything right, from a food-safety perspective. There are three sinks in the kitchen, one for hand-washing and two for food preparation, but all three were used for hand-washing, the report said.

And when the meatballs came out of the oven, it added, the cooks didn’t pull out a meat thermometer to make sure they were cooked to the correct temperature. Instead, they cut a few open and determined that they were done, the report found.

Read more here.

Yet another reason to become a vegetarian.

Bennison awaits verdict

Yesterday was the final day of the presentations to the trial court convened to rule on charges of misconduct against Bishop Charles Bennison. The trial concluded with closing arguments and a not unexpected move by the defense to dismiss all charges.

According to news reports:

"Two counts against Bp. Bennison concern whether he committed 'conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.' Church prosecutors allege that he failed to protect underage parishioner Martha Alexis from sexual predation by John Bennison, his younger brother, and kept the matter a secret from the girl's parents.

[...]If the panel of nine priests and bishops finds that Bp. Bennison failed in his priestly duties, he could lose his standing as bishop and face further sentencing. They will issue their ruling within 30 days."

Read the full article here.

We have previous coverage of this trial here, here and here.

Jerry Hames' coverage for Episcopal Life is here.

Student Christian Movement offices raided

Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, continues to arrest Christian leaders from many traditions and disrupt Christian organizations as his country prepares for the June 27 presidential runoff.

According to Ecumenical News International, the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe has drawn the president's ire.

Zimbabwe police and security forces have raided the Harare offices of several Christian groups, arresting the general secretary of the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe and other officers and staff.

The student Christian group accused the government of President Robert Mugabe of "declaring war against its own people", in a statement following the 9 June 2008 raid in which its general secretary Prosper Munatsi was taken in by police.

In the 10 June statement, it said heavily armed members of the police, central intelligence and military units had swooped on the Ecumenical Centre in Harare, which houses the offices of several Christian organizations, including the SCMZ and the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance.

"In the process police ransacked the SCMZ offices and confiscated computers, laptops, digital cameras, and a minibus," it stated. Those arrested from the SCMZ, besides Munatsi, were Sandra Dzvete, an office intern; Langelihle Manyani, the group's vice-chairperson; Matsiliso Moyo, the gender secretary, and her seven month old baby; and Precious Chinanda, the finance and administration officer. Four staff of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance were also reported to have been taken in by police, as was a member of the Ecumenical Support Services.

"The movement sees this as a move to incapacitate the movement since it has been fully geared towards sensitising Christian students and youth on their rights and responsibilities in the face of a break or make presidential runoff pencilled in for 27 June 2008," stated the SCMZ, which is a national section of the Geneva-based World Student Christian Federation.

Read the rest.

Bennison cleared of financial impropriety

News this morning from the church-based trial of Bishop Charles Bennison who has been accused of misappropriation of church funds as well as inappropriate response to clergy sexual misconduct before he became a bishop.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"A special committee of the Episcopal Church USA has found no basis to try Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. for allegedly misappropriating assets of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

[...T]he attorney for the review committee concluded that 'Bishop Bennison committed no offense in these matters,' and the committee voted at its May 21 meeting not to issue any indictment. That decision was announced yesterday."

There is as yet no ruling on the other set of charges.

Read the full article here.

Bishops "make a mess"

"Hard-line bishops make a mess of it in the Holy Land" is how the Telegraph headlines today's report on the startup of the GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem today. The article details a number of the initial organizational hurdles the meeting has had to overcome so far.

Some quotes from the article:

"If it was being held in a brewery, it’s a fair bet that the organisers of the supposedly greatest threat to authority in the Church since the Reformation would not be feeling particularly tipsy.

[...]As it turns out, the team’s cheerleader, the belligerent Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, was denied entry to Jordan and the conference is having to transfer precipitately to Jerusalem, with its spokespeople stammering about hotel bookings becoming unexpectedly available there. The Anglican Church in Jerusalem, headed by Bishop Suheil Dawani, is a reluctant host to these schismatics, which is why their preliminary meeting was in Jordan in the first place.

It appears that the whole exercise was undertaken remotely and with arrogance, taking little or no regard for local middle-eastern sensibilities over how the presence of a bunch of Evangelical Christian hard-liners would play with painstakingly constructed relationships with local Muslim authorities. The GAFCON caravan will, nevertheless, issue demands and statements."

Read the full article here.

One of the Lead editors has helpfully provided this link to help understand the idiomatic use of "brewery" in the first line of the article quoted above.

Meanwhile back in Virginia

There appear to have been some developments in the Virginia court cases regarding the property being claimed by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the Anglican District of Virginia (part of the CANA convocation associated with the Anglican Church of Nigeria).

Two new documents have been posted the Episcopal diocesan web site. One is entitled "Motion to Intervene" and the other "Order".

Mary Ailes has some coverage here of these two documents.

Your editor of the day here at the Lead does not speak "court" very well, but is informed that one of the implications of these documents is that the Attorney General of Virginia is now a party to the case. This means that the Attorney General has the ability to appeal any rulings since he is no longer participating as a "friend of the court" siding with CANA. In other words the State of Virginia is now aligned with CANA and the Church of Nigeria against the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia.

Additionally there will be a hearing in August to determine whether or not the three parties can agree about what is settled as a matter of law or not.

GAFCON responses

The primates who are expected to serve on the Primate's Council of the GAFCON movement have issued a response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's concerns about the GAFCON communique and a critique of the present form of the proposed Anglican Covenant has also been posted.

They respond to a number of the questions the Archbishop raised in his letter, including the Uniqueness of Christ, Legitimacy, Discipline, and Faith and False Teaching.

Their response to the Archbishop on the question of authority for instance reads:

"On authority. As the Virginia Report notes, in the Anglican tradition, authority is not concentrated in a single centre, but rather across a number of persons and bodies. This Council is a first step towards bringing greater order to the Communion, both for the sake of bringing long overdue discipline and as a reforming initiative for our institutions.

Whilst we respect territoriality, it cannot be absolute. For missionary and pastoral reasons there have long been overlapping jurisdictions in Anglicanism itself – historically in South Africa, New Zealand, the Gulf and Europe. In situations of false teaching, moreover, it has sometimes been necessary for other bishops to intervene to uphold apostolic faith and order."

Read the full statement here.

Additionally, the GAFCON Theological Resource Team has released a statement criticizing the St. Andrew's Draft of the proposed Covenant stating in part that:

Sadly this new draft of An Anglican Covenant is both seriously limited and severely flawed. Whether or not the tool of covenant is the right way to approach the crisis within the Communion, this document is defective and its defects cannot be corrected by piecemeal amendment because they are fundamental. The St. Andrews Draft is theologically incoherent and its proposals unworkable. It has no prospect of success since it fails to address the problems which have created the crisis and the new realities which have ensued.

Religion and Ethics on Lambeth

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly introduces Lambeth to the wider media world by interviewing three priests (one from California, one from Virginia, and one from Florida) with varying points of view on the state of the Episcopal Church, asking each what message they wish to send to the bishops at the Lambeth conference. The three interviews reflect three different perspectives: openness to the Holy Spirit, steadfastness with respect to hundreds of years of tradition, and holding to the Via Media/middle way.

While the priests offer their advice on what the bishops of Lambeth should be considering, as reporter Kim Lawton notes, "The question for the bishops at Lambeth is whether it is still possible to hold all that diversity together."

You can read the transcript or watch the program here.

What we can learn from the Revival of 1858?

A piece on four churches in Wilmington, N.C. celebrating their sesquicentennial this year calls attention to why all four celebrate the same founding year, 1858. The previous year, banks had made some bad investments, railroad companies were drowning in debt, and the stock market was sliding at a pace that kept investors queasy. A shipment of gold destined to help bail out the banks sank during a hurricane, and the economic depression that resulted from the Panic of 1857 lasted three years. The crisis caused people to turn to God, according to one scholar:

“The Panic of 1857 sent everyone into a tailspin of economic downturn and a national depression, and everyone went back to church,” said Walt Conser, professor of philosophy and religion at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He devoted part of a chapter in his book, Coat of Many Colors, to the Revival. “By 1858, there was an economic upturn where building churches was possible again,” he said. (Churches weren’t the only major structures being built in Wilmington in 1858. Thlian Hall is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year as well.)

But the answer to the 1858 church building boom also involved socioeconomic and political pressures from the impending racial divisions in the country. And many times, churches split as a result of those conflicts, Conser said.

Though these churches had their beginnings in 1858, only a few years of ministry took place in those buildings before the Civil War and the yellow fever epidemic temporarily disrupted worship services, he added.

Some history of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, one of the four churches featured, is also included with the article, here.

MacIyalla granted U.K. asylum

Davis MacIyalla, a Nigerian campaigner for the rights of gay and lesbian people in the Church and in the world, was granted asylum by the British government yesterday because of death threats he has received from people in Nigeria.

Read more »

Hatred motive for attack on UU Church

The man who attacked the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church during church services yesterday was said by local police to be motivated by hatred. The congregation's web site says that they have already begun a healing process that will include a debriefing for those present at the shooting and a community candlelight vigil for those killed and injured.

Read more »

Vacation's all I ever wanted

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

Read more »

An American press flack at Lambeth

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

Read more »

The new abolitionists

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

Read more »

California prisons respond to change in marriage law

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

From a report by the Religion Clause:

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

Read the full article here.

You got a plan?

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

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

"Got a plan?"

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

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

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

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

But in the meantime, everybody made a plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all here.

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

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

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

Bishop Charles Jenkins

Faithful rethink food

The Washington Post reports on Christians who are thinking about how God might want them to eat in light of new research on health, working conditions in food supply chains and environmental crises.

When Marilyn Lorenz of Alma, Mich., talks about living out her Catholic faith in daily life, she starts by describing what's in her refrigerator.

The produce is grown on nearby farms, and the milk is organic and hormone-free. Meat comes from a local farmer who lets his animals graze freely and doesn't use antibiotics.

"Packing animals in factory farms, I think, is against God's wishes," says Lorenz, who changed her shopping and eating habits after a speaker at her parish broached the issues last year. "It isn't something my faith could ever support."

In bringing faith to bear anew on diet, Lorenz is among a growing movement of believers from various traditions who are exploring how to better reflect their moral values in the ways they eat.

Read the rest here.

Judge rules in Pittsburgh case

With the October vote regarding the Diocese of Pittsburgh's decision to attempt to leave the Episcopal Church or to stay approaching, the Diocese has agreed to a request to allow a third party to inventory the diocesan assets in anticipation of legal action that might follow the vote. There is an existing legal challenge to the Diocese's actions already that has been brought by congregations in the Dioceses led by Calvary Church Shadyside and it is expected that should the Diocese vote to leave, their vote and subsequent actions would also be challenged.

Read more »

Power sharing deal in Zimbabwe

CNN has the details. Let's hope this ends the persecution of the Anglican Church in that country. Pray for Bishop Sebastian Bakare of Harare, who has bravely labored to put this diocese back together under incredible stress.

Click Read More to see the pastoral letter he sent to the people of his diocese in June.

Read more »

Texas prepares

The Diocese of Texas is preparing to respond to the expected emergency conditions that will be left in Hurricane Ike's wake this weekend.

From their website:

"The Diocesan Office in Houston will close Thursday, September 11, at 12 noon to prepare for Hurricane Ike and to avoid traffic congestion for evacuees (as per our Mayor  Bill White's request). The office will reopen on Monday morning.

Bishop Don Wimberly and key staff members will meet Monday morning to assess damage and provide needed resources.  As Monday is payday for many churches it may be important for those evacuating to remember to issue checks to employees, as well as, to review emergency preparedness plans.

 A back-up email to report your location and situation immediately following the hurricane is cebarnwell@gmail.com. You may also send a text message to 713.703.6385. This will allow the staff a comprehensive assessment when they meet Monday.

If you have needs or donations you may contact Episcopal Relief and Development directly: e-mail Abigail Nelson, anelson@er-d.org or call 212.716.6139 or 646.387.0887 or Scarlet Harrington at 212.716.6302.

The diocesan Emergency Response Plan, a list of diocesan personnel contacts and a disaster response checklist can all be found here.

Prayers ascend from all of us for the people in this part of the country.

Saturday morning caffeine break

Megachurches with coffeeshops might not be unusual, but Eastbrook Church in Milwaukee built theirs out of a problem. The church was located next to a bar that had a growing reputation for noisy bikers, drug-deals and violent crime. After a particularly nasty night in which three people were injured in a shooting, the community called for it to be shut down. Eastbrook successfully worked with the bar to--well, acquire it.

After a period during which the former bar was used for meeting space, they renovated the building and turned it into a coffee shop, says church elder Vera Wolf, who envisioned the space. Holy Grounds Cafe has been open since March:

"It's an outreach to the community and provides fellowship for church members," she says. "It's a quiet haven if you want to use the Wi-Fi, meet a friend, have a business meeting or just get a cup of good coffee."

Today, the smell of rich roasted coffee fills the air of the light and bright cafe, which is decorated with warm, soothing colors, black leather couches, sharp-looking wooden tables and chairs, and photographs of flowers and waterfalls.

"We didn't want a bargain basement look," Wolf says.

At the counter is a selection of coffee drinks, including lattes and cappuccinos, along with chai tea, hot chocolate, smoothies, Italian sodas, vitamin waters and juices, along with baked goods, soup and rolls. A small bookcase contains Christian pamphlets and books on religious subjects.

The coffee comes from Alliance World Coffees, an arm of the Muncie Alliance Church in Indiana, where pastor Guy Pfanz turned his own love of coffee into a business that benefits him and his church.

The specialty micro-roaster purchases beans from throughout the world. Alliance Coffee is all fair trade or farmer direct to be socially responsible, Pfanz says. He also sells coffee machines, and Wolf traveled to Muncie for barista training.

Pfanz also notes the cafe concept, in general, revitalizing coffee hours for churches everywhere.

Story here.

Salt Lake City meeting

The meeting of the House of Bishops in Salt Lake City is being characterized as a difficult one but also as not simply one where the focus was on the vote to depose the Bishop of Pittsburgh. The bishops discussed Hurricane relief and the future of theological education as part of their meeting.

Episcopal News Service has posted a full description of the bishop's time together and has posted links to some of the key documents that the meeting produced.

Read the full article here.

The churches of Galveston

The Houston Chronicle covers the beginnings of cleanup efforts in Galveston with an emphasis on the church buildings there, many of which date back to the 19th century. Workers set about wringing out carpets and turning on fans to exhaust the moisture from the buildings, helping to save them from the secondary damage that can be wrought by mildew and mold. Among those churches is Trinity Episcopal, which also withstood a nasty hurricane that hit the island in 1900.

When Galveston formally reopens to residents Wednesday, many will return to homes devastated by a storm that trampled the island and left behind a pervasive film of sea, sewage and debris.

But they will also return to houses of worship, many of which stand on wobbly legs.

Though the churches and synagogues hold an important place in the lives of their members, those such as Trinity Episcopal also hold a spot in Texas and local history.

"Galveston has an extraordinary wealth of religious architecture from the 19th century," said Stephen Fox, co-author of Galveston: Architecture Guidebook (Rice University Press, $17.95). "In addition, there is a very architecturally significant array of more modest church buildings, especially those associated with African-American congregations."

Last week, most churches remained closed on near-empty streets with tree limbs, dried-up driftwood, waterlogged furniture and caked mud that cracked underfoot like ancient eggshells. Members of some churches and synagogues gathered in hotels, basketball courts and sanctuaries without power for weekend services.

Others such as First Baptist Church and Trinity Episcopal started the work of cleaning up, flinging doors open to exchange heavy, moist air with breezes and dehumidifying machines that buzz overtime to save any interior woodwork that withstood the initial trauma.

Story, with quotes from the Rev. Ron Pogue, rector of Trinity, here.

MDG mania

Suddenly the world's media, which has been studiously ignoring the Millennium Development Goals to this point, has caught MDG fever, just in time for today's activities in New York City, in which the Episcopal Church will play a major role.

While Bono's blog for the Financial Times, (which is actually quite informative) and articles about Bono's blog for the Financial Times are generating some of the coverage, mainstream media outlets from around the world are weighing in on the political and economic nuts and bolts of the campaign to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

To wit:

Neil MacFarquhar of The New York Times explains why world leaders feel the U. S. financial meltdown may cripple the whole effort:

Wall Street and the Bush administration's record of financial oversight came under attack at the United Nations, with one world leader after another saying that market turmoil in the United States threatened the global economy.

"We must not allow the burden of the boundless greed of a few to be shouldered by all," President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil said in an opening speech Tuesday that reflected the tone of the gathering.

The Guardian has an excellent special section All Out on Poverty and an astute column by Leo Hickman which begins:

"We must do more – and we must do it now." This urgent call for action is being aired loudly in both New York and Washington DC this week. On Capitol Hill, Congress is being urged to accept Henry Paulson's $700bn bail-out for Wall Street's beleaguered banks, whereas just over 200 miles up Interstate 95 at the UN headquarters in Turtle Bay big wigs from around the world are pondering how the millennium development goals – this week marks the halfway point towards their 2015 target – are ever going to be met given the woeful progress to date.

It's at times like this where you really get to see the naked truth about where our worldly priorities lie. And it's pretty hard not to think about what $700bn would buy you if you were pushing the trolley around the Truly Worthy Causes supermarket.

Causes don't come much more worthy than the eight millennium development goals, which together form a panoply of unquestionably important aims: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development. But as today's special Guardian supplement All Out On Poverty illustrates, we have a long, long way to go if we're ever to meet most of these goals, let alone by 2015 which seems as absurdly optimistic a deadline now as it did back in 2000 when it was first announced. In fact, with some goals we have arguably slipped into reverse gear rather than advance towards them.

For a brief overview of what the UN will be discussing this week, this AFP story isn't bad. The Age of Australia has a good overview of the entire MDG effort. Meanwhile, Washington Post has a helpful story about the contributions of Bill Gates and Howard and Warren Buffett in response to the world food crisis.

There are additional stories from Bangladesh, Nigeria, an editorial from Business Daily Africa (Kenya), a pessimistic appraisal of where the campaign stands from World Vision, India, and a personal vantage point provided by Queen Rania of Jordan on Slate.

So, I'm in NY this week wearing a couple of hats, shining a spotlight on the Millennium Development Goals and talking about the need for more sustainable development that will not only safeguard the environment, but also provide opportunity for the disenfranchised in society. It's something we're very interested in, in the Arab world.

I was invited to speak at Condé Nast's World Savers Awards conference amid the awesome and inspiring architecture of Gotham Hall. It was about the power of tourism to nurture our planet's precious resources while providing lasting economic opportunities for local communities.

I was there talking up the Middle East—not a region in conflict and turmoil, as many think, but a mosaic of cultures, stories, traditions, and warm, welcoming people.

Is the fact that Condé Nast has gotten into the act a good thing or a bad one?

Reports of violence against Christians in India

Violent attacks on church members that have left more than 60 dead began in late August in southern India according to a report by the Church of Brethren in Christ released this week. The attacks lasted for 12 days and are believed by some to have been instigated by the regional government in attempt to heighten divisions in the region prior to a coming election.

According to a report in Ekklesia:

"There have been threats, beatings, and persecution for the last 20 years, but the [current] situation is very tense. People have been brutally murdered, hacked to death, women have been gang raped, and more than 100 churches in all six districts have been burned. Brethren in Christ members have been attacked but not killed," he reports.

[...]In August 2008, a crowd of up to 4,000 Hindu militants attacked the Brethren in Christ Girls Hostel at Nuagoan, one of nine such facilities funded through the Scholarship Program for International Children's Education (SPICE). The mob set the hostel and church ablaze, destroyed its water tank, and demolished the campus. Ten policemen who were on guard at the hostel fled when they saw the approaching crowd. Staff, girls, and local believers, some of whom were beaten, managed to flee. The Cuttack-based offices of the Brethren in Christ Church in India were also a target, and several pastors and church planters lost all their belongings when their homes were looted and burned.

People, including pastors, who are still hiding in the forest have lost everything. They have no clothes, no food and are at risk of snake bites and malaria. They have no medication. It is not yet safe to help them,’ says the church leader. Anyone offering assistance would be at risk, he notes."

Read the full article here.

Some Christians have responded with violence according to The Times.

Beleaguered Christians in India have "run out of cheeks to be struck" a senior Anglican bishop declared yesterday, on hearing reports that a Christian mob had hacked a Hindu to death in the troubled state of Orissa.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, called for peace, and said that the murder, conducted by a knive-wielding mob of 50 Christians, could not be condoned. But he told The Times: “For months now, scores of Christians have been killed, homes, convents and presbyteries have been burnt down to the ground."


Partial settlement in VA

News of a settlement with some of the parties involved in the lawsuits between the Diocese of Virginia and two of the break-away congregations was published on the diocesan website this afternoon:

"The Diocese of Virginia today announced that it has reached a legal settlement with Potomac Falls Church in Potomac Falls and Christ the Redeemer Church in Chantilly. The mission churches, which do not hold any real property, will make a payment to the Diocese as part of the settlement ending the litigation between the parties. The settlement also includes the Episcopal Church.

Under the agreement, the Diocese will release the two churches from any claims or future liability arising from the litigation.  In recognition of past diocesan efforts to build, grow and support Potomac Falls and Christ the Redeemer – two mission churches that built and continued meaningful ministries in their communities, conducting worship services in local elementary schools – the churches’ payment will support diocesan ministries, including overseas mission work and Shrine Mont camps, among others.


Read more »

Bishop Bennison has been deposed

The Bishop of Pennsylvania has been deposed. Details are still coming out, but there are news reports describing the decision of the special court that was convened. He was deposed because of his actions in covering up a case of sexual abuse that occurred earlier in his ministry.

Deposition means that Bishop Bennison is to be removed from the clergy of the Episcopal Church and will not be allowed to exercise any ordained ministry in Episcopal churches.

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania has released the following statement:

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has received the news that the Court for the Trial of a Bishop has rendered its decision and sentencing recommendations. The Court denied Bishop Bennison's motion for a new trial and for a sentencing hearing, and recommended that Bishop Bennison be deposed.

The Standing Committee's prayers and thoughts are with those affected by the trial, the verdict and now the sentence. We pray for healing for all.

The canonical process is long and not over. Under the Canons, Bishop Bennison has thirty days within which to file an appeal with the Court of Review. If the conviction and sentence are upheld by the Court of Appeal, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church would impose the sentence. The Standing Committee will be continuing its responsibilities as the Ecclesiastical Authority in the diocese until the matter is finally concluded.

According to a newspaper account:

Charles E. Bennison Jr., 64, deserved to be ousted from the clergy because of his "very significant failures to fulfill his responsibilities" and "a fundamental lack of professional awareness," the special Court for the Trial of a Bishop said in documents released Friday.

The unanimous nine-person panel of bishops, priests and church members chose the harshest sentence for Bennison, who has been bishop of the nation's fifth-largest Episcopal diocese for a decade. He could have faced a reprimand or a temporary suspension of his duties.

"The court finds that even today (Bennison) has not shown that he comprehends the nature, significance and effect of his conduct and has not accepted responsibility and repented for his conduct and the substantial negative effects of that conduct," the ecclesiastical panel wrote.

The full court decision (in PDF) is here.

The court order (also in PDF) is here.

Church apologizes for role in slavery

The Daily News has a report on the national event taking place this weekend in Philadelphia. According to reports we've gotten here that Cafe, there are over four hundred people in attendance.

The event in which the Episcopal Church, at the direction of General Convention, represents a formal apology for any role the Church had in the support of the institution of slavery in the early part of the United States' history.

"Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will conduct the service at the church, founded in 1792 by Absalom Jones, a former slave and the first black Episcopal priest.

Jayne Oasin, staff officer for the New York-based Episcopal Church Center, said that the church can't deny its complicity in slavery even after the trans-Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in 1808.

She noted that some historic Episcopal churches were built using slave labor and that members owned or profited from industries associated with it.

'Slavery went against God's law of equality and justice,' she said. 'This apology is made to the descendants [of those] who were wronged.'"

Read the full article here.

Episcopal News Service has a story and pictures here.

Christian militias forming in Iraq

A new phenomenon is spreading through the Christian towns and villages of northern Iraq: Christian security forces, organized through their local churches, are manning checkpoints and working with the Iraqi police.

NPR reports:

A few years ago, Christian churches were being bombed and thousands of Christian families in Baghdad and elsewhere were terrorized into fleeing their homes. Many of them wound up in the north, where they seem to be thriving.

Displacing Iraqi Christians

Qaraqosh is a peaceful town of 50,000 people. But because it's just a few miles east of the northern city of Mosul, one of the most dangerous places in Iraq, security is high.

Every vehicle is stopped, most drivers are questioned, and many cars are searched by members of the Qaraqosh Protection Committee, an all-Christian security force that is spreading to Christian villages across the north.

The coordinator for the Qaraqosh Protection Committee is Sabah Behnem, who says outside agendas — from the Sunnis of al-Qaida to the Shiites in Iran — were behind the brutal efforts to displace Iraqi Christians.

According to NPR, the growth of Christian militias is tied to the fate of the mainly Christian Assyrian minority which is located in the roughly the same region as Kurds, so the two groups appear to grown an uneasy alliance. And all the money comes "without strings" through a mysterious man, who has worked with Kurdish government, named "Mr. Sarkis."

Read the rest here.

Atheist soldier drops suit, leaves Army

The AP is reporting that Pfc. Jeremy Hall, an atheist who accused the Defense Department of violating his religious freedom, is leaving the Army and dropping his suit:

An atheist soldier who accused U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Defense Department of violating his religious freedom dropped the lawsuit Friday, citing his plans to leave the Army next spring.

But the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which filed the suit in 2007 with Pfc. Jeremy Hall, still plans to pursue allegations of widespread religious discrimination within the military in a separate lawsuit it filed with a second atheist soldier.

Attorneys for Hall filed papers Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., to dismiss the case, said Mikey Weinstein, head of the foundation.

Hall and the foundation sued over Hall's claims that a major prevented him from holding an atheist meeting while deployed in Iraq. That officer denied the allegation.

Dropping the lawsuit avoids a fight over whether Hall has standing to sue if he is no longer in the Army, which he plans to leave in 2009, Weinstein said.

. . .

Spc. Dustin Chalker, a combat medic who filed the second lawsuit in October, also named Gates as a defendant. Chalker alleged he was required to attend three events from December 2007 to May 2008 at Fort Riley at which Christian prayers were delivered.

The lawsuit cited examples of the military's religious discrimination by fundamentalist Christians, including programs for soldiers, presentations by "anti-Muslim activists" and a "spiritual handbook" for soldiers endorsed by Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Defense officials have declined to comment on either lawsuit but have said the military has a longstanding policy against discrimination that preserves religious freedom for all in uniform. It also has said complaints about alleged religious discrimination are rare.

Weinstein said Hall recently was transferred to another military police company. He plans to attend college and serve as a liaison with the foundation on religious freedom issues.

Read it all here.

Evangelicals in the newsroom: If not, why?

Rose French writes for AP:

Since the 1980s, when the Christian right emerged as a powerful force in American culture and politics, evangelicals have made significant inroads in law and government by training believers to work inside secular institutions. But while the same universities that helped students launch careers in those fields are offering similar programs in journalism, they haven’t been as successful at changing the nation’s newsrooms.

“The media — journalism — remain one of the hardest fields for them to realize their power,” said D. Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University and author of “Faith in the Halls of Power.”

Many evangelical journalists start out in secular news organizations but they soon join Christian media that offer an environment more accepting of their beliefs and more family-friendly than the long hours and low pay of secular journalism, said Robert Case II, director of the World Journalism Institute, which offers seminars for young evangelicals seeking work in secular media.

Is it discrimination if the environment in secular newsrooms is one that evangelical journalists find inferior to alternatives? Should secular new media consider changes that encourage a greater religious diversity within their newsrooms?

Cheers for Restoration

The Parish Church of St. Guthlac, located in Market Deeping, is a (mostly) 15th-century landmark in the small Lincolnshire, England, town, pop. 6,200. Currently, the church is undergoing some renovations and additions, thanks to successful fund-raising efforts. But one contributor in particular is of note: the Hobshackle Brewery, which has created a beer especially for the church.

A donation of 25p from the sale of each bottle of the beer, aptly named Restoration, has been donated to the church, totalling £210.

The Rev Philip Brent said: "We have a close relationship with the brewery, which I blessed when it initially opened.

"We are delighted with the donation.

"We have recently had new wiring and lighting done in the church and are now working on new toilets with disabled access, a meeting room and a kitchen.

"We have been fundraising for a while for this and it's great to have support."

Story here

Sydney votes to allow diaconal and lay presidency at the Eucharist

The Archdiocese of Sydney in Australia has broken with Anglican tradition and voted to accept a report which calls for allowing lay people and deacons to celebrate the Holy Eucharist without a priest present.

The Church Times reports in their article:

"In a motion moved by a Sydney regional bishop, Dr Glenn Davies, the synod accepted arguments that there was no legal impediment to deacons’ presiding, given that, under a 1985 General Synod canon, deacons are authorised to assist the priest in the administration of the sacraments.

A report accompanying the motion argued that, because deacons can administer the sacrament of baptism ‘in its entirety’, and because ‘no hierarchy of sacraments is expressed in describing the deacon’s role of assisting the presbyter,’ deacons are therefore authorised to ‘administer the Lord’s Supper in its entirety’.

Bishop Davies told the Synod that the Archbishop could not prevent a deacon’s ‘administering the Lord’s Supper’. But the motion, though it also affirmed lay presidency, could not approve lay people’s presiding at Sunday services, as the Archbishop would need to license them, Bishop Davies said. ‘The Archbishop will not license a lay person at this time.’"

Read the full article here.

The article speculates that the reason for Archbishop Jensen's reluctance to license lay people to preside at the Eucharist is that he is concerned about the reaction of the GAFCON leadership. But licensing deacons is, by itself, a departure from the Ordinal and the traditions of Anglicanism.

Here is some background information to the controversy.

Holy Cross Retreat center destroyed in fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The press release with additional information follows

Read more »

Reuters swings and misses

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

The article begins in a straightforward enough manner:

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

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

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


Then it reports the following statement from the Bishop

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

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

The article continues:

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

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

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

The article then continues:

GLOBAL SUPPORT LIKELY

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

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

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

Like I said, the article swings, but misses.

Read the full article here.

h/t to Kendall Harmon

What do you all think?

Bishop Iker inhibited

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

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

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

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

New religious violence in Nigeria

The BBC is reporting new religious violence in Nigeria, following a hotly contested election:

Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in central Nigeria after Christians and Muslims clashed over the result of a local election.

A Muslim charity in the town of Jos says it collected more than 300 bodies, and fatalities are also expected from other ethnic groups, mainly Christians.

. . .

The Nigerian Red Cross says at least 10,000 people have fled their homes.

The mostly Christian-backed governing party, the People's Democratic Party, was declared to have won the state elections in Plateau, of which Jos is the capital city.

The result was contested by the opposition All Nigeria People's Party, which has support from Muslims.

Violence started on Thursday night as groups of angry youths burnt tyres on the roads over reports of election rigging.

It expanded along ethnic and religious fault lines, with mobs burning homes, churches and mosques on Friday and Saturday.

Bodies from the Muslim Hausa community were brought into the central mosque compound from the streets where they had been killed.

The local imam says their number is "in the hundreds".

Any Christian casualties would have been taken to the hospital morgues, but no clear figure has emerged for the number of their fatalities.

. . .

In 2001, more than 1,000 people died in religious clashes in the city, situated in Nigeria's fertile "middle belt" that separates the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south.

And in 2004, a state of emergency was declared in Plateau State after more than 200 Muslims were killed in the town of Yelwa in attacks by Christian militia.

Correspondents say communal violence in Nigeria is complex, but it often boils down to competition for resources such as land between those that see themselves as indigenous versus the more recent settlers.

In Plateau, Christians are regarded as being indigenous and Hausa-speaking Muslims the settlers.

The unrest is the most serious of its kind in Africa's most populous nation, roughly equally split between Christians and Muslims, since President Umaru Yar'Adua took power in May 2007.

Read it all here.

Earlier The Lead stories about Yelwa: Archbishop Akinola owes the world some answers | Andrew Brown on Akinola and The Atlantic

Reaching out saves a congregation

Many congregations in the Episcopal Church, in regions that have been hard hit due to changing economic conditions and conflict in the denomination, have been struggling to survive. One congregation in Tennessee has come back from the brink by opening its arms and its doors to some of America's newest arrivals.

According to the article in the Tennessean, All Saints Church in Smryna the turnaround began when Anglicans refugees from Myanmar began to attend the congregation and invited other recent Anglican immigrants to join them:

"'It's a classic example of the Advent story,' Williams said. 'We could not find God, but God found us. In this case, he appeared to us in the form of 70 people who came from Myanmar.'

Eight months ago, the future of All Saints looked grim.

All Saints had been limping along since a 2006 church split, when the rector and most of the congregation left to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, one of several conservative rivals to the Episcopal Church.

The remaining 20 or so church members left behind couldn't afford to pay the mortgage on their building."

When the refugees began to attend, at first their needs threatened to overwhelm the congregation. But the members rallied and began to recognize resources (like arable land owned by the congregation) that they hadn't before. By allowing the new members to raise crops on the land, keeping a tithe for themselves and giving the rest away, the larger community rallied to support the efforts of the congregation and now the church is well on its way to be being a stable, active and vibrant part of the community again.

Read the full article here.

Cluett to assist in reorganizing dioceses

Rick Cluett, Archdeacon emeritus of the Diocese of Bethlehem, has been asked to serve in a new role at the Church Center.

According to the press release:

"Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has named the Venerable Richard I. Cluett as Pastoral Assistant to Reorganizing Dioceses. In this capacity, Cluett is a member of the staff of Bishop Clay Matthews in the Office of Pastoral Development.

In this new position, Cluett, who hails from the Diocese of Bethlehem, will provide pastoral guidance and assistance to dioceses of the Episcopal Church who are in the process of reorganizing and reconstituting."

Read the full release here.

A million-dollar inauguration suite for the least of us

It didn't take long for hotel rooms near Capitol Hill to get snapped up for the inauguration, even expensive suites. But one whopper of a package, the million-dollar "Build Your Own Ball" suite and services, was picked up by a business owner in Fairfax, Va. He's also booked $600,000 worth of additional services--all to allow scores of disadvantaged people to experience the inauguration.

Earl W. Stafford, 60, of Fairfax County, the founder of a Centreville technology company who grew up as one of 12 children of a Baptist minister, said he will provide his guests lodging, food and special access, as well as beauticians, gowns and tuxedos, if necessary.

...

"We wanted to . . . bless those who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to be a part of the great celebration, the inauguration and the festivities," he said in an interview yesterday. "Our objective is to bring in a cross-section of society -- those who are distressed, those who are terminally ill, those who are socially and economically disadvantaged, those veterans who are wounded and served our country."

Stafford said the idea was inspired by his deep religious faith and the good fortune that has come his way. The inauguration is an opportunity to remember the less fortunate and remind the country of its traditions of benevolence, he said.

Read it all here.

In case you missed these reports

If you were away this weekend, you may have missed some big stories on the Cafe. Here is a round up.

Newsweek makes the religious case for gay marriage.

The Diocese of Los Angeles met in convention and approved rites for same-sex blessings.

The Episcopal Church took Bishop Jack Iker at his word and acted on his open renunciation of his ministry in the Episcopal Church, but Iker claims he has never left even though he says the Episcopal Church has no authority over him.

Sentamu calls for ouster of Mugabe

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, says that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe should be removed from power and stand trial for crimes against humanity.

The BBC says that Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga agrees.

His comments are some of the strongest by an African leader against Mr Mugabe, says the BBC's Karen Allen in Nairobi.

"It's time for African governments... to push him out of power," Mr Odinga said after talks with Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Sentamu writes:

When Jesus Christ wanted people to know what he was doing, he chose a passage from the Old Testament to describe his mission. It was a passage from the prophet Isaiah, written to encourage a disillusioned and demoralised people. It looked forward to a new day when there would be justice for people being treated unjustly and in poverty and release for the oppressed. It promised new life for the present and hope for the future.

President Robert Mugabe was right when he said only God could remove him. That's exactly what happens. No tyrant lives for ever. No cruel regime lasts. God acts. And he is acting. An international chorus is at last being raised to bring an end to Mugabe's brutal regime.

As cholera devastates a Zimbabwe already on its knees, our Prime Minister, our Foreign Secretary and the US Secretary of State have all called for an end to the regime of Mugabe. Now these voices must unite for a further call to bring an end to the charade of power-sharing that has enabled Mugabe to remain in office, assisted by his ruthless politburo.

Mugabe and his corrupt regime must go. Lord Acton said: 'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' How can anyone share power in a thoroughly corrupt regime?

The Guardian reports:

The Archbishop's attack came as Gordon Brown also stepped up the rhetoric yesterday, calling the Zimbabwean government a 'blood-stained regime' and urging the international community to tell Mugabe 'enough is enough'. The Prime Minister said food shortages and the cholera epidemic had become an 'international rather than a national emergency' that demanded a co-ordinated response.

'We must stand together to defend human rights and democracy, to say firmly to Mugabe that enough is enough,' he said. 'The whole world is angry because they see avoidable deaths - of children, mothers, and families affected by a disease that could have been avoided. This is a humanitarian catastrophe. This is a breakdown in civil society.' Brown said he hoped the UN Security Council would meet 'urgently'. But Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg went further, saying the UN should now declare the use of military force was justified: 'The world has sat idly by while Mugabe has brutalised his own people for too long. Economic recession in the West has led the world to avert its gaze from the suffering in Zimbabwe. Further international inaction would be inexcusable.'

South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Dutch TV that Mugabe must stand down or be removed 'by force'. But while Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has said it was time for African governments to 'take decisive action to push him out of power', there has been little sign that Zimbabwe's neighbours were prepared to move against him. The growing international fury came as cholera ravaged the people - 575 have died and 13,000 are infected - and the economy is worse than anything the world has seen.

Read the ABY's essay here.

More on the proposed province

During the week more information has emerged about the plans of the proposed new Anglican Province for North America being urged by those who disagree with the direction of the existing Anglican provinces on that continent. The Archbishop of Canterbury has told the leadership of GAFCON that he will neither support or block its formation. Also there are now some independent numbers about the size of the potential province.

Read more »

Cardinal Avery Dulles died today

According to news reports;

"Cardinal Avery Dulles, a scion of diplomats and Presbyterians who converted to Roman Catholicism, rose to pre-eminence in Catholic theology and became the only American theologian ever appointed to the College of Cardinals, died today died Friday morning at Fordham University in the Bronx. He was 90. His death, at the Jesuit infirmary at the university, was confirmed by the New York Province of the Society of Jesus in Manhattan.'

Cardinal Dulles was a leading figure in the Catholic Church in America often serving as an ambassador between liberal elements of the American church and the Vatican.

Vatican declines to move on Anglicans

The Vatican has decided that there is more to be lost than to be gained by moving now to create a safe-haven within the Catholic Church for Anglo-Catholics who feel they can no longer remain part of the Anglican Communion but who wish to remain within distinctive forms of Anglican worship and theology.

George Conger, reporting on an article signaling this decision writes:

"In an October article entitled Catholic Anglican Relations after the Lambeth Conference (La Relazione tra Cattolici e Anglicani dopo la Conferenza di Lambeth) the semi-official Jesuit bi-weekly stated the ‘corporate unity’ under discussion between the Vatican and traditionalist Anglicans ‘will not be a form of uniatism as this is unsuitable for uniting two realities which are too similar from a cultural point of view as indeed are Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics.’

‘The Holy See, while sympathetic to the demands of these Anglo-Catholics’ for corporate reunion, ‘is moving with discretion and prudence.’ Opposition to the ordination of women to the ordained ministry and to gay bishops and blessings ‘is not enough,’ the newspaper said. Anglo-Catholics should be motived not by a rejection of Anglicanism but by the ‘desire to join fully the Catholic Church,’ Fr. Paul Gamberini SJ wrote."

The immediate effect of this decision would be to deny the request by the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) to be granted full communion with Rome.

The reasoning behind the decision is the comment by Pope Benedict that he preferred "schisms and new breaks can be avoided, and that a responsible solution will be found" to the situation in Anglicanism today.

Read Conger's full article here.

Diocese of Virginia will appeal

Updated

The Diocese of Virginia has responded today to a ruling in a Virginia court that the 19th century Virginia statute governing the distribution of property in the event of a denominational split applies in the case of the CANA churches of northern Virginia.

The ruling, if upheld on appeal, would allow the congregations breaking away from the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church to retain their buildings. One associated endowment would not be retained by the separating congregations.

The Diocese is appealing the decision on the grounds that it violates the constitutional separation between Church and State given that the government is being asked to rule that a denominational split has taken place when a denomination states that not to be the case.

From the diocese's statement:

In order to pursue those issues and restore constitutional protections for hierarchical churches in Virginia, the Diocese also announced today that Professor A.E. Dick Howard has joined the diocesan legal team to assist in its appeal of this case to the Supreme Court of Virginia. Professor Howard is a professor of law at the University of Virginia School of Law and is a renowned constitutional scholar. He served as the executive director of the Commission on Constitutional Revision, which revised the constitution of Virginia. Professor Howard has also served as counsel to the General Assembly of Virginia.
...
Bishop Lee further stated, “We call on the CANA congregation occupying The Falls Church property to drop their claim on the endowment fund, and thus allow The Falls Church Episcopal to use the endowment for desperately needed outreach in the Falls Church area, in line with the original purpose of the fund.”

“We are grateful to have someone of Professor Howard’s stature and talent on our team,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop coadjutor of Virginia. “There may be no other legal expert in Virginia who is as knowledgeable of the state constitution. We are preparing our appeal now and are confident in our position that this law cannot stand constitutional scrutiny. Together, we will explore every option to ensure that faithful Episcopalians in Virginia are guaranteed the right to worship as they please, without interference from the state.&rdquo

In its statement The Episcopal Church says,

We are not surprised -- or discouraged -- by the adverse aspects of today's decision. As we have stated previously, we shall now seek review of this case by the Supreme Court of Virginia and are optimistic that that court will reverse the trial court's interpretation and application of the Virginia statute and reaffirm Virginia's historic commitment to religious freedom. In the meantime, the decisions in this case have no relevance for the property litigation brought by dioceses with the support of The Episcopal Church before courts in other states, which, we are pleased to say, have consistently ruled in favor of our positions.

The statements from Anglican District of Virginia and CANA are here and here.

News reports. AP: Conservatives win court case in Va. church dispute | ENS: Court ruling clears way for property-litigation appeal |

Tis the season to go hungry

According to Second Harvest, one of America's largest hunger relief organizations, more than a third of low income households are eating less or skipping meals because they have no money to buy food.

"We've never seen anything like this,' says Vicki Escarra, the group's president. 'We're seeing more people come (to food banks) who've never come before.'

The group surveyed 450 low-income households. The findings are part of a growing body of research that suggest hunger is worsening in the USA:

The number of people receiving food stamps jumped from 26.9 million in September 2007 to a record 31.6 million in September 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

Read the full article in USA Today here.

B16: Save the rainforests, stop gay marriage

Pope Benedict XVI used an annual end of the year address to say that the protection of the environment is directly linked to defending “traditional” marriage against gay rights, especially gay marriage.

A Reuters headline says "Pope likens "saving" gays to saving the rainforest" but what he is really saying that if you want to save the rainforests, stop acid rain and clear cutting, and if you want to save humanity, stop gay rights.

James Allen at National Catholic Reporter summarizes:

“Because faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian creed, the church cannot and must not limit itself to transmitting only the message of salvation to its faithful,” Benedict said. “It has a responsibility for creation, and must express this responsibility in public.”

At the same time, Benedict clearly distinguished the church’s approach from secular environmental movements – insisting that concern for tropical rain forests and the church’s traditional pro-life commitments, including sexual morality, are indissolubly linked.

“[The church] must defend not only the earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to all,” he said. “It must also defend the human person against its own destruction. What’s needed is something like a ‘human ecology,’ understood in the right sense. It’s not simply an outdated metaphysics if the church speaks of the nature of the human person as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected.”

“Here it’s a question of faith in creation, in listening to the language of creation, disregard of which would mean self-destruction of the human person and hence destruction of the very work of God,” the pope said. “That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender’ in the end amounts to the self-emancipation of the human person from creation and from the Creator. Human beings want to do everything by themselves, and to control exclusively everything that regards them. But in this way, the human person lives against the truth, against the Creator Spirit.”

“Yes, the tropical forests merit our protection, but the human being as a creature merits no less protection – a creature in which a message is written which does not imply a contradiction of our liberty, but the condition for it,” the pope said.

On that basis, Benedict offered a defense of traditional marriage and Catholic sexual morality.

“Great Scholastic theologians defined marriage, meaning the lifetime bond between a man and a woman, as a sacrament of creation, which the Creator instituted and which Christ – without changing the message of creation – then welcomed into the story of his covenant with humanity,” the pope said. “This witness in favor of the Creator Spirit, present in the nature of this bond and in a special way in the nature of the human person, is also part of the proclamation which the church must offer. Starting from this perspective, it’s important to re-read the encyclical Humanae Vitae : the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against treating sexuality as a kind of consumption, the future against the exclusive demands of the present, and the nature of the human being against manipulation.”

The Australian reports that the Vatican's view is connected to their opposition to "gender theory:"

Gender theory, which originated in the United States, explores sexual orientation, the roles assigned by society to individuals according to their gender and how people perceive their biological identity.

The Catholic Church has repeatedly spoken out against gender theory, which gay and transgender advocacy groups promote as a key to understanding and tolerance.

"If tropical forests deserve our protection, humankind ... deserves it no less,'' the 81-year-old pontiff said, calling for "an ecology of the human being''.

It is not "outmoded metaphysics'' to urge respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman'', he told scores of prelates gathered in the Vatican's sumptuous Clementine Hall.

David Gibson at dotCommonweal says:

The Vatican (among others) is a great champion of human rights, and rights like religious freedom, the right to life, etc. But it often seems that when it comes to rights they don’t like, natural law is suddenly invoked. What is the relationship between these two? Are human rights “limited” to those that conform to faith’s view of natural law? Or is natural law like a natural revelation, a natural theology understandable (supposedly) to all that is the true human rights “charter”?


The Queen's Christmas message unusually somber and gets some competition

The annual message, available on YouTube for those of us in the former colonies, reflects the popular sentiment in Britain this year that 2009 is going be a bit challenging.

The Times writes:

The Queen today voiced her concerns about the effects of the economic downturn saying that whilst Christmas is a time for celebration, “this year it is a more sombre occasion for many.”

In her annual Christmas Day address, the Queen urged victims of the credit crunch not to “lie down and accept defeat”, but to draw strength from loved ones.

The truly newsworthy bit though is that Queen's message was given some competition in Britain by the airing of a Christmas message to the West by the President Amadinejad of Iran.

According to a story in the LA Times:

In a recorded message to air Christmas Day on Britain's Channel 4, Ahmadinejad praises Christianity but goes on to say that if Jesus returned to Earth, "he would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems."

Ahmadinejad didn't say specifically what he meant, but presumably he was referring to the policies of the United States and West European countries, which have imposed economic sanctions on Iran to try to force it to shut down its nuclear enrichment program.

The Iranian president was invited to speak to the British public as part of the channel's annual "Alternative Christmas Message," following an address to the nation by Queen Elizabeth II. Previous alternative Christmas guests have included the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the cast of the animated series "The Simpsons." There appeared to be little public reaction in Britain on Wednesday to the fact that Ahmadinejad would give this year's address.

Breakaway parish sued in Wisconsin

Bishop Steven Miller has announced that the Diocese of Milwaukee has decided to sue the congregation of St. Edmund's Church in Elk Grove to return it's church property to the diocese after voting to leave the Episcopal Church late last year.

From the article in the Living Church:

“Sadly, the diocese is now in the position where it will be necessary to seek other remedies to address this situation and recover diocesan assets,” Bishop Miller wrote. “This is particularly disheartening to me as the apostle clearly reminds us that God is not glorified when we go against one another in courts of law.” Several members of the congregation contacted by The Living Church said the congregation would not voluntarily relinquish the keys to the property without a court order, but they declined to give their names because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the congregation.

According to the article, Bishop Miller said that he was "saddened by the decision made by some members of St. Edmund’s to “disaffiliate from a diocese where their theological convictions are respected.”"

Flooding in Southern Africa

The flooding in Southern Africa has elicited the prayers and the support of people across the region as they attempt to help the victims. The Archbishop of Cape Town has written to the bishops of the hardest hit regions and called upon the governments in the area to respond by declaring the region as a disaster area.

The Archbishop's statement follows:

Read more »

Rick Warren offers a home to conservative Anglicans

Pastor Rick Warren has offered to allow any Anglican group that might lose access to worship space as a result of the recent ruling in California in favor the Episcopal Church, to have the use of the campus at Saddleback Church in Orange County.

This news from Christianity Today's Live Blog which quotes from an email from Warren that they have just received:

[The Episcopal Church has] already considered me an adversary after partnering on projects with Kolini, Orumbi, and Nzimbi, and writing the TIME bio on Akinola.

But since last summer... I’ve been on Gene Robinson and other’s attack list for my position on gay marriage. ....[Our] brothers and sisters here at St. James in Newport Beach lost their California State Supreme Court case to keep their property.

We stand in solidarity with them, and with all orthodox, evangelical Anglicans. I offer the campus of Saddleback Church to any Anglican congregation who need a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation in south Orange County.

The St. James parish is not giving up its court case and has plans to seek other legal remedy. In the meantime, other conservative Episcopal congregations or Anglican church planters might be eager to take pastor Rick up on his offer. "

Read the full article here.

Horror in Zimbabwe

Episcopal priest and CEO of Physicians for Human Rights Frank Donaghue led an investigative team of public health investigators into Zimbabwe -- and evaded Mugabe's secret police to get the extraordinary story of the unfolding horror in Zimbabwe out according to a report from Frederick Clarkson, long time writer on politics and religion and co-founder of Talk2Action.

A doctor from Johns Hopkins University I interviewed for the story says that the scale of death and human suffering may be greater than Cambodia under Pol Pot, and that international inaction is reminiscent of the the neglect of the Rwandan genocide

Religion Dispatches carries Clarkson's report on the death defying investigation of the situation in Zimbabwe:
What is the secret so horrible that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe does not want the world to see? Why did he refuse visas for Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and Graca Machel of The Elders, a group of eminent statesmen, last fall? Why did Mugabe’s secret police keep a team of investigators from Physicians for Human Rights under surveillance in the week before Christmas last year—and try to arrest them before they could tell their story to the world?

In a report titled HEALTH IN RUINS: A Man-Made Disaster in Zimbabwe, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) revealed Mugabe’s dark secret this morning at a press conference in Johannesburg, South Africa: President Mugabe's regime was committing crimes against humanity. Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, said in a statement that the PHR report: “documents that the people of Zimbabwe are being denied the most basic of life’s necessities—access to health care, food, clean water, and even life itself. The world must take action against the Mugabe regime for these crimes against humanity.”

Excerpts from
HEALTH IN RUINS:
A Man-Made Disaster in Zimbabwe: Crimes Against Humanity
…Robert Mugabe [has attempted] to conceal the appalling situation of his country’s people and to prevent the world from knowing how his Government’s malignant policies have led to the destruction of infrastructure, widespread disease, torture, and death.

The Cholera Epidemic is a Result of Human Rights Violations
The Mugabe regime intentionally suppressed initial reports of the cholera epidemic and has since denied or underplayed its gravity.

Healthcare Neither Accessible nor Affordable
...The dollarization of the economy since November 2008 has led to an economic apartheid in healthcare access. Since then, only a tiny elite with substantial foreign currency holdings can be said to have any real access to healthcare.

Human Rights and Torture
...A political environment marked by partisan violence, arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, torture, and extrajudicial killings have continued unabated since the March 2008 parliamentary and presidential elections.

Seizure of Farmland by the Ruling Elite
Under the guise of land redistribution to benefit landless black Zimbabweans, Mugabe instead awarded many of these once productive farms to government ministers.... The land seizure led to sharp falls in agricultural production...and increased food insecurity for millions.

The Collapse of Democracy, the Economy and Health Care
The health crisis in Zimbabwe is a direct outcome of the violation of a number of human rights, including the right to participate in government and in free elections and the right to a standard of living adequate for one’s health and well being, including food, medical care, and necessary social services.
PHR found that the Mugabe government has withheld food aid, seed, and fertilizer to rural provinces in order to starve political opponents; that the regime nationalized and then withheld routine support for municipal water and sewer systems from cities that elected political opponents; that the health care infrastructure and the economy itself is nearing utter collapse; corruption is the rule not the exception; and that the regime brutally silences critics to cover its crimes, profound corruption and incompetence.


Read more here.

Read the report here.

The BBC reports here.

Ekklesia reports here.

UPDATE: Clerics join Tutu in fasting for Zimbabwe here:

Two clerics have joined Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, in fasting in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, which faces a collapsing economic and political order and reports of a military alert amid fears of a coup.

Watch the video from Physicians for Human Rights below:

Read more »

Another view of the Inauguration

A young member of a Connecticut Episcopal parish has written up her eyewitness account of the Inauguration. She comments particularly on the crowd's reaction to the various forms of prayers that were offered during the event.

I noticed a lot of references to faith and religion during the actual ceremony, the most obvious being the Rev. Rick Warren's opening prayer. I was surprised at the bad reception when the prayer was first announced -- most people looked around in a confused or tense manner and I even heard a "boo" from over my shoulder. Once the prayer began, I folded my hands and bowed my head, only to look up a few minutes later to realize that I was the only one. I was surprised when the crowd even cheered at the mention of President Obama's name during the prayer, which I'm not used to.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the prayer, and some people, including me, began reciting the Lord's Prayer along with Warren at the end. After the "Amen," he received loud, enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, which cheered me up considerably. I then realized that perhaps Obama, as a president, could re-inspire those who had lost their faith to return to their religious communities. His influence could do a great thing for Christians and people of any religion. I also noticed that both Obama and Vice President Biden included "so help me God" at the end of their swearing-in. Although I am aware this is a tradition based on the words of George Washington, I was pleased with the boldness of the way they said it, like it had a true meaning rather than just words that they had to memorize.

Homelessness on the rise

There are increasing numbers of newly homeless people appearing at agencies and churches asking for assistance according to a number of social service agencies around the country. What makes this particularly tragic is that this is happening just as funding to provide for the needs of the homeless is running out or being cut.

MSNBC's website reports:

“A downturn in (overall) funding in this case is accompanied by a surge in demand, so a homeless shelter, food pantry, or job-training program is going to feel it first,” says Chuck Bean, executive director of Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, in the District of Columbia. “Even if they have 100 percent of their budget compared to last year, they now see a 50 percent surge in demand. Then (they) get into the tough decisions: Do you thin the soup, or shorten the line?”

Even as census-takers fan out in cities across the country this week in an attempt to count homeless populations, advocates and experts point to a bevy of evidence that homelessness is rising and will continue to, most notably among families with children.

Shelters across the country report that more people are seeking emergency shelter and more are being turned away. In a report published in December, 330 school districts identified the same number or more homeless students in the first few months of the school year than they identified in the entire previous year. Meantime, demand is sharply up at soup kitchens, an indication of deepening hardship and potential homelessness.

Churches and volunteer organizations are attempting to pick up the slack, but their budgets are being increasingly strained as well as donations begin to dry up in the regions where assistance is most desperately needed.

One simple thing that is being done in response this weekend is the participation of Episcopal congregations in a census count of the local homeless populations that is mentioned above.

Other congregations are ramping up their existing programs to attempt to respond to the increased needs.

Even more responses are found here, here and here.

What sorts of things are congregations doing in your area?

Bishop Iker insists he's still in charge of Episcopal Diocese

Here at the Café we've been notified that earlier today Bishop Jack Iker, who left the Episcopal Church with a group from the Diocese of Fort Worth to become members of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, has had his lawyer write the Steering Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth's lawyer that they must stop using the name of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its emblem since they are his property and not theirs.

Which is sort of an odd thing to claim for someone who has abandoned the Episcopal Church in part because being associated with the Episcopal Church was becoming increasingly "a scandal" to his faithful.

We're told that Dallas Morning News and other Texas media outlets are working on a story about the details and should have something up tomorrow morning.

Keep an eye on this space.

Dissident priest suspended

A priest who led a group of Central Florida Episcopalians out of the Episcopal Church into an association with the Anglican Province of Kenya a year ago has now been suspended by his bishop because of an inappropriate relationship with a woman in his parish.

According to a report in a local paper:

The Rev. Lorne Coyle, of Christ Church of Vero Beach, was suspended effective 2 p.m. Sunday because his bishop received an out-of-state woman’s allegations that she and Coyle, who is married, had an affair, said the church’s senior warden, Jim Reamy III.

The bishop, from Virginia, met with Coyle last week in Vero Beach to inform him of the accusation. [John Guernsey, a bishop for priests and congregations in the United States that are affiliated with the Anglican Church of Uganda.]

On Sunday, Coyle stood in front of the 400-member congregation and confirmed he had sexual relations with an adult women over a period of years, Reamy said. Coyle left the building before the recessional hymn.

“This is very overwhelming,” Reamy said.

According to another source Guernsey learned of the charges from Bishop Howe of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida.

Read the full article here.

The congregation's website is here and here. More information about Canon Coyle can be found here. Coyle was a Canon at the Cathedral in Orlando when he was still part of the Episcopal Church, and served as a board member of NOEL, a group in the Episcopal Church opposed to abortion.

Read more »

Apostrophe's banished

Barbara Wallraff who writes the blog In a Word for The Atlantic draws attention to the AP's report, Its a catastrophe for the apostrophe. Birmingham, England has banished the use of apostrophes in road signs even when they are grammatically correct.

Read all of Wallraf's post here, and her followup here.

Killings motivated by women's issues and gay marriage

RNS:

A man who was angry over a Unitarian church's liberal stances on women's issues and gay marriage pleaded guilty Monday (Feb. 9) to a church shooting that killed two people and wounded six others last July.

Read more »

FundamentaList broadens scope, but charter still relevant

Back on January 21st Sarah Posner of the FundamentaList wrote,

Editors' note: This week, The FundamentaList will begin featuring news not just from the religious right but from the religious center and left as well. The controversy over President Barack Obama's selection of Rick Warren to lead the inaugural prayer brought into sharp relief the fact that under an Obama administration, a broader array of religious voices will be clambering for visibility and political influence. The FundamentaList will be your essential guide to the unfolding struggle for dominance and, as always, your eyes and ears for the religious right's activities in Washington and beyond.
Apparently, the change in administration suggested a weekly column devoted to coverage of the Religious Right would be too narrow in scope.

Today Posner writes: Obama's New Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships: Bad Constitutional Law, Bad Policy, Bad Precedent.

Read it all.

Episcopal Church joins Pittsburgh lawsuit

The Episcopal Church has asked to be made party to the lawsuit between Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh and the part of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that has followed Bishop Duncan in the Anglican Church of North America.

Lionel Deimel, an Episcopalian in Pittsburgh, has a post up with the details of the development:

"An objection that the defendants have raised more than once in the lawsuit filed by Calvary Church against now-deposed bishop Robert Duncan and other (now former) leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is that Calvary had no right to sue without The Episcopal Church’s being a party to the suit. Well, Archbishop-in-Waiting Duncan seems about to get his wish. Papers were filed today in the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Bishop John C. Buchanan, Retired Bishop of West Missouri and parliamentarian of the House of Bishops. In a ‘petition to intervene,’ Buchanan, representing The Episcopal Church, asks the court to become a plaintiff in the case."

Read Lionel's full post here.

If you would like to see how our church is explaining its governance to the secular courts, have a look at this cogent filing. Update: Lionel has added analysis of the denomination's complaint-in-intervention

Phelps banned from Britain

Members of Fred Phelps' church, Westboro Baptist Church, were barred from traveling to Great Britain yesterday effectively blocking their plans to protest at British school production of the Laramie Project.

Phelps' followers are well known to many Episcopalians as they have protested and taunted parishioners at many Episcopal churches here in the United States over the last decade or so. They've become a staple at General Conventions as well. They are well known for protesting at the funerals of service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The British Government blocked the entry of members of the group citing concerns, among others, about possible violence their activities might induce.

Mrs Phelps was upset.

"She called the British government 'filthy' for thinking they had the power 'to keep the word of God from coming into her borders'.

The UK Border Agency said it opposed 'extremism in all its forms'.

A spokesman added: 'Both these individuals have engaged in unacceptable behaviour by inciting hatred against a number of communities."

Read the full article here.

Ekklesia has more:

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Evangelical Alliance UK, Faithworks, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church and Bible Society-funded thintank Theos said: “We are dismayed that members of Westboro Baptist Church (based in Kansas, USA and not associated with the Baptist Union of Great Britain) might picket the performance of The Laramie Project in Basingstoke on Friday ... “We do not share [Westboro's] hatred of lesbian and gay people. We believe that God loves all, irrespective of sexual orientation, and we unreservedly stand against their message of hate toward those communities."

Congressmen meet with Jerusalem bishop

Bishop Suheil S. Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, met with members of Congress earlier this week. The members are traveling in Israel and will be visiting Gaza next. One of the members is the only Muslim serving in the Congress at the moment.

According to a story on Episcopal Life:

During the 70 minute meeting, Dawani briefed the two men on the work and mission of the diocese and its involvement in ecumenical and interfaith endeavors in the five countries served by the Diocese of Jerusalem since the inception of an Anglican presence in Jerusalem in 1841.

Renewed religious violence in Northern Nigeria

Violence has broken out again in Northern Nigeria where Muslims are the majority, but there is a significant Christian minority including the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

Voice of America reports:

Residents say Muslim youths attacked Christians and burned churches in reprisals over the burning of two mosques overnight in the city. Muslims blamed the fires on Christians.

According to the Sun News:

No fewer than four persons were reportedly killed and property worth millions of naira destroyed following religious violence that broke out in the Morocco area of Bauchi metropolis in the early hours of Saturday.
...
Thousands of displaced persons have taken refuge in the Shadawanka barracks and other areas still considered safe. Governor Isa Yuguda, in a statewide broadcast, expressed shock over the incident, describing it as most unfortunate.
...
Reacting to the crisis, chairman of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop Musa Tula, called on Christians in the state to remain calm and continue to pray to God to avert future occurrence. Tula, who is bishop of the Anglican Communion, Bauchi Diocese, consoled all those who might have lost one thing or the other, saying that they should leave everything to God and go about their normal and legitimate duties as government had assured that it would do everything possible to protect lives and properties of the people of the state.

Speaking on behalf of the Muslim Ummah, the Chief Imam of the ATBU Juma’at Mosque, Idris Aliyu Ibrahim Pantami, warned Muslims against rumour mongering, which he said always escalates such crisis. Patami reminded Muslims that the Islamic religion does not preach violence but tolerance and harmonious living with both Muslims and non-Muslims.

We look forward to as unambiguous statement from the Anglican Church of Nigeria that Christianity does not preach violence. Archbishop Peter Akinola, it's 358 days and counting since we asked for an explanation. Do you repudiate violence? Can you say you do not encourage it?

Addendum. The Three-legged Stool has a fresh post on Akinola that's worthy of a read.

Gays? I don't see any gay people here.

The Changing Attitude blog reports that the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs reported to the UN periodic review of human rights in Geneva on February 9, 2009 that they know of no gays or lesbians in Nigeria, let alone LGBT groups, and therefore see no reason to protect their rights. Davis Mac-Iyalla and other leaders of Changing Attitude Nigeria described the statement as a lie.

The Minister, Ojo Madueke, said:

As we have indicated in our National Report, we have no record of any group of Nigerians, who have come together under the umbrella of “Lesbian, Gay and Transgender” group, let alone to start talking of their rights.

During our National Consultative Forum, we went out of our way to look for the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender group, but we could not come across Nigerians with such sexuality....

If they are an amorphous group, then the question of violence against them does not arise, let alone negotiating special rights for them.

Read more »

New Church plant honors the Blessed Mother

This news arrived by email from the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem:

In a joyous and festive afternoon on February 12th in the heart of Jordan‟s throbbing City of Irbid, the Right Rev‟d Dr. Suheil S. Dawani, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and Bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem, laid the cornerstone for the (Episcopal) Church of St. Mary- the - Virgin.

Irbid, a relatively small town in 1948, had its first constituted congregation of Anglicans in 1952, and as the town grew into Jordan‟s third largest city, so did the small congregation known as the Anglican Community in Irbid.

You can find the full press release, and pictures, in a pdf document here.

Good News for chocolate egg lovers

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

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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."

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

Grace and St. Stephen's in Colorado returns to building

As per the judge's order last month, the break-away congregation of Grace and St. Stephen's Church in Colorado Springs Colorado, headed by The Rev. Don Armstrong, has vacated the contested building. Now renamed as St. George's Anglican Church they are renting space in a school academy hall and planning for their future.

The continuing congregation of Grace and St. Stephen's returned on Palm Sunday to their building with an overflow congregation of over 600 people.

Read the full report here. Lots of pictures.

Quincy meets with the Presiding Bishop and reorganizes

The Presiding Bishop was in Peoria over Palm Sunday weekend met with a special synod convened in that diocese to reconstruct the leadership ranks that were emptied when a large portion of the diocesan membership voted to leave the Episcopal Church.

The deputies to the Synod unanimously elected a slate of candidates to fill the vacant position and voted to name a provisional bishop and approved a new diocesan budget.

Thinking Anglicans has an excellent collection of links to news reports and documents from the visit here. We'd been meaning to get around to posting this news, but Thinking Anglicans has done such a cracker-jack job that we see no reason to duplicate their efforts.

Parish embezzlement case surfaces in Staten Island

Sad news from the Diocese of New York is being reported today. A parish priest is accused of embezzling more than eighty thousand dollars for his own use. The priest in question is not responding to press inquiries.

UPDATED: The linked article now has a response from the accused's lawyer who is denying the charges.

Staten Island Live has the story's details:

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Anglicans off-line (temporarily)

All the major Anglican sites listed that are hosted in Brian Reid's garage in Palo Alto went dark for much of yesterday. These include Thinking Anglicans, Anglicans Online and the House of Bishops/House of Deputies listserve (aka "HOBD). Palo Alto was knocked offline because of some fiber cuts which has left much of the Bay Area is in the "dark".

We are grateful that the sites operated by the Society of Archbishop Justus appear to back up and running.

Read more here and here.

Prayers for Oklahoma and Texas

Many in Oklahoma and Texas are watching and waiting this Good Friday as fires sweep through their communities. Worshippers gather in safe places wondering if their homes and churches will be standing on Easter. We join their prayers for safety in the midst of disaster.

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Obamas attend St. John's, Lafayette Square for Easter

It was a quiet day yesterday, religiously speaking, for the most part. But the one surprise out of the White House was that the Obama family decided to go Easter services at the Episcopal congregation "next door" to the White House.

However that doesn't mean the First Family have chosen a new church home:

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Bishop of Arizona calls for change at the border

This weekend brought the annual ecumenical border wall procession to the Arizona-Mexico border. The marchers met this year in Naco Arizona and processed to the wall which bars them from entering Naco Sonora. The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona was present for the walk and Bishop Smith was a featured speaker:

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Parishioners in Detroit lead ministry to pray for the unclaimed bodies of the dead

Each month in Detroit a number of people earthly remains a left unclaimed at the city morgue. It's probably not uncommon in most major cities - people die with no family left and who didn't make prior arrangements. But what's different in Detroit is the way a group of people, led by an Episcopal layman, is making sure that the deaths do not go unmentioned. Or without prayers.

The Detroit News reports:

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Presbyterians say "no" again to gay or lesbian clergy

On Saturday it was reported that enough presbyteries had voted in opposition to conclude that the Presbyterian Church has again decided to reject allowing a local presbytery to ordain a gay or lesbian person in a partnered relationship.

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Bennison appeals for new trial

Former bishop of Pennsylvania, Charles Bennison has asked for a new trial based on previously undisclosed "love letters" between his brother and the victim of his brother's sexual exploitation.

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St. James, Newport Beach being sued to recover court costs

St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach is being sued by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles to recover the costs the diocese incurred in its successful suit to retain the building and money of a congregation that voted to leave the Episcopal Church.

The suit is described as "threatening and bullying" by the attorney for St. James.

"‘They are doing this so no one ever dares leave the Episcopal hierarchy ever again,’ said attorney Daniel Lula, who represents St. James.

Attorney John Shiner, who represents the diocese, said Friday that he didn’t know how much money his client would try to recover from St. James and individual members of its vestry, which functions like a board of directors.

‘We’re doing nothing more than what we’re entitled to do legally,’ Shiner said."

Read the full article here.

St. James was led by Bishop David Anderson, who was instrumental in founding and later setting the trajectory of the American Anglican Council. He remains President and CEO. Bishop Anderson (formerly Canon Anderson of the Diocese of Los Angeles) is now a bishop associated with the ACNA -- he is part of CANA. The Province of Uganda just attempted to seat an AAC staff person at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting taking place in Jamaica.

Alaskan floods mobilize Episcopalians

Brutal ice flows and raging flood water are wreaking havoc in small, isolated villages scattered along the Yukon River causing some residents of remote Alaskan areas to be evacuated to safety. The flooding, caused by an unusually cold winter followed by an unusually warm spring thaw, heaved ice blocks the size of houses onto land, completely destroying one village, including an Episcopal Church.

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CA Supreme Court: Prop 8 and existing marriages upheld

UPDATED 2:10 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. - see below

The California Supreme Court has ruled:

The California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8 by a 6-1 vote but ruled that existing same sex marriages can stand. Several dozen people gathered in front of the California Supreme Court building today in San Francisco in advance of the court's ruling on whether to uphold Proposition 8, the November ballot measure in which state voters banned gay and lesbian marriages.

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Arrest warrant issued for Don Armstrong

KKTV in Colorado Springs, CO reports that the police have issued a warrant for the arrest of Donald Armstrong, who left the Episcopal Church for the more theologically conservative Church of Nigeria, for failure to appear at a hearing on Wednesday.

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Lawyer says Armstrong arrest warrant was "a misunderstanding"

Updated. The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that the bench warrant for the Rev. Donald Armstrong has been quashed.

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Late term abortion provider murdered in church

Updated: there has been an arrest.

The New York Times:

George Tiller, a Wichita doctor who was one of the few doctors in the nation to perform late-term abortions, was shot to death on Sunday as he attended church, city officials in Wichita said.

Dr. Tiller, who had performed abortions since the 1970s, had long been a lightning rod for controversy over the issue of abortion, particularly in Kansas, where abortion opponents regularly protested outside his clinic and sometimes his home and church. In 1993, he was shot in both arms by an abortion opponent but recovered.

Andrew Sullivan notes that Tiller was a frequent target of Bill O'Reilly.

Cutie's first sermon as an Episcopalian

The Church of the Resurrection in Miami was filled to the brim as Alberto Cutie gave his first sermon since being received as a Episcopalian. Some in the congregation were members of the press. It is expected that he will begin the process of being received as an Episcopal priest, thought that may take a year or more of discernment and preparation in advance of the event.

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More on Dr. Tiller's murder

More details are emerging today about the killing of Dr. Tiller who was killed as he was serving as an usher at his Lutheran congregation. Dr. Tiller's murder is thought to have happened because of his work providing late-term abortions. Today the pundits are starting to weigh in as well.

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Holocaust Museum shooting motivated by anti-Semitism

News is coming in this evening about the shooting which took place this afternoon at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. The gunman, 88-year-old James W. von Brunn, was well known to police and federal authorities as a white supremacist who blamed misfortunes in his life on the "Jews". The gunman was shot and critically wounded after shooting a guard and fatally wounding him.

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Bishop Chane on the shooting at the Holocaust Museum

Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington released the following statement on the fatal shooting yesterday at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum:

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Church musician charged with abuse

The Detroit News reports on a man who is the music director of an Episcopal church who has been charged with sexual abuse of minors.

A church music director was charged today with crossing state lines to have illicit sex with minors.

David Zobel, 32, of Ann Arbor, was arrested by the FBI today and is charged in federal court in Ohio with performing sex acts with two girls who are 12 and 13 years old, the FBI said in a news release.

Zobel, a pianist with the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club and who is listed on the glee club's Web site as chorus master and music director at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Ypsilanti, could not be reached for comment.

Read the rest here.

New Primus elected in Scotland

The Scottish Episcopal Church have elected Rt Revd David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane to serve as their new Primus (Primate).

"Raspberry Rabbit" has pictures and the full text of the new Primus' remarks after his election. He says in part:

"We are entering a time of difficult decision-making as we respond to the new financial circumstances which face us as they face the whole of our society. Adding new things is relatively easy. Deciding what really matters when resources don't stretch to cover everything is much more difficult. It tests decision-making and it tests relationships. That is the period which we are about to enter. Our prayer must be that this period will be for us a time of creative refining and pruning - from which will come more growth."

Read the full article here. The Rev. Rabbit is twittering from the conference still.

Bishop David's blog is here. He may be the first primate in the Anglican Communion who was actively blogging before his election.

You can watch an interview with the new Primus from this summer's Lambeth here.

Rich countries resisting changes to prevent climate change

Christian Aid, a british charity and NGO has roundly critized the response by Western nations at the latest UN conference on global climate change in Bonn. The countries risk totally derailing the talks by their lack of commitment to move on actions that are believed to slow the rate of climate change.

Ekklesia writes:

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Pray for the people of Iran

The words of the person who blogs here, as translated by the National Iranian American Council:

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Diocese of Accra votes to ordain women

We've been alerted by a number of readers today that the Diocese of Accra (in Ghana), part of the Anglican Province of Western Africa, has voted to begin ordaining women in the diocese who are called to the priesthood.

Read more »

Obamas find a church home (or not)

Updated: with Not so fast:

Contrary to published reports, President Obama and the First Family have not decided to make Evergreen Chapel at Camp David their primary place of worship in the Washington area.

“The President and First Family continue to look for a church home. They have enjoyed worshipping at Camp David and several other congregations over the months, and will choose a church at the time that is best for their family,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki said in a statement.

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Harmony is still achievable in spite of differences

As the Episcopal Church approaches the beginning of its triennial General Convention in a little more than a week, tensions are running high among those in the leadership. Thankfully, they're not the only folks in the Church.

There's a lovely and hopeful article today that reminds all of us that even in the midst of controversy, the Episcopal Church still can manage to bridge divides between people of passionate belief:

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Kiss-in in Salt Lake City

While we were away in Anaheim supporting full inclusion, Episcopalians and others in Salt Lake City were demonstrating against the treatment of gay couple for a kiss.

Read more »

Fort Worth welcomes California decision

UPDATE: Press release from the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and link to the ruling below.

A court in California issued a judgment earlier this week regarding a number of findings in the ongoing litigation surrounding the Diocese of San Joaquin and the Episcopalians who left the diocese and associated with the Anglican Church in North America.

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News coverage abounds following LA and Minnesota announcements

Major newspapers and TV outlets across the country are covering the announcements over the weekend that the Diocese of Minnesota and the Diocese of Los Angeles are including partnered gay and lesbian candidates among their nominees for their upcoming bishop elections.

Read more »

Violence against Christians breaks out in Pakistan and Sudan

UPDATED with additional reporting on the situation in Pakistan

Troubling news from overseas reached us at the Lead this weekend. According to John Chapin writing in Spero News, violence against Christians in Pakistan has resulted in the deaths of a number of people, the burning of an Anglican church and numerous homes.

Read more »

WCC calls on Pakistan to protect Christian minority

From Anglican Communion News Service:

The World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia appealed to Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari to "ensure the safety and security" of Christians in the Punjab province, where three attacks against Christian communities were carried by militant Islamic groups in the last two months. He demanded that the government "take necessary actions against the perpetrators".

The Archbishop of Canterbury has also condemned the violence.

Schofield group will appeal

Fresno Bee:

Officials with the breakaway Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin say they will appeal a Fresno County Superior Court ruling that affirmed the U.S. Episcopal Church's authority and its choice for a bishop -- a man the decision said controls the local church's affairs and properties.

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Bishop Coburn has died

Bishop John B. Coburn, retired Bishop of the Diocese of Massechusetts and former President of the House of Deputies died on Saturday, August 8.

According to an online report:

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Thievery and church roofs

The Church of England has been experiencing a rash of property crimes against some of its most expensive assets - its oldest buildings. Thieves have been nicking off with the lead from the roofs of parish churches, abbeys and cathedrals across the country.

So, to limit the ability the thieves have to get money for the lead their stealing from scrap dealers, the roofs are being painted with a special paint containing special micro particles. Each roof gets a paint with a unique chemical signature.

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Flood at the abbey

Word has been received from Abbot Michael-John of the Abbey of St. Benedict and the Companions of St. Luke, Donnelson, IA, that they have quite a bit of damage from flooding in the Mid-west. Many from Province VI have attended retreats there over the years:

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Remembering 9/11

Today is the 8th anniversery on the attacks of Sept. 11th. A number of congregations and community groups will be marking the passing around the country.

Prof. Deirdre Good writes of what will be happening in Manhattan:

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BIshop plans descent

Bishop Mike Klusmeyer is planning for his next drop from the roadbed of the famous New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia to the riverbank 700 feet below. In a nod to maintaining a living witness to the Gospel, the Bishop will be using a zip line to accomplish the trip.

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Groups cooperate to enlarge shelter facility

Tough times call for old fashioned solutions. When Grace Shelter in Northhampton New Hampshire, a program for women and their families working to overcome addiction, began to run out of space, the cost of new building seemingly made expansion impossible. But now, via a community "barn raising" the shelter should have all the space it will need.

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'You just pick up and go on': An Episcopal congregation learns from arson

Recently in Shawnee County, Kansas, a judge for the third judicial district pronounced a sentence of two years' probation on Trevor Powell Jones, 20, who was connected to acts of arson in two local church buildings in 2006 (but sentenced based on other crimes, including desecrating a cemetery). One of those churches was St. David's Episcopal Church in Topeka.

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Retired Nigerian bishop, living in US, charged with soliciting a prostitute

According to news reports The Rt. Rev. Benjamin Omosebi, who served as Bishop of Kano, Church of the Province of Nigeria from 1990-1998 before moving to the U.S., was charged with solicitation Tuesday in an Ohio-based prostitution sting.

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Virginia Supreme Court will hear petition to appeal

Bishop Shannon Johnson announced yesterday that on October 21, a panel of the Virginia Supreme Court will hear a petition to appeal the lower court ruling based on the Civil War era law that allows congregations to decide whether or not they will leave a denomination should the denomination split.

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St. John's, a church down the street, does fine by the Obamas

President Obama and his family attended the service this morning at St. John's Church (Episcopal), a leisurely stroll across Lafayette Square.

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Diocese of Sydney faces big losses

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Diocese of Sydney has suffered a massive financial loss.

The Glebe Fund lost about $160 million in investments placed in growth funds and real estate holdings. The chief executive of the board, Steve McKerihan, ... conceded it was unusual to put 80 per cent of the ''growth assets'' with one fund manager and agreed that many rival wealth managers chose to divide funds between several managers to spread the risk.

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David Bailey elected Canon to the Ordinary for Navajoland

The Episcopal Church in Navajoland has been without a bishop since Bishop MacDonald accepted a call from his position as assisting bishop there to serve the indigenous people of the Anglican Church of Canada. Over the weekend the Rev. Canon David Bailey was named Canon to the Ordinary in this interim period.

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Is God punishing Sydney?

The Archdiocese of Sydney, one of the leading voices of conservative theology within the Anglican Communion, has suffered a huge financial loss in the past year. Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of the Diocese, is now wondering aloud about whether or not this loss constitutes God's judgement upon them.

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Tastes great. Fewer Trappists.

Trappist monks are no longer involved in the beer-making at their brewery in Westmalle. No worries. Just because there are fewer and older monks, this does not mean that Trappist beer will stop being Trappist.

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Reaction to Vatican overture continues

From NPR"s Sunday All Things Considered:

The Vatican made waves last week with a controversial overture to disaffected Anglicans upset over the ordination of gays and women. Under the new plan, entire Anglican congregations could switch their allegiance to Rome, while still keeping their own traditions. ... Host Guy Raz sorts out the decision and its impact with a range of Christian thinkers: Episcopal Church spokesman Jim Naughton; Archbishop Robert Duncan, of the breakaway conservative Anglican Church in North America; Jesuit priest Thomas Reese of Georgetown University; and former nun Karen Armstrong.

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St. George's Bahgdad damaged in weekend bombings

There were a series of coordinated attacks in Baghdad over the weekend. One of the bombs was exploded very near to St. Georges Anglican Church where Canon Andrew White serves as vicar. White has posted a report detailing the damage and finding a few blessings in the events.

From the front page of his ministry organizations website:

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Bishop Vaché has died

Bishop Charles Vaché, the former bishop of Southern Virginia died over the weekend. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace and rise in glory at the last.

Details follow.

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Church of Pakistan speaks about recent violence against Christians

The Church of Pakistan adopted a strong statement decrying the violence against Christians earlier this year in Gojra. It lays the blame specifically at the feet of those who are using religion for political ends and calls for six concrete steps to be taken in response.

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Execution and resurrection in Texas

Unless Governor Rick Perry changes his mind and either issues a stay or commutes the sentence, 32-year-old Khristian Oliver, will be executed by the State of Texas sometime this evening. Maybe by the time you read this.

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Prayers take shape for Ft. Hood

As family and other mourners from the Ft. Hood killings have participated in funeral services scattered over the face of the country, the Texas bishop's blog continues giving voice to the prayers offered in response to the tragedy in Killeen.

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Episcopalians in Space

Dr. Bobby Satcher is one of the crew of today's planned shuttle launch and a member of St. James', Houston. This mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS 129) will deliver components for the station's robotic arm to the International Space Station.

You can find up to date information about the mission here.

For those who travel on land, on water, or in the air or through outer space, let us pray to the Lord. (Book of Common Prayer p. 384)

The resurgent political power of the Roman Catholic bishops

The US Conference of Catholic bishops are exercising an increasing amount of political clout here due in part to the election of a President and the rise to power of a political party they opposed. Their strong reactions to programs suggested by the President and Democratic Party controlled Congress have changed the nature of the Health Care reform bill. They are using strategic donations of money from around the country to defeat state based initiatives to recognize same-sex marriages.

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The Family's role in the Ugandan anti-gay bill

The powerful group known as C Street, or The Family, is reported to have links to Ugandan anti-gay bill.

Jeff Sharlet, the author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, was interviewed yesterday on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The Family sponsors the annual National Prayer Breakfast and has gained notoriety for sex scandals involving members who have lived at its C Street House -- Nevada Senator John Ensign and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Current residents include Bart Stupak. Joe Pitts is a "core member."

Read more »

More on American ties to Uganda

These items aren't new, but they may be news worthy.

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Report on child sexual abuse in Ireland released

The Irish Times reports that the Commission of Investigation into Dublin’s Catholic Archdiocese has concluded that there is “no doubt” that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the archdiocese and other Church authorities.

Updated with Andrew Brown's column, and Ruth Gledhill's.

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Movement in DC as vote on same-sex marrage recognition nears

The City Council of Washington DC is voting tomorrow on the question of legal recognition of same-sex marriages within the district. The Roman Catholic Church in the district has strongly objected and broadly hinted that, if the measure passes, they may be forced to curtail some of the social services they currently provide to the poor and needy in the district.

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The cop, the rabbi and the dog

Did you hear the one about the Montana cop, the rabbi and the dog who speaks Hebrew?

Eric Stern describes what happens next:

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A Nigerian and an engineer:
What can hindsight tell us?

In its Daily Number feature today, Pew Research is reminding us of a finding it reported in July 2009:

Support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence against civilians in defense of Islam has declined substantially since 2002 among most Muslim populations surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

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Ugandan human rights lawyer says anti-gay bill should be rejected

Busingye Kabumba who teaches International and Regional Human Rights Law at Makerere University, Uganda writes in the newspaper The Observer that the anti-gay law should be rejected for a variety of reasons. But if the law is passed David Bahati, who drafted the law, he should be the first one arrested just for drawing attention to homosexuality in their country.

Kabumba writes:

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Blessing of the blackberrys

The Roman Catholic Church may have the Red Mass for the legal profession, but now the Anglicans can consider doing Plow Monday with a new information worker twist. A vicar in "The City" has taken an old custom of blessing the tools of farmers in a new direction by blessing the tools of the modern worker, their laptops and their phones.

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Still inaccessable after all these years

USA Today reports that churches lag well behind the rest of society when it comes handicapped accessibility and barrier-free design.

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Hate, radio, violence,
gangs, and rumors

Chris Blattman:

David Yanagizawa, an economics job market candidate from Stockholm University, uses Rwanda’s hilly topography to look at the effect of the Mille Collines “hate radio” on violence.

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Haiti update; end of Day 5

The reports coming out of Haiti are still focusing on the rescue efforts and the first signs that the aid streaming in from around the world is starting to reach the victims.

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Roeder found guilty of first degree murder

Breaking: The New York Times reported that a Kansas jury found Scott Roeder, who admitted to planning, stalking and murdering Dr. George Tiller during a church service, guilty of first degree murder. The jury took 37 minutes to convict.

Read more »

State Department condemns violence in Nigeria

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, along with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, has issued a joint statement condemning the violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, particularly in the province of Jos.

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Pot meet kettle

Some senior Church of England bishops have criticized the European Union, calling it an undemocratic and secretive bureaucracy run by elites. Sort of like the Church of England.

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More info on Pittsburgh ruling

Lionel Deimel has done a careful reading of Friday's court ruling in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. He's posted the major points of the ruling. In short the endowments, trusts and properties owned directly by the diocese are to be overseen by the Episcopal diocese and not the group being led by Bishop Robert Duncan.

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Backers of UK Equality Bill throw in the towel

A roundup of some of today's stories on the Equality Bill in UK, including the pope's intervention.

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Obama, Clinton speak out on Uganda at breakfast

It is reported that this morning, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton used the opportunity to criticize the Uganda bill on homosexuality.

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Controversial billboard leads to Archdeacon's dismissal?

Last Christmas, Archdeacon Glyn Cardy put up a rather controversial sign outside of St. Matthew's Anglican church in Auckland New Zealand. The sign was meant to invite people to question their traditional understanding of the birth of Jesus from a virgin mother.

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Episcopal priest arrested for sexual misconduct

A retired Episcopal priest was arrested on Friday as a result of an investigation by PA State Police into charges that he had unlawful sexual contact with a minor while the priest was still an active clergyman. Ralph Johnson was charged with more than 45 counts ranging from felony to misdemeanor charges.

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Marriage rates decline

The BBC reports that marriage rates in England and Wales are at their lowest level since records began. About 24% of weddings take place in churches.

Although there were uptick in the number of marriages in 2002 and 2004, the general trend is downward. For every 1,000 adult men, 21.8 married in 2008, compared with 22.4 in 2007. For women aged over 16 it was 19.6 per 1,000, down from 20.2 the year before.

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Dust to dust

The phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” from The Book of Common Prayer refers to our bodies after death. But it doesn’t specify how we get that way.

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Scandal rocks Israeli orthodox community

Not much mentioned here in the United States, there's massive reaction to charges of sexual misconduct leveled against one of the premier voices of the West Bank Settlement movement, Rabbi Mordechai Elon. Known in Israel as "Rabbi Motti" and featured on a regular television show, Elon has denied all the charges of inappropriate touching and behavior.

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Christians and Muslims agree to pursue peace

Yesterday, we posted Bishop Chane's Washington Post essay about the role of the religious in our diplomacy. Adelle M. Banks, writing for Religious News Service, describes the statement that Christian and Muslim leaders from the U.S., the Vatican and the Middle East have issued out of the three day conference that just ended at the Washington National Cathedral. It is being called a "plan of action" to address religious freedom and peace-building.

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See how they love one another

Over on the Christian sideshow, Chick Tracts have been part of a segment of American evangelical culture for decades. They are little comic-style tracts that promote a literal interpretation of the (King James Only) Bible.

One of our favorites is the one about evolution, where people ride around on dinosaurs a la Fred Flintstone.

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Nuns break from bishops over health care

AP: in a rare public disagreement that will reverberate among the nation's 70 million Catholics, leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 nuns sent lawmakers a letter urging lawmakers to pass the Senate health care bill.

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The underground church in Jamaica

The Rev. Irene Monroe writes in Bay Windows about the measures Jamaican gay and lesbian Christians must take to be sure that they can worship in safety.

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Don't worry, talk deeply

Ronni Caryn Rabin writes on the Well blog on nytimes.com that people are happier when they spend less time in small talk and more time in deep discussions such as the state of the world or the meaning life.

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More about the attempted shooting of Bishop Barahona

Following up on the story from Thursday that there has been an attempt on the life of Archbishop Barahona, the Primate of Central America and the bishop of El Salvador, the bishop appeared at a press conference yesterday.

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Pope offers apology to Irish catholics

Pope Benedict released his long awaited pastoral letter to the Irish Catholic Church that addresses the scandalous behavior of clergy and the hierarchy in that county as more information regarding the sexual abuse of children is coming to light. The eight page letter contains what is described as a passionate apology. But there are no specific disciplinary actions mentioned.

The New York Times has extensive coverage:

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Smylie elected bishop of Wyoming

The Reverend John Sheridan Smylie, Rector of St. Marks in Casper Wyoming and the former Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Spokane was elected the next Bishop of the Diocese of Wyoming today.

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Health care passes House

Now playing everywhere: Congress has given final approval to the health care bill, which would provide for medical care for the millions in America who do not currently have access to insurance.

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Laity know more than clergy think

The scandal of covering up child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Europe continues to grow, with journalists asking the question "what the did the future pope know and when did he know it?

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Discovery to be allowed in US Catholic Church sex abuse cases?

This week has seen one story after another about the abuse of children by Roman Catholic clergy. But so far most of these scandals have been based in either Ireland or Germany with the focus on the Vatican in Italy. But today comes news that American cases may move to the forefront again.

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Diocese of LA wins another legal decision in St. James dispute

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has been battling with former parishioners of St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach for years now over who should rightfully control the buildings. A decision in 2007 put the buildings under the control of the Diocese. That decision was appealed.

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April Fool's Day
to be observed May 2nd

In a letter to church bodies worldwide, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, announced a major international ecumenical agreement that the Feast of All Fool's will be celebrated on May 2nd starting in 2010.

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Foot washing on the green

About 100 people came to an ecumenical worship service on the green in New Haven, Connecticut, where people's feet ceremonially washed and free foot care was offered by local podiatrist and student nurses. More than thirty pairs of shoes were distributed. The bishop-elect of Connecticut, The Rev. Ian Douglas, preached.

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Continuing the fight for gay rights in Africa

News reports are hinting that the proposed anti-gay legislation proposed by a member of the parliament in Uganda may be dead. Still clergy around Africa, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, protest the legislation and are leading the fight against draconian anti-gay laws across the continent.

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Pope willing to meet with abuse victims

The BBC reports that the Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI is willing to hold new meetings with victims of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests.

If he does, this could signal a new approach in handling the unfolding crisis, especially since reporters are finding more and more documentation that the future Pope's apparent knowledge of many cases around the world.

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Some Catholic bishops state orientation has no connection to child sexual abuse

In an interesting development today the Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement making clear that in England and Wales, the Roman Catholic church recognizes the sexual orientation has nothing to do with pedophilia. Not surprising, but the timing of the statement is interesting.

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Press coverage of the VA property hearings

The day after the presentation of arguments to the Virginia Supreme Court regarding the ownership of church property in the instances when congregations have decided to depart the Episcopal Church, the press coverage has started to appear online.

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Rebuilding Bay St. Louis continues

Before Katrina, workers at Lutheran Episcopal Services was one of the first groups to send volunteers to help rebuild homes and now they are one of the last one's left:

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The challenge of military chaplaincy

What the focus of the military chaplains ministry? Are the beliefs and practices of the chaplains the main thing? Or ought the focus be on the spiritual and emotional needs of the soldier, sailor or marine? A new documentary focuses on the tensions, challenges and important work of US military chaplains.

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Vono elected bishop of Diocese of Rio Grande

The Reverend Dr. Michael Louis Vono, Rector of St. Paul’s Within the Walls, Rome, Italy has been elected as the next bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande (in New Mexico) this afternoon according to online reports.

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Bishop Robinson writes Pope Benedict with advice

Bishop Gene Robinson has written an open letter to Pope Benedict the 16th offering some thoughts on the present sexual abuse scandal that has been rocking the Roman Catholic Church of late.

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And now, for the rest of the story

You may have heard that Lord Jesus Christ was run over in a crosswalk recently. He says the accident was part of God's plan.

RNS has tracked him down:

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Laura Bush supports gay marriage

Laura Bush joins a growing number of conservatives who are in support of gay marrage:

GOProud Praises Former First Lady Laura Bush for Support of Marriage Equality

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Barenaked Ladies covered by The Bishops

The Church Times reports on a cover-up by a member of the House of Bishops.

She was naked. He was there

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National Cathedral Canon Precentor announces departure

The National Cathedral announced on Friday that:

"The Rev. Canon Carol Wade, who oversees the design and execution of some of the nation's most high-profile religious services, will leave her position as canon precentor at Washington National Cathedral after a sabbatical that begins on July 1."

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US government argues that Vatican need not legally respond to child abuse charges

Apparently the U.S. government has filed a brief with the Supreme Court that partially supports the arguments of the Vatican that, as a foreign power, it should not have to respond to lawsuits in the United States that arise from accusations of abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests.

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Denominations choosing different strategies in Arizona

Every major Christian denomination in the State of Arizona has expressed deep concern regarding the new law enacted which makes it a state crime to be in the state without proper documentation. But while everyone agrees that the law is troubling because of fears of how it will be enforced, there are significant differences between denominations about how to proceed next.

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President of Malawi pardons gay couple

The President of Malawi has intervened, pardoned and ordered the immediate release of the gay couple that were recently sentenced to 14 years of hard labor for holding a marriage commitment service in December.

The BBC reports:

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Tutu helps kick off the World Cup

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu wowed a crowd of 50,000 crowd at a musical celebration in Soweto ahead of the kick-off in the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa.

Ekklesia reports:

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PBS features LA restorative justice ministry

Episcopal News Service tells the story of the Rev. Dennis Gibbs and his work as a jail chaplain at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles,

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A history of denial

Laurie Goodstein and David Halbfinger report on the history of denial and distraction that characterized the official response of the Curia to the instances of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic Clergy around the world.

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DOMA ruled unconstitutional

Judge Joseph L. Tauro of United States District Court in Boston says the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. He says that the Federal government cannot cause the state of Massachusetts discriminate it's own citizens by denying gay couples who have married in that state from receiving the same federal benefits that it grants to other married couples.

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Organists flock to Washington

The American Guild of Organists is holding their biennial meeting in Washington, DC this week. If you want to hear the music, you have to go to where the organs are, and that means a lot of churches are having a lot of recitals this week.

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New details being released in Upper South Carolina Cathedral conflict

We covered the news Thursday that Dean Phillip Linder was suspended from his ministry as Dean of the Cathedral in Columbia. The conflict is being covered this morning by one of the state's major newspapers.

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Bus ads for women's ordination

Religious (and non-religious) groups in Great Britain love to use ads on big red buses to make their point. The Guardian tells us that the UK group Catholic Women's Ordination (CWO) will be running ads on buses when the Pope comes to town.

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Has the 'Sleeping Giant' awakened to a world of religion?

NPR's Lisa LIm notes that many Chinese are looking for an alternative to "rampant materialism," and that a religious rush seems to be bubbling up.

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Younger Americans more loyal to religion than boomers

Reuters reports on new research that indicates that younger Americans, between the ages of 36 to 50, are more likely to be loyal to religion than Baby Boomers.

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Vatican tells archbishop not to
criticize peers for covering up abuse

The AP reports that the Vatican has refused to accept the resignations of two Irish auxiliary bishops for covering up sexual abuse but has told an Irish Archbishop to stop criticizing colleagues.

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Thistle Farms: a ministry among abused women

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly reports on the wonderful work being done at Thistle Farm, an Episcopal ministry in Nashville, Tennessee:

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