Monday, May 22, 2017

Churches warn South Africa becoming a “mafia state”

From South Africa-

The influential South African Council of Churches has warned corruption is turning South Africa into a “mafia state” under a government that intimidates whistleblowers, local media reported on Friday.

In unusually frank comments from the council (SACC), its secretary general Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana was cited as saying President Jacob Zuma’s government had “lost the moral radar”.

The criticism puts more pressure on Zuma, who in past weeks has faced calls to resign from within his own ruling African National Congress (ANC) party and the opposition amid a slew of scandals that prompted street protests and credit-rating downgrades.

“We have come to recognise that South Africa may just be a few inches from the throes of a mafia state from which there may be no return, a recipe for a failed state,” Mpumlwana was quoted as saying.

More here-

Anglican Pastor In Adultery Storm, Accused Of Having S*x With Married Church Membe

From Nigeria-

Reverend Gilbert Sambona, a Zimbabwean Anglican priest with the Manicaland diocese, has been accused of having a romantic affair with a married parishioner.

According to Sunday Mail, Mr Clever Ndiringepi, a church member, claimed that the man of cloth was in an intimate relationship with his wife, Bridget.

In November last year, Mr Ndiringepi wrote a two-paged letter of complaint to the Anglican Manicaland diocese leader, Bishop Erik Ruwona.

“On the 1st of November 2016, I checked my wife’s (Bridget Ndiringepi) phone. I went through Whatsapp chats and came across a disturbing chat between her and a person saved as Mbona Rev, with the cell number +263 773 436 942 on the 31st of October 2016 and Sunday 30th October 2016.

“All these were love messages. It’s undoubted that the two are in love as per attached copies of the chat. I also noticed messages of the same nature between the two, even in my wife’s Netone number.

More here-

Religious leaders call for inclusive dialogue to end South Sudan conflict

From Sudan-

“Without a doubt, the swearing in of the members of the dialogue being organised by the government will mark the beginning of a long march together. Hand in hand, Christians and Muslims looking in the same direction in order to eradicate violence, suspicious, mistrust and hatred,” said Isaac Dhieu, the Episcopal Bishop of Akot diocese.

The conference “will not only strengthen the brotherhood and sisterhood for our citizens, but it will also help to boost the momentum that we support as custodians of the divine law,” he added.

The Bishop denounced the voices that advocate war and glorify violence in the name of reforms.

Last Thursday, the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said the dialogue will kick off its works soon without the opposition figures who declined their appointment.

More here-

I’m a Pastor With Depression. For Years I Thought I Had to Hide It.

From Sojourners-

I was serving as associate pastor to a small church in southern Wisconsin, just a year out of seminary, and I couldn't get out of bed. I slept all the time. I couldn't eat. I couldn't see any future ahead of me. I was filled with a despair I couldn’t put into words. My primary care doctor diagnosed me with anxiety-related depression. It was 2011.

There was no way I could tell anyone about this diagnosis. Forget talking about it in regular conversation — I'm a pastor, for God’s sakes, a leader in the Christian church. I couldn’t be dealing with this. I needed to man up, I told myself — I’d get tough, and pull myself out of this nightmare.

“Demons” have never been part of my religious vocabulary. Growing up in a fundamentalist Christian community, spending my teens as an agnostic, then becoming a Lutheran pastor, at every turn, my faith journey made me wary of terms like that. I mean, it wasn’t like I was living in a scene from The Exorcist, right?

More here-

Rowan Williams: Britons are peering into the abyss after Brexit vote

From Guardian-

Rowan Williams has warned of the dangers of “messianic leadership” arising from disillusion in the political process, saying lessons need to be learned from Germany in the 1930s.

The former archbishop of Canterbury also said many Britons were peering into the abyss following last year’s Brexit referendum. Asked if the country was facing an existential crisis, he told the Guardian: “Yes … we’re certainly not a country at ease with itself.”

He called for a broad consensus on tackling long-term systemic issues facing the UK, such as inequality and alienation. “If we don’t [address these], the spring will coil tighter and tighter,” he said.

Williams, now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and chair of Christian Aid, referred to a new edition of a 1943 book, Darkness Over Germany: a Warning from History, published this week, which charts the rise of fascism.

More here-

A Prayer for Donald Trump

From The New York Times (Opinion)-

Given the mess that he’s in and the martyrdom that he hallucinates, it’s only fitting that Donald Trump would turn toward God.

He has fled the country — not a moment too soon! — for his first foreign excursion since taking office, and it’s less a conventional presidential trip than a roving seminar in world religions: Islam (Saudi Arabia is the first stop), Judaism (Israel is second) and Roman Catholicism (the Vatican is the capper).

I’m especially eager for his communion with Pope Francis, an entry in the annals of odd couples that ranks somewhere just above Oscar and Felix, and below Mork and Mindy.

One of them is splenetic. The other is ascetic. One sins. The other redeems. Cue the metaphors and clutch your rosary beads.

More here-

Is the Old Testament dying?

From RNS-

Brent Strawn was teaching at a Methodist church in Atlanta when he asked his class to identify the origin of Jesus’ well-known cry from the cross — “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”


The Emory University professor of the Old Testament was stunned.

How could it be that these mostly older adults, faithful lifelong churchgoers, didn’t know that Jesus was quoting directly from Psalm 22?

That’s when it dawned on him: The Old Testament is dying.

That realization, now a book by the same name, argues that many contemporary Christians have lost biblical fluency and can no longer speak the language of more than half their sacred Scripture.

More here-

Pay for a Priest or a Building

From The Living Church-

In Bethel, Vermont, Christ Church cannot afford a full-time priest. But its buildings — an in-town church and parish hall, plus a historic church for summer use a few miles away in the countryside — are in good shape. So is the congregation’s record of giving thousands a year to the local food pantry and supporting other missions.

Christ Church’s priest, the Rev. Shelie Richardson, is a volunteer who works as a full-time insurance agent. That has freed much-needed cash for buildings and benevolence.

“It’s money we just wouldn’t have available if we were trying to pay for a salary, a reasonable retirement, and all the things that go along with being an employer,” said Nancy Wuttke, Christ Church’s senior warden.

In turning to volunteer clergy, Christ Church ranks among scores of Episcopal congregations exploring what becomes possible when the priest is not paid a penny. Such arrangements can have drawbacks and need careful structure, diocesan officials say. But they also open the door to new vitality, an invigorated laity, and what many regard as a heartening shift in congregational dynamics.

More here-

Saturday, May 20, 2017

'Please help stop these people starving to death' Archbishop aide pleads for Anglicans to act against famine

From Christian Today-

A senior adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury called on UK Christians to take part in this Sunday's Day of Prayer to End Famine as record numbers of people around the world face death by starvation.

Bishop Anthony Poggo, former Bishop of Kajo-Keji in South Sudan and now the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advisor for Anglican Communion Affairs, said more than than 20 million people across the globe face starvation.

World Vision UK is among the charities backing the global prayer day, in the hope of mobilising millions of Christians to help prevent mass starvation of children and their communities in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria.

World Vision is also working in Kenya and Ethiopia, where millions more are also facing the threat of famine.

Bishop Poggo said: 'This crisis has the potential to be absolutely catastrophic. 7.5 million people in my home country are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and their fate is shared by millions more across Africa and Yemen.

More here-

Christ Church Cathedral: What if it has to be modern?

From New Zealand-

Stonewalled. Nope, the Bishop won't be taking questions. Neither will the Church Property Trustees (CPT). Even those more distantly connected to the vexed Christ Church Cathedral question declined interview requests from The Press after a few days of "taking advice".

Perhaps that is human and reasonable. The Anglican hierarchy has been under sustained attack ever since it decided to pull down the very symbol of Christchurch – its earthquake-stricken Gothic revival cathedral – and replace it with something cheaper, safer and modern.

But here we are halfway through 2017, still waiting to hear an official response to a Government-backed plan to reinstate the Cathedral with the help of a $10 million grant from the public purse.

More here-

Bishop Sean Rowe: Follow the truth

From Northwest PA-

A leader who bears false witness — who does not acknowledge that we are bound to one another and must care for one another — leads us away from the kingdom of God.

About 2,000 years ago, in a backwater of the Roman Empire called Judaea, lived a ruler named Pontius Pilate. The people were angry about the power of a distant government that paid no attention to them, an economy that perpetuated an enormous gap between the rich and the poor, tax burdens that were unsustainable, and debt that ruined lives. They wanted scapegoats, and Pilate was happy to have them take out their wrath on someone other than himself.

One spring, the religious authorities handed over a troublesome rabbi to Pilate. He questioned him, trying to determine if he deserved to die. The rabbi, whose name was Jesus, told Pilate, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate replied with a question. “What is truth?” he asked.

Today, our president and many elected leaders remind me of Pilate. They would like us to believe that the truth is hard to pin down, that there are “alternative facts” and therefore they do not have to be straight with us. It is easy to understand why. No one wants to tell the truth to angry people, and many of us are angry.

More here-

Church of Scotland expected to back same-sex marriage

From The BBC-

The Kirk's General Assembly - gathering in Edinburgh - will be asked to approve more work on how such weddings could take place in church.

Equal marriage remains a divisive issue within the church.

Since 2014, Scotland has allowed same-sex couples to marry but individual church traditions can each decide whether to participate.

A report on the issue prepared for the General Assembly invited the church to take stock of its history of discrimination against gay people and to apologise "individually and corporately".

Moderator Designate the Reverend Dr Derek Browning said: "On Thursday afternoon the theological forum will be bringing a report to the General Assembly, and this year what they're asking to do is for the assembly, first of all, to consider making an apology to the gay community for things that have have been said in the past and the assembly will have to make up its mind on that.

More here-

Bishop Gene Robinson headed to Chautauqua Institution

From Chautauqua NY-

Retired Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson will be joining the leadership of the Chautauqua Institution.

Robinson will assume the new role of vice president and senior pastor of Chautauqua Institution, effective Sept. 1. His appointment is part of plans announced this week by President Michael Hill to reorganize the institution’s Department of Religion, according to information on the Chautauqua website at Maureen Rovegno, the longtime associate director of religion, will be promoted to director of religion.

Robinson is currently a fellow at the Center for American Progress. He retired as the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire in 2013. A decade earlier, he had become the first openly gay and partnered priest to be elected bishop in the Episcopal Church.

More here-

Episcopal Divinity School, Union Theological Seminary agree on collaboration

From ENS-

Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) and Union Theological Seminary announced May 19 that they have signed an agreement that will allow EDS to continue as an Episcopal seminary through a collaboration with Union at its campus in New York City beginning in the fall of 2018.

“We had three goals when we began to plan this news phase in EDS’s life,” said the Rev.  Gary Hall, chair of the EDS board. “We wanted to continue providing Episcopal theological education within an accredited, degree-granting program, deepen our historic commitment to gospel-centered justice, and provide financial strength and stability for EDS’s future. Today, I am delighted to say that we have achieved all three.”

“This is an historic moment,” said the Rev. Serene Jones, president of the Union faculty and Johnston Family Professor for Religion and Democracy at Union. “We are honored that EDS has chosen to partner with us and are certain that the stewardship of our deepest commitments will be fulfilled in the years ahead.”

More here-

and here-

Friday, May 19, 2017

Religious statistics: 'Nones’ numerous but a committed Anglican core is flourishing

From The Church Times-

THERE are reasons to be hopeful in a new report that highlights high rates of “nonversion” — the loss of people brought up with a religious affiliation to the “no religion” category — its author argued this week.

Although “C of E” was no longer the “default setting” for British adults asked about their religious identity, there was left a core of committed, practising Christians who shored each other up and were set to become a “creative minority” in the UK, the author, Professor Stephen Bullivant, director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, said.

His report, The “No Religion” Population of Britain, is based on data from the 2015 British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey, and the 2014 European Social Survey. Those who identify as “no religion” make up 48.6 per cent of the British adult population.Those claiming a Christian affiliation make up 43 per cent of the population, of which 17.1 per cent are Anglican.

More here-


From Religion Dispatches-

The first out lesbian bishop consecrated by the United Methodist Church has long known that her path would lead to ministry. Bishop Karen Oliveto first felt the call when she was just 11 years old, preached her first sermon at 16, and became a student pastor at 18.

She came out as lesbian in seminary, where she was disappointed to learn that her authenticity around the way she believed God had created her suddenly made her “suspect.”

And even though a church judicial council ruled earlier this month that Oliveto’s consecration violated church law and requires a ministerial review, she remains in good standing with the church and, more importantly, she is more committed than ever to bringing peace, clarity, and acceptance to the United Methodist Church’s decades-long struggle over how to treat LGBTQ congregants and clergy.

More here-

Building Our House on Solid Rock: Messages We Don’t Intend to Communicate

From The Diocese of Washington-

It’s said that we only have one opportunity to make a first impression. That’s something I think about when I drive past our small, often rusty “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” signs. For there isn’t one congregation in the diocese that describes itself as unwelcoming. Yet might our appearances communicate messages we don’t intend?

What poorly-kept signs unintentionally communicate is that our church is tired, and that we aren’t expecting anyone to pay attention to us, much less visit on a Sunday morning. Sadly, in some of our churches, that message is reinforced when people visit for the first time, not by how we treat them, but what our environment communicates.

In his book, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend, Andy Stanley tells of a time when he attended a mid-week bible study at a friend’s church:

More here-

Montreal Is Taxing Churches

From Patheos-

No more religious exemptions, Montreal is taxing churches: For the first time churches in Montreal are being forced to pay taxes, and some church leaders are very unhappy.

CTV Montreal reports that churches and church space not being used explicitly for the purpose of worship is now taxable property, and is to be treated as any other property as far as taxes are concerned.

As one might expect, those benefitting from the tax exempt status enjoyed by churches are not happy. Again, CTV Montreal reports:

Joel Coppetiers, the Minister at the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian church, was shocked when his institution first received a municipal tax bill…

“The indication is there’s not an exemption for the church as a whole, there’s only an exemption for those areas used for public worship and things directly related to it,” said Coppetiers.

More here-

Priest Stabbed During Mass at Mexico City Cathedral

From National Catholic Register-

A Mexican priest is in “delicate but stable” condition after being stabbed in the neck Monday evening at Mexico City’s cathedral, according to government and Church authorities.

Father José Miguel Machorro Alcalá, 55, was stabbed in the neck and torso May 15 at the conclusion of saying Mass at the cathedral.

Witnesses reported that it appeared the attacker’s intention was to slit the priest’s throat.

Authorities detained a suspect at the scene who had reportedly attempted to flee the cathedral. The suspect has been identified as John Rock Schild, who identified himself as an artist from the United States. He is believed to be about 30 years old.

More here-

Episcopal, ELCA presiding bishops issue joint statement calling for prayer, fasting for hunger awareness

From ENS (with video links)

 Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have issued a joint statement calling for prayer, fasting and advocacy.

The statement, For Such a Time as This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy, calls for fasting on the 21st of each month through December 2018, at which time the 115th Congress will conclude. 

The 21st of each month is targeted because by that time each month, 90% of SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits have been used, thereby causing the last week of the month as the hungry week in America.

More here-

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Primate for the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

From Anglican News-

Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Diocese of Jerusalem has been elected as the next Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. He succeeds Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, who has held the post since 2007. Archbishop Dawani will serve for a period of two and a half years, to be followed by Bishop Michael Lewis of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf. He will serve for the same length of time, ending in May 2022.

The changes were decided upon at a two day meeting of the Synod of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East,  in Amman, Jordan. In a statement, the Synod said: “We congratulate both Archbishop Suheil and Bishop Michael on their appointments, and we give thanks for Archbishop Mouneer’s service as our Primate since 2007....Please uphold the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East in your prayers.”

How fares Protestantism upon its 500th anniversary? Depends on where you look

From Get Religion (with lots of links)

Ed Stetzer of Wheaton College (Illinois) furrowed many a brow with an April 28 Washington Post warning that “if current trends continue” without letup, Americans active in “Mainline” Protestant churches will reach zero by Easter 2039.

Talk about timing.

That bleak forecast – mitigated by U.S. “Evangelical” Protestants’ relative stability – comes in the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation. This massive split in Christianity was sparked by a protest petition posted by 34-year-old German friar and professor Martin Luther on All Souls’ Eve (October 31) of 1517.

The Protestant scenario is rosy at the world level, however, according to anniversary tabulations by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a standard resource for statistics and trend lines from 1900 to the present (media contact here).

More here-

Church's view on homosexuality 'needs work' - Mpho Tutu van Furth

From New Zealand-

Mpho Tutu van Furth knows plenty about forgiveness, having been booted from the Anglican Church on account of her homosexuality.

Using the wisdom gained from her own experiences growing up as a black woman in apartheid-stricken South Africa, she co-authored The Book of Forgiving alongside her father, high-profile social activist and Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu.

While she is free to continue her ministry in the United States, she had her licence rescinded in South Africa when she revealed she was gay - and she admits the period that followed was a difficult one.

"Do I forgive the church?" she wondered aloud on Thursday's edition of The AM Show. "I understand - I think I understand. I understand the challenge, but I don't necessarily feel that it's something that needs forgiveness.

"I think it's something that needs work, because the place that we're in is an entirely wrong and untenable place."

More here-

This woman preacher is schooling the Christian boys club on the crucifixion

From Colorado (via RNS)-

If you are embedded in a Catholic or conservative Protestant community, you might assume that theology is a man’s job. After all, most theological books are penned by male authors. Women are prohibited from becoming Catholic priests and are similarly forbidden from pastoring in many evangelical traditions. And most Christian conference rosters are dominated by male speakers.

It’s surprising then that a woman preacher is leading a conversation about the theology of the cross within these male-dominated communities.

Fleming Rutledge, 79, is a theologian and one of the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church. Her book, “The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ,” is a magisterial 669-page tome that has garnered the attention and respect of some unlikely religious leaders.

Exhibit A is the “New Calvinist” movement, which firmly holds that women are barred from the pastorate and are required by God to submit to their husbands. John Piper, who is something of the pope for New Calvinists and once claimed that God had intentionally given Christianity a “masculine feel,” featured a reading from the book on his podcast and called her book “valuable.” Andrew Wilson gave it a glowing review at The Gospel Coalition, a New Calvinist mega-website, where he called it “beautiful scholarship.”

More here-

Church organist fired for 'Heil Trump' graffiti

From Christian Post-

A church organist who sprayed 'Heil Trump' graffiti on the walls of his own episcopal church in Indiana days after the presidential election last year has been fired.

The clergy of St David's in Brown County met their organist Nathan Stang to discuss 'reconciliation and restitution' and offered to help him restore 'the fractured relationships' caused by his actions.

Stang declined their offer of future employment, although said he was 'incredibly grateful'.

Stang, 26, reported the incident when he arrived at the Bean Blossom church to play the organ the Sunday after the election. But after a six-month police investigation he was confronted with the evidence and confessed to spray-painting the words himself.

In a statement, the Church says Stang's contract has been 'terminated'. The church adds: 'After discussions with church leadership and congregational members, our church community has offered Mr Stang a path to reconciliation and possible future re-employment.

More here-

‘I’m Going to Trust Him’

From The Living Church-

The Rev. Jacob Worley called a diocesan synod “an amazing experience of the Holy Spirit” when he was elected Bishop of Caledonia. He still sees it that way after a majority of bishops in his province rejected his election.

“I still believe that the Holy Spirit moved at the election, as do others who were there,” he told TLC. “And I believe that I am the Lord’s choice to be bishop. It’s clear that the House of Bishops didn’t think so. I’m not sure what the end result will be, where the Holy Spirit is ultimately moving, but I know that the Lord is orchestrating all of this. I’m going to trust him, because what is most important is that he has all the glory.”

A majority of bishops in the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon rejected Worley’s election, citing his past work on behalf of the Anglican Mission in America.

Worley, an American-born priest, was elected bishop on the eighth ballot April 22 in Prince Rupert. Worley is rector of Bulkley Valley Regional Parish, which includes three congregations in the northern interior of British Columbia.

More here-

Let All Mortal Flesh: A Zen priest attends an Episcopalian Mass

From Patheos-

This past Sunday I attended an Episcopalian mass celebrated in a tiny chapel in West Cornwall, Connecticut.

Eighteen of us gathered there, which I understand to be on the larger side for this little community. The church they usually meet in is under repairs and so we were at a little stone chapel that is the heart place of a retreat center now administered by Trinity Church in Manhattan.

The service itself was Prayerbook Rite II with all that means. For me as a progressive filled with awkward masculine by preference language and as a Buddhist with full on dualistic God out there and you and me, down here theology.

More here-

UMC bishops ponder full communion with Episcopal Church

From The United Methodists (and others)

The United Methodist Church is studying a draft proposal to establish full Communion relationship with The Episcopal Church, a significant step toward bringing the two churches into a closer, visible unity.

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the Ohio West Episcopal Area and Bishop B. Michael Watson, the Council of Bishops Ecumenical Officer, presented the proposal during the ecumenical report at the Council of Bishops spring meeting in Dallas, Texas.

“Over the coming months the dialogue team, co-chairs, and ecumenical staff will solicit input from our bishops, ecumenical networks, and other bodies before developing this draft into an official resolution to be acted upon by our respective legislative bodies,” Bishop Palmer, who is co-chair of The Episcopal-United Methodist Dialogue Committee, told his fellow bishops.

More here-

Episcopal Cafe-

The Living Church-

Christian Post-

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


From The Tablet-

An Anglican church in Newcastle has insisted its decision to consecrate a renegade bishop is not intended to split the Anglican Church, but is necessary "to preserve the Church of England's heritage and mission".

The Revd Jonathan Pryke was consecrated as a "bishop in the Church of God" by a breakaway faction of the church of South Africa without the permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on 2 May.

The move has been seen as a direct challenge to the authority of the CofE and renews the threat that ‘conservative evangelical’ Anglicans will splinter from the rest of the CofE.

In a question and answer sheet handed out to the congregation of the church in Jesmond, Newcastle on Sunday (14 May), the church’s leaders said that their aim was not to create a new denomination.

“This is one small but necessary step on behalf of faithful Church of England ministers and congregations nationwide in our mission to the nation,” parishioners were told.

More here-

Episcopal Church Launches Racial Healing Program to Become 'Beloved Community'

From Christian Post-

"Part of this work is actually to help to build bridges — bridges that will connect people not only through their stories but in a sustained way over time through relationships that are built," stated Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during a webinar held via Zoom on Thursday.

"Relationships will break the back of racism every time and in the long run, relationship is the key. And this attempt is really trying to foster those relationships. That's a game-changer."

During the webinar, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, identified herself as a "white woman of privilege," explaining that she is "keenly aware" of how she has benefited from "white privilege."

"Over the years what I have tried to do is to make sure that change for which I've advocated wasn't just change that would benefit middle-age white women like me, but would truly bring the church closer to ... the Kingdom of God," said Jennings. "Those of us who live with white privilege have to figure out how we can be allies."

More here-