Monday, April 24, 2017

Sex offender’s fate in limbo: Judge receives report to determine classification for transgender, former youth pastor facing prison

From West Virginia-

A diagnostic evaluation was completed recently for a former youth pastor and admitted transgender sex offender who is facing a prison term after pleading guilty last year to sexual abuse first degree.

James Lilly, 25, of Bluefield pleaded guilty in August 2016 in Mercer County Circuit Court to three counts of sexual abuse in the first degree. Raleigh County Judge John A. Hutchinson, who was assigned to the case after Mercer County Judge Derek Swope recused himself, delayed Lilly’s sentencing on Dec. 21, 2016 and remanded him to the state Department of Corrections so a diagnostic study could be completed with regard to how he would be classified as an inmate.

Lilly was arrested Jan. 12, 2016 and indicted in February that same year on 28 counts of sexual abuse in the first degree as well as charges of sexual assault third degree and incest.

More here-


From The Living Church-

Shortly after being ordained, I found myself completely overwhelmed. I was then rector of the only Anglican church in a small city in northern Canada. My wife and I had just moved into the rectory beside the church, and we had a newborn. All these changes happened within a month. I felt ill-prepared to navigate the complex intersecting realities of parish ministry and family life.

A big factor was the scope of ministry in that parish. My time was spent not with only a growing number of church members, but also people in the community with minimal connection to the church. As well, my community being a hub, I was called upon by people outside the community who were in town for one reason or another (this broad scope of ministry is actually quite common in northern Canada). Additionally, there were many challenges in the community and limited resources to meet those challenges. I saw firsthand what Eugene Peterson describes as “the sheer quantity of wreckage around us — wrecked bodies, wrecked marriages, wrecked careers, wrecked plans, wrecked families.”

More here-

Ethics, Mathematics and the Rosary: An Ex-Atheist Discusses Her Conversion

From National Catholic Register-

Leah Libresco Sargeant, once a prominent atheist blogger, converted in 2012 to Catholicism after engaging and challenging her readership to present an intellectually rigorous, spiritually rewarding response to her questions on life. Sargeant continues to blog, only now from a Catholic perspective, and also is a contributing editor at America magazine.

She is the author of "Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers That Even I Can Offer."

Sargeant recently spoke with the Register about what motivated her conversion and the surprising changes she experienced in her life afterward, including how she learned to pray through the Rosary. The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

 More here-

A Reflection on Congregational Vitality

From Episcopal Cafe-

At the spring House of Bishops meeting, the Bishop of Washington, Marianne Budde spoke to the House.  According to Dan Martins, her colleague in Springfield, after a morning of reflection, prayer and an emphasis on personal growth, there seemed to be some dis-ease in the House.  Budde arose to address what was termed “the elephant in the room.”  She spoke of congregational vitality, saying in part,

"I can’t bring myself to count the number of congregations I cannot, in good conscience, recommend to those who are seeking a vibrant expression of Christian community. . . . Many of the issues holding us back in the Diocese of Washington are spiritual.  We, like Nicodemus, need to be born again.  Many of the congregations in the Diocese of Washington offer a tepid expression of Christian life, with almost nothing to offer the very people congregational leaders say they want to ‘attract.’"

More here-

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Statue Of A Homeless Jesus Startles A Wealthy Community

From NPR-

A new religious statue in the town of Davidson, N.C., is unlike anything you might see in church.

The statue depicts Jesus as a vagrant sleeping on a park bench. St. Alban's Episcopal Church installed the homeless Jesus statue on its property in the middle of an upscale neighborhood filled with well-kept townhomes.

Jesus is huddled under a blanket with his face and hands obscured; only the crucifixion wounds on his uncovered feet give him away.

The reaction was immediate. Some loved it; some didn't.

"One woman from the neighborhood actually called police the first time she drove by," says David Boraks, editor of "She thought it was an actual homeless person."

More here-

St George’s Day 2017: Why England should celebrate their patron saint

From Metro UK-

All across Wales people get their daffs out for St David’s Day and in Scotland St Andrew’s Day is a national holiday.

But St George’s Day passes each year, unnoticed by many, and often completely unmarked or celebrated.

This year St George’s Day (today) could finally be time for people to redress the balance. Here’s everything you need to know about the date.

England celebrates St George’s Day each year on April 23, which is thought to be the date of St George’s death in 303 AD.

However, it is also celebrated by Eastern Orthodox Churches on May 6.

Read more:

African and Asian church leaders threaten to ‘plant’ a bishop in Britain to defy Welby on gay Christians

From The Daily Mail-

Conservative Anglican archbishops from Africa and Asia are plotting to create a new ‘missionary’ bishop to lead traditionalists in the UK – after warning that the Church of England is becoming too liberal on homosexuality.

The rebel archbishops are set to give the green light to the controversial plan at a crucial meeting in Africa this week in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
Insiders said the move was the ‘nuclear option’ as it would represent a highly provocative intervention into the Church of England by foreign archbishops and a direct challenge to the authority of Archbishop Welby, who is nominal head of Anglicans worldwide.

Read more:

The Crisis of Western Civ

From The New York Times-

Between 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel Durant published a series of volumes that together were known as “The Story of Civilization.” They basically told human history (mostly Western history) as an accumulation of great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The series was phenomenally successful, selling over two million copies.

That series encapsulated the Western civilization narrative that people, at least in Europe and North America, used for most of the past few centuries to explain their place in the world and in time. This narrative was confidently progressive. There were certain great figures, like Socrates, Erasmus, Montesquieu and Rousseau, who helped fitfully propel the nations to higher reaches of the humanistic ideal.

This Western civ narrative came with certain values — about the importance of reasoned discourse, the importance of property rights, the need for a public square that was religiously informed but not theocratically dominated. It set a standard for what great statesmanship looked like. It gave diverse people a sense of shared mission and a common vocabulary, set a framework within which political argument could happen and most important provided a set of common goals.

More here-

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"We're glad you're our neighbor" signs in Arabic, Somali and other languages going up in Hampton Roads

From SW VA-

A group of faith leaders and community organizers are hoping to spread some neighborly compassion through colorful yard signs that will soon pop up around Hampton Roads.

The signs read "no matter where you are from, we're glad you're our neighbor" in six different languages: English, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, French and Somali.

The campaign started with the Immanuel Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, which made the signs in three languages. But leaders here took it one step further and adapted it to be more reflective of the Hampton Roads community.

"The idea is to lead to people having dialogues and build understanding," said Teresa Stanley of the Interspiritual Empowerment Project, who has helped with the signs. The nonprofit group works on social justice.

More here-

Video Shows Judge on Hudson Shore Before Her Death

From The New York Times-

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the judge’s husband, the Rev. Canon Gregory A. Jacobs, an Episcopal priest in Newark, pushed back against the idea that his wife had committed suicide.

“Some media outlets and others have conjectured that Sheila was the victim of a ‘probable suicide,’” the statement said. “These reports have frequently included unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife’s possible mental and emotional state of mind at the time of her death. Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality.”

In the absence of any conclusive evidence, the statement said, the family believed “such speculations to be unwarranted and irresponsible.”

More here-

Bishops Defend Immigration

From The Living Church-

Fourteen bishops of the Episcopal Church have filed an amici curiae brief that opposes President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration.

Attorneys for the bishops filed the brief April 21 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District in San Francisco.

The brief says at the beginning of the argument:

The Bishops earnestly believe the President’s recently revised executive order impedes the ability of Episcopalians to practice their faith and keep their baptismal covenant with God. This executive order has slammed the door on people who have suffered some of the greatest atrocities in recent times, and it does this solely on the basis of their religion. From its earliest inception, America has been a safe haven for victims of religious oppression in part because religious tolerance is a value enshrined in our Constitution through the Establishment Clause.

More here-

Task group developing deeper links and wider understanding

From Anglican News Service-

The Task Group set up by last year’s Primates’ gathering has been meeting in London this week with the emphasis on understanding diversity within the Anglican Communion – and recognising the many areas of unity.

The Archbishop of Armagh, Richard Clarke – who chaired the meeting – said it has been a positive and fruitful discussion.

“We have been developing a greater understanding between us of the diversity within the Communion,” he said. “But, significantly, we have been seeing the many, many areas of commonality.

“It has not been a theological discussion. Instead, we have been examining what differences mean at a practical level. In particular, we looked at marriage practices and relationships in different parts of the Communion. But we also looked at the spiritual dimensions of the idea of walking together.”

More here-

Pope Francis' message faces intensifying criticism

From National Catholic Reporter-

A parish priest in the Italian town of Montesilvano has criticized Pope Francis during Mass. Fr. Edward Pushparaj from India said that Francis has been only bad for the church, referring to Francis washing the feet of a Muslim woman during his 2013 Holy Thursday liturgy. Many angry parishioners walked out of the small church in Montesilvano.

It seems that criticism of Francis is increasing and becoming more overt and intense. What is it about Francis that is making him a more and more controversial figure? One reason, of course is that he has created a more open papacy in which dissent is tolerated and even encouraged. The opportunity to share one’s thoughts, however, should not include being disrespectful.

More here-

Friday, April 21, 2017

How do you get an exorcism if there's a ghost in your house?

From Liverpool- (with video)

Granada Studios, the former home of Coronation Street, recently hired an exorcist to put a stop to persistent paranormal activity .

Apparently, performers there have been disturbed by spirits for more than a decade. The TV show Most Haunted visited the set in 2005 but failed to halt the spectral nuisance.

Actors are more given to superstition than most, but many of us believe we’ve been haunted.

So what happens if you start having ghostly happenings in your own home?

Exorcists aren’t something it’s easy to just hire off the web, and most people in need will use their local church as the first port of call.

We spoke to representatives of Liverpool’s Anglican and Catholic churches to ask for their advice.

More here-

Mysterious death of New York judge was initially called a suicide. Now, police think it's suspicious

From The LA Times-

Gregory Jacobs, an Episcopal priest who become Abdus-Salaam’s third husband when they married last year, also challenged the portrayal of his wife as suicidal.

“Reports have frequently included unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife's possible mental and emotional state of mind at the time of her death. Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality,” read a statement Jacobs released Wednesday.

What looked like an open-and-shut case has been assigned a special team of investigators by the Police Department, which is now treating Abdus-Salaam’s death as suspicious. The police on Tuesday put out a poster asking for information, accompanied by a picture of the judge, photographed, as always, impeccably dressed, this time in a cream-colored jacket and pearls with wire-rimmed eyeglasses.

More here-

Scottish Census finds ‘shoots of growth’ amid decline

From The Church Times-

CHURCH congregations in Scotland are vanishing at a rate equivalent to ten a month, the 2016 Church Census suggests.

It found that 7.2 per cent of the Scottish population — about 390,000 people — attended church regularly, compared with 17 per cent in 1984. If the downward trend continued, the numbers could fall to just under 300,000 by 2025, the report’s lead researcher, Dr Peter Brierley, said.

The decline in numbers covered all denominations except Pentecostals, where attendance has almost doubled since 2002 to 19,000, accounting for five per cent of all Scottish churchgoers in 2016. And in some areas — mainly immigrant and Messy Churches that have started in the past ten years — the figures have improved. Dr Brierley said that his report was not “a pessimistic story of inevitable decline”.

More here-

Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable

From Christianity Today-

Twelve seconds of silence is an awkward eternity on television. Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, leaned forward as he searched for a response.

“The Copts of Egypt … are made of … steel!” he finally uttered.

Moments earlier, Adeeb was watching a colleague in a simple home in Alexandria speak with the widow of Naseem Faheem, the guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the seaside Mediterranean city.

On Palm Sunday, the guard had redirected a suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated. Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church.

“I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side. “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’

More here-

New Episcopal chaplain appointed at Harvard

From Massachusetts-

The Board of Trustees of the Episcopal Chaplaincy at Harvard has announced the appointment of the Rev. Margery Kennelly, currently the assistant rector at the Church of the Redeemer in Chestnut Hill, as Harvard's next Episcopal chaplain. She will begin her ministry at Harvard on June 1, and will serve a two-year appointment.

The Board of Trustees of the Episcopal Chaplaincy at Harvard has announced the appointment of the Rev. Margery Kennelly, currently the assistant rector at the Church of the Redeemer in Chestnut Hill, as Harvard's next Episcopal chaplain. She will begin her ministry at Harvard on June 1, and will serve a two-year appointment.

Kennelly succeeds the Rev. Luther Zeigler, who has been the Episcopal chaplain at Harvard for six years. During that time, Zeigler led the Harvard Chaplains as its president for two years and was the founding chair of the university's new Board of Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Life.

More here-

Fourteen per cent of US Christians left their churches after Trump's election, new research finds

From Christian Today-

Some 14 per cent of Christians abandoned their churches after the election of Donald Trump, according to research by The Washington Post showing that a number of people who went to a church in September last year had left it by mid-November.

The Post surveyed 957 people before and after the 2016 presidential election, in late September and mid-November. Of those who said they had attended a house of worship in September, 14 percent reported that they had left that particular church by mid-November.

Trump secured the support of 81 per cent of white evangelicals in the 2016 election.

But after that election, 'leavers' were distributed across the religious population, and included 10 per cent of evangelicals, 18 per cent of mainline Protestants, and 11 per cent of Catholics, according to the survey.

More here-

J. I. Packer on Why Your Church and Family Need Catechesis

From The Gospel Coalition-

Historically, the church’s ministry of grounding new believers in the rudiments of Christianity has been known as catechesis. It is a ministry that has waxed and waned through the centuries. It flourished between the second and fifth centuries in the ancient church. Those who became Christians often moved into the faith from radically different backgrounds and worldviews. The churches rightly took such conversions seriously and sought to ensure that these life-revolutions were processed carefully, prayerfully, and intentionally, with thorough understanding at each stage.

With the tightening of the alignment between church and state in the West, combined with the effect of the Dark Ages, the ministry of catechesis floundered in large measure for much of the next millennium. The line between natural and spiritual birth virtually disappeared. According to the centuries-old practice, infants baptized into the church were, in theory, to be catechized later in the faith. But too often nothing of the sort occurred. As a consequence of such neglect, great numbers of persons who claimed to belong to Christ had little idea of what that might even mean.

More here-

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wales' most senior bishop says the Church in Wales 'absolutely' has a future despite falling attendance

From Wales-

The most senior Anglican bishop in Wales has a one-word answer when asked if there is a future for the institutional church in this nation: “Absolutely.”

The Church in Wales is in a time of transition and challenge but Bishop of Swansea and Brecon John Davies also senses opportunity.

Barry Morgan has stepped down as Archbishop of Wales after leading the church from 2003 to January of this year and a successor has yet to be appointed.

The next Archbishop will have to address the persistent decline in church attendance. The average number of adults at a Sunday service has fallen from 33,783 in 2011 to 29,019 in 2015.

Despite the downward trajectory of the statistics, Bishop Davies does not see himself as in the business of managing decline.

More here-

'Meet Your Muslim Neighbor' event breaks down barriers

From Alabama-

Dr. Abu-Alrub grew up in Huntsville as the granddaughter of a Methodist minister. She converted to Islam 27 years ago when she married a man with Palestinian roots. Her work as an oncology nurse -- helping people cope with cancer -- has taught her that people will accept differences in culture and religion when they have a common purpose.

Along with close friend Rev. Dr. Basye Holland-Shuey, Episcopal priest and spiritual director of the Church of the Nativity, Abu-Alrub works to combat Islamophobia, hate crimes, and school bullying. The two have gone to workshops around the country to see how other communities cope.

So it was natural that they helped plan the first annual "Meet Your Muslim Neighbor" event, an open house held at the Huntsville Islamic Center on Sparkman Drive. Dozens of members of the center wanted to host an event that would deal with misconceptions about Islam as well as show the public that Muslims are doctors, professors, students, ordinary people with jobs and families. 

More here-

Student, researcher reflect on reasons behind rise in religious "nones"

From The Indiana Daily Student-

Every Sunday IU freshman Isaac Thuesen’s parents wake up, put on their Sunday best and attend Mass at their episcopal church in Indianapolis. Sixty miles away, Thuesen is still in bed in his dorm room.

Thuesen grew up going to church regularly. At the age of 9, he became a choir boy who attended weekly rehearsals and sang at two Sunday Masses every week, but now Thuesen identifies as agnostic and hasn’t gone to church since coming to IU.

“I probably would have left the church even before that if it wasn’t such an important tradition in my family,” he said.

More here-

Latest report from Theological Forum published

From Scotland- (with link to the report)-

The Theological Forum has published its latest report on 'An approach to the theology of same-sex marriage.' The report will be considered by Commissioners to the General Assembly in Edinburgh next month.

The document has found its way into the public domain ahead of schedule, before all the General Assembly reports are published in the Blue Book on Thursday.

In light of the report appearing in the national press, the Principal Clerk has authorised its immediate publication to allow Commissioners, members of the church and members of the public to understand fully the content and context.

The General Assembly is being asked to consider two key issues.

More here-

Where Evangelicals Came From

From NYRB-

Every few years, it seems, conservative religious groups, quiescent or unnoticed, come blazing back onto the national scene, and the secular press reacts like the bad guy in the 1971 western Big Jake who says to John Wayne, “I thought you were dead.” Wayne drily answers, “Not hardly.” Now, in The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, Frances FitzGerald answers the recurrent question, “Where did these people [mainly right-wing zealots] come from?” She says there is no mystery involved. They were always here. We were just not looking at them. What repeatedly makes us look again is what she is here to tell us.

“Evangelicals” is an elastic term, and FitzGerald intermittently shrinks or stretches it. But she does direct us to the right starting point, to the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Great Awakenings, major religious events in our early history when the word “evangelicalism” came into wide American use. Evangelical religion is revival religion, that of emotional contagion. It can best be characterized, for taxonomic purposes, by three things: crowds, drama, and cycles.

More here-

Is Your Pastor Sexist?

From The New York Times-

The fight among Christians over the status and role of women is usually buried out of view. Anger at continuing inequality is not deemed pious or pretty by the faithful. Disputes usually stay private.

But this pattern was broken recently by a very public uproar when a prominent theological college announced its award of a prestigious prize to a high-profile preacher who does not believe that women or L.G.B.T. people should be ordained.

On most grounds, Princeton Theological Seminary’s decision to give the Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness to the Rev. Tim Keller would seem a safe one. Dr. Keller is the founding pastor of the flourishing Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, a gifted preacher and a best-selling author of theological works. I attended his church for some years when I lived in New York, largely because of the high caliber of his sermons.

More here-

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Anglican Communion Has Rejected One Gay Theologian for Bishop 7 Times. Is Unity Possible?

From Sojourners-

A Christian leader, according to the New Testament Book of Titus, must be God’s steward. He must be “blameless — not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good.”

For the past 14 years, when the Church of England and the Church in Wales have been looking to fill the post of bishop, one candidate has come up time and time again who people think fits this bill: Jeffrey John. Yet, over and over again, he has been rebuffed.

It happened first in 2003 when John was chosen to be bishop of Reading, only for the appointment to be revoked. It has happened twice this year, in Sodor and Man, a Church of England diocese, and in Llandaff, in Wales.

More here-

The Rt. Rev. Robert Hibbs, retired Diocese of West Texas bishop suffragan

From ENS-

The Rt. Rev. Robert (Bob) Hibbs died peacefully in his home surrounded by family on April 17. He was 84.

Bishop Hibbs was born on April 20, 1932, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was baptized April 30, 1933, confirmed April 9, 1942, ordained deacon on June 24, 1957, ordained priest Dec. 21, 1957, and consecrated bishop on Jan. 6, 1996.

As bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, he served alongside then-Diocesan Bishop Jim Folts until Hibbs’ retirement in December 2003.

More here-

Albany Episcopal Bishop David Ball dies at 90

From Albany-

Bishop David Ball, 90, who led the Episcopal Diocese of Albany for 14 years and who was devoted to preserving the historic Cathedral of All Saints, died Tuesday afternoon in his room at the Loudonville Assisted Living Residence, where he had welcomed dozens of friends in recent days as they came to say their goodbyes to a beloved native son and spiritual beacon.

He had been receiving hospice care for a few weeks as his health declined.

"He passed peacefully," said Marlene Elacqua, Ball's retired administrative assistant. "I always called him a shepherd who watched out for his flock. He was beloved by people wherever he went."

More here-

Sermon Content Is What Appeals Most to Churchgoers

From Gallup-

As Easter and Passover help fill churches and synagogues this week, a new Gallup poll suggests the content of the sermons could be the most important factor in how soon worshippers return. Gallup measured a total of seven different reasons why those who attend a place of worship at least monthly say they go. Three in four worshippers noted sermons or talks that either teach about scripture or help people connect religion to their own lives as major factors spurring their attendance.

More here-